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Pemberton to ask feds to switch ridings

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Members of Pemberton council were unanimous in their support of a motion requesting that Pemberton and the surrounding area be moved back into the West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country Riding, and to seek support from the community.

It's nothing personal, said Mayor Jordan Sturdy in council on Tuesday, of the request to move out of the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding.

"We've been pretty consistent as a municipality," said Sturdy. "(Former Member of Parliament) Chuck Strahl did a good job for us I think, and (current MP) Mark Strahl is doing his best to represent our interests, but the reality is our orientation is north-south here."

In other words, Pemberton's interests are more closely aligned with Whistler and Squamish than with Chilliwack and the Fraser Canyon, which is not accessible from Pemberton by paved roads.

Pemberton was shifted into the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding in 2004. At the time, West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country was the largest riding in Canada by population, and a federal electoral boundary commission wanted to reduce its size slightly while boosting the size of another riding, Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon, which is roughly connected to Pemberton by a sometimes inaccessible dirt road between Harrison Hot Springs and the Pemberton area.

The federal government is currently looking to expand the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon Riding to reflect the results of 2011 Census, and will extend the boundaries of the riding to include 100 Mile House and the surrounding area. That issue was already on Pemberton's radar, but a letter by Hillary Downing, galvanized council into action.

"I'd like to see us advance this recommendation (by Downing) and make a resolution," said Sturdy. "I'm happy to correspond with Mark Strahl and also John Weston in terms of obtaining their support — I believe it would be forthcoming from both of them, — and then advance this to the boundary commission."

Under the proposed new boundaries, which would remove a section of West Vancouver from Whistler's riding, the population of the two ridings would be similar, 106,000 in West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country versus 104,000 in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon. "A couple of thousand is neither here nor there (to the federal government)," said Sturdy.

Council was unanimous in their support to begin the formal process of applying to be removed from the Chilliwack Fraser Canyon electoral area.

In addition to enlisting the support of MPs, Pemberton Council is going to seek the support of the people of Pemberton through a petition. More details will be posted on the website soon.

The first public hearing on the new boundaries is in Squamish on Sept. 11, but additional public hearings are scheduled through October. Maps and descriptions of the proposed electoral district changes are online at www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca.

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