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Pemberton, Whistler split in redistricting



MP opposes move to place Pemberton in Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding

Although the two communities are closely interrelated and have always fallen in the same federal and provincial electoral boundaries, a line will divide Whistler and Pemberton when the B.C. Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission officially redraws its map next spring.

Pemberton is to become part of the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding, which is currently represented by Canadian Alliance MP Chuck Strahl.

The new electoral district was necessary to accommodate the addition of two new seats for British Columbia in Parliament, in recognition of the growing population of the province. In the 2001 census, the population of the province was pegged at just over 3.9 million, which translates to 36 federal electoral districts instead of 34.

The two new electoral districts are Guildford-Green Timbers and Surrey Newton.

The northern Cariboo-Chilcotin riding was lost in the reshuffling and added to Burnaby, which has been divided into two districts.

The West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast riding, which includes Whistler and Pemberton until the redistricting becomes official, was expanded in West Vancouver, making it one of the largest federal ridings in Canada.

"Some communities in Quebec have one MP for 75,000 people, and I have 125,000," said John Reynolds, the MP for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast and the Official Opposition House Leader with the Canadian Alliance. "The average in Canada is somewhere around 107,000. Other members of Parliament in B.C. also cover some large areas, so I think the (B.C. Federal Electoral Boundaries) Commission could have given us an extra seat."

Although it would have made his constituency even larger, Reynolds was opposed to the redistricting that would have separated Whistler and Pemberton on the electoral map. He made his objections known to the Commission, and suggested a couple of alternatives.

"The first was to keep Pemberton in this riding. It’s such a small number (of people) we’re talking about, so it wouldn’t have mattered that much," said Reynolds. "Or we could take Whistler out and keep Whistler and Pemberton together.

"They share a lot of the same issues, and I’ve represented both communities for a long time, at both the federal and provincial level. I’d like to see them stay together. It doesn’t make sense to break them up."

That said, Reynolds gave a vote of confidence to Strahl.

Although Pemberton is only connected to the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon district via the Duffey Lake Road, a proposal for a new so-called Sasquatch Highway linking Harrison Hot Springs to Pemberton is gaining momentum.

"Looking at it from his side, Chuck Strahl will have more reasons to push for the road to Pemberton, which is one positive for this whole thing," said Reynolds.

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