When it comes to federal ridings, Burnaby will be split into three, despite widespread opposition, and the change could mean the New Democrats lose a seat to the Conservatives.
B.C.'s electoral boundaries commission was tasked with re-drawing the riding maps to accommodate the province's growing population and suggested splitting Burnaby into three ridings, one of which spans the Burrard Inlet and connects with a sizeable area on the North Shore to create Burnaby North-Seymour. Despite public opposition to the idea, the commission tabled its report Monday in the House of Commons, suggesting to proceed with the changes.
"It's pretty big news for Burnaby," said Kennedy Stewart, New Democrat MP for Burnaby-Douglas. "I was really disappointed in the commission. The process is supposed to be where three neutral and learned commissioners sit down and listen to the public."
Burnaby now has two federal ridings: Burnaby-Douglas, which covers the northern half of Burnaby, and Burnaby-New Westminster, which includes the south and a portion of neighbouring New Westminster. The three new ridings for the city are Burnaby South, New Westminster-Burnaby and Burnaby North-Seymour.
Stewart's Burnaby-Douglas riding will be split in half, and the northern portion will combine with a piece of the North Shore to form Burnaby-North Seymour. Both Stewart and Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian spoke out against the idea, as did members of the public who attended the hearings held by the commission in the fall.
The change is expected to give the Conservatives an advantage in the next election, since the portion of the North Shore that would be part of Burnaby North-Seymour tends to lean Tory.
"In the last election, they won by two per cent," Stewart said. "If (the NDP) fought the election under the new boundaries that they proposed, we would have lost by seven per cent. So it's about a nine-percentage point swing."
Local resident Peter Cech wrote a letter to the commission, expressing his opposition to the proposed Burnaby North-Seymour riding. Because of development around Hastings and Brentwood Park, Cech feels the area's population will grow, and the riding will have to be reverted to its previous configuration.
"It's just a huge waste of tax dollars, in my opinion," he said.
The commissioners had to aim for roughly 105,000 people in each of the province's ridings, which left them with a bit of a jigsaw puzzle effect, where changes to one riding can affect the balance throughout the province. The commission was also responsible for holding public hearings on the proposed changes.
"The way the process works is we are bound to listen and take account of everything, but the final result is we still have to make a decision," said John Hall, one of the three appointed commissioners. "We heard from people who gave us very good submissions - Mayor (Derek) Corrigan and I think the MLAs from out there - and ultimately we had to make a decision, and we made that decision."
In all, B.C. will gain six new federal ridings. Burnaby's three ridings outlined in the commission's final report are slightly different from the earlier proposed versions. Now that the commission's final report has been tabled, MPs have a chance to offer feedback, and the commissioners could make more final adjustments to the boundaries.
"We may be asked to look at some of these (ridings) again and reconsider. And when that happens, we'll do it," Hall said.
The final report will be out in summer, and the changes should be in place before the next federal election tentatively scheduled for 2015.
To read the final report, or to see maps of the new ridings, visit www.redecoup age-federal-redistribution.ca.
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