By Cam Fortems, Kamloops this Week
Nicola Valley residents overwhelming called for the community of Hope to join their provincial electoral district during a public meeting last week.
B.C.’s electoral boundaries commission held its second meeting in Kamloops, this time to take submissions on its preliminary report produced last year after a first round of public consultations.
The commission’s report recommends the province add two new electoral districts in the Lower Mainland, which would bring the number of MLAs in B.C. to 87. But it sees little need for change in the Interior.
The three-person panel headed by chairman Thomas Melnick, a B.C. Supreme Court justice, recommended no change to the boundaries of Kamloops-North Thompson.
In Kamloops-South Thompson, it wants to add the Knutsford area, taking it from the Fraser-Nicola riding to the south.
The minor changes, largely amounting to the status quo, brought little or no public reaction.
Those who attended the public hearing at Coast Kamloops Hotel and Conference Centre were largely Nicola Valley residents advocating for Hope to be brought back into the Fraser-Nicola, at one time known as Yale-Lillooet.
“The old Yale-Lillooet riding was extremely good,” said Victor York, a former chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band who now lives in Spences Bridge, but works in the Nicola Valley.
York said First Nations as far south as Spuzzum are in the same language group as his own Nlaka’pamux.
“A lot of people don’t’ recognize that Hope and Yale — our dialect is almost the same,” he said.
Allen Peters, a longtime hospital worker in the Nicola Valley, dismissed arguments from some in the Hope area that their linkages for shopping and health care are squarely in the Fraser Valley.
For the past two elections, Hope has been placed in the Chilliwack-Hope riding of the Upper Fraser Valley.
“Adding Hope and the Fraser Canyon back to Fraser-Nicola makes a lot of sense,” Peters said. “It was an integral part of our constituency for as long as I recall.”
Other residents mentioned common rural concerns, including school and hospital closures and job losses at sawmills.
The commission also recommended Princeton be moved to Boundary-Similkameen to boost its population so it doesn’t fall below the threshold of being within 25 per cent of the average riding population.
Several people, including former Ashcroft mayor Andy Anderson, said there are natural linkages between Princeton and towns including his own, Lillooet and Merritt. He dismissed Hope, saying he did not deal with the town in his decade as mayor.
But, the majority of those who spoke advocated for the commission’s preliminary recommendation that would see Hope placed back in Fraser-Nicola.
Former area MLA Harry Lali, who attended the meeting, but did not make a prevention, acknowledged some Hope residents want their town to be included with Chilliwack.
While Hope has traditionally skewed toward the NDP, he said Princeton voted the other way — making the changes politically neutral, he argued.
“One left-wing town goes in [Fraser-Nicola] and one goes out,” he told KTW.
The commission will take submissions, including online at bc-ebc.ca, until May 26.
Its final report will be presented to the legislature by late September.