Strategic Thoughts

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September 18, 2007

Yale-Lillooet Not Rescued

"The government intends to introduce legislation this fall that will give the commission the legal tools required to protect rural representation. The legislation will establish special designations for the North, Cariboo-Thompson and Columbia-Kootenay using the boundaries already established by the commission after their first round of hearings."
Premier's September 13th News Release

An important line in the Premier's news release deserves more attention. The release promised that the legislation to be introduced will use the regional boundaries already established by the Commission. The Commission devoted a chapter in its Preliminary Report to regions; it pointed out that since 1966 five of BC's seven boundary commissions used the concept of regions, although they all stressed that decisions are made on a constituency by constituency basis. While regions embody some common sense elements that unite different areas of the province, ultimately they are arbitrary groups of constituencies, or parts of former constituencies, that change with each commission.

The Commission's preliminary report divided Yale-Lillooet between three regions: Cariboo-Thompson, the Okanagan and the Fraser Valley. By supporting the Commission's regions as part of his scheme to protect rural representation, Campbell stuck his finger in Harry Lali's eye. Of course, it is not just the incumbent MLA who is injured by Campbell's meddling; anyone who supports the principle of one-person-one-vote has to object to his interference with the independent commission. Splitting Yale-Lillooet means that part of the riding will be over-represented as a rural constituency while other parts will be treated as urban or dense constituencies with population to MLA ratios at or above the provincial average (the quotient).

It is possible that the Premier's news release was mistaken. Vaughn Palmer pointed to the contradictions it contains with respect to the number of MLAs. It says the next Parliament will have 87 members, up 8 from the current 79, but it also says that growing regions will get only 5 additional seats. Perhaps the Premier's drafters were also confused about the regional boundaries used by the Commission; if not, voters in Yale-Lillooet should be given clear notice how Campbell's rural rescue plan treats them.


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