Electoral boundaries hearing sees both sides of the equation

Presenters spoke candidly at the Electoral Boundaries Commission public hearing.

Concerned citizens of Hope speak passionately at the Electoral Boundaries Commission public hearing

The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission asked for input from the community of Hope on its recent Preliminary Report at the Golf Course on Tuesday, April 14th. The public forum was held by the commission and opposing views were heard loud and clear, based on concerns that were brought fourth in response to a presentation given by the commission at the Kamloops hearing this past October.

“The council has discussed this electoral boundary issue in detail and the decision of council was unanimous — we are unanimously in favour of staying within the Chilliwack alignment for the electoral boundary,” said Mayor Wilfried Vicktor. “A lot of this has to do with geographic accessibility, almost without exception, the provincial services that we enjoy as a community are based in Chilliwack — be it health services or the courts, there is a natural tie with Chilliwack.”

A request for the reconciliation of Hope and the Fraser Canyon with the Fraser-Nicola riding that currently presides over the communities of Princeton, Merritt, Lillooet, Ashcroft and Clinton was met with a level of honesty and integrity.

“Constituents of Hope, the Fraser Canyon and up through Boston Bar have already experienced inadequate representation and consequences when these areas once formed a part of the Fraser-Nicola riding,” said Hans Jeschek, broker and manager at Royal LePage. “The MLA of that period was located too far away to meet frequently with residents and did not visit our communities often.”

Hope was once part of the Fraser-Nicola riding, prior to a realignment established in the Electoral Districts Act in 2008 when Hope officially became a member of the Chilliwack-Hope riding.

The riding originally served as an amalgamation of Chillwack-Kent, Yale-Lillooet, Chilliwack-Sumas, Vancouver-Garibaldi and Maple Ridge-Mission.

Population was a key concern of the Chilliwack-Hope area, which has increased by 21 per cent, but still maintains a number within two per cent of the average population in other provincial ridings, thereby suggesting that moving into the Fraser-Nicola riding would not be in line with adequate representation.

Geographical concerns over the correct placement of The District of Hope were brought to light as citizens argued that Hope is part of the Fraser Valley, as opposed to the Interior.

Among other key points were the cultural and economical services that cover the entire area from Boston Bar through the Fraser Canyon.

“The heart of the Fraser Valley naturally gravitates south with respect to culture, business and services including health and recreation,” said Jeschek. “In fact the Hope and District Recreation Commission of the regional district serves from Hope up to and including Boston Bar — it is not geared towards Lytton, Lillooet and beyond.”

Efficiency and proximity was also a key issue for the potential realignment.

“Our new federal riding here is also called Chilliwack-Hope and, conveniently, both our MP and MLA offices in Chilliwack are located within close vicinity to each other, enabling them to continue to coordinate their efforts to serve our community,” said Jeschek.

It was suggested that Hope would suffer if it was removed from its current riding status, which was seen by opposition as a difficult and impractical move for the smooth coordination of efforts between the federal Chilliwack-Hope and an MLA in a more remote mountain range in Princeton, or Merritt.

Voices in favour of the realignment were also heard.

“I support those changes, recommended by you, I believe they are in the best interest of the people of Hope and its surrounding town and villages,” said resident Marjorie Houghton. Hope is a a better fit with Fraser-Nicola than it was with Chilliwack, our views and our goals were overwhelmed by the majority of voters in Chilliwack. As a senior I moved to Hope when it had a hospital — now the hospital is just a band aid station,” she said.

The majority of those in favour of the realignment, cited differences in economics, numbers and objectives as a major reason to support the move for a new riding.

“When we were in Yale-Lillooet, our opinion mattered and we had an equal voice and we could compete with small communities like Yale, and we had a lot more in common with them in terms of economy and transportation links,” said Houghton.