A Burnaby New Democrat is crying foul over comments in the media he says suggest a proposal to stitch together ridings across the Burrard Inlet is already a done deal.
Speaking to the Huffington Post Aug 16, Federal Electoral Boundaries Commissioner Stewart Ladyman said: "The North Burnaby-North Vancouver issue has been on the table for a number of commissions, and there is just no way this time around but to cross the river."
Stewart was referring to a plan tabled recently by his agency, which is in charge of shaping federal ridings, that would connect a part of North Vancouver and a section Northern Burnaby to form one electoral riding spanning the Burrard Inlet.
Burnaby MP Kennedy Stewart says the commissioner's comments suggest the federal body has no real intention of listening to the public on the issue.
"Saying that this is absolutely going to go forward, and to say this before there's any community consultation is really not the way commissions are supposed to work," said Stewart.
When asked again about the proposal by the North Shore News, Ladyman said: "I cannot, as a commissioner, see any way that we will be able to create a riding without crossing the inlet." But, he added: "If somebody can formulate a different map that keeps North Van and West Van whole without crossing the inlet, we're certainly willing to listen to that."
Stewart is opposed to the changes, saying the new boundaries will scoop a largely Conservative electorate onto Burnaby, and that his constituents have concerns about accessing their MP if his or her constituency office is on the other side of the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.
He also notes the proposed riding would have the added complication of containing two municipalities and two different health authorities.
But North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton says the non-partisan commission is set up to take many factors into account in redrawing electoral lines. Saxton says he will not be speaking at the public consultation.
"Some people are concerned that Seymour and North Burnaby are different communities with different issues," he said "This may be true, but it wouldn't be the first time that these two communities were represented by the same MP; they were joined from 1966 to 1987 as well."
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission has been tasked with creating six new ridings for BC, each containing on average 104,763 constituents, said Ladyman. The commission must consider three factors as they map out the ridings: population numbers, communities of interest and the geography of a region, said Gerald Baier, Associate Professor of Political Science at UBC. In this case, they have decided to ignore the geographical problem, said Baier, adding that he thinks the composition of the proposed riding would be an odd split of suburban and urban.
It is hard to say if one MP would be able to fully represent these different demographics, but Baier has sympathy for the difficulty of the commission's task, he said. "Its like Jenga: You pull one piece out; you gotta be able to put something else in a different place,' he said.
Ten years ago the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission proposed a similar riding that join North Vancouver and Burnaby, but this proposal was shot down after public consolation.
The public has until Aug. 30 to submit a request to speak at the public consultation set for Sept. 10 at the North Vancouver Holiday Inn at 7 p.m.