My wife and I attended the first redistribution hearing of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia Sept. 10 at the Holiday Inn in North Vancouver.
We were most impressed with the degree of respect and dignity the commissioners afforded all presenters. Presenters are equally to be commended for their passion and sincerity.
It soon became clear how difficult it must be to consider all presentations and be fair to all. This was particularly clear when similarities of culture, life style, economics and education were pointed out with regards to each side of the proposed boundary on the Sunshine Coast. One might understand why the two components wish to be treated as one. West Vancouver looks like a different entity from that angle.
Although other presenters were as passionate about their perceived differences between North Burnaby and Seymour, these arguments sounded hollow in comparison. There is no need for handicapped seniors to attend all-candidate election meetings or to vote on the other side of the bridge. Why contemplate a change of shopping habits or adjust one's personal life style because electorate boundaries have changed? Some presenters seemed to see this as unavoidable outcomes and it was definitely unacceptable to them.
Had I been an unbiased observer it could have been amusing to be told how the Second Narrows (with a bridge) is an obstacle which keeps the people living on either side of the water forever separated and different. Yet, a much larger body of water between Comox and Powell River was presented as a unifying common denominator there.
Our last presenter from Gibsons put into words what others may have deliberately avoided saying: She does not like being represented by a Conservative MP! She felt deprived of her rights as a voter and, I suppose, expected the commissioners to fix that problem as well. (I mentioned that I totally understand her feelings. She seemed a bit surprised, however, that anybody could possibly host the same negative feelings towards an NDP MP.)
Although I have no reason to believe that her concerns will receive more attention than is due, it highlights once again how extremely difficult it must be to be fair to all. In the end, the purpose of adding six new ridings to the landscape of B.C. must concern itself primarily with numbers.
Ziggy Eckardt Burnaby