British Columbia is divided into 87 ridings, each represented by an MLA. Now, this has not always been the case, as new ridings have been added over time to represent our growing population and ensure effective representation.
This is done by the Electoral Boundaries Commission after every second election, changing the boundaries of ridings to better reflect the population of B.C. in the Legislature. The commission is doing that work right now and will be accepting input from the public until May 31, 2022.
What makes this year different than normal is that the NDP government has removed an important protection from the commission’s mandate that used to make sure more sparsely populated rural ridings like ours could maintain effective representation.
Without these protections, the commission could make rural ridings even larger, limiting people’s ability to bring concerns to their MLA.
At present, it would take more than six hours to drive across the whole of Cariboo-Chilcotin, and for some of my northern colleagues it would take as many as 10 hours to drive from one end of their riding to the other.
How could we expect MLAs and their constituents to travel even longer distances? Especially in rural B.C. where people don’t always have access to internet or cell service — it is not reasonable to expect these residents to rely on Zoom calls to stay in touch with their MLAs. Particularly in the case of emergencies, like floods or forest fires — the last thing rural B.C. needs is less of a voice in Victoria.
B.C. is a vast province, with varied geography, diverse people, and very different needs, and we must ensure that the revised electoral boundaries factor in these differences. It is important that ridings reflect population growth, but that cannot come at the cost of effective representation in the rural areas of the province.
If you would like to add your voice to the conversation, I invite you to visit bcebc.ca to share your thoughts with the commission.
Lorne Doerkson is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo Chilcotin.