The Cariboo-Chilcotin riding is set to become a much larger geographic area according to a final report released on April 3 by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission.
The proposed changes would see Ashcroft, Cache Creek and Clinton move from the Fraser-Nicola riding to the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding along with Savona, Tobiano and Cherry Creek from the Kamloops-South Thompson riding.
Unless there is a snap election, residents can expect to see the revised boundaries come into effect during the next provincial election in October of 2024 said Lorne Doerkson, MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
The proposed changes came as a surprise, he said.
“Nobody saw this coming,” he said. “I honestly thought I’d be going to the Barriere rodeo not the Ashcroft rodeo.”
Under the original submission, residents of the North Thompson riding were being placed into the Cariboo-Chilcotin. In a second submission, however, residents of North Thompson were able to have their voices heard and rebutted the decision, resulting in the commission reversing its decision.
In its final report, the commission notes that “we considered moving communities in the North Thompson (including Barriere, Clearwater and Wells Gray Provincial Park) into the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding to better balance populations in the area. However, we recognized that access to larger centres in Cariboo-Chilcotin requires travel over a mountain pass on secondary highways, and that these communities rely on Kamloops as their service centre.”
The commission then re-drew the Cariboo-Chilcotin to include the areas from Fraser-Nicola and Kamloops-South Thompson in its final report.
The commission rationalized the decision by saying that, “instead, we propose expanding this riding south to include Cache Creek and Ashcroft, which are now located in the Fraser-Nicola electoral district. These communities share the Highway 97 transportation corridor with communities in Cariboo-Chilcotin like 100 Mile House and Williams Lake. This proposal also reduces the large geographic size of Fraser-Nicola. We believe that these boundary adjustments better reflect our guiding principles.
“We propose moving the rural areas to the west of Kamloops into the Cariboo-Chilcotin riding to balance their populations and accommodate projected population growth in Kamloops.”
The frustrating part of all this, Doerkson said, is that the residents from the affected communities did not have the same opportunity to be heard as those in the North Thompson riding.
In Williams Lake, the commission listened to the community’s feedback which was broadly to leave the boundaries alone.
“At the end of the day, the boundaries were just fine.”
Doerkson said representing the new area will be a challenge but this is the job he signed up for. He intends to maintain his satellite office in 100 Mile House and a satellite office is a definite consideration for the new members of his riding.
“We are for certain going to provide access to their MLA in that area.”
It is currently a six-hour drive across the Cariboo-Chilcotin and finding the time to traverse an even larger riding will be daunting, Doerkson said.
“There won’t be a choice. The fact is the riding will be massive and the time will obviously have to be split between those communities.”
The boundaries have changed many times over the years.
“MLA’s have no choice. You get in your car and you do your job. And you service the areas you need to be getting to,” he said. “For me, whether it was Clearwater and Barriere or whether it was Ashcroft and Cache Creek. I am going to do my very best to serve those areas because that is what I’m elected to do.”
(With files from Barbara Roden)