The federal electoral district boundaries in BC are being re-drawn, and a new Pitt Meadows-Fort Langley riding is being proposed that would take in parts of five different cities.
The Pitt-Fort Langley riding would stretch from 224th Street in Maple Ridge, through Pitt Meadows, and take in much of Port Coquitlam to the west, including almost all of the Mary Hill Bypass.
On the south side of the Fraser River, this riding would be bordered by 276th Street in the east, to 168th Street in the west, taking in all areas north of Highway 1. The area would include the Langley neighbourhoods of Walnut Grove, Fort Langley, and rural Glen Valley, along with a sliver of northwestern Surrey, and Barnston Island in the Fraser River.
Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Marc Dalton called the riding “a dog’s breakfast,” and noted the two cities he represents now have traditionally been united in sharing services – from a shared Ridge Meadows RCMP detachment to joint sports associations.
“It isn’t cohesive,” he said of the proposed new electoral district, and added it would be challenging for an MP to work effectively in such a riding.
There was also skepticism south of the Fraser.
“I’m very curious what the public has to say about this,” said current Langley-Aldergrove MP Tako Van Popta.
The electoral commission has been aiming for an average riding population of 116,300 people this time.
“Langley-Aldergrove has gone way over that,” he said.
It meant change in the shape of the riding was inevitable, so a boundary change was expected.
“Maybe what they did to it was a bit of a surprise,” Van Popta said.
He plans to talk to his colleagues in neighbouring ridings about the changes.
Also talking to colleagues is Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag.
“All of us are sort of digesting what the proposals mean,” he said.
Aldag noted that when it comes to federal programs, like child care or infrastructure investments in local areas, it helps to have MPs who can connect strongly with their local municipal leaders. For an MP, having to work across multiple municipal boundaries – he already has portions of three municipalities in his current riding – makes things more difficult.
University of the Fraser Valley political science professor Hamish Telford pointed out the riding boundaries have not been finalized, and there will be public feedback taken.
“It’s a puzzle,” said Telford, noting the boundary commission was charged with creating 43 ridings with comparable populations, “but we’re also looking for boundaries that make some geographic sense.”
During the process, he said, it is not unusual to create electoral districts that are “awkward geographically.”
“It (Pitt Meadows-Fort Langley) wouldn’t be the first riding in B.C. to have odd boundaries,” said Telford.
He noted the current riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon takes in part of Abbotsford, and stretches north past Lytton and Lillooet.
“Candidates in that riding have to compete from Abbotsford to Ashcroft,” he said. “When you create these puzzles, some of the pieces are awkwardly shaped.”
Both Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows – presently combined in one riding – would each have their cities divided into two different ridings.
The part of Maple Ridge that is not in the proposed Pitt Meadows-Fort Langley Riding will be in a proposed Maple Ridge-Mission riding, that will include northern Pitt Meadows, Agassiz, Harrison and rural areas north of Harrison Lake.
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for B.C. will take its proposed a new electoral map to the public over the coming months.
“Our task is to create an additional riding and to adjust the boundaries of existing ridings to maintain effective federal representation for all British Columbians,” said Honourable Justice Mary Saunders, chair of the three-member commission.
“We are proposing quite a few boundary changes. The changes are mainly in response to the significant but uneven growth of our population. That growth pattern creates a domino effect if we are to be fair and have relative equality between voters in different electoral districts. Our proposal necessarily gives attention to what is possible and practical given our varied and rugged geography and our distinct communities. We look forward to receiving public input on it.”
Kenneth Carty and Stewart Ladyman are the other members of the commission.
Public hearings about the riding boundaries will be held in Pitt Meadows at the Meadow Gardens Golf Club on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. and the following night, Sept. 22, at the Coast Hotel and Casino in Langley, also at 7 p.m.
The proposed redistribution can be found at redecoupage-redistribution-2022.ca/com/bc/prop/index_e.aspx.
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