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Prelude to Redistribution

October 5, 2006

The province of BC is, at this time, going through a process of electoral seat redistribution. However, this particular redistribution is quite interesting because of the addition of two factors: 1)Because of distribution of population, there will be more seats in the Lower Mainland and Victoria than the rest of the province; and 2) A map showing possible STV seats will be created.

So first, I’ll give you a quick overview on how much population a BC electoral district can have. The population of the province is divided by the number of seats in the province. There can be a deviation of + or – 25%. In a few “special circumstances”, a electoral district does not have meet those numbers, but be pretty close to doing so. As well, there can be 6 seats added to the legislature this time around.

So yesterday, there was a Electoral Boundaries Commission meeting attended by a few people; most notably a city councillor, former BC NDP candidates, a former Socred MLA, and myself. There were two major concerns given out at that meeting:

  1. That Northern Electoral Districts were massive in land area, hard to travel in, and hard to communicate in, so the land area of such districts should be as small as possible.
  2. That the Lower Mainland should not be given more seats as that would reduce the already faint voice of Northerners in the Legislature. At the same time, seats in the North should be kept the same or increased.

My submission to the Commission was basically this: keep Northern Electoral Districts as geographically as small as possible and have boundaries follow landmarks so that it is easy for people to know which district they are in. As well, the Commission should add 6 more seats to the Legislature in order to keep our districts geographically small. Of course, those seats would go to the Lower Mainland, but, such is reality. To try to preserve what little power us Northerners have, I also suggested having the population of Northern districts as small as possible and Lower Mainland districts as large as possible. For the STV seats, I suggested that same sort of thing: keep the STV district geographically small, even at the cost of proportionality.

But at the end, my friends and I realized that the core problem is that Northerners are not going to have the voice that we require. Maybe, we thought, a reintroduction of bicameralism with the second house representing regions would help do this. Or possibly Northern BC separating for the South.

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  1. Idealistic Pragmatist
    October 5, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    Wow, that’s fascinating stuff! Thanks for attending the meeting and telling us how it went.

    I have to admit, I have a little bit of trouble understanding what the big deal would be with larger constituencies in northern B.C. if STV also meant that the constituency would have more than one MLA. In the end, it might actually mean less, not more ground to cover. Can you explain the misgivings people have with that? I agree that adding seats can be a better solution, but I don’t really get the absolute insistance that consituency size not grow.

  2. Northern BC Dipper
    October 5, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    I have a little bit of trouble understanding what the big deal would be with larger constituencies in northern B.C. if STV also meant that the constituency would have more than one MLA. In the end, it might actually mean less, not more ground to cover. Can you explain the misgivings people have with that?

    Regarding this question, it is about elections. I remember asking my former MLA Paul Ramsay this question, and he said that based on his experience of being a northern MLA, one must be able to conduct outreach to all areas of the district – segementization of a canididate’s focus among the population would not work. Adding my own expirence to this, it is hard enough to send a candidate to all areas of our current electoral districts, and I don’t think there are any clear lines to segementizate a disrict’s population (it is much easier to do this in an urban district).

    …I don’t really get the absolute insistance that consituency size not grow.

    The thing is, the consituencies are already too big for their own good. It is hard for a candidate to try to talk to every part of the consituency already, for MLAs to discuss concerns with their consituents. Besides, there are also concerns with weather (it snows very much, making travel dangerous) and communication (some areas don’t have cell phone access or even internet).

  3. Idealistic Pragmatist
    October 5, 2006 at 8:10 pm

    I suppose I can see it with elections. But in terms of the day-to-day work of an MLA, representing the constituents, it would still seem that a slightly larger constituency shared with another MLA would be better than the situation they have now. *shrug*

  4. Northern BC Dipper
    October 5, 2006 at 8:42 pm

    And that’s the key problem, Idealistic Pragmatist. These consituencies would not be slightly larger – they would be massively larger. Just combining two northern seats would create a large district. Think about if they wanted a fully proportional seat consisting of 5 or 6 MLA – that district would take up ALL of Northern BC!

  5. Doug
    October 6, 2006 at 7:11 pm

    Thanks for your post on this very important subject. I happen to live in Vancouver-Burrard, but I understand your concerns about under-representation of rural areas. Unfortunately IMHO, neither redistribution nor STV can remedy the situation. I believe the best solution is the one advocated at democraticSpace in ‘Making Every Vote Count’. While the subject is discussed in the Federal context, the principles could (should?) be applied in British Columbia. I fear the government’s insistance in running the STV issue by us one more time will result in the adoption of that much inferior solution. Vote ‘NO’ to STV!

  6. Doug
    October 6, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    Meant to include a link to democraticSpace: http://democraticspace.com/blog/electoral-reform/

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