IN THE NEWS ~ Committee advises against proposed riding

Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun, Page A4.

Like an engaged couple destined for an unhappy marriage, North Vancouver and North Burnaby have little in common and shouldn't be brought together into a single federal electoral district, a parliamentary committee advised in a report tabled Monday.

The Conservative-dominated committee largely accepted arguments from the New Democratic Party that the independent B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission should revisit its proposal to create a new riding, separated by Burrard Inlet and linked only by the Second Narrows Bridge, into a new riding called Burnaby North-Seymour.

It was one of a number of recommendations in the report from the Procedure and House Affairs committee (PROC) to a three-person commission.

Evidence submitted by Kennedy Stewart, a rookie NDP MP for the current Burnaby-Douglas riding who would likely lose his seat in Parliament if the changes go ahead, was "compelling," PROC said in its report.

Stewart told the committee earlier this year that North Burnaby was middle class with a large percentage of new Canadians, while North Vancouver had fewer immigrants and a richer population. He also argued that there were logistical barriers due to "infrequent and time-consuming" public transit across the bridge, and he commissioned a poll showing the proposal was unpopular on both sides of the Burrard Inlet.

"North Vancouver and North Burnaby appear to the committee to be two communities which share few common services or exchanges," the committee report found. "The communities themselves also appear to have little desire, if any, to be tied in one electoral district. That these communities are linked, physically, by just one bridge only strengthens the argument against placing them in the same riding."

B.C. New Democrat MP Peter Julian, who supported Stewart's position, said Monday he hopes the commission will reconsider its "shotgun marriage" proposal for North Burnaby and North Vancouver.

The commission, due to submit in September its final report to the government, indicated in its report last year that the amalgamation of North Vancouver and North Burnaby was necessary despite the union's apparent unpopularity.

Monday's committee report, however, didn't offer a solution to the real dilemma facing the commission, made up of B.C. Court of Appeal Justice John Hall, political scientist Peter Meekison, and Stewart Ladyman, a former teacher and superintendent in five B.C. school districts.

The commission faces the task of adding six new ridings to B.C.'s map, which now consists of 36 ridings, while taking into account challenging topography like mountains and watercourses, huge population shifts, and a requirement to try to keep "communities of interest" together.

On the North Shore the two existing ridings have populations far above the designated "quota" for ridings of 104,763 residents. North Vancouver had 127,330 in the 2011 census, while West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country had 133,910. The creation of a third riding, Burnaby North-Seymour, encompassing part of the North Shore was intended to ease that pressure.

The committee received a total of 24 objections from MPs.

Poneil@postmedia.com Twitter.com/poneilinottawa ILLUS: / A proposed new riding linked by the Second Narrows Bridge would be called Burnaby North-Seymour.;