IN THE NEWS ~ Proposed electoral boundary changes 'strange': Julian

Proposed changes to federal electoral boundaries could give an additional seat to Burnaby in the House of Commons.

Whether the boundaries make sense otherwise is still up in the air.

Burnaby-Douglas, currently represented by New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart, would become Burnaby North-Seymour and include North Vancouver District east of Lynn Creek.

Burnaby South-Deer Lake would comprise most of Burnaby south of Lougheed Highway.

Meanwhile, New Westminster-Burnaby East would include most of the Edmonds neighbourhood, roughly that section east of Griffiths and Sperling avenues and south of the Trans-Canada Highway, and all of the New Westminster mainland.

Currently, the Royal City is split into two ridings along 8th Street, Burnaby-New Westminster, held by New Democrat MP Peter Julian, and New Westminster-Coquitlam and Port Moody, represented by the NDP's Fin Donnelly.

Under the proposal, however, the Queensborough neighbourhood would become part of Richmond East.

The redistribution of federal ridings happens every 10 years to factor in the latest population numbers from the census. British Columbia will receive six additional seats bringing its total to 42. The "electoral quota" in B.C. is 104,763 residents per riding.

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia "provisionally concluded" population growth on the North Shore made it necessary to amalgamate North Burnaby and part of North Vancouver.

"This alteration was considered by our predecessors on the 2002 electoral boundaries commission, but ultimately not recommended in view of certain objections," the commission said in its proposal report. "However, given the population growth in the North Vancouver, West Vancouver and Sunshine Coast areas, as well as the parliamentary mandate to create six new electoral districts (mostly on both sides of the Fraser River east of Vancouver), we believe the alteration can no longer be postponed."

Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian said his reaction is the same as the many people who spoke to him at Canada Day events.

"A lot of people came up and expressed some real concerns about what they consider to be very strange groupings," Julian said of the proposed new electoral districts.

He believes there will be a lot of public interest in providing feedback to the commission so they can "make what folks consider to be more appropriate riding boundaries."

This is simply a first draft, he said. "I wouldn't in any way think this is a done deal."

Back in 2002, he noted, the original proposal was to combine not only North Burnaby and North Vancouver, but also New Westminster with North Surrey.

"There was a lot of reaction from the community there ... Those changes were both pushed back."

While some media reports say the the Conservatives would have won more seats if the proposed ridings were around for the last election, Julian said he doesn't see that as an issue, stressing the NDP are gaining support in areas they didn't before.

"It's not the support that's an issue as much, is it appropriate to group SFU with North Vancouver and the North Burnaby community with North Vancouver? I think last time, 10 years ago when we went through this exercise, the public said very clearly not," Julian said.

"Separating Queensborough away from New Westminster and putting it with Richmond, is that an appropriate approach? My sense from the community is no, that isn't."

Julian said the next draft will likely be considerably different, and then he'll speak with people in the ridings to decide which electoral district to run in.

"I'm certainly interested in running in the next campaign," he said with a laugh.

The commission will hold public hearings beginning in September to gather feedback on the proposed changes.

In New Westminster, the hearing will be held at the Inn at the Quay on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.

In Burnaby, it will be held Thursday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express Metrotown.

Anyone wishing to make a presentation at a hearing or submit a comment should inform the commission in writing no later than Aug. 30. For more information visit http://bit.ly/LngY2J.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com