Potential shifts to the Tri-Cities’ provincial election boundaries

Ahead of the 2024 provincial election, Tri-Cities voters may have to adjust to a shakeup of local election boundaries.

The proposed new boundaries pitched by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission would send five MLAs representing the Tri-Cities to Victoria, instead of the current four.

Provincial legislation appoints the commission to review the boundaries every second election, aiming to balance population changes to ridings, taking into account factors like demographics and geography.

“This system of ‘representation by population’ is based on the idea that one person’s vote should carry the same weight as another person’s vote, regardless of where they live in the province,” the commission’s preliminary report stated Oct. 2. “In order for that to happen, the population of each riding must be roughly the same.”

The commission has proposed adding six new MLA seats to the 87 currently in the provincial legislative assembly to account for a growth of more than 300,000 people over the last five years.

Four new ridings would be formed in Burnaby, Langley, Surrey and Vancouver.

The goal is to make each district’s population roughly the same size, or at least within a 25 percent margin of the median, called the “electoral quotient.” However, that is not always possible, according to the commission.

That median is 53,773 people as of 2021 population statistics. Seventeen districts currently fall outside of deviation range – six are higher and 11 are below the minimum. The proposed changes would bring 12 ridings in line with the median.

The commission is travelling to different areas of the province and holding public input hearings ahead of their final report due in the legislature by spring.

They held a public hearing in Coquitlam on Nov. 4, but very few local residents reportedly came out, as reported by the Tri-City News.

MLAs will be able to make submissions to the commission before the final report.

The Tri-Cities are included in a realignment area that includes nine electoral districts, encompassing Burnaby, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and New Westminster (except Queensborough).

The commission described adjustments to this area as “challenging because of its rapid rate of population growth” and because two districts are near the top of the deviation range.

They stated that young voters had told them they feel their vote is less valuable due to overpopulation, and some expressed a desire to see two new districts.

“We consider it more important to ensure room for growth in all ridings in this area by keeping populations balanced than to adhere to existing municipal boundaries where they would create districts with very different numbers of residents,” the preliminary report said.

“We believe that our proposal for one additional riding is sufficient to bring all electoral districts in the area within the usual deviation range with room for growth.”

Their redrawing of Tri-Cities districts have certain neighbourhoods being absorbed into the adjacent ridings to even out growth.

Currently, the four ridings in the Tri-Cities are:

If the commission’s proposals are approved, the districts will be:

The Coquitlam-Burke Mountain would lose the Westwood Plateau neighbourhood as the district is near the top of the deviation range (22.7 percent) to ensure room for future growth.

The new Port Moody district, meanwhile, would lose several blocks on its southern edge of its riding, which are being absorbed into the new Coquitlam-Mundy Park district.

The current Coquitlam-Maillardville district would lose the Maillardville neighbourhood in exchange for the southern blocks cut from Port Moody.

Everything from Blue Mountain Street to the west, to Austin Avenue to the north, and Schoolhouse Street to the east, would be absorbed into the New Westminster-Maillardville.

The existing New Westminster district is also near the top of the deviation range (18.1 percent), and is losing chunks to three separate Burnaby districts.

“The population of the current electoral district of New Westminster is large and growing quickly. To address this, we propose moving some of its more residential areas into adjacent electoral districts in Burnaby,” the commission’s report states.

Port Coquitlam will remain the same, except for kʷikʷəƛəm̓ (Kwikwetlem) First Nation reserve moving into neighbouring Coquitlam-Mundy Park so that both Kwikwetlem reserves are in the same riding.

The commission has an interactive mapping tool available on their website to view the proposed changes.

Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch