Thursday, August 16, 2007

From the Prince George Citizen

City should lose one of its MLAs, report suggests
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(News) Thursday, 16 August 2007, 00:00 PST
by Citizen staff

Prince George will be represented by only two ridings, if suggestions in a report released Wednesday the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission are implemented.

"The Central North currently has five electoral districts," the commission says in a summary from the report. "Three originate in Prince George, splitting the city among them and stretching far to the north, northwest and southwest.

"The commission has concluded that Prince George should be divided between only two electoral districts."

The proposed changes will be discussed at a public hearing Sept. 5 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Coast Inn of the North.

Prince George currently is split among the Prince George North, Prince George-Omineca and Prince George-Mount Robson ridings. Each includes a portion of the city, but also a large area of the surrounding region.

In its report, the commission calls for a Prince George urban riding that includes most of the city and a Fraser-Fort George riding that includes a portion of the city's outskirts.

The riding of Prince George-Omineca would disappear, and most of its territory would be included in a new Bulkley-Nechako electoral district, which would follow the boundaries of the Bulkley-Nechako regional district.

"As B.C.'s largest city north of Kamloops, Prince George has many urban economic, social and cultural issues that would benefit from an MLA being able to focus on these community interests," the commission said. "The commission is proposing a new urban electoral district be created completely within the City of Prince George.

"The proposed electoral district of Prince George comprises the downtown area of the City of Prince George. The Fraser and Nechako rivers form its eastern and northern boundaries, respectively. UNBC and Highway 16 form part of the western boundary."

The commission has also proposed that the new Fraser-Fort George electoral district include the remainder of Prince George. "Its outer boundaries will correspond exactly to the Fraser-Fort George Regional district," the commission said.

People wanting to participate in the hearing Sept. 5 may download a PDF version of application and mail it to the commission's office at Suite 601, 700 West Georgia St., Vancouver, BC V7Y 1B6 or faxing it to (604) 660-1207 (toll free 1-877-660-1207). You may also phone the commission's office at (604) 660-1203.

If you're unable to register in advance, attend anyway. The commission says it will make every effort to accommodate everyone who wants to speak, after the pre-registered scheduled participants have been heard.

Elsewhere in its report, the independent panel has recommended adding two new seats in the B.C. legislature, bringing the total number of MLA's to 81 from 79.

The preliminary report of the three-member B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission calls for four new ridings in the Vancouver region and one new one in the Okanagan.

At the same time, the Cariboo-Thompson, Columbia-Kootenay regions, like the North, would each lose a riding.

The commission was also asked to draw proposed electoral boundaries under the single transferable vote system in case the system is approved in a referendum set for 2009.

Under STV, in which voters can select more than one MLA in each riding, there would be 20 ridings, containing from two to six MLA's in each electoral district.

A round of 27 public meetings to discuss the preliminary report is set to begin with the one in Prince George Sept. 5 and the panel will submit a final report to the legislature in mid-February.)

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