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Burnaby North-Seymour riding to go ahead in next federal election

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart -
Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart
— image credit:

The Electoral Boundaries Commission of B.C. has made its decision and it's one a number of people on both sides of Burrard Inlet won't be happy with.

As part of a once-every-10-years redistribution of population among federal electoral districts, the commission has decided to go ahead with a North Burnaby-Seymour riding that it proposed last summer. The aim is to reduce the population in the existing North Vancouver riding by combining part of North Van District with North Burnaby.

Since then, the plan has been the subject of much vocal opposition which the commission acknowledged.

"It was and remains apparent to the Commission that there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm on both sides of Burrard Inlet" for the idea, with many viewing the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge "as more of a challenge to than an enhancement of access and communication for constituents," the commission said in its final report released Monday.

"The Commission appreciates these concerns but is ultimately of the view that there has to be an amalgamation of these areas into a reconfigured electoral district, Burnaby North-Seymour."

It noted that the move is not without precedent as the two areas have been combined into one riding occasionally over the past 40 years.

The new riding will comprise all of Burnaby north of Lougheed Highway and North Van District roughly between the Seymour River and Indian Arm.

The initial proposal generated controversy last summer after media reports quoting one of the commission members, Stewart Ladyman, suggested the North Burnaby-North Vancouver riding was a done deal before public consultations had even started. (In a subsequent interview with the NewsLeader, Ladyman said he was quoted out of context and was open to other solutions to balance out the population numbers.)

Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart was disappointed in the decision.

"They also said they'd made up their minds before they'd even talked to anybody that they were going to go ahead with this. And apparently they were true to their word."

Stewart polled those affected in both his riding and in North Vancouver and found  80 per cent of the Burnaby residents and 79 per cent of those on the North Shore opposed to the proposal.

He also attended the public hearings in both cities where he said speakers were  "almost unanimous" in being against it.

"It's disappointing that all that public input from North Vancouver and North Burnaby made no difference to them at all. It's really the opposite of how commissions should operate."

Stewart said he has one last chance to try and prevent the change when MPs are allowed to speak on the issue at the Procedures and House Affairs Committee within the next month. That committee could make changes to the ridings before they're finalized, but he's not getting his hopes up.

Instead, he's looking ahead at how he can best serve constituents in the new riding, if he wins the next election. If the previous election had been held with the planned new riding, Stewart would have lost by seven per cent of the vote, compared to the two per cent he did win by.

"It's a fairly massive swing in terms of how people vote," he said. But it's not insurmountable, he stressed, noting he almost made up a similar difference when he ran in the riding of Vancouver Centre in 2004.

The population of the new riding will be roughly 70 per cent Burnaby residents and 30 per cent North Shore residents, Stewart said. And despite differences in demographics and voting patterns, there seems to be agreement on one subject that's set to be a major issue in the next federal election—people on both sides of Burrard Inlet oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and the resulting increase in tanker traffic.

Until the next election, he plans to do as much as he can to represent both current and potential future constituents, noting the current North Vancouver MP, Conservative Andrew Saxton, didn't attend either of the two commission hearings.

"I did my best to represent folks in North Vancouver even though I wasn't officially their MP," Stewart said of his polling work about the riding changes.

During this redistribution, British Columbia will receive six additional seats bringing its total to 42, with the "electoral quota"—what the commission was aiming to get close to—set at 104,763 residents per riding.

The changes include Burnaby getting two additional ridings–Burnaby South and New Westminster-Burnaby, the latter which will include the portion of Burnaby south of Highway 1, southeast of Burris Street and east of Griffiths Avenue, along with all of New Westminster.

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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