First federal and now provincial.
“It never ends,” grumbled Scott Wheatley. “First we have to fight against the proposed changes to our federal riding and now we have to fight against the provincial ones.”
Wheatley, the executive director of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce, was commenting on a new preliminary report issued by the British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission (BCEBC).
The BCEBC reviews the boundaries of provincial electoral districts every couple of elections or so. The idea is to continually change ridings so they have a somewhat even amount of electors across all ridings in the province.
That latest report, issued Oct. 3, details proposed changes to electoral boundaries for provincial ridings for the next two B.C. provincial general elections.
For Cloverdale, it means creating two new ridings: Surrey Central and Surrey East. To do this, the BCEBC has chopped up the old riding of Surrey-Cloverdale and added half of it to Newton with the other half tacked onto part of Fleetwood. The area of Cloverdale south of Hwy 10 (currently in the riding of Surrey-South) would be added to the new Surrey East riding.
“The Chamber is disappointed with this proposal on redistricting provincial ridings,” Wheatley said. “We’ll be fighting it tooth and nail. The first meeting is Nov. 3 and I’ll be presenting at it.”
Wheatley said in trying to balance the ridings to get roughly equal numbers of constituents, they’ve created two ridings that have boundaries that work against constituents interests. While people may live in the in the same general area, Wheatley explained, their kids will go to the same schools, but they’ll have to reach out to different MLAs when local issues arise.
“The trouble is, they’ve eliminated the historical heartland of Surrey. Cloverdale was the original town centre and now they’re trying to erase that.”
He added that by dividing Cloverdale at 180th Street and putting half of it with Newton, the BCEBC will create a myriad of new issues that local MLAs won’t be able to deal with.
“People who live in the same neighbourhood will be in different constituencies,” said Wheatley. “Can you image the difficulty for people and for MLAs to be able to deal with local issues?”
Wheatley sees the importance of natural borders, and thus the current communities, of the area as paramount to any riding rejig.
“For us, that’s Clayton and Cloverdale. Because we were separated from the rest of Surrey by agricultural land, that is where the common community interest is. And that needs to be protected. By doing what they’re doing , they’re separating a community.”
Wheatley said the biggest problem he sees with the commission’s undertaking is they disregarded Surrey’s rich and unique history when they “cobbled together” the new “patchwork ridings” for the Surrey area as a whole.
“They are not looking at the city’s traditional five town centres,” said Wheatley. “The town centres have traditional spheres of influence and those spheres of influence need to be respected and protected.”
Wheatley recently battled against with Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission over their proposed changes to the federal riding of Cloverdale-Langley City.
As for the provincial commission, they are accepting feedback in three ways: through the commission’s website at bcebc.ca, at an in-person or virtual public meeting (times and days are listed on their website), or by writing the commission directly.
“The only thing I’m saying is ‘Keep Clayton and Cloverdale together.’ It’s in the best interests of the people that live here.”