Boundary changes may not be best for residents

Proposed federal electoral boundaries are a "jumble."

The proposed federal electoral boundaries for Surrey are so jumbled together that it will be very difficult for many Surrey residents to have a good idea who their MP is.

The problem will be most acute for residents of Cloverdale and Newton, two of the fastest-growing areas of the city.

The proposed riding of Langley-Cloverdale will include almost all of Cloverdale and all of rural South Surrey east of 168 Street. This is lumped in, for population balance reasons, with the City of Langley and a portion of Langley Township.

Newton, on the other hand, is split up among three ridings which intersect at the corner of 132 Street and 64 Avenue.

Surrey will have five MPs under the proposal, although one of those MPs will be splitting time as a representative of part of Langley. There are currently four Surrey MPs, with one also representing North Delta.

Surrey is entitled to more representation because of its growing population. Surrey ridings are among the biggest in Canada in terms of population.

The Surrey Centre riding – an odd name, given that historic Surrey Centre is in Cloverdale, and Surrey City Centre is in another riding – basically takes in the area  between 132 and 176 Streets, and 64 and 88 Avenues. It takes in all of Fleetwood and a portion of Newton, but not all of it. It would be better named as Fleetwood-Newton, as both of those communities’ names are used for current districts.

The West Surrey-Whalley riding takes most of the remainder of Newton, north of 64 Avenue, and the western portion of the Whalley area. One wonders how the city will react to the name, given its determination to downplay the historic name of Whalley and rebrand it as Surrey City Centre.

Perhaps city council will lobby for this riding to become Surrey Centre.

North Surrey-Guildford includes the not-insignificant portion of Whalley east of the 136 Street alignment, and north of 88 Avenue, along with Guildford and Port Kells. South Surrey-White Rock includes the area of South Surrey west of 168 Street, the City of White Rock and the portion of Newton, south of 64 Avenue and west of King George.

In some ways, these suggested boundaries go back to former riding boundaries. The proposed Surrey Centre riding contains much of what was once Surrey Central. The Langley-Cloverdale riding has many similarities to the South Surrey-White Rock-Langley riding that MP Val Meredith represented. Delta is once again one riding, with both South and North Delta together again.

It seems to me, as an observer of many changes in riding boundaries over the years, that Cloverdale and Newton residents have the most to lose. Cloverdale will likely be given short shrift by an MP who also represents a portion of Langley (or vice versa).

Newton, being split up between three ridings, does not have the clout that its population warrants. Newton residents, by sheer number, will dominate the West Surrey-Whalley riding, but this proposal dilutes their clout.

These boundaries are not cast in stone. There will be public hearings into the proposed alignments in September (one takes place in Surrey on Sept. 12), and Surrey residents should study the proposal carefully.

Those who feel their communities will lose out on federal representation need to speak up forcefully at those hearings.

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In another political sphere, it is sad that Dave Hayer, Liberal MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, won’t run again.

Hayer has been an effective and hard-working MLA and has represented this area with distinction. He will undoubtedly remain very active in the community, as was the case before his election. I wish him and his family all the best.

Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.