Part I Initial Report to the House of Commons (December 18, 2012) – British Columbia – Introduction

Introduction

The Commission

The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of British Columbia (the Commission) was established on February 21, 2012, pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 (the Act), to reconfigure the boundaries of British Columbia's federal electoral districts. The Commission is mandated to provide for 42 electoral districts, an increase of 6 over the previous total of 36. This is required because of an increase in the population of the province, which reached 4,400,057 in the 2011 decennial census. The Act provides for boundary adjustments at 10-year intervals to take account of population size and distribution within a province. The electoral quota for British Columbia is 104,763 residents per electoral district.

The three commissioners are Mr. Justice John Hall, Dr. Peter Meekison and Mr. Stewart Ladyman.

Mr. Justice John Hall, Chair

Mr. Justice Hall was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1964 and was called to the Yukon Bar in 1974. He practiced as a member of the law firm DuMoulin Black from 1968 to 1991, when he was appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In 1978, he acted as counsel to the Royal Commission on Female Offenders and, in 1986, was appointed as commissioner of a federal inquiry investigating matters relating to the Westbank Indian Band and certain provisions of the Indian Act. He was President of the Vancouver Bar Association in 1978. He was appointed a Queen's Counsel in 1982. He became a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1985. He served as a Supreme Court judge for the Province of British Columbia between 1991 and 1997, and is presently a judge of the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

Dr. Peter Meekison

Dr. J. Peter Meekison is currently Chancellor and Board Chair of Royal Roads University. He is an adjunct professor of political science at the University of Victoria and Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Alberta. Dr. Meekison served as Alberta's deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs for seven years and participated in both the Meech Lake Accord and Charlottetown Accord negotiations. In June 1986, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. In June 1993, he was named a commissioner on the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.

Mr. Stewart Ladyman

Mr. Stewart Ladyman spent 33 years in the British Columbia public school system as a teacher, principal and superintendent of schools in five school districts, including a 6‑year secondment to British Columbia's Ministry of Education. For the past 10 years he has provided a full range of professional services based on educational research and sound educational practices to school districts and Aboriginal independent schools throughout British Columbia. He has been a governor on the board of Science World, a director with the Irving K. Barber Scholarship Society, and is presently a director on the board of First West Credit Union, a multi-regional credit union. Mr. Ladyman also served on the 2006 British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission.

After an initial orientation conference hosted by Elections Canada in Ottawa in late February 2012, the Commission set to work in its Vancouver office to establish its preliminary proposal. In all aspects of its duties, the Commission was ably assisted by Ms. Lindsay McGraw, the cartography specialist seconded to it by Elections Canada.

The work of this Commission has been greatly aided and enhanced by the efforts and efficiency of its secretary, Ms. Susan McEvoy. She was the contact person for those persons seeking to provide input into the redistribution process. Her organizational abilities ensured that the large-scale public hearing process proceeded in a smooth and efficient manner.

The Commission's Mandate and Approach

The electoral quota in a province is determined by dividing the total population by the number of electoral districts. The Act provides that the population of each electoral district should, “as close as reasonably possible", correspond to the provincial electoral quota (s. 15(1)). In making decisions about appropriate electoral boundaries, the Commission is required to consider a number of factors. These include “the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province" and “a manageable geographic size" for rural or sparsely populated districts (s. 15(1)(b)). The Act permits deviation from the electoral quota by 25% more or less (s. 15(2)).

While the animating spirit of the Act is one person, one vote, a number of court rulings have made plain that a key consideration for the proper operation of Canadian democracy is the concept of “effective representation". An electoral district with an unmanageable geographic size or a population that greatly deviates from the electoral quota would not conform to this core concept.

The commissioners reviewed the existing electoral districts with regard to the 2011 Census population numbers and the population variance from the new electoral quota. The variances were largely a result of population growth since the 2001 Census. The ripple effect of adding six new districts necessitated a review of all 36 existing electoral districts. This was comparable to redesigning a 42-piece jigsaw puzzle from an existing 36-piece jigsaw puzzle, with the fixed borders being the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Alberta, the Canada-USA border and the Pacific Ocean.

While uniformity of population numbers across electoral districts is the ideal, placing too great emphasis on this could have sacrificed other perhaps more salient considerations, such as historical patterns of representation and community of interest or identity. Given the province's physical geography, these latter considerations were of particular importance. The Commission endeavoured to give such considerations prominence in order to achieve the effective representation of British Columbians in Parliament. The concentration of population in the southern sectors of the province also presented a number of challenges in the configuration of appropriate electoral districts. The Commission also bore in mind the need for proper representation of First Nations communities and was reluctant to divide such communities between different electoral districts.

In British Columbia, given the mountainous topography usually running north–south, due regard had also to be paid to transportation corridors that afford proper access between members of Parliament and their constituents. In some cases, boundaries of municipalities, regional districts or neighbourhoods served as useful delineators of electoral districts. Natural topographic features such as height of land, valleys and watercourses as well as major roads were also useful boundaries. In configuring electoral boundaries, the Commission recognized the importance of following municipal boundaries where feasible.

The Commission's Proposal

The most rapid population growth in the province had occurred in the Lower Mainland. The Commission also observed significant population growth on Vancouver Island, particularly on the east coast and in the Capital Region. Population growth in the Interior region of British Columbia was lower than that of the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. As a result, the population numbers in the Interior were insufficient to support a new electoral district. As the Commission worked its way through the different geographic regions of the province, it became apparent where new electoral districts ought to be established.

In developing its proposal, the Commission deliberated through March, April and early May of 2012. The Commission determined that population growth required the addition of five new electoral districts in the Lower Mainland region and one new electoral district in the Vancouver Island region. This necessitated the reconfiguration of most of the existing 36 electoral districts.

The Commission submitted its proposal to Elections Canada for translation and dissemination. The proposal was posted on the Commission's website on June 29, 2012, and was published as a supplement to the Canada Gazette, Part I, on August 4, 2012. It was also advertised in newspapers throughout the province between August 4 and 12, 2012. The schedule of public hearings was included in both the Canada Gazette and the major newspaper advertisements. It was also on the website.

Public Hearings

The Commission scheduled 23 public hearings throughout the province to allow for local input and advice. The hearings were held over a period of six weeks in September and October 2012. Presenters at the public hearings were requested to give notice of their intention to present. In the event, the Commission did not limit presentations at the hearings to only those who had given prior notice; anyone in attendance could address the Commission.

The following table indicates the hearings and number of presentations that occurred.

Hearing Location Date Presentations
North Vancouver September 10 19
Squamish September 11 3
Surrey September 12 26
Delta September 13 6
Prince George September 17 3
Langley September 18 7
Abbotsford September 19 20
Maple Ridge September 20 5
Vancouver (2 hearings) September 24 47
Richmond September 25 7
New Westminster September 26 17
Coquitlam September 27 13
Cranbrook October 1 6
Nelson October 2 19
Castlegar October 3 15
Penticton October 9 16
Kelowna October 10 9
Kamloops October 11 9
Courtenay October 15 17
Nanaimo October 16 19
Victoria October 17 31
Burnaby October 18 40
Total   354

Holding hearings throughout the province gave the Commission a better appreciation of local and regional circumstances. One of the commissioners, by reason of long residence and a career in the Southern Interior, was very familiar with that area. Another commissioner was particularly knowledgeable about Vancouver Island. The Commission Chair, who resides in the Vancouver area, drove throughout the Lower Mainland, the Interior, and the Kootenay and Vancouver Island geographic areas to familiarize himself with the dimensions and makeup of the different areas.

In addition to written and oral submissions received at the hearings, the Commission received over 600 written submissions at its office. All of the submissions were considered by the commissioners and were of great assistance in their deliberations. While it was not possible to accede to all submissions, the Commission endeavoured in its final dispositions to incorporate much of the useful advice received.