B.C. is going from 36 to 42 MPs which means all of the federal electoral districts need to be redistributed. This process that started in 2012 culminated with a final report Monday by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for B.C. It's bad news for residents of the B.C. Interior because it favors urban parts of the province.
Rural B.C. is home to a large aboriginal population and the most significant part of the forest industry in Canada. It is a region that is geographically very different than the rest of the country and has challenges no one else needs to worry about. It needs better representation in Ottawa than it gets now, but the commission report does nothing to improve things even though they could have.
Each riding in B.C. should have 104,763 people within it, the electoral quota, but in the Interior and North the report recommends 109,116, or 4.2 per cent above average. In the 604 area code region, the average is 101,923, or 2.7 per cent below average.
There are 1,750,000 British Columbians who do not live in the 604 area code area. Based on the electoral population quota for B.C. there should be 16.7 MPs outside of the Lower Mainland but the report only calls for 16. Five of six new MPs from B.C. will come from Vancouver and area.
B.C. beyond Hope has a population of one million, which is almost the same as the population of Saskatchewan with 1,033,381. The North and Interior will only have nine MPs even though based on the electoral quota they should have 10. In comparison, Saskatchewan will continue to have 14 MPs for a similar population.
In Canada, urban areas tend to have a higher than average riding population than the rural areas. Ontario's eight smallest populations are in rural ridings but this is not the case here. In B.C., almost all the lowest populations are in Fraser Valley or suburban Vancouver.
A fair distribution of the seats in B.C. would have been 11 in the Interior and North, seven on Vancouver Island and 24 in the 604 area code — and not, as recommended, 26 in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
The riding of North Okangan Shuswap has a population of 121,062 — which is not only the highest in B.C., it is one of the highest in Canada. On the other hand, suburban Richmond West has a population of only 93,863, or almost 27,000 fewer people.
North Okanagan Shuswap is also not a small compact electoral district like the ones in urban Canada. At 13,780 square kilometers it is more than twice as large as PEI.
Does it really matter if the B.C. Interior has nine or 11 MPs? It does because even a couple of extra MPs will increase the voice of B.C. residents in Ottawa.
Rural B.C. MPs already have a tough job representing their areas because of the time it takes to get around a large B.C. riding and the time it takes to get to Ottawa. The MPs in Canada with the worst travel schedules either come from the three northern territories or from B.C. outside of the Lower Mainland.
With a large geographic area, difficult travel, and a high population, the ability of a rural MP from B.C. to do a good job of representing their area is severely hampered. MPs from rural B.C. are more likely to burn out or to not do their job well than anywhere else in Canada.
If there were more rural B.C. MPs issues like the mountain pine beetle, treaty negotiations, pipelines, and environmental assessments would have a higher profile in federal politics.
The chances that the final report will be significantly altered is highly unlikely which means rural B.C. will have to live with bad representation levels till 2023 or later.