Expect changes in Thompson and Okanagan ridings before the next provincial election | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Expect changes in Thompson and Okanagan ridings before the next provincial election

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick is trying to get people to talk about new electoral boundaries.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Norm Letnick
August 08, 2021 - 6:10 PM

While there’s talk about a federal election this fall and it’s less than a year since the last provincial election, at least one Southern Interior MLA is looking into the future of provincial voting patterns.

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick has sent out his annual, provincially-funded mailer to his constituents in which he asks for their feelings on changes to electoral boundaries.

“I’ve always believed, in my 21 years of public service, that I’m the voice of my constituents so, what better way of knowing what the voice should say than by asking them,” Letnick told iNFOnews.ca.

An electoral boundary commission has to be struck after every second provincial election. It has not yet been set up but that has to be done by Oct. 24.

Letnick is starting early because this is the time of year that his annual mailer goes out so he’s piggybacking on that mailing.

His question for the Central Okanagan is a little different than what people may be considering for other ridings in the region.

That’s because, in part, population growth since the last adjustments were made in 2015 mean he expects the region to get a fourth seat in the Legislature.

The Central Okanagan is also different than other Southern Interior areas because there are three ridings that reach into downtown Kelowna.

Kelowna West consists mostly of West Kelowna but includes most of downtown Kelowna, reaching as far as Spall and Glenmore Roads.

Touching on that riding to the north and east is Letnick’s Kelowna-Lake Country riding.

Kelowna Mission starts at the southern end of downtown, mostly at Highway 97 but there are a few blocks west of Gordon Drive and north of Cadder Avenue that are in the west riding.

All three are represented by B.C. Liberals.

Other ridings in the Okanagan centre around entire cities, such as Penticton (which stretches from that city to Peachland) and Vernon-Monashee which includes most of the North Okanagan.

The two Kamloops ridings are divided by the South Thompson River.

Letnick is asking if his constituents want to “share” MLAs as they do now or have the prospective four ridings divided into more distinct neighbourhoods as the other ridings in the region do.

But any readjustment will take in broader and, sometimes, quite contentious issues.

The 2015 commission, for example, had to wrestle with the question of whether Hope was the gateway to the Interior and, therefore, should be part of the Fraser-Nicola riding or whether it was the gateway to the Fraser Valley and should be lumped in with Chilliwack.

It ended up as the gateway to the Interior.

Similar questions could be raised in the Okanagan, such as whether Peachland has more in common with the rest of the Central Okanagan than with Penticton. It's now in the Penticton riding.

To the north, the question could be whether Falkland should be moved to the Kamloops-South Thompson from the Shuswap riding.

The three-person commission has to be made up of a judge or retired judge, the chief electoral officer and someone nominated by the Speaker of the House in consultation with the government and official opposition to ensure they are impartial.

Each commission can set its own process and schedule and will consider things like averaging out the population in each riding while looking at things like geographic size and travel constraints.

In 2015, the commission was struck on May 9, 2014 and filed its final report to the Legislature on Sept. 24, 2015 after holding two rounds of public hearings.

At the time, the Legislature grew to 87 seats from 85.

Letnick told his fellow Central Okanagan MLAs that he was sending out his letter but said it's up to them whether they want to canvass their own constituents.

See the current electoral boundary maps here.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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