Introduction – British Columbia
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of British Columbia, 2022, was established on November 1, 2021, pursuant to the federal Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. E3, to reconfigure the boundaries of British Columbia's federal electoral districts. The Commission is mandated to provide for 43 electoral districts, an increase of one over the previous number of 42.
Reconfiguring federal electoral district boundaries must take place every 10 years, after completion of the decennial census, as required by the Canadian Constitution. The increase in electoral districts by one to 43 is the result of population growth in British Columbia, revealed in the 2021 census. The province's population has increased by 600,822 since 2011, bringing the 2021 population to 5,000,879 residents. On the basis of 43 electoral districts, this translates into an average population per electoral district of 116,300. That average is referred to in the Act as the electoral quota for the province.
The three commissioners are Madam Justice Mary Saunders, Dr. R. Kenneth Carty, and Mr. Stewart Ladyman.
Madam Justice Mary Saunders, Chair
Madam Justice Saunders is a justice of the Court of Appeal for British Columbia. She was called to the British Columbia bar in 1975 and practised law in British Columbia until her appointment to the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1991. She served in that capacity until her appointment to the Court of Appeal in 1999. While practising law, Justice Saunders served on the British Columbia Police Commission, the RCMP External Review Committee, two commissions of inquiry into policing matters, the 1986 Industrial Commission of Inquiry under the Labour Code, and the Premier's Advisory Council on Native Affairs. Justice Saunders was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1989 and, in 2009, received the Anthony P. Pantages, Q.C. Award from the Justice Institute of British Columbia for her contributions to the field of justice.
Dr. R. Kenneth Carty
Dr. R. Kenneth Carty is Professor Emeritus at The University of British Columbia, where he served as Head of the Department of Political Science, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democratic Institutions, and the McLean Chair in Canadian Studies. A past president of the Canadian Political Science Association, he has served as a consultant to both Elections Canada and Elections BC, and to provincial and national commissions of inquiry, as well as director of and advisor to several provincial and international citizens' assemblies on democratic reform. In 2002, he was a member of the commission charged with redrawing British Columbia's federal electoral districts. A past chair of the Vancouver School of Theology Foundation, he currently chairs the Board of Trustees of the UBC Faculty Pension Plan.
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 six-year secondment to British Columbia's Ministry of Education. For 13 years, he has provided a full range of professional services based on educational research and sound educational practices to school districts and Indigenous independent schools throughout British Columbia. He has been a governor on the Board of Directors of Science World, a director of the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Scholarship Society, and a 20-year-long director on the Boards of Directors of First West and Valley First Credit Unions. Mr. Ladyman served on the 2006 British Columbia Electoral Boundaries Commission and the 2012 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of British Columbia.
The Commission Team
The Commission has been assisted in all aspects of its duties—preparation of its preliminary proposal, conduct of public hearings, deliberations, and preparation of maps and technical descriptions contained in this Report—by Mr. Jeffrey Lorenzetti, the geographer and cartography specialist seconded to it by Elections Canada.
The work of the Commission has benefited greatly from the efficient communication and organizational talent of the Secretary to the Commission, Ms. Susan McEvoy. Ms. McEvoy has been the contact person for those interested in providing input into the redistribution and boundaries reconfiguration. As manager of the Commission's process, she has organized the schedule of public hearings, ensuring that they completed smoothly and efficiently, as planned, and put order to the large number of written submissions that were filed with the Commission.
The Commission's Mandate
The Act provides for boundary adjustments at 10-year intervals to take account of changes in population size and distribution within a province, and it establishes the factors a commission must consider. The first principle of our electoral system is parity of voting power. This is expressed in the Act's requirement that the population of each electoral district shall
as close as reasonably possible correspond to the province's electoral quota (s. 15(1)(a)). This principle is not absolute, however, and the Act also requires that in making decisions on the location of boundaries of electoral districts, the Commission must consider certain factors. These are
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 districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province (s. 15(1)(b)). The Act permits deviation from the province's electoral quota by 25 percent more or less, and allows for greater deviation in extraordinary circumstances (s. 15(2)).
A number of court rulings explain that
effective representation is key for the working of Canadian democracy and recognize that perfect uniformity to the electoral quota is impossible. They say that the factors of geographic size, historical patterns, and communities of interest and identity play an important role in determining electoral boundaries that allow for effective representation, and that
deviations from absolute voter parity may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation.
These concepts have guided the Commission's deliberations on the redistribution and reconfiguration of the electoral district boundaries.
British Columbia's Challenges
Two features of British Columbia create particular challenges for reconfiguring the province's electoral boundaries. One challenge is the population distribution pattern, which is highly uneven and altered since the reconfiguration of 2012. The second challenge is the province's varied and rugged physical geography which, in many areas, determines the possibilities for adjustment to electoral boundaries.
Population is sparse in vast tracts of the province, concentrated and clustered in the southern parts, and dense in the southwestern corner. The census reveals significant but uneven population growth in the past 10 years. There has been high but uneven growth in the southwestern corner of the province, high growth in certain areas of Vancouver Island, and high growth in certain Interior communities that are somewhat distant from other major centres. This population pattern presents several electoral districts with populations varying significantly from the province's quota.
The Commission has determined, after considerable study of the census results, that the growth in population and its changing distribution must result in quite a few adjustments to electoral district boundaries to create greater conformity with the electoral quota and a more level electoral field. It sees these adjustments as being in the overall interests of voter parity and effective representation. Necessarily, these adjustments create a ripple effect. Combined with the addition of one electoral district, responding to the variances in population has required examination of all electoral districts and prompted most of the adjustments to electoral boundaries proposed in this Report. A modest number of changes respond to very local situations brought to the Commission's attention by members of the public.
British Columbia's Physical Geography
The province's varied and rugged physical geography determines the location of many electoral district boundaries. British Columbia divides naturally into areas that cannot be easily straddled for purposes of creating electoral districts that will provide for effective representation. Principally these are Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland Fraser Valley, and the Interior (including, in this admittedly imprecise term, north to the Yukon border, the north coast, and Haida Gwaii). The waters between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland make it largely impractical to combine their territories into electoral districts, with the exception of North Island—Powell River, and the same impracticability is encountered with the mountains east, west, and north of Hope that guard the Interior. The Interior itself naturally divides by population density, transportation corridors, and history into the North and the Southern Interior, making four recognized regions:
- Vancouver Island;
- the Lower Mainland Fraser Valley;
- the North; and
- the Southern Interior.
Each of these regions presents its own districting challenges. The defining coastal waters, rivers, lakes, and mountain ranges of the regions influence historical patterns and the formation of communities of interest. Transportation routes are vital to the formation of communities of interest, to appropriate access of Members of Parliament to their constituents, and to robust community participation of constituents in the working of Canadian democracy.
In addition to electoral quota considerations, the Commission has endeavored to give access considerations prominence so as to foster effective representation, within the constraints of population distributions and geographic imperatives.
In these considerations, the Commission is mindful that British Columbia is home to many Indigenous communities and that many Indigenous communities have reserves that are not contiguous. In the interest of ensuring the proper engagement of Indigenous communities in the electoral process and to enhance effective representation, the Commission has sought to locate each of these communities within one electoral district.
The Commission's Proposal
The Commission received census data on February 9, 2022, and then set about reviewing it for the purposes of preparing a preliminary proposal (the
Proposal), for publication and receipt of public input.
The first decision for the Commission to make was the appropriate location of the additional 43rd electoral district. Given the regionality of the province, the Commission first considered the population data from a regional perspective to determine the degree of conformity of the regional averages to the province's electoral quota.
Comparing these averages reveals that the average populations for the seven existing electoral districts on Vancouver Island and the six existing electoral districts in the Southern Interior (including all the area east of Hope to the British Columbia-Alberta border) vary noticeably from the province's electoral quota. On the other hand, the average population of the 26 existing electoral districts in the Lower Mainland Fraser Valley region is close to the quota. The three existing electoral districts in the North are all under quota. From the comparison, it was clear that the additional new district was to be located either on Vancouver Island or in the Southern Interior. Detailed analysis showed that the addition of this district to the Southern Interior, rather than the Island, would minimize the imbalance between average population per electoral district and the province's electoral quota. This led to the decision to locate the additional 43rd electoral district in the Southern Interior. It is noted that in 2012 this region, unlike Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland Fraser Valley, had stayed with its same complement of electoral districts, leaving it, at the time, somewhat over quota.
With this first decision made, the Commission turned in its Proposal to the appropriate boundaries of the 43 electoral districts. Uneven population growth is evident in a number of electoral districts on Vancouver Island, in the Lower Mainland Fraser Valley, and in the Southern Interior. All three regions are presently home to individual electoral districts with populations significantly over the province's quota, meaning that those particular districts are under-represented. The review showed that significant revisions to the present boundaries are necessary. In considering the boundaries of the districts in each region, the Commission adopted a parity strategy to minimize the variance among the electoral districts within each region, consistent with the factors in the Act. The Commission has been guided by the existing boundaries to minimize disruption and change, although many boundaries necessarily required adjustment, in the Commission's view, out of regard for the electoral quota and the imperatives of effective representation.
The Commission developed its Proposal from February 9, 2022, to March 14, 2022. It then submitted the Proposal to Elections Canada for translation and dissemination. The Proposal was posted on the Commission's website on May 2, 2022, and was published as a supplement to the Canada Gazette, Part 1, on May 6, 2022. It was also advertised in newspapers throughout the province between May 2 and 6, 2022. The schedule of public hearings was included in both the Canada Gazette and the newspaper insertions. Communications were handled by Elections Canada. It advertised the Commission process and the Commission website on various Internet platforms from May 9 to June 11 and August 29 to September 19, 2022, and on several radio stations from May 2 to 16. The schedule of hearings was posted on the Commission's website.
Twenty-six public, in-person hearings were scheduled throughout the province to allow local input and advice. The Commission also scheduled one virtual public hearing, which took place on September 28, 2022, to provide an Internet-based opportunity for those who missed an in-person hearing, could not attend the hearing in their region, or preferred the Internet engagement. The hearings took place over four weeks in June and three weeks in September 2022. While presenters at the public hearings were requested to register in advance their intention to present, the Commission did not limit presentations to those who had registered. After the registered presenters spoke, the Commission invited all those who attended to provide their comment or suggestions for improvement, and many attendees did so. This produced, in several hearings, a fertile exchange among attendees that was helpful to the Commission.
Presenters numbered 211, and attendees numbered over 465. The following table indicates the dates and times of the hearings and the number of presentations that took place in 2022, after the publication of this Commission's Proposal. The hearings in Hope and Chilliwack were originally scheduled for September 19, but were postponed to September 29 to allow for the day declared to honour the memory of Her late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second.
|Date of Hearing||Time of Hearing||Place of Hearing||No. of Presenters||No. of Attendees|
|June 6||7 PM||Courtenay||4||17|
|June 7||7 PM||Nanaimo||7||9|
|June 8||7 PM||Victoria||5||8|
|June 9||7 PM||Delta||17||88|
|June 13||7 PM||Penticton||12||27|
|June 14||7 PM||Kelowna||2||7|
|June 15||1 PM||Vernon||7||14|
|June 15||7 PM||Salmon Arm||4||6|
|June 16||7 PM||Kamloops||12||29|
|June 20||7 PM||Cranbrook||3||3|
|June 22||7 PM||Prince George||1||1|
|June 23||5:30 PM||West Vancouver||13||27|
|June 27||7 PM||North Vancouver||6||10|
|June 28||7 PM||Burnaby||11||22|
|Sept 12||7 PM||Richmond||5||12|
|Sept 13||2 PM||Surrey||10||17|
|Sept 13||7 PM||Surrey||7||14|
|Sept 14||7 PM||New Westminster||10||14|
|Sept 15||2 PM||Vancouver||5||12|
|Sept 15||7 PM||Vancouver||5||7|
|Sept 20||7 PM||Abbotsford||7||9|
|Sept 21||7 PM||Pitt Meadows||10||17|
|Sept 22||7 PM||Langley||10||16|
|Sept 27||7 PM||Coquitlam||14||40|
|Sept 28||7 PM||Virtual Hearing||15||28|
|Sept 29||1 PM||Hope||5||8|
|Sept 29||7 PM||Chilliwack||4||6|
In addition to the presentations, the Commission received and has read nearly 1,000 written submissions, many with detailed maps of alternative boundaries attached.