Conservative candidate Liv Grewal speaks to supporters following his nomination as the candidate for the new Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding.

Candidates chosen: focus shifts to boundary changes

Agassiz, Harrison will be in new riding of Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding for next federal election

With the next federal election at most only five months away, the question of who is running in our riding has been answered. What may be less well-known is the fact that our riding boundaries are new.

Liv Grewal was recently selected as the Conservative candidate for the new Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon riding, which includes the District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs.

Grewal joins candidate hopefuls Jatinder (Jati) Sidhu of Abbotsford running for the Liberal Party and Art Green of Hope running for the Green Party. Grewal, an Abbotsford resident, received 54 per cent of the 1,846 ballots cast by Conservative party members, beating out four other Abbotsford candidates and one from Ashcroft.

The looming election brings to the forefront the riding changes to this community. The District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs were shifted to a new riding, the Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon, in a decision made by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission in 2013.

The new federal riding includes the northernmost portion of Abbotsford, Mission, Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs, through the interior to north of Lillooet and Cache Creek including Yale, Boston Bar, Lytton and Ashcroft.

The change was made as part of a nation-wide federal redistribution. The Constitution of Canada requires that federal electoral districts need to be reviewed after every 10-year census in order to reflect changes in Canada’s population. The boundary adjustments are designed to reflect population changes, so that each riding contains roughly the same number of eople and takes into account the identities, histories and geographic sizes of individual communities.

This riding’s current MP, Mark Strahl, says the redistribution will certainly affect Agassiz and Harrison.

“Unfortunately I think for me and for the new riding of Chilliwack-Hope, it’s sad to see Agassiz and Harrison being in a different riding,” says Strahl, who plans to run for his seat again in the redistributed Chilliwack-Hope riding. “The cultural and economic ties to Chilliwack and the region are much stronger than they are to Mission or the Fraser Canyon.”

Strahl regrets that his new riding will not include this area for personal reasons too, citing longstanding ties with Agassiz.

This is not the first time Agassiz and Harrison have been shifted to accommodate population changes. These two communities were grouped into the Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon riding in 2004. From 1997 to 2004, we were in the Dewdney-Alouette riding, which included Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows and Mission. Before that, we were part of the Fraser Valley East riding, from 1968 to 1997.

Harrison resident Lis Scotson says this latest change does not bode well for our communities.

“I’m very concerned. It seems to me that very few people realize we’re part of a new riding,” says Scotson. “We’re split off from our natural neighbours – Chilliwack and Hope.”

She fears we will lose any influence on the political scene, being lumped in with communities such as Abbotsford and Mission and geographically stretched up to Cache Creek.

“We’re losing our lines to the central Fraser Valley,” she remarks.

But Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio says while it is convenient to have our MP just across the river in Chilliwack, he will work with whoever and wherever our new MP is to build relationships and continue the positive connections forged between the local community and federal representatives.

“I’m hoping that whoever gets in, we’ll have a good relationship and work together for the benefit of our communities,” says Facio.

He says while his preference would have been to stay in the same federal riding as Chilliwack, it should not have a great impact on us in the long term.

District of Kent Mayor John Van Laerhoven says he certainly hopes whoever is elected will talk to locals to learn about the important matters and to advocate for the communities he represents.

“We are a lot more aligned with Chilliwack – what’s important to us is what’s important in the valley,” says Van Laerhoven. “It’s going to be somewhat problematic to be aligned with communities that have different interests and issues.”

The Canada Elections Act states a general election will be held on the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following the polling day of the preceding general election. That means the 42nd Canadian parliament election must occur by October 19, 2015, but can be called before that date by the prime minister through the governor general of Canada.