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District of Kent advocates to stay in Chilliwack-Kent riding

Councillors say district has more in common with Chilliwack than Hope, Fraser Canyon
The B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission has released a preliminary report on proposed changes to the province’s electoral districts, including shifting Agassiz-Harrison into the Fraser Nicola riding. (B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission map)

With discussions about changes in provincial election boundaries in the works, local officials expressed reluctance and concerns.

A preliminary report from the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission released earlier this month proposed potential changes that included dividing Hope into two different ridings and putting the District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs in the Fraser-Nicola riding as opposed to Chilliwack-Kent.

RELATED: Agassiz and Harrison would join Hope’s Fraser Canyon riding in new proposal

District of Kent officials discussed the report during a recent council meeting, agreeing to write a letter expressing interest in staying in the Chilliwack-Kent riding.

Coun. Susan Spaeti said the district has more in common with Chilliwack than Hope and the rest of the Fraser Canyon communities; additionally, an MLA office in Chilliwack rather than Merritt would be closer both geographical distance and common ground. Coun. Kerstin Schwichtenberg concurred.

With that said, some members of council were interested in the potential change.

“Realistically, Chilliwack has a population of 100,000 people and we have 6,000; we’re not the tail wagging the dog,” said Coun. Stan Watchorn. “Even though geographically, it’s different, there’s potential for us to have a greater impact during the election with the new alignment. I’m certainly open to discussion.”

Coun. Duane Post said while it would be interesting to see a change, it’s more difficult to change something back if officials preferred the Chilliwack-Kent alignment.

RELATED:B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission proposes to add six new ridings

The proposed changes are related to changing population sizes; electoral areas are periodically re-drawn to ensure populations stay a similar size to areas around them. The migration from bigger cities to smaller communities across the eastern Fraser Valley has not significantly impacted the Fraser-Nicola riding.

“The population of the electoral district of Fraser-Nicola is currently 41 per cent below the electoral quotient, and it is not projected to grow significantly over the next few years. To address this, we propose expanding its boundaries to include the District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs,” the report states. “These neighbouring communities are located north of the Fraser River and are connected to the rest of Fraser-Nicola by Highway 7. This change increases the riding’s population without significantly expanding its geographical area and keeps related communities together.”

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– With Files from Jessica Peters