The City of Delta is formally opposing proposed federal electoral boundary changes that would see the community split between three ridings.
On Monday (May 16), council unanimously supported a report from Mayor George Harvie’s office asking that a letter be sent to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission of B.C. expressing Delta’s opposition to the proposed changes and requesting that the city remain as a single electoral district.
The report also asked that the mayor be registered to speak at a public hearing on the proposed boundary changes happening at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn (1665 56th St.) on Thursday, June 9 — which Harvie noted for the record he had already done — and that copies of the report be distributed to MP Carla Qualtrough and MLAs Ravi Kahlon and Ian Paton.
The current riding of Delta covers the whole of the city and the Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN).
Under the proposed changes, TFN and the bulk of South Delta would still be part of the Delta riding, though areas north/east of Highway 99 and the South Fraser Perimeter Road — including Tilbury and Annacis Island — would be added to the renamed constituency of Richmond East.
North Delta, meanwhile, would be split between the ridings of Delta, Richmond East and Surrey West.
Along with Tilbury and Annacis Island, North Delta from Highway 91 east to 112th Street and 72nd Avenue north to the Fraser River would become part of Richmond East, as would the Queensborough area of New Westminster.
The area from 112th east to Scott Road and 72nd north to 96th Avenue would become part of Surrey West, while all parts of the community south of 72nd would remain part of the Delta riding.
As well, parts of Newton and Panorama Ridge in Surrey would be added to the Delta riding, from 72 Avenue south to the railway line parallel to Colebrook Road and as far east as King George Boulevard.
The full proposal can be found at redistribution2022.ca.
At Monday’s meeting, Coun. Dylan Kruger said he was extremely concerned at what he called “massacring” of the current boundaries that would erode local representation in Parliament.
“What is proposed is splitting our community into three,” Kruger said. “The purpose of these [new] boundaries is to reflect population change, which is a good thing, but unfortunately the way the commission has suggested going about it, I’m presuming they didn’t actually take the time to drive through our community.”
The commission is tasked with updating riding boundaries in the province based on the latest census information, a process required by law every 10 years.
The commission’s main aim in redrawing boundaries is to divide the province into electoral districts that are as close to the electoral quota (population divided by number of allocated seats) as reasonably possible, while taking into consideration “communities of interest or identity, as well as historic and geographic factors,” according to press release.
Data from the 2021 census shows B.C.’s population increased from 4,400,057 in 2011 to 5,000,879, giving B.C. an electoral quota of 116,300. The increase also means the commission must add one riding in the province, increasing B.C.’s seats in Parliament to 43. Under the proposed changes, the new electoral district — dubbed Vernon-Lake Country — would be in the Southern Interior between Vernon and Kelowna.
The current riding of Delta has a combined population of 110,711, according to the 2021 census — 108,455 for Delta and 2,256 for TFN.
The updated Delta riding would have a population of 117,020. Richmond East would have a population of 116,764, and Surrey West 115,780.
“Representation by population is vital, but also having unique community interests represented in Ottawa,” Kruger said. “We’d be in a situation where in at least two of these three ridings Delta residents would be an extreme minority, which means we’d have residents in other communities making decisions on our behalf. That’s something that I’m very, very concerned about.”
Kruger, who plans to speak at next month’s public hearing, said he has spoken to people from across the political spectrum who all agree the proposed changes do not serve the interests of the community.
Coun. Lois Jackson echoed Kruger’s concerns, saying “there are other things to consider” besides population.
Jackson recalled the way the city had previously been divided into multiple ridings and the relief felt when the city was restored as a single district in 2012, and wondered why the commission would consider undoing that a decade later.
“I don’t know the rational for doing it now. I think it is a very retrograde step,” Jackson said.
“I think that this will, as has been mentioned, be a burden on not only the people themselves knowing which way to turn, but on council in trying to get funding to support certain projects that we have ongoing at this table.”
The concern that the changes could erode the city’s ability to effectively navigate the complexities of dealing with senior levels of government was also shared by Coun. Bruce McDonald and Mayor Harvie.
“Can you imagine us trying to negotiate with the federal government for the millions of dollars we got for the North Delta [track facility] if we had three MPs to deal with? It’s ludicrous,” McDonald said, describing the changes as a “dog’s breakfast.”
“It doens’t make any sense at all. It’s only to allow one extra seat in B.C., and they’re sacrificing Delta to get that one seat. That’s the way I look at it,” Harvie said.
Mayor Harvie also told council he has spoke extensively with Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who is also opposed to the changes, and has a call in to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum to discuss the issue.
Jackson also expressed frustration that those most impacted by the proposed boundary changes, the residents of North Delta, would have to travel to Tsawwassen in order to be heard.
“There is only one meeting going to be held in Delta and it’s down in South Delta, but the huge disruption is going to take place wherein North Delta is split [into three] right down 112th Street at 72nd [Avenue],” Jackson said.
Council adopted a pair of amendments proposed by Jackson, the first asking Delta’s MP and MLAs to also write letters to the commission opposing the boundary changes, and the second to ask the commission to also hold a public hearing in North Delta.
Council also supported an amendment from Coun. Jeannie Kanakos empower city staff to run ads letting residents know about the proposed changes and the upcoming public hearing.
The commission is holding 27 public hearings in June and September to gather comments and feedback on the proposed boundaries and related changes to some electoral district names.
In addition to the one in Tsawwassen, other nearby hearings will be held at the Richmond Oval on Sept. 12, the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey on Sept. 13 and at the Inn at the Quay in New Westminster on Sept. 14. There will also be a virtual hearing online on Sept. 28.
Those wishing to make a presentation at a hearing must give notice to the commission no later than one week before the hearing they wish to attend, either by mail (Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for British Columbia, 1055 West Hastings Street, Suite 300, Vancouver, B.C., V6E 2E9) or email (email@example.com), by filling out a notice form online or by using the interactive mapping tool at redistribution2022.ca.
The commission’s report must be finalized by December of this year, 10 months after receipt of the census population data, which was released publicly on Feb. 9.