In April, I responded to the Electoral Districts Act which added six new ridings to the province and changed the boundaries of dozens more. While my riding, Saanich North & the Islands, remains largely unchanged, we will be losing the Keating neighbourhood to South Saanich. I’ve represented this community in one way or another since 2008 and am sad to see it leave SNI. As several electoral districts are seeing their names altered as well, I reflected on a future where the original names that were used by the Indigenous peoples in this province reflect the names of the ridings that we represent.
I have just a few comments to make with respect to Bill 25, the electoral boundaries act.
This is, indeed, a process that happens regularly, and it’s a bit of a boundary adjustments around the province to ensure that there is equity. It’s undertaken by, of course, the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.
As we hear in the debates from the various members, the MLAs, the incumbents in here…. Because we do such hard work on behalf of our communities, advocating for them, we form a relationship with the communities that are within the riding boundaries that we got elected into and that relationship and those bonds become very strong. And it’s often because the issues that we address and take care of alongside in our advocacy of our constituents, whether it be individuals, businesses or the local government bodies that are within our riding boundaries.
The work that we do is very close, and we form very strong bonds. As this report…. The date is coming to see the final report. It’s now passed, and we’ve all had a chance to take a look at it. Now we’re debating the legislation that is going to make those new riding boundaries and adopt them into law.
Recognizing that we’ve got six new electoral districts that are going to be proposed, including four in the Lower Mainland. Vancouver, Burnaby, Surrey and Langley all get a new riding. One here on Vancouver Island, in Langford, and another one in Kelowna. Six new ridings. I’m assuming that, sometime in the very near future, we’re going to be having a discussion about how we can fit six more desks into this legislative chamber.
The member for Abbotsford West was noting that there was one vocal advocate for benches in the government caucus. And I would say that I’m also an advocate for the use of benches. I think that that it would be a good adoption and a better use of space in the House. Either that or we’re going to have to make these desks smaller. Anyway, that debate is going to be coming probably at a LAMC committee near you in the coming weeks as we get this bill through the legislative process that’s in front of us today.
Again, it’s important that the population of each electoral district…. And part of the reason why, of course, the Electoral Boundaries Commission does this work is because there’s growth in the communities. Some communities are growing very quickly in the province, and some are not. So we need to make sure that, as close as possible, the ridings across the province are generally similar.
So following the passing of this bill, when we get to that eventual stage, there will be 93 ridings. The population will be somewhere between 40,000 and 67,000. In this boundaries commission, 72 districts have had their boundaries adjusted, and 41 districts have had their names changed.
I think this goes to the comment that my colleague from the Cowichan Valley was raising with respect to a riding in, I believe, Coquitlam. There is a scenario here where riding names have changed. So I certainly encourage the government to take a close look at that riding name, and consider it to be maybe 42 districts that have their names changed.
Eighteen hundred submissions were a part of this consultation process. That’s a robust consultation process. Unfortunately, it was not nearly as accessible as it should be. Hopefully, two election cycles from now, the Electoral Boundaries Commission can make their work more available to the public.
I’ll just wrap up my comments by saying that during that process, the initial proposal was to remove Brentwood Bay from the Saanich North and the Islands riding. There were, I think, quite a number of comments from the public with respect to that suggestion made in the preliminary report. Indeed, Brentwood Bay stays in Saanich North and the Islands. But unfortunately, the Keating neighbourhood is being moved to Saanich South. So Saanich South will have a wonderful new community added to it.
I recognize that there was some need for the change to be made. So I just wanted to take this moment to reflect on the time that I have had the opportunity to represent Keating in the Legislature. As someone who is a former municipal councillor in the district of Central Saanich, I’ve been, to one extent or another, representing and making decisions that have impacted that neighbourhood since 2008. That’s a number of years now. I can still remember the streetlight conversation that was happening on Robin Way, back when I was on municipal council. It’s been quite a while. I’ll be sad to see Keating move to Saanich South. Very thankful to be the member representing Saanich North and the Islands in this parliament.
Finally, I’ll just say this. I think that as we are, and as the electoral Boundaries Commission is doing their work in the future, and reflecting on the correct or the proper names that might best represent the territories that are represented within the electoral boundaries, other than maybe Cowichan, there are very, very few electoral districts that have Indigenous place names as part of their name. I really hope that as we go forward, the Electoral Boundaries Commission and, indeed, this Legislature considers the use of the original names that were used by the Indigenous peoples in each of the territories across the province to reflect the names of the ridings that are represented by the seats in this chamber.
When I take a look at my riding, for example, while there is more diversity than just a single nation reflected in Saanich North and the Islands, vast parts of it are W̱SÁNEĆ. I think that it would be a wonderful day when we were able to come to riding names that also reflected the traditional and historical names that have been used on these landscapes in this province since time immemorial.
So with that, I’ll take my seat and thank the Speaker for the opportunity to speak to this bill.