By: James Miller The communities of Penticton and Summerland share far more than geographical borders.
This was the common message delivered to the federal Electoral Boundary Commission at a public hearing on proposed boundary changes for the federal ridings held Tuesday evening at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.
Initial plans call for Penticton and Summerland to be in separate ridings. Okanagan-Coquihalla would be renamed Central Okanagan-Coquihalla and would include Summerland and part of Kelowna.
However, Penticton would be linked with the proposed new riding of South Okanagan-West Kootenay (currently B.C. Southern Interior), which would include Oliver, Osoyoos and Keremeos. It would stretch east to Kaslo, but not include Nelson.
The redistribution of federal electoral districts occurs at 10-year intervals based on the latest census population numbers
"Penticton and Summerland have never been divided in a federal riding since B.C. joined Confederation," said Jason Cox past president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, in a joint presentation with Connie Denesiuk, speaking on behalf of the Summerland Chamber of Economic Development and Tourism.
Denesiuk said the two communities share the same school board and hospital facilities and that 30 per cent of Summerland residents are employed in Penticton while an additional 15 per cent of Summerland's workforce resides in Penticton.
Denesiuk, a former school board trustee, noted that when Summerland and Penticton amalgamated boards in 1996, it was described as "the most successful amalgamation in the province."
Cox noted the business communities are closely linked and several businesses are members of both Chambers.
Former Summerland councillor Carla Ohmenzetter, speaking on behalf of council (which was meeting at the same time), noted Summerland and Penticton share air, water and soil types and suggested "massaging Kelowna's (electoral) boundaries" due to the size of the riding.
Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen chairman Dan Ashton said Highway 97, which links Penticton and Summerland, "is an important corridor."
Penticton city councillor Wes Hopkin said the new riding would be far larger in population, thus meaning "a voter in Penticton would have less power (due to the higher numbers) than a voter in Summerland or Abbotsford, which are in smaller ridings."
Alex Atamanenko, MP for B.C. Southern Interior, said while driving to the meeting from his home in Castlegar, he passed through six different rural communities. He noted rural communities have far more in common with one another than they do with Penticton.
He added the proposed large geographical riding would limit public access to the MP and create a staffing nightmare for the MP in where to position their staff within the riding.
Atamanenko said he's happy with the present boundaries noting, "It's not perfect but it's certainly workable."
Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas was in attendance but did not speak.
Bucking the trend, Penticton realtor Marshall Neufeld, who ran unsuccessfully for the Conservative nomination in the 2011 election, described the proposed changes as "very workable" noting only a few tweaks need to be made.
Neufeld identified several areas in the southern portion of the proposed new riding including Olalla, which would be divided in half under the propose template.
Rossland resident Stephen Hill, who ran unsuccessfully against Atamanenko in the 2011 election, noted that the communities of Oliver and Osoyoos share a link with Penticton "and they want to be included in their riding."
Justice John Hall, chair of the non-partisan commission, agreed that everyone will not be happy with the final decisions.
"B.C. has a larger population now and that's why we're going through this exercise," Hall explained. "We don't like to split up two cities but sometimes that's just the way it is."
The three-man commission, which includes Penticton resident Stewart Ladyman, was scheduled to meet in Kelowna Wednesday, one of 22 hearings throughout the province.
By: James Miller
The communities of Penticton and Summerland share far more than geographical borders.