Grassroots action was at least partly responsible for the new configuration of the Skeena-Bulkley Valley riding to include all of the Bella Coola Valley.
In the past, those living east of Augsburg Church in Hagensborg were part of the Cariboo-Prince George riding. Now, the riding has been modified to include all of the Bella Coola Valley, with the new boundary sitting at the east of Tweedsmuir Park.
Splitting the community in half had been an issue of contention for many years, and was the subject of at least eight letters sent by Valley residents requesting that the boundary be changed.
Many people owned property in both ridings, or conducted business in one but lived in another. Residents also pointed out that everyone utilized services located in Bella Coola, such as the hospital and clinic, local government office, and schools.
In addition, the Valley’s isolation already makes it a challenging visit for MP’s, so why complicate matters by having two ridings? Logically, the old boundary made no sense for the day-to-day existence of residents or their MP’s.
Tasked with reconfiguring the boundaries of BC federal electoral districts to grow the number of federal ridings from 36 to 42 due to population growth, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of British Columbia proposed an extension of the boundaries of Skeena-Bulkley Valley to include all of the Bella Coola Valley.
“I’m glad that the Commission has proposed to unite the communities in the Bella Coola Valley into a single riding. It just makes sense,” said Nathan Cullen, MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, reacting to last week’s release of the commission report.
“I have been travelling to Bella Coola once or twice a year ever since I became a Member of Parliament and it has never made any sense to me that Bella Coola, Four Mile and part of Hagensborg are in one riding, while the rest of Hagensborg, Firvale and Stuie are in another.”
Cullen supports the Commission’s proposal for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, which doesn’t substantially increase the size of the riding due to recognition of the challenges of representing such a vast riding. The Commissioners concluded that major changes were not required for Skeena-Bulkley Valley and neighboring northern electoral districts.
“Though not considered a major change, this is a significant one for the communities of the Bella Coola Valley and for Skeena-Bulkley Valley as a whole. I am excited that folks in the valley will finally be federally represented together rather than apart,” said Cullen.