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The North matters: Electoral Boundaries commission hears from Peace Region on Tuesday

“We need more representation in Victoria, not less.”

More representation – and not less was what the Electoral Boundaries Commission heard from people in a pair of sessions in Dawson Creek.

Peace River North MLA assistant Tamara Wilkinson spoke at Tuesday’s meeting.

“To reach every place in the riding, our MLA has to travel 12 hours,"she said.

“You can’t just walk the riding.”

Wilkinson noted it was quite clear where the “rumours” concerning losing ridings was prevalent.

“Where did this come from? Decisions based on the population – that’s not fear mongering or politicking rather access to provincial representation,” she said.

She noted a third MLA could be added to represent the area from Buckinghorse north to even out provincial representation.

“The south doesn’t understand us up here. Hunting fills freezers, not because we want an animal head on the wall,” she said.

“(A riding from) Mackenzie to the Yukon border? What we really need is to look at appropriate access, we don’t need to look at population, but access.

“Peace River North and South are not similar. I could not imagine trying to cover both ridings. It would not be feasible to give people fair representation.”

 Peace River North MLA Dan Davies was an early Tuesday speaker.

“Over the last number years hear about the rural urban divide that seems more prevalent here. There is a lot of that discussion and rumours about combining ridings – the conclusions have been drawn based on representation by population,” said Davies.

“You heard loud and clear we need to look at the demographics, not just the population.”

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier said it was important to state some business for the record.

“We are on the Alberta side of the Rockies. There is a lot that comes with this. That is one fifth of the province – and it is being represented by two people.”

 “What is appropriate? What do people deserve? Fair access to their MLAs. Fair representation has to look at geography and the people. People are not just numbers.”

Bernier compared the Peace ridings to downtown Vancouver – where an MLA can walk their riding in half an hour.

“Forestry issues, mining, or issues like a gravel road are not talked about. It is different. We need to talk about those differences. Vancouver has nine MLAs for one area – where Peace region has multiple communities. Those are the things I would like to highlight – whether they are moved, amalgamated or otherwise,” said Bernier noting the two ridings have been around for 70 years – and in that time their population has grown.

 “Growth and more MLA needs elsewhere in the province should not come at the expense of this year. People are not numbers – I know you are looking at numbers – but we have different issues and access (in the north).”

Fort St. John resident Evan Saugstad said the area is in danger of sinking into oblivion.

“I watch as our country and province evolves and concerned about the hollowing out of our country.”

“How do we address this rural and urban divide and how do we ensure everyone has effective representation?”

PRRD chair Brad Sperling was succinct in his presentation.

“We need more representation in Victoria, not less.”

The commission was in DC for a pair of sessions to hear feedback from area residents and more. Commission members will complete its final week of meetings and waits for any further written submissions, due by May 31. The three-member panel will review submissions come June.