Peter Milobar will be seeking re-election for the Kamloops-North Thompson riding. (File photo)

Rural, remote ridings at risk as Electoral Boundaries Commission begins work, says Milobar

Those who wish to voice concerns can do so on the EBC website

Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar gave a presentation to the District of Clearwater’s mayor and council during the regular meeting held March 15.

The visit to Clearwater was part of the MLA’s yearly tour through municipalities within the riding. In his presentation, Milobar touched on the provincial budget, electoral boundaries and well water registration.

Potential changes to electoral boundaries

The Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) has begun their work and while this process happens every eight years, Milobar said there could be some big changes coming to B.C. ridings, which could massively affect everyone in communities north of Hope.

Currently, there are 87 ridings in the province. Since the last review was done by the EBC, population has grown by over 500,000, potentially adding six more seats to the legislature. The EBC is a non-partisan, independent group that makes recommendations to the Legislative Assembly about the electoral boundaries used in provincial elections.

The NDP government passed legislation that got rid of protections for 17 ridings in Interior and Northern B.C., said Milobar. The protections meant that no matter the population size in those 17 ridings, the boundaries could not be changed.

“This really is not about partisanship,” said Milobar. “It’s about the number of ridings that have MLAs.”

Constitutionally, ridings are created based on the population divided by the number of seats available. Based on the 2021 census, and assuming the EBC adds the six additional seats, each riding would have roughly 56,073 people, plus or minus 25 per cent. Considering the sparse population in much of Northern and Interior B.C., Milobar said without the protections, the Kootenays could drop from four to two ridings, and large areas such Peach River North and South could become one riding, making travel time very difficult for both the electorate and the MLA.

In total, there’s a potential to lose up to nine of the 17 seats, said Milobar.

“We are trying to say that there needs to be a recognition that large geography needs some reasonable access to an MLA,” he said. “What I deal with as an MLA are completely different than an urban-centric 12-square block downtown Vancouver MLA would deal with. They’re not dealing with forest fires and floods and range land issues and joint use issues and well water issues with the registration of commercial use…it’s a lot more complicated and diverse files that we deal with.”

While the EBC hasn’t posted any public meeting dates for the Interior, Central or Northern B.C. yet, concerned residents can make a submission through an online portal, via mail or email. When public meetings are announced, said Milobar, residents do not have to attend the meeting specific to their riding, as they take information from all over the province.

“That’s very powerful and impactful,” said Milobar. “It’s really about just trying to make sure there’s some semblance of access and voice, importantly, in Victoria.”

Those who wish to make a submission can do so by attending a public meeting, by email to info@bcebc.ca, in writing to PO Box 9275 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, B.C., V8W 9J6, or online at bcebc.ca/your-voice/make-a-submission/

2022 provincial budget

Milobar noted highway infrastructure projects were an ongoing issue. While the province has been busy rebuilding after the immense flooding last fall, he said it was equally important to ensure that projects would go ahead as they were planned, such as the section of Highway 5 south of Darfield that continually cracks and breaks.

The ministry said they had planned to send a team to start geotechnical drilling last fall, explained Milobar, but when the floods hit, the personnel had to be moved to other areas. As budget talks move forward, he hopes to continue the discussion with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on what a new timeline might look like to begin addressing repairs of Highway 5, as well as other projects.

“There’s every recognition that it will be a very complicated fix and a very expensive fix, even though it’s a very short section of road,” said Milobar. “So it is important that it’s on their radar screen continually to make sure that moves forward.”

He also touched on a proposed budget item that would change how the private sale of used vehicles are taxed. When a used vehicle is purchased through a private sale, tax will apply to either the reported purchase or the average wholesale price of that type and year of vehicle, whichever is greater. It takes effect on Oct. 1.

Milobar noted the change is of concern, as there are many reasons why a vehicle would be sold for less than market value, such as helping out a friend or new driver with a cheaper option. He also pointed out the budget book points out who will be affected the most by this change — rural residents and low- to medium-income families.

Counc. Barry Banford asked the MLA if family transfers of vehicles would be affected by the new taxation. Milobar said that as he’d read through the changes, it looks like the “gifting” aspect is still allowed for family members.

Well water registration

Those who are on well water and are drawing from the well for any reason other than domestic use (commercial, industrial or agricultural) are to register the amount used with the provincial government. The initiative was started in 2016, but the final deadline was March 1, 2022, and was implemented to better understand how much groundwater is being used.

Milobar strongly advised that anyone who hadn’t yet registered should do so and while the deadline had passed, a penalty fee can be paid to apply after the fact.



newsroom@clearwatertimes.com

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