The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce has a rift with the shift.
The chamber has written to B.C. Premier David Eby and Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu to express its opposition to the provincial government’s approval of shifting the District of Coldstream from an electoral area with the City of Vernon and Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) Areas B and C to an electoral district with the District of Lake Country and City of Kelowna.
The Legislative Assembly approved the final report of the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission on April 6, three days after receiving the commission’s report.
Coldstream belongs to the RDNO, wrote chamber president Robin Cardew, and is considered a part of Greater Vernon, along with the City of Vernon and Electoral Areas B and C. Greater Vernon, through the RDNO, partners on domestic water, trails and cultural services.
“Greater Vernon is a single economic and social unit, with businesses supporting consumers in all jurisdictions, and creating employment for residents throughout the region,” said Cardew. “Coldstream plays a significant role in the local economy.”
Organizations such as the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, as well as vital social service agencies, serve all residents and businesses of Greater Vernon, said Cardew, and added the eastern portion of Coldstream has a close association with the Village of Lumby, which is in the same electoral district as the City of Vernon.
“We appreciate that the B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission was responding to population growth in B.C. by redistributing boundaries, but population should not be the only consideration when determining boundaries,” said Cardew.
The chamber believes Coldstream should stay in the same electoral district as Vernon and the RDNO areas because a single government representative will simplify the process for RDNO and the Greater Vernon partners to pursue senior government support for joint projects and local services.
“Residents and business owners will better understand the roles and responsibilities of their representatives within Greater Vernon when there is one electoral district,” said Cardew. “Organizations such as the chamber can direct limited resources to a single elected representative when advocating on behalf of their membership and community.
“A single Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) will be able to provide effective representation for Coldstream and Greater Vernon.”
The chamber points out the commission’s recommendation to move Coldstream in with Lake Country and Kelowna in the final report had not been highlighted in the preliminary report, meaning there had been no ability for local government, the public or organizations such as the chamber to provide input on this specific boundary adjustment.
“We are extremely disappointed that all members of the Legislative Assembly ratified the commission’s report without consulting with the communities impacted or how this change may impact their participation in the democratic system,” said Cardew, calling for the premier and MLA to meet directly with the chamber, Coldstream and RDNO in the hope the decision can be revisited.