Small turnout for electoral riding hearing in Abbotsford

Changes would see five electoral districts in Abbotsford, up from three

Proposed changes to Abbotsford elecotral districts would see give MLAs in the city.

Proposed changes to Abbotsford elecotral districts would see give MLAs in the city.

The potential for Abbotsford to have five MLAs in the next provincial election – and other impacts from proposed changes to local electoral boundaries – were discussed at a sparsely attended public hearing on Wednesday morning at the Sandman Hotel.

Four residents spoke to the electoral boundaries commissioners, who last month released their preliminary report outlining proposed updates to provincial boundaries.

That report suggests combining some regions of Abbotsford with neighbouring municipalities – increasing the number of MLAs in Abbotsford to five from the current three.

The three existing ridings in Abbotsford are Abbotsford West, Abbotsford South and Abbotsford-Mission.

In the proposal, sections of neighbouring communities would be combined, creating the electoral districts of Aldergrove-Abbotsford, Fort Langley-Abbotsford, Abbotsford Centre, Chilliwack-Sumas, along with changes to the existing Abbotsford-Mission riding.

Ron Gladiuk shared his concerns about the proposed changes, which creates new boundaries in the Fraser Valley to accommodate population growth in Langley, where the ridings are currently well over the provincial average for residents.

Gladiuk said that while he understands the impact of Langley’s rapid growth, the new boundaries would connect some disparate communities – such as attaching Sumas Prairie with Chilliwack – and would create issues for the MLAs who represent the areas, as well as the residents who live there.

Gladiuk said it would be within the interest of residents if the divisions ran more north-south in the west side of Abbotsford instead of the east-west split caused by the boundary at Highway 1. He said Aldergrove could be added to Abbotsford quite easily, but connecting the west side of the city as far as the Surrey border is a concern.

It would also create issues for MLAs who represent communities both in the Fraser Valley Regional District and the Metro Vancouver jurisdiction, as those organizations deal with different issues, said Gladiuk.

Mike Welte also expressed his concerns about MLAs representing multiple communities, saying if they had to split their “very limited time” between two distinct cities, both communities would be impacted.

He said they would “essentially be part-time MLAs representing Abbotsford, and a part-time MLA representing the Township of Langley.”

Residents who have opinions on the proposed changes can still submit their input online at bc-ebc.ca, or by email or mail by 11:59 p.m. on May 26.

The input will be analyzed over the summer before the final proposal is submitted as recommendations to the Legislative Assembly by Sept. 25.