The Government of B.C. has appointed Justice Nitya Iyer of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, who will chair the three-person panel. The other two appointees are Linda Tynan, professional local government management consultant, and Anton Boegman, British Columbia’s chief electoral officer.
Members of the commission must include a judge or a retired judge of the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, B.C.’s current chief electoral officer and a third member recommended by the Speaker of the House in consultation with the premier and leader of the Opposition.
Amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act were passed by the legislative assembly in June 2021.
Those amendments will almost certainly reduce the number of seats in northern B.C. while increasing the number in the Lower Mainland.
The new bill removed the amendments made to the act in 2014, which established three regions that were collectively restricted to a minimum of 17 seats, regardless of their population. That includes northern B.C., which has 10 seats from 100 Mile House north.
The previous Liberal government made the change to ensure rural and remote areas of the province maintained seats even though their population falls below the threshold dictating that each riding be within 25 per cent, plus or minus, of the provincial average.
According to the province, the “intent of these amendments is to ensure the location of political boundaries between seats is determined not by politicians, but by the independent commission with a legislated mandate to establish effective representation for British Columbians.”
The commission will be asked to achieve through recommendations, to the extent possible, the fundamental democratic principle that everyone’s vote should be reasonably equal in weight in choosing elected officials.
Other factors that will be considered by the commission under the legislation will be population, geography, means of communication and means of transportation to recognize representation concerns in less-populated regions and help ensure effective representation throughout the province.
The commission will seek community input through a province-wide consultation before developing its recommendations. A preliminary report must be submitted to the Speaker within a year of the commission’s appointment. A final report must be submitted within six months of the release of the preliminary report.