Candidates vying for votes in the Mid Island-Pacific Rim riding will have to do a bit of travelling during this year’s provincial election, as the boundaries for the 2017 election have expanded considerably since the last election.
The 2013 riding, known as Alberni-Pacific Rim, ended at Bowser and Errington. While the west coast boundaries of the riding have not changed, Royston, Cumberland, Fanny Bay, Buckley Bay and Hornby and Denman Island have been added to the riding on the east side, while a small portion of the Parksville-Qualicum area has been taken away.
Port Alberni’s electoral district has undergone a number of name changes since its first appearance in the British Columbia general election in 1890. “Alberni” was a provincial electoral district of its own, but the area has also been merged with other outlying areas as Alberni-Cowichan, Alberni-Nanaimo and Alberni-Qualicum.
The most recent merger was because of population disparities, according to the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission.
A 2015 report determined that the disparity between the districts of Comox Valley and Alberni-Pacific Rim was too great to ignore, with the Comox Valley population at 22 percent over the provincial average and Alberni-Pacific Rim at 18 percent under the provincial average.
The report proposed bringing Cumberland, Royston and the southern Comox Valley into the Mid Island-Pacific Rim electoral district to bring both districts closer to the provincial average.
The Alberni Valley News asked all six of the Mid Island Pacific Rim candidates questions regarding the new riding.
Darren DeLuca, BC Liberal Party
Q: How are the new riding boundaries affecting the way you’re campaigning? Is it a challenge to cover such a widespread area?
DeLuca: I think we’re seeing a migration of millennials coming into the region. I think we’re seeing millennials coming of age. What’s important to them is changing, as well. They’re being driven by family and job security, instead of their social lives.
It’s a very challenging riding to campaign in. An all-candidates meeting in Tofino might be four hours of travel for a two-hour meeting. You have to be efficient with how you use your time. We use media outlets, broadcast our market because it’s so difficult to see everyone.
We have to understand there are different needs. What’s important in Alberni is not necessarily important in Royston, so you have to do a lot of research.
Scott Fraser, BC New Democratic Party
Q: How are the new riding boundaries affecting the way you’re campaigning? Do you see some similarities in the issues affecting different communities?
Fraser: I’m living out of my car. I’m on the road from one meeting to another. You try to plan the events all in a row, but you can’t. It’s a long-distance romance, and I’m loving it. It’s always been a challenging riding, you get spread out pretty thin. Once you put the ferries in there, the time consumption is huge. But I’ve met some amazing people.
It’s definitely a younger demographic. There’s lots of concern about education, young families.
In some cases, the issues are different, but in some they’re the same. [Forestry] is a big deal over there, too. Lots of people move to the Island because of what’s here, all the eco-tourism type stuff. (He talked about the rally on top of the Hump, protesting the lack of provincial legislationfor forest lands). The issues that we raised resonated across the whole island.
Alicia La Rue, BC Green Party
Q: With the riding being historically more NDP driven how do you think you’ll be supported?
La Rue: There’s definitely been a strong NDP support here, however the NDP has had ample amount of time to really show vision and leadership. I feel Port Alberni is a prime example of a lack of leadership and the lack of having that voice in the legislative assembly.
For this riding, the NDP, I just feel haven’t quite delivered and that’s what I’m getting when I’m door knocking and I’m talking to people one on one.
Something that I’m finding different right now is a lot of Liberal supporters are coming my way. I’m kind of shocked by it but after talking to [Liberal supporters] they’re not exactly happy with the bad publicity that our local Liberal candidate has got. They don’t feel like he would be a good representative of this area so it’s pretty neat getting the support from the Liberals.
It’s me and four other guys that are running and I think that’s great because this is democracy and the more we get more parties into the legislative assembly the more that it’s going to diversify the amount of bills that we get covered.
I’m excited to run for the BC Greens and I think it would be a really positive thing for this area and I’m getting nothing but support from people from both ends—people that are typically NDP supporters and people that are Liberal supporters but also people that have never voted before. I really love this community.
Dan Cebuliak, BC ReFed Party
Q: With the BC ReFed Party being new to the riding, how do you think you will be supported by voters? Being new to some regions of the riding, how do you think it will support you?
Cebuliak: By introducing the concept of direct democracy, people now realize that there is a real choice where they can have a say in the provincial government and make citizens accountable, that is the biggest question voters are wanting answered.
The BC Recall and Initiative Act is one way to do it. Introduced by the NDP, it was designed to put major obstacles in front of the people, also the Liberals said they would fix it, and they never did. Let’s compare our system to Oregon’s. In Oregon to get your issue to voters you have two years to get five percent of signatures. In B.C. you have only 90 days to get 10 percent.
In Oregon you can get votes anywhere at large. In Oregon the winner wins and the loser loses. In B.C. if you don’t vote it counts as a no vote.
Worst of all in Oregon a majority vote becomes law and in BC the premier can just burn the ballot. What we have here in BC is a ballot system, that is a fraud and a vote for me is a vote to fix our ballot initiative system so that it resembles that of Oregon, so the people of BC finally get the say they insisted upon 25 years ago.
By creating a new and strong foundation today, we can then begin to start towards that future. By continually following the current party system, nothing gets accomplished. People do realize and understand the problems, no one is telling them how to fix it. The BC ReFed is laying the foundation in this election.
Julian Fell, BC Conservatives
Q: With this riding historically being NDP driven how do you think people will support you being Conservative?
Fell: People either vote by old habits, ‘my grandpa voted this so I’m going to vote it’. I would hope that these people would realize if my plan is reported accurately that they will have a discussion point and those that agree with me, I hope they will vote for me.
Q: Having never run for provincial office before, do you think people in your riding will support you?
Fell: I hope very much. In my fantasy they will, in reality we will know on May 9.
Rob Clarke, Libertarian Party
Q: How do you feel your riding will support you, being new to politics?
Clarke: I am optimistic that people want freedom. If you were a slave and had all decisions made for you and you had one chance to vote for freedom, would you? A vote for me and the Libertarians is a vote for personal choice and freedom. Do not throw your vote away.
Q: Being that the riding is historically NDP driven, how do you think you will be supported?
RC: I don’t think people will vote for NDP when they consider that the candidate they gave us doesn’t even live in our riding. The NDP party is asking us to sacrifice a six-figure salary job to suit their party’s purposes. That much money would pay three or four of our average constituents’ income.