Proposed new electoral boundaries splitting Vancouver-Burrard, dividing the Davie Village and cutting off the 1000 blocks of Burnaby, Harwood, Beach and Pacific will dilute the West End’s clout, say concerned residents and Village businesses.
The proposed boundary running along Davie St from Thurlow to Burrard means Village staples like the Fountainhead and PumpJack on the north side will be represented by a Vancouver-West End MLA, while south side establishments like Celebrities and Numbers will be part of Vancouver-False Creek, notes Charles Troster, who first raised the issue with Xtra West.
Not only can this water-down the West End’s power, says Troster, but “if someone says the West End should have a political voice, where does it come from?” he asks.
“Xtra West would have one politician and Celebrities would have a different politician,” Celebrities promotions and marketing manager James Steck points out.
“We don’t have a strong voice now. We would potentially have two voices that would be weak,” says Steck.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Little Sister’s co-owner Jim Deva says.
BC electoral boundaries often cut streets that define neighbourhoods in half, notes Troster, pointing to Commercial Dr and Main St, where communities are also divided into different ridings.
The proposed new ridings stem from recommendations released by the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission in August. However, Premier Gordon Campbell’s office has since announced it will be giving the commission a new mandate, which could potentially affect the proposed boundaries. Though the government’s announcement focused on preventing a decrease in rural electoral districts, it could affect the proposed urban districts too.
“Isn’t that interesting Campbell froze the whole thing so it won’t be in effect for the next election,” says Deva.
Before Campbell’s announcement, electoral commission chair Bruce Cohen told Xtra West the proposed new boundaries reflect swelling populations in the existing ridings and the need to balance them out.
But the residential 1000 blocks of Burnaby, Harwood, Beach and Pacific are “vintage West End,” argues Jos Arpink, who lives in the area that would be sliced away from the West End and tacked onto the new Vancouver-False Creek riding.
“We identify solely as West Enders,” says Arpink, who returned to the West End two years ago, after living in Yaletown for several years. “There is an architectural and historic component… the urban fabric, the street grid, the trees, the whole character of the place,” he explains.
Arpink says his concern is his area will become marginalized if the new boundaries go through as proposed. “It weakens our voice,” he worries.
For his part, Troster lives outside the proposed district at Granville and Drake, but notes that as a gay man, he spends a lot of time in the Village. He wonders why the boundary couldn’t run further south.
“I think we’d all agree the blocks along Burnaby, Harwood, Beach and Pacific are more connected to the West End than to the next riding over,” says Troster. Though numbers-wise, the new boundary makes sense, dividing communities does not, he maintains.
“I understand you have to put a boundary somewhere,” says Steck. However, he wonders why Burrard wasn’t used as the boundary throughout, rather than running it from Sunset Beach up Thurlow, then west on Davie to Burrard.
The proposed boundaries take into account predicted growth in Coal Harbour. However, Arpink says his neighbourhood is “cut from the same cloth” as the West End, while Coal Harbour and Yaletown (which would also be part of the new Vancouver-False Creek riding) are completely different.
At a public hearing held by the commission Sep 8 to gather community feedback, Arpink says he raised the issue of cutting out crucial parts of the West End from the riding. “The commission felt it was a valid comment. They encouraged me to make a written submission, which I did.”
Originally, the commission was due to submit its final proposal to the legislature next February. Now its report is in limbo, says communications manager Wendy Stewart, who refused to speculate on what new direction the commission could take, or when the government will announce its new mandate.
“The House is back on Oct 15. There is no indication of when the legislation will be brought in,” she says, adding, “the legislation will explain how we go forward.”
“A number of different scenarios can unfold,” Stewart says without elaboration.
Deva predicts nothing will happen before the next provincial election. But if he’s wrong, the community needs to mobilize itself for the next public hearing, he says.
“We will certainly have to work as a community to make sure the boundary runs all the way down Burrard,” he says.