Seating in the B.C. legislature had to be altered to add a third row on each side to accommodate 85 MLAs. After the 2017 election, two more desks will have to be squeezed in.

New seats coming for 2017 B.C. election

Surrey getting ninth MLA, Richmond adds another as rural seats preserved, legislature will soon have 87 seats

VICTORIA – New provincial seats will be created in Surrey and Richmond-New Westminster for the next B.C. election, bringing the number of MLAs in the legislature to 87.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton tabled legislation Thursday to adopt the recommendations of the latest B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission and create the two new constituencies to reflect high-growth areas of provincial population.

The commission recommended changes to boundaries to 48 existing constituencies, after public hearings since it proposed the changes this spring to balance population. It was restricted by a law that prevents the elimination of electoral districts in areas outside the urban southwest.

The latest boundaries leave a wide range of populations to be represented by a single MLA. The lowest populations are Stikine with 20,616 and North Coast with 22,382. At the other end of the scale are Vernon-Monashee, Vancouver-Fraserview and Vancouver-Kingsway, all with more than 62,000 people.

The hearings were dominated by conflicting views on changes to four areas:

• Severing Hope from Chilliwack and adding it to the Fraser-Nicola constituency, which extends into the Interior to include Merritt. Princeton is added to the Boundary-Similkameen district.

• Rearranging boundaries in central Vancouver Island to create a new electoral district of Mid Island-Pacific Rim, anchored by Cumberland.

• Adding a new Surrey South district, bringing the total number of seats in Surrey to nine.

• Adding a new Richmond-Queensborough district, taking in part of New Westminster.

The last review in 2008 recommended that an urban population shift should result in a reduction of one seat in the Cariboo-Thompson region and one in northern B.C. The government intervened keep those seats and increase the total constituencies from 83 to 85.

The B.C. Liberals and NDP agreed then that northern constituencies could not get any larger and still be represented by a single MLA.

The 2008 review added seats in the Okanagan, Fraser Valley, Surrey, Burnaby-Tri-Cities and downtown Vancouver.

The commission’s report and maps are available on its website.

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