Electoral boundaries should consider the climate

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To the Editor:

(Open letter to the provincial commission of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act)

This letter is a request to the provincial commission to reexamine the mandates of readjustment considerations before redrawing the electoral boundaries once again.

I maintain climate change should be our No. 1 consideration. According to the 2007 government of Canada report on climate change, From Impacts to Adaptation — Canada in a Changing Climate 2007, “It needs to be understood that there will be no return to the previous normal. Instead, we face an ongoing process of change that will continue for decades to centuries. It is therefore not a case of planning for a different stable future climate, but of building the capacity and flexibility to cope with whatever evolving climate may bring in the future. This is not uncertainty regarding whether climate will change, but rather about the speed and magnitude of climate change over time.”

British Columbia’s Provincial Emergency Program reports that the frequency, severity and cost of extreme weather events causing personal and economic losses due to infrastructure damage rose dramatically as a result of wildfires, drought, storm surges, heavy rains causing flooding and landslides, and warmer winter weather, resulting in ice jams, freezing rain and rain-on-snow events. These 2003-2005 events cost B.C. taxpayers an average of $86 million per year in payouts of disaster financial assistance, compared to an average of $10 million per year from 1999-2002.

The supersaturation slide at Johnson’s Landing illustrated how poorly prepared the Kootenay region is to cope with what is forecast to become a regular occurrence in the region by the federal report. Climate change could cause an increase in supersaturation slides that would interrupt Columbia Basin river flows and electrical supplies to the province of B.C. and downstream U.S.A. It is completely within the realm of possibility that such a slide could cause an inland tsunami that overwhelms an upriver dam, causing a catastrophic domino effect downriver.

Much more efficient would be having all the dams in one riding. Our federal representative should have direct contact with the Columbia Basin dam manager and have a complete overview of the river systems. Geo-hazard mapping should be done to identify potential problem areas, and local emergency technician teams trained to respond to overfull dams, washed out bridges, slides, fires, devastating winds, stranded communities, medical emergencies and interrupted communication networks

The success of climate adaptation will be the responsibility of our elected representatives and their ability to maneuver within their realistically manageable ridings. I propose that geography and historical patterning trumps population numbers in regards to mandate considerations for responsible climate change adaptation and mitigation. Current population numbers are well within plus or minus 25 per cent, begging the issue of electoral readjustment at this time. If boundaries are to be readjusted at all, they should be changed to accommodate the serious reality of climate change.

Susan Eyre