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New Westminster school board opposes electoral boundary changes

Splitting New Westminster into five ridings would make it hard for the board to advocate effectively, trustees say.
Connaught Heights
Connaught Heights Elementary School is one of two New Westminster schools (along with F.W. Howay) that would be hived off into Burnaby ridings, under a proposed shift to B.C.'s electoral boundaries.

The New Westminster school board is adding its voice to criticism of proposed B.C. electoral boundary changes.

Trustees voted Tuesday night (Nov. 22) to write to the Electoral Boundaries Commission highlighting their concerns about planned changes to provincial riding boundaries.

New Westminster is currently part of two provincial ridings: New Westminster, incorporating the entire city mainland, and Richmond-Queensborough.

A preliminary report from the commission would instead divvy the city up amongst five separate ridings. Queensborough would remain part of the Richmond-Queensborough riding, but the city’s mainland would be divided up among New Westminster-Maillardville, Burnaby-New Westminster, Burnaby East and Burnaby South.

Trustee Maya Russell, who first brought the issue to the board table at the Nov. 8 operations committee meeting, said the changes would be challenging for the school district in terms of provincial advocacy. She said the prospect of navigating five MLAs as a small school district is concerning — particularly because the district relies on the Ministry of Education for funding and needs to have good working relationships with its provincial representatives.

In multiple cases, school catchments would be split between the New Westminster-Maillardville and Burnaby-New Westminster ridings.  Plus, two SD40 schools would be hived off into small portions of Burnaby ridings: F.W. Howay into Burnaby East, and Connaught Heights Elementary into Burnaby South.

Having those two schools as “small fish in the bigger pool of Burnaby” would make it hard to advocate effectively for them, Russell said.

Her suggestion to send a letter to that effect won unanimous support at the operations committee table and was then carried unanimously at a full board meeting Nov. 22.

The B.C. Electoral Boundaries Commission is accepting public input on its proposals until 11:59 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, Nov. 22). You can make a submission online.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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