Minister's statement on mental-health supports

Hon. Sheila Malcolmson

Dec. 21, 2021 – Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has issued the following year-end statement regarding mental-health supports during the holiday season:

"As we approach the end of the year and the holiday season, we need to remember to take special care of our mental health and the mental health of those around us.

"This past year has been very difficult for people in British Columbia. We have endured two public-health emergencies - the pandemic and the poisoned drug crisis, as well as floods, wildfires and heat waves.

"On top of these overlapping crises, Indigenous survivors and their families have had old traumas made fresh, as the country has grappled with the confirmation of what they already knew - that thousands of children were buried on the grounds of residential schools.

"These devastating tragedies have taken a high toll on our individual and collective mental health. I feel the weight of the grief and exhaustion people in our province are feeling - and the responsibility to make sure that people are supported through this difficult time.

"Even before the pandemic, government was working hard to build and expand mental-health and addictions services to support people throughout the province. After this year, it has never been clearer how much they are needed.

"The holiday season is a time to enjoy and celebrate, and it's also a time to take special care of your mental health and the mental health of those close to you. If you need support during the holidays, or any time of the year, please reach out."

For a backgrounder with some of the services that can help, visit:

Snuneymuxw enters cannabis agreement for new store

211221 – Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Province have reached an agreement that supports Snuneymuxw's interests in the cannabis economy, including establishing a cannabis retail store that is expected to open in January 2022.

"This agreement is an important milestone," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. "It advances the economic objectives of Snuneymuxw First Nation, and it demonstrates the benefits of the Province and First Nations working together to develop a vibrant cannabis sector in B.C."

Under Section 119 of the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act, the Province is authorized to enter into agreements with Indigenous Nations with respect to cannabis, including the ability to operate in cannabis production and retail. While Snuneymuxw is focused on operating retail cannabis stores that offer a diverse selection of products from licensed producers across Canada, the government-to-government agreement provides flexibility for Snuneymuxw to pursue its vision for greater participation in the cannabis industry, while maintaining alignment with the provincial regulatory regime. 

"The Section 119 agreement is significant for Snuneymuxw," said Chief Mike Wyse, Snuneymuxw First Nation. "The Section 119 agreement creates career opportunities for our people, income for our government and, most importantly, an opportunity to further advance economic reconciliation and develop our economy as a Nation."

Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo, said: "Snuneymuxw First Nation and B.C. continue to strengthen our relationship and find new and innovative ways to work together. This cannabis agreement is an example of that. Opening its new cannabis retail store is a credit to Snuneymuxw's Chief and Council working hard for new economic models." 

To further the growth of the cannabis industry in B.C., development of programs for direct delivery and farm-gate sales is under way and will launch in 2022.

Snuneymuxw First Nation order-in-council (OIC):

Information on cannabis regulation in B.C.:

Mid-Island events get $240,000 in COVID recovery funds

Dec. 20, 2021 – The provincial COVID recovery program has announced financial support to a number of events on the mid Island – $240,000 for mid Island specific events between July 1, 2021 and Sept. 30 2022.

Dragon Boat Festival: $ 31,040 
Hub City Walls 2022: $ 16,560
Nanaimo Fringe Festival: $ 15,000 
WinterFest 2021 Nanaimo $ 13,860 
Mid Island Performing Arts Festival: $ 12,800 
Westwood Lake Triathlon Nanaimo $ 10,500 
Beer, Beer, Beer Nanaimo!: $ 4,454 
Vancouver Island Short Film Festival: $ 4,200 
Finale 2021 – Nanaimo New Years Day Event: $ 3,044 
Nanaimo Enduro – Women’s Mountain Bike Race: $ 2,450
Nanaimo Art Walk: $ 2,414

Province renames Newcastle Island as Saysutshun

Merv Unger photo

Newcastle Island Marine Park been has been renamed to provide a deeper connection to the history, land and culture of the Snuneymuxw people.

The park, formerly known as Newcastle Island Marine Park, is now called Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Parkand is a place known for healing, preparation and transformation. The name Saysutshun refers specifically to the island's use as a place of preparation.

"Saysutshun is our traditional territory and sacred to our people that holds our history, culture and way of life. Referring to it using the correct name is important and an act of respect for the Snuneymuxw people," said Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief Michael Wyse. "Over time, our Saysutshun village was unlawfully taken from our Nation without our consent. While renaming the park to our village site is a symbolic and meaningful step forward, it is another action that moves us closer to returning the land back to us.

Sharing the history with the public through culturally appropriate programming is important as well, creating equality, awareness and harmony in our society. I am encouraged to see British Columbia remain committed to the terms of our 2020 Reconciliation Implementation Framework Agreement, and look forward to continued respect and recognition for Snuneymuxw First Nation."

Ancestors of the Snuneymuxw people used the island to train and prepare themselves physically, mentally and spiritually for ceremonial events and hunting. Certain individuals were also sent to Saysutshun for teachings about healing, traditions and history.

"Reintroducing Indigenous names to provincial parks is an important act of recognition of Indigenous Peoples' relationship with the places they have lived for many millennia, and acknowledgement of their history, traditions and culture. The opportunity to learn more about some of the most beautiful spaces in our province through the eyes of First Peoples enriches us," said George Heyman, Minster of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. "Reconnecting with our natural environment, learning from history and teaching people about how to best live together is one of the best things we can be doing now as part of our journey of reconciliation to build a better future."

Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park was established in October. 1961 and has an extensive network of trails leading to various historic points. Indigenous middens offer evidence of at least two Salish villages that were deserted before the discovery of coal in the area in 1849.

Renaming the park is part of amendments recently made to the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act. Chilliwack Lake Park has been renamed Sxótsaqel/Chilliwack Lake Park (Skot-sa-qel) and more than 2,258 hectares (6,321 acres) of land and/or foreshore was added to nine existing provincial parks and one conservancy.

Learn More:

For more information about Saysutshun (Newcastle Island Marine) Park, visit:

For more information about Snuneymuxw First Nation, visit:

For more information about B.C.'s parks and protected areas system, visit:

Information for owners of sewer systems in flooded areas

The Province is advising owners of sewer systems who live in flooded areas of B.C. about potential risks for human health and the environment, and how to mitigate them.

During flooding and while standing water persists, sewer systems cannot function properly. Flooding can also lead to saturated soil conditions, erosion or land surface changes that can damage systems or change how the system functions after water recedes. A damaged or failed system may result in sewage backed up into the home, contaminated drinking water, or other unsanitary conditions.

People who own or are responsible for an on-site sewer system that has been affected by flooding should contact an authorized person to assess the proper functioning of the system. If it is not functioning properly, they should stop using the system and shut off power to any pumps while assessing the cause of the problem. The following resource will help take appropriate action to protect human health and the environment.

The Sewerage System Regulation requires an authorized person to conduct construction, including repairs and maintenance, of on-site systems. For more information about authorized people and other resources related to on-site systems.

In some cases, local governments will have guidance, support or bylaws relating to sewer systems. Check with them for more resources.

For questions about on-site system administration, drinking water safety or public health in regions of B.C., contacts for each health authority are found here.

For more general information on onsite sewerage systems administration, please visit your health authority's website – Island Health.

Flooding evacuees to get additional financial support

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth

 The Province is teaming up with the Canadian Red Cross to provide additional financial assistance to help people meet the immediate needs associated with being evacuated due to flooding.

Financial assistance will be provided by the Red Cross to people whose primary residences have been placed on evacuation orders due to the flooding and extreme weather event that occurred Nov. 14-16, 2021. Eligible households will receive $2,000.

"British Columbians have faced each new challenge over the last few years with compassion and generosity, whether it's the flooding we're facing now, to COVID-19 and wildfires," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. "The Canadian Red Cross is a trusted partner and together we will be able to get supports out to affected people and communities as quickly as possible."

To access these supports, evacuated British Columbians need to register with the Red Cross by calling 1 800 863-6582, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time).

The Canadian Red Cross works with the Province, local authorities and Indigenous leadership to help all people and communities affected by extreme weather and flooding in British Columbia.

"The Canadian Red Cross is grateful for the trust and support of the Province of British Columbia and is committed to ensuring this much-needed assistance reaches people who were evacuated from their primary homes," said Pat Quealey, vice-president, British Columbia and Yukon, Canadian Red Cross. "Our humanitarian workforce has been activated to support response efforts in some of the hardest hit communities, and the Red Cross will be there to assist people impacted by these floods, now and in the weeks and months to come."

Financial assistance provided through the Red Cross will not affect eligibility for supports through the provincial Emergency Support Services (ESS) program.

Learn More:

To donate to the Canadian Red Cross's British Columbia Floods & Extreme Weather Appeal, visit:
Or by calling (toll-free) 1 800 418-1111; or texting BCFLOODS to 30333.

For more on the Province's response to flooding and the supports available, visit:

For more on the Red Cross response, visit

For updated road conditions, visit: (

For information on preparing for severe weather, visit:

For guidance on preparing for potential flooding, visit:

Highway 3 reopens for essential purposes

Highway 3 has reopened for goods movement and people travelling for essential purposes only following a closure to conduct a geotechnical assessment.

On Monday, Nov. 22, pavement cracking was observed on Highway 3 about 10 kilometres east of Manning Park Lodge. This was a site damaged in the recent storm. In the interest of safety, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure closed the highway to undertake a geotechnical assessment.

The highway was deemed safe for travel with monitoring in place, and the road reopened Monday afternoon.

Drivers travelling Highway 3 for essential purposes should expect sections of single-lane alternating traffic and delays due to volume.

Essential purposes for travel are defined in the travel restrictions order through the Emergency Program Act. Checkpoints will be in place and travel restrictions will be enforced.

For drivers who must travel for essential purposes, the ministry urges preparation and patience. Highway corridors between the Lower Mainland and the rest of the province are anticipated to be extremely busy with commercial traffic and at this time of year conditions can change quickly.

Drivers may be taking an unfamiliar route to their destination. Use extreme caution, obey signs, speed limits and the direction of any traffic-control personnel.

Drivers are reminded that B.C.'s winter tire regulations are in effect. The Province's maintenance contractors will be out in full force on these key goods routes, but it is important that drivers do their part and drive as conditions warrant.

Other safety tips for winter driving apply, including travelling with a full tank of gas, food and water, and warm clothes.

Learn More:

For a list of Essential Purposes for travel, see:

For updated road conditions, go to: (

For information on winter tires and chains regulations:

For winter driving tips, visit:

Financial assistance available for people affected by flooding

Disaster Financial Assistance (DFA) is now available for eligible British Columbians in southwest, central and southeast areas of the province and Vancouver Island who were affected by flooding and landslides from Nov. 14-16, 2021.

This assistance includes all Indigenous communities, electoral areas and municipalities within the geographic boundaries of these areas.

DFA is available to homeowners, residential tenants, business owners, local governments, Indigenous communities, farmers and charitable organizations that were unable to obtain insurance to cover disaster-related losses. By regulation, DFA is unable to compensate for losses for which insurance was reasonably and readily available. DFA will assess each application using its legislative criteria in a fair and consistent way.

Applications for the DFA event must be submitted to Emergency Management BC (EMBC) by Feb. 12, 2022.

British Columbians can access the DFA application online:

Facts about Disaster Financial Assistance:

Applicants should be aware of the following:

* Financial assistance is provided for each accepted claim at 80% of the amount of total eligible damage that exceeds $1,000, to a maximum claim of $300,000.

* Claims may be made in more than one category (e.g., homeowner and farm owner).

* A homeowner or residential tenant must show that the home is their principal residence.

* Seasonal or recreational properties, hot tubs, patios, pools, garden tools, landscaping, luxury items (e.g., jewelry, fur coats and collectibles) and recreational items (e.g., bicycles) are not eligible for assistance.

* Small business owners and farm owners must demonstrate that their farms and businesses are their primary source of income.

* Charitable organizations must provide a benefit of service to the community at large.

* DFA is limited to restoring actual damage caused by a specific disaster that has been declared eligible for compensation.

Assistance is also available to Indigenous communities and local governments

* Emergency response measures authorized by Emergency Management BC according to response task number.
* These include incremental costs associated with their Emergency Operations Centre.

* Financial assistance is provided for each accepted response claim at 100%.

* Completed response claim summaries and supporting documentation must be sent to the respective EMBC regional office.

Disaster Financial Assistance

* Indigenous communities and local governments that have infrastructure damage as a result of the recent flooding should submit a local government DFA application as soon as possible, and no later than Feb. 12, 2022. Local government application forms and additional information are available on the EMBC website:

Information, eligibility criteria, categories and applications can be found calling toll free 1 888 257-4777 or visiting:

Government declares provincial state of emergency

Premier John Horgan

The B.C. government is declaring a provincial state of emergency to mitigate impacts on transportation networks and movement of essential goods and supplies, and to support the provincewide response and recovery from the widespread damage caused by severe flooding and landslides in British Columbia.

"Provincial, federal and local governments are working with emergency personnel to make sure people and communities get the help they need as they work through yet another natural disaster. This provincial declaration of emergency will ensure the transport of goods, and essential and emergency services." said Premier John Horgan. "Thank you to everyone for doing what you can to stay safe and to help one another as we work through this catastrophic time."

Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, made the declaration on Nov. 17, 2021, based on the recommendation from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and Emergency Management BC. The declaration will take effect immediately.

"This provincewide declaration will help us with the challenges ahead as we recover from the utter devastation that's been caused by this natural disaster," Farnworth said. "Getting our rail and roadways back up and in operation is a top priority, and the declaration will enable us to put the resources in place to make that happen."

The state of emergency is initially in effect for 14 days and may be extended or rescinded as necessary. The state of emergency applies to the whole province and ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated response to protect the public, which remains the provincial government's top priority.

"Our focus is on clearing, repairing and reopening roads to connect the Interior and the North to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, to get our supply chains moving," said Rob Fleming, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. "We are working closely with multiple partners to make this happen. It is a big job, but collectively we are up to the challenge and will get things opened up again just as soon as we possibly can."

There are approximately 17,775 people evacuated due to impacts from the flooding, with 5,918 properties on Evacuation Order, and 3,632 properties on Evacuation Alert.

The federal government has responded to and accepted British Columbia's requests for assistance. In the coming days, additional federal personnel and resources will be arriving in B.C. to assist.

The state of emergency gives agencies, such as the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, Emergency Management BC, the RCMP and others the ability to use extraordinary measures to protect people and communities.

Quick Facts:

* Declarations of provincial states of emergency may be issued by the minister responsible under the Emergency Program Act.

* The provincial government can extend the period of a declaration made by the minister responsible.

For information on evacuation orders and alerts, visit Emergency Info BC:

For the latest information on roads and travel, visit:

Get prepared for stormy weather

VICTORIA - Environment and Climate Change Canada has indicated that an intense, low-pressure system is headed toward northern Vancouver Island, bringing strong southeasterly winds for the South Coast on Sunday afternoon through to Monday.

The Province urges British Columbians on Vancouver Island and the South Coast to be prepared for the possibility of heavy rain and strong winds.

For up-to-date public weather alerts, visit Environment and Climate Change Canada's website:

Here are a number of tips and actions people living in these regions can take to prepare for the potentially stormy day ahead:

* Strong winds can down trees (especially those weakened by drought conditions) and power lines.
* Everyone should be mindful of the danger of falling trees.

* During a power outage or other disruption to infrastructure, you may need to cope at home for a prolonged period without access to amenities like electricity or tap water. To prepare for this, build a household emergency kit with enough non-perishable food, water and supplies that will support your household for a week or longer. Make sure it's stored in an easily accessible location that everyone knows about.

* Protect your home from potential floods by clearing out your gutters, maintaining perimeter drains, making sure downspouts are far enough away from your residence, and checking nearby storm water drains on your street are free of leaves and blockage. Store valuables and important items or documents in water-tight containers or in higher places, like on a tall shelf or upper floor.

* Develop an emergency plan. Knowing what to do will reduce anxiety and help keep you focused and safe. 

* Know your neighbours that may require extra care and check in on them.

* If your lights go out, check to see whether BC Hydro is already aware of the outage by visiting
* If your outage isn't listed, call 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376), or *49376 (*HYDRO) on your mobile phone. You can also log in to your BC Hydro account to report an outage online.

* Torrential rains can cause overland flooding and creeks and rivers to quickly overflow.
* Avoid these water channels because they tend to fill up quickly. River banks that look stable can be eroded beneath the surface, causing unstable ground that could collapse.

* Keep children and pets away from stream banks and watch for changing conditions, particularly if you live in low-lying areas or near waterways.

* Drive carefully and never attempt to drive through floodwater.
* The depth of water is not always obvious. The road bed may be washed out under the water and sink holes could exist but be unseen.

* 152 millimetres (six inches) of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling, while 305 millimetres (one foot) of water will float many vehicles.

* If a car begins to flood, abandon it quickly and head to higher ground.

Learn More:

For information on preparing for severe weather, visit:

For guidance on preparing for potential flooding, visit:

Drivers are encouraged to check ( for the most up-to-date information before travelling



Emergency PreparednessGovernment OperationsServices

Tourism officials united on the need to stay home

Hon. Melanie Mark

Melanie Mark, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport; Brenda Baptiste, chair, Indigenous Tourism BC; Walt Judas, CEO, Tourism Industry Association of BC; Ingrid Jarrett, president and CEO, BC Hotel Association; and Richard Porges, interim president and CEO, Destination BC; have released the following statement asking all British Columbians to stay local unless it is absolutely essential.

"As the number of people with COVID-19 in B.C. continues to rise, we are asking British Columbians to not travel outside their local communities in order to help stop further spread of the virus.

"People working at hotels, motels, resorts, bed and breakfasts, transportation services, attractions and adventure tourism operations, Indigenous travel providers, restaurants, bars, cafes and many other travel-related businesses throughout the province are struggling following a difficult year of border closures and non-essential travel restrictions. While the tourism and hospitality sector has done an amazing job implementing rigorous health and safety plans to keep its staff and visitors safe, COVID-19 takes every opportunity to spread. Unnecessary travel is too risky right now.

"We are asking British Columbians to listen to Dr. Henry and follow all provincial health and solicitor general orders.

"Each of us must make difficult decisions in our daily lives to do the right thing. We cannot gather indoors with people outside our immediate households and we must avoid travel for leisure so we can bend the curve down again. The many people and businesses in the tourism and hospitality industry in B.C. need each of us to follow the rules without exception. Their livelihood depends on us all doing our part now so some travel can safely resume this summer and set these businesses on the road to recovery.

"Let's support local businesses today by ordering take out, eating with our immediate household on a patio, picking up a coffee and enjoying it at a local park, visiting a local attraction or booking a staycation at a local hotel. Now is not the time to travel for leisure and risk spreading COVID-19.

"The list of essential travel activities, which are permitted between regional zones, is included under the emergency program order, available here:

"At this time, we must listen to local communities that do not wish to welcome visitors yet. We have heard from many communities that are worried about the virus, its impact on their residents and health-care services, and have asked people not to visit. We must respect the wishes of Indigenous communities and First Nations given the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19. Know before you go is a great resource if you have any questions:

"We are at a pivotal moment in our province and we must act now to protect the health-care system. We must stay local now so we can get back to travelling across our beautiful province and once again welcome visitors."

Help us spread the message: #WeAreAllConnected; #StayLocalSupportLocal #BCTourismCounts; #SaveOurSummer.

Early childhood education training leads to jobs in Nanaimo

Sixteen British Columbians are qualified and working as certified early childhood educators, thanks to a Community and Employer Partnerships (CEP) project from the Government of British Columbia.

"There's a great need for early childhood educators, locally and throughout the province," said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. "It's good to know that graduates of this project are in high demand. Parents will be able to go to work knowing their children are in safe and qualified hands."

Last year, the Province provided more than $300,000 to Sprott Shaw College in Nanaimo to deliver full-time education, certification courses and work experience through its early childhood education certificate program.

"This partnership is a great example of how committed we are to recruiting and investing in the child care professionals we need throughout B.C.," said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. "Our Childcare BC goal is to help children get the best start in life, and early childhood educators are vital in setting our kids up for success by helping develop their critical thinking, communication and social skills."

Participants received theory and virtual classroom education in life-skills development and occupational skills, as well as 10 weeks of supervised work placement and one week of supported job search.

"For families in Nanaimo, having more qualified early childhood educators means more safe, affordable, quality child care options when and where they need them," said Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo. "This new CEP project in Nanaimo helps meet British Columbia's goal of universal $10-a-day child care, working with communities and child care providers."

Funding for this project was provided through the Project Based Labour Market Training stream of WorkBC's CEP. CEP's investments are targeted towards projects that support an inclusive economic recovery. CEP supports B.C. job seekers' training and work experience leading to employment and aids businesses and communities to address labour market challenges. CEP invests $15 million annually in communities throughout B.C.

"The implications of having quality early child care available are far reaching and long lasting, making a difference not only in the individual's life, but a difference for whole communities," said Victor Tesan, president, Sprott Shaw College. "A collaboration such as this has enabled Sprott Shaw College to be able to provide the education and training for future early childhood educators who will go on to make a positive difference in the lives of so many."

Full-time, group-based classroom learning for the project occurred from September 2020 to September 2021. Anyone interested in finding out more about upcoming CEP projects can contact their local WorkBC centre.

Learn More:

Learn how CEPs are helping local communities:

Learn about how WorkBC can help find British Columbians jobs that are right for them:

Find your local WorkBC centre:

Sprott Shaw College: (

Snuneymuxw, province sign housing memorandum

The Snuneymuxw First Nation (SFN) and the Province, through BC Housing, are partnering to build and operate new culturally appropriate housing for Snuneymuxw peoples, particularly women and children, Elders and people experiencing homelessness in the community. 

"Access to basic and equitable housing has, for centuries, been denied to the Snuneymuxw People due to oppressive colonial policies and legislative acts designed to create substandard housing for Indigenous peoples," said Mike Wyse, Chief, Snuneymuxw First Nation. "With this step forward, by signing this memorandum of understanding, we begin to deconstruct these systemic and racist approaches, and begin to redesign an approach that unlocks overdue access to housing for Snuneymuxw People and respects our way of life. Together we can build community wellness and community healing. I want to acknowledge the Province of British Columbia for having an open heart and being mindful of a new way of walking forward together, promoting shared prosperity and harmony in our region."

BC Housing and the SFN have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to create new, affordable housing that may include design and programming features, such as cultural support services and spaces for ceremonies and community gatherings, that facilitate and encourage a sense of tradition, well-being and belonging.

"Our government is committed to exploring new and creative avenues to address the lack of adequate housing options for Indigenous peoples in B.C.," said Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo, on behalf of David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. "In 2018, we became the first province in Canada to invest in Indigenous housing on reserve, a federal jurisdiction. Now, we're partnering with the Snuneymuxw First Nation so that we can deepen our understanding and develop culturally appropriate housing that meets the needs of the community."

Through the MOU, the two parties will also work together toward a set of mutual goals, including:

* exploring and promoting opportunities to increase First Nations involvement in construction-related training and apprenticeships;

* developing and implementing training programs and support networks for First Nations housing professionals in areas such as development, asset management and ongoing operations;

* collaborating on project planning, development, community forums and engagement activities and including Elders in various discussions so that land, language, culture and people are considered in all development decisions;

* embracing a holistic view of housing that supports and nurtures community while emphasizing environmental sustainability and the natural environment; and

* dealing effectively with homelessness within the SFN territory.

This is the first MOU that BC Housing has entered with a First Nation that is specifically aimed at developing culturally appropriate housing. It is hoped this MOU will be a model for similar agreements with other First Nations in B.C.

B.C. Electoral map could see major changes

MLA John Rustad

Electoral boundary changes could add up to six new ridings while eliminating the protection of rural ridings, says Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.

Without going through the details of the bill, there are some major aspects to be considered.

B.C. has about 5.3 million people and increasing MLAs to 93 from 87 means the average riding population should be about 57,000.

From 100 Mile House north, there are about 340,000 people. At 57,000 average population, the north could lose as many as four of its 10 seats.

The electoral boundary commission can still use the "very special circumstances" (a riding can be more than the standard 25 per cent deviation from the average) but they will likely only use that for two or three ridings at most.

The results will likely be a reduction in northern representation by two or three seats and likely one from the Kootenays, says Rustad.

Combined with the added seats, the balance of electoral representation in B.C. will forever be changed as the new seats and the reduced seats will be located in the Lower Mainland, he adds.

Rustad says British Columbians can influence this process by attending hearings throughout the province. Attend these meetings. He encourages voters to voice their perspective by sending emails and letters to the commission. They can also lobby local governments and regional district representatives.

The electoral boundary commission must be appointed by this fall and have its work completed at least one year before the next provincial election.