Oct. 03, 2012 - Issue #885: Fall Style 2012
Bursting at the seams
Population growth means changes in Alberta electoral districts
Population shifts and population growth means the commission responsible for evaluating federal electoral districts has proposed new districts and the need to add seats to effectively represent citizens throughout the province. The proposed changes offer no new ridings in Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Ontario looks to gain 15 seats, Quebec will gain one, British Columbia will gain six seats and so will Alberta.
The six new seats create new ridings in central Alberta, in the north and south, as well as in Edmonton and Calgary. They compliment the boundary changes that are proposed for the majority of the existing federal districts. In the north, the existing Peace River and Fort McMurray–Athabasca ridings could be adjusted to cover less area alongside the addition of a Grande Prairie riding. In the south, the city of Lethbridge would be a stand alone riding with the rural areas surrounding it split into existing ridings. Macleod would gain area to the south and be re-named "Foothills," and the existing Medicine Hat riding would expand north and west. Central Alberta sees significant changes with existing districts and a new second Red Deer riding.
Donna Wilson, part of the three-person commission that is charged with re-districting Alberta's federal ridings, explains population parity was paramount in their decision making: "The number we were looking at was 107 213, but we deviate from that to have logical boundaries and we also try and look at communities of interests."
Wilson also notes that the commission is conscious to not play politics. "We purposely stayed away from looking at any past poll-by-poll and such because our assignment is to impartially create electoral districts that are fair."
Edmonton will see changes in almost all of its existing eight districts with the addition of Edmonton–Manning in the northern corner of the city and the removal of Sherwood Park (potentially situated within Sherwood Park–Fort Saskatchewan). There could also be movement for the boundaries that define Edmonton East and Edmonton Centre. Edmontonians may also see a much smaller Edmonton–Mill Woods–Beaumont, and Edmonton–Leduc. The areas that are currently in the southern regions of the latter two ridings are being re-located in a new riding that is primarily rural, though still within the Edmonton City boundaries: Edmonton–Wetaskawin. There are also proposed name changes for all ridings except Edmonton–Strathcona, though Edmonton–St Albert will only experience a bit of a switch to St Albert–Edmonton.
Dave Cournoyer, political pundit and "Daveberta" blogger, notes that these changes are unlikely to favour any one party—despite the stronghold the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) has electorally in rural Alberta. The changes better reflect that "some of these rural ridings are being created not so much because of growth in the rural areas as because of the growth in the small and medium sized cities. Grande Prairie for example; Grande Prairie isn't a rural area. Grand Prairie is a growing city. You see the same with Red Deer and Lethbridge.
"It's a little bit of a sticky issue because it is about electoral politics when it comes down to it. These guys' (MPs) jobs depend on the electoral boundaries," Cournoyer adds. "Generally, though, this is Alberta. We are not in Toronto or Montréal where there are hot competitive races. With the exception of a couple of ridings, maybe in Edmonton, I don't know if any MPs should really be afraid for their jobs."
Wilson recognizes there is an uneasiness when it comes to any electoral change. "People like the status quo. They're comfortable with it and they're not sure what change will mean. For MPs, I'm sure it's unsettling when their boundaries change. They know they have won in the old district and they are probably uncertain if they could win in the the new electoral district, and that would be disconcerting for anyone."
"From a personal point of view, obviously I would like to see my riding stay as close as it is to what the boundaries are now, but the reality is with the growth and the population of the province and the six new MPs, the boundaries are going to change," comments James Rajotte, member from the current Edmonton-Leduc which could see a major change to the physical size of the district. Mr Rajotte believes the rural-urban mix is a benefit to himself: "As a member of Parliament, it gives you different perspectives because you have a large centre with Edmonton, the city of Leduc which is a smaller centre—you have those different perspectives. The one thing all these areas share is a tremendous amount of growth, both business and residential."
The commission held open town halls throughout September. They will now take any and all suggestions and submissions into consideration for the proposal presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons in late December. Every proposal goes through several revision opportunities and changes are made.
"I know the last redistribution they did make changes and some of them reasonably substantial. The one concern with making major changes later is that there isn't a second go around of hearings. If substantial changes are made, they are made," Wilson notes. "The majority of people we will be hearing from will be people that have some concern about what we have done. If there are future changes that need to be done we have to consider them very carefully before we do that."
MPs can submit any objections until March, when the commissions will take any received feedback and incorporate that into any changes. The final report will be be submitted in June of 2013. The last act is for the CEO to draft the representation order, which describes the electoral districts established by the commissions and send it to the Minister designated for the purposes of the Act. By September 2013 the new districts will be publicly announced and officially submitted for the 2015 federal election.
More stories in front »vueweekly.com comments: powered by Disqus
Vue respects your privacy. We will not forward your personal information to any other organization except as required by law, and will use your e-mail address only to respond to your comments. We reserve the right to edit and remove comments for length, clarity and/or if they are illegal or inappropriate. Your email address is never shown to visitors to vueweekly.com. Read the whole policy at: http://vueweekly.com/privacy