How changing the electoral boundaries could affect rural Alberta
At the provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission hearing in St. Paul on Monday, January 23, speakers from the Bonnyville/Cold Lake constituency expressed general satisfaction with the current size and shape of their provincial riding, but are willing to make changes to improve rural representation in the legislature.
According to Cold Lake mayor, Craig Copeland, “The Cold Lake Air Weapons Range is an amazing piece of real estate” and would be welcomed as part of the constituency. Currently the range is in the Lac La Biche/St. Paul/Two Hills riding, but Copeland says the only access to the range is north of Cold Lake. He said that Lac La Biche has similarities with Cold Lake and Bonnyville regarding the oil industry, “If you want to merge that way” or he suggested that St Paul could join Bonnyville and Cold Lake. Copeland said, “Check the highways and connect the dots. Where do people go for commerce and health care?”
Copeland acknowledged that a difficulty for rural MLAs is “trying to service different municipalities” with their different needs and resources. He also noted that people flying in to work camps “have no commitment to the community.” He said, “People go to the urban areas to live, but the rural areas are the driver for economics and resources. We’re very rich in providing economic growth.”
Copeland wants fair representation, but not necessarily based on equalizing population within constituencies. Bonnyville mayor, Gene Sobolewski agreed, “That all populations need to be represented in a fair and equal way is a fallacy.”
Deputy Reeve of the MD of Bonnyville, Mike Krywiak supported Sobolewski, and added that other factors, such as “geography, community interests, history, and identity” should be considered. He agreed with the idea that the physical size of each constituency must be limited as people “need personal conversations with MLAs.” Krywiak also stressed that ridings should respect the municipal boundaries, “not hybrid municipalities like the federal riding. Keep boundaries of the local municipalities.”
Alan Preston, president of the constituency PC association, said, “The main mover that would change the boundaries should be economic.” Currently, according to Preston, the “boundaries are fair, and represent agriculture, trade, and resources” but that “it’s more democratic when the representative has closeness to the constituents.”
The Electoral Boundaries Commission is continuing to hold hearings across the province and will use the information gathered to determine new constituency boundaries. Suggestions from the public are welcome. For more information see abebc.ca