How electoral boundaries matter to rural Alberta
The big question is: Is political representation in rural areas equivalent to representation in urban areas? The simple answer is, No. So, the Electoral Boundary Commission has been visiting constituencies across Alberta to make them more equal.
On January 23, the commission was in St. Paul to identify possible changes to the boundaries of the Lac La Biche/St. Paul/Two Hills riding, and the Bonnyville/Cold Lake riding. Justice Myra Bielby, a Court of Appeal judge for Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, chaired the commission, with four panel members, Gwen Day from Carstairs, W. Bruce McLeod from Acme, Laurie Livingstone from Calgary, and D. Jean Munn, also from Calgary. (For more information on the commission members, click here:Meet the Members)
Since 2010 when the last boundary changes were made, the population of Alberta has increased by over 800 000, or 20%. Bielby said, “While eight years ago we were within a relatively close number of the 40,880 (average) in each of the 87 constituencies, now it’s quite out of whack. We have variations ranging from 25,192 in our smallest constituency to 79,034 in our largest constituency.” Newcomers to Alberta “have tended to gravitate to the larger cities, particularly Calgary and Edmonton, but also to Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, and Red Deer.”
Bielby explained the purpose of the hearing: “We have a general principle in democracy that representation in the Legislature should be based on population, that every vote should have a relatively equivalent effect to every other vote, and we’re obliged to redesign our constituency boundaries from time to time to adjust populations so that that actually happens…Alberta has 87 provincial constituencies and this commission has no power to increase or decrease that number.” What the commission can do, though, is adjust the boundaries to make the constituencies more equal.
Community leaders from across both ridings attended and presented their concerns. (See Lac La Biche/St. Paul/Two Hills responds to Boundary Commission and Bonnyville/Cold Lake Riding Generally Satisfied with Boundaries) The commission will consider the input and return in July or August to further discuss their findings and recommendations before publishing the new boundaries in October.