Category Archives: Alberta Electoral Boundary Review

interim electoral boundaries report attracts some interesting responses.

An NDP letter writing campaign to change the name of a northern riding to Notley-Central Peace, at least two messages sent from a Blackberry, and a hand-written congratulatory note from Minister Iris Evans are among the many Spring 2010 submissions to the Electoral Boundaries Commission. The Commission recently published its interim report and maps, and is set to hold its second round of public hearings on April 12 to 30, 2010.

For readers interested in the political implications of the changes, thank reader Alan Hall, who emailed me these Calgary and Edmonton maps and poll-by-poll results from the 2008 election (data provided by Elections Alberta). It would be interesting to see these poll results transposed on the interim boundaries and the final report boundaries (due in July 2010).

alberta’s proposed new electoral boundaries (interim report)

The Electoral Boundaries Commission has released their interim report including maps of the proposed electoral division boundaries for the next election. Here are the proposed maps of Calgary, Edmonton, and Alberta-wide.

The second round of public hearings on the new boundaries are set to begin in April.

UPDATE (February 27, 2010):

Overall, I feel that the interim maps are a fairly good report from the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Given that the Commission had a legislative mandate to increases the number of electoral districts from 83 to 87, the members of the Commission likely had a much easier time deciding boundaries than had the number stayed the same or decreased. Here are some thoughts:

– I am pleased to see that the City of Grande Prairie would now have its own fully-urban riding and that Fort McMurray now has two districts.
– Edmonton received an additional electoral district, which places the Capital City at the same position it was before it lost a district during the 2003 boundary review. I would have liked to see Edmonton receive at least two new seats.
– Are voters in the Capital Region outside of Edmonton disenfranchised? I have always questioned the reasoning behind clumping Edmonton’s bedroom communities like the Town of Morinville into electoral districts with Barrhead and Westlock, and Sturgeon Valley with Athabasca. Having grown up in Morinville, I can attest that there is little commonality between the three communities (I would estimate that around 90% of Morinville residents commute to work in Edmonton or St. Albert). It would make more sense to include these communities in a Sturgeon Valley district that included common communities in the Capital Region (the same can be said of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville).
– From a political perspective, these interim maps would pose a political challenge to some incumbent MLAs. For example, Battle River-Wainwright MLA Doug Griffiths may have to face-off in a nomination contest with Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden. The additional electoral district in Fort McMurray could also make it easier for Independent MLA Guy Boutilier bid for re-election.
– Once again, the Poland of Alberta’s electoral map, Edmonton-Calder would disappear as it is merged with Edmonton-GlenoraEdmonton-North West, and Edmonton-Le Perle. This would pose a challenge to current Edmonton-Calder PC MLA Doug Elniski and former NDP MLA David Eggen (who many people expect to seek election in 2012).

Once again, the second round of public hearings begin in April 2010, so if you do not like what you see in these maps, show up and let yourself be heard!

alison redford’s big opportunity.

(Re)Enter Mister Fjeldheim.
There has been a certain amount of attention focused on Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer and his comments regarding his philosophy towards his newly re-inherited position. Brian Fjeldheim, who held the position from 1998 to 2005, was recently reappointed following the dismissal of his more activist successor-turned-predecessor Lorne Gibson. After re-assuming his role last week, Mr. Fjeldheim was a little more reserved when describing his role in advocating the importance of the vote to Albertans (60% of Albertans did not vote in the 2008 election). Dave Breakenridge offered some thoughts on Mr. Fjeldhiem’s comments in today’s Calgary Sun.

Open up the Elections Act.
In the next few weeks, Justice Minister Alison Redford is expected to introduce legislative amendments to Alberta’s aging Elections Act. Minister Redford has said that the amendments will include some of the 182 recommended changes submitted by Mr. Gibson before his departure (but will not include fixed election dates). Of course, the recommendations included in the Bill will have be carefully chosen and measured for political impact by Minister Redford and her PC cabinet colleagues. Minister Redford’s amendments will likely include changes to how Returning Officers are chosen. During the 2008 election, it was revealed that the PC Party had provided lists of candidates for Returning Officers to the Elections Office (over half of the appointed Returning Officers had partisan connections to the PC Party).

Elections procedures can be improved through legislation, but democratic participation can be strengthened through meaningful engagement. In September 2007, the Government of New Zealand tried something completely different. As an innovative way to capture the views of the public on what a new Policing Act should look like, the Ministry of Justice launched an online Wiki. This Wiki allowed citizens from across that country to contribute their ideas and collaborate in the creation of new legislation.

What better way to reinvigorate our Elections Act than by opening up the amendment process to allow Albertans to collaborate by contributing their ideas for changes and improvements? What better opportunity to do things differently in than by allowing Albertans to invest their own ideas into the development of the important piece of legislation that will decide how their elections are structured? Is there a more meaningful piece of legislation that could be opened up to public collaboration than the Elections Act? Would this kind of online collaboration succeed in Alberta? There is only one way to find out.

Prior to entering elected office in 2008, Minister Redford cultivated an international legal career helping build democracies in countries around the globe (including as one of four international election commissioners appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations to administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections in September 2005). Legislative amendments can improve structure, but opening up the Elections Act to real public collaboration could be Minister Redford’s big opportunity to create more meaningful democratic participation in Alberta.

Making it easier for students to vote.
I am sure that there would be no shortage of Albertans who would contribute their ideas to an open dialogue on improving our Elections Act. The Council of Alberta University Students submitted a handful of recommendations (pdf) to Minister Redford last year when they heard about the upcoming legislative amendments. Each of the five recommendations have been adopted by Elections officials in provinces across Canada (though no jurisdiction has adopted all five). The recommendations would improve access to a voting demographic that due to its geographic transience, are likely to face barriers and challenges to participating in elections.

These are good recommendation, most of which would require minor administrative changes that are not anything that a little Alberta ingenuity could not overcome. Decreasing barriers to voting for younger Albertans will create a positive culture of participating in elections and could help create life-long voters – a group that is increasingly becoming a minority in Alberta elections. I hope to see some of these positive improvements included among Minister Redford’s amendments.

Coming Soon: New Maps.
Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is due to release its interim report by February 26, 2010.

alberta electoral boundaries commission: written submissions highlights.

Written submissions to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission have now been posted online. After a quick scan of the submissions, here are some of the highlights (feel free to post others I’ve missed in the comments section):

Municipal leaders including Nolan Crouse, Melissa Blake, Donald Johnson, Stephen Mandel, Dave Bronconnier, and Lloyd Bertschi submitted in full force (to name a few). Among the municipal leaders, there appears to be a clear urban-rural split between urban municipal officials who wish to see their representation increased, and rural municipal officials who wish to see the current rural representation respected.

Along with the numerous submissions from political riding associations, written submissions were made by MLAs Laurie Blakeman, Hector Goudreau, Peter Sandhu, Frank Oberle, and former MLAs Rick MillerMo Elsalhy, and Nick Taylor. Miller wants to see Edmonton-Rutherford renamed Edmonton-Wickman after former MLA and Alderman Percy Wickman. MP Devinder Shory thinks that adding four new MLAs is not a good use of taxpayers dollars, and MP Earl Dresheen responded with a form letter.

Bloggers and engaged citizens Joey Oberhoffner, Duncan Wojtaszek, and Brian Dell all wrote excellent submissions.

The Edmonton-Riverview Liberals want to keep their riding together while the Edmonton-Riverview PCs want it split at the North Saskatchewan River.

– The Calgary-West PCs want their riding split into two, with the new riding to be named Calgary-Olympic Park or Calgary-Hart (after former Stampede wrestler Stu Hart).

The Alberta NDP has proposed new electoral maps for Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer. They also wish to change the name of Dunvegan-Central Peace to Central Peace-Notley in the memory of former NDP leader and area MLA Grant Notley. Other ridings named after former politicians include Edmonton-Decore, Edmonton-Manning, Edmonton-Rutherford, Calgary-Lougheed, and Calgary-Hays. The Edmonton-Manning NDP also recommend the name change.

guest post: a reasoned defence of rural representation.

As the lone rural wolf commenting on Dave’s blog, I was asked to present a guest feature for him on the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission. I have mixed feelings on the issue as a whole. I have written before about the significant electoral reforms that are needed in the Alberta and Canadian system beyond gerrymandering, and I’m certainly more passionate about those issues. However, as these types of changes are outside of the purview of the Boundaries Commission it would be inappropriate to address them here.

To be clear from the outset, I am not advocating for the creation of more rural electoral districts – I’m not so naive as to see the disenfranchisement Edmonton and Calgary voters feel by only having half  of the seats (though this rises to roughly 65% when you include other urban areas such as Airdrie, Fort McMurray, Lethbridge, Red Deer etc), however, I do emphatically support effective representation which may result in some electoral divisions, particularly in the north, being given “special consideration” as they will be well below the 25% population threshold.

Chair Walter of the Commission introduces every public hearing with the same disclaimer—that the Commission is guided by Canadian Law which requires electoral districts to give Albertans the right to effective representation. Effective representation is the crux of the argument for constituencies in rural and remote areas. Extremely large electoral divisions are neither effective, nor efficient. Rural and remote areas face challenges of accessibility that frankly, those in the Edmonton/Calgary corridor do not. Communications issues plague much of the province and there are areas where efficient internet is minimal or non-existent. The closure of the City Centre Airport (a closure I still support and will NOT enter into debate here for) left many northern airports on life support, making air travel unfeasible. That leaves driving, and all the budget in the world cannot make up for the human-time it takes to travel massive constituencies. Until one has lived in an Alberta community outside of the big urbans, they cannot fairly assess what type of political representation is effective.

It is my assertion that those who focus on the rural electoral divisions are kind of missing the point. The Commission is charged with providing effective representation. Surely an MLA representing well above the 25% population variance is just as ineffective as an MLA who spends the majority of her or his time travelling to and around their constituency. That should be the focus of Edmonton and Calgary voters… Don’t disenfranchise the rural electorate because the system sucks – fight for what the system is supposed to do for you: Effective Representation.

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Born and raised in Edmonton, Shannon recently moved to northern Alberta. She received her BA in Political Science from the UofA in 2005 and is currently working in local government. She is an avid follower of various political blogs and a fervent supporter of electoral reform for all levels of government in Canada.

alberta redrawing boundaries.

Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is now into its third week of its first round of public hearings. My previous post on the Commission has generated some great discussion about the challenges of representing rural electoral districts and I am looking forward to an upcoming post by a guest contributor to this blog that will delve deeper into some of the issues raised in that discussion.

Thanks to the good people at Hansard, transcripts and audio are now available from the last two weeks of hearings in Fort McMurray: (afternoon, evening), St. Paul, Wainwright, Edmonton (September 22nd afternoon, evening). The transcripts and audio from the September 23rd public hearings in Edmonton and September 24th & 25th in Calgary are not available yet, but I would expect that they should be posted at some point this week. 

So far, it has been a relatively small number of Albertans who have presented to the commission, including MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Guy Boutilier, municipal officials including Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, County of St. Paul Reeve Robert Bouchard, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, and a number of representatives from Liberal and Progressive Conservatives constituency associations.

Due to legislative amendments introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Justice Minister Alison Redford during the Spring session, the Electoral Boundaries Commission will increase the amount of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While it’s very questionable why Albertans would need more MLAs, the increase may help the case presented by Mandel, who urged the Commissioners to increase Edmonton’s representation by two seats. The outcome of the 2002/2003 Boundaries Commission saw Edmonton’s representation in the Legislative Assembly decrease by one MLA, a move that is widely believed to have contributed to the defeats of seven capital city PC MLAs in the 2004 provincial election (Commission member Bauni Mackay penned a spirited defence of Edmonton in her minority position).

These public hearings haven’t been overflowing with presenters, but I expect that interest will rise after the interim report and interim map are released in the coming months. The submission deadline for the first round of public hearings is on October 13.

Related:
Brian Dell: My Submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission
Trish Audette: Rural vs Urban tug of war

your feedback: alberta’s electoral boundaries commission.

Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission will be holding their first round of public hearings in Edmonton and Calgary this week. I am planning to submit recommendations to the Commission and I would like your feedback!

The basic overview of my submission include:

Basic Principles

– All Albertans deserve equal representation in the Alberta Legislature.

– Leave out the politics. Boundary redistribution isn’t about urban versus rural, it’s about ensuring Albertans have equal representation in their Legislature.

Population Disparity

The Electoral Boundaries Commission Act allows for the population of a proposed electoral division to be 25 percent above or 25 percent below the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions.

I urge the Commission to recommend the population of each of the proposed electoral divisions be within plus or minus 5 percent of the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions.

Large Electoral Districts

Representing large rural electoral districts presents obvious challenges. Current legislation allows the Commission to recommend 4 large proposed electoral divisions to have a population that is as much as 50% below the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions. In 2009, the technology exists to aid MLAs to communicate, converse, and represent Albertans in large electoral districts.

I urge the Electoral Boundaries Commission to not designate any electoral district this special status. Instead of allow over representation in the Assembly, I urge the Commission to recommend an increase in funding for MLAs representing large electoral districts for the cost of multiple constituency offices and an increased travel budget.

the reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.

As the national media and blogosphere let out a collective gasp at the prospect of a political party wanting to form a majority government, Graham Thomson points out that the much less attention grabbing world of Alberta politics is far from dead.

Next week marks the beginning of the first round of public hearings for the Electoral Boundaries Commission and the by-election in Calgary-Glenmore. This weekend also marks the Alberta NDPs 43rd annual convention, and while it’s no surprise that the left faces some serious challenges in Alberta, so apparently does the right.

At their first leadership forum in Grande Prairie, the Wildrose Alliance is reported to have only attracted 30 people. While Grande Prairie has hardly been a hotbed of Wildrose Alliance support (that party only contested one of that city’s ridings, Grande Prairie-Smoky, where the candidate placed third with 13% support), it raises questions if that party’s leadership race is attracting more media attention than it is attracting new members.

Their leadership convention isn’t until October 17, but much of that party’s short-term prospects will be determined by how well outgoing leader Paul Hinman places in Monday’s by-election. Even if voters in Calgary-Glenmore choose not to elect Hinman, but he is able to significantly increase his party’s vote it could be seen a moral victory. Between the 2004 and 2008 elections, the Alliance increased its vote by 4% to 1,025 votes, which add up to a significant amount of votes in a by-election that may see a lower than normal voter turnout.

As Hinman’s campaign pushes into the final days of the by-election, I’m sure that Liberal candidate Avalon Roberts will be hoping that the Wildrose Alliance cutting into the right-wing supporters of PC candidate Diane Colley-Urquhart will lead to a repeat of Craig Cheffins‘ 2007 Calgary-Elbow victory. Not a far fetched scenario.

I will be at tonight’s Wildrose Alliance leadership forum and this weekend’s NDP convention in Edmonton, and will be reporting back on this blog and on twitter with all the latest news.

alberta electoral boundaries review: first scheduled public hearings announced.

The schedule for the first round of public hearings to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission was released this afternoon. Locations TBA.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 – Fort McMurray
Thursday, September 17, 2009 – St. Paul
Thursday, September 17, 2009 – Wainwright
Tuesday, September 22, 2009 – Edmonton
Wednesday, September 23, 2009 – Edmonton
Thursday, September 24, 2009 – Calgary
Friday, September 25, 2009 – Calgary
Monday, October 5, 2009 – Drumheller
Monday, October 5, 2009 – Medicine Hat
Tuesday, October 6, 2009 – Lethbridge
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 – Grande Prairie
Wednesday, October 7, 2009 – Peace River
Thursday, October 8, 2009 – Slave Lake
Thursday, October 8, 2009 – Westlock
Friday, October 9, 2009 – Edson
Friday, October 9, 2009 – Red Deer

While you may be distracted by the IE 6 inspired design, the AEBC website does include some helpful suggestions on preparing a submission or presentation for the public hearings.

More to come.

Related Posts
Kowalski: Swann did consult with Mason
Welcome to the Irrelevant Show
Ernie Walter Appointed Chair of Electoral Boundary Commission
Setting the Stage for an Electoral Boundary Battle

kowalski: swann did consult mason on electoral boundaries commission appointments.

Following up on one of last week’s silly summer news stories, Speaker Ken Kowalski responded to Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason in a letter yesterday. In the letter, Kowalski denied Mason’s request to halt the two Official Opposition appointments to the Electoral Boundaries Commission, stating that in his opinion, Liberal leader David Swann did consult with Mason prior to the announcement of the appointments.

Related:

You can listen to the podcast of last Thursday’s The World Tonight on AM770 where Rob Breakenridge and I discussed the Electoral Boundaries Commission issue. Brian Mason calls in around the 10 minute and 58 second point in the podcast.
– Wikipedia: Jumping the Shark

welcome to the irrelevant show.

I was originally going to call this post “Newsflash: Brian Mason is outraged!” but I thought that would just be playing into the oversensationalization of this non-issue of a mid-summer news story.

Related to my recent posts about the appointment of Justice Ernie Walter as Chairperson of Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission and the appointment of four Commission members by Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal Official Opposition leader David Swann, the leader of the 2 MLA NDP caucus is outraged over Swann’s recommended appointments to the Commission.

In duelling media releases from the NDP and Liberals, NDP leader Brian Mason was outraged that Swann didn’t choose the two people Mason recommended. Mason claims that Swann didn’t consult him enough about the choices, even though the two leaders met to discuss the appointments and Mason signed a letter to Swann with recommendations.

According to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act:

(b) 2 persons, who are not members of the Legislative Assembly, appointed by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on the nomination of the Leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition in consultation with the leaders of the other opposition parties represented in the Legislative Assembly,

The Act doesn’t specify what ‘consultation’ needs to entail, but the history of childish tension between the Liberals and NDP would have led me to be encouraged that the two leaders had even met to discuss this issue. Alas, the media release and predictable outrage from Mason has likely undermined any good will in the 11 MLA opposition benches.

Next Post: An issue that actually matters.

UPDATE: Tune in! I will be on air with Calgary AM770s Rob Breakenridge disucssing this issue at 8:35pm tonight.

UPDATE (August 7, 2009): You can now listen to the podcast of last night’s The World Tonight on AM770 where Rob Breakenridge and I discuss the Electoral Boundaries Commission issue. NDP leader Brian Mason calls in around the 10 minute and 58 second point in the podcast.

setting the stage for an electoral boundary battle.

Representation is not all about equal representation, it’s about equitable representation. – Minister Ray Danyluk

This afternoon, Justice Minister Alison Redford announced the introduction of amendments to the Alberta’s elections laws in Bill 45: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, 2009 that will allow a commission to begin the process of redrawing Alberta’s electoral boundaries earlier than scheduled. The amendments include increasing the number of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While my immediate reaction is to oppose an increase in the number of politicians in Alberta (I actually believe that we should decrease the number of MLAs in the Legislature), I am more concerned with equal representation in the Legislative Assembly.

One of the largest flaws in last Electoral Boundary Commission Review is that from the beginning, a process that should have been impartial and non-partisan quickly became politically-charged. The process inevitably became framed in rural versus urban or Conservative versus Liberal contexts due to the composition of the Commission. The membership of the 2002/2003 Electoral Boundary Commission included five political appointees – two appointed by the Premier (former MLA Glen Clegg and PC Party President-to-be Doug Graham), two nominated by the Leader of the Official Opposition (former Claresholm Mayor Ernie Patterson and former ATA President Bauni Mackay – both former Liberal candidates), and a chairperson appointed by the Cabinet* (former Social Credit MLA Bob Clark).

I have more thoughts on this topic, so you can be sure I will write more in the near future.

*The Cabinet is chaired by the Premier.

UPDATE: Duncan at Phendrana.ca has written a great post on this topic.