Tag Archives: Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

Alberta Legislative Assembly Edmonton

My response to the Interim Report of the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

Earlier this year I submitted a series of recommendations to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission, the appointed body tasked with redrawing Alberta’s provincial electoral districts for the next election. The Commission released an interim report in May 2017 and will be holding a series of public hearings in communities across Alberta in the coming weeks. The Commission will submit its final report on October 31, 2017.

Here are the recommendations I submitted to the commission on July 16, 2017 in response to the interim report:

Dear Commissioners,

My name is David Cournoyer, I am a voter living in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood constituency. I have followed the electoral boundary redistribution process for a number of years and am very interested in the process.

Proposed Alberta boundaries

I would like to thank the Commissioners for their work in this important process. The act of redistributing electoral boundaries is a challenging process and not one that should be taken lightly. In particular, this Commission faces the challenge of redistributing Alberta’s electoral boundaries without having the advantage of increasing the number of districts.

I have included below my recommendations in response to the interim report released by the Commission in May 2017:

Population

I believe this Commission can improve the population balance proposed in the interim report. The previous Commission did a good job keeping the population of most electoral districts within ten percent of the provincial average population per electoral district.

I recommend that the Commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, and ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district.

New Boundaries

I recommend the Commission consider the following amendments to the proposed districts included in the interim report:

Proposed Edmonton boundaries

Edmonton-East, Edmonton-North West, Edmonton-South, Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-West Henday: The Commission should reconsider using these geographic directional names for proposed districts, as they could cause confusion among voters. The names of the proposed districts are not necessarily reflective of their geographical areas. For example: The proposed Edmonton-East district is located west of the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview and Edmonton-Manning districts and much of Edmonton-Northwest is located south of Edmonton-Castle Downs and east of Edmonton-West Henday.

Edmonton-Mill Woods-East and Edmonton-Mill Woods-West: I believe the names in these proposed districts may cause some unnecessary confusion among voters. I recommend the names of these proposed districts be changed.

Fort Saskatchewan-St. Paul, Vermilion-Lloydminster, and Stettler-Wainwright: These proposed district span from the Edmonton Metro area to the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, with the first two resembling a shelter-belt rather than a constituency representing communities of common interest. The Commission should consider redistributing the proposed districts in a way that would not divide communities along such oddly drawn east-west boundaries.

Highwood: It should be noted that under this proposed district, the Highwood River is no longer located within the Highwood constituency, for which I believe it may be named.

St. Albert-Redwater: The population of the City of St. Albert is too large to warrant the creation of two districts within the municipal boundaries. Instead of expanding a second St. Albert district north to Redwater, Smoky Lake, Buffalo Lake and Kikino, I recommend the creation of a district that would include St. Albert and the municipalities of Sturgeon County, Morinville, Legal, Cardiff, Bon Accord and Gibbons.

St. Anne-Stony Plain: I expect this has already been brought to the attention of the Commission, but the correct spelling is Ste. Anne, in reference to Lac Ste. Anne. It is my recommendation that the name of the proposed district, if it remains in the final report of the Commission, be renamed Lac Ste. Anne-Stony Plain.

Wetaskiwin-Camrose: I commend the Commission for their decision in the interim report to recommend the creation of a fully contiguous proposed district of Wetaskiwin-Camrose.

Thank you to the Commissioners for the opportunity to respond to the interim report. I wish you good luck in months ahead as you consider the feedback you have received in order to create the final report of this electoral boundary review.

 

A quick look at the Interim Report of Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission

The Interim Report of Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission was released yesterday.

Proposed Alberta boundaries

I plan to take a more in-depth look at the interim report in the coming days, and plan to write more about it, but I do have a few quick observations after taking a first glance at the recommendations.

It is important to recognize that any group tasked with redrawing electoral boundaries will be faced with a number of significant challenges. Now that an interim map has been released, I expect the commission will receive a significant amount of feedback from Albertans about these recommended boundaries.

Overall I think the interim report is probably a decent place to start the next phase of the boundary redistribution process, which will include another round of public hearings across the province. A final report will be released in October 2017.

With no mandate to increase the total number of electoral districts in Alberta, currently at 87, the commission must make difficult decisions about where redraw the boundaries in order to reflect population growth and decline in Alberta. Dividing the province’s population of 4,062,609 by the 87 electoral divisions establishes an average population per electoral division of 46,697.

Proposed Calgary boundaries

It is an actual balancing act.

Proposed in the interim report, Calgary, Edmonton and Airdrie were distributed one new district each to reflect population growth in those urban areas. Three districts were redistributed out of northwest, west central and east central rural areas to reflect lower population growth or, in some cases, a decline in population.

There are some odd recommendations for both boundaries and boundary names, which are probably inevitable for an interim report. Naming one new district Calgary-Airport was certainly a unique choice, but it does provide an accurate description of what is included in the district.

Proposed Edmonton boundaries

Some of the new boundaries will prove to be problematic, especially in the geographically large rural districts like the proposed Fort Saskatchewan-St. Paul, Drumheller-Strathmore or Taber-Vulcan. The creation of large rural districts is unavoidable in order to balance a district’s populations with the provincial average.

As I already noted, I plan to take a more in-depth look at the interim report in the coming days, and plan to write more about it.

Thousands of Albertans packed the Legislature Grounds to watch Premier Rachel Notley and the NDP cabinet be sworn-in.

My submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

Earlier this year I submitted a series of recommendations to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission, the appointed body tasked with redrawing Alberta’s provincial electoral districts for the next election. I initially meant to share this after I submitted it, but for no particular reason I never got around to posting them. The commission will scheduled to submit its interim report to the Legislative Assembly on May 31, 2017 and, after another round of public hearings, it will submit its final report on October 31, 2017.

Here are the recommendations I submitted to the commission in February 2017:

Population in each district

The previous Commission did a good job keeping the population of most electoral districts within ten percent of the provincial average population per electoral district. But some districts have become outliers as populations grow or decline, which creates a system of unequal representation in the Legislative Assembly.

According to Statistics Canada 2016 Census data made available on Feb. 8, 2017, there has been tremendous growth in Alberta’s urban areas, including the Edmonton region, Calgary region and the Red Deer corridor which spans the length between the province’s two largest cities. Communities like Airdrie and Cochrane have seen significant growth of more than 40 percent since the last census. Because of this, it would be appropriate to redistribute new districts into these regions of the province.

The census data also shows a decline in population in areas west of the Red Deer corridor and in east central Alberta. It would be appropriate to redistribute the boundaries of these districts to reflect this population decline.

I recommend that the commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, but ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district.

Special districts

I would prefer that no district fall below twenty-five percent of the average, as increased funding should be allocated to MLAs in geographically larger rural ridings for additional offices, staff and travel costs. But political necessity will likely lead to the existence of one or two of these special exceptions.

I recommend that if special districts are required, that be created only in extreme circumstances and be kept to a minimum number.

Naming districts

In the past there has been little or no guidelines for the Commission to name electoral districts. Some districts are named after geographical locations and some after prominent figures from Alberta’s political history.

I recommend that the Commission or the Legislative Assembly create a protocol for naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions and legislatures.

Noncontiguous districts

The Wetaskiwin-Camrose electoral district.

The Wetaskiwin-Camrose electoral district.

There is currently one district that is noncontiguous, meaning that a portion of the district is completely surrounded by another district. A portion of the Samson Indian Reserve #13 located in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose district is currently completely surrounded by the Drayton Valley-Devon and Lacombe-Ponoka districts.

I recommend that all districts be contiguous.

On this topic, it appears that the communities of Maskwacis are divided between two districts – Drayton Valley-Devon and Wetaskiwin-Camrose. This appears to be an anomaly as all other First Nations communities in Alberta which are adjacent to each other are kept in the same district. If the commission is seeking draw district boundaries around communities of interest, it would make sense for Maskwacis to be included in the one district.

Rural/urban perspectives

As the provincial population increases in urban communities and decreases in many rural communities, it seems inevitable that outlying districts may be fewer and larger in the future. As stated by the previous commission which existed in 2009/2010, this raises a question about how large a division can be before it involves so many non-common interests that it is impractical for the disparate issues of the electors to be represented, and for the MLA to represent them.

As was recommended by the previous commission, I agree that the Legislative Assembly needs to seriously consider how the urban/rural perspectives will be addressed in the future.

 

 

Ernest Manning, Joseph Tweed Shaw, Peter Lougheed, Harry Hays, and Alexander Rutherford are a few of the Alberta politicians with electoral districts bearing their name.

Alberta’s odd tradition of naming electoral districts after former politicians

Become famous in Alberta politics and one day you could have a provincial electoral district named in your honour.

It has become a custom in recent decades in Alberta for electoral districts to be named after former politicians. As far as I can tell, Alberta and Quebec appear to be the only provinces who have widely embraced the practice of of naming districts after historical figures.

John Courtney

John Courtney

In a 2000 edition of the Canadian Parliamentary Review, University of Saskatchewan Professor John Courtney noted that in 1991 the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing urged a shift in naming electoral districts away from geographic place names, including hyphenated names, to a recognition of distinguished Canadians and important historic events or locations.

“Canadians often decry their limited knowledge of their own history and fail to recognize the accomplishments of those who have made outstanding contributions to the country,” Courtney wrote, suggesting it would “be a welcome change from ponderous directional reference points and an excessive reliance on hyphenated place names.”

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria

In Alberta, at least 10 out of the 87 current electoral districts bear the name of a political figure from Alberta’s history. When compiling this list, it was important to make the distinction between electoral districts that have been specifically named after individuals and districts named after communities that were already named after individuals (ie: Calgary-Currie, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, Livingstone-Macleod, and St. Albert).

Looking through the list, I discovered a few interesting facts. For instance, despite Alberta’s reputation as an unfriendly political environment for Liberal partisans, there are today more electoral districts named after former Liberal MLAs than there are actual Liberal MLAs in the Alberta Legislature.

Elmer Roper

Elmer Roper

The earliest instance of electoral districts being named after individuals may have been in Alberta’s first election. Two districts were created in 1905 – Victoria and Alexandra – which may have been named after Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, and Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII.

Why and when naming districts after historical figures began in more modern times might a little more difficult to determine. The Calgary-Egmont district, named after Frederick George Moore Perceval, 11th Earl of Egmont, was created in 1971 and existed until it was renamed Calgary-Acadia in the 2012 election.

The Calgary-McCall district first appeared in the 1971 election and was either named after First World War ace fighter pilot Fred McCall or the airfield that was named after him (McCall Air Field became the home of the Calgary International Airport after 1966). Also created in 1971 was the Calgary-McKnight district, which was either named for McKnight Boulevard or the boulevard’s namesake, Second World War flying ace Willie McKnight. The district was renamed Calgary-Nose Creek for the 1993 election.

In 1986, the Calgary-Shaw district was created and appears to have been named in honour of Joseph Tweed Shaw, who represented west Calgary as an MLA and MP in the 1920s and 1930s. He served as leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party from 1926 to 1930.

Premier Ralph Klein

Ralph Klein

The next instance occurred in 1993, when the Calgary-Lougheed, Edmonton-Manning, Edmonton-Rutherford, Edmonton-McClung, and Edmonton-Roper districts were created, named after former Premiers Peter Lougheed, Ernest Manning and Alexander Rutherford, one of the Famous Five and former MLA Nellie McClung, and former Edmonton mayor and MLA Elmer Roper. Lougheed, Manning and Roper were alive at the time but had retired from politics many years before.

The original recommendation from the MLA committee that oversaw the redrawing of the electoral map at the time had the Manning and McClung districts in difference locations from where they now exist. Manning was originally to be located in southwest Edmonton and McClung in northeast Edmonton, until it was later discovered that Ernest Manning once owned a home in northeast Edmonton Also, Manning Drive, which was named for Manning in 1972, is in the district. An amendment introduced in the Assembly swapped the two closer to their current locations on the electoral map.

While the other names remain on the electoral map, the Edmonton-Roper district was renamed Edmonton-Castle Downs in 1997.

Laurence Decore Alberta Liberal Leader

Laurence Decore

In 2004, the Electoral Boundaries Commission recommended the creation of the Calgary-Hays, Calgary-Mackay and Edmonton-Decore districts named after former Calgary mayors Harry Hays and Donald Mackay and former Edmonton mayor and MLA Laurence Decore. The Decore district was created from Edmonton-Glengarry, which Decore represented in the Assembly from 1989 until 1997.

Six years later, two more districts were named after former politicians. The first was Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley was named in honour of former MLA and NDP leader Grant Notley, who represented the area in the Assembly from 1971 until 1984.

Grant Notley

Grant Notley

And the second, created through an MLA introduced amendment in the Assembly after the Electoral Boundaries Commission’s final report had been tabled, is the only example I could find of a district being named after an individual who has recently retired from political life.

On October 26, 2010, Progressive Conservative MLA Kyle Fawcett introduced an amendment to rename Calgary-North Hill to Calgary-Klein, after former premier Ralph Klein, who had been retired from elected office for only three years. Fawcett, who represent North Hill, admitted that Klein had never actually represented that area of Calgary as an MLA, but that he was born and raised in the community of Tuxedo Park in the district.

The amendment was accepted by the Assembly, but it raises questions about the lack of process of honouring individuals by including their names in electoral districts. Unlike the process used to name parks, public spaces and schools used by municipal governments and school boards to honour notable community members, there does not appear to be a clear process in naming electoral districts.

The 2009/2010 Commission recommended in its final report that the Assembly consider adopting a protocol for the naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions. It is unclear whether any protocol has been adopted or whether the current commission will continue the trend of recommending naming new districts after political figures from Alberta’s history.

The Famous Five

If the current Electoral Boundaries Commission does name any districts in honour of notable Albertans, I would recommend they choose those names in honour of a century of women being allowed the right to vote in elections (women of European ancestry, at least). One way to do this is for the already existing Edmonton-McClung district be joined by four new electoral districts named in honour of the other members of the Famous FiveEmily MurphyIrene Parlby, Louise McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards.

Justice Myra Bielby is chairing Alberta's Electoral Boundaries Commission.

Alberta’s electoral map is being redrawn, here’s how to participate.

The process of redrawing the electoral map for Alberta’s next provincial election will begin in a few weeks. The Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission will propose a new map of provincial constituency boundaries to reflect changes in population since the last time the map was drawn in 2009/2010. (Here is a link to the current maps)

The Commission has launched their website and released the dates of the first public hearings to collect feedback from Albertans about how their provincial constituencies should be shaped.

The Commission has announced eleven locations where public hearings will be held. Public hearings in Calgary have not yet been announced but I expect they will be soon.

  • January 16 and 17 in Edmonton
  • January 18 in Fort McMurray
  • January 19 in Peace River and Grande Prairie
  • January 20 in Red Deer
  • January 23 in Wainwright and St. Paul
  • January 24 in Drumheller
  • January 25 in Lethbridge and Olds
  • January 26 in Medicine Hat

The Commission is also accepting written submissions until February 8, 2017.

An interim report will be available by May 31, 2017 and the final report by October 31, 2017.

The Commission’s membership is made up of a neutral chairperson, Justice Myra Bielby​, two government appointees, Bruce McLeod of Acme and Jean Munn of Calgary, and two official opposition appointees, Laurie Livingstone of Calgary and Gwen Day of Carstairs.

I have more thoughts about how Alberta’s electoral boundaries are drawn that I will share in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, I encourage all Albertans to participate and provide their feedback into this important process.