The chair of the next Electoral Boundaries Commission was appointed last Thursday with little fanfare. Justice Myra Bielby, a Court of Appeal judge for Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, will chair the commission charged with redrawing Alberta’s provincial electoral boundaries before the next provincial election. She is the first woman to chair this commission in Alberta.
The other four members of the commission will be appointed tomorrow (update: see a list of appointees below) and will include two appointees selected by the government and two by the official opposition.
As I wrote last September, the NDP should have used an opportunity to amend the Boundaries Commission Act to allow for the appointment of a completely non-partisan commission, similar to the commissions appointed in every province to redraw federal electoral boundaries (they did not).
The final reports of previous commissions, which included two appointees chosen by the Progressive Conservative government and two from the then-Liberal Official Opposition tended to end with one or both of the opposition appointees publishing a minority dissenting report (which usually argued that Edmonton was being under-represented in the Legislative Assembly).
With the rhetoric running high from both the NDP and Wildrose this week, I expect we might see a similar situation develop with the appointees to this commission (but with the Wildrose appointees claiming rural areas are under-represented).
While the population of Alberta has grown since the last boundary redistribution in 2010, the population centres in our province have not shifted dramatically. Some boundaries will shift to reflect population changes but I would not expect a massive redistribution to create dozens of new constituencies in urban areas, as has been in the case in the past.
The final report from the 2009/2010 Electoral Boundaries Commission included a handful of recommendations for future commissions:
- The Legislative Assembly needs to seriously consider how urban and rural perspectives will be addressed in the future.
- The Legislative Assembly should consider reassessing the resources allocated for constituency offices.
- Future commissions should be appointed early in the calendar year.
- The Legislative Assembly may wish to consider adopting a protocol for the naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions.
Update: The commission appointees were announced on October 31, 2016:
Nominated by Premier Rachel Notley:
- Bruce McLeod, Mayor of the Village of Acme and former president of CUPE Alberta.
- Jean Munn, a lawyer with Caron & Partners LLP in Calgary and NDP candidate in Calgary-Montrose in the 1993 election.
Nominated by Official Opposition leader Brian Jean: