Tag Archives: Glen Resler

Big population growth means it’s time to redraw Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries

Alberta’s population has grown by 517,365 since the last time our provincial electoral boundaries were redrawn to reflect population growth. According to population estimates released on the provincial government’s Open Data portal this week, Alberta’s population reached 4,196,457 in 2015, up from population estimates of 3,679,092 in 2009, the last time boundaries were redistributed.

Over this six year period, Alberta’s two largest cities saw a huge population spike, with Edmonton growing from a population of 817,867 in 2009 to 950,421 in 2015 and Calgary from 1,107,192 to 1,293,023. Sixty-one percent of the province’s population growth is estimated to have moved to Calgary and Edmonton during this time.

According to these estimates, the combined population of Calgary and Edmonton represents 53 percent of Alberta’s population.

Population Growth in Calgary

While most of the province’s growth is estimated to have been in the two big cities, Alberta’s medium-sized municipalities have also grown. According to the population estimates, Strathcona County grew from 92,299 in 2009 to 107,104 in 2015, Airdrie grew from 38,704 in 2009 to 50,257 in 2015, St. Albert grew from 62,563 in 2009 to 71,096 in 2015, and Wood Buffalo grew from 63,376 in 2009 to 77,804 in 2015.

Some smaller rural communities, like Hanna, Oyen, Starland County, Stettler County, Swan Hills, and the town and county of Provost, actually saw a decline in the population since the electoral boundaries were last redrawn, according to the estimates.

Population Growth in Edmonton

In order to reflect this significant population shift, the Government of Alberta should take action to ensure the electoral boundaries are redrawn before the next provincial election, which is scheduled to be held between March 1 and May 31, 2019. Redrawing the province’s electoral boundaries to reflect population growth will ensure that Albertans receive more effective representation in the Legislative Assembly after the next election.

The 2009/2010 Electoral Boundary Commission estimated that the average population of Alberta’s 87 electoral districts was 40,880. Using the same formula, the average population according to 2015 population estimates would be 48,235, which is very close to 51,100 maximum allowable population in each electoral district (25 percent above the 2009 average).

As I wrote in Sept. 2015, Section 5 of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act states that a commission be appointed following every second election and a minimum of eight years and maximum of ten years since the previous commission. Two elections have been held since the last commission was appointed only seven years ago. This timeline was skewed when Progressive Conservative leader Jim Prentice called an election one year earlier than was set in Alberta’s fixed election date law.

According to a statement made by Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler on Sept. 24, 2015, the currently existing legal timeline would not give the commission and Elections Alberta staff enough time to prepare for the 2019 election. Mr. Resler told an MLA committee that he would recommend the government introduce an amendment to the Act to shorten the timeline so a commission can be appointed before the eight year minimum period.

The government should amend the timeline to ensure the electoral boundaries are redrawn before the next provincial election. The government should also make changes other sections of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act that would create a more fair process of drawing electoral districts and remove partisan appointments to the commission (I wrote about some of the changes that should be made in an earlier post).


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.

NDP should amend more than just timelines for Alberta’s next electoral map

Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer Glen Resler spoke to the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices on September 24, 2015 about legislated timelines that require an Electoral Boundaries Commission be appointed to redraw the provincial electoral districts.

Because the 2015 provincial election was called one year earlier than Alberta’s (meaningless) fixed election date calls for the timelines now present a difficult challenge for Elections Alberta.

Section 5 of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act states that a commission be appointed following every second election and a minimum of eight years and maximum of ten years since the previous commission. Two elections have been held since the last commission was appointed only six years ago.

The current legislative timeline, according to Mr. Resler, would not give the commission and Elections Alberta staff enough time to prepare for the next election, scheduled to be held in early 2019.

Mr. Resler told the committee that he is recommending the government introduce an amendment to the Act to shorten the timeline so a commission can be appointed before the eight year minimum period.

He told the MLA committee that he is proposing the government amend the law to allow the next commission be appointed by September 2016 in order to have a final report prepared for approval by the Legislative Assembly in the fall of 2017. This timeline would allow Elections Alberta enough time to prepare the new electoral districts for the 2019 provincial election.

If and when Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley introduces amendments to the timeline, the government should also change other sections in the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act that would create a more fair process of drawing electoral districts.

Under the current law, the commission is comprised of two appointees nominated by the Premier and two appointees nominated by the Leader of the Official Opposition, and a “neutral” chairperson.

Ms. Ganley should recommend that the commission instead be made up of non-partisan judicial appointees made by the Speaker of the Assembly, similar to the commissions appointed to draw the federal electoral boundaries.

The government should also amend the section of the Act that lays out guidelines for the commission to redraw Alberta’s electoral districts.

Section 15 of the 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.

While many other provinces allow for a 25 percent variation, some provinces allow smaller deviations. Newfoundland and Labrador and Manitoba’s southern districts follow a general rule for deviation of up to 10 percent. Saskatchewan and New Brunswick allow for a 5 percent general deviation.

The government could easily amend the law to allow the population of each of the new electoral divisions to be closer to the provincial average, perhaps within plus or minus 10 percent or 5 percent deviation.

This Act also allows the commission to recommend up to 4 large electoral divisions with a population that is as much as 50 percent below the average population of all the proposed electoral divisions.

These conditions introduced in 1990 are largely arbitrary, allowing the 50 percent deviation for constituencies which exceed 20,000 square kilometres, are in excess of 150 kilometres away from the Legislative Assembly Building, include no town larger than 8,000 people (the original bill required no town larger than 4,000 people), include an Indian reserve or Métis settlement and share a border with the provincial boundary.

The government could reduce the 50 percent deviation to 25 percent and direct increased funding for MLAs representing large electoral districts for the cost of multiple constituency offices and an increased travel/outreach budget. In 2015, the technology exists to aid MLAs to communicate, converse, and represent Albertans in large electoral districts.

Two rural constituencies currently fall under the 50 percent exception: Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley with 16,392 voters and Lesser Slave Lake with 19,062 voters. Other rural constituencies that have a notable lower than average population of voters include Peace River with 20,464, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills with 23,479 voters and Cardston-Taber-Warner with 23,918 voters.

The average voting population of a constituency in Calgary and Edmonton is more than 33,000 voters. Some urban constituencies, like Calgary-South East with 46,871 voters and Edmonton-South West with 41,230 voters, have grown considerably since the last redistribution.

Our provincial population has grown considerably since the last commission was appointed to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries in 2009. The new government should not just amend the timelines for the next commission, it should amend the Act to empower the commission to draw fair electoral boundaries that will ensure more effective representation and equality of the voting power in Alberta.

Limping Alberta Liberals face more financial troubles

Alberta Liberal Party Fundraising

Tracking Alberta Liberal Party fundraising from 2004 to 2014.

Did Liberal leader Raj Sherman break Alberta’s political donations limits when making donations to his own party?
Raj Sherman MLA

Raj Sherman

The Calgary Herald is reporting that Dr. Sherman may have exceeded the $15,000 limit for donations three times in the past four years and donated double the limit this year through corporations he controls.

The questionable donations were first noticed by former New Democratic Party staffer Tony Clark, who brought them to the attention of Glen Resler, Alberta’s Chief Elections Officer.

And it is not just the money given which is a potential issue, because Dr. Sherman and his corporations would have also received tax credits in return for those donations. Dr. Sherman claims he did not deliberately break the rules, but this could still cause lasting damage to his troubled party’s credibility.

Rachel Notley Edmonton MLA Strathcona NDP

Rachel Notley

Fundraising has always been a challenge for the Liberals and starting in 2009, the party struggled to compete with the fundraising dollars captured by Danielle Smith’s rising Wildrose Party. Lately, Dr. Sherman’s party has struggled to compete with the NDP, now led by Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley.

In the first three quarters of 2014, Elections Alberta financial disclosures show the Liberals raised $242,499.16, close to half of the $474,306.85 raised by the NDP in the same period.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton Centre Liberal

Laurie Blakeman

It is hard to write about the Alberta Liberal Party these days without feeling as if I am kicking a wounded animal. The once confident official opposition party has now dwindled down to a group of MLAs who more closely resemble a coalition of independents than a united front.

Over the past two years, Dr. Sherman’s Liberals have undergone a strange brand transformation, first abandoning the traditional Liberal red for a green Liberalberta brand, and then sixteen months later back to red.

The Liberals will soon lose Calgary MLAs Kent Hehr and Darshan Kang to federal political ambitions, and when that happens, the 3 MLA caucus will face the threat of losing official party status, and funding, in the Legislative Assembly. The Liberal Party’s poor showing in four October 27 by-elections also does not give the party much to build upon.

David Swann Liberal MLA Calgary-Mountain View

David Swann

But the party’s bleak prospects do not mean that individual MLAs are not doing good work. Edmonton-Centre MLA Laurie Blakeman, will continue the good work started by soon-departing Mr. Hehr with her private members bill to create safer environments for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth in Alberta schools.

A similar bill introduced by Mr. Hehr in spring 2013 was defeated by a coalition of Progressive Conservative and Wildrose MLAs.

Calgary-Mountain View MLA David Swann continues to defend the rights of farm workers, who find themselves without access to workers rights and occupational health and safety standards.

A strong argument can be made that the five Liberal MLAs who were re-elected in the 2012 election did so on their own merits as strong local representatives and despite the weakness of their party brand.

If Dr. Sherman’s party continues to limp in obscurity, the Liberal MLAs facing re-election in 2016 may have to determine whether their own hard work, rather than their current party brand, will be enough to win them their jobs back for another four years.