With an Alberta provincial general election predicted to be only weeks away, I thought it would be important to put a little more attention on the issue of representation in the Alberta Legislature. To be specific, this is the issue of representation by population. Representation by population is a pretty simple concept that is taught in elementary social studies classes (or at least was when I went to elementary school), but the people who draw Alberta’s constituency boundaries may have missed that lesson at school.
According to the list of electors from the November 2006, here are the constituencies with the lowest number of registered voters:
Dunvegan-Central Peace – 15,142 voters
Peace River – 18,007 voters
Lac La Biche-St. Paul – 18,674 voters
Lesser Slave Lake – 19,553 voters
Bonnyville-Cold Lake – 19,602 voters
Cardston-Taber-Warner – 19,615 voters
Now, take a look at the two Edmonton and Calgary constituencies with the lowest number of registered voters:
This means that the 15,142 voters in Dunvegan-Central Peace have the same representation in the Alberta Legislature as the 24,519 and 26,170 voters in Calgary-Montrose and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood. It also means that the 15,142 voters in Dunvegan-Central Peace have the same representation in the Legislature as the 37,529 voters in Calgary-West and 37,613 voters in Edmonton-Whitemud (the two most populated constituencies according to Elections Alberta).
Now, I understand the argument behind the existence of these less populated rural constituencies (and why Dunvegan-Central Peace was given special consideration to have less than 75% of the provincial average) – because it’s more difficult for an MLA to represent a vast less populated vast rural constituencies – but when it comes down to it, fence posts don’t vote, people do. It’s about equal representation for Albertans (the first part of the Triple-E).
I’m not saying that the people of Dunvegan-Central peace aren’t of the utmost quality, but I wouldn’t blame voters in Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud if they became a little confused as to why 1 vote in Dunvegan-Central Peace’s is worth more than double a vote in their constituency.
Now, we’re nowhere close to having rotten boroughs, but the question of equal representation in Alberta between urban and rural Albertans is a critical question that needs to be addressed. After Edmonton lost one seat in the 2003 Electoral Boundary Review, I hope that both the Mayors and Councillors of Edmonton and Calgary will be ready to fight for fair representation when the next boundary review comes along.
But with three of the six least populated constituencies being represented by Ministers in the current Tory government, I wouldn’t blame cynics for not believing that this type of constituency distribution will end anytime soon…