Likely unbeknownst to most Canadians, commissions have been struck across the country and tasked with redrawing our federal electoral boundaries in advance of the expected 2015 general election. The process of electoral redistribution, which is done every decade, accounts for population change in the ridings which we elect Members of Parliament to represent us in the House of Commons. Separate commissions have been struck for each province.
Chairing the Alberta commission is the Justice Carole Conrad, who is currently a member of the courts of appeal of Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Ed Eggerer of Airdrie and Donna Wilson of Edmonton are the two public members appointed to the commission.
The commission is also tasked with adding six new ridings to the province, which will increase Alberta’s representation in the House of Commons to 34 MPs. Alberta’s two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton, and their surrounding regions, can expect see their representation increased with the six additional ridings.
The federal commission is non-partisan in nature, unlike provincial electoral boundary commissions in Alberta, which include a neutral chairman and two representatives nominated by the leader of the governing party and the official opposition party.
In March 2012, the Alberta commission announced that it would release maps of its proposed boundary readjustments in the coming months (which suggests that it could be soon). Following the release of the maps, the Alberta commission will be holding public hearings to gather feedback on the proposed readjustments commencing in September 2012.
The last federal electoral redistribution took place before the 2004 general election. In Edmonton, a number of ridings which had previously existed entirely within the City limits were redrawn to include large rural areas surrounding the City. This is why capital region communities like Beaumont, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Sherwood Park, Stony Plain, and Spruce Grove find themselves sharing Members of Parliament with suburban Edmonton voters.
In some cases, these outward stretching boundaries have led to interesting internal political disputes.
Before the 2008 general election, conservative partisans in Sherwood Park were upset that Edmontonian Tim Uppal had won the nomination to become the Conservative Party candidate in Edmonton-Sherwood Park following the retirement of long-time MP Ken Epp. Not satisfied with internal party appeals, Sherwood Park resident James Ford challenged Mr. Uppall by running as an Independent candidate in that year’s election. After a fierce election campaign, Mr. Uppal was elected with 17,628 votes to Mr. Ford’s 15,960.
A look at the electoral results from that campaign show that support for each candidate was divided almost entirely by the City of Edmonton boundary (Mr. Uppall earning strong support in Edmonton polls and Mr. Ford sweeping polls in Sherwood Park and Fort Saskatchewan). The geographically-based results were replicated to a lesser extent when Mr. Ford challenged Mr. Uppal once again in the 2011 general election (Mr. Uppal earned a commanding 24,623 votes to Mr. Ford’s respectable 16,263).
It is likely that all partisan eyes are waiting to glimpse at what boundary changes will be made to Edmonton-Strathcona, home of Alberta’s only non-Conservative MP. New Democrat MP Linda Duncan increased her margin of victory when she was re-elected in 2011, but shifting boundaries have a way of changing political fortunes.
UPDATE: Maps of the proposed new federal riding boundaries have been released. I will have a post up tonight on this topic.
12 replies on “federal riding boundaries being readjusted in alberta.”
I doubt that Linda’s riding will encounter anything too severe. The riding, as it stands now, is largely set by some fairly logical borders. It would be hard to gerrymander it without it seeming obvious, and I don’t think the committee would attempt that anyways.
Leaving aside conspiracy theories aimed as Ms Duncan, I think you raise a good point about the bizarre practice of pairing city ridings to rural areas and small towns. It does a disservice to all parties, and everyone from the capital area would be well served to go before the committee to argue in favour of city specific ridings, as well as rural/small town ridings. The needs of each community type are different and unique, and each deserves to have MPs dedicated to those needs.
Neal – Thanks for the comment. I agree that is a legitimate question that needs to be asked. Can one person properly represent both the needs of rural and urban voters from diverse backgrounds?
I would argue that yes, they can, and have. I would also argue that the day to day tasks that an MP performs appears to be less dependent on geographical area than a say, a municipal elected official (or in some cases a provincial elected official).
I would argue this because while a municipal elected official deals with the meat and potatoes of politics (i.e. potholes, water, garbage pickup, traffic, community centres), a federal politician is tasked with many macro level issues at the federal government level.
That said, from a political standpoint, I would also argue that urban and rural voters have unique political issues and are perhaps not best served with these mega “rurban” ridings.
Edmonton-Strathcona should change. It would only be fair for it to grow, if even slightly. Currently it has the smallest population of any riding in the province. It has 100,000 people while Edmonton-Leduc to the south has 150,000 people and Edmonton-Mill Woods has 137,000. If you look at other Edmonton ridings Edmonton-Sherwood Park has 139,000, Spruce Grove has 151,000, Centre has 122,000, St. Albert has 136,000 and East has 135,000. It would make sense for the riding to change, and if the ridings are divided up fairly there shouldn’t be one left with a population much smaller than the others.
Killian – thanks for the comment. With the addition of six new ridings and a population of 2.4 million eligible voters (according to the recent provincial election), I believe that the average population per riding will go down, not up.
Like the provincial Electoral Boundary Review, I believe the Federal Commissioners have some flexibility in determining population per riding based on a predetermined percentage (example: 5% over or under).
Yes, wiping that mote of orange from the clear blue eyes of Alberta’s faithful is long overdue. Killian here has outlined the excuse, and Neal knows the way; sure, such rigging will be painfully obvious and unconscionable, but it’s quite plain that such behavior by elected officials will never make much of a difference to Albertans anyway, except maybe in Strathcona, natch.
Will this mean nomination battles for sitting MPs in ridings where the boundaries are changed?
In the case of Beaumont, I don’t find much of a difference in interests between most of the people there and those in the nearby city… where most of the people in Beaumont do much of their working and purchasing. There is a big difference between a place like Beaumont and… say… Killam. While both are smaller communities, their interests/concerns are far different. I don’t have an issue with combining bedroom communities with nearby urban centres for the purpose of federal representation.
Here’s what I’d do with the Edmonton area:
the quota per district should be around 107 000.
On that basis, with the Census 2011 numbers, the cities of Edmonton and St. Albert together have enough people for 8 ridings — 7 entirely in Edmonton, one split between Edmonton and St. Albert. Strathcona County plus Fort Saskatchewan adds up to just a little over the quota, so make that a riding.
That leaves, in the Edmonton area, about 60 000 people in Leduc County and the municipalities inside it, about 45 000 in Sturgeon County (and municipalities), and about 70 000 in Parkland County (and municipalities). I see a couple of options here:
A: A Parkland-Sturgeon riding, with bits of outlying counties as needed, and a Leduc-Parkland riding, likewise with a few outlying towns.
B: A Parkland-Sturgeon riding, which contains everything within those two counties, except for some of the outer fringes, which can go to more rural ridings, and a riding which covers all of Leduc County, and adds places like Wetaskiwin and Camrose as needed.
I think something like this would better represent the Edmonton area: eight ridings that were entirely urban, and then three which are mostly suburban, with a few small towns.
I would say that the riding split is pretty good. the Urban areas are part of Edmonton rideings and rural areas are not. frankly Spruce Grove, Boemont and Sherwood Park are urban, not rural and there are arguments within the municipalities themselves because the urban part of the counties ( acreages and towns near Edmonton) eg, East Parkland, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Fort Saskatchewan are completely Different from the truly rural areas away from these suburbanites. (Wabamun, Onaway, Gibbons, Morinville ect) and even in municipal politics the truely rural areas get beat up on. splitting these Rural areas from the Urban ones federally means that you wont likely get a Urbanite representing a rural area and vice versa.
The new boundaries are up! And they look a lot like the ones I suggested…
Roughly eyeballing it, I’d say the proposed Edmonton-McDougall and Edmonton-Griesbach should be slightly more hopeful for the NDP than the current Centre and East ridings. Edm-Strathcona remains basically unchanged. Edmonton-Mill Woods loses the newer suburbs south of the Henday (as well as Beaumont), and could theoretically be competitive.
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