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.
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.
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.