But when talking about his decision to run in the new Taber-Warner district, rather than challenging his caucus colleague Dave Schneiderfor the UCP nomination in the new Cardston-Siksika district, he made another statement that caught my attention.
“…the NDP have put us in a bad position in this southern part here, in that when the boundaries were redrawn, they split Cardston-Taber-Warner into two different ridings.”
The Cardston-Taber-Warner district Hunter currently represents will see significant changes when the next election is called. While he may have legitimate concerns about the redistribution of the electoral boundaries in southern Alberta, it is misleading to blame the NDP for putting him “…in a bad position…”
The new district boundaries for the 2019 election were drawn by a commission composed of an independent chairperson (Justice Myra Bielby), two NDP Caucus appointees (Bruce McLeod of Acme and Jean Munn of Calgary) and two Wildrose Caucus appointees (Laurie Livingstone of Calgary and Gwen Day of Carstairs). The commission was appointed in October 2016 and held public hearings and received hundreds of submissions from Albertans throughout 2017.
Of the Wildrose appointees, Livingstone supported the final report recommending the new electoral map, including the changes to Hunter’s district, and Day submitted a minority report opposing changes to rural district boundaries.
The process used to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries certainly has its flaws (I will write more about this soon), but with Hunter’s own party’s handpicked appointees deeply involved in the process it is misleading for him to blame the party in power for changes he might not like.
Readers of this blog will know that I have a long-time interest in the topic of redrawing electoral boundaries. Over the next few months I plan to take a closer look at some of the latest electoral district changes in Alberta that will take effect when the next provincial general election is called. If there is an area of the province, or a specific new district that you would like me to look at, please let me know.
The Calgary-Lougheed by-election, the Alberta Party leadership race, a new ThinkHQ poll, Rachel Notley as Canada’s Pipeline Paladin, and changing electoral boundaries are just some of the topics covered in the latest episode of The Daveberta Podcast with Dave Cournoyer and Ryan Hastman (recorded on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017).
The challenge facing the five-person commission was to redraw Alberta’s electoral boundaries to reflect growth and declining population in regions across the province. Without the ability to increase or decrease the number of constituencies from the current 87, the commission’s work was no easy task.
I was pleased to see the final report recommends new boundaries that will increase representation in the Legislature from growing communities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Airdrie, Grande Prairie, Spruce Grove, Cochrane and Chestermere.
I was pleased to see the final report incorporate a number of changes that I recommended in my initial submission in February 2017 and response to the interim report in July 2017.
In my response to the interim report, I recommend that the Commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, and ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district. The commission improved this average in the final report, with 73 of 87 districts now falling with ten percent above or below the provincial average.
The creation of the Morinville-St. Albert district north of Edmonton is an improvement from both the current boundaries and those included in the interim report. Rather than splitting the Sturgeon Valley communities like spokes in a bicycle wheel-like districts like the current Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock and Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, drawing these communities into a common district north of Edmonton is a sensible choice.
The final report renames some of the odd district naming choices including in the interim report, such as Calgary-Airport, Edmonton-Mill Woods-East and Edmonton-Mill Woods-West.
The final report eliminates the problems with the shelter belt-like Fort Saskatchewan-St. Paul, Vermilion-Lloydminster and Stettler-Wainwright districts proposed in the interim report.
Eliminating the non-contiguous district of Wetaskiwin-Camrose and recommending the creation of a Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin district will bring together a large community of interest that was previously split into two districts. This is positive.
While the final report eliminates some troubling rural district changes that were included in the interim report, it does include some of its own odd boundary changes. Most notable is the hour-glass shaped Cardston-Siksika district that would include two large sprawling rural areas that connect through a narrow gap near Lethbridge.
The final report also recommends the elimination of the single urban Medicine Hat district in favour of creating two rurban districts, Brooks-Medicine Hat and Cypress-Medicine Hat. This may face criticism in Medicine Hat, which has had its own urban district since at least the 1960s.
Having to balance regional population growth and decline without having the ability to increase the number of districts makes the task of redrawing districts very challenging. The lines must be drawn somewhere. And while this final report will not please everyone, the commission should be commended for their hard work.
The final report will be presented to the Legislative Assembly in the fall session, which begins at the end of October, and will require the support of a majority of MLAs to be approved.
What does this mean for incumbent MLAs?
The boundary changes propose in the interim report could led to incumbent MLAs facing each other in next election.
In northwest Alberta, Grande Prairie-Smoky United Conservative Party MLA Todd Loewen could face Dunvegan-Central-Peace Notley New Democratic Party MLA Marg McCuaig-Boyd in the new Dunvegan-Notley district.
North of Edmonton, Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock UCP MLA Glenn Van Dijken could face Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater NDP MLA Colin Piquette in the new Athabasca-Barrhead district. And in northeast Alberta, three UCP MLAs – Brian Jean, Dave Hanson and Scott Cyr – will need to face the reality that only two districts will exist in their region in 2019.
NDP MLA Trevor Horne will see his current Spruce Grove-St. Albert district absorbed into a redrawn St. Albert district and the new Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland and Spruce Grove-Stony Plain districts. Much of the areas included in these proposed districts are currently represented by NDP MLAs Marie Renaud, Erin Babcock and Oneil Carlier.
Earlier this year I submitted a series of recommendations to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission, the appointed body tasked with redrawing Alberta’s provincial electoral districts for the next election. The Commission released an interim report in May 2017 and will be holding a series of public hearings in communities across Alberta in the coming weeks. The Commission will submit its final report on October 31, 2017.
Here are the recommendations I submitted to the commission on July 16, 2017 in response to the interim report:
My name is David Cournoyer, I am a voter living in the Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood constituency. I have followed the electoral boundary redistribution process for a number of years and am very interested in the process.
I would like to thank the Commissioners for their work in this important process. The act of redistributing electoral boundaries is a challenging process and not one that should be taken lightly. In particular, this Commission faces the challenge of redistributing Alberta’s electoral boundaries without having the advantage of increasing the number of districts.
I have included below my recommendations in response to the interim report released by the Commission in May 2017:
I believe this Commission can improve the population balance proposed in the interim report. The previous Commission did a good job keeping the population of most electoral districts within ten percent of the provincial average population per electoral district.
I recommend that the Commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, and ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district.
I recommend the Commission consider the following amendments to the proposed districts included in the interim report:
Edmonton-East, Edmonton-North West, Edmonton-South, Edmonton-South West and Edmonton-West Henday: The Commission should reconsider using these geographic directional names for proposed districts, as they could cause confusion among voters. The names of the proposed districts are not necessarily reflective of their geographical areas. For example: The proposed Edmonton-East district is located west of the Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview and Edmonton-Manning districts and much of Edmonton-Northwest is located south of Edmonton-Castle Downs and east of Edmonton-West Henday.
Edmonton-Mill Woods-East and Edmonton-Mill Woods-West: I believe the names in these proposed districts may cause some unnecessary confusion among voters. I recommend the names of these proposed districts be changed.
Fort Saskatchewan-St. Paul, Vermilion-Lloydminster, and Stettler-Wainwright: These proposed district span from the Edmonton Metro area to the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary, with the first two resembling a shelter-belt rather than a constituency representing communities of common interest. The Commission should consider redistributing the proposed districts in a way that would not divide communities along such oddly drawn east-west boundaries.
Highwood: It should be noted that under this proposed district, the Highwood River is no longer located within the Highwood constituency, for which I believe it may be named.
St. Albert-Redwater: The population of the City of St. Albert is too large to warrant the creation of two districts within the municipal boundaries. Instead of expanding a second St. Albert district north to Redwater, Smoky Lake, Buffalo Lake and Kikino, I recommend the creation of a district that would include St. Albert and the municipalities of Sturgeon County, Morinville, Legal, Cardiff, Bon Accord and Gibbons.
St. Anne-Stony Plain: I expect this has already been brought to the attention of the Commission, but the correct spelling is Ste. Anne, in reference to Lac Ste. Anne. It is my recommendation that the name of the proposed district, if it remains in the final report of the Commission, be renamed Lac Ste. Anne-Stony Plain.
Wetaskiwin-Camrose: I commend the Commission for their decision in the interim report to recommend the creation of a fully contiguous proposed district of Wetaskiwin-Camrose.
Thank you to the Commissioners for the opportunity to respond to the interim report. I wish you good luck in months ahead as you consider the feedback you have received in order to create the final report of this electoral boundary review.
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.
Earlier this year I submitted a series of recommendations to Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission, the appointed body tasked with redrawing Alberta’s provincial electoral districts for the next election. I initially meant to share this after I submitted it, but for no particular reason I never got around to posting them. The commission will scheduled to submit its interim report to the Legislative Assembly on May 31, 2017 and, after another round of public hearings, it will submit its final report on October 31, 2017.
Here are the recommendations I submitted to the commission in February 2017:
Population in each district
The previous Commission did a good job keeping the population of most electoral districts within ten percent of the provincial average population per electoral district. But some districts have become outliers as populations grow or decline, which creates a system of unequal representation in the Legislative Assembly.
According to Statistics Canada 2016 Census data made available on Feb. 8, 2017, there has been tremendous growth in Alberta’s urban areas, including the Edmonton region, Calgary region and the Red Deer corridor which spans the length between the province’s two largest cities. Communities like Airdrie and Cochrane have seen significant growth of more than 40 percent since the last census. Because of this, it would be appropriate to redistribute new districts into these regions of the province.
The census data also shows a decline in population in areas west of the Red Deer corridor and in east central Alberta. It would be appropriate to redistribute the boundaries of these districts to reflect this population decline.
I recommend that the commission attempt to keep districts within ten percent, but ideally within five percent, above or below the provincial average population per electoral district.
I would prefer that no district fall below twenty-five percent of the average, as increased funding should be allocated to MLAs in geographically larger rural ridings for additional offices, staff and travel costs. But political necessity will likely lead to the existence of one or two of these special exceptions.
I recommend that if special districts are required, that be created only in extreme circumstances and be kept to a minimum number.
In the past there has been little or no guidelines for the Commission to name electoral districts. Some districts are named after geographical locations and some after prominent figures from Alberta’s political history.
I recommend that the Commission or the Legislative Assembly create a protocol for naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions and legislatures.
There is currently one district that is noncontiguous, meaning that a portion of the district is completely surrounded by another district. A portion of the Samson Indian Reserve #13 located in the Wetaskiwin-Camrose district is currently completely surrounded by the Drayton Valley-Devon and Lacombe-Ponoka districts.
I recommend that all districts be contiguous.
On this topic, it appears that the communities of Maskwacis are divided between two districts – Drayton Valley-Devon and Wetaskiwin-Camrose. This appears to be an anomaly as all other First Nations communities in Alberta which are adjacent to each other are kept in the same district. If the commission is seeking draw district boundaries around communities of interest, it would make sense for Maskwacis to be included in the one district.
As the provincial population increases in urban communities and decreases in many rural communities, it seems inevitable that outlying districts may be fewer and larger in the future. As stated by the previous commission which existed in 2009/2010, this raises a question about how large a division can be before it involves so many non-common interests that it is impractical for the disparate issues of the electors to be represented, and for the MLA to represent them.
As was recommended by the previous commission, I agree that the Legislative Assembly needs to seriously consider how the urban/rural perspectives will be addressed in the future.
Become famous in Alberta politics and one day you could have a provincial electoral district named in your honour.
It has become a custom in recent decades in Alberta for electoral districts to be named after former politicians. As far as I can tell, Alberta and Quebec appear to be the only provinces who have widely embraced the practice of of naming districts after historical figures.
“Canadians often decry their limited knowledge of their own history and fail to recognize the accomplishments of those who have made outstanding contributions to the country,” Courtney wrote, suggesting it would “be a welcome change from ponderous directional reference points and an excessive reliance on hyphenated place names.”
In Alberta, at least 10 out of the 87 current electoral districts bear the name of a political figure from Alberta’s history. When compiling this list, it was important to make the distinction between electoral districts that have been specifically named after individuals and districts named after communities that were already named after individuals (ie: Calgary-Currie, Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills, Livingstone-Macleod, and St. Albert).
Looking through the list, I discovered a few interesting facts. For instance, despite Alberta’s reputation as an unfriendly political environment for Liberal partisans, there are today more electoral districts named after former Liberal MLAs than there are actual Liberal MLAs in the Alberta Legislature.
The earliest instance of electoral districts being named after individuals may have been in Alberta’s first election. Two districts were created in 1905 – Victoria and Alexandra – which may have been named after Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, and Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII.
Why and when naming districts after historical figures began in more modern times might a little more difficult to determine. The Calgary-Egmont district, named after Frederick George Moore Perceval, 11th Earl of Egmont, was created in 1971 and existed until it was renamed Calgary-Acadia in the 2012 election.
The Calgary-McCall district first appeared in the 1971 election and was either named after First World War ace fighter pilot Fred McCall or the airfield that was named after him (McCall Air Field became the home of the Calgary International Airport after 1966). Also created in 1971 was the Calgary-McKnight district, which was either named for McKnight Boulevard or the boulevard’s namesake, Second World War flying ace Willie McKnight. The district was renamed Calgary-Nose Creek for the 1993 election.
In 1986, the Calgary-Shaw district was created and appears to have been named in honour of Joseph Tweed Shaw, who represented west Calgary as an MLA and MP in the 1920s and 1930s. He served as leader of Alberta’s Liberal Party from 1926 to 1930.
The next instance occurred in 1993, when the Calgary-Lougheed, Edmonton-Manning, Edmonton-Rutherford, Edmonton-McClung, and Edmonton-Roper districts were created, named after former Premiers Peter Lougheed, Ernest Manning and Alexander Rutherford, one of the Famous Five and former MLA Nellie McClung, and former Edmonton mayor and MLA Elmer Roper. Lougheed, Manning and Roper were alive at the time but had retired from politics many years before.
The original recommendation from the MLA committee that oversaw the redrawing of the electoral map at the time had the Manning and McClung districts in difference locations from where they now exist. Manning was originally to be located in southwest Edmonton and McClung in northeast Edmonton, until it was later discovered that Ernest Manning once owned a home in northeast Edmonton Also, Manning Drive, which was named for Manning in 1972, is in the district. An amendment introduced in the Assembly swapped the two closer to their current locations on the electoral map.
While the other names remain on the electoral map, the Edmonton-Roper district was renamed Edmonton-Castle Downs in 1997.
In 2004, the Electoral Boundaries Commission recommended the creation of the Calgary-Hays, Calgary-Mackay and Edmonton-Decore districts named after former Calgary mayors Harry Hays and Donald Mackay and former Edmonton mayor and MLA Laurence Decore. The Decore district was created from Edmonton-Glengarry, which Decore represented in the Assembly from 1989 until 1997.
Six years later, two more districts were named after former politicians. The first was Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley was named in honour of former MLA and NDP leader Grant Notley, who represented the area in the Assembly from 1971 until 1984.
And the second, created through an MLA introduced amendment in the Assembly after the Electoral Boundaries Commission’s final report had been tabled, is the only example I could find of a district being named after an individual who has recently retired from political life.
On October 26, 2010, Progressive Conservative MLA Kyle Fawcett introduced an amendment to rename Calgary-North Hill to Calgary-Klein, after former premier Ralph Klein, who had been retired from elected office for only three years. Fawcett, who represent North Hill, admitted that Klein had never actually represented that area of Calgary as an MLA, but that he was born and raised in the community of Tuxedo Park in the district.
The amendment was accepted by the Assembly, but it raises questions about the lack of process of honouring individuals by including their names in electoral districts. Unlike the process used to name parks, public spaces and schools used by municipal governments and school boards to honour notable community members, there does not appear to be a clear process in naming electoral districts.
The 2009/2010 Commission recommended in its final report that the Assembly consider adopting a protocol for the naming of electoral divisions for the guidance of future commissions. It is unclear whether any protocol has been adopted or whether the current commission will continue the trend of recommending naming new districts after political figures from Alberta’s history.
An interim report will be available by May 31, 2017 and the final report by October 31, 2017.
The Commission’s membership is made up of a neutral chairperson, Justice Myra Bielby, two government appointees, Bruce McLeod of Acme and Jean Munn of Calgary, and two official opposition appointees, Laurie Livingstone of Calgary and Gwen Day of Carstairs.
I have more thoughts about how Alberta’s electoral boundaries are drawn that I will share in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, I encourage all Albertans to participate and provide their feedback into this important process.