Interim report of Alberta EBC gets mixed reactions

It will divide the County of Stettler through the middle, giving us two MLAs: Reeve

When the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) released its interim report, it garnered positive and negative criticism from municipalities.

Even though Justice Myra Bielby, Chair of the Electoral Boundaries Commission assured that the report struck a balance, it didn’t even the keel for many ridings.

“I want to thank the hundreds of Albertans who participated in the review process to this point. The feedback was valuable and informed many of our recommendations. We look forward to receiving further input into our proposed boundary changes in the coming months.”

Among the recommendations the report provided was one that will be affecting the County of Stettler, that the seven electoral divisions currently named Battle River-Wainwright, Drumheller-Stettler, Strathmore-Brooks, Little Bow, Cardson-Taber-Warner, Cypress-Medicine Hat and Vermillion-Lloydminister be consolidated into five.

“I’m disappointed that with the proposed boundary changes we are losing representation in rural Alberta and in addition, we would no longer be aligned with municipalities to the east which we have enjoyed a long relationship with,” said County Reeve Wayne Nixon. “There is a positive side to the realignment for our region, however, being that the County of Stettler will have two MLAs representing them if the new boundaries come into effect, as the changes divide our county through the middle.”

According to MLA Rick Strankman, there could be many possible permutations to rejigging the electoral boundaries relating to the representation of the present constituents of Drumheller-Stettler.

“The current constituency of Drumheller-Stettler includes a vast, diverse area that is sparsely populated while making up a substantial contribution to Alberta’s agricultural and energy markets,” said Strankman. “The vast distances between population centers in east central Alberta create challenges that affect the ability of a representative personally to attend events, meetings and other functions. These challenges are amplified in the winter months which at times can be prohibitive.”

Strankman further stated that the proposed Drumheller-Strathmore riding would see an increase in the number of counties, MDs, Towns, Villages, school boards, high schools and elementary schools that the MLA must either represent, work with, and attend community events in.

“It would also mean an increased frequency of involvement with energy-based businesses either in regard to their proposed expansions or their community support activities,” Strankman added. “The proposed Drumheller-Strathmore riding is now larger than its predecessor, which already created challenges to provide effective representation.”

Strankman said that with a population of 36,810 and no town larger than 8,200, notwithstanding the invention of the internal combustion engine, this is simply too large an area for one person to effectively cover.

The current population of Drumheller-Stettler riding is 36,810, according to 2016 census.

Though under the provincial average, this is still within the prescribed differential of about 25 to 21 per cent give or take, Strankman noted.

“When taking into consideration the parameters set out in section 15 (2) that would allow a riding to be under the average population by more than 25 per cent, the current riding of Drumheller-Stettler meets four of the five parameters,” Strankman commented. “The Commission’s mandated consideration of sparsity of population must reasonably be applied to the current riding of Drumheller-Stettler and there has to be clear and stated reasons for changing the riding boundaries.”

Strankman said that the proposed changes to the Drumheller-Stettler riding will negatively affect the stability of the riding and most certainly will not achieve the ultimate goal as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that guarantees effective representation.