Bashaw’s electoral boundaries could be changing and Battle River-Wainwright MLA Wes Taylor isn’t pleased.
The Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission released its final report on Oct. 19, which includes a recommendation to redistribute the Battle River-Wainwright riding into three.
The report also redrew boundaries to create one new riding each in Calgary and Edmonton along with new Airdrie-Cochrane riding plus redraw boundaries to eliminate one riding each in the northwest and southeast regions of the province. Despite these changes, the commission was mandated to maintain the number of ridings at 87.
In a press release issued by Taylor, he stated the commission’s final report contains an unnecessary act of “robbing rural Peter to pay urban Paul.”
He believes it prioritizes voter parity — which would see all ridings having the same number of eligible voters. However, the commission’s report states voter parity is virtually impossible and refers to a Supreme Court of Canada decision in a 1991 Saskatchewan Reference case to make its point.
“The problems of representing vast, sparsely populated territories, for example, may dictate somewhat lower voter populations in these districts; to insist on voter parity might deprive citizens with distinct interests of an effective voice in the legislative process as well as of effective assistance from their representatives in their ‘ombudsman’ role,” stated Justice Beverley McLachlin in the case. She is now Canada’s Chief Justice.
Taylor’s reasoning is based upon the commission’s decision to basically ignore what he described as ‘wiggle room’ in the redistribution rules.
“Under these rules, a commission should start their work by dividing the total population of Alberta by the number of ridings permitted,” Taylor said, noting this would give an average population per riding from which to reference. There are other rules, he added, that the commission should apply in order to achieve effective representation, rather than simply a headcount comparison.
Taylor also appeared in front of the commission at a public hearing back in July to present a counter proposal — arguing Edmonton and Calgary simply needed to have their ridings redistributed using rule 15(1) using a plus/minus 25 per cent of the provincial average instead of creating new ridings.
He feels this rule wasn’t considered.
“They have ignored it so blatantly that I can only believe that they were predetermined to deprive rural Alberta of some, and in the event three, ridings,” said Taylor.
With the Alberta legislature back in session Oct. 30, MLAs will have the opportunity to debate and vote on the proposed changes before the session ends on Dec. 7.
If approved, Bashaw along with more than half of the current riding will become the newly created and renamed Camrose riding, which will also include portions of the present electoral districts of Wetaskiwin-Camrose and Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville. The other portion will be divided between the redistributed areas of Vermilion-Wainwright and Drumheller-Stettler.
In the report, commission chair Justice Myra Bielby wrote a dissenting opinion stating redistribution could have been achieved without adding ridings to the two major centres or having to consolidate existing rural ridings.
There were more than 1,300 written submissions and hundreds who spoke at the 30 public hearings on the proposed changes.
Due to the public feedback after the interim report was released this summer, there were modifications made in producing the final recommendations — which included altering boundaries to avoid dividing up counties and keeping common community interests together.