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Monday, May 04, 2009

setting the stage for an electoral boundary battle.

"Representation is not all about equal representation, it's about equitable representation. - Minister Ray Danyluk
This afternoon, Justice Minister Alison Redford announced the introduction of amendments to the Alberta's elections laws in Bill 45: Electoral Boundaries Commission Amendment Act, 2009 that will allow a commission to begin the process of redrawing Alberta's electoral boundaries earlier than scheduled. The amendments include increasing the number of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While my immediate reaction is to oppose an increase in the number of politicians in Alberta (I actually believe that we should decrease the number of MLAs in the Legislature), I am more concerned with equal representation in the Legislative Assembly.

One of the largest flaws in last Electoral Boundary Commission Review is that from the beginning, a process that should have been impartial and non-partisan quickly became politically-charged. The process inevitably became framed in rural versus urban or Conservative versus Liberal contexts due to the composition of the Commission. The membership of the 2002/2003 Electoral Boundary Commission included five political appointees - two appointed by the Premier (former MLA Glen Clegg and PC Party President-to-be Doug Graham), two nominated by the Leader of the Official Opposition (former Claresholm Mayor Ernie Patterson and former ATA President Bauni Mackay – both former Liberal candidates), and a chairperson appointed by the Cabinet* (former Social Credit MLA Bob Clark).

I have more thoughts on this topic, so you can be sure I will write more in the near future.

*The Cabinet is chaired by the Premier.

UPDATE: Duncan at has written a great post on this topic.


Corey Hogan said...

It surprises many to learn we have no guarantee of equal representation in Canada.

A series of court cases in the early nineties laid out and/or reiterated the framework for redistricting electoral divisions as bounded by a guarantee of "effective" representation.

Under the Westminster system, a Parliamentarian's job is twofold: as a legislator and as an ombudsman.

Rural ridings are often measured as more difficult to represent in the ombudsman sense, and thus are eligible for justifications that allow their average size to deviate from the mean.

In Alberta, we use a series of matrices that assign numerical values of difficulty of representation.

These are (if memory serves): distance from the Legislature, size of the district, number of municipalities in the district, population density, and a couple of others.

In short, we can scream ourselves blue in the face about equal representation, but there's no legal grounds and only questionable moral grounds to do so with the current system.

We need instead of pushing for equal representation to push for a reimagining of effective representation.

We need to push for Alberta's matrices to include: number of languages spoken in a district, number of NGOs in a district, and other matrices that reflect the difficulty of representing the modern urban riding.

After all, a guarantee of effective representation applies as equally to us inner-city folk as the rural areas.

Anonymous said...

No reason to decrease the amount of MLA's. Look at Saskatchewan - 1/3 of the population but 58 seats versus our 83, or now 87. If anything we're underrepresented.

Anonymous said...

There are many reasons to decrease the amount of MLA's. BC has a pop of 4.5 Million and will have 89 MLA's after the March 12 election. Ontario has 106 MPP's and a population of 12 million. Quebec 125 MNA's and a population of 7.7 million.

We don't need more politicians living life off the public dime in Alberta. We need more effective politicians in Alberta.

Kyle said...

Anonymous 9:54AM: Point taken. BC will have 79 MLA's after the May 12 election.

Anonymous said...

More politicians equals more representation. If anything we should be adding more seats. Besides most people that go into elected office make a significant sacrifice in income so I don't buy the above argument.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:54 - you should take a look at PEI...

Rutherford said...

Will Edmonton MLAs stand up for Edmonton and demand we have the proper representation? Edmonton lost a riding in the last boundary redraw and Calgary gained three. Not fair.

And BC has 85 ridings. Alberta will have one million less people than BC and two more unneeded politicians.

Chad said...

Rutheford Calgary is bigger than Edmonton becasue it is more of a single urban area where edmonton has a lot more ex-urban areas it has not been able to annexed some of the towns around it like Calgary has

so either compare the greater areas together in which case the greater edmonton area has 29 seats to 27 in greater calgary