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Monday, September 28, 2009

alberta redrawing boundaries.

Alberta's Electoral Boundaries Commission is now into its third week of its first round of public hearings. My previous post on the Commission has generated some great discussion about the challenges of representing rural electoral districts and I am looking forward to an upcoming post by a guest contributor to this blog that will delve deeper into some of the issues raised in that discussion.

Thanks to the good people at Hansard, transcripts and audio are now available from the last two weeks of hearings in Fort McMurray: (afternoon, evening), St. Paul, Wainwright, Edmonton (September 22nd afternoon, evening). The transcripts and audio from the September 23rd public hearings in Edmonton and September 24th & 25th in Calgary are not available yet, but I would expect that they should be posted at some point this week. 

So far, it has been a relatively small number of Albertans who have presented to the commission, including MLAs Laurie Blakeman and Guy Boutilier, municipal officials including Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland, County of St. Paul Reeve Robert Bouchard, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel, and a number of representatives from Liberal and Progressive Conservatives constituency associations.

Due to legislative amendments introduced into the Legislative Assembly by Justice Minister Alison Redford during the Spring session, the Electoral Boundaries Commission will increase the amount of electoral districts from 83 to 87. While it's very questionable why Albertans would need more MLAs, the increase may help the case presented by Mandel, who urged the Commissioners to increase Edmonton's representation by two seats. The outcome of the 2002/2003 Boundaries Commission saw Edmonton's representation in the Legislative Assembly decrease by one MLA, a move that is widely believed to have contributed to the defeats of seven capital city PC MLAs in the 2004 provincial election (Commission member Bauni Mackay penned a spirited defence of Edmonton in her minority position).

These public hearings haven't been overflowing with presenters, but I expect that interest will rise after the interim report and interim map are released in the coming months. The submission deadline for the first round of public hearings is on October 13.

Brian Dell: My Submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission
Trish Audette: Rural vs Urban tug of war


Anonymous said...

Have NO PC MLA's showed up at the public hearings?!?!

Craig said...

Thank you for updating us on the boundaries commission hearings, Dave. It is important and not easy to follow.

I read Ms. Mackay's report and was interested in this piece she included from Dr. Roger Gibbins. Is anyone making this argument?

In his presentation to the Electoral Boundaries Commission, Dr. Roger Gibbins, President and CEO of Canada West Foundation reiterated this point of view. He talked about the need to recognize the role of cities in the global economy, pointing out that:

* cities drive the new, knowledge-based economy which is central to the well-being of this province,
* cities attract immigration, which is vitally important to provide the human capital necessary to compete in the global economy,
* cities are where national and international corporations choose to locate based on the quality of life offered in those cities.

Dr. Gibbins stated that "all Albertans stand to gain from an urban strategy that enhances the competitive position of the province's major cities in the new global economy." He went on to say, "I would argue, therefore, that the Electoral Boundaries Commission should recognize both the urban growth to date and the urban growth to come … It should recommend that urban voters bring their demographic weight to bear in the Legislative Assembly, thereby ensuring that the Assembly reflects and responds to the province's new urban agenda… I would recommend that the Electoral Boundaries Commission should embrace rather than resist Alberta's new urban reality, and thereby play a role in enhancing the province's competitive position… The Electoral Boundaries Commission should embrace the new urban realities, enhance urban representation in the Legislative Assembly, and then, but only then, empower representatives from low-density constituencies through reducing the numerical size of their constituencies."

Dr. Gibbins was not talking only about Calgary. To ignore the role of Edmonton in the changing economy by removing an electoral division and diminishing that city's voice in the Legislative Assembly is to lack the vision and flexibility demanded by the realities of the 21st Century.

Anonymous said...

Saskatchewan has 58 MLA's for 1 million. If anything we need at least 30 new MLA's in Alberta.

Brian Dell said...

Very good argument there by Roger Gibbons. I was going to show up to a Wednesday 2 to 4 pm session but was running late enough that day I would have arrived at a quarter to 4 and reckoned that there was a chance they would have been booked up anyway. So I just faxed my comments in.

Urban Spork said...

Anonymous: By your logic, Ontario needs 660 MLAs then.

Anonymous said...

Alright Dave I'll bite - who's the guest contributor?

Anonymous said...

I think I'll write in.

1. 87 MLAs is too many. 83 MLA's is too many.
2. Edmonton and Calgary don't need more MLAs than city councillors.
3. There are more urban Albertans than rural, ergo, more urban seats than rural must be upheld
4. Fort McMurray and the whole RMWB need two MLA for the booming population. Use the Athabasca and Clearwater Rivers confluence as the boundary. This also largely separates the two types of oil sands industries, mining and in-situ.

Anonymous said...

Urban Spork: by your logic, Alberta and Ontario are the same.

Anonymous said...

With the population growth we've seen in this province, we need at least 100 MLAs to keep up the same level of representation.