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Monday, January 14, 2008

it's about rep-by-pop.

With an Alberta provincial general election predicted to be only weeks away, I thought it would be important to put a little more attention on the issue of representation in the Alberta Legislature. To be specific, this is the issue of representation by population. Representation by population is a pretty simple concept that is taught in elementary social studies classes (or at least was when I went to elementary school), but the people who draw Alberta's constituency boundaries may have missed that lesson at school.

According to the list of electors from the November 2006, here are the constituencies with the lowest number of registered voters:

Dunvegan-Central Peace - 15,142 voters
Peace River - 18,007 voters
Lac La Biche-St. Paul - 18,674 voters
Lesser Slave Lake - 19,553 voters
Bonnyville-Cold Lake - 19,602 voters
Cardston-Taber-Warner - 19,615 voters
Now, take a look at the two Edmonton and Calgary constituencies with the lowest number of registered voters:
Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood - 26,170 voters
Calgary-Montrose - 24,519 voters
This means that the 15,142 voters in Dunvegan-Central Peace have the same representation in the Alberta Legislature as the 24,519 and 26,170 voters in Calgary-Montrose and Edmonton-Highlands-Norwood. It also means that the 15,142 voters in Dunvegan-Central Peace have the same representation in the Legislature as the 37,529 voters in Calgary-West and 37,613 voters in Edmonton-Whitemud (the two most populated constituencies according to Elections Alberta).

Now, I understand the argument behind the existence of these less populated rural constituencies (and why Dunvegan-Central Peace was given special consideration to have less than 75% of the provincial average) - because it's more difficult for an MLA to represent a vast less populated vast rural constituencies - but when it comes down to it, fence posts don't vote, people do. It's about equal representation for Albertans (the first part of the Triple-E).

I'm not saying that the people of Dunvegan-Central peace aren't of the utmost quality, but I wouldn't blame voters in Calgary-West and Edmonton-Whitemud if they became a little confused as to why 1 vote in Dunvegan-Central Peace's is worth more than double a vote in their constituency.

Now, we're nowhere close to having rotten boroughs, but the question of equal representation in Alberta between urban and rural Albertans is a critical question that needs to be addressed. After Edmonton lost one seat in the 2003 Electoral Boundary Review, I hope that both the Mayors and Councillors of Edmonton and Calgary will be ready to fight for fair representation when the next boundary review comes along.

But with three of the six least populated constituencies being represented by Ministers in the current Tory government, I wouldn't blame cynics for not believing that this type of constituency distribution will end anytime soon...


Anonymous said...

Dave, Dave, Dave! We don't have Rep-by-pop here in Alberta and we never have.

We have Rep-by-Farm.

If you want your vote to count, go buy some cattle.

Anonymous said...

Examining riding boundaries is a rather limited, bandaid solution to the problem of unequal votes. Worse yet than a vote in Dunvegan Central-Peace being worth twice as much as an Edmonton Whitemud is the fact that a Liberal vote (well, any non-Conservative vote) in Dunvegan Central-Peace is wasted entirely. There is, however, a a solution which addresses both problems.

Anonymous said...

so LIBRUHLS like u want to take away seats from the rurals. yeah great strategy 4 kevin taffy. he will be sure to come behind the ndp in rural ab by slapping voters in teh faces like these

this is another typical LIBRUHL plot to manipulate elections 2 there advantage

a disgusting and shameless powergrab

Robert McBean. said...

we don't have a professional and independent electoral boundary commission. i think the term is gerrymandering.

Anonymous said...

To "Wabasca Tory":

Why is a desire to make representation more equitable a "disgusting and shameless powergrab" and a "plot to manipulate elections"? What would you describe the current electoral boundaries as if not the same thing?

Also, is "LIBRUHL" supposed to be a clever insult? I don't get it.

mic said...

Having lived in a few of those northern constituencies, and now living in Edmonton, I can tell you that the problem is not going to yield to a simplistic solution. On my way to and from work in Edmonton each day, I drive through at least three constituencies and see the MLA offices for each. When I lived in High Level ("represented" by Boomer Adair) I had to drive 3 hours to his constituency office or face long distance phone charges. In spite of being one of over 25,000 now in my constituency, I believe I am much more able to know and therefore influence my MLA. Getting rid of first past the post could make some of this irrelevant, but it will never be "equal".

Anonymous said...

It was well reported that the last time the ridings were re-distributed, Edmonton lost a seat.

What was less reported was that the Tory appointees on the boundaries commission were not the only ones to blame. One of the Liberal appointees (govt and official opposition both get to name members) also supported the reduction in Edmonton's representation.

The Liberals shot themselves in the foot and added to the unfair distribution system Dave outlines in this post.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the "old" guard of most, if not all, of the political Associations in Alberta would oppose such an initiative. This is a charge that needs to be pushed by young Albertan's, and older generations that desire change. Too bad our governing Association, PC Alberta, is reluctant to change.

Dunkler said...

I did some calculating a while back. Alberta's population is currently 3,290,350. Calgary and Edmonton each contribute over 1 million people to that number (1,034,945 and 1,079,310). In percentages, that amounts to about 31% and 33% of Alberta’s population, respectively. Currently, these two cities enjoy only approximately 27% and 28% of seats. If we were to keep the size of the “Leg” fixed at 83, in order for these two cities to get their fair say, Edmonton and Calgary would each need to gain 4 seats at the expense of other areas of the province.

Anonymous said...

Gerrymandering is a political tradition. Funny thing is, it was actually started by a guy with the last name Gerry.

If representation were to be instituted as-to 1 person 1 vote, it would have to be local, provincial, and federal in my eyes.

I see the logic behind both systems (equal and unequal) and its always opportune for the opposition to ask for re-jigging and the party in power to least we don't have utterly crazy divisions like some of the American Congressional stuff.

Anonymous said...

Pete, way to take a needless partisan jab. If you looked at the bigger picture you'd see that the problem was that they were all partisan appointees in the first place. Also, the one member from Edmonton, a Liberal, wrote a minority report decrying Edmonton losing a seat.

Mind you at the time the opposition leadership under Ken Nichol and BRian Mason were pretty useless at fighting Edmonton's loss of a seat.

Anonymous said...

The other issue with the boundaries commission is that the terms of reference the province gave effectively limited the outcome the commission could come to. E.g. they had to use 2001 census figures, even though the commission was set up in 2003.

Moreover, the Tories introduced a whole bunch of changes to the commission's boundaries in the legislature, making a mockery of what little independence the commission had.

Anonymous said...

Cannot believe the boneheaded comments from some of the PC knuckledraggers out there.

While I am or more aptly was a PC'er, credible democracy clearly trumps what party is in power.

Dave, keep up the great work. You are a true democrat. (Too bad you are a liberal but in 20 years you will shift right like the rest of us!)I will be voting Wild Rose Alliance out of protest of what Ed Stupid and his F*ck Ups are doing thanks to your splendid efforts.

Don't back down! Let that little shit twist in the wind!

Anonymous said...

To "Wabasca Tory":

You spelled "Liberal" wrong. Just in case you missed it. I wouldn't want you to look stupid or anything.


A Dirty Hippie

Anonymous said...

No. I prefer putting my socks on before I put on my pants. It's easier on the fabric.