Proposed Wild Rose boundary changes good for Tories, NDP
Proposed boundary changes to the Wild Rose federal constituency, which would be renamed Banff-Airdrie, could be beneficial to both the governing Conservatives and the opposing New Democrats, say local representatives.
Earlier this month, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta submitted a proposal to change the boundaries of the current Wild Rose constituency. The changes would divide the constituency in half, with the southern part expected to include Canmore, Banff, the MD of Bighorn, Crossfield, Morley, Cochrane, Airdrie, and parts of Rocky View County and portions of Springbank.
“In our constituency, we’re almost 40,000 in population too high, so obviously we’re going to see some significant changes,” said Blake Richards, the current Conservative MP for Wild Rose. “When you increase the population you’re going to need more seats to make sure that everyone is represented fairly. Our part of the province has grown quite fast compared to some of the other parts.”
According to the Boundaries Commission website, the population of Alberta increased from 2,974,807 in 2001 to 3,645,257 in 2011, resulting in the province gaining six new electoral districts, which increases its number of seats in the House of Commons to 34.
Under the proposed changes, the population of the Wild Rose constituency would decrease from 138,617 to 105,442 and make it much easier for the MP to adequately address the needs and concerns of the members.
“It’s a really large constituency and very diverse,” said Richards. “I think we’ve managed it quite well with our community offices set up all throughout the constituency. I’ve worked hard to try and make sure all of the communities are represented and all the issues that are important to the various parts of the constituency are something I work on.”
Not only will having a smaller constituency be beneficial to federal politicians, but also those working within the various municipalities, as Reeve Dene Cooper from the MD of Bighorn notes.
“We were delighted to see that for the first time all of our MD would be in the same constituency and not have a small part of it cleaved off,” Cooper said, citing the area known as West Jumping Pound that would be included in the proposed re-alignment. “We think, on the whole, that it is a good plan for us.
“The challenges were that West Jumping Pound issues were carried forward in the context of many other issues that almost all occurred somewhere else,” he added. “This will allow West Jumping Pound issues to come in the context of the municipality that they belong within and where they actually live.”
Cooper also indicated one of the crucial items for MPs if the changes are accepted is stewardship of the Eastern Slopes, which contain a large source of water that feeds the Bow River. Having more MPs immediate to the area may make things more complicated, he said.
Proposed changes will have an effect on the constituency as a whole and could determine which political party may be in power once the next election draws closer, in 2015. In last year’s federal election, Richards, who was the incumbent, took 43,488 votes out of a possible 58,262. NDP candidate Jeff Horvath was second with 6,603 votes. The re-alignment might change things next time, according to NDP Wild Rose riding president Anne Wilson.
“Things like this will allow us to focus on just Banff-Airdrie,” Wilson said. “It’s fantastic for us. Jeff is such an excellent candidate.
“It’s a good thing in general and it’s a good thing for Wild Rose, because when you get these really big spread out ridings, you don’t get alike interests so much,” she added.
With New Democrats picking up steam at the federal level under new leader Thomas Mulcair, Wilson also said she expects support to grow for the party within Alberta leading up to the next election.
Despite this, Richards is confident his track record will prove worthy enough to secure his position as MP.
“It’s hard to say at this point when we don’t know what the final results will be,” Richards said. “All I have done for the last four years is work hard to represent the people. In the next election we’ll put forward our record, what we’ve got to offer and the people will decide that.
“I think we’ve had pretty good support throughout the constituency,” he continued. “I think if we do a good job people will show their appreciation for the job you’ve done. If you don’t do a good job, then they’ll let you know that too.”
To allow the public to have its say about the proposed changes, hearings will take place in Calgary on Sept. 24-25 at the Harry Hays Conference Centre. Following the hearings, the Commission will submit a report to the Chief Electoral Officer no later than Dec. 21.
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