New electoral district for Banff-Kananaskis
Thursday, Oct 26, 2017 06:00 am
The electoral boundaries commission has released its final report and with it comes a recommendation to create a riding for the Bow Valley that keeps tourism-based communities and parks together.
The new riding of Banff-Kananaskis was proposed in the report, after a Banff-Stoney riding that was put forward in the interim report of the commission and the Kananaskis region was included in an entirely different electoral district.
The report recommends creation of three new electoral divisions – Airdrie-Cochrane, Calgary-North East and Edmonton-South – however, by the creation of those ridings, others are affected.
Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead presented to the commission after the interim report was tabled in the legislature, to argue that Kananaskis Country should remain in the same riding as Canmore and Banff.
Westhead said he was pleased to see the change incorporated into the final report, as all three areas are part of an economic tourism based corridor.
“I am really happy to see they took that feedback,” he said. “(Kananaskis Country) is really part of an economic tourism corridor.
“The administration for Kananaskis is also based out of Canmore … and most people access Kananaskis Country through Highway 40 from the Trans-Canada Highway.
“It seems to make sense to have one MLA representing those different municipalities that have very similar economies in terms of tourism and management structure.”
Justice Myra Bielby, chair of the commission, presented the final report, saying one of the greatest drivers for change to ridings has been increased growth rate in the province. Bielby said with a growth rate in the province of 14 per cent over the past eight years, it has had an effect on whether constituencies are designed in a way that allows MLAs to effectively represent Albertans.
She pointed to the current riding of Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley with a population of 23,000 and the riding of Calgary-Southeast with a population of 92,000.
“(Population growth) has had an effect on whether the constituencies are designed in a way that allow people to be effectively represented by their MLAs,” Bielby said.
Alberta legislation provides direction as to how ridings are to be changed and in undertaking the work, the commission is required to meet all requirements of the act and decisions from various courts such as the Supreme Court of Canada.
With a clearly defined goal of creating voter parity, which means ensuring each citizen’s vote counts in the same manner as any other, the goal is reaching an average population per riding (of which there are only 87 legislated for Alberta) of 46,697.
The commission may also take into account population densities, community interests and First Nations reserves, and municipal boundaries. The population of any division must not be more than 25 per cent more than or 25 per cent lower than the average population, with a few specific exceptions.
The biggest change that has affected the Bow Valley has been the growth of Cochrane and Airdrie. Cochrane, in the 2016 census, has a total population of 25,853, which is up 47 per cent from 17,580.
Airdrie, on the other hand, has grown to a population of 61,581 from 43,271 in 2011, a 42 per cent increase in that community’s size in five years.
With the new Airdrie-Cochrane riding the population is 51,170 and the riding of Airdrie-East 49,978. Banff-Kananaskis as a riding is at a population of 46,824 – which meets the goal of the legislation.
The new shape for the riding includes Bragg Creek, Millarville, Priddis and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation, the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, and parts of the MD of Bighorn.
While new ridings were formed as part of the report, the commission was not granted the power to add ridings to the province, meaning the recommendations had to keep the total at 87. Another goal of the changes is to minimize the degree of variation by which ridings stray from that population average, the majority of which should be within a range of five per cent.
The result has been that larger rural ridings have been amalgamated to allow for new ones to be formed in the urban centres.
Bielby said the commission received constructive feedback from the public after its interim report was delivered, as people could speak specifically to changes being proposed.
“To the extent that population size as a component of effective representation, we think we can arguably have achieved that result in these recommendations,” she said.
One of the concerns that has arisen has been the fact that these changes represent and increase the number of ridings in urban areas, with a decrease of rural representation.
Commission member Gwen Day submitted a minority report on the changes, with a dissenting view on how the changes would affect rural areas.
Day said rural Alberta has lost three ridings and her biggest concern was that representation of rural residents is lessened through the changes.
“I think there were other options for resolving growth,” she said.
Specifically, she said, the fact the NDP government did not authorize the commission to add ridings to the province limited the effectiveness of the commission’s work.
“That (option) was not given to us by our current government to work with,” Day said. “Even though we had the fastest or largest growth rate in Canada.
“This is a constant erosion, where every eight to 10 years we do this and we do not think long term. This is not the best and wisest way to handle the situation.”