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EDITORIAL: New potential federal boundaries beneficial to Bow Valley

EDITORIAL: The newly proposed redistribution of federal ridings could be a late Christmas gift to communities in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/

The newly proposed redistribution of federal ridings could be a late Christmas gift to communities in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains.

The potential change could see the municipalities of Banff, Canmore and Jasper united under one federal banner.

While the three share many of the same concerns and issues, the trio has long been separated into ridings where urban counterparts have frequently had different needs when being represented federally.

Under existing ridings, the three communities are split into bigger regions that have differing wants and needs.

For Banff and Canmore, they’re joined by urban areas in Airdrie and Cochrane, the latter two carry the vote in the riding. Jasper is linked with similar types of communities in Drayton Valley, Hinton and Edson.

The three mountain communities have far more in common with one another than their more traditional Alberta neighbours such as Airdrie.

While the riding would be a significant distance from one constituency to another for the future MP, the issues faced by all three communities are similar in nature.

The mayors of Banff, Canmore and Jasper have publicly praised the changes and the potential they could bring.

Though a decision for the province, the three have long been joined at the hip in pushing for resort municipality status. With a provincial election around the corner, the three have pushed the nitro button in advocating for the potential change that has alluded the tourism-based communities for more than a decade.

The need for it has the three working together with New West Public Affairs to advocate for the special status in the province.

A new report commissioned by the three municipalities and prepared by Verum Consulting drove home the similarities between the three, including the financial pressures they face and how they anchor Alberta’s tourism industry with millions of visitors coming to their respective regions each year.

The communities are not only connected by tourism, but also either being in national parks or on the doorstep of one in Canmore’s case. Housing issues, climate change and environmental concerns, wildlife priorities, cost-of-living troubles, shortage of staff and the hospitality sector are the dominant economic driver.

Federal ridings undergo boundary reviews and are mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada. An independent commission redraws the boundaries after looking at population growth and feedback from the public.

The first proposal had recommended splitting Banff and Canmore, but the review changed the map and it could see Alberta go from 34 to 37 seats in the House of Commons.

Banff and Canmore have been in a federal riding together for more than a century and seeing either in separate ridings would have been a detriment to both communities and the representation they receive federally.

While possibly remaining together, it could see the political leaning of such a new riding shift from solid blue in the existing Banff-Airdrie to move more left of centre.

Since the Banff-Airdrie riding was formed in 2015 and the previous Wild Rose riding was established in 1988, right-of-centre parties such as the Progressive Conservatives, Conservatives and Reform Party of Canada trounced any other competition.  

Data released by Elections Canada only highlights the difference between Banff and Canmore and their counterparts in Airdrie and Cochrane. Both Airdrie and Cochrane overwhelmingly vote for conservatives, while Canmore is more evenly split between conservatives, liberals and NDP.

However, Banff largely votes left of centre, primarily focusing on NDP candidates.

It’s still not a slam dunk the new boundaries will be rubberstamped, but it’s closer to reality than further from a dream.

If the proposed riding gets ratified, Banff, Canmore and Jasper could soon have their best federal representation in more than a generation.