Big shakeup for Westlock-St. Paul riding
Morinville and Sturgeon join new riding with Stony Plain under proposal
By: By Ryan Tumilty
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 11, 2012 06:00 am
A proposed redrawing of Alberta’s electoral boundaries would dramatically change Sturgeon County’s federal representation.
The current riding of Westlock-St. Paul is blown apart in the first proposal from the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission, putting it into four separate ridings.
Sturgeon County and Morinville would become part of that new riding named Sturgeon River, encompassing the county and looping down into Parkland County to pick up Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.
The proposal will be up for public hearings in the fall and a final plan will go to parliament at the end of the year. The new ridings will be used in the next election, expected in 2015.
Alberta is getting six new ridings under legislation that cleared the House of Commons last fall, which also added seats to Ontario and British Columbia.
Donna Wilson, one of the three members of the boundaries commission, said adding those seats created new lines right across the province and lead to the proposed break-up of Westlock-St. Paul.
“The biggest reason was that having to add six new electoral districts everything had to change.”
The eastern portion of the current riding around St. Paul becomes part of a new riding called Lakeland, and the Westlock area would be joined up with a new riding that runs all the way to the border with the Northwest Territories.
“Alberta is huge and there are vast areas of very low populations, so consequently there are a number of electoral districts that do become huge,” said Wilson.
“We try to minimize that as much as we could, but having just 34 electoral districts you can’t make everything within an hour’s drive.”
Current MP Brian Storseth encouraged people to make their case before the panel. He and Wilson both stressed this is a draft proposal and there is room for change.
“We are certainly going to make sure that anyone who wants to have some input in, is going to have an opportunity.”
Storseth said his local constituency association asked the commission to leave his riding unchanged, but he said that isn’t what should decide the new ridings.
“It is not what is important for Brian Storseth member of Parliament. It is what is important for the people in each of those areas.”
Despite its vast size, Storseth said his current riding actually has a lot of communities with a lot of commonalities.
“This riding is a fairly rural riding with a military connection on both the north and south ends.”
Storseth grew up in the Westlock area, but now lives in St. Paul. He said if the commission’s proposals remain the same he doesn’t know where he will run.
“The four different ridings that you have talked about there I have enjoyed representing every aspect of them,” he said. “I would be happy to represent any one of the four.”
He also stressed until at least 2015 all of his current constituents remain his constituents.
“I am going to continue to work diligently to represent people all the way from Westlock to the Saskatchewan border.”
The proposed boundaries would be a welcome change for Morinville Mayor Lloyd Bertschi. As a growing, more suburban community, Morinville has more in common with Spruce Grove and Stony Plain than it does with communities like Westlock or St. Paul, he said.
“We sit together on a monthly basis at the Capital Region Board. We face a lot of the same challenges as far as being commuter communities,” he said. “There is no question in my mind that this riding would certainly put us with much more like-minded communities.”
Bertschi said Storseth has been an excellent MP and is in regular contact with him, but with such a large riding he can’t always be in Morinville.
“The relationship has been good, but his visibility is understandably, probably not what he would like it to be either.”
Anyone wishing to make a presentation to the commission is being asked to inform them in writing prior to Aug. 10. The commission’s website is www.redecoupage-federal-redistribution.ca