Alberta to get six new seats in House of Commons

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Alberta would get six new seats in the House of Commons under new legislation introduced there on Thursday, a move that local MP Brent Rathgeber says will give the province a fairer balance in the house.

The Fair Representation Act is a change to the formula for redistributing seats in the house. In addition to the six seats in Alberta it adds six in British Columbia, 15 in Ontario and three in Quebec.

Rathgeber said the introduction of the new seats is definitely going to influence the boundaries of the local riding.

“I fully expect the Edmonton-St. Albert riding to look different and certainly smaller.”

As of the 2006 census, the riding was home to 126,447 people, a figure that puts it among the bigger ridings in the country. Based on censuses done in Edmonton and St. Albert since 2006 the number is almost certainly larger now.

The riding of Westlock-St. Paul, which covers Morinville and most of Sturgeon County, is lower and closer to the national average at 101,010 people.

The 2006 census pegged the country’s population at just over 31 million people and based on the 308 seats in the House of Commons, the average division should be around 102,000 people.

Rathgeber said he doesn’t feel especially challenged by the number of people he represents and said it would likely be harder to represent fewer people over a vast geographic area as some Northern Alberta members of parliament do.

He said the bigger issue is the voice the underrepresented regions carry in parliament.

“The issue is one of fairness. Alberta has been historically under-represented in the House of Commons and it has become increasingly more so because of its increasing population.”

The new seats won’t completely address Alberta’s representation problems. Rathgeber estimates it will bring the riding closer to the average possibly around 110,000 people.

Ridings in Manitoba and Saskatchewan along with most of the Atlantic provinces tend to average between 70,000 and 90,000. In Prince Edward Island, which is guaranteed four seats, parliamentarians represent around 35,000 people.

Rathgeber said that vastly expanding the number of MPs or taking some away from provinces would be the only way to achieve complete balance in the House.

He said sorting out these issues is difficult.

“The whole issue of representation is one of the most difficult ones that we have to deal with, in terms of what is fair and what is balanced.”

He said generally the bill strikes the right balance.

“I think it is good news for Alberta, we will have a little more say about what goes on in Ottawa.”

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