Interim report shows St. Albert ridings will change

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The provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission has released an interim report that will redraw St. Albert’s constituency boundaries.

In a report released on Thursday, the five-person commission recommended that the Calgary and Edmonton areas pick up three new ridings, while rural Alberta would have to consolidate and lose three ridings. The commission was not allowed to create any additional constituencies in the process.

In St. Albert, the city will be split down Boudreau Road and the northern portion of St. Albert Trail, with another border created at the west boundary of the city. The majority of St. Albert will be one constituency and will abandon Spruce Grove.

“This proposal would implement the change requested in several submissions to join two areas with historic trade and Franco-Albertan cultural links and end the much-criticized design of the blended constituency of Spruce Grove-St. Albert. A number of people noted the lack of cultural links and trade between these two cities, notwithstanding their geographic proximity,” the report said.

The riding of St. Albert would be home to 47,745 people, which is two per cent above the provincial average.

The remaining 17,844 St. Albert residents who live east of Boudreau Road and the northern portion of St. Albert Trail will join with communities northeast of the city and become St. Albert-Redwater. This riding will be home to 45,426 people, which is three per cent below the provincial average.

St. Albert-Redwater constituency will extend 187 kilometres from St. Albert northeast to Goodfish Lake. The riding will include the communities of Bon Accord, Gibbons, Redwater, Smoky Lake and Vilna.

Several submissions to the commission requested the city join with Morinville but the group said that it wasn’t possible.

“Unfortunately, it was not possible to move Morinville into the same constituency as St. Albert, as requested, notwithstanding common Franco-Canadian heritages, given the large populations of both,” the interim report said.

The Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock constituency is one of the few rural ridings that could potentially stay intact.

Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken said that he would have liked the report to rely less strictly on population numbers and give more leniency to rural ridings.

“People want to see their MLA. They like to meet face to face,” van Dijken said. “I find it a little frustrating that commission put so much weight on population.”

Van Dijken said that larger ridings are more challenging to serve because of large travel times and having many different stakeholders in the same riding. He said it is sometimes difficult to meet with everybody in the constituency.

The commission is allowed to have up to a 25 per cent variance above or below the provincial average, but chose to keep the variance low and the report said they tried to keep the ridings close to representation by population.

Commission chair Justice Myra Bielby said that while she sympathizes with rural voters who will see their ridings grow, she said that the biggest concern that the commission has was the population numbers within each riding.

The province redraws the constituency boundaries every eight years to accommodate for population growth and change. In the last eight years over 600,000 people have moved to Alberta and most of them have settled in urban areas. This has required more ridings to be created in urban centres and fewer ridings for the sparsely populated rural areas.

The commission started its review on Dec. 19 and received 749 submissions online and from the public.

The commission still wants feedback from the public and you can leave an online submission at abebc.ca. The final maps will be released in October 2017.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2016. She writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics; court and crime; general news and features.