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New district boundaries, more seats as Alberta’s federal electoral landscape shifts | CBC News


Calgary will gain a federal riding and Edmonton’s nine electoral districts will become fully urban in a newly redrawn federal electoral boundary system.

A three-member electoral boundaries commission for Alberta has released its final report, showing how it massaged three additional House of Commons seats into the province’s electoral map.

As part of a process that repeats each decade, the commission was tasked with splitting Alberta into 37 districts of roughly equal population, while trying to group together communities with common interests.

“In Canada, we’re pretty good at our boundaries,” said Duane Bratt, a political science professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.

Unlike in the U.S., where governments draw the lines — and face accusations of gerrymandering — a non-partisan panel drew up an Alberta proposal, published it and asked for written feedback, held hearings last year, and then released updated maps.

Some Alberta members of Parliament presented to the commission, debated the boundaries at parliamentary committee meetings and raised objections, but they didn’t determine the final result.

However, commission members wrote that they were “disappointed” by what appeared to be a concerted effort, led by one unnamed Alberta MP, to maintain existing boundaries in their district. Commissioners received a flood of 171 email submissions after a 2022 public meeting in Lethbridge, which commissioners said all praised the MP or echoed talking points. The report says commissioners afforded these submissions no weight.

Balancing regional representation

Two years ago, Canada’s chief electoral officer announced population growth in Alberta, Ontario and B.C. necessitated adding more representatives for those provinces — three in Alberta, and one each in Ontario and Quebec.

Although the additions improve these provinces’ ratios of representation to population, Bratt says Quebec and Prince Edward Island still have a higher proportion of seats.

Bratt said the changes now give B.C. and Alberta 80 collective seats, which will exceed Quebec’s 78 seats. The math could make it more difficult to argue that federal elections are solely won and lost in Eastern Canada, he said.

The new boundaries would take effect in April 2024 at the earliest, which means the timing of the next election will determine whether Alberta has 34 or 37 seats in the next Parliament.

View the current and incoming electoral boundaries for the province on the commission’s website here.

Among the changes Albertans will notice is the reunification of the city of Red Deer into one riding after the last redistribution split it in half.

Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston says the split sometimes left civic politicians getting the runaround when they wanted help with a federal issue.

“[It] was clunky, frankly, for a city our size,” Johnston said of the 109,000-population city. “We’re quite happy to have one constituency now.”

Fast-growing Airdrie and Cochrane now have a dedicated district, which has bumped Banff and Canmore into the Yellowhead district. That sprawling, mountainous district now stretches from north of Grande Cache to southwest of Calgary, scooping up Rocky Mountain House and Carstairs on the way.

The city of St. Albert, which used to share a district with northwest Edmonton, will join Morinville, Gibbons and Alberta Beach in a new St. Albert-Sturgeon River district, which also unites several Francophone communities.

Stony Plain and Spruce Grove will be in the new Parkland district, which includes Drayton Valley and other areas west.

The commission had initially proposed divvying up the “doughnut” communities surrounding Edmonton differently, which sat poorly with civic leaders from those bedroom communities.

The initial proposal was to group Sherwood Park and Beaumont into one district, Leduc, Spruce Grove and Calmar into another, and add Fort Saskatchewan to the Lakeland district that stretches east to the Saskatchewan border.

Beaumont Mayor Bill Daneluik said that would have fragmented Beaumont from Leduc and Leduc County, with which Beaumont shares service agreements for firefighting, recreation facilities and libraries. Hundreds of Beaumont residents work at the airport, which would have been represented by a different MP, he said.

“We feel very strongly that this area has a very strong economic corridor, agriculturally and culturally, that needs to be preserved within a federal riding,” he said.

A drone view taken in May shows neighbourhoods, lakes and recreational paths in a suburban neighbourhood.
The town of Beaumont, which is southeast of Edmonton, will stay in a federal riding with Leduc and Wetaskiwin, according to a boundaries commission final report. (David Bajer/CBC)

Daneluik said he was glad commissioners heard their concerns and made adjustments.

“They really showed how democracy is supposed to work,” he said. “It was not a predetermined result.” 

A change of fortune

How could redistributed boundaries affect who Albertans send to Ottawa? In a province where 30 of the 34 MPs are Conservative, possibly not much, Bratt says.

However, the modifications that create exclusively urban or rural districts could have some bearing, he said, as city dwellers are more prone to vote for progressive candidates, and rural people, for conservatives.

Among the MPs who unsuccessfully argued for boundary tweaks was Calgary’s lone Liberal representative, George Chahal, who was elected in the northeast Skyview district.

A new district named Calgary McKnight will make up much of what is now Skyview, while the district bearing that name will extend further north and west.

Chahal declined an interview request. A spokesperson said if an election were held with the new boundaries, Chahal would run in McKnight.

Although MPs raised concerns during the review process, they’re more tight-lipped about the boundary changes now.

A Liberal Party of Canada spokesperson said no one was available for an interview.

The Conservative Party of Canada did not reply to messages, and several MPs’ assistants said they were unavailable.

The federal NDP didn’t respond to CBC requests for an interview, either.

Green Party deputy leader
Jonathan Pedneault, deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada, says adopting proportional representation would allow Canadians to feel more represented in the House of Commons. (Submitted by Green Party of Canada)

Jonathan Pedneault, deputy leader of the Green Party of Canada, said he’s “delighted” to see Alberta’s seat count expand as the province’s population does. He was unsure how it would affect the party’s fortunes in Alberta.

The Liberal government could improve representation by following through on its electoral reform promise and dispensing with the “first-past-the-post” system, Pedneault said.

“We think this is crucial to preserving not only our democratic institutions in a time of growing cynicism and disinterest toward politics, but also to ensure that every community in this country feels properly represented in Ottawa,” he said.

Cabinet is expected to proclaim the new boundary descriptions early this fall. They take effect after Parliament next dissolves, at least seven months after that proclamation.


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