Review looking for public input on electoral boundaries

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr speaks on the Alberta's electoral boundary review.

The Lacombe-Ponoka constituency is one of the 87 ridings in the province the review will look at for possible changes.

Rural areas might not have noticed it, but the province’s population has increased substantially in recent years necessitating a review of Alberta’s electoral boundaries.

With the province seeing a more than 20 per cent jump in the number of people residing here since the last constituency boundary review, the government has established an Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission to deliver a review report back to the legislature by Oct. 31.

The review will look at the overall population figures, relative population density and common community interests when compared to the existing boundaries plus municipal and natural boundaries. The last one was completed in 2009 and resulted in a couple of new ridings in the major centres.

Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose MLA Ron Orr explained the review is routine and likely won’t have a huge effect on many of the province’s ridings.

“It’s nothing out of the ordinary, and there were not a lot of changes the last time,” Orr said in a phone interview last week.

“(Our party’s) concern is that things keep in line with the most recent census.”

That census, done in 2011, showed 51 per cent of Alberta’s population lived in Calgary and Edmonton.

“That represents 44 seats and so long as the review reflects those numbers fairly, then we are not opposed.”

One item Orr hopes the commission rejects, one that previous commissions have not done, is the creation of ridings that combine rural and urban populations.

“The idea of combining the ultra-urban (big cities) with rural areas is a mix of different places, different needs that doesn’t work too well,” he said.

“My hope is that the previous way is followed and that they still work with the existing riding and municipal boundaries, as that makes the most sense.”

What that also means is the public is able to have a say in the process.

“Given that our population has grown by more than 20 per cent in the last eight years, a review is key to ensuring fair and effective representation for all Albertans,” said the Honourable Justice Myra Bielby, commission chair.

“Now is the time for Albertans to share their thoughts as to how constituency boundaries should change through oral or written submissions.”

The public are encouraged to attend one of the public hearings that are being held now through February.

However, if people are not able to attend now, there are further hearings scheduled for July and August. As well, the public can provide a written submission or participate through social media.

Once the review is complete, the commission will provide its recommendations in a report to the Alberta legislature regarding possible changes. It will be up to MLAs to approve any changes in time for the next provincial election.

For more information on how to participate and for a list of hearing dates, locations and times, head to www.ABebc.ca. People can also follow the conversations on various social media platforms through the hashtag #AlbertaEBC.