Revised riding map offers little relief

The Alberta Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission has overlooked the pleas of elected officials and several communities

The Alberta Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission has overlooked the pleas of elected officials and several communities across the province will be included in ridings that are not favoured.

Alberta’s public hearings for the proposed electoral boundaries map ended in September, and on Dec. 12 the redrawn map was presented to the House of Commons.

On the map presented at the autumn public hearings, Ponoka had been taken out of the Wetaskiwin riding and be placed in a new Red Deer-Wolf Creek hybrid riding. Town Coun. Shayne Steffen, who attended a public hearing in place of Mayor Larry Henkelman, expressed that who he represented didn’t want Ponoka placed in that riding. “We’re going to get lost if we go there (Red Deer),” he said at a Sept. 19 hearing.

Having Ponoka placed in the riding with Red Deer also means Ponoka County would be represented by two MPs, which Steffen said was not favoured.

The decision to have Ponoka in a hybrid riding may not be favoured but Mayor Larry Henkelman knows it is what it is. “The commission says this is what it is and if that’s their decision we live with it.”

Although changes have been made to the map since those hearings, this new riding maintains several of the communities placed in it, despite many people opposed to being in the hybrid riding, including Lacombe County Coun. Ken Wigmore and Red Deer’s mayor, Morris Flewwelling. Flewwelling said Red Deer would be able to harmonize with rural communities but he believed the city’s needs were unique and their preference was an urban focus.

Roy Louis, who also attended a Sept. 19 hearing and represented the four reserves of Hobbema, didn’t wish to have the Four Nations split or taken out of the Wetaskiwin riding.

“My suggestion to you as a commission, is to consult with First Nations,” said Louis at the hearing. “We’d like to remain intact as one federal riding.”

Donna Wilson, a member of the Alberta Commission, said representatives from Wetaskiwin also wanted Hobbema and the reserves to remain in their riding.

However, in the Alberta Commission’s Report, the commission proposes to place the reserves in the Red Deer-Wolf Creek riding. The reserve at Pigeon Lake has been kept in the Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding.

In the initial proposal Rimbey was taken out of the Wetaskiwin riding and placed in the Yellowhead riding. In the redrawn map Rimbey remains a part of that riding.

In the Alberta Commission’s Report it was explained that an additional northern Alberta electoral riding was drawn, creating a domino effect and Yellowhead’s boundaries were moved south.

The report acknowledges Rimbey Mayor Sheldon Ibbotson and others who were opposed to the Yellowhead boundaries; however, the commission didn’t favour ridings that ran east to west from the Queen Elizabeth Highway to the western border of the province.

In a report released by the commission it stated, “the commission was impressed with the quality and thought fullness of the presentations at public hearings. The input was invaluable. It gave us information and local insight not otherwise readily available. Communication between the commission and the public is an example of democracy in action.”

“There’s not really much to say, it’s done. I think at that point it was pretty much set,” said Ibbotson, referring to the public hearings.

The commission’s full report can be viewed at www.federal-redistribution.ca.

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