Part II – Amendments to the Initial Report (April 6, 2013) – Alberta – Objections

The following is a detailed list of the objections and the Commission's disposition of those objections. They have been grouped in two categories: objections relating to name changes and objections relating to electoral boundary changes.

Disposition of Objections Relating to Name Changes

1. Medicine Hat

LaVar Payne, MP for Medicine Hat, objected to the boundaries of the proposed electoral district of Medicine Hat and requested a name change to Badlands—Medicine Hat—Brooks. The Commission addresses both requests later in this disposition when dealing with boundaries in southern Alberta, under the heading "Medicine Hat and Lethbridge".

2. Edmonton Callingwood

The Honourable Rona Ambrose, PC, MP for Edmonton—Spruce Grove, filed an objection proposing two name changes. Ms. Ambrose objected to the name Edmonton Callingwood, requesting a name change to Edmonton West. Her second objection relating to a name change is dealt with under the heading "Sturgeon River", below.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee endorsed the name Edmonton West as giving an unambiguous sense of the location of the electoral district.

Commission's Reasons

As urban electoral districts increase in number, directional names become less effective as identifiers. As a result, the Commission moved away from the use of directional names for the most part, and sought historical or geographic features to identify an electoral district. Occasionally, it chose the name of a community within the electoral district as the best identifier.

The Commission could not find an appropriate historical or geographic feature to identify this electoral district, and instead selected a large community within the district. It recognizes, however, that there were numerous objections expressed at the hearings to this name. Upon reconsideration, it agrees that Edmonton Callingwood is somewhat unique in that Edmonton's western city limit is almost entirely within this district. The Commission agrees that Edmonton West is an appropriate name and is an appropriate identifier here, and grants this request.

Disposition

The objection is allowed and the electoral district of Edmonton Callingwood is renamed Edmonton West.

3. Sturgeon River

Ms. Ambrose also requested a name change for the electoral district of Sturgeon River, noting that while the Sturgeon River flows through the electoral district, it does not originate within the district and also flows through the City of St. Albert. Ms. Ambrose suggested that adding a reference to Parkland County would better identify the district and proposed the name Sturgeon—Parkland.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee endorses this recommendation as better reflecting the entire electoral district.

Commission's Reasons

The Geographical Names Board of Canada (GNBC) provides guidelines for names of federal electoral districts. The guidelines suggest that the name should provide an immediate sense of the province and, if possible, the region or part of the province in which the district is located. Names of places and features should be given priority.

The Commission does not find the proposed name Sturgeon—Parkland either a better identifier or less confusing, as a large portion of Parkland County falls within the Yellowhead electoral district. The Commission continues to view Sturgeon River as an excellent identifier. The portion of Parkland County containing Spruce Grove and Stony Plain is located in the Sturgeon River watershed. Although the headwaters of the Sturgeon River are outside the electoral district, and a small portion of the river flows through St. Albert, a very large proportion of the Sturgeon River watershed falls within the electoral district of Sturgeon River. The Sturgeon River watershed is a natural feature and the use of the name Sturgeon River is in keeping with the GNBC's principles. The use of this name also avoids selecting one county, community or town over others in the district. The Commission continues to view Sturgeon River as the preferable identifier of the area.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

4. Red Deer—Wolf Creek

Blaine Calkins, MP for Wetaskiwin, filed a motion with the Standing Committee that contained two separate objections concerning the proposed electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek.

First, Mr. Calkins objected to the proposed name of the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. Second, he objected to the electoral boundary change for Red Deer—Wolf Creek; the Commission addresses the second objection later in this disposition when dealing with the boundaries in Edmonton, under the heading "Edmonton—Wetaskiwin".

With respect to the name change, Mr. Calkins requested that the name Red Deer—Wolf Creek be changed to Red Deer—Lacombe to avoid confusion. He argued that Wolf Creek is the name of a local school district, whereas Lacombe is the name of a local city. In addition, Father Albert Lacombe, the city's namesake, did extensive charitable work within the area.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee supports this proposal, stating that it adds clarity to the name of the electoral district.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission does not find Red Deer—Lacombe a preferable identifier, as that suggests an electoral district extending from Red Deer to Lacombe, whereas the district reaches north beyond Lacombe to the communities of Ponoka and Hobbema. Viewing a map, the Commission notes that the Wolf Creek school division almost mirrors the electoral boundaries of Red Deer—Wolf Creek, with the exception of Red Deer and a few communities in the northeastern portion of the district. In addition, the Wolf Creek Golf Course, prominently visible along the Queen Elizabeth II Highway between Lacombe and Ponoka, has created a public awareness of the name Wolf Creek and its association with that area. As a result, the Commission continues to view the name Red Deer—Wolf Creek as the preferable identifier of the area included within the electoral district.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

Disposition of Objections Relating to Electoral Boundaries

Northern Alberta

1. Fort McMurray—Cold Lake

Brian Jean, MP for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, objected to the proposed electoral boundaries of the riding of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake. Mr. Jean's objection is based on community of interest, established by economic ties between towns located on a single common transportation route.

Mr. Jean argued that Fort McMurray and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo should not be placed within the same riding as Wabasca, primarily because there is no direct east–west route connecting the two areas. He argued that Wabasca's economic ties and community of interest lie with the communities of High Prairie, Slave Lake and Athabasca, which are located on highways 813 and 754, while Fort McMurray is tied to the communities along its lone transportation corridor, Highway 63, which connects it to the south.

Mr. Jean put forward two further reasons to justify the deviation should the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17 be removed from the electoral district of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake. First, there is a significant shadow and hidden population (i.e. population not counted in the census) around Fort McMurray; and second, Fort McMurray is a fast-growing city with expected future growth.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee agreed with Mr. Jean's assertion. It stated:

The Committee is conscious of the laudable work done by the Commission to have maintained a deviation of no more than 5.29% above or below the electoral quota throughout the entire province. Indeed, the 5.29% deviation below the quota is for the electoral district of Fort McMurray – Cold Lake. Mr. Jean's proposal would give the Fort McMurray – Cold Lake electoral district a population of 96,688 or a 9.82% deviation below the province's electoral quotient. The committee is comfortable recommending such a deviation on the basis that it is well below the maximum deviation provided for by section 15 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. Further, the purpose of allowing such a deviation, as set out in the Act, is to provide for effective representation for geographically remote rural areas, such as the proposed electoral district of Fort McMurray – Cold Lake.

Another reason the Committee feels comfortable recommending Mr. Jean's proposal, despite its enlargement of the deviation below the provincial electoral quota, is that Mr. Jean provided the Committee with compelling evidence that Statistics Canada's census data for the municipality of Wood Buffalo may not have adequately captured the actual number of people resident in that municipality. The evidence provided by Mr. Jean to the Committee suggests that the census data may have underestimated this population by up to 25%. The Committee is aware that the Commission must, by law, rely solely on the census data provided by Statistics Canada, and not from other sources. It is also not the Commission's role to "second-guess" the census data. The Committee, nonetheless, respectfully puts forward that sufficient grounds exist to consider the municipality of Wood Buffalo, as the centre of oil sands economic activity and one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country, as an exceptional electoral district in terms of its potential unmeasured or shadow population, along with the municipality's potential for future population growth.

The Standing Committee stated in its report:

The Committee notes that the Commission's initial proposed electoral districts did not place Fort McMurray and Wabasca in the same riding, and that it was only following the public hearings that the northeastern portion of the map was reconfigured to place Wabasca within the same riding as Fort McMurray. As such, Mr. Jean and the communities affected by this change did not have the opportunity to oppose this proposal during the public hearings.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission wishes to address this last point first. The Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17, including Wabasca, was in the same electoral district as Fort McMurray in both the Commission's Proposal and its Report. For that matter, Wabasca is currently in the electoral district of Fort McMurray—Athabasca, being represented by an MP from Fort McMurray. The only change made between the Proposal and the Report relating to the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17 was as follows: in the Proposal, the entire municipal district was in the same electoral district as Fort McMurray; in the Report, a small portion of the municipal district, containing the communities of Red Earth Creek, Loon Lake, Peerless Lake and Trout Lake, was carved out and placed in the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock because the only access road into those communities was Highway 686, branching off to the east from Highway 88. Thus at all times, including the present, Wabasca had remained in the same electoral district as Fort McMurray and therefore there was full opportunity to address this issue. The geographic size of the Fort McMurray electoral district was also addressed at the public hearings. The Commission wishes to correct any suggestion that Mr. Jean and the communities were caught by surprise.

In any event, the absence of an east–west route connecting Wabasca to Fort McMurray has not prevented the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17 from being within the same electoral district as Fort McMurray, at present and in the past. Access for representational purposes will continue along the same transportation routes. Although part of the road now passes through the electoral district of Lakeland, the road has not changed and it is not any longer.

Several presenters at the public hearings acknowledged that Cold Lake would be an appropriate fit with Fort McMurray because of common issues arising from heavy oil interests. The Commission notes that the primary industry of Wabasca is oil and gas exploration, and it is the nearest community to the Wabasca oil sands; thus it too has similar interests.

The Commission recognizes that Wabasca's access to Slave Lake and High Prairie to the west and Athabasca and beyond to the south provides service and creates associations, but an electoral boundary line will not stop those associations. Moreover, Athabasca is no longer in the same electoral district as Slave Lake or High Prairie.

The Commission also notes that the Standing Committee's report states, "In respect of the riding's western border, he [Mr. Jean] proposed that it go no further west than the fifth meridian ... and, as such, exclude Wabasca."

Again, there appears to be confusion. If the Fifth Meridian were selected as the western boundary of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, as suggested, the Hamlet of Wabasca-Desmarais and the majority, if not all, of the First Nations reserves would still remain in the same electoral district as Fort McMurray.

Mr. Jean also based his objection in part on hidden and shadow populations and future growth in and around Fort McMurray. The Commission heard full arguments on these concerns at the public hearing in Fort McMurray, including Mr. Jean's filed written representations. Although scheduled to speak, Mr. Jean withdrew his request to make an oral presentation as the issues were extensively covered by other presenters. The Commission covered these issues in its earlier Report and those comments are applicable here.

The Commission recognizes that hidden and shadow populations are an issue for Fort McMurray, but that Fort McMurray is not the only community in the province with hidden or shadow populations, nor the only rapid-growth centre. The Commission heard several complaints that the census figures were not accurate. The difficulty, however, is that assessing shadow and hidden populations is at best a guessing game. Moreover, the Commission is directed by law to base its redistribution on the decennial census population count, and as the Standing Committee notes, it is not the role of the Commission to second-guess the census data. Not only is that approach not mandated, but such an approach would negatively impact rural areas, many of which do not experience growth during the 10 years between censuses.

The Commission recognizes that populations may change significantly from the decennial census population count by the time a report is implemented – even more by the time of the next decennial census – and common sense requires this factor to be considered in a general way. In its Report, the Commission noted the expected growth around Fort McMurray when approving the deviation of –5.29%. However, the starting point for establishing populations is based by statute on a fixed census population count and the Commission is not inclined to deviate further for this reason alone.

In summary, the Commission is not convinced that there is any valid or principled reason for reconfiguring this electoral district to exclude Wabasca, nor would selecting the requested Fifth Meridian as a boundary have that result. The Commission has sought to balance representation for all of the northern electoral districts, keeping in mind the historical location of the Municipal District of Opportunity No. 17 within the same electoral district as Fort McMurray and considering common resource interests. The Commission is satisfied that the electoral district of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, as configured in its Report, has appropriate boundaries and can be effectively represented.

The Commission configured northern electoral districts to share the challenges of representation, including travel in sparsely populated areas. While it recognizes the right to deviate further, the Commission deems no further deviation necessary for effective and appropriate representation within the electoral district as configured.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

2. Peace River—Westlock

Chris Warkentin, MP for Peace River, filed an objection to the proposed boundaries of the electoral districts of Grande Prairie and the adjacent district of Peace River—Westlock. The objection was based on the following: rural MPs have added responsibilities as compared with urban MPs; there are 26 municipal councils and 32 First Nations leadership groups in the current Peace River electoral district, whereas an urban MP might have only one municipal council to deal with and it might be shared with other MPs; access to the Internet and use of mobile phones remain limited in northwestern Alberta; literacy rates in northern Alberta are below the national average; and the most important manner for communicating with northern communities remains via face-to-face meetings.

In addition, the Standing Committee stated in its report:

Mr. Warkentin submitted that communities of interest and identity, based on common service areas and economic ties, exist among the towns located along the lone transportation route (highway 35) running north-south in northwestern Alberta. He explained that under the electoral boundaries as proposed by the Commission, these communities would, in essence, be split into opposite sides of one highway. In its report, the Commission explained that this configuration is meant to better serve these communities by having two MPs share the work of representing the far north. Mr. Warkentin, however, raised a number of convincing practical difficulties that would arise under such an arrangement. Mr. Warkentin provided the Committee with a detailed description of the undesirable logistical difficulties for an MP seeking to conduct face-to-face town hall meetings along this stretch of highway with some communities, while not others, depending on which side of the highway these communities were located on.

Finally, Mr. Warkentin submitted that, since a large, relatively unpopulated forest belt lies between Valleyview and Whitecourt, no meaningful connection exists between communities to the south of this forest belt and those to its north.

Mr. Warkentin proposed that Peace River—Westlock capture the communities located along Highway 35 (Manning and High Level) and the northern portion of Highway 2 (Peace River, Grimshaw and Fairview). The electoral district would encompass Swan Hills and Valleyview at its southern end, but not Whitecourt; as proposed by Mr. Warkentin, that town would be located in the northern end of the Yellowhead electoral district. Mr. Warkentin submitted that his proposal would change the deviation of the proposed electoral district of Peace River—Westlock from +0.82% to –10.75%.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee felt comfortable supporting Mr. Warkentin's proposal because the deviation remains well below the maximum deviation provided for by section 15 of the Act. Reduced populations are often the norm in rural areas and regions where the populations are dispersed. The Committee supported Mr. Warkentin's proposal and viewed it as an improvement on the one proposed by the Commission. The Standing Committee referred to the requirement that two MPs, rather than one, travel the long distances from the southern part of the electoral district to its northern reaches. This struck the Committee as an undesirable duplication that could be avoided by capturing this transportation corridor and its communities within a single electoral district.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission has considered this request. It agrees that northern electoral districts throughout Canada present unique challenges. Northern MPs, like MPs in many other rural electoral districts of Canada, have further distances to travel in often sparsely populated areas. The Commission is also aware of the numerous Métis and First Nations communities in the north. The Commission recognizes its discretion to deviate from the electoral quota if it considers that to be necessary or desirable.

Every electoral district, whether urban or rural, comes with its own unique character. Frequently, urban electoral districts are also comprised of very diverse communities with strong, conflicting needs. Issues often arise within an electoral district as a result of the demographic makeup of that district, including linguistic, ethnic, economic, social, geographic and cultural values.

The Commission was mindful of the geographic and demographic makeup of the current Peace River electoral district when it prepared its initial Proposal. It recognized that Peace River was the largest electoral district both geographically and by population count, and it determined that further representation was required in the north. Initially, the Commission proposed an electoral district of Grande Prairie similar to the one being put forth by Mr. Warkentin.

At the public hearings, however, the geographic size of the proposed Peace River—Westlock district was one of the main issues addressed. In particular, presenters expressed concerns about the distance between Westlock and the northwestern corner of Alberta. The Commission listened to those concerns and agreed. It determined that responsibility for serving the north should be shared on a more equitable basis.

For example, the representational responsibilities and travel involved in serving the 26 municipal councils and 32 First Nations leadership groups referred to by Mr. Warkentin would be shared by two MPs. Mr. Warkentin's proposal would transfer the lion's share of these representational duties and travel to the MP for Peace River—Westlock. The Commission does not view that as preferable.

The Commission accepts the fact that Internet access varies within the north, and service is not universal. That is also true in other rural areas of Alberta. Nonetheless, the infrastructure is in place to make Internet connectivity possible in the north. The Alberta Supernet, a network of fibre cables and towers currently reaching 2,429 communities across Alberta, is designed to serve a population of over 3.5 million people, including the 1 million living in more rural and remote communities. In addition, there are many service providers currently facilitating communication in the north and the Commission is satisfied that technology will continue to aid communication.

The Commission appreciates that literacy rates in northern Alberta are below the national average and agrees that face-to-face communication is desirable. For facilitating dialogue with municipal councils and First Nations groups by means of town hall meetings, the Commission views the configuration it proposed as preferable since two MPs share that responsibility more equitably.

The Commission is concerned about the Standing Committee's statement that the communities along Highway 35 would, in essence, be split into opposite sides of one highway. It wants to clarify that the boundary is not Highway 35 but the Peace River. This vast river is located an average of 20 kilometres east of Highway 35. The river also serves as the county line. Thus, the towns along Highway 35, both to its east and west, do not fall within two different electoral districts as described by the Standing Committee.

The Commission was mindful of the community of interest that often exists in towns and communities along highways, and it ensured that Highway 35 would not be the boundary line. Towns and communities around Highway 35 are not split, and town hall meetings along the highway would be inclusive for all inhabitants west of the Peace River.

With the Peace River as the boundary, the MP for Grande Prairie can serve the communities west of the river along Highway 35, and the MP for Peace River—Westlock can serve the communities east of the river along Highway 88, which is the second north–south highway serving the northwestern part of the province. Towns and reserves along Highway 88 remain intact within the Peace River—Westlock electoral district. Although approximately 178 kilometres of Highway 88 are not paved, the highway is located entirely within the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock. If the communities along the gravelled portion of Highway 88 are to be visited, access is via that road.

The Standing Committee's statement that "duplication ... could be avoided by capturing this transportation corridor and its communities within a single riding" suggests a misunderstanding as to the existence of two arterial spines serving the northwest. Each falls within its own electoral district, separated by the vast Peace River. Each MP would therefore serve a different corridor and its corresponding communities. This is not duplication but instead the opportunity for better personal communication with all communities.

The Commission is aware of the forest belt between Valleyview and Whitecourt. This is not unique, however, as many geographic features in Alberta separate different communities within the same electoral district. For example, Jasper is geographically separated by mountains from the rest of its electoral district. Not every separate interest can be individually represented and most, if not all, electoral districts contain several communities of interest. While the Commission considered recognized communities of interest where reasonably possible, it does not have the duty to create electoral districts comprised of only one community of interest. Attempts to do so would fail. In any event, the Commission addressed this issue in its Report and further discusses it below, under the heading "Yellowhead".

The factors supporting Mr. Warkentin's objection were all considered by the Commission when it configured northern electoral districts, applying the statutory criteria. The Commission concluded that the far north would be better served by two elected representatives, sharing travel and other representational responsibilities on a more equitable basis. Each of the proposed electoral districts is smaller than the current electoral district of Peace River in size and population. Although the Standing Committee's recommendation would work well for the electoral district of Grande Prairie, the Commission does not accept that it would work as well for all of the citizens of the two electoral districts.

There are obviously other configurations that could be proposed. The Commission is satisfied that the boundaries, as established, properly combine populations and are fully justified for the reasons given in its Report. To change the boundaries again would serve only to please some people and displease others. The Commission is not persuaded that the proposed changes are an improvement.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

3. Yellowhead

The Honourable Rob Merrifield, PC, MP for Yellowhead, filed an objection to the proposed boundaries of the electoral district of Yellowhead and the adjacent districts of Grande Prairie and Peace River—Westlock, based on communities of interest and identity, geography, and historical patterns. According to Mr. Merrifield:

  1. Whitecourt has no community of interest with the north. The natural geographic gap of forest and farmland separates Whitecourt from the nearest town to its north, Valleyview, which lies almost 200 kilometres away.
  2. The Commission maintains that inclusion of the southern counties in the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock is desirable to increase representation in the northwest. Mr. Merrifield informed the Standing Committee that contrary to this logic, Whitecourt, Barrhead and Westlock are in fact so large in comparison to the communities of the northwest that they would dominate the riding.

Mr. Merrifield proposed that the Town of Whitecourt and a portion of Woodlands County be placed in the proposed electoral district of Yellowhead. In order to balance population counts, he proposed that Grande Cache and a portion of the Municipal District of Greenview No. 16 be transferred from Yellowhead to the proposed electoral district of Grande Prairie. The natural boundaries of the Athabasca River to the north of Yellowhead and the Berland River to the south of Grande Cache were suggested as rough guidelines for a boundary for Mr. Merrifield's proposal.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee stated that the net result of Mr. Merrifield's proposal would be to alter the deviations from the province's electoral quota for the three proposed electoral districts as follows: Yellowhead, from –2.47% to +5.00%; Peace River—Westlock, from +0.82% to –10.75%; and Grande Prairie, from –0.44% to +3.65%. The Standing Committee supported this proposal, stating:

The committee, however, is comfortable recommending such a deviation [–10.75%] as it agrees with Mr. Merrifield's view that the removal of Whitecourt from the Peace River – Westlock riding better serves both the people of Whitecourt, who have no common community of interest or identity with the northwest of Alberta, as it does the communities of the northwest, whose issues, interests and concerns would be at risk of being marginalized or dimmed by having been included in a riding with a large southern population base.

Further, a –10.75% deviation from the province's electoral quota remains well below the maximum deviation provided for by section 15 of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act. The Committee considers such a deviation warranted in this instance as the purpose of allowing for deviations from strict representation by population is to provide for effective representation for geographically remote rural areas, such as the proposed electoral district of Peace River–Westlock.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission heard similar arguments at the public hearings relating to a proper division of the current electoral district of Peace River. As noted earlier, it is not uncommon for electoral districts to contain more than one identifiable group or interest. The Commission attempted to balance factors in the best interests of all citizens, towns and areas, rather than to simply draw the boundaries of an electoral district to meet the wishes of a few. Sometimes it is not reasonably possible to keep communities together.

Mr. Merrifield and several presenters at the public hearings opposed the inclusion of Westlock, Whitecourt and Barrhead in the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock. The transcripts of the Standing Committee's hearings record Mr. Merrifield's concern that the Commission did not listen and did not understand. Accordingly, the Commission wishes to reiterate how it arrived at the inclusion of the southern counties of Woodlands, Barrhead No. 11 and Westlock in its configuration of the Peace River—Westlock electoral district.

The Commission is directed to proceed with its redistribution on the basis that each electoral district shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province. It also must consider communities of interest, communities of identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size for sparsely populated, rural or northern regions. Where the Commission considers it necessary or desirable with regard to these considerations, it may deviate from population parity by up to 25% and beyond in extraordinary circumstances.

The census population count for Peace River was 150,925. The geographic size was 162,871 square kilometres. The Commission concluded that the current electoral district of Peace River is too large and too populated to continue as a single electoral district. There is no east–west transportation route that connects northeastern Alberta to northwestern Alberta. Simply dividing the geographic territory of the current electoral district of Peace River to create two electoral districts would give at least one, if not both, a deviation in excess of 25% from the electoral quota. The Commission did not find that extraordinary circumstances existed to support such a deviation. As a result, it chose to include the counties of Woodlands, Westlock and Barrhead No. 11 within the electoral district of Peace River. Those communities have common interests with each other and no one has suggested otherwise.

Mr. Merrifield submits that these counties do not have a common interest with the north and that they are separated by a large forest belt. He stated that a natural geographic gap of forest and farmland separates Whitecourt from the nearest town to its north, Valleyview, which lies almost 200 kilometres away. (The Commission notes that the nearest town from Whitecourt is actually the Town of Fox Creek, which is approximately 83 kilometres from Whitecourt and almost halfway between Whitecourt and Valleyview, which are 170 – not 200 – kilometres apart.) In any event, the Commission was and is mindful of this issue. It understands that the people in Whitecourt, Barrhead and Westlock do not frequently travel north for cultural reasons.

Nonetheless, there are many common interests the communities have with each other and many common interests shared throughout the district. The communities lying above and below the forest belt share interests in agriculture, forestry, mining, and oil and gas. In answer to questions on this issue before the Standing Committee (Meeting No. 60), Mr. Merrifield acknowledged these interests, stating, "Just because a community has agriculture or forestry or mining or oil and gas doesn't mean it's connected culturally or historically or that it identifies with those other communities. It's not that there's that much difference, but certainly there's a massive amount of forestry without any population between those communities."

The Commission has heard and understands Mr. Merrifield's concern. Not all communities will share all the same interests, and the far reaches of many electoral districts do not necessarily share the same cultural and historical interests.

The Commission considered many configurations for dividing the north and determined that together, Woodlands, Barrhead No. 11 and Westlock counties were a good fit within the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock for the reasons given in its Report.

For the first time, Mr. Merrifield proposes that Whitecourt and only a portion of Woodlands County be placed in the Yellowhead electoral district. The Commission spent considerable time looking at various configurations to accommodate this request. Although numerically, and solely in terms of the deviation, such a configuration is possible and has appeal, the Commission is troubled at the removal of Whitecourt from the balance of its county. The Town of Whitecourt is the centre of Woodlands County; there being no other large centre, its removal would be significant and would negatively impact the voice of the county. More important, as commonality of interest between the north and south was core to the discussion at the hearings, the Commission is concerned about separating Whitecourt from the counties of Westlock and Barrhead No. 11, which together have an acknowledged community of interest. The removal of Whitecourt dilutes that interest.

Finally, the Commission rejects the argument that a representative who was elected from south of the forest belt would not adequately represent the interests of the northern communities. Mr. Merrifield argues that the southern communities would dominate the electoral district. Collectively, Westlock, Barrhead No. 11 and Woodlands counties have 34.71% of the population of the Peace River—Westlock electoral district. The fear of domination and abandonment of the balance of the district is not justified. An MP, whether elected from the north or south, would not ignore the balance of the electoral district. This Commission has great faith in the honour of MPs and their ability to properly represent all constituents in their electoral districts. Change is sometimes painful but change is also inevitable where new electoral districts are created in a province.

In summary, the Commission finds no principled reason for excluding Whitecourt from the electoral district of Peace River.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

Edmonton

1. Edmonton—Wetaskiwin

Blaine Calkins, MP for Wetaskiwin, filed an objection to the proposed boundaries of the electoral districts of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin and Red Deer—Wolf Creek.

Mr. Calkins was concerned about the electoral district of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, fearing that urban interests would outweigh the rural interests in the area. He did not, however, ask for any change to that electoral district and noted that he was grateful to the Commission for keeping the County of Wetaskiwin whole.

Mr. Calkins requested changes to the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. He noted that the proposal continues to sever a community of interest that exists between the communities located on the east–west trading corridor of highways 11 and 53, and he proposed that Rimbey be relocated in the proposed electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. He argued that Rimbey has no connections with the communities further to its west, such as Grande Cache, Hinton and Edson. Mr. Calkins also expressed an interest in seeing Rocky Mountain House included in the Red Deer—Wolf Creek district as it is a community with stronger economic and political relationships with the communities to its east. The addition of both communities or either of them to the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek had the full support of the current MPs representing the electoral districts in the area.

Mr. Calkins indicated that he does not expect the Commission to completely redraw the electoral districts of central Alberta. Instead, his proposal focuses on asking the Commission to give serious consideration to the maintenance of existing relationships between long-standing communities of interest.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee reported that the net result of Mr. Calkins' proposal to add Rimbey to the proposed electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek would be to alter its deviation from the province's electoral quota, along with that of Yellowhead, as follows: Red Deer—Wolf Creek, from +0.72% to +6.04%; and Yellowhead, from –2.47% to –7.80%. Adding Rimbey and Rocky Mountain House to Red Deer—Wolf Creek would alter the deviations from the province's electoral quota as follows: Red Deer—Wolf Creek, from +0.72% to +15.39%; and Yellowhead, from –2.47% to –17.15%.

The Standing Committee fully supported Mr. Calkins' proposal. The disappearance of a Wetaskiwin riding, for the first time since Confederation, is an understandable source of dissatisfaction and unhappiness for its residents. The Standing Committee enjoined the Commission to be cognizant of the importance of maintaining a strong rural voice in the ridings of central Alberta when preparing its final map for the province.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission notes that although the MP for Wetaskiwin is concerned about the electoral district of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, no relief is sought with respect to that district. In any event, the Commission does not view the configuration as one in which Wetaskiwin has disappeared. Rather, Wetaskiwin's historical importance is recognized and its name retained in the new electoral district. Edmonton accounts for about 25% of the population in that electoral district. Large tracts of farmland continue to exist around Leduc and Beaumont, and the Commission is satisfied that rural interests will be properly represented. Moreover, the public hearings confirmed other common interests: many Wetaskiwin residents work in Edmonton, Beaumont and Leduc. Finally, a major issue at the hearings related to the division of the County of Wetaskiwin, and the Commission reunited that county.

Mr. Calkins requested the Commission to include the Town of Rimbey and surrounding communities within the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. In addition, if possible, he requested the inclusion of the Town of Rocky Mountain House. The Commission carefully reconsidered this request.

Configuring electoral districts is not an exact science and many configurations are viable for an area. At the public hearings, many of the communities in the southern and central portions of the proposed Yellowhead electoral district wanted to be relocated to Red Deer—Wolf Creek. The population count made these requests not reasonably possible. Moreover, given the large geographic size of the Yellowhead electoral district, the Commission considered it important to keep together many of the Yellowhead communities located near the corridor, to avoid their isolation and enable them to work together. As a result, and in view of the population of Rocky Mountain House, the Commission is unable to accommodate the request to include Rocky Mountain House in the Red Deer—Wolf Creek electoral district. Moreover, the removal of Rocky Mountain House from the County of Clearwater would have a significant negative impact on the county. As Yellowhead is a large electoral district with numerous unpopulated, or sparsely populated, tracts of land, it is important to keep the voice of Clearwater County united.

The Commission recognizes the numerous submissions relating to towns along Highway 53 and has reconsidered the issue of reuniting Ponoka County. The Commission accepts Mr. Calkins' proposal and agrees to place the balance of Ponoka County, including Rimbey, in the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. This change results in the following deviations: Red Deer—Wolf Creek's population count goes from 107,985 to 113,693, with a deviation going from +0.72% to +6.04%; and Yellowhead's population count goes from 104,563 to 98,855, with a deviation going from –2.47% to –7.80%. The Commission finds these deviations acceptable in the interest of keeping Ponoka County united and having regard to its topography.

The Commission is satisfied that the boundaries as established are consistent with the mandate under the Act, achieve the required goal, combine compatible populations and are fully justified for the reasons given in the Commission's Report. The Commission finds that this adjustment is an improvement in that it keeps the county together.

Disposition

The objection is allowed in part: the County of Ponoka is united within the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek, as described earlier and in the "Amendments to Schedule B" section of this Report.

Calgary

1. Calgary Centre

Joan Crockatt, MP for Calgary Centre, filed an objection regarding the northwest and east boundaries of the proposed electoral district of Calgary Centre. Her objection is based on the maintenance of cohesive communities, historical patterns, the well-established flow of commerce, and the traditional provincial, federal and municipal boundaries. Ms. Crockatt considers that the Commission's proposed boundaries for the electoral district amount to "radical surgery" in a situation where continuity could instead be maintained.

Ms. Crockatt proposed that the area in the northwest of the Calgary Centre electoral district bounded by 37 Street SW and Bow Trail SW be removed from the district. She suggested the area south of 26 Avenue SW and north of Glenmore Trail SE be extended to Sarcee Trail SW to prevent the disruption of communities located east of the Sarcee Trail (the "Ring Road").

Ms. Crockatt also proposed that the large industrial area located to the east of both Macleod Trail SW and 3 Street SE, along with the communities of Ramsay and Inglewood, be removed and placed in the electoral district of Calgary Shepard. She suggested the Elbow River as a natural eastern boundary, being the one used for provincial and municipal ridings. Ms. Crockatt explained that a large industrial area in Calgary Centre is a poor fit in terms of community of interest. Calgary Centre is a populous electoral district containing head offices, homeless shelters, a large immigrant population and suburban communities. In her view, the sparsely populated industrial area would be a better fit in the proposed electoral district of Calgary Shepard.

Finally, she submitted that her proposal would leave Calgary Centre and its adjacent ridings within plus or minus 5% of the province's electoral quota.

Ms. Crockatt took her seat in the House of Commons on December 11, 2012, only one day before the Commission's Report was tabled. She felt the riding of Calgary Centre did not have a sitting MP during most of the electoral boundaries readjustment process.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee found Ms. Crockatt's arguments persuasive and fully supported her proposal.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission understands that communities are uneasy about change. Significant change is, however, inevitable when the number of electoral districts increases, as is happening in Calgary. Moreover, since there are 25 provincial electoral districts in Calgary and only 10 federal electoral districts, it is not possible to keep all federal boundaries coterminous with provincial ones.

The Standing Committee reiterated Ms. Crockatt's position that "[r]esidents of these communities have close ties; their community associations collaborate, as do their churches and schools." Such relationships will continue across federal electoral boundaries. Federal boundaries do not restrict community cooperation and involvement. The Commission sees no merit to switching communities within Calgary Centre as suggested.

The Commission considered Ms. Crockatt's argument that Signal Hill's "topographical difference is significant, meaning virtually no traffic flow occurs between the neighbourhoods inside the ring road and outside the ring road." The Commission notes, however, that there are four well-travelled main arteries south of the Bow River which cross the Ring Road, namely, 17 Avenue SW, Bow Trail SW, Glenmore Trail SW and Richmond Road SW. Citizens pass freely between the communities on both sides of the Ring Road to work, shop, attend schools and participate in sports. The major shopping area of Signal Hill also draws shoppers and workers across the Ring Road.

Regarding Ms. Crockatt's request to remove the eastern portion of the electoral district, the Commission continues to view Inglewood and Ramsay as an appropriate fit in Calgary Centre. These communities are in close proximity, with easy access to and from downtown Calgary. Ninth Avenue in Inglewood is a popular shopping and restaurant location frequented by people from the downtown core. Although industrial areas are large, they exist in several electoral districts. The Commission is not convinced that there is any principled basis to move this industrial area from Calgary Centre to Calgary Shepard.

Ms. Crockatt was not an MP at the time of the public hearings, and the Commission regrets that her input was not received at the time. Nonetheless, the hearings were advertised and all citizens were invited to express concerns. Riding associations could and often did make presentations.

The redistribution of the federal electoral districts in Calgary and Edmonton was generally well received, and the Commission is not inclined to make a substantial change without a compelling reason.

Balancing all of the objectives, including consideration of adjacent electoral districts, the Commission is satisfied that Calgary Centre, as described in its Report, can be properly and effectively represented. The Commission does not find the proposal for change either necessary or desirable.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

2. Calgary Northeast

Devinder Shory, MP for Calgary Northeast, filed an objection requesting the addition of a small geographic section to the proposed electoral district of Calgary Skyview from the adjacent riding of Calgary Forest Lawn. He asked that his riding's constituency office, which has been in the same location for approximately 25 years, remain within the electoral district of Calgary Skyview.

Mr. Shory proposed that the western boundary at 36 Street NE and 32 Avenue NE be moved further westward towards either Barlow Trail NE and 32 Avenue NE or Deerfoot Trail NE and 32 Avenue NE. The population of the electoral districts involved in this change would be approximately five people, as the extended boundary incorporates only commercial areas. The adjacent district is represented by Deepak Obhrai, MP for Calgary East, who has corresponded with Mr. Shory, indicating his support for this proposal. Mr. Shory emphasized to the Standing Committee that his electoral district is culturally diverse, welcoming many new Canadians each year. Over the past two decades, his constituency office has become an easy-to-find community landmark. While the office is not located centrally within the electoral district, access to it remains very convenient for constituents as it is located on a major road.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee views Mr. Shory's request as a simple one to accommodate and supports it fully.

Commission's Reasons

While political factors are not appropriate considerations for drawing boundaries, the Commission agrees with the Standing Committee. This is a simple request. It affects only five electors, and not adversely. The constituency office in question is well known and easily accessed by a culturally diverse population. This minor change provides continuity. Moreover, 32 Avenue NE is a major arterial road, is well known and makes a suitable boundary.

Disposition

The objection is allowed as described above and in the "Amendments to Schedule B" section of this Report.

Southern Alberta

1. Medicine Hat and Lethbridge

Jim Hillyer, MP for Lethbridge, and LaVar Payne, MP for Medicine Hat, filed objections to the inclusion of the counties of Cardston and Warner No. 5 in the proposed electoral district of Medicine Hat.

Mr. Payne requests inclusion of the towns of Brooks, Bassano and the County of Newell No. 4 in the electoral district of Medicine Hat. He suggests that the electoral district of Medicine Hat be readjusted as follows: that the County of Forty Mile, the County of Newell No. 4, Cypress County, the area south of the Red Deer River and north of the two counties of Newell No. 4 and Cypress, including Empress and Buffalo, become an electoral district to be named Badlands—Medicine Hat—Brooks. In support of his submission, Mr. Payne argues that there is a strong community of interest in terms of economic, cultural, social, education and health linkages.

Mr. Payne's and Mr. Hillyer's proposal would move approximately 30,000 people out of the electoral district of Bow River into their proposed Badlands—Medicine Hat—Brooks electoral district. To counterbalance this loss of population in the Bow River riding, Mr. Hillyer suggests relocating the counties of Cardston and Warner No. 5 from the Medicine Hat riding to Bow River. The population of the counties of Cardston and Warner No. 5 is a little in excess of 25,000 people.

Standing Committee

In its report, the Standing Committee stated:

Mr. Hillyer stated to the Committee that no connection or affinity existed between Medicine Hat and the rural areas of Cardston, Warner, Watertown [sic], Blood Reserve or other communities west and south of Taber and Lethbridge, either economically, professionally, medically or scholastically. He emphasized that the residents and leaders of the rural counties of Cardston and Warner wished to remain, and felt that they would receive better representation, in a federal riding which was rural in character. Mr. Hillyer expressed concern that Medicine Hat, a city that residents of Cardston and Warner felt no connection with, would dominate the proposed electoral district of Medicine Hat, leaving Cardston and Warner as afterthoughts. The Committee notes also that it was not until after the public hearings that Cardston was placed in the Medicine Hat riding. Therefore, no opportunity had previously existed to object to this proposal.

Both Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne expressed a degree of concern that the Commission appears to have given preference to the community of interest and identity that exists along the historic Mormon Trail, at the expense of other, equally vibrant and vital communities of interest in southern Alberta.

In support of their proposals, Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne received letters from the Reeve of Cardston, the mayors of Magrath, Cardston, Raymond, Stirling, Couts, and Milk River, along with nearly 1,200 signatures from residents of this region. Their proposals are also supported by Mr. Kevin Sorenson, M.P. from Crowfoot, and the Hon. Ted Menzies, P.C., M.P. for Macleod.

The Committee agrees with and fully supports the proposals put forth by Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne. The Committee appreciates the diligence and thoroughness the Commission appears to have lent the readjustment of the boundaries of southern Alberta. The Committee respectfully suggests that the Commission consider the proposals put forward by Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne as important, practical and widely supported.

Commission's Reasons

Before dealing with the substantive objections contained in the Standing Committee's report, the Commission wishes to make some preliminary comments.

First, the Commission wishes to address the suggestion that it drew the boundaries for religious reasons. The Commission agrees that religion, per se, is not a ground upon which electoral boundaries are drawn. It is not the duty of a commission to intentionally keep a group together, nor intentionally divide it, for the purpose of influencing an election result.

The Commission was governed by subsection 15(1) of the Act, which requires it to achieve population parity where reasonably possible and to consider community of interest, community of identity, historical patterns and manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.

The Commission received numerous submissions requesting that the towns of Stirling, Cardston, Raymond and Magrath remain together within one electoral district as they share many common interests, including economic, social, educational, cultural and religious interests. Communities of interest and identity frequently arise from those interests, and common bonds are part of what creates a community of interest. The Commission was informed that many of the families of current residents settled this area and were instrumental in the development of irrigation in southern Alberta. As a result, there is an historical relationship on many levels and there is a community of interest that goes beyond religion.

The Commission wants to clarify that the boundaries in its Report were not drawn to keep the towns along the Mormon Trail together. Rather, the new configuration of the south was driven by other factors. When the Commission reconfigured the Foothills electoral district, the population count made it necessary to combine the southern counties of Warner No. 5 and Cardston in a different electoral district. The Commission notes that Mr. Hillyer's and Mr. Payne's proposal also keeps the counties of Warner No. 5 and Cardston together.

Second, the Commission was surprised at Mr. Hillyer's expressed concern that the Commission had given preference to the community of interest that exists along the Mormon Trail, his objection to the proposed electoral district of Medicine Hat, and the suggestion that there was no opportunity to address the possibility of moving Cardston into the electoral district of Medicine Hat. At the Lethbridge public hearing, the Commission heard from 25 presenters and received several written submissions concerning this particular region. Many, though not all, expressed a desire to keep the four towns along the Mormon Trail together as they share many commonalities of interest. Mr. Hillyer submitted 1,182 signature cards asking that Warner County No. 5 and Cardston County remain together in the Foothills electoral district. The entire thrust of his presentation was to keep the towns together, even if it meant dividing Warner County No. 5.

More important, the possibility of placing Warner County No. 5 and Cardston County in the Medicine Hat electoral district was canvassed with Mr. Hillyer at the public hearings and although it was not his first choice, he considered it acceptable. Thus, the Commission is surprised by Mr. Hillyer's late objection.

Finally, the Commission notes that the new configuration, placing Cardston and Warner No. 5 counties in the electoral district of Bow River, is being presented for the first time. As a result, the suggestion that the Commission rejected this proposal (which it had not received) is puzzling.

Turning to the main objections, the Commission recognizes that change creates stress and uncertainty. That is particularly true where constituents fear losing an MP with whom they have an established relationship. However, significant change was necessitated in southern Alberta as a result of the increased population in the south and the creation of the new electoral district of Bow River.

Lethbridge County presented the features of an ideal electoral district, and nobody has disputed this view. As a result, Warner County No. 5 and Cardston County were carved out of the current electoral district of Lethbridge. The Commission initially examined the possibility of creating one electoral district across southern Alberta but the population count could not support such a configuration. In its initial Proposal, the Commission placed Warner County No. 5 within Medicine Hat, and Cardston County within Foothills.

Strong representations were heard at the public hearings about the proposed division of southern Alberta; following these, adjustments were made to the electoral boundaries. The Commission considered many reconfigurations. It examined a partial doughnut around the City of Calgary, keeping Chestermere, Okotoks and other like communities together. The population count of the bedroom communities around Calgary, however, did not make this approach preferable.

The Commission re-examined the electoral district of Foothills, taking into account representations recommending that the Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26 remain intact within Foothills, following the historical pattern of the electoral district along Highway 2 to Fort Macleod. The Commission reconfigured the Foothills electoral district to address these concerns. Presenters requested that the towns along Highway 1 be kept together to the furthest extent possible, and that was accomplished in large part within the new electoral district of Bow River. The Commission also examined the possibility of placing the County of Newell No. 4 within Medicine Hat but concluded that such a configuration would have a significant negative effect on the Bow River electoral district.

The Commission has carefully considered the new proposal of Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne. While their suggested map works well for the Medicine Hat electoral district, it does not work well for the electoral district of Bow River. The Commission recognizes the connection between Newell County No. 4 and Medicine Hat, but any attempts to keep them together result in an electoral district of Bow River that is unnecessarily and undesirably far-reaching. Moreover, the new proposal of Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne disconnects Taber County from Medicine Hat, Newell County No. 4 and Lethbridge, the three counties with which Taber County is most closely connected. Although the Commission's configuration disconnects Taber from Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, its relationship with Newell County No. 4 is maintained. In any event, the economic and social ties between Bassano, Brooks and Medicine Hat will continue regardless of federal electoral boundaries.

The objections raise one further issue. It is suggested that the Medicine Hat population will overpower that of other communities in the electoral district of Medicine Hat. The Commission recognizes that any combination with Medicine Hat will have both urban and rural interests together within a single electoral district. That is not uncommon. As noted earlier, many districts share different interests, all of which can be effectively represented. The City of Medicine Hat has a population of 60,005. Wherever the MP resides, the balance of the electoral district will not be ignored.

It is important to note that, although Mr. Hillyer spoke on behalf of Warner No. 5 and Cardston counties, no one purported to speak on behalf of the communities in the northern portions of the Bow River electoral district. The Commission did not receive negative comments from Acme, Carbon or other northwestern areas of the electoral district of Bow River. The Bow River electoral district is compact as currently drawn, with primarily rural agricultural interests. To make a major change from the Report, such as that suggested by Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne, would be a disservice to residents of the northern portions of the Bow River electoral district as it would significantly change the district's size and configuration.

The Commission is satisfied that the configuration adopted in its Report is appropriate for southern Alberta. The electoral district of Bow River, as configured in the Report, is far preferable in terms of shape and combines appropriate commonalities of interest. On balance, considering all factors, the Commission finds its configuration preferable to that proposed by Mr. Hillyer and Mr. Payne.

Disposition

The objection is dismissed.

In view of the Commission's decision with respect to the boundaries of Medicine Hat, the application for a name change is also dismissed.

2. Foothills

The Honourable Ted Menzies, PC, MP for Macleod, filed an objection to the incorporation of the communities located in the area between the Waterton and Belly rivers into the Medicine Hat electoral district.

Mr. Menzies proposed that these communities be included in the Foothills electoral district. His objection is founded on a community of interest based on travel and trade between the communities and Pincher Creek, rather than with Lethbridge or any major community in the Medicine Hat electoral district. Moreover, this particular area is at present in the existing Macleod electoral district.

The communities referred to in Mr. Menzies' objection have a population of 892 people. The population of the proposed Foothills electoral district is 104,459, representing a deviation of –2.56% from the province's electoral quota; the population for the proposed electoral district of Medicine Hat is 103,903, representing a deviation of –3.09% from the province's electoral quota. The changes proposed by Mr. Menzies would increase the population of the Foothills electoral district to 105,351, representing a deviation of –1.74% from the province's electoral quota; the population of Medicine Hat would decrease to 103,011, representing a deviation of –3.92% from the province's electoral quota. Both of these deviations remain well below that allowable under section 15 of the Act.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee appreciates the difficulty the Commission encountered in balancing requests to group certain communities together. It also appreciates that, following the public hearings, the Commission re-examined various configurations for ridings in southern Alberta before arriving at its most recent proposal. The Standing Committee, nonetheless, considers Mr. Menzies' request to be a minor but important adjustment, and supports his request.

Commission's Reasons

The Commission had considered a similar reconfiguration earlier and accepts that either solution could provide effective representation. The Commission agrees with the Standing Committee that this is a minor request. It would also decrease the geographic size of the electoral district of Medicine Hat. Considering the area's affiliation with Pincher Creek, and its present inclusion in the electoral district of Macleod, the Commission accepts this request as reasonable, with one exception: it is of the view that the Blood Reserve should be kept together, and therefore Blood Reserve Nos. 148A and 148 should remain together in the electoral district of Medicine Hat.

Disposition

The objection is allowed with the exception as described above and in the "Amendments to Schedule B" section of this Report.



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