Part I – Initial Report to the House of Commons (December 10, 2012) – Alberta – Introduction

Establishment of the Commission

The 2012 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta (the “Commission”) was established pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3, as amended (the “Act”) to reconfigure the boundaries of Alberta's federal electoral districts, which are the basis for representation in the House of Commons. The Commission is an independent, three-person body responsible for defining the sizes, boundaries and names of the federal electoral districts within the Province of Alberta.

The number of electoral districts in the House of Commons, and for each province, is determined by the formula and rules set out in the Constitution Act, 1867. Applying those rules, the total number of seats in the House of Commons will increase from 308 to 338 in this redistribution, and the number of seats allocated to the Province of Alberta will increase from 28 to 34.

The federal electoral boundaries of each province in Canada must be readjusted following each decennial census to accommodate new electoral districts and the growth, shifts and changes in population since the last readjustment of boundaries.

The Chair of the Commission, appointed by the Chief Justice of Alberta, is the Honourable Madam Justice Carole Conrad of the Court of Appeal of Alberta. The other members of the Commission, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons, are Mr. Edwin Eggerer of Airdrie, a realtor and former returning officer in 10 federal elections, and Ms. Donna R. Wilson of Edmonton, an election specialist and a returning officer in 8 federal elections.

Ms. Joanne Gérémian, a skilled geography specialist seconded to the Commission by Elections Canada, provided invaluable expert assistance in preparing the electoral boundaries maps and descriptions. The Commission benefitted from the proficient support of Ms. Ooldouz Sotoudehnia, the Commission Secretary.

Principles Governing the Commission

The principles set forth in the Act govern the readjustment of federal electoral boundaries. Paragraph 15(1)(a) of the Act provides that the division of the province into electoral districts and the description of the boundaries “shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district ... shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province”. This principle is often referred to as population parity, and its rationale rests in the democratic principle of one person, one vote.

Parity is not the sole consideration. The Commission must also consider the following criteria set forth in paragraph 15(1)(b):

(i) the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and

(ii) a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.

Where the Commission considers it necessary or desirable with regard to these considerations, it may deviate from strict population parity. In such cases, deviation from the province's electoral quota shall not exceed 25% more or less, unless the Commission views the circumstances as being extraordinary (subsection 15(2) of the Act).

The 2011 population count as determined by Statistics Canada provides the basis for the redistribution of electoral districts under the Act. Between the 2001 and the 2011 censuses, Alberta's population count increased from 2,974,807 to 3,645,257. The electoral quota for Alberta is obtained by dividing the 2011 Alberta census population count of 3,645,257 by 34 (the number of electoral districts), for an electoral quota of 107,213. Alberta's electoral quota is the highest in Canada.

The Supreme Court of Canada dealt with the issue of population parity and deviations in Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.),Footnote 1 where it found that the right to vote enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and FreedomsFootnote 2 is the right to effective representation.Footnote 3 The majority of the court noted that while a citizen's vote should not be unduly diluted, absolute parity is impossible and relative parity may detract from the goal of effective representation. McLaughlin J. (as she then was) stated at para. 55:

It emerges therefore that deviations from absolute voter parity may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Beyond this, dilution of one citizen's vote as compared with another's should not be countenanced. I adhere to the proposition asserted in Dixon, supra, at p. 414, that “only those deviations should be admitted which can be justified on the ground that they contribute to better government of the populace as a whole, giving due weight to regional issues within the populace and geographic factors within the territory governed.”

In summary, the overarching principle of the Act is to ensure that each electoral district shall, as closely as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province. The Commission must also consider communities of interest, communities of identity, historical patterns and geographic size when drawing electoral boundaries. When the Commission determines that it is either necessary or desirable to deviate from population parity in the interest of effective representation, it has the discretion to do so within the limits of the legislation.

The Proposal

The Commission was established on February 21, 2012, and commenced its work within the framework of the Act. The Act requires each province's commission to prepare a proposed redistribution plan (the “Proposal”) and hold at least one public hearing following advertisement of the proposed electoral districts in the Canada Gazette and at least one newspaper of general circulation. Notice of the times and places fixed for any public hearings is also included in the advertisements.

Prior to preparing its Proposal, the Commission, through its website, invited brief comments and suggestions from the public and received more than 80 responses. The public input was informative and useful. The Commission also had access to data from Natural Resources Canada and the Chief Statistician of Canada. In preparing its Proposal, the Commission reviewed the transcripts of the 2002 public hearings. It also considered general public information about the province, including geographical information, history, regional plans, maps, First Nations reserves and Métis settlements. The Commission did not consider any polling or voting data.

The Commission's Proposal was published in the Canada Gazette on July 14, 2012, inserts were placed in three newspapers, and quarter-page advertisements appeared in 118 publications throughout the province. The Proposal and hearings schedule were also posted on the Commission website.

Preparation of the Report

Following the public hearings, the Commission reviewed its Proposal, made revisions and prepared this report for presentation to the House of Commons. The report sets out the decisions of the Commission concerning the division of the province into electoral districts, the description and boundaries of the districts, and the population and name to be given to each district. This report will be forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer no later than December 21, 2012, and he will transmit it to the Speaker of the House of Commons for review by a parliamentary committee. Any objections filed with that committee by members of the House of Commons are returned to the Commission for consideration. The Commission makes such changes as it deems necessary and returns its final report to the Chief Electoral Officer for implementation.

Structure of the Report

The remainder of this report will cover the following topics:

  • an overview of public hearings
  • name changes and reasons for them following the public hearings
  • readjustments to boundaries and reasons for them following the public hearings

Schedule A provides a list of the 34 electoral districts, together with the populations and the percentage by which each electoral district deviates from the electoral quota. Schedule B sets out the boundary descriptions and names of the 34 electoral districts. Maps follow in the last section.

Footnote 1 Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), [1991] 2 S.C.R. 158.

Footnote 2 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 2, Part I, Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11.

Footnote 3 Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), supra note 1, citing Dixon v. B.C. (A.G.), (1986) 7 B.C.L.R. (2d) 174.

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