Part I – Initial Report to the House of Commons (December 10, 2012) – Alberta – Readjustments to Boundaries and Reasons Following the Public Hearings

Overview

The creation of six new electoral districts, combined with a significant population shift to urban centres, resulted in a new electoral district landscape for Alberta. As new electoral boundaries were drawn, existing boundaries were inevitably impacted, and all electoral districts in Alberta have been altered – some more substantially than others.

When preparing this report, the Commission was governed by its constitutional and statutory obligations to keep the electoral districts as close to the electoral quota as reasonably possible. At the same time, as required by section 15 of the Act, the Commission considered the communities of interest or identity, the historical pattern, and the manageable geographic size of each district when determining whether deviation from the electoral quota was either necessary or desirable to achieve fair and effective representation. The Commission considered the topography of each district and the impact of its geographic size on representation, particularly in the northern, rural and less populated areas of Alberta.

Considering all of the criteria enumerated in section 15 of the Act, the Commission is satisfied that the redistribution of electoral districts in Alberta is appropriate for effective representation.

General Comments on Regions

Northern Alberta

Alberta's two existing northern electoral districts of Peace River and Fort McMurray—Athabasca comprise approximately one half of the land mass of Alberta, with only 7.2% of the population. The current electoral district of Peace River is large in terms of both geography and population. At the time of the last redistribution in 2001, Peace River had a population of 123,877, which was 16.6% over the electoral quota. By 2011, the population count had grown to 150,925, representing a 40.8% deviation above the current electoral quota. Fort McMurray—Athabasca's population grew from 88,882 in 2001 to 115,372 in 2011, resulting in a 7.6% deviation above the current electoral quota.

In view of the large deviations above the quota, the Commission determined in its Proposal that the north required additional representation.

Peace River—Westlock, Grande Prairie

The Commission considered the creation of one electoral district across the northern reaches of the province, as recommended by the last commission, but found that such a solution remained unworkable due to the continued absence of a viable east–west transportation route.

As such, to create an additional electoral district serving the north, the Commission extended the southern boundary of Peace River to include the counties of Westlock, Barrhead and Woodlands, and proposed a new electoral district named Peace River—Westlock. It also proposed a second electoral district named Grande Prairie, comprising the City of Grande Prairie and the surrounding area. The proposed Grande Prairie electoral district was considerably smaller than the proposed Peace River—Westlock electoral district.

At the public hearings, presenters voiced concerns about the geographic size of the newly created northern electoral district of Peace River—Westlock. In particular, disquiet was expressed about distances, travel times and the separation between people north and south of the sparsely populated area around Fox Creek and Swan Hills. Presenters noted that the Peace River area has different trading partners and different communities of interest and identity than the southern counties. Some presenters suggested that the Commission should deviate well below the electoral quota in all northern districts, rather than expand south for more population.

The Commission recognizes that the north has always consisted of a vast geographic region with a multiplicity of interests, including numerous First Nations reserves and Métis settlements. The Commission is satisfied that the counties of Barrhead, Westlock and Woodlands are a reasonable fit with many of the communities in the north. The inclusion of the southern counties in the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock is desirable to increase representation in the northwest.

The Commission notes that the communities throughout the proposed electoral district of Peace River—Westlock, including the southern counties, share many economic interests such as agriculture, forestry, lumber, and resource services and development. Whitecourt, Barrhead and Westlock are located on established transportation routes, serving as gateways and service providers to the north. At the public hearings, the Commission was informed that the oil and gas industry in Peace River would rival that of Fort McMurray in 20 years. Further resource development will inevitably continue to strengthen commonalities along the north–south corridors as service providers travel north to support expansion of the resource industry.

Furthermore, technological advances continue to facilitate representation in the north. Information technology and social media provide linkage among people and communities. Technology has aided and will continue to aid communication. This remains true despite the fact that not all remote areas have high-speed connectivity. Moreover, the expansion of industry in the north will improve access to technology.

In addition, monetary allowances further facilitate representation in northern regions. Elected representatives have access to the electoral supplement based on population, and monetary allowances for geographically large and remote districts.

The Commission remains convinced that the southern counties are an appropriate fit. As a result of public consultation, however, the Commission agrees that a reconfiguration of the northern electoral districts is desirable.

In particular, the Commission determined that the geographic size of northwest Alberta should be more equitably divided between the two northwest electoral districts. Accordingly, in this report, the geographic size of the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock is decreased, and that of Grande Prairie is enlarged. Alberta's northern region will be better served by sharing the representation of the sparsely populated, less accessible northern area of the province. This reconfiguration allows two members of Parliament to share the travel and duties of representing the far north.

The northern boundary of the Grande Prairie electoral district will now reach the Northwest Territories and extend east to meet the western boundary of the electoral district of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake. The new northern boundary keeps the Little Red River Cree Nation, the Tallcree First Nation and the Beaver First Nation together within the Peace River—Westlock boundaries, while the Dene Tha' First Nation reserves and the Town of High Level are within the electoral district of Grande Prairie. The Municipal District (“MD”) of Fairview No. 136, the MD of Peace No. 135 and Birch Hill County are placed in the Peace River—Westlock electoral district. Both northern electoral districts share interests, and although the City of Grande Prairie has urban interests, those are intermixed with the interests of neighbouring communities. The new configuration provides a more equitable sharing of the representational duties. Moreover, the new configuration of Peace River—Westlock has the advantage of reducing the distance from the southeastern to the northwestern corner of the electoral district, a subject of complaint at the public hearings.

The present electoral district of Peace River, currently served by one elected representative, is 162,871 km2. The newly created Peace River—Westlock is 105,925 km2, while the new Grande Prairie is 109,194 km2 – both significantly smaller than the current Peace River electoral district.

The Commission is satisfied that the two electoral districts of Grande Prairie and Peace River—Westlock are an improvement in terms of both geographic size and population. Members of Parliament may find ways to work together to serve the north, and the Commission is satisfied that the far north will be better served by having two representatives.

In summary, although geographic size is always a consideration when drawing northern boundaries, the Commission is satisfied that fair and effective representation can occur within the established electoral districts, and that a larger deviation from the electoral quota is neither necessary nor desirable.

Fort McMurray—Cold Lake

Representatives of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo urged the Commission to create an electoral district named Fort McMurray, comprised of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and Improvement District No. 24 (“ID No. 24”). This presentation relied on the hidden and shadow populations and the anticipated growth around Fort McMurray. Representatives alternatively suggested that if the Commission were not prepared to so limit the electoral district, the City of Cold Lake and Lac La Biche County, which share heavy oil and work camp issues, would be a better fit with Fort McMurray than is the farming community of Athabasca.

The Commission acknowledges that hidden and shadow populations exist in and around Fort McMurray but notes that, although not as significant, hidden and shadow populations exist in various areas province-wide. During the public hearings, the Commission heard many arguments across the province relating to the fact that the 2011 population figures are not accurate or current due to hidden populations and development since the census. The electoral quota, however, is based on the 2011 census population count, and the Act mandates the Commission to create electoral districts with populations “as close as reasonably possible … to the electoral quota”. Thus, it is the population count of 2011 – not the population count of 2011 plus the hidden population, actual development and anticipated development – that must be measured against the electoral quota.

Moreover, if the Commission were to engage in determining an actual population count for one electoral district as opposed to relying on the 2011 population count from Statistics Canada, then in fairness to all, the Commission would have to engage in a guessing game about actual populations across the province. It is not the role of the Commission to calculate a different population number than what is provided by Statistics Canada.

The Commission recognizes that populations are not static and change between censuses. The Commission is also aware that it can consider such factors as geography, transportation, municipal and natural boundaries, and growth projections when it creates electoral districts and determines deviation from strict equality.Footnote 4 Nonetheless, the Commission considers it neither necessary nor desirable to deviate from population parity to the extent required to create an electoral district comprised of only the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and ID No. 24.

However, in light of representations concerning Athabasca, Thorhild, Cold Lake, Fort McMurray and Smoky Lake, the Commission concluded that some reconfiguration in northeastern Alberta would yield preferable federal electoral districts. For example, several presenters requested that the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range be united with the Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake.

With consideration for the common interests throughout Cold Lake, Lac La Biche and the Fort McMurray area, the Commission has therefore reconfigured the northeastern electoral districts. The Fort McMurray—Cold Lake electoral district will include the City of Cold Lake, the northern portion of the MD of Bonnyville No. 87, Lac La Biche County, ID No. 24, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and most of the MD of Opportunity No. 17. The communities of Trout Lake and Peerless Lake, due to the location of the sole access road, remain in the electoral district of Peace River—Westlock. As discussed under the heading “Eastern Alberta” below, Athabasca County is moved to the new electoral district of Lakeland.

The Commission recognizes that Fort McMurray—Cold Lake's deviation of 5.29% below the electoral quota is the largest in the province, but considers this deviation desirable in order to implement the proposed configuration and to take into consideration anticipated growth.

Eastern Alberta

Two rural electoral districts were proposed along Alberta's eastern border between the existing electoral districts of Medicine Hat and Fort McMurray—Athabasca, namely, Lakeland and Battle River.

Common ground existed among several presenters in asserting that Athabasca County would be more connected with such communities as Slave Lake, Westlock, Smoky Lake, Thorhild and Barrhead than with Fort McMurray. Presenters noted that Smoky Lake preferred to remain in an electoral district with the communities belonging to the existing Westlock—St. Paul district. The Commission accepts that Athabasca County has more in common with the communities in Lakeland than it does with Fort McMurray. As a result of readjustments to the southern boundary of Fort McMurray—Cold Lake and presentations at the public hearings, the Commission has now adjusted the boundaries of Lakeland to exclude Cold Lake and the surrounding area, and to include the counties of Athabasca, Smoky Lake and Thorhild.

The member of Parliament for Crowfoot made representations to retain the name Crowfoot as part of the renamed electoral district (proposed as Battle River). As noted above, that request is granted. The member of Parliament expressed satisfaction with the proposed electoral district but suggested that Special Areas No. 2 and 3 be included, indicating no concern about the increased geographic size that would result. A resolution of the town council of Oyen was subsequently received, similarly requesting that the Town of Oyen (in Special Area No. 3) remain in the new Battle River—Crowfoot electoral district.

At the public hearing, two presenters spoke to the inclusion of the Town of Tofield (in particular), Beaver County and perhaps Wainwright County in the electoral district of Lakeland. Several presenters and a petition asked that the portion of Red Deer County containing the villages of Delburne and Elnora be moved from the electoral district of Battle River—Crowfoot to Red Deer—Mountain View.

The Commission considered the above requests. It was not convinced that the northern boundary of Battle River—Crowfoot should change, and considered the commonalities within both electoral districts appropriate for effective representation. As a result, the proposed east–west boundary dividing Lakeland and Battle River—Crowfoot along the county boundaries between highways 14 and 16 is, for the most part, retained.

As a result of the representations and reconsideration of the province's southern electoral districts, the Commission has reconfigured Battle River—Crowfoot to include Special Areas No. 2 and 3 and the MD of Acadia No. 34, as described in Schedule B. The Commission has also been convinced by the public input to move the portion of Red Deer County containing Elnora and Delburne from Battle River—Crowfoot to Red Deer—Mountain View.

The Commission is satisfied that these changes to the eastern electoral districts are an improvement. Both electoral districts maintain their rural character and share many interests and communities of identity which can be fairly and effectively represented. It considers the small deviations from the electoral quota desirable.

Calgary

The City of Calgary's population has increased significantly since the 2001 decennial census, growing from 878,866 to 1,096,833 in 2011. The practice of annexation prior to development historically led to federal electoral districts lying within existing city limits. To respect the community of urban interests, the Commission's Proposal maintained electoral districts within the municipal boundaries of Calgary.

Two new electoral districts were proposed, one in the south and one in the northwest, increasing Calgary's electoral districts from 8 to 10. The average deviation from the electoral quota was +2.30% for the 10 districts. The Commission's allocation of 10 electoral districts within the city boundaries was well received at the public hearings, and suggestions for change were minor.

One presenter, noting that Calgary is still under-represented, recommended boundaries drawn on a regional, rather than a municipal, basis. This approach could result in 13 electoral districts in the Calgary area with less deviation. For example, hybrid electoral districts might combine parts of east Calgary with the Town of Chestermere, north Calgary with the City of Airdrie, or south Calgary with the Town of Okotoks.

Hybrid electoral districts may be desirable by the next redistribution. However, the Commission is satisfied that the already small deviations are desirable because they maintain the 10 electoral districts within city limits. The general acceptance of the Proposal supports this view.

The newly created electoral district in south Calgary resulted in three southern electoral districts named Calgary Heritage, Calgary Midnapore and Calgary Shepard. All three electoral districts extended to the southern city limits, where anticipated future population growth could be shared. The eastern electoral districts were named Calgary Forest Lawn and Calgary McCall (changed in this report to Calgary Skyview).

The second newly created electoral district in the northwest resulted in four electoral districts named Calgary Signal Hill, Calgary Spy Hill (changed in this report to Calgary Rocky Ridge), Calgary Nose Hill and Calgary Confederation. Calgary Centre retained its name, although its boundaries were extended south to Glenmore Trail.

At the hearings, presenters recommended that several communities be exchanged between two electoral districts to keep communities of interest together. The Commission accepts that the following changes to the Proposal are an improvement:

  1. The community of Whitehorn is moved to the electoral district of Calgary Skyview to reunite it with the community of Temple. The community of Coral Springs and a portion of the community of Monterey Park are moved to Calgary Forest Lawn. This creates appropriate populations and unites the community of Monterey Park within one electoral district.

  2. The community of Dalhousie is moved to the electoral district of Calgary Confederation, and the community of Silver Springs is moved to the electoral district of Calgary Rocky Ridge. This adjustment was requested, by written submission, to avoid isolating Silver Springs by a golf course and ravine. The Commission agrees that drawing the boundary along Sarcee Trail and the ravine produces districts of greater geographical compactness and keeps the neighbouring communities east and west of Sarcee Trail together.

The requested move of the communities of Erin Woods and Dover from Calgary Shepard to Calgary Forest Lawn could not be easily accomplished. One suggestion was to combine parts of east Calgary with Chestermere, a move that would have a domino effect on other electoral districts outside the city. It would also result in moving city population outside city boundaries, contrary to the public's general acceptance of electoral districts within city limits. The populations of Dover and Erin Woods are large. No desirable exchanges with other communities were available, and a large deviation from the electoral quota is not necessary.

The Commission remains confident that Dover and Erin Woods can be effectively represented within the electoral district of Calgary Shepard. The Commission rejects the argument that affluent and less affluent communities cannot coexist within electoral boundaries. Electoral districts throughout the province contain more than one community of identity and interest.

One presenter urged the Commission to extend, where possible, all urban electoral districts to city boundaries to help share in anticipated future development. That presenter requested a transfer of communities from the electoral district of Calgary Rocky Ridge to the electoral district of Calgary Nose Hill to prevent serious under-representation in Calgary Rocky Ridge by the time of the next census. In addition, the Commission was asked to extend the northern boundary of Calgary Nose Hill to the northern city limits. Subsequent to the public hearings, the Commission received correspondence from a Calgary Nose Hill representative opposing that request, stating that anticipated growth is not a legitimate criterion for this Commission.

As mentioned previously, the electoral quota is based on the 2011 census figures – not on the 2011 census plus actual and anticipated growth. The Commission appreciates that the Supreme Court of Canada, in Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.),Footnote 5 stated that anticipated growth may justify a deviation from strict equality at the time that the boundaries are drawn. But in the Commission's view, that was not a direction to attempt to recalculate present populations of electoral districts, nor a direction to try to equalize populations by the next decennial census. The court was merely stating that future growth is a factor to be considered when weighing criteria and determining deviations.

The Commission is not prepared to move communities from the electoral district of Calgary Rocky Ridge for the sole purpose of deliberately reducing the population in one electoral district at the expense of another in anticipation of development. Moreover, on a balancing of all factors, the Commission does not consider a further deviation to be required.

At the same time, the Commission is not blind to certain-fact situations and accepts that development will occur in north Calgary over the next 10 years. The request to create a boundary through undeveloped land so that future growth is shared by two electoral districts is valid. That boundary will have no immediate impact on populations within the targeted electoral districts and will not affect deviation from the electoral quota. The Commission finds that suggestion attractive and agrees to extend the northern boundary of Calgary Nose Hill through undeveloped lands to the northern city limits.

The Commission does not accept that any further requests for change in Calgary are either necessary or desirable.

Edmonton and Region

The decennial census population count for the City of Edmonton grew from 666,104 in 2001 to 812,201 in 2011. Edmonton is surrounded by eight sizable communities: Beaumont, Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Leduc, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, St. Albert and Stony Plain. A large portion of Edmonton's workforce resides in these surrounding communities, with the furthest community situated approximately 10 kilometres from the city limits.

The 2002 commission viewed the Edmonton region as a whole and created eight electoral districts. It noted the shared regional interests and considered hybrids an appropriate means of blending suburban, urban and rural communities in close proximity. The creation of hybrid electoral districts was done, in part, to preserve electoral district parity between Edmonton and Calgary. As a result, the 2002 commission created three electoral districts situated entirely within the city limits of Edmonton and five hybrid districts utilizing the hub and spoke, or pie, approach. The hybrids reach from the city into surrounding communities and beyond.

In response to requests for submissions prior to preparing the Proposal, this Commission received mixed views about the hybrid districts. Some noted the effectiveness of hybrids where infrastructure and other regional interests are shared between the city and the outlying areas. Others preferred urban electoral districts to remain within municipal boundaries where possible.

The Commission accepts that hybrid electoral districts are one viable, and sometimes necessary, means of combining an urban area with the region lying beyond its municipal boundaries. They are frequently a practical means of bringing population numbers closer to the electoral quota. Several commonalities often exist in the hub and spoke approach, depending on the reach of the spoke. Moreover, a heavily populated area outside an urban centre may have more in common with the urban or suburban space than with the rural region beyond. Sometimes topographical features support hybrid electoral districts. Regional plans providing for shared services are also a consideration. Thus, when drawing boundaries, it is sometimes helpful to view redistribution through a regional lens, rather than merely a local lens.

Doughnut electoral districts are another method of dealing with large populations outside municipal boundaries. Following the doughnut (or portion of a doughnut) approach, an electoral district may be configured to take in several small communities surrounding a city. The doughnut concept rests on the theory that communities inside the doughnut have more in common with each other than with the city they surround or the rural region beyond. Sometimes, to retain any semblance of population parity, both urban and rural areas may be required within a doughnut's boundaries.

The Commission accepts that electoral district boundaries can be configured in many ways, and the decision is frequently driven by common sense and practical considerations. There is no universal best way to create electoral districts. The balancing of different criteria pursuant to the Act impacts the location of a particular boundary. Boundary choices must be made on a case-by-case basis with regard to the particular facts and circumstances of the area, the statutory criteria, the population count and the many alternatives for creating electoral districts. The goal is to create an electoral district that can be fairly and effectively represented.

This Commission considered the various representations and alternatives in making its Proposal. It created seven electoral districts totally within the city limits and two hybrids which extend beyond the city limits. The following seven electoral districts were proposed within the City of Edmonton: Edmonton Callingwood, Edmonton McDougall (reverted in this report to Edmonton Centre), Edmonton Griesbach, Edmonton Manning, Edmonton Mill Woods, Edmonton Riverbend and Edmonton Strathcona.

The North Saskatchewan River, flowing through the centre of the City of Edmonton, is a significant natural geographical boundary. The Commission proposed that one of the hybrid districts be in the northwest and one in the south.

The Commission agreed with the 2002 commission that the current hybrid electoral district of Edmonton—St. Albert joins common interests and concerns. It proposed that the hybrid electoral district continue as configured and, in light of St. Albert's increased population, be renamed St. Albert—Edmonton. The Commission proposed a second hybrid electoral district named Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, containing the southernmost communities of Edmonton, and portions of the counties of Leduc and Wetaskiwin.

The Commission established a new electoral district adjacent to and east of Edmonton, containing Sherwood Park, Fort Saskatchewan and all of Strathcona County. The proximity of communities and the commonality of interests in this area provided an excellent basis for the electoral district, which was given the name Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan.

Finally, the Commission configured the electoral district of Sturgeon River, consisting of several communities around the northwestern limits of Edmonton. This electoral district formed a partial doughnut around Edmonton and included communities with numerous commonalities: Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Redwater, Sturgeon County, Parkland County and a portion of Lac Ste. Anne County. This electoral district had the added benefit of keeping together several communities which share a Francophone history, including Morinville, Legal, Gibbons, Villeneuve, Rivière Qui Barre and Bon Accord.

The Commission's proposal for electoral districts in Edmonton and region were very well received – some groups even suggested adoption as proposed. With the exception of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, discussed below, the suggestions for change were relatively minor. The Commission has therefore made the following modifications:

  1. Considering traffic flow and the divided community of Lynnwood, the electoral districts of Edmonton Callingwood and Edmonton Centre are readjusted. The western half of Lynnwood and the communities of Rio Terrace, Patricia Heights and Quesnell Heights move from Edmonton Callingwood to Edmonton Centre; the area north of Stony Plain Road between 156 Street and 170 Street moves to Edmonton Callingwood.

  2. Considering the single road egress out of Brookside and Brookside's historic affiliation with the community of Riverbend, Brookside moves from the electoral district of Edmonton Strathcona to Edmonton Riverbend. Several presenters requested that the community of Riverdale be moved from Edmonton Strathcona to Edmonton Griesbach, while several others disagreed and felt Riverdale fit well in Edmonton Strathcona. The Commission agrees with the latter group and is not persuaded to move the community of Riverdale from Edmonton Strathcona to Edmonton Griesbach, notwithstanding Riverdale's location north of the river.

Several presenters spoke to Edmonton Strathcona's low population. The Commission acknowledges that Edmonton Strathcona's boundaries are sealed from growth, and ideally its population would not be below the electoral quota. The most logical expansion to acquire population, however, would be to extend the southwest boundary across Whitemud Drive to take in all, or parts, of the communities of Rideau Park, Duggan, Royal Gardens and Greenfield. The Commission concluded that the impact of such a change on other electoral districts would be undesirable. Having regard to the general acceptance of the proposed boundaries, the southern boundary of Edmonton Strathcona is retained.

A few presenters requested changes relating to the combination of affluent and less affluent communities within Edmonton Griesbach, St. Albert—Edmonton and Edmonton Manning. After reviewing the presentations and alternative maps provided, the Commission remains unconvinced that any proposed option improved the overall redistribution. In any event, the Commission agrees with the 2002 commission that elected representatives can, and do, represent Canadians of all socio-economic groups within an electoral district. As mentioned above, the Commission rejects the argument that electoral districts cannot contain diverse communities of interest and identity. Within even the most homogenous of electoral districts, interests vary from group to group and citizen to citizen.

The configuration of the electoral districts of Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, Sturgeon River, St. Albert—Edmonton and Edmonton Mill Woods attracted no unfavourable comments at the public hearings. The greatest concerns expressed about the Edmonton region came from representatives of the City of Wetaskiwin and County of Wetaskiwin. These related to the combination of rural and urban interests within Edmonton—Wetaskiwin, the division of the county, the division of regional partnerships, and Wetaskiwin's separation from the Hobbema communities of the Ermineskin First Nation, the Samson Cree Nation, the Louis Bull Tribe and the Montana First Nation. Presenters also noted that Pigeon Lake Indian Reserve No. 138A is part of the Cree First Nations at Hobbema.

In consideration of these concerns, the Commission has now decided to reconfigure the electoral district of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin to keep the County of Wetaskiwin intact. The Commission finds that there are many common interests in the proposed electoral district. The communities are in close geographic proximity, and a resident may work, live, travel and play in different communities across the district. It was acknowledged at the hearings that many people in Wetaskiwin work in Edmonton or in the towns and cities between. The rural component of this district is sizable, and the Commission is satisfied that the rural-urban mix is not an impediment to the effective representation of the electoral district.

Remaining Rural Electoral Districts

Western Alberta

Yellowhead

The creation of an additional northern electoral district in the Proposal resulted in significant changes to the electoral district of Yellowhead. The domino effect of moving the northern electoral districts south was that Yellowhead's boundaries also moved south to achieve an acceptable population count. The reconfigured electoral district of Yellowhead included a large portion of the current electoral district and portions of the existing electoral districts of Wild Rose, Wetaskiwin and Red Deer. Yellowhead maintained its historical character, with many shared rural interests such as farming, oil and gas, pulp and paper, forestry and tourism.

Several presenters from Clearwater County appeared at the Red Deer public hearings to request that Clearwater County be included in Red Deer—Wolf Creek. In addition, a representative from the Town of Rimbey spoke to maintaining the old Wetaskiwin electoral district and objected to the town's inclusion in the electoral district of Yellowhead.

Yellowhead, like many of the northern electoral districts, is a large and sparsely populated region. It has always contained pockets of concentrated population separated by vast, unpopulated areas and a national park. Following the public hearings, the Commission considered a variety of configurations presented there. The accommodation of many of the requests would have resulted in long, narrow electoral districts extending from the Queen Elizabeth Highway II (“QE II”) corridor to the western boundary. This was not considered preferable to the proposed electoral districts, which kept the communities along the QE II corridor intact.

The Commission recognizes the desire of neighbours to stay with neighbours. Populations near an electoral boundary frequently have attachments and associations with organizations and groups on the other side, but a boundary line has to be drawn somewhere. Associations and attachments will continue regardless of the line, as people do not organize their lives around a federal electoral boundary. Commonalities often exist across large populations and large geographic areas, but not all can be in the same electoral district if population parity is to have effect. Sometimes, drawing lines to honour one criterion may mean a separation of people sharing a different criterion. The importance of population parity in a democratic society means that electoral boundaries change from time to time, but life and commerce will continue to cross those electoral boundaries.

The Commission noted the strong desire of those in Clearwater County to be placed in Red Deer—Wolf Creek. The Commission also noted the desire of Ponoka County to not be divided and to remain with Wetaskiwin County. Considering the overall map, the Commission was not convinced that other configurations were preferable. Although some of the small towns such as Rimbey are no longer with the remainder of Ponoka County, they are still united with several of their neighbouring towns and communities in the larger Yellowhead electoral district. Much of the district's population consists of small towns and communities on its eastern side. The geographic size of Yellowhead remains substantially the same.

The Commission therefore adopts the electoral district of Yellowhead as proposed, subject only to the removal of a portion of the County of Wetaskiwin which is added to Edmonton—Wetaskiwin (discussed above). The Commission is satisfied that the new configuration, outlined in Schedule B, can be effectively represented.

Banff—Airdrie

The 2011 increased population count of the existing Wild Rose electoral district, renamed Banff—Airdrie in the Proposal, led the Commission to decrease its geographic size. The reconfiguration of the district was appropriate in terms of geography, history and communities of interest and identity. No objections were made to the proposed Banff—Airdrie electoral district; only approval was expressed.

Southern Alberta

The three existing electoral districts of Macleod, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat currently share Alberta's southern boundary. In view of population increases, particularly in Chestermere, Lethbridge, Okotoks and Strathmore, the Commission's Proposal created a new electoral district in the southern region of the province. This resulted in the four electoral districts of Lethbridge, Foothills, Bow River and Medicine Hat.

The proposed Lethbridge electoral district contained the City of Lethbridge and County of Lethbridge, with a population count of 105,999. At the public hearings, the proposed electoral district met with general approval. Several communities would have preferred to remain in the Lethbridge electoral district, but acknowledged that such a configuration was not practical.

As the new electoral district of Lethbridge was reduced in size, counties formerly part of that district were divided between the two proposed southern districts of Foothills and Medicine Hat. The new Bow River electoral district was comprised of areas from the old Macleod, Crowfoot and Medicine Hat electoral districts.

At the public hearings, several presenters requested changes to the proposed southern districts. Requests included the following: moving the County of Newell to the electoral district of Medicine Hat; keeping the MD of Willow Creek and the communities along Highway 2 from Calgary to Fort Macleod together in the electoral district of Foothills; returning Oyen and the surrounding area to Battle River—Crowfoot; keeping communities around Highway 1 together; creating an electoral district around Calgary, in the form of a partial doughnut, to include Okotoks and Chestermere; and keeping the towns of Stirling, Raymond, Magrath and Cardston together.

The member of Parliament for Lethbridge, along with many other presenters, spoke to maintaining the towns along the Mormon Trail in one electoral district. He submitted 1,182 cards signed by constituents requesting that the counties of Warner and Cardston be kept together in the new Foothills electoral district. The choice of some presenters was to leave the counties of Warner and Cardston together in Lethbridge, but in view of the population figures, that option was recognized as problematic. The next preferred option was to transfer the County of Warner to the new electoral district of Foothills or, at the very least, to divide the county along the Westwind Regional School Division boundaries to bring Raymond and Stirling into the Foothills electoral district. The final option was to move Cardston County, which includes the towns of Cardston and Magrath, into the Medicine Hat electoral district. The overriding objective of the presentations was to keep the four towns along the historic Mormon Trail together within one electoral district.

Other presenters expressed opposition to these submissions, and some opposed any change to the electoral district of Foothills. One presenter voiced concern with the use of faith as a guide to drawing boundaries, and urged that broad social and economic connectors be considered. The presenter asked that the proposed Foothills electoral district be reconfigured to include the entire MD of Willow Creek and all communities along Highway 2 between Calgary and Fort Macleod.

Following the hearings, the Commission examined various reconfigurations. In particular, the suggestion of a partial doughnut around Calgary that combined suburban interests seemed an attractive alternative. Following an attempt to create a half doughnut, however, the Commission concluded that this solution was unworkable. Such a configuration either negatively impacted the proposed electoral district of Bow River or reached too far beyond the suburban areas to be desirable.

In an attempt to place the County of Newell in Medicine Hat, the Commission also considered creating a doughnut around Lethbridge; but this resulted in Bow River becoming an unwieldy, disconnected and less desirable electoral district. Likewise, the request to add Warner County to the Foothills electoral district would have made that district unnecessarily large in geographic size.

However, the Commission did accept the suggested readjustment of the boundaries of the Foothills electoral district to unite the MD of Willow Creek and the towns along Highway 2 from Calgary to Fort Macleod. This is preferable to the proposed configuration as it leaves the electoral districts of Foothills and Bow River more compact and viable. Moreover, this configuration maintains much of the historical character of the current electoral district of Macleod.

In this readjustment, the MD of Taber is moved from the electoral district of Medicine Hat to the electoral district of Bow River, which is a primarily rural electoral district with agricultural interests. This reconfiguration keeps many of the towns along Highway 1 together in Bow River. At the public hearings, the reeve of the MD of Taber had indicated the MD's satisfaction with its inclusion in the Medicine Hat electoral district. However, he noted that their primary wish was to remain in an electoral district with an agricultural and energy focus. The Commission is of the view that the MD of Taber is a similarly good fit with Bow River, particularly as communities with similar interests and rural connections exist throughout that electoral district. Bow River now contains the MD of Taber, the counties of Newell, Vulcan and Wheatland, and parts of the counties of Kneehill and Rocky View, all of which are rural and agricultural in character.

The new configuration moves Cardston County and the Blood Indian reserve from the Foothills electoral district to the Medicine Hat electoral district, which now extends further south and west. It also places the counties of Warner and Cardston in the electoral district of Medicine Hat, keeping together the towns along the Mormon Trail (Stirling, Magrath, Raymond and Cardston). As previously noted, Special Areas No. 1 and 2 and the MD of Acadia No. 34 have been moved to Battle River—Crowfoot.

Population growth in southern Alberta led the Commission, in its Proposal, to create a new southern electoral district and make significant changes to the existing electoral districts. The Commission's changes since the Proposal have resulted in electoral districts that are compact, with communities of interest that are appropriate for representation, and no further deviation from the electoral quota is either necessary or desirable.

Central Alberta and Red Deer

During the past 10 years, there has been a population boom in Red Deer and along the transportation corridor between Edmonton and Calgary. Red Deer's population rose from 67,707 in 2001 to 90,564 in 2011. In its Proposal, the Commission created two electoral districts around the QE II, between the southern border of the proposed district of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin and the northern border of the proposed district of Banff—Airdrie.

In arriving at this configuration, the Commission considered two viable alternatives for dealing with the population increase. First, it considered creating one new electoral district that would comprise the City of Red Deer, with a second electoral district forming a doughnut around the city. Second, it considered dividing the City of Red Deer and creating two hybrid electoral districts. One hybrid would include north Red Deer and extend to the southern boundary of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin; the second hybrid would contain south Red Deer and extend to the northern boundary of Banff—Airdrie.

Although the Commission considered both alternatives viable, it preferred and proposed the hybrid option. It also preferred the hybrids to the option of long, narrow electoral districts stretching from the central core to the western reaches of the province, which some rural eastern communities outside the corridor might have preferred.

Red Deer's interests in matters such as agriculture, trade, industry, recreation and health are inextricably intertwined with those of the surrounding communities. Considering shape, proximity and shared interests, the Commission proposed dividing the City of Red Deer by an east–west line (primarily along the Red Deer River and Ross Street) to create two hybrid electoral districts named Red Deer—Wolf Creek and Red Deer—Mountain View. The Commission had received a written request to keep the Hobbema reserves of Samson, Ermineskin, Louis Bull and Montana together; accordingly, it proposed that the four reserves be placed in the electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. (Unfortunately, honouring the requests to keep the County of Wetaskiwin together means the reserve at Pigeon Lake will remain in Edmonton—Wetaskiwin.)

Presenters expressed both support for, and opposition to, a division of the City of Red Deer into the two electoral districts of Red Deer—Mountain View and Red Deer—Wolf Creek. The majority of presenters spoke more to the composition of the proposed electoral districts than to the actual division of Red Deer. For example, representatives of Delburne and Elnora, which are farming areas, presented a petition asking to be added to Red Deer—Mountain View. Presenters from Clearwater County and many of its towns asked to be placed in the northern electoral district of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. The Town of Rimbey wanted to remain with the Ponoka and Wetaskiwin counties, while representatives speaking for the City of Red Deer wanted a strictly urban electoral district. Presenters expressed concerns about the combination of rural and urban voices, and many spoke to their community's commercial, social, recreational, shopping and general associations with Red Deer.

Following the public hearings, the Commission considered alternative configurations. As noted above, meeting some requests would have meant creating long, narrow electoral districts reaching from the central corridor to the western border of Alberta. The Commission continues to prefer the proposed hybrids, which work to preserve the integrity of the QE II corridor as a community of interest. The Commission recognizes that hybrids combine rural and urban interests, but as noted earlier, it considers hybrids a valid redistribution tool. Notwithstanding concerns expressed, the Commission continues to view the two balanced hybrid electoral districts as preferable to other options, including a rural doughnut. The urban and rural populations in each electoral district are significant, and the Commission is satisfied that neither the urban nor rural voices will be lost. The elected representatives will attend to both interests.

The growth and success of the industries within the City of Red Deer's boundaries are intertwined with the success of the agricultural and resource industries lying beyond its borders. Geographical distances within the electoral districts are short. Moreover, some of the rural and urban regions within the electoral districts share regional plans and services. The Commission is satisfied that, having regard to all of the factors, including the compact size of the electoral districts, both hybrids can be effectively represented.

Unfortunately, as noted above, the Commission could not accommodate all requests for inclusion within either of the hybrid districts. The Commission is aware of the association many of the rural towns have with Red Deer as well as the shopping patterns of many of the communities. However, a federal electoral boundary line is not an electric fence – nor is it any fence at all. Commerce, industry, shopping and social activities will continue crossing federal electoral boundary lines, unhindered by their existence. But for voting and political activities, life is not strictly lived within electoral boundaries.

By the next decennial census, population numbers along the QE II may accommodate a different configuration. For this redistribution, however, the Commission is retaining the two hybrid electoral districts as proposed, subject to one adjustment. The eastern portion of Red Deer County containing the communities of Delburne and Elnora is moved from Battle River—Crowfoot to the electoral district of Red Deer—Mountain View.

The Commission is satisfied that effective representation can occur within the electoral districts of Red Deer—Mountain View and Red Deer—Wolf Creek.


Footnote 4 Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), supra note 1.

Footnote 5 Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), supra note 1.





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