Report recommends replacing Highwood riding
Province: New Okotoks-Sheep River riding proposed
Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017 11:13 am
The Highwood riding could be no more if proposed electoral boundaries are approved.
In its place, the final report of the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission recommends creating the new Okotoks-Sheep River riding. Other highlights in the report, unveiled last week, would see the Town of High River join the Livingstone-Macleod riding, and the Priddis and Millarville areas become part of the Banff-Kananaskis riding.
The proposed changes disappoint Highwood MLA Wayne Anderson. He said he wants to keep the Highwood name and he asked the commission to keep High River and Okotoks in the same riding.
“The High River, Okotoks, Aldersyde corridor has been a socioeconomic corridor for decades,” said Anderson.
The Highwood riding was created in 1971. Anderson said he will try to save the Highwood name.
The commission has been tasked with redrawing the electoral boundaries for Alberta’s 87 constituencies.
No new ridings are being created. Several new urban ridings are proposed in Calgary and Edmonton, while a number of rural ridings will be consolidated.
The report proposes several changes in the Foothills.
The new Okotoks-Sheep River riding would stretch from Kananaskis in the west to the MD of Foothills boundary in the east, and from 434 Ave. on the south to the Bow River and Calgary city limits to the north.
The Livingstone-Macleod riding’s northern boundary will be run along 434 Ave. in the MD and will include High River and Blackie. The riding will stretch south to the U.S. border on the south end of Waterton National Park.
The hamlets of Millarville, Priddis and much of the MD’s northwest corner would become part of the Banff-Kananaskis riding.
Justice Myra Bielby, the commission’s chairperson, said Alberta’s population grew by 14 per cent since boundaries were last redrawn eight years ago.
According to the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, a riding cannot be more than 25 per cent higher than the average population for others across the province. This is determined by dividing the province’s total population by the 87 ridings in Alberta. At present, the provincial average population is 46,697, while the population of Highwood sits around 55,000.
Bielby said the boundaries needed to be redrawn to ensure the populations of ridings across the province are relatively even. She said it’s important to ensure each voters’ ballot has the same weight.
“Right now as a result of this population growth, a vote in Dunvegan would have three and a half times the effect of a vote in southeast Calgary if a vote is held today,” she said. “The number of people living in Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley is about 23,000 people and in Calgary-South East it’s 92,000 people and yet they both return one MLA to the provincial legislature.”
Commissioner Gwen Day offered the lone dissenting vote.
She said the changes will negatively impact rural areas and reduce the effectiveness of representation for rural communities.
“Great work has been done, but big picture, rural Alberta is down three ridings,” said Day.
As a result of the changes, many rural ridings could be increased in size. This could make it more difficult for MLAs to effectively represent their constituents, said Day
In the long term, she said the changes will erode rural representation.
“We want to think long term and big picture for Alberta and I don’t think it’s the best and the wisest way to handle this situation,” she said.
Day said she would have preferred the provincial government gave the commission the option to add one more riding to the province.
Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier shares Day’s concerns.
“It is going to be difficult for MLAs across Alberta covering these huge ridings to be able to be seen on a regular basis,” he said.
Stier doesn’t expect the proposed changes to mean much more travel than he already does, but they won’t make his job any easier.
He said he’s happy about the prospect of representing High River, though he believes it’s better for the town to be in the same riding as Okotoks.
“I’m not happy in the sense that they’ve broken up the Highwood riding and taken High River out from Okotoks and the MD,” said Stier
He said he supported Turner Valley and Black Diamond being part of a riding closer to Calgary and adding Waterton National Park to his riding was his suggestion.
“The area there is quite a lot like Crowsnest Pass, there’s a similar lifestyle,” he said,
“Tourism is the main industry there and there’s the same kind of culture and the same kind of train, so I think Waterton is a good fit for Livingstone-Macleod.”