Alberta’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is rethinking proposed constituency changes that were strongly opposed by Central Alberta MLAs.
Area ridings were given a dramatic makeover in the interim report released by the commission in February. A number of MLAs have called on the commission to go back to the drawing board during two days of public hearings in Red Deer that wrapped up on Thursday.
Luke Ouellette told the commission on Tuesday that his riding would be “completely demolished” if the commission’s proposals were adopted.
In a presentation the following day, Rocky Mountain House MLA Ty Lund expressed his doubts about a proposal to see Rocky and a portion of Olds included in a new Rocky Mountain House-Olds riding. Lund has said the huge riding would leave an MLA stretched to adequately represent two major communities at opposite ends of the constituency.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Richard Marz and members of the Red Deer South Constituency Association also took issue with some of the changes proposed in their areas.
Commission member Peter Dobbie said on Thursday that the panel got the message. “We’re certainly very seriously looking at a dramatic realignment based on the requests we’ve heard.”
Dobbie said the proposed changes were made largely in an effort to reduce the size of large ridings by encompassing populations grouped around Hwy 2 with north-south configured ridings.
“By moving constituencies towards the corridor, it allows a lot of population to be captured.”
However, many Central Alberta representatives argued that traditional trading patterns and regional networks extend east and west and they would rather have bigger ridings than mess with those relationships.
The commission also found little local support for a proposal to carve out some of the Red Deer South riding, including Inglewood, Southbrook Bower and part of Anders subdivisions, and include it in a hybrid urban-rural riding called Innisfail-Red Deer.
Dobbie said changes proposed by the various Central Alberta constituencies were consistent and offered realignment alternatives without reducing riding populations. The commission is shooting for populations in the range of 40,880. The final report is due on July 22.
“It certainly looks like we may be able to accommodate this package of suggestions because they dovetail quite nicely.”
The commission is holding more public hearings beginning on Monday in Edmonton, with further dates in Peace River, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Brooks, and Drumheller. The hearings wrap up in Stettler on April 28 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Stettler Recreation Centre.