Officials split on new electoral boundaries

Disappointment out west and happiness out east greeted word of the new Central Alberta federal electoral boundaries.

Disappointment out west and happiness out east greeted word of the new Central Alberta federal electoral boundaries.

Rocky Mountain House and Caroline will be part of a redesigned Yellowhead riding from north of Grande Cache to just north of Banff.

Rocky area officials said on Thursday that the large north-south constituency makes little sense.

“We have 215 years of fur-trading history here and all our trade has been east-west, but the numbers game came up. I guess we have to accept it,” said Rocky Mayor Fred Nash.

Districts are revised every decade for comparable population levels and shifts. Yellowhead’s population is 107,741 while Red Deer-Mountain View has 108,465 and Red Deer–Wolf Creek 107,985. The commission’s quota is 107,213.

Rocky Chamber of Commerce president Jerry Pratt is “pretty disappointed, but not surprised” at inclusion with Hinton and Edson.

“We have two very different trade corridors. Everything there is oriented to Edmonton and everything here is oriented to Red Deer: schools, athletics, health care.”

Nash said Rocky needs new relationships with those communities, especially since the riding will elect a new MP. Rocky is now represented by Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins, who was unavailable for comment.

Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood is “relieved” that Delburne, Elnora and Lousana are in the Red Deer-Mountain View riding with the rest of the county.

“Those who come from the eastern area were heard and the commission made a wise decision.”

Former Delburne mayor Ray Reckseidler was thrilled.

“That’s great news. We left the (September commission) presentation feeling our concerns had been heard,” he said, adding he spoke to commissioners during a break who said “your concerns were well expressed and yours is pretty easy to fix.”

Elnora Mayor Robert Aellen was pleased because “we didn’t want to go to Camrose when we could go to Red Deer.”

Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen is “glad the presenters did a good job when the boundary hearings took place,” saying it’s a sign the process works.

He said splitting Red Deer into two hybrid rural-urban ridings might leave some frustrated.

“I had some discussions with city representatives about that and trying to look at how big then the rural area would have been to accommodate that 110,000 population.”

Dreeshen plans to run again in Red Deer-Mountain View.

Dave Baugh, a Red Deer College political science instructor, said “Surrounding areas share a lot with Red Deer: they commute to work here, recreation, shopping. I don’t think there would be the sharp differences.”

He added this is the Harper government’s third try at changes, the first two during minority governments failed due to Ontario and Quebec objections.

“Alberta gets six new seats and in the second attempt, we only got five.”

Former Red Deer Liberal candidate Garfield Marks criticized the city split, saying, “The best way to dilute the urban vote is to put it in a minority.

“Under an apolitical system, Red Deer would have its own voice. All governments try to gerrymander the ridings to reflect their base. It’s not to represent the people, it’s to maintain their power.”

He thinks MPs from the two Red Deer ridings will be from Olds and Ponoka, not the city.

“The conservative vote is rural based and they’ll vote for rural-based people. I can’t see a politician living at extreme ends of their ridings.”