Red Deer ripe for carving?

Proposed changes to Alberta’s electoral map has some Central Alberta MLAs scratching their heads.

This is a map of the current Red Deer South riding. The green area is the portion south and east of Gaetz Ave and Molly Bannister Drive

This is a map of the current Red Deer South riding. The green area is the portion south and east of Gaetz Ave and Molly Bannister Drive

Proposed changes to Alberta’s electoral map has some Central Alberta MLAs scratching their heads.

In the interim report from the Electoral Boundaries Commission, the southernmost portion of MLA Cal Dallas’s Red Deer South would become part of the new Innisfail-Red Deer constituency that would extend as far south as Drumheller.

Inglewood, Southbrook, Bower and most of Anders would be taken out of Red Deer South.

“I’m not entirely convinced that Red Deer South residents, particularly at that south boundary, would necessarily be enamoured by being placed into a constituency that would largely be rural, and be a very large constituency,” said Dallas.

“Ultimately, I recognize that at some point Red Deer is growing to the point that it will merit three constituencies. But I’m not convinced the compromise, I guess, that’s provided by the boundary commission is really what my constituency or constituents would be looking for. But we’ll see.”

Dallas cautions the changes are part of an interim report and boundaries may be further adjusted. He wants to hear what residents think.

Red Deer North would also be adjusted with northernmost parts of the constituency added to Lacombe-Ponoka.

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette questions proposed changes that would reconfigure his riding on a north-south access, instead of the existing east-west shape.

“I always say in these boundaries and stuff you should be taking into consideration the trading patterns where people do their business (and) what direction do they go when they go and do their business.

“All we’re saying is can we make this work. And that’s why there’s an interim (report). There’s always room to move things a little bit, and tweak things and fix things,” said Ouellette, who intends to make a submission to the commission.

Ouellette’s Innisfail-Sylvan Lake riding would be changed to Sylvan Lake and include parts of Lacombe and Ponoka counties. The Town of Innisfail and an area east of Hwy 2 would become part of a new Innisfail-Red Deer riding, which would also include a chunk of the city in the south.

Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Richard Marz also has concerns about the changes.

Marz said he is preparing a submission for the commission asking it to reconsider the boundaries to take into account trading areas, natural boundaries and existing areas of co-operation, such as regional water commissions.

The Innisfail-Red Deer riding would see the southern portion of Red Deer fall in a riding that extends to Drumheller, and Kneehill County.

“I don’t see any common issues between Kneehill County and the City of Red Deer,” he said.

The new boundaries also split Mountain View County nearly in half, putting communities with similar issues in separate ridings.

Ty Lund also has problems with how the new Rocky Mountain House-Olds riding would be shaped. The new riding would add Olds, which will leave an MLA responsible for two similar-sized communities at near-opposite ends of a huge riding. The elected representative’s job would be further complicated because of the number of events where a provincial presence is requested at Olds College.

The riding has also been extended to the south to enlarge it and Lund would prefer the east-west alignment of the riding be maintained.

“You’re not following the trade patterns and that creates some problems.”

The province’s Electoral Boundaries Commission has been charged with reviewing the province’s electoral map and making recommendations on the areas, boundaries and names for 87 electoral divisions — four more than at present. The commission is aiming for an average population of just under 41,000 for each of the ridings.

A series of 14 public hearings were held across the province last fall and the commission submitted its interim report to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on Feb. 24.

The commission is now seeking public feedback and a second series of public hearings are expected to be scheduled between April 12 to 30. Written submissions will be accepted until April 2.

A final report is expected to be done by July.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com