By RANDY FIEDLER
and LANA MICHELIN
The City of Red Deer will be split into two new federal constituencies.
Using Ross Street and the Red Deer River as a boundary, the new ridings will be Red Deer-Mountain View to the south and Red Deer-Wolf Creek to the north, according to a Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta final report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.
Although Red Deer will get two MPs in the next federal election, it will share these representatives with a lot of rural communities — prompting Mayor Morris Flewelling to question if the area’s urban concerns will be as well heard.
He noted that rural and urban people share a lot of common interests, such as access to health care. But there’s also a rural/urban split on many issues, including the gun registry, gay marriage, dealing with drug and alcohol addiction and other things.
As Red Deer’s population is nearing 100,000, Flewwelling said, “I wonder if the focus of our voice will be lost?” On the other hand, he believes the new boundaries may not create a significant change if the current Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen moves into the new Red Deer-Mountain View seat, while Wetaskiwin MP Blaine Calkins becomes the Red Deer-Wolf Creek MP.
The Red Deer-Mountain View riding contains Innisfail, Olds, Sundre, Didsbury and Carstairs, with its border just north of Crossfield. The Red Deer-Wolf Creek riding contains Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Lacombe, Ponoka and the four Hobbema reserves to just south of Wetaskiwin.
The current Red Deer riding follows Red Deer County’s borders. But Red Deer County will now be split between two ridings.
Most county residents will be in Red Deer-Mountain View, while a few on the eastern edge will be part of the new Battle River riding, which includes Stettler, Three Hills, and Drumheller, to east of Leduc to the Saskatchewan border.
Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood would have preferred that all residents be represented by a Red Deer MP for the sake of convenience. Many county dwellers drive in to the city for work, shopping and recreation, said Wood, who believes it will be more hassle to have to travel to Camrose or some other place to see their MP.
“It’s unfortunate that everybody’s wishes couldn’t be accommodated,” Wood said, but people will adjust.
The proposed changes come despite efforts by Central Alberta politicians and residents to convince the commission otherwise at September hearings.
Delburne, Elnora and Lousana and area residents opposed being moved into a revamped Battle River riding, saying they had more in common with the western county than the east.
Rocky town and Clearwater County officials feared getting lost in a large north-south constituency instead of a historical east-west one.
Despite these concerns, Rocky Mountain House will become part of an rejigged Yellowhead riding running from north of Grande Cache to just north of Banff.
Flewwelling had preferred the commission’s second proposal — of the city having its own riding and a second doughnut-shaped surrounding district.
The commission considered both alternatives, but opted for the second, saying the city’s interests “are inextricably intertwined with those of the surrounding communities in terms of trade, industry, recreation, health and others” and “the commission views the hybrid districts as preferable.”
Electoral boundaries are revised every decade following a census to reflect population growth and shifts. Alberta gains six new seats resulting from a 2001 population of 2,974,807 growing to 3,645,257 in 2011.
Districts are revised to keep population levels comparable. Red Deer-Mountain View has 108,465 residents while Red Deer–Wolf Creek has 107,985, putting them close to the electoral quota of 107,213.