Communities fear loss of voices in new ridings

Central Albertans let a federal commission responsible for gathering feedback on the proposed federal electoral map know they made a mistake.

Central Albertans let a federal commission responsible for gathering feedback on the proposed federal electoral map know they made a mistake.

Two public hearings at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel on Wednesday drew about 20 presenters who voiced their concerns, including losing their voice in a vast riding and being tied to a riding that did not make sense historically or economically.

A large contingent from communities in the eastern section of Red Deer County, including Elnora, Lousana and Delburne, asked a three-member Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission to include their towns and villages in the proposed Red Deer-Mountain View riding instead of the revamped Battle River riding.

Delburne Mayor Ray Reckseidler said his community has been well represented in the past and would like to remain with Red Deer for purposes of distance and physical barriers.

“Our seniors will always try to find accommodation in Red Deer,” said Reckseidler. “We belong to Parkland Foundation, which is to the west of us not to the east of us. For emergency preparedness and services we need to have quick response times. We have agreements with the City of Red Deer that allow us to have quick response times. It’s a lot farther to have those services come from Canmore or Drumheller. Time is of the essence.”

Reckseidler said the village would have to negotiate new agreements with the municipalities.

Victor Duffin, a resident in Lousana, collected roughly 170 signatures from his neighbours asking the commission to expand the proposed Red Deer-Mountain View boundary to the Red Deer River. Duffin said his neighbours shop and do business in Innisfail and Red Deer.

“The Red Deer River has always been a natural boundary in that area,” said Duffin. “It would be splitting us off the Red Deer County.”

Duffin said they would have to travel longer distances to voice their issues to their member of Parliament.

Every 10 years, after the census is conducted, the number of electoral districts and their boundaries are revised to reflect population shifts and growth. Alberta will gain six electoral districts as a result of the increase in its population from 2,974,807 in 2001 to 3,645,257, as captured in the 2011 census. Population shifts and the creation of the new districts means that all electoral districts in Alberta have been altered, some more substantially than others.

As part of the alignment, Red Deer would be split into a Red Deer-Mountain View riding that includes Mountain View County and a portion of Red Deer County excluding the previously mentioned communities west of the Red Deer River.

The Red Deer-Wolf Creek riding would include Lacombe County and a portion of Ponoka and Red Deer counties. Mayor Morris Flewwelling was expected to speak at the hearing in the evening.

The new Yellowhead riding would expand further west and south, encompassing much of Clearwater County.

The proposed district would run south of Peace River, along the western boundary of British Columbia, south to the North Saskatchewan River, and east of Woodlands County.

A large show of representatives from Rocky Mountain House, Clearwater County and Caroline appeared before the commission citing concerns of getting lost in the vast north-south riding and their preference to stay in an east to west or a Central Alberta riding.

“There’s a Central Alberta identity,” said Jim Duncan, a Clearwater County councillor and on the county’s Agriculture Services Board. “People have said it time and again. All of our health care is in Red Deer centre. We deliver our agricultural grain to Central Alberta. There’s that Central Alberta identity. When we think politically we think Central Alberta.”

Duncan said they can live in a large riding as long as it is Central Alberta-based because that’s where their history and their traditions lie. He said the member of Parliament for the riding would be more effective if he were to look after a Central Alberta riding instead of a north-south alignment.

Clearwater County Reeve Pat Alexander said the municipality of 12,000 residents would fit better in an east-west riding because of relationships with other municipalities including Red Deer, Caroline and Rocky Mountain House and economic ties that span east to west. Shannon Fagnan, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, said the business community in Caroline is worried about suffer because of the lack of geographical representation and conflicting interests in the vast riding.

The commission says its main aim in redrawing boundaries is to divide the province into electoral districts as close to the average population as reasonably possible. A report from the hearings across the country is expected to be before the House of Commons by Dec. 21. Should the changes go ahead, the earliest the boundaries would be in is in April 2014.