By Jamie Rieger
People in southeast Alberta who want to participate in the upcoming electoral boundaries review public hearing, taking place at the Medicine Hat Lodge on Jan. 26, have until Jan. 18 to register and local municipal leaders are hoping for a robust response from their constituents to ensure the rural Alberta voice is kept alive during the process.
“People have to understand that it is not the same representation. The further away from Edmonton, the worse it gets. It is not as simple as one person, one vote,” said Bow Island councilor Alan Hyland. “This will impact our school boards, our county councils. Look at the size of some of them (constituencies) now.”
The boundaries of all 87 ridings in the province are being reviewed, but rural Alberta leaders are concerned that redistribution by population will lead to a loss of rural ridings and a quieter voice for rural Albertans in Edmonton.
Foremost mayor Ken Kultgen said, “I guess all rural municipalities are concerned about this. This is just another step in taking away the voice from rural Alberta.”
County of Forty Mile reeve, Bryne Lengyel is also concerned about losing rural representation.
“I would hope we still have some rural representation and I’m sure we will. I would hope the rural perspective will be there,” said Lengyel.
Under the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act, commissions are appointed after every second provincial general election, or between eight and 10 years from the appointment of the previous commission.
Members of the EBC include Justice Bielby, W. Bruce McLeod (Acme), D. Jean Munn (Calgary), Laurie Livingstone (Calgary), and Gwen Day (Carstairs).
The province is in the midst of holding a series of public hearings throughout the province and anybody wanting to provide an oral presentation must register online prior to the public hearing date. The hearing schedule can be found at http://www.ABebc.ca.
Written submissions must be submitted by Feb. 8 with submissions and the identities of the authors being made public.
A hearing will be held at the Medicine Hat Lodge on Jan. 26, starting at 1:00 p.m. Anybody wishing to attend must register at the above website by Jan. 19.
“Given that our population has grown by more than 20 percent in the last eight years, a review is key to ensuring fair and effective representation for all Albertans,” said justice minister, Myra Bielby, who is also chair of the electoral boundaries commission (EBC). “Now is the time for Albertans to share their thoughts as to how constituency boundaries should change through oral or written submissions.”
Following the public hearings, the EBC will make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. According to a statement released last week, in making their recommendations, the commission will consider public input, population figures and relative population density, common community interests, existing municipal and natural boundaries, and effective representation.
An interim report is to be sent by the commission by May 31 and a final report by Oct. 31.