By Jamie Rieger
Drew Barnes, MLA for Cypress-Medicine Hat said he was dismayed when he first saw what the province had planned for electoral boundary changes, changes that would encorporate Cypress-Medicine into a much larger riding, to be named Taber-Vulcan.
“My first thought was, ‘what a slap in the face from the NDP government to rural Alberta’. We are losing three seats here and Calgary, Edmonton, and Airdrie are gaining,” said Barnes. “Yes, representation by population is important, but this boundary change comes very over-weighted.”
“Twenty percent of the committee felt it was unfair to do this. Locally, in our corner of the province, we have agriculture and oil and gas and we are going to be overlooked again,” he said. “HALO has been ignored and so has the entire corner of the province,” he said.
Should the electoral boundary changes be approved, and Barnes expects them to be, it would extend the current riding from 20 minutes outside of Calgary to the Wildhorse border crossing.
The Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission released its report last week, a report that highlighted redistribution concerns.
Wildrose Shadow Democracy and Accountability minister, Nathan Cooper said, “In order for MLAs to be responsive to their constituents, there must be an acknowledgment of the geographic constraints of our province, and not simply lump together communities for the sake of making population requirements add up. As a result, the report, as it stands today, is not supported by Wildrose.”
By contrast, Public Interest Alberta praised the commission for a job well done.
“The members of the commission have done a first-rate job in a very difficult set of tasks,” said Larry Booi, chair of Public Interest Alberta’s democracy task force. “The interim report is based on solid democratic principles, and represents a thoughtful and systematic approach to the complex tasks of reforming the province’s electoral boundaries. The consultation process has been exemplary, and the Commission has clearly listened to calls for a more democratic approach by making representation by population their top priority, recognizing all votes should count equally.”
Barnes said he is not making any decisions at this time, but expects the boundary changes to be passed.
“I’m going to be talking to my volunteers and my wife and go from there. I am so grateful to represent the people of the constituency. I’ve met so many excellent people with excellent ideas. We’ll see.”