Adjusting the existing provincial boundaries to bring the entire county into one constituency would have several benefits, Mountain View County reeve Bruce Beattie has told the Alberta electoral boundaries commission.
Speaking at the commission’s hearing in Olds on Jan. 25, Beattie said having the county divided between the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills and the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre ridings as is currently the case is not ideal.
“This configuration presents difficulties for a number of reasons,” said Beattie. “Geographically these are both very large ridings. The county is divided into two distinct ridings and therefore two MLAs. The natural trading area is not represented.”
The county believes a more workable boundary alignment would have Sundre become part of the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills riding, he said.
“From our perspective it would be preferable to have all of Mountain View County contained within one riding,” he said. “Likely the most logical solution would be to add Sundre area to the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills riding. This would keep all areas of Mountain View County, including all towns, within one riding.
“We would only have to communicate with one MLA. This would keep community differences to a minimum and retain the rural nature of the area, and it would not increase travel time for the Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA significantly, but would reduce the travel time for the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House MLA.”
At the same time Beattie said the county would not be in support of being included in “urban ridings such as Calgary, Red Deer and Airdrie as was proposed in 2010.
“We do not share a common interest with them which makes it extremely difficult for an MLA to effectively represent the interests of rural Alberta.”
Beattie said the county is in support of the position taken by the AAMDC (Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties) regarding boundaries.
Mountain View County councillor Al Kemmere, who is also the president of the AAMDC, said earlier that, “There is always the concern that they (commission) will only use population as their defining factor and that creates some almost impossible challenges for counties and municipal districts.
“It is a concern that our rural riding may become too large (in terms of overall area), making it harder for the MLAs to get in touch with their communities or individual citizens to get in touch with their MLAs.”
Carstairs’ Rhonda Wise also addressed the panel at the Olds hearing, calling for all levels of government to use the same demographics for their respective boundaries.
“There should be some sort of continuity between all governments to be able to have a person come in and say, ëOK, I’ve been here before and this is where I’m supposed to vote’ instead of being sent off to Crossfield or Olds or wherever because they are in the wrong place. So that would be something I would like you to look at,” said Wise.
The commission is examining all 87 ridings in the province and will make suggestions for any changes.
In its deliberations the commission will take into consideration the “requirement for effective representation, the scarcity and density of populations and common community interests as well as existing municipal boundaries and geographical features,” officials said.
Justice Myra B. Bielby is chair of the commission, which is scheduled to submit an interim report within seven months and its final report within five months of the date of its first report.
About 25 people attended the Olds hearing.
– with files from Doug Collie