Elec­toral bound­ary bat­tle heats up

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa

Re­draft­ing the map of elec­toral bound­aries is hit­ting some op­po­si­tion, es­pe­cially in the Drumheller-Stet­tler rid­ing where the pro­posed new Drumheller-Strath­more rid­ing looks to in­crease the pop­u­la­tion and area.

The in­terim re­port of the Elec­toral Bound­aries Com­mis­sion was re­leased in May and it rec­om­mended some big changes to the lo­cal rid­ing, in­clud­ing re­mov­ing Stet­tler from the rid­ing, and adding Strath­more. This will bump the rid­ing pop­u­la­tion up from 36,810 to 54,232, a vari­ance of 16 per cent over the pro­vin­cial av­er­age of 46,698.

The pro­posal would also ex­pand the area of the rid­ing.

Nathan Cooper, Democ­racy and Ac­count­abil­ity Critic for the Of­fi­cial Op­po­si­tion, has con­cerns.

“In a con­stituency like Drumheller- Strath­more, it is go­ing to be north of 30,000 square kilo­me­tres and have a plus 16 per cent pop ula­tion, that doesn’ t check ei­ther of the boxes. It is nowhere close to par­ity in pop ula­tion and it makes it very dif­fi­cult in mak­ing it ef­fec­tive in rep­re­sent­ing that con­stituency,” said Cooper. “I don’t think it has done well for rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

He ex­plains the com­mis­sion has the power to make ex­cep­tions for rid­ing size and pop­u­la­tion up to 25 per­cent over the av­er­age, based on a

num­ber of cri­te­ria.

“The cur­rent Drumheller-Stet­tler con­stituency, it meets four of the five con­di­tions re­quired for it to be des­ig­nated as a spe­cial con­stituency,” he said. “The Bound­ary Com­mis­sion does have some other op­tions. They could al­low Drumheller-Stet­tler to re­main the same and be out­side of the 25 per cent pop­u­la­tion thresh­old.”

These cri­te­ria in­clude be­ing more than 150 kilo­me­ters from the leg­is­la­ture, no town within the divi­sion that has a pop­u­la­tion over 8,000, has a Metis or indige­nous set­tle­ment, shares a bound­ary with a pro­vin­cial bor­der and ex­ceeds 20,000 square kilo­me­ters.

Fol­low­ing the re­lease of the in­terim re­port, an­other round of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions be­gan. Writ­ten sub­mis­sions were be­ing ac­cepted un­til July 16. As well, there have been pub­lic meet­ings sched­uled with the Elec­toral Bound­ary Com­mis­sion in­clud­ing one in Brooks on July 21 at 1 p.m.

“There will be a large show of sup­port for changes to the map in the south-east cor­ner of the prov­ince,” he said.

MLA for Drumheller-Stet­tler Rick Strankman said they are plan­ning to have lo­cal voices heard.

“We are go­ing to be mak­ing a sub­mis­sion to the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion for an ex­cep­tion for Drumheller-Stet­tler,” said Strankman. “I see even less rep­re­sen­ta­tion for those of us who live east of Hanna. It’s frus­trat­ing. I’ve talked to coun­cil mem­bers from Stet­tler County and they’re in an up­roar be­cause Stet­tler County is ef­fec­tively cut in half, and the Town of Stet­tler is taken out. What kind of a Ger­ry­man­dered thing is that?” Cooper would like to see a pos­i­tive out­come for the area. “It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what hap­pens at the end of Oc­to­ber, once the com­mis­sion re­leases its fi­nal re­port. I cer­tainly hope for the peo­ple in that re­gion, that they make some changes, and read­just some of those lines, or des­ig­nate a spe­cial con­stituency.”

Nathan Cooper… MLA for Olds -Dids­bury -Three Hills

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