Calgary

Calgary ward boundaries approved after allegation of political interference retracted

Calgary's already contentious plan to redraw electoral boundaries prompted a heated exchange Monday, with Coun. Sean Chu alleging political interference in the process and Mayor Naheed Nenshi demanding an apology in response.

Council approves new lines for 2017 municipal election despite population imbalance in some wards

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he had no idea Coun. Sean Chu lived in Sandstone when he proposed changing the electoral boundary. (CBC)

Calgary's already contentious plan to redraw electoral boundaries prompted a heated exchange Monday, with Coun. Sean Chu alleging political interference in the process and Mayor Naheed Nenshi demanding an apology in response.

The dispute erupted after the mayor proposed making one tweak to the "final scenario" prepared by city staff for new ward boundaries that would take effect for the 2017 municipal election.

This scenario was already revised after city council rejected two earlier proposals from an independent commission tasked with redrawing the electoral lines last year.

To better balance populations, Nenshi suggested moving one or two northwest communities — either MacEwan or Sandstone Valley, or both — from Ward 4 into neighbouring Ward 3.

But Chu, who represents Ward 4, vehemently opposed the idea, which he described as a "purely political" manoeuvre directed against him. 

"Personally, I live in Ward 4, in Sandstone, and I think what this movement is, is to try to take me out of Ward 4," Chu said.

"This is political."

Aerial view of the communities of MacEwan (at left) and Sandstone Valley (at right). (Google Maps)

That prompted Nenshi to take the unusual step of leaving his chair to raise a point of privilege, saying Chu was out of order.

"I don't know where he lives, nor do I care," Nenshi said, noting the suggestion to move the communities was based entirely on population and geography.

According to the latest city census, 1,783 people live in MacEwan and another 6,103 live in Sandstone Valley.

The mayor said moving either or both of those communities into the adjacent Ward 3 would be a better fit, noting that ward would be — by far — the smallest in the city under the existing proposal.

Population deviation limits

Under the new boundaries, Ward 3 would contain 69,611 people, which is 20.8 per cent below the average of the city's 14 wards.

Ward 4, by contrast, would have 99,778 residents, which is 13.5 per cent above the average.

Barb Clifford, the city's returning officer, said the maximum population deviation in any one ward allowed by Alberta law is plus or minus 25 per cent but the "desired" deviation is 15 per cent or less.

Clifford also said residents of MacEwan and Sandstone Valley indicated "very strongly" during the commission's review process that they wanted to stay in the same ward, as MacEwan is largely residential and relies on the larger community to the east for most of its amenities.

Chu retracts 'personal interpretation'

Chu didn't specifically apologize but retracted his allegation, describing it as a "personal interpretation."

By a 10-5 vote, council then rejected moving MacEwan or Sandstone Valley into Ward 3.

Overall, the boundaries were approved by a 13-2 vote, with Nenshi and Coun. Andre Chabot voting in opposition.​​

The new wards, and their respective populations, are indicated on the map and chart below. They don't take effect until the October 2017 municipal election.

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