Some Alberta communities push back on proposed changes to federal riding boundaries
Draft map splits up Edmonton-Wetaskiwin, the most populous riding in Canada
Several communities surrounding Edmonton are raising concerns about proposed changes to federal riding boundaries.
Municipal officials from Beaumont, Wetaskiwin, Leduc County and Strathcona County are asking the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta to reconsider potential changes that, they say, could fracture longstanding cultural and economic relationships between communities.
"The separation of Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan, as well as splitting the Urban Service Area within Strathcona County would appear to be counter to the principles that are designed to guide this process," Deputy Mayor Dave Anderson wrote in a letter to the commission last month.
Ten independent commissions — one for each province — have been reviewing ridings with a goal of forming districts that each contain about 115,000 residents.
Three new ridings have been proposed in Alberta, including one called Spruce Grove-Leduc, which would include the towns of Stony Plain and Devon.
The proposed map eliminates the Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding, links Beaumont with Sherwood Park and pairs Wetaskiwin with Lacombe. Leduc County residents would be divided between five districts. Northeast of the city, Fort Saskatchewan would be separated from Strathcona County, moving to the more rural Lakeland riding.
"We have nothing against our Sherwood Park neighbours, but we have nothing in common with them," said Beaumont mayor Bill Daneluik.
Beaumont is far from Sherwood Park, he said, and has stronger ties to Leduc — both the city and the county.
Proposed changes would axe hybrid ridings
The proposed map alters much of the electoral landscape for the greater Edmonton region, as the commission has recommended that all Edmonton electoral districts lie within city limits.
"Separating Edmonton from the rural part, south of Edmonton, is a good decision," said Mike Lake, Edmonton-Wetaskiwin's Conservative MP.
In terms of population, the Edmonton-Wetaskiwin riding is by far the biggest in Canada. The riding received an infusion of residents after chunks of land south of 41st Avenue were annexed to the City of Edmonton in 2019.
Having Wetaskiwin and Maskwacis together in one riding makes sense, Lake said, but separating nearby communities — like Beaumont and Leduc County — could be avoided.
He figures keeping the current riding intact, while dropping the Edmonton neighbourhoods, would be the best solution.
"That would be exactly what we would like to see as well," said City of Wetaskiwin Coun. Gabrielle Blatz.
If the commission's proposed changes go forward, the city of St. Albert, which was previously linked with part of northwest Edmonton, would be added to a reconfigured Sturgeon River riding.
A new Edmonton Winterburn district would include parts of the current St. Albert-Edmonton, Edmonton West and Edmonton Griesbach ridings.
The Edmonton Mill Woods and Edmonton Riverbend ridings would extend to the city's southern limits, while a new riding, Edmonton Gateway, would be created in south-central Edmonton.
Ron Thiering, who ran for the Liberals in Edmonton-Wetaskiwin in the last election, said the changes could lead to some south Edmonton residents electing a non-Conservative candidate.
"Being a Liberal, it's always a little harder to run in rural Alberta," he said.
Commission working on report
Alberta's commission has three members: Justice Bruce McDonald, Donald Barry and Donna Wilson.
The commission is writing its report to Parliament, and it should be submitted within the next month-and-a-half, McDonald said in an email to CBC News.
The report will contain many changes to the proposal, including some that will be "quite substantial," he said, adding that the changes were informed by comments from the public.
"The commission did a very good job of being open to our viewpoints," said Daneluik, who presented at one of the public hearings last month.