New Alberta ridings reflect population growth, electoral boundaries report says

Alberta's electoral boundaries commission remains committed to adding three urban ridings to reflect fast growing populations in Calgary and Edmonton.

Final report consolidates rural ridings to create three new ones in urban areas

Justice Myra Bielby, chairing the 2017 Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission, presents the final map of proposed electoral boundary changes Thursday. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Alberta's electoral boundaries commission remains committed to adding three more urban ridings to reflect fast growing populations in Calgary and Edmonton.

In its final report Thursday, the commission added three new electoral divisions to the map, one called Edmonton-South, another called Calgary-North East and a third northwest of Calgary, to be called Airdrie-Cochrane. 

The report consolidates a number of rural ridings to keep the total at 87.

It all comes down to Alberta's rapid population growth, mostly in Edmonton, Calgary, Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray," said Justice Myra Bielby, commission chair.

"Right now, a vote in Dunvegan would have 3½ times the effect of a vote in downtown Calgary if an election was held today," she said.

The final report comes five months after the interim report.

The final report is largely similar except for some name changes. It also shrinks some of the larger divisions, brings some divisions closer to the provincial average, and minimizes the dividing of counties between two or more electoral divisions.

"This report is a significant step forward for democracy and fair representation," said Joel French, executive director of Public Interest Alberta. "If adopted, the commission's recommendations would make votes count much more equally than they did in the last election."

The United Conservative Party criticized the report, saying it places too much emphasis on the number of people in each riding.

"While this report has made some changes to riding sizes and boundaries, it continues to miss the mark by placing too large of a value on population," said interim UCP leader Nathan Cooper.

The commission stuck with its recommendation to turn Fort McMurray-Conklin into the larger Fort McMurray-Lac la Biche riding, much to MLA Brian Jean's displeasure. 

At the time of the interim report, Jean, currently running for the leadership of the United Conservative Pary, argued that the low census numbers were due to people leaving the area after the wildfires. 

However, the commission argued the numbers were low even before the fire.

The report has been submitted to the Speaker of the legislative assembly and will be considered by MLAs, who will decide whether to adopt its recommendations in part or in full.

The UCP said it would like to see one more name change in the report.

"The United Conservative Party caucus will be making an amendment in the legislative assembly to have the name of the proposed Calgary-Greenway area riding changed to Calgary-Bhullar, as a fitting tribute to MLA Manmeet Bhullar's legacy."

Bhullar was killed in November 2015 on a snowy Queen Elizabeth II Highway when he was struck by a vehicle after he got out of his car to help another motorist.