Already one of the largest electoral divisions in Alberta, the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre division could grow even larger.
Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission proposed the current boundary lines grow to include parts of what is currently Drayton Valley-Devon.
The report given on May 23, 2017 is not the final word on the issue. The general public has until July 8 to write to the commission to give their opinions and what they would like to see done with the boundary lines.
Jason Nixon, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre encourages everyone to write in to the commission.
“I am absolutely concerned about growing the constituency,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s concern with the proposed changes stems from the growth of population in the area.
When deciding on changes to the boundaries, the commission compared each division’s population, one-by-one, against the provincial average of 46,697.
The commission chose to create a new division in both Calgary and Edmonton, which means two divisions from outside the urban centres would have to be eliminated. This coincides with the proposed change to add parts of the Drayton Valley riding to the Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.
“The resulting population would be 54,609, 17 per cent above the provincial average. This variance is justified by the expectation that population growth will continue at a lower pace than the provincial average,” the interim report states.
Nixon said the area and population are too big for one riding.
“The suggested change means the population in the constituency would grow. It would be larger than even Edmonton’s ridings,” said Nixon.
According to Nixon, the change would mean the new division would end up having the highest population in the province. Nixon believes if a larger riding was to be the only option, one that had a total population of three or four per cent higher would be “more acceptable.”
While the commission “sympathizes with the concerns” of this who will be affected by the proposed changes, they felt growing the current riding was the best option.
“The majority believes that the concerns of residents outside of urban areas can be addressed by measures falling short of creating electoral divisions with significantly smaller populations than average,” the report states.
The measures suggested by the commission include opening satellite offices, being driven to Edmonton and events by staff – so the member of legislature can work from the vehicle – and using telephone and e-mail as communication more often then in person.
“…the majority is not satisfied that the resulting demands would significantly exceed those placed on MLAs serving smaller geographic areas, including those in cities,” the interim report states.
Helen Posti, Mayor of Eckville, disagrees with the ideas of the commission. She believes having a larger area to cover would mean the elected official will be less likely to see his constituents in person or make it to events.
“As it is, they already have trouble making it out to events,” Posti said at a recent town council meeting.
Nixon agrees a larger riding would make it more difficult for the official elected in the riding. He said it becomes difficult to get to and from events and places within the riding.
“It becomes difficult to make a connection with the constituents and to actually talk to them about their issues,” said Nixon.
Because the report is only a draft, that means the proposed changes are not yet final, and people can still make their voices heard. Nixon is working to “do something” about the changes proposed by the commission.
He said he is meeting with municipalities within his riding and with those in the Drayton Valley-Devon riding.
“We are lucky none of our municipalities were moved out. Many in Drayton Valley are upset about being separated,” said Nixon.
If the changes are approved, Nixon said there will be some readjusting to do, so he can accommodate such a large population, but he will still work hard to represent his constituents.
However, right now the changes are still in flux and Nixon urges everyone to write into the commission to tell them what they think of the changes.
The commission is taking in letters until July 8. Letters of concern or recommendations can be made to Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission. Suite 100, 11510 Kingsway Avenue, Edmonton, Alta., T5G 2Y5.
A public hearing will be made during the week of July 17. The final recommendations will be made to the Alberta Government at an unknown later date.