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Final report from boundary commission would see Wheatland split in three

By Monique Massiah, Strathmore Standard

Wheatland County’s region is going to be split into three, when the new electoral district of Chestermere-Strathmore is put in place.

 

The latest electoral district map proposed by the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission suggests that a new electoral boundary will be called Chestermere-Strathmore. This final proposal was presented to the Speaker of the House in the Legislature last week.

“The year-long review of Alberta’s electoral boundaries was undertaken as required by law, with a view to producing recommendations to the Legislature aimed at ensuring continued effective representation notwithstanding significant population growth in recent years. I thank the hundreds of Albertans who participated over the last year, making representations and providing feedback. Their insight has been invaluable to our process,” said Justice Myra Bielby, chairperson of the Electoral Boundaries Commission.

In its final report the commission recommends the formation of three new districts, Aidrie-Cochrane, Calgary-North East and Edmonton-South. The report also speaks to the consolidation of three areas where the commission says there is below average population growth over the last eight years.

One of those will be going from seven electoral districts to six including Battle River-Wainwright, Drumheller-Stettler, Strathmore-Brooks, Little Bow, Cardston-Taber-Warner, Cypress-Medicine Hat and Vermilion-Lloydminster.

The changes fracture Wheatland County into three pieces. Siksika Nation will be within a division called Cardston-Siksika, taking pieces of the Cardston-Taber-Warner and Little Bow division and adds the Town of Gleichen and Kainai First Nation. The Town of Strathmore is added to the Chestermere -Strathmore division, eliminating Rocky View County and Brooks. Namaka will remain in the same constituency as Siksika Nation. Finally the areas of around Standard, Rockyford and Hussar will join Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills.

According to the report, the changes join the Town of Strathmore with the City of Chestermere, both of which contain a considerable number of residents who work in the City of Calgary, thus joining common communities of interest. Strathmore currently shares the same riding as the City of Brooks, a primarily agricultural community, the report notes.

“Even though the majority of the Electoral Boundary Commission was appointed by the NDP, I had been hopeful that they would be non-partisan and refrain from gerrymandering and penalizing rural Alberta, but I was unfortunately misplaced hope,”said Strathmore-Brooks MLA Derek Fildebrandt.

“They removed three seats out of rural Alberta. No more than two were necessary to balance the population. In our constituency I am disappointed to see Strathmore and Brooks separated. But if that was going to happen it would only be common sense at the very least keep our counties in tact,” he said.

“The NDP’s electoral commission has cut Wheatland County into three different constituencies and it makes no good sense whatsoever. Gleichen and Cluny are now going to be in one gerrymandered constituency that stretches all the way to the Montana border,” Filderbrandt said.

“Standard, Hussar and Rockyford are going to now be lumped in with Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, and I think it was very unfortunate that the commission decided to cut up the county this way,” he said.

“Both my self, county councillors and Strathmore council had all submitted to the commission that Wheatland County be kept in tact and so it’s extremely disappointing that they didn’t do that,” he said.

Fildebrandt explained that now as the final report has been submitted it can be amended at the legislative level.

“They generally get their way more often or not, because they appointed the majority of commission,” he said. He said that the changes show a flagrant disregard for the interests of people in Wheatland County.

The changes also mean at the county level of government, Wheatland County council will likely be dealing with three different MLAs from three different constituencies to cover the region.

For more information on the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission, please visit abebc.ca