Many area municipalities are breathing a sigh of relief, as only small changes were suggested to the Drumheller-Stettler Constituency electoral boundaries.
The Alberta Government charged the Alberta Electoral Boundary Commission with realigning electoral boundaries to reflect the population, and to add four more seats. An interim report was filed in February of this year with sweeping changes that lumped Drumheller and Brooks being included in a single riding, and Wheatland County being included with communities to its west. The final report was submitted to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly on June 24, and it appears the suggested changes were not as drastic as the interim report suggested.
Drumheller-Stettler will remain intact, although now it includes a small portion of the of Olds-Three Hills-Didsbury riding to the west and it also encompasses the County of Paintearth.
This conclusion falls in line with submissions made by Councillors Karen Bertamini and Andrew Berdahl, who made submissions to the commission at a public meeting.
“This was our first option,” said Berdahl. “I think the changes are reasonable. I still have some concerns about the size of our constituency, but I think the commission has done a good job in difficult circumstances.”
Ross Rawlusyk, CAO of Starland County, said the county also felt the inclusion of Paintearth to the Drumheller-Stettler Riding was an attractive option.
“It makes sense,” said Rawlusyk. “We have a lot more in common with Paintearth than we do in Newell. And there are a lot more similarities in agricultural practices and the same school issues and population issues. There is a lot more commonality there.”
He agrees with Berdahl that the one issue that still faces the electoral division is sheer geographical size.
“How many Canada Day Parades can an MLA go to?” he chuckles.
Ben Armstrong, Reeve of Wheatland County, is relieved about the report, as the Brooks-Strathmore riding remained intact. His concern was that Wheatland would be included with more urban populations changing the dynamics of the riding.
“With the numbers as they are now, if you take the boundary and move it where you’re looking at moving it, you’d change the dynamics. The numbers change. The numbers don’t concern me that much. If we’re a little less or a little more, that’s not an issue; it’s the dynamics of what you’re making that area into,” he told the commission at a hearing in Brooks.
He is satisfied the commission made the right decision.
“It sounds like they took most of our comments to heart,” said Armstrong. “Our biggest problem is that Chestermere is totally urban. It has no link to rural people.
“It sounds like they were listening to us. That is pleasing because with some of the things we have been talking to them about, they haven’t been listening to us.”
Part of the commission’s responsibility was to add four more seats. The commission suggested two more in Calgary, one in Edmonton and one in the rural area.
CAO of Kneehill County, Kevin Miner’s biggest concern was that rural Alberta would lose representation.
“It sounds like they ironed out a few of the problems that were there. For us it is not always just ‘what does it do to Kneehill County’ but we think of this in terms of the number of rural MLAs. That is a larger issue for us and to protect that may be more important to us.”