Federal boundary lines being redrawn across the province
The riding of Westlock – St. Paul might cease to exist if proposed changes to the federal electoral boundaries go ahead, with St. Paul instead becoming part of a Lakeland riding.
In the draft, lines across the entire province are redrawn and new names given to most ridings. According to the draft, St. Paul would be in a riding called Lakeland, which would include communities such as Cold Lake, Bonnyville, Vegreville, Vermilion and Lloydminster.
Residents on the east side of the Westlock-St. Paul riding seem to be more accepting of the changes than residents on the west side, according to Westlock – St. Paul’s MP.
“It doesn’t seem like a bad idea,” says Brian Storseth about the new Lakeland riding, adding that St. Paul would be homogenous with the rest of the riding. But grouping communities such as Westlock and Barrhead into a riding that stretches all the way to the Northwest Territories and to the B.C. border is a “ridiculous option.”
“The Lakeland riding is a far more reasonable riding,” says Storseth.
When he gave his submission, Storseth says he recommended the riding stay as it is, especially since the Westlock-St. Paul riding was a new riding in 2004 and it takes time for constituents to get used to the changes. The population of Westlock-St. Paul is 107,532, according to Storseth, which is very close to the number being sought.
The new Lakeland riding would have a population of 104, 502.
“At the end of the day, it should be about what people want,” says Storseth, adding that the process shouldn’t involve politicians drawing lines on a map in a back room.
Storseth says he will be meeting with his association and local governments to discuss how they feel about the proposed draft. He adds that he is not too concerned about the first draft, since it is still early in the process.
He encourages communities to put in written submissions if they have any concerns about the boundary redistribution. It’s important that people take the opportunity to offer input, he says.
The redistribution process is required by the Canadian constitution to happen every eight to 10 years. The current redistribution process will include six new ridings in Alberta, for a total of 34, to account for population increases.
“Population shifts and the creation of six new electoral districts have resulted in a new electoral district landscape for Alberta,” said Carole Conrad, chair of the three-member Electoral Boundaries Commission, in a release. The population in Alberta has increased from 2.9 million to 3.6 million, according to the 2011 census.
“As one electoral boundary was drawn, an adjacent electoral district was inevitably impacted. As a result, all electoral districts in Alberta have been altered, some more substantially than others.”
The process will now go to a public hearing stage, where the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission will travel through the province to solicit feedback. A final draft is scheduled to reach the Chief Electoral Officer by Dec. 21, 2012.
The commission has scheduled hearings in Barrhead and Vegreville in September, but none in St. Paul at this time.
Regardless of the changes made to the riding, for the next three years Storseth says he is committed to representing the people of Westlock-St. Paul, “the same as we always have.”
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