Federal boundary changes offer challenges
The founding meeting for the Liberal Lakeland Association was held earlier this month, and those in attendance voiced some concern regarding the new boundaries that have been set, following the redistribution of federal electoral districts.
The small group gathered on Feb. 8 at the St. Paul Senior Citizen Centre and much of the discussion dealt with changes the boundary changes that will see the M.D. of Bonnyville split in half, and the creation of what will be known as the Lakeland riding.
The riding will have a population of 104, 616, according to the Redistribution Federal Electoral Districts website and will include communities such as Bonnyville, which is on the northern border, St. Paul, Vemilion, Lloydminster, Vegreville and Athabasca. Westlock, which was part of the previous riding, will fall into the new Peace River-Westlock riding, and Cold Lake will now fall into the new Fort McMurray-Cold Lake riding, which also includes Lac La Biche.
“The new boundaries offer a lot in the way of challenges,” said Mark Watson, in a phone interview with the Journal. Watson was elected as the president of the Liberal Lakeland Association in February.
Watson feels that although people seem to know there will be changes in the boundaries for the next election, they aren’t really aware of what those changes are. He believes one of the most significant changes will be the dividing of the M.D. of Bonnyville.
“It will take some getting used to,” says Watson, adding, the boundary changes may also result in challenges for municipalities, grant applications could be pulled in different directions, and elected municipal officials may have to get to know a new member of parliament following the election.
Overall though, Watson feels that the new boundaries could result in a more level playing field for the next election, which is anticipated to be in the fall of 2015.
“I think it’s going to put everyone on a more equal playing field,” said Watson, adding, even the sitting MP will have to find out where his support is within the new riding.
For the Liberals, the process of finding a candidate to run in the next federal election will begin this spring, after an annual general meeting is held.
Along with the changes affecting voters in the next election, the change also means political parties have to have founding meetings for new associations, and dissolve the old associations.
The Conservative Lakeland Association was held in December, according to Westlock-St. Paul MP Brian Storseth, who has confirmed that he will be seeking re-election in the 2015 federal election in the new Lakeland Riding, since he resides in St. Paul.
Storseth confirmed that not everyone is happy about the boundary changes and added that “an unfortunate set of circumstances” had an effect on the process, since the judge in charge of redistribution for the area passed away part-way through the process.
He agreed “it’s not ideal for us when a municipality is split in half like the MD.”
The Conservative association is expected to begin its nomination process in the fall of 2014.