Proposed electoral boundary map for the Vermilion-Lloydminster Constituency. Photo Submitted
Discussing their interim report, released on May 23, the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission held a public hearing at the Pomeroy in Vermilion on July 18.
Debate was in the air as the commission responded promptly to public participants from across northeastern Alberta.
Buffalo Trail Public School Division’s Vice Chair, Lanie Parr, read a letter from the board of Trustees.
“While we can appreciate the necessity to review the electoral boundaries to address issues, we are very concerned that the report recommendations have given little consideration to the voice of rural Albertans in our province,” said the letter.
Parr was also concerned on her own behalf that the proposed constituency boundaries would literally divide her communities in half when referring to Clandonald, Dewberry, and Marwayne.
“The people from my area that I represent, work, do business, attend schools, and play sports within the current area. Therefore, I do not understand why the lines are not drawn following the County of Vermilion River boundary to the north.
I’m surprised and disappointed that this does not seem to be in line with the Electoral Boundaries Commission’s website, where it says, ‘The Commission must take the following factors into consideration in making its recommendations to the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.’ One of the considerations is the areas of ‘common community interests and community organizations,’ as well as ‘existing municipal boundaries,’ which in this case I consider the County of Vermilion River boundaries to be,” said Parr.
The Honourable Madam Justice Myra Bielby, Chair, responded saying, “In regard to respecting common community boundaries and respecting municipal boundaries, that’s a goal, but we can’t always achieve that goal.”
Judy. And Ron Plett had attended the previous hearing in Wainwright, and again spoke at the hearing in Vermilion, also pleading for the commission to consider moving the northern boundary of the proposed Vermilion-Lloydminster Constituency to match the existing northern boundary of the County of Vermilion River, aiding them with a map.
“The reasons for this recommendation are that the communities in the northeast share a strong common community interest with the Vermilion-Lloydminster region, a common economic trading area. In our case, we would say clubs such as 4-H; also the Makaoo Indian Reserve, or what we call Onion Lake Reserve. They have many corporations that have major economic ventures, developments, and employment in the Lloydminster region,” said Ron Plett.
Several other areas raised their concerns, but another representative from the Vermilion-Lloydminster Constituency included MLA, Dr. Richard Starke.
“Voter parity does not equal effective representation. In my view, the interim report shows an overemphasis on numerical equivalence, on voter parity, and because of this a number of distortions have been introduced. I want to talk specifically about the northern boundary that currently is proposed to cut off the communities of Clandonald, Dewberry, Tulliby Lake, and the Onion Lake First Nation. This is a major problem,” said Starke.
Starke went on to give extensive reasoning as to why the proposal did not fit these areas, as well as communities in other counties not proposed in proper areas.
“Finally, I’m just going to state that leaving Vegreville out of the name is, quite frankly, a slight to the people of Vegreville, and I would recommend the constituency be named Vegreville-Vermilion-Lloydminster,” said Starke.
Commission member, W. Bruce McLeod, asked Starke about the differences MLA’s face between serving rural and urban constituencies.
“If you’ll forgive me for being so bold, the recommendations in the interim report as to how rural MLA’s could become more effective are woefully inadequate. Rural constituents expect to see the whites of the eyes of their MLAs. It goes well beyond the size of the constituency. It’s the fact that there is an expectation from each of these communities that you have a connection with them; if you lose that connection, people feel like they are not being represented.
That’s the overreaching task of the commission – effective representation. That does not equate to voter parity. Effective representation is a two-way street between the people (the voters) and their elected representative,” said Starke.
Starke’s speech received applause and commission member, Gwen Day, thanked Starke for articulating the role of rural MLAs so well.
The commission’s final report will be released in October of 2017. For more information, you can visit abebc.ca.