INNISFAIL – Mayor Jean Barclay took the town’s objections over proposed federal election riding boundary changes to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta last week and came away feeling a positive impact was made.
“I felt that they listened. They were taking notes and they will go back with the comments,” said Barclay, who was in Calgary on Sept. 20th for a public hearing this month into the proposed federal riding changes. “I was very pleased and they seem to be very interested in what we have to say.”
On Sept. 6, the Alberta commission began a month-long series of 22 public hearings, including in Olds and Red Deer on Sept. 21. There is a virtual hearing on Oct. 14.
The three-member commission (FEBCA), which is chaired by Justice Bruce McDonald, is proposing three new federal ridings to add to the province’s current 34 electoral districts.
The proposal reflects the increase in Alberta's population from 3,645,257 in 2011 to 4,262,635, as tabulated in the 2021 Census. It considers communities of interest or identity, and historic and geographic factors.
The plan has Innisfail and Bowden removed from the current Red Deer - Mountain View riding and into the huge redrawn Bow River riding.
Innisfail would be tucked near the northwest corner of the Bow River riding that stretches east to the Saskatchewan border and south to near Lethbridge.
“We emphasized the commonalities we have with our regional neighbours, the fact that historically we have been in Red Deer - Mountain View riding for a number of years, and pulling us into this new Bow River riding we are not convinced we will be well represented, just because it's almost impossible for the Member of Parliament to be representing people in Brooks and people in Innisfail,” said Barclay, who was joined at the public hearing by Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer.
“You are three hours apart. We feel that to have good representation our MP needs to understand our area, needs to understand our concerns and issues and needs to be available to us when we need that,” she added.
Barclay’s pitch emphasized the longstanding relationships with both the City of Red Deer and Red Deer County.
“The new boundaries are indicating the City of Red Deer would be one riding, which is fine but we're very much wanting to emphasize the impact of pulling us out of Central Alberta and into a southeastern Alberta riding would have on our areas,” she said.
Bowden mayor Mayor Robb Stuart and CAO Rudy Friesen also attended the Sept. 20th public hearing, and made a presentation to the commission on behalf of their municipality.
The redistribution proposal will be refined with feedback from all hearings across the country and be submitted as a report to the House of Commons on or before Dec. 15, and is expected to be in place before the next federal election.