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Resident urges panel to keep Olds and Bowden in same constituency

At a hearing in Olds on Sept. 21, Olds resident Joy Cavin urged the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta (FEBCA) not to split Bowden and Olds from each other in proposed new federal ridings, saying the two communities have lots in common.
MVT Joy Cavin Electoral Boundaries-1
Olds resident Joy Cavin addresses the Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta during its Sept. 21 hearing at the Pomeroy Inn & Suites.

OLDS — During a hearing in Olds, the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta (FEBCA) was urged not to split Bowden and Olds from each other in proposed new federal ridings. 

That hearing was held Sept. 21 in the Pomeroy Inn & Suites. 

Commissioners were not exactly overwhelmed with a stampede of speakers.  

Just two people spoke: Olds resident Joy Cavin, who was on the commission’s formal list of speakers, and Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards, who was not on that list. A third person scheduled to speak did not do so. 

As a result, the hearing lasted less than half an hour. 

Commission chair Justice Bruce McDonald said because Alberta’s population grew by about 800,000 between the 2011 census and the 2021 census, the province has been granted three more electoral districts (also called ridings), for a total of 37. 

Currently, Olds, Innisfail and Bowden are all in the Red Deer - Mountain View riding. 

The commission has drawn new proposed electoral boundaries that would see Olds at the very northeastern tip of a new riding called Canmore-Cochrane-Olds which would also include Canmore.  

Bowden and Innisfail would become part of the gigantic Bow River riding. 

Cavin, who has lived in both Olds and Canmore, objected to the new ridings for Olds and Bowden, saying the two communities should stay in the same electoral boundaries because they’re intimately connected. 

For example, many residents of Bowden work in Olds and Cavin noted that her son, while a resident of Olds, plays hockey in Bowden. 

In fact, Cavin urged the commission to keep all communities along Highway 2 in the Olds area together because they share the same kind of industries such as farming, and the same cultural interests. 

“Olds has a very strong agricultural base, with the Olds College of Agriculture & Technology one of the major employers and farming a primary economic industry,” she said. 

In contrast, Cavin said the connection with Canmore is “not clear,” as its main commercial base appears to be focused on tourism, health and wellness. 

In addition, Cavin said Canmore’s population of nearly 16,000 compared to Olds’ more than 9,000, could result in Canmore’s interests concerns drowning out those of Olds residents. 

She also decried a proposal to split Canmore and Banff into two separate ridings, saying those residents of those two communities also have strong commercial and cultural connections. 

“By putting all of these communities into different federal districts, we would be at risk of poor federal representation," Cavin said. 

“Rural communities are already at a disadvantage, based on population numbers for having their needs issues addressed at the federal level.” 

Commission chair Justice Bruce McDonald asked how Cavin would suggest solving the problem. 

“I don’t know that I have a better answer other than to tell you that from our perspective, splitting Olds and Bowden is not the right answer," she said. 

McDonald asked if maybe the problem could be solved by adding Olds and Bowden to the Red Deer riding, although he pointed out that riding already has a population of 113,734. 

Cavin said Olds does have more connection with Red Deer than Cochrane, as residents do travel to Red Deer for some medical appointments, appearances at Court of King’s Bench or other provincial services. 

“You just can’t take our Bowden away,” she said. 

Commissioner Donna Wilson asked Cavin what she would think about drawing electoral boundaries across county boundaries but keeping the “spine” of communities along Highway 2 in the same riding. 

Cavin said she didn’t care about crossing county boundaries, as long as the communities along the QE II stay in the same riding. 

She said that would make it easier for an MP to represent that riding because the residents’ concerns and priorities would be much the same. 

Richards echoed Cavin’s points.  

And he had a proposed solution. 

He recommended putting Cochrane back into a riding with Airdrie, then moving Chestermere into the Canmore-Cochrane-Olds riding. 

Richards said that would create two horseshoe-shaped ridings around Calgary: one smaller one with Airdrie and Cochrane in it and another larger one which would include Canmore and Banff, run up through Mountain View County to Bowden then down to take in Chestermere. 

“There’s precedent for doing that and the population works very well to enable all those communities that prefer to be together to still be together," Richards said. 

“Is it a perfect solution? Probably not. But it puts everyone in all those areas (and appears) to be a better proposal than the current one.”  

During an interview with the Albertan, McDonald said by Sept. 21 the panel had held about 14 hearings, most of which  attracted between six and 12 people.  

He said the commission would hold in-person hearings no matter how few people show up for them. 

“If somebody is prepared to come out and make a submission in response to our list of hearings, we’re going to stay,” he said. 

McDonald also pointed that if one hearing site, date and time doesn’t work for people they can always travel to another one nearby that would work for their timetable. 

Also, a virtual hearing is slated for Oct. 14. 

In addition, McDonald noted that concerned residents can send written submissions into the commission. The commission will receive those submissions up to and including Nov. 1.