Wednesday, September 23, 2009

my submission to the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission

Thank you for giving Albertans an opportunity to address the question of effective representation in the Legislative Assembly.

In 2009 the Assembly added subsection (3) to s.12 of the Electoral Boundaries Commission Act:
The Commission may use more recent population information, if available, in conjunction with the information referred to in [earlier] subsection[s].
I would encourage the Commission to give force to the Assembly's evident desire to address the problem of obsolete population data by reading this added subsection broadly. "Population information" may be defined to include PROJECTED population information. The use of projected numbers would help preclude an undermining of the spirit of the population variance limits. The 25% variance limit has been on the books for many years, yet in practice provincial elections have been held under conditions whereby these limits are routinely exceeded. Several suburban and exurban ridings had populations in excess of 40% of the provincial riding average in the 2008 election. On election day, the number of names on the list of electors for Airdrie-Chestermere was in excess of 165% of the number of electors for another riding. Unless the well established fact that suburban and exurban areas are the fastest growing is taken into account, the votes of these Albertans will again be at risk of counting for less than half of what the votes of some other Albertans count for in a provincial election held prior to the next redistricting. I understand that some currently expect the Wildrose Alliance Party to be especially competitive in suburban and exurban areas in future elections and that this party had no input into the selection of Commissioners (and, even if it did, the section 2 subsections mandating the appointment of a "resident outside a city" to match a "resident in a city" would operate despite Statistics Canada's indication that the province was more than 80% urban 8 years ago). I nonetheless trust that the Commission can appreciate that fair electoral boundaries in Alberta would be boundaries that are fair in the future, when elections are actually held, as opposed to just today.

I would also note that although the Act permits population variations of as much as 25% higher or lower than the provincial average, or even 50% lower (meaning Albertans resident in these ridings could have as much as 2.5 times the representation of Albertans in other ridings, and this prior to the growth considerations I point out above), there is no prohibition against the Commission drawing boundaries that yield substantially more equitable variances. If my suggestion to employ projected population data is rejected, the application of a more stringent variance than the maximum allowed by the legislation would reduce the likelihood that the maximums will be exceeded come election time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Wildrose Alliance is a joke.