A redraw of federal ridings in Alberta is proposing some big shifts and additions to districts in the province, especially in the Calgary area.
The overview from the committee in charge of these reviews suggests moving Banff and Canmore into separate ridings, rejigging rural ridings, adding a new district in Calgary’s northeast and two more on the outskirts of Alberta’s two major cities.
The independent, non-partisan commission is assigned to examine the riding boundaries based on the 10-year census. Alberta’s panel was also tasked with suggesting locations for three new ridings, bringing the total number of federal seats up to 37.
The commission takes into account population growth, communities of interest and the history of the area when proposing new geographical boundaries. Alberta’s population grew from 3,645,257 in 2011 to 4,262,635 in 2021, according to Statistics Canada.
The proposal would put Banff in the riding of Yellowhead with places like Jasper and Hinton, and leave Canmore in a district with Cochrane and Olds.
“We thought it was odd that we would be separated from Canmore,” said Corrie DiManno, mayor of Banff.
“We like to say that we are one community with two towns.”
DiManno said she sees the benefit of being attached to Jasper, the other national park town, or the potential to have two MPs representing the Canmore and Banff region.
Banff’s submission for upcoming hearings on the proposals will include a query about having Jasper, Banff and Canmore potentially included in the same riding.
Divisions based on population
The decision around Banff/Canmore was made largely based on division of population, according to Justice Bruce McDonald, the commission chair.
“There has been certainly some expression that Banff and Canmore do have a lot in common, and perhaps Banff has more in common with Canmore than it does with Jasper, even though they’re both in national parks.”
In 2021, the Conservatives won that seat (currently called Banff-Airdrie) with 57 per cent of the vote.
“When you put Banff and Canmore into the same district, we don’t see the same kind of conservative dominance as we do in other ridings,” said Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, explaining how shifting the riding boundaries could change the dynamics.
The commission is also proposing three new ridings: Calgary-McKnight, Airdrie-Chestermere and Spruce Grove-Leduc.
Calgary’s new riding would be made up of pieces of the existing Skyview and Forest Lawn ridings. McDonald said that location was chosen because of high trends of population growth in that area. Skyview is a Liberal-held seat and Forest Lawn is Conservative.
“The only district where I think there could potentially be political repercussions is the addition of that new district in the northeast,” said Lisa Young, a political scientist at the University of Calgary.
“Most of those [others] are such strong Conservative votes federally that you’re unlikely to see any changes in outcomes simply as a result of the redistricting.”
The city would have a total of 11 ridings. The commission studied giving a second new riding to Calgary but decided against it to stay within a closer margin to a 115,000 population quota.
Open minded approach
Every single electoral district in Alberta had to be adjusted in this round of evaluations, the commission said. The commission was trying to keep the population per riding as close to 115,000 as possible — and in the proposal, no riding is more than five per cent above or below that number.
The commission is also proposing adjusting the riding boundaries in Edmonton to better contain those districts to the city limits, much like Calgary’s existing set up. The proposal would also significantly redraw many of the boundaries in rural ridings like Bow River, Medicine Hat and Grande Prairie.
Airdrie is one of the fastest growing communities in the country and would make up another new riding added on the northeastern outskirts of Calgary. The new district in Spruce Grove would expand to take in smaller communities west of Edmonton.
“We have done our best, but we are not perfect,” McDonald said. “We’re approaching this all with a very open mind. We’re here to listen to the people of Alberta.”
The recommendations will be put to public hearings across the province over the course of September. The commission will incorporate the feedback and deliver the final report to the House of Commons by Dec. 15.