Okotoks and Foothills back in federal riding
Politics: Macleod MP Ted Menzies may still represent region
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 01:38 pm
Voters can expect few changes in the foothills area once new riding boundaries come into effect for the next federal election.
The Macleod riding could get a new name and be a little smaller if the report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta is approved, but it will not sever the riding in two as considered in an earlier proposal.
The report recommends renaming the Macleod riding as Foothills and the new boundaries propose removing Vulcan County, much of the Springbank area west of Calgary and the Siksika and Blood Reserves from the existing riding, while adding Waterton National Park on the south end. Vulcan County would become part of the new Bow River riding.
“I think what we tried to create is what we thought a member of parliament can best represent,” said Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission member Ed Eggerer.
The commission was tasked with redrawing federal election boundaries in Alberta and adding six new ridings in the province.
The final boundaries will be approved later this year and they will come into effect at the next federal election, expected in 2015.
The process of drawing new boundaries began in February 2012. An initial map with proposed new riding boundaries was released in the fall. It was revised after a series of open houses were held across the province and feedback was used to draw up new boundaries for the report. It was presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons last month for MPs to review and make their own recommendations.
Eggerer said the commission had a difficult balance to maintain while drawing the new boundaries.
The target population for each riding is 107,213. The commission could deviate from this by as much as 25 per cent. Most ridings in Alberta are within five per cent of the target.
Eggerer said they didn’t want to deviate much more than that.
“The commission saw it as a mission that your vote should be worth as much as my vote,” he said.
In addition, he said they also needed to be able to fit a new riding somewhere in southern Alberta.
According to Eggerer, the commission’s starting point in southern Alberta was Lethbridge and everything else evolved around it.
They looked at a variety of different scenarios in the area outside Calgary as well, including one that would cover much of the area to the south and east. However, he said they weren’t able to meet the population target. As well, he said removing High River and Okotoks from the Macleod riding made it too difficult to achieve the required targets in the rest of southern Alberta.
As for renaming the Macleod riding, he said a number of different proposals were considered and the new ‘Foothills’ name isn’t final, it has been vetted through the National Names Board.
An earlier proposal would’ve eliminated the Macleod Riding entirely with two new ridings created in its wake.
Under the proposal, Okotoks, High River and the MD of Foothills area would’ve become part of a new riding that would’ve stretched from as far north as the Bow River to the U.S. border. It would have been called Foothills riding.
The second new riding proposed was the Bow River riding and it would’ve included Claresholm and Vulcan County areas, as well as areas Brooks and Strathmore currently part of the Crowfoot riding. This scenario would have seen current Macleod MP Ted Menzies no longer represent Okotoks and the MD of Foothills.
Menzies said he didn’t like the first proposal, however, he said he has stayed out of the process and the final decision is ultimately in the hands of the commission.
“It’s not my place to intervene,” he said.
Menzies said he heard concerns from a number of residents about the earlier proposal saying Okotoks, Nanton and Fort Macleod are part of the foothills area and they should remain in the same riding.
He said the boundaries should follow municipal borders as much as possible.
“It is difficult, we all know that the size of the population has increased, so what do you do?” he asked. “It creates a bit of a challenge.”
Foothills MD Reeve Larry Spilak said he hopes the municipality doesn’t lose Menzies as MP as a result of new election boundaries.
He said Menzies has done a good job representing the foothills region. He said Menzies is a hard working MP who continues to make the interests of the Macleod riding a high priority, even with his position on federal cabinet.
“He does not stop and he’d be hard to replace,” said Spilak.
He said Menzies has helped the MD in a number of areas, including with an, ultimately, unsuccessful application for funding through a federal P3 program for the Heritage Heights Arena.
“We’ve always had a good relationship with him,” said Spilak.