“It’s a huge cost to taxpayers.”
WILDROSE ALLIANCE MLA
Premier Ed Stelmach has decided to favour rural Alberta with more provincial electoral seats, despite recommendations in an interim report of the Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission.
The report recommended a revamping of the names and borders of the province’s present 83 constituencies. It would see Calgary gain two seats, Edmonton one and Fort McMurray one. Three seats would be lost in rural areas due to declining populations.
The premier decided that was not acceptable.
“If we had not increased the number of ridings we would have lost three in the horseshoe from Lloydminister around to Rocky Mountain House,” said Stelmach at the AGM of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.
The decision means the legislature will continue to have 87 MLAs after the next election. “It’s a decision based on what’s good for Alberta and this finds the balance between urban and rural,” Stelmach said.
Opposition Liberal leader David Swann accused the Premier of political meddling, and favouring rural Alberta with extra seats. The PC party has traditionally controlled most of the rural seats in the province. Swann said Stelmach’s comments were politically motivated and against the best interests of urban areas, which still lack equal representation. He added the extra ridings are unnecessary and will cost taxpayers millions of extra dollars.
The Wildrose Alliance also disapproved of the additional ridings. Heather Forsyth, a Wildrose Alliance MLA, said that more MLAs were a waste of money and an example of the thinking that caused her to leave the PC party. “It’s a huge cost to taxpayers.”
Even with additional seats for Calgary, constituencies in that city will have 10 per cent larger populations than Edmonton or rural ridings. The provincial average is 40,880 per electoral district.
The premier said some ridings are already larger in area than Prince Edward Island, and the recommendations would have worsened that situation had not the government added the three seats to rural areas.