Does Rural Alberta Really Want More MLAs?

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. Farmers and ranchers may just want their current MLAs to be more attentive.

BY WILL VERBOVEN

ALBERTA FARMER | EDITOR

After a report by the electoral commission, Premier Ed Stelmach has decided we need more ridings in rural Alberta in order to maintain a balance with urban Alberta. Thoughtful, but perhaps he should have talked to folks in the countryside before exercising such a stroke of political expediency. He would have found out that rural folk, like city folk, want more politicians like they want more noxious weeds and pesky gophers – both of which are easier to eradicate than politicians when they become a nuisance.

I expect the rural/urban seat balance is not exactly top of mind with most rural voters. All they expect is some honest attention from the MLAs they already have on issues that affect their economic well-being. If their past behaviour is any indication, rural MLAs are more attuned to the marching orders from the premier’s political enforcers than the wishes of their own voters. No wonder the premier wants more such dutiful MLAs.

Premier Stelmach seems to be distressed about the rural/urban balance. This may come as a surprise but rural voters know how to count and they do understand that their less-populated areas are going to have fewer MLAs than the big cities. They also instinctively know that if the present flock of MLAs can’t deal with their issues, electing more of them will not help.

But one matter needs to be clarified – what exactly does “rural” mean? If we are to believe some urban media pundits and some opposition party leaders, the only urban areas are Calgary and Edmonton. To them the ROA (rest of Alberta) appears to be a vast wasteland populated by the politically incorrect. Those same social experts remain perplexed as to why hospitals and schools are needed for those lost souls who are not smart enough to live in the big city.

Actually there are very few people living in the “real” rural Alberta. Those directly involved in farming and ranching are probably

One matter needs to be clarified – what exactly does “rural” mean?

less than three per cent of the population. Most people outside of the two urban centres live in smaller cities and towns across the province. I expect citizens living in subdivisions in Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Fort McMurray and dozens of other centres don’t realize they are classed as rural folk by big-city media. They are probably also unaware that political strategists feel they need special political consideration from their benevolent provincial government for living in the boondocks. However, I suspect most of those folks thank heaven every day for not having to live in a big city!

To be fair, citizens in the ROA don’t help matters by having a long history of voting en masse for the Progressive Conservative party. That only results in one reality – a government that takes you for granted. Take for example the now back to the future royalties issue. ROA MLAs seemed to be completely unaware of what economic devastation those royalties would have on virtually every rural riding. The loss of 10 energy-related jobs in Edmonton may not mean much but it’s a big deal in a small town. Should I mention the cattle, lamb, hog, and potato checkoff fiasco that saw rural MLAs muzzled and silenced. But I digress.

One can see the crafty political wisdom of the PC party braintrust in wanting to maintain more compliant PC ridings in the ROA. Although with 44 per cent of rural ridings now favouring the Wildrose Alliance, that approach may well royally backfire.

What was somewhat condescending was to see the Premier stumbling in obfuscation trying to rationalize why rural Alberta needs more ridings.

What is real is that I suspect many citizens in this province have no idea who their local MLA is or what the constituency boundaries are where they live. I suspect if the current flock of MLAs was cut in half, few voters would notice or care. How come we never have electoral commissions with the mandate to have fewer MLAs or is that too much common sense?

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