Editorial – Could it be “fake rules” now?

Jeff Burgar
Any red-blooded farm boy or girl, townie in rural Alberta, First Nations or Metis, or even a person living in Grande Prairie or Lloydminster, would find their blood pressure popping their eyeballs, if they weren’t already having a heart attack.

The root cause of this apoplexy is an eye-glazing just released draft report. It is numbingly titled “Proposed Electoral Division Areas, Boundaries and Names for Alberta.” Whew!

Agreed, this is not a topic that ranks even in the top half of anybody’s “Top 10,000 Things to Worry About” but it is still important, as the screws are slowly turning rural Albertans into second-class, and third-class, and taken to its logical conclusion, no class-citizens.

We are sure the five appointed commission members tried to do a good job. They listened to many Albertans. These included Big Lakes County Reeve Ken Matthews and chair of the Lesser Slave Lake Progressive Conservatives, Ken Vanderwell.

Then they took what can be called “city-centric” views and based their thinking on what might be mistaken, but definitely biased, interpretations of federal and provincial law. The result is a continuing wipeout of rural Alberta votes.

Is that important? Not to worry. Your concerns are dismissed by the report’s statement, “The time has come to stop treating differences between rural and urban Albertans as a main driver in setting the boundaries of electoral divisions.”

Further, “concerns of residents outside of urban areas can be addressed by measures falling short of creating electoral divisions with significantly smaller populations than average.”

MLA for Lesser Slave Lake, Danielle Larivee, has to drive a long ways to meet her voters? Or travel to Edmonton? She “can be driven by her staff while they read and prepare in their vehicle.”

Oh, yes! And in another year or two, self-driving cars will no doubt relieve even that burden. So what’s to complain about? She can also “open a satellite office” or two, which Lesser Slave Lake already has in both High Prairie and Slave Lake. Both are still hours away from the most outlying community.

Meanwhile, an Edmonton voter usually just walks across the street to chat with their rep.

All rural constituencies face similar burdens. Fortunately, the opinion of the five board members was not unanimous. Gwen Day wrote a well-thought, well-reasoned opinion. One of her concerns is the oft-touted “representation by population” mantra bandied about whenever vote matters are debated. In our opinion, Day debunks Rep by Pop admirably even while the rest of the commission waved the “rule” in rural Alberta’s face.

Our own thoughts return. Trees and crops, oil wells and mines, moose and deer, all do not get votes. Somebody with an inkling of common sense must realize 10,000 people jammed in a few blocks in Edmonton or Calgary are not going to care as much as 1,000, 500 or even 50 people living, working every day surrounded by nature.

Please, put this report on hold and let’s have real debate without the fake handcuffs or fake rules.

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