Editorial – Forests, lakes worth nothing

Jeff Burgar
Last week, rural Albertans took another shot across the bow, another nail in their coffin, or the heat was turned up on the pot of water they sit in.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission released their draft report.

The commission is tasked with reviewing election boundaries for the 87 seats held by Members of the Legislative Assembly. Our own MLA, Danielle Larivee, holds one of those seats.

Under provincial law, each constituency, such as our own Lesser Slave Lake, cannot vary by more than 25 per cent from other constituencies in their populations, and thus their votes. Alberta’s population has grown 20 per cent since the last review, and the last adjustment, in 2010. Growth was uneven, with most going to cities.

Under the same law, Alberta is allowed four ridings outside the 25 per cent threshold. Two are currently in that position. They are Lesser Slave Lake, and Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley. The draft report recommends these two stay the same.

Meanwhile, there will be adjustments that will give Edmonton and Calgary each an extra seat, but not increase the total number of seats. This is the problem.

Slowly, votes are being taken away from rural Alberta and given to cities. As we have said many times, very few people, if any, in northwest Edmonton, or central Calgary, really gives a rat’s butt what happens to some elk, beaver, fish population or forest around High Level. Or Drayton Valley. Or High Prairie. Wildlife and trees and crops and cattle do not get votes. Only people.

It is fine to argue “representation by population”. The more people an area has, the more votes, and therefore the more power, that area has.

But consider, this same idea means that China and India, the two most populated countries in the world, should have the most say in everything.
Climate adjustment, anybody? Let’s see what Bejing has to say about that. Or even our friendly neighbour to the south, America. They outnumber us nine to one. Of course they should have more say!

Except, we think not.

Chair of the five-member commission, Myra Bielby, said earlier this year, “We’ve got to respect the principle that each Albertan’s vote should be relatively equivalent.”

Really? Why so? Where did this “principle” come from? Why should it apply to a situation in which continued urban growth, and hence more power, attracts even more growth?

Taken to its logical conclusion, The Edmonton-Red Deer-Calgary mega-corridor will have all the votes, save one, for the whole province.

This is wrong. But that is where we are heading.

This is not the boundary commssion’s fault. It is the fault of the law under which they are working. Bielby says they “can’t simply draw 87 circles on a provincial map.”

If the law respected land, water and air, animals and resources, instead of just people, absolutely yes they could.

…To be continued.

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