Introduction – Alberta
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta (
the Commission) has been established pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3, as amended (
The Canadian Constitution requires a readjustment of the total number of members of the House of Commons and of each province following each decennial census. The formula and rules provided in sections 51 and 51A of the Constitution Act, 1867 ("the Constitution") govern this readjustment. As a result, federal electoral boundaries must be adjusted every 10 years to accommodate new electoral districts, and the population shifts and changes within the province, since the previous decennial census.
The Act requires the establishment of an independent, three-person Commission in each province to define the sizes, boundaries and names of the electoral districts within that province. The Chief Justice of a province appoints the Chair of the Commission, and the Speaker of the House of Commons appoints the other two members.
The Commission for Alberta was established by Order-in-Council, proclaimed on November 1, 2021. The Chair of the Commission is Justice J.D. Bruce McDonald, of the Court of Appeal of Alberta. The other members are Dr. Donald Barry of Calgary, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Calgary; and Ms. Donna R. Wilson of Edmonton, an election specialist and a former federal returning officer.
Alberta's population count increased from 3,645,257 to 4,262,635 between the 2011 and the 2021 censuses. Application of the formula and rules contained in the Constitution resulted in an increase in the total number of seats in the House of Commons from 338 to 342 and an increase in the total number assigned to Alberta from 34 to 37.
The electoral quota for each Alberta electoral district is 115,206. This number is obtained by dividing the 2021 Alberta census population count of 4,262,635 by 37, the number of House of Commons seats allocated to the province. Alberta has the third-highest electoral quota in Canada after Ontario (116,590) and British Columbia (116,300).
Principles Governing the Commission
When readjusting the electoral boundaries, the Commission is governed by the principles set out in the Act. Section 15(1)(a) of the Act provides that the division of the province into electoral districts, and the description of the boundaries, shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district shall, as closely as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province.
Section 15(1)(b) of the Act provides that the Commission shall also consider the following two criteria:
- the community of interest or community of identity in, or the historical pattern of, an electoral district in the province;
- a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.
The Commission may deviate from strict electoral parity where it considers it necessary or desirable to do so in order to respect or maintain these criteria, provided that deviation from the provincial quota shall exceed 25% more or less, only in circumstances that the Commission considers extraordinary (subsection 15(2) of the Act).
With an electoral quota of 115,206, it follows that, absent extraordinary circumstances, Alberta's electoral districts should not exceed a maximum population of 144,008 or a minimum population of 86,405.
In summary, the overarching principle of the Act is to ensure that each electoral district shall, as closely as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province, often referred to as population parity. When drawing the boundaries, the Commission must consider communities of interest or identity, historical patterns and geographic size. Where the Commission determines that it is either necessary or desirable to deviate from population parity, it has the discretion to do so within the limits set out in the Act.
Statement of Process for Adjusting Boundaries
The process for readjustment of electoral boundaries can be briefly summarized.
The Commission prepares the boundaries of electoral districts, which are contained in a proposed redistribution plan. Advertisements in the Canada Gazette and in at least one newspaper of general circulation will include a map showing the proposed electoral districts and provide notice of the time and place fixed for public hearings. Notice of intention to make representations on the proposed electoral districts must be given in writing to the Commission within 23 days of the publication of the last advertisement. The rules governing representations at a public hearing are contained in
Rules for Public Hearings later in this proposal.
Following the public hearings, the Commission reviews its proposed redistribution plan, makes revisions and submits its final report to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. In Alberta, the final report is due by December 15, 2022.
The Commission's report is then sent to the House of Commons, where it is referred to a parliamentary committee. Once considered, it is sent back to the Commission. The Commission considers any objections, makes any modifications it deems necessary and provides a final, certified copy of its report to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, with or without amendment. Upon receipt of the reports from all provinces, a draft order (referred to as the representation order) is prepared, describing and naming the electoral districts established by all the Commissions.
Within five days of the Minister receiving the representation order, the Governor-in-Council shall proclaim the order in force, effective on the first dissolution of Parliament that occurs at least seven months after the day on which the proclamation was issued. Thus, the new boundaries can be used only for a general election called at least seven months after the representation order is proclaimed.