Introduction – Alberta
Establishment of the Commission
The 2022 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta (the Commission) was established pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. E-3, as amended (the Act) to reconfigure the boundaries of Alberta's federal electoral districts, which are the basis for representation in the House of Commons. The Commission is an independent, three-person body responsible for defining the sizes, boundaries and names of the federal electoral districts within the Province of Alberta.
The number of electoral districts for each province is determined by the formula and rules set out in the Constitution Act. Applying those rules, the total number of seats in the House of Commons will increase from 338 to 343 in this redistribution. The number of seats allocated to the Province of Alberta will increase from 34 to 37.
The federal electoral boundaries of every province in Canada must be readjusted following each decennial census to accommodate new electoral districts and the growth, shifts and changes in population since the last readjustment of boundaries.
The Chair of the Commission, appointed by the Chief Justice of Alberta, is the Honourable Justice Bruce McDonald of the Court of Appeal of Alberta. The other members of the Commission, appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons, are Professor Donald Barry of Calgary, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Calgary, and Ms. Donna Wilson of Edmonton, an election specialist and a returning officer in nine federal elections.
Ms. Olivia Mancuso, a skilled geography specialist seconded to the Commission by Elections Canada, provided expert assistance in preparing the electoral boundaries, maps and descriptions for both the initial Proposal and this Report. The Commission also received invaluable support from the Commission Secretary, Ms. Ooldouz Sotoudehnia.
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 close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province ...."
Section 15(1)(b) of the Act goes on to provide that the Commission shall also consider the following criteria:
- the community of interest or community of identity in, or the historical pattern of, an electoral district in the province, and
- 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 as being extraordinary (subsection 15(2) of the Act).
The 2021 population count, as determined by Statistics Canada, provided the basis for the redistribution of electoral districts under the Act. Between the 2011 and the 2021 censuses, Alberta's population increased from 3,645,257 to 4,262,635. The electoral quota for Alberta is obtained by dividing the 2021 Alberta census population of 4,262,635 by 37 (the number of electoral districts now allocated to Alberta), for an electoral quota of 115,206. Alberta's electoral quota is the third highest in Canada after Ontario (116,590) and British Columbia (116,300).
The Supreme Court of Canada dealt with the issue of population parity and deviations in Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.),footnote 1 where it found that the right to vote enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedomsfootnote 2 is the right to effective representation.footnote 3 The majority of the Court noted that while a citizen's vote should not be unduly diluted, absolute parity is impossible and relative parity may detract from the goal of effective representation. McLaughlin J. (as she then was) stated at page 185:
It emerges therefore that deviations from absolute voter parity may be justified on the grounds of practical impossibility or the provision of more effective representation. Beyond this, dilution of one citizen's vote as compared with another's should not be countenanced. I adhere to the proposition asserted in Dixon, supra, at p. 414, that "only those deviations should be admitted which can be justified on the ground that they contribute to better government of the populace as a whole, giving due weight to regional issues within the populace and geographic factors within the territory governed."
In summary, the overarching principle of the Act is to ensure that each electoral district "shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province ...." The Commission must also consider communities of interest, communities of identity, historical patterns and geographic size when drawing electoral boundaries. When the Commission determines that it is either necessary or desirable to deviate from population parity in the interest of effective representation, it has the discretion to do so within the limits of the Act.
Return to footnote 1 Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.),  2 S.C.R. 158.
Return to footnote 2 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s. 2, Part I, Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.), 1982, c. 11.
Return to footnote 3 Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Sask.), supra note 1, citing Dixon v. B.C. (A.G.), (1986) 7 B.C.L.R. (2d) 174.