Addendum – Disposition of Objections – Alberta
The 2022 Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta ("Commission") received the Fortieth Report ("Fortieth Report") of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs ("Standing Committee") and has completed the final stage of its obligations under the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3 ("Act"), which required the Commission to consider and dispose of the objections raised in the Standing Committee's Fortieth Report.
After each decennial census, the number of electoral districts in the House of Commons, and for each province, is determined by the formula and rules set out in the Constitution Act, 1867. This process resulted in the creation of three new electoral districts in Alberta, following the 2021 Census.
An independent commission is established in each province to divide that province into electoral districts. Each commission is established pursuant to, and is governed by, the terms of the Act, and is required to submit a report for redistribution of electoral districts. Pursuant to the Act, members of the House of Commons have 30 calendar days, from the date when the report is tabled, to file objections to the report. An objection must be in writing and in the form of a motion, specifying the provisions of the report that the member objects to and the reasons for the objection. An objection must be signed by no fewer than 10 members of the House of Commons.
Pursuant to the Act, the Standing Committee is required to consider the objections and file its report within 30 days or such longer period as may be approved by the House of Commons. That report is then referred back to the Commission for consideration. The Commission has 30 calendar days to consider and dispose of the objections raised in the Standing Committee's report and finalize its report with or without amendment, depending on the Commission's disposition.
The Report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta ("Report") was tabled in the House of Commons on February 2, 2023 and then referred to the Standing Committee. By the end of the 30-day period the Clerk of the Standing Committee had received five objections. The Standing Committee considered those objections and its Fortieth Report was then forwarded to the Commission on May 18, 2023, for consideration. The Commission must file its disposition by June 17, 2023.
The Commission has considered and disposed of the objections with respect to its Report, filed by the following members of Parliament (MPs): the Honourable Randy Boissonnault, PC, MP for Edmonton Centre; George Chahal, MP for Calgary Skyview; Gerald Soroka, MP for Yellowhead; Arnold Viersen, MP for Peace River—Westlock; and Chris Warkentin, MP for Grande Prairie—Mackenzie.
The Commission appreciates the input and has reconsidered its Report, having regard to the objections, the minutes of the Standing Committee, audio recordings of the proceedings, and the Fortieth Report of the Standing Committee. The Commission recognizes the valuable information elected representatives contribute to the redistribution process, and appreciates the effort and thoroughness demonstrated in their submissions. The Commission is an independent body and, as such, is not bound by the representations.
Throughout the process, the Commission has been mindful of and governed by its mandate under the Act, including its discretion to deviate from population parity. Section 15 provides that:
- 15. (1) In preparing its report, each commission for a province shall, subject to subsection (2), be governed by the following rules:
- the division of the province into electoral districts and the description of the boundaries thereof shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district in the province as a result thereof shall, as close as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province, that is to say, the quotient obtained by dividing the population of the province as ascertained by the census by the number of members of the House of Commons to be assigned to the province as calculated by the Chief Electoral Officer under subsection 14(1); and
- the commission shall consider the following in determining reasonable electoral district boundaries:
- (i) the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, and
- (ii) a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.
(2) The commission may depart from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a) in any case where the commission considers it necessary or desirable to depart therefrom
- in order to respect the community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district in the province, or
- in order to maintain a manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province,
but, in departing from the application of the rule set out in paragraph (1)(a), the commission shall make every effort to ensure that, except in circumstances viewed by the commission as being extraordinary, the population of each electoral district in the province remains within twenty-five per cent more or twenty-five per cent less of the electoral quota for the province.
The statutory objectives and effective representation can be achieved by various configurations. It is not, however, possible to please everyone on every issue. That is particularly true in a province where the number of electoral districts has increased from 34 to 37. These new electoral districts, along with the population changes, necessarily affect the electoral boundaries within which old relationships and prior historical associations existed. The new boundaries also place some communities accustomed to being in the centre of an electoral district on the edge of a district, or in a new district altogether. A perfect configuration for one electoral district often negatively impacts adjoining electoral districts and beyond. Redistribution is directed at ensuring fair federal representation for all citizens, not at creating preferred electoral districts for some.