July 20th, 2024

Electoral Boundaries Commission mulling two urban/rural ridings for Medicine Hat region

By Tim Kalinowski on July 28, 2017.


The Electoral Boundaries Commission appears to be mulling the possibility of creating two blended urban/ rural ridings centred in Medicine Hat rather than the three, (Medicine Hat, Brooks-Cypress and Taber-Vulcan), it originally proposed in its interim report.

According to the official transcript released from the meeting, while Commission chair Justice Myra Bielby admitted many Albertans with solely urban interests did not want to see blended ridings, she acknowledged that would likely not pose much of a problem for the people in the Medicine Hat area.

“When we were here in January, Mr. Barnes said that’s not such a problem… because people who live in Medicine Hat city have great ties with the surrounding area,” she recalled.

Bielby also gave other examples of instances in the province where urban/rural blended ridings appear to work well, before concluding:

“Just because they’re outside the city boundaries, it doesn’t mean they have different views, values, and ideas.”

Commissioners then asked all three Medicine Hat delegates, MLA Drew Barnes, Kris Samraj, who went to make comments as a private citizen, and local NDP association committee member Colette Smithers, at the meeting if two blended urban/rural ridings centred around Medicine Hat, perhaps north and south of the South Saskatchewan River, would work better for local voters.

Samraj expressed his unequivocal support for such an idea. Barnes said while he preferred to keep the status quo, he could live with such a division. Smithers said her party members did not like the idea of having a blended riding and preferred Medicine Hat be an urban only riding. But later added they also did not want to see Cypress County broken up over three ridings as it would be under the proposed boundary changes suggested in the Commission’s interim report.

In an interview Thursday Samraj said he went to Brooks because he wanted to ensure his voice was heard on the matter of creating equitable workload for all MLAs.

“It seemed to hinge on, for them, what would be the best way to represent common interests in making boundary changes. There is definitely a feeling on the Commission that rural communities should be grouped together rather than being put together with an urban municipality… But they didn’t shut the idea of creating a blended riding in Medicine Hat down completely… You have two MLAs who would have equal work there which, I think, would make for better representation.”

MLA Drew Barnes was skeptical the Commission would go the blended ridings route.

“Medicine Hatters are not expecting much from this Commission,” said Barnes. “My impression was it was a meeting a lot like the first one where it was totally unclear as it where the Commission may go with it.”

Having said that, Barnes said he did see some merit in creating two Medicine Hat blended ridings. It was certainly a better option than the Commission had proposed in its interim report, he said.

“If we need a blended one where Medicine Hat is divided more in half, and large parts of the surrounding countryside are included, that would be the best representation for our region going forward, if they have to make a change,” said Barnes.

The News also tried to contact Colette Smithers for comment prior to press time, but was unable to get a hold of her in time.

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