Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alberta federal riding boundary proposal analysis part 1 (Edmonton & area)

Current Edmonton ridings
The Alberta federal riding boundary commission released their proposal on Thursday, and due to the large increase in population in the province, there were many changes. The province currently has 28 seats, but is set to expand to a total of 34. This will give the average riding in the province the population of about 107,000. This will be the highest average riding size in the country.

Like BC, Alberta is too large for me to cover in just one post, so I'll be breaking the province up (I promise to finish off BC as well at some point). Part 1 of my Alberta series will focus on Edmonton. Edmonton is the most interesting part of the province politically, because it is the only part of the province where an opposition party holds a seat (the NDP in Edmonton--Strathcona). The commission's proposal makes two other seats vulnerable for the NDP to pick up, and one seat might be vulnerable to an independent pick up, depending on the circumstances.

Presently the Edmonton area has 8 seats. The population of the region has increased to the point that the area is now due for three more seats. Currently, all but 3 ridings in Edmonton extend outside city limits, taking in suburban communities. This was done to keep the region on balance with Calgary which also has 8 seats. The planned proposal by the commission is to reduce the number of ridings spanning the city border to just 2. The plan is to have 7 ridings entirely within the city, two crossing the boundary and two exurban/rural ridings outside the city.

One notable thing the commission has done for both Edmonton and Calgary is to do away with riding names that use orientation in them (East,West, South, North, Centre), and adopt names that (somewhat) reflect the part of the city they're in. I like this idea for some ridings, but not for others. One problem with both cities is that the neighbourhoods are very small, and so adopting a name of a neighbourhood for an entire riding would be inappropriate. Only some parts of the cities are within larger regions, such as the Mill Woods area of Edmonton. Most of the cities however cannot be placed under one geographical region, making using new names difficult. I have found myself making counter proposals in terms of names for nearly every proposed riding.

Proposed boundaries
Here is an analysis of the proposed ridings.

Edmonton Strathcona

At 101,000 people, Edmonton—Strathcona is Alberta's least populated riding and is among the slowest growing. Due to being smaller than the provincial average, the boundary commission actually had to add portions to the riding.

The northern boundary of the riding is the Saskatchewan River, which makes for a nice, natural boundary for the riding. The commission however decided to penetrate this boundary by adding the small neighbourhood of Riverdale, north of the river to the riding. The neighbourhood would be geographically isolated from the rest of the riding, and would only be connect by a bridge. The commission also expanded the riding west, by moving the western boundary from Whitemud Creek to Whitemud Drive, which would add the neighbourhood of Brookside to the riding. The additions of these two small neighbourhoods bring the size of the riding up to a population of 105,000. This is still below the provincial average. Despite this, I think the riding should not have crossed the river to add just one small neighbourhood. The Saskatchewan River makes for a great natural boundary, as does Whitemud Drive. Without Riverdale, the riding would still not be that far off the provincial average.

The Strathcona area in Edmonton is easily the most left wing part of the entire province. Although the riding consists of a much larger area than just the Strathcona part of the city. The riding is currently the lone non-Conservative riding in the entire province, as it is held by NDP MP Linda Duncan. Duncan won the seat comfortably in 2011, and the changes proposed by the commission should not effect her chances. Riverdale, despite being in a Conservative seat at present is a very NDP friendly area. Brookside on the other hand is a Conservative neighbourhood. Overall, the riding only becomes slightly more Conservative.

Edmonton Griesbach

This proposed riding makes up much of the current Edmonton East riding. It lobs off the area east of 66 Street and north of 153 Ave in Edmonton East, and it loses the neighbourhood of Riverdale. To compensate, it adds a number of neighbourhoods from the present riding of Edmonton—St. Albert, namely Wellington, Athlone, Kensington, Calder, Rosslyn, Lauderdale and Griesbach. The latter of which (Griesbach) was used in the proposed name of the riding. This seems like a rather bizarre choice of the commission, as it is very small in terms of population. A more appropriate name for this riding would be Edmonton East—Calder. This name takes into account the former riding of Edmonton East, as well as the name “Calder” (after the neighrbourhood) which is already used in a provincial riding that would share some territory with the proposed riding, including the Calder neighbourhood.

Edmonton Griesbach seems to be an odd creation of a riding. It lumps the more urban areas south of the Yellowhead Trail with more suburban neighbourhoods to its north. This fails in terms of community of interest. I believe it would have made more sense for the riding to move westward into what is now Edmonton Centre to become a more urban oriented riding.

Edmonton East is one of the least Conservative ridings in Alberta, but was good enough for the Tories to win anyways. The proposal for the riding makes the riding more friendly for a possible NDP pick up. While the riding loses the small NDP neighbourhood of Riverdale, it loses much more Conservative territory in the areas north of 153 Ave and east of 66 St. If the new riding did not gain any territory after losing those areas, it would become a marginal riding. However, the new territory gained from Edmonton—St. Albert is quite Conservative federally. Provincially though, a lot of the new territory went NDP in this past election. The Tories may still have the edge here, but look for the NDP to possibly pick up. After all, the incumbent is former Tory MP Peter Goldring who currently sits as an independent. He was kicked out of caucus because he refused to take a breathalyzer test after being pulled over by the police. If he runs again, it would split the right wing vote, and/or the Conservative candidate will not be as strong due to lack of incumbency.

Edmonton Manning

Edmonton Manning is a proposed suburban riding located in the Northeast corner of the city. Most of it comes from the riding of Edmonton—Sherwood Park, but it also has a significant portion coming from Edmonton East as well as a small part of Edmonton—St. Albert. More specifically, the riding takes in the portions of Edmonton—Sherwood Park located within Edmonton city limits, adds the part of Edmonton East east of 66 St and north of 153 Ave and adds the neighbourhoods of Beaumaris and Lorelei from Edmonton—St. Albert. The riding has been named “Manning” after Manning Drive, which bifurcates the proposed riding evenly from the southwest corner to the northeast. Edmonton-Manning is also the name of a provincial riding that completely falls into this proposed district. Another possible name for the riding could be “Edmonton Northeast”. The riding contains no significant opposition areas, and will be a safe Conservative seat. My guess is that Edmonton—Sherwood Park MP Tim Uppal will run in this seat.

Edmonton McDougall

This proposed riding is basically just a smaller version of the Edmonton Centre riding. Edmonton Centre has 123,000 and needs some territory taken out of it to bring it down to size. The commission proposed taking a big chunk out of the southwestern corner of the riding, namely the area west of 156 St and south of Stony Plain Rd. This area is more suburban in nature and probably doesn't belong in the riding anyways. In my mind the riding should be even more urban, and have the areas closer to downtown merged in with parts of Edmonton East. The commission proposes the name “Edmonton McDougall”, after the Central McDougall neighbourhood. I think that this was unnecessary, as the riding has become even more central, so why stop calling it Edmonton Centre? The proposed changes give the riding a population of 108,000.

Edmonton Centre was one of the weakest Conservative seats in the province. They “only” got 48% of the vote here. The areas being lost in this proposal are almost entirely Conservative. This change would make the party very vulnerable against a united opposition. However, in 2011 the Liberals and the NDP split the vote almost evenly. If the two parties were united, they would have almost got the same numbers as the Conservatives. Under this new map, they would have definitely won the seat as a united force.

Edmonton Callingwood

This newly proposed riding consists of Edmonton's western suburban area, and is mostly carved out of the present riding of Edmonton—Spruce Grove. It also contains part of Edmonton Centre. Specifically, it consists of all of the current riding of Edmonton—Spruce Grove within city limits as well the part of Edmonton Centre west of 156 St and south of Stony Plain Rd. The riding would be named after Callingwood Park. I personally think the name chosen is far too specific, and a more generic name like “Edmonton West” would be more appropriate for the riding. The riding will be a safe Conservative seat, as there are few areas of opposition strength. My guess is that Edmonton—Spruce Grove MP Rona Ambrose will run in this riding.

Edmonton Riverbend

This proposed riding makes up a shell of the current riding of Edmonton—Leduc. Edmonton—Leduc is presently one of the most populated ridings in Alberta at 150,000 and is the fastest growing riding in the province. To bring the riding down to size, nearly 1/3 of the riding had to be hacked off. The commission proposed lobbing off the area south of Ellerslie Rd, as well as the neighbourhood of Brookside. The latter of which was given to Edmonton Stratchona. This makes the riding entirely within city limits. This makes the population of the riding 104,000. This is below the provincial average, but that is okay considering it is the fastest growing riding in the province. The riding was named after the bend in the Saskatchewan River, which forms the riding's western boundary. This is a nice sounding name, but ignores the eastern part of the riding entirely. Calling the riding “Edmonton Southwest” might be a better name, although not perfect as the city's extreme southwestern corner would not be in the riding. Overall, the riding remains a safe Conservative seat, although it loses rural areas outside of the city that are very, very Conservative. My guess is that Edmonton—Leduc MP James Rajotte will run here, as he lives in Edmonton.

Edmonton Mill Woods

This planned suburban seat in southeastern Edmonton is a smaller version of the current Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beamont riding. Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont is the second fastest growing riding in the city, and with 137,000 needs a large chunk to be taken out of it. The commission plans on removing all of the riding south of Anthony Henday Drive, leaving just the Mill Woods part of the city in the riding. Thus, the riding is renamed by taking “Beaumont” out of it. Since the remaining territory is actually called Mill Woods, the proposed name for the riding is good. The population would be 106,000. The riding loses much of the super Conservative rural polls around Beaumont, but it remains a safe Tory seat. My guess is that Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont MP Mike Lake will run here.

St. Albert—Edmonton

As the city of St. Albert continues to grow, so does the riding it is in. The current riding of Edmonton—St. Albert now has a population of 137,000. St. Albert makes up nearly half of the riding with 61,000 people. However, since the riding is now too large, the commission decided to eat into the Edmonton parts of the riding to bring the riding down to a population of 105,000. This would give St. Albert a majority of the riding's population, and hence the name change putting St. Albert first in the name. The parts of the riding being lost are the neighbourhoods of Beaumaris and Lorelei (to Edmonton Manning), and Griesbach, Lauderdale, Rosslyn, Kensington, Calder, Wellington and Athlone (to Edmonton Griesbach). While I think that putting St. Albert first in the riding name is a good idea, putting Edmonton second is not. There needs to be some sort of geographic representation of the area of Edmonton it contains in the name. That's why I suggest the name “St. Albert—Castle Downs” or “St. Albert—Edmonton Castle Downs” as a better name. The new riding wouldn't contain all of the Castle Downs part of the city, but it includes most of it, including part of the Castle Downs provincial riding. If that doesn't work, you can always call the riding “St. Albert—Edmonton Northwest”. Anyways, the riding was already quite Conservative to begin with, but the losses do make the riding even more Conservative, as the areas being lost contain some neighbourhoods that voted NDP provincially. Brent Rathgeber, MP for Edmonton—St.Albert will probably run here despite living in Edmonton and not St. Albert.


With the commission deciding to get rid of most of the ridings that extended outside of the city, they were left with no choice for the left over parts of the city along it southern border. This new riding combines Edmonton's furthest south suburban areas (south of Ellerslie Road to Hwy 2 in the southwest part of the city and then south of Anthony Henday Dr. in the southeast) with some exurban and rural areas south of the city, including communities such as Leduc, Beaumont, Wetaskiwin and Devon. The riding would be made up of parts of the current ridings of Edmonton—Leduc (the towns of Leduc, Devon and the southwestern suburbs of Edmonton below Ellerslie), Edmonton—Beaumont (the town of Beaumont and the southeastern suburbs of Edmonton below Anthony Henday Dr), and Wetaskiwin (the northeastern part including the towns of Wetaskiwin, Calmar and Millet). The proposed riding name of Edmonton—Wetaskiwin neglects the fact that the riding also contains a large part of Leduc County (in addition to Wetaskiwin County), including the town of Leduc. That is why I propose that the name of this riding be “Edmonton—Leduc—Wetaskiwin” instead. Especially since Leduc already has the privilege of having its name in the current riding of Edmonton—Leduc. Anyways, the proposed riding is extremely Conservative with most polls giving the Tories at least 80% of the vote. Wetaskiwin's MP is currently Blaine Calkins who lives in Ponoka which is in the proposed riding of Red Deer—Wolf Creek. He may decide to run there instead, making this an open seat.

Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan

This proposed riding is located entirely outside the City of Edmonton, but is made up of Edmonton's eastern suburban areas. Specifically, it contains the entirety of Strathcona County plus the City of Fort Saskatchewan. Currently, Strathcona County is split up between the ridings of Edmonton—Sherwood Park (which includes Fort Saskatchewan) and the riding of Vegreville—Wainwright. The proposed riding is slightly oversized at 112,000 and is a fast growing part of the province. It may have been better for the commission to make a smaller riding. The proposed name is okay, but wouldn't it make more sense to call it “Strathcona County—Fort Saskatchewan”, since it includes all of Strathcona County, nut just its largest community of Sherwood Park? One could also call it Stratchona—Fort Saskatchewan or Strathcona—Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. That might be confusing though, because of the part of Edmonton that's also called Strathcona. If Independent Conservative James Ford decides to run again like he has in the last two elections, he might be able to win this new riding. In 2008, he did very well in both Fort Saskatchewan and in Sherwood Park in the riding of Edmonton—Sherwood Park, but did not do well in the Edmonton part of the riding. In 2011 he lost a lot of ground, but his base areas were still in those communities. If he can run another strong campaign, and do well in the rest of Strathcona County, he might be able to win. Especially if Tim Uppal decides to run in this new riding, because Ford's decision to run was based on a feud he has with Uppal. However, Uppal lives in Edmonton and I would say he would be more likely to run in the proposed riding of Edmonton Manning.

Sturgeon River

This would be a new riding consisting of Edmonton's northern and western exurban areas. Its main community would be Spruce Grove, but the riding would also include Stony Plain, Onoway, Redwater, Gibbons, Bon Accord, Legal and Morinville. The riding takes in the non-Edmonton parts of Edmonton—Spruce Gove as well as the southwestern corner of Westlock—St. Paul and a small part of Yellowhead. The proposed name for the riding is Sturgeon River, which flows through most of the riding. I think it's a pretty good name, but since the river doesn't come close to the largest community in the riding, Spruce Grove, the name of the riding should rather be “Spruce Grove—Sturgeon River”. Except for a handful of Indian Reserves, this riding is very Conservative. It's possible that Rona Ambrose would run in this riding, but she lives in Edmonton, so I doubt it. It's likely that a new MP would emerge here. 

For more details, you can read the report here.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this, Earl. Thank you!

    My predictions are quite similar. Under the new riding system, I would predict for Edmonton...

    2 NDP seats
    1 LIB seat
    5 Con seats.

    Edmonton-Strathcona & Edmonton Griesbach would go NDP in my mind for different reasons. Edmonton-Griesbach is a more working class demographic, that would certainly favor the NDP. Edmonton-Strathcona is a pretty safe NDP riding, due to it's very diverse and artistic demographic.

    I do think Edmonton-Mcdougall would become a Liberal riding. With the Liberals regaining some momentum Federally, I wouldn't be surprised to see them take this riding. My reasoning behind that stems from two observations. First of all, this riding includes a great deal of what was once Anne Mclellan's riding. Also, I feel this is a very urban riding. Due to it's high concentration of Urbanites of all ages, I would suggest Liberal voters would surface. I highly doubt the NDP would win in this riding, as it is a much wealthier demographic. It seems to me, there are many in this riding who are Middle or Upper Class urbanites, who would never dream of voting NDP or Conservative. Essentially, voters who lean fiscally-right & socially-left. Either way, it will be a tight race.

    The other ones are safe for the Conservatives IMO. They will take losses, however in most of them, due to their loss of Rural voters. Even in my riding (Future Edmonton-Riverbend), there are a lot of Liberal/NDP voters. Not enough for either to win, but enough to see a much tighter race.

    Thanks for your post! Cheers,