The room was filled with dignitaries and concerned residents at the Sandman Hotel Monday. The Alberta Electoral Boundaries Commission was in town for consultations on proposed changes.
Proposed changes include the elimination of the Grande Prairie-Wapiti constituency, creating one entirely urban riding, expanding the Grande Prairie-Smoky constituency and moving some communities into a brand-new riding that would be called Central-Peace Notley.
These changes would lump communities west of Grande Prairie, like Wembley, Beaverlodge and Hythe, in with places such as Spirit River and Fairview. They would no longer be part of a Grande Prairie constituency.
“There were multiple people that made submissions either oral or written, or both. Those that had registered all had a similar theme – what they’re proposing is actually not supported by any of those that were here today,” said Leanne Beaupre, Reeve of the County of Grande Prairie.
“I was happy to provide Council’s endorsement of the commission’s initial draft which finally treats Grande Prairie like similar mid-sized cities, with it’s own urban constituency. And, I think, the commission heard loud and clear that it makes more sense to have the West County communities in a constituency more closely related to Grande Prairie than Central Peace. I hope we’ll see this feedback reflected in the final report,” added Bill Given, Mayor of Grande.
Wayne Drysdale, MLA for Grande Prairie-Wapiti, echoed those statements.
“I hope they leave it as status quo, but if they have to change it, it just doesn’t make any sense to me sending the West County up to Fairview. If they have to have one for the city and one for the rural (areas), keep the County of Grande Prairie boundaries where everybody does business together. And, of course then throw in Grovedale, otherwise they’re sticking out on their own.”
However, Justice Myra Bielby (pictured above), who chairs the commission, wasn’t surprised by how many attendees were against the proposed changes.
She says supporters often don’t see the need to show up to these kinds of events.
“It doesn’t surprise me that people, who perhaps are worried or concerned about the recommendations, are more likely to come out and speak about those concerns than the people that think it was a good idea. And maybe it was just obvious and so they don’t feel the need to come out.”
“I think the entire commission was happy with the turnout in Grande Prairie.”
More than one presenter suggested one entirely urban riding for Grande Prairie, with a rural riding using much of the County’s borders as a general guideline.
The provincial average per constituency is 46,697 residents and law dictates any given constituency can’t go 25 per cent above that number.
This was the first consultation regarding this topic hosted in Grande Prairie. The commission was scheduled to be here in January, but that was derailed due to inclement weather.