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Updated federal electoral boundaries released

New plan getting positive reviews in region over ‘horrendous’ proposal from last year
The proposed Ponoka-Didsbury riding (highlighted in red) that will include the towns of Innisfail, Bowden, Olds and Didsbury. The plan for Carstairs, Crossfield, Cremona and Sundre is to be in the renamed riding of Jasper-Banff-Canmore. Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta map

INNISFAIL - There could be big changes coming in the region’s new federal electoral map, including a totally reconfigured riding that physically disconnects itself from Red Deer but unites four highway corridor towns along Highway 2.

In the revised final report from the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Alberta (FEBCA), which was released last week, Innisfail, Bowden, Olds and Didsbury could soon be together in a new riding called Ponoka—Didsbury.

“There had been strong criticism from representatives of Innisfail and Bowden that it was inappropriate for those two towns to be placed in the northwestern corner of the proposed large, rural electoral district of Bow River because they had little in common with that electoral district and much more in common with the City of Red Deer,” said the report.

“In order to maintain the clearly expressed community of interest amongst Didsbury, Olds, Bowden and Innisfail, the commission has reconfigured the proposed electoral district of Wetaskiwin—Lacombe into an electoral district that surrounds the northern, western and partial southern boundaries of the Red Deer electoral district.”

Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay applauded the revised new federal electoral map, which originally had Innisfail out of the current Red Deer—Mountain View riding and into the proposed massive redrawn Bow River riding and did not include Olds and Didsbury.

“I'm pleased to see the changes that have been made and that the commission listened to the concerns that came forward,” said Barclay. “I think it's wonderful that we are now in with our regional partners, where a lot more commonalities are in place.”

However, some of Innisfail’s regional partners did not make the cut to be included in the Ponoka—Didsbury riding. Carstairs, Crossfield, Cremona and Sundre may find themselves part of the renamed riding of Jasper—Banff—Canmore.

Carstairs mayor Lance Colby says he doesn’t believe moving Carstairs to a new federal riding will have any major impact on the community.

“I really don’t see that will make much difference,” Colby told the Albertan. “I can’t see it really affecting us in any negative way.”

The FEBCA hosted extensive public hearings last fall into an initial proposal that had Innisfail out of the current Red Deer—Mountain View riding and into a massive redrawn Bow River riding, which did not include Olds and Didsbury.

The new plan also calls for replacing the current Red Deer—Lacombe and Red Deer—Mountain View riding with just one Red Deer-based riding that will include Penhold, Delburne and Elnora.

The latest report was tabled in the House of Commons last week, and will soon be under review by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

As for the political representation for the region, it could change dramatically for many regional communities, including Innisfail, Olds, Bowden, Didsbury, Carstairs, Cremona, Crossfield and Sundre.

Earl Dreeshen is currently the member of Parliament (MP) for Red Deer—Mountain View, while Blaine Calkins is the MP for Red Deer—Lacombe.

Dreeshen, who has been a regional MP for the past 14 years, said the latest federal electoral boundary changes for the region is a “vast improvement.

“It is a vast improvement over what was presented late last fall,” said Dreeshen. “The thing is Innisfail, Bowden, and the West Country were all going to be taken down into Bow River. People have to remember what the original plan was and that was horrendous.”

He emphasized the electoral boundary process is still not complete, noting committee MPs have to take a close look at the final plan to see if there's any other changes that might have to be considered.

Dreeshen also noted there is an important timeline to keep in mind while the review of the final plan is being made.

He said if the next election is called after April of 2024 it will go ahead with the new boundaries but if it comes before that it will go ahead with the old boundaries.

As for the riding he will represent in the next federal election, which is expected in 2025, Dreeshen noted the proposed new Red Deer riding is where he resides, and that will be where his interest “is going.”

“It will be a change for me but certainly something that whomever is there will very much enjoy being the representative,” said Dreeshen.

- With files from Dan Singleton


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