The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for the Province of Alberta (the "Commission") has been established pursuant to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. E-3, as amended (the "Act").
The Canadian Constitution requires a readjustment of the total number of members of the House of Commons and of each province following each decennial census. The formula and rules provided in sections 51 and 51A of the Constitution Act, 1867 (the "Constitution") govern this readjustment. As a result, federal electoral boundaries must be adjusted every 10 years to accommodate new electoral districts and the population shifts and changes within the province since the last decennial census.
The Act requires establishment of an independent, three-person commission in each province to define the sizes, boundaries and names of the electoral districts within that province. The chief justice of the province appoints the chair of the commission and the Speaker of the House of Commons appoints the other two members.
The 2012 Commission for Alberta was established by proclamation on February 21, 2012. The Chair of the Commission is Madam Justice Carole Conrad, of the Court of Appeal of Alberta, and the other members are Mr. Edwin Eggerer, of Airdrie, and Ms. Donna R. Wilson, of Edmonton.
Alberta's population count increased from 2,974,807 to 3,645,257 between the 2001 and the 2011 censuses. Application of the formula and rules contained in the Constitution resulted in an increase in the total number of seats in the House of Commons from 308 to 338 and an increase in the total number for Alberta from 28 to 34.
The electoral quota for each Alberta electoral district is 107,213. This number is obtained by dividing the 2011 Alberta census population count of 3,645,257 by 34, the number of House of Commons seats allocated to Alberta. Alberta has the highest electoral quota in Canada.
When readjusting the electoral boundaries, the Commission is governed by the principles set forth in the Act. Paragraph 15(1)(a) of the Act provides that the division of the province into electoral districts and the description of the boundaries shall proceed on the basis that the population of each electoral district shall, as closely as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province.
Paragraph 15(1)(b) of the Act provides that the Commission shall also consider the following criteria:
The Commission may deviate from strict electoral parity where it considers it necessary or desirable to do so in order to respect or maintain these criteria, provided that deviation from the provincial quota shall only exceed 25% more or less in circumstances the Commission considers extraordinary (subsection 15(2) of the Act).
The electoral quota for Alberta is 107,213. It follows that, absent extraordinary circumstances, Alberta's electoral districts should not exceed a maximum electoral district population of 134,016 or a minimum population of 80,410.
In summary, the overarching principle of the Act is to ensure that each electoral district shall, as closely as reasonably possible, correspond to the electoral quota for the province, often referred to as population parity. When drawing the boundaries, the Commission must consider communities of interest or identity, historical patterns and geographic size. Where the Commission determines that it is either necessary or desirable to deviate from population parity, it has the discretion to do so within the limits of the legislation set out in the Act.
The process for readjustment of electoral boundaries can be briefly summarized.
The Commission prepares boundaries for electoral districts, which are contained in a proposed redistribution plan. Advertisement in the Canada Gazette and in at least one newspaper of general circulation will include a map showing the proposed electoral districts and provide notice of the time and place fixed for public hearings. Notice of intention to make representations on the proposed electoral districts must be given in writing to the Commission within 23 days of the publication of the last advertisement. Rules governing appearance at a public hearing are contained in the Commission's proposed redistribution plan.
Following the public hearings, the Commission reviews its proposed redistribution plan, makes revisions, and submits its final report to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. In Alberta, the final report is due by December 21, 2012.
The Commission's report is sent to the House of Commons, where it is referred to a parliamentary committee. Once considered, it is referred back to the Commission. The Commission considers any objections, makes any modifications it deems necessary and provides a final certified copy of its report to the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, with or without amendment. Upon receipt of reports from all provinces, a draft order (referred to as the representation order) is prepared, describing and naming the electoral districts established by all the commissions.
Within five days of receiving the representation order, the Governor in Council must proclaim the order in force, effective on the first dissolution of Parliament that occurs at least seven months after the day on which the proclamation was issued. As such, the new boundaries can only be used for a general election called at least seven months after the representation order is proclaimed.