County opens discussions for new division boundaries

The Wheatland County Committee of the Whole addressed the topic of its local electoral boundaries during the Feb. 13 meeting.

“This topic is kind of a unique topic that all municipalities do need to address from time to time. The last time Wheatland County, (our) current bylaw was put in place (was) in 2001, so given 23 years have passed and we are coming to a new election in 2025, this bylaw needs to be revised,” said Brian Henderson, with Wheatland County administration. “Upon reviewing the bylaw and just taking a look at the resident count and the number of residents per division, we did realize that just due to come growth on the west side of the county that there has been a bit of a shift per division.”

Henderson added there is also a deadline for the county to revise its electoral boundary bylaw by the end of this year.

Redrawing the electoral boundaries spreads constituents out among divisional councilors for equal representation needs. This process is a step in guaranteeing fair representation for Wheatland County’s residents and aligning with strategic growth plans.

A report presented by administration to county council indicates an average of 525 residences per division, with the greatest discrepancy being between Divisions 5 and 7 – which had 742 residences versus 387 residences, respectively.

The report also indicated the per cent difference from the average between each of the divisions. Division 5 sits 41.33 per cent above the average, and Division 7 sits 26.29 per cent below.

“Realistically, in the grand scheme of things, the overall changes proposed by administration, which there are options for council to consider, they are less sweeping than shrinking divisions,” said Henderson. “In the general context of this conversation and presentation, the west side divisions would most likely shrink if possible, and the ones on the east side would grow in land area.”

Henderson clarified the area of which each division occupies is less about the land, and more about the number of residences they encompass.

He added the boundary adjustment process should remain non-political and maintain a data-driven focus based on the most recent population census.

Administration aims to maintain a goal of no division maintaining a population difference greater or smaller than 25 per cent of the average throughout the boundary changes.

The Committee of the Whole accepted administration’s report and potential options for new division boundaries as information to return to council at a later date, which was not indicated during the committee meeting.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times