There’s an imbalance in the numbers of residents in the M.D. of Lesser Slave River’s two electoral divisions. Changing the borders to reduce the discrepancy has been considered before and rejected. It came up again at council’s Aug. 12 meeting. The gap is not getting smaller, and in fact violates the M.D.’s policy on population balance.
The written report for council showed District 1 had 1,099 residents in 2019 and District II had 1,703. This is well outside the 25 per cent allowable variance. District I is the south and eastern part of the M.D., including Smith, Hondo and Flatbush and most of the Old Smith Highway. Division II is everything west of a north-south line that on the M.D. map is identified as Range Rd. 40 (except there isn’t a road).
So, what to do about it? Seven scenarios were presented for council’s consideration. Six of them involved boundary changes to improve the balance between the two electoral divisions. The seventh was to do nothing.
Three of the suggested boundary changes proposed adding a third division. One of these has Div. I stopping at the Athabasca River. Div. II in this scenario would be everything west and north of there to a line just west of Slave Lake. The Southshore communities would be in Div. III. The population variance in that scenario would be down to 13.47 per cent.
Three other scenarios have the number of divisions staying at two, but Div. I becoming geographically even bigger so as to take in some of the population near Slave Lake.
Councillors seemed generally in favour of more balance. But the discussion soon enough revealed problems with every scenario. So why change it if it isn’t broken? It’s not as if anybody is complaining about it.
“If something’s working, don’t mess with it,” said councillor Brian Rosche.
It turns out the 25 per cent variance rule is not something imposed by the Municipal Government Act. So if it’s only an M.D. policy, said councillor Robert Esau, why don’t we just get rid of it?
Council will discuss the issue further at an upcoming meeting.