When I first moved to Edmonton in 1997, every single sitting MLA from the city was either a Liberal or a New Democrat, while every single sitting MLA from outside of Edmonton was a Tory. 'Redmonton,' they called it--an island of progressiveness in the middle of the deep blue sea. The provincial scene these days is actually a little more colourful than that--a few Liberal MLAs have seats outside of Edmonton, while the occasional Tory has actually managed to penetrate the city limits. But with eleven Liberals, four New Democrats, and only two Tories currently representing my city in the provincial legislature, it's pretty clear the overall trend hasn't changed.
The city council is, if anything, even more progressive. For years, Michael Phair was the most high-profile and the most universally beloved councillor, and he was not only a true progressive, but also one of the first openly gay politicians to be elected in Canada. Though Phair has now retired, he was replaced in the last election by Ben Henderson (husband of well-known Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman), in a very close race with yet another progressive, aboriginal activist Lewis Cardinal. The new council also contains a twenty-eight-year-old rookie whose campaign was run by young Liberals and New Democrats, and get this: only a single right-wing member.
I would imagine that some of my readers--those who don't know much more about Edmonton other than the fact that it's in Alberta--are surprised by all this. And now you're scratching your heads and adding up the numbers and thinking: Wait a minute. How the heck can it be possible for a city that elects nothing but Liberals and New Democrats at the provincial and city levels to suddenly elect a whole slew of Tories to Ottawa? Well, there are two answers to that question. The first has to do with riding boundaries, and the second has to do with vote-splitting.
There are eight federal ridings with the "Edmonton" prefix:
- Edmonton Centre
- Edmonton East
- Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont
- Edmonton-St. Albert
- Edmonton-Sherwood Park
- Edmonton-Spruce Grove
The assumption in most of the national media seems to be that if this new bill passes, the Tories would have automatically bought themselves five additional Alberta seats. But if some of the new ridings turned out to be within the city limits of Edmonton, or if a reconfiguration turned out to push the current riding boundaries more toward the urban core (at least one of which seems inevitable without some serious gerrymandering involved), Edmonton's federal representation could finally start coming closer to the way the people of this city actually vote.
I, at least, will be watching this one very closely.