In October 2020 the County of Stettler brought forward a proposed plan to review the ward boundaries due to changes in the population of the wards. Since 2006, the County of Stettler population has increased by 7% overall but not across all wards. The County’s goal was to offer equal representation in their wards to equalize the population of each ward.
“The review was undertaken primarily because of the Byemoor - Endiang and Botha - Gadsby wards being well outside the average populations of the wards. We needed to adjust them so that every ward has an equal opportunity for representation. Byemoor - Endiang was down 35% and Botha - Gadsby was up 34% and they like them to be much more even between 0 and 15% is the max they would want.” Niki Thorsteinsson, Communications Director, County of Stettler
For example, the Botha - Gadsby councillor represents 34% more population and Byemoor - Gadsby councillor represents 35% less, and everyone needs to be represented equally. The County previously absorbed Botha, that was a village and became a hamlet and more recently absorbed Gadsby creating the need for the changes.
When the county engages with the public in a survey, the feedback is presented to Council prior to proposals being brought forward for council to weigh the factors. When the county entered the last municipal election, they had heard from a few people that they wanted to elect a Mayor. Currently, the seven councillors choose the Reeve annually. Consideration was given to decreasing the wards to six and the Mayor would be elected while representing a ward. This question was asked at the public forums prior to the last municipal election three years ago.
They had only heard from a few people more frequently, and the County thought maybe the public wanted to elect a mayor so the survey was undertaken to get a better sense of the general population for a decision to be made. The public was provided an opportunity to submit their feedback through a survey that was posted online and in the County Connection.
The Bylaw Report available on the County of Stettler’s website and presented at the November 10 Council meeting outlined the reason for the recommendation, and the survey results were primarily in favour of increasing the number of wards. Of the 55 responses received, 75% supported the proposal to maintain the seven wards, 22% supported keeping the six wards and electing a Mayor that would also represent a ward and 3% were undecided.
The first reading and motion passed in support of the proposed Bylaw: 1645 - 20 Electoral Ward Boundary at the County of Stettler Council meeting on November 10. Two more readings will be brought forward at the December 9 Council meeting, and all three readings must be completed by December 31, 2020 for the new boundaries to be implemented.
To review the map of the existing and proposed boundaries visit the County of Stettler website at https://www.stettlercounty.ca/350/Ward-Review
Jody Craig, Reporter