Friends, I want to thank the non-partisan Alberta commission for its work and for efforts made following the public hearing process to respect some of the traditional geographic boundaries in Edmonton. One of those is 97 Street. We worked hard with colleagues to make sure 97 Street would be the boundary for the riding of Edmonton Centre, reflecting years of history.
With the utmost respect to the commission, I would like to share my concern that the proposed northern boundary of the redrawn constituency fails to account for the historical pattern for boundaries of ridings in the city of Edmonton, and the particular community of identity contained in north Edmonton in particular.
Yellowhead Highway 16 and the rail yards that run alongside it represent one of the most definitive geographic boundaries within the city. Through it, residents and products flow across, into and out of our city. Indeed, I'm proud to say that our government is currently partnering with the provincial and city governments to turn Yellowhead into a full freeway. It's a massive and long-awaited project that is going to benefit residents and bring more Canadians and visitors to our city.
While freeways like the Yellowhead are really important to connect people, they have the understandable effect of geographically separating neighbourhoods physically and psychologically, so it is little surprise that this boundary has been the northern boundary for almost 40 years, for everything from municipal to provincial ridings and boundaries. It is a clear boundary distinction between north and central communities.
Significantly, it is the border of 18 neighbourhood community leagues that run along the freeway. I believe this most strongly represents institutional recognition of this as an appropriate boundary.
Despite this, under the proposal there are three distinct communities north of the highway that have been separated from other north Edmonton communities and put into Edmonton Centre. This would put these neighbourhoods in a federal riding that is separate from their public school division and their provincial and municipal representation, and separate from the unique character that makes up north Edmonton. Respecting the community of identity contained in an electoral district cannot permit separating these communities from similar north Edmonton communities in this way.
Furthermore, this proposal fails to take into account the nature of this freeway as a major geographic feature of Edmonton. Therefore, I would propose that the northern border of Edmonton Centre remain the Yellowhead Highway.
I recognize that this correction may impact the population of the proposed Edmonton Centre electoral district. To respect the commission's median population quota, I would propose that the communities of Parkview and Laurier Heights be returned to Edmonton Centre. These neighbourhoods are well connected with the communities on the southwest border of the new riding. They share community leagues, schools and hockey rinks, and they would be well served by remaining in the riding they have been in since 2004.
So, dear colleagues, I am proposing that the Yellowhead Highway remain the northern border of Edmonton Centre and that, on the population issue, the communities of Parkview and Laurier Heights be returned to Edmonton Centre.