Last week, Canadian country music performer George Canyon announced he would be seeking the Conservative Party nomination for Bow River in 2014. A newly-carved political entity that will include Taber and Vauxhall — which currently reside within the boundaries of the existing Medicine Hat constituency — Bow River is still something of a political black hole in southern Alberta.
Sprawling north-south across the interior of the province and encompassing a vast tract of territory, the new Bow River constituency will include the M.D. of Taber, the counties of Vulcan, Newell, Wheatland and parts of the counties of Kneehill and Rocky View. At its furthest extent, the huge riding ranges from Three Hills in the north to Taber in the south, a distance of almost 300 kilometres.
Based upon population levels, but intended to deliver an overall agricultural focus, the Bow River riding includes the major population centres of Strathmore, Brooks, Vulcan, Vauxhall, Bassano, and Chestermere.
Taber, with a population of 8,104, is the third largest urban population centre in the riding.
Taber will officially become part of the new Bow River federal riding during the upcoming 2015 federal election, following a decision handed down by the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission in June 2013. Rejecting the objections of numerous municipalities and two sitting MPs in southern Alberta, the commission’s decision — based on population considerations — was welcomed by few constituents.
Not exactly an auspicious start for a new riding that by area easily dwarfs many others in Alberta.
Many criticisms levelled against the finalized boundaries have focused on the potential influence of Strathmore and Chestermere — often characterized as bedroom communities of Calgary — in a riding which features an overwhelming agricultural focus.
Long a fear of rural constituents that decisions made by appointed committees from Ottawa can have a huge influence over their political destinies — up to and including limiting the power of their franchise — this has sadly lived up to its billing in choosing and creating new electoral ridings and boundaries largely based on population rather than other considerations.
Interestingly, although Canyon currently resides on a ranch close to the riding, he doesn’t live within the new boundaries.
Not exactly a revolutionary tactic, candidates have “parachuted” themselves into new ridings for a long time, and it is rarely considered to be an ill-fated decision for star candidates. Still, there will always be those individuals, especially within Bow River’s new boundaries, that consider a candidate from outside to be truly an outsider.
Although Canyon’s name recognition will be sure to pull in its share of the vote, it would be premature to consider him an immediate lock for the Conservative nomination, or for MP.
There will be much work involved in showing constituents he has a grasp of the local issues and is ready to represent them on the national stage.
There are the time commitments of a performing artist — should Canyon continue in that vein if he were elected as an MP — could raise questions about how much time the country star would have to dedicate to his new job, and more importantly, to all his constituents.
Already stressing the importance of communication and accessibility in the role of a public official, Canyon will have to be ready to speak competently with an army of constituents, councils, and other officials — not just fans.
As of yet, there has been little word from any other potential candidates from any of the major federal political parties, not to mention no incumbent MP, reinforcing the idea Bow River will be the wild west of federal electoral ridings in 2015 — circling the wagons early is in Canyon’s best interests. But he will have to prove he has the dedication and determination to be an elected official before the voters of Bow River should favour him at the ballot box.