Argyle council still wants electoral boundaries unchanged

Eric Bourque
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The Municipality of Argyle has reaffirmed its position on the provincial electoral boundary issue, saying it wants the boundaries to stay as they are.

Acadian pride was on display during an April public consultation session in Tusket for an electoral boundaries review.TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Discussing the matter during a June 26 meeting of its committee of the whole, Argyle council passed a motion saying it still wants no change to the boundaries, although change apparently is on the way, given that the commission reviewing Nova Scotia’s electoral boundaries – which, in its interim report, had recommended no changes to Argyle and the province’s three other minority ridings – announced recently it would revise its interim report.

The commission made that announcement June 18 in response to a letter from Justice Minister Ross Landry, who wrote that he could not accept the commission’s interim report because it included ridings whose populations are outside the 25 per cent variance from the provincial average, including Argyle. The government’s position is that the boundaries commission must, in its report, meet the terms of reference given to the commission, including the population variance requirement.

The Acadian ridings of Argyle, Clare and Richmond and the African Nova Scotian riding of Preston all have populations below the provincial average and outside the 25 per cent variance, but they previously had been exempt from this requirement.

While the electoral boundaries commission’s initial recommendation was that there be no change to those constituencies – a majority of the commission’s members saying this represented “the appropriate balance between relative voter parity and other considerations” – change is coming after all, given the announcement that the commission would be revising its interim report.

Critics of the province’s position on the boundary issue say the minority ridings should be maintained for linguistic and cultural reasons, community-of-interest factors and the like. The issue, they say, cannot, or should not, be reduced to an exercise in numbers.

Discussing the situation with Argyle councillors during their June 26 committee-of-the-whole session, Alain Muise, the municipality’s chief administrative officer, acknowledged that the boundaries of the provincial riding of Argyle will be affected, but he added, “What we don’t know is exactly how.”

Council passed a motion – made by council member Bruce Hubbard – restating its position that it wants the electoral boundaries to be kept as they are.

Back in early January, just when the boundary issue was starting to heat up, Argyle council held a meeting where it discussed the boundary situation, by conference call, with Argyle MLA Chris d’Entremont and Ron Robichaud, president of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Council passed a motion that night expressing its support for FANE in its efforts to reverse the province’s decision to do away with protection for minority constituencies. Council also said it would prepare an official resolution that would spell out its position in more detail.

The resolution, which was made public at another council session at the end of January, spoke of “devastating negative impacts on the voice and the vote of the Acadian minority” if the province did away with protection for minority ridings.

In January the Municipality of Argyle drafted a resolution saying the boundary issue stands to affect not just minorities but rural Nova Scotia.

The resolution spoke of the Acadian culture and language being “under threat of assimilation by the dominant majority language.”

The resolution said the issue stands not only to affect minorities negatively but also to hurt  “rural Nova Scotia as a whole.”

As part of its public consultation process, the electoral boundaries commission held public meetings, including sessions in Tusket and Church Point in April, where presenters called for the status quo on minority ridings.

The commission was to have begun a second round of public meetings in early June, following the release of its interim report, but things were put on hold in response to many requests from Nova Scotians wanting more time to go over the report, the commission said.

As of last week, the boundaries commission had yet to post a new schedule of second-round public meetings.

In a recent interview with the Vanguard, Teresa MacNeil, the commission’s chairperson, said the commission still was aiming to meet an Aug. 31 deadline for completing its final report.

 

 

 

 

 

Organizations: Argyle council, Tusket and Church Point

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Richmond, Nova Scotians

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