An independent Electoral Boundaries Commission has submitted a revised interim report and this one eliminates the stand-alone riding of Yarmouth. Instead, the report recommends dividing the riding of Yarmouth so that parts of it can be merged with the Acadian ridings in Argyle and Clare.
The proposed constituency of Yarmouth-Argyle would contain the Town of Yarmouth and District of Argyle and parts of the Municipality of Yarmouth. The interim report further defines the changes to the Argyle riding as such: "Argyle: Gains the area south of Highway 103, along with the Town of Yarmouth, and Overton and Cape Forchu areas (from the electoral district of Yarmouth). This constituency to be renamed Yarmouth-Argyle."
The proposed constituency of Clare-Yarmouth would contain the remaining area of the Municipality of Yarmouth and the District of Clare. The interim report further defines the changes to the Clare riding as such: "Clare: Gains the area north of Highway 103, and north of the Town of Yarmouth from the District of Yarmouth and to be renamed Clare-Yarmouth."
(You can read a more detailed description of these proposed boundaries from the interim report at the conclusion of this story.)
These proposals to not maintain the protected Acadian ridings as they were do not sit well with the Municipality of Argyle or the Municipality of Clare, which both indicated they wanted the protected constituencies of Argyle and Clare to remain intact to better ensure they have Acadian representation when it comes to the Nova Scotia Legislature.
The report also does not sit well with the Mayor of Yarmouth. Phil Mooney hadn’t yet read the report when contacted by the Vanguard shortly after it was released, but when told about the proposal to divide the riding of Yarmouth he was blunt in his reaction.
“To say I’m disappointed in that finding would be an understatement,” he said. Mooney noted that the town and municipality of Yarmouth have been working together on a lot of fronts when it comes to amalgamated services such as recreation, waste collection, etc. He says often when funding for projects is being made the applications go in jointly from the town and municipality.
“We have a true connection with our municipal friends…when we do applications for funding we always do it jointly through the town and municipality under one thing so now if we’re divided, how does that work?” Mooney wondered. “When we’re talking about amalgamation of our regional area, if we ever come to that, this flies in the face of that.”
Asked what the interim commission could have done differently, Mooney feels they should have left the protected Acadian ridings alone, even though they didn’t meet the population thresholds identified by the province.
“Down here, we’ve lost enough. We’ve lost the boat and other things, we don’t need to be losing, basically, an MLA,” said Mooney. “I’m disappointed in the report. While not having looked at it and talked with other councillors I think anything that breaks away the Municipality of Yarmouth and the Town of Yarmouth, I don’t think it’s going to work and it’s ill conceived.”
The revised interim report was deliver to the Minister of Justice, on Friday, July 20.
The commission had initially released its interim report on June 1 but Justice Minister Ross Landry, in a letter dated June 14, indicated he was not able to accept the interim report as drafted because the terms of reference were mandatory, not a matter of guidance. Those terms stated that electoral ridings have to have populations within 25 per cent of the Nova Scotia average.
In its first interim report the commission recommended that the Acadian ridings in the province, including Argyle and Clare, remain status quo. But in that scenario neither riding would come close to the population threshold outlined in the terms of reference.
Having been advised that the terms of reference were legally binding, Landry declared the report null and void and requested the commission prepare a revised interim report that fully complied with the terms of reference.
"We took the minister's direction very seriously," said commission chair Teresa MacNeil. "As with the interim report, it was a difficult process to achieve voter parity within the established limitation. However, we feel the current document shows that the terms of reference are fully addressed. We look forward to hearing from Nova Scotians during our second round of public meetings."
The focus of the revised interim report is on the previously protected constituencies and on submissions received from Nova Scotians since June 1. As directed, the number of voters in each electoral district in the province now falls within 25 per cent of the average number of voters.
Argyle MLA Chris d’Entremont said the Progressive Conservatives would be studying the report and that they would have more to say about it after the weekend.
“It’s not just the issue for Yarmouth County,” he said Friday afternoon. “There are a number of changes across the province that need to be looked at a little closer, so we’ll have probably a larger comment next week. Ours today is basically to thank the commission for their work under really difficult circumstances.”
Clyde deViller, executive director of the Conseil acadien de Par-en-Bas, said CAPEB would have an executive meeting Monday to discuss the report.
In its interim report, the commission notes that it considered several scenarios to attain at least 75% of the average number of voters in constituencies that include the voters of Clare and Argyle:
1. Merge the constituency of Clare with constituency of Digby-Annapolis
2. Merge the constituency of Argyle with the constituency of Shelburne
3. Combine the constituencies of Clare and Argyle
4. Extend boundaries of Clare such that they merge with the boundaries of the District of Yarmouth County
5.Extend the boundary of Argyle to merge with the boundaries of the Town of Yarmouth, and the intermediate area south of Highway 103.
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Says the revised interim report, "As with all the population circumstances where the Commission faced the need for significant change, each of the above options came with both positive and negative features. None stood out as being truly desirable. The change being proposed is intended to provide the strongest possible voice for Acadians of this region in the legislature. It is to extend the boundaries of Clare to include the major portion of the District of Yarmouth County forming a constituency named Clare-Yarmouth; and, to extend the boundaries of Argyle through to Yarmouth Town (including an intermediate portion of the District of Yarmouth County south of Highway 103) forming a constituency named Yarmouth-Argyle."
A Clare-Yarmouth riding would have 12,325 electors and a Yarmouth-Argyle riding would have 13,525 electors.
Overall, in its revised interim report the commission proposes that:
• there should be 51 members in the House of Assembly
• three constituencies be eliminated, one in Cape Breton, one in
Northeast Nova Scotia and one in Southwest Nova Scotia
• two new constituencies (Fairview-Clayton Park and Sackville-Beaver Bank) be added to the Halifax area
Boundary adjustments in the remaining constituencies were guided by the
goal of relative voter parity to the greatest extent possible.
In relation to the protected constituencies, the commission proposes:
-- Preston be expanded to include areas from the constituencies of Cole Harbour and Dartmouth East and to be renamed Dartmouth-Preston. The proposed new constituency moves towards the urban part of HRM.
-- Richmond be expanded to include parts of Cape Breton West and the Town of Port Hawkesbury and to be renamed Cape Breton-Southwest.
-- Clare and Argyle be merged with the adjacent constituency of Yarmouth. The proposed constituency of Yarmouth-Argyle would contain the Town of Yarmouth and the District of Argyle. The proposed constituency of Clare-Yarmouth would contain the remaining area of Yarmouth District and the District of Clare.
Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill said the proposed ridings for this area do not accommodate the people of Yarmouth and they do not accommodate the Acadian ridings.
“I know that in the report they mention that slicing Yarmouth in two is to accommodate the Acadian communities but the last interim report accommodated the Acadian communities. What the Acadian communities wanted was to have their protected ridings in place. What we have now is a commission that is trying to accommodate Darrell Dexter’s political agenda,” Churchill said, pointing out that the premier has interfered in what was supposed to be an independent commission.
“It definitely doesn’t accommodate the people of Yarmouth. The only thing this report does is accommodate Darrell Dexter’s political agenda to silence his critics from this part of the province. How else can you interpret this?” added Churchill. “Yarmouth was at the average that every riding is supposed to be at. The Acadian ridings were protected. He tried to sneak in terms of reference that weren’t supported by other parties.”
Churchill said it will be important for people from Argyle, Clare and Yarmouth to voice their opinions in the next round of public consultations. He just hopes the people will be listened to since what the public said it wanted was rejected by the NDP government after the first round of consultations.
The second round of public meetings where the interim report will be discussed will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 7 in Port Hawkesbury. Locally, a meeting is planned on Monday, Aug. 13 at the Yarmouth Mariners Centre from 6-8 p.m.
A meeting will also be held in Clare at Université Ste. Anne on Tuesday, Aug. 14 from 6-8 p.m.
A final report is expected to be delivered to government by
Friday, Aug. 31.
The revised interim report and the complete list of the second round of public meetings can be found at nselectoralboundaries.ca.
FROM THE INTERIM REPORT:
Yarmouth-Argyle (#51 on the map attached to this story): On the east and south, it is bounded by the Yarmouth and Shelburne county line. It is bound in the west by the Atlantic Ocean. From the Atlantic Ocean, it follows the Overton Community boundary east until it intersects with the Municipality of The Town of Yarmouth boundary line. It then follows this boundary east until it intersects with Highway 103, which it continues to follow east until it intersects the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth boundary line. It then follows this boundary northeast, and then north until it intersects the Yarmouth and Digby County line. On the north, it follows this county line east until it intersects with the Shelburne and Queens County line.
Clare-Yarmouth riding (#8 on the map): On the west it is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. On the south, from the Atlantic Ocean, it follows the Overton community boundary east until it intersects with the Municipality of the Town of Yarmouth boundary line. It follows this boundary line east, until it intersects with Highway 103, which it continues to follow east until it reaches the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth boundary line. On the east, it follows the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth boundary line northeast and north until it reaches the Yarmouth and Digby County line. It then follows this boundary east, until it intersects the Municipality of the District of Clare boundary line. It follows this line northwest until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.