In advance of the Electoral Boundaries Commission coming to Yarmouth on Monday evening as part of the public consultation process following the release of its revised interim report, the commission has been hearing plenty from people from this area.
And they will hear more during the meeting at the Mariners Centre on Aug. 13.
The secretary at the commission’s office told the Vanguard on Thursday afternoon that they have received hundreds of emails and letters from this area pertaining to the interim report, which suggests doing away with the former ridings of Yarmouth, Argyle and Clare and instead establishing two new ridings, a Yarmouth-Argyle riding and a Clare-Yarmouth riding.
The Electoral Boundaries Commission will be in Yarmouth and Clare next week to hear public response to its proposal to split the constituency of Yarmouth in two. The north part of the Yarmouth constituency will be linked with Clare under the proposal, the rest of the constituency, including the town of Yarmouth, will be linked with Argyle under the proposal. There is considerable opposition to this plan in the area. The Yarmouth meeting is set for the Mariners Centre Monday, Aug. 13, starting at 6 p.m. The Clare session gets underway on Tuesday, Aug. 14, at Ste. Anne's University's arena also starting at 6 p.m.
As of Thursday afternoon, Aug. 9, the office said that 23 groups and individuals had asked to be added to the list of people who will make submissions, in person, to the electoral boundaries commission at the Yarmouth meeting. This compares to lists of four or five submissions for some of the public sessions elsewhere in the province.
Surprisingly however, noted the office, as of 2 p.m. Thursday they had only received two requests so far from groups or individuals wanting to make a submission at the meeting being held on the evening of Aug. 14 in Clare.
The commission says, however, that given that these are public meetings, if people decide on the night of the public consultation sessions they want to make a submission to the commission, they will be allowed to do so. Letting the commission know in advance, however, does give them an idea of how many submissions to expect.
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People also have until Aug. 24 to file letters and submissions with the boundaries commission. People can visit the commission website for more information at nselectoralboundaries.ca .
The commission reviewing Nova Scotia's electoral boundaries began its second round of public meetings on Tuesday, Aug. 7 in Port Hawkesbury. Prior to coming to Yarmouth the commission will also have held meetings in Westville and Sydney.
The commission is seeking public comment on its revised interim report. It will consider these comments for its final report to government, due Aug. 31. All submissions will be viewed as public documents and may become part of the commission's published reports.
Locally there has been an organized effort to get people to turn out to the Aug. 13 meeting in Yarmouth to let the commission know people’s views. A lot of dialogue has been taking place on a Facebook page called Attack on Yarmouth: We Must Stand Together. Signs are popping up around town are encouraging people to attend the meeting. Newspaper and radio advertisements have also gone out.
In the newspaper advertisement Yarmouth Mayor Phil Mooney is quoted as saying, “We lose representation when we need it the most. We need a Yarmouth MLA now more than ever.”
“Our community must stand together on Aug. 13 and send a clear message to the boundaries commission: We will not have our community torn in two. We will not be divided. We are united and deserve our political voice,” says Yarmouth MLA Zach Churchill.
Acadian groups have also spoken in opposition of the suggestion in the revised interim report that the distinct ridings of Argyle and Clare not exist anymore as they have. This is the second interim report the commission filed. Following public consultations in the spring the commission had filed a report that called on the status quo for the Acadian ridings in the province. It also recommended no changes to the Yarmouth riding. But the provincial government flat out rejected that report, calling it null and void because the terms of reference, which it said were legally binding, had not been followed when it came to ensuring equal population averages. The populations of the Acadian ridings fell well below the thresholds.
Earlier this week the Yarmouth PC Association released a media report saying it will be making a presentation to the commission seeking the status quo for the constituencies in this region.
"It was obvious to Nova Scotians that the Commission listened to the presenters at the meetings because their thoughts and concerns towards minority representation was in the first draft interim report", says Yarmouth PC President Vivian Murphy. "By ensuring Acadian representation in the House of Assembly, the Commission was saying that our area was better served by three MLAs.
"As much as we welcome the long time connection with our friends & neighbours from Argyle and Clare, the area will lose one on it's three voices in the Legislature," she added. "With the economy of the area in such a state, we need everyone at the table to combat the NDP cuts that continue to hurt our area."
In the lead-up to Monday’s public meeting, Argyle MLA Chris d’Entremont says he supports the efforts of the Acadian Federation and residents of Yarmouth on maintaining the three seats in South West Nova Scotia, but vows the NDP will pay at the polls for their heavy-handed interference.
“The NDP are pushing forward with cutting our region’s influence in government, but I’m determined that they won't get away with it,” said d’Entremont. “Their attempts to divide our communities will fail. All of the communities of Clare, Yarmouth and Argyle share the same goals of better jobs and futures for our children. They can't change that.”
Under the House of Assembly Act, an electoral boundary review is required after every 10-year census to reflect population shifts and to adjust electoral boundaries if necessary. Terms of reference were set by a select committee of the House of Assembly after consultation around the province, although the NDP was accused of sneaking in the terms of reference as they related to populations variances at the 11th hour and without the support of the other political party representation on the select committee.