By Eric Bourque
Following up on the minority riding issue, the Municipality of Argyle prepared a resolution calling on the province to maintain protection for Nova Scotia’s minority constituencies.
Saying the municipality “strongly” opposes the decision by the Select Committee on Establishing an Electoral Boundaries Commission to require all of Nova Scotia’s constituencies to have a population within 25 per cent of the provincial average, the resolution calls on the province to “reverse its decision to support such recommendations.”
The municipality wants the terms of reference for the electoral boundaries commission to “include, as a priority, the protection of visible and linguistic minorities in Nova Scotia, specifically the ridings of Clare, Argyle, Richmond and Preston, as done in 2001.”
Eliminating or combining Acadian seats would have “devastating negative impacts on the voice and the vote of the Acadian minority,” the resolution says.
The resolution points out that when the select committee held public meetings last fall, many presenters (some representing organizations, others speaking as individuals) spoke of the importance of protecting “the Acadian voice” in the Nova Scotia legislature.
One of those meetings was held in Yarmouth, where the need to ensure continued Acadian representation in government was the dominant message. The present system has worked well and should be maintained, select committee members were told during their Yarmouth session in late November.
A month later, however, when it presented its report, the select committee – with a majority of members from the governing New Democrats – said all of Nova Scotia’s provincial constituencies should be within the 25 per cent population variance.
The Acadian ridings of Argyle, Clare and Richmond – whose populations all are well below the provincial average and well outside the 25 per cent variance – previously had been exempt from this requirement, as had the African Nova Scotia riding of Preston.
At their regular monthly meeting on Jan. 10, Argyle council members discussed the minority boundary issue, by conference call, with Argyle MLA Chris d’Entremont – a member of the select committee who had opposed the committee’s NDP majority on the boundary issue – and Ron Robichaud, president of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE).
Council passed a motion that same night expressing its support for FANE in its efforts to reverse the province’s decision regarding minority ridings. Council also said it would prepare a formal resolution, spelling out in more detail its position.
The two-page resolution, which was part of the agenda package for Argyle council’s committee-of-the-whole meeting on Jan. 31, speaks of the Acadian culture and language being “under threat of assimilation by the dominant majority language.”
Among other things, the resolution says the issue stands not only to impact minorities negatively but also to hurt “rural Nova Scotia as a whole.”
As for the Argyle riding in particular, the resolution notes that since 1981, in every provincial election but one, the area has elected an Acadian to the legislature.
Prior to the 1981 provincial election, the Argyle district had been part of the dual riding of Yarmouth.