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Electoral boundaries commission proposes reinstating former protected ridings in options presented in interim report

The independent Electoral Boundaries Commission met in Tusket on the morning of Sept. 8 to hear from the public on what it is proposing to include in a report to the NS government. Commission chair Colin Dodds. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
The independent Electoral Boundaries Commission met in Tusket on the morning of Sept. 8 to hear from the public on what it is proposing to include in a report to the NS government. Commission chair Colin Dodds. TINA COMEAU PHOTO - Tina Comeau

HALIFAX, N.S. – An interim report from the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission proposes four options for consideration, some of which refer to restoring previous electoral districts in the province, which include formerly protected Acadian and African Nova Scotian electoral districts.

For instance, in southwestern Nova Scotia the electoral districts of Shelburne County, Queens County, Argyle and Clare would be restored, and the riding of Digby-Annapolis created, in three of the four options being recommended by the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission for consideration by electors in its interim report released on Nov. 28.

The 84-page report Striking a balance between effective representation and voter parity, is a follow up to the first round of public consultations held late in the summer and early fall as part of the independent review process.

YOU CAN READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

The Commission was not mandated to come up with a fixed number of seats but is required to have one set of boundaries of 51 seats, the current size of the house, and at least one different total number of electoral districts.

The four options recommended in the report are:

• Draw electoral boundaries such that there are 51 electoral districts in Nova Scotia;

• Draw electoral boundaries such that there are 55 electoral districts in Nova Scotia, which include the four formerly protected electoral districts of Argyle, Clare, Richmond, and Preston;

• Draw electoral boundaries such that there are 55 electoral districts in Nova Scotia but 56 seats in the House of Assembly. This would include the dual-member electoral district of Inverness, which would have one MLA to represent the geographic electoral district and one MLA to represent the Acadian constituency; and

• Draw electoral boundaries such that there are 56 electoral districts, including the exceptional electoral districts of Preston, Argyle, Clare, Richmond and the addition of Chéticamp.

"The key issues confronting this commission are essentially those that challenged the previous commissions," said chair Colin Dodds in a Nov. 28 press release. "They are how to balance effective representation of African Nova Scotian and Acadian electors with voter parity and accommodate the ongoing shift of population from rural areas as well as taking account of the geography of the province."

Southwestern Nova Scotia is one area of the province that saw several electoral districts change during the last boundary review in 2012. In the 51 districts scenario being proposed by the 2018 interim report, there would be no change to the existing electoral boundaries of the Queens-Shelburne, Argyle-Barrington and Clare-Digby ridings, established after the last boundary review in 2012.

The recommendation to create 55 electoral districts, includes the four formerly protected electoral districts of Argyle, Clare, Richmond, and Preston.

“We chose to maintain the four exceptional electoral districts… because these are anchor communities with notable concentrated populations of minority cultural communities—Acadian and African Nova Scotian—that are indigenous to Nova Scotia,” states the report. “We feel that it is important to use this opportunity to continue to foster and protect these communities so that they can continue to develop and survive.

“We have drawn boundaries for these electoral districts in a nonpartisan and fair manner to encase a concentrated minority. We have deviated from voter parity to favour minorities in the electoral process by increasing the weight of their vote in smaller ridings,” the report states. “In establishing these exceptional electoral districts, we acknowledge the significance of these minority groups to our province’s history and cultural life. These electoral districts are symbols of recognition as well as tangible institutional arrangements that are designed to enhance constitutionally protected effective representation.”

During consultations that were held in the fall, the idea of having one MLA at large to represent Acadians in the province was widely highlighted as not a good idea during consultations that were held in the Argyle and Clare regions. (CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT THE PUBLIC TOLD THE COMMISSION DURING THAT INPUT SESSION)

The Electoral Boundaries Commission will be holding the next round of public meetings in January and February 2019. Under the Terms of Reference, the commission is to submit its final report by Apr. 1, 2019. The electoral boundaries of Nova Scotia are reviewed at least every 10 years. Commission members were appointed in July by an all-party select committee of the House of Assembly and were provided with broad terms of reference, largely drawn from the report of the Keefe Commission.

The full interim report is available online at https://nselectoralboundaries.ca/sites/default/files/electoral_boundaries_eng_2018_screen_revised_nov26.pdf

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