SHELBURNE. NS – There was no mincing words at the provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission review hearing in Shelburne on Sept. 7, where commission members were told by speaker after speaker to make the electoral district of Shelburne County whole again.
About 60 people attended the hearing. The commission is already proposing, in part, to increase the number of seats in the provincial legislature to 55 from 51 by restoring the seats of Clare, Argyle, Preston and Richmond and creating two additional electoral districts in Bedford and Sackville through a reshuffling of other districts.
WHAT THE COMMISSION IS PROPOSING IN SOUTHWESTERN NOVA SCOTIA
A proposal the Electoral Boundaries Commission is looking at is reinstating the Acadian ridings that were done away with in 2012. Under that proposed scenario, in the Tri-Counties the districts and the number of electorates would look like this:
• Shelburne riding: 11,360
• Argyle riding: 6,272
• Yarmouth riding: 13,658
• Clare riding: 6,667
• Digby-Annapolis riding: 12,561
• Queens-Lunenburg West: 11,293
If what is being proposed becomes reality, Shelburne County will be its own provincial constituency again, and gone will be the ridings of Argyle-Barrington and Queens-Shelburne, created after the last provincial electoral boundary review in 2012 in a process that many feel was severely flawed.
“It is our opinion that this process was seriously flawed from the beginning,” said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall. “The commission failed to consult the people of Shelburne County as it did all other areas that would be affected by the recommendation.”
John Davis told the commission Shelburne County was “torn asunder by misguided provincial legislation in 2012.”
“The electoral boundaries commission final report in 2012 denied Shelburne County voting rights just as it did Argyle, Clare and Richmond,” he said. “We’re not asking, we’re demanding, based upon the ruling of the court, that grievous wrong has to be rectified and Shelburne County is to be made whole again and the MLA returned so we have fair representation in the legislature. As far as many of us are concerned it’s a legal issue. Shelburne County was treated just as unfairly as the French ridings.”
Shelburne businessman Robert Redding told the commission that when looking at the 2012 hearings there is comment, to the effect, that there is historical commercial activity with the people of Shelburne County – particularly the eastern portion – with Queens County.
“Based on my professional experience, not enough commerce is conducted between the two counties to qualify as any defining factor towards the realignment that took place,” he said. “My practice was founded by my father in 1960. We’ve been at it 58 years. From those years I’ve seen a lot of transactions and not too many between those two counties.
“The trade route in Shelburne County is within Shelburne County - not Queens County,” he said, adding Lunenburg County is Queens County’s historical co-community.
Shelburne Municipal Warden Penny Smith said there is no question the final report in 2012 was only required because of the “wrongful intervention of the Attorney General and the government’s desire to eliminate the distinct electoral districts of Argyle, Clare and Richmond.” She said it was clear from the commission’s initial interim report – which should have been accepted by government – that the electoral district of Shelburne would have remained unchanged.
“There was not then and there is not now any compelling reason to change the electoral district of Shelburne,” she said. “In order to correct the wrong that was committed by the government the electoral district of Shelburne should be made whole again.”
Smith said the five municipal units in Shelburne County all share a common community and should be respected.
“The unconstitutional actions of the government altered the 150-year history of legislative representation for Shelburne County,” she added. “We hope the commission will take the opportunity to correct this wrong.”
Shelburne resident Roy O’Donnell told the commission county residents “have waited for six long years and tonight we have the opportunity to have our say.”
“Shelburne’s riding did not have to be sacrificed,” he said. “There were other options. There were better options.”
O’Donnell asked that Shelburne County “be assured of effective representation by the return of Shelburne’s boundary to its rightful place and that each recognized county in Nova Scotia be entitled to a minimum of one MLA.”
“This would neither increase or decrease the number of ridings in the province but would ensure each county would have its own individual voice in Halifax and then no other riding would be sacrificed just to increase the numbers in another adjoining constituency,” he said.