Southwestern Nova Scotians in general and Acadians in particular are the big losers in today’s final report by the electoral boundary commission.
The report recommends chopping two seats from our end of the province, adding two in Metro and chopping one in Cape Breton.
Digby County would become one big provincial riding. They suggest the Annapolis portion of the current Digby—Annapolis riding merge into the Annapolis riding and Digby and Clare merge to from a riding called Clare-Digby.
The other Acadian riding in southwestern Nova Scotia, Argyle, would merge with parts of Shelburne to become Argyle-Barrington.
Wayne Gaudet, the liberal MLA for Clare, says it is a sad day.
“It’s a sad day for Acadians, sad day for all Nova Scotians,” said Gaudet this morning (Tuesday, Sept. 25). “The commission has delivered today what the government wanted throughout the whole process. This NDP government has interfered with this commission from day one.”
Gaudet says the government didn’t listen when the select committee heard from the public consultation process that the terms of reference should include protection of the minority ridings.
“The government spin doctors have been talking about only one part of electoral representation – vote parity –they don’t talk about geography, minority representation, language.”
The terms of reference for the select committee dictated that all ridings had to be within 25 per cent of the average number of voters.
The commission however came back with an interim report that kept the minority ridings intact.
“We were respecting linguistic and cultural diversity as well as community history, interest and identity,” said the chair of the commission, Teresa MacNeil.
“And then the Attorney General stepped in and refused to accept the interim report of an independent commission based on his legal opinion that it didn’t meet the terms of reference,” says Gaudet. “The message from this government has been loud and clear. They want to get rid of us.
“But Acadians are going to remember this NDP government and I will be reminding them not to vote NDP.”
Junior Theriault, MLA for Digby, said Tuesday morning, he was still trying to get his head around the report.
“I’m trying to understand what it would take for a person to represent this proposed riding,” said Theriault. “If it was someone from up here (Digby area), it would have to be someone who understood the French people’s situation. And I know the Acadians would come out in droves to nominate someone from Clare.”
I cannot understand, in the 21st century, why the government has decided to treat minorities this way. - Clare MLA Wayne Gaudet
Theriault said he was glad he won’t be running in the next election.
“If Darryl (Dexter, the premier)) accepts this, it’s going to create such a mess—a mess he doesn’t even understand.”
The provincial government would still have to introduce legislation in the House of Assembly to make the changes recommended by the report.
Theriault figures the opposition will filibuster any such legislation all fall and if the majority government passes it anyway, that Acadian groups will take it to court.
“If the NDP are smart, they will forget this nonsense.”
The final report leaves Yarmouth intact—the interim report had suggested Yarmouth be split into two ridings.
The report’s recommendations result in 51 seats for the legislature—one less than the current 52.