Although an interim report by an independent Electoral Boundaries Commission recommended preserving four of the province’s protected ridings, it is looking like the commission will have to go back to drawing board and what this will mean for the Acadian ridings of Argyle and Clare – which the commission said should remain intact – in unclear.
At issue is the fact that in making its recommendation for keeping three identified Acadian ridings and one African-Nova Scotia riding in the province, the commission ignored the terms of reference that were set out by the NDP government. Those terms stated that for constituencies to have equal and fair representation, they all have to be within a 25 per cent variance when it comes to riding size.
The four protected ridings are well below that variance. For instance Argyle would have 6,419 electors and Clare 6,531 electors, compared to other ridings in the province whose numbers are in the 14,000, 15,000 and 16,000 ranges. And at 16,961 electors, the proposed riding of Cole Harbour-Portland sits just below 17,000.
Premier Darrell Dexter has stated this it is not acceptable and he says that the commission ignored the terms of reference, saying that in doing so it violated its mandate. Since the premier’s rebuke, commission chairwoman Teresa MacNeil has said the commission is prepared to re-examine the issue of the protected ridings.
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When the commission released its interim report on June 1 it stated there would be a second round of public meetings prior to it having to prepare its final report by Aug. 31. In an initial meeting schedule drawn up, the closest meeting to these parts was Cornwallis. Presumably no meetings were scheduled here since the recommendation of the commission was that the ridings of Argyle, Clare, and even Yarmouth, remain the same. In the interim report, the number of electors in the Yarmouth riding is listed as 12,900.
The Vanguard has been told a revised list of meeting locations for the second round of consultations is being worked on.
In the first round of consultation, the meetings in Tusket and Church Point, which are within the Argyle and Clare ridings, were the most heavily attended of 14 sessions in the province. The commission also heard the most oral presentations at both of these sessions. Presenters at these sessions had urged commission members to find the courage to maintain the status quo, saying more than just numbers have to be taken into account when it comes to fair representation.
To read the rationale contained in the boundary commission’s interim report about maintaining the protected ridings, click onto the next page.