The independent commission was announced April 28, 2017 by the Acadian Affairs / African Nova Scotian Affairs Department and will run until November 1, when the three commissioners will present their findings in a paper to the department.
Until that day, each commissioner is entitled to an up to $1,200 in per diem allowance plus coverage of additional expenses.
We contacted the Acadian Affairs/African nova Scotian Affairs department requesting an interview on the matter.
The department declined our request. Tina Thibeau, Director of Communications for the province, issued a statement saying, “I can confirm that the Commissioners of the Commission on Effective Electoral Representation of Acadian and African Nova Scotians will receive a per diem of $1200 per day.”
Thibeau did not confirm what would be included in the additional expenses.
The three commissioners hired by the department are Doug Keefe, who will act as chair, along with Sharon Davis-Murdoch and Kenneth Deveau.
Deveau is a vice-president at Université Sainte-Anne and is the commission’s Acadian member.
He said the trio will be meeting tomorrow in Halifax to start discussions on how to begin their research and will also discuss administrative matters, such as the per diem. They will also determine how many meetings are scheduled.
He hypothesized additional expenses would include costs such as travel to and from Halifax.
This commission comes after three Acadian and one African Nova Scotian riding disappeared in 2012 after they were removed by then NDP government.
Deveau said there is more to this issue than constituencies.
“Effective representation is an important concept in our democracy and important to look at on a conceptual basis,” he said.
“The ridings are another issue. We as a commission take our mandate to be a larger question.”
A different perspective
Marie-Claude Rioux, Executive Director for the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Ecosse, disagrees.
She said this commission is “quite frankly a waste of time” since the last commission on electoral boundaries in 2013 revealed the court of appeal’s decision removing them was unconstitutional.
She also feels opening the discussion up to the public will create chaos.
“When a parent fights for their child’s right to a French education, as stated in Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it’s a judicial case. This should be the same,” she said.
“The public will never have one opinion and there will never be one single conclusion presented by such a commission.”
She also disagrees with the amount of money commissioners could be paid. Her organization is non-profit, with many of its employees volunteering their time.
“I was not aware the pay would be so high. That seems like a lot of money per person, per day,” said Rioux.
“We have per diems around $60 per day when we have meetings. If we consult, the highest it ever goes is $800, which is still nowhere close.”
Thibeau did not confirm if $1,200 was the standard per diem for all commission projects but said this figure is consistent with the 2005 Nunn Commission.