By Greg Bennett
Opponents of the political split of Shelburne County were gathering their forces as questions about when and exactly where the law amendments committee would sit were getting closer to being answered as the legislature closed down for the week on Friday.
Justice Minister Ross Landry, the head of the committee, was hoping debate on the second reading of the bill would be completed on Monday. He and his all-party committee would then decide on details of the hearing, which he believed could be held Thursday and Friday in Shelburne.
“That’s the target,” he said. “But again it will be up to the committee.”
The Town of Shelburne has offered the use of the local community centre for the hearings and Landry said the offer is appreciated and will be considered.
Although each speaker is allowed only 10 minutes, Landry believes two days of hearings will likely still be needed given the amount of interest expressed in the area.
They are also expecting representations from people from across the province, particularly from the formerly protected ridings of Argyle and Clare.
He emphasized that people who wish to speak to the committee must be registered prior to the hearings.
Town of Shelburne CAO Dylan Heide said that if the hearings are held starting on Thursday that the Town will be represented by newly elected Mayor Karen Mattatall, whose swearing in was scheduled for Wednesday night.
Others who have already registered to speak in front of the committee include Town of Clarks Harbour Mayor Leigh Stoddart.
“I’m hoping as many people make submissions as possible,” he said.
If unchanged, the bill would split the provincial constituency of Shelburne in two along the Clyde River, with Argyle and Barrington combining to form a new riding. The eastern half of Shelburne County would join with Queens.
Stoddart and many others believe the change would have a serious impact on provincial representation within the county.
“No one with any common sense can see any good in this for Shelburne County,” said Stoddart. “We have a strong community of interest within our county and we’d like to keep it that way.”
Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau says the unprecedented move of the Law Amendments committee will at least give people the opportunity to speak against the move, an opportunity they were not given by the Electoral Boundaries Commission which he says blindsided the area with its recommendations.
Last month, hundreds of people from across the South Shore took part in a meeting in Barrington to protest against the recommendations. Before the committee decided to move its hearings, plans were being made to charter buses so local people could attend.