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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Do the right thing on electoral boundaries

['WS-xx-letter to the editor']
['WS-xx-letter to the editor']

SHELBURNE, N.S. – The recent decision by the Nova Scotia Appeal Court regarding the unfairness of the 2012 electoral boundary revision by the Dexter NDP government creates a perfect opportunity for the Liberal government to right a wrong done to citizens in southwest Nova Scotia – those in previous Acadian ridings and to the people of Shelburne County.

To date, the government has committed only to "talks" with the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE), but it must do more.

The present government should follow the twice-offered recommendation of the 2012 Electoral Boundaries Commission that "no changes" be made to the boundary of the Shelburne County riding. The NDP government rejected both recommendations.

The commission's first report recommended "no changes" to the boundaries of the Argyle and Clare ridings and "no changes" to the Shelburne County riding. Following these recommendations would have kept intact the political representation for communities in southwest Nova Scotia. The recommendation was rejected and the commission was instructed to submit a second recommendation, which they did.

To date, the government has committed only to "talks" with the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE), but it must do more.

The present government should follow the twice-offered recommendation of the 2012 Electoral Boundaries Commission that "no changes" be made to the boundary of the Shelburne County riding. The NDP government rejected both recommendations.

The commission's first report recommended "no changes" to the boundaries of the Argyle and Clare ridings and "no changes" to the Shelburne County riding. Following these recommendations would have kept intact the political representation for communities in southwest Nova Scotia. The recommendation was rejected and the commission was instructed to submit a second recommendation, which they did.

The second report recommended Argyle be joined with part of Yarmouth County and that Clare be joined with part of Yarmouth County abutting that district. It recommended Queens be joined with Lunenburg West. "No change" was recommended for Shelburne County. The government rejected this report, requiring yet another commission report.

Shelburne citizens felt confident that the electoral boundary of Shelburne County would remain, based on the two previous recommendations. Not one public meeting or consultation had yet happened in Shelburne County. Additionally, we presumed that the NDP government would not consider splitting and destroying the riding of a sitting cabinet minister.

We could not have been more wrong.

We were shocked when the government announced the acceptance of a third commission report, dismantling the Acadian ridings and tearing in two the riding of Shelburne County.

Overnight, we were left with a riding which had existed for more than 227 years being severed at either end and two Acadian ridings were needlessly altered. Even Shelburne County's MLA, a sitting government minister, confessed to be "blindsided" by the move.

There was much excuse making by the government that the number of ridings had to be reduced, and other ridings had to be made demographically "more fair." All of it apparently a smokescreen for gerrymandering additional NDP-friendly ridings in HRM.

Public meetings about the commission's    decisions were attended by political operatives of every stripe. These armchair experts, some with obvious agendas, apparently convinced the commission that splitting Shelburne County was a grand idea and that arbitrarily "adjusting" Acadian ridings was also productive.

As for Nova Scotia needing to reduce the number of constituencies – pure poppycock. In 2012, with a population almost 200,000 less than Nova Scotia, New Brunswick had 55 and Saskatchewan had 58, with a population just 15 per cent greater than ours. There was no rationale for not increasing the number of ridings  to make electoral ridings more fair.

For their part in bringing this miscarriage of justice to light, Shelburne County and those former Acadian ridings owe the Acadian federation a large debt of gratitude. In light of the court decision, Premier McNeil now has a great opportunity to do the right thing; to correct a terrible wrong and to return electoral ridings to citizens in Argyle, Clare and Shelburne.

These ridings are historical and logical and reflect true communities of interest and afford us the pride of place and people we deserve.

The premier and his government should do this before another provincial election.

 

Roy O'Donnell
Shelburne

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