East Hants residents should be concerned with Interim Report from the Electoral Boundaries Commission

Featured Letter to the Editor Online First

Recommendations propose to move the communities of Milford and Shubenacadie into Colchester-Musquodobit Valley

 

The Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission released its interim report this past week and the recommendations should be a cause for concern for all residents of East Hants, particularly for those living in Milford and Shubenacadie. Approximately every ten years, the electoral boundaries for Nova Scotia are reviewed by an independent Electoral Boundaries Commission. The Commission works to ensure the ridings are balanced and equitable by considering factors such as the number of voters, geography, and adequate representation of minority groups.

In 2012, under the then NDP government, the Electoral Boundaries Commission proposed changes which were accepted and in effect during the 2013 election. These changes prompted the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, to launch a court application challenging the redrawn boundaries. In January 2017, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found that the boundaries used during the 2013 election were unconstitutional as they violated s.3 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In response, the current Liberal government reconvened the Electoral Boundaries Commission to propose recommendations that would ensure adequate representation for minority groups, namely for Acadian and African Nova Scotian communities.

This week, the interim report with recommendations on how to redraw Nova Scotia’s electoral boundaries was released. The Commission proposed four different scenarios. The first scenario is to maintain the current 51 districts but to revise them to ensure more representation for minority groups; the second option adds four districts, thus bringing the total 55; a third option proposes 55 districts with 56 seats (one being a dual-constituency); and the fourth option proposes 56 districts. While the goal of providing greater representation for minority groups has significant merit, all of the revised boundary maps significantly impact the district of Hants East.

All four scenarios released by the Commission propose to move the communities of Milford and Shubenacadie into the neighbouring district of Colchester-Musquodobit Valley. The rationale for the change is likely predicated on the fact that the Hants East district has approximately 25% more voters than the provincial district average. However, the proposed changes would have a significant detrimental impact on East Hants.

There has been a long-standing beneficial alignment where the MLA for Hants East was responsible for constituents who lived within the Municipal boundaries. By moving the communities of Milford and Shubenacadie out of the provincial district, it creates a clear divide where residents on both sides of East Hants’ divided boundaries are disconnected from a constituency which is interwoven into their communities. Take for example, Riverside Education Centre and Hants East Rural High, where a large proportion of East Hants students go to school. These schools would now be in another district. Residents in East Hants with questions about issues relating to the schools would be directed to the MLA for Colchester-Musquodobit, who may or may not be concerned about issues of voters outside their own district. On the opposite end of spectrum, residents living in Milford or Shubenacadie with concerns about the East Hants Sportsplex, the newly-built Aquatic Centre, the Lantz interchange, and any other issue within East Hants would be outside the district and represented by an MLA with no direct responsibility.

While I do not live in Milford or Shubenacadie, as an East Hants resident, I consider these communities home and do not want to see them separated from our provincial district. I suspect and hope many others feel the same way. Fortunately, this is an interim report by the Electoral Boundary Commission and not a final report. The Commission’s website suggests that public consultations will continue into January 2019. I believe that it would be in the best interests of residents of East Hants to voice their concerns over these proposed changes.

For more information on the proposed changes and to view the redrawn maps you can visit: https://nselectoralboundaries.ca/resources

Kody Blois is a graduate of Dalhousie University’s Juris Doctor/Master of Public Administration Program and is President of the East Hants Sport Heritage Society.