Electoral Boundary Commission hears Hants East concerns

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Hundreds attend extra meeting on boundary changes

MILFORD: The Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission made an exception for one more public meeting after being invited to Milford on Jan. 29.

President of the Milford Recreation Association Sandra Watson invited the commission to listen to the concerns of East Hants, and it was an invitation accepted by members.

Approximately 200 residents of Hants East attended the meeting at the Milford Recreation Centre to speak before the commission.

Within their electoral boundary review, every scenario sees Hants East boundaries changed by moving Milford and Shubenacadie into Colchester/Musquodoboit Valley’s boundary.

Watson was the first to speak before the commission.

“We are intrinsically woven in with all of East Hants because of history, cultural ties, and geography,” she said. “We expect and deserve the best representation available to our constituents and insist that best representation would come by remaining in the provincial electoral riding of Hants East.

“We are communities drawn together along the Shubenacadie river, forming the corridor of the communities of East Hants. Geographically we are formed by the Shubenacadie river, not highway 102.”

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What residents had to say:

“Our uniqueness may not be immediately obvious visually, it is however obvious culturally and socially,”- Shubenacadie Councillor Pam MacInnis

“You become lesser of a sum, and that means your voice does not resonate when you make a call. It’s never right to divide a community,”- Michael Perry, Mount Uniacke Councillor

“We are more than just a group of communities lumped into a boundary, we are a family. That has not been always easy, as in any family there are fractious times and there are good times but I can say that over the past 20 plus years that I have been involved that the ties between all of the communities from Mount Uniacke to Walton through the corridor area, the ties have strengthened and the interaction between those communities had grown.

“I think East Hants/ Hants East is a good, viable area, and I think we are stronger together.”-Rawdon Councillor Eleanor Roulston

“Staying together as a community, helps us remain stronger,”- Norvall Mitchell

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Currently, the electoral boundaries of the provincial riding of Hants East mirrors perfectly the Municipality of East Hants. This creates a bong unique to the area.

“The municipal boundary and provincial boundary being identical has afforded our residents with consistent representation,” said Pam MacInnis, councillor for Shubenacadie. “Working with the province on grants, infrastructure needs or community needs having one point of contact within all communities of the districts streamlines the communication process.”

“This would not serve the goals of fair representations with both communities sharing many commonalities.”

Kody Blois has been an active supporter of keeping Hants East complete since the review was released. He wants the commission to use their discretion with their decision.

“The question becomes at what point does the community make it clear that they understand there is that aspect of voter parody but they’re choosing to forgo that. Do we deserve more? Absolutely, but we’re choosing to put the communities of Milford and Shubenacadie first,” said Blois.

“At what threshold does this community has to show that they are choosing to keep their interest together instead of going towards voter parody?”

Milford resident Len Giffen speaks before the electoral boundary commission.
(Cameron photo)

The committee has been deliberating between public meetings about changes to their proposals. One of the more recent ones sees changes with Mount Uniacke, seeing the community split almost down the middle. Mount Uniacke representative Michael Perry said that potential split could be devastating for the community.

“Some of the proposed changes have my community cut completely in half,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever fair and parody cannot exist if you divide a community, regardless of where you’re at.”

Eleanor Roulston agrees. She says voter parody on paper and in actual application is completely different.

“It’s always a very difficult process,” she said. “Numbers on paper that create voter parody look good but I don’t think it’s any secret that in the past number of years, voter engagement in this province is not high.

“The turnout for provincial elections is not optimal and to divide communities in any of the ways that have been suggested here in my opinion will not increase voter engagement. I think you will have sawed off parts of a larger community where people will say, well why bother? We’re going to be lost within the larger picture.”

Going through boundary reviews within the municipality, Roulston is well aware of the difficult job the commission has, but says she knows splitting communities is never the directive, or answer.

“I think the last thing the provincial government would have intended when it struck this commission was to pit communities, or family members against one another to strive to stay within the unit they are currently a part of,” she said. “Speaking for myself, I think the one we have right now just works fine.”

While the riding as a whole wants to remain as one, there is no denying the growth boom the Municipality of East Hants has experienced, and will continue to experience. Because of that continued growth, Hants East MLA also supports the status quo for this review.

“What happens when?” She asked. “We know there are upwards of 2000 units coming to Lantz that is going to have to be considered at some point. We know our population is still going to grow lot and we are going to be dealing with this again in the future. This area will continue to grow as it has been.”

Severing the riding is something Miller does not want to see, and with any potential changes with Mount Uniacke being the community moved, she wants to see the best for them.

“If there is a division of Mount Uniacke, if there is, if there needs to be , that you keep all of Mount Uniacke together, and then naming the constituency that will have Mount Uniacke, that the Mount Uniacke name be used,” she said. “I think they need recognition.”

The commission is now taking time to go through all of the information gathered from all meetings, and will decide if additional changes to the proposals are needed.