Backlash over Boundaries

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Electoral boundary review leaves Milford and Shubenacadie split from Hants East

MILFORD: The Electoral Boundaries Commission has been tasked with looking at effective representation. The task, not an easy one by far, has presented three scenarios: One with a 51 seat legislature, and also 55 and 56 seat options.

In all three scenarios, Hants East is proposed to change with portions of Milford and Shubenacadie, essentially the right side of the highway, being moved to Colchester County.

The commission, chaired by Dr. Colin Dodds of Halifax, has had meetings across the province, including a public meeting on Jan. 14 at the BMO Centre in Bedford.

Many Hants East residents came to speak before the commission.

The thought of the Corridor of East Hants, Enfield to Shubenacadie, being split in two is concerning for the residents of the communities.

Milford resident, and President of Milford Recreation Association, Sandra Watson said the split could be detrimental.

“We are a community from Enfield right through to Shubenacadie,” she said before the commission. “We don’t see ourselves just as Milford, we see ourselves as East Hants.”

Using Highway 102 as a boundary splitter in all three scenarios, concerns are raised about the confusion it will raise, with communities having two MLA’s.

“We aren’t sure how we are going to be represented if there’s one MLA trying to do their business in Colchester and Musquodoboit which aren’t part of East Hants,” said Watson. “Not the entirety of Milford or the entirety of Shubenacadie, still parts of these communities will remain in Hants East and in the long term that’s not a solution for this.

“There must be another opportunity or another option that can be looked at, keeping us where we need to be, and that’s with East Hants. We are a growing community, and we recognize that, but there must be better alternatives than splitting Milford and Shubenacadie into two pieces, because that’s literally what you’re doing using the highway as a dividing line really isn’t fair.”

However, while acknowledging something will have to change, Watson wonders if what’s proposed is the best solution.

“I’m not suggesting you take either one of us, because neither of us want to go,” said Watson. “Splitting two communities, how does that make sense?”

“When issues arise and we have to contact our MLA, then we are involving two MLA’s in something and we’re going to have to expect they feel the same way about the issue and represent us in an equal fashion.”

Tracy (Cameron) Stuart also wonders if the communities would be represented well, and if the strong sense of community would continue.

“We are very much part of the Corridor, it was the glue that held us together, the school district and our sport,” she said. “Its such a strong social corridor and to break that apart into another district I fear we wouldn’t be represented well.”

Besides splitting the communities in two, residents are also worried about the schools, as the middle school and high school which service the Corridor of East Hants will fall into Colchester in the new proposed boundaries.

“Basically what this is doing is carving off the areas which have those two schools in them,” said Kerri Robson, a Milford resident and business owner in Shubenacadie.

“I can’t even wrap my mind about what that would like with two MLAs. They could have possibly two very different outlooks on the issues and different levels.”

Hants East Rural High and Riverside Education Centre will both fall in the Colchester boundary if proposals are approved as is.

Hope Edmond, co-president of HERH Student Council, wonders what that will mean for future students.

” We really think of East Hants as a whole, not just Elmsdale, Lantz, etc,” she said. “Segregating the heart of East Hants will not keep out community whole.”

The Municipality of East Hants perfectly shares the boundaries with the provincial constituency of Hants East. Milford Representative on council Eldon Hebb also spoke in front of the commission, reiterating the importance of keeping Milford and Shubenacadie together.

“I know it’s a numbers game,” he said. “East Hants is a growing municipality and it’s going to get bigger

“We have one of the best staff in Nova Scotia. The council works very well with them there’s a lot of planning in place. We aren’t only planning for now, we are planning for years down the road. That is why the Municipality of East Hants is such a beautiful spot and it seems like we are now being penalized because we are growing.”

Kody Blois, president of the Come Home East Hants Association and the East Hants Sports Heritage Society has been gathering names on a petition to keep Milford and Shubenacadie in Hants East, keeping the Corridor together.

While admitting the petition is neutral in the fact that they are just hoping the commission can reevaluate how Hants East is divided, mentioning the community of Mount Uniacke, on the western side of the riding.

“I don’t know if you would get the same visceral reaction from folks in that part of the municipality,” he said. “It’s not about setting community against community, that’s not what we want.

“Mount Uniacke, which is an area that includes Lakelands and is essentially a corridor between Windsor and Sackville. The students, once they hit high school they go to Windsor. The hockey boundaries mean these athletes are going to Brooklyn and Windsor.”

He’s wondering if a different alternative is out there, keeping the Enfield-Shubenacadie Corridor whole.

“We have talked about that if you are not able to use your discretion, that maybe Mount Uniacke is the more favourable option.”

Because of the amount of attention the boundary review is getting in the area, the commission has accepted an invitation to come to hold an extra meeting in Milford on January 29 at the Milford Recreation Centre. Meeting time is 7 p.m.