‘I think ev­ery­one’s look­ing for a res­o­lu­tion’

Rich­mond MLA not sure how prov­ince will re­spond to Aca­dian rid­ing rul­ing

Cape Breton Post - - CAPE BRETON - BY CAPE BRE­TON POST STAFF

The prov­ince’s min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for Aca­dian af­fairs says it’s too soon to say how the prov­ince will re­spond to a re­cent court rul­ing that found that ef­fec­tively elim­i­nat­ing mi­nor­ity Aca­dian and African Nova Sco­tian rid­ings vi­o­lated the vot­ing rights sec­tion of the Char­ter of Rights.

Michel Sam­son met last week with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Aca­dian Fed­er­a­tion of Nova Sco­tia for the first since the ap­peal court rul­ing. It was the fed­er­a­tion that brought the court chal­lenge.

“We’re well into our man­date and any changes that would have to take place un­der the tra­di­tional method of re­draw­ing bound­aries, tales a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time, well over a year,” Sam­son said, adding he was look­ing to the fed­er­a­tion for sug­ges­tions as to what pos­si­ble ini­tia­tives could be un­der­taken.

He said it is too soon to dis­cuss what the op­tions are yet. The Lib­er­als are now more than three years into their man­date and an elec­tion call is an­tic­i­pated some­time this year.

“This is some­thing new for our prov­ince, Nova sco­tia was one of the first ju­ris­dic­tions in Canada to es­tab­lish an in­de­pen­dent elec­toral bound­aries com­mis­sion in 1992 … hav­ing a court in­di­cate that the pre­vi­ous NDP gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­fer­ence in the process in 2012 was un­con­sti­tu­tional is some­thing new for us,” Sam­son said.

“I think ev­ery­one’s look­ing for a res­o­lu­tion here.”

The court de­ci­sion stated that Nova Sco­tia’s pre­vi­ous NDP gov­ern­ment was wrong to force an in­de­pen­dent com­mis­sion to re­draw three largely French-speak­ing rid­ings to have them in­clude a larger, English-speak­ing pop­u­la­tion. Each of the af­fected rid­ings had main­tained a smaller-than-av­er­age pop­u­la­tion to en­sure Aca­di­ans had a strong in­flu­ence in elec­tions.

In 2012, then-pre­mier Dar­rell Dex­ter ar­gued equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion had to take prece­dence over pro­vid­ing a voice to mi­nor­ity groups be­cause voter par­ity is a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple of democ­racy.

Sam­son’s own rid­ing was among those af­fected. The bound­aries of his rid­ing — now called Cape Bre­ton-Rich­mond — were ex­panded to in­clude the town of Port Hawkes­bury, as well as the ar­eas of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“We re­spected the de­ci­sion that was made last time around, for me it was a very pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence hav­ing the town of Port Hawkes­bury in­cluded in my rid­ing as well as the area of Big Pond, East Bay and Hunt­ing­ton added as well,” Sam­son said.

He said the Stephen McNeil Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has al­ready in­di­cated it does not in­tend to ap­peal the court de­ci­sion.

In a news re­lease last week, Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive house leader Chris d’En­tremont ac­cused the McNeil gov­ern­ment of drag­ging its feet on re­draw­ing the elec­toral bound­aries. He called on McNeil to re­call the leg­is­la­ture to ap­point an in­de­pen­dent bound­ary re­view com­mis­sion to re­draw the bound­aries be­fore the next elec­tion.

“Pre­cious time is wast­ing,” d’En­tremont said in the re­lease. “Let’s get to work and get the new bound­aries re­drawn now, be­fore the next elec­tion. It would be wrong to run the elec­tion on these un­con­sti­tu­tional bound­aries.”

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