‘I think everyone’s looking for a resolution’
Richmond MLA not sure how province will respond to Acadian riding ruling
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.”