By Tina Comeau
The MLA from Argyle said it was frustrating on Thursday, Nov. 29, to see the Legislature’s law amendments committee pass through electoral boundaries legislation in exactly the same form as what was contained in the final report of a commission that had studied the issue.
This means that what MLAs will vote on is a bill that will see the previous Acadian ridings of Argyle and Clare combined with parts of Shelburne County and Digby County respectively. And what MLAs will vote on will also see the constituency of Shelburne divided in half, despite public opposition within the constituency.
“Basically law amendments passed it through,” said Argyle MLA Chris d’Entremont. “We were sort of hoping it was going to get parked there and sort of stay there, but it didn’t. Today the government moved to keep it running through the process. We (the opposition parties) voted against that but we’re not the majority in the committee.”
D’Entremont said when the issue comes to a vote in the house, expected to be Monday at the earliest, the opposition parties will still vote against it because the process of redrawing or confirming electoral boundaries, said d’Entremont, has been a bad one.
“Regardless of who you blame, it’s been a bad process,” he said.
Asked about the fact that there won’t be any changes to the final recommendations of an independent boundaries commission, d’Entremont said he’s not even sure what impact any changes could have had.
“That’s sort of been our challenge on this one. If we were to suggest that Shelburne should be put back together, who does that impact? Does that impact Argyle again to have to go back with Yarmouth or does that impact Queens to go back with Lunenburg? There is a ripple effect to any amendment,” he said.
Which is why, said d’Entremont, the opposition parties weren’t looking to make amendments to the bill, but rather to kill it outright “by somehow keeping it on the order paper or voting against it.”
When the electoral boundaries commission came out with its final report, people in Shelburne County were blindsided with the proposal to split the constituency and merge part of it with Argyle and part of it with Queens since it had never been discussed during the public consultations or in the interim reports. The law amendments committee took the unprecedented step to travel to Shelburne to allow people the chance to voice their opinions.
Shelburne MLA Sterling Belliveau said on Thursday that he has been told by his NDP party that he will be allowed to vote against the bill when it comes up for the vote. However other NDP MLAs will be expected to vote for it. Belliveau is disappointed with how the Shelburne constituency will be impacted.
About the fact that the electoral boundaries map will be unchanged from what the electoral boundaries report recommended, Premier Darrell Dexter was reported in the media on Thursday as saying, “In a democracy, you have independent commissions that look at these things and they come to a conclusion, that's where we're at today. You don't get to write the boundaries or control what the results are."
The Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia has already gone on record saying that it will launch a court challenge if the three so-called protected Acadian ridings are changed from the status quo.
The federation and others have questioned just how independent the commission examining the boundaries was from the get-go since it was mandated to follow a set terms of reference.