After a court ruling condemned the process used to adjust Nova Scotia’s electoral boundaries in 2012, Premier Stephen McNeil says an election with the current boundaries would still be “legitimate.”
A January court ruling found the previous NDP government was wrong to force an independent commission to redraw three predominantly French-speaking ridings to have them include a larger, English-speaking population.
The Acadian federation in Nova Scotia challenged the redrawn boundaries which effectively abolished the ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond. The riding of Preston, which represented a predominantly African Nova Scotian community, was also abolished when the boundaries were redrawn.
The Progressive Conservatives and NDP MLA Sterling Belliveau, have both threatened legal action if the Liberals don’t ensure the boundaries are redrawn before the next election.
McNeil told reporters Tuesday, the government believes it’s on “solid ground” with its current approach. If an election is called before new ridings are established, McNeil said “there’s no question it would be a legitimate election.”
Until now the Liberals have been mum on how the government will respond to the court case. Acadian Affairs Minister Michel Samson has been in talks with the federation but has told reporters he won’t divulge the options being considered until a final decision is made.
McNeil said the government and the Acadian federation are discussing the terms of reference for a new boundary review. He said other minority groups in the province including African Nova Scotians would also be consulted before an independent electoral boundary commission is struck.
He said there was “never any doubt” that the government would strike a boundaries review commission earlier than the legally mandated ten year period.
“We’re not going to wait for 10 years to fix that, the court has ruled,” McNeil said.
However, he said there’s no guarantee that the boundaries will be redrawn before a provincial election. Nova Scotia is the only Canadian province without a fixed election date. The latest the Liberals can go to the polls is fall 2018.
“We don’t believe it has to be done before the next election, there are those who would disagree with us but I think any reasonable person looking at that recognizes that’s the case,” McNeil said. “We’re a long ways away from getting a resolution.”
He said if the boundary process concludes before an election then the government will “deal with it.”
Opposition maintains call for new riding boundaries
Progressive Conservative MLA Chris d’Entremont said he believes the government is “erring” by keeping the door open to an election before new boundaries are in place.
“A court of law has deemed those boundaries to be unconstitutional, and it’s incumbent upon us as legislators, as government, to fix that,” he said.
The boundary review is crucial he said because the minority ridings ensure representation for Acadians and African Nova Scotians in the legislature. He said the party is still looking at its legal options in the matter.
-With files from The Canadian Press