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Province to restore four protected ridings for Acadians, African Nova Scotians

An Acadian flag on the waterfront in Cheticamp, N.S., July 31, 2015. .
An Acadian flag on the waterfront in Cheticamp, N.S., July 31, 2015. . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lee Brown

Four protected Nova Scotia ridings aimed at improving representation for black and Acadian voters are slated to return to the province’s electoral map.

The Liberal government introduced legislation Wednesday that would reinstate the largely Acadian ridings of Argyle, Clare and Richmond and the predominantly African Nova Scotian riding of Preston.

The districts were eliminated in 2012 when the province’s former NDP government decided there were too few voters in each.

The changes led to a successful court challenge by the province’s Acadian community that ultimately resulted in a report by an independent electoral boundaries commission that was released in April.

Justice Minister Mark Furey said Wednesday the changes reflect the work of the nine-member commission and are in line with the court ruling.

READ MORE: N.S. report calls for improved representation for black, Acadian voters

“The courts have made it very clear that this is an area where governments should not interfere in the recommendations of boundary review commissions,” he said.

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The changes, which increase the number of provincial electoral districts from 51 to 55, will take effect with the next provincial election expected in 2021.

Furey was asked about increasing the number of seats in the legislature for a population of just under a million people.

“This goes back to a decision out of the Supreme Court in the early 90s…. It laid the groundwork for effective representation and voter parity,” he said.

Other boundary changes included in the legislation would see create stand-alone districts for Queens and Shelburne, while Bedford would be split into two seats – Bedford Basin and Bedford South – to handle population growth in greater Halifax. Those changes will not affect the overall number of electoral districts.

The electoral boundary commission’s final report followed a series of public consultations held in January that presented four alternatives for consideration.

They included 51 electoral districts with minor adjustments to existing boundaries; 55 electoral districts including the four formerly protected ridings; and 55 electoral districts with a 56th dual member seat for the Cape Breton riding of Inverness, where one of the two members would represent Acadian voters.

The fourth possibility would have seen 56 electoral districts including an added district for the Acadian community of Cheticamp in western Cape Breton.

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Electoral boundaries commission says Nova Scotia should restore its four minority ridings
Electoral boundaries commission says Nova Scotia should restore its four minority ridings

Although the final report had the support of all nine commissioners, four dissented over the decision not to create a new protected electoral district for Acadian voters in Cheticamp.

Furey said there was no inclination on the part of the government to consider the recommendation for Cheticamp.

“We accepted the recommendation of the commission as the House of Assembly Act requires us to,” he said.

In Nova Scotia a commission must be established to review electoral boundaries at least once every 10 years.

The government has created a digital map outlining the boundary changes that will be made available on the Elections Nova Scotia website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2019.