The Nova Scotia government launched a special licence plate Monday to support Acadian and francophone projects in the province, 10 days after deciding to review three designated Acadian seats in the legislature.
Ron Robichaud, president of the Nova Scotia Acadian Federation, said while he is happy with the new plate, it doesn't make up for the fact the governing New Democrats are threatening Acadian representation in the legislature.
Provincial officials heralded the licence plate, which features an Acadian flag, as a way to raise the profile of Acadians while bringing in money for the community.
The new Acadian licence plate costs $50 on top of the standard registration and renewal fees. The money will go to the Vive l'Acadie Community Support Fund, which pays for projects in the Acadian and francophone communities.
The licence plate is available at Access Nova Scotia and Registry of Motor Vehicle offices. It's for passenger and commercial vehicles up to 5,000 kilograms.
Minority ridings under attack
Robichaud said his community is under attack because the province is not protecting ridings drawn specifically to ensure Acadians get a shot at representing French communities.
"We have some of these communities have had representation in the legislature for 100 years. Others are between 20 and 30 years," he said. "We see this as a great defeat for the community. It's four steps back."
The government has asked an independent commission to redraw the electoral map including the three Acadian ridings —Richmond, Clare and Argyle — which are among the smallest in the province.
According to population information as of Dec. 13, Richmond is 45 per cent smaller than the average riding size; Argyle is 54 per cent smaller, while Clare is 52 per cent smaller. The government wants all 52 ridings to have roughly the same number of voters, with a variation of no more than 25 per cent.
Robichaud said the borders of the Acadian ridings, all currently represented by Liberal MLAs, should be maintained.
"We're not a melting pot as we have in the United States. We think that part of the heritage in Nova Scotia — our cultural riches and diversity — really adds to Nova Scotia," he said. "And we think that not having representation in the House will cause a very, very grave long term impact."
Graham Steele, minister of Acadian Affairs, denied that protected seats are under threat.
"Everything is up for consideration and should be," he said, "but that is a very, very, very long way from talking about constituencies being eliminated. That is not the position of the government. It's not my position."
Steele said a majority of voters in the Cape Breton riding of Richmond are English-speaking but the riding is represented by an Acadian. That's proof, he said, an Acadian can win a riding that is predominantely English-speaking.
There are more than 40,000 Acadians across Nova Scotia.
The proposed changes would also affect the Preston riding, which is predominantly African-Nova Scotian and is 44 per cent smaller than the average riding size.
Acadians on P.E.I. say the proposed changes in electoral boundaries in Nova Scotia would lead to less Acadian influence in the Maritimes.
Gabriel Arsenault, president of P.E.I.'s Saint Thomas Aquinas Society, said losing representation means Acadians will not have a say in how decisions are made.
"Whether it happens in Nova Scotia or in New Brunswick, it will indirectly affect Prince Edward Island," he said.