POLITICS

Commission's interim report on Nova Scotia electoral boundaries to be revised

06/18/2012 02:31 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - An independent commission tasked with drawing Nova Scotia's electoral boundaries has decided to revise an interim report that the province's attorney general rejected last week.

Teresa MacNeil, chairwoman of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, said the group made the unanimous decision during a meeting Monday.

On Friday, Ross Landry wrote a letter to the commission asking it to revise its report that recommended continued protection for minority constituencies in the province.

He said the report did not comply with the legislature's terms of reference that requires constituencies be within 25 per cent of the average number of electors. The minority group ridings do not meet that criteria.

MacNeil said the commission will begin revising the report immediately to adhere to the terms of reference outlined in Landry's letter.

"We will try to have it complete ... in time to have public hearings about what's in that revised report and then to complete with a final report by the end of August," MacNeil said Monday.

The ridings include Clare and Argyle, communities with large francophone populations on the South Shore; and Richmond, a riding in Cape Breton with a minority Acadian population. The riding of Preston, which has a large number of black constituents, is located on the eastern outskirts of Halifax.

In a news release, the commission said it would remain sensitive to the geography, community history and interests of the Acadian and black community in their revisions.

MacNeil said the commission had thought that its work only needed to be guided by its mandate, according to how it interpreted its terms of reference.

She said a lot of work went into the interim report, so disbanding the commission would have been a waste of the public's money.

"We've had 14 hearings out in communities," she said.

"If we were to resign, we would be giving up that kind of experience and it would amount, in a way, to quite a considerable waste."

MacNeil said public hearings will be held in the coming weeks based on the new report.

The provincial government's response to the interim report has sparked a call to arms for some of the minority groups that represent the protected ridings.

Charles Gaudet, executive director of the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia, said he's not surprised by the boundary commission's decision to revise the report, but said the federation is disappointed.

"Twenty years ago, you give rights to the Acadian population and today, just by setting a specific term of reference, that could be essentially wiped out," he said.

Gaudet said the federation's legal team will be looking into the matter.

The final report is due Aug. 31.