POLITICS

New Brunswick Acadian group upset with new provincial electoral map

04/25/2013 10:58 EDT | Updated 06/25/2013 05:12 EDT
FREDERICTON - A commission of the New Brunswick legislature has released a revised electoral map for the province, but a group representing Acadians says its concerns have been ignored and it may have to take the issue to court.

The Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission has made 41 changes to the interim map it released in January, which reduced the number of ridings to 49 from 55. The commission used the voter registry and public input in an effort to have roughly the same number of people in each riding, allowing for a five-per-cent variance.

Commission co-chairman Alan Mahar says they were able to stay within that five-per-cent margin despite making additional boundary changes to 36 ridings.

But Jean-Marie Nadeau, president of the New Brunswick Acadian Society, said the commission didn't listen to his group's concerns and he calls the report a "disgrace."

"They didn't consider any of the arguments we put forward, especially for Memramcook," Nadeau said.

"It's a riding with 70 per cent francophones represented, but in the new riding with Tantramar they fall down to 29 per cent."

Nadeau calls it a "catastrophe" and said his group will take the matter to court if changes aren't made.

Mahar said he respects the group's right to express its opinions. He said the commission listened to everyone's concerns but could not accede to all the requests it received.

"It wouldn't matter who drew the lines or what the criteria were. You'll never satisfy everyone," Mahar said.

He said the boundary for the riding that includes Memramcook is the most palatable.

"There were other options but we didn't feel they provided as good a representation as this particular model, even though some people may find it imperfect," he said.

The report says the commission was mindful of the need to provide effective representation for English and French communities in the 49 new ridings.

"In 16 of those ridings francophones are the majority and in 32 ridings anglophones are the majority. In one riding neither group is in the majority," the report states. "These ratios closely parallel the actual distribution of these populations in the province as a whole."

The public has two weeks to suggest any changes to the map, but any complaint must be accompanied by the signatures of two members of the legislature. After that, the commission will have 30 days to respond and then provide their completed report to the legislature.

Nadeau says the society will suggest changes and if they are not made, it will go to court.

There is a similar situation in Nova Scotia, where a major Acadian organization says it will take legal action against the NDP government over the redrawing of the province's electoral map. The Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia is upset with legislation that would merge the ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond with other ridings.

Green party Leader David Coon welcomed the new electoral boundaries, saying the party is eager to begin campaigning for the next provincial election, scheduled for September 2014.

"We'd like to get our first wave of candidates out the door and we can't do that until the new ridings are actually legal in regulation," Coon said.