06/14/2012 01:24 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia attorney general won't accept interim report on electoral boundaries

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's attorney general has rejected an interim report that recommends the preservation of four so-called protected ridings for francophone and black minority groups in the next provincial election.

Ross Landry has written a letter to the Electoral Boundaries Commission asking it to revise its report to comply with the legislature's terms of reference for its review of riding boundaries.

The provincial government has said the commission should have obeyed a term of reference that requires constituencies be within 25 per cent of the average number of electors — a criteria none of the minority group ridings meet.

"Unfortunately, I am not able to accept the interim report as drafted, as it does not follow the requirements set out in the terms of reference," Landry said in the letter released Thursday.

Landry said he has been advised by the legislature's chief legislative counsel that the terms of reference are legally binding on the commission, and therefore the interim report is "null and void."

"As such, I would request that the commission prepare a revised interim report that complies with the terms of reference."

The protected ridings in question 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.

The final report is due Aug. 31.

The government and the commission have clashed since the release of the interim report two weeks ago.

Commission chairwoman Teresa MacNeil said she's not surprised by the letter but can't comment until the commission meets again early next week.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie accused the NDP of determining the terms of reference during a closed-door meeting and ignoring public input.

“Unfortunately, all Nova Scotians are watching the embarrassing spectacle of the NDP government writing their own rules for the next election," Baillie said in a statement.

The commission has also recommended two new seats be added in Halifax and the overall number of seats in the legislature remain at 52. The NDP holds a majority of the seats in the house.