08/21/2012 03:24 EDT | Updated 10/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia justice minister says he can't grant extension for electoral report

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry says he can't grant the province's electoral boundaries commission more time to complete its work because it's not within his jurisdiction.

The commission tasked with redrawing the province's electoral map is supposed to submit its final report by Aug. 31 under the legislature's terms of reference. But it has asked the government for an extension until Sept. 21.

Landry confirmed Tuesday he's received word from the commission that it needs the additional three weeks, but he said the request has to be approved by the legislature, which isn't in session.

"I don't have the authority to grant that one way or the other," he said in an interview.

"I acknowledge the fact that they're running behind, and I accept the commission's notice that it will submit its final report after the deadline."

Landry said he looks forward to receiving the report "as soon as reasonably possible" and bringing it to the legislature when it resumes this fall.

He added that he wasn't surprised the commission needed more time to finish its work, given the amount of feedback it has received at public meetings.

Residents in some areas of Nova Scotia — namely Yarmouth and in Cape Breton — have expressed their opposition to the proposed redesign of the electoral map. Some of that has centred on the proposed elimination of some ridings.

If there are any objections to the extra time given to the commission to complete its work, Landry said that would have to be dealt with in the legislature.

But he indicated he wasn't against allowing the commission extra time to complete its work.

"From a technical point, they have to meet all the terms of reference," he said. "But we're human here."

Premier Darrell Dexter said he doubted there would be any problems.

"I think they should take the time they need to get it right," he said.

"If they think it's going to take longer than was set out in the terms of reference, I don't think anyone's going to object to them taking that time."

Still, the provincial government rejected the commission's interim report in June, saying it failed to comply with the terms of reference then by recommending the continued preservation of the four designated minority ridings for the province's Acadian and black communities.

The provincial government said the terms require constituencies to be within 25 per cent of the average number of voters. The minority group ridings do not meet that criteria.

Nova Scotia is required by law to review its electoral boundaries every 10 years.