Electoral boundaries bill deferred after objections by N.S. Acadian groups - InfoNews

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Electoral boundaries bill deferred after objections by N.S. Acadian groups

April 09, 2018 - 5:47 PM

HALIFAX - Representatives of Nova Scotia's Acadian community voiced strong objections Monday that resulted in the temporary deferment of a bill proposing changes to how the province's electoral map is drawn.

The revised House of Assembly Act would allow so-called "non-contiguous'' constituencies — ridings that are not connected geographically — something the Acadian groups say shouldn't happen.

"We will not let go of this issue," said Marie-Claude Rioux, executive director of the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia.

Rioux told the legislature's law amendments committee that the proposed changes were "unacceptable" and would "marginalize the Acadian Community of Nova Scotia."

Elaine Thimot, of the Acadian Society of Clare, said Acadians only make up a small percentage of the province's population of just under one million.

"These numbers show we must return to protected ridings," said Thimot.

The proposed legislative changes follow a Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ruling released in January 2017 that found a 2012 boundary redrawing that eliminated three Acadian ridings violated the voter rights section of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The advisory opinion was sought by the province on constitutional grounds, after the Acadian Federation took court action over the elimination of the protected districts of Clare, Argyle and Richmond.

Under the new rules, the number of voters in each district would have to fall within a certain population range of plus or minus 25 per cent of the average.

However, exceptions would be permitted based on geography as well as historical, cultural or linguistic factors, which is expected to give more of a say to black and Acadian minorities in elections.

And while the changes don't set a floor or ceiling for the number of electoral districts, they allow for a committee to determine "the minimum and maximum number of electoral districts.'"

Speaking to reporters, Rioux said the province's Acadian community wants no less than to see the restoration of three former ridings and the addition of a fourth in Cheticamp.

"We are looking for the withdrawal of the non-contiguous clause ... and the possibility of the committee to determine the maximum and minimum (number) of ridings or districts," she said.

The Liberal government has said the proposed changes strike a balance between voter parity and minority representation.

However, the law amendments committee voted to defer the legislation until a future meeting in order to consider the objections of the Acadian Federation and the other Acadian groups.

Norbert LeBlanc, president of an association that represents Acadians in the Argyle Municipality and in Yarmouth, said he's optimistic about the deferral after the community's "roller coaster" fight of the past few years.

"I'm hoping for the best," said LeBlanc.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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