by Stephen Kimber on August 20, 2012 | 9 Comments
You could be forgiven for assuming Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry actually believes in the democratic process.
"It's very important that we look at our demographic structure in Nova Scotia... and how we get fairness and equity into the system," he told reporters last week as his government-appointed, government-instructed “independent” electoral boundaries commission wrapped up public hearings on his government-ordered, revised second edition of its first rejected interim report.
In order to ensure this fairness and equity, Landry added, the commission needed “to go out and hear Nova Scotians and formulate new boundaries.”
The commissioners did just that. Last week in Yarmouth, they listened as more than 2,500 people crowded into a hockey rink in the middle of the doggiest dog days of summer to tell them—and through them, the government—how much they objected to the commission’s proposal to split their town into two different ridings, eliminating one of three area ridings entirely.
Landry’s response? A platitude about “democracy being alive and well.”
And almost certain to be ignored.
The government has botched this process from the beginning.
There was nothing wrong with raising questions about the legitimacy—and effectiveness—of the so-called protected ridings, which had been created in such a way as to make it more likely they would elect MLAs from otherwise under-represented black and Acadian communities. The problem was the numbers of electors in those ridings were so small they were out of whack with all the other ridings in the province.
The legally mandated 10 year review of electoral boundaries offered an opportunity to explore how to balance the desire that everyone’s vote be weighted equally with the need to ensure minority interests were also adequately represented.
But that wasn’t what the government wanted. It wanted—ordered—the “independent” commission to eliminate the protected ridings. And then provide government democratic process cover for its pre-determined outcome.
Given the to-be-eliminated ridings are represented by Liberal and Tory MLAs, and the to-be-created ridings are in NDP-dominated metro, it’s hard not to smell politics as usual at work.
Democracy is not alive and well in this case.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Kimber