Electoral boundaries commissioners being used as political cover

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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.#next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }

 
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  1. Check the 1991 Carter Case that was ruled on by the Supreme Court of Canada. Saskatchewan tried doing the same thing the NDP is trying to do and the court struck their law down. We have a representative democracy, not a numerical one, otherwise all of Atlantic Canada would have less seats in Ottawa but I don’t hear the people advocating for the elimination of the Acadian seats screaming for less seats for our province in the federal parliament. Why is that I wonder? Dexter, touch our seats and we will drag you kicking and screaming all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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  2. We need to return to one person/one vote. That needs to happen in rural NS and yes, it needs to happen federally, and yes… it needs to happen municipally.

    Democracy is democracy, its not democracy “lite” or democracy enhanced. Its not “one person one vote except sometimes”. When we tinker with it, bad things happen. Lets not learn that lesson again.

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  3. BTW – same thing for Cape Breton Nova – 73% of the population needed. Do you see now why Yarmouthians are feeling a bit perturbed by all this?

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  4. @Julie-
    “But why must Yarmouth be kept together at all costs, but it’s OK for Guysborough to be cut in two and for Cape Breton Nova to disappear forever?”
    Simple.
    Because Yarmouth currently has 12.900 electors or 94% of the Provincial average and Guysborough has 9100 electors or 67% of the average. If we’re doing the “simple numbers” argument, we’d need to be consistent – Guysborough is under the 75%, Yarmouth is not.

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  5. You could consider a few points when thinking about the Electoral Boundaries.

    One: why should Acadians living in Bedford (Nova Scotia’s largest french population) be so much less important than Acadians in Clare? Other communities like Truro and Antigonish have growing French populations, but no one is calling for their protection. Are the Liberal not going to run candidates there?

    Two: The new constituency of Clayton Park West will give political parties the chance to nominate a visible minority new to the country. Clayton Park West would have the largest number of recent immigrants in the province. Parties need only to nominate a minority, and a minority will win. Why are the Liberals fighting against this new seat?

    Three: If you are upset that Yarmouth is split (I see it as Yarmouth getting 2 voices), than why not merge Clare and Argyle? But why must Yarmouth be kept together at all costs, but it’s OK for Guysborough to be cut in two and for Cape Breton Nova to disappear forever?

    Four: Why blame the NDP for this debate? It happens every 10 years. No one likes change, but the editors should keep in mind that the independent commission is taking away 2 seats the NDP currently holds – that’s 2 out of the 3 seats they are removing.

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  6. Parker’s comments do not quite go to what Stephen was writing about, he doesn’t “get” it – but that’s OK, the NDP apparently don’t either.
    The 2500 folks that assembled in Yarmouth were predominantly opposed to one thing – the division of their town and county riding – one that has the appropriate number of electors (12,900 or 94% of what is the average). The Yarmouth riding is also historically and geographically important – the riding has been exactly what it is now since the founding of the town – whose borders were identical to the current Yarmouth riding – in 1761 !!!
    The commission’s revised report purports to solve the minority issue by slicing a perfectly viable and appropriate riding in half, dismissing over 250 years of community.
    The people who gathered to vehemently protest in Yarmouth were not protesting for “benefit(ing) from undemocratically disproportionate voting”, they were, and still are, protesting the callous disregard of our community, and the solution is a rather blatant attempt to take away a riding that is not favourable to the NDP. Folks here did not much advise the commission as to what it should do with the other ridings, as that really isn’t our issue – our issue is that the town and county of Yarmouth deserve the riding we now have. The terms of reference are clear – look at ridings that do not fit the 25% rule – Yarmouth’s does easily, why would anyone wish to change that if party politics are not somehow involved?

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  7. Ok, so they’re not as slick as the other two parties is what you’re saying. They’ve had less practice. This goes on regardless of what party gets in and ironically, it’s our democratic system makes it so.

    Test: Are anyone’s rights really been taking away here? If the order to eliminate the ridings had been the end of it, would it have been the end of it? The minorities in question have entire gov’t departments dedicated to them. These count as representation in the Legislature.

    For the sake of argument, how come no one is anxious over the fact that the women do not have a special seat in the Legislature, if these “minority rights” in the legislature are so important and to be protected? How many conversations about not enough women being elected do we need for that to be part of their equation?

    You’re doing your job Stephen, but the opposition and rhetoric is also smelly politics at work. I think the end – equality – justifies the means, in my opinion.

    Have a nice Nova Scotia day.

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  8. How nice to have someone outside SW Nova stating this!

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  9. Summary:

    (1) A previous government makes a self-serving decision to “protect” tiny minority ridings that happened to vote for that party.

    (2) This has the predictable effect of creating grossly, and increasingly, undemocratic ridings with twice the voting power of normal ridings.

    (3) The current government waits for the legally mandated 10-year review, and directs the commission to end the patent unfairness of undemocratic protected ridings.

    (4) Predictably, residents of ridings that benefited from undemocratically disproportionate voting power object.

    (5) The commission caves in to the mob.

    (6) The government reminds the commission that it was directed to eliminate those ridings.

    (7) The commission reconvenes and does its duty.

    (8) Residents of ridings that benefited from undemocratically disproportionate voting, suitably inflamed by cynical partisans, object with even greater vehemence.

    (9) In light of all this, Stephen Kimber complains that returning to the principle of one man-one vote is “undemocratic.”

    Welcome to Wonderland, Alice.

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