Perhaps Darrell Dexter’s prickly petulance last week was the result of too many too long nights reworking the on-again, off-again, can-we-have-more-please deal to save Port Hawkesbury’s NewPage paper mill. And the certainty he would be damned for saving it. Just as he would have been damned for having failed to save it. Or, more generally, his belated, three-years-on recognition that anyone who seeks to lead a province with as many intractable problems as Nova Scotia should be careful what he wishes for.Whatever the cause, the premier’s attack last week on a member of the province’s electoral boundaries commission was unseemly.
A quick recap. Last December, the government appointed the legislatively-mandated, once-a-decade commission to reconfigure the province’s 52 electoral districts.
The commission’s government-imposed incompatible mandates: first, take into account ethnic, linguistic and racial interests in devising boundaries and, second, make sure the population of every riding falls within 25 per cent of the others.
The commission’s first interim report chose the former mandate at the expense of the latter, and retained four “designated” Acadian and African Nova Scotian ridings.
The government, which—coincidentally or not—held none of the four designated seats, refused to accept the independent commission’s report and forced it to issue another, officially acceptable interim report.
When the commission’s final yes-master report was published last week, it came with a dissenting opinion.
Unsurprisingly, Paul Gaudet, an Acadian from Saulnierville, said he felt the commissioners had been “thrown under the bus,” and the commission used as “a smokescreen to impose [the government’s] wish.”
Instead of accepting that reasonable men may disagree—particularly when one reasonable man is eliminating ridings representing the other reasonable man’s linguistic, cultural community—Dexter chose to attack Gaudet personally. “Mr. Gaudet,” Dexter told reporters, “is a good example of someone who joined the commission for the sole purpose of simply trying to cause difficulty… He acted only as a partisan throughout this, and he’s continuing to do that.”
Gaudet apparently is a Liberal partisan. But he’s also—more importantly—an Acadian.
Still, you don’t have to be a Liberal or an Acadian to question the process by which this independent commission was forced to toe the government line.
I’m neither. And I do.