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2012 campaign takes shape: UARB reveals new district boundaries

Halifax Regional Councillors are finding out who they’ll run against for re-election next year, now the Utility and Review Board has finalized the new boundaries for polling districts in HRM.

The UARB released a map of the municipality with 16 districts instead of 23 on Tuesday.

The approved map is a revision of the first of two scenarios city staff took on a public consultation tour around metro this year. http://www.halifax.ca/BoundaryReview/Documents/scenario1_revised.pdf

The map gives urban Halifax two seats on council and Dartmouth three with each of the 16 district having an average of 20,000 voters. A summary table can be found in the UARB ruling. http://www.nsuarb.ca/images/stories/pdf/Decisions/11Dec/hrmdistricts.pdf

Sackville has been divided into two districts with significantly fewer voters in each, to accomodate future growth. Cole Harbour has been merged into one district.

Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) said the UARB has “screwed it up completely.”

“Funny how they can remember the dynamics of Dartmouth and Bedford, but they can’t remember the old city of Halifax, the founding part of this whole municipality,” said Sloane. “Unless there is a transparent way of tracing and tracking how much this is actually going to cost you’re going to find this is actually going to cost more.”

Coun. Jackie Barkhouse (Woodside to Eastern Passage) said she was surprised to see the Eastern Shore near Cole Harbour becoming one district. She said doesn’t think it will serve residents any better, and she hopes it won’t serve them any worse.

“I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of such a large area as HRM,” she said. “I believe there was a better chance of hearing the voices of many people when there were more people (on council.)”

“You’ve got councilors, like myself, who are going to be running against other councillors. It’s really, really going to be interesting as people position themselves,” said Barkhouse.

Coun. Jennifer Watts (Connaught-Quinpool) said she doesn’t like it but she’s glad we got the decision now.

“Staff certainly need to begin to work for the election next year and residents are maybe interested in where they’re sitting,” said Watts. “Boundaries were going to change anyway, whether we reduce council size or not, because there needed to be some adjustments in terms of populations, but there was a much more drastic change to the boundaries.”

Coun. Debbie Hum (Rockingham-Wentworth) says the shakeup will make the next year especially difficult, as councillors try to tackle their daily obligations while preparing to run against a former colleague for re-election.

She says she doesn’t believe the public will be satisfied with the changes.

“Some still don’t realize that their communities are going to be split,” she pointed out.

Mayor Peter Kelly said he understands why there are concerns, but he adds the UARB made the changes based on what they heard from residents.

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