Despite legal threats, heated debate and dissension in the ranks, a bill to redraw Nova Scotia’s electoral boundaries has passed in the legislature.
The Dexter government used its NDP majority to approve the law which merges four ridings, intended to represent the province’s black and Acadian populations, with other ridings.
“It’s not what people asked for,” argued Conservative MLA Chris d’Entremont in the legislature Thursday evening. “Nowhere along this did the people of Nova Scotia get what they asked for. And do you know why? Because politics got involved.”
Both opposition parties voted against the bill, arguing the government interfered by rejecting the interim report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which recommended continued protection for the four designated minority ridings.
“Mr. Speaker, that would have been leadership,” said Liberal MLA Michel Samson. “That would have been responsible government. Because then they could have at least said ‘we went to the people.’ We went to these communities and said ‘we want you to help us find a solution,'”
The opposition accused the NDP of trampling minority rights, but cabinet minister Leonard Preyra accused the opposition of not doing enough to diversify their caucuses.
“I will not be lectured to by one of the most homogenous oppositions that we have seen in the history of this province,” Preyra argued.
The bill passed 26-22, with Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau voting against the measure because it splits his Shelburne riding. Belliveau did so with special permission from Premier Darrell Dexter to break ranks.
Justin Mury, president of the Nova Scotia Acadian Federation, says they will challenge the new boundaries in court.
“We’re challenging that basically the government didn’t take into consideration linguistic minorities in N.S. in the changes to the boundaries,” Mury told the Canadian Press. “We think it’s very unfortunate and we think it is definitely going to silence our voice in the legislature.”
Dexter has said the terms of reference used by the Electoral Boundaries Commission provided for a balance between minority rights and equal representation, and he expects the new map will withstand any legal challenge.