Sackville, Memramcook riding reforms make 'bad marriage'

The mayors of Memramcook and Sackville are opposing the provincial riding boundaries commission's recommendation to put the two nearby communities into the same constituency.

Memramcook mayor says a legal challenge is possible if proposal remains

The mayors of Memramcook and Sackville are opposing the provincial riding boundaries commission recommendation's to put the two nearby communities into the same constituency.

The Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission was forced to cut the number of provincial ridings to 49 from 55 and ensure they all had a similar number of voters.

Those strict guidelines created several tough decisions on how to redraw the riding borders.

One of those contentious issues was to place Sackville and Memramcook in the same constituency. The municipalities each have roughly 5,000 residents and work together on many issues.

But they each claim to have distinct issues that warrant a separate MLA.

Memramcook Mayor Donald LeBlanc said he wants an MLA who will understand Acadian issues and defend them in the legislature.

LeBlanc said Memramcook and Sackville work together on many issues. But when it comes to MLAs, they want to be separate.

"We can be friends but we won't make a good marriage," he said.

Sackville Mayor Bob Berry said his town is an island surrounded by Acadian communities and deserves its own MLA.

"Being one of the last Anglophone areas in this part of the province and we kind of wanted to keep it the way it was," he said.

"We appreciate our neighbours, their way of life, their culture, their language whatever, but let's not stir the whole pot up and make some problems down the road," Berry added.

Sackville is currently in the Tantramar riding represented by PC MLA Mike Olscamp. Memramcook is in the Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe riding represented by Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc.

The mayors say they have presented their views to the electoral commission.

They expect the final report this summer.

The Memramcook mayor said if his community is lumped in with Sackville, he will consider working with the Acadian Society of New Brunswick to challenge it in court.

Jean-Marie Nadeau, the president of the Acadian Society, has said the proposed electoral boundaries do not consider the needs of different linguistic communities in different parts of the province.

When designing the new map, the boundaries commission was guided by an electoral quotient of 11,269, which was the number of voters divided by the 49 ridings.

Each proposed riding had to be within plus or minus five per cent of that quotient.

The commission’s preliminary map formed six regions: Northern, Miramichi, Southeast, South, Capital and River Valley.

Of those regions, Northern will lose 1.5 seats; Miramichi, South, Capital and River Valley will all lose one seat; and Southeast will lose a half a seat compared to the old map. (The half seat distinction is because the old map straddles regional boundaries.)