Nova Scotia's Electoral Boundaries Commission has released its final report, but not without adding to the controversy that has plagued the commission for the last year.
The commission is recommending the House of Assembly merge four minority ridings into neighbouring electoral districts. The constituencies of Clare, Argyle, Preston and Richmond did not meet the criteria to be within 25 per cent of the average number of voters.
"We took many conflicting views into consideration," wrote Teresa MacNeil, commission chair, in her introductory message. "Regrettably, we know that in the end, many will not agree with our recommendations."
Overall, the commission recommends dropping one seat, bringing the total to 51 ridings in the province. Cape Breton would lose one constituency - Cape Breton Nova. Clare and Argyle would become larger. The riding of Queens is absorbed in a new riding called Queens/Shelburne. The Halifax area would gain two - Fairview/Clayton Park and Sackville.
"There can be no question about the determination of Nova Scotians to express their views about their electoral boundaries, particularly when they see unwelcome change in the making."
Member rejects report
Commission member Paul Gaudet announced he's refusing to accept the final report.
"I felt that we were thrown under the bus," he said. "The recommendations are not the recommendations of the commission that they have in the final report, but the position of government using the commission as a smokescreen to impose its wish."
Among other things, he called the justice minister's order to go back to the drawing board after the interim report was tabled, a "travesty" of the commission's independent consultation.
"Losing our voice in the (legislature) leads me to believe that the slow and painful extinction of the Acadian people is in the works," he said.
He called the justice minister's intervention "heavy handed" and "a dark day in the history of Nova Scotia."
But Premier Darrell Dexter is firing back.
"If there was a travesty in this, it was that the partisan members who were appointed didn't take their responsibility in a way that they should have," he said.
"In fact, Mr. Gaudet is a good example of someone who joined the commission for the sole purpose of simply trying to cause difficulty."
MacNeil acknowledged in the report that the commission members struggled to come to a consensus.
"I want to thank my colleagues on the commission, highly competent and busy people, for their generosity in staying the course despite challenges that were at times untenable."
The report was handed to the Attorney General yesterday.
With files from Jean Laroche.