A committee named in response to a court challenge by an Acadian lobby group unhappy with the way Nova Scotia's last electoral map was created is suggesting there be more MLAs in the legislature.

In a report issued Thursday, the three-member panel also said the basis for discussion about a new electoral map should stem from the 2002 boundaries that included three protected Acadian seats and a protected African-Nova Scotian seat.

Although the panel did not call for the reinstatement of those protected ridings, Ghislain Boudreau, president of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, called the recommendations a victory for the province's Acadian population.

Ghislain Boudreau

Ghislain Boudreau is president of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

"It's definitely a win for the Acadian community," he told reporters immediately following a news conference by the Independent Commission on Effective Electoral Representation.

The McNeil government created the panel last April in response to a court battle with the Acadian federation after the Court of Appeal ruled that the process to create the current electoral map was unconstitutional.

The NDP government of the day had thrown out the first map created by an independent commission, and ordered new boundaries.

The panel said work on a new electoral map should be left to an independent boundaries commission and be guided by Thursday's report.

Geoff MacLellan, Liberal House leader, welcomed the panel's recommendations and vowed to keep partisan considerations out of the process to redraw the election map, even if it means increasing the number of MLAs at Province House.

"We're absolutely not controlling or mandating, dictating any number of MLAs," he told reporters moments after the panel left the stage following the presentation of its report.

"If the status quo of 51 is where the commission lands, then so be it. We're not putting any parameters on the commission and we're not telling them how to do their job."

Nova Scotia legislature

MLAs at Province House last February. (Robert Short/CBC)

That reassurance was greeted with cautious optimism by PC House leader Chris d'Entremont who represents Argyle-Barrington, a riding that expanded the last time the map was redrafted.

"I've been down the road before where things went sideways as they did in 2012, so I'm hoping that we can continue to work together on this one and maybe find a way to make it equal amongst the three parties that sit in this House of Assembly," he said.

For his part, NDP Leader Gary Burrill would have liked to see the process of redrawing the map start a year ago rather than wait for the panel recommendations.

"We could have had this matter in the bank by now," he said.

Other recommendations include enshrining in law the principles that would guide the process of redrawing the electoral map, and setting a plus or minus 25 percent variation as the standard population size for ridings but allow for bigger variations under "exceptional circumstances." 

Another recommendation is for the committee charged with the work of redesigning the map to offer at least two or more maps for consideration during deliberations.