Former Preston MLA slams electoral changes
A former New Democrat MLA is speaking out against Darrell Dexter's government over a recommendation that may eliminate minority seats in the legislature.
"To me, it's just taking something else away from the black community," said Yvonne Atwell, who was the MLA for Preston from 1998 to 1999.
"It's not adding anything to us."
Last week, an all-party committee of the legislature recommended new rules that would change provincial electoral boundaries and require all ridings to have roughly the same number of voters.
The NDP members of the committee voted in favour of the proposal, while oppostion MLAs were opposed.
Right now, the three predominantly Acadian electoral districts — Clare, Argyle and Richmond — have much smaller populations than most others.
Opposition MLAs said the proposed changes would also threaten the Preston electoral district, which is predominantly African Nova Scotian and is 44 per cent smaller than the average riding size.
All four electorial districts in question are currently represented by opposition MLAs: Liberal Wayne Gaudet in Clare, Progressive Conservative Chris d'Entremont in Argyle, Liberal Michel Samson in Richmond and Liberal Keith Colwell in Preston.
Atwell said she doesn't believe the NDP government would have made the move if the seats were held by their own members.
"I always saw the New Democrats as a progressive party and this act is regressive, in my opinion," she told CBC News on Wednesday.
But the government denied the claim and said the current seat distribution is unfair to voters in more populated electoral districts.
"Where do you draw the line?" said Leonard Preyra, the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.
"Do we just issue a blank cheque and say, 'Regardless of your population, we're going to give you three or four representatives?'"
Members of the Federation acadienne de la Nouvelle-Ecosse, who held an emergency meeting on Tuesday, said the organization is considering a court challenge that could cost up to $500,000.
"We are concerned about the long-term surival of our francophone communities," said Ronald Robichaud, the president of the federation.
"This is not just a simple riding redistribution issue. It's about language rights, it's about protecting minority rights in Nova Scotia."
Last week's report sets the terms of reference which will guide the provincial electoral boundaries commission. The commission is expected to report to the legislature in the fall.