Group calls for N.S. legislature to shrink
There should be 19 fewer provincial politicians in Nova Scotia and four seats designated to represent minorities should be eliminated as part of an electoral boundary review, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said Tuesday.
There are 52 legislature members, but Kevin Lacey, the organization's Atlantic director, said that number is hard to justify at a time when the province is making cuts in areas such as health and education.
He said it didn't matter that the move itself would hardly balance the province's books as it grapples with a projected $319-million deficit this fiscal year.
"This is a matter of principle, that politicians should be held to the same standards of the decisions that they are making for other government departments," said Lacey.
The proposed number of provincial seats would work out to three seats per federal riding — something Lacey said would be fair representation.
He said the legislature should take its cue from the province's Utility and Review Board, which recently decided to cut the sizes of Halifax regional council and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's council by about 25 per cent.
Lacey also said it was time to scrap four ridings designated to represent the province's Acadian and black communities.
They are the ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond and the Halifax riding of Preston.
Cuts may harm rural areas: Dexter
"I think the world has certainly changed since these were put in place," Lacey said.
"So rather than picking and choosing which groups you're going to represent, we're saying let's treat all Nova Scotians equally."
Premier Darrell Dexter said he was satisfied to let an all-party committee do its work in setting the terms of reference for a commission on electoral boundaries. But he said a cut in seats as proposed by Lacey would harm rural parts of the province.
"It would take a large amount of representation out of rural communities and I don't think that would not be particularly well-received," said Dexter.
As for the ridings intended to represent minorities, Dexter said he isn't convinced that the Preston riding is meeting its objective to represent the area's black community.
The legislature member for Preston — Liberal Keith Colwell — is white. Dexter said it would be important to talk with community groups before any possible changes to electoral boundaries could happen.
"The growth within that constituency has meant that [black representation] is not the case," Dexter said.
"Who knows? Maybe there would be more appropriate boundaries for a similar kind of seat."
Report by the end of the year
Michel Samson, the Liberal member for Richmond, said he doesn't see any reason to eliminate the seats designated to represent minorities.
Samson, who is also on the all-party committee, said the Acadian community in particular has benefited from its level of representation in the legislature. He pointed to the province's French language services law and the growth of the Université Sainte-Anne as examples.
"Some [members] have served in cabinet and in very high-profile positions," he said.
"There's no doubt that it [minority ridings] has had its desired effect."
The Taxpayers Federation was to speak Tuesday in Truro before the all-party committee. Four more public meetings to discuss electoral boundaries will be held by Dec. 1.
The committee is to report to the legislature by Dec. 31 and the government has said the commission would be struck early in the new year.
Electoral boundaries are reviewed every 10 years and boundaries under the current review must be set by the end of 2012.