Contentious electoral map becomes law in N.S.
The Nova Scotia government has passed a law to implement new electoral boundaries in the province, a move that has sparked protests and the threat of legal action in the months leading up to Thursday's final vote.
Bill 94 caused a large divide in the house and the legislation passed with a final vote of 26 to 22. Those opposed to the bill included Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau.
In a rare move, Premier Darrell Dexter allowed Belliveau to break from cabinet and vote against the map. The new boundaries split Belliveau's constituency in Shelburne County in two.
The NDP used its majority in the legislature to approve the law, which cuts the number of seats in the house to 51 from 52 and merges four ridings intended to represent the province's black and Acadian populations with other ridings.
The Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia said earlier this week the larger ridings will make it more difficult for the minorities to be represented in the house.
The federation plans on filing a lawsuit against the government because it argues the changes take away the voice of French-speaking people in the ridings of Clare, Argyle and Richmond, which are among those being merged with neighbouring electoral districts.
Both opposition parties voted against the new map, arguing the government interfered by rejecting the interim report of the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, which recommended continued protection for the four designated minority ridings.
Michel Samson, a Liberal who represents the riding of Richmond, said the government should have consulted the province's minority groups to find a solution that protected their rights while dealing with shifting populations in rural areas.
"It's unfortunate that we find ourselves in a process that should have been non-political, that should have been free of political interference, instead we're left with a process that was tainted from day one," he said.
Dexter has said the commission's terms of reference provided for a balance between minority rights and equal representation, and he expects the new map will withstand any legal challenge.
It's mandatory that the electoral boundaries are reviewed every 10 years.
With files from The Canadian Press