Nova Scotia

Electoral boundaries meeting heats up

A meeting of the provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission erupted into some heated moments Thursday night, when the panel held a meeting in Whitney Pier.
Proposed ridings for the Sydney area: 04 Cape Breton Centre, 23 Glace Bay, 39 Northside Westmount, 46 Sydney, 49 Victoria the Lakes. (Electoral Boundaries Commission)

A meeting of the provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission erupted into some heated moments Thursday night, when the panel held a meeting in Whitney Pier.

The community is in one of three ridings slated to be eliminated in the commission's revised interim report. More than 80 people turned out, to talk about how the changes would affect them.

Gordie Gosse is the MLA for Cape Breton Nova, a riding that would be eliminated, and folded into the new riding of Sydney, under the plan. He got into an argument with one of the volunteer members of the panel, political science professor Jim Bickerton.

An angry Gosse asked why the commission would cut Whitney Pier up, under the new electoral boundaries, when it is "the most ethnically diverse community in Atlantic Canada."

Bickerton said the commission is just trying to follow its mandate.

"To characterize our attempt to draw boundaries as an attack on this constituency is nothing less than a malicious political attack on this commission," said Bickerton.

The Electoral boundaries Commission filed its first interim report in May, and recommended keeping many ridings largely the same, to protect minority ridings. Attorney General Ross Landry refused to accept the report, and Premier Darrell Dexter publicly called on the commission to "live up to the responsibillity they took on."

Commission chairwoman Theresa MacNeil reminded people at the meeting that the commission's mandate is to ensure every riding has roughly the same number of voters, "So that each person has the same power, as a voter, as the next."

The new report recommends eliminating three rural ridings, including Cape Breton Nova, and creating two new rural ones.

Among the ridings it would redistribute is Cape Breton West. Large parts of the riding would go to Richmond and Cape Breton the Lakes.

Donelda MacDonald of Gabarus told the commission that doing so is wrong. "The idea of creating an area that puts French Road, Gabarus and some of Marion Bridge all the way over with Marion Bridge ... it's not going to work," she said.

The commission will conclude public hearings next week. Its final report is due Aug. 31.

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