4 protected Acadian, African-Nova Scotian seats to return to electoral map
Number of seats in Nova Scotia Legislature to grow from 51 to 55
The Nova Scotia government will return four protected constituencies to Nova Scotia's electoral map, a move aimed at increasing participation and representation of Acadian and African-Nova Scotians.
Acting on the recommendations of an independent electoral boundaries commission, Justice Minister Mark Furey tabled amendments to the House of Assembly Act on Wednesday that would see the number of seats in the legislature grow from 51 to 55.
Most notably, the amendments bring back the traditional Acadian districts of Argyle, Clare and Richmond, as well as Preston, a district intended to encourage more African-Nova Scotian participation.
The move comes as a result of a successful court challenge by the province's Acadian federation after the former NDP government ignored recommendations from a previous boundaries commission and eliminated the protected seats.
Alluding to that decision, Furey said the act makes clear government is supposed to follow the commission's recommendations and the amendments he introduced follows them to the letter.
Courts have made clear "that this is an area where government should not interfere in the recommendations of boundary review commissions," he told reporters at Province House, later adding, "We don't want to be back in court trying to resolve matters…"
Other changes included in the redrawing of the electoral map, which will come into effect in time for the next provincial election, are the return of standalone districts for Queens and Shelburne, and Bedford being split into two seats — Bedford Basin and Bedford South — to reflect population growth in that part of the Halifax region.
Changes to the map in other parts of the province, however, mean the net effect is 55 seats.
While it might seem like a large number of seats in a legislature for a province of fewer than a million people, Furey said the courts have established requirements for there to be effective representation and voter parity.
The changes do not include a protected seat for the traditionally Acadian community of Chéticamp. Although some members of the boundaries commission wanted a 56th seat created, ultimately the majority of members determined the population of the area was simply too small to warrant the additional seat.
A digital map outlining the changes will be available on the Elections Nova Scotia website.
The minister said that is intended to make it easier for people to understand exactly where the boundaries are without having to sift through pages of legislation.
Voters "should have the access to the information they need to make an informed decision, and that information should be accessible where they are, whether they're sitting at their desk or out and about using a smartphone or tablet," he said.