Commission's Report – Nova Scotia

The Proposal Stage

The Proposal

In implementing the guidelines of the Act and adhering to the guidelines of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Carter decision and subsequent Canadian superior court decisions, the Commission proceeded in the following manner.

This Commission, as did the previous commission, first considered whether there were any “extraordinary circumstances” which might necessitate or justify moving beyond the given plus or minus 25 percent of the quota in any of the 11 federal electoral districts, as permitted by subsection 15(2) of the Act. The Commission decided that there was no such necessity and that there were clearly no such extraordinary circumstances requiring it to invoke the provisions of subsection 15(2) of the Act.

The Commission then considered the need, if any, for a redrawing of the federal electoral boundaries in the Province, based on the official population figures for 2011. It was readily apparent that the shift in population between 2001 and 2011 would require some adjustment of those boundaries. The Commission, therefore, set out to make the adjustments with a minimum of disturbance to the current boundaries, while at the same time considering all of the factors set out in section 15 of the Act.

The population of Nova Scotia increased from 908,007 in 2001 to 921,727 in 2011, which is a net increase of 13,720. At the same time, the population of the four ridings in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) increased from 341,026 in 2001 to 370,654 in 2011, which is a net increase of 29,628. Therefore, the total population of the federal ridings outside of the HRM had diminished by 15,908.

It can be seen that several ridings, particularly those in the HRM, were well above the electoral quota of 83,793 (see Table 1 of the Proposal). When one compares the population of the four HRM ridings with the electoral quota, one can see that the deviation of those ridings exceeded the quota by 6.41 percent to 16.61 percent. It can also be seen from Table 1 of the Proposal that the ridings of Sydney—Victoria, Central Nova and Cape Breton—Canso were below the quota by 12.49 percent to 18.33 percent. The Commission, therefore, proposed to adjust the boundaries of three of the HRM ridings as well as those of Cape Breton—Canso and Central Nova to bring them into closer alignment with the electoral quota. While making the boundary proposals, the Commission considered the principles of community of interest and identity, historical pattern and manageable geographic size.

Table 1 of the Proposal shows population information after redistribution in 2002 side by side with the same information for 2012 using the new electoral quota. From that table, it is easily discernible that Nova Scotia’s population has shifted from rural areas, particularly Cape Breton, to the greater Halifax area.Table 2 of the Proposal shows the same information as it would be if the boundaries were readjusted as proposed.

Based on the information before it, the Commission proposed a reduction in the size of Halifax West, which had the effect of enlarging the geographic size of South Shore—St. Margarets. At the same time, the Commission proposed annexing parts of the Municipality of the District of Barrington to West Nova in order to compensate for this increase in the geographic size of South Shore—St. Margarets.

The Commission also proposed enlarging Cape Breton—Canso, which had fallen significantly below the electoral quota. This meant encroaching on Central Nova, which itself was substantially below the quota. Therefore, to compensate, the Commission proposed enlarging Central Nova by adding parts of Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley and parts of the Eastern Shore.

The Commission also proposed that the boundaries between Dartmouth—Cole Harbour and Sackville—Eastern Shore be altered to make those boundaries less convoluted.

The details of these proposals were published in the Canada Gazette on August 4, 2012, on the Commission’s website at www.federal-redistribution.ca and in various newspapers throughout the Province. Readers are referred to the published documents for details of the Commission’s proposals as these will not be repeated here

Submissions Received

The Commission commenced to receive written submissions from interested individuals, groups and organizations shortly after the publication of the Proposal. In all, 57 written submissions were received for the various ridings of the Province. The deadline for receiving written submissions was September 30, 2012, but a few were received after that date. Nevertheless, these few late submissions were accepted and considered. The vast majority of written submissions expressed concern that the historic communities of Bedford and Dartmouth were each being divided by the Proposal. The written submissions and digital recordings of the public hearings will be filed with the Chief Electoral Officer at the end of the Commission’s mandate and will be accessible to the public upon application to that office.

Public Hearings

Six public hearings were held throughout the Province of Nova Scotia, commencing on September 14, 2012 and ending on October 3, 2012. All of the public hearings were held in the evening to encourage and facilitate participation. The schedule of these hearings and the number of presenters were as follows:

Date Location Presenters
September 14, 2012
Stellarton
4 presenters
September 18, 2012
Halifax
10 presenters
September 20, 2012
Bridgewater
3 presenters
September 21, 2012
Yarmouth
10 presenters
October 1, 2012
Lower Sackville
8 presenters
October 3, 2012
Cole Harbour
7 presenters

The following four scheduled public hearings were cancelled due to a lack of interest in appearing before the Commission:

Date Location
September 4, 2012
Sydney
September 5, 2012
Port Hawkesbury
September 9, 2012
Greenwich
September 13, 2012
Truro

Most of the presenters were appearing as individuals; however, a number of individuals were representing local riding organizations or municipal governments, or were election officials such as returning officers and polling officers. Four members of Parliament appeared at the public hearings. These were the Hon. Geoff Regan (Halifax West), Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore), Mr. Gerald Keddy (South Shore—St. Margaret’s) and Mr. Greg Kerr (West Nova). Mr. Robert Chisholm, the member of Parliament for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, had a staff person appear and speak on his behalf. It should also be mentioned that, at a number of the hearings, individuals not making presentations outnumbered those making presentations.

The main themes at the public hearings were concerns that the Proposal would divide certain long-existing communities of interest and communities of identity, and that, in some cases, the Proposal would divide a number of municipalities, counties or both.

Residents of the community of Bedford expressed a strong desire to remain united in the riding of Halifax West.

Residents of Dartmouth, especially the area of North Dartmouth, expressed a strong desire to remain united in the riding of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, and they were supported by their member of Parliament, Mr. Robert Chisholm.

Residents of the Municipality of the District of Barrington, including municipal officials, expressed a strong desire not to be divided from the County of Shelburne and to remain in the riding of South Shore—St. Margarets.

The warden of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s expressed concern that the Proposal would divide that municipality between Central Nova and Cape Breton—Canso.

Concern was expressed that the Proposal would divide Antigonish County and certain communities within that county between Central Nova and Cape Breton—Canso.

Concern was also expressed that the Proposal would add too much of the Eastern Shore to the riding of Central Nova.

The majority of these representations influenced the direction of the Commission, and as many as could be reasonably incorporated are reflected in this Report.

Many of the concerns expressed at the public hearings had been communicated to the Commission in written submissions received prior to the hearings. The Commission had considered these written submissions and, in many situations, agreed that it should revise its proposed position in light of those representations. This was announced by the Commission during the Chair’s opening remarks at the beginning of each public hearing.

The result was that many of the presenters’ concerns had already been addressed by the Commission, and this helped to focus the representations and discussions on moving forward from that point. Proceeding in that manner served two purposes: It avoided much controversy at the hearings and it gave a clear indication that the Commission was listening to the residents and organizations of the various ridings. While the intended presenters had to take some time to digest the “up-to-date” thinking of the Commission (which time was freely accorded), the hearings could proceed more effectively from there.

The Commission made it clear that its up-to-date thinking was not an official position until it prepared and filed its Report. Nevertheless, the presenters appeared to understand and accept that there was no formal process to revise a Commission’s Proposal, and they did not appear to doubt the sincerity of the “revised proposal”. The Commission was of the view that this process worked well.





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