Viola Desmond versus the Electoral Boundaries Commission

The interim report of the provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission is in and there are some pleasant surprises. Coverage and criticism of their report shows it is close, but they do not get their cigar just yet.

The independent commission is made up of conscientious academics trying to balance the ideas of representation by population and a uniquely Nova Scotian idea that boundaries should be drawn to try to elect more African Nova Scotians and Nova Scotians of Acadian descent to the House of Assembly.

It is a progressive ideal, but the way the commission executed the plan pits minority communities against each other.

Why did the commission decide that the community of Preston is a historic minority community worth protecting, but New Glasgow, the home of Viola Desmond, is not? The commission reduced the power of the voice of the people of Pictou County.

Why did the commission decide that Acadians in Pomquet are less important than Acadians in Argyle? The commission reduced the power of the voice of the people in Antigonish County.

Herald columnist Marilla Stephenson said the commission members should quit or be fired:

There is a page missing from the interim report of the provincial electoral boundaries commission: its resignation letter.

Writer and blogger Parker Donham said the commission exceeded it’s authority by ignoring the Legislature’s direction to draw to boundaries so that no area varies more than 25% from the average.

That’s what seven members of the commission decided to do: overrule the Terms of Reference set down in law by the elected representatives of Nova Scotia.

We do not feel that strongly. This is a draft report, and there is plenty of time for the experts to fix the errors. Current population and growth trends show South West Nova Scotia, not Pictou and Antigonish, should lose a seat in the redistribution. By combining Clare and Argyle into one constituency, you can protect the historic South West Acadian region, while not punishing Pictou and Antigonish.

The drawing of Clayton Park West was a good move, and fits with the commission’s ethics. This community has Nova Scotia’s largest immigrant population, and a diverse political voice could come from here. But even here, political parties need to nominate minorities to give us more minorities in the legislature. Otherwise, we are left with another Preston – a protected community where the majority community next to it just elects Keith Colwell instead.

The Electoral Boundaries Commission fell in love with an idea – a more effective voice for minorities in the provincial government. The solution is not found in their draft report. Instead, if they want to create real change, they should recommend that political parties nominate 26 female candidates, a minimum of 3 Acadians, and a minimum of 3 ethnic minorities.

Want to increase minority representation in the legislature? Nominate minorities to run for you.