1,565 QP Qs by the NSLP and NSPC

Two distinct strategies suggest themselves in a review of the one thousand five-hundred and sixty-five questions asked by the Liberals and Conservatives in 2012.

The Liberals used a spray-paint or roller technique to try to colour the government on broad topics, while the Conservatives used a smaller brush to give detailed work to delicate issues.

Credit must be given to the Conservatives for getting stories like Talbot House (50 questions) and the Home for Coloured Children (21 questions) into the press. Spending a lot of time on a few stories can make a difference. But there is risk in this approach as well. Asking no questions on universities, agriculture, doctors, crime rates, or rural roads, but 22 questions on First Contract Arbitration legislation, suggest this focused attack can result in forgetting other core values.

A word of caution: as the Official Opposition, the Liberals ask approximately 60% of the questions. It would be unfair to suggest that because they asked two questions on Immigration in 2012, and the Conservatives did not ask any, that they care about that issue more than the PCs. With 313 more questions, the Liberals could hit more targets.

For the NDP, it is worth noting that the topics their supporters seem most interested in – universal health care, climate change, income assistance, root causes of crime, and the minimum wage – received no questions from either the Liberals or the Tories.

Digging down into the numbers on health also yields a point of interest. Instead of wait times (9 questions total) and ER closures (15 questions total) dominating the discussion as they did under previous Liberal and PC governments, the number one health issue raised in Question Period in 2012 was the NSGEU and Collective Bargaining (57 questions).

Write to us with your observations at pictoubee@gmail.com

The Question Period Priorities of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party.

The Question Period Priorities of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party and Liberal Party.

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Want a more inclusive House? Invite more people inside.

There are no visible minorities in the Liberal Caucus. There are no women in the Tory Caucus.* And while the NDP has made strides in both these areas, all three parties have more to do to ensure their political movements are more inclusive.

Want to increase minority representation in the legislature? Nominate minorities to run for your party. Do not just run Acadians in Clare and Argyle – the opposition could run an Acadian from Pomquet in the Antigonish seat. Especially if they believe only Acadian MLAs can protect linguistic rights.

The new boundaries drawn by the Electoral Boundary Commission does not eliminate so-called “minority seats” – just ensure they are within the allowed variance. But we encourage parties look beyond those new borders.

The political parties should not just look for minority candidates to run in Halifax-Dartmouth as they search for a more diverse group of MLAs. While continuing with their candidate searches, why not have a religious minority run for the NDP in Cape Breton, a recent immigrant run for the Conservatives in Pictou, or a woman run for the Liberals somewhere (anywhere) in South West Nova?

On the equation of “one vote = one vote”, some people have asked, “why have any variance at all?” We would note that while parity is the most important factor, allowing for a 25% variance fits within the Canadian court system which has ruled that you need to allow for effective as well as equal representation.

In 1991, Justice McLachlin, writing for the Supreme Court of Canada, explained the concept of variance.

The purpose of the right to vote enshrined in s.3 of the Charter is not equality of voting power per se, but the right to ‘effective representation’… And the primary condition of effective representation is relative parity of voting power, modified where necessary by factors like geography, community history, community interests and minority representation.

So Nova Scotia’s Electoral Boundary Commission final report ensures people’s votes are treated equally but also fairly. The physical size of a riding, whether it is a community of interest, and projections of population growth were considered in creating variances of up to but not exceeding 25% for the constituencies.

* The Tories did elect a woman the last election, but she crossed the floor. Liberal MLA Zach Churchill has a mother who is of Lebanese descent and asked us if that makes him a visible minority. We have no opinion on that, but it brings up an interesting question. When will Nova Scotians have a diverse legislature and not even notice?

Minority Report

The final report of the Electoral Boundaries Commission is in and, against all reason, MLAs Chris D’Entremont and the normally responsible Michel Samson are arguing that the result favours the NDP.

The report keeps Liberal Yarmouth intact, and cuts NDP cabinet minister Sterling Belliveau’s seat in two. Samson declared that the NDP “got rid of ridings they couldn’t win” despite the fact that both Queens and Shelburne are held by the governing party. Cape Breton Nova, the seat on the island set to disappear, is held by the NDP as well. These rulings are simply not favourable to the NDP.

Hopefully this is just partisan bluster by the opposition MLAs. Speaking out against the creation of seats in the capital is a strange way to win favour of those voters.

We are concerned that one of the Liberals on the commission, Paul Gaudet, refused to sign the report. If he was unwilling to work within the guidelines set out by the Legislature, he could have resigned. That would have been a just move, especially after considering Jill Grant seemed to be pushed out for trying to follow the 25% variance rule during the first draft stages.

Now that the final report is in, we would like to thank the members for restoring Pictou’s three seats from their revised draft report that gave us two and a half.

Here are the 5 smallest seats in the province the commission worked hard to protect:

Richmond: (-25% variance)
East Nova (-24% variance)
Hammonds Plains – Lucasville (23% variance)
Preston (-23% variance)
Pictou West (-22% variance)

Here are the 5 largest seats the commission was less concerned with:

Fairview – Clayton Park: (+25% variance)
Bedford: (+25% variance)
Hants East: (+24% variance)
Clayton Park West: (+23 % variance)
Sydney: (+22% variance)

As we wrote earlier, if you want more minorities in the Legislature, whether they have a different skin tone, speak a different language, or worship in a different church, political parties need only nominate them as candidates.

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.