New federal electoral boundaries proposed in Nova Scotia would cause a significant realignment of the province’s 11 ridings in the next federal election.
Boundaries are redrawn across Canada every 10 years to reflect population changes in the census.
An electoral boundary commission in Nova Scotia has released its proposal, which includes four newly renamed federal ridings and a cascade of boundary changes to accommodate large population growth in metro Halifax and decreases in Cape Breton and the eastern mainland.
“It’s very difficult to do the balancing act,” said Nova Scotia Court of Appeal Justice Cindy Bourgeois, who is chairing the three-member commission.
The other members are political scientists David Johnson from Cape Breton University and Louise Carbert of Dalhousie.
To ensure votes everywhere carry the same weight, the commission is trying to maintain similar populations in each riding — around 88,000 — allowing for a maximum variance of 25 per cent, more or less.
Bourgeois said maintaining relative voting parity is not easy.
“The problem is when you change a boundary for one riding, that necessarily impacts on the adjacent riding and that often creates a cascading effect.”
Halifax West — Nova Scotia’s most populous riding
In Halifax West, the riding population grew by 24,669 over the last decade, accounting for more than half of all provincial growth.
Nearly 112,000 people currently live in the riding, which is 27 per cent over the 88,000 average. Halifax, with a population of 107,000, has the next highest variance at 21 per cent.
The commission has proposed hiving off a large chunk of Halifax West and adding it to the newly created riding of Shubenacadie-Bedford Basin.
“Halifax West had to be changed,” said Bourgeois.
Ripple effect across the province
The realignment of Halifax West will have a domino effect across Nova Scotia.
Kings-Hants MP Kody Blois of Lantz would wind up living outside the riding under the proposed new boundary as the East Hants corridor — including the communities of Lantz, Enfield and Elmsdale — shift to the renamed Pictou-Eastern Shore-Preston.
“The municipality of East Hants and Hants County as a whole has never been separated in this fashion since Confederation,” Blois told CBC News.
Central Nova disappears, Antigonish rolled into Cape Breton
The Pictou-Eastern Shore-Preston riding is currently Central Nova, which would lose all of Antigonish County to a newly renamed Cape Breton-Antigonish — which is currently Cape Breton-Canso.
“The proposed riding changes fundamentally shift the character of several constituencies across Nova Scotia,” Central Nova MP Sean Fraser said in a statement to CBC News on the proposal.
“Collapsing the entirety of the Town and County of Antigonish into the same federal riding as Cape Breton highlights the extensive nature of some of the changes,” he said.
Shelburne added to West Nova
The riding of West Nova would undergo a name change and take in all of Shelburne County as Acadian Shore-Shelburne.
“It creates a very big riding. It creates a riding that doesn’t necessarily have any real connection,” said West Nova MP Chris d’Entremont.
The riding would encompass all of southwestern Nova Scotia well into the Annapolis Valley.
He said most incumbents are in the same boat.
“Talking to [MP] Rick Perkins over in South Shore-St. Margarets … losing Shelburne County is important to him. A good Conservative base of course, in that area,” said d’Entremont.
The riding of South Shore-St. Margarets would see its boundary move closer into metro Halifax.
Commission says tell us we’re wrong
All three MPs contacted encouraged people in their ridings to respond to the proposal, as did Bourgeois.
“What we need from the public and what we welcome from the public is for folks to say, ‘Oh, you got it wrong,'” said the judge. “‘This is why this will work. This is why it won’t work. Here’s a suggestion. If you need to balance out the numbers, look at it a different way.'”
Bourgeois said some changes are absolutely necessary, but the newly released proposal is a “preliminary go” at the numbers.
“We hope the public will assist us in fine-tuning those changes and maybe giving us alternate ideas of how we can go about doing a readjustment that takes into consideration other perspectives that maybe we haven’t considered,” she said.