October 13, 2012
ARGYLE, NS – Progressive Conservative MLA Chris d’Entremont says the NDP and Liberal members of the House of Assembly’s Law Amendments Committee should agree to do everything possible to ensure the people of Shelburne have their voices heard when the upcoming electoral boundaries legislation is reviewed.
d’Entremont’s comments come one day after Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie attended a meeting with hundreds of residents from Shelburne and the surrounding areas. Baillie says it’s clear the people of Shelburne believe their voices need to be heard before the House of Assembly passes legislation enacting Nova Scotia’s new electoral boundaries.
d’Entremont, a member of the Law Amendments Committee, says he intends to introduce a motion that will move the committee meeting to Shelburne.
“All Nova Scotians, including the people of Shelburne, deserve a fair and open process for setting electoral boundaries and all Nova Scotians deserve to have their voice heard,” said d’Entremont. “For too many, their faith in this process has been lost and Shelburne is only the latest example. The NDP have let the people of Shelburne and all Nova Scotia down by interfering in what was supposed to be an independent commission.”
d’Entremont says the Dexter NDP has botched the process of setting the new electoral boundaries from the start and Shelburne is now being told they have to pay the price. The difference, says d’Entremont, is unlike in Yarmouth, Shelburne has no forum to make its voice heard.
The members of the Progressive Conservative Caucus are committed to making sure the people of Shelburne have their say.
I was able to present the current situation on boundaries in Nova Scotia to the CPA. I thought it provided a good explanation how we’ve come to this point. It caused a great discussion on how other provinces conduct their reviews and most in attendance were concerned with the intervention of the Minister of Justice. Have a look, if you have any question, please email me or call the office. Click on the link below to download a PDF of the presentation.
After a pretty long day yesterday and lots of thinking, I thought I’d share my thoughts and some information about the new boundaries proposed by the 2012 Boundary Commission yesterday. For the past 11 months, I have been fighting to maintain strong Acadian representation in the legislature, by voting against the resolution that started this process on October 31st, 2011.
We were the only opposition caucus that understood it would give unprecedented power to the Standing Committee that was to pick commission members and set a terms of reference. During the last two processes, the Legislature itself debated resolutions that set up a clear set of rules, like taking in consideration geography, cultural differences and history before trying to make all constituencies equal. This is a right that stems from our very own constitution. I believe that effective representation is much more complicated than setting a minimum and maximum of total electors. The NDP members of the committee moved to set terms of reference that would eliminate “protected” ridings. I dissented against these terms of reference back in December because I knew it would erase the concept of minority rights.
I was very proud of Argyle constituents and Acadians in Clare and Richmond for coming out, fighting for good representation in the Legislature and speaking about how having Acadian MLAs helps keep the distinct culture and language vibrant in Nova Scotia. This lead to a very favourable interim report from the Commission that kept our communities in South West Nova Scotia in tact. This was a tremendous victory that lasted for only a short time until the Minister of Justice and Premier came out and squashed the work, saying it ran against the terms of reference.
The Commission was then compelled to rewrite the report, which then caused great concern in Yarmouth because it recommended splitting up the county in two. The community came out and made the Commission aware that this was not acceptable to the area and that they should go back and try again.
Try again they did! In the final report from the Boundary Commission it recommended splitting Shelburne County into two new areas, Argyle – Barrington and Queens – Shelburne leaving Yarmouth together. While this on paper may seem reasonable to someone from outside, the voices of Shelburne County have not yet been heard. So before too much time passes, I would ask residents of the municipality to let their voices be heard by dropping me an email ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) so I can bring them to the government and be ready when boundary Legislation is introduced and debated in the House of Assembly.
This was done by the NDP government as they were unwilling to listen to people who actually know their communities. Blindly they dictated a terms of reference that would, as a side effect, impact neighbouring communities to the minority ones. Darrell Dexter, Ross Landry and Sterling Belliveau were very well aware of the outcome, as they tried to influence it at every opportunity.
The the Boundary Report and map is available at here 2012 Boundary Report
Presentation to the Nova Scotia Select Committee on Establishing an Electoral Boundaries Commission
Province House, Nova Scotia
Thursday 1 December 2011
Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse
Honourable Members and Minister, distinguished guests:
My name is Jean Léger and I am the Executive Director of the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse.
I first wish to thank you for allowing the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse, or FANE, to appear before the Select Committee at these consultations on determining the composition and terms of reference of an independent Electoral Boundaries Commission.
FANE’s main mission is, within the extent of its means, to neutralize the assimilation of Nova Scotia’s Acadian and francophone population; coordinate actions among Nova Scotia’s French-language institutions, societies and organizations; act as an interest group and community development organization; serve as official spokesperson for the Acadian and francophone people of Nova Scotia; and strive for the linguistic, cultural, economic, social and political survival, as well as the development, of Nova Scotia’s Acadian people.
Since its founding in 1968, the Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse has contributed to the emergence and advancement of several issues in such areas as education, the economy, politics, sociocultural fields, youth, women, seniors, literacy, immigration and communications. FANE was also at the centre of negotiations on passage of Nova Scotia’s French-language Services Act in 2004 and consultations and negotiations leading to the regulations under that act.
Honourable Members and Minister, here is the crux of our message.
Francophone Acadians have been living in this area for several centuries, even before the province of Nova Scotia was created. Before the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Acadian people were prosperous and concentrated in the territory of Acadie, which subsequently became Nova Scotia. After France and Great Britain signed that treaty, the Acadians were tolerated for a few more years on the lands they had developed with their hard labour. Unfortunately, as we all know, the many deportations from 1755 to 1763 radically and negatively changed the face of Acadian society. Their numbers steadily declined in the Maritimes and Nova Scotia and their population was scattered against their will.
When the Acadians were allowed to return to settle in the province after their deportation, they were deliberately dispersed to reduce the threat apprehended from an excessive concentration of these Catholic Acadians. Today, the dispersal of these communities is obvious. Yet as a result of their tenacity, they have become vibrant communities reaching out and contributing enormously not only to the culture of Nova Scotia but also to its education, economy and social development. In 2012, the Acadians should not be penalized once again by the powers in Halifax due to this dispersal, caused in part by the deportation.
Now we find traditional Acadian communities such as Cheticamp, Richmond, Clare (St. Mary’s Bay), Argyle (Par-en-Bas) and Pomquet. At the same time, Nova Scotia’s modern Acadie now includes other regions such as Halifax, the South Shore, Truro, the Annapolis Valley and Sydney. In brief, wherever there is a francophone school, there is now a community. These schools were often obtained through great struggle and hardship from the provincial powers in Province House, and were made possible only by arguments citing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada. Effective representation therefore is essential and must be considered in the terms of reference for the next commission, in the interests of all these communities and francophone Acadians.
Throughout the province, based on the 2006 Census of Canada, there are close to 35,000 people whose mother tongue is French, but 95,000 who speak French. In addition, it is estimated that almost 10 percent of the province’s total population, or about 90,000 people, are of Acadian ancestry.
However, in terms of linguistic and cultural homogeneity, the Cheticamp, Richmond, Clare and Argyle regions are the most significant. The economic, cultural and linguistic dynamism of these communities is essential to the identity and growth of Acadie in Nova Scotia. In the last three areas—Richmond, Clare and Argyle—their sustainability depends on maintaining the existing electoral boundaries.
FANE therefore believes that effective representation is essential and must be considered in the terms of reference for the next commission, as they apply to all these communities and francophone Acadians.
In the Carter ruling in June 1991, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, referring in part to effective representation. I cite that decision here.
The definition of provincial voting constituencies is subject to the Charter and is not a matter of constitutional convention relating to the provincial constitution which is impervious to judicial review. Although legislative jurisdiction to amend the provincial constitution cannot be removed from the province without a constitutional amendment and is in this sense above Charter scrutiny, the provincial exercise of its legislative authority is subject to the Charter. The province is empowered by convention to establish its electoral boundaries but that convention is subject to s. 3 of the Charter.
The content of the Charter right to vote is to be determined in a broad and purposive way, having regard to historical and social context. The broader philosophy underlying the historical development of the right to vote must be sought and practical considerations, such as social and physical geography, must be borne in mind. The Court, most importantly, must be guided by the ideal of a “free and democratic society” upon which the Charter is founded.
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”. The right to vote therefore comprises many factors, of which equity is but one. The section does not guarantee equality of voting power.
Furthermore, FANE reminds the decision makers present here today that the language and culture of Nova Scotia’s Acadian and francophone minority [translation] “occupy a special place in the fabric of Canadian society as one of the founding communities of Canada and that [French is] one of the two official languages, the rights of which are entrenched in the Constitution.” As spokesperson for the Acadians and francophones of this province, FANE will not tolerate changes to, and will take every measure at its disposal to preserve the status quo of, the current electoral boundaries of the Acadian communities of Argyle, Clare and Richmond, which in our view are extremely important institutions and acquired gains.
We deem these constituencies, by virtue of their history and importance, to be recognized provincial institutions extremely important for protecting the Acadian communities and we are referring here to a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal finding for the community when a healthcare restructuring commission wanted to close its institution, the French-language Montfort Hospital.
In conclusion, FANE asks the Select Committee present here today to consider the following recommendations for the orientations and composition of the Electoral Boundaries Commission:
That consultations be held in all 10 Acadian regions to give concerned citizens an opportunity to speak on possible changes to electoral constituencies, especially the immediate Acadian regions of Cheticamp, Richmond, Clare and Argyle;
That all consultation sessions provide simultaneous interpretation so all citizens can speak in French or English;
That the Commission the same primary criteria of the terms of reference used by the previous commission, and add that the minority Acadian community is distinct community of interest and that its history and its contribution to the province is of prime importance in Nova Scotia and that the Commission respect the special nature of the current Acadian constituencies, in recognition of their diversity, history, traditions and heritage;
Also, that one of the primary factors to be considered by the Commission be the official language proportions in the constituencies of Richmond, Clare and Argyle;
That at least two people from the Acadian and francophone community with excellent knowledge of the community sit on the Commission responsible for recommending revisions to current electoral boundaries, and that these people have solid knowledge of the case law involving official language minority communities, especially in respect of cases involving the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
That consideration be given to adding electoral constituencies as the federal government is considering, rather than eliminating constituencies. Adequate representation supports more effective exercise of democracy and nowadays would not adversely affect rural regions already in difficulty and facing major challenges of all sorts. We dare to hope that the government does not wish to harm rural regions and that the Commission will find innovative ways to ensure effective representation without depriving minorities of anything;
Consider as a primary element of the terms of reference the French-language Services Act of the Province of Nova Scotia, adopted after the most recent commission, which ensures services in French, but especially in the present context, promotes preservation and growth of the province’s Acadian and francophone community. This act concurs with subsection 16(3) of the Charter on equality of status or use of French and English in Canada;
Factor into the terms of reference case law governing effective representation, specifically the following Supreme Court rulings: Carter (Reference re Provincial Electoral Boundaries (Saskatchewan),  2 SCR 158) and Raîche v. Canada in respect of proposed changes to the federal constituency of Acadie-Bathurst in New Brunswick (Raîche v. Canada (Attorney General)  FC 679);
That the Commission conduct an exhaustive impact study on development and growth of the official minority language community if it makes changes to the Richmond, Clare and Argyle constituencies. This was mentioned as important in the Supreme Court ruling in Raîche v. Canada, in which the judge deemed important that the commission identify the impact on the community affected.
Thank you for your attention.