(From the left): Effective representation commission chair Doug Keefe, Acadian commission member Kenneth Deveau and African Nova Scotia commission member Sharon Davis-Murdoch listen to the presentations made during a meeting in Petit de Grat last September regarding effective representation.

PETIT DE GRAT: The chair of a commission regarding effective representation said it’s clear residents want their former electoral riding restored.

On September 25, Centre La Picasse was the site for a forum on effective representation hosted by a commission tasked with consulting Acadians, Francophones and African Nova Scotians. It was one of several meetings scheduled across the province in Acadian and African Nova Scotian communities to discuss the subject.

Approximately 20 resident attended the meeting in Petit de Grat, with commission chair Doug Keefe, the commission’s Acadian member Kenneth Deveau and African Nova Scotia commission member Sharon Davis-Murdoch listening to the presentations.

A number of people who spoke shared a number of the same issues, primarily a feeling of disrespect on the part of the government regarding electoral boundaries, how there is more than one culture in the province, fears of assimilation, and how they want every voter to have the same feeling of representation. There were also more general questions relating to outmigration and trying to maintain the area’s cultural identity.

Keefe said the opening of the local meeting was similar was to the other meetings in other parts of the province.

“A lot of the meetings open with two elements of frustration, one that they lost the exceptional ridings, and two, the manner in which it was done,” said Keefe. “As we know, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal agreed with them on the manner in which it was done.”

On January 24, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal concluded a 2012 change to Nova Scotia electoral boundaries violated Section 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by altering of the electoral districts of Clare, Argyle and Richmond.

Keefe said once people voiced their frustrations, they began to discuss alternatives though he did not want to get into specifics. He did say there was frustration expressed regarding French language rights and a concern over the emptying out of rural Nova Scotia.

“My impression was that… I left the meeting pretty happy with what I heard,” said Keefe. “It’s very clear though they want the riding back in one form or another and they want to make sure the boundaries commission, when it comes through presumably in the spring of 2018, they want to make sure it comes there.”

He said the commission left with a positive feeling that residents are prepared to look at a variety of ways to be effectively represented.

“There are, as we said at the opening… we talked about effective representation as certainly including things like the protected ridings or exceptional ridings but also interactions with public service, interactions with municipal levels of government, and membership on agency boards and commissions,” he said. “There was some discussion of those topics as well so there wasn’t just about the ridings. It turned into a broader discussion but it’s pretty clear they want the riding back.”

The commission will put together a report and offer recommendations for an Electoral Boundaries Commission, which the government is set to establish before the end of January, 2018. The Commission on Effective Electoral Representation of Acadian and African Nova Scotians announced the sessions back in April.