The government of former Premier Darrell Dexter made such a mess in 2012, that attempts are still being made to clean it up.
On September 14 at the Louisdale and Area Fire Hall in Grand Anse, residents and representatives of various organizations unanimously called for the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission to restore the riding of Richmond.
Speakers from La Federation Acadien de Nouvelle-Ecosse (LaFANE), Société La Picasse, the Conseil scolaire acadian provincial (CSAP), and a former municipal official all requested that the riding of Richmond be restored to the status it enjoyed before the NDP decided to engage in unconstitutional political gerrymandering six years ago.
The acting president of LaFANE pointed out that the former provincial government violated the Charter rights of Acadians by eliminating ridings like Richmond and creating what is now Cape Breton-Richmond. After successfully taking the provincial government to court, LaFANE also noted that the former Premier and Attorney General were wrong by flouting existing rules, ignoring the recommendations of the boundary commission of the day and unilaterally establishing unfair boundaries.
LaFANE noted that support for Acadian ridings is strong across Nova Scotia. They are clear that they want all Acadian ridings restored and they want Cheticamp to become its own riding.
Société La Picasse pointed out that Richmond is a traditionally Acadian district, has an Acadian population, and has many more people with Acadian roots. But the Petit de Grat-based group does not support joining Cheticamp with Richmond County in one riding.
As for the idea of an Acadian member-at-large, the Isle Madame organization and LaFANE both do not support that option, nor did any other speaker at the meeting earlier this month.
The former Warden of Richmond County told the commission he also wants Richmond County made into one riding, but also does not support the concept of an Acadian member-at-large, nor connecting the Cheticamp area with the riding of Richmond.
Also supporting the riding of Richmond option was one of the last speakers of the evening, a former CSAP official.
After gathering public feedback, the commission has to submit its preliminary report to Premier Stephen McNeil by November 30 and the final report has to be complete by April 1.
What makes this job tricky is that the commission has been tasked with drafting recommendations for a report encompassing the existing 51 electoral districts, and another report with up to 56 seats.
The extra five seats include Richmond, the proposed riding of Cheticamp and new ridings in and around the Halifax Regional Municipality.
With support strong for returning Richmond, come the questions surrounding the Town of Port Hawkesbury and where it will be placed. The most likely, and possibly the scenario with the most public and political support, would involve moving the town back into the riding of Inverness.
That could mean that the Cheticamp area can be removed from Inverness and joined with the adjacent riding of Victoria The Lakes, giving that Acadian population more clout in a smaller riding.
Then, the remainders of Cape Breton County – which were in Cape Breton-Richmond and Victoria The Lakes – can be returned to other ridings in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality; another option that satisfies the most people.
With no support to be found for joining Cheticamp with Richmond, or electing an Acadian member-at-large, these seem like the most workable options.
Now it is up to the commission to compile this feedback, keeping in mind existing parameters like voter parity and the geographic size of ridings, to present the government with some clear direction.
Hopefully, the will of voters will be followed this time.