HALIFAX: Proposed changes to two electoral districts in the Strait area will be implemented for the next provincial election.

On October 9, Attorney General and Justice Minister Mark Furey tabled changes to the House of Assembly Act, which includes reinstating the constituency of Richmond and returning the Town of Port Hawkesbury into the Inverness district.

Although it will take time for the bill to go through second reading, then to the law amendments committee, and back to the house for a final vote, justice department spokesperson Sarah Levy said the new boundaries will take effect when the House of Assembly is dissolved for the next general election.

These changes, along with the addition of Acadian and African Nova Scotian districts, will increase the number of provincial electoral districts from 51 to 55.

“We appreciate the unique and distinct cultural interests of our Acadian and African Nova Scotian populations, and believe it is important these communities have a voice and representation in our democratic system,” Levy told The Reporter.

Levy pointed out that this issue started in 2017, when the province formed the Keefe Commission to recommend ways to best achieve effective electoral representation of Acadian and African Nova Scotians. The recommendations set out in their report assisted the 2018-19 independent Electoral Boundaries Commission in its work.

“The commission consulted widely across the province to fulfill our terms of reference which was to strike a balance between voter parity and ensuring effective representation for all Nova Scotians,” explained Colin Dodds, commission chair.

In July 2018, the all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly established the Electoral Boundaries Commission. The role of the commission was to recommend the boundaries and names for all electoral districts that make up the membership of the House of Assembly.

In last November’s interim report, following a province-wide consultative process, the commission presented four alternatives; keeping the present 51 electoral districts, 55 electoral districts, 55 with dual representation for Inverness County, and 56 to include an exceptional electoral district for Chéticamp.

The commission’s final report was filed on April 15 and the terms of reference mandated that only one set of boundaries be recommended. Using information from the public meetings and from Elections Nova Scotia, the commission, recommended a House of Assembly of 55 seats. The commission did not recommend Chéticamp as an exceptional district.

The independent commission called for the restoration of the Acadian electoral district of Richmond as it was before it was gerrymandered into the riding of Cape Breton-Richmond, along with the Town of Port Hawkesbury and parts of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, in 2012.

Port Hawkesbury was reunited with the rest of Inverness County in the district of Inverness, the same constituency the town belonged to prior to the boundary review seven years ago.