HALIFAX: Nova Scotia’s Electoral Boundaries Commission is recommending the return of the riding of Richmond and for the Town of Port Hawkesbury to rejoin the riding of Inverness.

On Monday, the independent commission released its final report which 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. A subsequent lawsuit by the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia successfully argued the riding changes were unconstitutional and violated the provincial government’s own process.

Commission member Mike Kelloway said he and other commission members were well aware of the culture, tradition, history, language, and geography which form the basis of communities of interest, like Richmond County.

“From my vantage point going in, I was very cognizant that Richmond is distinct, it’s unique, it’s historical, it’s geographical, it has Acadian history, tradition ongoing and very proud,” Kelloway explained.

As for Port Hawkesbury, it will be reunited with the riding of Inverness, the same riding to which it belonged prior to the boundary review seven years ago.

“When you make the slightest change to one district, it impacts another, and then you need to have the discussion with the community on that,” Kelloway noted. “Consequentially on the other side of Richmond, it necessitated a change from putting Port Hawkesbury in with Inverness. It will go in with Inverness, Inverness will be whole, it will not have Chéticamp as a distinct riding.”

The commission said it has made changes to many existing boundaries that have been in place since 2012, but has tried to respect municipal boundaries and the interests of communities expressed at the public consultations.

Commission members were appointed in July 2018 by an all-party Select Committee of the House of Assembly and were provided with broad terms of reference, largely drawn from the report of the Keefe Commission.

“The key issues confronting this commission are essentially those that challenged the previous commissions,” said chair Colin Dodds. “They are how to balance effective representation of African Nova Scotia and Acadian electors with voter parity and accommodate the ongoing shift of population from rural areas, as well as taking account of the geography and communities of interest of the province.”

In the November interim report, following a province-wide consultative process, the commission presented four alternatives. These included 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

For the final report, the commission’s 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, by majority, is recommending a House of Assembly of 55 seats. The commission did not recommend Chéticamp as an exceptional district.

The final report can be found on-line at: http://nselectoralboundaries.ca.