Liberals advised to settle minority ridings issue before hitting polls

Liberals advised to settle minority ridings issue before hitting polls

Premier Stephen McNeil should deal with the province's outstanding issue of protected minority ridings before calling an election, says a member of a panel that investigated ridings changes in 2012.

"The government shouldn't be too blase about this. The last [NDP] government made that mistake," said Jim Bickerton, a political science professor at St. Francis Xavier University.

Speaking to CBC's Information Morning on Tuesday, Bickerton recommended the Liberals revisit his panel's report. It recommended the province reinstate three so-called protected Acadian ridings in southwestern Nova Scotia and as well as the predominantly black riding of Preston, outside of Halifax. That report was rejected by the former NDP government.

Bickerton pointed to a January decision by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal that ruled the changes that eliminated the three ridings — by redrawing boundary maps based on population — were unconstitutional.

"There is a cultural importance in having those ridings, Acadians in this province are very much in danger of assimilation pressures, compared to Acadians in N.B. The court of appeal quoted our interim report extensively."

The Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Ecosse (FANE) said it will go to court as soon as possible in an effort to reinstate three so-called protected Acadian ridings.

Nova Scotia's opposition parties have also urged the Liberals to redraw the electoral map before the next election to avoid challenges to the legitimacy of the election's outcome.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said there is not enough time to change boundaries this year.