PICTOU— Central Nova Member of Parliament Sean Fraser is not worried that the possible realignment of federal ridings may very well rename and redefine the one he recently won in the general election.
“What’s important,” he says, “is that people get involved in the process.”
The process, specifically, is a proposed redistribution of federal electoral districts in Nova Scotia to reflect changes in the province’s population—particularly a big jump in the number of people living in metropolitan Halifax and demographic declines in Cape Breton and the eastern mainland.
According to the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Nova Scotia’s proposed new political map of the province, released April 27, the riding of Central Nova would be replaced by Pictou-Eastern Shore-Preston, with parts (including Antigonish County) moving to a newly renamed riding of Cape Breton-Antigonish (currently Cape Breton-Canso).
These and other adjustments would also affect the current ridings of Halifax West, Kings-Hants, West Nova and South Shore-St. Margaret’s.
The changes are subject to public review and consultation across the province—with meetings scheduled through May and June from Sydney to Yarmouth—before being formally adopted as soon as 2024.
“It’s important that people take a look at how they participate in the process,” Fraser told The Journal this week. “The proposal would have a number of impacts on ridings across Nova Scotia. Locally, in Central Nova, the proposal would remove the entirety of the town and county of Antigonish.”
He added: “It’s important is that, when we go through this exercise, we look not only at the importance of having roughly equal populations, but that we also have common histories—or communities of interest that face common issues—which allow people to ensure that their elected representatives are able to respond adequately to the issues that they care about in their own community.”
Regarding his community interest, Fraser sees carrying on representing, or campaigning in, the new riding of Pictou-Eastern Shore-Preston.
“I live in Pictou County, but my extended family has always been from Antigonish,” he said. “My sense is that Cape Breton will disproportionately make up the vast majority of that riding [the new Cape Breton-Antigonish], and that’s actually one of the concerns that’s been raised with me in the community.
“From my perspective, that being a disproportionately Cape Breton riding and me having grown up and living in Pictou County now, I would continue presumably to run in the riding that includes Pictou County rather than in the riding that includes Glace Bay.”
According to a news release from the commission, its proposal “reflects Nova Scotia’s increase in population from 921,727 in 2011 to 969,383, as captured in the 2021 Census, and takes into consideration communities of interest or identity, and historic and geographic factors. The main aim is to divide the province into 11 electoral districts that are as close to the electoral quota… of 88,126 people per district … as reasonably as possible.”
Said Fraser: “The Boundaries Commission [members] have been explicit in their public communications. This is a first step and they invite people to prove them wrong—which is, I believe, the language they used in one of the reports I’ve seen. So, if there is no public engagement, the boundaries will likely remain as they’re proposed.”
On the other hand, he added, “If the public raises concerns and valid arguments as to why a particular community should be included in another constituency, then they [the Commission] have a duty to consider those submissions in good faith. And I trust that they will.”
Last September, Fraser held Central Nova with 17,984 ballots (46 per cent of the vote) over nearest rival, Conservative candidate Steven Cotter (12,706 ballots; 32 per cent), making him the first Liberal to win the historically Conservative constituency in three consecutive national elections.
Members of the public who wish to make a presentation should go to the Commission’s website (https://redecoupage-redistribution-2022.ca/) and fill out the appropriate application by May 23.
Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal