St. Mary’s council sends new voting map for final approval

ST. MARY’S — Council for the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s has approved a new voting map for the area, which drops the number of local polling districts from seven to five and comes close to providing numerically equal representation throughout.

“The goal in each district is to be within plus or minus 10 per cent of the average number of electors in [all others],” Ian Watson, a senior planner with Upland Consulting of Dartmouth, told the regular council meeting on December 12. “That can go up to plus or minus 25 per cent, but then closer you get to that, the more you have to justify it.”

Watson, whose group has been consulting with the municipality on its boundary review for several months, said the process has benefitted from public consultation, which has helped planners stay on course and avoid arbitrarily splitting communities with new district lines.

“We had public meetings in the middle of November in [places like] Indian Harbour Lake, Jordanville and Greenfield,” he reported. “In addition to councilors and staff, we had about 20 members of the public at those meetings. People were interested and had a lot of really good, thoughtful suggestions.”

In October, following a public survey of St. Mary’s residents that seemed to favour smaller government, council approved a motion to reduce the number of its representatives from seven to five. “Seventy per cent of the [survey] respondents suggested that the municipality currently has too many polling districts,” Watson told council at the time. “One of the key things we’ve heard is that being on council in the District of St. Mary’s is not a profession … [not a] fulltime job.”

The survey was conducted as part of the municipality’s first mandatory boundary review since 2015. At that time, the review produced the current configuration of seven municipal districts, representing an average of 265 residents in each, or about 1,855 voters in all. According to Statistics Canada data, the municipality’s population has been declining since 1991, when it was approximately 3,100.

The new voting map now heads to the Nova Scotia Utilities and Review Board for final review and approval.

Alec Bruce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal