UARB approves eight-person council, boundary changes in MODG

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GUYSBOROUGH – The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) released a decision on Sept. 14 in favour of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s (MODG’s) application to maintain the number of councillors in the municipality.

According to the Municipal Government Act, municipalities must undertake a boundary review once every eight years to ensure “fairness and reasonableness” over time.

Following a district boundary and councillor number study conducted by Stantec Consulting Ltd.’s Senior Planner John Heseltine, the MODG submitted an application to the UARB to maintain the current number of eight councillors and alter some district boundaries.

A hearing on the application was held on Aug. 25 in Guysborough, as was reported earlier in this newspaper.

When considering municipal district boundaries, voter parity is top of mind in UARB decisions.

The Sept. 14 decision stated, “Voting power shall be ±10% from the average number of electors per polling district. Any variance more than ±10% must be justified in writing.”

District 2, which represents the African Nova Scotian communities in the MODG, is far outside this preferred variance for voter parity. District 2 has an estimated 211 electors in comparison to the next smallest polling district, District 5, with 490 electors, and the biggest polling district, District 8, representing the majority of the former Town of Canso, with 600 electors.

The Stantec report submitted to the UARB by MODG noted that District 2 was, “unique among Nova Scotia’s rural municipalities as set aside to ensure representation of the African-Nova Scotia communities of Lincolnville, Sunnyville, and Upper Big Tracadie on Council.”

The fact that all councillors supported the designated African Nova Scotian seat on council, as well as comments made to the board at the hearing on Aug. 25 by District 2 councillor, Mary Desmond, about the importance of representation, persuaded the board to maintain the status quo.

“The Board recognizes that the variance of Polling District 2 is justifiable given the community of interest it represents, regardless of the lack of contiguity of the communities it includes. The Board accepts the reasons advanced by the Municipality,” stated the decision.

MODG Deputy CAO, Shawn Andrews – who made the presentation to the UARB at the Aug. 25 hearing — told The Journal via email after receiving the UARB decision, “The one exception in voter parity is District 2. As noted in the Board decision, the importance of diversity, equality, and inclusion for District 2 is and has been a sense of pride within MODG since 1994. This is the only dedicated African-Nova Scotian seat that we are aware of in the Province of Nova Scotia. MODG would also like to acknowledge the swift and efficient process and decision of the UARB on this matter.”

District 2 Councillor Mary Desmond told The Journal on Monday (Sept.19) that she was pleased to see the African Nova Scotian seat on council maintained, adding that the MODG was forward thinking, acting to bring underrepresented groups into government. She said, “I take my hat off to the municipality.”

The decision can be found on the NSUARB website under the heading: Hearings & Decisions.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal