Upcoming boundary review in CBRM raises concerns

·2 min read
An independent consultant will be hired to conduct the district review and will have to emphasize public participation in the process.  (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
An independent consultant will be hired to conduct the district review and will have to emphasize public participation in the process. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Concerns are already being raised about an upcoming district boundary review in Cape Breton Regional Municipality this summer.

One of the options is the reduction of the number of districts from the existing 12 down to three.

Coun. Cyril MacDonald represents a large swath of rural CBRM in District 3.

"If we look to expand those more, I just fear that the rural residents will be heard less and I don't think they get heard enough as it is," he said.

MacDonald's district runs from Point Edward and Scotch Lake out to Christmas Island.

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC


The idea of reducing the number of districts was discussed at a council meeting in January.

It was a recommendation in the 2018 viability study, which suggested reducing the number of districts, but electing several councillors at large in each one.

That got constituents talking about the possibility of councillors being elected in urban areas where the votes are, MacDonald said.

"The residents that I've heard from have similar concerns, that with fewer councillors or councillors at large, their representation gets less," he said.

"What chance would we have if our district grows even larger, if we have at-large councillors that may not have a vested interest in that particular community or area of the district?"

Review in June

CBRM planning director Michael Ruus said a tender has been issued to hire an independent consultant to review the number of districts and councillors.

Tom Ayers
Tom Ayers

The successful consultant will be expected to start the review in June and will have to emphasize public participation in the process, he said.

Reducing the number from 12 to three is only one possibility and it arose out of the viability study's recommendation to strike a balance between efficient regional government and equitable voter representation, Ruus said.

"I think that's where this study is key, getting feedback from the public on what the expectation is and also examining different options and alternatives to achieve that balance," he said.

"It goes back to what the expectation is of residents in CBRM. How many councillors do they want to be around the table at CBRM council?"

Other rural councillors have expressed concerns over the possible loss of representation that could come out of a reduction in the number of districts, although at least one has said the idea is not bad.

Under the Municipal Government Act, municipalities must review their boundaries every eight years.

In CBRM's case, a final report has to be sent to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board by December, leaving plenty of time for public engagement, Ruus said.

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