Pictou East MLA Clarrie MacKinnon says he is gratified with a pitch by Guysborough MLA Jim Boudreau that would leave the Pictou East riding intact.
He said it would make unnecessary the independent Electoral Boundaries Commission’s most recent recommendation to join the Pictou East and Guysborough ridings and move Westville and some smaller communities to Pictou West.
The proposed revisions displayed on a screen showed an L-shaped Pictou East-Guysborough riding that MacKinnon called “a monstrosity.”
“It’s a clear exaggeration of what is needed,” he said.
The Commission’s first draft joined Guysborough with eastern Antigonish County and lopping in the remainder of Antigonish County with Pictou East.
But during a public meeting last Wednesday in Westville, Boudreau advocated expanding the existing Guysborough-Sheet Harbour riding further west toward Halifax, renaming it Guysborough-Eastern Shore and leaving Pictou East intact.
“It’s an existing entity and makes so much sense,” MacKinnon said.
“I was very impressed with the solidarity at the meeting. I sure hope the commission listened to the presentations.”
Commission members were appointed at the end of December to establish not more than 52 seats and maximize parity of voting power.
The 25 per cent difference in riding populations the commission is mandated to achieve is doable with Boudreau’s proposal, MacKinnon said. He said Pictou County’s three ridings should not be penalized or altered to solve a problem created by rising riding populations around Halifax.
Westville Mayor Roger MacKay, who is contesting the Tory nomination in Pictou East, was among the dozens who addressed the commission panel. He said the commission should find other options than taking Westville from Pictou East and joining the riding with Guysborough, which he said would be the same size as Prince Edward Island.
Tyler Cameron said the Pictou East and Guysborough ridings are different and the new configuration would make door-to-door canvassing by candidates more difficult.
“There’s something about the personal touch,” Glenn MacLeod added. “If these boundary changes go forward, I’m afraid we’re going to lose that.”
Andy Thompson also said voter turnout would decline.
“Voter turnout is healthy in Pictou East,” he said. “With the size of this new riding, that will disappear. What you’ll find here is decay. There’s no centre to this new riding.”
Westville resident Rick Young agreed Westville was being ignored in the discussion at a time when home building has been increasing and needs to be part of Pictou East.
“In Westville, the (Pictou East) constituency office is a lifeline,” he said.
Fellow resident Lawrence Dunn said the commission is not listening to local concerns.
“We feel this is something being done to us, not with us,” he said.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Charlie Parker, who represents Pictou West, said voter turnout in rural ridings, including the three in Pictou County, is around 70 per cent, compared with about 50 per cent in HRM and should not be penalized for it by altering them.
“I think (the new boundaries) are unworkable,” he said.
He said the Pictou East-Guysborough riding proposed would require two constitiency offices, and the Speaker’s office that funds riding offices doesn’t have money available.
“I don’t want to be represented by someone outside my county,” Raymond Kirk added.
“I don’t know where the fairness went,” said Chester Dewar, who resides in Elgin and represents District 12 on Pictou County Municipal Council. “Leave Pictou East along and leave Pictou West alone.”