Queens/Shelburne riding not a good fit, says former Mayor

Nick
Nick Moase
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The addition of half of Shelburne County to Queens County isn't a good fit, says former Mayor and MLA John Leefe. He isn't the only one either. The Liberal outreach coordinator and former councillor Sheldon Brannen says though there is some logic behind why the decision was made, it creates other problems as well. 

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Provincial political boundaries are not supposed to vary more than 25 per cent up or down from the average, however there are four protected ridings in Nova Scotia that were exempt. 

The option presented in September would see Shelburne County split in two. This was passed by the legislature into second reading last week, with one more vote to go.

John Leefe was MLA for Queens County from 1978 until 1999, then Mayor from 2000 until 2012.

When the boundary review came up this year, he says it was it was expected there would be a further adjustment in the Queens boundary. However most figured it would be into Lunenburg County and bit of Annapolis County.

Though there was some dismay at the addition of Lunenburg County 10 years ago to the Queens riding, he says it worked out with some degree of success.

Council under his final months as head did not take a stance on the issue, because they felt it would be done correctly.

"We believed common sense would dictate that any change in the Queens constituency would involve another push into Lunenburg," he says.

Since that was originally recommended, council had no reason to protest.

Leefe doesn't see it as a logical decision to add part of Shelburne to Queens County. Though we all live on the South Shore, that's where the similarities end.

"We have virtually no community of interest at all," he said.

On top of that, there are different health and school boards, a different Regional Development Agency, and many different government agency splits, most of which are Lunenburg/Queens.

"There's just no commonality at all, and by contrast all of those things Queens and Lunenburg County have in common," he says.

It's been turned into a mess, he says, but isn't sure what will happen now.

"The government created the situation where this kind of result could happen," he said, adding this is the first boundary review he remembers that didn't have all parties supporting the measure. Both the Progressive Conservative and Liberal parties have spoken out against the changes.

"Whether the government has the wisdom to revisit the report, who knows," he says.

Despite the dismay in Shelburne County over the issue however, the residents of Queens County have been quiet on the issue. Leefe sees it as a problem with cynicism rather than disinterest however.

"I think people are so cynical of the process, that they've just thrown up their hands and said what's the point in saying anything when (the province) won't listen anyway," he says.

A public meeting was held in Bridgewater in August, to hear from the public on what they thought of the proposed changes. Lunenburg County residents spoke out about how the piece of the Queens riding had a negative impact on the voters.

Mayor Don Downe and councillor Lee Nauss from Lunenburg County spoke in favour of putting the Lunenburg County section of the Queens riding back into Lunenburg West. They suggested a split in Shelburne County would work to make up the voter disparity.

MLA of Lunenburg West Gary Ramey also said Lunenburg County should be returned to local riding as well, though did not give alternatives.

MLA Vicki Conrad did not give a recommendation, but she said Queens shares more with Lunenburg County than Shelburne County.

Sheldon Brannen, Liberal outreach coordinator for the South Shore and former councillor for Region of Queens, spoke at boundaries commission as well.

At the meeting he didn't speak in favour of splitting Shelburne County, but gave suggestions on how it could work. In a follow up interview, he says there is some logic behind splitting the riding in half. People from Shelburne through to Lockeport do come to Queens County to shop, while those in Barrington area go to Yarmouth to shop.

He says the main complaint in Shelburne is the division of the community, however there are other ridings in the province that have been split as well. Annapolis was split in two 10 years ago and partly added to Digby, which also divided health and school boards similar to what would happen with Queens and Shelburne.

"Is school board such an imposing force that we should make our decisions based on the boundaries, or the other way around?"

He says the health board boundaries will likely be changed in the future, and the Regional Development Agency will cease to exist in April of 2013.

He added at the meeting there was no representation from Shelburne County, and it might not have taken Sterling Belliveau quite by surprise if he had gone or followed up on what happened at the meeting.

Despite the logic though, he still doesn't see it as the right solution.

"We feel as the Liberal party the best report is still the first one that left the protected ridings intact," he says. 

Organizations: Regional Development Agency

Geographic location: Shelburne County, Queens, Lunenburg County Yarmouth County Nova Scotia Annapolis County South Shore Bridgewater Barrington

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  • LeBlanc
    November 15, 2012 - 07:33

    The NS provincial riding and municipal unit of Clare, not Claire or Clair as written in this article, is situated in Digby County not Yarmouth County. The NS riding and municipal unit of Argyle is, as stated, situated in Yarmouth County. In the first boundaries commission report it was proposed that the NS provincial riding of Yarmouth, composed of the municipal district of Yarmouth and the town of Yarmouth, be divided in two. The article states that it was proposed to divide Yarmouth County in two. Yarmouth County is now divided into two provincial ridings. That is to say Yarmouth riding and Argyle riding.