Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Yes Premier, There IS Time to Fix the Electoral Boundaries



The Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE), announced yesterday that despite lobbying by the provincial Liberals to support holding an election prior to fixing electoral boundaries, they believe the boundaries should be fixed before an election is held. They join others in being committed to legal action against the province if an election is called on the current boundaries. 

I recently wrote about why this issue is important to all Nova Scotians (you can read that here).

The Premier is quoted as saying there is not enough time to fix the electoral boundaries before an election. This is false. 

There are many options, but here is an example of how it could be done following the usual process.

  • During he first week of the coming spring session an all party committee could be struck to create the guidelines for a boundary commission. This committee’s recommendations could automatically become the rules for the process if all parties agree on the committee’s report. If there is dissent (or if there is a legal need for a vote), the legislature could return in June for a one or two day session in June to establish a commission by vote.
  • In the 2017 fall session of the legislature, the report of the Commission, with the new boundaries could be adopted. Their report would be passed onto Elections Nova Scotia who would create the new riding boundaries. Parties would, as they previously did, reconstitute their riding associations.
  • Based on historical precedent, Elections Nova Scotia and new ridings would be ready for the government to hold an election sometime after March (assuming the legislature votes on boundaries by October or November, but there is no reason the fall session cannot be earlier).

There are lots of possible variations to how the process can unfold. This example is simply to show that time is not an issue as the Premier would like people to believe.

There are other options which significantly shorten the process, and some which could make it longer. The point is, there is not only time, there is in fact plenty of time, to hold a boundary review process in accordance with law and address the recent court decision. 

There is not even a need to shortcut the process by starting with the first interim report of the last commission though that is an option as a starting point for public discussions. Such a starting point could significantly shorten the boundary process.

Legally, McNeil’s government has to hold an election by Christmas Day 2018 (one other interpretation suggests an election could wait until June 25th 2018 due to a quirk in the wording of the law, but I am not sure if this is a correct interpretation). It may be inconvenient for the Premier to have to put aside his current ambitions to have an election sooner, but it's the right thing to do, and there is a good probability a court will agree if he forces a legal challenge to an election call.