Thank you very much.
Happy New Year, everyone. Kwe, marhaba, hello.
I apologize, but my five minutes of opening remarks will be in English.
First, I want to thank the commissioners for their service.
I'm here today to note objections to the final report of the electoral boundaries commission for Nova Scotia.
I've received letters and emails from residents who are concerned about the commission's proposed boundaries. These letters have come from an MLA, city councillors, the chamber of commerce, seniors' associations and many other organizations. I have all the names in front of me. I've tried to send in some of these and others for translation purposes. They keep sending them to me.
Today I'm here to voice those concerns, because at this point in the process it's only members of Parliament who can object to the boundaries. These boundaries matter to people, and they deserve to have their concerns heard. I have submitted a full briefing note to the committee, including some examples of the letters I've received and maps contextualizing data from the 2021 census. Today I will go over my objections in brief.
I have two substantive complaints and one that is procedural.
First, Halifax West is a diverse community of interest. The Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, in subparagraph 15(1)(b)(i), directs the commission to consider a “community of interest or community of identity in or the historical pattern of an electoral district” when drawing electoral boundaries.
Halifax West has a well-established community of new immigrants and minority racial, cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic groups. It has been an exceptionally diverse riding in Nova Scotia for decades. Put succinctly, the HRM, the Halifax Regional Municipality, is a pocket of diversity in Nova Scotia, and Halifax West is a pocket of greater diversity within that. This merits protection and meaningful representation.
The proposed federal electoral boundaries divide the community by removing a particularly diverse area that I refer to as the Larry Uteck area in the riding of Halifax West. As you all know, recent immigrants to Canada and minority groups have unique needs from the federal government, so it's essential that this Larry Uteck area remain in Halifax West.
Second is the objection received from the community of St. Margarets Bay. The boundary that separates Halifax West from the riding of South Shore—St. Margarets was significantly altered in the commission's final report. This boundary divided the community of St. Margarets Bay, which is a distinct historical, cultural and societal community and should not be divided. It has existed as one community since it was settled in 1780. I'm now reading verbatim some of what the residents sent me. Residents are concerned that the boundary “does not respect historical patterns of previous electoral boundaries”.
In all of the previous federal riding boundary changes, St. Margarets Bay, from Hubbards to Peggy's Cove, has never been split. Furthermore, the residents are concerned about the fact that their community was divided in two when this move was not required due to population growth. The residents I've heard from have asked that St. Margarets Bay remain united in the South Shore—St. Margarets riding, a riding that is named in part after the community.
Procedurally, there was no in-person hearing in Halifax West to directly ask residents how their boundaries should change, although it was this riding's growth that precipitated changes to neighbouring electoral boundaries. I attended the one virtual hearing the commission held in the province of Nova Scotia and advised the commission that they should keep historical communities of interest united in the federal ridings.
I didn't hear anyone suggest or advocate for the boundaries that the commission proposed for Halifax West. The changes I'm objecting to occurred in the commission's final report and were not present in the commission's initial proposal, so we're simply asking them to revert back to what they had suggested. These surprise changes have violated the principle of procedural fairness for these residents, and they've asked me to use my position as the member of Parliament to make sure their voices are being heard in this process.
To conclude, in my five minutes I have aimed to give an overview of my objections to the commission's final report. More detail can be found in the documents that were submitted and translated in both languages.
Preserving the St. Margarets Bay community and the Larry Uteck community would affect neighbouring ridings but would keep them all within the population variance that is described in the legislation.
Again, thank you very much to the federal electoral boundaries commission for Nova Scotia for all their concerns.
Thank you to the committee that's here. I'm happy to answer questions.