Note: All of the public submissions will be available
on the Nova
Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission site at:http://www.nspebc.ca/
Transcript of a presentation by: Gail Martin,
The United Board of Trade Moser River
May 27, 2002 - Sherbrooke
Mr. Chairman: Thank you for the opportunity to address the Commission
this evening on the proposed electoral boundary changes for our
I am wearing several hats tonight, as many of our rural community
First of all, I am a business owner and partner in Hatch Media,
the online publisher of highway7.com. I am a founding member of
the Bay of Islands Economic Development Association, the President
of the United Board of Trade Moser River and certainly last but
not least, a resident of the community of communities we call the
Mr. Chairman: The Eastern Shore has been the brunt of a long-standing
joke. In the past, we have called it tongue in cheek, 'the forgotten
shore'. Let me assure you Mr. Chairman that the Eastern Shore has
not been forgotten by newcomers and visitors to our 200 mile stretch
of coastal highway known in the tourism industry as the Marine Drive.
These are the people who are choosing to spend their precious vacation
time enjoying the beauty of our Eastern Shore, and those who have
chosen to call it home. Tourism operators, real estate developers
and those in the service industries have not forgotten our Eastern
Small though this number of individuals may be compared with some
'less forgotten' areas of our province, it is growing, its population
tally overshadowed only by the outflow of people who must go elsewhere
to seek employment.
Our mandate in our Eastern Shore communities is to stem the outflow
of youth, the outflow of people to the urban centres by creating
jobs in our fledgling nature and eco-tourism industry and by encouraging
the sustainable management of our remaining natural resources, so
that our communities will grow and our population numbers will move
This is not only an Eastern Shore issue; the growth of our urban
centres is happening as the result of governmental policies on a
global scale, the same governmental policies that support large
scale industry; the same provincial government policies that support
the rapacious exploitation of our natural resources that have been
the mainstay of our rural communities for several centuries.
The proposed electoral boundaries, if implemented, will remain
in place for 10 years. Ten years is an extremely long time in a
world of increasingly fast-paced change and a shifting populace.
The question we have asked our Eastern Shore residents is this.
Do we want only one representative to speak for all of our issues
and concerns for the next 10 years?
The residents of the 20+ communities in the Bay of Islands region
between Sheet Harbour and Sherbrooke, an historical region that
straddles the two counties of Halifax and Guysborough are saying
'no' to the proposed electoral boundaries.
The members of the United Board of Trade, Moser River and other
regional organizations are saying 'no' to the proposed boundaries
for Constituencies #24 and #25.
If anything, we need more representation to ensure the sustainability
of our communities in the future. We need more than 'one voice from
the wilderness' to speak for us in the urban centres, where all
decisions concerning us ultimately are made.
The Eastern Shore is a region whose time has come. But we are just
at the starting gate.
After many years of being called 'the forgotten shore' and in many
ways, accepting that as being 'just the way it is', we are starting
to see a wave of interest groups and individuals who are speaking
out on a cooperative and collective basis to ensure a healthy future
for our Eastern Shore residents. We are beginning to see the development
of small-scale sustainable industry that will create employment
and revitalize our rural economies.
Let me assure you also, that the Eastern Shore has certainly not
been forgotten by the people who live here. The people in this room
from 'upalong' as we used to say, will attest to that. These are
the people who have fought long and hard to make a living on a stretch
of coastline that has seen and is still experiencing the loss of
its primary industries.
Our inland fishermen - and fisherwomen - will tell you that the
Eastern Shore is not the forgotten shore. The dwindling numbers
of those employed in agriculture, in mining and in forestry will
tell you that this is not the forgotten shore. Our community organizations,
many of them situated in the proposed riding #24, bounded at Head
Jeddore will tell you this is not the forgotten shore.
These community organizations with administrative offices in Musquodoboit,
Petpeswick, and other communities lying to the west of Head Jeddore,
in the proposed "Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown" riding have been proud
to call themselves "The Eastern Shore Forest Watch", "The Eastern
Shore Business Association" and similar names that are prefaced
with "Eastern Shore".
Will these hard-working interest groups be forced to change their
geographic focus, perhaps even their organizational names to accommodate
a change in electoral boundaries?
Let me assure you further Mr. Chairman, that the Eastern Shore
has not been forgotten by big business, by big multinational companies
whose products depend on the rapid depletion of our natural resources.
Our own provincial government has not forgotten the Eastern Shore.
The profits from large-scale industrial forestry, fishing and offshore
oil and gas along the Eastern Shore are choice plums to be haggled
over in the interests of industry.
And make no mistake, the interests of industry have always been
and still are, the tail that wags the political dog.
Greater Halifax has now grown to a point where two additional provincial
seats are needed according to the NSEB Commission report and so
they should have them. A larger population base needs to have governmental
representation equal to that growth.
Port Hawkesbury wishes 'not' to be represented by mainland interests,
but by those of Cape Breton Island and so they should be. The Island
community has an agenda that is uniquely and distinctly their own.
Guysborough too needs equitable representation to address the many
issues affecting them.
On the Eastern Shore, a mainland area some 300 kilometers long,
the same population-based assessment becomes an outdated bean-counting
process that does not work. For our rural residents, on the Eastern
Shore and elsewhere, the time is crucial if we are to have any future.
In a time when Eastern Shore residents, including members of the
United Board of Trade Moser River, are fighting to rebuild their
communities in the midst of an ongoing battle for our natural resources;
when our Eastern Shore communities are fighting desperately to create
new and innovative enterprises that will stimulate the rural economy
and help our region to grow and sustain itself in the future, we
are saying 'no' to the proposed electoral boundary that will give
us only one small 'voice from the wilderness' -- a voice that would
be barely accessible over an area that takes more than 4 hours to
drive and is not yet reachable by cell phone, nor via the internet,
for what is still a majority of our residents.
Certainly not now, and certainly not by the time the election is
called next year and perhaps not even by the election following
Perhaps ten years from now when the next shuffle of electoral
boundaries is undertaken, our Eastern Shore residents will be able
to meet all their communication needs through advances in satellite
technology, through 'home communication centres' that will provide
an interactive voice through their cable connection.
But not now, Mr. Chairman.
On the Eastern Shore, we have worked hand in hand with our current
representatives to insure that our complex and diverse issues and
concerns are understood and carried forward on our behalf. We will
not be railroaded into acceptance of a weaker voice to accommodate
the interests of our urban centres, of big business and of its willing
partner, the Nova Scotia government. This was the case with the
'96 Amalgamation; it cannot be the case with our provincial representation.
All up and down the Eastern Shore, in Halifax County and in Guysborough
County, we hear a unanimous and resounding 'no' to the proposed
You may well ask, what are the alternatives?
Do we choose that our electoral districts be bounded in places
'other' than those outlined by the NSEB Commission?
Where would that place be? Tangier, Sheet Harbour, Moser River
perhaps? Where will the boundaries be situated to accommodate the
rural interests of the Eastern Shore and yet continue to provide
at least two geographically accessible representatives to speak
One thing is certain, wherever those boundaries are placed, there
will be people not happy with the decision.
Be that as it may, my personal concern is this, and I believe I
speak for most of our Eastern Shore residents in saying so:
If the electoral boundaries must be redefined at all, the ensuing
debate will pre-empt any government support of our inroads in the
tourism and processing sectors. It will effectively disrupt our
fledgling efforts to rehabilitate our natural resources and create
a sustainable lifestyle for our residents.
The issues of concern to our Eastern Shore communities cannot afford
I would suggest that it is time that our provincial government
put away the archaic practice of changing the electoral boundaries
based almost exclusively on the demographics of human population.
I would suggest also that the provincial government put this report
on the shelf pending further study, not by a panel comprised solely
of individuals who reside in the core urban areas, but by a panel
that is representative of those who live and work on the Eastern
Shore and in our other rural areas, those who will suffer the loss
of fair representation, should this electoral boundary shuffle be
implemented as defined.
I would suggest further that we get on with the real business of
helping our rural areas adapt to the global changes affecting us,
the really important issues that require more than 'one small voice
from the wilderness' to speak on our behalf, we who collectively,
are among the principal stakeholders of our own Eastern Shore communities.
In order to effectively balance the increasing pressure from multinational
corporations, these issues require a plurality of voices to support
stewardship of our land resources, our water and ultimately the
air we breathe.
In order to balance the increasing shift of electoral representation
that favours urban and suburban priorities, the time may well have
come to consider what other rural regions of Canada and the rest
of the world are examining.
One such mechanism is the concept of virtual constituencies based
on the premise of natural representation. By "virtual constituencies"
I am not suggesting the concept introduced recently by the Premier
of New Brunswick that would have everyone representing himself and
his own interests in 'virtual internet communities', but 'virtual'
because it represents that which does not have a voice to speak
for itself; 'virtual' because these 'virtual voters' do not show
up on any voters' list.
What we mean when we speak of virtual constituencies in the rural
regions of Nova Scotia today, are the natural communities that occupy
such areas as the Ship Harbour-Long Lake Wilderness Area, the Liscombe
Game Sanctuary, the Boggy Lake Wilderness Reserve, the virtual constituents
of Crown Lands and absentee-controlled acreages, the rivers and
lakes, the beaches and islands of our coastal areas, and the biodiversity
of our resources, that we now recognize as a vital, sustaining and
integral part of the world in which we all live.
This commission is about re-defining the electoral boundaries of
this province. I would suggest that these boundaries are not population-based,
perhaps not even based on geographic parameters, but on the 'common
pool' of natural resources we must all share.
The people of rural Nova Scotia are, through their direct involvement,
the natural stewards and principal stakeholders of the environment
they occupy. By extension, it is they who must speak for the virtual
constituents who are their neighbours and hosts. And speak effectively
they must. This can only be achieved through balanced representation.
At the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit (*) presenters examine these
very same issues of population-based representation versus more
innovative forms of democratic and decentralized government.
One of them, Dr.
Jane Pratt, states that "A key element of successful institutional
mechanisms is incorporating incentives that foster stakeholder participation."
"Interestingly," Pratt adds, "the successful cases all make explicit
provision for representing the non-human interests of the ecosystem
Although the summit addresses the isolation and self-sufficiency
issues of mountain communities, Dr. Pratt and others could be speaking
of our Eastern Shore with this comment, "In extremely remote and
rugged areas, the greatest challenges to local sustainability are
how to improve productivity for local consumption, how to provide
for low impact, non-disruptive linkages with markets where feasible,
and how to provide social services, particularly health care and
One suggested method is to assign 'virtual votes' based on the
amount of territory they occupy. An urban riding with a population
of 13,500 might occupy an area of 50 hectares.
If, for example, one were to assign one 'virtual vote' per hectare,
this riding would weigh in at 13,550.
A rural riding, on the other hand, might have a population of 5,500
occupying an area of 8,000 hectares. This rural riding would weigh
in at 13,500.
The net effect of such a formula would be to provide rural residents
with the necessary representation that allows them to fulfill their
role as primary stakeholders of the rural regions, that, in the
end, sustain us all.
And that's why we on the Eastern Shore, and in Guysborough, in
Cape Breton and in other rural regions of the province must have
a representation that is fair and equitable and not based on population
Perhaps the time has come to look at what Silver Donald Cameron
spoke of in this Sunday's Herald. "Enterprise facilitation" is an
old concept born in Antigonish by Moses Coady among others and being
resurrected to "stand 'development' on its head, starting not with
corporations and agencies, but with a deep respect for individuals,
and a commitment to their highest needs. Community development is
human development. That's what makes it fascinating, fulfilling
- and effective."
The Nova Scotia government has made great strides with its new
Strategy" through which, although the transitional period from
fossil fuel dependency to one based on renewable energies is long,
it has set a national precedent in its support of solar and particularly
of wind energy. By shouldering some of the risk for investors in
Scotian Wind Fields,
a province wide initiative, our government supports the interests
of the oil companies and of the people who live in the rural
regions of Nova Scotia.
The challenge to the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission
is not how to count voter heads, but how to weigh the multi-faceted,
common pool interests of our rural constituencies.
The Eastern Shore can no longer accept being forgotten. We as stakeholders,
have far too much at stake.
At the risk of sounding parochial, a so-called typical Eastern
Shore resident who cries, "We don't want change", I would suggest
finally, Mr. Chairman, that in the interim between now and the next
election or perhaps even the election following, until a more comprehensive
and equitable formula for the distribution of electoral representation
receives serious consideration based on the shifting priorities
of all stakeholders -- including large corporations and government
-- I would suggest we adopt the time worn phrase, "if it ain't broke,
don't fix it".
Mr. Chairman, thank you for your time.
In its wisdom, the Nova Scotia Electoral Boundaries Commission
of 2002 went on to recommend to the Nova Scotia government a redistribution
of ridings that very effectively shifted representation even more
towards the urban/suburban concentration of Halifax/Dartmouth.
This has created a monster riding to the east of Metro larger
than the entire province of Prince Edward Island with only one
voice to represent it in the provincial legislature.