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May 2002

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, President
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 Eastern Shore.

I am wearing several hats tonight, as many of our rural community leaders must.

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 Eastern Shore.

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 Shore.

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 upward.

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 in 2007.

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 electoral boundaries.

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 for us?

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 to wait.

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 itself."

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 education."

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 numbers alone.

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 "Energy 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.

Reference: (*)
http://www.mtnforum.org/resources/library/pratd02a.htm
http://www.scotianwindfields.com

Epilogue:

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.



 Related Features


Editorials on this topic:
How to Sink a Ship
Fair and Equal Representation?

Other Resources:

The Bay of Islands Center
Working to find solutions for a wholesome rural lifestyle that will not diminish the natural inheritance of future generations.

The Sustainable TIMES
This on-line quarterly periodical includes articles, opinions and success stories in these areas: Canada, Our World, Sustainable Business, and Natural Living.

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All contents © 1995 - 2017 Highway7.com unless otherwise attributed
Highway7 E-zine, a publication of Hatch Media, is an electronic journal with a focus on commercial, historical, cultural and ecological issues concerning the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia in Canada. Topics include a growing resource of currently more than 300 articles. More articles and image galleries are added frequently as new material is brought to our attention. With Highway7.com, our primary aim is to serve, inform and reflect the rural communities on the Atlantic Coast of Nova Scotia, as well as to acquaint new residents, visitors, tourists, and investors with the special beauty and enormous potential of our region.
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