MLA Megan Mitton says she’s not surprised at the proposal to split her riding of Memramcook-Tantramar along linguistic lines.
In a preliminary report released today, the Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission proposes to create a predominantly French-speaking riding called Dieppe-Memramcook and a mainly English-speaking one named Tantramar.
“It doesn’t come as a huge surprise because this is actually similar to how the ridings looked prior to 2014,” Mitton said in a telephone interview.
“Memramcook-Lakeville-Dieppe was one riding, Tantramar was another and then in 2014 when they were combined, there was push back.”
Mitton was referring to threatened court action from the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick (SANB) which protested that Francophones in Memramcook had been transferred from a riding where French-speaking voters comprised a majority of 68% of the population to one where they made up only a minority — about 29%.
The New Brunswick government responded in 2015 by changing the law to allow the Electoral Boundaries Commission to take linguistic concerns into account so that riding populations could vary by up to 25%.
As a result, the new riding of Tantramar would have only about 9,058 voters, the smallest number in any of the 49 provincial ridings, just over 22% below the average of 11,667 known as the “electoral quotient.”
The new riding of Dieppe-Memramcook, on the other hand, would have an estimated 12,230 voters just over 4.8% above the electoral quotient.
Listening to electoral concerns
“It’s important to note that Memramcook being joined with Dieppe and then with Neguac going with Tracadie, it looks like the boundaries commission was looking to address the concerns of these Francophone communities,” Mitton says.
“I do think those are obviously really important concerns to listen to.”
In a news release, the Société de l’Acadie du Nouveau-Brunswick welcomes the proposed changes as a way of resolving the disparity in electoral representation for some Francophone communities.
“The Commission’s proposal to integrate ‘la belle Vallée’ into the new district of Dieppe-Memramcook, to integrate Néguac into the new district of Tracadie-Néguac, and to transfer Baie-Sainte-Anne to the district of Kent-North offers a solution to this incongruity,” the release states.
It also quotes SANB President Alexandre Cédric Doucet.
“We are pleased to see that the Commissioners have heard our concerns. If the report’s recommendations are accepted, Acadians and Francophones in the province will be able to enjoy better and more effective representation as an official language community.”
The Electoral Boundaries commission is required to submit its final report within 90-days.
Meantime, it’s planning a series of virtual public hearings on its preliminary proposals in January.
The one for southeastern New Brunswick is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 12 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
In addition, the Commission is planning to hold two province-wide virtual hearings on Thursday, Jan. 12 and on Saturday, Jan. 14 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
People may also submit feedback on the recommendations by e-mail, through the comment page on the commission’s website, or by mail: Electoral Boundaries and Representation Commission, 500 Beaverbrook Ct., Suite 200, P.O. Box 6000, Fredericton, N.B., E3B 5H1.
To read the Commission’s preliminary report, click here.