Considering the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board ruled both the Halifax and Cape Breton regional councils should be made smaller, a suggestion by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation about how many MLAs this province needs should generate a healthy debate.
With a population of just under one million, Nova Scotia is governed by 52 MLAs. With that comes 52 constituency offices and assistants and a large civil service that goes with supporting what many believe is a bloated system in which being elected to the legislature is like winning the lottery with the number of perks that come with the job.
Earlier this week, the taxpayers federation asked Speaker Gordie Gosse to establish a new electoral boundaries commission to study the number of seats in the legislature. The federation believes 52 MLAs is far too many representatives and wants the number to be cut.
The federation’s Atlantic director, Kevin Lacey, says no municipal district should be larger than a provincial riding and suggested that could occur in Halifax, where 16 councillors could represent an area covered by 19 MLAs because of the utility and review board’s recommendations.
Provincial boundaries are re-examined every 10 years with the last report filed in 2002, resulting the tweaking of several ridings across the province but no reduction in the number of MLAs.
Cutting the number of MLAs would lead to a more streamlined system, and hopefully one that’s much more efficient, it could come at a high cost for rural areas of the province that simply don’t have the population of larger centres. In northern Nova Scotia that could mean rural ridings like Cumberland South and Colchester North could be swallowed by neighbouring, more populated ridings.
Such a change would no doubt raise the question whether rural Nova Scotia would suffer, but it’s a balance the province may have no choice but to consider since the debt is still in the millions and the number of residents is continuing to age and decline.