WEST HANTS — The 2016 West Hants election is fast approaching, and this one is already shaping up to be an interesting one.
It’ll be the first general election in West Hants to include the community of Hantsport since its dissolution in 2015.
A Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) public hearing regarding municipal boundaries has been set for Feb. 25, where residents can give their feedback on what they’d like to see.
West Hants has applied to elect nine councillors from nine polling districts and to amend the boundaries of those districts.
West Hants currently has 10 councillors, which includes Robbie Zwicker, who is representing the former town of Hantsport.
In the municipality’s application to the UARB it states that the majority of the nine current polling districts in West Hants lie outside the plus or minus 10 per cent voter parity guidelines. District 1 and District 8 are more than 20 per cent from the average, while District 6 and District 7 are between 15 per cent and 20 per cent from the average.
The application adds that with the addition of Hantsport electors to West Hants, the number of electors will rise and the average number per district will increase. This change will mean that six of the nine districts would have to be adjusted to satisfy the voter parity standard of plus or minus 10 per cent.
The application also explains the rationale for keeping nine councillors, stating that the addition of Hantsport and the municipality’s growing population warrants keeping the status quo.
A proposed municipal boundaries study listed in the application shows the community of Hantsport’s polling district being combined with Mt. Denson and other surrounding areas.
A letter of comment from Think Hantsport was also filed to the UARB, which critiques the timing of the application and lack of public consultation.
“As noted, the only studies referenced as evidence in the applicant’s submission are the Stantec Governance Study and the Grant Thornton Social Study, conducted in August 2014,” the letter states. “The data collected is 16 months old. It was collected under the notion of “if” the Town of Hantsport dissolved. The dissolution decision had not been made, so the respondents were reacting to hypothetical situations of village versus community and West Hants versus Kings as receiving municipality.”
The letter states that further public consultation should be conducted to accurately determine the wishes of the electorate.
The commentary continues on the issue of Hantsport being grouped together with Mt. Denson as one electoral district.
“Hantsport is a compact, two square kilometre urban centre, fully serviced by Hantsport Water Utility and sharing services with Kings County for water treatment; it has dozens of streetlights, 16 acres of recreational facility, residential, commercial, industrial and institutional development zones, a
cemetery and fire department, plus sole municipal responsibility for road maintenance,” the letter reads. “All these features characterize Hantsport as a community of interest unto itself, it is distinctly different from Mt. Denson, which does not contain these elements of urbanity.”
The letter suggests that Hantsport should remain as its own polling district.
The public hearing will take place in the West Hants Municipal Council chambers at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 25.