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2022 Governance & District Boundary Review

Have Your Say by Completing Our Second Survey

We invite you to participate in our online survey to obtain public views on the preferred electoral district boundary arrangement for Richmond County. The survey is the second for this project. Now that we have determined based on public input the Council size options to be considered, we are asking the public which of a narrower range of options they prefer with consideration of the boundary arrangements for each size. In addition to asking which of the scenarios we have prepared respondents may prefer, we are also providing the opportunity to comment on boundary specifics and suggest boundary adjustments that we should consider. As before, all responses are anonymous.

You can access the SURVEY here.   The survey will close on Sunday, November 27, 2022, at midnight.

2022 Governance & District Boundary Review

The Municipality of the County of Richmond is required to conduct a Governance and Boundary Review. Section 369(1) of the Municipal Government Act states that in 1999 and 2006, and every eighth year thereafter, all municipal councils in the province must conduct a study to assess the size of its Council and the boundaries of polling districts from which Councillors are to be elected.

Richmond County is currently divided into five electoral districts and residents are served by five elected representatives consisting of three Councillors, one Deputy Warden, and one Warden (see electoral boundary image here). Regular review of council size and electoral boundaries is required to assess the appropriateness of council representation and ensure balanced representation as the distribution of population changes. Following the 2014 review of council size and boundary arrangements in Richmond County, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board reduced the County’s council from ten to five members. Richmond’s first five-member Council was elected in 2016 and the current Council was elected in 2020.

The current Richmond County Governance and Boundary Review is following a two-phase process prescribed by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) in their Municipal Boundaries User Guide. The phases are:

 
  • Phase 1 – Number of Councillors in which the desired number of councillors (i.e., the size of council) should be determined
  • Phase 2 – Boundaries and Polling Districts in which the boundaries of the polling or electoral districts from which councillors will be elected must be determined.

Stantec is now conducting the second phase of the project. In the first phase, Stantec compared the size of Richmond County Council to other Nova Scotia municipalities, consulted with current Council members, and consulted the public through an online survey, and a public meeting held in St. Peter’s on August 9. The outcomes of these research and consultation initiatives are summarized in our recently completed Council Size Report. As stated previously on this site, our objective is to assess views concerning Richmond’s current council size and the desire to maintain it, decrease its membership further, or increase its membership.

Phase 1 – Number of Councillors

Our benchmarking work determined that Richmond’s electoral districts rank tenth on average among Nova Scotia’s 20 rural municipalities, slightly above the average of 242.3 km2.

The population or number of constituents per Councillor is currently 1,720, which ranks seventh. 

The online Council Size Survey drew responses from 106 residents. Complete survey results can be seen in Appendix A to the Council Size Report. The key information in the survey was provided by answers to Question 9, which asked respondents to identify the number of Councillors they would prefer to comprise Richmond County Council. Reponses favoured either the current five councillors (21.9%) or an enlarged Council with seven members (41.7%).

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Respondents were asked to detail their responses in the following three questions, based on whether they wanted the size of Council reduced to three or four, to stay at five increase Council to six or more. The small number who said they want a smaller Council tended to focus on the cost of Council members. Those who would prefer Council to stay the same were generally satisfied with the recent performance of County Council and felt that it was an efficient body in its current configuration. Those favouring an increase in Council membership, who were the largest group, were largely concern with improving representation of diverse interests on Council, including the Indigenous community.

We rated alternative Council sizes against criteria applied by the NSUARB, as well by the support they received in the survey. Our assessment of the criteria is generally qualitative. The meaning of the number of electors is not well defined. The number is constant for all scenarios and, consequently, we have rated all with a one. Three of the four scenarios, as noted, meet the ±10% voter parity criterion. The 8-district scenario does not for one district and is therefore rated fourth. The remaining three have differing degrees of variation and we have chosen to rank them based on the district with the largest variation from the average (-6.1% for three districts, -4.2% for five districts, and -8.1 for seven districts). Population density, like number of voters is poorly defined and is constant for all scenarios. 

Scenario Number of Electors Voter Parity Population Density Community of Interest Geo-graphic Size Survey Support Total Rating Overall Ranking
3 districts  1  2  1  1  4  3  12  Third
5 districts  1  1  1  4  1  2  10  Second
7 districts  1  3  1  2  1  1  9  First
8 districts  1  4  1  4  1  4  15  Fourth

Community of interest, on the other hand, is better accommodated in some scenarios than others. As noted, areas of Isle Madame and the Mainland must be combined for the 5- and 8-district arrangements, and they have therefore both been ranked fourth. The 5-district scenario, for its part, requires Arichat to be split and is, therefore, ranked second after the 3-district scenario, which does not divide any communities and separates the county in distinct areas. Finally, we have assessed geographic size in terms of the largest district created in each scenario. The variation is generally modest, and we have rated the 5-, 7-, and 8-district the same with a rank of 1. The largest district in the 3-district arrangement is not enormously larger than the largest district in the other three scenarios; however, the overall size of the districts is significantly bigger, which in our opinion justifies a fourth-place ranking. 

The survey results are straightforward. Seven districts was the expressed preference of the largest groups of respondents to Question 9 (41.9%). It was followed by five, three, and, then, eight with 21.9%, 11.5%, and 10.4%, respectively The overall ranking places the 5- and 7-district scenarios first with ranks totaling 8. Three districts follows with 9 and eight districts trails with 11.

Phase 2 – Boundaries and Polling Districts

Based on our research, survey results, and our rating of Council Size alternatives, Stantec has recommended taking the five- and seven-district scenarios to the public for consideration in Phase 2 of the Governance and Boundary Review.

Our consultation process in Phase 2 features a second survey in which we are presenting boundary options for five and seven districts through maps and descriptions, as well as the aforementioned public meetings in Arichat and St. Peter’s

Each public session will include a period from 30 minutes to an hour during which attendees can assemble and review posters explaining the Governance and Boundary Review, and speak to Stantec’s representative. When we are comfortable that all likely attendees have assembled and viewed the poster material, Stantec’s Project Manager will make a presentation on the project, the process followed, and the results to date. When the presentation is complete, he will look forward to responding to questions and comments from the attendees. 

Based on public feedback through the two consultation initiatives, and further discussion with Council members, we will determine the preferred council size and boundary arrangement to recommend to County Council. Council will vote to approve the recommendation, modify the recommendation, or develop an alternative recommendation.

The Rest of the Process

The decision of Council will form the basis of an application to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB) for approval of the size of council and related electoral district boundaries. If the application is approved, it will fix the size of council and the boundaries of Richmond’s electoral districts for municipal election held over the next eight years.

We are committed to collaborating with the people and elected representatives of Richmond County throughout both phases of the study. We plan to conduct an open process that will promote dialogue toward addressing the critical issues of council size and boundary delineation. The study will propose and assess boundary scenarios designed to address criteria set out be the NSUARB, most notably the requirement for balanced representation referred to as voter parity and the integrity of local communities.