TRURO - Scott Armstrong is going to wait to hear from his constituents before forming an opinion on proposed federal boundary changes in Nova Scotia.
A proposal being considered by the province's Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission, the Conservative MP for Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley could see the riding's size reduced to include just Cumberland and Colchester counties - or its boundaries prior to 2002.
"My preference is for the riding to be left alone, but I want to hear what others have to say about it," said Armstrong. "We have the largest rural riding in Nova Scotia and that in itself presents challenges as a rural MP in being visible and getting out to see as many people and be in as many places as possible. At the same time I have developed some strong relationships with people in the Musqodoboit Valley area of the riding and I'm not sure I want to lose those connections."
Armstrong said he sort of envies MPs like Halifax's Megan Leslie, who can practically bicycle from one end of her riding to the other in a short time.
"It makes you realize just how big this riding is in that you could fit several Halifaxes into Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley," she said. "There are definitely different challenges between urban and rural ridings."
Despite this, he understands the role of the commission in attempting to balance the population to make sure each riding has an acceptable number of constituents.
The commission's task is to establish, or more properly adjust, the boundaries of the province's federal electoral districts in accordance with population figures established by the 2011 census.
There are no plans to reduce the number of ridings in the province from 11, but most of the ridings will see some changes to their boundaries.
In its review, the commission will consider communities of interest or identity and create manageable geographic size for districts in sparsely populated, rural or northern regions of the province.
"They have done a good job staying within the parameters," Armstrong said. "I'm going to keep my ear close to the ground to hear what people are saying."
MPs will have their chance to comment later in the fall.
It has been tasked with keeping each district as close as possible to the average size of 83,793 people per riding. It also aims to make sure the population of each electoral district remains with 25 per cent more or less of the electoral quota for the province. The riding's present deviation from the quota is five per cent. It would be -1.76 per cent after the readjustment. The population of the riding as it stands today is 87,982. After redistribution it would be 82,321.
If cabinet ratifies the commission's suggestions, the Musquodoboit Valley portion of the riding would be added to Central Nova, presently represented by Defence Minister Peter MacKay.
The lone public hearing in the riding on the matter is scheduled for Sept. 13 at the Best Western Glengarry Hotel in Truro at 7 p.m.
Written submissions can also be made to Barbara Penick, Commission Secretary, Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Nova Scotia, 1801 Hollis St., Halifax N.S. B3J 3N4.