Electoral Parity or Protecting Minorities? Path Dependency and Consociational Districting in Nova Scotia

Jim Bickerton, Glenn Graham



This article contributes to the study of electoral districting and minority group representation in Canada, Nova Scotia politics, and path dependency theory, through an analysis of electoral boundary commissions in Nova Scotia and relevant electoral boundaries jurisprudence. The concept of ‘protected ridings’ for historical minorities in Nova Scotia – specifically, Acadians and African Canadians – was introduced by the first provincial Electoral Boundaries Commission in 1992. This approach, referred to here as ‘consociational districting’, ran counter to the trend in electoral redistribution and apportionment exercises toward reducing the extent of population variance between electoral districts. When the continued application of this approach was rejected in 2012, its legality and validity were restored following a successful court challenge by the province’s Acadian federation. An analysis of this case study informed by historical institutionalism explores how path dependency has been a significant factor in the de facto constitutionalization of consociational representation for two historical minorities in Nova Scotia. In effect, history and institutions matter in the politics of redistricting, especially insofar as it concerns minority representation.


electoral boundaries, redistricting, political representation, minority rights

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125