The province will not force Pictou County municipalities to amalgamate says John MacDonell, minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
Contrary to information from Stellarton town council members, MacDonell said he has never intended to force a particular form of governance on the community.
The comment was taken from a letter sent to Ronnie Baillie, chairman of the Mayor and Warden Committee, dated Nov. 7, 2011, and signed by MacDonell. In the letter, there is a line that reads “We intend to apply the recommendations from the report to address governance for all six municipal units in Pictou County, regardless of the financial contributions made by each.”
He had clarified the matter in an interview with The News in February 2012, saying that the study would be done for all the municipal units and not just for some, if all didn’t participate.
He reiterated that point on Tuesday.
“This government will not force amalgamation on municipalities, but we are here to support and work with all our municipalities to help make life better for families in every region,” he said. “That is why we have committed to working collaboratively with the municipal units in Pictou County on ways to save dollars and share services for their residents.”
Stellarton’s decision is a new development, and the province will need time to speak with the other municipal units before making a decision on next steps,
Pictou Centre MLA Ross Landry said. While they will need to get some things clarified, he believes the offer of the province to pay half is still there if the municipalities choose to accept it.
While he shies away from saying amalgamation, Landry has been very vocal in his view that the governance model needs to change and that a study is needed for information on how that could be best done.
A new governance model would help the community move in a more progressive direction that is both more economically vibrant but healthy for the community, he said.
“I see a bright strong future for Pictou County, but one of the things holding us back is the governance model.”
How a new governance model should look is up to the communities, though, and he reiterated as well that the province will not force a new model.
He said he hopes to see Westville vote in favour of funding the study as well.
“Their position (of not funding the study) clearly articulates why we need the review,” he said. “If there’s no change, there’s no future.”