With several towns announcing the decision to dissolve in recent months, the topic of municipal governance has become the flavour of the month.
Keeping with that theme, coincidence or not, the province’s Municipal Services has released a report card on the financial status of the towns, counties and cities.
The 15 indicators in the assessment focus on financial matters such as budget deficits and capital assets, with scores indicated by green, yellow or red flags. In Pictou County many will have noted that the Town of Westville has eight red flags, the highest number among all municipalities.
Noteworthy too is that Westville was the first among the local municipalities to suggest it was pondering a change in its governing structure. The town has recognized its struggles and prompted a closer look at governance county-wide.
Westville is certainly not alone. Municipal Services Minister Mark Furey said 12 municipalities are facing financial problems. That’s not surprising, considering the towns of Springhill, Hantsport and Bridgetown recently decided to pull the plug on operating alone.
Anyone assuming big is better won’t find an easy answer in the report. The two examples held up often in the amalgamation question show a wide difference: Cape Breton Municipality had six red flags, while Halifax had a perfect score of 15 green.
But the need for tough decisions is something we should all be familiar with, something Ray Ivany and company stressed.
We’ve got the facts and figures in front of us with reports such as this. One comment we’ve heard a number of times recently, in regard to the Ivany study and related analyses, is that there are plenty of these already on the shelf gathering dust.
That would suggest that what’s needed is acknowledging that improvements are within reach. But just talking about them only gets us halfway there. It’s time to admit the tough realities that towns face, find a better direction and not be afraid to take the plunge.