MOUNT WILLIAM – Amalgamation, a topic that is all too familiar to Pictou County residents, should help bring jobs to the area according to Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie.
At the Wellness Centre on Tuesday night for the PC Jobs and Economy Tour, Baillie was asked about natural resources, government investing in small business, buying local, the Ivany Report, amalgamation and multiple other topics relating to jobs and the economy.
The stop in Pictou County was the final one of the provincial tour, with more than 65 people in attendance, including a handful of local municipal councillors.
During the open forum, Municipality of Pictou County councillor Robert Parker spoke about farming, DSME Trenton and the trend of big business getting more provincial government support than small business.
He then asked Baillie’s thoughts on amalgamation and Regional Enterprise Networks (REN) before stating that the Municipality of Pictou County is in the process of joining Cumberland County’s REN.
“Amalgamation, according to the Ivany Report, is supposed to create jobs, but I’m not convinced yet that if Pictou County amalgamated tomorrow that you’d suddenly see trucks rolling in over Mount Thom to set up business,” said Parker.
Further to that comment, Parker asked if amalgamation was necessary or if municipal units working together would end in the same result.
He also suggested Baillie’s opinion would be relevant as he lives in Springhill, where the town passed a motion in March to dissolve its status as a town as of March 31, 2015.
“Everywhere I go, I sense a real frustration from people that they’re not getting a say in how they’re governed at the municipal level,” said Baillie. “Yes, they elect councillors, mayors, wardens and so on, but we have towns and counties like Springhill, my own town, where the tax rate is $2.52 per $100 and the commercial rate is pushing $6. Compare that to whatever your taxes are. People are moving out of town specifically for that reason. It’s not sustainable.”
Comparing the residential rates to Pictou County towns, Springhill was higher even in 2012-13 at $2.25. New Glasgow and Stellarton were the lowest in the county at $1.82. Westville was the highest at $2.09, with Pictou and Trenton falling in between. The lowest town in the province was Antigonish at $1.00.
Comparatively, the Municipality of Pictou County had a $0.81 residential rate in 2012-13.
“We absolutely need to do a reorganization at the municipal level and that requires some leadership from the province,” said Baillie.
He didn’t touch on the province pulling the plug on the Pictou County governance study in March. At that time Nova Scotia Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey said they would invest their tax dollars and resources on advancing change with municipal units that might be interested in it.
“But ultimately I believe that the best way to get there is to ask the people themselves for a mandate for a municipal reorganization,” Baillie said. “That’s how we’re going to break the logjam that’s occurring in too many communities around the province.
“Will it create jobs? Well, if we end up with a more efficient and affordable municipal form of government, yes, that helps with the cost of living and helps with attracting new jobs and investment to Nova Scotia.”
Other solutions Baillie discussed were allowing more immigrants to move into the province and for the government and people of Nova Scotia to stop saying “no” to various industries. He touched on the west to east pipeline, mining and other industries tied to natural resources.
“We talked about some things tonight that are a little edgy like finally standing up to the people that say ‘no’ to everything and allowing a few jobs to flow from our natural resources that we have all around us and so on,” he said. “I just think it’s important that people know where we stand.”
Asked if he would be in favour of cleaning up Boat Habour if it would affect jobs at Northern Pulp, Baillie said he wants the pulp mill to continue to operate and that they should be able to keep jobs at the mill after cleaning up Boat Harbour.
“Cleaning up Boat Harbour and putting in place a new system that’s environmentally sustainable secures the future of the pulp mill,” he said. “I expect the mill owners to make investments in the mill that make it more environmentally friendly and I’m encouraged by some recent announcements like the precipitator that they’re going to build at their expense. All of that, along with the governments commitment to clean up Boat Harbour is about making Pictou County ready for the jobs of the 21st century.”
On Twitter: @NGNewsChris