Substance added to understanding

Published on August 24, 2014

From the description, it could have been just another document being signed by local leaders. But bringing the mysterious ‘memorandum of understanding’ into official existence last Friday has potential ramifications regarding local governance greater than many expected.

In the signing, the mayors of the towns of Pictou and New Glasgow and warden of the Municipality of Pictou County offered the public more information about the proposal. In addition to addressing harmonized administration and capital and operational duties, they said the ultimate goal is shared governance.

That’s a prospect that only slowly, by degrees over the years, have elected officials dared acknowledge.

But in so doing they echoed many of the points that business people and others have often made. Pictou Mayor Joe Hawes put it in precise terms: we need to promote ourselves as a region.

They also tried to lay aside some of the fears that have persisted: for example, the county has said a stipulation it maintains is that the change would not result in a hike in the general tax rate. For town residents, they make it clear that services won’t be lost. A key to such a model is a base rate for taxes, accompanied by a user pay method of taxation.

In addition, this move to strengthen the region ties in with the aim to improve the local economy, said Sean Murray of Advocate Printing & Publishing, who chairs a local committee studying that issue.

This attempt to rethink local government has had many turns, to the point that the wheels fell off. The province pulled the plug on a long hashed-over proposal for a governance study. These three municipalities shortly afterward announced pursuit of this memorandum.

The other three towns are invited to join this initiative, and we encourage them do so. The united front of Pictou County that we would like to present to the rest of the world isn’t complete without them.

The ball is finally rolling. Let’s keep it that way lest we lose momentum.