The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has made its decision to dismiss the amalgamation application submitted by the towns of Stellarton, New Glasgow, Pictou and the Municipality of the County of Pictou.
In April, the board determined amalgamation was in the best interests of residents of this area, however, the final decision was based, in part, on the result of the plebiscite.
“… In three of the four affected municipal units, the electors have expressed a clear opinion that, in their view, amalgamation should not occur,” stated the document released by the NSUARB June 22.
The Municipality and Stellarton withdrew from the process, however, the towns of Pictou and New Glasgow decided to stay in the process.
Both New Glasgow and Pictou stated that while their vote to stay in the process was mainly symbolic, they are still hoping something comes of this.
“We stayed in because of the work and commitment put in by the steering committee,” explains New Glasgow Mayor Barrie MacMillan. “It was two and a half years of meeting twice a week and the town of New Glasgow voted two to one for it.”
MacMillan says the UARB’s decision was expected, but he is “very, very disappointed.”
MacMillan and Joe Hawes, Pictou mayor, are willing to continue to work with the other municipalities to find a solution.
“(The UARB) had no choice but to do that really, although two of the four were in… for all practical purposes, it’s over. But the status quo is just not acceptable; things have to change otherwise we’ll have more towns dissolving,” said Hawes.
He says Pictou will not close its doors because there has to be a solution out there to make Pictou County stronger.
Warden Ronnie Baillie, chair of the MOU steering committee, was not surprised by the dismissal of the application but says now is the time to work together.
“We have to work more collaboratively together, more than ever before to move the county forward. It’s going to take more than 100 per cent from everybody to make this happen. As far as amalgamation, Baillie thinks amalgamation is done and over with, however, he feels the county can work together toward economic collaboration and growth.
“We have to now look at different ways to make Pictou County a better place to live and work in.”
The UARB noted, “As evidenced by the work of the MOU Steering Committee and the original motions of the respective councils to pursue this application, there was clearly a collaborative effort to present this amalgamation option to the board and to the electorate. While this view was not ultimately accepted by most of the electors (except in New Glasgow), this co-operation may provide some optimism for the future as the municipal units address the issues affecting their residents.
“While the towns of New Glasgow and Pictou did not withdraw from the application, the board considers that there is no practical option, on the basis of the present evidence, to contemplate an amalgamation of New Glasgow and Pictou. However, the board does note that many of the concerns expressed at the hearing by members of the public, and by the witnesses, will likely persist after this proceeding is completed, because the issues are inherent in the present governance structure.”
Brian White, creator of Amalgamation No Thank You and the newly formed Pictou County Possibilities Project, was not surprised by the decision either but says now the county can move on to something good for the county.
“A lot of people were very interested and engaged in the municipal government in the county and were looking for change. It’s important to keep that going. We are providing a platform for people to be active in what they would like to see happen in the county.”
White says the main objective is to give everyone a say on what they feel could work for governance, community development and co-ordination.
“We want to address people’s concerns and come up with a (solution) without the animosity we saw over the last couple of months. I think we’d be dreaming if we say everyone will be happy, but I think the basic concerns can be addressed and the vast majority satisfied with a plan that can move forward.”
White’s group is working on pulling together a committee of sorts consisting of eight to 10 people from both sides of the argument that are willing to listen and contribute positively. Anyone interested can email White at firstname.lastname@example.org.