A mission to amalgamate four municipal units in Pictou County has ended with neither a bang nor a whimper.
The overarching sentiment is to consign to a footnote in history the memorandum of understanding that included the Municipality of Pictou County and the towns of New Glasgow, Pictou and Stellarton.
Within a week, Pictou County Municipal Council last Wednesday and Stellarton Town Council on Monday passed motions to formally withdraw their applications to the Utility and Review Board to proceed with the process that would have led to amalgamating the four participating units.
How the two councils decided to abandon amalgamation was, in some ways, the same and in other ways different.
County council incorporated its motion within its regular meeting. There was comment by some council members before and during the time the motion was on the table.
Stellarton council called a special meeting on Monday night at the nearby fire hall to accommodate what they anticipated would be a large crowd to hear the decision. More than 100 people attended but barely half the chairs set out were occupied. The withdrawal motion was the only item on the meeting’s agenda and it was passed without discussion.
County council chambers, where seating capacity is limited, were full.
At both meetings, applause followed each council’s approval of motions to withdraw. County council got on with its business. Stellarton council moved back to its chambers for its regular meeting.
One question was posed at both meetings. Will the MOU steering team provide an accounting of what the process cost?
Those on the YES side of the debate will say it’s the cost of making the case for amalgamation. Those on the NO side will say it was the cost of promoting it. The abyss between the two sides remains deep and wide.
No municipal election among 10 proposed districts in the four amalgamated units will occur this fall. The process of applying for combined government through the UARB remains untested. Time will tell how much dust will collect on the MOU process in Pictou County, whether it was a blueprint for success or failure or even a reference point for future talks. There is a case, however, that those amalgamation talks will resurface.
More than a century ago, it made sense when local towns were incorporated to better deliver a growing need for services at a reasonable cost. That is each municipality’s mandate today. But things change.
With or without amalgamated or regional government, we are experiencing the winds of change. Any sailor knows we cannot alter the winds, but we can adjust the sails.
Are we ready to turn about?