Amalgamation is coming, one way or another

The recent meeting between councils with the Town of Antigonish and Municipality of Antigonish County is a harbinger of things to come.

On January 10, the municipal councils met at the People’s Place Library in Antigonish.

Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher said the town and county have met over the last number of years in informal settings. Boucher said the councils wanted the public to see what both are discussing.

The councils will meet the third Wednesday of February, June, September, and November.

Antigonish Warden Russell Boucher said he felt the first meeting – which included discussions about the Eastern Exhibition grounds and the Antigonish Arena Commission – went well. He said the joint council meetings will serve some of the same purposes as a regular committee that reports back to council.

It was good to see both municipal units take it upon themselves to get together, discuss common issues and plan to continue meeting regularly.

This is a long way from the animosity of a decade ago when issues like the Eastern Nova Scotia Exhibition grounds, boundaries between the town and county, and other matters resulted in tension, animosity, and eventually, expensive and unnecessary legal action.

To see Antigonish town and county meet and get things done is inspiring.

Whether conscious or not, these meetings are also an acknowledgement by both municipalities that amalgamation is on its way, in some form or another, at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Given the shrinking population of the province, the loss of large scale employers, industry and even small business around Nova Scotia, and dwindling provincial coffers, as well as those of municipal units, some government soon will strongly consider joining rural municipalities as was done two decades ago in Halifax and Sydney.

Strait area municipalities must acknowledge this reality and start working together, not just to get ahead of the game, but because operating in separate silos has held this region back for far too long.

Yes, local municipalities have always communicated. There is a Strait Area Mayors and Wardens committee which has been meeting regularly and lobbies on behalf of the region, and local units have worked together, and that is a good start, but more needs to be done.

As was the case in Antigonish, Strait area municipalities need to get all elected members together regularly to talk about important issues, and that needs to take place among all units in the four counties.

The days of going it alone are coming to an end. Now is the time for Strait area municipalities to get on the same page.