Council still trying to ‘get everyone in the room’

PORT HOOD: Rumours still circulate about the development of a federally and provincially funded airport somewhere near the community of Inverness, and Inverness Municipal Council would like the air cleared as to what’s actually going on.

The matter came up at council’s meeting last Thursday, and staff said they are working to set up a meeting where all stakeholders are around the same table.

“Ben Cowan-Dewar [one of Cabot Golf’s owners] will be in Inverness sometime after the 17th [of July] so Keith [Inverness County CAO Keith MacDonald] is making arrangements with him to schedule a meeting at that time,” said Tanya Tibbo, who was serving as CAO for the July meeting of council. Tibbo is the director of finance for the municipality.

MacDonald, who was technically on vacation, joined the meeting via the phone. He noted the goal of having all stakeholders sit down for a joint meeting is tricky. Such a meeting would see reps from the provincial and federal government attend, as well as folks from Celtic Air, the company running operations at the Allan J. MacEachern Airport in Port Hastings. Also in attendance would be management from Cabot Golf, the company looking to have a commercial airport set up locally.

“It’s proving to be difficult to get everyone in the room, but I think our approach can be to finalize a date with Cabot and council, and then we’ll make sure the other individuals are aware of the meeting time so we can try to get as many people in attendance as possible,” MacDonald said by phone.

The attitude around the table seemed optimistic that such a meeting could be arranged.

“I’m sure everyone is busy in the summer time, but this is an important issue and we’ll do all we can to get these people together,” said Laurie Cranton, councillor for District 2.

“Our CAO and staff will make every effort possible to get a meeting,” said Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie.

The same day council was mulling over a group meeting with stakeholders, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil was offering his own comments on the matter. He spoke to media from Halifax.

He said the purposed airport is now one of the province’s priorities.

“This was not on the priority list for us,” the Premier said. “It became one when the federal government wanted it on the list. We put it there, as there are things on the list that were our priorities.

“Whether it gets approved or not will be determined by the federal government.”

The following day, the leader of the province’s NDP was critical of taxpayer money being used for an airport which seems custom made for private sector interests.

“When our communities are desperate for investment in nursing homes, hospitals, and schools, it makes no sense for the McNeil government to place any priority on public funding for an airport that will mostly serve a private golf course,” Gary Burrill said.

“If international golfers wish to bring their helicopters and be dropped directly on the fairways, that’s fine with me. But I don’t think we ought to ask the people of Nova Scotia to take money away from hospitals and nursing homes to pay for it.”