Debate arises from rink funding request

WHYCOCOMAGH: A request for Inverness Municipal Council to help with repairs to the Al MacInnis Sports Centre caused a bit of argument last week at the regular monthly meeting.

Representatives from the Port Hood and District Recreation Commission applied for funding to the tune of approximately $49,000 from the municipality. This money would help the arena with repairs that, in total, cost $164,000. The remainder of the funds would possibly come from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the province.

The request was first looked at by council during last month’s Committee-of-the-Whole meeting. The matter popped up again last week at the Whycocomagh Volunteer Fire Department Hall, the venue for council’s meeting.

Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier noted that a similar request was made by folks in Cheticamp to help with rink funding in December of 2017, but the response then was there was no money.

Upon hearing that the Port Hood rink might be able to pocket some municipal funds, several people in Cheticamp, Poirier said, were left wondering why Port Hood might get what Cheticamp didn’t.

“Do you think I wouldn’t like to see Port Hood get $50,000?” Poirier said, noting that the main thing he’s interested in is fairness. “I’d like that, but the people in Cheticamp are upset – and I don’t blame them. We have to share and share alike.”

Councillor John Dowling added that it was unclear why the request from Port Hood was being entertained, when Cheticamp was shot down so quickly.

Poirier went onto explain that, back in 2017, Cheticamp’s request for funding was never officially brought to a council meeting. The acting CAO at the time, Tanya Tibbo, had responded to the request in a letter. She wrote that Inverness Council supported Cheticamp’s project but that there was no municipal funds available at the time.

“I didn’t bother to bring it [the request] to council when I knew automatically that it would be refused,” Poirier said. “That’s why it’s not in the minutes, but I have the letter from Tanya Tibbo.”

Whycocomagh and area councillor John MacLennan said the problem expands beyond Port Hood and Cheticamp. He noted that council currently has a policy of providing $5,000 yearly to each rink in the municipality. He noted that, for Whycocomagh, that’s money his community won’t have a chance to spend.

“The problem is, in Whycocomagh, we have no arena,” he said. “We have kids playing in Port Hawkesbury and Baddeck, and are we going to give $50,000 to those rinks too? What if someone wants $100,000? What are we going to do?

“The more we spend, what’s going to happen? We’re going to have to raise taxes.”

Councillor Jim Mustard noted he was frustrated with the discussion. He added that the best course of action might be to meet with representatives from all county rinks to see what needs are out there for each facility.

“I think we need to take a deep breath and ask our staff to host a meeting where we ask the arena reps to join us for a constructive meeting, where we can talk face-to-face with the managers, the community reps, and put everything on the table so we have a clear idea of what’s going on,” he said.

Council decided to set up a meeting.