CHETICAMP: Inverness Municipal Council voted to support a governance act to oversee an airport management committee for the Allan J. MacEachern Regional Airport, but only after one part of the mandate was altered.
Inverness County, which has a stake in the Allan J. MacEachern Airport, along with the municipalities of Richmond and Port Hawkesbury, voted to support the draft form of the act so long as the following statement was omitted:
“The committee will allow other municipalities that have interest in the airport to participate with representation on the Airport Management Committee when the municipality commits to the same annual funding agreed upon by the committee. New participating municipalities will have the same membership rights as the originating municipalities under the terms of reference.”
In specific, the line “the Municipality commits to the same annual funding” was seen as unclear, and council said they would support the document if that section was removed. The decision was made on September 5 at council’s regular meeting.
“It’s just a governance issue, so take that out,” Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said.
The document will also be looked at by the municipal councils of Richmond and Port Hawkesbury before it’s officially adopted.
The decision to support the amended version of the document came with a fair bit of conversation about the possibility of an airport being set up in the Inverness area. Council still appears to be divided on whether or not the establishment of a commercial airport would have been in the municipality’s best interests.
“I still have a bad taste in my mouth from what Port Hawkesbury enacted in order to not have a hope in the world for an airport in Inverness,” MacQuarrie said. “A very strong social media campaign was put out, and they even went as far as hiring a lobbyist to shutdown any efforts to have an airport in Inverness. I don’t think it was very nice.”
She noted that Inverness County contributed to the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre and Port Hawkesbury Paper, and that she feels the municipality was very generous to the town.
Deputy Warden Alfred Poirier conceded that having an airport in the county would help the tax base, but he had reservations about how much input other communities would have. One of the ongoing criticisms about the purposed Inverness airport was a lack of public knowledge of the issue.
“Why can’t we have a committee of all the communities working together?” he said. “I want to work together, but don’t leave Port Hawkesbury out and don’t leave Cheticamp out.”
Councillor John Dowling let it be known that he was not in favour of having public money from the provincial and federal governments used for the venture.
He challenged anyone to “sit there and look me in the eye and say we should build an airport while we have infrastructure that’s falling apart all around us in every corner of the municipality.”