Richmond councillors debate funding requests

ARICHAT: Richmond municipal councillors debated several grant requests at their latest regular monthly meeting, including two requests from organizations that take in funds from multiple partners, including neighbouring municipalities.

Councillors voted 3-1 to approve a request for $10,000 from the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association (BLBRA), with the approval contingent on the same amount being provided by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and the Counties of Victoria and Inverness. District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher cast the only vote in opposition to the BLBRA request.

However, council also voted to ask Richmond’s municipal grants committee to review a request for $2,500 from the Pitu’Paq Partnership, which is made up of all five Cape Breton municipalities and all five of the island’s Mi’kmaq communities. Described by Richmond Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jason Martell as addressing “issues of environmental concern” by such means as joint meetings at various Bras d’Or Lake locations, the Pitu’Paq initiative has received $2,500 from each of Victoria County and the CBRM but no such funding from the Town of Port Hawkesbury or Inverness County.

“In order for me to approve $2,500 here tonight, I’d have to see proof that the rest of the municipalities are putting their money in first,” Boucher remarked.

Former councillor Shirley McNamara, who spoke during the evening’s public question period, agreed with Boucher’s suggestion that groups such as the Pitu’Paq Partnership are “not well-served” by municipalities who fail to contribute their fair share of financial support.

However, she also countered Deputy Warden James Goyetche’s suggestion that the other municipalities have “a bigger interest…than we do” in terms of Bras d’Or Lake watershed management.

“There is some relevance in us being involved – we have a significant amount of the shoreline, from West Bay to George’s Bay, past Johnstown,” said McNamara, who noted that she has served on the BLBRA for the past two years without any cost to Richmond County.

“We live better together than being apart.”

A similar sentiment arose from councillors Alvin Martell and Jason MacLean when Boucher and Goyetche challenged a $500 request from the Potlotek Education Council for their Community Multicultural Day, which had participation from Fortress Louisbourg, Iona’s Highland Village Museum, and musical acts such as The Barra MacNeils on June 27 at Mi’kmawey School.

“This type of event has been sponsored by this council for many, many years,” said McLean, countering the claim that events held in aboriginal communities are solely a federal responsibility and not a municipal funding opportunity.

“For $500, we’re going to be seen as a partner in this event, which I think is great,” Martell chimed in.

Warden Brian Marchand, who cast the deciding vote in a 3-2 decision in favour of the funding, noted that the Community Multicultural Event has a combined budget of over $20,000.

Council also approved a grant of $10,000 to the Richmond County Early Childhood Education Association for materials to be used within the classroom for children with special needs, and green-lighted a request of $4,375 from the Isle Madame Historical Society.