Richmond supports changes to Municipal Government Act

ARICHAT: Richmond County is the lone dissenting voice among other Strait area municipalities opposing changes to Nova Scotia’s Municipal Government Act (MGA).

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on March 26 in Arichat, Richmond CAO Kent MacIntyre raised the issue of amendments to charter 18 of the MGA proposed by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM).

MacIntyre told council that many municipalities in the province offered their opposition to the MGA reforms during the second reading of Bill 18 at a sitting of the law amendments committee last week in Halifax.

However, MacIntyre said that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) did make a presentation in support of the CBRM’s bid to the law amendments committee.

District 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher was not happy to hear that the UNSM decided to speak on behalf of all municipal units in Nova Scotia before consulting with them.

“We should all be on the same page,” Boucher told council.

Although he is “not against” the CBRM’s plan, Richmond Deputy Warden James Goyetche said he was “upset” and “disappointed” that the UNSM did not get feedback from municipalities before taking this position.

District 2 councillor Alvin Martell supports the CBRM and called the opposition to the changes a “misunderstanding,” reasoning that the CBRM is trying to foster economic development.

“People across the province thought it was a carte blanche for the CBRM to be able to do whatever they wanted with their land, to make deals with companies,” Martell said. “I think at the end of the day, it’s no different than what we did with [Port Hawkesbury Paper] when we gave them a tax break.”

The veteran councillor said the Municipal Government Act sometimes ham-strings municipalities.

“A lot of times the MGA doesn’t allow municipalities to do what they need to do to get the job done,” Martell explained.

“I support their endeavours because it’s a way of doing business, that’s what you need to do,” Martell stated. “If you can give incentives to get companies in to create jobs, that’s the thing to do, that’s how it works.”

While he understands why the Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) is so firmly opposed to the reforms, Richmond Warden Brian Marchand said he is supportive of the CBRM.

“We want all the areas locally to do well,” the warden explained. “Cape Breton is definitely an area we want to grow, for sure.”

The warden added he is worried about the sale of municipal property if the changes are ratified. He pointed to the case of Melford International Terminals which paid market value for properties in the Melford area from the Province of Nova Scotia and the MODG, whereas a terminal operator could move into the CBRM and pay far less for properties if these changes are made.

“We have the ability to enter into tax deals so that’s not giving them an unfair advantage over us, it’s the selling of land that’s more of an issue,” Marchand said.

“We want to be on the same playing field.”