Photo by Dake Lowthers The grassroots community group, Let Antigonish Decide, made some alterations to their signs, including this one in Heatherton, thanking the premier and local MLA on not tabling the special legislation in regards to the Antigonish consolidation.

ANTIGONISH: After nearly a month, the Town of Antigonish has finally broken their silence on the consolidation issue.

“Out of respect for the province who made it clear, that health care was the priority in the budget in the spring sitting of the legislature, we decided not to make any comments,” Mayor Laurie Boucher said during open council at the town’s regular, monthly meeting on April 17. “As we didn’t know the status of consolidation. We requested a meeting with the minister when the house wrapped, and they just finished last Wednesday, so staff will be following up with the department to inquire about the status of consolidation.”

During the meeting, Councillor Diane Roberts questioned a media report from earlier that day that quoted the mayor and mentioned there were ongoing discussions between the Department of Municipal Affairs and the town and county of Antigonish.

“I just want to get that clarified, when he said town and county, I don’t know what he meant by that, it’s not for councils, because we haven’t had any discussion,” Roberts said. “Who is meeting to talk about this?”

Mayor Laurie Boucher responded to Roberts’ inquiry by advising there hasn’t been a meeting with representatives with municipal affairs.

“That quote is actually from Minister Lohr…I didn’t say that, I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Boucher said. “And the only correspondence between us has been the letter that has been sent out requesting a meeting for clarification going forward, and that’s all the discussion that has been.”

CAO Jeff Lawrence said the only direct communication with the Department of Municipal Affairs was the initial letter asking that after the closure of the spring sitting of the legislature, to set up a meeting for further clarification.

“That’s been it,” Lawrence told council. “There’s been no direct conversation, there’s been no phone calls, there’s been no emails, there’s been no anything else.”

Councillor Mary Farrell then questioned Councillor Sean Cameron where the information came from, in which he was quoted in the April 5 edition of The Reporter.

“If you read this week’s Reporter, Drake posted a [correction],” Cameron said. “As to where the information [came from], he contacted me and asked me about my input.”

Farrell responded by claiming she hadn’t seen the correction.

While a discussion then circled around the idea that a community recreation centre would be a reason to consolidate, Boucher indicated she was providing an example of a project that is more difficult as two different municipalities and not that it was something that going to happen.

Council then spoke on a Communications to Media policy, which was adopted in 2005 and updated in 2020, noting incorrect information was featured in an article that Cameron was quoted in.

“It’s really not to allow councillors to talk, it’s to ensure that the information going out is accurate and correct to the best of our ability,” Boucher said. “It’s to ensure we have clear, transparent and timely communication, as its intent is to ensure we have the most knowledgeable person, who represents the highest level of responsibility of the subject in question is designated to speak on the subject.”

While the policy update was added to the agenda late, discussions will occur during next month’s council meeting.

Following the meeting, Boucher told reporters there is no update, as they still have yet to hear back from the Department of Municipal Affairs.

“Nothing that I didn’t say around the table tonight,” Boucher said. “We had a meeting with Minister Lohr on (March 24) and we sent an email around to council very, very shortly after to let everyone know, just so they didn’t get it from a second source.”

The plan going forward, the mayor said, is to meet with the province to determine the official status of consolidation as the minister instructed the town and county, it wouldn’t be put on the spring agenda.

“We’ll continue on,” Boucher said. “As stated in the meeting tonight, there is no further update.”

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Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.