Facilitator chosen to oversee early steps in consolidation process

ANTIGONISH: A facilitator has been chosen to help ease the possible consolidation of the Town of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish into one municipal unit.

Councillors with the Town of Antigonish passed a motion during their regular monthly council meeting on Nov. 15, to appoint Brighter Community Planning and Consulting to the position.

The proposal was selected out of a total of five possible submissions by the consolidation steering committee.

Following the meeting, Mayor Laurie Boucher told reporters that Brighter Community Planning and Consulting’s role will be to facilitate the next couple of steps in the consolidation process.

“They will facilitate both council’s coming together, setting those guiding principles, and how can we address the concerns of councillors that they may have,” Boucher said. “It could be taxation, it could be representation, it could be services, or some councillors may be concerned over decrease in services or cost of service.”

She said the use of a third party is a measure to ensure councilors and community members relay their questions and provide feedback.

“At the end of it, they will construct a report that can come back to council and we can make our vote on the information that they give us,” Boucher said. “Because that will really be the voice of the public.”

The mayor explained they want the process to be as transparent as possible so they decided to use a facilitator rather than completing the process in-house.

“A third party can facilitate without any bias,” Boucher said. “If I were to ask those questions, to the public or maybe even a staff member, maybe they wouldn’t want to be negative or positive.”

This gives people the opportunity to be very clear and honest with their answers, the mayor noted.

Additionally, Boucher indicated Brighter Community Planning and Consulting are professionals in the consultation process.

“They’ve done this before, they know how to facilitate the meetings, how to make sure we’re getting the best response that we can,” Boucher said. “So we thought it was very important to put the investment into this, because at the end of the day, we want the right information to come back to council to make the decision.”

The bulk of the consolidation process, which is expected to take approximately 23 weeks, will be going out to the public.

Boucher advised the next step is to determine the project’s guiding principles.

“We have to make sure all of the concerns are addressed, and we’re able to answer them,” she said. “Because the concerns of council are not much different than the concerns of the public in general, so we have to have that information before we go out to the public.”