City of Antigonish and County Consult Residents on Possible Consolidation
Residents of the City and County of Antigonish, it’s time to have your say.
After years of investigations, the two municipalities recently launched a public engagement process to seek feedback from residents on a possible consolidation.
“…we looked at it very seriously and looked at the possibilities and what it could do for our community,” said Town of Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher.
Over the past few years, the city and county have partnered on many projects such as hosting the National Special Olympics, building the Antigonish Skatepark, community dog park, and physician retention that have proven successful. for the whole community.
“We realized we could do so much more by working together…” says Boucher. “Collaboration with your neighbors is very important.”
Reaching out to Nova Scotia’s municipal affairs and consultation areas that have been consolidated for 25 years, the city and county have done their research.
“We have seen successful consolidations over the years; Queens and Liverpool come to mind,” says Antigonish County Reeve Owen McCarron. “With half the population of the City and County of Antigonish, they have done a lot of wonderful things in their community – lots of infrastructure and have built a great relationship with other levels of government when promoting programs within their community.”
Having a municipal government in the Antigonish area would allow for even more collaborative efforts and take advantage of more opportunities instead of competing for funding from other levels of government and investment opportunities. Consolidation can also be a more efficient use of existing resources (water and sewer) to provide a high level of service to residents living in urban and rural areas of Antigonish.
“If we became one unit, we would definitely be seen better by other levels of government when it comes to infrastructure and doing things that would improve the growth of our community,” McCarron says. “The benefits of development and planning then accrue to everyone.”
But what does everyone think? That’s what the city and county want to know before making a decision – which won’t be a matter of plebiscite.
“We’ve seen in the past that plebiscites can be very divisive here in the city and county and we don’t feel like doing that,” Boucher said. “We are trying very hard to reach out to everyone who wants to have a say in the process and we believe this will serve the community much better than a plebiscite.”
Public consultations began in early April and will continue for approximately the next three weeks. Aiming to hold 18 sessions, the city and county of Antigonish will host talks in each municipal district and in the city. Pop-up events in places like the farmers market and virtual sessions will provide more opportunities.
The response, so far, has been good, says Boucher.
“We had some really good questions from the community. People have concerns, but we also have other very optimistic people,” explains Boucher.
She adds that the sessions also provide an opportunity to dispel myths surrounding the harmful effects that consolidation could cause. A common concern is taxation.
Have your say
A press release from the Town of Antigonish offers the following ways to participate:
- Visit Antigonish.ca or check out the insert in County Connect magazine.
- Anyone can leave feedback or comments by calling toll-free at 1-833-563-2786 or 1-833-563-2787 and leaving a voicemail for staff, who will follow up or by sending questions and comments by email to [email protected]
“There’s no indication that consolidation will have a significant change in taxes — that’s something people are a bit relieved of when you can show the numbers and prove it to them,” Boucher said. “Of course, there is no way to predict the future; all you can do is make an educated guess with what happened in the past. But, the two municipalities are very solid financially…”
Maintaining the respective identities of each district under municipal administration is also important to residents.
“One of our guiding principles throughout this process is to ensure that our individual communities remain very vibrant,” says Boucher.
McCarron adds, “Each community has a rich cultural background. They have lasted for hundreds of years and will continue to last. We are too steeped in tradition to lose our identity.
A joint council is expected to decide on the consolidation in June. If a decision to consolidate is made, the city and county will approach the province for support with special legislation and transitional funding with the goal of creating a joint municipality in April 2024.
If the decision is not to merge, the municipalities will continue to exist in their current form.
Boucher notes that the information is easily accessible through staff and advisors, a website dedicated to the consolidation process (Antigonish.ca), a chat platform called Howspace, and a phone number residents can call to leave voicemails. .
“Whether you’re in favor of consolidation or have concerns about consolidation, we want to hear your voice,” says Boucher.
Boucher and McCarron said they ultimately want to best serve their communities.
“I want progress and a sustainable future,” says Boucher. “We have a beautiful community filled with great people. I want it to grow, provide more services, attract businesses and people to live here, and maintain a vibrant and healthy community.
“It’s more about looking 20 or 30 years into the future so we can look back and hopefully say it was a good decision because we’ve remained a very strong community,” McCarron says. “It’s not necessarily today; it is really about the future.