Minister meeting with towns, counties around province
AMHERST – The recent decision by Springhill to dissolve its town status is not a consideration unique to this part of the province, according to Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey.
© Andrew Wagstaff - cumberlandnewsnow
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey (left) and deputy minister Dan McDougall visited municipal units in Cumberland County on Tuesday as part of a province-wide tour, stopping at the Access Nova Scotia office in Amherst in the afternoon.
Furey, who is touring municipalities around the province, said he is hearing the same discussions about dissolution and amalgamation from towns throughout Nova Scotia.
“We’re having these discussions in 54 municipalities,” he said, during a visit at the Access Nova Scotia office in Amherst on Tuesday afternoon. “There is no one municipality or town being isolated with an ulterior motive or mandate. It’s been very open, and very objective. Amalgamation has been discussed at each and every municipal meeting I have had, with the exception of two.”
The minister has met with about 35 different municipalities so far during his tour, which kicked off eight weeks ago. The tour was a commitment he made to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities (UNSM) at its fall conference in November, and the timing of the Cumberland County visit has nothing to do with the recent decision in Springhill, he said.
All municipalities in Nova Scotia are facing similar challenges, and a number of them are challenged financially, according to Furey, who will be retitled the minister of municipal affairs and Service Nova Scotia, with the creation of a new standalone municipal affairs department as of April 1.
He praised the municipal politicians in Springhill and the Municipality of Cumberland County for their handling of the recent decision to seek dissolution.
“These elected officials laid aside their own personal roles as individual councilors or mayor or warden, and made a decision that was in the best interest of the community, without any consideration to the loss of their own position,” said Furey. “I think that really speaks to the quality of people and the leadership we have seen here in Cumberland County for the last couple of weeks.”
Furey and deputy minister Dan McDougall met with representatives at the county office and at town halls in Oxford and Amherst on Tuesday, and were also scheduled to visit town halls in Springhill and Parrsboro before the day’s end.
Other issues under discussion have included the memorandum of understanding with municipalities that the previous government took off the table; the UNSM fiscal review now under completion; and the recently released Ivany report, particularly relating to its three pillars of municipal reform, business and immigration.
“Our position in the department is to get out and engage municipalities in these discussions so we do understand the challenges they face,” said Furey. “I think that’s critically important. It’s one thing to sit in Halifax and listen or read e-mail, but another thing to get out and hear it, and see the passion and commitment elected officials and senior staff have for their communities.”