As much as Cumberland County is one of the largest geographic areas in Nova Scotia it’s also one of the most sparsely populated. In light of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board’s directive to reduce the number of councilors in Halifax the question has to be asked is there still a need for five separate councils in this neck of the woods?
As the Halifax region looks ahead at a reduced council size – down to 16 from the current 23, plus mayor – it’s worth doing a number comparison. Cumberland County, with four towns and the county, has 29 elected representatives.
That’s a lot of council seats for a population of less than 40,000 – compared to 360,000 in HRM.
Council reps per capita entered the discussion before the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board ruled on Wednesday that the region’s council would be trimmed. It was noted Halifax has significantly more councillors per capita than other large, urban centres across Canada.
Some might say this is comparing apples and oranges. Halifax has an immensely larger urban area than Cumberland’s. But both have vast, sparsely populated rural areas as well and a lot of territory for local politicians to log concerns.
Also, this area has five different councils – a related factor that often comes up. They’d be tiny quorums, indeed, in each of five chambers if we went strictly by reps per people.
As much as a governance study is needed in Cumberland County, there does not appear to be a willingness to do one among this region’s municipal units. The mere mention of the word amalgamation is often met with anger and derision in council chambers in the county.
Considering what took place in Bridgetown earlier this year and the financial pressures many small, rural municipalities are going to face as the province tightens its own financial belt, people here need to ask how much government is too much?
Going to one council for the entire region may be extreme, but considering how hard it is to balance the books already, the status quo should be the last resort as opposed to the norm.