Whether or not increasing the number of shared services equates to amalgamation of Cumberland County’s five municipal units, it’s a discussion that at least needs to occur.
There are strong opinions on both sides of the amalgamation debate.
Those who support it say the county doesn’t need five elected councils and 30-plus elected officials for 32,000 people. Those who oppose it point to the mess that was the forced marriages in Halifax and Cape Breton as the reason why union cannot work in Cumberland County.
The last 12 months have seen a lot positive moves in the development of shared services among Cumberland’s five municipal units. Amherst recently joined the regional EMO office and Amherst and Cumberland County are in the midst of a study that could lead to a shared corporate/finance department.
These developments are building on what’s becoming an excellent working relationship among our four towns and the county. There is co-operation going on and it’s paying financial benefits to all involved. And it’s a far cry from just a decade ago when all five units seemed to be at each other’s throat for one reason or another.
Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter may be right when he says the taste for amalgamation is not as sour as it once was. Newly elected councillors aren’t as quick to adopt the parochial turf-protecting mindset that their predecessors had and they appear more open to looking at ways to find efficiencies and save taxpayer dollars.
We still think amalgamation in some form is the long-term solution in Cumberland County. However, at the same time, we don’t any of our municipal leaders to balk at increased service sharing because of the idea it will mean amalgamation.
Taxpayers are demanding better use of their money and that means looking at our neighbours for sharing possibilities. The amalgamation road is something they’ll cross sometime in the future, even if the appetite is not there today.