Somewhere along the line, the merits of a governance study for the county got mislaid. At least that’s the message Pictou County council has gleaned from the province.
It was always intended as an open-minded, ranging study of how this county, with six municipal units, is governed and a look at what might be improved, made more efficient. No strings attached, one might add.
The new Liberal government doesn’t see it that way. That’s the impression Pictou County Warden Ron Baillie got in talking with the province’s Municipal Relations office – as related at Monday’s council meeting. They see it as weighing two options: status quo or amalgamating the six units into one.
That entirely defeats the purpose of such a study. In fact it runs counter to the notion of what a ‘study’ is, if you lead off with conclusions about the outcome.
This latest message suggests presumptions are already in place. Making presumptions – or even narrowing down possible conclusions at the outset – is a surefire way to limit possibilities.
As agreed upon by the former NDP government, the governance study was to have a look at many elements in the services provided by the units and whether sharing or improved efficiencies were possible.
Along with that has existed speculation of amalgamating some of the units – the ‘up-river towns,’ for example.
Deputy Warden Andy Thompson highlighted a great potential benefit of going into such a study with open-minds: it would be a way to gather information on infrastructure needs in coming years.
With this prospect, as relayed by the provincial department, a number of county councillors were understandably skeptical. If the aim is total amalgamation, they would never sell the idea to residents.
It’s unlikely the view from the five towns will be a lot more positive.
If the province is indeed dug in on this approach, there’s a great opportunity for this county shot to hell and we’re back to square one on this old, nagging issue.