SPRINGHILL – The former MLA for Cumberland South is having a hard time with the decision to dissolve Springhill.
Murray Scott, who served with the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives from 1998 to 2010 before retiring from politics, has pondered the decision for several weeks and has come to the same conclusion he says many people have drawn since mayor and council announced the decision in March – why?
“I love this town. I was born and raised here. It’s been good to me and my family,” Scott said in an interview this week after sending a letter to the editor over his concerns. “I just think it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the community remains as we know it. I don’t doubt the hard choices, but I hoped before the decision was made the community could have explored all of the options together.”
Scott says he spoke with a number of residents over the issue and the questions he was hearing from citizens were largely the same as his own. What was the financial picture? What were the options? How out of hand were the town’s finances really?
At the end of the day, unanswered questions are plaguing the process and needs to be rectified before a decision like dissolving the incorporated town moves forward.
“Some people I’ve spoken to are just sickened by the decision and you can either sit back and say the decision is made or you can try to get some answers. The people who pay taxes, shouldn’t they have the final say?”
There’s nothing from stopping the town from notifying the province and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board it is postponing the application to dissolve the town, Scott said. If they did, citizens could be consulted and given the same information used to come to the decision before offering a plebiscite. If things are as grim as the public has been told, the people will draw the same conclusion, Scott said, and letting the people come to that decision is part of the democratic process.
“I think its vital public meetings be held… I’m not an accountant but I have questions myself. I think people, at the end of the day, will make the right decision.”
A transparent and engaged process is essential, Scott said, because the decision to dissolve the town will remove a lot of its lobbying power in the future. As an example, he points to the All Saints Hospital and the many times its was mayor and council who rallied the people to fight for keeping it open when previous governments considered closing it. The move to close the existing regional health authorities in favour of two provincial authorities is a loss of one group of advocates, Scott said. The loss of mayor and council is another.
“My experience has been local issues need local people. The former mayors banded the community to make sure All Saints stayed open here,” Scott said. “If they dissolve, no one is left to fight for All Saints. The decision is going to be made in Halifax by the finance department and I’ve heard it before, why have a local hospital when you have a regional hospital just twenty minutes away.”
Its issues like this and many more Scott says will come up in the following five years after dissolution the public needs all the information it can absorb before going to a plebiscite on the issue of dissolution.
Read Murray Scott's letter to the editor here.