The Town of Truro and the local Chamber of Commerce representatives are “cowards” for not being more vocal about the potential for economic losses related to the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition (NSPE), a Colchester County councillor says.
Colchester County Council
That is the term used by Coun. Karen MacKenzie during last week’s discussion by county council regarding the potential loss of some events because of increased rates at the facility and the negative impact that could mean to the community through decreased economic spinoffs.
“Should we not do this in conjunction with the town?” MacKenzie asked, during the ensuing discussion. “Because many of those hotels are in town. Many of these restaurants are in the town. So, I sometimes wonder why we go out on these limbs by ourselves. It would be much better if we had the town and the chamber with us and say (to the province) this is what is happening to our community because of whatever decisions you made,” she said.
“Put some pressure on the town,” she suggested. “The town doesn’t seem to have to do anything. We’re out here on the limb. We get our knees kicked in and the town and the chamber don’t do anything. And we bear the brunt of it all. So make them stand up and do something,” MacKenzie said, before concluding her comments in a lower voice with the single word: “Cowards.”
Council ultimately decided to send letters of concern to various provincial officials, including the premier and Minister of Agriculture, as well as to the town and the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce.
And Agiculture Minister Keith Colwell has publicly stated that efforts are being put in place to not lose any bookings because of increased rates.
“I take exception to the comment that we are being called cowards,” Truro Mayor Bill Mills said, when informed of MacKenzie’s remark.
“How can people say we’re cowards when the whole thing has been taken from our hands,” he said, of the fact the NSPE now is under the control of the province.
“The minister (of Agriculture) came to my office and told me directly that they have it under control and they are going to work at making this work,” he said, of getting the NSPE’s debt and operations under control.
Mills said he too has heard rumours of the potential loss of some events at the NSPE grounds. But he said he also believes the issues is being dealt with.
“I took the minister of Agriculture at his word. I spent an hour with him. So now these changes have taken place and he has addressed them in your paper. So I am going to believe him. Now, if there is any information out there to the contrary that they are not dealing with it, of course we would be concerned and we would say so.”
Prior to the NSPE being taken over by the province, Colchester County Council had made a bid to take over commission’s $422,000 debt to the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board in exchange for the deed to the property. Mills said he had talked “extensively” with Colchester Mayor Bob Taylor about that plan, and he had supported the county’s request to act on its own with that.
He further suggested it does not sit well with him to hear the type of comment that was expressed by MacKenzie.
“That’ pretty damn strong and I don’t subscribe to that,” Mills said, especially after the county had explicitly stated it wanted to deal with the NSPE issue on its own.
“It’s like picking petals off a daisy. You want me, you don’t want me, you want me, you don’t want me. Well, which is it?” he said.
“But the bottom line is, for people to say that we’re cowards and we don’t care, we’re sitting here watching this thing unfold and there are supposed to be people who have the authority to make things happen,” he said of the province.
“I have been around this for a long time and I have an old saying, wherever there is no fuel, there is no fire, and you know, there is a lot of people out there, in respect to councils, who do nothing more in every day (other than), just make these comments to stir up the pot. And you know what, they do a lot of pointing fingers at different groups to make themselves look like the great protectors of finances or other things but when it gets right down and actually contributing, I don’t see a lot of action there. And quite frankly I’m tired of it.”
Alan Johnson, executive director of the Truro and Colchester Chamber of Commerce said he did not wish to comment directly on MacKenzie’s “assertion, but he said neither is his group sitting idle.
“If she wanted to meet with someone from the chamber we would welcome a meeting,” Johnson said, adding he has had no direct communication from the councilor.
But Johnson said the chamber does expect to work with the three-member interim panel being put in place by Colwell, when that group has been fully established and to also organize consultations with the business community regarding the NSPE in coming months.
“For now, an internal audit of the NSPE’s operations is underway, and we respect that process,” Johnson said. “The chamber has begun having conversations with several key players in the NSPE saga, and will investigate how and if it can be involved as a champion of positive change.”