It strikes one as colossal coincidence – if it weren’t for one coincidence after another in a matter of mere weeks.
First the Town of Springhill announces intentions to dissolve and merge with Cumberland County. This week Bridgetown indicated a similar move, and on the heels of that news came the revelation that the Town of Hantsport would seek a new arrangement with West Hants.
To top it off, all these instances as announced are placed firmly in context with the report from Ray Ivany’s committee, Building Our New Economy. Among its recommendations and observations were the challenges facing many smaller – often shrinking – municipalities in Nova Scotia. In many cases they can’t afford to continue with the status quo – and why would they if there’s a way to strengthen their position?
Given the timing of these announcements in relation to the Ivany report, they smack more of coincidence as opposed to town leaders suddenly heeding the advice of the report. Springhill councillors noted that they had been reviewing their status for some time before making the announcement.
Those representatives also described it as an emotional decision, evidently for both them and townsfolk.
It was a similar story several years ago in Canso when discussion about dissolving and joining the county turned into a long, dragged-out debate, complete with a plebiscite. In that case, remaining a distinct town would have meant yet more tax increases in a tiny municipality short on tax base and jobs and already deep in debt. The practicalities were clear.
Just this week Municipal Relations Minister Mark Furey issued an op-ed release on the subject, encouraging municipalities facing declining revenues and shrinking population to move toward co-operation and shared vision.
We can expect to see more such soul-searching in the near future among smaller locales. Many of them have been seeing the writing on the wall that the Ivany commission clearly spelled out.