Yarmouth mayor Pam Mood.
BELLE HATFIELD PHOTO
By Belle Hatfield
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood emerged from the recent Atlantic Mayors Congress (Oct. 16-18), more convinced than ever that Yarmouth is ready to re-enter the arena as an international gateway for Atlantic Canada.
The Atlantic Mayors’ Congress has been meeting twice a year since it was founded in 2001. The organization is committed to improving municipal government and developing a strong, unified voice to advocate for municipalities in the Atlantic Region.
Mayor Mood said throughout the three-day conference the return of the international ferry service between Yarmouth and Maine was on everyone’s lips.
“We forget where we are here in Yarmouth. We are an international link,” she said.
She has emerged from the conference of Atlantic mayors with an enhanced understanding that that gateway is important not just to south west Nova Scotia, but to the province and to PEI and Newfoundland.
“We’re not very big,” she said, referring to the town’s position as a community whose population has dipped under 7,000, “but we need to get out there.”
“It’s a global economy and it is important for us to be at the table.”
Mood said the aura of regional cooperation around the table was refreshing.
“The discussion and overtone of the entire gathering was of the importance of regional cooperation if we are going to move forward economically,” she said.
Cape Bregon University President David Wheeler was a keynote speaker. She was particularly struck by his call for communities to harness, not just their physical, natural and financial assets, but also the need to value and leverage a community’s human, intellectual and social capital.
She said Yarmouth won’t grow without local, regional, provincial and inter-provincial cooperation.
“Relationships are desperately important. The ‘we’ and ‘they’ attitude is holding us back. It’s time to put that behind us,” she said.
The congress is eyeing the next round of federal infrastructure renewal programs with intense interest, recognizing the alarming state of public infrastructure in many of the region’s cities and towns.
The mayor said that one of council’s jobs over the coming months will be to work with the town’s staff to prioritize infrastructure projects, so that they can be ready to take advantage of the next round of federal funding. The existing infrastructure fund program is set to expire in 2014, but a new round of funding was announced in the 2013 federal budget. The funding commitment is expected to see around $50 billion spent on infrastructure-related projects across the country over the next 10 years.