A group pushing for a governance study in Kings County just got extra support from the business community.
Since last May, the Kings County Coalition has been seeking support from the local towns and the county for a study that would look at governance in the county. Last week, the Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce threw its support behind the KCC’s bid for an independent study.
That decision, said KCC co-chairman Dave Ritcey, “is huge” for the fledgling group.
“To have the support of the Valley business community is a strong endorsement of what to this point in time has been a citizen-led endeavor,” he explained. “Going forward, it will be citizenry and the business community in tandem saying, ‘let’s take a look at how we can improve things for everyone’.”
The support from the local business community has been building over the past six months, Ritcey added, and the AVCC decision is a strong statement of that support.
“Business recognizes that there is much that can be improved upon in how we govern ourselves. A local study is the first step,” he said. “Business understands that we need to assess first, implement second, and evaluate third.”
Chamber of Commerce president Ray Savage said the members are in support of a study.
“As in all business today, we must all become more efficient and always be looking toward improvements in an ever-challenging marketplace,” he said.
“This includes not only commercial business, but also the business of our municipal units. In finding efficiencies between municipal units, effectiveness and productiveness can only improve, which should enhance not only out business climate, but for our general population.”
Good business sense
While the chamber doesn’t have a record of any specific complaints from members, Savage said they “hear rumblings” from local businesses that have to go through many lines of contact just to get information. They also have a hard time getting assistance, he said.
“It is felt that with a pertinent study, these areas would be identified and there would be a concrete action plan come out of the same,” Savage said.
The chamber, he added, isn’t necessarily looking for amalgamation of municipal units to come from a governance study. Rather, Savage hopes it will lead to “potentially finding better ways of doing business” to make the Valley a more attractive location for businesses. He is also hoping it will lead to a “team effort” in how the municipalities treat businesses.
“Be it cost savings, improved outputs or unified and more effective services,” Savage said, “This is potentially good for our business environment and the general public.”
The KCC’s bid has received mixed support so far from local municipalities. Wolfville and Kentville both agreed to support the study, pending acceptable terms of reference, while the county postponed making a decision until council receives further information from the chief administrative officer. Berwick, meanwhile, opted against participating, instead stating that a study would be “precipitous and premature.”
Despite the response, the KCC isn’t feeling frustrated – quite the contrary, said Ritcey.
“We are tremendously encouraged and we have garnered much momentum in our efforts to see if we can do things better here in Kings County,” Ritcey added.
He’s also hopeful that once the County of Kings reviews an internal report on governance, council will also support a study.
“We are confident that the position of the local business community will help these decision-makers support an independent study on governance,” Ritcey said.
“The Town of Berwick feels very strongly that any impetus for a study should come from the Kings Partnership Steering Committee, yet it would seem unwise for both entities to ignore the pleas from both citizens and business combined. After all, it is just a study, at this point.”
The KCC won’t be taking much time off for Christmas. Governance and an independent study are expected to be on the agenda at the next Kings Partnership Steering Committee meeting on Jan. 9.
Ritcey says he’s hopeful that the KPSC – made up of representatives from the local councils – will agree to move forward next month.
“We are hopeful that a subcommittee will be established at this meeting to prepare the terms of reference for a study so that a decision on these same terms of reference could be made at the April KPSC meeting,” he said. “These issues do take time, but we genuinely believe in a thoughtful and well-considered approach to decision-making.”
The group will also be eyeing the Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy report, expected early in 2014. The group, chaired by Acadia president Ray Ivany, is looking at ways to make Nova Scotia a more prosperous province. Ritcey says the KCC believes that municipal reform could be a key part of the puzzle.
“If a region does not have a consistent and complimentary strategic direction, if processes and regulations differ from community-to-community, and those communities all compete for the shrinking demand to locate there, everyone loses,” he said.