Kings County council votes to bow out of Cambodia partnership wrap-up mission

Kirk Starratt
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Coun. Emma Van Rooyen is hoping county council will reconsider its decision not to continue with the wrap-up mission of an international partnership it has been involved with since 2008.

The committee decision has yet to go before council for deliberation and the mission could still be supported if a motion came at the June council meeting.

The international program with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and their partners in Cambodia was supposed to wrap up this year.

“Cutting this relationship short leaves the Cambodian partners hanging in a lurch, since the county had committed to fulfilling their obligations through the FCM international program,” Van Rooyen said. “This program is delivered through a federal program and does not affect the Municipality of Kings’ budget.”

Van Rooyen said this project has received national notoriety and has had “immeasurable benefits” for their partners in Cambodia. She said it’s “irresponsible” for council not to see the commitment through.

She had put her name forward to attend the mission as the political representative, but added that it isn’t important to her who attends: only that they provide the support promised to their counterparts in Battambang, Ek Phnom and Banon.

FCM representative against project

Coun. Wayne Atwater, a Nova Scotia representative on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities board, was among the councillors that spoke against participating in the wrap-up mission.

The original missions involved helping Battambang improve waste management practices, but Atwater said it has since evolved into an economic development and tourism project

Atwater said he plans to lobby the federation to undertake a similar mission somewhere in Canada. He doesn’t care if it’s in a northern community, as suggested by Coun. Dale Lloyd, or in a centre such as Halifax. He said there is a lot of poverty here at home and points out that federal tax dollars are funding the missions to Cambodia.

“Let’s try to do something in our own country,” he said.

When asked if he believes there is value in the FCM’s international missions, Atwater said he didn’t know the answer. He would like to hear from senior members of the FCM to gauge their thoughts on the topic.

Just prior to the vote at the May 20 committee of the whole meeting, Coun. Jim Winsor said, “This is a last minute change of heart and mind. If we change our mind now, to FCM and to Cambodia, I don’t think we have compelling reasons to do that. I think we have compelling reasons to carry on.”

Warden Diana Brothers said over the years, the county has provided significant in-kind contributions through staff and council participation.

“Although we do not pay directly toward the budget for this project, it still costs us money to commit staff and councillors to focus their time specifically on this project. Time is still taxpayers’ money,” Brothers said.

She added that the committee of the whole felt in this time of fiscal restraint, it should recommend that council discontinue participation in this particular project.

How the vote went

In making the motion, Van Rooyen removed a stipulation that the chief administrative officer would choose the non-political representative. The motion was defeated with Van Rooyen, Coun. Pauline Raven and Winsor voting in favour. Coun. Patricia Bishop was not present and the remaining seven councillors voted against it.

See a timeline from the Cambodia mission at KingsCountyNews.ca

Organizations: Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Kings County council, Halifax

Geographic location: Cambodia, Kings, Banon Nova Scotia Canada

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  • Mark Levack
    May 28, 2014 - 12:15

    I'd have to hear compelling arguments demonstrating the benefit to Kings County residents from this project before I'd support any county resources being expended on it. Foreign aid is not a municipal responsibility.