Kings County Advertiser and Register
It seems like a solution that would satisfy everyone.
Three councillors – Pauline Raven, Emma VanRooyen and Patricia Bishop – issued a press release recently to announce their intention to introduce a motion at the May 6 Kings County council meeting. That motion, the release says, would allow for the sale of the Waterville airport property to go ahead, but would let the airport community use hangars and runways until Michelin’s construction time frame no longer permitted it.
Airport users would get the time they’ve been asking for; Michelin would acquire the land it needs if it wants to expand and county council could satisfy more of the stakeholders. It seems like a win for everyone.
However, it doesn’t look like it’s meant to be. As of May 2, the motion was not on council’s agenda and there was no explanation as to why. An emailed statement was also issued from Warden Diana Brothers, lambasting Raven in particular for speaking out.
“Coun. Raven has stepped outside of this protocol and has publicly endorsed a position that could impact on Michelin’s plans for expansion without providing Michelin with an opportunity to review the proposal and respond,” Brothers said in an April 29 email.
“The practice of the municipality has been to discuss any proposed motion that affects Michelin with the president of Michelin Canada prior to introducing them into the public realm," her statement read.
Why does Michelin need to review a question that three councillors would like to discuss at an upcoming council meeting beforehand? Does this mean a private business has significant say in the actions of municipal council than area residents might be comfortable with? This is certainly a worrisome notion. It could also lead one to question whether this potential expansion deal is so shaky Michelin would pull out just because a few councillors asked if a compromise was possible.
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Brothers' statement that county councillors are unable to speak out about an issue they feel strongly about before their opinions are vetted by a business is downright alarming. Councillors are voted into office with the belief that they will do their best to represent their constituents. Part of that should certainly be examining all possible angles of an issue, talking it out and coming up with creative solutions to problems. It’s concerning to think that council members are not permitted to talk publicly about an issue so many people in this community feel so passionately about.
A group of hangar owners who are currently leasing space at the facility have also served notice they will be launching a legal challenge against the county’s decision to close the airport and a task force, called Save Our Airport, has been formed. Will this scare off Michelin, too?
Yes, the carrot of a potential infusion of cash into this county through a Michelin expansion is attractive; however, Michelin Canada has never publicly confirmed it intends to expand the facility in Waterville. Recent announcements of scaling-back of activity of the Michelin plant in Pictou County has also caused significant doubt in the community that the tire giant would even consider an expansion in its Waterville plant right now.
Frank discussion – particularly public discussion – is something that needs to be happening more. Councillors shouldn’t be hushed when they question the status quo or propose new solutions.