Citizens involved with Think Hantsport remain undeterred by council’s decision to start the dissolution process.
Frank Fraser, former mayor of the now dissolved Town of Canso, spoke at a well-attended public meeting Think Hantsport hosted in the hall of the Hantsport Baptist Church June 4.
Think Hantsport is asking town council to allow the citizen group more time to continue exploring alternative options to dissolving the town’s status and permitting Hantsport to merge with a neighbouring municipality.
“The only guarantee from dissolution is that we will not have local autonomous governance. We will not have a council of leaders dedicated to the priorities of our one-square mile,” said Think Hantsport member Paul Syme, addressing a crowd of more than 100 people.
Fraser, the sole council member to oppose the dissolution of Canso, clearly expressed his preference for a village status model of governance that allows community leaders to “keep some local concerns under our own fingertips.”
Fraser cited the collapse of Atlantic Ground Fishery in the early 1990s as the beginning of the end for the Town of Canso.
He feels Canso, now split between two districts of Guysborough County, lost its autonomy — and more — in the dissolution process.
“It seems to me that our town went mute and lost its voice and lost its heart,” Fraser said.
Fraser spoke in favour of the provincial government leading the charge in a wave of municipal reform throughout Nova Scotia. Dissolution, he argued, is not municipal reform.
“This is not reform. This is failure — failure of a municipal unit to continue on as an active, and as a viable, operation within the Municipal Government Act,” he said.
Asked what impact dissolution had on the Town of Canso, Fraser said it did not lead to tax relief for the citizens.
Fraser stressed the importance of citizens with strong opinions on the subject of dissolution to make their thoughts known at the preliminary hearing with the Utility and Review Board. That meeting is scheduled for June 19 at 9:30 a.m. in the Hantsport Fire Hall.
“That’s when you will have your voice heard,” he said.
Hantsport resident Jeff Starratt asked members of Think Hantsport to consult Town of Hantsport CAO Rob Frost for information while conducting their research.
“The key word that you keep saying is community and, regardless of whether we’re a town, we’re still going to be a community so it’s more important now that we work together,” said Starratt.
Think Hantsport members are not convinced dissolution is the only solution for Hantsport now that it is no longer a company town benefiting from the commercial taxes once paid by Fundy Gypsum and Minas Basin Pulp and Power.
“We’re not convinced that dissolution isn’t the only way to get the roads paved,” said Syme.
Syme added that members of the citizens’ group have already identified several areas of “untapped potential” that, if explored, may help Hantsport prosper.
Think Hantsport may take on a new role if the town merges with the larger municipalities of Kings or West Hants, and the Haven of Hospitality is no longer governed by a council populated with residents of Hantsport.
“If the town dissolves, we’re building Think Hantsport, maybe we have to be the voice that takes over,” Syme said.
Citizens were asked to show their support of Think Hantsport’s goals by signing petitions made available at the meeting.
The petition requested the following:
- That town council withdraw the dissolution application filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board and work collaboratively on solutions including seeking citizen opinion through a plebiscite.
- Failing the withdrawal of dissolution application, we ask you support Think Hantsport in applying for formal intervener status on the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board application.
- That you support Think Hantsport in requesting of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board that a citizen plebiscite identifying the true level of support for dissolution be undertaken as part of the application study.