Kings or West Hants?
It’s not as divisive of a question in Hantsport as one may think.
This quickly became apparent during a governance study meeting Stantec Consulting Ltd.’s John Heseltine’s hosted at the fire hall in Hantsport Aug. 12.
Unlike other small towns in Nova Scotia facing dissolution, Hantsport is nestled between two municipalities capable of absorbing the town of about 1,100 residents.
The goal of the governance study
Heseltine’s job is to crunch the numbers to find the most appropriate district for Hantsport to join if the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) rules in favour of dissolution.
“They want to see the districts have a reasonable balance in terms of the number of people living in each district,” explained Heseltine, referring to provincial criteria the UARB must enforce.
His decision will be largely based on numbers, with added weight given to the importance of voter parity in each polling district in the impacted municipality.
“A lot of my effort in this will be to look at how those boundaries can be altered in order to maintain that balance, or perhaps enhance that balance, with Hantsport added to whichever rural municipality,” said Heseltine.
The consultant must also consider the number of electors in each district’s boundaries, population density, community of interest and geographic size.
No district will be off limits in Heseltine’s attempt to fulfill his mandate.
“Directly adding Hantsport into any of the districts that it abuts in either of the municipalities will create a situation that has to be addressed by altering the boundaries through those particular municipalities.”
Residents make their preference known
Standing before a crowd of about 75 citizens, Heseltine was reminded the proposed dissolution is about more than polling numbers, more than dollars and cents even, to many residents of Hantsport.
It’s about their sense of community, their collective sense of belonging. If – and only if – the UARB gives dissolution the green light, the crowd at Heseltine’s first meeting in Hantsport ensured he knew where they feel they belong.
Longtime Hantsport resident Brian Bishop called for a vote. Hands up if Hantsport should join Kings if the town is dissolved, he requested.
The vast majority of attendees promptly shot a hand up in the air.
“Is that helpful?,” asked Bishop, who went on the record in saying he feels a strong connection to Kings County.
To be fair, Heseltine asked for a show of hands from those in favour of Hantsport potentially merging with the Municipality of West Hants.
Not one hand was raised.
Bishop said Hantsport residents have several historical associations with neighbouring communities in Kings County, and the town already turns to Kings for such necessities as education and waste management.
Asked if Hantsport would be split into two neighbouring districts, Heseltine said he believes Hantsport will be added to the absorbing district as one block.
“I wouldn’t be considering splitting you because the geography is just not there to do it,” he said.
Political representation to be determined
Deputy Mayor Harold Bulger noted that Hantsport’s citizens would not necessarily be represented by one of their own at the municipal council table in Kings or West Hants.
Councillors in both of the potential receiving municipalities can run for any district they wish to represent as long as they live within the Kings or West Hants, Bulger added.
Fielding questions about the merits of village status, Heseltine said Hantsport becoming a village would not impact the boundaries for the polling districts. Village commissions operate as separate entities from municipal councils.
“The creation of a village does give the local community a greater degree of control over certain issues and services,” Heseltine said.
The added layer of government would come with a cost to Hantsport’s taxpayers, but one that would guarantee a degree of political representation close to home.
Moving forward, Heseltine must draft a tentative boundary arrangement and seek further consultation from the public before submitting his recommendations in a written report that must be completed Sept. 2.
To ask questions or add to the conversation, e-mail Heseltine at email@example.com, or Town of Hantsport CAO Rob Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org
Attend upcoming governance study meetings to follow Heseltine’s findings:
- Aug. 18 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Hants Border Community Hall
- Aug. 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Falmouth Hall
- Aug. 25 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Municipal Complex in Kentville
- Aug. 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Windsor Community Centre