Pictou County is playing host to municipal representatives from across the province during the 2014 Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Spring Workshop this week.
UNSM President David Corkum noted the location of the annual workshop rotates among communities in the province. This year, it is Pictou County’s turn.
“This workshop is about bringing our membership together,” said Corkum, who is also mayor Kentville. “It’s a chance to bring topics of interest to the table.”
He predicts that about 170 delegates, mostly elected, will be present.
One topic of discussion will be how Nova Scotia’s farmers markets can cultivate the local economy. Natalie Smith, president of the board of directors of Farmers' Markets of Nova Scotia, will outline how each of the province’s farmers markets present new and expanding opportunities for economic development, rural livelihoods, community growth, and a thriving sense of place.
Breakout sessions include municipal awareness week, a presentation by Dr. Bill Howatt on mental health in the workplace and a look at a bold new direction for municipalities with Municipality of Inverness Deputy Warden Jim Mustard and Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood.
There will also be a session on 211, a new non-profit service, launched in 2013, to help anyone and everyone navigate the community and social services sector.
Corkum said many important conversations happen before, after and between presentations. Informal chats with fellow municipal colleagues will no doubt focus on the Ivany Report.
“Though we are having a meeting on May 23 in Truro dealing with the Ivany Report specifically, it will be discussed.”
He said the workshop’s schedule was already in place when the report was released. Otherwise, it’s likely it would have had official standing on the agenda.
The workshop landed in Pictou County after rotating throughout the province; last year’s meeting was held in Yarmouth.
“We try to move them around,” said Corkum. “Usually, the larger fall conference is held in Halifax or Sydney but the spring session is moved to the smaller areas.”
Nova Scotia’s rural and urban divide is prominent at the municipal level.
“Towns have to pay for the roads while rural areas only pay a percentage,” said Corkum. “It can be a point of division but, generally, we’re all in it together and working together to try and improve service delivery.”
He noted that the environment at the municipal conference have become much more open, with new and creative ideas being discussed.
“We’re all open to change. Sharing services is a buzz word and some are talking about amalgamation but they’re all options now.”
Minister Mark Furey of Municipal Affairs will speak at the end of the three-day conference.
“We have a great relationship with province,” said Corkum.
As far as Pictou County is concerned, he noted the area is a hot spot for municipal debate and change. The towns of New Glasgow and Pictou along with the Municipality of Pictou County are collaborating to develop a memorandum of understanding on items critical to their respective municipalities while putting a new system of governance to deliver services.
“I think most people see Pictou County as an ideal area for an MOU or amalgamation, but it’s a situation at the end of the day when all the players at the table have to agree.”