Kentville’s council chambers were full for the June 27 Kings Partnership Steering Committee meeting, where members were asked to consider a study on regional government. – Jennifer Hoegg, www.kingscountynews.ca
By Jennifer Hoegg
Make history, Gordon Lummis urged local municipal leaders last week.
Before a delegation of approximately 40 citizens packed into Kentville council chambers for the June 27 Kings Partnership Steering Committee meeting, the Wolfville man convinced the partners to discuss a study of regional government.
Lummis said he wrote a letter to the editor after the confusion in April around a cancelled partnership meeting and was surprised with the amount of response he received.
“The people here are just people who came together because they talked about it in various places,” Lummis said. “We have no political or other affiliation other than our love of the Valley and our belief that we can do better.”
Their only goal, he said, is to suggest the KPSC do a study on how it can be done better.
“We have small communities that encourage parochialism. Our taxes are high. We have no economic development strategy that we’re aware of,” Lummis said.
The number of administrations, decrease in farm use, outmigration of youth and aging demographic were also mentioned.
“A person in Canning can go to Halifax faster than their grandfather could travel by horse and buggy to Kentville,” Lummis said. “It could be argued we still have a municipal system designed for a horse and buggy era.”
Lummis asked the mayors, warden, chief administrative officers and councillors from Kings, Wolfville, Berwick, Kentville and Hantsport to take action and join with the province to study governance in Kings County, while recognizing the rural and urban areas and the “unique character of each community.”
Wolfville’s Coun. Carl Oldham made a motion to discuss Lummis’ proposal.
Municipality of Kings’ Warden Diana Brothers interjected to clarify the protocol for motions coming to the floor.
“The way to get a motion to the floor is to go through your municipal council,” she said. “If this is going to be a regular format for bringing things … then I have a full list I will bring next time.”
Chairman Bill Boyd reminded Oldham the appropriate protocol was for the partnership to move to refer the proposal to the councils for consideration.
“That way councils can discuss it and come back here,” said Boyd, a Kentville councillor.
The motion to have the towns and county consider Lummis’ motion to embark on a study of regional co-operation was passed.
Later in the meeting, a request from the Municipality of Kings to have “regional government discussion” added to the KPSC’s agenda was also approved as a discussion topic for member councils.
“Is there a definition of ‘regional government’?” Berwick’s Mayor Don Clarke asked. The reply was no.
"At the end of the day, the regional government question has to be talked about in some way and it has to be talked about at this table,” Brothers said.
Kentville Coun. Nola Folker-Hill said she believed Kings County already has a good start on regional activity.
“I really do encourage us all as municipal officials, elected officials and employed officials to give it some honest thought and let’s try to do it from the bottom up,” she added. “We have already put a lot of programs in place that are working and those can become examples for us. I think that’s a lot of services yet to share, but I’m not sure we’re all ready to fire our CAOs.”
Lummis said he was pleased with the outcome.
“The number of people who came to the meeting shows this is an issue many people care about,” said Lummis, a former Wolfville councillor. He noted a number of people he hadn’t met before attended after reading Advertiser and Register coverage of his proposal.
“We said that more and more people are beginning to realize we can no longer afford this duplication. I was pleased that the partnership has agreed to recommend that each municipality agree to fund a study on how we can do better.”
On June 28, however, Brothers said she didn’t realize Lummis’ suggestion had been approved to go to councils for discussion as presented.
“The motion that I thought passed was that municipal units would go back to their individual units to discuss the option of regional government.”
Boyd confirmed it was Lummis’ request that was passed.
Buzz about cancelled meeting persists
Lummis said an April 23 Advertiser article about county council’s discussion of a cancelled partnership meeting sparked his efforts.
“It’s unfortunate it was reported the way it was, because it was not correct,” Brothers said. She says the cancelled meeting was due to turnover among the partner’s CAOs and not lack of interest, as some county councillors alleged during the discussion around the county horseshoe, which the Advertiser reported.
The issue was further clarified after the Register reported on May 23 that Kentville Mayor Dave Corkum had sent a letter to the County of Kings, stating that he was “unaware of any other units” that were expecting the April 11 meeting to take place. Corkum wrote that the meeting had been cancelled due to the turnover of chief administrative officers and a “lack of progress on file content,” Corkum wrote.
“I just want to make sure the residents understand that we do meet regular and we are interested in our constituents,” Brother added.
Later in the meeting, the warden said she wanted to have a summary of what KPSC did when she talked to her council about regional government.
Formed in 2004, the partnership has had mixed results on co-operation. After initial progress on regional projects, the committee took a three-year hiatus while some of the partners argued about the education funding formula in court. The group began meeting again in March of 2012.
See a video from the meeting HERE.