CBRM needs economic growth, not an abundance of politicians
In his Feb. 3 Political Insights column, Jim Guy warns, as the headline states: Smaller Council Might Do Nothing for CBRM Except Further Thin the Ice. He argues that a smaller regional council could diminish our ability to govern ourselves.
I take a contrary view. A smaller council might well raise the bar and thus the calibre of our elected officials by making it more competitive to gain entry.
Guy seems to indulge in some mischievousness when he poses the question: “Has the current size of our council been the reason that we are losing our population, that our taxes are higher than in Halifax Regional Municipality, that CBRM is carrying a debt of more than $100 million?”
A more pertinent question on these developments would be: Was our current large council able to prevent any of these unfortunate occurrences? We all know the answer.
Guy also sees the desire for a smaller council as a conservative inclination. My understanding is that Mayor John Morgan, a supporter of a smaller council, is anything but conservative. Nor am I and many others who favour a smaller council conservative. It’s not conservatism but our relatively small and continually declining population, the nature of our region and the realities of our modern, technology-based society that suggest we don’t need 16 councillors.
Guy defends this bloated council by arguing that differences within our regional municipality, such as urban and rural interests, justify the number. He rightly notes that there are as many as a 100 mostly rural communities within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality with their own needs and uniqueness.
But if that is the justification for more councillors, why stop there? As in rural areas, many unique communities exist in the urban areas of CBRM. Examples include Whitney Pier in Sydney, No. 11 in Glace Bay, Cranberry in Sydney Mines, the Gannon Road area in North Sydney, and Up 12 in New Waterford. Don’t they deserve councillors, too?
In some instances, on the basis of representation by population, such urban enclaves may well out-number some rural areas that have their own councillor!
To borrow a hockey metaphor, rather than thinning the ice we’ve got too many men on the ice and we’re paying the penalty in excessive costs for this big, unwieldy council where too many local politicians think they are municipal civil servants instead of elected representatives.
A benefit of amalgamation is that we’ve never had a more qualified group of municipal civil servants. But we should get some of the politicians out of their way and let the civil servants do their jobs.
Truth be told, CBRM is a composite region in which there is a constant intermingling of rural and urban citizens. Many of our citizens work and shop in the urban environment by day but reside in a rural area at night. Others reside in the rural area by day but often spend the night in an urban environment enjoying Screaming Eagles hockey and the restaurants and bars.
Most rural children attend school and participate in sports in or near urban settings.
Actually, what we really need to better govern ourselves is more economic development and a broader tax base, not an abundance of politicians. Leo Doyle is a retired educator in North