CBRM needs eco­nomic growth, not an abun­dance of politi­cians

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT - BY LEO DOYLE

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

Syd­ney.

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