‘I have two feel­ings — one of nos­tal­gia and the other of an­tic­i­pa­tion’

CBRM held first coun­cil meet­ing on Aug. 1, its first day as po­lit­i­cal en­tity

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY KEN MACLEOD

Editor’s Note: This is the first in­stal­ment in a spe­cial ed­i­to­rial se­ries com­mem­o­rat­ing the 20th an­niver­sary of amal­ga­ma­tion in CBRM. We hope you en­joy to­day’s story, which takes you back in time to the head­lines of 1995. Watch for more ar­ti­cles later this week chron­i­cling the years since and also look­ing ahead to what’s in store for the fu­ture. While it should come as no great sur­prise that the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s very first day as a po­lit­i­cal en­tity was splashed all over the front page of the Tues­day, Aug. 1, 1995, edi­tion of the Cape Bre­ton Post, the is­land’s news­pa­per of record hedged its bets on whether gov­ern­ment or gam­bling was the big­gest story of the day.

Spread across the top of the front page of the Post on that day, in heavy, dark type, was the head­line “Cape Bre­ton’s wheel of for­tune,” with a small but help­ful sub­head of “His­toric day for gam­bling and re­gional gov­ern­ment” di­rectly be­neath it.

As fate would have it, the CBRM’s first day on the job came on the same day as the open­ing of the Syd­ney Casino, which, like re­gional gov­ern­ment, is still go­ing strong 20 years later.

While the main head­line for the page may have strad­dled the fence, the main story on the page, un­der the head­line “Cape Bre­ton be­gins new po­lit­i­cal era” writ­ten by the late Chris Hayes, for many years the Post’s mu­nic­i­pal re­porter, ac­cu­rately cap­tured the grav­ity of the day, par­tic­u­larly in a telling quote from out­go­ing Cape Bre­ton County war­den (and in­com­ing CBRM mayor) John Coady:

“We lit­er­ally are mak­ing history,” said Coady, tak­ing a break from a farewell to Cape Bre­ton County that fea­tured lo­cal per­form­ers, magic shows for chil­dren and hot­dogs be­hind the county’s ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing.

“I have two feel­ings — one of nos­tal­gia and the other of an­tic­i­pa­tion.”

The story goes on to talk about the first of­fi­cial meet­ing of the new mayor and 21 coun­cil­lors, set to take place at Cen­tre 200 in Syd­ney that same evening, where Premier John Sav­age and Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sandy Jolly were to be on hand to give their bless­ing to a cer­e­mo­nial trans­fer of power.

The story also touched on the nuts and bolts of the first day of the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, where brand-new re­gional po­lice, fire and public works ser­vices hit the streets for the first time in an of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity, and mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees, re­lo­cated from their of­fices in Cape Bre­ton County, the city of Syd­ney and the towns of Glace Bay, New Water­ford, Syd­ney Mines, North Syd­ney, Do­min­ion and Louis­bourg, moved into their new work­ing space in Syd­ney’s Civic Cen­tre for the first time.

The fi­nal para­graph of the story noted that a big cel­e­bra­tion to mark the first day of re­gional gov­ern­ment was planned for the Syd­ney board- walk that evening, fea­tur­ing a wide va­ri­ety of lo­cal per­form­ers.

It came on the heels of another huge con­cert the night be­fore, fea­tur­ing pop­u­lar Celtic band Rawl­ins Cross, that drew 10,000 Cape Bre­ton­ers to that same board­walk to mark the City of Syd­ney’s fi­nal day.

That event was cap­tured by Cape Bre­ton Post pho­tog­ra­pher Vaughan Mer­chant in a wide-an­gle shot from the roof of a nearby ho­tel that took in most of the crowd, while the late Ray Fa­hey, the Post’s other pho­tog­ra­pher at that time, ear­lier on Mon­day was able to cap­ture the County of Cape Bre­ton’s fi­nal mo­ments as a po­lit­i­cal en­tity with a dra­matic photo of the CBRM’s new mayor low­er­ing the county flag for the fi­nal time, sur­rounded by all 21 new mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil­lors.

But the news­pa­per also con­tained more down­beat sto­ries that closed the book on a num­ber of long-stand­ing po­lit­i­cal en­ti­ties that had served their peo­ple faith­fully for many years.

North­side re­porter Julie Collins took in the fi­nal meet- ing of Syd­ney Mines town coun­cil on Mon­day af­ter­noon and, in the Tues­day, Aug. 1, edi­tion of the Post, she de­scribed a scene of sad­ness where coun­cil paid trib­ute to the res­i­dents and staff who had served the town faith­fully over the years.

On hand for the fi­nal town coun­cil meet­ing was re­tired sen­a­tor Bob Muir, who be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer as a Syd­ney Mines town coun­cil­lor.

“I be­gan my ca­reer in pol­i­tics 47 years ago right here in Syd­ney Mines and I’m proud of what the town lead­ers have ac­com­plished,” he told the gath­er­ing. “It’s go­ing to take time but I hope ev­ery­thing works out with the new re­gional gov­ern­ment.”

Mean­while, ear­lier Mon­day morn­ing in Syd­ney, Chris Hayes took in a some­what less melan­choly fi­nal meet­ing of the City of Syd­ney coun­cil and re­ported on it in the Aug. 1 edi- tion of the Post un­der the head­line: “Mood up­beat as city holds fi­nal ses­sion.”

“I look for­ward to the fact that we have a new re­gion with ex­cit­ing times ahead, and while it may be a lit­tle de­press­ing look­ing out a va­cant of­fice, there’s more good mem­o­ries,” said Mayor Vince Ma­clean. “I’m re­ally up­beat about what the fu­ture holds.”

Syd­ney’s long­est-serv­ing mayor — from 1978 to 1993 — was in the au­di­ence, along with many for­mer city al­der­men, and ex­pressed con­fi­dence that Syd­ney would re­main the hub of the new re­gional gov­ern­ment.

“It’s a nos­tal­gic day, re­ally,” noted Man­ning Mac­Don­ald, “the cul­mi­na­tion of a lot of work over the years.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, the ev­er­pop­u­lar Letters to the Editor sec­tion of the Post also weighed in on the ac­tion.

Un­der the head­line: “New su­per city needs a name,” Vic­tor Cof­fin of Syd­ney ad­mit­ted his let­ter was more to stim­u­late dis­cus­sions on a new name for the new mu­nic­i­pal­ity than any­thing else, but he ze­roed in on Syd­ney habour as one of the few re­main­ing mu­nic­i­pal as­sets with any de­gree of eco­nomic po­ten­tial.

“One name we might sub­mit for your con­sid­er­a­tion is the ten- let­ter word: BRETONPORT,” he wrote. “How does the term ‘city of Bretonport’ sound to you? It’s one of our ideas, what’s yours?”

Nat­u­rally enough, the Post’s ed­i­to­rial for the Aug, 1, 1995, edi­tion dealt with the dawn of a new era in mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment, but, in typ­i­cal Doug McGee fash­ion, it was also a history les­son, as the Post’s ed­i­to­rial page editor in­formed his read­ers that this wasn’t the first go-round for the con­cept of a mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment in Cape Bre­ton.

Ap­par­ently, in 1879 the con­cept of mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment was in­tro­duced to Nova Sco­tia and the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Cape Bre­ton County was es­tab­lished un­der one re­gional regime. But, ac­cord­ing to the ed­i­to­rial:

“Un­for­tu­nately the forces of sep­a­ra­tion be­gan to take hold within six years of that event as the more pros­per­ous ar­eas be­gan to hive off into au­ton­o­mous towns.”

Though that first at­tempt was likely doomed to fail­ure from the start, given the grow­ing pros­per­ity of the is­land at that point in time, the ed­i­to­rial ended on a cau­tiously op­ti­mistic note:

“Now the wheel has gone full cir­cle and it’s left to 21 elected coun­cil­lors to over­see the mu­nic­i­pal con­cerns of 120,000 res­i­dents.

“There will un­doubt­edly be prob­lems of all kinds as the re­al­ity takes hold, but let’s not for­get the prob­lems faced as part­ners in poverty un­der the old sys­tem.”

Ken MacLeod Spe­cial Re­port

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