Twenty years later
As CBRM marks a milestone, time to reflect on the last two decades
If there’s one thing people in Cape Breton Regional Municipality are still debating — after decades — it’s whether we all belong in the same pot.
The CBRM has now been in existence, for better or worse, for twenty years.
Over the past two decades much has changed in the region. Citizens have been represented by many different elected officials, they’ve grown accustomed to amalgamated services such as the regional police force and the public works department, and they’ve come to terms with the job losses and the perceived loss of communities that were a result of the Savage government’s decision to force amalgamation all those years ago.
At the time, those in power assured the good people of CBRM that this was indeed for the better.
A quick glance at the challenges of the day shows the region was faced with a declining population, declining revenue base and several communities over-run with the cost of managing day-to-day business.
Since 1995, we’ve lost on average about 1,000 residents per year. Our population, which fluctuated between 115,000 and 120,000 in the mid-to-late 1990s, stood at about 97,400 in 2011.
On July 31, 1995, there were 77 council members representing the eight former municipalities that now constitute the CBRM. The first CBRM council meeting, which held amidst much fanfare at Centre 200, boasted 21 councillors. Today CBRM is represented by 12 councillors.
And yet it seems those same challenges of 1995 continue to burden us.
We still need more jobs. We are still watching our youth move away to start their families. And we are still questioning whether our tax dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible.
Would the fortunes of our communities be different if the decision to amalgamate was never made?
That’s a hard question to answer; certainly not one we will attempt a guess at. There are a few things we can say for sure though. You don’t need us to tell you the cogs that are the CBRM don’t always roll smoothly like a well-greased wheel, but still there’s no denying that operations are much more cost-effective due to the fewer administrators and the streamlining of departments.
There’s also no question that our small but mighty communities have continued to strive, despite their lack of local government.
We think that’s because it is good people — not just good government — that are needed to keep the vibrancy of communities alive.
Children growing up in CBRM today and those new to the area are still met with descriptions that include places like Louisbourg, Sydney Mines and Dominion.
Thank heavens for that. We will always need those communities and the people who identify so strongly with them.
As we enter the next stretch of our quest to succeed and to grow our local economy we must take care to balance the needs of our future and the importance of our storied past without dwelling too much what might have been.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality is and always will be what we choose to make of it.
For better or for worse.