Prov­ince now will­ing to con­sider smaller mu­nic­i­pal­ity ex­pan­sions

Journal Pioneer - - FRONT PAGE - BY COLIN MACLEAN Colin.MacLean@Jour­nalPioneer.com @Jour­nalPMaclean

The P.E.I. govern­ment now says it will con­sider pro­pos­als from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties look­ing to ex­pand their bor­ders, but which aren’t will­ing to go big right off the bat.

It’s a change in tone from the prov­ince.

Un­til now it had told mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties look­ing to ex­pand that they should aim for pop­u­la­tions close to 4,000, with a tax­able land base of around $200 mil­lion. Those were the bench­marks used in the 2010 Thomp­son Re­port, which sug­gested P.E.I. re­duce its cur­rent 73 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to a hand­ful. How­ever, Com­mu­ni­ties, Land and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Robert Mitchell, now says he is will­ing to hear pro­pos­als from mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties who aren’t look­ing to go that big in their first at­tempt at ex­pand­ing.

“In dis­cus­sions with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and even the Fed­er­a­tion (of P.E.I. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties) – it’s hard to get there in one leap. I can re­spect that. So if they want to look at other steps along the way, cer­tainly I would have to re­spect their wish to do that and sup­port that,” said Mitchell. The Town of Bor­den-Car­leton an­nounced re­cently it is propos­ing to an­nex the un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties in the Bor­den-Car­leton Fire District. If ap­proved, the town’s pop­u­la­tion would go from 724 to about 1,500 – well short of the 4,000 peo­ple mark the prov­ince had hoped for.

“It’s a good first step,” said Mitchell, ref­er­enc­ing the town’s pro­posal.

“Is it the over­all step that we’re talk­ing about when we look at the larger re­gion­al­iza­tions? No. But it’s an good ini­tial step.”

The P.E.I. Fed­er­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties has been out­spo­ken re­cently re­gard­ing its de­sire to see fewer and larger mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent, Bruce MacDougall, said his or­ga­ni­za­tion’s goal is to make mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments more sus­tain­able over the long term. So if that means smaller, in­cre­men­tal mu­nic­i­pal en­large­ments in­stead of big re­gional ones – then so be it.

“What I know, and what ba­si­cally the Thomp­son Re­port has said, is that the sta­tus quo is not ac­cept­able. So how­ever we get to less mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, we all need to work at it, what­ever process it takes to get us there,” said MacDougall.

Many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the prov­ince are dis­cussing an­nex­a­tion and amal­ga­ma­tion at the mo­ment, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons.

One of th­ese rea­sons is the new Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act, which has been passed in the leg­is­la­ture but is await­ing royal as­sent be­fore be­com­ing law. It lays out min­i­mum re­quire­ments for ser­vices mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are ex­pected to pro­vide, which many are cur­rently too small to af­ford.

Op­po­si­tion has also been grow­ing to the idea of mu­nic­i­pal en­large­ment. The Town of Ge­orge­town re­cently pulled out of long-stand­ing talks with its neighbouring com­mu­ni­ties to amal­ga­mate.

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