Municipalities outside Summerside wondering about their future as amalgamation talk begins
The leaders of the three small municipalities that border the City of Summerside are all wondering if their communities have futures as independent entities.
The leaders of the three small municipalities bordering the City of Summerside are all wondering if their communities have futures as independent entities.
Recent comments from Summerside Mayor Bill Martin, indicate the city is exploring the prospect of amalgamation with some of its neighbours.
Martin recently told TC Media that “looking at the relative merits of expanding our boundaries and doing it in a non-hostile way,” was one of his goals for 2016.
His comments have started a conversation in the three municipalities next to the city - Miscouche, Linkletter and Sherbrooke.
David Linkletter, chairman of Linkletter, said that while his community has had no formal communication with Summerside about a potential amalgamation, the subject being brought up does not surprise him.
Ever since the City of Summerside was created via the forced incorporation of the Town of Summerside with St. Eleanors, Wilmot and about 80 per cent of Sherbrooke, Linkletter said he’s suspected his mostly rural community would someday, somehow, be brought into the fold.
“I knew it would surface sooner or later, no question about that. But there’s been certainly no movement on our part to even consider starting talk with Summerside. Not saying we won’t listen to them,” he said.
That sentiment was reflected by the chairmen of Sherbrooke and Miscouche.
Ron Chappell, of Sherbrooke, said his council hasn’t yet discussed the prospect of an amalgamation with Summerside, but it will likely come up at their next monthly meeting.
“I don’t think it would be something we’d be real crazy about,” he said.
The situation is a little different in Miscouche where chairman Peter Mallett said his council has been discussing amalgamation in general terms since Premier Wade MacLauchlan made certain comments at the 2015 meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Municipalities.
MacLauchlan said at the time that one of his priorities was to implement aspects of the Thompson Report, which called for the reduction of the province’s municipalities from more than 70 down to about 20.
Mallett said council has discussed the prospect of joining Summerside as well as striking out on its own by bringing neigbouring unincorporated communities like St. Nicholas, Belmont, Central Lot 16 and South West Lot 16 under its municipality.
Mallett and three other councillors met with Martin recently, he added, to discuss what the two communities might have to offer each other. The conversation was very preliminary, he said.
“A lot of our councillors are hearing from the people that they don’t want to join Summerside. ‘Leave us alone,’ type of thing. But we know in the big scheme of things that likely won’t happen. The government has said they want to go from 70 municipalities down to 20 some. So before too long it’s going to happen, maybe not in my term, but something is going to happen sooner or later,” he said.
As incorporated municipalities Miscouche, Linkletter and Sherbrooke cannot be arbitrarily annexed by the larger City of Summerside.
Provincial legislation states both community councils must pass resolutions supporting an amalgamation, after consulting the residents.
However, unincorporated communities, like Travellers Rest or North Bedeque don’t have formal community councils and can be annexed by nearby municipalities if proper procedure is followed. The provincial legislature also has executive powers over municipalities and can forcibly incorporate communities, which is what happened when the City of Summerside was created.
The province has stated that it wants all P.E.I. municipalities to have populations of at least 4,000 and a tax base of about $200 million in assessed real estate property value and be able to provide fire service.
The provincial government has stated that while it wants fewer municipalities in the province, it is not currently willing to force the issue, but has not closed the door on that prospect sometime in the future.
Chairman Peter Mallett of the municipality of Miscouche stands outside his community’s fire station. Mallett’s council has been discussing its options in terms of amalgamation for several months. Nearby Summerside has also been discussing its options with the smaller community.