Wade MacLauchlan and municpalities discuss funding, amalgamation

Colin MacLean
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Bruce MacDougall, president of the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities, speaks to the organization’s annual general meeting, Monday in Linkletter. 

LINKLETTER - Premier Wade MacLauchlan got a big round of applause Monday afternoon from the assembled delegates of the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities.

MacLauchlan made two commitments during his address to the group’s annual general meeting that elicited that response: one was to revisit the issue of how municipalities receive money from the province, and the other was to introduce a new municipalities act by the spring of 2016.

Of all the issues the FPEIM has dedicated its attention to over the past number of years, these two ranked among the top of its priorities.

MacLauchlan said he’s interested in using his new mandate to help empower municipalities to tackle some of the issues they have.

“Our government considers municipal and community government to be a priority,” he said.

“We see local government as an essential partner in serving the people of our province.”

But while MacLauchlan found support on those two issues, he also delved into a far more controversial subject: amalgamation and the Thompson Report.

The 2012 Thompson Report recommended the Island’s more than 70 municipalities be cut down to less than 20, and it’s been a topic of discussion ever since.

But nobody at the meeting wanted to say ‘amalgamation,’ because the word has too much negative baggage.

Instead, they were using words like ‘regionalization’ and ‘unification.’

The premier talked a lot about the creation of the new Department of Communities, Land and Environment and said he sees the department as a resource for municipalities who want to explore amalgamation, which he argued would allow for the better provision of services.

“Language is important in this business. I think we should all shy away from the ‘A’ word,” said MacLauchlan.

“Regionalization is one good word…That question of what we call something, right from those first conversations, will then set the tone and be an important part of how things turn out.”

He also reiterated that the government’s preference would be for municipalities to voluntarily start working towards unification with their neighbours.

FPEIM president, Bruce MacDougall, has been a proponent of amalgamation of the smaller P.E.I. communities, so long as it is voluntary.

He used his address to encourage more dialogue on the subject.

“For a long time people avoided the topic of change to the Island’s municipal boundaries; amalgamation was a filthy word. But these views are gradually changing,” said MacDougall.

Tignish Mayor Allan McInnis said he’s open to exploring amalgamation, but he stressed that there needs to be a payoff of some form for smaller municipalities or they will continue to vehemently resist change.

“If we can work together and come up with a scenario where they (small communities) are going to see some benefit from it,” said McInnis.

“But so long as we go with ‘you’re going to pay an extra $500 a year in taxes and you’re not going to get anything for it,’ – we can’t do that, it wouldn’t be right.”

Brian Harding is a councillor from one of those smaller communities, Brudenell, and he’s not convinced residents from smaller municipalities have the stomach for amalgamation, so he’s happy the premier is leaving the choice up to Islanders.

“If you go by this they’re not going to make us – but time will tell,” said Harding.

 

Colin.MacLean@JournalPioneer.com

twitter.com/JournalPMacLean

Organizations: Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities, Department of Communities

Geographic location: Iceland, P.E.I., Tignish

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Recent comments

  • Echo
    May 26, 2015 - 14:23

    Johnthames ' note is like an echo from past experience with Dept. Transportation etc. Bullying, promised incentives retracted, colleague back biting, broken promises, words spoken but denied, inaction, and finally the knife, - and this at the highest level, mind you. Unbelievably ugly behavior, - and unbelievably, rewarded a promotion to the top floor.

  • bureaucratic power
    May 26, 2015 - 13:51

    Bureaucratic power has increased substantially during the Ghiz years simply due to a vacuum in leadership strength and to ministerial ineptness. This misplaced power has led to exit by some such as Melissa MacEachern, and cover-up of mismanagement issues on the part of deputies. The Bio-science debacle comes to mind. We are even facing lawsuits due to top level people abusing their power. But at the root is the misdirection, that these people should be hired from a pool of cohorts, political hacks, fixers and friends, rather than searching for intelligent, proven professionals. Historically Dept. of "Highways", is the most patronage ridden department in the government, which has created a certain culture of "power" and arrogance. It is telling that 'suvivors' like Steve MacLean, Brian Douglas and John MacQuarrie all are having a crack at "Highways". Ms. Biggar, without any experience,will be grateful that things will be in hand and run as usual. For the public, however, these perennial deputies (25 years) have garnered I-O-U s and familiarity with staff to a degree that the running of the departments are for the convenience of the 'servants' and to the detriment of clients. Renewal of top level servants (not shifting departments) are essential for the proper service and the economic responsibility of each department. It is surprising that Mr. MacLauchlan, with his experience seem oblivious to understanding this basic requirement for good government, - don't hire your friends or your friends friends, hire for qualifications and moral fiber.

  • Bradshaw
    May 26, 2015 - 11:33

    @johnthames I have had dealing with Dept. of Transportation too. I recognize very well what you are saying. Told one thing one day and the opposite the next, half truths and promises unkept along with an overbearing attitude, was my experience. They portrayed :" We have the power and we call the shots." To see the deputy of that department elevated to Clerk of the Executive Council was disconcerting and put in question the Premier's judgement and the advise he is receiving..

  • johnthames
    May 26, 2015 - 10:01

    All well and fine but the Premier will need to deal with problematic and obstructionist civil servants who work to thwart local governments on everything from roads to sewers and lagoons to control of planning and development. The dept. of transportation has been notably bad and unhelpful... lecturing down to the smaller governments while doing everything possible to stop them from moving forward on important issues. Please Mr. premier watch the few senior civil servants at the decision making - interface level, you will not like what you see and we hope you fix it.

  • Squirrel
    May 26, 2015 - 08:58

    As Chair of Morell for 2 terms I pushed & pushed for some form of Regionalization, It is absolutely stupid that a Community the size of Morell ( 300 ) is supporting surrounding area of 6,000. Morell has the rink, baseball fields ( with Lights ), Soccer Fields etc...etc.. It has to be compulsory or it would happen. Why should the citizens of Morell support all those freeloaders . Enough is enough !!!! & this is just an example !!!!

    • kyle
      May 26, 2015 - 13:19

      maybe because the freeloading 6000 drive into morel to the store ect. maybe the freeloaders should form there own town and slowly kill of morel .now that would be a good idea.

  • 100% property tax revenue for municipalities
    May 26, 2015 - 08:04

    PEI needs to follow Nova Scotia's lead. Have municipalities cover 100% of the landscape (I propose 3 municipalities - 1 for each county). And give the entire property tax system and its administration and revenue over to those municipalities. Ie. remove the provincial government from collecting and administering property tax.

    • thats nice
      May 26, 2015 - 15:34

      I'm sure that all the farmers and other rural residents will jump at the chance to pay higher property taxes and for services that they will never have access to, simply to be part of a municipality.