© FILE PHOTO
FILE PHOTO: Former Montague mayor Pat McGowan.
Amalgamation of 8,000 people from Lorne Valley to Panmure Island too big for Montague to sit out: McGowan
MONTAGUE – Eastern P.E.I.’s largest town has quit the game before even going to bat for the possible future of a regional municipality, say two former mayors.
“This is the first time this region has ever sat down to discuss such a possibility, and the town is already pulling out before the talks are even to start,’’ said former mayor Merrill Scott. “It’s an extremely poor decision.”
The town of Montague announced last week that it would not proceed with talks on the regional municipality of Three Rivers based on the current boundaries. The seven communities include Georgetown, Cardigan, Lorne Valley, Montague, Brudenell, Valleyfield and Lower Montague.
The town wants the boundaries to be changed to include the town’s current fire district, which would cut out Georgetown, Cardigan and Lorne Valley.
Meanwhile, the six remaining communities are proceeding without Montague, which could eventually lead to the creation of a Three Rivers municipality that would surround Montague.
“Opting out this early leaves us without any input into the future of this process,’’ said former mayor Pat McGowan. “It’s a very poor decision.”
McGowan said the possible amalgamation of 8,000 people from Lorne Valley to Panmure Island is far too big an issue for elected officials of the largest town to sit on the sidelines and wait to see what happens.
“It is totally unfair of Mayor Richard Collins and councillors to make a hasty decision, especially when the mayor was touting that he would hold a town plebiscite before signing off on a regional municipality,” said McGowan. “It is absolutely essential to join the other communities and stay until the end of negotiations. When it’s all over, then they can make an educated yes or no decision based on the outcome of those discussions.”
Opting out this early leaves us without any input into the future of this process Former Montague mayor Pat McGowan
Scott said a “tax freeze” could easily be applied during the discussions to allay the worst fears of some rural residents who are opposing amalgamation for that one reason.
“The government isn’t pushing this down anyone’s throat, they are asking us to start at the grassroots and work our way up to a solution,’’ he said. “But how can we find a solution when some of the family won’t come to the table.”
Both former mayors say they have heard nothing but disappointment from local residents over the past week. They said even the business community endorses the new municipality as a way to increase the tax base, as well as gas tax increases, and reduce the number of community elected officials in the seven communities from 49 to eight.
Scott and McGowan said they are not endorsing a new and larger municipality at this point – just the “golden” opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of such a project.
“If this doesn’t go ahead now, in five years you will have all new elected players in the game and seven communities that don’t have enough money to do things on their own.”