© TC MEDIA/Nancy MacPhee
Freetown resident Gerald Hutchings, who retired to P.E.I. in 2006, voiced his opposition to rural amalgamation, particularly a now-stalled application by the Community and Bedeque and Area to annex nearby communities, during a meeting Tuesday night at the Loyalist Lakeview Resort hosted by Rural Resistance P.E.I.
Meeting organized by Mary Webster, John Cairns of Rural Resistance P.E.I., a group opposing annexation around Bedeque
SUMMERSIDE – Gerald Hutchings retired to P.E.I. to escape the city.
After living in big and small cities across Canada, Hutchings wanted a simple and quiet life, one free of the regulations of a municipality, something he found after moving to Freetown in 2006.
It is a place where neighbours help neighbours and look out for each other.
“I chose to move to a rural setting so that I could lie back and do my own thing.”
With talks of rural amalgamation, particularly an application by the Community of Bedeque proposing that his community become part of a bigger municipality, the 79-year-old now fears for that quiet life.
“They have nothing to give me. They are not going to give us a well... give us fire protection. I pay my fire taxes now through Kensington and I am quite happy with it,” he said. “They are shoving this down our throat without getting our opinion.”
Hutchings was one of 30 people at a meeting this week organized by Mary Webster and John Cairns with Rural Resistance P.E.I., the group leading the charge against the proposed annexation of several communities surrounding Bedeque.
The initiative has stalled, but Bedeque wants to bring into its fold a large landmass, spreading to the borders of Kensington and Summerside to the west and Borden and Kinkora to the east.
“Bedeque council kept telling us and beating us with this like a stick that Summerside is going to get us... and we were going to be all swept away into Summerside,” said Webster.
They are not going to give us a well... give us fire protection. I pay my fire taxes now through Kensington and I am quite happy with it Gerald Hutchings of Freetown
Summerside Mayor Bill Martin was invited to address the issue.
“We have absolutely no desire to expand,” said Martin. “Zero.”
He does think that forced amalgamation is coming.
In his personal opinion, a colour-coded map in a report penned in 2010 by the late Ralph C. Thompson showing 22 potential municipalities on P.E.I., “that’s where we will end up.”
That was a personal sentiment reiterated by interim Opposition Leader Jamie Fox, also the MLA Borden-Kinkora.
“I support the process. It has to be a process brought forward by a municipality or an area that engages the people and allows them the opportunity to be totally involved and have all the information that they need to make a uniform decision,” said Fox. “We will not support any move or any forced amalgamation by the province of Prince Edward Island on any unincorporated area within the province.”
Communities Minister Robert Mitchell did not attend the session, but his deputy minister, Steve MacLean, was there and said nothing in his minister’s mandate letter refers to amalgamation and government has no plan in place for amalgamation.
“I think it is probably going to be forced at some point in time,” MacLean said.
If that is the case, it is something Hutchings said won’t happen without a fight.
“We don’t need any more than ourselves to depend on.”