North Rustico, Central Bedeque, Bedeque pro-active in moving forward on changes
Overhead view showing the Prince County community of Bedeque. Tourism P.E.I. Photo
Two recent developments involving P.E.I. municipalities raise exciting possibilities for further debate. First, the communities of Central Bedeque and Bedeque have voted to amalgamate. Second, the village of North Rustico is seeking to become a town.
The municipality of Central Bedeque held a special community meeting last week where residents voted 15-1 in favour of amalgamation with their neighbours in Bedeque. A week earlier, Bedeque held a similar meeting and the vote was equally as supportive.
Their decision is welcome news for the province, which is still sitting on the report from former Judge Ralph Thompson, chair of the Commission on Land and Local Governance. That report was completed in December 2009, submitted to government at year’s end, and made public in early January 2010. The report suggests a drastic reduction in the number of Island municipalities from more than 75 to fewer than 25.
It was noted at the two Bedeque meetings that it made sense to start the amalgamation process before the province mandates it. Mr. Thompson recommended the provincial government incorporate the province into municipalities “having a population and tax base sufficient to provide effective and sustainable local governance...”
Four of the 24 units already exist as the cities of Charlottetown and Summerside, and the towns of Stratford and Cornwall. The other 20 units would merge various villages, towns and rural areas into new municipal units with a minimum population base of 2,400 to as high as 8,500. The proposal is controversial as unincorporated rural areas are worried their taxes would increase as the local units take on more responsibility for services.
Thompson provided the province with an excuse to delay moving on his report by recommending a task force be set up to bring in land use policies. The province would probably prefer to wait until after the next election before dealing with the Thompson report so the task force suggestion provided an excellent reason to slow the process.
The Task Force on Land Use Policy, established late last year, began consulting Islanders this spring. It will hold more public consultations this fall and is expected to deliver recommendations to the provincial government by January 2014.
There has been a delay approaching four years on the Thompson report. It’s likely the province will take its leisurely time reviewing the task force before bringing in legislation after the next provincial election, tentatively planned for the fall of 2015.
The proposed Bedeque amalgamation will likely just be the first step towards a much larger incorporated municipality. The Thompson map would see that zone tentatively include Borden-Carleton, Kinkora and adjacent areas involving Lots 26, 27 and 28 with 4,100 citizens.
In North Rustico, the community council thinks the village has the facilities and amenities to warrant becoming a town. The change would streamline the budget process and give North Rustico access to grant money not available to villages. The community council says feedback has been positive, especially if taxes remain the same.
North Rustico has ignored the implications in the Thompson report and should take another look. Rather than seeking incorporation as a town on its own, it should at least make the effort to see if nearby communities are interested in forming a regional municipality before legislation comes down. That mandate won’t stop in the Rustico area but will head south towards Hunter River and surrounding areas, including lots 24 and 33 with 4,300 residents.
Would it not make sense that the application for incorporation includes all the Rusticos (North Rustico, Rusticoville, Rustico, South Rustico and Anglo Rustico) and adjacent areas? It’s doubtful the province would seriously entertain the application from North Rustico on its own. It will use the Thompson Report, now collecting dust on the shelf, to make sure of that.