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Montague councillor blasts province and Three Rivers steering committee for amalgamation proposal

Montague Coun. Daphne Griffin, left, and mayor Richard Collins chat following Monday night’s committee of council meeting. Griffin, one of three councillors who voted against being involved in the Three Rivers amalgamation application, said the steering committee and province are trying to force annexation on Montague.
Montague Coun. Daphne Griffin, left, and mayor Richard Collins chat following Monday night’s committee of council meeting. Griffin, one of three councillors who voted against being involved in the Three Rivers amalgamation application, said the steering committee and province are trying to force annexation on Montague. - Mitch MacDonald

The decision to force Montague into the Three Rivers amalgamation is undemocratic, says one town councillor.

Despite Montague council voting 3-2 two weeks ago to not participate in an application requesting amalgamation, the town was included in the Three Rivers steering committee’s application filed to IRAC last week.

Following Monday’s council meeting, Coun. Daphne Griffin said the decision was undemocratic.

“I don’t know why we bothered to vote if it didn’t mean anything,” said Griffin. “In my opinion, the province and steering committee have violated my democratic rights by forcing this proposal forward when council voted no.”

Griffin said she was not against amalgamation but felt the current proposal is unfair since Montague would provide about 60 per cent of the tax base while having only 20 per cent of the overall population.

She said the proposal would also see Montague’s commercial tax rate set much higher than other municipalities.

“We were elected to represent Montague, not Three Rivers, so my concern is for the residents here,” said Griffin. “While I do think amalgamation could be a good thing for the town, potentially, I’m not going to sell us out to do it.”

Council was originally supposed to vote on amalgamation last night.

However, the vote was bumped up to late February after Communities Minister Richard Brown asked Montague’s mayor and CAO if it could be held earlier.

Griffin said council is not truly getting a say on the issue and provided notes from the mayor’s meeting, with Brown stating, “no community or person in the affected area has the ability to ‘opt out’ of the proposal” and that “making a motion stating you are not going to be involved does not remove you from the process.”

“The province is trying to force this proposal on us,” she said.

A group of unincorporated residents from the region has also voiced displeasure at being included in the application and is planning a rally.

Georgetown, which voted against amalgamation last year, was included the application along with the communities of Brudnell, Cardigan, Lorne Valley, Lower Montague and Valleyfield.
Montague mayor Richard Collins said he was told the week before Montague voted that the steering committee was not planning to include Georgetown.

“All of (a) sudden Montague votes (no) and they decided to include both (Montague and Georgetown). I’d love to know the answer why,” said Collins.

Coun. John MacFarlane, who voted in favour of amalgamation and was on the steering committee, said he was unaware of those plans and that he had understood all seven of the Three Rivers communities were going to be included in the application.

He said he thought the rest of council also knew that’s how the process was going to go.

“I don’t understand why they voted no. If there is something in the proposal they didn’t like, now is the time to negotiate,” said MacFarlane, who referenced a plebiscite that saw Montague residents in favour of the proposal. “We’ll just have to see how the process goes now… hopefully we’ll all work together to make this a better area.”

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