To: Robert Mitchell, Minister, Communities, Land and Environment.
I am writing to share with you my concerns regarding the amalgamation process in the Three Rivers area. My first taste of that process came when I attended a meeting at the Rodd Brudenell River Resort on August 14, aimed at the residents of the unamalgamated areas of Burnt Point and Georgetown Royalty. I was interested because until this meeting was called, I assumed that the Three Rivers project only pertained to the incorporated towns in the area.
In a previous time and place, I and hundreds of other municipal workers were tasked with preparing the Ottawa area for amalgamation. We looked at best practices, reports recommending amalgamations and studying analyses of outcomes from these amalgamations. We looked at models all over North America. I have one absolute take-away from these processes. Rural areas, in our case unincorporated areas, are net losers in these amalgamations. I stated my position during the Brudenell meeting in the three minutes allocated. I came to that meeting curious and concerned. I left it cynical and disturbed.
In my opinion, this meeting was a waste of time. The moderator was not neutral and the ‘questions only’ format was insulting. I left at the break as I had spoken and I had taken a measure of the meeting.
Apparently, near the end of the meeting, Ray Brow pulled out a petition, requesting government to grant ‘resort municipality’ status to Burnt Point and Georgetown Royalty. He proceeded to send the request to you, having acquired the requisite 30 signatures. In his cover letter, Brow stated, “amalgamation is in our future.” On whose authority did he make that statement? He certainly wasn’t speaking for me or anyone I have spoken to since that meeting.
The 2015 consultant’s report “Stronger Together” addressed the potential amalgamation of seven incorporated municipalities. Somewhere along the way, the two unincorporated areas were included into the mandate. Why? I fail to see how including unincorporated communities makes any sense unless it is to give the new municipalities a little candy to help swallow the bitter pill - a larger tax base for no additional effort.
You, Mr. Minister, promised a collaborative process. So far, the Steering Committee has been secretive, its members having to sign confidentiality agreements. Then, there was the bizarre meeting at the Brudenell Resort with a surprise petition and no outcomes. My mood is not improving.
This brings me to the ‘why’ of including our two unincorporated communities into the Three Rivers amalgamation. We won’t gain a single benefit and we will lose our direct access to services provided by the province which work very well indeed. Nothing is broken here so don’t try and fix it for us.
We don’t need amalgamation, and we don’t want it.
Finally, I want to address all the assurances I’ve heard that we won’t be forced into such a process. We also will have a voice on council. And yes, if there are upward tax adjustments, it will be done on a differential basis. Well, the reality is that all promises, recommendations and wishful thinking disappears once the amalgamation is complete and a new municipality comes into being. A new council of a new municipality is not bound by anything that came before it. And that promised voice is pretty small on any council. People in unincorporated areas can roar with mighty voices when the issue matters, and that is a far better position than a squeak on council. I also understand that government would like all this finished in time for the 2018 municipal elections. My mood is still not improving.
A number of us in Burnt Point have formed a committee to protect the interest of residents here and in Georgetown Royalty. I hope we will be pleasantly surprised when your report is circulated. However, if we are included in the proposed new municipality, we will fight it for all the reasons set out in this letter.
- Sylvia Teasdale is a resident of the unincorporated rural area of Burnt Point near Georgetown