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OPINION: Ominous undercurrents

Three Rivers area resident Michael Pagé speaks during a public meeting Nov. 7 at Montague Regional High School on the proposed amalgamation of the region.

GUARDIAN FILE PHOTO
Three Rivers area resident Michael Pagé speaks during a public meeting Nov. 7 at Montague Regional High School on the proposed amalgamation of the region. GUARDIAN FILE PHOTO - The Guardian

Annexation means a duplication of services and just adds another layer of government

BY GARY ROBBINS

GUEST OPINION

Regarding the Three Rivers (amalgamation) takeover, it is apparent that our democratic and civil rights are being ignored by this committee and our provincial government.

When the seven municipalities decided to amalgamate, we didn’t pay much attention, as we did not know that these 4,000 people were going to “annex” 3,000 more in the unincorporated areas without their knowledge.

Don’t tell me that they informed everyone because after doing a survey of all residents in my community, only two had ever received one notice of the public consultations and as of last week most of them didn’t know it affected them.

As a veteran and history buff, the word “annex” gives me chills as it has a certain familiarity with another politician who wanted to do wonderful things to help his people. Hitler fought long and hard to get elected and then he decided he needed more tax dollars to accomplish his goals.

As such, he annexed first Austria and then Czechoslovakia. He then went on to invade a good part of Europe. This is what annexation means to me.

This Municipalities Act is totally backwards. It allows these municipalities to apply for Island taxpayer dollars to fund the initial study with the permission of the Island government to waste Island taxpayer dollars to start this.

They have been working (in secret) on this project for almost four years – it started in 2014. According to the Municipalities Act, they don’t even have to tell us what they are planning to do to us until four weeks prior to filing the documentation with the minister. Now those who are opposed to being annexed, have four weeks to get the word out to 3,000 people and get them mobilized. The key points they need to be aware of are:

- New municipal tax at an undisclosed amount after four years of planning;

- New bylaws, which will be imposed and enforced by a paid bylaws officer;

- No benefits for rural areas;

- Eleven paid employees at a cost of $495,000 per year with a 2 per cent annual increase

This is a duplication of services and just adds another layer of government, which we don’t need. We pay for our own water and sewer, yard light, garbage pickup, fire dues, etc. Becoming part of this new municipality will not change any of that.

Our Premier and his ministers are already elected and paid to represent all people of the province and provide services such as building permits, emergency measures, land usage, etc. Our provincial tax dollars pay for road maintenance, policing, schools, hospitals, seniors’ homes, etc.

This is not something that is affecting only 3,000 people in these unincorporated areas, it affects all Islanders and here’s why. They have already spent $40,000 - $50,000 of taxpayers’ dollars to do an initial study. If this project moves forward, and gets the funding they are requesting, it will cost Island taxpayers $586,700 for transitional funding to establish the new municipality in year one, $166,700 in year two and $66,700 in year three ($820,100).

In addition, long-term sustainability funding of $200,000 is requested for the next five years ($1 million additional dollars). So over five years, the province will use Island taxpayer dollars to the tune of over $1.8 million dollars for this one municipality. I realize this is only their proposed budget, but it could be less or a lot more.

Anything this important to the lives of residents should be held to the 50 per cent, plus one vote of the total proposed population. Just because we are not incorporated, that does not mean that we should not have a say in what happens. This affects us in a major way including a new municipal tax that we never paid before and new bylaws we will now need to abide by.

Minister Mitchell, refusing a vote to 40 per cent of the people impacted is simply unacceptable. This is not democracy, it’s dictatorship. How dare you tell us that we have no right to be heard? Perhaps Islanders should have a vote of no confidence in the Premier and his ministers – that would be having our say.

No representation without a vote.

- Gary Robbins is a resident of the unincorporated area of Martinvale, located adjacent to the village of Cardigan.

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