BY GARY ROBBINS
This process all started up west when several communities attempted annexation and amalgamation under the old Municipal Government Act (MGA), and were defeated by democracy. So how did the P.E.I. government respond? They started enforcing sections of the MGA which had not previously been used by smaller communities as it would have caused an administrative burden.
The government then began work on amendments to the MGA and elicited the help of the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities (FPEIM) in getting the word out to all community councils. The residents of most communities were not involved in this process and it was not shared with people in the unincorporated areas at all, since it had nothing to do with them at that time.
However, little did we know that the government’s plan was to amalgamate the 73 municipalities down to 20 to 25 super municipalities using annexation to force all unincorporated areas into these super municipalities. This is in the works right now folks, so the rest of you will be amalgamated soon. This is no longer an Eastern P.E.I. problem, it is an Island problem.
Forced annexation has been well hidden in the new legislation and any requirements that had been placed around annexation have been removed. For example, the old act indicated that the council requesting the changes had to provide written notice to the residents of the area to be annexed along with a copy of the proposed resolution, a map illustrating the area to be annexed identifying the relevant properties by parcel number, a statement of the reasons for the extension, municipal services to be provided, and a statement of financial implications (taxes). This has all been removed under the new act.
The amendments included new powers for the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment which would allow him to overrule any council decision and forcibly annex, amalgamate and restructure at will. He showed his abuse of this power recently when he overturned the no vote from both Georgetown and Montague and ignored the no vote of the unincorporated residents.
Therefore, he has full power over all municipal councils and no one has a say in anything. Of the five communities left on the steering committee, Lower Montague and Valleyfield both overturned the no vote of their residents. When you add that to the other three communities left in the steering committee, they represent about 2,003 residents. How can 27 per cent of a population file a proposal that will disrupt the lives of 5,400 other people?
Other provinces have made the mistake that Premier MacLauchlan and Minister Brown are so vigorously pursuing for us. Super municipalities are going bankrupt and downloading provincial services such as land use planning and highway maintenance to municipalities has been a disaster. I don’t believe P.E.I. should move in this direction. We are unique and that is something to be proud of, not something to be squashed. We don’t need to look like the rest of Canada.
I believe all municipalities should join Rural P.E.I. in the fight to have the amendments to the MGA changed. They are undemocratic and against civil rights. This is disrupting the lives of a lot of rural residents and those in small communities. New bylaws and new taxes are particularly devastating to our seniors who struggle to survive and sometimes have to choose between food and heat.
When the discussions began on the Three Rivers project, communities were told there was no obligation and that if they wanted to leave, they could. This was stated over and over again by Minister Mitchell. He was not speaking as a private citizen, but as the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment and on behalf of the P.E.I. government. Now, these same communities are being told that they have no choice in the matter and they cannot opt out.
Premier MacLauchlan, you and your MLAs were elected to represent the people – not to rule the people. Please, please call an election now. This is one vote you can’t take away from me.
- Gary Robbins, Martinvale, is a retired veteran and an opponent to the amalgamation process in the Three Rivers area.