WINDSOR, N.S. – Bill 55, special legislation that would merge the town of Windsor and the municipality of West Hants has passed third reading.
That means that work can begin in earnest towards merging the two units after years of conflict and debate.
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter said he was thrilled to see the bill, his first as minister of municipal affairs, passed unanimously.
Once it receives royal assent, it will become law.
“It’s great that my first bill was able to be this bill, especially where it was voluntarily between the two units wanting to work together,” Porter said.
When asked about rebranding costs for a merged unit, Porter said he hasn’t considered that issue yet, but added that the province will consider a variety of ways to assist in the transition.
Windsor and West Hants will be merged into one municipal unit by April, 2020.
Porter said he’s not aware of anything that could stop the two units from merging at this point.
“This is going forward, there’s nothing that will change that, (both councils) have agreed to do this,” he said. “The legislation is done and we’re now on the road to transition to one unit.”
He said that those who have questions or are concerned about consolidation should participate in the public engagement sessions.
The province will appoint, with some guidance from Windsor and West Hants councils, a transition coordinator, who will be a part of the transition committee, along with two representatives from each council.
The province has budgeted $500,000 towards transition coordinator administration costs and any studies that may be needed. The transition coordinator is paid a daily per diem.
To read Bill 55 in detail, click here.
Without naming which municipalities, Porter said several other local governments have been watching what happens with this style of amalgamation.
“Others may take part in a similar scenario down the road,” he said. “We’re very open to having those conversations. Windsor-West Hants is truly leading the way in something brand new in Nova Scotia.”
Local leaders ready
West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian said he understands that some residents in West Hants are divided on this topic.
“I don’t think that anybody is unhappy, it’s just change is scary sometimes and it’s the unknown,” Zebian said. “During our public meetings we will be explaining the whole process to people and in the end, I firmly believe it will be status quo, but with one council, one strong unit and great times ahead.”
Mayor Anna Allen said she was excited to hear Bill 55 passed, adding that now it’s up to the two council’s and staff to roll up their sleeves.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and I suspect we’ll be meeting on a regular basis, weekly no doubt,” Allen said. “It’s good news, let’s get going.”