WENTWORTH CREEK, N.S. — After decades of boundary disputes and various squabbles, Windsor and West Hants councils are looking to bury the hatchet and join together as one municipal unit.
After nearly a two hour private session of joint council, elected officials representing Windsor and West Hants have agreed to pursue municipal reform.
On July 19, after the respective councils came out of the in camera session, it was moved that the municipalities would contact the provincial Municipal Affairs minister to enter into negotiations to consolidate the municipalities through special legislation. The process is to be completed by Dec. 31, 2020.
Both councils then individually ratified the motion.
Councillors Tanya Leopold and David Keith, both representing areas in West Hants, voted against the motion, indicating they didn't have enough information.
“I just wanted to state that I'm not comfortable supporting this motion. I don't feel that I have enough information at this time, certainly not to convey it to my constituents,” said Leopold during the joint council meeting.
Windsor Mayor Anna Allen said it was a historic moment for the area while West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian said it was a first step towards positive change.
“People say we can't get along. We do alright; it's not bad. But sometimes it was and other times it was better. So, it's time to get rid of all that, to get rid of the history and say we are moving forward. We're not doing battle, we're making plans for a very positive future for our residents – and for all of us too,” said Allen.
Municipal reform is not a new topic for Windsor and West Hants councils. Here are a few of the stories written in the last few years that highlight the journey the two municipal units have taken.
- Windsor council severs ties with West Hants
- Hants County municipal governance info meeting draws huge crowd
- West Hants cautious over formation of group to examine Windsor dissolution
- Windsor and West Hants councils trade barbs over amalgamation issue
- Windsor town councillors sign citizens' amalgamation petition
- It’s official: amalgamation application sent requesting merger of Windsor, West Hants
- Lengthy road ahead for Windsor, West Hants residents seeking amalgamation
- West Hants to appeal UARB's amalgamation cost sharing ruling
- Windsor suspends amalgamation application, signs MOU with West Hants
- Windsor council approves memorandum of understanding with West Hants
'Bigger is better'
In an interview following the meeting, Allen said Windsor has long been in favour of some kind of municipal reform and praised Zebian for leading the charge on the latest initiative. He suggested having a private meeting, which featured the two elected officials and the two chief administrative officers. Then a private meeting with both councils was proposed.
Allen said she strongly supports becoming one unit.
“It hasn't worked being single or working on our own. I think, in this case, bigger is better. I think it'll make it more streamlined for our service to our residents,” she said, adding all the details will have to be worked out within the next two years.
“All the questions and doubts and criticisms about amalgamation will be clarified and we will know for sure exactly the impact it would have before election 2020,” she said, adding the public will have a chance to provide input into the process as they iron out the details.
West Hants' warden said consolidating the municipal units is the way forward.
“We were elected a little over a year and a half ago. We've come together as joint councils. We've tried to work through issues pertaining to both units and as much as we do make progress, it seems as if it's going to be a very long road. The longer we wait, the further behind we fall from other units who are roaring ahead,” said Zebian in an interview.
“I think a consolidation... will eliminate all the bureaucracy. It will eliminate the borders. It will eliminate the individuals who are loyal to their respective units and aren't thinking of the whole picture.”
Zebian stressed that change is necessary, and that while it can be controversial or unsettling, he predicts people will look back in five to 10 years time and see the leadership being provided to residents.
“I think we all want to flourish. I think we all want to benefit. I think we all want a bigger, happier, healthier community. That's what it comes down to – building something that we're all benefiting from,” said Zebian.
“Ten years from now, people will look back when we are flourishing, and when people are moving here because this is the place to be, they'll look back and they'll say 'those guys took that step,'” he added.
With Hants West MLA Chuck Porter being appointed earlier this month as the provincial minister of Municipal Affairs, Allen said now is the ideal time to move forward with an amalgamation.
“It's a great opportunity to strike,” said Allen. “Windsor is doing very well economically right now. West Hants is having some great ideas and things they're doing. We're both doing well. Now is the time. You don't wait until it's too late, until you have to dissolve. We don't want to do that. We want to work together equally in forming our future.”
How that equal partnership will shake out is still very much in the early stages. Allen said those interested in watching the process unfold may want to attend the next joint council meeting, which is slated for July 26 at 6 p.m. in West Hants.