By Wyn Jones
The Halifax Regional Municipality came into being on April 1st, 1996 after a torturous and, at times, acrimonious birthing. It brought together the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, the town of Bedford, and the Municipal County of Halifax. At the time, the Canadian media were portraying the process as an example of how not to proceed with the amalgamation process. The initial costs of the amalgamation were forecast to bring in big savings when in actual fact the costs proved to be close to triple the budgets allotted.
Of course, the big winner was the cash-strapped City of Halifax, which has seen its benefits increase since day one at the expense of the remaining partners. But the biggest mistake made was, and has always has been, the forced inclusion of the rural areas, particularly the communities along the Eastern Shore.
In any amalgamation process, the largest and most dominant partner will always end up basically running the whole show with the crumbs left to the junior partners to scrabble for amongst themselves. This is just how the world works and the politicians at the time well knew the outcome.
The neglect of the concerns of the communities all along the Eastern Shore from Lawrencetown to Ecum Secum has shown how City Hall’s blinkered view of its mandate is reflected in our ongoing problems. That we do not receive fair and adequate funding for infrastructure, schooling, transportation and development initiatives is painfully obvious. The accompanying articles on the proposed C&D dump and the denial of building permits are proof of the heartless lack of understanding of life on the Eastern Shore.
We need development and we need a chance to grow to become an integral part of the so-called HRM. The not so benign neglect shows that our mayor, council, and the administration’s senior management hold very undemocratic views on how HRM should be governed. Our voices must be heard and decisions made on our behalf should not be made by uncaring politicians and nameless bureaucrats tied up in their own downtown world, who seem to be deciding our lives for us while ignoring the concerns of the local population.
With an election coming in the Fall and possibly a provincial vote in the Spring, we should take advantage of the times and start thinking of that word that strikes fear into the hearts of many HRM politicians and bureaucrats….“De-Amalgamation”!
It has happened before. After amalgamation took place creating the Regional City of Winnipeg, the rural community of Headingley suffered from exactly the same problems that we are experiencing. They voted by more than 86% in a plebiscite to de-amalgamate. After a period of sorting out the technicalities with the City of Winnipeg and, with the approval and consent of the Government of Manitoba, Headingley took its own path. Contrary to dire predictions of failure and financial loss, it has become an innovative and fiscally healthy community whilst at the same time preserving the enjoyment and the concept of rural country living.
Think about it: wouldn’t we be more likely to take care of our own interests as a community of communities within a sensible and workable amalgamation involving the whole of the Eastern Shore? We could concentrate our many resources to supporting our own way of life, free from the demands of the big city, and be able to channel our tax dollars directly to our own needs without seeing them disappear into the gaping maw of HRM.
Revolution is in the air. It is time to question the status quo.