Labrador City set to vote this fall on amalgamating with Wabush

Labrador City's mayor wants his town to amalgamate with neighbouring Wabush, but that town's mayor isn't interested.

This September, residents of Labrador City will have their say.

"We have to know it's what the people want, so that's why we want to do a plebiscite," said Labrador City Mayor Wayne Button said.

"If the plebiscite comes back where people of Labrador City don't want it, we won't carry out any more steps."

Despite the early appearances of agreement on the subject, Wabush Mayor Ron Barron has said in the past that he does not want his town to merge with Labrador City.

"Everyone knows my personal thoughts on it," Barron said in February 2018. "I'm against it."

However, Barron has expressed interest in the regionalization of services — something that has caused some disagreement between the two towns, as Wabush has sought help from Labrador City to cover the operating costs for its recreation centre.

Looking for public input

The impetus for this fall's vote on amalgamation is to find out if public support is behind the idea, Labrador City's mayor said.

A 2017 feasibility study done by Stantec recommended that the neighbouring mining towns merge. But the mayors of both towns have since changed, and Button said input from residents themselves is needed to move forward.

Terry Roberts/CBC

"Although they did a good study, we didn't really have a good gauge of what the population thought," Button said. 

"With the help of the provincial government we went ahead and got a consultant, which came in to do public consultations a couple of months ago."

The towns hosted consultations on amalgamation earlier this year, Button said, and residents surveyed said they support the move, with 52 per cent saying they wanted the two towns to amalgamate. Among Labrador City residents alone, 80 per cent wanted to vote on amalgamation, he said.

"When we saw those numbers we realized we should probably go ahead with a plebiscite," Button said.

But there's no guidebook for this move, Button said, so if the vote indicates an appetite for amalgamation the next step will be to consult the provincial department of Municipal Affairs, as the province doesn't have amalgamation legislation.

"In the Municipal Act itself the word amalgamation is probably only mentioned about three to four times," he said.

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