MODG intends to amend land acknowledgment, maintains silence on landfill sale price

·5 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – At the regular monthly Municipality of the District Guysborough (MODG) council meeting on June 15, council passed a motion to start the process of changing a municipal by-law.

The amendment would add to the land acknowledgement read at the beginning of every council meeting in recognition that council is in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kma’ki People, and recognize the Blacks of Nova Scotia, whose legacy and contribution dates back more than 400 years.

Councillor Hudson MacLeod, District 7, was the only councillor who voted against the motion. He explained that, while he supported the creation of the Black seat on council when it was created over 25 years ago, he wouldn’t support the acknowledgement of one group over others that had also contributed to Nova Scotia.

In other business, Councillor Paul Long, District 1, asked to speak about student employment this summer. He said, “At the waterfront we’re trying to find students [as are] some of the other organizations around town…It’s a hard job right now to find summer students here to work. We had five or six applications and there’s only two now for three positions. The other ones said they already had jobs…there’s a lot of jobs around just not a lot of students to fill them, unfortunately.”

The MODG has faced similar issues this summer with only two applications for four student labourer positions.

Discussion around the council table indicated that university-aged students were not returning to fill summer jobs as they had a decade ago. Volunteer and non-profit organizations that had summer jobs for students now rely on high school students to fill positions.

Although not part of the discussion at council, the sale of the Guysborough Waste Management Facility (WMF) has been a topic of discussion in the community since the MODG formerly announced it on June 7.

When council adjourned, MODG Warden Vernon Pitts had some comments on the sale of the WMF for the media.

Pitts said the MODG had contracts with various municipal units, and “These contracts are running out in a couple of years. We tried to start negations with our major contract. There was no dial tone, there was no pickup, no negotiations…they went out for expressions of interest in regards to waste management services; that’s disposal, collection, hauling – the whole nine yards. So, based upon that, it didn’t look like they were coming this way. So, if we lose our largest client, it’s no longer a viable business.”

Near and long-term viability was one factor MODG considered when negotiating the sale, Pitts said, “But, that wasn’t the only thing, another thing is diversion. Back when we first did the second gen [generation] site 20-plus years ago, we had all kinds of solid waste coming in and everything was weighed, it was all going into the pit. A very easy mathematic equation. Now, all of a sudden, all our plastics, our mattresses, our fabrics, they’re not going into the pit anymore. So, we’re not being paid for that anymore and what I see coming down the line, in regard to diversion, we are going to have less. Now, we don’t even have lumber going in…we don’t get credit for it.

“We didn’t like to do it,” said Pitts of the sale, “We made some major investments over the years. We made sure that we looked after our employees first and foremost…price was the next thing…and we went from there.”

Pitts added, “I think it is a win-win. GFL [the company that bought the facility], what would happen if they decided, ‘Well, we want that and it’s going to be a hostile takeover. So, we’ll just drive you out of business …’ So, what do you do in a case like that? Your landfill is worth ‘x’ number of dollars for today, on a good day, if you negotiate, if you decide not negotiating, and it’s a hostile takeover, then all of a sudden your asset is now a liability. We got rid of it when it was an asset; when it was worth something.”

Questions have been raised on social media and sent to The Journal via online messenger about the non-disclosure of the purchase price, given it was sold by a public entity, the MODG.

Krista Higdon, media spokesperson for Municipal Affairs and Housing, told The Journal in an email, “The rules that apply to municipalities with respect to the disclosure of information can be found in the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy provisions contained in the Municipal Government Act (Part XX). While the default position in Part XX is that the public has a right to access such information, access can be refused if one or more of the various exceptions apply. If there are questions about the application of the Act and whether an exception applies in this case, you should speak with the municipality.”

The Journal requested an explanation of the application of the Act from MODG CAO Barry Carroll, who responded in an email, “I’m not going to get into the legalities of price disclosure as it pertains to the MGA (Municipal Government Act). What I can tell you is that the terms of the agreement with GFL Environmental is covered by a Confidentiality Agreement and, as such, they are commercially confidential. If GFL chose to disclose the price, Council would have no issue with that. We work in the public domain and GFL works in the private domain, and they are impacted by competition with other businesses, while that is not an issue for us.”

Minutes from the special council meeting held on June 7 that passed the motion to sell the Waste Management Facility are now available on the MODG website under Government: Council Minutes.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal

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