Money for Three Rivers being left on the table, says mayoral candidate

Debbie Johnston and Ray Brow in the Island Morning studio with Mitch Cormier. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)
Debbie Johnston and Ray Brow in the Island Morning studio with Mitch Cormier. (Nicola MacLeod/CBC - image credit)

The candidates for mayor in the eastern P.E.I. town of Three Rivers disagree on whether the town could be doing more to attract money from other levels of government.

Debbie Johnston and Ray Brow discussed the issues facing the town during a roundtable on Island Morning Friday. Municipalities across the province are holding elections Nov. 7.

Both candidates agreed that with municipal infrastructure being expensive and municipal tax bases limited, convincing provincial and federal governments to invest is crucial. Brow said he is hearing from provincial politicians the town could be doing more.

"They have pots of money that they would like to bring to the town but the town hasn't been that aggressive to get this money," said Brow, who has not previously served on a municipal council in the area.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

"It astounds me as a business person that we are not doing more. I think we can reach out not only to the provincial government but to the federal government and turn over every rock to find the dollars that we can bring into Three Rivers."

Johnston, who has been deputy mayor, argued the town has been successful at getting infrastructure built. She pointed to the expansion of water and sewer into Brudenell, which she said was part of $9 million worth of projects in the town over the last four years.

She said she knows there is more money available, and she will go after it.

"If I have to call somebody in government I have no trouble with that if we need something in Three Rivers," said Johnston.

"That's the key to getting anything done. Keeping our services, you know, going ahead with development."

Bringing community together

The candidates also addressed the state of the town, following its creation four years ago.

Three Rivers came together as part of an amalgamation push. It's a sprawling community, a mix of farm, forest and urban areas with a population of 7,200 covering an area 10 times the size of Charlottetown.

There was resistance from outlying areas to the amalgamation. There is still some resentment, said Brow, though it is fading.

"I do hear it on the doorstep somewhat. They want to know what's in it for me to be in the town of Three Rivers," he said.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC

"Number one is communication. You have to be able to get the people from the outlying areas, such as Launching and Panmure Island, to feel as comfortable to be in Three Rivers as people in Montague."

Johnston said while there is some lingering anti-amalgation sentiment, she is not hearing it a lot, and she credits the work of the previous council.

"The 12 councillors that were at the table the last four years did a good job of bringing those communities' needs to the table and seeing that they were met," she said.

"It's been coming together fairly well."

Amalgamating bylaws

The town is on the verge of approving its first official plan.

The community's first four years have brought some frustration for people looking to build in the town, on a small or large scale, both candidates said. Old bylaws from the previous communities are still in force, meaning the rules are different depending on where in the town you live.

Travis Kingdon/CBC News
Travis Kingdon/CBC News

"I hear the complaints about the holdups now with the building permits," said Johnston.

"I'm confident that when we get all our bylaws under one document that our staff will have a better document to work with and our residents will find this will move smoother."

While Brow supports the official plan, he said further change is required. He said he is hearing from developers the town's culture needs to change.

"They don't feel a very positive attitude is coming from the town," he said.

"I want to change that. I want to make sure there is a very positive reception and there's a positive reception for development."

Voters will also be electing a new council in a new format on Monday.

The structure of council is being changed from 10 wards to four, with two councillors representing each ward.