Province hits pause on merger of Antigonish town, county
A proposal to merge the Town of Antigonish and Municipality of the County of Antigonish is on hold.
The town and county were set to ask for special legislation seeking the merger. In doing so, they would bypass the Municipal Government Act, which requires a public vote.
Owen McCarron, the warden of the county, said he and Antigonish Mayor Laurie Boucher met with Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr on Friday.
McCarron said Lohr told them the province had made the decision not to present the special legislation to the House of Assembly.
McCarron said he doesn't know where that leaves things. "I'm disappointed, obviously, because we worked for close to 19 months," he said.
"We worked through all the steps, and we worked with Municipal Affairs throughout the course of the engagement sessions and making sure that we weren't out of step."
CBC reached out to Lohr's office but did not hear back.
The two councils voted in favour of the merger last October, but many in the town were opposed because the public wasn't consulted.
'We feel quite victorious'
A recent poll commissioned by Let Antigonish Decide, a local group against the merger, got 344 responses from both town and county. The group says 71 per cent of respondents favour a public vote and 75 per cent said they were less likely to vote for a politician promoting the merger in the next municipal election.
Ann-Marie Long, who resides in the county, believes the poll had a significant impact on the province's decision to pause the process.
"We feel quite victorious at this stage," said Long. "We will feel even more victorious if we confirm that it's off the agenda permanently."
She said the goal would be to have it settled either by plebiscite or during the next municipal election.
Town councillor Sean Cameron also believes the results of the poll led to the pause.
He voted against amalgamation last October, but he said it was because the process felt rushed to him.
Cameron said if the decision is revisited in future and the public has a vote, it is something to consider.
"There's a lot of issues," he said. "We have a unionized workforce in public works, the county does not. How are those things going to be related?"
He said he thinks the province is supporting people's right to be heard.
MORE TOP STORIES