Putting The Town Back In Springhill

Just in case you thought the upheaval in Springhill was over…It’s not.  One man, my good friend Murray Scott is fighting to put the town back in Springhill.

Here is the letter that started it all.

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Source: Murray Scott

ncorporated town to becoming a community under the governance of the Municipality of Cumberland.

Let me begin by saying that it is never easy to govern, especially when money is always a major factor. However, after speaking with many local residents and listening to their comments, I am convinced that the process chosen here was and is not the way to proceed. There is a misconception that it is already too late. That is not the case. There is still time to engage the community and its citizens in the process.

Canso is an example of a community which took time to inform its citizens of their situation. Options were explored and information was made public. Citizens were given opportunities for discussion and thus were fully prepared to make an informed decision when the plebiscite was given. Their mayor and council had chosen transparency and that resulted in the majority choosing the act of dissolution.

Bridgetown, as we know, is facing the same challenges. However, their mayor has been quoted as saying that they will not proceed in the manner that Springhill has chosen.

The issue of timing is very important. Why are we rushing to dissolve our town when we have neither had all of the facts presented to us, nor had an opportunity to work through the process.

We know that we have high taxes and that we are faced with financial challenges by there is so much more which we do not know.

If our financial situation is as bleak as has been stated, then show us the facts and give us all the information which the mayor and council have been privy. Does this not make sense?

Have other option s been explored? Was there dialogue with the other units in Cumberland County o see if services could be shared? Was the provincial government approached to explore options or opportunities. Was the advice or expertise sought from other knowledgeable resources? If these questions were posed then what were the results? Do we not deserve to know the answers?

It has been suggested that the benefits to dissolution will mean lower taxes but what about the disadvantages? The citizens of Springhill need time to discuss all aspects, both benefits and disadvantages, so that there will not be unexpected surprises.

I fear there will be a far greater job loss than many suspect. The dissolution will have a trickledown effect. The pink slips have begun to appear. What other town employees will be next? No position can be considered safe.

What will the future be for All Saints Hospital? Previous mayors and councils, along with the citizens of Springhill, have banded together with the Cumberland District Health Authority to protect and expand services provided at All Saints. As District Health Authorities are eliminated, and with the proposal for dissolution, who will work to maintain a hospital here in Springhill? Have these jobs been factored into the equation?

The list of other services, that we enjoy in Springhill, may possibly be in jeopardy as well. What will be in store for the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre or our Senior Citizen’s Centre?

As citizens of the Town of Springhill we have the right to know what the results of the act of dissolution will be prior to the dissolution. Our future should not be marked with so many unknowns. We need to be given the opportunity to know everything was tried before the town was dissolved and we can’t be assured of that if we have not been involved in the process.

We are only asking for the same opportunities as the citizens of Canso. After we have been presented with all the facts, we must be given the right to have a plebiscite. We, the people, have a right to decide our future. If the citizens decide that dissolution is the route that Springhill should take, then so be it.

It is not too late. The mayor and council must act in the interests of all citizens and notify the province that it is postponing the application for dissolution immediately. The process must include citizen involvement. A committee chosen by the citizens must be given the mandate which would include searching out all possible options, calling upon qualified individuals when necessary to assist, and keeping residents informed of the process. The final action must be a plebiscite.

Is this not what democracy means?

That letter then sparked this following news article.

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Source: Murray Scott, Cumberland News Now

Murray Scott served with the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives from 1998 to 2010 before retiring from politics, has pondered the decision for several weeks and has come to the same conclusion he says many people have drawn since mayor and council announced the decision in March – why?

“I love this town. I was born and raised here. It’s been good to me and my family,” Scott said in an interview this week after sending a letter to the editor over his concerns. “I just think it’s incumbent on all of us to make sure the community remains as we know it. I don’t doubt the hard choices, but I hoped before the decision was made the community could have explored all of the options together.”

Scott says he spoke with a number of residents over the issue and the questions he was hearing from citizens were largely the same as his own. What was the financial picture? What were the options? How out of hand were the town’s finances really?

At the end of the day, unanswered questions are plaguing the process and needs to be rectified before a decision like dissolving the incorporated town moves forward.

“Some people I’ve spoken to are just sickened by the decision and you can either sit back and say the decision is made or you can try to get some answers. The people who pay taxes, shouldn’t they have the final say?”

There’s nothing from stopping the town from notifying the province and the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board it is postponing the application to dissolve the town, Scott said. If they did, citizens could be consulted and given the same information used to come to the decision before offering a plebiscite. If things are as grim as the public has been told, the people will draw the same conclusion, Scott said, and letting the people come to that decision is part of the democratic process.

“I hoped before the decision was made the community could have explored all of the options together.”

“I think its vital public meetings be held… I’m not an accountant but I have questions myself. I think people, at the end of the day, will make the right decision.”

A transparent and engaged process is essential, Scott said, because the decision to dissolve the town will remove a lot of its lobbying power in the future. As an example, he points to the All Saints Hospital and the many times its was mayor and council who rallied the people to fight for keeping it open when previous governments considered closing it. The move to close the existing regional health authorities in favour of two provincial authorities is a loss of one group of advocates, Scott said. The loss of mayor and council is another.

“My experience has been local issues need local people. The former mayors banded the community to make sure All Saints stayed open here,” Scott said. “If they dissolve, no one is left to fight for All Saints. The decision is going to be made in Halifax by the finance department and I’ve heard it before, why have a local hospital when you have a regional hospital just twenty minutes away.”

Its issues like this and many more Scott says will come up in the following five years after dissolution the public needs all the information it can absorb before going to a plebiscite on the issue of dissolution.

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I’m not sure if it’ll do anything. Good on Murray for making an effort though.  In the end governments will do what governments will do, no matter what the level they occupy.  Nobody can spend more than they have and get away with it for too long, but it’s worth a try, especially for those people who need this community to stay a “town.”

We’ll have to wait and see what happens I guess.  Since I live here, I can keep you all pretty well informed.

Stay tuned.

Related Article:

“Springhill No Longer A Town BUT Still a “Town.”

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