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Windsor-West Hants residents weigh in on new regional council district maps

John Heseltine, director of the governance review with Stantec, and Cogmagun resident Adam Brown, discuss one of the electoral district maps that were on display at the Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary School in Summerville.
John Heseltine, director of the governance review with Stantec, and Cogmagun resident Adam Brown, discuss one of the electoral district maps that were on display at the Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary School in Summerville. - Colin Chisholm
SUMMERVILLE, N.S. —

Members of the public are providing input on what they’d like a new regional council to look like, both at public meetings and through an online survey, in the second phase of a governance review for Windsor and West Hants.

This review is part of the efforts to amalgamate Windsor and West Hants into one regional municipality.

West Hants Coun. Rupert Jannasch, left and transition co-ordinator Kevin Latimer chat during a public meeting in Summerville.
West Hants Coun. Rupert Jannasch, left and transition co-ordinator Kevin Latimer chat during a public meeting in Summerville.

At a recent meeting in Summerville, residents were presented with two potential scenarios of how a new regional council could be laid out, and what district they’d be voting in during the next municipal election.

One scenario included nine districts plus a mayor; the other featured 11 councillors plus a mayor.

Those two scenarios were based on the first phase of the governance review, which focused on what citizens would like to see in terms of the size of the new council.

About 15 members of the public, along with councillors and officials, attended the public meeting at Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary in Summerville on March 7.

Rupert Jannasch is the councillor of District 1, which includes the community. He said it’s important for the co-ordinating committee to realize that many rural residents have spotty internet connections, making an online survey difficult.

“I think the whole public engagement process got off to a bit of a rocky start with the meetings all being concentrated within spitting distance of Windsor,” Jannasch said. “They’ve got some of the issues ironed out now.”

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He pointed to the nine-district scenario, which proposes a massive District 1 that spans from Walton to Kempt Shore and all the way across to Scotch Village.

“It begs the question how many polling stations there would be during an election,” he said.

This scenario from Stantec shows a combined Windsor-West Hants region with nine electoral districts.
This scenario from Stantec shows a combined Windsor-West Hants region with nine electoral districts.

Jannasch added that he’d be more comfortable seeing the new regional council start with a larger size initially and then whittle down in size over future boundary reviews.

According to the Stantec study, in the 11-district arrangement, the proposed District 1 falls moderately outside the parity criterion (12.5 per cent below the average). In the nine-district scenario, all districts are within the criterion.

This is a criterion, set by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, that states that all electoral districts need to be plus or minus 10 per cent within the average, although exceptions can be made.

In the 11-district scenario, the average number of electors is 1,390. In nine, the average number is 1,699.

Survey underway

Like the first part of the governance review, an online survey is being conducted and those results will be reflected in Stantec’s report and recommendation to the Co-ordinating Committee.

The survey asks residents to pick their preference, either one of the two options, or neither, with the option to provide comments on what they’d like to see.

Printed versions of the surveys are available at the town and municipal offices.

John Heseltine, director of the governance review, said that so far the majority of respondents of the online survey preferred the nine districts scenario.

This scenario from Stantec shows a combined Windsor-West Hants region with 11 electoral districts.
This scenario from Stantec shows a combined Windsor-West Hants region with 11 electoral districts.

Helen Patterson, who lives in Summerville, said she’s been following the consolidation matter for some time, saying it’s likely to bring a lot of changes to residents.

“I’ve accepted that this is going to happen, that this is actually going to happen, and I think a lot of people have,” she said. “So now it’s just about following along and seeing what’s planned for us.”

Patterson said she wanted to take a closer look before deciding on which district boundary scenario she preferred.

Adam Brown, who lives in Cogmagun, said he wanted to attend the meeting to stay up-to-date with the consolidation process.

Brown said with the 11-district scenario, the Burlingtons are split up whereas they’re kept together with the nine-district plan.

“I think I’d go with (nine districts) for that simple reason,” he said.

Brown, who cites a lack of high-speed internet access as his primary concern, said he doesn’t see how consolidation will benefit his community.

Currently, the Town of Windsor and Municipality of West Hants accounts for 15 elected officials. Prior to Hantsport dissolving its charter and joining West Hants in 2015, the former town of Hantsport also had six councillors and a mayor.

The consolidation process aims to have the Town of Windsor and Municipality of West Hants merge into one regional municipality on April 1, 2020, becoming the fourth regional municipality in Nova Scotia.

Upcoming public meetings

To find out more about boundary review, attend one of the remaining meetings.

• March 13 — Ardoise Community Recreation Centre, 3 School House Rd., in Ardoise

• March 14 — Hants County War Memorial Community Centre, 78 Thomas St., in Windsor

• March 19 (snow date) — West Hants Municipal Office, 76 Morison Dr., in Wentworth Creek

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