GUYSBOROUGH – A petition calling for more consultation with citizens about the planned Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex in Guysborough is now circulating online and at various businesses in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough. There are two versions of the petition, one -- which includes an online version -- was launched by Susan O’Handley of Canso.
In an interview with The Journal, O’Handley said the petition was prompted by Warden Vernon Pitts’s email response to a query from Mary LeBlanc of Canso about the project.
“Instead of a respectful reply from the warden acknowledging her concerns and providing her with appropriate information, the warden suggested LeBlanc should have run in last October’s municipal election if she was opposed to the project,” said O’Handley.
The petition calls for MODG to consult with residents “by hosting advertised and open meetings in all districts.” It also calls for a plebiscite with voting stations in all districts to vote whether they want the $11 million project to proceed or not.
“This is about being respectful to everyone and having a choice and making sure that our elected officials respect us as citizens and that we all have a voice,” said O’Handley.
O’Handley said she isn’t trying to say that she will never support this project, rather that she is calling “for a temporary halt...At the end of the day we may all agree it’s a great idea. But at least engage with us.
“I don’t want people to think for a minute that I’m against a new place for GOALS (Guysborough Options for Adult Living) or any new infrastructure for Guysborough,” she said. More information is needed about the cost and sustainability of the project, how people will use it, she said. “Maybe what they are proposing is the right thing, but maybe it’s not.”
A plebiscite would be a process for the council to gauge the long-term support of the project and engage all citizens in the process, she said.
A second petition initiated by Renee Albrecht also calls for the project to be stopped, and suggests smaller projects throughout the municipality be pursued instead.
There has been much debate on both sides of this issue on social media in the past week. O’Handley stressed the need for “everyone to be respectful of each other’s opinions” and work together to improve all areas of the county.
O’Handley said a public meeting was planned for Tuesday in Canso to provide more information on what is behind the petition, for those interested.
Warden Pitts says he doesn’t regret sending the email that caused discontent. In an interview with The Journal, he added that it might have been worded differently.
“Could I have worded it differently? Most certainly I could have,” he said.
The warden says he’s sorry if LeBlanc took offense.
Pitts said the municipality’s CAO, Barry Carroll, reached out to LeBlanc to offer a meeting to discuss finances and other aspects of the project, but she declined.
He said the municipality has done much to get information out in the community.
“But how many times do we keep putting it out there?” he asked.
Pitts was also critical of the role of social media in the discussion.
“Why judge something based on Facebook?” he asked. “You don’t have the facts. It’s just a gossip mill.
“If people want to talk to me, my door is always open,” he said. “I accept all phone calls.” Pitts said he does not have a Facebook page.
“I can’t always give people the answer they want, but it’s an honest answer.”
The warden says there is much misinformation in circulation and the municipality wants to get the correct information out.
“We must remember too that this was a unanimous vote of council,” he said.
“We held our open house and people attended that. There was no negativity. There were people who had questions and there were staff and others there to answer the questions. You have to ask the questions in the proper venue.
“Don’t chastise me on Facebook. Come in, sit down, let’s resolve this.”
Pitts said if there is a petition to present “we’ll accept the petition and we’ll certainly take it into consideration in the overall picture.”
In discussing his own support for the Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex, Pitts said this facility will be “mostly for the children and they shouldn’t have any less than students elsewhere.”