GUYSBOROUGH – Community debate around the planned Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex has stirred up engagement with local government to a level rarely seen in Guysborough County. This was particularly evident at last Wednesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting in Guysborough.
An estimated 75 people filled the gallery, with some residents standing along the walls after all seats were taken. The attraction was the presentation of a petition with 568 names seeking more consultation about the $11 million project. Those in attendance included petitioners as well as people there to support the initiative of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough.
A second petition presented, with 70 signatures, encourages MODG to invest in smaller “grassroots” projects throughout the municipality instead of the proposed Chedabucto Lifestyle Complex.
Mary Leblanc, a retired educator in Canso, presented the petitions to council. The main petition calls for the project be temporarily halted, more consultation in all districts, consideration to be given to the opinions of all citizens, and a plebiscite to be held on the matter.
In an interview Sunday, Leblanc told The Journal that concerned citizens would like to see a financial plan for the project. She also said she’s concerned that discontent over how the project has advanced so far, with a recent call for tenders, has sometimes been portrayed as a Canso versus Guysborough issue.
“Enough of that went on in years past and that’s not the intent,” she said.
The petitions were accepted by Warden Vernon Pitts on behalf of council. Although there was no motion or discussion, Councillor Finn Armsworthy, representing the Canso area, said he is not in favour of awarding tenders until provincial and federal funding support is secured.
“We just want them to stop and ask ‘Is this really sustainable? Is it going to cost taxpayers?’” said Leblanc. She described the initiative as an $11 million project for 4600 people. “Our view is that it’s not going to be used to the extent of $11 million...Who is going to pay for the shortfall?”
She said a decision to invest this amount of money “should not be at the discretion of council. It should be at the discretion of the people.”
CAO Barry Carroll gave an overview of the project during the meeting, addressing questions that have been raised in recent weeks. LeBlanc called it an “excellent presentation” and said she would like people throughout the municipality to get this kind of detailed briefing on the project.
Leblanc said there is no question that Guysborough Options for Adaptive Living (GOALS) should get a new home, as is planned with the project. That should have happened “a long time ago,” she said.
She acknowledged that with $27.5 million in its capital reserves, MODG already has the resources needed to build the facility. “But is that the best way to use the reserve?” she asks.
“I really do not think that seniors from Canso are going to drive from Canso to use this facility.”
Regardless of the outcome of the petitions, Leblanc said she hopes MODG will better consult with citizens in the future. “If nothing else happens, I hope council becomes a little more open.”
Warden Pitts told The Journal the petition “was presented very well.” He said council will review it. “We’ll do our due diligence.”
Pitts said there was strong turnout at the meeting on both sides of the issue.
“These are concerned people. Some are concerned about why we’re doing this and some are concerned that we’re not doing it fast enough.”