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Windsor-West Hants co-ordinating committee selects 11-district recommendation over ‘ambitious’ nine-district regional council

The Co-ordinating Committee decided to move forward with 11 electoral districts for the new Windsor-West Hants regional government.
The Co-ordinating Committee decided to move forward with 11 electoral districts for the new Windsor-West Hants regional government. - Contributed

Playing it safe

WENTWORTH CREEK, N.S. —

In an effort to ease citizens into a new regional government, the Co-ordinating Committee, which is tasked with consolidating Windsor and West Hants by April 1, 2020, has decided to move forward with an 11-district electoral map, which will include a mayor elected at large.

For many West Hants residents, their districts will remain largely the same, with some tweaks here and there in order to maintain voter parity across the board.

However, the community of Hantsport, formerly sequestered as its own district based on the former town boundary after being deemed a ‘community of interest’ following dissolution, will merge with the surrounding communities of Mount Denson and Bishopville.

The Town of Windsor has essentially been split into two districts in the layout.

The election of the new regional council will take place on March 7, 2020.

In the Stantec report, headed by director John Heseltine, it was noted that 11 districts would appeal more to rural residents, whose primary concern, based on feedback at public meetings and an online survey, was ensuring fair representation.

Windsor Mayor Anna Allen said she was happy with the recommendation, and voted in favour of the 11 districts, but said she would have liked to have seen more diversity among the districts, mixing aspects of Windsor in with more rural areas.

The nine-district scenario, floated earlier in the process, was deemed as a “more ambitious” option, which would have seen nine districts spread out over larger areas.

In Heseltine’s report to the committee, he said more urban residents were in favour of a smaller council, as they wanted to see more efficiencies in the new government.

Kevin Latimer, chairman of the Co-ordinating Committee, said selecting the districts for the consolidated region is an exercise in community building.

Co-ordinating Committee chair Kevin Latimer
Co-ordinating Committee chair Kevin Latimer

“This isn’t an exact science. It involves trade-offs every step of the way,” Latimer said following the meeting. “Based on the review and the consultations, at the end of the day, I think (Heseltine) did a good job of finding the right balance here.”

Latimer said it’s possible that, like other regional municipalities, the number of districts and councillors, could be reduced during future governance reviews. The next governance review is slated for 2024.

He added that the concern that Windsor is split into two districts within the town limits is a legitimate concern, but at the end of the day, he says the town won’t be siloed.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is a first step,” he said. “There will be opportunities in the future, once this has had a bit of a test over the next four years, to see if the citizens are served by that configuration.”

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The Co-ordinating Committee’s application to the Utility and Review Board for approval of the decision is scheduled to be heard in June 2019.

With this major milestone out of the way, the committee has some other major goals on the horizon, including an HR analysis of the two units’ employees, hiring a chief administrative officer and more.

The Co-ordinating Committee also heard from Robert Johnston during their April 15 meeting, who has been retained to head up the search for the new CAO for the Regional Municipality. He said the search will be national in scope. The top three candidates will likely be interviewed by the committee before a final decision is made.

That process is also expected to be complete in June.

The next Co-ordinating Committee meeting is scheduled for May 6 at 6 p.m. in the Town of Windsor council chambers.

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