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A photo of Main Street in Antigonish (Source: Antigonish Town Hall Web Cam).

Antigonish: Tax rates will be reviewed to ensure merger is the right move

By Steve MacArthur Mar 25, 2024 | 2:58 PM

The province is making key changes to its legislation on the potential merger of the town and county of Antigonish into one municipal unit.

Municipal Affairs Minister John Lohr says they will ask the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) to investigate whether it makes sense for all residents.

“The most common feedback was that many residents didn’t feel they had enough information about the financial impact of consolidation on their tax rate,” said Lohr. “We agree that residents should have confidence this consolidation is in their financial best interest.”

The regulatory board will specifically look at the potential impact on tax rates and report back by August 1.

Lohr says if it’s not a good move, they will not proceed with the merger.

Meantime, to ensure it’s impartial, elected municipal representatives will be removed from the transition team should the consolidation go forward.

“Another concern we heard was that the presence of elected municipal officials – who may seek elected office under the consolidated framework – on the transition committee represented a conflict of interest,” stated Lohr. “We agree that, at the very least, there was a perception of conflict and the individual leading any transition should be neutral.”

As a result, a UARB liaison and co-ordinator for transition, should the transition go forward.

Michel Samson, former Liberal cabinet minister, government house leader and current counsel at Cox & Palmer will be appointed to this role.

The changes come after dozens of Antigonish residents spoke out against the move to consolidate the town and county. Many felt allowing the municipal councils to make the decision was undemocratic and called for a plebiscite on the issue.

The group “Let Antigonish Decide” is fighting the process and launched a court challenge to try and block the change.

Last December, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge ruled both town and county councils had the authority to vote to amalgamate and now that decision is now being appealed.