Residents give the OK during special meeting to join with Bedeque
David Hennessey, chairman of the municipality of Central Bedeque, prepares to speak to residents during a public meeting in the community on Monday. Residents voted at that meeting in favour of moving ahead with amalgamation with Bedeque. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer
CENTRAL BEDEQUE – At a special community meeting Monday night, Central Bedeque residents voted in favour of amalgamation with their neighbours in Bedeque.
The decision took two hours of argument and discussion, but in the end, those community members who were present and eligible to vote gave their council the OK to proceed.
The vote was 15 to 1.
There were about 25 people in total in the meeting room, but not everyone was entitled to a vote; either by way of not being from the community or from living outside the municipality, which does not encompass all of the geographical area of Central Bedeque.
David Hennessey, chairman of the municipality, said following the meeting he was pleased with the outcome.
"I'm delighted. The residents of Central Bedeque have spoken," said Hennesey.
"They want to move ahead with amalgamation with Bedeque, but these are just the first steps, there's still a lot more to do, and certainly the community will be involved every step of the way - we will make sure of that," he said.
Central Bedeque's move comes a little more than a week after the municipality of Bedeque passed an identical motion at a meeting of its community.
The subject of amalgamation here is an old one, having been discussed by my many generations of councils, from both communities, in the past.
The two villages are separated by a small river and bridge, which form the main border between the two.
Both sides of the bridge have similar populations, tax rates, savings funds and have traditionally co-operated on various community projects.
Central Bedeque has a population of 167 while Bedeque has an estimated 143 people.
The idea of the two joining together has been brought on again recently by both councils due to the Thompson Report.
Released publically in 2012, the Thompson Report called for the maps of P.E.I.'s municipalities to be redrawn and shrink in number from more than 70 down to less than 20.
Both council's have cited this report, and a desire to amalgamate on their own terms rather than face the potential of being forced by the province, to move ahead with amalgamation with their neighbours.
The province has recently reiterated its position that it has no plans to force the issue of amalgamation or enforce the Thompson Report's recommendations in the near future.
This idea of the community taking control of who it amalgamates with was raised by both Hennessey and the other members of council throughout Monday night's meeting.
It was explained to the residents it was quite possible the province would never move ahead with forcing the issue - however the possibility remains it will sometime in the future.
This was listed as a major "pro" for amalgamation.
Other positives were listed as: a larger voice in the Federation of P.E.I. Municipalities, more resources with which to conduct community projects and a larger pool of volunteers for those endeavours.
There were few negatives offered by council - though one was that Central Bedeque might see a small increase in commercial property taxes - if both taxes were to be joined (it was suggested this was not an inevitability).
Residents asked a number of questions - some of them quite pointed, and not all of them regarding the amalgamation.
Some had immediate concerns, such as whether their mailing address would change, but others were concerned about the process itself.
A couple of people expressed concerns that a relatively small number of residents were deciding the fate of the larger community.
There were suggestions of polling all the residents and having a write-in plebiscite.
Councillor Ronald Raynor spoke against the idea.
"My feeling on that is that we put the notices in the paper concerning amalgamation with Bedeque.
"There were write-ups in the Journal and The Guardian where they discussed that it would be voted on as to which way we were to go. If the other people wanted to vote they would have been here," he said.
A resident added, "it's certainly been well advertised and talked about."
Now that both councils have passed motions in favour of amalgamation, they will meet with the province to discuss the next step.
There are no dates set yet for those meetings.
It should also be noted that while both councils have agreed to move forward in the process, amalgamation is not inevitability.
Both communities are free to walk away at this point in the process.