Nova Scotia

CBRM council size under debate

A hearing is underway to determine whether the Cape Breton Regional Municipality should have four fewer councillors.

A hearing has wrapped up  into whether the Cape Breton Regional Municipality should have four fewer councillors.

The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board heard  final arguments Tuesday in Sydney.

Coun. Ray Paruch was among the presenters who lobbied for a downsized council on Monday night, the first day of the hearing.

"It is my opinion that a council reduced to 12 members would contribute in a positive way to making our municipal government more effective," Paruch told the board.

A study prepared for the municipality suggested a reduction in the size of council, from 16 to 12 councillors plus the mayor.

Stantec Consulting Ltd. compared the CBRM to other Canadian municipalities with similar populations or geographic areas. It concluded that 12 councillors was sufficient.

Council narrowly rejected that recommendation in a vote last fall.

It then asked the review board to keep the current polling districts and maintain the same number of councillors.

'Job security'

Arnie Mombourquette, a former Sydney alderman and regional councillor, told the review board what he thought of council's refusal to downsize.

"I feel the real truth in why council voted 7-6 to reject the recommendations of the Stantec report are, in fact, quite simple: In Cape Breton, it's called job security," he said.

Mombourquette said the municipality is in serious decline and the downsizing option would reflect changes needed for economic survival.

Mayor John Morgan said he believes residents want a smaller council. He said the review board could call a plebiscite on the issue.

The board is expected to announce its decision in 30 to 90 days.