Nova Scotia town trying to regift light armoured vehicle it doesn't use

A light armoured vehicle was a gift from Ottawa to the town of New Glasgow in 2013 when Peter MacKay was defence minister, but the Nova Scotia town says it's never had use for it.

The light armoured vehicle was a gift from Ottawa in 2013 and the town's ready to let it go for free

New Glasgow police and Peter MacKay with the Cougar. (New Glasgow Police)

A Nova Scotia town is trying to regift a beast of a military vehicle that was bestowed on the community some four years ago.

New Glasgow Mayor Nancy Dicks said talks have been underway for the past six months to offload the town's unwanted Cougar — a '70s era, light armoured vehicle — to Halifax.

"There's been some conversation between our departments on the possibility of us basically gifting it to the Halifax police department," she said.

Gift from Ottawa

The New Glasgow police department acquired the Cougar back in 2013 when former Conservative MP Peter MacKay was serving as national defence minister.

"It was a gift from Ottawa," recalled Coun. Jack Lewis, who was chair of the police commission when the vehicle rolled into town.

"At the time, I guess, we just didn't want to say no."

MacKay, a native of the town of 9,000, was featured in several photos alongside the Cougar and the town's now-defunct emergency response team.  

Drives like 'old tank'

Lewis said whoever wants the vehicle can have it — for free.

Besides Halifax, he said there's been an expression of interest from the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.

He warns the Cougar is very difficult to manoeuvre.

"Inside you have to drive with mirrors, but if you stick your head up through a hatch you can drive without the mirrors," Lewis said.  

"It drives kind of like an old tank."

Rarely used

Dicks said the vehicle has been gathering dust in a public works warehouse in New Glasgow and only comes out once or twice a year.

"There really is not much use for it in Pictou County," she said. "There hasn't been any need for it since we were gifted it."

Plus, having the imposing vehicle in the small town is worrisome for residents "in the sense that it sort of seems somewhat of a militarized kind of piece of equipment," Dicks added.

Halifax police somewhat interested

Chief Jean-Michel Blais of the Halifax Regional Police said his force is in the market for that type of vehicle, but he's not yet sold on the Cougar.

Blais shares the concerns of New Glasgow's mayor, who said she worries about the appearance of an over-militarized police force.

However, Blais said the Halifax force could use a vehicle meant to withstand long-gun fire and it could be used to rescue injured people in specific situations. 

He cited the failed plot to open fire on people at the Halifax Shopping Centre in February 2015. Two people were arrested in connection with the plot before the attack could take place.

"These are the types of things that you pray to God never occur," said Blais, who's asked an investigator to take a look at the Cougar.

"But we wouldn't be doing our duty if we didn't properly plan on being able to deal with something like that."

About the Author

Preston Mulligan

Reporter

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.