Rally against amalgamation process in Three Rivers region, P.E.I.

People gathered with signs and tractors in front of P.E.I.'s legislature Tuesday evening to raise their concerns about the amalgamation process in the eastern area of the Island.

Proposal now in hands of independent body IRAC, says communities minister

People gathered in front of P.E.I.'s legislature Tuesday to demonstrate their frustration with the amalgamation process in the Three Rivers region. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

People gathered with signs and tractors in front of P.E.I.'s legislature Tuesday evening to raise their concerns about the amalgamation process in the eastern area of the Island.

The Three Rivers Steering Committee has submitted an amalgamation proposal to the Island Regulatory Appeals Commission (IRAC). The proposal includes the seven communities of Brudenell, Cardigan, Georgetown, Lorne Valley, Lower Montague, Montague and Valleyfield and the unincorporated areas in the Cardigan, Georgetown and Montague fire districts.

IRAC has had time to review the application and will post it on its website this week for comments and objections for 30 days, said Minister of Communities, Land and Environment Richard Brown. 

Organizers at Tuesday's demonstration said they will submit objections, hoping to get at least 1,000. A group against amalgamation called the Rural Coalition of P.E.I. also said at the rally that it has obtained a lawyer to deal with the IRAC process. 

'Continue to fight'

Stacy Toms from Georgetown, who spoke at the gathering, says she's strongly against the way the amalgamation process has unfolded. 

Before the proposal was submitted, both Georgetown and Montague pulled out of the amalgamation talks and a vote among unincorporated Islanders in the area showed most who voted were not in favour of the Three Rivers proposal. 

Stacy Toms of Georgetown says she feels the amalgamation process has been unfair and people aren't being heard. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

"We'll continue to fight and do everything we can to stop is from happening," said Toms. 

"It's just completely unfair. They're not listening to what people want and need."  

Public meetings from IRAC

​Toms suggested smaller areas amalgamating would have been a better start. She also said communities could jointly do things without amalgamating. 

Brown said there will be public meetings before any recommendation is brought to government. He said the process is now in IRAC's hands. 

"This is a non-partisan, unbiased organization that's going to organize these meetings," said Brown. 

Brown said there's also a group of people who have put a plan together for amalgamation and that plan has to be heard. That's why the IRAC process has been set up. 

Concerns communities being forced

Brown also addressed the crowd gathered in front of the legislature, as hecklers shouted at him. 

Gary Robbins is concerned amalgamation will mean an increase in taxes. (Al MacCormick/CBC)

People at the rally said they're concerned about the government forcing their communities to do things that people don't want. 

Gary Robbins from Martinvale, who also spoke at the rally, said he's concerned that taxes will go up with amalgamation.

"It's groceries off their table, it's oil or food," said Robbins. "The people don't want it, it's nonsense."

Call for full, inclusive plebiscite 

"I can't sit idle," he said. 

Robbins said he'd be OK with amalgamation if there was a vote for everybody and 51 per cent of people voted in favour of it. 

In the house Tuesday, the Green Party called for a full, inclusive plebiscite in the Three Rivers region before a final recommendation is made on amalgamation.

But Brown said a lot of work has been put into this process and there is a process in place that needs to be respected.