The town council in Labrador City is asking provincial authorities for permission to push back a municipal election by as much as five months while the town and neighbouring Wabush consider amalgamating.
Mayor Karen Oldford says the two towns have commissioned a feasibility study — looking at the pros and cons of amalgamation, regional government or increased co-operation — and she believes residents need time to review the study before choosing a new council.
“This is a big decision and we want to make sure that our residents have the time, that they can really talk to councils in both communities,” she said.
The two towns hired a pair of consultants to weigh the options for a closer relationship between Wabush and Labrador City, which are on opposite sides of the same lake. Shrinking town budgets, smaller populations and the demand for a new recreation centre all precipitated the conversation about amalgamation.
Ultimately, Oldford said, a plebiscite might be necessary to make a final decision.
“Council has brought it forth and is doing the work, but it really is in the residents’ hands”
– Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford, on am,algamation
“Municipal elections are costly,” Oldford said.
If residents decided to move ahead with amalgamation, there’s potential to hold elections for a new, amalgamated council at the same time.
“We haven’t made that decision yet,” Oldford said, before repeating the need for input from residents.
“A lot of families are away, people are not thinking about municipality and governance at this time. They need to be part of making this decision. Council has brought it forth and is doing the work, but it really is in the residents’ hands.”
Wabush election a go
Across the lake, Wabush Mayor Colin Vardy said the municipal election in his town will go ahead on the the date prescribed by the province: September 26.
“Our council did take it into consideration and we had a good debate over it,” Vardy said.
“We didn’t feel that we had support … to stay longer than we were elected.”
Vardy said he believes council and mayoral candidates ought to make their stance on amalgamation known to voters.
“If the voters elect councillors and a mayor that’s for amalgamation, then obviously they’re for it,” he said, echoing Oldford’s appeal for an informed electorate.