Editorial – If wishes were horses

Chris Clegg

It has often been suggested the Town of High Prairie amalgamate with Big Lakes County.

It has also been suggested some sort of amalgamation occur between some or all of the municipalities in the Smoky River region including the M.D. of Smoky River, Town of McLennan, Village of Donnelly, Town of Falher and Village of Girouxville.

To the citizens of all regions, be careful what you wish for!

The reasons for amalgamation are obvious. To save money. In theory, it should work. Not sure if that will be the case, as bigger government creates more management, which are the highest paid employees. Management tends to love to create more government. In slang terms, it is called empire building. More workers are needed in the streets and water plants, not in the offices.

As different as each region is there is one striking similarity. There exists in each village, town or hamlet tremendous community pride. Many are proud to say they live in (take your pick of any community) Faust, Joussard, Donnelly or Girouxville instead of the larger centres like High Prairie or Falher. There exists the biggest problem. Any proposed amalgamation would include redrawing boundaries. The result is something many people will not like.

For example, Faust and Kinuso may be combined. Grouard and Prairie Echo. Joussard and Enilda. Girouxville and Falher areas west. Falher east and Falher south (Guy).

To be blunt, how do you think residents from Kinuso will like someone from Faust being their councillor? A resident of Falher speaking for McLennan? A resident from Enilda speaking for Grouard? And vice versa. Yikes!

Already, difficulty exists between the communities in each region. McLennan council expresses frustration with their regional partners.

Besides, the priorities in Faust, Joussard, Enilda, Donnelly and Girouxville differ greatly. The agricultural issues facing the rural residents is also an issue. It is the ongoing hamlet vs rural batter in Big Lakes. Sometimes it’s quiet, sometimes – well – it blows up. Small centres also want services and facilities. To the recreation fisherman at Joussard, is more money for an arena or curling rink a priority over improvements to the local harbour or marina? A street in High Prairie more important than one in a hamlet? If you lose voting power to a larger centre in amalgamation, we all know what happens.

In a perfect world, amalgamation would have already occurred. Politicians would work together for the common good and the boundaries be damned but that is not likely to occur.

The biggest hold up to amalgamation still exists and it will not go down without a bitter fight. It is community pride and the feeling of being a part of “our” village, town or hamlet. As long as people are willing to pay for it, it will not disappear.

The residents and politicians serving the small communities are to be congratulated for their efforts. They are holding tight, trying to explore all possibilities for survival until the finances are so bleak there will be no choice.

Amalgamation? It can wait!

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