Yesterday I sat in the gallery of Lunenburg Town Hall and listened to The Municipal Governance Steering Committee discuss the future of Lunenburg County. This Committee is made up of representatives from The Town of Lunenburg, The Town of Bridgewater, The Municipality of the District of Lunenburg and The Town of Mahone Bay.
The councilor from Mahone Bay expressed her fear that amalgamation would mean the loss of their cultural identity. The councilor from Lunenburg said that, yes, he too shared her concerns. Something here didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t put my finger on it till I got home. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Whose cultural identity are we talking about; your cultural identity or my cultural identity? I am a resident of The Town of Lunenburg, but my history is very different from anyone else’s sitting at that table. Many people have moved to Lunenburg County from other places and all these people bring with them their own unique cultural identities. So, theoretically speaking, if we have an Asian person or a black person or a Jewish person or a Syrian person in our communities, whose cultural identity are we afraid of losing? If any of these newcomers were to become municipal councilors, would it be in their job description to protect one very specific cultural identity, from one group of people and one period of time?
We talk about welcoming people from near and far to Lunenburg County, but yesterday at Lunenburg Town Hall, in 2016, I heard concern that a person from Bridgewater or Blue Rocks, elected to make governmental decisions, might be a threat to the Cultural identity of The Town of Lunenburg or The Town of Mahone Bay. Are we so afraid of new ideas that even someone who lives 10 km. away is considered a threat?
In the scenario of Amalgamation, there is still representation from each community and each community can still have control over their own planning. This means they can still guide their own destiny. Preservation of history and the celebration of the cultural identities that have been here, are still here and are yet to come is also community driven and does not disappear with amalgamation. Community is identity. Our communities are growing and changing and welcoming new histories. What our collective identity or community looks like is a fluid thing. Multiculturalism is not an annual celebration of the “other”; it is an ideology that welcomes all cultural identities, old and new, into our fold and allows the cultural identities that people bring with them to redefine and expand our definition of community. Every new cultural identity that enters our community makes us a little bit richer.
The sentiment expressed by these two people is one that is held by many. When we talk about fear of change in Nova Scotia, this is what it sounds like. I don’t mean to belittle this fear. It’s what many places in Canada have experienced and have had to confront, but overcoming this fear is what makes Canada a truly great country. If Nova Scotia can overcome this fear, then Nova Scotia will become a truly great province.
I don’t know yet if a complete amalgamation of the county is the best way to go. I’m looking forward to hearing arguments for and against. But today, at Town Hall, one question made me think that amalgamation might be just the thing Lunenburg county needs. Maybe it’s time to expand the decision making gene pool.