DIGBY, N.S. – Jimmy MacAlpine, warden of the Municipality of the District of Digby, believes the key to a sustainable and successful future for the region requires the cooperation and collaboration of neighbouring municipalities and other levels of government.
Given that belief, MacAlpine said in 2017 the district reached out to neighbouring municipalities, communities and villages within the municipality, the government of Canada and further around the globe. MacAlpine was part of a Digby and Annapolis County delegation that participated in a trade mission to China in September, and he said multiple opportunities have arisen out of that trip, including expanded opportunities for tourism and exports in 2018.
MacAlpine said for 2017, the Municipality of Digby met in February, and council established five priorities for the district for the year:
1. High speed Internet was placed at the top of the development list in 2017 to help ensure connectivity for all residents and to support future development and sustainable growth. MacAlpine said the municipality, as part of the Western Regional Enterprise Network that includes Yarmouth, Argyll and Barrington regions, applied to the Federal government’s Connect to Innovate Fund and the region is waiting to learn if their funding application was successful. “High speed Internet is vital and a leading priority for our entire region going forward,” MacAlpine said.
2. With an interest in growing tourism in the region, and the acquisition by the municipality of the old DNR property at Haines Lake, the Digby Municipal Council decided in February it was time to hire a full-time Trails Coordinator. “Jonathan Riley was the successful applicant for the position, and as our new Trails Coordinator, Jonathan is working with several community groups to improve existing trails, to develop new trails, and to create some marketing materials and promotions for our network of trails.” MacAlpine added that the district’s recreation department was able to host some kayak classes out at the new Haines Lake facility, and that more plans are in the works for 2018 to further develop the site as a destination.
3. A plan was developed through the Industrial Park Servicing Position Statement to look at how to move forward with development opportunities at the current industrial park site, jointly owned by the Town of Digby and the regional government, and two other parcels, one near the airport and one that is still a wooded tract. MacAlpine said the municipal government has been working with an on-contract staff consultant and an outside consulting firm to look at other municipal industrial parks, improve investment readiness and develop ideas of what the sites could become. New ‘land available for sale’ signage has now been added to the sites.
4. The municipal level of government met in the summer and fall with the village commissions in the Islands and in Weymouth, In the Islands, discussions surrounded the needed improvements to the ferry approaches, ideas to improve parking and ideas on how to make certain the washroom facilities are adequate. In Weymouth, talks were mainly concerned with the recruitment of healthcare practitioners. “We’ve been working with the Town of Digby and Clare to improve regional health care,” MacAlpine said. “That remains a big emphasis for the municipality and is one of my top two priorities going into 2018 – high speed Internet and the recruitment of more health care practitioners. And not just doctors, but doctors, nurse practitioners and family practice nurses as well,” he added.
5. The municipality also established a focus in 2017 to work better – more efficiently and effectively – with the 11 volunteer fire departments that are within the region. “We put a lot of tax dollars into fire services and we want to look at how to improve how effectively we spend those dollars.” MacAlpine said staff will be reviewing costs and looking at some of the line items, like the potential for sharing insurance plans across the region.
Also in 2017, MacAlpine said the municipality added another wind turbine to the same site as the existing one, and added an electric charging station in the Village of Weymouth near the library. A second electric charging station will be installed in Bear River in the spring.
Looking ahead to 2018, MacAlpine repeated the main focus will be on health care worker recruitment and high speed Internet, however, he is also hoping some of the fertile ground broken on the trade mission to China in 2017 will bear fruit.
“The trip was very important to the business sector, but also to the education and tourism sectors,” MacAlpine said. The warden expects to see increased export opportunities, more Chinese students attending local schools and Sainte Anne University, and increased tourism traffic from China, adding 2018 has been declared the Canada-China Year of Tourism and that bodes well for the region.
All that being said, MacAlpine insists collaboration and cooperation across the Western region is essential to sustainable growth and a profitable future for all.
“It’s very important that we continue to work together and continue to meet with our partners, our villages and our neighbouring municipalities, to keep growing and building those strong relationships. It’s so much better to work together. That’s how we can get a lot more done.”