Twenty-five years later, subject of amalgamation still divides some in HRM
DARTMOUTH, N.S. -- Amalgamation went into effect 25 years ago brought about a lot of transformation around the Halifax Regional Municipality.
When Mayor Mike Savage looks back on amalgamation and the formation of the Halifax Regional Municipality Savage says he wasn't in politics at the time, but he was close to the action in 1996.
His father, Dr. John Savage, was a former Dartmouth mayor who became the premier of Nova Scotia. As premier, he helped push through amalgamation one year after the Cape Breton Regional Municipality was formed.
Mike Savage says Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and Halifax County were competing with each other to bring businesses to this area.
"Amalgamation to me is not so much having less politicians or less bureaucracy, it's about how do you plan to community over a large area," Savage said.
In 1996 Gloria McCluskey was the mayor of Dartmouth.
"It was a sad, sad day 25 years ago," McCluskey said.
She hated the idea of amalgamation then and still does today, and to those who say it was good for the overall economy?
"We were blossoming big time commercially before this," McCluskey says. "And we would've kept blossoming commercially. We would've been so much better off."
Mayor Savage disagrees and he says the bottom line in the entire HRM, including Dartmouth, backs up his argument.
"Dartmouth has done better over the last few years than it ever has," Savage says.
Historian David Jones has other concerns with amalgamation.
"I'm worried that Dartmouth is losing our identity," Jones said.
Jones is also frustrated that after 25 years the people of Dartmouth don't have "a real museum."
He fears the Dartmouth community vibe has vanished forever.
"We don't even have a proper Natal Day anymore," Jones
Says. "There is no regatta on Banook and there is no parade that goes down Prince Albert Road."
Through it all, McCluskey is stubbornly hanging on to her loyalty to her beloved home city.
"I say I am from the great city of Dartmouth," McCluskey said.
For what it's worth, Mayor Savage in this area agrees with McCluskey.
"I'm very proud to be a Dartmouthian," Savage says. "I am still a Westphal guy."
But, he says, there's an added caveat to his civic pride.
"But I'm also a citizen of the Halifax Regional Municipality."
The Halifax mayor adds the current results are undeniable
"Population is going up," Savage says. "Our GDP is going up."
And, he says, students are coming to this area in greater numbers than ever before
Tim Rissesco of the Downtown Dartmouth Business Commission believes there is an entire generation of people who do not know that Dartmouth, Halifax and Bedford had their own police departments just 25 years ago. It helps capture how much has changed since amalgamation went into effect 25 years ago.