GUYSBOROUGH – “I was listening to you, and I was getting nauseous a little bit because…our people, our residents look to you guys for service,” Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s (MODG’s) CAO Barry Carroll said to representatives from Bell Aliant at the regular council meeting on July 19 in Guysborough.
At issue was cellular service across the municipality, which has not only continued to be inadequate, but has also become noticeably worse in recent years; moving from approximately 50 per cent coverage down to 40 per cent, according to MODG’s Deputy CAO and EMO Coordinator Shawn Andrews.
MODG council has been requesting a meeting for months and what they heard when they did get one with Bell Aliant representatives, Isabelle Boulet and Jeffrey Prevost, was far from satisfactory.
Provost told council, “Unfortunately, we’re not going to be actually expanding anything in the municipality in the next three years. And that’s not an uncommon thing across Canada…It’s not something that’s isolated to your area.”
He went on to say that, with rural and remote areas that aren’t well served today, like the MODG, it comes down to business, “The investments don’t make a lot of sense on the surface.”
In his comments, Carroll said that, with the municipality on the cusp of so many new ventures – from wind farms to a rocket launch facility, Bell was not looking at the bigger picture in terms of the customer base. He also said that given the 140-year history and near monopolistic status of the company, Bell owed customers more than what they were offering – which was a fee for service that was not provided.
Boulet suggested council might look to a recent program in Newfoundland where that province works with Bell and other service providers “to ensure that the infrastructure and the service is delivered in communities where it hasn’t been to date and maybe wouldn’t be otherwise.” She went on to say that council could advocate to their government contacts for funding for cell service programs with the Newfoundland cellular expansion program as a model.
MODG Deputy Warden Janet Peitzsche told the delegation, “I think that’s a total cop out. I don’t think you need more money. I wouldn’t support any motion around this table to ask the government to step in, no.”
MODG Warden Pitts was similarly aggrieved. He told the Bell representatives, “I certainly have to reflect what the deputy warden has said. I’m very disappointed…you’re basically tying our hands in regards to future development; that’s business as well as residential…You’ve resolved nothing here.”
In other business, council discussed the lack of ambulance service in the municipality, noting that 911 calls can result in a wait time of up to 40 minutes. Andrews said that in the MODG, volunteer fire department crews – who are front line, first responders – were answering as many as three medical emergency calls per day.
Pitts noted that this issue was discussed at the healthcare forum in Guysborough earlier this month, but change is slow in coming.