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Ste-Anne and its N.S. twin have a lot in common
Wed Sep 26 2012
Section: West Island
Byline: BILL TIERNEY
Column: Bill Tierney
If you’d been on a holiday drive this summer along the shores of the magnificent Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia like one of our readers, you would have pulled into Wolfville, home of Acadia University, a town about the size of one of our smaller lakeshore towns Bill but with a feel of a New England Tierne university town.
Along the main street, much like the streets in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue and Beaurepaire and old PointeClaire, old-fashioned main streets, you’d have come to the town hall, a modest square brick building, with a large sign outside announcing “Wolfville, NS, twin community to Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC.”
The name of our little West Island town is almost as big as the name Wolfville. The twinning back in the 1990s and the first decade of this century was a big deal for the two towns. Three different delegations made mutual visits to their twin cities over those 20 years and I made personal summer visits on several occasions during that time. I learned a lot from Wolfville. And both towns were enriched by the contact. The two mayors I dealt with, Gwen Phillips and current mayor, Bob Stead, were exceptional people, and I watched how their town was transformed by their leadership.
The reader who travelled to the Bay of Fundy wrote asking how the twinning got started.
The relationship is latent, waiting for a spark to revive it.
How did the towns come to twin? A Wolfville resident who had lived in Baie-d’Urfé, I believe, suggested to Wolfville town council during Quebec’s run-up to the second referendum that Wolfville should reach out to a Quebec town. This was the ’90s. Wolfville invited Ste-Anne to twin. Mayor René Martin and his council agreed and there was an exchange of mayors, an article in local newspapers and that was that.
I don’t think anyone at that time had any idea how intense the twinning would become over the next 20 years.
I met Wolfville Mayor Gwen Phillips at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual general meeting in 1995, in my first year as mayor. We discovered that we had many mutual problems, being heritage university towns with waterfronts and decaying main streets. And the Federation of Canadian Municipalities had a financing program to encourage towns to undertake twinning activities.
With a healthy grant for travel, accommodation and entertaining from the Federation, it wouldn’t be impossible to persuade our towns to exchange delegations.
That happened, twice. We included among other local figures our police chief, Paul Chablo, who later spent some time in Wolfville helping them with the reorganization of their local force; members of our town council; representatives from our local business association, from the campus community, from the theatre community; a CEGEP student who lived in Ste-Anne; a resident involved in our library and cultural programs; our director general and town clerk; a blue-collar worker …
The last time a team from Wolfville visited Ste-Anne was at the same time as our Federation had its AGM in Montreal, just before the municipal demergers. They brought expertise I specifically asked for (for example, how had they saved the old movie theatre on their main street). They also gave us copies of their various plans and town documents.
I haven’t driven through Wolfville recently, but when I do, I will recognize the influence of the Ste-Anne boardwalk on their waterfront and our eco-spaces on their conservation projects.
In fact, I would happily have plagiarized Wolfville’s mission statement as part of my personal tribute to the twinning: “This community has a conscience built around principles of sustainability, fair trade, buy local, natural beauty, enduring value, culture, restaurants and food, parks and open spaces and education.” I don’t think you can have any better aspirations.
Bill Tierney is the former mayor of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. firstname.lastname@example.org