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County delegation advances partnership with South African municipality

The partnership between the County of Prince Edward and the Kouga Local Municipality took a major step forward following a recent municipal delegation visit to South Africa.

“I was pleased to represent mayor Robert Quaiff and council in South Africa,” said councillor Steve Ferguson, who travelled with James Hepburn, Chief Administrative Officer, Neil Carbone, Director of Community Development and Todd Davis, Community Development Coordinator.

“Over the course of six intense days, we met with elected officials, municipal staff members, business leaders, and other stakeholders to learn how we can best work together in support of our communities,” Ferguson said.

The two municipalities signed a memorandum of understanding confirming commitment to work together.

During the three-year partnership, the County and Kouga plan to work together to find solutions to common challenges such as local economic development, youth empowerment and climate change mitigation.

The partnership is financed by the Canadian government and made possible by the Building Inclusive Green Municipalities (BIGM) program delivered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), in conjunction with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). BIGM is funded by Global Affairs Canada with in-kind contributions from the partner municipalities.

Despite being 15,000 km apart and occupying different continents, the two communities are similar in several areas, which serves to enhance the partnership, Ferguson said.

“We both place a strong emphasis on tourism. We both have coastlines to protect and agriculture plays a key role in both communities,” he said. “We both face the challenges of modest permanent populations that increase dramatically during parts of the year, thus placing stress on our assets and infrastructure. And we both possess rich cultural heritages that are our responsibility to celebrate, share, and protect.”

The partnership kicked off in October 2017 when representatives from Kouga, SALGA, and FCM visited the County. The partners have since held online meetings and communicated over email.

“While modern technology allows us to accomplish a lot remotely, face-to-face meetings with key players are still important for building strong and trusting work relationships,” said Carbone. “During the delegation visit, we developed a framework with a high level strategy and objectives that will guide our partnership over next two and a half years.”

The visit to Kouga, which is located in the Eastern Cape Province within the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, also included presentations, workshops and tours of local businesses and economic assets. The County representatives met with the local Chamber of Commerce as well as agencies serving youth and vulnerable sectors of society, including women.

“Participating in this partnership in addition to our municipal duties is a demanding, yet worthwhile endeavour,” said Hepburn. “I believe it’s important that we share our expertise and learn from others. This partnership also offers hands-on, real life experience in project management, communication, problem solving, and intercultural learning.”

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  1. Fred says:

    I think Council should be forthcoming with the trip costs to the public. This should not force a freedom of information request.

  2. Janice says:

    This is another example of ludicrous spending by this County Council. In this day and age, surely a video link—Skyping—whatever through modern technology could have been applied instead of this lovely holiday for our CAO, staff and councillor. Don’t tell me the federal government paid for it! Who is the federal government? It’s our tax dollars that paid for it! When is the nonsensical spending going to stop!

  3. Mark says:

    This is a glaring example of waste! What in h..l South Africa could assist in planning for PEC. Do they have a balance with tourism ? Do they have good paying jobs? Do they have an affordable water system? Do they have multiple roads that they can maintain? Do they have reasonable size governance? Do they have affordable housing? If they have that and we can better from that sharing of information then I can accept the expense.

  4. hockeynan says:

    If our county didn’t go some other county would of.Still a waste of tax payers dpllars

  5. Susan says:

    Robert hit the nail on the head ! It’s our tax money. I have a problem with our tax dollars going on a South African excursion.

  6. Paul A. says:

    Costs for the County? Most probably less than $15,000 (salaries, benefits and costs for two ‘Sunshine List’ employees, one coordinator, and a councilor whom I know and feel somewhat certain that he didn’t abuse his expenses.) PEC is also a “paying” member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Costs for the Fed Govt? Travel agencies are all over with Picton-Kouga and return (try calling your favourite one) but maybe another $15,000. Add a few hotels and restaurants, who knows?

    Bottom line is that every woman, man and child in the County has had to ante up to this trip.

    Kouga has a population about four times ours, and a land area two and a half times bigger, with some major differences in socio-economic numbers (youth and employment are significant.) PEC points out that tourism is a common factor for “economic development.”

    International friendship is unquestionably the moral high-ground. But it is very questionable if we can justify these tax-payers’ expenses when our infrastructure is, to put it mildly, in trouble.

  7. ADJ says:

    I don’t see the value in this program either. Spin it anyway you want it’s nothing but a free trip that won’t amount to anything. Perhaps a better cause would be to use some common sense and have our councillors volunteer their time scoping out the community to do all the things quoted by Mr. Hepburn. For what it’s worth this jaunt to Africa could have been capably handled by technology as stated by Mr. Carbone. Don’t know what you were thinking…you knew you’d take heat for this!

  8. robert sandfield says:

    And who pays the taxes to the Federal government? It is ridiculous when Canadians view money from the provincial or federal governments as “free money”… Not anymore free than municipal taxes. We see this all the time with money transferred for other capital purchases or roads, some explanation of “needing to use the provincial money”. There is no free lunch, we pay it all, 3x.

  9. Gary Mooney says:

    The federal government paid all travel costs and acommocations. The County paid staff their regular salaries during the trip.

  10. Emily says:

    Did Council approve this trip with expense amounts?

  11. Chuck says:

    I don’t see the comparative value. Let’s get the cost of the trip released pronto!

  12. Gary says:

    This will not sit well. They would be far better off to visit a community that knows how to provide safe and affordable drinking water.

  13. Dennis Fox says:

    I honestly try to be open minded about such exchanges – but seriously this is a sad joke. Councillor Ferguson tries to explain their reason for going to South Africa – both communities try to lure tourists, both have coastlines to protect and that agriculture plays a key role in both communities. Heck, he and town staff could have gone to almost anywhere in Canada and found comparable communities – they could have stayed and spent those Canadian dollars in their own country. I’ll look forward to reading their report about what new knowledge they returned with from South Africa. Don’t we have economic and agricultural departments at both the federal and provincial levels that are responsible for such exchanges of knowledge? Frankly, I feel embarrassed for our councillor and staff for trying to make a junket sound important.

  14. Fred says:

    Why would rural taxpayers get tax relief?

  15. doug says:

    I think council has been drinking the cool-aid from the Good Roads Convention were everything is free . I think the cost of this holiday should be made public to the rural taxpayers who did not get a tax relief

  16. robert sandfield says:

    If it cost a dollar it was too much. When I saw the article I thought it was an April fools joke. If this is fact it might be the craziest thing ever.

  17. Jim says:

    Now for the big question. How much did this jaunt cost the county taxpayers

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