Only way to ac­cess crit­i­cal re­sources is to work to­gether

Northern Pen - - EDITORIAL -

Dear Ed­i­tor: I am writ­ing in re­sponse to a let­ter you pub­lished on Oct. 25 from Mr. Shane Snook en­ti­tled “Re­gional gov­ern­ment is not the right route.”

In his let­ter, Mr. Snook ex­presses con­cerns with the con­sul­ta­tion ap­proach be­ing taken by the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. My con­cern is his mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the cur­rent state of the mu­nic­i­pal sys­tem and the po­ten­tial im­pact of re­gional gov­ern­ment.

Mr. Snook says re­gional gov­ern­ment would add “ad­min­is­tra­tive bloat” to an al­ready “maxed out” sys­tem. In fact, three-quar­ters of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in this prov­ince have only a sin­gle staff per­son – or fewer.

To say the mu­nic­i­pal sec­tor has bloated bu­reau­cra­cies is to be di­vorced from re­al­ity. The mu­nic­i­pal sec­tor suf­fers from not enough pro­fes­sional and tech­ni­cal ad­vice. Ad­vice to help coun­cils make good in­vest­ment de­ci­sions with tax­pay­ers’ money on im­por­tant things like drink­ing wa­ter and waste­water treat­ment. The only way most com­mu­ni­ties will ac­cess these crit­i­cal re­sources is if they work to­gether.

Mr. Snook also seems to have de­cided what form re­gional gov­ern­ment will take in the prov­ince. If so, he is far ahead of MNL (Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties New­found­land and Labrador), our mem­bers and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. These con­sul­ta­tions are ask­ing peo­ple about the pros and cons of dif­fer­ent ap­proaches specif­i­cally to see if we can de­sign the right one for our prov­ince. The an­swer may well be “No”, but un­til we have done the anal­y­sis, we don’t know the an­swer.

There are lean mod­els of re­gional gov­ern­ment. Mod­els that al­low mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and lo­cal ser­vice dis­tricts to share ser­vices and make col­lec­tive de­ci­sions for their re­gion with­out the need for large or­ga­ni­za­tions or “an­other layer of gov­ern­ment.”

Re­gional gov­ern­ment ex­ists in eight of the 10 Canadian prov­inces, and their economies are gen­er­ally health­ier than ours.

Yet Mr. Snook feels that re­gional gov­ern­ment will “crip­ple our abil­ity to grow”.

If so, why have the other prov­inces not been crip­pled? Why are they con­sis­tently out­per­form­ing us eco­nom­i­cally? Does Mr. Snook feel we just aren’t up to the chal­lenge? Are we not as good as our Canadian cousins, 98 per cent of whom live within a re­gional sys­tem?

Re­gional gov­ern­ment is the way the world does mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ment – in Canada, in the United States, in 81 per cent of Com­mon­wealth coun­tries. The OECD says that for most coun­tries, im­prov­ing ef­fec­tive mu­nic­i­pal ser­vices and democ­racy through re­gional gov­ern­ment is key to their suc­cess. If the rest of the world can do it, why can’t we?

Karen Old­ford, pres­i­dent

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties New­found­land and Labrador

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