Time to make some fixes

The Compass - - OPINION -

There’s an­other twist in the on­go­ing saga over the pro­posed new arena for Har­bour Grace, and it once again brings to light the need to start some se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion about the way mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and non-in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties are or­ga­nized in this re­gion.

Here’s the nub, and we’re not go­ing to sug­ar­coat it. The Town of Har­bour Grace can­not af­ford — on its own — to fi­nance the kind of arena this re­gion de­serves. Ever since the prov­ince an­nounced it would pay 80 per cent of the project last sum­mer, there have been grow­ing con­cerns about how the mu­nic­i­pal por­tion of the project would be paid.

Har­bour Grace is a town of just over 3,000 res­i­dents, and its com­mer­cial sec­tor has been gut­ted over the years.

Two mem­bers of the Har­bour Grace town coun­cil voted against the fund­ing ar­range­ment, and some of those who voted in favour are ap­pre­hen­sive. Cit­i­zens of the town fear a tax in­crease in or­der to fi­nance the project, and many won­der if the amount needed to sub­si­dize the new arena will in­crease, fur­ther bur­den­ing the town’s al­ready over­stretched tax base.

Car­bon­ear-har­bour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy has called upon mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers in the town to come to­gether and de­cide once and for all if they sup­port the project.

It’s not the up­beat, ex­cit­ing sit­u­a­tion that most would ex­pect, and those of us fol­low­ing the de­vel­op­ments are not sur­prised.

Last week, per­haps fear­ing the project might be scut­tled al­to­gether, mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers in Car­bon­ear de­cided to ap­proach their coun­ter­parts in Har­bour Grace, with the in­ten­tion of dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of work­ing to­gether to en­sure the arena be­comes a re­al­ity.

That’s a great idea, and ex­hibits some true vi­sion on the part of the man be­hind the con­cept, Coun. David Kennedy. Kennedy, by the way, is Jerome Kennedy’s brother.

It’s un­der­stook that a new arena is not only ben­e­fi­cial for Har­bour Grace, but the en­tire re­gion. To let this op­por­tu­nity pass by would be un­for­giv­able.

If Har­bour Grace is forced to take on the arena project on its own, they’ll be look­ing to cut costs at ev­ery turn to bring down the price. In the end, we’ll get an arena that falls short of what we need.

But as we’ve stated be­fore in this space, a re­gional ap­proach to this project is what’s needed, and we’re not just talk­ing about a part­ner­ship be­tween Car­bon­ear and Har­bour Grace. Oth­ers should share the bur­den, in­clud­ing those who live in un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties such as Lo­cal Ser­vice Dis­tricts. If this were the case, the re­sources would be there to cre­ate a fa­cil­ity that fully meets our needs, and no one mu­nic­i­pal­ity would be sad­dled with the debt.

But let’s not stop there. The fact we have so many dif­fer­ent mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties dot­ted along the shore­line of Con­cep­tion Bay North is part of the prob­lem. We see so much du­pli­ca­tion and in­ef­fi­ciency, and this has to end. Sure, there have been ad­vances in how these towns work to­gether, but these are just baby steps.

In our dis­cus­sions with mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers, it’s ev­i­dent there is an ap­petite for greater re­gion­al­iza­tion. But they say part of the hold-up is the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. Premier Kathy Dun­derdale has en­cour­aged greater co-op­er­a­tion among mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, but all we see is lip ser­vice. We agree with the gov­ern­ment’s stance that there should be no forced amal­ga­ma­tions, but that doesn’t mean the prov­ince should not be fa­cil­i­tat­ing and en­cour­ag­ing some se­ri­ous di­a­logue. Let’s use the new arena as a trig­ger to fur­ther unite our re­gion.

— Terry Roberts

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