Time to make some fixes
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