Har­bour Grace coun­cil vents over bud­get

Mayor meet­ing with jus­tice min­is­ter, other mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

Mem­bers of Har­bour Grace’s town coun­cil are not all that thrilled about the contents of the re­cent pro­vin­cial bud­get.

And those con­cerns do not en­tirely re­volve around the an­nounced clo­sure of Har­bour Grace Pro­vin­cial Court, ex­pected to hap­pen this Au­gust at the ear­li­est. Dur­ing last Thurs­day’s coun­cil meet­ing, a let­ter was tabled from the De­part­ment of Busi­ness, Tourism, Cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment in­form­ing the town it would not re­ceive a $5,000 grant for the lo­cal vis­i­tor in­for­ma­tion cen­tre.

“Th­ese are things that when the bud­get came out, you didn’t see,” said Coun. Kathy Tet­ford. “There’s cut­backs there in black and white, but then there’s things be­hind the scenes that you don’t see.”

Coun. Hayward Blake noted that while the let­ter from govern­ment high­lights the fact its try­ing to max­i­mize the value of re­gional as­sets to en­gage vis­i­tors to New­found­land and Labrador, the bud­get it­self failed to ad­dress the on­go­ing is­sue of towns pro­vid­ing re­gional ser­vices to un­in­cor­po­rated com­mu­ni­ties where res­i­dents are not pay­ing their fair share of taxes.

He went on to sug­gest there’s a le­git­i­mate cause for con­cern about the fu­ture of the town’s pub­lic li­brary in light of fund­ing cuts buried within the bud­get.

Re­spond­ing to cor­re­spon­dence from Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties New­found­land and Labrador that said “the mu­nic­i­pal sec­tor weath­ered this ini­tial storm fairly well,” Blake dis­puted the ba­sic premise. He also noted the pres­i­dent of MNL who au­thored the let­ter, Labrador City Mayor Karen Old­ford, sought the nom­i­na­tion in the Labrador West District for the gov­ern­ing Lib­er­als.

“My re­sponse to her was, with the clos­ing of court­houses, the clos­ing of me­dial clin­ics, money taken away from tourism, and the list goes on, how can one say the mu­nic­i­pal sec­tor has in­deed fared fairly well?”

Blake said it’s not just about the fund­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties re­ceived from govern­ment, but also what ser­vices are pro­vided to those com­mu­ni­ties.

“When we saw that schools weren’t be­ing built and other in­fras­truc­ture pieces were not added to com­mu­ni­ties … then I don’t be­lieve it’s fair to say we’ve — how did she put it again? — we’ve weath­ered the storm fairly well.”

As for the court clo­sure, Mayor Terry Barnes talked with Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Par­sons about the de­part­ment’s de­ci­sion, which — along with three other court clo­sures — is ex­pected to save govern­ment $1.3 mil­lion an­nu­ally start­ing next year. Barnes was sched­uled to meet with fel­low may­ors from the area Mon­day, April 25 be­fore go­ing to St. John’s two days later for an­other chat with Par­sons.

“We are in talks with the govern­ment,” said the mayor. “We’re hope­ful we can get it over­turned. We’re try­ing our very best.”

The same day he’s meet­ing with Par­sons, the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic and Pri­vate Em­ploy­ees is stag­ing a lunch-hour rally out­side the Babb Build­ing, where Har­bour Grace Pro­vin­cial Court is cur­rently lo­cated.

As of 2013-14, Har­bour Grace Pro­vin­cial Court was the third busiest in the prov­ince, with a caseload of 1,776. The 8,937 adult ap­pear­ances that year rep­re­sented a 25 per cent in­crease over the pre­vi­ous year. Sim­i­lar in­creases were ex­pe­ri­enced yearover-year in youth, small claims and fam­ily ap­pear­ances.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

Har­bour Grace Coun. Hayward Blake, seen here stand­ing next to Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams at last Thurs­day’s town coun­cil meet­ing, is not im­pressed with the pro­vin­cial bud­get. Also pictured is, from the left, act­ing town clerk Sean O’Brien and Mayor Terry Barnes.

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