New so­lu­tion to fund­ing crunch

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - Dave Ran­dell writes from Mount Pearl

Few would deny our ur­gent re­quire­ments for a new men­tal health fa­cil­ity, a new pen­i­ten­tiary, up­graded hos­pi­tals and so on.

The fact is that we can­not af­ford them, at least not in full and not im­me­di­ately. Is there a so­lu­tion that might al­low us to take steps in a pos­i­tive di­rec­tion, ver­sus the con­stant hold­ing pat­tern in which we cur­rently find our­selves?

Firstly, we should all rec­og­nize by now that stud­ies are gov­ern­ment’s way of say­ing no. Monies ex­pended on stud­ies is that much less for the ac­tual project 10 years from now. Fur­ther­more, stud­ies are of­ten out­dated be­fore they are com­pleted. Se­condly, de­spite our cur­rent eco­nomic chal­lenges, any dis­cus­sion of our crit­i­cal needs tends to fo­cus in on the im­pos­si­bly high, one might say ex­trav­a­gant, costs of hav­ing a state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity.

Could we scale down the size of a re­quired phys­i­cal struc­ture at the out­set, with the abil­ity to ex­pand, to add-on in later years when eco­nomic times are bet­ter? We would still be in a po­si­tion to fo­cus on the de­vel­op­ment of the in­sti­tu­tional skills, but within a smaller more cen­tral­ized en­vi­ron­ment. You don’t have to go out and buy a Lam­borgh­ini when a com­pact car will get you back and forth to work.

Our var­i­ous re­search and learn­ing/train­ing cen­tres should be at the fore­front of in­ves­ti­ga­tion into such a min­i­mal­ist, or stepped, ap­proach to at­tain­ing our goals. We could be in­no­va­tors in con­struc­tion and or­ga­ni­za­tional tech­niques that in­volve a staged de­vel­op­ment over time. In­sti­tu­tion­ally, the build­ings would ac­com­mo­date the most ba­sic of or­ga­ni­za­tional func­tions at the out­set, sup­ple­mented as nec­es­sary from out­side sources. Jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for any new fund­ing would re­quire a bal­ance of phys­i­cal and HR needs, with­out ex­pan­sion for the sake of ex­pan­sion.

At present, our prov­ince has no funds avail­able for even the small­est of projects. Could we con­sider get­ting started on, let’s say, a new men­tal health fa­cil­ity un­der cur­rent cir­cum­stances?

Well, we have many skilled trades­peo­ple, project man­agers, engi­neer­ing, fi­nan­cial and other ex­per­tise avail­able in abun­dance. Or­di­nar­ily, many of these would be look­ing to chase the work else­where and, while that is still a real pos­si­bil­ity, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly more dif­fi­cult to track down out-of-prov­ince work.

Would any of these in­di­vid­u­als be pre­pared to go on a vol­un­teer list to do­nate their time to the build of the fore­go­ing fa­cil­i­ties, in re­turn for cred­its which could be used by any im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­ber, for health or ed­u­ca­tion pur­poses, over the next 10 – 20 years?

Af­ter all, these are ul­ti­mately the peo­ple who will ben­e­fit from the fa­cil­i­ties. Would the fed­eral gov­ern­ment be pre­pared to al­low such work, ei­ther on a vol­un­teered ba­sis or at lower rates, with­out any im­pact on EI ben­e­fits cur­rently be­ing re­ceived? Would the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment be pre­pared to loan its staff to these projects a no cost, in light of the ben­e­fits to its tax­pay­ers? Would unions be pre­pared to al­low such work, whether or not it fell di­rectly within the em­ployee’s job de­scrip­tion? Is there any chance that we could all work to­gether on such ma­jor un­der­tak­ings?

While our cul­ture has grown ac­cus­tomed, over the past sev­eral years, to hav­ing the big­gest and the best as a re­sult of oil-re­lated rev­enues, many would be quick to point out that we are no bet­ter off than we were be­fore the oil came ashore. In fact, “the big­gest and the best” is of­ten the first step to­wards a much less cer­tain fu­ture. In­deed, we would be far bet­ter off if we be­gan to tem­per our spend­ing with some com­mon sense.

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