Con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion draws a large crowd ea­ger to dis­cuss shared ser­vices

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

Held in a re­gion where many smaller town share not-sodis­tant bound­aries, it per­haps should not have come as a sur­prise so many turned up in Carbonear last Thurs­day for a con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion on re­gional gov­ern­ment.

The topic has come up reg­u­larly over the last cou­ple of years in meet­ings of the Con­cep­tion Bay North Joint Coun­cil, with a plebiscite vote on the is­sue hav­ing re­mained a pos­si­bil­ity for this month’s gen­eral elec­tion up un­til ear­lier this year.

In­deed, there were plenty of mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers present at the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion for the con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion, along with many can­di­dates in the up­com­ing elec­tion. Di­vided into groups, they tack­led a num­ber of ques­tions rel­e­vant to the topic of shared ser­vices and forms of gov­ern­ment that could man­age the af­fairs of mul­ti­ple com­mu­ni­ties.

Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce at­tended the event. He said there were more peo­ple reg­is­tered in Carbonear than any of the other 25 sched­uled con­sul­ta­tions.

As he’s said in the past, Joyce promised not to force amal­ga­ma­tion on any towns, ad­ding gov­ern­ment Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ed­die Joyce briefly ad­dressed at­ten­dees of a con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion in Carbonear about adopt­ing forms of re­gional gov­ern­ment in New­found­land and Labrador.

sim­ply wants feed­back that can aid the work of an ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee de­vel­op­ing pi­lot projects for re­gional gov­er­nance. Those projects are ex­pected to start in 2019.

“Tell us what we can do,” he said. “We know the de­mo­graph­ics of the prov­ince are shift­ing. Ev­ery­body in this room knows that. We all know that. We know there have got to be changes.”

Emily Thomp­son, man­ager of com­mu­nity co-op­er­a­tion with

the prov­ince, gave a pre­sen­ta­tion that out­lined some of the key is­sues un­der­lin­ing the need for more col­lab­o­ra­tion among towns.

Towns with de­clin­ing, ag­ing pop­u­la­tions strug­gle to fill coun­cil va­can­cies and may not have ac­cess to the rev­enue nec­es­sary to pro­vide ser­vices res­i­dents ex­pect. More than half of all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the prov­ince as of 2016 have a pop­u­la­tion be­low 500. Among towns in close prox­im­ity, there may be an un­nec­es­sary du­pli­ca­tion of ser­vices.

Lo­cal ser­vice districts (LSDs) gen­er­ally pro­vide fewer ser­vices and in many cases are lo­cated near towns with an ac­tive coun­cil. Th­ese LSDs find them­selves re­ly­ing on neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties or the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to ad­dress ser­vice short­com­ings.

On the is­sue of the ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of re­gional gov­ern­ment, men­tion was made of the per­ceived threat some peo­ple feel of los­ing com­mu­nity iden­tity through amal­ga­ma­tion. Some at­ten­dees of the ses­sion sug­gested this the­ory has al­ready been dis­proven through the ex­pe­ri­ences of peo­ple liv­ing in places like River­head, Har­bour Grace or any of the com­mu­ni­ties now a part of Bay Roberts like Co­ley’s Point and Shearstown.

In a re­gion­al­ized set­ting, it was said there might be op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide ser­vices not cur­rently ad­dressed, such as trans­porta­tion for se­niors. The cost of re­gion­al­iza­tion for tax­pay­ers also came up. While the cost of some fees may come down through re­gion­al­iza­tion, smaller com­mu­ni­ties join­ing larger ones could end up fac­ing in­creased prop­erty taxes through the in­tro­duc­tion of new ser­vices. One at­tendee said there are peo­ple likely will­ing to put up with fewer ser­vices if it means their taxes re­main low.

Dis­cussing the po­ten­tial im­pact of com­mu­ni­ties hav­ing a choice to opt out of the sys­tem, much was made of the cur­rent ar­range­ment for LSDs and the per­cep­tion res­i­dents of those com­mu­ni­ties do not pay their fair share for ser­vices.

On the po­ten­tial cri­te­ria for re­gional gov­ern­ment, it was said pop­u­la­tion size could prove to be less rel­e­vant than other fac­tors. The con­cern of larger towns dom­i­nat­ing dis­cus­sions and rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the re­gional level was also brought up.

The con­sul­ta­tion ses­sion con­sid­ered the im­pli­ca­tions of re­gional gov­ern­ments be­ing man­dated to look af­ter cer­tain ser­vices ver­sus hav­ing the flex­i­bil­ity to choose. It was gen­er­ally agreed the lat­ter op­tion would be prefer­able, though some said there could be ser­vices that merit be­ing man­dated, like waste man­age­ment and waste­water. On the is­sue of waste­water, it was noted towns are gen­er­ally not in a po­si­tion to be able to af­ford the work nec­es­sary to com­ply with new fed­eral reg­u­la­tions for treat­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.