Premier Dwight Ball says communities themselves will decide the direction regional governance takes in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ball was in Corner Brook Wednesday for the second annual Premier’s Forum as part of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador’s annual general meeting and conference, which is being held in the west coast city this week.
During his 10-minute address to municipal representatives to open the four-hour forum, Ball said he was looking forward to hearing what delegates had to say about the hot topic of regionalization.
The province recently wrapped up a series of 22 public consultations to find out what incorporated municipalities, local service districts and unincorporated communities would like to see in a model of regional governance.
Some people walked out of the consultation session held in Stephenville, charging the government had already made up its mind about how regional governance will unfold.
The plan is for the province to implement some form of regional governance pilot project in 2019. While there have already been roughly 700 submissions made, contributions or even modifications to existing submissions will be accepted up until Nov. 17.
In a media scrum following his address and before he participated in the closed-door forum, the premier noted the idea of pursuing the pilot project came from Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the vision will come from the public consultations and this week’s conference.
Ball said what he would prefer the model to look like doesn’t matter.
“I never, ever saw myself as drawing a ring around a bunch of communities and towns and suggesting they should collaborate or work together on shared services or a regionalization model,” he said. “I’ve always felt it worked best when the communities came first with these ideas.”
Even when asked what he would like to see if it was totally up to him, Ball would only say the provincial government would not force anything on communities and that they would shape the model to be used.
“There are too many great idea that exist in that room today that I want to hear,” he said of the forum he was about to partake in. “I am sure they will have the final say.”
Many municipalities are already developing agreements to share certain services. The most common one has been fire and emergency services. Others share animal control officers or water services.
The premier did say it’s possible that the pilot project could be applied differently to each region across the province.
“We want to make sure we give the communities the flexibility they need to be successful,” he said.