Anchor Point Mayor Gerry Gros struck a note with the crowd by raising this point at question period following a speech on regional government at the Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) Convention in Gander on Nov. 6.
Community collaboration and development co-ordinator Kathleen Parewick laid out MNL’s plan, which she said recommends a regional government model be tested through a series of on-paper pilot exercises to allow the membership to troubleshoot the model with the assistance of MNL facilitators.
The regional government initiative was launched at MNL’s 2010 Municipal Symposium with the release of three papers as a way to engage members to consider changing the system.
The plan is for the provincial government to work with MNL to implement the necessary structural and legislative changes to create a regional municipal government system, said Parwick.
“We're really looking for your feedback as part of this recruitment exercise on what your region would be. We’re asking who you would see as your allies. Who are the four, five or six communities that you already consider to be your region. We’ll use that to triangulate the areas,” said Parwick.
The pilot working groups will be selected in December and there will be a selection of four or five representative regions to reflect the different parts of the province.
In early January, MNL will identify the scope of the services each regional government could offer and then dig deep into the nuts and bolts of the finances and technical implications.
They will also look into the useful lessons learned by other Canadian provinces that have implemented regional government.
While Gros liked the plan, he said Parwick is preaching to the choir. He is not optimistic about the inclusion of unincorporated areas and LSDs.
“In any area, in any 85-kilometre stretch there are roughly 25 communities, three of which are municipalities. You get residents from municipalities ask why would they want to join us when they get their snow removal done and their roads graded and paved?” said Gros.
“We are spending our hard earned tax money to do those same things and they are getting it done for nothing. Until the government shows the guts to put some legislation in place, you are not going to get these people on board.”
Gros said he has spent 14 unsuccessful years trying to get LSDs and unincorporated communities on board, but they can’t be convinced regional government will benefit them.
Parewick said capturing LSDs and unincorporated areas is going to be difficult.
“The actual arrangements about how it is we are going to bring in people that are not sitting at this table having this conversation with us is part of the stuff we are going to have to do. They are going to require representation. There are a variety of ideas we’ll have to take apart later,” said Parewick.
“The idea is that we want to be a government. We want to create something where those democratic values are respected, so, they are going to be a part of that conversation and they are going to have to be represented in some way.”
Trinity Bay North Councillor discusses economic challenges faced by amalgamation
Trinity Bay North (TBN) Coun. Shelly Blackmore says amalgamation has brought her community several challenges.
That’s what she told Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) Community collaboration and development co-ordinator Kathleen Parwick and delegates at MNL’s convention in Gander when the topic of regional government came up.
When the communities of Catalina, Melrose, Port Union and Little Catalina became incorporated in 2005, Blackmore said they lost their community identities.
“We are trying to get out right now and have some community conversations and settle some outcomes for each community so they can feel like part of the process,” said Blackmore.
Blackmore also works for an unincorporated community as the community development officer for Champney’s West.
“Working for an LSD (local service district) I have found it easier to do economic development than for an amalgamated municipality,” said Blackmore.
Blackmore told The Packet in an interview following the speech she is concerned about how regional governance will be set up.
“Are we going to come in under a regional service board? Because that has had challenges on the Bonavista Peninsula. It seems that it has been more top down, the local officials haven’t had much say in how it’s getting moved forward and what the deadlines are and what is going to be said,” Blackmore said.
Blackmore said unincorporated communities that ask their neighbours what they gained by becoming incorporated have found the only difference is property tax.
“We don’t want that to be a thing. We don’t want more tax burden on people and we want to make it easier for economic development. Sometimes it is more challenging to be a municipality, which we have been legislated to do, than if I’m a charity or a service district,” she said.
“We just want to have a more clear partnership with the board.”