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LETTER: New solution to Newfoundland’s funding crunch


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

Letter to the editor

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 Furthermore, studies are often outdated before they are completed.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.  

— Dave Randell writes from Mount Pearl

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