I believe this province must surely be considered the jewel in the Crown of Canadian provinces.
As a people however, we have a challenge that afflicts most of us and one that we can ill afford to ignore. Over the centuries the very challenge of living here has often helped define us as a people. Economic circumstances such as the collapse of the cod fishery in 1992 have necessitated the diversification and redefining of our economy. As part of our adaptation we have rationalized the fishery, closed smaller schools and churches and centralized services such as retail and commercial centres.
If we are to truly build financially stronger communities we must get better at resolving the fiscal challenges that hold our communities back from economic prosperity. These challenges result largely from the nature of our fiscally limited small and stand-alone communities, many of which are facing a declining population and which are often located within a sprawling and rugged coastal terrain which makes providing basic services quite burdensome.
The Conception Bay North (CBN) area is ripe for both commercial and community development, and while some sharing of resources is evident, our small towns have fallen short of collaborating and sharing to take advantage of the incredible opportunities that could result if we were a single municipal entity. I believe it is now the right time to consider doing business in a different way — a way that creates greater community wealth resulting in a greater benefit for all our residents.
As citizens, we have been rather silent when it comes to encouraging our local leaders to engage with neighbouring municipalities to create larger and better economic opportunities.
The main reason for this I submit is that many of us fear a loss of our own sense of community if towns dropped these artificial (and I submit restrictive) boundaries in order to provide better services. Can it be that our very strong sense of community identity is a key factor in holding us back from creating a strong municipal structure that benefits all our citizens?
I sincerely believe that we will all benefit from a willingness to share and collaborate (and yes join with) our neighbour towns while maintaining our own unique and vibrant community and neighbourhood values, traditions and identities. In fact, I believe there should be (instead of the current approximately nineteen separate towns) preferably one, two or three municipalities in this area, within which our communities and our traditions and identities would still thrive and prosper.
In essence, I believe that we can do better for our citizens by working together not only from a financial and services perspective, but also by creating a new and better municipal structure.
Having an appropriately defined municipality that represents the citizens of a larger area, I submit, will ensure we are better able to govern and provide services as well as other exciting opportunities. I believe it will also position our people and our towns to compete with other municipalities both within and outside the province where progress appears to be proceeding at a pace that is not as likely, and probably not even possible, in our more financially challenged and isolated smaller towns.
The thoughts put forward here are mine, however, I am confident they are shared by many. I am also aware of and respect that others may disagree.
What matters most at this point is that we start and continue this conversation.
Robert Lundrigan writes from Spaniard’s Bay