CORNER BROOK — There was certainly a lot of something being played on George (Daddy) Dawe Memorial Pitch in Curling Monday night — politics.
The action wasn't on the seldomly used soccer field though, it was at council chambers. The main players were Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley and Bay of Islands MHA Eddie Joyce, with each accusing the other of playing the political game and deflection from accusations of their own agenda.
The Curling field came to the public forefront a number of weeks ago, when the future of the pitch as well as the lack of its use and the illegal dumping in the area was ignited in The Western Star by Corner Brook resident and soccer coach Bill Boland. It was not a new situation, with similar issues debated in recent years with the new Wellington Street Complex changing the structure of soccer programs of all ages.
Joyce joined Boland at Monday's public meeting of council, presenting a petition on behalf of Curling residents for the City of Corner Brook to improve and maintain the pitch and facility. The petition could not be debated Monday evening by council, but it provided Joyce to opportunity to discuss it publicly.
Requested meetings with council
The Liberal MHA said he requested, via letter, a number of meetings with council since he was elected to discuss issues in Corner Brook — the Curling portion of which he represents in the House of Assembly. He said those issues included things within his district, such as the Dawe pitch, but also things like the new hospital, autonomy of Grenfell Campus of Memorial University, water treatment, and sewage treatment.
Joyce claims his meeting requests to discuss these "urgent" matters were deflected until after the city developed its new 10-year capital plan. Following Monday evening's council meeting, he said the petition was the only way he felt he could get that meeting or raise the issues publicly.
"I was just tired of this city council passing the buck on whoever this facilities committee is, and not taking any responsibility," he said. "This is just one of many concerns brought to me. This happened to be the one I called them out on. Definitely, that's what I was doing."
Council voted unanimously to meet with Joyce and Boland. Joyce believes Greeley, in the public eye, was forced to agree on the meeting. The MHA also wants it to be a public meeting.
The Municipal Affairs critic said his opposition portfolio is more reason council should be reaching out to meet with him. He suggests it is a political issue, claiming the local Conservative MHAs Tom Marshall and Vaughn Granter meet with council.
"I can't think of any other reason," he said.
Recently Joyce was thanked by Premier Kathy Dunderdale for working with government to help resolve issues with Corner Brook Pulp and Paper employees and Kruger. He said he can work with anybody regardless of political affiliation for the betterment of those who elect him.
Meanwhile, Greeley — who ran for the Conservatives in the Humber West byelection last year — called Joyce's actions playing politics and driving a wedge between Curling and the rest of Corner Brook.
"Mr. Joyce knows full well how the system works," he said. "He knows, better than 90 per cent of the population, how government dollars need to get spent and how decisions get made. He knows who is responsible."
The mayor said the city has developed a 10-year recreational master plan, which is increasingly becoming more difficult to execute. The demands from the community are high, the needs are great, and the available funds are diminishing.
The soccer community is one group which has benefitted from the multimillion-dollar investment in the Wellington Street Complex, and, according to the mayor, council must eventually make a decision in terms of how many soccer fields is appropriate to maintain.
"Schools are closing, fishplants are closing, why would soccer fields be any different," he said. "If the numbers are there to justify it, how do you justify it to the rest of the citizens."
There has never been discussion about abandoning Dawe pitch, according to the mayor, but he recognizes the need to invest in other sporting organizations. Joyce said during the council meeting that everybody must work together. It is the same message Greeley has.
"We need our MHA to work with us to lobby the provincial government to provide the capital dollars we need to be able to put the infrastructure in for all of Corner Brook, for all sporting groups, all the various interest groups."
Coun. Leo Bruce said the history of soccer in Curling and the memory of Dawe reinforces the need to maintain the soccer field. He said he will refuse to close that field, and will vote against any motion to do so if it ever came to it.