There was no dramatic spectacle as community representatives discussed the idea of coming together under a regional government in Corner Brook Wednesday night.
That doesn’t mean everyone is gung-ho for the concept.
A little more than 40 people, mostly elected municipal and local service district officials and municipal staff, attended the public consultation at the College of the North Atlantic to discuss the provincial government's plan to explore a potential model of regional governance.
It was unlike the previous night in Stephenville, where several people walked out of the session there because they felt government had already decided on a plan.
Those at the Corner Brook meeting willingly adhered to the format of dividing the crowd into smaller groups, each with a government facilitator, to discuss a series of questions about the issue.
Coun. Derrick Anthony of Pasadena said the cross-section at his table featured representation from the City of Corner Brook, smaller municipalities and unincorporated areas.
He’s not sure the concept will work to everyone’s satisfaction.
“The feeling I got at our table was that fair representation was a big issue,” Anthony said as he left the meeting. “I don’t know how you fix that when you’re dealing with a community of 100 people and a city of 18,000 people.”
Anthony felt the discussion at his table was interesting and the facilitator did a good job generating ideas and keeping the conversation productive. He said he now has a better idea of the concerns raised by other communities, but there are many.
There is little argument that some communities could benefit from sharing services. Pasadena, for instance, is trying to find a way to have better municipal enforcement and maybe sharing with a neighbouring location is the way to go. The same could apply, said Anthony, to a community planner jointly paid for by multiple communities.
He is not sure full regionalization is the answer to those needs and demands.
“Even though we’re participating in this, it doesn’t mean we are endorsing it,” Anthony said. “We want to participate and get the best information out there and pass it on.”
But, he said, to present something that is going to work across the board will be very difficult.
The province is pushing for regionalization as a way to address maintaining services for its aging and declining population.
Those at the session were told the provincial government does intend to try a regional government pilot project by 2019 and its discussion document on the topic has already divided the province into 22 potential regions.
Wednesday's meeting — the 17th of 22 such consultations scheduled — was held in a draft region that, if it does get adopted, would include the Corner Brook and Bay of Islands area, along with the Humber Valley as far as Pynn's Brook and the unincorporated areas of Pinchgut Lake and George's Lake to the west.
Nearly 34,000 people live within that region.
Convincing all those people, not to mention taxpayers in all regions, that this is a good idea will likely be the hardest part for the provincial government, said Anthony.
“I think residents and the people here tonight realize this is another level of government,” he said. “We have to look at how do we bring in another level of government and not have an additional cost to that?
“Are the savings going to be enough to overcome this level of government and any costs that come with it?”
Residents can still have input into the consultation process by visiting the provincial government’s website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, click here.
Gary Kean/ The Western Star
Brent Decker, an economic development officer with the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation, facilitated one of the groups at Wednesday’s public consultation on regional governance in Corner Brook.