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Pre-budget consultations limit rural Newfoundland input: Springdale and Baie Verte mayors

Consultation participants were grouped in tables of seven or eight for discussion about some tough questions the evening of Jan. 22 at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Consultation participants were grouped in tables of seven or eight for discussion about some tough questions the evening of Jan. 22 at St. Joseph’s Parish Hall in Grand Falls-Windsor. - Sarah Ladik

Not enough meetings scheduled

SPRINGDALE, NL — The mayors of Springdale and Baie Verte have some concerns about government’s pre-budget consultation process in this province.

Part of the process included conducting six sessions in various centres across the province. The closest meeting to Baie Verte-Green Bay District was in Grand Falls-Windsor Jan. 22. There was also a session in Corner Brook Jan. 25.

Neither mayor was able to attend either meeting, despite their desire to be part of the process. Nobody was available to represent Baie Verte, but Springdale councillor Brenda Dicks and chief administrative officer Jason Sparkes travelled to Grand Falls-Windsor on behalf of that town.

This week, Springdale Mayor Dave Edison and Baie Verte Mayor Brandon Philpott said they were determining how best to offset the impact of not being able to participate in person, and what was the best avenue to ensure the towns’ and region’s needs are heard.

The situation has Edison using what many across the province used to refer to as the “R” word. Regionalization is a concept people have grown more accustomed to hearing about, and many are now accepting of it.
But for many, the idea is not perceived in a positive manner, according to Springdale’s mayor.

Springdale Mayor Dave Edison
Springdale Mayor Dave Edison

 

“When I hear the word ‘regionalization,’ I really get scared, being in a small community as we are in, because you have the central areas of St. John’s, Clarenville, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook – and you wouldn’t want to see every meeting going to just these places,” he said.
“I don’t see an issue with them having a meeting in Springdale, and it makes it easier for people from Baie Verte or Triton or wherever to travel to it.”

It is not just the principles of travel or attendance, but the subject matter of such discussions, according to Edison. A meeting in the Green Bay or White Bay area would generate different discussions than that of a meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor, he says, as people from these areas have different priorities.

“We all have to work together in the province, whether it be tourism or whatever the case may be, to try and develop – but at the same time I hate the word ‘regionalization’ because I wouldn’t want to see health care regionalized, or education,” he said.
“Having extra meetings in areas where everybody don’t have to travel that far would be valuable.”

He suspects representation from Baie Verte-Green Bay District was poor at the sessions. A Monday night meeting — requiring about two hours of travel each way — is difficult for municipal representatives to attend due to work and other commitments.

“Anything like that, where you can lend an ear and you think it might make a difference, you would like to be part of it,” Edison said. “As for us, in terms of budget, the hospital is going to be a big thing this year. You want to get in and make sure (government is) aware (of our priorities).”

The mayor feels a meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor would not be the setting to generate much discussion on some of those local issues.

It was a similar sentiment for Philpott in Baie Verte, who also said he would have liked to attend.

Baie Verte Mayor Brandon Philpott
Baie Verte Mayor Brandon Philpott

 

“It does make it harder for towns, especially smaller towns,” he said of the few consultation sessions scheduled. “Baie Verte – we could’ve managed to pay for the travel (and expense of sending a representative), but I don’t know how much revenue a lot of these small communities have to support people going to these meetings.”

Philpott said the town has been contacting various ministers and met with Baie Verte-Green Bay MHA Brian Warr to ensure their priorities are known.

“With the waste water and the community centre (projects), we have our goals set and would like to see something done with this,” he said. “Hopefully that comes to fruition, but until we get the release of funding — which I know the budget is heavily involved with that — it is a wait and see game.”

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