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Steady Brook mayor plans to revise joint council motion to raise concerns over regional governance

Howley Mayor Wayne Bennett joins the discussion on regional government at the Great Humber Joint Council meeting in Pasadena Saturday.
Howley Mayor Wayne Bennett joins the discussion on regional government at the Great Humber Joint Council meeting in Pasadena Saturday.

A proposed motion regarding regional governance was withdrawn before it was fully debated, but it does deem that the issue is not all that palatable with the Great Humber Joint Council.

The council, which was meeting for the first time since general municipal elections were held in late September, met in Pasadena Saturday.

The agenda was fairly light for the new and returning faces around the joint council table, but the main topic up for discussion was the model of regional governance being proposed by the provincial government.

The province is proposing a pilot project that could see Newfoundland and Labrador divided into 22 regions, according to a discussion document that has been the focus of a series of recent public consultations. While how it will work is still not decided, the idea is for all residents within each region to adhere to some common form of governance.

When the topic of regionalization came up at Saturday’s joint council meeting, Steady Brook Mayor Donna Thistle asked for support in writing the provincial government with concerns that the region proposed for most of the joint council membership was too large.

According to the government’s discussion document, Corner Brook, the Bay of Islands and the Humber Valley as far east as Pynn’s Brook would be included in one region. That region would also take in the unincorporated Pinchgut Lake and George’s Lake cottage areas where some people live permanently.

Thistle, who thought the region was too large geographically, eventually withdrew the motion because the way it had been worded could have been interpreted as still implying support for the basic concept of regionalization government that is putting forth, which she said she does not.

She said there has to be a way for communities to come together to mutually benefit one another without everyone within a certain area falling under the same regional governance structure.

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While she withdrew her motion, she did think beginning a discussion about the size of the proposed regions would lead to further debate about other issues people may have with the concept.

“I think that would be a trigger to start a whole bunch of other conversations … That (regional size) one in particular is the most unwieldy,” she said.

Thistle asked around the table if anyone thought the region size was not an issue, but no one indicated they thought what government is proposing was a good idea.

Corner Brook city councillor Josh Carey, who was reelected as chair of the joint council, reminded everyone that government’s discussion document was meant to elicit input and generate dialogue and that no decision have been made yet.

At a public meeting on regionalization in Stephenville past week, several people with concerns government had already decided what direction will be taken with regionalization walked out in disgust over what government was proposing.

Norris Point Mayor Joe Reid, the joint council’s treasurer, said Saturday that everyone at the recent consultation meeting he attended in Rocky Harbour also seemed to disagree with the proposed size of the regions.

Thistle believes smaller communities should help cover the costs of some of the public amenities they avail of, but are provided by and paid for by their larger neighbours. She said sharing services and costs for them, though, shouldn’t require one municipality for the entire region.

“It makes sense that smaller communities share those costs, but I personally think there is another way to get them to do it other than sucking them into these great big unwieldy communities,” she said.

Thistle said she will work on revising her motion, so it doesn’t suggest the joint council is in favour of the basic idea behind enforcing regional governance as the provincial government seems to have currently proposed.

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