Dear Editor: I am writing in response to a letter you published on Oct. 25 from Mr. Shane Snook entitled “Regional government is not the right route.”
In his letter, Mr. Snook expresses concerns with the consultation approach being taken by the provincial government. My concern is his misrepresentation of the current state of the municipal system and the potential impact of regional government.
Mr. Snook says regional government would add “administrative bloat” to an already “maxed out” system. In fact, three-quarters of municipalities in this province have only a single staff person – or fewer.
To say the municipal sector has bloated bureaucracies is to be divorced from reality. The municipal sector suffers from not enough professional and technical advice. Advice to help councils make good investment decisions with taxpayers’ money on important things like drinking water and wastewater treatment. The only way most communities will access these critical resources is if they work together.
Mr. Snook also seems to have decided what form regional government will take in the province. If so, he is far ahead of MNL (Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador), our members and the provincial government. These consultations are asking people about the pros and cons of different approaches specifically to see if we can design the right one for our province. The answer may well be “No”, but until we have done the analysis, we don’t know the answer.
There are lean models of regional government. Models that allow municipalities and local service districts to share services and make collective decisions for their region without the need for large organizations or “another layer of government.”
Regional government exists in eight of the 10 Canadian provinces, and their economies are generally healthier than ours.
Yet Mr. Snook feels that regional government will “cripple our ability to grow”.
If so, why have the other provinces not been crippled? Why are they consistently outperforming us economically? Does Mr. Snook feel we just aren’t up to the challenge? Are we not as good as our Canadian cousins, 98 per cent of whom live within a regional system?
Regional government is the way the world does municipal government – in Canada, in the United States, in 81 per cent of Commonwealth countries.
The OECD says that for most countries, improving effective municipal services and democracy through regional government is key to their success.
If the rest of the world can do it, why can’t we?
Karen Oldford, president
Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador
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