“Resettlement” and “regionalization” has to happen if our province is ever going to see a sustainable budget. I also believe the majority of the public understands these hard truths as well, so let’s support the government in the big bold moves needed to get ourselves out of insurmountable debt.
The history of resettlement in our province is a sensitive topic and may induce negative emotions. But let’s face it: enduring the cost of servicing these little tiny towns where there is no fisherpeople left is not in our best interests. I haven’t done the economic analysis, but I did glance at some of the populations of K-12 schools with less than 20 children and noted the ferries being run to Change Islands, Ramea, Little Burnt Bay Islands, etc.
I bet 30 per cent of education and works and services budgets, if not 30 per cent of the full budget, can be saved in shutting down some remote villages.
So obviously the process of resettlement has to be reviewed because the residents of Little Burnt Bay wanted out and couldn’t get packages to move. Who ever gets 100 per cent agreement? Fifty per cent-plus is enough for every other vote. Full-time residents could be the only voters. And for those who vote no, let them stay. But there is no school, the power is turned off, the road maintenance goes, and if there is a ferry, dust off your punt to get to your cabin.
Now let’s look at regionalization. It drives me crazy to pass the fire station in Massey Drive when I know the province funds 90 per cent to small towns for capital works. It is difficult to distinguish Massey Drive from Corner Brook, which has the only professional fire department outside of St. John’s metro. The government has to force towns to use the services within the region by stopping funding to these projects in every town where regional services can be used more wisely.
My last point, not entirely related to the first two Rs, is the dreaded Ps: “private” vs. “public” services. The parking lot at Confederation Building must have quadrupled in the past 10 years. There are services even within the public sector that can be privatized. Private-public partnerships for capital projects is the norm everywhere else, and we have to move forward in this manner. Both in operations and capital projects, using the private sector means significant savings for the overall public budget.
Savings we can then utilize in creating a sustainable budget that does provide the services that need to be publically funded.
Trina Burden, Corner Brook