On a proposed boundary map for regional government consultations, the Baie Verte and Green Bay area covers 196 kilometres of road.
There are 38 marked municipalities, local service districts, and unincorporated areas – although it was said there are many more. The population is 13,245.
A public consultation on regional government held in Baie Verte last week drew 10 people.
Janet Sacrey, town clerk/manager for Pacquet, said she was “blown away” by the small turnout. At one point in the meeting, she told the panel the low turnout appears to tell government they can do what they want – that people in this area don’t care.
“I think people arrive at the decision that government is going to do what they want to do, and they are not going to make a difference,” she said.
For her, she said government has to do what it can for rural communities to survive.
“I realize it is a very small population in all of Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said. “I know we can’t have all these large services in every small little town. We definitely have to regionalize.”
Sacrey named examples of services that need to be regionalized, such as economic development, fire protection, environment and safety expertise, and waste management.
She said Pacquet is not financially able to provide qualified people to administer the services required by legislation to its residents. With a regional government, she expects paying into a larger body with other communities could be a solution.
Baie Verte councillor Scott Furey was also shocked to see minimal interest in such an important session.
Regionalization is a controversial topic, so he came prepared to indulge in some heated debates.
“I really expected the place to be packed,” he said of the meeting held at the College of the North Atlantic in Baie Verte. “I expected arguments and yelling.”
Despite the perceived lack of interest, Furey still expects whatever eventually happens to be controversial.
“People will feel like they have to give up their identity, if it goes that way,” he said. “Nobody wants to do that. I don’t want to do that for Baie Verte, but I would have to look at the benefits and weigh that against the negatives.”
As the regional hub on the Baie Verte Peninsula, the town already provides regional services that residents from other communities avail of, although they do not contribute to the cost, Furey pointed out.
“It makes things hard,” he said. “When you are thinking about doing things, you know you are servicing everybody, and that you need to maintain it for that purpose.”
Springdale councillor Joe Tompkins said regional governance has a lot of merit.
“I think we want to see government resources put in appropriate areas, and the proper use of government monies,” he said.
He said the issue of limited resources for declining populations has to be addressed. With Springdale being a regional hub for the Green Bay area, he said a boundary covering Baie Verte and Green Bay appears ideal from a regional perspective.
In Springdale, he said a service such as fire protection is already a regional asset. He believes the specialized expertise his town has on staff — such as a civil engineer — could be of great benefit to the region.
Burlington mayor George Kelly was joined at the meeting by two other town representatives. He said Burlington, Middle Arm and Smith’s Harbour have been sharing services, such as fire protection and waste management, and working together for years.
However, he said many small towns are struggling and unable to provide some essential services.
“Towns will eventually come on board, they have no choice,” he said. “Our population is going down. Every Grade 12 student is leaving the town. Our population is old — eight or 10 years in Burlington, our seniors will be gone or ranked right up there in the 100s. There are homes vacant out there … Eventually, it is just not going to work.”
Regarding western regional waste management, he said towns such as Burlington do not like the future of that service because it is leading to a significant increase in costs to residents.
However, he said the service to be provided should eventually be accepted as the new way of life.