St. John’s’ economic roadmap got plenty of direction from its residents at Wednesday night’s public consultation.
Ward 4 Coun. Debbie Hanlon chairs the committee that’s laying out the Strategic Economic Roadmap, and says she was disappointed with the turnout, but not the ideas.
“It was about engaging the people and we may not have gotten the quantity, but we certainly got the quality. They were interested,” she said of the 15 people who showed up to talk about where they want to see St. John’s in the next 10 years.
The fifth consultation — not including one with a number of officials from different municipalities — was focused on what residents of the city thought about the four main goals of the roadmap and how they would adapt them to suit their purposes.
The goals are:
• To have the city recognized as a global leader in ocean technology and a global centre for offshore energy expertise;
• To be recognized as a destination of choice for people seeking unique visitor experiences;
• To be recognized as a distinctive Canadian artistic metropolis and
• To be a magnetic and desirable city for young professionals, newcomers, business and investment.
Generally discussion on each of the topics was about making St. John’s a vibrant and desirable place to live and how that could be achieved.
Suggestions included improving the harbour front, providing the best infrastructure now for later, looking into expertise in other energies and lobbying for improved health services wherever possible.
On the issues of tourism and the arts, the general consensus was that they were certainly worthwhile, and necessary to keep on the list, but that there was little to do to improve on the uniqueness and quality of what already exists in St. John’s.
Specifically on tourism, most agreed that the packaging and a focus on St. John’s, rather than Newfoundland, was key, as was a major investment in transportation links, including air, sea and interprovincial.
When it came to suggestions on the goal to attract young, working people and retaining those here, the room looked to Jill Pittman, a young woman from here, but living and working in British Columbia.
She said the reason she doesn’t work and live here is because her job — in rehabilitation — doesn’t exist here, and certainly not at a pay scale of higher than $13 an hour. She said she felt invested in St. John’s, that it will be her home again, but not if the cost of living keeps her from owning a home or having a high quality of life.
Other suggestions included progressive tax breaks, by Gary Lane, who also suggested businesses would benefit from clear legislative direction from the city.
The other consultations held in the last several weeks focused on representatives of the oil and gas sector, tourism and young professionals.
“A lot of the groups that we’ve done, they had specific agendas, because they come in with something that they’d like to see,” Hanlon said of the difference between businesspeople and the public. “But these people had a lot of variety and they were talking with a passion for the place that they lived.
“We’ll take that and work with it.”
Hanlon said she’s looking forward to the upcoming youth consultation. If there’s enough interest, she said, she’ll hold another public consultation.
“These meetings, when I leave, make me prouder to be a person in St. John’s.”