O'Keefe spearheads press for more money from province

James McLeod
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Mayor Dennis O'Keefe is leading the charge, but he's hoping municipal leaders across the province will give Finance Minister Tom Marshall an earful.

O'Keefe has already met with mayors on the northeast Avalon, and Friday afternoon he was meeting with his counterparts from Grand Falls-Windsor and Corner Brook to get them onside.

"I think it's important for the province to recognize that municipalities right across Newfoundland and Labrador are the prime provider of services to people who live in this province," O'Keefe said at pre-budget consultations in St. John's Friday.

"We can no longer provide the services that people want, and we can no longer renew our infrastructure and develop new infrastructure solely reliant on the property tax."

During his presentation to Marshall, O'Keefe called for a share of the gas tax for municipalities and a grant in lieu of taxes for provincial buildings in the capital city.

But Marshall wasn't giving any positive signals; he started the day by giving a presentation showing the provincial government running a $490-million deficit in 2012.

"I thought after you saw that presentation, when you talked about a new fiscal arrangement, you were going to offer me some money," Marshall said.

O'Keefe fired back, "we give you $10 million already. In fact, we pay more money to you than we get from you."

Marshall chuckled and replied, "Is that right? I like that."

Speaking to reporters after the morning session, Marshall wasn't giving any signals that he's receptive to the municipalities' logic.

"Basically, they want (the provincial) government to raise its revenue and give them money," he said.

"The counterargument is we raise money for our needs, they raise money for their needs."

But the municipalities weren't finished for the day. In the afternoon, Churence Rogers, president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, was arguing that towns and cities need more money.

"Fiscally, municipal government is the weakest order of government. Throughout Canada, municipalities receive eight cents out of every tax dollar," he said.

Rogers said the reliance on property tax just isn't enough, and called on the government to give them a portion of income tax, sales tax or the gas tax.

Speaking to The Telegram, O'Keefe said he hopes the pressure on Marshall continues. He said he'd like to see mayors in other communities raise the issue as pre-budget consultation sessions are held across the province.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: O'Keefe spearheads press, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador

Geographic location: Avalon, Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador St. John's Canada

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Recent comments

  • Diego
    January 17, 2012 - 14:23

    I can't believe what I'm reading! This city is broken. Plain and simple. The rampant, unchecked and unplanned growth that has been allowed to occur here for the past 10 years, and certainly before that, has overburdened the infrastructure to beyond breaking. Every other week part of the water supply blows up or a bit of snow shuts the place down because they still haven't figured out how to clear snow here but the houses and buildings continue to go up. The roads can't handle the traffic. The streets ar too narrow for the buses they have and they can't fix a pothole in a reasonable amount of time. The place was poorly designed and implemented and, decades ago, when they had a chance to make the needed changes, nothing was done. As long as they can charge for permits and squeeze the last tax dollar out of people, they don't care. Until now, apparently. According to Bozo the Clown here, they seem to have finally come to the conclusion that there are problems. Well, it's too late. This city is unrepairable. How do you fix the debacle that is Stavanger Drive? How do you expand Elizabeth Avenue to handle the traffic that it's subjected to daily? How do you develop the downtown area with the likes of O'Leary and Duff blocking every attempt to help it. The city is broken and no one can fix it. Time to move I think.