Some members of both St. John’s and Mount Pearl city councils are getting tired of the bickering that’s going back and forth across the mutual border.
While the spectre of amalgamation always seems to lurk as the root cause of strained relations, it’s not the only issue where the two city’s disagree.
At the last Mount Pearl council meeting, on Feb. 21, Deputy Mayor Jim Locke took aim at comments made by St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe about Mount Pearl’s decision not to help pay for maintenance on the Team Gushue Highway.
Mount Pearl contends it’s a provincial road and therefore the provincial government should be on the hook, not the cities.
At last week’s St. John’s council meeting, O’Keefe took issue with comments made by Mount Pearl Mayor Randy Simms about the level of service of Metrobus in his city.
O’Keefe said Mount Pearl gets exactly what it pays for, no more no less.
But St. John’s Coun. Tom Hann and Mount Pearl Coun. John Walsh told The Telegram this week that the cross-border barbs have to stop as they are counter productive to regional co-operation.
“Amalgamation is not on,” said Hann bluntly. “We’ve been down that road a number of times and it’s not going to happen.”
Hann said considering the capital’s neighbours don’t even want to hear the word, it would be up to the province to force the issue, which it has no interest in doing.
“We need to put the politics away and stop the bickering and start looking at ways we can co-operate,” he added.
When it comes to regional co-operation, Hann said it’s already happening as the cities share a fire department, landfill, water and waste water systems.
He said prime examples of where co-operation could be enhanced are on a regional transit system and when it comes to recreation facilities.
“Why can’t we build a large regional facility that would have two or three ice pads in it, whatever we need for ... swimming pools and so on,” asked Hann.
He said it shouldn’t matter where a regional complex would be built as long as it would be central enough for residents of both cities, and the tightly packed towns around them, to access.
Hann said it’s frustrating to still hear the decades-old debate, even though he admits he has been guilty of the political rhetoric in the past.
But he said, it’s time for it to stop as the citizens of both cities, and the region, are the ones who lose out.
Walsh agreed that the ongoing feud is unhealthy for both communities.
But he laid the blame for the ongoing argument squarely at the feet of O’Keefe.
Walsh noted he and O’Keefe have known each other all their adult lives. But he said he can’t help but take exception when the mayor of St. John’s suggests it’s only a matter of time before the capital swallows Mount Pearl.
Walsh said he represents Mount Pearl on all the regional committees and has no problems working with people like Hann, Deputy Mayor Shannie Duff, Coun. Danny Breen or any of the seniors staff at St. John’s city hall.
“I’m dealing with them all the time (and) this stuff never comes up,” he said.
Walsh said he doesn’t mean to slight St. John’s, but said Mount Pearl is never the party which initiates the squabbling.
“Our stance all along has been lets try to ignore (the amalgamation issue) and hope it goes away,” he said.