Council hopefuls say residents can benefit from regionalization
Walter Harding just wants everyone to get along.
The C.B.S. fire department and the St. John’s Regional Fire Department fight a large, explosive fire at a garage belonging to Farrell’s Excavating in Kelligrews in August 2009. Many municipal candidates say fire services is one area that could be made better by regionalization. — Telegram file photo
Running in the Sept. 24 municipal election, the St. John’s Ward 3 candidate is one of 30 candidates who participated in a recent Telegram/St. John’s Board of Trade online survey.
“There should be no finger-pointing as has been done in the past by some members of St. John’s council, but more so a respectful and beneficial partnership that is open, cordial and one that benefits the entire region,” Harding wrote, when asked in the survey if candidates support the further regionalization of services and facilities, such as public transit and recreation.
Harding suggested more co-operation is needed between towns to make regionalization successful.
“As our borders have diminished to very thin lines over the past few years, the time has come for neighbouring communities to realize the benefits to the taxpayers and community leaders of all regions by working together and formulating plans and procedures that will encompass and benefit the entire region,” he wrote.
Co-operation is key
Running for one of the councillor-at-large seats, Dave Lane agrees communities need to concentrate more on getting along instead of working against each other.
“I think we should improve regional co-operation with our neighbours and focus more on competing with global cities — such as Toronto and Calgary — rather than with each other,” Lane replied.
“We are already a closely knit region, and can tremendously improve services if we share the burden in a co-operative way. Co-operation requires trust, and I intend to establish that with our neighbours over my tenure in council.”
Water, fire and waste management services are the three biggest common amenities shared between St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Paradise, and Conception Bay South. Smaller towns such as Torbay and Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove are examining the possibility of teaming up with the city for more services.
The provision of a public transit service has created a lot of debate between surrounding areas as St. John’s attempts to develop a plan that would be efficient and effective and help alleviate traffic congestion and the lack of parking downtown.
While most municipalities agree public transit needs to be revised, towns such as Conception Bay South say residents are not interested in availing of a bus service such as Metrobus to travel to the capital city.
Of the 30 candidates who received the survey, 28 said they were in favour of sharing services.
Only one candidate — Ward 5 incumbent Wally Collins — failed to complete it.
Ward 4 candidate Tracy Holmes said she would only support regionalization “if it could be proven beyond any doubt that the best interests of those involved were served.”
“Yes, on a purchase of service basis, providing the commuter communities start to pay St. John’s for their daily use of our city’s infrastructure,” wrote mayoral candidate Geoff Chaulk.
Ward 2 candidate Scott Fitzgerald said while he supports regionalization, he doesn’t support amalgamation.
Councillor-at-large candidate Lionel West was definitive that regionalization should go further.
“Not only should it be applied to public transit and recreation, but also to other aspects of shared needs such as bulk buying of services and equipment that are common to the operations of the municipalities,” he wrote.
Councillor-at-large candidate, Paul Sears suggested the more services shared, the more money towns can save.
“Each municipality has strengths that can be used to better this region; no one community holds all the answers. Regionalization initiatives can and will save hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions,” he wrote.
Last week, The Telegram sent all 30 St. John’s candidates a link to an online survey. A joint project of The Telegram and the board of trade, the survey polled candidates on 15 key issues.
In the coming days, The Telegram will publish stories outlining candidates’ positions on those issues.