O’Keefe’s annual Rotary speech also reiterates call for new fiscal arrangement with the province
St. John’s is poised for a big jump in the number of cruise visitors in 2014, says the mayor.
St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe makes his annual address to the Rotary Club of St. John’s Thursday, at the Rotary Club of St. John’s. — Photo by Daniel MacEachern/The Telegram
“Our numbers are going to be up 73 per cent, so we’ll be going from 19,000 visitors to 33,000 visitors,” said O’Keefe.
“That will mean in the downtown, for a period of several months, let’s say from June until September, and input of probably in the vicinity of $3 million into the economy.”
That infusion will permeate the city’s economy, said the mayor, who was making his annual address to the Rotary Club of St. John’s Thursday, at the Rotary Club of St. John’s. “It’ll give money not only to the downtown business sector, but also to taxi drivers and tour operators, buses and restaurants,” he said. “There’s a positive economic factor there that is being fuelled by things like the new convention centre, and we’ll continue to build on that also.”
O’Keefe’s speech contrasted the St. John’s of a hundred years ago with the St. John’s of today, citing a population of more than 200,000 in the metropolitan area, about 40 per cent of the province’s population.
“That’s going to transform this area over the next number of years,” he said. “Yes, we have issues, and they are serious issues.”
Those issues include regional water supply and increasing traffic congestion, problems he discussed with other mayors in the region last week. “We need to plan, and we are planning for water for the region 20 years out, for the whole region, if that’s what it takes,” he said.
O’Keefe reiterated his call for a new fiscal arrangement with the province.
“We’re paying the province something in the vicinity of $11 million a year in taxes that we feel is patently and bluntly unfair,” he said. “We clear the snow away, and we have to pay the province taxes on clearing the snow. We build affordable housing; we have to pay taxes to the province on affordable housing. We have to pay payroll tax. We have to pay tax on our buses — the fuel we put in, we have to pay tax on the fuel, despite the fact that we own the buses and we maintain our roads. It’s a big issue, not only for the city, but for many towns across Newfoundland and Labrador.”