There’s a charming story called “Stone Soup,” which describes the encounter between several starving men and a poor village. The men carry only a cooking pot, and when they are unable to convince any of the residents of the small town to give them food, they fill the pot with water, a large stone and begin to boil up “stone soup.” Curious residents provide a few carrots for garnish and some seasoning for flavour.
Eventually, the entire town has contributed a little something to the soup, which once cooked into a huge feast is shared with everyone.
The moral of course, is that when everyone does their part — even a small part — the whole community benefits.
Stories like this one are read to children every day, all around the world, to teach them the value of co-operation. I share this story with the fall’s election in mind, because there’s no greater lesson than co-operation when it comes to the betterment of our region — and the Northeast Avalon already has the rocks.
Right now, St. John’s, Paradise, Mount Pearl and other communities in the region, including Torbay, Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Conception Bay South (C.B.S.) and others, share plenty of municipal services.
It’s cheaper for Paradise to join the regional fire protection service than to create its own. It’s better for the environment that we all share the Robin Hood Bay landfill than for each town to have its own garbage dump. And it’s better for everyone to share water and sewer resources than to run millions of dollars of infrastructure around the region to do the same job.
But there’s more co-operation possible in the region that we can all benefit from. Like the carrots in the soup, perhaps Paradise and C.B.S. could participate in regional transportation links and maintenance. Mount Pearl and Torbay could bring the meat and potatoes of recreation planning so all residents have convenient access to adequate pool or ice time. St. John’s could extend the parsley branch by allowing another town or city to take the lead on a regional study on industrial park development.
Of course, these are only examples, but when we talk about the long-term success of the Northeast Avalon region, which is chugging along well today, we have to look to our neighbours for innovation, partnerships and opportunities.
The clichés of “A rising tide lifts all boats,” or, “Many hands make light the load” have roots in truth. Sharing, not only the cost of services like garbage collection, recycling or road construction, but also the burden of the work, can be beneficial to all taxpayers.
At the board of trade, we know that when businesses face challenges, even the fiercest of competitors will collaborate to help business succeed. We would hope, as business owners, neighbours, friends and family, and, yes, even communities, we could work together to build a better regional community. Rather than scrambling for the same resources, communities should work together to boost the region’s profile nationally and globally because we’re one economic unit — even though we are not one political unit.
We are attempting to attract the best people from around the country and the world to ensure our continued economic success. Collaboration would make this place more attractive to those people through lower taxes, a feeling of community and pride of place.
Just think if Grand Falls-Windsor only allowed locals to attend the Salmon Festival, if Mount Pearlites were banned from the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival in
St. John’s and the Tely 10 wasn’t welcome to start at Octagon Pond. That’s not a great public image for the cities and towns, but more so, it certainly wouldn’t be sustainable, as the number of people paying admission wouldn’t allow those events or places to stay open.
Why, then, would one town build a recreation centre with the exact same services as another one less than five kilometres away? Because it crosses an imaginary municipal boundary line is not a good enough reason.
Candidates in all of the communities in the region should consider how to work for and deliver municipal services for the broader community that is the Northeast Avalon. And if they don’t ask those questions themselves, voters should be asking them.
It’s time for a boil up and we are offering “stone soup.”
Denis Mahoney is chairman
of the St. John’s Board of Trade.