The election is over; now it’s time for the mayors in the metro area to get together and really work on a regional plan.
I’m talking about more than development issues. They should look at all municipal services. Most candidates avoided the A-word during their campaigns. Heck, amalgamation is really only a popular concept in St. John’s anyway. Still, the reality is we need a lot more co-operation to make our municipalities work efficiently and economically.
Walter Harding didn’t win a seat, but he had it right when he said in this newspaper that he just wants everyone to get along. It is time for, as he put it, “a respectful and beneficial partnership that is open, cordial and one that benefits the entire region.”
Public transit (better called a bus service), and recreation (better called swimming pools and skating rinks) are some examples.
It’s time to strip the imaginary boundary lines. Yes, leave Mount Pearl, Paradise, C.B.S., and Torbay, for example, with their own elected councils and taxation levels, at least for now. All of these places have distinct identities, though I would argue that is lessening year by year.
I grew up in St. John’s. My first two decades of marriage were spent in Mount Pearl; the last 10 years, Paradise has been home. I’m no urban planner, but from where I sit, we all have the same needs and wants.
With new councils in place for the next four years, now is the time for our elected representatives to figure out ways to co-operate more than ever.
During the campaign, many candidates talked about the challenges facing their own communities. A lack of affordable housing is not unique to St. John’s. It is also a problem in Conception Bay South and Paradise and, yes, Mount Pearl. The potholes don’t stop at the overpass. There are poor roads everywhere.
There have been certain services that, out of necessity, our individual councils have had to work together on — water and fire protection, to name two. If we take the A word out of the equation, we can look at everything with fresh eyes.
Tuesday’s election results are an opportunity. Yes, we lost valuable political experience and some very good people from our councils. We also put some fresh blood in several of our municipal chambers, including as mayors in Paradise, Conception Bay South, Torbay and Portugal Cove-St.Philip’s.
They have new ideas and ways of doing things. At the same time, we have the returning leaders of
St. John’s and Mount Pearl. They know what works and what doesn’t. All of these people can help lead the region into a new way of doing business.
Nearly half the population of the entire province lives in the St. John’s urban area. Many of these people work in St. John’s, but others commute to Bull Arm, Long Harbour and elsewhere. We are a mobile people, and once we accept that, the lines come down.
The most telling picture of where things have to go appeared in this paper last Saturday, with Paradise Mayor Ralph Wiseman flanked by representatives from Mount Pearl and St. John’s for the new fire station.
Now let’s consider more of the same for recreation, a bus service, paratransit, and perhaps even snowclearing and garbage collection. Municipal enforcement and animal control are worth a look. Needless to say, there are savings to be had from bulk-buying equipment and services. Economic development and planning would be obvious winners.
It has been about two decades since St. John’s amalgamated with Goulds, Wedgewood Park and lands from what was then the Metro Board.
I’m not saying to follow that lead, only that the time has come to really take the bull by the horns and take a regional approach. As someone else put it, deliver what you deliver better.
The new councils should immediately launch a constructive, head-to-head discussion.
In St. John’s, the new council will be sworn in Oct. 7.
Be bold. Take the first steps. Start the talk.
Gerry Phelan is a journalist and
former broadcaster. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org