Changing times in Arnold's Cove

Published on September 14, 2013

Tom Osbourne, mayor of Arnold’s Cove, will step down from his position in September after 29 years of service.

Shawn Hayward photo

Arnold's Cove was a relatively new concept when a 24-year-old by the name of Tom Osbourne became mayor of the town.

It had only been a decade since the resettlement policy of the Joey Smallwood government brought families from the tiny fishing settlements of Placentia Bay to collectively form what's now called Arnold's Cove.

Osbourne became mayor in 1984 when then-mayor Dr. Jeff Fowlow left the position in the middle of his term.

The previous council had resigned en masse because of personality conflicts, and Osbourne, who had already served one term as mayor, decided to run again to fill the void.

The new council had to take on the task of providing modern services for the community, at a time when tax revenue was scarce.

The Come By Chance refinery had gone bankrupt, and the modern fish plant and transshipment facility that now provides much needed jobs and tax income hadn't yet been built.

"There was a lot of unemployed people around," says Osbourne. "It was a tough job getting and collecting taxes. When you don't have a big tax base, it makes paying the bills and doing projects around the town challenging.

"It was a good learning experience but a challenging time as well," he added. "Being young and resilient, I guess I was able to roll with the punches and try to do what we could to make the town a better place for everybody."

Slowly, things started to turn around for Arnold's Cove.

National Sea Products Ltd. built the present fish plant, now operated by Icewater Seafoods Inc.

In 1998 Newfoundland Transhipment Facility built a storage site for the transfer of oil from offshore platforms to tankers, adding approximately 50 jobs to the area and contributing to the commercial tax base.

"It certainly helped us to get on our feet financially, and got us some good, high-paying jobs as well, and attracted some new residents," says Osbourne.

As Arnold's Cove became more prosperous, there was a need for new housing, and Osbourne says one of council's biggest accomplishments during his time as mayor was buying the NL Housing Corp. property in town and creating a 28-lot subdivision.

Osbourne felt the town could do a better job getting the land developed than NL Housing, and since then the land has been used for new homes in Arnold's Cove.

"We're attracting some young people to the community who went away to get an education and came back, and found jobs in the area, and are building new homes here and living here," says Osbourne.

After 29 years as mayor, Osbourne says he wants to go out on a high note, and has decided not to run in the this month's municipal election.

The decision came with some mixed emotions.

"I know I'm going to miss it a lot," he says.

"I don't know what I'm going to do Wednesday nights now, but I'm sure I'll figure something out. Right now I'm enjoying it, but I think if I ran again, it would become more of a chore, rather than a pleasure."

Over the past three decades, Arnold's Cove has become the largest town on the isthmus of the Avalon Peninsula, a hub for the area, and one of the province's most industrially important communities.

Osbourne remains humble about his time in office, however, giving credit to the people who helped him in his early days, as the 24-year-old mayor of a fledgling community on the shores of Placentia Bay.

"I had a good group of councilors with me, as well, with a fair bit of experience," he says. "We managed to get through it."


Taking Osbourne's chair will be Basil Daley, a man who also has a long history in municipal politics.

Daley has been on council for 20 years, including the last four years as deputy mayor. He's also been a volunteer firefighter for 25 years and is chairman of the regional emergency preparedness committee.

For the first time, the mayoral race was separated from the race for councillor in Arnold's Cove. In the past, the council elected a mayor from among its members.

"We discussed it and a lot of people thought they should have the chance to decide who the mayor is," says Daley, who is a quality control manager at the fish plant.

"Tom's always garnered the most votes, and he was always the mayor. I guess some councilors (felt), and I agreed, that it wasn't right that council should decide. It doesn't necessarily have to be the person who gets the most votes."

Daley was the only person to enter the mayoral race and so becomes mayor by acclamation.

One of Daley's main goals for the next four years is getting upgrades to municipal infrastructure, diversifying the economy, and encouraging more young families to move to Arnold's Cove. The population of the local school, Tricentia Academy, is dropping, according to Daley, and that worries him.

The town will also have to deal with new federal effluent water regulations, which require towns to treat wastewater before it's released into the environment, an expensive proposition for small communities.

Arnold's Cove also has to dealwith the problems of being a growing community.

"Right now, we have a booming economy, which has good points and bad points," says Daley. "Rent is expensive. The fishing industry is not going well these days. A lot of people are on lower income, and rents are sky high, which is causing problems."

Despite the challenges, Daley says he's confident he can do his part as mayor to guide Arnold's Cove in the post-Osbourne era, as a growing community in the industrial hub of the island.

"I know what has to be done, and that's why I put my foot forward," he says. "I think I have the time and education to do the job for the next four years."