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Letter: Regional government is not the right route

I write regarding regional government public “consultations.”

Not only does the prospect of regional government concern me, but the approach the government has taken in putting it in place. We are a province crushed, trapped under the burden of administrative bloat. Wasteful, misallocated and overlapping expenditures hold our citizens in chains. Miles of red tape deter countless and bog down those who persist. Regional government risks exacerbating these problems, not resolving them.

Opening “consultations” on any question other than “Do you support regional government?” is troubling. People should be invited to a discussion on whether or not to pursue regionalization, with equal opportunity to discuss alternatives. What happened to consent? Instead, the questions lead attendees into how to go about regionalization. The questions even propose (in careful wording) forcing communities to participate and taking away municipal jurisdiction.

“What are the impacts for the regional government system if certain communities are given the ability to opt out?” Criticize communities who try to maintain autonomy.

“What criteria should determine whether communities are governed at the local level by a regional government?” At what point can we (hostile) take-over small communities?

One of the daunting flaws with regional government is administrative bloat. We live in a hyperspeed world; on top of “drinking from a firehose” amounts of information every day, people are spending the majority of their waking lives working or commuting to work. People simply do not have the time to stay engaged with municipal, provincial and federal politics, especially when most political engagement is b.s.! The people of the province are already maxed out; adding yet another layer of government would only make matters worse.

Micro-management is inefficient and costly, and to take away the ability for communities to govern themselves is foolhardy at best. At worst it’s morally bankrupt, bullying rural communities into expenses they cannot afford to pay for services they may never benefit from.

Related to the previous point is the additional expense of regional governance. Another layer of government means another layer of costs — everything from salaries and expenses to office space and printer ink. Nothing is free, and whether these expenses are covered by the provincial budget or by new fees and taxes (did they really ask that? Oh my God.), the result is the same: people taxed to the point of breaking have to shoulder more financial burden. Again.

Naturally, with administrative bloat comes more red tape. More paperwork, more forms. It is already sufficiently difficult to get anything done without adding more technicalities, duplications, overlaps and confusions. As mentioned previously, our time is precious; when projects or activities that should be straightforward are walled behind red tape, they’re very easily cast aside or shelved. Opportunities are lost.

Another major concern is autonomy. Micro-management is inefficient and costly, and to take away the ability for communities to govern themselves is foolhardy at best. At worst it’s morally bankrupt, bullying rural communities into expenses they cannot afford to pay for services they may never benefit from.

This brings me to my final criticism: the vicious cycle. Regional government is pitched and branded as a saviour to rural communities, when it is far more likely to further strangle them. Rural communities have such limited cash flow that new expenses mean even less disposable income. If nobody can afford to spend, money doesn’t change hands; local businesses suffer and die. Graduates cannot afford to be underemployed at eight hours a month at minimum wage, and emigrate. Budding entrepreneurs take months or years longer to build capital; opportunities are missed.

Regional government would only serve to further cripple, weaken and shrink our rural communities, exacerbating our demographic struggles.

It would be remiss of me not to offer constructive comments as well.

I believe the most constructive path forward would be to formulate and polish a voluntary Framework for Community Co-operative Initiatives (CCIF). This framework would be a publicly available set of tools and guidelines to greatly ease the process of developing community co-operative initiatives. Rather than municipalities and local service districts needing to reinvent the wheel, this framework would give a solid foundation as a starting point.

In closing, I am wholeheartedly against regional government and disappointed with this government’s approach toward it. It is an added burden to a burdened people, and one I am convinced will only worsen the root cause.

 

Shane Snook

Flat Bay

 

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