David Crawford is frustrated.
Crawford, who lives in Torbay, owns a cabin along the Argentia rail bed.
He is one of many cabin owners under Eastern Waste Management’s (EWM) jurisdiction, which stretches from the Avalon Peninsula through to Clarenville, stretching as far as Burgoyne’s Cove in the east and Swift Current to the west, who says that EWM is charging cabin owners a completely unnecessary waste collection fee of $180 annually.
“We don’t need garbage pick-up. We never asked for it. It was forced upon us,” said Crawford, who noted that many cabin owners simply pack up their trash after their weekend at the cabin and bring it back to their municipality, where they already are paying fees for waste removal.
“Cabins are a Newfoundland tradition, as is peas pudding, mummering, et cetera. You go to your cabin in the woods, peace and quiet, you take [trash] in, you take [trash] home.”
Crawford adds that many cabin owners head back to their communities at the start of the work week after spending the weekend at the cabins, and, if garbage is left for EWM to collect, which may not be until Wednesday, Thursday, or even Friday, it is vulnerable to scavengers and the elements.
To compound matters, Crawford says that many of the cabins are located on unserviced roads and access roads, roads which are not maintained and up kept by government, making winter collection sometimes impossible.
“Government is saying, we’re going to use your roads, and charge you $180 to pick up what isn’t there,” says Crawford.
To help bring awareness to the issue, Crawford create the Cabin Owners against the Trash Tax (COATT) Facebook group.
A group which now totals over 1,700 members.
Among the several politicians cabin owners have made their concerns known to is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment Eddie Joyce.
And it seems that Joyce has taken the matter very seriously.
Earlier this year, the minister met with Ed Grant, chair of Eastern Regional Service Board (ERSB) to discuss cabin owners’ concerns.
Joyce told The Packet last week that it was both a very ‘respectful’, but also very frank, meeting.
“What we agreed to at the time, was that the service board would seek some information, and we as a government also would seek some information, on the authority of the act, to see if they have the authority of the act to change some of the rules they have in place,” Joyce told the Packet.
The act in question is the Regional Service Board Act, 2012, which, according to a press release from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment on Jan. 29, means that “the boards have the authority to set fees to offset the expenses of delivering waste management services.”
This means that service boards can choose to decrease waste collection costs for seasonal owners.
That same press release notes that the Burin Peninsula Regional Service Board charges 50 per cent lower fees for seasonal cabin owners, while the Northern Peninsula Regional Service Board charges 32 per cent lower waste collection fees for seasonal cabin owners, as opposed to ERSB’s total fee.
According to a press release from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment issued on Feb. 14, provincial government has determined that ERSB’s claim that they cannot reduce their fee, and that the doing so by other regional service boards was in violation of legislation, is incorrect, noting that there is nothing in legislation prohibiting a regional service board from reducing expenses given the circumstances.
Chair of ERSB Ed Grant could not be reached for comment by time of publication, but a spokesperson for ERSB directed The Packet to www.fairwaste.ca, where a rationale for the service fee is outlined under the header “Why does ERSB have on fee for all properties?”, and the claim is that reducing service fees for cabin owners would increase fees for other property owners.
But would a reduction of fees be enough for cabin owners, many of whom claim not to use the service in the first place?
For cabins on unserviced roads, the answers is a big ‘no’ for David Crawford.
“Speaking for myself and my members, ERSB should stay off any unserviced road or access (road), so the fee should be zero. If you have a cabin that is on a road maintained by the government, then yes, you should be charged at the minimal rate.”
“It’s just ridiculous,” adds Crawford.
“You don’t charge a camper to go camping every weekend.”