The Traytown town councillor was one of 28 participants to attend a public consultation on regional governance in Gander Oct. 2.
Living in a community with a population of 280 residents and speaking on behalf of himself, not council, Baird said he was interested in how communities working together can obtain regional resources and promote economic development.
“It creates a louder voice, and if successful, all communities involved benefit,” he said.
The session was 11 of 22 government has been rolling out across the province.
With rural populations in decline and aging at an accelerated rate, the concept is to engage residents in establishing how local government and service delivery in Newfoundland and Labrador can be supported.
Out of the 28 participants in Zone 11 – which covers from Gander to the Eastport Peninsula – 54 per cent of those polled were in communities with a population of fewer than 500 people.
After breaking out into group sessions, many felt regional governance would provide communities with more purchasing power, assist with economic development, and bring forward a regionally focused effort.
The group felt firefighting, waste management, and water management, should be key priorities.
However, not everyone was in favour. Some felt regional governance would bring increased costs to smaller communities, create further distances for services – such as regional fire departments – and cause communities to lose a sense of identity.
After the 22 consultations have been completed, all feedback received will be made public on the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment website in late 2017.
- Ninety per cent of the province’s population lives within 271 municipalities; 148 have a population of less than 500.
- Seven per cent of the population lives within 172 local service districts (LSD); 159 have a population of less than 500.
- The remaining three per cent live within 111 unincorporated areas; 104 of these areas have a population of less than 500.
- The current median age in Newfoundland and Labrador is 45.4 years.
- By 2036 it is projected to be 50.2 years.
- Between 2016 and 2036 the province is expected to experience negative growth.
- The population is expected to decline from 527,020 to 502,332 – nearly five per cent of the population – in the next 20 years.
- Declining population places additional strain on municipalities to maintain stable government structures and services.
What is regional government?
- A formal government structure with regional governance as well as regional-level service delivery functions.
- Regional governments offer platforms for communities to work together on areas of shared interests for the benefit of an entire region, rather than to the benefit of one community.
- Often governed by a board comprised of elected regional representatives and/or appointed representatives from communities within the regional boundaries.
- Often provides governance to unincorporated areas.
- Typically provides a vehicle for delivery of regional services such as economic development, water supply, sewage, waste management and recreation.
- Due to the pooling of resources, regional governments can have capacity beyond that of many small individual municipalities.
- Can offer a way to reduce duplication of services.