Our province has historically struggled with hard times, debt and delivering services to hundreds of small isolated or remote communities. The trend of small communities declining in population as industries change, and the outmigration of youth will continue, and unfortunately many small communities will cease to exist, to become part of our history. The reality is that our population is declining in many of these communities and there are fewer or even no children to carry on in these locations.
The cost of providing services to many of these communities is incredible.
The cost of providing services to many of these communities is incredible. Long roads to maintain and control ice and snow, miles of power lines to maintain and upgrade for a few homes, subsidized ferry service, schools with a handful of students, delivery of health care through clinics, long ambulance drives or even flying people to health centres for an X-ray. When calculated, these costs must total many, many times the income of these communities, let alone the taxes that they pay.
We currently have high taxes, enormous debt and no solution to the problem. While I personally would love for people to be able to live their lives where they want and where their history lies, it is unrealistic and financially irresponsible to continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars annually into this. An individual who pays more than they can afford into a remote cabin would eventually have to consider if they can continue to afford it and what its financial cost is to do so. Just because government is paying for universal services shouldn’t mean that we sustain these communities at any cost.
While my opinion may not be popular, I do think that it is in the best interest of the population as a whole to take a hard look at what resources we are spending to maintain rural communities. Ferry service for 50 people, a school with a single graduate, schools with three students, 100 kilometres of road for 50 people, or flying people from coastal Labrador to a hospital for an appointment or X-ray.
I propose that an auditor look at the cost to taxpayers of the province to provide services to some of these communities versus the taxes collected in the community, and propose a dollar value per person at which the government should trigger relocation of the community to a larger centre where services are more economical. Should people wish to continue to stay in these communities, they would do so accepting all responsibility for roads, travel and emergency services.
It just doesn’t make sense to watch our debt balloon while we pay exponentially more tax dollars to service a community than we collect from the people who remain there when there is little to no hope that these communities will see population growth or economic development that would attract people to move there.