The season of apathy is well underway in Clarenville.
In fact, we think it never really went away.
From the past couple of weeks, we have noticed several things that cried out for the attention and suggestions of Clarenville citizens and their local government, but never made as much as a blip on the radar screen of public debate.
On Monday, the province brought its pre-budget consultation session to Arnold's Cove. Leaders from several local towns participated, and offered their thoughts on the programs and services that should be accounted for in the next provincial budget.
The Town of Bonavista sent its representatives.
And towns in the Arnold's Cove area collaborated to file a single report on local needs and challenges.
Clarenville was represented by just one lone citizen, there of his own accord, who raised a long-forgotten, but important, issue — the need for a new provincial court house in the town.
We haven't been able to find out why the Town of Clarenville choose not to send a representative to offer the town's suggestions on provincial government spending.
CAO Bob Hiscock declined comment, and we were unable to track down Mayor Fred Best on Monday to get an explanation.
One could argue that Clarenville, with its current prosperity, has its economic ducks in a row and has no significant need of government funding to provide programs and services; at least not to the same extent as towns with smaller tax bases.
A fast-growing town has challenges equal to that of towns with stagnant economies.
With rapid growth comes a higher demand for more services and programs.
Better roads, more recreational programs and sewage treatment are among the demands that will land on council's doorstep if the rapid growth continues.
Being part of the pre-budget consultation process, while not the only way to get yourself on a government-funding priority list, is important. Being there to remind public officials, in a public forum, for the public record, of the town's short-term and long-term financial goals and challenges, just makes good sense.
The other benefit is it shows the town's citizens that council is a voice for them, and the best way to get local issues on the provincial agenda.
A prime example: back in November, during the Hebron public review sessions, the Clarenville town council did have representation. At that session, Mayor Fred Best raised the idea of a need for a divided Trans Canada Highway through Clarenville.
Best's comments made provincial news, catching the attention of the public and government.
The topic could have been raised again at the pre-budget consultations — good ideas often need repeating before they get action — to keep the issue on the provincial government radar.
Non-participation leaves the perception of an apathetic municipal government. That may be an unfair assessment, based on a non-show at one particular event, but the fact that other towns deemed it important enough to show, leaves Clarenville looking like the odd one out.
Then again, the recent debate over the decision by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador to have the Herder championship series played in St. John's (and possibly Corner Brook), leaving out the rinks in the smaller towns, proved the council is only as good as the citizens it represents.
While the town of Grand Falls-Windsor, and local hockey fans, created a commotion of opposition to the Herder decision, the noise from Clarenville was inaudible. If there was a whisper of discontent, you'd need a sonogram the size of the Hubble telescope to pick it up.
For those who might think, "Ah, that's just hockey", think again.
When the best teams in senior hockey meet to win a trophy, fans — and their wallets — travel with them.
A Herder playoff game in Clarenville would mean a few more hotel rooms booked, lots more cups of coffee sold and meals to feed the hungry before and after the games.
And we can only assume the loss of a couple of games at the local arena will mean a certain amount of lost revenue for the Clarenville Events Centre.
There are many more things that need public attention, and support. These are just a few examples.
Let's hope the season of apathy ends soon and, for the good of everyone, the era of discussion and debate is about to begin.