In order to meet the demand for public services in rural areas, Newfoundland and Labrador’s businesses, municipalities and provincial government have all been talking more about collaboration, Premier Dwight Ball said Thursday.
In a state-of-the-province address to the Rotary Club of St. John’s, the premier touched briefly on everything from market potential for increased output of farmed mussels to the Broadway musical “Come From Away,” to immigration plans, to the review of the K-12 school system.
He also spoke about providing services beyond major centres.
“I can tell you there are conversations that are happening in town offices, there’s conversations that are even happening in people’s homes, about a common theme, about how can we work together as a community, as a group of communities, to provide the services more efficiently,” he told the audience at the Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland.
Ball made mention of ferry services, as an example, asking people not to read into it.
Newfoundland and Labrador spends about $70 million to service just over 11,000 people a year with a ferry service, he said.
“But I want to put that in context for you. We spend just under $70 million on snowclearing in our province. We spend just over $70 million in our provincial roads program,” he said.
He said the provincial government is not interested in forced re-location to reduce costs.
“It is not about resettlement, but it is about what the services that we think and we feel that we need based on where we live,” he said.
Speaking with reporters after his speech, the premier said there are plenty of areas where shared services are in place or under consideration by municipalities — in fire and emergency services, snowclearing, waste management and tax collection.
“There’s a lot of conversations occurring around regional collaboration, co-operation, and we’ve said by the way as a government that when we get regions to come together that are prepared to share services we would actually put incentives in place to reward those communities that feel shared services would be of benefit to them.”
Ball said resettlement is a different conversation for him. It is something determined by the communities, people living in communities, based on the criteria in place in the legislation. He said he’s not a believer in forced relocation.
“Let’s not forget that we have a lot of very vibrant, very successful rural Newfoundland and Labrador communities as well. … This is not about giving up on rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We have lots of opportunity,” he said.