Every couple of years the heavy reality of the inverted pyramid structure of this provinces’ demographics bubbles up through the murky haze of government propaganda.
It comes in the form of a government agency or department announcing a rationalization masquerading as efficiency. Smaller populations make the economy of scale for the provision of medical, educational and other government services less and less viable.
The organization will announce a program review. The expert advice will recommend that savings could be found by declaring services redundant or uneconomical. The organization will develop a communications plan highlighting how the change in the delivery of services will actually enhance the patient/student/customers experience.
In a few cases, the local community will mobilize. They will march on the Confederation Building, go to the local media or go for government’s soft spot – the talk shows. Depending on how the issue plays in the media – government will pressure the organization to reconsider or ignore the plight of the concerned public.
We have seen the scenario play out over medical services in Lewisporte, on the Northern Peninsula and over school closures throughout the province. The most recent examples are unfolding in Swift Current, Catalina , Heart's Delight, Whitbourne and Colliers where the Eastern School District is closing, or downsizing schools.
Residents of dozens of small rural communities should be paying heed to the test balloons being floated by Eastern. If children can be bused from Swift Current to Clarenville than they can be bused from other communities within an hour’s drive from Gander, Stephenville Port Aux Basque, Deer Lake, Grand Falls, Marystown, St. Lawrence, Bay Robert’s and other larger centers.
Declining enrollments, efficiencies, reduction of duplications and taking amalgamating local oversight of schools to large administrative boards like Eastern has resulted in decision making that does not reflect local needs as much as board efficiencies. Geography and community do not occupy lines on financial spreadsheets.
If it can happen in Swift Current it can happen in Terrenceville, Lawn, Mckays, Codroy, Trepassy, St. George’s or any other school facing declining enrollments.
These decisions are the tip of the iceberg. They are part of an experiment, a petri dish that seeks to redefine rural Newfoundland and it’s sustainability.
Still think this is not your problem?
The next pound of bacon could be yours!