Friday, August 28, 2015

GREED, IGNORANCE AND SHIFTING DEMOGRAPHICS

More and more Newfoundlanders (and I assume this applies to folks in Labrador as well) are turning their summer cabins into retirement homes. The result has been the creation of instant communities all throughout the province.

P&P has addressed the issues related to a shifting demographic to these regions and the impact it has the delivery of municipal,  provincial and federal services from garbage collection, snow clearing, road maintenance, fire collection to postal services.

As these communities grow and multiply, the demand for services increases. Folks who escaped the hustle and bustle of larger areas for the quiet comfort of the country are demanding more and more services. 

When government started reducing the maintenance of cabin roads petitions started flying demanding a reversal in policy. 

Other areas started forming local service districts to generate funds for garbage collection and road maintenance. Others formed water committees or road upgrade committees. In some regions of the province neighboring towns have struck agreements with these "retirement communities" to provide garbage collection and fire protection for a poll tax.  

Some liveyers have fought this encroachment by municipalities arguing they moved to escape taxation which gets to the crux of a very serious and unfortunate paradox: The need for services but the unwillingness to pay for them.

The most serious issue is emergency services, in particular the provision of fire fighting services. The demographic shift has made it very difficult for rural communities to maintain a full company of volunteer firefighters let-a-lone serving outlying communities.  

There are real costs to training, purchasing and maintaining all of the fire fighting equipment. Is it fair to expect one group to carry the burden of these costs and deliver that service to regions that do not want to pay freight? 

Should one community be expected to take the risk of sending fire equipment out to an area outside of it's limits, risking protection in their own town?

The issue comes to ahead when disaster strikes - a house catches fire and emergency services do not respond because the fire is outside the nearest municipalities zone. Many ask, what is more important money or saving lives? How can the community of Holyrood ignore a fire in Deer Pond or the Fire Department in Corner Brook not respond to a fire a half-hour a way in Pinch-Gut Lake? It seems callous, inhuman and wrong.

However, the question cuts both ways. How can the people living in these pop up-communities expect the benefits of protection and not help foot the cost? 

Are they not putting their safety and property at risk over money? Many are willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a great home and lifestyle in the country but snub their nose at paying for services? 

To me it is like not paying for insurance and expecting the community to rebuild your house or replace your car. It is like playing Russian Roulette with your life and processions because you expect something for nothing. Get over yourself. 

Obviously there is not a consensus in these areas, some folks will pay, others will not.

Governments need to show leadership on this issue. They need to establish policies or legislation that empowers municipalities or regional authorities to impose, yes impose - taxation, or fees on residents of these pop-up communities. A solution needs to be found because the problem will only get worse as more people tell-locate.

Perhaps the provincial government could be convinced to provide fire departments with a financial incentive to think regionally.

The needs of everyone need to be considered, but seriously it does come down to money and selfishness. It is time for the government to break this impasse before a life is lost.

No comments: