Saturday, May 31, 2008


County government for rural Newfoundland?

County government for rural Newfoundland?
New system needed to collect rural tax increases: Fenwick; Cape St. George levies out-of-province landowners twice the mil rate

By Ivan Morgan
The Independent
A small-town mayor says the
province’s municipal government
structure is going to have
to change to address a host of new troubles
facing municipal service delivery
in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
Peter Fenwick, mayor of Cape St.
George, says some new form of municipal
government will be needed to
collect the bigger tax bills that he says
will come with new provincial waste
management and water services.
He also says the buy-up of land by
out-of-province residents requires a
beefed-up system.
“Very quickly, rural Newfoundland
is being bought up by people who don’t
live here,” Fenwick tells The Independent
from his Cape St. George home.
Minister of Municipal Affairs Dave
Denine says any changes to municipal
government will be grassroots in origin,
and no changes will be forced on
rural taxpayers.
“It’s not going to come from the
grassroots, because the grassroots
won’t see the problem,” says Fenwick,
who is chair of the Southwest Coast
Joint Council.
Fenwick says rural parts of the province
are served by one of two municipal
structures: municipalities or local
service districts, which are set up to
provide basic services in areas not incorporated
into municipalities.
Fenwick says the province has approximately
300 municipalities and
250 local services districts.
While municipalities are empowered
to levy and collect taxes, he says trying
to run a local service district is “terrible.”
Run by volunteers, Fenwick says
they struggle with no money, no support
from the community and no power
to deal with delinquent taxpayers,
“Their problems are legion and I
have more sympathy for them than
Fenwick says new initiatives announced
by the Williams government
dealing with waste management and
providing clean drinking water are
going to cost people in rural Newfoundland
and Labrador more money
— but the structures to collect that
money don’t exist in many parts of the
He says a county system would be a
solution to this problem, but he is “absolutely
positive” people won’t vote
for it, fearing it will be expensive.
Which he says it will be, but people
will have to pay anyway.
Fenwick says the politics surrounding
this issue are potentially explosive,
adding most rural MHAs with a high
number of local service districts in
their constituency would have “hysterical”
voters on their hands if the county
government or property taxes were
i served on a local service district for a while and soon found out that no matter how hard you try at times it all seems so useless.
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