It’s no secret that Newfoundland’s financial situation is not good. We could come up with a myriad of possibilities for why this is the case, but supporting so many small towns and rural areas must have something to do with it.
The provincial government is constantly under pressure from residents who live in sparsely populated areas and demand the services of a large city. One very memorable case of this was in 2016 when the government decided to close 54 of the 95 libraries in the province by cutting about $1 million from the library board’s budget. For a province in such a dire financial situation, that seemed like a good idea. Maybe we can’t have it all. Maybe we can’t have 94 libraries. Something has to give. But, an outcry led to a temporary hold on the closures. Fair enough, but isn’t consolidation something that we should be looking at? What about the ferries for areas like Bell Island that government and taxpayers subsidize to the tune of thousands of dollars per passenger per year?
As a taxpayer and advocate for smaller government, I want to see more things left to the free market, rather than subsidized by taxpayer dollars.
This issue came to light again recently over job cuts at College of the North Atlantic campuses across the island, due to low enrollment. One would think that a near-empty classroom would negate the need for an instructor to teach those classes. Seems reasonable. However, we see more of this backward thinking with comments from NAPE President Jerry Earle and mayors in the St. Anthony region, who want the jobs reinstated. Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald says this is “another strategy to force the baymen out of the bay.” Jerry Earle, whose job is to fight for jobs – I get it, says “There’s not a great chance you are going to lose your job in St. Anthony and gain re-employment…while it’s three people, it’s likely three families that are going to leave St. Anthony and the same for other communities.” So? That sounds reasonable to me. Earle states that “we cannot in this economy continue to see people thrown out of work” but doesn’t have a problem with CNA spending money simply to keep somebody employed, even if it means the college losing money, much of which is government subsidized.
If students aren’t enrolling in the class, then there’s no job for an instructor. If there’s no job in the area for an instructor, they can move to where there is a job. Wasting taxpayer money to try and keep rural areas alive for the sake of keeping them alive makes no sense. Let the free market handle it.