Minister of Municipal and Intergovernmental Affairs, Steve Kent, spoke out this week regarding the issues surrounding waste management in the region.
Kent says that the recent meetings in the area are positive steps forward, as Baie Verte and Green Bay are among the regions farther behind on the strategy in the province.
"Its one of the few places in the province where a regional service board has not been established," Kent said. He continued to explain, and reiterated the point several times during his comments, that the Department is committed to working with communities to advance the strategy in the region.
We're interested in working with the communities in the Green Bay and Baie Verte region to move things along. We have to recognize where each of those regions are. They're not in the same place and we need to be sensitive to that, and we need to consult with and work with communities to help them get to where we need them to be."
Given the amount of work to be done to bring the regions on stream, the question was raised about time. The goal set forward by the Department is to have the region on stream by 2016-2017. Kent says he still thinks that's a realistic goal.
"I think we still have a couple of years to work with communities to help move the process along, so we'd still like to work towards those timelines, but I'm certainly prepared to listen to what community leaders have to say and we want them to be active participants in helping us move this strategy forward." The Minister says that if some communities have concerns over timing, then those concerns will be taken into consideration. "We want to make sure the concerns of individual communities are addressed, and if there's some question around timing, we'll certainly have some discussion about it, but I believe over the next couple of years, based on what I've seen in other regions, I think we can make significant progress on the Bale Verte Peninsula and in the Green Bay region as well."
Aside from timing, however, perhaps the biggest concern towns have is around cost. Kent clarified that the costs quoted by the department is per household - not per individual resident.
"When we embarked on this strategy it was expected that the operational costs of putting a modern waste management service in the province, would be in the area of $180 - $200 dollars a year, and cost would vary somewhat from region to region," he said. However, the Minister says that the cost incurred for the strategy will, in the end, likely fall to residents of the communities being serviced. "As individual citizens we have a responsibility to ensure that our waste is disposed of in a responsible and in an environmentally friendly manner," he said. "I recognize that small communities, whether they be Local Service Districts or municipalities don't have the money in the bank to simply pay the bill, so there is a cost that has to be passed on to the users of this service and that's what the Regional Service Boards are doing in most regions of the province and we knew going in that there would be an increase in cost per household for some people."
Finally, the Minister addressed concerns that were raised at both recent Waste Management meetings surrounding communications.
The concerns were raised by a number of towns who claimed they were unaware of the meetings, because the Department didn't do an adequate job of giving enough notice.
"We are going to work to improve communication with communities on the Baie Verte Peninsula and in the Green Bay Region. It's important that they be fully engaged in discussions with us about advancing this strategy," Kent said. "I understand the concerns surrounding the February meeting, and I've asked our staff to make improved communications a high priority."
Kent says if any towns have concerns, they're more than welcome to bring them to his as well.
"If any community leaders would like to talk to me about questions they have about the waste management strategy or specific concerns they have related to their community's involvement, then I would be more than happy to hear from them and we're going to work to ensure everybody is comfortable and well informed and engaged in the process, and to me that's critical if we're going to successfully implement the strategy."