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Lets Discuss It!

        By Mike Lushington

        Two weeks ago, I wrote a column on my reaction to the suggestion that Campbellton City Council was considering the implementation of "user-fees" for people from outside its boundaries who use city-owned sport facilities. I intended to continue my thoughts in last week's column, but got side-tracked by the impending closing of the Olympic Games and Canada's lacklustre showing in those games. I want now to return to my original intention for that column and wrap up some unfinished business.

        Campbellton and Dalhousie both operate rather large and costly arenas; they also care for ball and soccer fields and other sporting facilities. Citizens of both of those municipalities pay taxes, and some of that revenue goes to paying for upkeep. People from outlying communities do not contribute directly to that upkeep and that seems unfair. Should some sort of user-fee system could be implemented to address the situation? Probably.

        However, I do not like the idea of direct user fees simply because I believe that kids (in particular) have an inherent right and a need to be able to play. Increasingly, they are barred from playing on sidestreets (where I learned all about the joys of street hockey and scrub baseball all those many years ago), in unsupervised school yards, or vacant lots - all because of our obsession with public liability. However, we are becoming increasingly concerned with getting kids back into an active lifestyle and the playing fields and arenas of the area are where they are going to play. Active forms of play are crucial to their health; to charge a certain number of them for the opportunity to do so seems counter-productive.

        In my first column I suggested that the various municipalities consider working together to petition the provincial government to implement a grant structure whereby a municipality such as Campbellton or Dalhousie would be reimbursed on a per capita basis for those kids from outside the community who use community facilities. It occurs to me that there is another way to do that, and that this way might be easier since it does not require the implementation of a new program,but a modification of an existing one. All towns, villages, and local service districts receive a certain amount of funding from the provincial government each year. This funding provides the basis of their operating budget. Why should the smaller communities not consider budgeting for a per capita grant to the larger ones for the use of those facilities?

        There has to be some way for Campbellton and Dalhousie to generate additional funds to operate and maintain sports facilities for the good of the entire region. Demanding that individual kids (or their parents) pay directly for trying to be healthy and active is counter-productive. Perhaps the onus does lie with the smaller communities to provide some support for their citizens who do have to gravitate to the larger communities to find services that they cannot provide. At the very least, it would be productive for everyone concerned with this issue to sit down and start discussions about how to address it, rather than throwing verbal rocks at each other. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the recent Canada Games illustrated very clearly what can happen in this region when everyone works together; perhaps we simply need to be reminded of that once in awhile.

 

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