Let’s talk about a seasonal industry that’s having a draining effect on the province’s economy: road repairs.
First of all, the government is sinking millions of dollars into these “make-work” projects so people in rural Newfoundland can have some work in the summer. Who benefits? Sure everyone’s drive is a bit smoother, but at what cost?
Private contractors who win these paving contracts are profiting from taxpayers’ dollars. It’s outlandish!
And to add insult to injury, there are thousands of workers lining up for EI as soon as the weather turns cold and the potholes are patched. This needs to stop. Maybe these flaggers and pavers should find some steady work like the rest of society.
If the above argument seems absurd, that’s because it is. Road repairs have to be done seasonally, as does farming, fishing, most construction, and any number of other industries. Not only is it seasonal, it requires an input of taxpayer dollars.
We live on Earth. We have seasons. We deal with it.
So why is it certain seasonal industries take a beating in public forums while others get off scott free?
The seasonal industry taking a beating this week is tourism. For the better part of a decade, tourism attractions on the southwest coast have relied on JCP funding to staff the attractions and greet visitors.
Last year and again this year, much of that funding has abruptly dried up. In some cases, volunteers have stepped in to fill the void and keep sites open, but not in all cases.
The message from government to the volunteer organizations that run these attractions is simple: make your attractions self-sustaining.
The volunteers say even while collecting admission, they just don’t have the resources to staff many of these sites. They’re not asking for a blank cheque, but they are asking for help.
None of the attractions affected on the southwest coast is privately owned. Like roads, libraries and hospitals, they exist for the public good. The volunteer boards which take responsibility for them shouldn’t have to wait until motor homes are coming off the ferry to find out if they’ll have funding. If this was the provincial government’s plan, they could’ve been up front in the fall.
The province needs to realize that these attractions are investments and not liabilities. They’re every bit as important as the roads that tourists and citizens drive on, and they’re every bit deserving of public funds to operate.
If the province is done with using JCPs to fund tourist attractions, it needs a new system of working with communities to providing partial funding for these community-owned and operated tourism sites.
We realize that roads are infrastructure. The benefits of having them far outweigh the cost of upkeep. Likewise, these relatively inexpensive tourist attractions are creating spin-offs for local businesses. There are restaurant owners, accommodation providers and tour bus operators who, like farmers, make hay while the sun shines.
It’s not a handout. It’s seed money. Without it, there won’t be much hay made this summer.