The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development has launched an innovative project to encourage public debate on regionally managed healthcare, education, economic development, and municipal government.
The centre has developed an online moderated forum (www.harriscentreforum.ca) along with two background studies (also available online: Managing Change through Regionalization: Lessons from Newfoundland and Labrador by Memorial political scientist, Dr. Stephen Tomblin; and Where do you draw the line?: Regionalization in Newfoundland and Labrador by independent journalist and communications professional, Wade Kearley) with the hope of launching a debate on the size and authority of regional boards and councils.
Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre, believes these studies provide a solid foundation on which to begin. “Successive governments have attempted to effectively manage local services in the face of rapidly changing social and economic conditions,” he said. “The processes they introduced for managing healthcare, economic development, education and municipal government at the local level, we call regionalization.”
“Until now, no one has looked across these sectors to compare the strengths and weaknesses in managing change, and to look for lessons that can help us as regional government evolved to meet increasingly demanding changes,” added Dr. Greenwood.
He hopes the moderated online forum with guest “speakers” provides a tool for the public, stakeholders and the media to participate in the discussions around regionalization. Among the questions Dr. Greenwood expects to be debated are:
· Do we need regional boards in education, health, economic development and municipal government?
· Do larger boards strengthen or weaken quality of service?
· Should regional boards be elected? What are the benefits? What are the downsides?
· Should the geographic region be the same for each of the four sectors?
· How would you suggest sharing community, health and educational services with other communities in your region?
Dr. Greenwood said that the Harris Centre endorses this process and supports it as an important development in the field of knowledge mobilization, “but we leave it up to the public to have the final say on whether this process is open enough to provide them with an effective forum to generate debate and perhaps even effect meaningful change.”
All public input to the forum, plus findings from the two studies, will serve as the core of a workshop at the Knowledge In Motion Conference (KiM) to be held in October 2008.