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REF NO.: 227

SUBJECT: Harris Centre forum continues debate with question on the role of volunteer in regional service
DATE: July 3, 2008

               According to comments posted on a new online forum there is no shortage of volunteers willing to serve on regional boards and councils in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, but there is debate on whether those volunteers are able to serve the needs of the communities they represent.
            That is the question the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development of Memorial University is asking people across Newfoundland and Labrador.
            Director of the centre Dr. Rob Greenwood announced today that they are posting the third question for public debate. “People from across the province and from a wide cross section of the community have been participating in the debate. And we think this next question will broaden the appeal of the debate even more,” said Dr. Greenwood. “What we are asking is ‘What is the impact of regionalization on volunteer activity in your region?’”
            If you would like to read the brief arguments in the forum or add your views to the debate go to www.harriscentreforum.ca
            Launched in May, the forum is designed to encourage public debate on best practices for locally managed healthcare, education, economic development, and municipal government. The inaugural question was “Do we need regional boards in education, health, economic development and municipal government?”
            “Much of the debate on the first question centered on the need for more money in health care and education, particularly around the issues of more locally delivered services,” said Dr. Greenwood. Among the more interesting posts was one suggestion that each hospital hold semiannual public meetings where citizens can express their concerns to hospital management. And there was general agreement that all boards must be publicly accountable.
            The second question,”‘Would you rather vote for the people who serve on regional boards and councils or have them appointed? And why?” generated even more debate. Leaders from education, and the provincial waste management strategy, and academic specialists in the area of governance models, joined the debate. At times discussion became quite pointed, as the representative legitimacy of school board trustees was questioned and zonal boards were described as a closed system into which only those with similar attitudes and opinions are admitted. There was also some debate around new models for describing the workings of elected and appointed boards.
            The forum will remain in place over the next four months gathering information for a workshop presentation at an international conference hosted by the Harris Centre, Oct. 16-18, in St. John’s.
 

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