Amalgamation in Labrador West no slam dunk

Amalgamation is top of mind in Labrador City and Wabush as new councils await their swearing in.

Incoming leaders say ultimate decision will lie with the residents

Labrador City should merge with nearby Wabush, according to a consultant's report, but incoming councils say people will decide. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Though a recent report recommended Labrador City and Wabush join forces, not everyone heading to the polls this week was convinced that amalgamation is the best course of action. 

"I'm a bush baby so I'd like to see more elections here in the future," Jason Aylward said as he cast his ballot in Wabush on Tuesday.

"Let's face it — the government is not doing it to make us better friends, they're doing it to save money and saving money usually means cutting services."

Incoming Wabush Mayor Ron Barron and Wayne Button, who is expected to be appointed mayor of Labrador City by the incoming council there, both say at the end of the day the decision about amalgamation will most likely be decided by the people, and neither is ruling out a plebiscite. 

It would have to be proven to see if it is cheaper or better.- Jeff Gibbons

"It is kind of divided" Button said.

"It's really going to be interesting the next couple of months what happens."

Barron has stood against amalgamation in the past and continues to have reservations particularly around recreation services.

"There's a lot of information that's got to come out to the residents in both communities here so that they can make a well-informed decision about how they're going to move forward," Barron said, but added that he is keeping an open mind.

"If it makes sense, it makes sense."

Top of mind

There are concerns within both communities that amalgamating could mean the loss of jobs for municipal employees. Labrador City residents are also concerned it could mean higher taxes and people in Wabush are concerned they could see their recreation complex replaced by a complex Labrador City has been pushing for.

The discussion was top of mind for many voters as they hit the polls Tuesday.

"We try to work together, the more of us stand together the better we are," Alvin Banfield said outside a polling station in Labrador City. "That reflects the direction of where I vote."

Many people who voted in Tuesday's municipal election say they have reservations about creating a new town called Labrador West. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"I honestly don't think it's going to go through because they're two different communities and people are not ready for amalgamation," Labrador City resident Jeff Gibbons said as he went to vote.

The report, by consulting company Santec, said amalgamating would bring taxes down moderately for Labrador City and significantly for Wabush.

"It would have to be proven to see if it is cheaper or better," Gibbons said. 

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker reports on Labrador for CBC News from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.