Labrador City mayor predicts merger with Wabush

The mayor of Labrador City says she expects that town and Wabush to eventually join together and become one municipality.

'We're essentially the same two types of communities'

Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford says both her town and Wabush could benefit by becoming one municipality. (CBC)

The mayor of Labrador City says she expects that her town and neighbouring Wabush will eventually join together and become one municipality.

"I'm pretty sure it will happen," Karen Oldford said in an interview Monday. 

"There is a real recognition that the more we can work together, there is definitely efficiencies that can be had."

Oldford spoke with CBC Radio's Labrador Morning following the release of the municipal plans for both towns, which have been struggling in the wake of a shakeout in the iron ore mining industry. 

Neither council has voted yet on what will eventually become legally-binding planning documents, as the public still has an opportunity to provide feedback. 

Same vision, shared services

It is "vital" that both towns share almost everything, including bylaws and other policies, according to the Town of Wabush Municipal Plan 2016-2026.

"Services to be examined include and are not limited to planning, parks and recreation, engineering and fire and police," according to the report.

The municipal plan for the Town of Wabush states, "The Towns of Labrador City and Wabush share the same vision and guiding principles." (CBC)

"The opportunities should examine costs, efficiencies, capacity, and duplication of services."

Oldford, who is also president of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, said another common theme in ensuring the vitality of the region is to build from within, not out, thus reducing sprawl.

"If we can contain growth to within existing infrastructure, then that makes it more affordable for everybody who lives here."

More than just iron ore

Both of the plans highlight very modest population growth over the next decade, as a best-case scenario, though it is more likely populations will decrease.

In order to sustain growth over the next 20 years, "the region will require stable or growing demand for iron ore and/or growth of other sectors within the Labrador West economy,"  according to the Labrador City Municipal Plan.

Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford says the economies in the region have to expand beyond mining, pictured here as an aerial perspective of the Iron Ore Company of Canada operations in Labrador West. (Iron Ore Company of Canada)

Oldford said she is well aware of what's at stake.

"Both communities will see new development, as in different types of businesses, as we seek to diversify our economies."

Parallel pasts

Oldford said it makes sense the futures of Lab West and Wabush are entwined since the two towns were developed for the same reason.

"We were created by mining companies ... and that's a really rich history and very unique," she said.

"I call us really urban-remote because we're laid out, both communities, in a very urban way, and very modern. But yet, of course, we're in a remote area."

With files from Labrador Morning