October 28, 2007
Often described as “free theatre,”
government business in the House of Assembly isn’t what most people
think. It’s not quite as bad as the Japanese assembly, which regularly
degenerates into food fights between members, or the municipal chambers
of the City of St. John’s, where councillors sue one another and simply
refuse to conduct business because the mayor is teed off over not
getting a plum political job, the House of Assembly still manages to
regularly turn itself into a shouting arena where those not disturbed by
the yelling can catch a few Zs.
Considering the effort that has gone into creating and maintaining a
democracy, the lives lost defending it, the brilliant minds that worked
on its regulations, and the thousands of regular citizens normally
blessed with good common sense who have sat in those plush seats,
democracy in the House of Assembly isn’t particularly dignified, or
The title of “honorable” member, applied to people who hoot and holler
like kids in the back of the bus, often seems a tad ridiculous to the
usually-more-respectful visitors in the gallery of the people’s House.
Still, it’s the only House we have, where duly-elected officials have
the sworn duty to bring the concerns of their constituents to the
attention of the entire province, to bring down legislation that
improves our quality of life, to make informed decisions on our behalf
that benefit our communities.
That’s the theory at least.
The sitting members of the government – whichever government happens to
be filling the seats seems immaterial – say that the real business of
government gets done in the offices, or back in the constituency, not in
the House. Certainly that’s true. It’s also true that public servants,
not politicians, do the day-to-day work of government. The Minister of
Conservation, for example, isn’t digging out old files to see how
uranium mining back thirty years ago would have impacted the people of
Rigolet. That’s a job for staffers, all of whom form the more-or-less
permanent landscape of the Confederation Building.
People dealing with government on a day to day basis, trying to
establish a logging plan, or a mining plan, or whatever other plan, know
better than to hang their hopes on a meeting with the minister of the
department. Instead, they’ll quietly cultivate working relationships
with deputies, assistants, and everyone down the Minister’s line --
especially the administrators!
While the person at the top changes with the whim of government, the
staff generally stays put from year to year and, usually, from
administration to administration.
So, why bother with Ministers at all, if a committee of staffers could
run the House as efficiently? Because the buck has to stop somewhere
with some one person. In our democracy that person is an elected
Theories about the role of Members of the House of Assembly vary
greatly. Some voters believe Members should be in constant communication
with their districts, bringing back a majority view on each issue.
Others eyeball the candidates during the election, listen to their
stated positions on the issue, vote for the person they feel is closest
to their own agenda, vote that individual in, they pretty much ignore
the MHA for the rest of the term. It’s a style of voting that assumes
you’ve elected a bright individual, or an individual who will vote the
way you want on the majority of issues.
Whether you like to keep in touch with your MHA or expect them to do as
you predicted, however, the House of Assembly is your window into what
they really think, where their priorities lie, and how your government
This year, the legislature will have been in the public view for just 34
days. Not a record for a short year, but certainly not a very large
window into public policy. While the business of the House may be the
debate and passage of legislation, other action crosses that stage.
The accomplishments of individuals in each district can be highlit by
MHAs standing in the House to congratulate them.
Private members bills and petitions showcase the causes MHAs truly
support on a personal level, and the difficulties of distant populations
too often out of the media eye.
It’s not always the legislature of our dreams, or populated with perfect
people, but the House is also our public face on the national and
Even if there is no pressing law to pass -- which could be debated in
itself! -- there are issues to move forward. Our relationship with our
federal government, our position on custodial management of our
fisheries resources, the landclaims of our aboriginal people, poverty
and the lack of medical services...
Seems there’s a lot that could be brought forward for public discussion
in this province -- and there should be MHAs in our House, standing up,
and bringing forward policy worthy of public debate.
October 21, 2007
Tallying Up the Numbers
Labrador West needs people -- a lot
of people. We’ve seen the restaurants closing. Big employers want
tradespeople, engineers, and planners. This winter, getting a plow to
clear your driveway may require a reservation. The number of people with
two jobs is rising; the number of retirees who actually kick back is
falling as employers lure them back as consultants.
Even with workers coming from non-traditional sources, Labrador West
needs to attract hundreds of people to fill positions from artist to
welder to x-ray technician -- and that’s only the positions the current
employers have identified.
In addition to all those people, there are the people we haven’t
identified in a formal way, but people we’ll want in our community as it
grows. As we add the workers we desperately need, we’ll need to offer
new services and opportunities to keep them. All work and no play...
Well, it makes Labrador West a less attractive destination. Who really
wants to work two jobs and come home only to have to lug his own snow
away in his pick-up? Who wants to punch a fifty-hour week and rummage in
the freezer every night because there’s nowhere to go eat and nothing to
Nope, Labrador West needs a lot more people than electricians and
plumbers, it needs the services and industries that improve quality of
Labrador City’s Recreation Department is leading the way in providing a
broader range of opportunities for residents -- and Christie Meadus
deserves a tonne of kudos for the creativity and hard work she’s brought
to that position. A drive-in movie, a Rex Goudie concert, and Gym for
Grown-ups provides what our growing community needs, diverse
entertainment for widely divergent interests.
Twenty years ago, most residents fell conveniently into a narrower
spread of ages; today, recreation has to find interesting opportunities
for tots to great-grandpas. As great a job as Meadus is doing, the work
of making Labrador West a fun place to come and bring a family can’t
just come from the paid personnel of our communities -- not if we’re
going to continue to grow.
When Labrador City and Wabush, Churchill Falls, and the military town of
Goose Bay first exploded, it was residents, most of whom came from away,
who generated their own entertainment. The amateur theatricals that made
the Playboy and Nascopie more than just sporting events, the dozens of
local bands that played on weekends, and the talent shows that crowned
Carnival Kings and Queens were all examples of residents making their
There’s a different expectation today. Instead of residents showing off
their own creativity and talent, our residents have turned into watchers
of other’s work, into an audience instead of performers and
That’s going to make it tougher for Meadus, and others like her, who
hope to see our community appeal to all those new people we’re competing
to attract. Instead of a community of thousands putting forward their
talents, sharing ideas, and creating events that encourage participation
instead of just watching, a very few people are taking on the challenge
of entertaining the rest of us.
Obviously, one person, or even a handful of people, can’t do that all by
themselves. So, they hire people to help -- or try to in a community
where available workers are scare as hen’s teeth -- and hire acts to
come to us. Being human, audiences demand bigger and better each time
out, and that’s a hard cycle to maintain, especially if we don’t attract
those new people to make it viable for the really big acts to come here.
It’s not that we can’t still entertain ourselves. Thinking back to the
Steelworkers concert for Rodney Fitzgerald, it’s pretty clear that it
isn’t a lack of spirited people that keep us from strutting our stuff. A
good cause got out a lot of residents to grace our stage. It just
doesn’t happen that often any more -- and that’s kind of sad.
Outings and socials were an integral part of the character of these
developing communities. Something of that generous nature is seen in our
Christmas Hamper drives, events like the Fitzgerald benefit, and the
Relay for Life -- events that depend on local participation, not just
watching, for their success.
As these communities were founded, the influx of new arrivals sparked a
community-wide renaissance. New people, new talents, new towns -- it was
an exciting time.
Labrador West is once again taking in hundreds of new people, and seems
likely to take in at least as many more again. Hopefully, we won’t have
forgotten how to show off ourselves, our spirits, our talents, and our
Maybe it’s time for our residents to enjoy the best of both worlds, to
welcome all the new things our growth can support, then turn around and
show off ourselves. Our children need lots of opportunity to put
themselves on stage, our service clubs need new people -- of all ages --
to carry on their good and necessary work, and our sports teams need a
resurgence of enrollment to encourage us toward healthy living, spirited
competition, and a reason to yell in the fresh air.
Maybe we can all think of something fun to do, invite those new people
out to join us, and watch our towns grow again.
October 14, 2007
When the Ballots are Burnt
With the first-ever fixed-date
election in the bag -- or the ballot box anyway -- Newfoundland and
Labrador begins the first weeks of those new-fangled fixed terms. There
have been lots of jokes about fixing elections since the province
decided to take some of the uncertainty out of the process, but, this
wouldn’t be a bad time to sit back and really think about the way we
conduct our political business. While the dates may be fixed, there’s
still lots of confusion out there about how it all works -- or should
Why, for example, with a fixed election date, isn’t there a fixed date
for the premier of the day to make the walk to the Lt.-Governor’s place
and hand over the keys for the next three weeks? It makes sense, doesn’t
it? If you really want to take away the opportunity to call elections
when it suits you, why would you need to hold control over whether the
writ gets dropped on a Monday or a Tuesday?
Sort of like holding on to the tail after the horse has left, isn’t it?
Then there’s the question of when, exactly, the campaigning can start.
Here in Labrador West, for example, several people reported being
startled to find their incumbent MHA out door-knocking before the writ
was dropped. Party supporters in other camps even wondered aloud if it
was legal to start the campaigning before the writ fell.
Well, there’s a whole body of material available from the offices of
Elections Newfoundland and Labrador that can answer that question. It
can answer a lot of other questions too. Is there a difference between
an ad on a billboard and an ad on a newspaper page -- yes, there is! Why
there is, of course, isn’t exactly laid out there, but, the fact that
there is a difference is spelled out quite clearly.
How elections are conducted is a matter of regulation and legislation --
but voters, candidates, and their supporters can have considerable
influence over the shape of their next election experience if they make
themselves familiar with that material early.
It does change, and some of it seems pretty slippery from time to time.
You can advertise your party leader is coming to town for a fundraising
meet-and-greet dinner the night before the campaign begins -- you just
can’t use the word “candidate” anywhere in there, ‘cause then it becomes
campaigning and you can’t do that, in print at least, until after the
white paper hits the floor. Though, it does appear you could put it on a
billboard and that would be okay.
The point is not whether you should invest in a billboard for the next
election, but that, if the rules have changed in the past, they can
Change might be a good thing for everyone.
Take the whole conundrum of Sunday door-knocking. While some people
figure the only chance they’ll have to chat up the potential MHAs is on
the doorstep on a Sunday afternoon, others really don’t enjoy the
intrusion. But what’s a candidate to do if, while they’re wondering if
they’ll garner or tick off the voter, their competition is out banging
Well, a candidate wouldn’t have to make that decision at all if the
local voters told Elections Newfoundland and Labrador what they thought
of Sunday campaigning, good or bad.
Oh, with a fixed election for the same time each October, it’s
inevitable that Thanksgiving door-knocking is going to continue to fall
into the mix, so, while you’re telling ENL what you think of Sunday
campaigning, maybe you should think about holiday campaigning too.
As we were tragically reminded during this election, not all vacancies
of office result from well-planned scheduling. People become ill and die
in office and during campaigns. Following the death of Lawrence O’Brien
in this region, voters began to realize that, while the minimum time
before an election could be called was well-established, there wasn’t --
and still isn’t -- any outside margin for how long an election to refill
a seat could be put off. Technically, a seat could go unfilled until the
next general election. Everyone deserves representation, and to have the
unique needs of their region on the floor of the House, but there is no
guarantee of that in our current electoral process.
A fixed date for proceedings to begin following the untimely passing of
candidates or sitting members would not only eliminate another bump in
the road, but spare the decision-makers figuring out how long is a
We’ve been voting for a long time in this province, and before that as a
country. Up along in Canada, they’ve been at it for awhile too. But,
that doesn’t mean they’ve got all the kinks out of the system.
Unfortunately, when you know the next election isn’t until four years
from now, and everyone is already electioned out, it’s easy to just
forget the questions that popped up. Four years from now, though, you’ll
have forgotten what got you thinking -- until it happens again and,
again, it’s already too late to find out the answer or make suggestions
for how to do it better.
One thing that probably won’t change though is the answer to the
most-frequently asked question in our region. Yes! Polls DO close
earlier here. 7:30pm.
So, don’t be late next time, okay?
October 7th, 2007
One More Vote
Reasons to vote remain pretty
consistent throughout the years. Good citizenship, a respect for the
veterans who earned us that right -- many with their lives, and
enlightened self-interest have stood the test of time and will still get
a sizeable section of the public out to vote this October 9th.
What becomes murkier as time proceeds, however, are the reasons
non-voters provide for their decision to abstain.
“Well, they’re all the same. A bunch of thieves.”
So, if you went out on a Saturday night and felt someone’s hand in your
pocket, your response would be what? To stand there and let them come
back for the lint too?
Of course, not. You’d yell for security or the police or the bouncer,
whoever had the responsibility to get that hand out of your pocket,
So, the reasonable response to dissatisfaction with the candidates on a
slate would be to demand better candidates, wouldn’t it? To get out and
actively encourage people you do admire to run, to lend them your
support through their campaign, and then vote for them, right? Not to
stand there and let a crook continue to rummage in your pocket! If, in
all of Labrador West, you couldn’t find one honest human being, well,
you could always run -- and vote for -- yourself. Right?
“It doesn’t make a difference, nobody listens.”
Well, you can’t expect your MHA, your MP, your municipal councillors --
or the Prime Minister, for that matter -- to listen if you’re not
talking to them.
Sitting around the water cooler or the kitchen table, griping about your
local issues is guaranteed to do you absolutely no good. Guaranteed.
Unless you’re so persuasive you inspire someone to get out and do
something about it. (If that’s the case, you’ve either missed your own
political calling, or, you’ve found that person for whom you really
should be casting your vote!)
There are bunches of ways to talk to elected officials. Most of them
have gone high-tech and learned to muddle through their email, carry
their Blackberry around, and can pick a fax out of the basket without
much difficulty. They can, for the most part, read and write, so a
letter still works. Few public officials spend any significant amount of
time actually sitting in their chambers, so you can usually find them
floating about the grocery store and can try that whole talking right at
Still, there’s a lot of truth in the notion that the communication most
valued by politicians is the X you scratch on your ballot. Voting
someone in by a landslide -- or giving them the equally enthusiastic
heave-ho -- certainly gets their attention.
So, again, if you’ve tried the e-mail, the paper letter, or the
here-and-now confrontation over the cabbages and none of that has
worked, it seems voting is still your best means of ensuring someone
“I’m too busy.”
Come on. That doesn’t even warrant an argument. Ask for a special ballot
and someone brings it to your house. The government ensures you have
time off to vote on Election Day. You could even have voted ahead of
time at the Advance Poll.
“I just don’t care.”
Everyone cares about something.
It might be the price of gas, the state of the road, the availability of
a place to live, or the cost of fresh milk, but everyone cares about
How much you care is another question. You may only care enough to
complain over a coffee. You may care enough to suggest and spearhead the
move for new legislation. Perhaps you’ve never been moved enough by any
one issue to inspire you to get your butt out and vote for the person
you think most likely to make the changes you believe are necessary.
Perhaps you’ve never bothered to ask the candidates their position on
the issue you care most about -- or you don’t think there are enough
people who share your issue to make a difference.
Maybe you don’t think one more vote can really make a difference.
Fine - but you don’t have to vote on every individual issue, even the
ones you care most about. You only have to vote once -- for a person of
deeper conviction than yourself.
That really shouldn’t be that hard to do. After all, if you’ve come up
with no better reason not to vote than because you don’t care, it really
shouldn’t be hard to find a politician, even the worst politician, who
clearly does care more than you.
They’ve gone out and stood on the doorsteps. They’ve faced the hard
questions. They’ve taken the abuse along with the scant praise that
comes from political life. They’ve researched the issues so as not to
appear complete fools in public. They’ve taken time away from their
families. They’ve done all that on nothing more than the chance to get
themselves to St. John’s and put your concerns in front of 47 other
You only have to vote once to have a person vote for you time and again
over the next four years.
While you’ll never be asked to defend your vote, you can haul them onto
the carpet every time they say “Nay” or “Yea!”
“One vote doesn’t make a difference.”
One vote in the thousands that will be cast in Labrador West could
decide this election.
One vote of the 48 that can be cast in the House of Assembly can change
laws, improve our lives, or lead us into unacceptable risk.
One vote - your vote - counts.
Surprised by the Silence?
Like many here in Labrador West, we
tuned in to the provincial leaders’ debate. Apparently unlike the
majority, however, the thing discussed in our offices at the “morning
after” coffee urn chat wasn’t the issues on offer, the volume of the
candidates, or Lorraine Michael’s new makeup job. Nope, the question
here whirled around and around the Premier’s surprise that people were
making calls to the Opposition and begging not to have their identities
Premier Williams seemed genuinely shocked and dismayed that this should
be the state of affairs in this province!
Putting all other issues aside until election day, our question -- had
we been invited to the party -- would have been, “But, Mr. Premier, why
would public servants feel any other way?”
Consider the environment in which the vast majority of public servants
Teachers’ current contracts contain clauses that forbid them to speak to
the conditions in their classrooms, to the conditions of their work, to
how many dollars they are currently pulling out of their own pockets to
make up the necessary school supplies.
Ever watch a news report on education in this province? Ever notice who
the reporters are interviewing?
The rest are afraid to speak for fear of employment reprisals.
Almost every public servant works under the same clauses or, if not
blatantly written out in their contracts, firmly enshrined in the policy
books springing up on desks throughout the public service.
Have a question about how people in Labrador West would go about getting
the HPV vaccine? Want to write a quick public service piece? Call the
local Public Health Office?
Not a chance!
Not a single person in Labrador is actually authorized to confirm that
you get the vaccine through your local GP!
In order to get an official source to say, “You go to your local GP in
Labrador West and ask.” requires two long distance calls to a
communications officer in St. Anthony.
Want to have a Conservation Officer participate in a little public
education piece on don’t feed the fox while you’re on your lunch break?
Don’t call the Wildlife Office in Wabush!
Nope, that’ll be another pair of long distance calls to the
communications officer for the Department of Natural Resources who will,
incidentally, say no, their people can’t participate in that -- might
upset employers who let their employees out of their building for lunch
So, a simple little story on the
dangers -- to people and the fox -- has no official comment from the
department directly responsible for that issue.
While Auditor General John Noseworthy is smelling of roses these days,
it wasn’t so long ago that government -- including the opposition of the
day -- thought outside accounting smelled like something completely
Fabian Manning wasn’t the only PC to leave the fold with pretty harsh
things to say about the freedom of speech within Caucus. True or not,
seeing a cabinet minister out on his backside couldn’t have done much
for the confidence in free speech for those signing the Government of
Newfoundland cheques on the back instead of the front, ya know?
Add in a little debacle with a Minister of Transportation and Works who
threatened to have a call-in show participant taken to court for
expressing his opinion and...
Well, it’s not hard to see why people would be a little worried about
coming out publicly about problems in their department, their school,
their hospital, their police department... or anything else.
Surprised by their silence?
What’s surprising is that anyone acknowledges the public’s right to know
what’s happening in their schools or the House of Assembly.
Is Lorraine Michael getting calls in the middle of the night about
problems in the civil service?
We don’t doubt it for a minute.
“But, you can’t use my name!” should be stencilled on the walls of every
We would invite the Premier to sit behind our desks any day of the week,
to make the calls to his departments, to listen as the government
official starts every conversation with “Who told you that?” and never
gets to “I’ll find out.”
No one doubts that the media’s relationship with politicians is often
tense. The Premier’s own refusal to take calls from, for example, The
Independent, took that relationship to the extreme.
Silence isn’t a weapon, it’s a symptom of fear and distrust.
Instead of fostering an environment that sends employees scuttling off
to make calls to the Opposition and the media, our Premier should
encourage civil servants to step forward wherever a problem is found or
reported. Instead of an environment where teachers notify parents and
urge them to start a protest over -- last week -- the loss of gym
services or -- this week -- the loss of their music program, encourage
teachers to return to their positions as community leaders and advocates
for their students.
In short, take this as a wake-up call and don’t wait for a scandal to
The Catch-22 of a labour
In the midst of a booming economy and
two jobs for every job-hunter, a startling irony is quickly emerging. At
the top of a long, rich segment of the iron cycle, businesses in
Labrador West are closing for want of employees and young residents are
trapped in low-paying jobs. While the region screams for skilled
tradespeople in Labrador, Islanders are heading west to Alberta and
bemoaning the lack of opportunities to “go home again.”
Both the provincial and federal governments are investing millions in
providing seats for tradespeople, encouraging young women to consider a
career in industry -- but many are discovering they are trapped in their
current situation by the policies of those same regulators.
While a job flipping burgers is a great opportunity for a university
student, it’s a tough gig for the parent -- especially the single parent
-- with children of their own to send off and support hundreds of miles
away while they go to school. In Labrador West, those single moms who
have taken whatever employment they could when a “Help Wanted” ad was
scarcer than dinosaur bones, now find themselves shut out of the
opportunities they’ve worked so hard to get.
The working poor who want to leave their jobs as chambermaids and
waitresses, to go back to school, learn those trades, and receive a
living wage for their efforts can’t quit their jobs. Leaving a job
precludes them from receiving any support while they attend school --
and employers can’t exactly check “shortage of work” on that ROE when
they’ll have to turn around and fill those same positions immediately,
if they can fill them at all.
That our education and employment policies don’t recognize the value of
a well-educated and well-employed citizen -- can’t make the connection
between investing in hard-working people for the few years of their
programs in return for all the wealth they will generate over a lifetime
of employment -- is a sad scenario for our province and our workers.
Our workforce faces a crisis. Major projects can’t find employees. Small
businesses are closing in our communities. Recruitment costs are rising
while worker migration from job to job increases. In a province where
$25/hour jobs are going unfilled in Labrador, Newfoundlanders are
heading to Alberta and dreaming of “an opportunity to come home.” $1,000
a baby might create a workforce 21 years from now -- though similar
policies haven’t worked anywhere else. At about $5,000 per television
advertising spot in western markets, an opportunity for a more
immediately-successful repopulation strategy, however, might simply be
for the province to invest in Labrador by assisting our employers to job
search outside our province -- and a relocation grant might go a long
way to getting families back here in something less than a couple of
Still living in a basement in a Marystown church are the remnants of a
family that came halfway around the world to this province, who want
nothing more than to work in this province, and who were happily doing
just that -- oh, and having a whole bunch of babies without a $1,000 a
baby bounty -- until the governments of the country and province decided
to split them up and deport them. Nor are they the only such family in
With oil once again about to flow, expanding the seats at the College of
the North Atlantic -- at least those seats on the Island -- has become a
very attractive prospect. At a campus in Labrador West, where the
workforce shortage has been recognized for ten years, where there is
currently more classroom space than there will be at the new facility,
and where employment opportunities have been sitting on the doorstep,
there are no more Mining Technology seats to be had.
Nearly two years ago, then-campus administrator Azmy Aboulazm suggested
to the then-Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan that the Mining Tech
program wasn’t just an opportunity to train locals, but to import
students from other mining regions. Suggested Aboulazm, those students
might not only expand the revenue of the campus, but just might “come
for a year and stay for a career,” something most of the people
currently working here did decades ago - very successfully.
Population growth is a curious study, but one of the most basic
principles is that each person is actually a part of a larger unit. No
one exists without parents. Most have siblings. A great number still
decide to have children of their own. Using that model when considering
hiring trends, it seems likely that any given family unit provides not
only the skilled first hire, but other people with potential to fill a
wide variety of job requirements. Teens to flip their way through
university, young retirees looking for a second career or just the
opportunity to keep active and social, and spouses with skills other
than the initial hire are all part of the family group.
Our province recently realized that every tourism dollar they spend is
an investment in that industry. It seems a fairly small jump from
attracting tourists for a few weeks with our great people, culture, and
landscapes to attracting workers who get all that -- and the job.
As the workforce crisis that has existed in Labrador West for years
reaches out to the rest of the province, perhaps this is the time to
press hard for solutions. A province desperate for workers in the south
might be more sympathetic, or at least receptive, to the requests this
region has already been floating: block training opportunities, more
apprenticeships, employer support for trainees, and, most important of
all, opportunities to retrain without being penalized for hanging up the
Desperately trying to remain
Having waited months -- actually
years, Ed Byrne was the Minister of Natural Resources when the first
discussion of the provincial Energy Plan came through Labrador West --
for the plan to become a public document, the assumption was that the
province’s Energy Plan would be a clear-cut, detail-rich guide for the
So much for that idea.
When Mr. Byrne swung through here, western Labradorians had lots of
questions for him.
Why were wind energy proposals for Labrador projects, like the Ventus
proposal, being deferred?
“To ensure they fall in line with the total plan for the province,” he
Well, with the total plan in print, there’s still no answer for anyone
other than government itself who might want to make that investment
Would government follow the principles of adjacency in its energy
program? Labrador has watched Churchill power flow to Quebec first for
years. Western Labrador has literally begged government and Newfoundland
Hydro for a clear direction on recall power.
How, asked Labrador City mayor Graham Letto, could we sell this region
to industry -- industry like the Alcan plant that is in Baie Comeau
instead of Labrador where the power it uses is generated! -- if we have
no clear commitment from government to bring that power to the region
for industry, if we have no clear pricing scheme or incentive to offer,
and no guarantee that the necessary second line would in fact be
Again, there’s no answer in this energy plan. While our premier lauded
the progress in countries like Iceland -- where they all traveled to
learn something about economic development there on the taxpayers’ tab
-- none of their successful principles, like ensuring clean power at
decent pricing to lure industry, found their way into this Energy Plan.
Not surprisingly, Iceland is about to see the fourth aluminum project
launch there, while we still have to drive to Baie Comeau to see the one
Where does government stand on Clause 92A which would allow this region
to benefit -- to provide the tax dollars to make projects like the Trans
Labrador Highway possible -- Byrne was asked.
“We need a policy that covers all of our exported power,” he told us at
the public session. “And that will be part of the Energy Plan.”
Not in the Plan that was delivered this week.
Looking at adjacency through a Labrador lens, Byrne was asked if Lower
Churchill power would directly benefit Labradorians -- or if it was just
a big outlet for the island’s plug?
That answer is definitely in this plan!
The “plan” is simple, get that line across the Strait as fast as you can
-- bypassing the communities of Labrador completely!
As a sop, the Plan says north coast communities -- completely
diesel-driven at this time -- will receive a subsidy on their
residential use, bringing them on-par with the residents of Labrador
West and Happy Valley - Goose Bay, the communities on the
“interconnected” grid, a grid that is no more interconnected in truth
than the Island and Labrador are now, but is a convenient political and
A residential subsidy, huh?
Which does what for the communities trying to grow their own small
industries? How does this subsidy help the communities where people are
asked to turn off their Christmas lights so the plant can run an extra
shift? How does this help the tourism operator trying to run a hotel
where four guests brown out the power? How does it help the stores
dependent on diesel power to keep food refrigerated in the long periods
between deliveries? How does it help the communities watching for the
inevitable diesel spill in the towns whose “pristine nature” is their
biggest tourism draw? How does a diesel subsidy help in towns where wood
is still the primary home heat, where a baseboard heater is more rare
than a polar bear?
More importantly, of what possible value to anyone is a subsidy on
diesel-generated power in communities where they regularly run out of
A subsidy on something you can’t purchase... well, that should generate
lots of gratitude!
Labradorians aren’t a greedy lot.
We share pretty willingly.
Watching a multi-billion dollar project like Lower Churchill come into
being for the sole purpose of growing industry on the Island, however,
isn’t asking us to, once again, share with the Island, is it?
Being told government wants to “green” itself by getting rid of Holyrood,
while at the same time, telling Labrador communities their unstable,
environmentally-unfriendly, and costly diesel is good enough for them
can’t be taken as anything other than self-serving.
Being told government can string a line across hundreds of miles of
Labrador, across an iceberg-ridden strait, and across the entire Island
to benefit industry in St. John’s, but not string a wire to coastal
Labrador, again, can hardly be construed as a “Labrador solution.” It
certainly acknowledges none of the hopes and dreams of Labradorians for
their own towns.
Nain, Wabush, Charlottetown, West St. Modeste, Red Bay, and Rigolet are
all part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Promising them
construction jobs for a couple of years then send them back to their
woodstoves and brown-outs, while the Island reaps the benefit of
long-term industry, just doesn’t cut it.
“I have a special place in my heart for Labrador!”
September 9th, 2007
An extra kick for Labrador
The variety of individuals who
contact a local publication in the run of a week is incredible. Of
course, there are the locals who have an issue with the latest political
debate, the potholes on their street, or the cost of gas. That’s not
unexpected. In fact, if we didn’t have a nice thick stack of mail each
week, we’d have to go out looking for our readers to see what was wrong!
We also get letters from those who have left and want to regain a
contact with “the guy who was married to so-and-so...” A regular stream
of e-mail comes from amateur genealogists who are wondering how to
contact the library/church/school/hospital where cousin so-and-so might
have been. We’ve even made a trip or two to the cemetery to take
pictures of headstones.
Far outstripping all other “outside” requests, however, is the e-mail or
letter asking “Can you get there from (insert writer’s home town here)?”
It’s not that the local tourism office isn’t doing their part, or even
that people keep stumbling over our region while googling “Labrador
retriever” -- though that happens fairly frequently too! -- the
questions in our box appear to be generated by the pictures that we
attach to all our outgoing email.
We’ve always thought Labrador, especially our little corner of it, is
pretty special. We’re justifiably proud of the beautiful communities in
which we live and work. To show them off a little, we have, for the past
six years, attached a link to all of our e-mail leaving the immediate
area. Not a honking big signature with embedded pictures, just a little
link that goes: To see a beautiful scene from Labrador, click here. The
“here” is, of course, a link to our “picture of the week,” which is
actually a rotating series of pictures donated by our various
contributors. Each time the recipient clicks the link, they get another
picture and a little blurb about the scene or event depicted. We didn’t
really realize how many people were clicking that link until the
invisible counter on the page nudged us on June 1st to let us know it
had been clicked 50,001 times this year.
We’re a chatty bunch, but we haven’t sent that many emails this year --
Thinking it wouldn’t hurt to show more people Labrador, on June 5th, we
added a little button to the bottom of the images that says, “Want to
show someone else how beautiful Labrador West really is? Click here!”
Clicking there lets the viewer type in an e-mail address.
On July 1st, our little counter nudged us again, we had tripped the
Being a naturally nosy bunch, we started poking about in those
statistics and the script that captures referral information for us.
Almost 95% of people who received an email, clicked to see the first
image. About 10% discovered it was a different image each time and
continued to click four or five more times. A whopping 60% clicked the
“send to a friend” option at least once.
The most interesting statistic however is the number of contacts that
generated back to our offices: 82 in June, 177 in July. August has just
closed out with 222 notes back commenting on some aspect of Labrador.
Everything from “Where the heck is Labrador? I thought it was a dog!” to
"What was the address for that train ticket office again?”
Even more interesting, to us at least, was the four visiting groups who
made another contact after they arrived here this summer, having decided
to include it in their vacation plans. Two of the families were former
residents who came back to “see the old place.” One group included three
bikers from Trois Riviere who were intrigued by the story of the Lawlors’
bike trip and decided to go to Newfie the “long way around.” The last, a
pair of newly-weds, had planned a “cross Canada” trip to visit their
four different sets of parents and, having already planned to hit PEI,
realized they could get all ten provinces by... yup, visiting Labrador.
Our little email pictures didn’t make any noticeable increase in the
tourism numbers in Labrador this summer, but, we did help remind a whole
bunch of people that Labrador isn’t just a dog, but a place that just
might be worth visiting, and we got to meet a few people who agreed,
came, and had a great time!
The province has promised big money for winter tourism promotion, and
Destination Labrador says its about to get off its various butts and get
down to business too. That’s good, and to be applauded, but, perhaps
there’s something else that we can all do. Perhaps we can be our own
The majority of western Labradorians either have access to email at
home, at work, or at the CAP sites. A large number of us travel in
person to conferences and meetings where there’s an opportunity to
contribute to material in a common area like a conference hall. We
vacation all over the world, visiting friends and meeting new people.
How hard could it be to toss a few pamphlets, postcards, or pins in our
luggage or glove compartment when we go outside?
The most natural question in the world is “So, where are you from?”
We’re from western Labrador - home of World Cup ski trails, Cain’s
Quest, Olympic athletes, the last operating railway in the province,
Jim’s steak, Smokey Mountain’s three metres of natural snow, world-class
fishing, the continent’s single largest caribou herd, the biggest iron
mines in North America, and the most generous people in the country. So
why not come up and visit us some time?
While we await the professional efforts of those who’ll help us package
these wonderful resources, we can all add a little picture to our email,
or a postcard to our glove compartment.
September 2nd, 2007
The weather? Certainly
something for everyone!
Complaining about the weather is a
time-honoured tradition in this part of the world. It’s too hot, too
wet, too cold... In other places, that’s a whole year’s worth of
complaints. In Labrador, that’s just one day!
Oddly enough, our perception, or our memory, of weather appears to be
completely inaccurate -- at least it is if you listen to Environment
Most people would call this summer “wet” without much fear of being
contradicted at their local watering hole. Environment Canada, however,
tells us we’ve had less rain this year than last over the same period.
Being a person who keeps a note of the weather on the kitchen calendar
each day, and not having left once for that whole period, and watching
the frequency with which all those who own lawns have been out mowing --
often enough in the rain! -- it’s hard to believe this has been a “dry”
According to the notes on the calendar, there have been exactly 12 days
since the first of June without some rain. It wasn’t always a deluge,
but it’s certainly been raining.
Faced with that mismatch between memory, the calendar, and government
statistics, it was time to rummage a bit deeper into those weather
In most places, weather readings are generated at the closest airports,
in our case Wabush and Churchill Falls, with some mechanized
arrangements to sight for snow versus rains versus hail or whatever. As
there have been airports here since the communities’ inception, there is
a weather record that equates fairly well with the memory of our first
residents. It appears Environment Canada’s records don’t match up
particularly well with anyone’s memory.
Arriving here nearly twenty years ago, the advice then was not to worry
too much about the cold -- the “dry cold” theory being that it might
register colder, but, if it wasn’t as damp, it didn’t feel cold -- and
that “It doesn’t seem as cold here as it used to anyway, seems it’s
People certainly as the old Humidex things figured out long before the
people on the weather stations did. Odd as it seems, it is only in the
last five to ten years that weather casters have added the “but with the
humidity, it will feel like...” bit to their evening news clips. Western
Labradorians had the whole humidex, wind chill, dew point thing figured
out from the get-go.
According to Environment, however, there’s been very little variation in
the temperature or the wind in western Labrador.
While Tyvec and whatnot has probably cut down on the odd draft since the
mid-sixties, the majority of people are still walking the same sidewalks
-- and they aren’t wrapped in Tyvex -- so what would account for our
apparently poor weather memory.
The folks at the Environment department say part of it is that human
memory really isn’t that good. Individually, that makes a certain amount
of sense. We’re all influenced by outside factors. Even though we all
know a sunny winter day is colder than an overcast winter day, it’s
certainly part of our psyche to think a sunny day is a warmer day -- or
to remember a drop of rain on our wedding day as a downpour because it
was a day when we’d really wanted nothing but sun.
Collectively, however, the bad memory doesn’t seem to play out. When
everyone from six to sixty remembers last summer as dry, or hot, or
damp, seems likely they aren’t all wrong.
Labrador West doesn’t exist in a bubble either and there are other
indicators of heat or humidity or rainfall. If, for example, two summers
ago the water bomber was seldom out of the sky, and this summer is saw
little to no air time, you’d have to infer that it was hotter, or drier,
two summers ago than it was this one. Driving out along the Tamarack
Road extension to the highway three summers ago, you were lucky not to
get wet, the water in the creek almost covered the road. This year, the
rocks are still sticking above the water enough for the seagulls to use
them as settling spots while they peck minnows from just beneath the
surface. This year, the bluish new growth on the tips of spruce and
tamarack is as much as eight inches long -- much more noticeable than it
was a year ago. When the kids stand on the bus stops this week, it will
be a true fall scene -- those trees are changing colour in a rush -- and
anyone who took a picture of their kindergartener last year knows that
the leaves were still green then.
The Farmer’s Almanac, doesn’t make the grade with Environment Canada’s
specialists. According to the experts, it is right just 40% of the time.
Maybe it’s our poor memories again, but, comparing it to the notes on
the calendar, it’s at least as accurate as the weather forecast has been
in recent times.
Its prediction for our area?
“An early and cool fall, but one with sunshine and clear skies until
late October” when “an average winter begins with light snowfalls until
November and ends with several weeks of heavy snowfall in May.”
Put a note on your calendar and see how accurate the Almanac was this
year -- and get out an enjoy a wonderful Fall, maybe even a Fall Fair!
August 26, 2007
Getting the Goat
Language is a wonderful thing,
capable of conveying subtle nuances that carry as much meaning as the
words themselves. Strung together correctly words lift us, set our feet
on those paths less taken, inspiring us to acts we’d not previously
believed ourselves capable of tackling.
It has rather gone out of fashion now, but, back in the day, it was
common to encourage young people to read and recite some of the great
speeches of our time.
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the
true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident:
that all men are created equal,’” easily stands the test of time since
Martin Luther King called out to an entire nation on August 28, 1963,
from the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.
“We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the
hills; we shall never surrender,” promised Winston Churchill to his
nation on June 4th, 1940, less than a month after becoming prime
minister, in the first year of the Second World War.
King was shot and Churchill thrown out of office once the war was won --
neither of which is an outcome most would anticipate with any enthusiasm
-- but their words continued to inspire for decades and generations
There’s a saying that youth is wasted on the young. Perhaps words are
wasted on our current crop of politicians. Not only do they have no
flair, no charisma, and no ability to capture the mood of a region or a
people, to inspire them to new achievements, they can’t even espouse a
Listening this week to our current Premier explain in great, calm,
detail why the House of Assembly had no need whatsoever to ratify the
new Hebron deal -- “It’s just so good!” -- it was hard to forget the
considerably more animated then-Leader of the Opposition who condemned
the decision to do a Voisey’s Bay deal behind closed doors.
Back then, the public had a right to know. Today, it appears, they do
not. Interesting how a span of five years and a walk across a room can
change an entire party’s direction and underlying principles.
When the House of Assembly came back in special session during June of
2002 to debate the Voisey’s Bay deal -- more precisely, the 18-page
Statement of Principals that would become the Voisey’s deal -- Williams
said, “I am offering, and our caucus is offering, to the Premier, all
the available information that we have, any constructive criticism, any
help, any of the 100 pages that we have which would help make this a
better deal, we will offer it to you, we will sit with you, we will sit
with the Minister of Mines and Energy, sit with the Minister of Justice,
we will work through this together to make it a better deal. In light of
that, would you then agree to provide us with the final documentation -
not signed documentation, but final draft documentation - prior to the
deal being finalized and binding, and bring it back then to a vote in
this House of Assembly?”
Does Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition only have experience and expertise
of value to offer when it is the Progressive Conservatives sitting to
the left of the Speaker?
As it turned out, Williams was right back then.
Statements like “There are no conditions whatsoever that do not see a
full-scale plant built in Argentia!” made by then-Premier Roger Grimes,
leave a funny taste in many mouths by today’s light.
Oppositions are frequently accused of opposing only for the sake of
What else can they do without information on which to base a considered
and balanced opinion?
Oratory in the province, in the House of Assembly, devolves to little
more than sound bytes and shots across the bow when nothing of substance
fills the spaces behind and between the words.
While we aren’t currently living in a province where foreign forces
threaten to storm our beaches or men in white hoods roam freely through
the outports on a Saturday evening, and don’t need our politicians to
inspire us to throw ourselves in the path of clear and present dangers,
we do need them to be men and women of clear and consistent philosophy.
What is right and wrong shouldn’t change to suit the convenience of the
If removing the arbitrariness of public opinion polls of the moment from
voting process was right, abandoning the principles behind fixed
election dates when the House of Assembly scandal erupted would have
been wrong. If asking the House to rubber stamp a Voisey’s Bay Agreement
without all members able to make an informed vote was wrong in 2002,
then excluding the Opposition from an opportunity to meaningfully
contribute to the Hebron deal is equally wrong.
We live in an era where politicians behave as though voters all suffer
from Attention Deficit Disorder, as though we all awaken every day as
blank slates upon which to write their agenda of the day. Perhaps
there’s a good reason why modern-day political speeches aren’t being
taught in our schools -- because politicians have stopped saying
anything of value, anything that will stand the test of time, anything
that inspires us -- or even the House of Assembly itself -- to come
together and work towards that bright future as one solid force.
Perhaps “voter fatigue” has less to do with the voters than with parties
and politicians that can no longer remember who they are and what they
In the language of the people whose political forum is the coffee shop
instead of the Legislature, “The whole lot of them just get my goat!”
As we approach a general election, much more will be written about why
people do or don’t come out to vote.
Give us the men and women with courage in their convictions, who can
stand up and speak today knowing they won’t have to turn around in five
years and eat those words because it no longer fits the party line. Give
us a government with more than a platform pamphlet - give us a
government with a set of principals so clearly defined that we don’t
have to guess how they’ll react next time, we’ll know. Give us a
government of free votes and free thinkers, a government unafraid of
sitting with the Opposition - whoever it may be -- to get the best for
the entire province. Give us good candidates and good government, for
August 19, 2007
Shuffling the deck good or bad
Cabinet shuffles are always
interesting. Provincially, we’re about to have the ultimate shuffle, a
full-blown general election. Within the municipality of Labrador City,
there’s a planned shuffle at the midway point of each four-year term,
spreading experience around and ensuring continuity over the long term.
Shuffles can, and usually do, of course, occur at other times -- often
in response to public dissatisfaction. Nationally, Prime Minister
Stephen Harper chose this past week to shuffle his cards in Ottawa.
Speculation in the Ottawa press is that Harper’s round of musical chairs
served primarily to get Gordon O’Connor out of Defense and, secondarily,
to “reward” those ministers who have excelled in their given portfolio.
It’s natural that citizens relate most strongly to those issues closest
to them. Town councils are the governments closest to the people and, in
general, especially in Labrador West, our mayors and councillors are
frequently our first conduit to both the province and the country.
They’re “intergovermental affairs” officers of the first order. Because
of that bridging work, residents seldom think of their national
ministers, or how those ministries impact local issues -- which is
perhaps a mistake on all our parts.
In this latest shuffle, it’s hard to tell who -- other than Gordon
O’Connor, who has taken a beating publically as Minister of Defense
during the Afghanistan actions -- was being punished, or who was being
rewarded. Peter MacKay, who seemed perfectly content and successful in
his previous portfolio, now gets the largely thankless job in Defense.
Punishment or reward? A vote of confidence in a man capable of handling
tough portfolios, or a subtle way to ensure a more popular
second-in-command stays down on the farm instead of agitating for the
leadership job? Hard to say.
For Labradorians, however, the defence questions aren’t all in
Afghanistan. Whether we want servicepeople there or not is immaterial to
whether we want them safer for whatever time they eventually spend on
foreign soil. Whether Canadians serve in peacekeeping or peacemaking
roles, domestically or internationally, they train here in Canada first
-- and that is the key concern for the people of Happy Valley - Goose
East-west rivalries aside, Labrador as a region can’t afford to lose
even one of our scant number of voices. Being heard on the provincial
and national stages is difficult enough with our 26,000 voices. Becoming
a lonelier voice in the Labrador wilderness following the loss of an
airbase in Goose Bay does absolutely no one any favours -- and that
possibility is now squarely in Peter MacKay’s lap.
While the rest of the country denounced O’Connor, there was, in Lake
Melville, a sense of rapport developing between that Minister and the
base committee. While this shuffle silences, at least temporarily,
voices on the Afghanistan questions, for the people of Happy Valley -
Goose Bay, this is the beginning of a period of new concern and stress
as they see if a new minister means a new direction or not, and whether
the devil they don’t know is worse than the devil they did.
The aboriginal communities also face change and the discomfort that
usually accompanies it as Jim Prentice moves out of his portfolio as
Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to Industry. Under Prentice,
land claims and other jurisdictional issues took faster strides than
they have in three decades. For groups like the Labrador Métis Nation,
struggling even to settle on a definition of “Métis” with the provincial
government, Prentice’s administration held out some hope. Instead Jim
Prentice moves from Indian and Northern Affairs to Industry and all
those groups wait to see if the new man at the helm, Minister Chuck
Strahl, an MP from the other end of the country who was previously the
Agriculture minister, can provide policy for tiny populations in
Shuffles mean two things. Some go. Some stay. Lawrence Cannon, Minister
of Transport, stays in place, as does regional minister for this
province, Loyola Hearn.
Whether that’s a good thing or not for Labrador remains to be seen. The
flurry of paper flying between the province, the communities, and those
individuals sparked a lot of finger-pointing -- but hasn’t resulted in
much cost-shared pavement to date.
Of course, how can you expect the shuffle of a minister here or there to
have any affect at all when the principles -- Harper and Williams --
remain on opposite sides of a divide wider than any party alliances?
“We’ll go it alone!” is a stirring sound byte -- if it doesn’t bite you
How well “alone” will play with the people of Daniel’s Harbour or
Dunville remains to be seen. Those choking down the dust on the Trans
Labrador, or living next to an empty airbase, might not find it so
“Alone” costs everyone in this province. Whether it’s a direct hit, or
the result of having to pull resources from Peter to pay for a lonely
Paul, doesn’t really matter.
We need -- and deserve -- more than a cabinet shuffle. We need an
attitude adjustment at the top. It may not be a sacred trust, but
leadership remains a public trust, not an arena for the biggest ego.
August 12th, 2007
Random Acts of Kindness
Last week’s edition probably didn’t
look or feel any different to our readers, but it will always have a
very special place in our hearts.
Early on Saturday morning, the tranformer-thingy in our offices decided
the beginning of the print run would be the ideal time to give up the
ghost. Like light bulbs, said the string of electricians who would
come a take a peak at it over the next few hours, “They just blow
sometimes.” Unlike light bulbs, however, most people don’t have a
spare transformer-gizmo sitting on the shelf. Turns out, even
electricians don’t keep them sitting on their shelves either.
Needless to say, printing 140,000 pages of anything in a single day
isn’t going to happen on your desktop printer. In fact, printing
11x17” sheets isn’t going to happen at all on most desktop machines,
it’s just too big, so, even if we had a couple hundred of them, it could
never have gotten the job done in time to go to the stores and carriers
for Sunday morning.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve been bombarded with stories of vandalism,
the theft of everything from tailgates to boat docks, and a group of
people who think it’s perfectly all right to drive around town, often
impaired, while running over other people’s lawns and up their trails,
while blasting hard-working neighbours out of their beds at all hours.
That’s a pretty depressing view of our community.
From a technical point of view, Saturday morning was shaping up to be
pretty dismal too -- and then we were the fortunate and grateful
recipients of the other side of our community, the dominant side of our
community, a community that regularly performs random acts of kindness.
From the time our transformer popped, until the 182st print edition
began rolling -- if slower than usual -- off the conveyor and out the
door once again was something less than an hour.
Some pretty wonderful people made that happen.
Alain Roy, who frequently adds words to our pages, reverted to his
electrician mode and abandoned a rare sunny day at the golf course to
take control of our power problem.
Our business neighbours in the building loaned us the use of an outlet
or two and got our network server up and serving once again.
Sted Dicks, one of those electricians who also dug around on their
shelves for us, couldn’t come up with a transformer-thingy, but appeared
out of the blue with a big generator that he and Alain soon had
connected to a bunch of temporary cables.
Gary Shaw and family once again proved themselves great friends, helping
shift our bindery equipment to an alternate site where it too was soon
working away once again.
Ian Allen left the relaxation of a Saturday afternoon at home with his
family to open up shop at Harris & Roome, followed up with us throughout
the weekend, and had a transformer-majiggy on the first available
At 9:45 on Sunday morning, less than an hour later than usual, magazines
began being delivered to the stores. When carriers arrived at 1:00pm,
there were no lights in the office, but their bags were full of
magazines and, except for those lights, most didn’t notice anything out
of the ordinary!
On Tuesday morning, the Gar Shaws, Junior and Senior, trucked the gizmo
to the office and, before night fell, Alain Roy said, “Let there be
light -- and outlets, and printing!” and there was!
“Thank you” doesn’t take up much space on the page, and doesnt begin to
encompass how very grateful we are to those individuals specifically,
and to a community as generous as ours.
Sitting in pitch darkness all night, through the wee hours of the
morning, with nothing to do but refill printers by flashlight, could
have been the perfect time to curse the nature of transformer-thingies
and the universe in general.
Instead, thanks to the generosity and kindness of our community, there
was a pretty warm feeling amongst our crew. People who’ve been
powered by little more than coffee and a Carter’s hot dog, with no
sleep, and the remnants of an adrenaline hangover really shouldn’t have
been as happy as we all were on Sunday afternoon!
“Thank you” doesn’t seem quite sufficient, but thank you all, just the
same, for making Vol. 4, Issue 25 possible!
Moving and shaking in the
News items, like deaths, tend to come in bunches.
One week, the desk is awash with cultural stories, the next there is a
bunch of volunteer stories, or sport stories. Other weeks, you can’t dig
up a musician in the orchestra section.
This week, our pages are covered in mining stories. Not surprising
perhaps, given that we do live amid some of the richest ore deposits in
the world, and this is, after all, exploration season -- and the time
when the results of last year’s exploration begin to come into clearer
That metals of all kinds remain hot commodities goes without saying.
Growth and upturns in the mineral and mine markets boost investor
confidence, which allows companies to look beyond the rims, or shafts,
of their own operations and look for ways to streamline, expand, and
reap benefits for their owners. In Labrador West, that entire system is
playing out in our little crucible.
New Millennium Corporation opted to forgo opportunities on this side of
the Labrador-Quebec border in favour of swifter profits and closer dates
for operation opening. Whether they end up following the model pioneered
by the Iron Ore Company of Canada -- to snatch on the Quebec side and
find long-term sustainability on the Labrador side -- remains to be
IOC, for its part, is sinking its roots deeper into Labrador soil, and a
$60M expansion will return a level of production that sees the entire
region grow. We can hope it also spurs the secondary benefits that other
regions see when industry grows. Specifically, the expansion of not only
the mine site itself, but the expansion of possibilities for other
operations. If not now, what better time to dramatically increase the
capacity for the Mining Technology program at the College of the North
Atlantic, to find those opportunities to piggy-back more transferable
university program courses to that growth?
Again, what better time to press for improvements to our train-road
crossings? With IOC planning to add more cars to its own trains,
resulting in either longer strings of cars, or more locomotives and more
trains running at more times -- not to mention the possible growth in
traffic should a Consolidated Thompson minesite begin shipping on the
same tracks -- Labrador West is long overdue for some attention to its
local transportation safety concerns.
When else should we look to government to finally come aboard with a
second power line to the region. Trains, shovels, and mills all require
power, and so will the secondary growth as service industries push
forward with their own expansions. The homes and families who fill them
up in the next few years will need power for a modern standard of
As governments at all levels claim their piece of the Labrador West pie,
what better time to remind them to re-invest those dollars in one of the
few regions where they know they’ll find a solid return on their
Labrador City isn’t the only community looking ahead with hope to growth
and expansion in the mining sector spilling into their backyards.
While Wabush residents quietly await the end of the 90-days due Dofasco
for its review of operations, employees continue to see Consolidated
Thompson personnel walking the floors of the plant and wonder what
change will mean for them.
All those associated with the mining industry know the old maxim
“everything is for sale, at the right price” has never been more true.
Even as IOC announces its expansion, movers and shakers farther up the
line continue to merge and buy out big players. Just as Wabush Mines
continues to hope for a solid result from their new manganese extraction
process, and from whomever their new owners turn out to be, IOC
employees realize that announcements today can herald even more changes
and that ownership changes could happen at their operation as well.
The mining industry, well known for its humps and bumps, appears to have
finally found a global groove, and western Labrador is poised to take
full advantage of it.
As those movers and shakers do their thing, the opportunity to “think
global and act local” extends to each individual in Labrador West.
We’re going to be part of that moving and shaking for some time. Let’s
ensure that, when everything gets shaken out, the infrastructure and
services needed to tackle the next round of change are firmly in place.
When someone tells you an overpass, for example, costs $2M, ask how much
the trains it accommodates bring to this province, and how valuable the
safety of our workers’ families are to that process.