Roads and staffing concerns were two issues that created a lot of chatter at a provincial pre-budget consultation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Wednesday, Jan. 16.
Rupert Dawe, a member of the public who attended the meeting, was vocal in his opinion on the Trans-Labrador Highway.
“There’s one thing that can be done so Labrador can find its rightful place in the rest of Canada,” he said. “That simply is, finish the damn roads. That will increase tourism exponentially.”
Dawe said work on the roads so far has been great but it needs to be done faster to increase access.
“Because of the roads we’re being undernourished in terms of tourism,” he said. “Look at Red Bay, people go there and don’t continue on. We’re a long ways behind.”
Dawe also pointed out that a lot of seniors have to travel for medical reasons and it would be easier if the roads were all paved.
Lake Melville MHA Perry Trimper was at the meeting and noted there is more spent on the Trans-Labrador Highway than on other highways in the province and that it will be completed in the next two years.
Staffing concerns tied into the roads issue, since having a paved highway would potentially help bring more people to Labrador. That was one of many factors brought up in terms of attracting and retaining staff in Labrador. Some of the others were the cost of living, cost of airfare, and lack of facilities.
Looking into the staffing issues, attracting immigrants to Labrador was also brought up as a priority.
“When I was a kid people had five or six kids per family, now it’s one or maybe two,” said Wayne Sheppard, another member of the public who attended the meeting. “We need to do something about that.”
He also mentioned that a lot of immigrants who come to the province work in jobs that most people don’t want, which needs to be addressed. It isn’t that the workers who come in aren’t skilled, he said, but their credentials aren’t necessarily recognized.
The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay also made a submission of their budget wants for the upcoming provincial budget. On that list is a new fire hall; improved marine infrastructure and capacity funding post Muskrat Falls. Kelland Drive was also brought up.
“That road was built without a dime from the province,” Mayor Wally Andersen said. “Since the development of Muskrat Falls we saw tractor trailers which we couldn’t keep off our roads travel over it. Further more, this is our escape route if things should happen with major flooding.”
He said the town believes the Kelland Drive extension and repair should be covered by the province or at least help offset the costs.
Andersen said they look forward to seeing the provincial budget in the next few months. He hopes some of the items brought up through the consultation process will be included in the next budget.