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Happy 150th Birthday Sir Dr. Wilfred Grenfell – A True Hero of the North

I would like recognize the larger than life man who made big things happen in small communities – Sir Dr. Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, born February 28th, 1865. It’s been 150 years since the birth of such a visionary!

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Since 1892, Dr. Grenfell has impacted the lives of those on the Great Northern Peninsula and Labrador through the Grenfell Mission, which provided the first permanent medical services throughout the region. It established the first hospital in Battle Harbour (the unofficial capital of Labrador).

In addition to advancing the medical administration, headquartered in St. Anthony, the mission worked to make social changes and reduce poverty through advancing education, agriculture, textiles and industrial projects. A number of schools were built, a lumber mill was established in 1908 in Canada Bay to create year-round employment, farms developed and co-operatives created to reduce the reliance of merchants and their crippling credit-system for fishers.

To stimulate industrial development, mission workers also organized the local handicraft industry enabling residents to sell hooked mats, knitted goods and other items at North American retail outlets. People would save their silk stockings and send them to Labrador or the Great Northern Peninsula for the women to make and sell Grenfell hooked rugs. There is great pride taken in displaying the Grenfell rug which the handicraft group has been proudly producing for a century! There is also the Grenfell cloth, making the traditional “Grenfell” coats people proudly wear in the 21st century.

There are many legacy pieces that remain with the International Grenfell Association with more than 100 years of activity and giving back to local causes in the form of education and community development. The Grenfell Memorial Co-op is 101 years and counting and the Interpretation Centre displays a collection of books, medical supplies and other records that attracts thousands. The hospital and outer buildings signal the impact the administration had on the local economy and society.

Dr. Grenfell received many honours in medicine, in academia and medallions. Today Memorial University -Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook is named after the legendary figurehead. As well, the Route 432 on the Great Northern Peninsula is named Grenfell Drive.

I get inspired when I think and learn about more about the undertakings of Dr. Grenfell. He is one of my role models, as he had a vision to diversify an economy, empower individuals and meet the needs of people serving so many communities. The Great Northern Peninsula is a better place because of him, he has created quite the legacy.

Dr. Grenfell is a household name on the Great Northern Peninsula and Newfoundland and Labrador. More must be down to recognize the significance of his work, the role he played and how the influence of one man forever changed the fabric of the Great Northern Peninsula. His vision had radically changed and developed the economy and the way we think – we know that more is possible because he gave us hope! Let’s keep building on Doctor Grenfell’s vision!

Happy 150th Birthday, you truly deserve the recognition!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

If These Fishing Rooms Could Talk….

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The Town of Anchor Point on the Great Northern Peninsula is the oldest English settlement in the area settled circa 1740. It was settled due to the rich fishing resources, where residents set-up winter housing at Deep Cove (a national historic site). Today the community remains the key employer in the Straits from Eddies Cove East to Anchor Point, given the presence of a secondary shrimp processing facility, numerous fishing enterprises and services related to this industry.

If these bright fishing rooms could talk, they would tell a story of economic growth and prosperity the fishery has brought to the Town of Anchor Point for more than 200 years. This community is bucking the trend of most rural communities, as it has a younger population, with a full bus load of children heading to school each day and new housing additions being added annually. There are rural success stories, on the Great Northern Peninsula and across the province.

The Town of Anchor Point is a great place to live, work or invest. There are opportunities to continue to expand our fishery and provide additional recreation and services for residents. Further diversification can be pursued in developing cottage industries, technology, co-operatives, social enterprises and private business to capitalize on a growing rural economy.

I encourage you to visit Anchor Point, and view the fishing rooms that have quite a story to tell…

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
@MitchelmoreMHA 

Main Brook Research & Development Corporation Building A Diversified Economy

Community economic development should be at the heart of any small Town. The Great Northern Peninsula has numerous development associations (White Bay South, White Bay Central, St. Barbe, Straits Development and Rising Sun), as well as St. Anthony Basin Resources Incorporated (SABRI). These entities have partnered with communities and local groups to create and maintain infrastructure, provide employment, training and the delivery of a number of programs. We need these entities to build stronger economies and communities in our region.

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The Main Brook Research & Development Corporation is another shining example of community building at its finest. The non-profit corporation has local Directors and develop the Town’s assets, such as the property leased by Northern Lights Seafoods. The attraction of a processor to the Town has created dozens of direct local jobs and supported many fishers on the Great Northern Peninsula since 2009. This has lead to millions of dollars in economic value re-circulating in the community and greater region. Northern Lights Seafoods is also pursuing new product development for scallops, which can lead to longer-term employment and more secondary-processing. This creates greater sustainability for the company, workforce and community.

Another major milestone for the Main Brook Research & Development Corp. was the divestiture of the Federal Public wharf. Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, Mayor Leander Pilgrim (Director of MBRDC) and I took part in the official transfer ceremony at Long Pond, CBS.

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The corporation and community now has control over an asset, which they can use to generate revenues and create new opportunities for off-loading of fish product, shipping and receiving goods and services at this deep-water port and also be a destination for recreation, pleasure and commercial craft.

A public meeting was hosted on Thursday, where the corporation updated residents on matters of the wharf and other potential ventures it would look to pursue or find partners to create more economic development for the Town. The meeting clarified the $675,000 Federal transfer and noted the uses of these funds are for the long-term maintenance or the removal of the structure in this was necessary. However, the corporation has a business plan to generate revenues and wisely use invested dollars to create new opportunities, make enhancements and create employment at this location. It is great to see an engaged group of residents, as dozens came out to participate and become more informed, including myself.

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The actions taken by Main Brook Research & Development Corporation has really position the community for further growth and sustainability as they continue with their diversification plan. I commend these community-minded individuals for taking ownership, working together and never tiring to advance the place you call home. It is making a tremendous difference.

The Town of Main Brook has a population of 265 people according to the last census, it has survived the devastation of being a one industry town and losing that big employer. Employment in the 1930’s was almost exclusively in the forest industry, when the community first started to become inhabited. In the late 1940s, Bowater’s moved in and constructed a company town which consisted of apartment buildings, offices, machine and carpenter shops, two warehouses, a retail store, a garage, and a complete water system to capitalize on the rich timber resources.

Main Brook holds the distinction of being once of only 11 Towns that were incorporated before Confederation. Population was growing, but all was halted in 1968 when Bowater’s closed their Main Brook operations, citing weak markets and advancing technology. The community never gave up, smaller scale forestry operations continue and still today Coates’ Lumber produces quality products that are found in many homes, garages and buildings around the region. Many pursued the fishery and tourism also played a significant role. Main Brook is home to the award-winning internationally recognized Tuckamore Lodged, owned and operated by Barb Genge (http://www.tuckamorelodge.com/).

Today the Town and Recreation Committee continues to put the finishing touches on a beautiful 35’*50′ Community Centre that can host functions large and small. This social space will create new activities and opportunities for the Town, with hundreds of thousands invested since 2012. The Town has approved an number of new building lots, which will help boost the population and purchased a brand new piece of snowclearing equipment, as well upgrades are occuring to the chlorination system to improve Town drinking water. The community has a K-12 school, family resource centre, four churches, fire department and the White Bay Central Development Association.

There is a vibrant small business community in Town too, given the amount of people coming to Town to engage particularly in fishing and hunting activities. Isabella’s Country Meats, J&B Outfitting, Tuckamore Lodge, Main Brook Convenience & Gas Station, Hare Bay Stores & Liquor Express and more.

The community is part of the French Shore, has a neighbouring ecological reserve, incredible trails, bi-lingual stop signs, a recreational park and some of the best waterfront views around. Not to mention St. Anthony airport is just a 30 KM drive away. Main Brook is growing due to the determination and ingenuity of those who live there and also those who support the local businesses and organizations, you are all are building a stronger community and making a better Great Northern Peninsula.

I encourage you to find ways in your own community to incorporate new ideas and create the opportunity! Let’s keep making big things happen in our small communities on the Great Northern Peninsula. Congratulations Main Brook on all your success!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
@MitchelmoreMHA

Change needed in how we run the fishery in Canada…

 

It is upsetting to read headlines on the CBC – Lobster prices two dear: processors. The pricing panel set the starting price at $4.26 per pound, which processors say they will not buy and will lose money. It was only last season this same group of processors could not afford to buy crab at $1.35 per pound set by the pricing panel. Fogo Island Co-op was the only company willing, and they got dispelled from the association. Yet in Nova Scotia crab could be purchased at $1.85 per pound.

Is it our closed marketplace? The few processors have a monopoly? Should we look at changing the legislation? Having a free market and allowing outside buyers?

Lobster is a delicacy and no harvester can continue to make a living at the low price of $3.00 or $3.25 per pound, especially with escalating operating costs. My father was a small boat fisher, catching lobster. The price 15 years ago was higher than what it has been in recent seasons.

I remember passing the seafood section in London, England in 2007. The price of lobster fo 16.00 GBP or about $34.00 CDN. I purchased a lobster tail on a beach stand for $9.00 CDN. If you go fine dining lobster ranks up there with the fine cuts of beef.

Why have we devalued the lobster? Are we failing to market our quality products and getting into more value-added? And why are we unable to pay the harvester a fair price? Something has to be done to ensure more certainly and better management of the fishery. Hon. Clyde Jackman, Fisheries Minister for the Province needs to work with newly elected Federal counterparts and all stakeholders.

The fishery continues to be the backbone of the rural economy. We must implement corrective measures to ensure that our rural communities can continue to remain sustainable. The amount of dollars may be small to many of these larger producers but every cut to fish species and reduction of price has resonating impacts to Rural Newfoundland & Labrador economies.

Together we can make great change for brighter tomorrows.

Live Rural NL from Las Vegas

Christopher C. Mitchelmore

Escalating Gas Prices Continue to Leave Local Consumers Poorer, especially in Rural Regions

The Newfoundland & Labrador Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities, released the maximum Petroleum Prices on April 14, 2011. For my region, self-service gasoline reached $1.40 per litre and full-service gasoline is $1.43 per litre.

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Rural Newfoundland & Labrador has few options when it comes to the usage of gasoline, as there a limited public transportation options.

The fishing industry  is the mainstay of the rural economy on the Great Northern Peninsula. 2011 started with a positive outlook, which included significant increases to the price of crab and shrimp. However, the Federal Government announced a significant reduction to the shrimp quota.  This is an unacceptable cut that will add stress to our local rural economy. Additionally, a number of fisherpeople will continue to feel the pinch, despite rising prices for raw material product, they are also seeing significant increases for fuel. This pinch is also felt by those in working in forestry, tourism and basically all other industries. Just announced this week, Aeroplan was increasing the number of reward points required to fly certain distances. The article noted that increases in the price of fuel was a factor in their decision-making.

Local workers and commuters pay more to get to work, which will affect take home pay. Escalating gasoline prices will increase inflation, and we will in turn see higher prices on virtually all products. More has to be done to provide relief to consumers. Earlier this week, CBC News reported, “Power price hike expected”. There is currently an application put forth to the Public Utilities Board to approve a rate increase of 7% that will be passed directly on to the consumer ( http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2011/04/15/hydro-power-hike-pub-415.html). We already had an increase in electricity rates and there is no end in sight, especially with a major capital cost of developing the Lower Churchill. I would only guess that electricity rates will continue to rise to assist with that development on a frequent basis. These gradual increases will be a burden to rural regions and continue to hinder our growth and development. The Energy Corporation of the Province should continue to develop smaller local projects to displace the reliance on oil, this may include harnessing wind energy, tidal energy and bio-energy, as they pursue Muskrat Falls. We appear to have lost momentum on diversifying our ability to become a renewable energy powerhouse and have opted to place all of our eggs in one hydro-electric basket.

 We continue to rely heavily on oil and pay a significant amount in taxes for a Nation and a Province that has an abundance in supply. Why are we not meeting our local needs first and selling the  excess in the global marketplace? I took the photo to the left, while at a gas station in Northern Ireland in November 2010. The price of fuel was 1.198 Great British pounds (~$1.93 per litre). This is quite high; however, like many other European countries they are not an oil-producing nation. When I visited Egypt (an oil rich nation) in 2007, my driver filled up the car at a rate of 0.75 piaster/lt, which at the time was approximately 16 cents per litre Canadian. Where is the balance?

The Provincial NDP Leader, Lorraine Michael held a recent news conference demanding the removal of the Harmonized Sales Tax on Home Heating. I agree with her stand, as it seems unfair to have to pay a tax on an essential such as warmth for your home. Live Rural Newfoundland & Labrador will be signing the petition and if you support this cause, sign the NDP Petition to Remove the HST from Home Heat by clicking here.

We are simply paying too much for gasoline and home heating fuels. As consumer’s we must reduce our reliance on these fuels and opt for alternative energy sources. Many ruralites burn wood to heat their homes and offset their energy costs. Others will begin to convert to wood pellets. Many users of oil will have no choice but to convert to other energy options, as the price is $1.10 per litre locally. When it comes to driving our vehicles in rural areas we will have to find solutions to getting to destinations, whether it is carpooling, ride sharing, telecommuting, downsizing vehicles or trying to establish more public transit options. Through this period of change and transition, we must continue to lobby government to reinvest in local community projects to enhance and diversify the local economies of the Great Northern Peninsula, as well as all regions of Rural Newfoundland & Labrador. During a period of government prosperity, greater attention in needed to spur development in economically depressed regions. Ignoring the issue will only result in greater hardships in the future.

Together there are solutions to provide a brighter future for our rural economy.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher C. Mitchelmore

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