NDP critic for Innovation, Business and Rural Development Christopher Mitchelmore (MHA, The Straits-White Bay North) says government’s approach to job creation in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is sadly lacking in vision.
“Government is dropping the ‘rural’ from the Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development with cuts to RED Boards, Employment Assistance Services, and no real plan for creating jobs from the ground up,” Mitchelmore said in the House of Assembly today. “Megaprojects create boom and bust economies and forced migration, and tear away at the social fabric of our economy.
“When will the minister of IBRD get serious about rural job creation and prevent further mass outmigration from decimating the rural landscape?”
Mitchelmore says encouraging job creation in rural Newfoundland is a vital part of ensuring economic health for the province. He pointed to wharf development as one possible option that has worked in parts of the province and could work in others.
“Government has invested $23 million since 2003 into aquaculture, including six biosecure wharves,” he said in the House. “Without this investment some 1000 jobs and $400 million dollars would have been lost.
“The forest industry on the Great Northern Peninsula impacts more than 150 workers and can prove to provide significant returns.
“When will the minister of Natural Resources commit to providing a needed wharf to Roddickton port to sustain an industry, jobs, and rural communities as well as putting needed money back in the provincial treasury?”
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Mitchelmore calls on Government to overturn decision to decline local development organization funding.
White Bay Central Development Association made an application for funding under the Job Creation Partnerships (JCP) Program to hire 12 workers to provide access to a facility, which is a Town asset, operated as Main Brook Research and Development under the local development organization. There are safety concerns with access to the facility that will close operations if not addressed. Therefore, a proposal written to improve access to the community asset and provide necessary skills training to unemployed, would have meaningful long-term economic impacts for the Town of Main Brook and surrounding region.
The proposal had the support of partners and a significant financial commitment from the Department of Innovation, Trade & Rural Development, Tenant, Town and Department of Fisheries and Oceans in excess of $100,000. Yet, was informed the proposal had been denied funding.
“I am calling on Government to re-assess the application” states Mitchelmore.
The facility is leased and the current tenant provides more than 44 full-time seasonal positions to residents of the Town and people from neighbouring communities and regions. A number of small boat fishers depend on this tenant to purchase their raw material for secondary or value-added processing. As well, there are a number of spin-off jobs and benefits to local businesses from the tenant leasing this asset and being a good employer.
“The loss of this employer would be catastrophic to employment for the Town and the region. I would like to know the reasoning behind the decline of this application by the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment, as the decision has major implications, and does not address the need to provide work experience to those currently unemployed in the region?”
-30-Christopher Mitchelmore NDP Candidate The Straits-White Bay North T. 709-456-2094 C. 709-660-0775 E. email@example.com
Mr. Sam Elliott, Executive Director of St. Anthony Basin Resources Inc. (SABRI) spoke to an audience of more than 100 at the National Conference Rural Revitalization From Our Forests, sharing their local community engagement success story. It was evident that when communities collaborate and come together, they can achieve greater success.
Mr. Elliott informed the audience that in 1997, when the Federal Government released its new management plan, there was an allocation of 3,000 tonnes for the 16 communities (17 at the time) on the northern part of the Great Northern Peninsula. They included the communities from Big Brook (now re-settled) to Goose Cove that had lobbied for a share of the increased quotas. Having this resource in the hands of the communities, enabled SABRI to make local decisions that would provide the greatest benefit to residents of the area.
The management Board is made up of 15 volunteers with 5 fisherpersons, 4 fish plant employees, 4 Community representatives and 2 representatives from local development committees. The Broad representation from various regions and interests may present for some tough decisions. However, the group realizes that they have to make good decisions that will have local impacts.
They put our a combination of short and long-term proposals, one of which was a plant facility for shrimp and other species in St. Anthony. According to their website, the Board chose 4 companies who proposed to offload their shrimp in St. Anthony and to hire local fishermen to fish the shrimp for 1997. In return SABRI would receive a royalty on a per tonne basis. This provided revenue until a production facility and agreement could be reached.
The Board reached a decision to establish a partnership to create St. Anthony Seafoods Limited and access the former FPI plant. It is evident that many negotiations had to take place with the owners and other interest groups to put up some investment. SABRI was able to retain 25% ownership, with 25% owned by two Icelandic Companies and 50% for Clearwater. The addition of these other shareholders, had reduced the risks of SABRI.
Mr. Elliott, noted in the beginning $10,000 was given to each community to assist with projects and enhancements. However, one of the larger problems in some of these rural communities was lack of organization (Town Council or Local Development Committees). This meant some communities were spending their $10,000 to do a project without trying to use that to leverage other funds. Sometimes the project would only be partially completed before funds would run out. Mr. Elliott pointed out that this $160,000 could potentially be $1.6 Million in infrastructure investments to the region. However, achieving this goal with many more interest groups and satisfying their needs would undoubtably be a challenge. SABRI had consultations with the communities and found that common to all groups, they were interested in having a trail system. This would be the direction SABRI would take to enhance what was currently in place.
Mr. Elliott should a series of photographs of before and after their organization had taken a lead. This included changing from wooded board walks to natural rock trails, to the completion of many gazebos. His images showed the trails were well-marked with good signage, some having storyboards.
SABRI has focused on Community Economic Development, which same highlighted a series of recent projects:
- Removal and replacement of existing cruise docking facilities at L’Anse aux Meadows, as well as a tour bus turnaround at the site;
- Development of a walking access to the French Oven site at Quirpon;
- Development of integrated signage;
- Trail guide for the SABRI region
- Construction of three portable kiosks, which can be transported to festivals and activities in the region throughout the season.
- Construction of three stationary kiosks. These kiosks are located on the Grenfell Properties; at L’Anse aux Meadows; and at Parkers Brook for the Save Our Char Committee.
SABRI has re-invested in local projects, creating local employment. They currently manage a mussel farm, provide scholarships and donate to local not-profit groups, such as the Grenfell Foundation.
Mr. Elliott had provided a final slide of Did You Know? and I wish I was able to scribe all the positive figures of the many millions invested in infrastructure, the hundreds of jobs created directly and many more indirectly in the region. SABRI is truly a local success story on the Great Northern Peninsula that was given a small allocation of 3,000 tonnes and manage it effectively to provide the greatest benefits to the people of their region. They should be commended for the work they do and the significant impact they have made.
When communities come together and collaborate for the common good of everyone, there is greater success. There is no reason, why communities could not have greater decision-making over other resources, such as the forest. However, much of this success hinges on Government to enable the local economy to develop. We are beginning to see local groups with common interests, working closer together to share finite resources. We only have to look to co-operatives and how they have thrived in rural Newfoundland & Labrador. We need more local co-ops (agriculture, forestry, fishery, crafts, tourism), as well as collaboration from communities, businesses and government.
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