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Another Summer of Come Home Year Celebrations

Last summer was another banner year for Come Home Year Celebrations with the Town of St. Anthony; Town of St. Lunaire-Griquet; Town of Main Brook; Town of Anchor Point and Deadman’s Cove each hosting events for a week or more. This summer, the Town of Conche kicked off celebrations on July 25th. On August 5th the Town of Roddickton will be holding a week of activities, followed on August 12th by the Savage Cove Come Home Year.

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One thing about Come Home Year celebrations, they are incredible social and economic contributors to the province and region. These locally organized events are helping to drive the Province’s tourism industry, that reached more than $1 Billion in 2012.  The number of travelers by Marine Atlantic, Deer Lake Regional Airport or personal automobile is in the thousands when you total up all the homecomers. Local businesses, such as gas stations, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores and retail outlets benefit from the influx of guests. In addition, hardware and furniture stores also see additional business because of renovations to one’s property whether in the form of flower bins, flooring or a new bed.

These celebrations instill great pride in the community of which you live, lived, have roots or a some other connection. They are pulled off by dynamic community leaders, who tirelessly commit hours of preparation time, make difficult decisions and spend every waking hour ensuring that everyone is enjoying the festivities. These individuals, who undertake such a big initiative are truly to be commended for all your hard work and efforts.

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I had the pleasure to take in the Parade and Opening Ceremonies of the Conche Come Home Year this past week. A long line of vehicles covered every roadway, including Crouse to turnaround. This was likely a record for the number of  vehicles there in such a short time span. After the parade, there were greetings by brought by the Deputy Mayor, Committee, myself and others. Conche’s own Clara Genge sang a song she wrote called “Northern Beauty” and local legend Danny Carroll belted out a tune or two. After the opening, one could get your memorabilia. I bought some placemats, mug, shot glass, Clara Genge CD, Apricot jam, Christmas ornament, Do Unto Others – Dower of Conche and a number of pieces of jewelry from Youth Ventures participant, Shelby. It is great to support local artisans.

Although weather did not co-operate well with the Conchers, they took it all in stride and re-scheduled several events. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael and I had the opportunity to take in some of the softball tournament, chat with locals and watch people get dunked. The variety show was a great mix of song, dance, recitations, and skits that displayed the abundance of local talent that exists in Conche. It was a fabulous week and enjoy taking in many of the events. The committee deserves a big bouquet. Now tomorrow, begins Roddickton CHY. I look forward to a follow-up posting.

Come Home Year celebrations can also bring people back, as the atmosphere creates that desire to be home, that renewed drive to retire or plan more frequent visits to the family homestead. In fact, it had that effect on me.  It was during a week-long Come Home Year Celebration in my hometown of Green Island Cove in 2009 that I decided to quite my job working for a Professional Association in Alberta and move back home at the earliest possible convenience. It was just three weeks later and I began my cross Canada tour with all my belongings packed strategically in my little Honda Civic. I’ll have to save that experience for another posting.

I started work in Community Economic and Business Development with CBDC Nortip and worked there for two years, before being elected to the House of Assembly as the member for The Straits-White Bay North under the New Democratic Party banner. As you can see, that decision has dramatically changed my life, but I would never look back. Being a politician is no walk in the park, but in my role, I see good things happening all around me. I encourage the people of the District to continue to work together, plan community and regional events and let us work together to ensure we are building resilient and vibrant communities.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

Seals on the Ice

Last Sunday, I had left my home to drive to grandmother’s house in Nameless Cove for a big turkey dinner on Easter Sunday. Driving through the community, I saw a black spot on the ice.

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The seal is at the edge of the beach.

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Another seal is close to shore, as pack ice had blocked the Strait of Belle Isle. The land in the background, well that’s “The Big Land” – Labrador. I’m not sure people believe me when I saw, “I can see Labrador from my window,” but it is true.  Just a short 15 kilometres between us and still no plan to connect us by a fixed-link. Advancing transportation and telecommunication networks will be key to Southern Labrador and the Great Northern Peninsula‘s future long-term sustainability. Quebec is completing Route 138 (Lower North Shore Highway), this means Montreal will be just 13 hours drive from this province. It will transform the shipping of goods and services. The current administration promised a feasibility study – a link has not yet materialized. Instead it has opted to build a multi-billion dollar energy project, laying cables on the ocean floor that will interfere with our way of life, the fishery – our mainstay, versus going underground with a tunnel. It was noted in a pre-feasibility study that if both projects were paired, savings of nearly $400 million would be realized. More work is needed exploring a fixed-link, but advancing transportation networks is imminent, we can not continue to be plagued with annual increased rates at Marine Atlantic and an unreliable schedule for shipment of goods and services. These costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer.  We need to be more strategic and consider where we need to go over the long-term, but not forget our roots – our beginnings.

Seals played a critical role in the development of our as a permanent settlement. In the early 1800’s they were a major food source, as the island had only 9 types of mammalia. Additionally, as a British Colony, we shipped both whale and seal oil to the homeland. This oil was used in lamps and correlated with the Industrial Revolution. Today, this product is banned in the United Kingdom.

It will be another couple of days before the sealers take to the ice. I wish much success in this years hunt, as the seal provides valuable meat, oils and pelts that are harvested in a humane and sustainable way. Sealing is part of our tradition, and will continue to remain that way well into the future.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North

The Lure of Labrador – When will we be connected?

The Strait of Belle Isle at its shortest distance is just 9 miles of water. In the 1970’s there was drilling on both ends of the Strait to build a tunnel connecting the island to mainland Canada. All of this ended with a change of Government. A tunnel does not appear to be on the radar of Government at any level. It makes practical sense to work with Quebec to cost-share this project as they complete the Lower North Shore Highway, Route 138 in the next 5 or so years.

This completion of this Route will significantly change the way one travels, as commercial traffic will be re-routed from Montreal using this highway and a much shorter ferry crossing. I would even be able to drive to Montreal to see the Habs play the Leafs. With or without a tunnel, there must be appropriate planning to deal with capacity on the Route 138, Route 430 and Trans-Labrador Highway. There are services and business opportunities that will come with these new highways. The opening of the Trans-Labrador Highway saw an increase in 18% ferry passenger traffic in the Strait of Belle Isle from May-October from 65,000 passengers to 77,400. Will we be ready for Route 138?

Why not build a tunnel? They have built the Chunnel connecting London, England to Paris, France by underground tunnel and train. The Scandinavian countries have several underground tunnels spanning a far greater distance than just 9 miles and comparable, if not worse weather conditions. There may be significant cost-savings by completing this project, as the Feds would not need to subsidize Marine Atlantic at their current levels. A greater focus could be placed on passenger traffic and promote tourism, as well as reduce user rates.

As a means to re-ignite economic activity on the Great Northern Peninsula, this is one of the many answers. Newfoundland & Labrador is one province and should be connected. We should be a part of mainland Canada, as is the case with every other province and territory in the country.

In the meantime, I continue to see the Big Land every day when I awake from my bedroom window and the lights twinkle at night. Some day that Lure of Labrador will be that much closer.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
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