Not enough support to relocate Little Bay Islands: minister

Steve Bartlett
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Little Bay Islands — Submitted photo

Not enough people have shown an interest in leaving Little Bay Islands to prompt a formal relocation vote, the minister of municipal affairs says.

“The policy of this department is that we won’t entertain it unless

we have 90 per cent of the permanent residents (in favour of) the proposal,” Kevin O’Brien told The Telegram.

This past summer, Municipal Affairs received 52 petitions from residents supporting relocation of the Notre Dame Bay community, which has a population between 80 and 90 and is serviced by a provincial ferry that makes three to five runs a day.

But, in September, a petition opposed resettling residents was sent to the department by the Coalition to Save Little Bay Islands. It was signed by 35 permanent residents and 38 seasonal residents. (It’s worth noting the latter don’t have a say in relocation.)

Late last month, O’Brien wrote Dennis Budgell, who spearheaded the petition in favour of relocation. The minister informed the Little Bay Islands councillor a vote wasn’t the cards right now because 90 per cent weren’t showing an interest.

O’Brien said in an interview he’d actually prefer if the numbers were closer to 100 per cent.

“We just don’t want to upset people who’ve lived in communities for their entire lives.”

Budgell says he is undeterred by the minister’s response.

“Keep on rallying around. Try to get people going,” he replied when he was asked what he was going to do next.

There’s been little economic activity or employment in Little Bay Islands since the crab plant closed in fall of 2009.

“Most of the people on the island would like to get out of here now, because there’s nothing for them anyway,” Budgell said.

He added the population is aging and many need to be closer to health care facilities. The nearest is the Green Bay Medical Clinic in Springdale, a 45-minute ferry ride and 20-minute drive away.

Budgell also noted supporting the community — including the ferry and a school with only two students – costs the province millions and millions each year.

O’Brien admitted his department is cognizant of the expense, but services will continue as long as people want to live there.

“We will not force relocation just because it’s a benefit to government in a budgetary manner,” he said.

Besides proof that 90-plus per cent of the people want to leave, the minister noted the town’s council will need to take a position on the issue.

That hasn’t yet happened.

Messages left for Mayor Perry Locke were not returned by the reporter’s Friday deadline.

Budgell acknowledged relocation is not a popular topic with council or with some in the community.

Because it can be such a sensitive issue, O’Brien said his fear is it will split the people, something he doesn’t want to happen.

“Respect each other’s (opinion) is all I’ll say to them,” he said.

Budgell noted he was disappointed in how O’Brien responded. He feels the minister should have written a letter to everyone who filled out his petitions.

Asked about that, the minister explained that, if someone writes him, he’s obligated to respond, but if he receives a petition, he replies to whoever is leading the effort.

One resident of Little Bay Islands told The Telegram there is some concern in the town about how much money families would get if they voted to relocate.

O’Brien said each case would be looked at separately, with numerous factors considered.

“In the process of evaluating, we’d consider the cost to government to provide the services to the community over a 20-year period and then that would help determine the value or the payment that would go to each resident,” he explained.

“For me to put a figure on it now (in the absence of a formal relocation process) would be a disservice to the community.”

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Green Bay Medical Clinic

Geographic location: Save Little Bay Islands, Notre Dame Bay, Springdale

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Recent comments

  • Roy Rowsell
    December 14, 2011 - 18:15

    I would like to respond to the LBI issue. I left LBI in the late 70's, that was my decision. The decision today is in the hands of the people who LIVE there, my memories don't count. I do hope that this issue is respected amongst the residents of LBI and that each individual has a right to his/her beliefs and not to be bullied by others. The one thing that I do ask is that all people from LBI past or present have the guts to sign your name. God Bless

  • Peter Fynn
    December 13, 2011 - 09:24

    For some reason we seem to measuring the outports by money. What value can you put on beauty? What value can you put on "home"? Everyone lives in a place that is subsidized by government - roads, water, sewage, bridges, etc. Should you have abandoned PEI or built the bridge? Let those who want to leave, leave. Let those who want to stay, stay. By all means question government expenditure, but don't limit the questions to ferries. We do not live in LBI, but we have friends there. They should be allowed to make up their own minds - it is their lives you are talking about.

  • Operation- Relocation
    December 12, 2011 - 18:43

    I can understand both sides of the story in this situation. Nobody wants to leave their hometown, where they grew up and made their life, and for some, it's where they saw their children and even grandchildren grow up. I have been to Little Bay Islands and I have seen what a beautiful place it is. Sure, it's a lovely spot for a vacation, but think about the permanent residents of the Island. I've only been there in the summer, so I can't imagine what life must be like for them in the winter. Especially with all the storms and sea ice. I'm sure that there are few times when the ferry is unable to make any trips due to weather conditions. What do the people do then? I have friends on LBI, and I have heard opinions from people who want to stay, and those who wish to leave.. While LBI is a nice spot for tourists, I have to say, it's hardly the kind of town that can provide a good quality of life for people. Only some people have jobs that allow them to work and live on LBI, other people have jobs that require them to leave the Island in the spring and work until the fall, and then there are those who have no source of employment at all. I think that the people on each side of the fence needs to show some respect and really think about the other side's point of view. I'm not a resident of LBI, so my opinion doesn't count in the situation, but personally, I think it's time for the people of LBI to move on. Even if you leave, LBI will always be your home, and you'll never forget the people you've met and the memories you've made. But it's time to realize that the island is slowly dying, and tourism alone cannot resurrect the town and restore it to its booming economic status of previous years. Nobody ever really WANTS to leave their home, but sometimes there are things you have to do, and sacrifices you have to make in order to provide a better life for you and your family. According to the article, there are only two students in the school there. I don't know what grades they are in, but if I were the parent of one of those children, especially if they are in a grade below high school, I wouldn't want them to grow up in such isolation. What kind of life is that for a child; only having one friend. I don't know what situation the parents are in either. Maybe they don't want their children to have that kind of lifestyle but can't afford to move on their own. I don't know them, so I don't know their predicament. I don't want my comment to sound like I am favouring one side over the other, because like I said, I have friends on LBI who are on both sides on the issue, and I don't want to choose a side. I'm just merely stating my opinion. Little Bay Islands is a beautiful place, without a doubt, but I think some people aren't being realistic when they are thinking that they can "save" LBI. Change is not always a bad thing. Leaving LBI would open up a brand new world full of opportunities for the residents. Think about it folks.

    • Amanda Marie
      December 13, 2011 - 12:43

      I think we all need to get some things straight. Get rid of the sentimentality - (of course, it's still there, but push it to one side.) This is not about "saving a community." This is about whether or not it is ever okay for the NL government to force a group of competent adults to re-locate from one geographical area to another; while in the process being forcred to exchange all their immovable assets, such as houses and land, for a pre-determined, and relatively non-negotiable, amount of money. This "forced re-location" is quite similar to the definitions of both "banishment," and "exile." If this sort of thing were being proposed to any other group of people in any other part of the world, their would be a human rights outcry! In fact, it's been done - try googling "forced relocation," or another similar term. The choice to move from one community to another within Canada has historically been just that - a choice. When this choice has been taken off the table, we've wound up with such significant events as the establishment of the Japanese Canadian Internment Camps, and more recently and closer to home - the relocation of Davis Inlet to Sheshatshiu. I wouldn't call either of these forced relocations "successful ventures" on behalf of our federal governing bodies. Nor would I call the "resettlement" forced upon many Newfoundlanders by past provincial governments "a good idea." If you're not sure, I suggest to take up the questions with a gentleman or woman who was "drove out." Maybe they could make you understand just what this means. By taking this resettlement nonsense off the table, all we have done here is decide not to compel individuals to 1.) uproot their lives and families, and physically move and 2.) trade all their wordly immovable possessions for a lump sum of money that couldn't possible cover replacement value. Those who wish to make a change, for whatever reason, are still absolutely free to do so. If you wanna go, then go - but at least there will be no "Trail of Tears" between Sullian's Cove and Shoal Arm. Also, just a note to all of those "professional economists" out there who feel the need to comment on the impossibilty of future economic growth for LBI (and probably rural NL in general) - I'm not going to argue with you because I haven't personally done much research in the way of potential opportunities for economic growth and development in situations such as the one at LBI - however, I doubt you've done much either, so perhaps we're better off leaving those matters to the indivuals involved. I am certain that there is a group of educated people from Little Bay Islands who are actively involved in such research, and are also doing quite a bit of legwork in working towards potential positive developments for the community and it's residents. Lastly, to those of you who can't believe that the goverment would bear the expense of subsidizing the transport of residents and others between the island and the mainland - I would suggest gathering more information before making uninformed statements. Please remember that this ferry system takes the place of a highway. Should we discuss discontinuing maintenance on public roadways, or highhway branches, that aren't used by a pre-set number of individuals, or that lead into smaller communities? Perhaps we could just cut back on snow-clearing and ice-control for these roads, since they aren't used by that many people? Once you start to find ways to justify taking away various levels of necessary public works and services using only statistics that you may not even understand, you are treading on very dangerous ground - it's hard to say where it's ok to stop making cuts, and exactly how many people do we need in one place to guarantee their right to public services? If we aren't careful, these justifications will come back to haunt everyone of us as Newfoundlanders - let's remember that places like Little Bay Islands may be the small fish in the big pond called "Newfoundland," but likewise Newfoundland is the small fish in the big pond called "Canada." I'm willing to bet that there's not a Newfoundlander out there with an opinion on this "resettlement issue" that wouldn't jump to defend every Newfoundlander's right to have access to the same federally provided basic public works and services that are enjoyed by those in Ontario and Quebec. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion - however, this matter is not a question of opinion, but of right and wrong.

  • Jackie Logans
    December 12, 2011 - 14:05

    Thankfully, the spirit of Joey and Placentia Bay in the 1960's is dead and buried, and a more enlightened provincial government rules the Old Rock. Then, many small-island residents who were forced -- more or less -- to relocate, summed up the experience with the words: WE WUZ DROVE! A sad chapter indeed in the history of Newfoundland.

  • Amanda
    December 12, 2011 - 12:22

    JJ - LOL you have to be kidding me. I had to leave St. john's to start a career because there were NOOOOOO opportinuties and I have a post secondry education....JJ your delusional! Stay around the bay please! and let the "terrible stuck up townies" have jobs in the city.......why can't you stay around the bay again?.....right no jobs! SOOOOO your glorious "bay" isn't that grand. PS: I would absolutely buy one of the houses on that island for a cabin! Thats all its good for! Id even settle for once a day ferreis to get my "towine self" to my cabin! Someone please let me know when the govt buys them out and I will buy.

  • Robert
    December 12, 2011 - 11:31

    The relocation process in the 60s was a disaster of the worst proportions and should never be repeated. Trying to put some kind of $$ evaluation on such a 'move' can never account for the damage to the well being of the persons affected. We waste money on many things without giving a thought to it (like helicopter rides to Federal Ministers and gold plated door knobs) surely the cost to keep those people who wish to live their lives in a place they call home is money better spent.

  • Ray Vautier
    December 12, 2011 - 11:24

    I live in Lapoile on the SW coast and I def know we and our community are doomed with an aging population.As for work well we all go away to work and those who don't are doing just fine.Nothing against little bay Islands,I'm proud they have a new ferry,we don't have anything fit to call a ferry and it is one trip a day and up until last year it was only 5 trip a week.Ferries cost alot to build and operate,I understand that but it's high time to get something fit to travel on or move us all.And btw Huck I lived in St.John's ,not planning on doing it again.

  • Stopspending Mymoney
    December 12, 2011 - 11:23

    3-5 ferry runs a day for 90 people? Seriously? Just have them pay the actual cost of that ferry system and all of the utilities that us horrible townies subsidize and they'll move. Everyone in this province should live in a 'pay as you go' community. The folks in Corner Brook, Grand Falls, St. John's, Gander, etc, shouldn't have to subsidize tiny little communities.that aren't viable economically.

    • Llewellyn
      December 12, 2011 - 13:16

      Living in Corner Brook, I'm only worried about what the local crooks are doing with my money. The tiny percent of my taxes that go to subsidizing ferries is perfectly fine. I'm sure if it was up to you, we'd abandoned hundreds of outports to save road maintenance & snow clearing money & simply move everyone into GFW, Gander & Corner Brook. Thankfully things aren't up to you, as I can't imagine how much the people forced to move,would despise their new lives in the aforementioned 3 soulless cities.

  • Gerry Connors
    December 12, 2011 - 10:44

    Its not our position to decide who should live where; its called a democracy . I would rather see them leave the isolated place, but it is THEIR decision. They have lived there all their lives: it's their home...a democracy should never force relocate people or give them an ultimatium... As for the expense, I'm sure most, if not all have paid taxes most of their lives; they deseve to live where they have called all their lives, home. Just because the company of their local fish plant probably decided to take ther business elsewhere (usually another country where the workers get paid less than the Canadian minimm wage) is not the fault of the community. Even though the fish is most likely still taken just off their community shore. Want to save money? Get rid of government red tape; government corruption; check out how much your your federal, provinical representive 'earn' in wages. Investigate how much & how little time they must spend in office to collect their gold-plate pensions; read how much their expense accounts are; ask why quietly vote themselves a raise in pay & benefit....then ask should we relocate those who have spent all teir lives at the only place they is rant

    • Llewellyn
      December 12, 2011 - 13:09

      Very well said Gerry.

  • Huck
    December 12, 2011 - 10:04

    By all means, put a padlock on all the outports. Everyone in the province should be relocated to St John's, the center of the entire universe.

    • JJ
      December 12, 2011 - 11:04

      obviously you are a stuck up townie and hasn't been to the beautiful communities outside the overpass. If it wasn't for all the same communities, St. John's would be nothing. Most of the hardest workers come from outport newfoundland and come to St. John's to do your guys work!

    • Llewellyn
      December 12, 2011 - 13:07

      LOL Huck. I see the sarcasm.

    • barbara colbourne
      December 12, 2011 - 22:52

      Huck, you dit all.

  • Bill
    December 12, 2011 - 10:01

    With 35 permanent residents, and 3-5 ferry runs a day, how many times does the ferry run empty? Also, what was the critera for the 1960's relocation program, and does this community come close to fitting that critera? Government, answers please.

  • W Bagg
    December 12, 2011 - 08:27

    3 to 5 runs a day for 90 people, enough said Well Dundedale, you are paying people to live in rural NL

  • BR
    December 12, 2011 - 08:25

    Budgell appears to be a sensible man. There is no work, few students, aging population needing medical care, and a ferry making 3-5 runs a day. Nobody wants to leave home but the day has to come when you can't expect somebody else, govt, to pay for you. Find a piece of Crown land and move what houses you can. Some will move to live with their children and others probably will go to a seniors home where they may be going in a few years anyway. They should not get title to their new land unless they buy it as they are giving up land that would be worth little or nothing. For houses they can't move, summer cabin. There are more islands serviced by ferry that govt should look at and maybe 90% should be lowered as you include the economics.

  • willy
    December 12, 2011 - 06:30

    The writing is on the wall for all of these isolated communities. There are no jobs, no economical development, no schooling, no medical services, etc. etc. It's a no brainer, leave !!!!