Improvements in transportation will be central to provincial government spending in Labrador this year, with the Trans-Labrador Highway Phase 1 set to be completed.
The last two tenders are being called at a cost of $65.8 million.
Yvonne Jones, Liberal MHA for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, said she was unimpressed by budget provisions specific to Labrador ann-ounced in the budget Tuesday, including a repeated announcement funding will be provided for the Trans-Labrador Highway work.
The work had been the subject of a pre-budget announcement.
“The (highway) completion is the section between Goose Bay and Labrador City, which has been forecasted for the last six years to be completed,” Jones said.
“There’s no vision in this (budget) for Labrador,” she said. “They’re not forecasting to meet any of the growth demands that we’re seeing out there. It’s just a continuation of investments that we’ve been seeing year over year, most of them going back as early as the Liberal government days.”
Aside from the highway, spending specific to Labrador includes $350,000 for the Labrador Transportation Grooming Subsidy, providing winter roads for isolated communities.
The provincial government has committed to continuing to fund the air foodlift subsidy, at a cost of $230,000.
The subsidy assists with getting key goods to isolated areas and kicked in for communities on the south and southeast coasts earlier this year, when pack ice stopped ferry crossings in the Strait of Belle Isle.
Funding will continue to be provided for travel subsidies for athletes and sports teams, allowing them to take advantage of competition and training opportunities.
Conservation work in relation to the George River caribou herd will continue, as will clean up of the former U.S. military site at Hopedale with $2 million to be spent on the remediation work there this year.
In another big-ticket item, the completion of the new hospital in Labrador West, will come at a cost of $25.7 million this year.
Health care-related spending specific to Labrador also includes the addition of a pharmacist at Captain William Jackman Memorial Hospital in Labrador City and a new road ambulance for the highway, stationed in Cartwright.
The provincial government is providing a $100,000 operating grant to the Combined Councils of Labrador, an organization which raises issues relevant to isolated communities.
Yet, “we need to start replacing the pavement in the Labrador Straits, which is 40 years old. We need to start looking at paving the section between Red Bay and Goose Bay,” Jones said, noting increases in traffic in that area.
She said improved ferry services and help for individuals and businesses facing high power bills while on isolated Labrador systems should have been included in the budget.
Jones said investments planned for Muskrat Falls will be “more to service what the energy demands are going to be on the island portion of the province, and it’s not doing anything for the long-term sustainability or viability of Labrador overall.”