West Coast centre closes despite Tory election promise

James McLeod
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Recreation Minister Terry French. — Telegram file photo by Joe Gibbons

The West Coast Training Centre closed its doors at the end of June, despite a black-and-white campaign commitment from the PC party that it wouldn’t do it.

On the lawn in front of the building, people placed paper tombstones and a sign that said, “Here lies our health and well-being, thanks to the PC government.”

Recreation Minister Terry French said the decision to eliminate funding for the West Coast Training Centre was about saving money, even though his party specifically promised to keep funding it during the 2011 election campaign.

The move will save the province about $300,000 per year.

In the PC party Blue Book, the Tories said, “we will continue to provide grants to our elite athletes, continue to support high-level competitions and continue to maintain the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre (Powerplex) and the regional training centre in Stephenville.”

Less than two years later, French said the government just can’t afford to do it.

“In our own lives, in our own households, we all come up with financial things. People’s jobs change, people’s income changes, and we have to scale back a bit. This is strictly a case of that,” French told The Telegram. “We never sat around the campfire and said, ‘OK, how are we going to put the gears to Stephenville.’ That wasn’t the case at all. This is just strictly a fiscal issue that we came across.”

Nearly halfway through its four-year mandate, The Telegram has been doing an ongoing analysis of PC party election commitments. Previously, acting Advanced Education and Skills Minister Kevin O’Brien refused to do an interview with The Telegram about whether his party is still committed to eliminating post-secondary student loans and replace them with grants for students.

In an interview last week, Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy said the pledges in the Blue Book weren’t actually promises.

“You use the word ‘promise.’ I’m not sure the Blue Book can be described as a promise,” he said. “It’s a blueprint or a platform as opposed to an absolute promise.”

But west coast Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce said that during the 2011 campaign, people in his neck of the woods certainly took the West Coast Training Centre commitment in the Blue Book to be a promise.

“This was a commitment made by the premier to keep this open. This wasn’t something that (PC MHA) Tony Cornect told someone on the side of the road,” Joyce said. “This was the premier in the Blue Book, and if the premier doesn’t follow through what’s in the Blue Book, I guess Jerome Kennedy is right that these aren’t promises, that these here are just things that we’re going to say.”

Joyce said the training centre is at the core of a lot of activities in the Bay St. George area.

“Look at the number of top athletes that came from Stephenville, through judo, through taekwondo, through badminton and through other sports. They all went through the regional training centre in Stephenville,” he said. “That was the focal point where they were training and where they had the access to training.”

New Democrat MHA Christopher Mitchelmore said even up his way, at the tip of the Northern Peninsula, people are feeling the effects of the closure.

He said there’s a significant taekwondo program in the area, and it relied partially on the Stephenville facility.

“There were over 300 youths that had signed up to take the classes. They attend competitions in Stephenville at the West Coast Training Centre, and a number of them have moved on to attend national events,” he said. “Having that centre closed certainly puts a big concern about where taekwondo is moving in the future. Having that venue is not an option.”

French said he’s still hopeful  the building may open back up with someone else running it. He said the province has offered it to the Stephenville community with $300,000 for repairs and improvements to the building.

But Joyce said that’s not right; he said there’s rumblings that there’s asbestos in the building, and the provincial government should fix it up before they hand it off to a new operator.

Despite the fact that the PC party committed in the Blue Book to keep funding the West Coast Training Centre, French said the province just isn’t in the business of running regional recreation facilities.

He said a better model would be like what happened in St. Anthony, where the province paid to build a new arena, and then handed it off to the town.

“We staff the place, see? We actually pay for people to be there and program the facility, plus we pay for the maintenance of the building,” he said.

“Here we are in Stephenville paying for staffing and programming in a community whereas every municipality in the province would love to have that situation.”



Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: West Coast Training Centre, The Telegram, Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre

Geographic location: Stephenville, St. George, Northern Peninsula St. Anthony

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Recent comments

  • Randy
    July 18, 2013 - 21:48

    Bluff, you turned out to be one big disappointment Terry.

  • drew
    July 18, 2013 - 18:49

    If you are serious at all Terry, you should close the centre in goose bay too. Bet you won't.

  • darren
    July 18, 2013 - 15:23

    Minister if you are not in the business of running regional recreation centres, i assume you will also close the regional recreation centre in Goose Bay. Yeah right, you don't have the guts to do that.

  • Willi Makit
    July 18, 2013 - 13:56

    ''There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept'' ring a bell? WIll NL give the PC's a ''goosegg'' in 2015? Speaking of geese - what's sauce for the goose....

    • Juliana Lidd
      July 24, 2013 - 11:54

      I hear you

  • James
    July 18, 2013 - 10:14

    From broken promises, to massive layoffs, to government secrecy, to austerity and cuts for everyone, what good reason do the people of the province have to support this PC government? No reasons that I can see at all! This government continues to hurt the people it is supposed to be helping, people's lives are becoming dimmer and less hopeful for the future because of the bad leadership of this government. Therefore, the only promise I will make to this government is that next election, you have lost my vote and hopefully the votes of the majority of voters in this province, and hopefully we will see a new government who isn't hell bent on destroying the morale of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

  • saelcove
    July 18, 2013 - 09:55

    This is 2013 and people still believe politicians amazing

  • I smell a rat
    July 18, 2013 - 09:22

    From the writing style of a couple of comments here it sure looks like 'Greg' and 'Betty' are actually one Tory staffer posing as two people. Probably being paid by our dime to sit at ConFed building while unleashing Tory spin on media sites. Using government funded websites to spew out partisan trash just isn't enuf for the PCs. Their weak propaganda campaign isn't fooling anyone but its costing all tax payer money.

    • Tony Rockel
      July 18, 2013 - 12:01

      John Smith (I'm sure it's not his real name) is constantly ready to defend the Muskrat fiasco. Evidently he trolls the comments, looking for the slightest criticism of this government boondoggle. Is he on Nalcor's payroll or is he one of Cathy's shills?

  • Torey Nomore
    July 18, 2013 - 09:05

    More broken Tory Blue Book promises; reason # 85,301 that I can't vote Tory no-more!

  • lonenewfwolf
    July 18, 2013 - 08:20

    i have a prediction... an energy company (one of the new owners for port harmon) will step in to save the centre. it will be named after this corporate saviour and a prominent sign will be erected on the front lawn of the facility.

  • lonenewfwolf
    July 18, 2013 - 08:19

    i have a prediction... an energy company (one of the new owners for port harmon) will step in to save the centre. it will be named after this corporate saviour and a prominent sign will be erected on the front lawn of the facility.

  • Cynic
    July 18, 2013 - 07:34

    Yet another episode in the slowly unfolding plan by both major parties to watch rural Newfoundland shrivel up and die. No attempt to revitalize rural economies, concentration on one industry, tourism, to "save us all", and now that that industry has brought some hope to rural communities, cut the marketing budget. Eastport used to supply vegetables to all part of the island. Where's the agriculture in Eastport now? Where's the government support for it? So, basically, the plan seems to be: do nothing to stimulate rural economies, as populations drop reduce government services, then, when the situation gets so bad, offer Resettlement a la the worst days of Joey. The reasons why are obvious: they've decided the base of our economy is oil and tourism, and they seem to be going cold on tourism. Besides, how many people do you need to run B and Bs, restaurants, and craft shops anyway? Since oil revenues will only really benefit St. John's and environs, it's a Good Thing to force people our of rural areas and onto the Avalon. Besides, it's easier to frack if there's no-one around to complain, and who needs fresh water when all the communities in the area are empty of people? It's a sad situation when a government works directly against the interests of its own people. And, sadly, the Liberals are just as bad for this as the Tories.

    • John
      July 18, 2013 - 11:34

      Cynic, Why should people continue looking to government to solve their problems. You have admitted its not working so you have two choices either find a job or leave why should the taxpayers of NL or the rest of Canada continue to subsidize make work projects for rural NL.

  • Jackson II
    July 18, 2013 - 07:32

    The only reason we don't have money for anything is Muskrat Falls, nothing more. Our commitment to that is consuming everything. Stupid!

    • John Smith
      July 18, 2013 - 09:24

      What is "stupid" are comments like the above...with no basis in fact. We have spent less than a billion dollars on the project so far, and we had about 2.5 billion set aside for the past 5 years for the project. We spend 3 billion a year, every year on healthcare alone in the province just as a comparison...

  • John Smith
    July 18, 2013 - 07:30

    ...the province offered them the multi- million dollar facility for free, plus a grant of 300,000 dollars...not enough for these guys...all the other facilities in the province like this are run by municipalities...so should this one...

    • W McLean
      July 18, 2013 - 10:37

      All of them?

    • Breakfast television
      July 18, 2013 - 11:10

      Still up to your old tricks. I guess you've got all the time in the world to make comments now hey Brian?

    • Juliana Lidd
      July 24, 2013 - 12:03

      I hear you, amen god bless.

  • Jay
    July 18, 2013 - 07:21

    French is correct. The province shouldn't be in the business of running regional recreation centres. BUT, they are the idiots who made the stupid commitment. Let's hope that Eddie Joyce is not proposing to continue the idiocy.

  • Greg
    July 18, 2013 - 06:29

    LOL...Just read a story on vocm...Plus this story...Mr Joyce talking about HUMAN right...The Liberal party of our province...is becoming more like the show from montreal...JUST FOR LAUGH...MR JOYCE TELL ME...WHAT DO THE LIBERAL PARTY CALLS...WHAT THEY DID ON JULY 5/2013...

  • Betty
    July 18, 2013 - 05:44