© Star photo by Diane Crocker
Provincial Liberal leadership candidate Paul Antle made a campaign stop in Corner Brook earlier today.
CORNER BROOK — As Paul Antle has travelled the west coast of the province over the last few days, several topics of conversation have come up. Among them is the idea of building a fixed link under the Strait of Belle Isle.
“You know it’s not a bad idea,” said Antle, a candidate in the race to lead the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, while in Corner Brook on Thursday.
“It’s a great concept.”
Constructing a link is the focus of fellow candidate Danny Dumaresque’s platform. Earlier this week, Dumaresque was on the west coast to talk about his recent visit to Norway to learn more about and view tunnel construction.
“We need to think about it in the terms of a comprehensive transportation strategy,” said Antle, adding everyone understands the benefits to the tunnel, whether it’s in terms of tourism or economic development, having access and being connected to Canada.
But there are other elements, he said, including the current Route 430 road system along the Northern Peninsula.
“If you had a tunnel in the Straits, 430 would never be able to keep up.”
The same goes for the highway on the other side. Antle said Route 138 in Quebec and the highway system in Labrador would have to be finished.
“I’m sure the people of Labrador would want to see their roads finished and driveable before we have a tunnel,” Antle said.
He said the ferry system also has to be factored into any plans for a fixed link.
“We’re always going to need that Marine Atlantic connection to Port aux Basques,” he said. “You have to think about all these things when you’re talking about a fixed link.”
Antle started his visit to the area, the fourth since the campaign began, in St. Anthony. Along the way he stopped in Port Saunders, Port au Choix, Daniel’s Harbour, Rocky Harbour and Trout River before hitting Deer Lake and the city.
“It’s a smattering of people to see and issued to talk about and places to go,” he said.
Other issues include fracking, infrastructure, transportation and Muskrat Falls.
On fracking, Antle said the discussion has been about the pros and cons, and thinks people are looking for more balance in the debate.
He said there is a lot of information that still needs to heard about the risks and the techniques employed and this has to come from the companies. He said government’s involvement in the discussion is also lacking in that it hasn’t given any indication of whether it will provide regulatory framework or what that will be. In government’s defence, he said, maybe that can’t be done until industry comes forward with a proposal.
“There’s a lot of information out there from governments all around the world about fracking,” he added. “It’s not like they’re starting from scratch.”
When it comes to infrastructure, Antle said “this is the 21st century and here we have communities on the west coast that don’t have clean drinking water. It’s deplorable for a province as advanced as ours and as wealthy as ours. This is another indication that the sharing of the wealth being created by our natural resources is not being shared to all the people around our great province.
“It really saddens me to know that we have our seniors and our children in communities where they have to go to a shed to get a bucket of water.”
On to road conditions, he said they are deplorable both in communities and on the province’s highways.
As for Muskrat Falls, Antle said there is disappointment and anger directed towards the Dunderdale government because it doesn’t seem to have its priorities straight.
He said when residents see a $1 million a day being spent on Muskrat Falls, they see that the sacrifice is no roads, no clean water, limitations on health care and cuts to education.
“They’re upset by that.”