Residents in Gaultois and McCallum considering relocation
By Clayton Hunt
TC Media — Harbour BReton
Resettlement is on the lips and minds of some residents in Gaultois and McCallum on the province’s south coast.
Andrew Wright, an official with the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs, was in Gaultois and McCallum this week to address residents on the provincial government’s relocation policy.
The meetings were initiated following an expression of interest in the communities that said that 81 and 79 percent of the people in the two communities, respectively, are in favour of relocation.
The government’s present relocation policy has been in place since the early 2000s. However, there is one major difference now in that the original policy said that government would give $100,000 to residents if they decided to move from a community.
In the 2013 provincial budget the government upped the ante, offering up to a possible $270,000 for some families who opt to resettle. This major change has revived a strong interest in possible relocation from several communities around the province.
It should be noted here that an expression of interest, although a firm indication of views, is not a vote recognized by government.
The province will only recognize a vote from a list of permanent residents in a community, and this list will have to be determined by government officials with the help of community residents.
Government officials will start compiling that list once a request has been received from a community asking for an official vote on possible relocation.
Wright said the one of the four main criteria government has outlined for relocations assistance is that a vote on relocation demonstrates that 90 per cent of the voting aged permanent residents wish to relocate, and 90 per cent of permanent residents who are property owners then sign government’s conditional offer to purchase.
Wright said, “The informal survey by the residents in Gaultois and McCallum was a good move to get us to come down for meetings today in both communities.
“However, a formal vote will be controlled by the government after we complete permanent residents lists, a process that could take as long as eight months to complete.
“At the point, where 90 per cent or more of the residents agree to move, government will then keep moving the process forward.”
A permanent resident is one who has lived in the community for at least 183 days for each of the two years immediately preceding the relocation request date.
The individual must not have established permanent residency in another community and can provide proof of the first two conditions satisfactory to the government.
Exceptions may be made to the 183-day condition based on work, health and schooling.
MHA Tracey Perry, who chaired the meetings, said government fully realizes that relocation is a polarizing and controversial issue.
“I would encourage people to listen to and respect everyone’s point of view on this topic,” Perry said.
“We are here today because of community driven expressions of interest on possible relocation and people will have strong opposing viewpoints on this serious topic.”
Daphne Hunt said she cannot understand why people want to leave Gaultois at this point in time.
According to Hunt most of the workforce in the community is employed and, in her opinion, Gaultois is still a strong community.
“I’m working, my husband is working, and relocation is not a good idea for us,” she said. “You can’t live on minimum wage jobs in most places in the province like you can in Gaultois. I don’t have any trade, my husband doesn’t have a trade so where will we go? Our two children are used to a small school environment and a move would require a major adjustment for them.”
The improved money doesn’t change her mind.
“(A cheque for) $270,000 is fine but after buying a home and a vehicle you’re not going to have a great deal of money left,” she said.
“I think some people can’t see beyond the money in this situation and are not thinking about what will happen after they relocate. Some people want to go, that’s their choice but I don’t think the rest of us should be forced out.”
Ambrose Langdon is one of the residents who expressed an interest in moving from the community.
“My wife has to travel for medical reasons now,” he said, “and that is a major concern to us during the winter. We have an aging population here, we’re down to less than 200 people now and it may be time to move on.”
Gordon Hunt is the mayor of Gaultois.
“I’m not surprised at all by the 81 per cent for relocation,” he said. “It’s the lousy government service such as our ferry and medical care that encourages people to want to leave. We don’t have decent water to drink or good roads to walk on, so why would people want to stay?”