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Lewisporte asking for renewed provincial support for economic plan

Lewisporte wants the provincial government to again commit to helping it implement pieces of its economic development plan. Saltwire Network file photo
Lewisporte wants the provincial government to again commit to helping it implement pieces of its economic development plan. Saltwire Network file photo

The Town of Lewisporte is looking for a little help from the provincial government.

In this instance, that help would come in the form of a commitment from Premier Dwight Ball that the government would make an effort to bring the aging port in the central Newfoundland community up to par as the town seeks to diversify it economic portfolio.

“We have interested companies looking at the wharf here, but until we have a wharf that is functional we can’t do anything about.,” said Lewisporte Mayor Betty Clarke.

On June 10, Lewisporte submitted a letter to the Office of the Premier asking for renewed commitment in supporting its economic diversity plan and expressing their need for financial help.

The town fears it may miss out on some time-sensitive opportunities and having provincial support, by way of wharf repairs, would go a long way in helping them secure those opportunities.

“Lewisporte is not looking for a bail out,” reads part of the letter. “Lewisporte is looking for a partner.”

On June 23, the town posted the letter on its Facebook page for people to see.

Since the closure of the freight service to Labrador, Lewisporte has been looking at ways it can diversity its economic base. In meetings with the province, it was challenged to come up with a diversification plan and then report back to the provincial government.

It did that and received some preliminary support from government prior to the 2019 provincial election.

“We have been chasing that commitment since last May, but haven’t gotten anything since,” said Coun. Perry Pond.

For the town, there isn’t much use in having an economic diversification plan if it doesn’t have the infrastructure to make some of what is identified in that plan a reality.

“It is frustrating to say the least,” said Pond. “We do our part to live up to our commitment and the province doesn’t ... and we have it in writing that they will help fulfill it and 16 or 17 months later, you’ve gotten nowhere.”

A statement from the Office of Premier emailed to SaltWire Network Wednesday indicated the premier remains steadfast in his commitment to Lewisporte.

“We remain committed to working with the Town of Lewisporte on their economic diversification plan. This plan presents opportunities to expand the economy, tourism industry, and workforce for the residents of Lewisporte and surrounding areas,” read the statement.”Minister of Transportation and Works, Steve Crocker, and Lewisporte–Twillingate MHA, Derek Bennett, met with officials from the Town of Lewisporte on June 18, 2020, to discuss options for lease arrangement for the dock and the transfer of nearby land.

“The town council is now reviewing those options.”

Being from Lewisporte, Bennett said he recognizes the immense economic challenges the departure of the Labrador freight service has had on the town and he said the government is working on an agreement with the town that would see it lease part of the port, which would allow it to start exploring opportunities in areas like the oil and gas sector.

According to Bennett, that agreement would provide funds for the upgrades required or would see the province install a new marginal wharf.

“That would involve a considerable investment,” said Bennett.

Nicholas Mercer is a local journalism initiative reporter for central Newfoundland for Saltwire Network.

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