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Ball has only been to Lab west three times and north coast once
When Dwight Ball became premier in 2015 one of the roles he assigned to himself was Minister of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. Since then the name of the department has changed and responsibilities between the Labrador Affairs secretariat and the Intergovernmental and Indigenous Affairs portfolio have shifted, but what remains the same is the premier is still the minister responsible.
Since then he has visited Labrador 14 times, with half of those visits just to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and 10 of those visits being one night or less.
SaltWire reached out to the Labrador Affairs Secretariat to discuss the visits and received a statement from the premier.
Ball said he is well versed on the issues in Labrador and wants to work directly with indigenous government and organizations on issues that impact them.
“By placing accountability for indigenous and Labrador affairs with the Office of the Premier, the voices from indigenous people and Labradorians are elevated and receive the attention they require and deserve." - Dwight Ball
He said the staff on the ground in Labrador help make sure the “unique perspectives of Labrador are considered in the formulation of government policy and in the delivery of provincial programs and services.”
He said in addition to his 14 visits he has had numerous teleconferences, phone calls and meetings in other parts of the province on Labrador and indigenous issues and concerns.
“I will continue to foster open lines of communications with indigenous governments and organizations, municipal and business leaders, and Labrador residents through visits to the region and other opportunities for dialogue and collaboration on a broad range of topics and issues.”
Opposition MHA’s concerned
When Ball made the choice to represent Labrador in addition to his role as premier there were some who questioned whether one person would have enough time to adequately cover both, and why a Labrador MHA wasn’t chosen. One of those people was Jordan Brown, then a private citizen and now MHA for Labrador West.
“The secretariat of Labrador Affairs is a very important secretariat, especially to us, because Labrador is unique, it has its own challenges and own way of doing things,” the NDP MHA said in an interview with SaltWire. “Without being on the ground how can you have that perspective?”
He said he understands secretariat staff is in Labrador and acknowledged they have their ear to the ground, but he believes it’s important for the minister responsible to be in Labrador as much as he possibly can.
“We can’t have someone who’s not there all the time or who can’t be there all the time,” he said. “The portfolio of the premier is so massive and broad that I feel the time is just not there.”
Since assuming the role four years ago Ball has been in Labrador west three times and on the north coast once, visiting Nain in June 2017.
Torngat Mountains PC MHA Lela Evans, who represents the north coast of Labrador, also has concerns with the premier in the role and how much time he’s spent in her riding.
“We are starting to take it personally,” she said. “He’s only been to Nain once, never been anywhere else on the coast. People say to me that it’s a way to silence us. If we had a minister who wasn’t the premier that person could advocate for us.”
Evans said she believes Ball has failed in the roles of both Labrador Affairs minister and Aboriginal Affairs minister, citing that all six communities on the coast are indigenous communities and he has only travelled to one of them once.
Both Brown and Evans questioned why a Labrador MHA wasn’t chosen for the role. When Ball took on the role there were four Liberal Labrador MHA’s and now there are currently two.
“It would just make more sense to have someone who can spend the time in the communities and understand all the issues,” Brown said. “It never made sense to me.”