The mayor of L’Anse au Clair is the new chair of the Combined Councils of Labrador (CCL).
Chad Letto was nominated for chair by acclamation during the CCL’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Happy Valley-Goose Bay from Feb. 6-9.
This is Letto’s second year as a member of the CCL. Last year he served as treasurer.
He spoke about his new role and some of the important issues highlighted during the AGM with The Northern Pen this past week.
Parks Canada Field Unit
The CCL passed a motion during the AGM to lobby the federal government for its own Parks Canada Field Unit to be stationed somewhere in Labrador.
Letto stresses that Labrador has a number of Parks Canada attractions, including the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, Battle Harbour, Moravian Mission, and Mealy Mountains.
However, they are serviced by the Parks Canada Field Unit situated in Rocky Harbour.
“But now our governance is being ruled out of western Newfoundland and, more specifically, Rocky Harbour,” said Letto. “We’re tired of being told what to do by someone who doesn’t even live in Labrador.”
He says a field unit in Labrador would have its own marketing budget and would be able to do more to market Labrador as a tourist destination.
In doing so, he hopes more tourism traffic would be directed north from Rocky Harbour both to the St. Anthony area, including L’Anse aux Meadows, and into Labrador.
Letto says it would also bring 50-plus well-paying federal jobs to Labrador.
The next step for the CCL will be to draft a letter to Labrador MP Yvonne Jones requesting the unit.
Road to the north
With paving soon to be completed on the Trans-Labrador Highway, from southern Labrador to Labrador West, the CCL is turning its attention towards the possibility of a road to the north.
During the AGM, Letto says there was discussion around the possibility of a road from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Nain.
“It may be a little bit more difficult, but we’re not going to give up on it and we’re looking to government to keep the ball rolling to get that road,” he said.
There are a few reasons he feels this is necessary. Letto says everybody in Labrador needs to be connected by road, but other factors were the cost of air travel.
Furthermore, there is currently only one carrier in the north, increasing the need for improved transportation.
Health care road show
Letto says the CCL is looking into the possibility of a health care road show, where Labrador-Grenfell Health (LGH) staff would travel throughout the region to provide their services.
“That would consist of a mental health (representation), health nurse, diabetes nurse consultant, eye specialist, physiotherapist and the like that would be put together by LGH and would once a month, or once every two or three months, go on a road show from L’Anse au Clair to Nain to Wabush,” he said.
Letto felt this would save on costs compared with having to fly Labrador patients to St. Anthony, Corner Brook or even Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The CCL will also be lobbying for reimbursements on patients’ airfare travel for health care reasons.
The CCL will put together a committee to look at attaining level one or level two senior housing in each region (west, central, north and south) of Labrador.
“Right now there’s very limited space in the one or two level one and level two care units in Labrador,” said Letto.
He says the CCL doesn’t want people to have to leave their homes.
For example, currently there are residents of Nain staying at the housing unit in Mary’s Harbour.
“It’s good that Mary’s Harbour has a unit that can take people but, as seniors, they deserve to be able to live in their own region,” said Letto.
Discussion continued around building an airport in Nain during the AGM.
Letto says there are geographical difficulties.
“It makes it hard to find a level spot to put in a top-grade airport,” he said.
He says if they go ahead with it, it would have to be six to seven kilometres out of town.