We can put our human waste out into the Exploits River, major lakes bordering our communities, and in our harbours, but you cannot have an outdoor toilet up in the woods.
Was 2009 one of the worst years in this province’s history for rural Newfoundland and Labrador? This observer thinks so.
Dear Edtior, I have been finding it hard lately to put pen to paper. But after reading a column, The view from here, subtitled The cross and the boat, by my good friend Ed Smith, I was encouraged to write this letter.
Smith’s column was about rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and as your readers know I am a very strong advocate for the rural part of the province.
I was born in a place called Lushes Bight in a time when things were a lot tougher than they are today. It took a strong breed of people to survive, mostly by hard work and helping each other.
One of my early memories and one that I will never forget was the day the Second World War ended and people in the communities were celebrating by firing guns into the air. I remember my grandfather holding the gun while I pulled the trigger. I had two uncles who fought in the war. One returned but one died just a couple of months before the war ended. They went to war to preserve our freedom. Sometimes I have my doubts if it was all for nothing.
When I was growing up you could catch any kind of fish in the ocean. You didn’t need a license. You could cut wood without a permit, build a house and clear off land for a garden, anywhere you wanted as long as you were not interfering with someone else and you didn’t need permission from the government. We always survived and looked after the land and the ocean.
The year that is about to end, 2009 will go down in history as one of the worst years in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. We had a fishery that was in crisis because of low catches and ridiculously low prices. On top of that we have a government in this province with a huge majority and more money than we have ever seen. They decide they are going to inflict more pain and suffering on our rural communities. There was the oil tank fiasco where people have to throw away perfectly good tanks at great cost; small business in rural NL not allowed to advertise on the highway; attack on the health care in rural NL - remember Flower’s Cove and Lewisporte - and allowing municipalities to tax our wharfs and stages, for the first time in 500 years. But the one thing that really makes a lot of people mad is the attack on the people that love and enjoy nature and the outdoors by posting notices on their trailers and cabins that they had 60 days to vacate or else. Up to this time Minister Charlene Johnson has not given a reason as to why, except they don’t own the land. The piece of land that I was born on and my grandparents lived on was never registered. All these people who got notices had no problem with paying a fee to obtain their land, but were not given a choice while some cabins were given a chance to apply for title to their land. Thousands of trailers were never given a choice, they had to get out with no options only go home and stay home. There are thousands of families in communities in NL living in trailers and have been for a long time, but you are not allowed to have a trailer up in the country.
For 500 hundred years we in rural NL have had camps or tilts up in the woods or coves around our shores. There was once a camp on League Rock and there is still one on Sculpin Island for sealing or birding.
In 2009 the order (decree) went out: get rid of the trailers and make it hard for the campers to stay and hard they did make it by charging an exorbitant price for a piece of land up in the woods. The only value of that land is the amount of wood it can produce. That is one harvest every 80-100 years and in most cases these cabins or trailers were situated in abandoned gravel pits where nothing will ever grow back because the topsoil has been removed.
A friend of mine who applied for a remote cabin permit over a year ago finally got approved to occupy with a five-year lease of $100 per year with certain conditions, an application fee of $133, and $200 for registration fees. Although this person stated in the application that this was a rabbit camp and would only be used in the fall and he would be using an outdoor toilet, he was told that he could not use an outdoor toilet but had to install a septic system. First he had to hire a processor to go up in the woods and inspect the land - cost of a processor could be $300-$700, septic system $ 3000-$ 5000, depending on the type of ground and the distance from the nearest contractor. The cost of this lease is anywhere from $4000 to $6000, just for the land, just to build a cabin that will cost less than $ 3000. Because my friend was building on leasehold land, he was allowed to lease, but if you apply for land from Crown lands, which is the people’s land, you have to buy the land. And the figures I am hearing are anywhere from $4,500 to over $15,000 plus you have to have a survey done at approx $1,200. So you add that to the $4000 to $6000 for septic system and fees, and you are talking an exorbitant price, a price that the majority of poor and retired people in our rural communities cannot afford.
We can put our human waste out into the Exploits River, major lakes bordering our communities, in our harbours, but you cannot have an outdoor toilet up in the woods.
Premier Williams, please give me and the rest of rural NL a reason why all this is happening. We gave you a huge majority because we believed in the promises you made to make this province a better place. While inside the overpass things have certainly improved because of the oil revenues and we have seen pavement and infrastructure in certain areas of rural NL. But what good is that if our health care is stripped; our small business are not allowed to advertise; we are not allowed to have a wharf without being taxed, and thousands of trailer owners are not allowed to go to their favourite recreation spots anymore and not allowed to have a poop in the woods.
Rural NL took a huge beating in 2009 and it will never be the same, all because we elected a government with very little opposition and they believe they can do what they like and not what the people want.
The sad part about it all is that the majority of our MHAs are from rural NL, but it seems that once they get inside the overpass they forget about the people who elected them and the people that are paying their lucrative salary and pension plan.
MHAs, prove me wrong; start working for the people that gave you your job.
The freedom that my uncles fought for, we no longer have.
Ed Smith ended with the statement the thing that kept the rural communities together was, “ the faith, the fish and the family”.
A lot of us no longer have faith in our politicians. I have to have faith that Mr. Williams’ New Year’s resolution will be to do the right thing for rural NL, because without faith we die in despair.
I was born in rural NL and will die in rural NL. Retired Capt. Wilfred Bartlett