NAPE stages protest in Harbour Grace
Mayor’s meeting with justice minister ‘went well’
When the snow started to fall on parts of the Avalon Peninsula early in the morning on April 27, it had people in the Conception Bay North region concerned.
It jeopardized the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public Employees (NAPE) ability to put off a planned budget protest at the courthouse in Harbour Grace.
It’s one of four scheduled closures of courts around the province as laid out in the 2016 provincial budget.
Despite the less than ideal conditions, just over 100 people — including top NAPE brass — jammed themselves onto the parking lot of the Babb Building in Harbour Grace to contest the provincial government’s decision to close the local courthouse.
Comprised of family members, union members, council members and supporters, the group shouted slogans and listened as speakers denounced the Liberals for breaking campaign promises and removing services from rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
A chorus of car horns passing along Harvey Street greeted them frequently. Even a couple of children voiced their support as their school bus moved farther up the street towards St. Francis.
“This budget is about the decimation of rural communities and services that are provided to communities,” said NAPE president Jerry Earle. “If this is the future of the province, then no thank you. We want no part of it.”
Since April 14 when the government dropped it’s controversial budget there’s been an uproar amongst labour unions representing public sector workers.
“If you take those services away, you are destroying those communities when the services pull out,” said Earle standing in front of court in Harbour Grace. “If you had to put the evidence in front of a judge that’s presented with this one, a judge would not be able to say your evidence supports the closure.”
The NAPE boss mentioned the impending closure meant a reduction in police presence in the region as officers would be hauled off the streets because they were needed in St. John’s.
There will be other areas affected as well. Things like social workers and the increase in volume of cases heading to the capital city.
Earle implored Port de Grave-Harbour Grace MHA Pam Parsons to denounce the budget by either voting against it or crossing the floor and leaving the party.
“We don’t think there are no options and we’re going to fight until the very end that some of the options we brought forward are listened too,” said Harbour Grace Coun. Tony McCarthy. “I don’t think our council, or any council in the area, are willing t0 let the issue die.”
Aside from the NAPE members present, there were family members of workers affected by the court closure.
“It’s the first day, the day of the budget that we didn’t know if we were going to stay here,” said Harbour Grace’s Pamela Whelan, whose husband is a sheriff’s officer. “Our whole life, every decision we’ve made is so that we could stay home in Harbour Grace and not only in Newfoundland.
“I feel deceived. (Liberals) said one thing and did another. In normal, every day life humans don’t respect people who do that.”
While the protest was going on, Harbour Grace Mayor Terry Barnes was in a meeting with Justice Minister Andrew Parsons. Barnes along with Coun. Hayward Blake, MHA Pam Parsons and Carbonear-Trinity-Bay de Verde MHA Steve Crocker, presented a package of information to the minister.
They outlined how closure would deeply affect the way justice is handled in the region, mentioning policing strength and needing to travel to St. John’s for codes of conduct, amongst other issues
“I thought overall it went well,” said Barnes. “The dialogue was great. We’re going to keep the channel open.”
NAPE held a protest in Harbour Grace against the latest provincial budget brought down by the Liberal government.