NAPE stages protest in Har­bour Grace

Mayor’s meet­ing with jus­tice min­is­ter ‘went well’

The Compass - - EDITORIAL - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca

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.”

PHOTO BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER/THE COM­PASS

NAPE held a protest in Har­bour Grace against the lat­est pro­vin­cial bud­get brought down by the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment.

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