Pot­hole protests

Mayor in Labrador wants his town to join Que­bec

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ATLANTIC - BY MICHAEL MAC­DON­ALD

The mayor of a small town in southern Labrador says he has grown so frus­trated with the pot­holes in the Trans-Labrador High­way that he is openly ad­vo­cat­ing for his town to be­come part of Que­bec.

“All we’ve got to do is move the bor­der, pave our roads and we’re there,” Hed­ley Ry­land, mayor of L’Anse-au-Loup, said in an in­ter­view Monday.

He has taken part in a se­ries of road­side protests, which on Monday in­cluded block­ades of the lo­cal high­way main­te­nance de­pot and the of­fice of the area’s mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture.

“We won’t drive in the night­time when it’s dark and there’s fog,” Ry­land said. “We’d be down in a pot­hole, and have blowouts ... It is ab­so­lutely dan­ger­ous. It is not a road is­sue now. It is a safety is­sue.”

Dur­ing this past weekend, about 100 lo­cal pro­test­ers gath­ered along the high­way near the Que­bec bor­der, where they de­layed all com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles as po­lice looked on, he said.

“This is just a start,” the mayor said. “We’re go­ing to con­tinue un­til we get an­swers.”

Pho­tos taken Monday from out­side the con­stituency of­fice of Lisa Demp­ster, the Lib­eral mem­ber for Cart-wright-L’Anseau-Clair, show a hand­ful of pro­test­ers stand­ing next to hand-painted plac­ards. One of them reads: “Power of the peo­ple is stronger than the peo­ple in power.”

Ry­land said there are so many holes along a 44-kilo­me­tre sec­tion of the high­way that lo­cal garages are mak­ing a for­tune re­pair­ing bent rims and dam­aged sus­pen­sions.

The prov­ince re­cently com­mit­ted to fix­ing an 11-kilo­me­tre sec­tion, but Ry­land said the protests won’t stop un­til Premier Dwight Ball agrees to fill the holes along a 20-kilo­me­tre por­tion that stretches from the Que­bec bor­der to Ry­land’s com­mu­nity of 700.

“We said 11 kilo­me­tres is not enough,” he said, adding that the ex­tra work would prob­a­bly cost about $1 mil­lion. “We’re be­ing treated as sec­ond-class cit­i­zens.”

Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Al Hawkins could not be im­me­di­ately reached for com­ment. How­ever, a spokes­woman for the New­found­land and Labrador govern­ment said pro­vin­cial of­fi­cials met with lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives on July 10 to ex­plain how the prov­ince would deal with the most “trou­ble­some” stretches of the high­way.

Ry­land said he’s in favour of hav­ing his town join Que­bec be­cause the high­way on the other side of the bor­der is in much bet­ter shape - and most of the area’s health-care and shop­ping needs are al­ready han­dled in the neigh­bour­ing prov­ince.

The 60-year-old mayor, who has lived in L’Anse-au-Loup all his life, said there is a five-year plan in the works to pave the Trans-Labrador High­way, from the Que­bec bor­der to Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay - a dis­tance of more than 600 kilo­me­tres. But he said it’s not clear when that will start.

Ry­land said if the sec­tion near his town isn’t re­paired by Septem­ber, he will keep all school buses off the road for safety rea­sons.

Heavy truck traf­fic has largely de­stroyed the high­way, with most of the big rigs headed to and from the Muskrat Falls hy­dro­elec­tric con­struc­tion project in cen­tral Labrador us­ing the road­way, he said.

CP PHOTO/AN­GELA FOWLER

Peo­ple protest on a high­way close to the Labrador-Que­bec bor­der near the com­mu­nity of Blanc-Sablon, Que., in this un­dated handout photo. Hed­ley Ry­land, mayor of L’Anse-au-Loup, has sup­ported a se­ries of road­side protests, which on Monday in­cluded block­ades of the lo­cal high­way main­te­nance de­pot and the of­fice of the area’s mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture.

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