Labrador MP looks back at the year gone by and ahead to 2019
Just as Labrador MP Yvonne Jones is quick to highlight government initiatives that have benefitted people in the Big Land over the past year, Jones also speaks frankly about specific challenges faced in 2018.
Jones is also parliamentary secretary to Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade Minister, Dominic LeBlanc.
Economic opportunities in Labrador are continuing to grow, Jones said, noting four projects in the mining industry that will create hundreds of long-term, sustainable jobs across Labrador.
In terms of infrastructure investments, she said, “We are continuing to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway, expand upon airports across Labrador, and we’re spending $25M in bringing fibre optic and improved internet access to communities all over Labrador.”
When asked about the airport in Nain, Jones said her government is working with the Nunatsiavut Government and its consultants to look at two phases for that project. The first phase will be upgrades and improvements to the current airport while phase 2 includes – eventually — replacing the airport with a new airport.
“In addition to that we’ve invested over $50M to the Wabush Airport,” Jones said.
There have also been numerous cultural and tourism-related investments throughout Labrador, Jones said, including the new cultural centre in Nain as well as smaller projects in Hopedale, Port Hope Simpson, Battle Harbour and Red Bay.
Efforts have also been placed on infrastructure to modernize the fishery across Labrador, Jones said.
“Currently, in Labrador today, you have the newest crab processing facility in the province in Mary’s Harbour. And (the Labrador Shrimp Company) is also currently building (in Mary’s Harbour) what will be the new, most modern cod processing facility in the province,” Jones said.
On the social side, Jones said, the federal government has invested heavily in housing over the past two years.
Partnerships were made with the Nunatsiavut Government that have seen the federal government invest $15M over three years and another $15M over the next five-10 years.
The investments will help bridge the gap for housing in remote and northern communities, Jones said.
The federal government has also negotiated a new housing strategy with the provincial government, Jones noted.
She said her government has also made significant investments with the Innu Nations and Band Councils of the First Nations of both Sheshatshiu and Natuashish.
“I’m very proud to say that, in the last year, we have opened the first youth care facility,” Jones said. “We’re also working to open a new Women’s Shelter in Sheshatshiu.”
A new model for children in care will also make significant improvements to both communities in the future, she said.
The federal government has also secured a long-term lease for space at 5-Wing Goose Bay and has doubled spending at the base.
“Our investment has grown from $15M in 2013 to over $30M in the current year. And we continue to invest in our military assets on the ground as a result of an agreement that Canada has signed with both NORAD and NATO,” Jones said.
The federal government has also incorporated more activities for Canadian Rangers and has invested in a remote training facility about 100 kms outside Goose Bay, Jones said.
Jones said the federal government, in partnership with the Department of National Defense and the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has secured a quality water supply for the town.
“We’ve also invested over $20M in infrastructure for water and wastewater across Labrador over the last two-three years,” she said.
A new Labrador Wellness Centre is also in the works for Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Jones said.
All three levels of government have invested in the centre. Other highlights
Among the highlights of Jones’s year is the new transfer agreement between the provincial and federal governments – a component of which includes more investment in mental health services.
“Through the cooperation of the provincial government and working with (Premier Dwight Ball), and MHAs from Labrador, we were finally able to make a significant investment in mental health services across Labrador,” she said.
The investment includes opening a walk-in mental health clinic in several regions of Labrador and allowing for more inhospital beds for mental health patients, Jones said.
The increased focus on mental health services also puts two psychiatrists on the ground – a first for Labrador, she said.
“This is one of the proudest pieces of work that I feel I have been able to do this year in partnership with the provincial government.”
This past year the federal government has also gone to the negotiating table on a Land Claims and Benefits Agreement with Nunatukavut (Community Council). A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been drafted, the MP said, and negotiations will continue in 2019. Challenges faced in 2018 When touching upon some of the challenges she’s faced this past year, Jones talks about trying to carve out resource allocations for Indigenous fishers and Indigenous groups in Labrador and those that are adjacent to the resource.
“It’s a long process and an ongoing challenge and I feel confident that we’ll have positive results at the end of the day, but I’m certainly not satisfied yet,” she said.
Jones did note, however, that the federal government has invested over $17M in ports and harbours in Labrador over the past year.
“In over the last two years we’ve invested $24M in ports and harbours,” she said.
Another challenge has been in dealing with increased costs with living in the north, she said.
“Whether it’s people who are trying to feed their families on fixed income or whether it’s investing more in infrastructure in Northern remote communities, the price tag is always much higher.”
Jones said recent changes to the food security component of the Nutrition North program will also help people in her riding as well as other Northern ridings across the country.
Jones thanked the people of Labrador for their support.
“And all the towns and companies and businesses that work hard every day to try and secure new programs and new funding for their communities,” she said. “Without their work, my work would not be as effective.”
Labrador MP Yvonne Jones said this was a rewarding and challenging year for the region.