Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA re­flects on 2018

Northern Pen - - Editorial - BY EVAN CA­REEN THE LABRADORIAN

Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Demp­ster said it’s been one heck of a year for Labrador. She said in her district there were a num­ber of high­lights, not the least of which is roadwork. She said there was over 100 km paved in her district and repaving was done as well.

In­ter­net speeds have been an is­sue in south­ern Labrador for some time and Demp­ster said she’s been work­ing on it since she got elected three years ago.

“I put a lot of en­ergy into that file,” she said. “At the end of the day, we had the big­gest fed­er­al­provin­cial an­nounce­ment for broad­band money in At­lantic Canada, $12.6 mil­lion.”

The new fer­ries an­nounced in Septem­ber for Labrador were an­other high­light Demp­ster men­tioned. The two fer­ries are com­ing on­line in March of 2019 with the coastal ferry of­fer­ing roll on, roll off ser­vice for the first time.

“It has ex­tra ve­hi­cle and pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity, which is needed,” she said. “What is hap­pen­ing is as we’re open­ing up as Canada’s last fron­tier we’re see­ing a lot more tourists com­ing and needed more space on the ferry.”

She said the roll-on, rolloff ferry for the coast will be a game changer for some of the smaller com­mu­ni­ties, no­tably Black Tickle.

An­other item that wasn’t near as big of a price tag but will have a large im­pact was the ex­pan­sion of cel­lu­lar cov­er­age for six com­mu­ni­ties in south­ern Labrador. Demp­ster said the project was in con­junc­tion with the Nu­natukavut Com­mu­nity Coun­cil and Bell.

“Even though it’s just within their com­mu­nity it’ll be a huge change,” she said. “This is just the be­gin­ning. The broad­band and cel­lu­lar changes will re­ally make a dif­fer­ence.”

A file that has been a chal­lenge in Labrador has been the med­i­cal as­sis­tance travel pro­gram. The pro­gram, which pro­vides fund­ing for peo­ple who have to travel for med­i­cal rea­sons, was crit­i­cized for not cov­er­ing enough to re­flect the re­al­ity of air­fare costs from Labrador. The prov­ince changed it from cov­er­age of 50 per cent of the first $1,000 and re­im­burs­ing the other half later to cov­er­ing the full $1,000 up­front in the 2018 bud­get, a change Demp­ster said was wel­come news.

“It made no sense,” she said. “Why cover half if we’re go­ing to give you back the other half any­way? The other thing we heard was peo­ple were wait­ing way too long to get their money back. So we’ve hired sev­eral more ded­i­cated peo­ple for the pro­gram to im­prove the ser­vice.”

An im­mi­gra­tion of­fice was opened in the straits this year as well, which Demp­ster said was needed. She said the Straits has some of the high­est im­mi­gra­tion rates in the prov­ince and her con­stituency of­fice was get­ting con­stant calls and peo­ple com­ing in about im­mi­gra­tion and for­eign worker ques­tions.

So­cial hous­ing is an­other high­light Demp­ster brought up, with about $1 mil­lion in fund­ing in her district.

“I be­lieve it’s the first time we’ve put af­ford­able hous­ing in my district,” she said. “The units are go­ing up in Forteau and they’re on track to open in Fe­bru­ary and I un­der­stand there’s quite a nice long line up of se­niors hop­ing to get in.”

Demp­ster said she’s been happy with the in­vest­ments in Labrador in the last year and cred­its the hard work of the MHA’s and the premier, who is Min­is­ter of Labrador Af­fairs.

“Peo­ple thought he would be too busy as premier to re­ally fo­cus on Labrador,” she said. “I think the in­vest­ment we’ve had in the re­gion shows his, and this gov­ern­ments, com­mit­ment to the re­gion.”

Pre­vi­ous an­swer

FILE PHOTO

Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Demp­ster said the year was full of chal­lenges and tri­umphs

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