The Telegram (St. John's)
Protestors block commercial traffic in Labrador Straits
Group demanding nine kilometres of additional highway levelling
Demanding nine more kilometers of levelling on the Translabrador Highway, protesters from the Labrador Straits are blocking commercial traffic at the Quebec-labrador border today to make their voice heard.
Organizer Maurice Smith estimated there were about 70 or 80 people present at the protest’s peak Friday morning.
The group is letting local traffic and tourists through, but heavy traffic is being held up.
L’anse-au-loup Mayor Hedley Ryland said they’ll let the heavy traffic go only when they are told to do so by the police.
“We don’t want to commit a crime, we’re a non-violent group, and we’re going to protest as law-abiding citizens,” said Ryland.
Combined Councils of Labrador president Trent O’brien told the Northern Pen the protestors are doing this to demand an extra $1 million to complete nine kilometers of levelling of the highway, in addition to the 11 kilometers announced by the Department of Transportation and Works earlier this week.
According to Ryland, they had initially wanted the 44 kilometres levelled from Pinware to the Quebec-labrador border, but he said the 20 kilometres they’re requesting would take care of the bulk of bad road on that section of the highway.
“The government should be ashamed of themselves for us in the Straits area to have to do this for an extra nine kilometers in a vicinity of $1 million,” said
“I mean, this road is in a state because of the $14 billion that’s going on in Labrador, and we can’t get a million dollars for the $14 billion that has (been) destroyed on us,” he added, referring to damage caused by the amount of traffic travelling to the hydroelectric project at Muskrat Falls.
O’brien said there was money announced in the budget for pulverizing and re-paving, but he can’t see that starting anytime soon. Instead, they’re left with levelling that isn’t a permanent fix. He said they’re okay with having 20 kilometres levelled in the short-term, but it’s a temporary repair and they’re going to need the longterm solution of having it pulverized and re-paved in the coming years.
“They’re trying to make it look like a lot more than it is,” he said.
“This $25 million that they keep touting for future years, if that was a real number they were committed to, why haven’t they done a proper announcement of that money? And, also, the pavement for the Trans-labrador Highway and the levelling that was here last year, to be done last year, and we’re halfway through this construction season and it’s still not started.
“People really can’t rely on what might happen in the future. We need something that’s immediate, something now, something we can see that improves our driving conditions.”
O’brien feels that Cartwrightl’anse-au-clair MHA Lisa Dempster was vocal about how treacherous the road is when she was in opposition but is too quiet on it now that she is in government.
“How can she now turn around and do an about face and say we’re just going to do a bit of patchwork and it’ll be fine?” he asked.
Ryland said if they aren’t granted this request, he wants to see Transportation and Works Minister Al Hawkins and Premier Dwight Ball, who is also minister of Labrador Affairs, come to Labrador and explain why.
Another protest is planned to stop traffic at Forteau hill on Saturday morning, Ryland said.