[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Thursday, November 7, 1996
The Chairman: I'd like to call the meeting to order.
The natural resources committee is continuing its study, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), on natural resources and rural development. As many of you know, the committee began its study last spring, beginning with several witnesses in Ottawa. The committee has continued its study in the regions by travelling across Canada and having an opportunity to talk to individuals and organizations from our regions who have to face the challenges of rural development on a daily basis.
We're pleased to have had the opportunity in our previous visits to hear a great deal of testimony from a large number of witnesses, and are very pleased today to be in Goose Bay to continue our hearings and to hear the perspective from this particular area.
Without further ado, I'd like to call to the table our first witness, from Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Harry Baikie, Mayor.
While Mr. Baikie is coming forward, I'd also like to recognize Lawrence O'Brien, the local member of Parliament, who is with the committee today.
Welcome, Lawrence. We're pleased to have you with us.
Mr. O'Brien (Labrador): Thank you, sir.
The Chairman: Mr. Baikie, we would ask you to give an opening statement of approximately 10 minutes and then we'll turn it over to the committee members for questions. Welcome. Please proceed.
Mr. Harry Baikie (Mayor of Happy Valley - Goose Bay): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. On behalf of the council, I'd like to welcome the committee members to our town of Happy Valley - Goose Bay.
Not too long ago, in October 1994, our council sat before the environmental assessment review panel studying low-level flying over Quebec and Labrador to relay to the panel the economic importance of the military base, 5 Wing Goose Bay, to our community. The self-analysis of our economy at that time vividly illustrated that Happy Valley - Goose Bay is a one-industry town. The outcome of the panel's recommendation could have halted the military flying program and subsequently collapsed our economy. However, I'm glad to say the panel's report was very favourable and the military flight training program can continue.
In fact in February of this year, Canada and the air forces of the U.K., Germany and the Netherlands signed a new 10-year agreement valued at about $1.1 billion over the life of the contract. The majority of this money will remain in Happy Valley - Goose Bay in the form of salaries and expenditures from the base.
The base alone provides our economy with long-term security and prosperity. The average family income for Happy Valley - Goose Bay is just over $51,000, the second- or third-highest in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is directly attributed to the base.
Voisey Bay is an isolated area 350 kilometres north of Happy Valley - Goose Bay. It has nickel, copper and cobalt deposits. The deposit is estimated to have well over 50 years' reserve, with an annual production of around 270 million pounds of nickel. At the current market price of $4 a pound, this will generate annual sales of over $1 billion to the owner, Inco, and its subsidiary, Voisey Bay Nickel Company Ltd. This can significantly increase job and business potential, which will solidify our economic base.
The precise amount of economic spin-off from Voisey Bay to Happy Valley - Goose Bay is not yet known, but taking an arbitrary figure of 10%, this would translate into a $100 million industry for our town - the same size, in fact, as the base. Thus you can deduce a significant portion of our economic strategy is designed to maximize the benefits from Voisey Bay. The more successful we are, the more diversified and stronger our economy becomes.
Mining, tourism, hydroelectricity, fishery and forestry have been neglected throughout Labrador because of an inadequate road system. The officials from each sector have told us for many years that the cost of getting their product to market is prohibitively expensive because of our road system.
We have expounded our frustrations to every and any politician at every level of government for the past 20 to 30 years. Labradorians have voiced their concerns for a better road system. We have made progress - yes, we have - but only at a snail's pace.
How will this affect our chances of maximizing the economic benefits from Voisey Bay? The answer is quite simple. Outside companies using ships and airplanes will be able to supply the mine and mill at a better price than the businesses in Happy Valley - Goose Bay. However, if we had a proper highway, the business community could use tractor trailers to transport supplies from anywhere in North America to the Voisey Bay site at competitive prices.
The same scenario applies for forestry, fishery and tourism. All three sectors are in abundance in Labrador, but are underutilized because of the inadequate road system. The potential growth in all three sectors is tremendous. We believe if you build it, they will come.
In addition to the highway, Happy Valley - Goose Bay has a deep-water seaport and a world-class airport that can be utilized to enhance our ability to support resource development.
I know the federal government is not responsible for roads and it isn't really your problem; it's that of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. But morally I believe the federal Government of Canada is responsible for our transportation network, from a social and economic perspective.
The highway from Happy Valley - Goose Bay to Quebec should be considered the same as the ferry link between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia was during the 1949 terms of Confederation. The island of this province needed to be linked during Confederation, and so should Labrador have been linked to Canada with a proper highway system. We believe the federal government has a responsibility for our transportation network.
I know it's a moot point, but it's important that you hear our views. To Labradorians the question of who is responsible for building a highway is not important. What is important is getting it built. We are looking for action.
How can this be done? We put the same proposals before you as we did to the standing committee on Canada's defence strategy. We believe in adjacency; that is, not only do the economic benefits of a project go to the residents adjacent to the project, but whatever taxes provincial or federal governments accrue, the revenues should be spent on projects in the adjacent area. In other words, the taxes from mining, forestry, tourism, and hydroelectricity should be spent on constructing a proper highway in Labrador. Then whatever is left over can be used for other parts of Canada for other worthwhile programs or projects. Especially if the Government of Canada is committed to the economic renewal of rural Canada, it should make sure all Canadians benefit from our economic prosperity.
The council of the Town of Happy Valley - Goose Bay believes it is necessary for the aboriginal land claims to be resolved to accommodate any or all of these resource potentials. Our council is on record as supporting a fair and just land claims resolution as soon as possible to enable the planning and developing of the resources of Labrador in a timely manner.
I hope I have made the point clear that Labrador and Happy Valley - Goose Bay has a tremendous economic future because of the abundance of our natural resources. However, this prosperity is severely affected because we do not have a proper highway system. We urge you to do whatever is necessary so we can have a highway to assist in harvesting our natural resources.
Thank you very much for taking the time to listen. I'll certainly be glad to answer any questions you may have.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Mr. Deshaies (Abitibi): Mr. Baikie, I live in northwest Quebec, so we were near James Bay when they brought in the economy flights over our heads from Montreal. Are you afraid you will have the same situation here, that the flights could start from Montreal or Toronto or Newfoundland and you might gain few advantages from this big project?
Mr. Baikie: It is very possible that could happen. It's certainly a possibility. We hope it doesn't, but if an airstrip is built at the mining site, then anywhere in eastern Canada is possible.
Mr. Deshaies: You ask for roads. We had roads going to James Bay. We had this advantage, but business passed over our heads, because big interests controlled the business. I was in business, and we tried many times to bid, but our stuff was too expensive or not proper.
So I'm a bit afraid for you. You will have a big fight. All communities will have to be ready to work together to ask for your share of this business. I hope you will bring it off. Do you have this consensus of the community to be together to ask for your share?
Mr. Baikie: During the rest of the hearing today you'll probably hear the same theme mentioned over and over. Yes, I think we've been working together very well with the rest of the community and the other communities within Labrador to lobby and put a strong effort toward the federal and provincial governments for a trans-Labrador highway.
Mr. Deshaies: We've heard from other witnesses in other areas that there are two possibilities. You can ask for a strong federal presence here or you can ask to receive tools and decide yourself the way you want to go. Which way do you prefer?
Mr. Baikie: I think we would prefer to go our own way. We would like to be able to take control of our own destiny, in conjunction with both levels of government, or all levels of government. It's important that we as a community and as an area be able to take control of our own destiny.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma (Nanaimo - Cowichan): Thank you, Mr. Baikie. Your message about the highway is very clear, and it has been clear before, so you're getting an accumulation here, which I hope eventually can have some impact.
Looking at Voisey Bay, at Goose Bay and at what lies between, and again bringing into play the possibility of that highway, could you paint a word picture of what the ideal development would be? We're talking about Voisey Bay, but we're keeping Goose in mind. Would the ideal be the construction of a highway first and then the development of a new residential community and everything else up at the work site, at the mine site, or jump ahead and say if we get the highway in, in ten years we're going to do such-and-such? Could you give us just an amplification of what scenarios you see? In fact, maybe you could start with what is going to happen now because you don't have the highway. Then you can project a little bit as to what might happen if you were in other circumstances.
Mr. Baikie: If we don't have a highway, Voisey Bay will be operated seasonally. They will work year-round, but they will have a shipping season in which to get the ore in and out of the Voisey Bay area. The shipping season on the coast of Labrador is roughly six and a half months, maximum. It is a very tight schedule here.
As for the road system itself here.... And we see Happy Valley - Goose Bay as sort of a.... It's too bad I didn't bring a map, because it would have very vividly shown you the location of Happy Valley - Goose Bay in the rest of Labrador. There's nothing between here and Voisey Bay per se other than small communities scattered along the edge of the coast. It would be quite difficult to get a road system through each community on the way to Voisey Bay.
Mr. Ringma: Is it all by water and by air now?
Mr. Baikie: Yes, at the moment it is. The road system coming into Happy Valley - Goose Bay would give central Labrador the advantage of being a shipping point for the equipment and things that are needed there. You could bring the equipment in over the highway and ship it from here to the mine site during the shipping season. I'm sure they can't fly everything in. Some shipping will be required.
Mr. Ringma: Would having the road to as far as Voisey Bay also act as a launch platform? It could act as a launch platform for further access to the north.
Mr. Baikie: It certainly could. The road system in any development of that sort has to be in conjunction with what the aboriginal requirements are as well. You have to take into account all of the concerns of the people living here in Labrador.
Mr. Ringma: I know we want to keep rolling here, but let me ask you how your aboriginals react to the prospect of a road. Are they in favour or not?
Mr. Baikie: The question hasn't been asked yet. I don't think either one of the aboriginal groups has said that they want a road or that they don't. It would depend on the environmental review process.
Mr. Ringma: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Mrs. Cowling.
Mrs. Cowling (Dauphin - Swan River): I'm going to pass for the member of Parliament from this area, because I know he had a question and I thought -
Mr. Reed (Halton - Peel): I think he went out to get a map.
Mrs. Cowling: Yes, I think he did.
Is this picture in front of me a picture of the road you're talking about?
Mr. Baikie: Yes.
Mrs. Cowling: So this outlines it fairly clearly. Is it 75 miles?
Mr. Baikie: Of road?
Mrs. Cowling: Yes. How many miles are we looking at?
Mr. Baikie: From here to Churchill Falls it's 305 kilometres.
Mrs. Cowling: Thank you. That was my question.
Mr. Baikie: Churchill Falls is the nearest community west of us.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: Mr. Mayor, from your comments here, and certainly from my own personal understanding as the member for this area for Labrador and my life-long involvement with these issues, I see that the striking underlying theme here is clearly that if Labrador is going to go forward - based on this presentation and based on the thoughts - the road is key to it.
You might want to find out here that this road is a lot longer than just from here to Churchill Falls. It's from here to Churchill Falls to Labrador City to Fermont - this is on the border of Quebec - to Baie Comeau, and then onto the 138 to Quebec City. It's a circular route around. You might want to show that if you can, because I think we need to understand what we're talking about.
Mr. Baikie: Okay. Labrador City is here. We continue on from here to Fermont, down through 138 into Baie Comeau.
Mr. O'Brien: That's right.
Mr. Baikie: Take the ferry from Happy Valley - Goose Bay into the central part of the island, Lewisporte.
What Mr. O'Brien is talking about there is the great circle route, as we call it. We want to promote the trans-Labrador highway as an economic benefit for the rest of Canada. Back in 1986, we sent a delegation from the town through the great circle route. We left here by ferry, went down to Lewisporte, and took the Trans-Canada Highway across to Port aux Basques, up through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, back through Quebec, down through the 138 to Labrador City and Wabush.
At that time, we didn't have a connection between Churchill Falls and Labrador City. We had to take the train ferry between Labrador City and Wabush to go to Esker. We took the road from Esker down to Churchill Falls and then to here.
It has only been since 1993, I guess it was, that there has been the bridge across the Ossokmanuan, which was the key link between Labrador City and Churchill Falls. That's an all-weather gravel highway there. But between Churchill Falls and Happy Valley - Goose Bay it's still a very rough road.
Mr. O'Brien: Maybe we should try to get this map on the wall. I think we're probably going to need it for the purposes of understanding, Mr. Chair. If there's a larger map, we can find the locations and put them on it.
The Chairman: Maybe we can put them on either side, I would think.
Mr. O'Brien: Yes.
The Chairman: Maybe right up here.
Mr. Baikie: Just to follow up again on the economic benefits for Labrador, it's not only Labrador that's going to benefit from tourism. Once we're able to have that route, we can tap into the northeastern U.S. market, as well as the rest of central Canada.
Within the last week or so I drove from here to Halifax and Moncton, up through to Toronto. I went across into the U.S. and back again through Ottawa to Happy Valley - Goose Bay. It was a three-week trip, but the driving time between here and Ottawa is only three days. So it's getting closer.
The Chairman: Mr. Baikie, I have a couple of questions for you. Consider the Canada infrastructure program, which was launched in late 1993. Would you support a successor program to, for instance, assist with the development of that highway? Would your municipality envision the same type of a structure whereby the municipality was contributing one-third of the program?
Mr. Baikie: I'm not sure we would consider it on the highway. I'll just give you a brief background of how we got the highway open during the winter. About three years ago we proposed to the province that if they would give us the money, we would get the equipment to keep the highway open during the winter months, which would be from now until the middle of May, I guess. We proposed a figure to them. They eventually said yes, they would give us the money. But we decided that because it was outside the boundaries of the town, we weren't able to do the work for them. So they decided they should do it themselves, which they did. Since then, the road has been open the year round.
We pushed and we said that we would try to get involved. But I don't think we can provide a third of our budget to the trans-Labrador highway. I think that has to be provincial and federal.
The Chairman: I didn't mean to suggest that it would be solely for that. I'm talking more in general about whether you would support a successor infrastructure program along the same lines as the first one?
Mr. Baikie: Definitely, yes. We've taken advantage of that program here. We're developing a new water supply system for the town through that program. So, yes, we certainly would be interested in taking advantage of another infrastructure program.
The Chairman: Do you think it would be appropriate, going back to the highway, for Inco as the corporate entity to participate in part of the cost of developing the infrastructure that would be necessary for that project?
Mr. Baikie: Yes, I do. I think it would be to their advantage to do so. We mentioned the adjacency and the spin-off from mining or other industry here in Labrador. We feel that part of that price of getting the resources out of Labrador should be borne by the people who are doing the development. I feel that Inco should pay something toward that highway.
The Chairman: I'm interested in whether or not there has been any groundwork done with respect to ensuring that there will be many value-added types of jobs that are going to be created from that project, as opposed to just shipping it out and having it processed somewhere else.
Mr. Baikie: That's an issue that's being discussed here in Labrador at the moment. Certainly we would like to see the forks, knives and spoons going out of here rather than the raw ore.
The Chairman: Is that a feasible possibility?
Mr. Baikie: To a degree, I think it is. We feel that the smelters should be built somewhere here in Labrador. As the mining and the ore is going to milled and developed here in Labrador, we feel that the smelters should be here as well. We have the infrastructure in place to support something like that.
The Chairman: Is the labour force here going to need to be expanded significantly? Will you need inbound immigration, or do you have the labour force potential here already?
Mr. Baikie: We have some labour force potential here, but if you're talking about 600 to 1,000 jobs in total for construction, mining and smelter operations, we're going to need to import.
If I could just expand on that a little bit, look at the development of the base here. When the base was built, there was nothing but a forest. The labour force had to be imported, but the labour force also came from all parts of Labrador, as well as the rest of the maritime provinces. We built the town of Happy Valley - Goose Bay out of that labour force, and we're still growing.
I think the same scenario will happen here. We have a lot of people who have left this area over the last number of years to look for work in other parts of the country. They developed skills that are compatible with the mining industry. They've gone to Thompson in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and other mining industries around the country. I'm sure they'd be more than happy to come back here to work again if the work was available. We have a labour force that has crossed the country that we can bring back.
The Chairman: Yes, I've met many of them as we've travelled.
Does your community have the basic municipal services that could absorb a significant increase in the community?
Mr. Baikie: We do. Back in 1986, when NATO was going to put in the flight training centre here for the NATO allies, we developed a community plan that would house at least another 1,500 development lots in the town. So we're well ahead in planning that. We have lots of space to grow. We have a plan on paper, so we're ready to develop to any extent we need.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. We appreciate you taking the time to provide the testimony. We appreciate the hospitality of your community. We're pleased to be here today. We look forward to a very fruitful few hours of discussion.
Mr. Baikie: I wish you all the best.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
I'd like to call on our next witness. From the Labrador Inuit Development Association, we have Mr. Fred Hall, managing director. Welcome, Mr. Hall. I'd ask you to make an opening statement. If you could keep it to around ten minutes, we'll then open it to questions from committee members.
Mr. Fred Hall (Managing Director, Labrador Inuit Development Association): Thank you.
LIDC has been incorporated since 1982. We have six subsidiary corporations involved in the northern shrimp fishery. We're involved a bit in real estate on the north coast. We own two and a half office buildings. We have a small dimension stone quarry where we're exporting stone to Europe for building material. We're involved in catering for the Voisey Bay project, and we hope to get more involved in that as this project develops. We're currently working on setting up a very small - I emphasize ``small'' - processing factory for the material we're exporting to Italy to turn it into monument stones, grave markers, furniture-type items. Lastly, we're involved in a joint venture with the Inuit across Canada - there are four regions, Labrador, northern Quebec, and the western and eastern Arctic - on an operation and maintenance contract for the North Warning System.
We've also been involved in some projects such as a smaller-scale arctic char fishery and commercial caribou harvest. Some of them have not done that well, but the ones we're concentrating on now we like to think are doing well, namely the radar sites, the shrimp fishery, the real estate business, and the stone business.
I read through the questions you sent. There are quite a few questions. It would take all day to respond to them, so I've listed in my report here just a few of the things I see as being of most concern to Labrador Inuit.
First I would like to say by way of background that I will focus on the north coast. As mentioned in the paper, the province did a report on its strategic economic plan, and the north coast of Labrador is at the bottom of the list among all the areas they've reported on, such as per capita income for a family of four and education levels. I don't want to belabour that point. I will just point out that's the area we're focusing on.
Labrador is a very diverse area. While the north and south coasts have the two lowest standards of living, central and western Labrador have the two highest standards of living in the province.
The area I would like to focus on, and what I see as number one, is our minimal access to the resources. If we were able to gain access to those resources on what the Labrador Inuit would call a fair and equitable share, we think that would answer almost all the questions you have on your paper for our region.
We question why we get such small access to resources. For instance, in the fishery we never had any access to the northern cod when it was there, and now, they say, it's depleted almost to extinction. Now we find turbot, crab, and shrimp are being harvested at such a fast rate. We could see that as definitely a sustainable resource for the coast, but the fact is that we have to share so much of it.
Also, when we apply to access a resource such as Georges Bank scallop off Nova Scotia, we wonder why this doesn't work as a two-way street. Why do northern resources always have to be shared with the south but we can't get a share of southern resources? In practical terms this is extremely important to us, because if we were to invest in vessels to fish and had access only to our own resources, then we wouldn't be able to fish half the year, because of ice conditions. They can come up and fish our waters in the summer, but we can't go down and fish in their waters in the winter.
Also, when we do seem to get access to some resource like the DFO policy of adjacency, I'd like to see that in other departments. It works well in some cases, but in many cases when we get the access, the criteria and regulations are structured in such a way that they're sort of giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
An example I would give there is that the Inuit and the Innu of Davis Inlet, maybe five years ago, were given substantial quotas of a very valuable resource of turbot. While we were given these quotas, under legislation we were required to sell these products to certain plants. Of course the plant owners knew they had us captive, and what came about was that we were required to sell our fish at one-third of the world market value, and that price didn't cover the cost of the vessel.
The next year, when those quotas came out there was a use-it-or-lose-it policy, and I think Davis Inlet lost all its quota in the first year. We managed to hang on, through a joint venture type of operation. I think we have 70 tonnes left. But someone had an exclusive contract with Russia, so with its cheap vessels they could go out and harvest this.
I don't want to belabour this in the short amount of time we have here, but if the government gives us this quota, let us do what we see fit and go out on the open marketplace. We'll bring back those moneys to Canada, to northern Labrador. This is where we're going to spend it. The Inuit are not going to pile up moneys from their resource and then all move and buy villas in the south of France.
Another area too that kind of leads into this is that I believe we're discouraged from exporting. As I said, legislation is used to tie our hands in that way.
I noticed in your questions there was a fairly strong section there where you talk about value-added. One thing we question strongly is to let us decide what's value-added. In the case of turbot, we were required to land that in the south to create jobs in southern plants. Really, the market was dictating that you would get more for that fish whole, so sometimes you don't have value-added, you have value-subtracted. Again, if we were able to bring back the revenues from that, we would invest in Canada and in the north and not be so dependent on southern UI programs or welfare programs.
When you consider the small population - we're talking 5,000 Inuit - and look at the huge amount of resource in Labrador, we're not asking for all of it, just a share of that. I don't think you'd have to look at a large share, in proportion, to raise the standard of living on the north coast to at least an acceptable Canadian standard.
I'd like to stress that even with the stone we're finding a lot of pressure. The provincial government is trying to legislate like with the fish and tell us where we're going to process it. It's using this under the guise of saying to the FPIs or the Incos, ``We're going to make them process''. This is the real reason for this legislation. And I really don't believe the government will have the power to tell Inco how to conduct its business. But once this legislation goes through, it will be easy to use that legislation against small companies like Inuit companies in northern Labrador. Our experience in the fishery is if it's a large company, it can get exemptions from this legislation because it just threatens to put the padlock on five or six plants and the government has to bend.
We have a stone quarry employing 24 people and we're not about to close that quarry down. But if we're restricted in the future from processing all that here, there's just no way this business would survive. We're competing with Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Greece and Italy in the stone business. Let us walk before we're expected to run. We're now in the fifth year and we have had two years of no windfall profits, but a small profit employing 24 people.
We want to process just as much as anybody. We'd like to create jobs too, but don't force us or tell us how to do it. We know how to do it best.
With this small plant in Hopedale we've spent two or three years now studying the markets and looking for markets. We have orders. We know it can be done, but believe me it's not easy to set up a manufacturing type of business in a small remote isolated community on an ice-bound coast.
I think we're all on the same wavelength of what we want to do in terms of creating employment, but we have to have the flexibility to export when we see it's right to export, and to do this so-called value-added when it really makes sense to do it.
Another thing we see in terms of management of harvesting is there seems to be a focus on knocking off one resource at a time. I mentioned the cod stocks are depleted to the end of extinction. Now we see the turbot is going faster than ever. We believe it's not only the Spanish and the seals that are doing this. The Canadians are part of it. I've even heard people suggest we have a new resource of what they call porcupine crab. I've heard comments that first we'll fish out the turbot and then we'll go and get this crab. They don't have the harvesting capability yet, but they said they'll figure it out after they take care of the turbot.
If this were managed properly, there would be enough to share with some southern companies. But we have to really look at planning. Take the crab, the shrimp, the turbot, the cod when it comes back and develop them in a sensible manner.
This leads me to training. You mentioned in your human resources that we have to look at literacy. That's true, but we also have to look at trades and universities. It has to be balanced. I think we'll always have people in these northern communities. We can't look at just moving people - that centralization experience - because you in the south want these resources. You have to have some people up there. You can't take all the people and move them south and still expect to exploit the resources.
In the training area, we're encouraging Labrador Inuit to stay with natural resources. It may not be like in the traditional way of hunting, trapping and living off the land as the parents and the grandfathers did, but they can still be marine biologists, geologists and technicians. I think we should be focused in these natural resource sectors, marketing not only in Canada but worldwide. Then on the other side, if we're going to start marketing our natural resources we will need a lot of young people trained in conservation and management.
I don't know how much time I have left.
The Chairman: Why don't you wrap it up in a couple of sentences.
Mr. Hall: I'd just like to wrap it up with land claims.
We definitely need land claims settled up here. Everyone is pretty optimistic now because of Voisey Bay. I wish it had been settled before. We need the land claim settlement to stimulate the growth in northern Labrador, but as long as we have no settlement the Inuit are forced out of participating. They believe if they allow development to proceed when it comes there will be no need to settle land claims. This has dragged on for 20 years in northern Labrador and I think for 100 years for the Nisga'a in B.C. We realize it's the development of what the south wants that will be the impetus to settle the land claims, so we really can't let it develop until after the land claims. So you're really in a catch-22 there.
The ultimate way of getting your settlement, which I don't think anybody wants, would be to go to court. How do you go to court and ask a judge to stop something you're already participating in? Therefore you can't participate until after you have the claim.
When claims come, they have shown the Inuit in the other regions across Canada are doing quite well with their economic development. I would like to think Labrador Inuit have learned from those experiences and the experience we have in the business we have developed now that the land claims would only help us in the overall development and sharing of these resources with other people in the province and throughout the country.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Hall.
Mr. Deshaies: I have just one question to tie in with the other one. With your long list of interesting needs for the development of your area, what would your priorities be? We have to start step by step.
Mr. Hall: The land claims, as I said, and then of course if we could sit down and work out with government a way to manage and share these resources.
Do you want more specific...?
Mr. Deshaies: By priority, identifying the needs of the rural collectivity. You have a special need in the land claim here, but to develop your community through the economy, what special tools do you need? For example, do you need funding, human resources, special programs from the federal government?
Mr. Hall: All that will come. The banks are not going to look at us. We've given up going to the banks, but if we had the resources and we had ownership of those valuable resources, then I think the doors of the banks would open. We need to get the Minister of Fisheries to sit down.... And we need a fair share. We need to get that turbot quota back. I think 35,000 or 40,000 tonnes of shrimp are coming off the coast, and most of that is off Labrador. It's very valuable. The Labrador Inuit have 3,000 tonnes. I don't think that's fair. We need more. If we could get access to the resource.... And that may come through the land claim.
I can't say we need this or that one particularly. I would like to work right now on developing porcupine shrimp. But we need to diversify.
Mr. Deshaies: I feel your needs are so great that everything will be good. You don't have to arrange your priorities. Some other places have priorities because they have a minimum infrastructure for roads or a minimum infrastructure for funding. It looks as if you have a few of those.
Mr. Hall: We have no roads, and we're bogged down with a nightmare of regulations and criteria. Transportation is a real killer for development. Now we are shipping directly to Italy, but that took some doing. If we had some cooperation....
Right now I have a boat. I take my people to work. I'm told now the coast guard has increased the regulations and the boat will be illegal. I have to run out and find money for a different boat. I don't know if we'll be able to do that. We may have to go backwards: go back and forth and make five trips in a speedboat rather than in the warmer, safer, sheltered.... Safety is important to us too, but we need to work together with these departments and the bureaucrats working in there. We don't want to go backwards. We want to go forward. I think they do too.
If you're in Montreal and you're shipping you just pick up the telephone. If this one can't do it, the other one can. Just to get our crane approved took a long, long time. There's a lot of red tape. We want safety, but we need to sit down and work together and find out the most reasonable way to do this. Regulations you have in Montreal for shipping don't apply to the Ten Mile Bay island we have up there in northern Labrador.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: Thanks, Mr. Hall. You're a spokesman for the Labrador Inuit Development Corporation, and I presume you're somewhat of a spokesman for the Inuit themselves, but I don't get any sense of how they are represented. Do they feel comfortable about you being here speaking for them? What is the mechanism that allows them to say what they want and have their concerns taken into account? How is this done?
Mr. Hall: I was born in Chicago. I've lived here for twenty years now and they sent me here, so they wanted.... I am speaking for them.
Mr. Ringma: Right.
Mr. Hall: Really, I recommend that you go to Nain. You'll see a totally different world. Nain is as different from here as this is from St. John's. And if you go north of Nain to Saglek you'll see another different world. If you want to meet with the Inuit, you should really go to Nain. I work for them, and they asked to be here, so....
Mr. Ringma: Is it your sense that they feel comfortable about this development corporation and that they are being spoken for by the proper people?
Mr. Hall: Oh yes, I think so. Wouldn't you say, Lawrence?
Mr. O'Brien: Absolutely.
Mr. Hall: You'll see...there are people here from Rigolet and Hopedale.
Mr. Ringma: I'd like to take another direction now. You were talking about resources, specifically about the fish, shrimp, scallops and all of that. We keep getting the message that we can't always do things properly in Ottawa, that we have to shift the scene, that we have to give people more responsibility. In fact, that's your message here this morning. You're saying ``For goodness' sake, leave it to us and we'll tell you how to market and how to do everything.''
Let's use the fisheries and oceans department as an example. Being from British Columbia, I get the same feeling out on the west coast, where they say people in Ottawa don't properly understand west coast concerns. And I sure get the message here. So do you see a devolution of power from Ottawa in the fisheries and oceans department? If they had someone right here.... I presume they have inspectors and suchlike here, but there are no decision-makers here, or your decision-making requirements aren't being taken properly into account. If you had more decision-making in this area, would your concerns would be better taken care of?
Mr. Hall: Yes, definitely. We need the decision-making. It's nice to get an office because it creates a job, especially on the coast. If you get an office and then you get a secretary that creates two jobs. But you can't get any decision.... We still have to go to St. John's or to Ottawa to get the answers, even Goose Bay, St. John's sometimes.... And where is the money going? It's really not going into economic development. It's going into more offices. The decision-making is the key.
Mr. Ringma: Yes. I could ask a lot of other things, but I won't. Thank you, Mr. Hall.
The Chairman: All three government members want to ask questions. Please keep the questions and answers brief. Mrs. Cowling.
Mrs. Cowling: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My question is with respect to the economic renewal of rural Canada and promoting the agenda of our people, people like yourself. You mentioned the population base of 5,000. How many of those are young people who have actually stayed in the area? And what are their ages? Can you give us sort of a picture of what the area is like?
Then you mentioned ``a fair and equitable share''. When we try to promote your agenda quite often we get asked, as the government of the day, well, what is fair and equitable for that area? Can you respond to that, paint a picture for us of the community, of the people who are there, their ages and the young people? What do you believe is fair and equitable to you, for your survival there?
Mr. Hall: A lot of these questions come back to the land claims. They will come to them at the negotiating table. We can't just wait for land claims, but....
In the meantime, yes, that's the Inuit population, including Inuit residents here. In Nain there are around 1,350 people now and the average age is 15. In Canada it's about 35. We have a big problem coming. While Canada is focusing on an aging population, we have 50% of our population under 15. It's a huge, huge problem.
And they all want to stay. I shouldn't say all, but certainly.... It's amazing. Where I come from, in the city, you want to go to the country, or if you live in the country you want to see the bright lights of the city. I don't think it's true in the aboriginal population. They have this real affinity to the land. They want to stay there and they do come back. Even the ones who go and get university will come back.
About ``fair and equitable'', I was saying we can't wait for the land claims. It's only a matter of looking.... Certainly with the northern cod zero is not fair. If we look at the standard of living, I would like to see us benefiting fairly and equitably, so our standard of living is somewhere close to the Canadian standard.
Mr. Reed: Mr. Hall, at present one of the thrusts of the government in development revolves around the word ``sustainable''. Something you said about the depletion of resources jumped out at me, when you commented that somebody had delivered the attitude to you, well, we'll mine out one resource, we'll mine out the cod, and then we'll go to the turbot and we'll mine out the turbot, and then we'll take a look at the crab. Where does that attitude originate?
Mr. Hall: I don't know where it originates, but it's certainly not -
Mr. Reed: You delivered it to the committee here this morning.
Mr. Hall: I heard that from fishermen, because we asked the fishermen what about the porcupine crab. Someone said we don't know how to harvest that yet. The other fellow said it's no problem, we'll figure that out; let's just get the turbot cleaned out first.
I guess it's a business attitude. You have your technology and your boat and your gear or your mining all geared up, so it's one resource. When that one is finished, then we'll move on to the next.
It's not only in resources; we see it in geography. They seem to fish out one bay at a time. The way the licensing goes down south, they get two or three bays and they have licences for crab. When their crab is depleted, then they go two or three bays north. Then you have to put in more licences, plus they have none left in their bay, so they have to come.... By the time you get to the most northern region, you have a mess.
Mr. Reed: I'm glad you brought that subject up, because I find that attitude disturbing, to say the least. If we're going to have a sustainable harvest of whatever it is, it has to be nurtured and fostered so a balance is maintained. Maybe we have to do more work there.
The other message I get from you is it would appear government regulation is always in your face, and somehow or other we have to identify what it is and how we can overcome that and get it out of your face.
Mr. Hall: Sometimes I feel as though there must be a whole building in Ottawa just for me.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chairman: It's a big building with lots of divisions.
Mr. Hall: Yes, and they keep sending....
We have a little mine that employs 24 people. I guess we get all the correspondence and surveys that IOC gets, because there's this list of mines in Labrador. I'm sure they get more, but you know what I mean. There are certain areas, and we just don't have the staff to deal with that.
Once again, I don't want to sacrifice safety, but there has to be some flexibility in some of these rules, because sometimes it makes it more unsafe to go by the rules.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien has a quick question.
Mr. O'Brien: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to put something in perspective here, in terms of what Mr. Hall is saying. Unfortunately, as a member of Parliament, I'm tending to agree with what he's saying, because I live in this land and I represent these people.
Labrador right now has a turbot allocation of 90 tonnes for LIDA, your organization, 150 tonnes for the Torngat organization and complete removal of the allocation for the shrimp company in the south, for a total of 250 tonnes. Bank that up against 1,900 tonnes for Bill Barry alone in Corner Brook and 1,640 tonnes for Clearwater over in Canso, and the list goes on and on. You want to talk about discrepancies? You want to talk about people with their backs to the wall? That's what we're talking about.
If you apply that particular aspect to the regulations - and the list goes on and on - you wonder why we have such a rich land in Labrador but we're so poverty-stricken.
This is my problem. This is what I say to people throughout the House of Commons, in caucuses and everywhere. I'm frustrated. You're frustrated. We heard from Mayor Baikie that he's frustrated. We going to hear from everybody else that they're frustrated.
That's my point, Mr. Chair. You're here today to hear from the people because of the level of frustration we're encountering. We have plenty, if we're given a fair chance by the provincial and federal governments, but we're not given a fair crack, as you're hearing from this gentleman loud and clear.
I'm going to leave it at that.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. O'Brien.
I can say to everybody here that Lawrence makes that point on an ongoing basis in Ottawa, unfailingly and often, as he just has here.
Mr. Hall: I agree with Lawrence. Maybe I shouldn't say this, because it's a bad way to end up, but things are really desperate.
We see Davis Inlet in the news. There are big emergency meetings in Nain. In ten days we had one suicide, two suicide attempts and two deaths. It's almost better to be poor in a poor land than to be poor in a land so rich. It's so frustrating.
The Chairman: It's a point well taken.
We very much appreciate your testimony. One of the things I took from it was your point about value-adding when it makes economic sense. That's a good proviso to put on that, and we appreciate your testimony. Thank you.
Mr. Hall: Thanks for your time.
The Chairman: I'd like to call on our next witness. From the Hopedale Community Council we have Diane Flowers, councillor.
Welcome. I'd ask you to make an opening comment of around ten minutes and then we'll open it up to questions from the committee members.
Ms Diane Flowers (Councillor, Hopedale Community Council): Thank you.
The Chairman: You might like to introduce your associate.
Ms Flowers: This is Ches Piercy. He's from the Hopedale Community Council also.
Today we'll reiterate what Fred just said about the coast and give you a little bit of background on Hopedale, some of the problems we're facing and how we're trying to go about fixing them. You can't fix huge problems like we have on the coast on your own, so we're hoping to work out some sort of solution between all governments involved and create a better environment for the future of Hopedale, because it is growing rapidly. We do have a young population, as Fred said.
I'll start off, Mr. Chairman, by giving you just a little introduction to our community, if I may.
Our community has a population of about 650 residents. About 600 of those are registered LIA members, not all of voting age, because as we've said before we have a fairly young population. We're growing at a very fast pace because of our birth rate. We aren't able to accommodate our people the way we're growing now.
Like any other community, we've been plagued over the years with numerous problems, such as high unemployment and poor housing. This in turn leads to social problems, such as alcoholism, a high crime rate, depression, and a general lack of self-worth and self-respect.
As a community council, we believe the following concerns would improve the overall outlook of our community. I'll outline two of our major concerns and Mr. Piercy will outline one more concern.
We have three categories we've chosen today. One is land development. Another is youth development. Another is job training. This summarizes our attack on the social problems we have as a community. We believe tackling these types of problems would help extremely in eliminating our social problems, because as everyone well knows, if you're too busy to get into trouble you're not going to get into trouble. If someone is working they're too busy making money or they're too busy supporting their family to go off and get into mischief or whatever.
I'll start with land development. Land development is one of our major problems in Hopedale. One of the main reasons we are unable to provide housing in Hopedale for our own people, besides the question of where the money is going to come from to build these houses, is the fact that we're on practically bare rock. In order to build these houses we so desperately need.... We're all cluttered and cramped into houses. You'll rarely find a house in Hopedale where there's extra space for that relative visiting from another community. They usually have to sack out on the floor or in the corner or share a bed between two or three. That's how we have to live in Hopedale.
I know of cases where sixteen people have been living in a two-bedroom house. This has happened in my very own community, and it has happened for a long time. Repairs were being done on a tiny little house. There was never any expansion, just a bit of repair, the putting in of a window here or there. We'll put a little band-aid on it here or there and hope these sixteen people.... Probably fourteen of them will move out, but where are we going to put fourteen other people? If you have a two-bedroom house with sixteen people, it's not very pretty. It's not very hygienic, to say the least.
We now have resorted to building houses on top of hills. And a hill to us, I've learned over the years, can be a mountain to somebody who has never been around our part of the country. I wouldn't be able to tell you the height of the hill, but let's say 150 feet, just for the sake of argument. We've had to resort to putting houses on hills - bare rock.
That creates another problem. We have the people housed, but what happens when it comes to giving them water and sewer? There's no way you can put in conventional water and sewer up on a hill. It would cost an extremely large amount of money to blast through the rock. Then the hill would be gone anyway. Then that jeopardizes the foundation of the house. It's a chain reaction we have here in housing, where we're putting it anywhere we can get it.
What Hopedale considers a big problem is developing this land. We know there are places we can go to develop. For example, our community has expanded into a little subdivision over the last seven or eight years, and it's growing wickedly. There are houses left and right where you never thought there could be one. So we know the land can be developed. We still have land to be developed; we just don't have the dollars.
As I said, it's a chain reaction. Once we start to tackle the major issues of our community, solutions come to the more publicized problems such as alcoholism, high crime rate and suicide. These are the only issues that are being publicized - not what we need, but what's wrong with us. I think we fix what we need and then let us fix what's wrong with us.
Anyway, that's it.
Mr. Ches Piercy (Councillor, Hopedale Community Council): I'm going to spend a minute on new development in our community.
As every generation knows, our future falls upon the shoulders of our youth. To anybody, young or old, that is a big task. To get our youth on the right track, we must provide an optimist environment and teach them responsibility.
If we expect our youth to provide the right environment for the next generation, we must teach them wisely and rightly. We must teach responsibility, respect and an overall sense to make things better, and ensure that this teaching goes on for future generations.
A human being is the most important natural resource we have, and we should ensure people are taken care of before we take care of anything else.
The mind of a youth is curious and willing to learn. Let's take the opportunity to teach them right when we can and look for opportunities for our youth. Right now, there's very little in Hopedale for our youth to do. Maybe there's the odd dance or something else, but I'm sure there's more we can find for our youth in order to make their futures brighter than they are now. Right now, we have nothing to offer them. We have very little. What we do have, we have generated ourselves within the community. As adults, it is our responsibility to ensure they have something to look forward to so they will care to make it better. That's about it with the youth in Hopedale.
There's another topic we decided to bring up. We were asked to provide our presentation on one topic, but we decided to use our ten minutes to talk about three topics instead of one.
At present, Hopedale's unemployment rate is 85%, and a large percentage of those people depend upon social service for their very existence. In Hopedale, we have very few qualified personnel for the industrial field. We need to start to educate our people, because everything is starting to expand, especially Voisey Bay.
There are very few educated due to the fact you had to leave home in order to get your training. That has been a problem in Hopedale for years. I had to leave home when I was 12 to advance to get my high school education because there was no grade seven in Hopedale at the time. I found that when we did go to school in Goose Bay, a lot of people dropped out because they were away from home at a young age and they couldn't handle it.
As a council, we feel that at-home training will provide a higher success rate because people will be in a home environment and they'll be more comfortable. There'll be a lot less stress in a home environment. There is training available, but you always have to leave home to get it. So we feel that if we were able to get help and offer training in Hopedale in a home environment, the people would stick to it. You'd see a lot less dropping out and things like that.
That's about it.
The Chairman: Thank you very much.
Mr. Piercy: You're welcome.
The Chairman: We'll move to questions now. Monsieur Deshaies.
Mr. Deshaies: You have answered my first question about what your community needs by saying you need schooling at home because the youth are troubled being by themselves. I am sure it is very difficult to send your children away from home so young to learn. You see your children leave home at age 12 and come back at maybe age 18. What other tools do you need?
Mr. Piercy: Basically, all we're asking for is just to get the programs that are offered in order to develop our youth. Instead of our youth having to leave home, we should have somebody come in and train within the community. All we're asking for is that we get at-home training.
Ms Flowers: I was fortunate. I got to do my grade 12 and go out and try college and see what I thought of it. Going out to college was a bit of a culture shock. Even though it was only from Hopedale to Goose Bay, it was a bit of culture shock. I had just turned seventeen. I had to leave my parents. I had to learn how to budget my money. I also had to learn a new work routine for school. Things I hadn't ever seen in my life I attempted to learn.
Another thing that hindered my efforts was that I was admitted for school a week late. I went in and it took me.... I'm not what you call brainy, but I can learn, and normally in a comfortable environment I learn a lot. In formal discussions such as this I tend to choke a bit and I tend to learn less, and the way I feel today in front of people is the way I felt in class then. My mind tends to be running but on empty, because I'm not comfortable and relaxed; and everybody knows the more comfortable you are the better you perform as a human being.
So for the first two weeks to a month when I went to school it was horrible and a nightmare. I sat there in class and I felt about this big. In my class there wasn't another person from the coast I could relate to. There were a couple I knew, but I still felt this big. My teacher looked like Mount Everest. It was amazing.
I would like to see a program geared towards preparing people for this kind of culture shock - either that or first-year university courses or college courses being offered in the community. They spend a lot....
I was really disappointed when they created this upgrading program. I spent thirteen years in school just to do it. I sat there thirteen years and got my grade 12 education because I thought everyone was supposed to do it, and here all these dropouts are coming in, getting a training allowance. These are the guys I went to school with. They copped out and then they're going back.
I don't disagree with the fact that they are surviving. I agree with that 100%. But now what about those other people who have got to grade 12? They don't have to go through these culture shocks I went through. I wouldn't wish them on anyone.
And I know it's not just in my case. I've seen it.... We've had very intelligent people go out to places such as Mount Saint Vincent in Nova Scotia, and it's totally flat - nothing. They can do extraordinary work and their intelligence is deserving of the dean's list, but they are unable to perform because of the pressure, the culture shock. It's a total wipe-out of what you've known. You go there and you are capable of doing the material, but you can't perform. There's no way.
I don't know what it's like in each individual's home town or community or city, but where I come from there aren't a lot of people like me. I'm an outspoken person - my mouth is the biggest thing on me - but all my friends are pretty quiet and all very intelligent people. I always thought of myself as the dumb one compared with everybody else. The only thing that keeps me going is I'm going to open my mouth and say it, whereas they don't. I'm telling you, there is so much raw talent in terms of musical talent and creative writing talent down here that's not being pursued. I know them. Some of them are my relatives. Some of them are people I went to school with.
So I'd like to see some kind of system in place where we can prepare them for that, maybe with college prep and first-year courses in a program to get them ready or start them off at home so they know they have the academic part of it down.... Sorry.
The Chairman: No problem.
Mr. Ringma: Why do you think the authorities or whoever it is have not responded to your plea to get education right there in the community?
Ms Flowers: Personally, I chalk it up to ignorance. We're such a tiny number in this big country. We're minuscule. We're talking about 600 people in our little community. And this is not to show any disrespect, but Ottawa is a city of what could be a million compared to what we have, so why are you going to focus on us unless we make some noise? Do you understand what I'm saying?
Mr. Ringma: Part of the reason we're going to focus on you is the reason for the existence of this committee. We're concerned about the development of all of Canada, but we're concentrating on rural Canada. You represent rural Canada and you're telling us about some of things that are wrong here. We know from listening to other witnesses that you can bring education and classrooms right into your community. This information highway is developing more and more. I think something can be done about it if the will is there.
I have one last little point. You've described your situation for housing and education and suchlike. I also heard Mr. Hall. Were you here then?
Ms Flowers: Yes, for part of it.
Mr. Ringma: He was a pretty good spokesman, too, I thought, for saying that there are a lot of young Inuit here who want to stay here and who have the talent and everything else. But there seems to be almost a bit of a contradiction between what you're saying and what he was saying. Is there a contradiction? Or do you feel as he does, that the young want to stay here? Do you feel, as he does, that they have the ability to produce in all of the natural resource areas, whether it's fishing, hunting or tourism? In your opinion, is that a future?
Ms Flowers: Definitely.
Mr. Ringma: And is that where they want to be?
Ms Flowers: Yes. I didn't mean to sound like I was contradicting him. In fact I wanted to expand upon what I heard him say. I wasn't here for his whole presentation, but I meant to just expand on it.
We do. I went out and did college courses and my friends did university courses, but we all ended up back home. I suppose it goes back to the old saying that there's no place like home. We all want to be at home. This is our safety net, our community. We're very tightly knit. Community unity, which was a big thing back in the 1960s and 1970s - keeping together and watching out for one another - is on the rise again on the coast, I can tell you that, and in our community in particular.
It's been drilled into us to go out and get our education and to come back and do something good for our community. This is what has been drilled into us. We went our own ways and tried to find new experiences, but we're all back at home. We're all fighting a long battle - and we feel like we're losing a lot of the time - to solve these particular problems we've outlined so we can fix those social problems. It's only going to take a little bit of effort. Once we get this economic problem solved, we can solve our own social problems. That's my point.
Mr. Ringma: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Mr. Reed.
Mr. Reed: You know you've touched on one of the elements that's a common thread right across the country. To put it in the most basic of terms, it has to do with access to information. I'm optimistic now, perhaps for the first time, that we will be able to accomplish that access to information - access in the most modern sense - for all of rural Canada.
To get back to the roots of Hopedale, why does it exist?
Ms Flowers: Hopedale exists. That's a philosophical question.
Mr. Reed: I'm curious to know where it began and how it started.
Ms Flowers: Hopedale began with the Spanish flu back in the 1700s or 1800s. Excuse my history; it's not one of my strong subjects. There was an epidemic of Spanish flu in Hebron and Alcock, so we had an immigration of people fleeing from the illness to little communities such as Hopedale and Nain.
Another reason for its existence is it was a whaling port. Part of our actual community was called Agvituk, which means ``Place of the Whale''. It was a little whaling port where little boats would come and do their whaling or whatever they did.
Then the missionaries came in 1871, I believe it was.
A voice: It was 1872.
Ms Flowers: Oh, okay. In 1872 German missionaries petitioned for land grants in England. They got them and then they prefabricated buildings, brought them in, put them up, and now we have - correct me if I'm wrong, I'm not a very good historian - I think one of the oldest buildings or the oldest building in North America.
A voice: Eastern Canada.
Ms Flowers: Eastern Canada? We're getting smaller, aren't we?
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms Flowers: We have that, and we have a museum, for which the people have taken it upon themselves to work their rear ends off to try to promote and enhance. They don't seem to be making a lot of progress, but they're still working on it.
We've taken charge in a lot of areas, but then again, you need a lot of dollars to develop, to grow. We've taken charge in a lot of areas in our community and we've started a rebuilding process.
I don't want to offend Ches or anybody else of the older generation, but -
Mr. Piercy: I'm not that old.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms Flowers: It started and continues to go on with my generation, and we'll say Ches's generation - we're a generation apart. It started with those age groups.
It's a sort of uprising of cultural awareness, cultural pride, cultural unity and in fact community unity. So we're certainly on the road to what we hope is going to be an amazing comeback, coming into our own. But everybody needs a little bit of help now and then, and the biggest tests in front of us now are the ones we outlined today. There are some underlying ones that we'll probably get through in the discussion.
Mr. Reed: I have one very brief question, Mr. Chairman. I don't want to take up all the time.
The Chairman: You are monopolizing it, Mr. Reed, but Mrs. Cowling has indicated she'll give up her question for you.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Reed: Will the advent of Voisey Bay do anything positive for Hopedale? I hear that, for instance, the mining company is prepared to provide training for people who want to work in that industry and that sort of thing. Do you see the activity at Voisey Bay being of benefit to Hopedale?
Ms Flowers: Let me tell you what's happened since the big boom. Nothing.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms Flowers: Nothing has happened in our community since the big boom. We expected business hand over fist, dollars here and there. We expected to be carting around people. But we haven't seen any business, really, from the mining aspect. It all went to Nain. I'm sitting in Happy Valley here. We have very little to offer in terms of supplies and everything. We're not an industry community. We have no industry. We exist just because we exist.
This has been quite frustrating for us as a community. There have been petty - I don't know if you could call it that - remarks made: why should this town have it? Why should they be reaping the benefits in St. John's when this is our land? This is aboriginal land. Why should all the money go out here and there while we still have 85% unemployment? It's been a very touchy issue for all the communities on the coast, especially communities like Hopedale and Rigolet, which are in dire straits compared to the other communities along the coast. We're a poor and humble community.
The Chairman: I'm unfortunately going to have to move on. I'm going to let Mr. O'Brien make a final comment, because I know he wants to. Then I'm going to have to move on to the next one.
Mr. O'Brien: I have several points. The first one is on the unemployment rate of 85%. Without putting words in your mouth, which I have a tendency to do because of my knowledge base of course, I'm going to ask you what we can do. You mentioned training. You mentioned youth. I can relate to these. We talked about that a bit.
What are the potential employment levers? What are the potential industries or things you can do in your community to help bring it from 85% unemployment to something better than that?
Ms Flowers: I'm assuming everyone is aware that there has been a tremendous rise in the seal population. There have been some suggestions kicked around about a seal cannery. We are playing with notions of trying to set up some type of industry that our community can depend on.
We have certain prospects with LIDC and their stone plant. When that will be in operation, it is supposed to employ a couple of people. I think it's a maximum of seven people, but that still leaves another 83% of people unemployed.
So we've toyed around with a seal cannery and furniture shops. It's all in words right now. We have no dollars to develop feasibility studies or to explore new options or to just learn to find a creative idea and put it to work. We have no dollars for development in that sense at all.
Mr. O'Brien: How many, in your view, would be in the fishery? I saw what happened in Hopedale this summer. Can you tell the committee what your views would be on the fishery? You heard us talk about this earlier.
Ms Flowers: I heard Fred say that they are going to fish out the turbot and then go after the king crab. Let me just tell you the impact of what we had in Hopedale this summer. We had Gaspéan fisheries come in from the Magdalen Islands. They hired 24 people. No one got rich. They made approximately $45 in the two-week period. They didn't pay any employment insurance out of this. They didn't make a lot of money.
There is a great expectation that it's going to be bigger and better next year, but I don't see it happening.
We had some complaints about the size of the quota. We need a larger quota. Unless we're planning on not existing in 20 to 30 years, I don't see it happening. Unless it's out there and quotas are cut down elsewhere, I don't see that happening. I don't see that happening, but I'm all for any industry that can help us survive and get bigger and better.
Before we leave, I'll comment on one of the things Ches just jotted down. He reminded me about one of the things that seems to get under everybody's skin: foreign employment.
Here's what we mean by foreign employment. Joe Blow gets a contract to dig a hole in the ground. Joe Blow needs four people to dig a hole in the ground. Joe Blow brings in four people. So what we have is a hole in the ground, everybody unemployed, and Joe Blow has a pocketful of money.
That's basically the best-case scenario I can give you of what happens. People come in and work on what we consider as our land, our private domain. This is our territory. They come and do their work. We have no qualms about that. But they don't hire us. We have qualified people being overlooked. Qualified people are always needed.
Mr. O'Brien: There's one final thing that I want to say to the committee, if I may. We're talking about a community of 600 people in Hopedale. You've heard the desperation of these two presenters.
I want to tell you very quickly that the vast majority of shrimp comes out of the channel off Hopedale, right next to this small community. That's up to 17 licences in Canada. That's a $120-million industry in Denmark, which is, I might add, because of a foreign connection. The vast hundreds of thousands of tonnes of turbot that are going all over this country and Europe are coming right off Hopedale. And you heard what's happening in the community of Hopedale. Put that in perspective, if you want.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. O'Brien.
Thank you, Mr. Piercy and Ms Flowers. You must have been comfortable here today, because you spoke eloquently. You are excellent spokespersons for your community. You have an ability to make the committee understand the challenges and feel some of what you're facing. I think you accomplished that. Your testimony was very worth while, and I know the committee much appreciated it. So thank you very much for giving us this opportunity. Thank you.
From the Southeastern Aurora Development Association, I'll call youth director Byron Rumbolt. Byron, welcome. I'd ask you to make an opening statement of around ten minutes, and then we'll turn it over to questions.
Mr. Byron Rumbolt (Youth Director, Southeastern Aurora Development Association): The development of Labrador resources for Labrador people is essential if Labrador is to survive into the 21st century. For far too long we have seen our resources plundered and abused. The time has indeed come for Labradorians to take control of what is rightfully ours.
A prime example of losing control over our resources occurred this past summer in Cartwright, where an outside group began construction of a fish camp on the Eagle River. It is time for Labradorians to stand up for themselves and not allow outsiders to intimidate them and pull the wool over their eyes.
We have kept our thoughts to ourselves for far too long, and we will not stand for it any more. Indeed, our hats are off to the people of Cartwright who engaged in this protest of this fish camp for the rich with no benefits going to local people.
Our communities recognize that Labrador is blessed with many resources and they are willing to pull together to support each other's efforts. We will continue our efforts to portray to those elected and in power that our communities are strong and will not be ignored.
Despite developments such as Churchill Falls, the Iron Ore Company of Canada and Wabush Mines, the people of Labrador remain without a proper and safe highway system. We need to establish legislation that will guarantee that a portion of royalties resulting from resource development in Labrador is placed in a separate fund for future development in our region.
Our corporation is now in the beginning stages of developing a strategic five-year plan, and the trans-Labrador highway will be the biggest influencing factor in creating sustainable economic development in our zone.
Our lack of road access, high freight costs and time taken to go to and from markets are our main weaknesses. There has been no money put into road development in our zone, even though marine services and subsidies have been drastically cut. We feel that it is time for coastal Labrador to be put on the provincial government's priority list for federal and provincial transportation dollars.
The mandate of our economic zone is not one of creating employment as much as it is of creating an environment that can diversify the economy. In coastal Labrador this environment is not being created because the government has not listened to our concerns, needs, or suggestions for how we would like to see our resources developed for long-term benefit. According to a feasibility analysis of the trans-Labrador highway report by Fiander-Good Associates, direct and indirect economic benefits for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador would be approximately $115 million annually. The total economic benefits from provincial and federal perspectives would be $158.6 million annually. In other words, this road will generate more dollars in the long term than it would cost the provincial and federal governments to construct it.
The coastal access route to our communities will be a major factor in making Labrador economically viable and self-sustaining. The economic return will be just as rewarding to government as it will be to Labrador in its new economic beginning.
The first phase, the complete aerial survey, should start within the next few months, and construction should begin at Red Bay and Cartwright simultaneously and go from Red Bay north and Cartwright south. There has been a commitment of funds for completion of the trans-Labrador highway over an eight-year period, five years to complete the gravel highway and three years for the asphalt covering.
In order for us to develop a strategic economic plan that will produce a more prosperous and stable local economy which will afford local residents a better standard of living and quality of life, we must see the construction of this coastal highway. The future of all coastal Labrador hinges on transportation networks. To this end, we are asking the provincial government to put trans-Labrador highway construction and the coastal access route on the top of their list for priorities and for financing. Millions of dollars have been spent on the portion of the road from Churchill Falls to Goose Bay and we feel it is now our turn to get some financial commitment for our portion of road. We will continue to lobby hard to get our voices heard. We are standing firm on this issue and hope you realize the importance of the transportation network.
We also need to establish environmental and resource management policies for Labrador. This should replace legislation that may be suitable for the island portion of the province but is not reflective of the reality of similar resources in our region. There is indeed a pressing need in Labrador for more forestry and fisheries officials, as these resources are being abused on a daily basis, mainly by people outside the region.
In conclusion, if one were to assess the abundance of the resources, both renewable and non-renewable, in Labrador it would be difficult to perceive the feeling of injustice we Labradorians feel today. We are indeed on the threshold of an industrial boom in Labrador and we must act now to ensure Labradorians receive a fair share from our resources. It's not acceptable to have such high unemployment in Labrador when we have enough raw materials and resources to sustain our people for dozens of years.
The Southeastern Aurora Development Corporation has recently finished a series of community consultation sessions for its strategic planning. In all communities visited in zone 4, it is evident there is a grave concern over the issues mentioned above.
I would like to thank you for listening to our concerns. We urge you to be sensitive to the issues Labradorians are dealing with at this time.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Rumbolt.
Mr. Deshaies: I have a quick comment. I think the key to your plan is the trans-Labrador highway. I come from northwest Quebec, and we have seen lots of companies come and go with our resources, our gold, without leaving funds to rebuild or transform our economy. You can react to that, but I want to say I'm sure the key is to have a special fund from your resources, to be sure in the feature you have the tools to transform or update, as you like, the Labrador people.
Your presentation is so clear that I don't have any questions. You can react to my words.
Mr. Rumbolt: I guess for us the trans-Labrador highway is key to the future development. We just recently had historical buildings in our area in Battle Harbour done up by the Battle Harbour historic trust. It used to be the capital of Labrador. There used to be a large fishing schooner fleet. It has the second-oldest Anglican church in the province.
Like we said, how can you get tourism dollars coming into our area when there's no access to it? That is a major concern, not only for tourism but for sending our products out.
In Mary's Harbour we have a crab plant for processing snow crab and the company's spending thousands of dollars sending their cargo out on ships. Half the time they can't get down there because there's not enough space. It's more convenient to operate big coal storage facilities there. If they can just get a tractor trailer to come in and load it, it's gone to the market. It's much more convenient and it saves a lot of dollars for the companies that are processing fish in the area.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: If you say the name of your corporation quickly, the Southeastern Aurora Development Corporation, it sounds like it might be just a big company representing commercial interests. I suspect it's not; I suspect you're representing community interests. Can you expand on that a bit?
Mr. Rumbolt: The Southeastern Aurora Development Corporation is a regional economic board. It covers 11 communities from Cartwright in the north to Lodge Bay in the south. It's made up of the Labrador Métis Association, rural development associations, community councils, youth organizations and other interested groups.
Mr. Ringma: Good. It's pretty important to know that's who you represent.
With respect to the Métis and the Inuit who are represented either by their community associations or by other bodies, what concerns do they express with regard to environment and the highway?
I think of pipelines going in along the MacKenzie River through the Yukon and Northwest Territories and of all of the concerns expressed there. I wonder if there are similar concerns expressed here with that highway, particularly from the native communities.
Mr. Rumbolt: I guess everybody is concerned. Everybody knows there is going to be a change, but I guess people see it as development and right now we see our resources going out and very little coming back.
I guess you don't know the coast, but my community is only 60 miles -
The Chairman: Why don't you just go over to the map and point it out?
Mr. Ringma: It's kind of helpful to us.
Mr. Rumbolt: Okay. We cover the area from here in Cartwright down to here. We're responsible for this area.
Mr. Ringma: Where is Goose Bay?
Mr. Rumbolt: Over here.
Mr. Deshaies: Can you show Hopedale at the same time?
Mr. Rumbolt: Hopedale is here.
Mr. Deshaies: Good.
Mr. Rumbolt: Okay, we have a paved highway from here into Quebec. We're right here and Cartwright is here in the north. It's not a big distance, but that short distance.... Down home we pay a dollar for a candy bar. Not 100 miles south, we pay 60¢ for a candy bar. There's a big difference. That's 40¢ on just one item.
Mr. Ringma: Okay, thank you very much.
The Chairman: Mr. Reed.
Mr. Reed: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Deshaies brought up a concern that's based on his own experience, which happens when an area has opened up and somehow or other the wealth avoids the area where the people are and is delivered somewhere else. It's a very valid concern.
You've spoken of tourism, which is an area where that opening up will help. You also spoke about access to markets from the fishery by road. Are there any other elements of the economy or the economic potential that you believe will benefit people directly?
Mr. Rumbolt: Yes. As I said, right now even for our health care services we have to make a 25-minute run to the tip of the Northern Peninsula at St. Athanase. The provincial government cancelled the air subsidies. It used to cost $45 to take that 20-minute flight across the straits; now it's gone to $80. It's doubled in the last year.
The government has cut back on our freight services and we're hoping to get the dollars transferred from that marine subsidy into the trans-Labrador highway. Our freight costs are going up, so pretty soon we're not going to be able to live on the coast because we don't have the income to afford such high prices.
Mr. Reed: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
The area concerned here is from Lodge Bay to Cartwright, which is a portion of the total picture. You stated, from the Fiander-Good report, the economic benefits as outlined a couple of years ago. I guess if roads are to be completed in this day and age with the kinds of budgets and so on we're associated with and the mentalities of government, we have to show the economic spin-off in order to get the investment up front.
It's clear to me, Mr. Mayor, you're putting that point forward. You're also showing the road as the catalyst in making things happen vis-à-vis tourism, the continuation of the fishery and whether it be value-added, the forestry development and so on, and just for the basic survival of service in the communities, as you related it to the candy bar.
Can you tell us what you think will happen with the changes to Marine Atlantic and the changes to your subsidy? You mentioned provincial subsidy, and I know what's happening with Marine Atlantic - it's a federal subsidy at this time. Under the terms of Confederation, the Government of Canada agreed that water transport would be the responsibility of the Government of Canada. That's where Marine Atlantic came from. Now there's a turn to divest of Marine Atlantic and it's changing it. These guys are paying big bucks in terms of prices on....
What do you see, Mr. Mayor, for the future in your area if this road doesn't come and things continue the way they're going, vis-à-vis the way the resources are and extraction of them?
Mr. Rumbolt: The larger communities like mine I guess will survive for a few years, but I don't think there will be a future for a lot of the smaller communities.
Mr. O'Brien: So what would a road do to enhance that?
Mr. Rumbolt: In my community, for instance, we have a smaller community connected by road right now, which is Lodge Bay. A few years ago Lodge Bay was dying. When Mary's Harbour sprung up after it got into crab, we saw new houses going up in Lodge Bay because they were coming to Mary's to look for work.
I know the road is going to have negative effects. Companies will probably come in to take fish out of the area. But given the right conditions in the area, you're going to see companies coming in to process fish as well, because their transportation costs won't be so high.
We heard Mr. Hall and Lawrence talk about the shrimp fishery. We have 17 boats out there fishing each year for shrimp. They go to Nova Scotia and Harbour Grace on the southeast coast of Newfoundland to offload their catches. If we can have a highway, what we'll probably do is come into Labrador and offload. That would give us chaps....
Mr. O'Brien: This is called called adjacency, I guess.
Mr. Rumbolt: Yes.
Mr. O'Brien: Thank you.
The Chairman: Mr. Rumbolt, in your written brief you mention that you recently finished a series of community consultation sessions on strategic planning.
Mr. Rumbolt: Yes.
The Chairman: Is there any documentation you could share with the committee from those sessions that might be of interest or of help to us?
Mr. Rumbolt: I don't have them with me, but I can forward them to you.
The Chairman: Could you briefly summarize what the results were?
Mr. Rumbolt: I guess they were probably pretty broad, because our development corporation serves 11 permanent communities. Take the Cartwright area; they're into forestry and crab in that area. Then in the mid-section they're into scallops, crab, and forestry again. In my area it's basically just the fisheries.
There are a lot of ideas there about secondary processing - about smokehouses for smoking fish, added value such as making crab au gratin, and fertilizer from the crab shell that's left over. A lot of good ideas came out of those.
The Chairman: The committee and I would really appreciate if you are able, with confidentiality - I don't know how that affects your group - to table that with the committee. The clerk will give you an address to which you could forward it, and we'd table it into the record, because I think it would add a lot to our deliberations.
Mr. Rumbolt: Okay; I can do that.
The Chairman: I'd also like to thank you for coming here today and sharing your testimony with us. It's very important that we get as broad a view as possible, and you've certainly added to that, so we appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Mr. Rumbolt: Thank you.
The Chairman: I would like to now call upon our next witness, from the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, Mr. John Fleet, the president. Welcome, Mr. Fleet.
Mr. John Fleet (President, Labrador North Chamber of Commerce): Good morning.
The Chairman: We would ask you to make an opening statement, and then we will turn it over to committee members for questions.
Mr. Fleet: First of all, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address the committee here this morning. Welcome to Labrador. I guess you've heard that already, but we'll add our salutations.
In preparation for this presentation this morning, I viewed with a great degree of interest the background against which this committee will be evaluating the opinions presented concerning natural resource and rural economic development. It states in part that ``Rural Canada is rich in natural in human resources and faces different challenges than urban areas.'' In my estimation that is an understatement as it pertains to Labrador.
I would invite you to consider the following scenario. One lives in a geographic region in which is contained one of the largest hydroelectric facilities in North America, yet many towns and communities within that region depend on diesel-powered generators for electricity. Also within that region, over one billion tonnes of iron ore have been mined within the past 30 years and have yielded immense profits for companies with headquarters in the United States and in central Canada, yet only three of its major communities are connected by a sub-standard dirt road.
Continuing with that scenario, one sees one of the world's richest fishing grounds now nearly devastated by overfishing by foreign fleets. The impact of that devastation is the strangulation of coastal communities, which depended upon the fishery for an honourable living.
The committee no doubt realizes that the scenario refers directly to Labrador. The Labrador North Chamber of Commerce, which I represent here this morning, wishes to enter a few viewpoints for the committee's consideration.
Firstly, Labrador will be entering the 21st century with the development of one of the world's richest nickel reserves, at Voisey Bay, Labrador. It is imperative that Labradorians, which includes all of us who live and work here, realize the maximum benefits from that development. No longer will it be acceptable that communities should go without proper infrastructure, nor will it be acceptable that our people go unemployed while immense profits accrue to outsiders. Simply put, that day is gone. We've been there, we've had the T-shirt, and we now want our fair share of whatever benefits derive from our resources.
Secondly, we firmly believe spending on infrastructure such as an all-weather highway in Labrador should be a priority with both the federal and provincial governments. National building began in Canada with the linking of eastern and western Canada by railroad. As Labradorians, we do not accept that the Trans-Canada Highway, which was completed in 1965, was the end of that particular drive. We will continue to lobby for a completion of an all-weather highway that would link Happy Valley - Goose Bay with Labrador City and Wabush and continue on towards Baie Comeau, Quebec.
Further, we support the need to link Happy Valley - Goose Bay with the Labrador Straits. This would enable a true network link between Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland, completing a loop connecting with the Canadian and American maritimes. That is truly nation building. When one can see the huge infrastructure currently being taken to link New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, eliminating the latter's isolation and increasing its economic opportunities, we in Labrador cannot be faulted for proposing our national dream and asking the question ``why not?''
Finally, the people of Labrador have seen its immense resources exploited during the past decades, and have not realized much in return. We do have an opportunity now to ensure that any future development - be it Voisey Bay or the lower Churchill - will provide maximum benefits for Labradorians.
We need training for whatever jobs will be required. In mining, for example, we are particularly concerned that our peoples have equal opportunity for well-paying jobs, and not be consigned or relegated to lesser-skilled and subsequently lower-paid positions. Joint initiatives between business and government agencies should be undertaken immediately to identify trades and professions in mining that will provide our workers with a chance to benefit from Labrador's resources.
Our greatest resource in Labrador is our people. We have a desire to work, to provide our families with a good home and an excellent education. To achieve our maximum potential we must have training, we must have our highway, and we must get our fair and justifiable share of benefits from any future megaprojects developed in Labrador.
Thank you very much. That's my brief statement. I know it encompasses a wide realm of particular dreams, aspirations, and probably some of the ills we've had over the years. I'd be most happy to answer any questions. Thank you.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Fleet.
Mr. Deshaies: First, I think your chamber of commerce is doing and will do its best to promote the industry here.
Your deposition showed that you have one priority - the highway. My short question is, do you think you have to put the maximum of funding on the highway, or do you think you'll have to split it for other forms of rural development?
Mr. Fleet: Mr. Deshaies, in our estimation the priority right now must rest with that particular highway. Very shortly, within the next 18 to 24 months, we are going to see a huge megaproject. I don't happen to know the particular time line; the Voisey Bay Nickel and Inco, its parent company, I'm sure know more particularly when that exact date will be. There is going to be a terrific need for creating the infrastructure up there and maintaining the base of operations over the lifetime of that mine, which will be quite a long one.
I see it, and our chamber shares the view, that to support that kind of operation we will need to have a terrifically well-maintained highway that will then accrue better development and improve the socio-economic outlook for those rural communities in Labrador - particularly coastal Labrador.
They are very well meshed; I don't think you can separate them. In that particular case we have to put our direct and utmost emphasis on the completion of the highway.
Mr. Deshaies: I see that the highway, especially along the coast, is very important, because without roads it's very hard. But the road isn't necessarily the way for the development of the economy with big mining activities like the one in Voisey Bay. We have seen airplanes pass over our heads in Abitibi in northwest Quebec to James Bay, and we have a road.
So can you split the road activity for the coast, or is the road, in your opinion, to join the mine and develop the forest and other mining projects possible?
Mr. Fleet: That's an interesting question. As I say, in the short term - and in the long term, actually - having a road connecting us directly through Quebec is of prime importance to us.
In order to convince the powers that be that we have to make improvements in rural Labrador, we have to have justification for spending those moneys. I'm of the opinion that an immense project such as Voisey Bay is going to provide the magnet necessary to awaken the powers that be to say yes, we can put some infrastructure in there; we can help revitalize coastal Labrador, because we now have a megaproject we're going to accrue a lot of money from.
The federal government's going to get a lot of money from that project, and I think it's going to give it justification for infusing the funding we're going to need to put that project in. Yes, you're going to be able to fly over us, but you're not going to be able to fly all of the time up there, because a huge amount of materials and supplies will have to go by road and by water. We think we're positioned here to help out with that, as are the coastal communities.
Right now the coastal communities, as I alluded to in my introduction, are being strangulated by policies that have been visited on us for the past 400 years. We're not just all of a sudden bringing Labrador into the limelight and saying hey, our resources are being raped now.
Just in case you don't know, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Labrador's fishery was providing whale oil, and oil was of greater value than the treasures off the Spanish Main. It was going back to Europe and the Mediterranean for 200 years, providing heat and light over there. The irony of all that is while this was being reaped off our shores, we were getting nothing out of it, and we have nothing to show for it to this day.
What we're trying to say to you is there's a very valuable resource. We think that's justification for improving our infrastructure. We can link our desires here with the desires for coastal Labrador and provide the infrastructure that's going to be necessary for them to not only survive but prosper.
The road in and of itself is going to provide a lot of employment opportunities, but it's also going to enable us to link up with the other part of our province. We are the largest part of the province, and 99.9% of Newfoundland hasn't visited Labrador.
We have a lot to offer here in terms of tourism. That's something else I didn't allude to here, but tourism has a huge potential. Consider that at its peak, Gros Morne National Park on the northern peninsula of Newfoundland attracted approximately 250,000 people to its location. It's not an awfully long ride to take the ferry from St. Barbe to Blanc Sablon to come into Labrador. If the road network were there, you'd be able to course all the way down through Quebec.
And of course all roads, unless they're blocked somewhere along the line, are two-way. We'd like to have people coming up the other way around. People have to eat, buy gas and stay in hotels. We see that as a very vital potential industry.
I don't know if I've answered your question.
Mr. Deshaies: Yes.
Mr. Fleet: I'm just trying to give you an idea of the importance of having that particular infrastructure in place.
Mr. Deshaies: It's true for everybody who lives in the north, like us.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: Mr. Fleet, I have a sense of frustration from listening to things here this morning. If I put myself in your position of being a resident and thought back over 400 years, as you put it, I think I would exceed my level of tolerable frustration.
What can be done? You have a member of Parliament here. He's sympathetic. He knows what you're going through. He's going to do everything he can to represent your interests, and apparently he does on a regular basis. You have a committee here that's sympathetic. But is anything going to happen?
Putting myself in your position, I ask, do we have to search for a new way of getting at this thing? If the political situation or mechanism is inadequate, do you have to go some other route? I can't advocate civil disobedience. That's not an answer to me. But is there another route here? Must you say ``All right, we'll get a movement going here to separate Labrador from the rest of Newfoundland''? That's going to an extreme.
I feel frustration on your behalf. As a problem-solver, I ask, what's the answer? What do we do? What can we do, perhaps collectively with Inco and others, to make something happen here?
Mr. Fleet: Mr. Ringma, if I had the answer to that particular question, we would have a lot more people at this meeting and I'd have a lot more money in my back pocket. I wouldn't have had to close my store for 30 minutes to make this address this morning.
I can't answer that. The frustration in Labrador started in the late 1960s, when the New Labrador Party started up. Things have progressed beyond that point.
Levels of frustration have risen and fallen, and I think they're reaching a peak again, particularly in light of the major developments that have occurred since the early 1960s in Labrador, such as the major mining in Labrador City and Wabush and the hydroelectric development in Churchill Falls, which we'll be subsidizing at the turn of the century. That is not a very pleasant thought from our viewpoint.
Frustration is there because we don't want to see what is probably one of the final megaprojects in Labrador go down the chute without us having an impact on how it's developed and on the benefits that may accrue to us to enable us to get the kind of infrastructure I've been talking about here this morning and others.
I won't go near that political football. All we're basically asking for is a fair opportunity to have an input as to how the development is undertaken.
I believe companies such as Voisey Bay Nickel or Inco really do have to take the time to sit down and be open with us as a community, the community of Labrador, to explain how they're going to develop, to let us have input regarding our role as a business community and as people who live here, and to ask how we want to see that resource developed and how we can best get something out of it for ourselves.
It's not to line our pockets, but to finally get some dignity, the dignity of work, so we can hold our heads high and say we live next to one of the largest hydroelectric outfits in the world, and nobody in this particular region has to pay through the nose for electricity, which a lot of people do right now to their detriment. There's no justification for that.
We want to change that around. We're taking pains right now and working through our member, Lawrence O'Brien, to ensure that we open negotiations with business communities currently working with Inco to understand how they work and the relationships they have so we can better position ourselves for future negotiations with that company and also maximize the benefits from that development.
That's a long-winded answer, but the basic undertone is that we want to get involved, we want people to be open with us. I think that's how you start to address the frustration, as you put it.
Mr. Ringma: Just to finish that off, to what extent has Inco been talking with all of the community interests here? What have they done?
Mr. Fleet: I stand to be corrected, but the only public opportunity that we have had came approximately two weeks ago today. A team of Voisey Bay Nickel people - who are obviously the developers of the mine in the north - came in to address the town, to let us know what they were going to be doing. I stand to be corrected, but I don't think that was a successful effort, based mainly on the fact that there was no consultation prior to that particular meeting in terms of what development was going to be, and also on the fact that the announcement was made 48 hours in advance of a meeting here that a second meeting on where the smelter - which is one part of that huge development - would be located would be coming up at the end of this particular month, November.
I think part of the frustration comes from us wanting to make sure that Labrador gets an opportunity to have input into that process and hopefully get it located here. We're just getting organized to get a feasibility study going, so you can understand our frustration. We hadn't even had a chance to put it together, but now they're going to make an announcement within five weeks as to where it's going to be. There's a feeling within the community that we haven't really had an opportunity to put our point forward.
I stand to be corrected - Lawrence, feel free to pass on any further information - but that was the only consultation that was held, and that's part of the reason why we're a little uneasy about that relationship. However, we're working to improve those lines of communications. We've held subsequent communications with the company and some of its officials, and we are encouraging them to open the lines of communication with us. We're establishing a liaison with them and we are also, within another couple of weeks - November 21 and 22, to be exact - heading into the Thunder Bay and Sudbury areas to talk directly with the communities there.
So that's where we are at this particular point, but we still want to be kept involved - truly involved, as opposed to window-dressing involved - in any future plans.
The Chairman: Mr. Reed.
Mr. Reed: Mr. Fleet, I think we got the message this morning about the highway.
Mr. Fleet: Thank you.
Mr. Reed: This is loud and clear.
I would like to talk to you about another highway, and that's the information highway. We had a very eloquent presentation from Hopedale this morning. Obviously it is probably typical of many communities on the coast. Through the information highway, through the new technology of wireless cable and so on, we have an opportunity to perhaps be able to bring higher education to those areas where we haven't been able to before, other than physically with people. From your perspective, how do you see the importance of doing that for the longer term? The average age in Hopedale, for instance, is about 15 years or something, and Nain is the same.
Mr. Fleet: We're not unlike any other part of North America - or the world, for that matter. The Internet and the information highway are most important to our people now in pockets around Labrador, people who are doing research, developing software programs and that kind of thing. They are availing of it, and to a certain substantial cost, too. The Internet is not as easily accessible for us as it would be in central Canada, for example. Costs are far more prohibitive here. In terms of getting your exchange of information, delivery is a lot slower. You aren't able to do it because right now the infrastructure for the communication to happen isn't there.
The fibre-optic cables have been laid across Newfoundland twice now, but we don't have any. We're disadvantaged in that way - and when we say that, it means here, but it also means Labrador City and Wabush. It's to the coast, north and south. So that's another very important infrastructure that someone has to put down in order for us to avail of that particular kind of technology.
You're in my ballpark now, because I was in communications for 32 years and thoroughly enjoyed it. I love it still. But the technology there, as I found out when I was working with it, was brand new when it got to your hands on February 1, but on February 2 it was outdated. It's constantly jumping ahead of us. So we're asking for the opportunity to get on that information highway, because the longer we wait, the further behind we fall. It has to be recognized.
It's not only important for education, although distance education has certainly been something that's been ongoing for quite a number of years now through the efforts of Memorial University - I for one have availed myself of those kinds of programs - but other things that are available through that kind of a network are health consultations and a number of other, different things. There's interchange regarding the growing economy that we should have available to us. But I think we have to have the systems that are going to deliver the information a lot faster and at a lower cost to us.
Mr. Reed: Is satellite technology going to help to replace some of the earlier technology?
Mr. Fleet: Yes, satellite will do it somewhat. I haven't had of late the opportunity to sit down and apprise whether there's a savings - a marginal savings, a huge savings or no savings. I wouldn't be able to speak to that and wouldn't want to be quoted. But one would imagine that it should be. You don't need wires going up and down except from your receiver to your dish and to plug it into the back of whatever you're using, and then away you go.
So the satellite technology is definitely there, but again it's the cost. Someone has to pay for it, which is always the bottom line. It's the old Gordon Sinclair question: ``How much money have you got?'' We're no different from you.
Mr. Reed: Thank you.
The Chairman: Mrs. Cowling.
Mrs. Cowling: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to address the issue of human infrastructure. I was out of the room and missed your presentation, but I did want to spend some time with the former witness, Miss Flowers from Hopedale.
We have a number of programs at the federal level that have been, I think, very good for a lot of isolated communities. One was the head start program. The other was the pre-natal program. Part of what we're finding at this committee is that a lot of the time the information is not getting to those communities because they are isolated. As we look at the renewal of rural Canada, then, we also want to focus on communities such as Hopedale. I have a lot of those in my own riding, and somehow or other those communities have been ignored for far too long.
As a government, our priority is our people. We must look after them. I guess that as we move into this transition - and we're moving fairly quickly - and as we take these leaps, somehow or other, we as a government must not forget or ignore those people who are in fact at the roots of natural resources. They are our people.
Have you some ideas as to how we get from point A to point B and through this transition? Is it in fact dollars, or, as I was discussing with the former witness - because apples apparently cost $1.09 each - instead of sending dollars, should we be sending packages of nutritional food to help these communities? That's sort of ``for now'', but how do we get from step A to step B so that a lot of these communities don't fall off the map?
Mr. Fleet: Or these people fall off.
Mrs. Cowling: That's right - the people of the communities.
Mr. Fleet: I would not want to speak for the community of Hopedale or for any other community on the coast because that would not be fair. I can posit an opinion.
I still come back to the dignity of human work. I don't have to go back too far in my short lifetime to be able to make the statement that I didn't know anyone when I was growing up who was unemployed. I didn't see anyone I knew who was unemployed in my neighbourhood until I was about 25 or 26.
I've seen cutbacks and profits flowing from huge paper mills and mining operations and still see on that street former fishermen, former mill workers, and former mine workers. The trains are still rolling out with our natural resources while our people are going unemployed.
That's been spiralling over the past 25 to 30 years. On the coast, I would imagine, as you all know, the fishery has taken a severe nose-dive. If one listens to the radio, watches television, reads the paper or even listens to conversations and stories that emanate from those coastal communities, you hear a frustration in the voice. I hear it. I heard it for many years when I was working with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
We aren't allowed to fish, yet you see foreign draggers and even draggers from other parts of Canada that are a stone's throw off our coast, taking the fish, bringing it ashore somewhere in Newfoundland, or somewhere in other parts of maritime Canada, and we can't get work. You get that kind of thing happening and it repeats itself many times. I stand to be corrected.
I think that's a base root. The dignity of human work has evaporated and has been taken from people, not because they don't want to work but because they aren't allowed to work. That's the basic thing. We have to find a mechanism. I don't know what that mechanism is, but I would imagine trying to press for a just reward from resources that are literally developing in our backyard, and having an opportunity to get there and get the work is the way to start it.
I don't think care packages, to use the phrase, are the answer because it isn't dignifying to receive a care package.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. O'Brien: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I've been through this for many years, and for many months since I was recently elected. Every time I sit at these kinds of tables and hear these kinds of discussions I find it very difficult to hide my frustration. It just keeps building.
I'm just going to relay a very simple point. It's not directly related to the Chamber of Commerce for Labrador North, but the president of the Chamber of Commerce for Labrador North and others here can relate to this - no offence to my colleague from Quebec. I just want to put this in perspective.
In Labrador West, Labrador City and Wabush, we have the iron ore capital of Canada. It is perhaps the greatest iron ore mining in North America, or close to it anyhow. We have a railway called the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway. There are two railways, one going out of Quebec, Cartier to Fermont, and one going from Labrador down to Sept-Îles.
All this is a summary of what you're hearing relative to jobs. There are 140-odd jobs on the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, 65% of that railway is inside Labrador, and 100% of that railway carries ore from Wabush-Labrador City.
Ten people from Labrador - a total of ten! - work on that railway. The ore mines in Labrador City and Wabush have supplied to the Government of Quebec and to the Government of Canada - of course it's all part of the Government of Canada - a community in Sept-Îles, Quebec, of 50,000 people.
We have managed to survive through extractions to just over 10,000 or 11,000 right now. Thousands of people are unemployed in Labrador. The fishery has been exploited. Voisey Bay has been exploited. The Goose Bay airfield has been exploited. The tourism industry has been exploited. The aboriginal peoples have been totally exploited. Labrador West has been exploited. What you're hearing is the accumulation of the total frustration. That's what it comes down to.
We're not begging for anything. We feel we are more than fair givers to the Government of Canada and to this great Dominion of Canada and to the government of this province. All we're asking for from you, from the province, and from everybody is a fair share.
We're not asking for it for free. We think we can give back massive returns to the Government of Canada and to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador through all of the great frontier developments we've got, including tourism. That's it in a nutshell, as I see it.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: That's twice I've done this today.
The Chairman: Yes.
Mr. O'Brien: So far.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Chairman: Mr. Deshaies wants to make a comment, but before he does I want to ask a question.
You talked about your interactions with Inco. I come from a rural community that had a recent development in which two major corporations - one government and one non-government - moved into the area. With the support of local government, the community itself, in advance of those corporations coming in, developed a strategic plan as to what they wanted to see the company do for their communities. We didn't need the support of the provincial government. I suspect you might.
Has the community itself got its act together so that it knows exactly what it wants from the company? Rather than going to the company and saying ``What can you do for us?'', you go to the company and say ``This is what we want you to do in respect to the development of our natural resource.''
Mr. Fleet: The answer, Mr. Chairman, is that we have indeed been making and are continuing those kinds of efforts. Over the past two years we welcomed anyone associated with the exploration of Voisey Bay, anyone from the nickel mining industry and from the rest of the mining industry in this part of Labrador. There is a very good working relationship in terms of the town and its economic development office with the chamber and with the companies that are coming in here.
We are talking. We have done a couple of trade shows. We have had seminars that are concurrent with the trade shows. We are continuing the process. Currently we are in negotiations with Inco to visit with them, to see how they operate, how they impact, and what kind of an operation they have. Their operational impact is...Sudbury is an example.
We want to talk to their officials and also talk to suppliers. We want to do all of that. But that's an ongoing process. And I will tell you that the majority of that process has been us as a community - I don't say us as a chamber - making that opening gambit.
We're trying really hard. All we're saying is that we still think there's room for improvement on the company's side. They could be a bit more open with us.
The Chairman: Is the provincial government an ally in this with you?
Mr. Fleet: Yes.
The Chairman: Good.
Mr. Fleet: You didn't ask me to what degree.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Fleet: I know John is back there.... They're involved. I won't speak to the degree. If you asked me to put a percentage on it I couldn't do that. I know that they're there.
The Chairman: Thank you.
I'm going to end the session, but I know that Mr. Deshaies wants to make a comment. It's probably with respect to what -
Mr. Deshaies: Yes, sure.
The Chairman: After the comment is made, we'll save the debate for the House, not for the committee.
Mr. Deshaies: I just want to say that we have important homework to do in receiving comments from rural people. I'm from a rural area and I think each rural area has the feeling that we give more than we receive. Everyone from rural Canada has to fight together, because the message is that we can give more than we give right now if we receive the money, the tools or the programs we need to develop ourselves. I understand your frustration, because we had, have and maybe will have frustration from the south, from the Quebec government or the provincial government, from Toronto and from the north of Ontario, because we didn't receive our part. I suggest you continue to work for your community and have what you need to develop.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Fleet. We appreciate it.
I would like to call on our next witnesses, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Thoms from the Combined Councils of Labrador (Wabush). This is an additional witness.
Gentlemen, I understand that your presentation is going to take the form of a video.
Mr. Joe Roberts (Chair, Combined Councils of Labrador (Wabush)): Mr. Chairman, we thought we'd deviate a little bit from the normal procedure. Because of the timeframe involved, we have a video that was taken at the Iron Ore Company of Canada when they had their billion-tonne blast. There are no mines in Canada that have reached that plateau.
We understand that your clerk circulated a copy of our brief. We were going to dispense with reading that. We'll answer any questions pertaining to it. It's entirely your decision whether you want to look at the video first or go with the questions on the brief.
The Chairman: That would be my preference.
Mr. Reed, would that be okay?
Mr. Reed: Yes, let's look at the video first.
The Chairman: We have the brief to read. We can ask questions without having had the brief, but we'll make sure it's part of the record. Is that okay?
Mr. Ringma: Is this the council of Labrador West that we're hearing?
Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Mr. Ringma: Okay.
Mr. Roberts: Labrador City and Wabush. I'm a representative of the combined councils. Judy O'Dell will be making a presentation from the combined councils later this afternoon.
Some hon. members: Okay.
The Chairman: We have the brief. Everybody will read that and we'll take a look at the video.
Mr. Roberts: That finishes the video. That rubber-tired loader you see there is the biggest in Canada, and it's owned by Wabush Mines. It's on a purchase-rental deal, and Wabush is owned by Stelco and Dofasco out of Hamilton.
When I go back I'll have a copy of that made and I'll send it to the chairman.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Roberts.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Thoms will answer any questions on the mining sector. I'd like to volunteer his services.
The Chairman: He seems to appreciate that.
Mr. Al Thoms (Vice-Chair, Combined Councils of Labrador (Wabush)): Very much so.
The purpose of showing the video is to point out that as single-industry towns go, Labrador West is it. In Labrador City and Wabush, we depend entirely on the iron ore industry. The other community in Labrador West - we have included Churchill Falls, which is the hydroelectric generation site in Labrador.
Our brief is just that - a very brief brief. It tries to address the points laid out in your workplan, one by one, but it's a very general overview because of the short timeframe we had in which to put this together. The one thing we are disappointed in is that this committee could not meet in Labrador West. Today we are representing the Combined Councils of Labrador and Labrador West Regional Development Association.
I know that Mr. O'Brien received a letter from the town of Labrador City, which would have loved to address this meeting. I'm sure the town of Wabush would have too, as well as Churchill Falls and the mining companies. As I say, we're aware that you can't be everywhere. You only have so much time, but we would like to extend you an invitation to visit us at some future time, as well as to any committees that are formed in the future.
We have a lot of ideas regarding economic development in Labrador West. As with the other presenters here, we have a regional economic development zone - zone two of the province's legislation. It's called the HYRON Regional Economic Development Board - HYRON is short for hydro and iron.
This board was just recently formed, and it is in the process of developing a strategic plan for the Labrador West area. Our diversification efforts are still in the mining field, including exploration and research into other mineral developments. We also have to deal with tourism, forestry and other sectors, but in our case they're obviously fairly minimal compared to mining.
I think Joe has a few more facts and figures for us, unless he wants to go on to questions.
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chairman, I'd like to make a couple of comments. I've been involved with the trans-Labrador highway committee since before the highway was built. We have pushed from Labrador West to get it all.... We want to see the road go right to the Quebec border, down in the straits. It has to be connected to the communities. We worked hard to get it started in Labrador West with Senator Rompkey. We got it as far as Churchill Falls. We're still pushing from the west to have it completed to Happy Valley - Goose Bay. We were part of the meeting Mayor Baikie mentioned this morning when we discussed plowing the road.
We'd also like to see government moving faster on aboriginal land claims. To us, aboriginal land claims are very important. They're priority number one, but government seems to be dragging its feet. Our organization has met with the LIA and with the Innu Nation. We're of the same opinion as they are, that government is dragging its feet. There's not enough being done.
We have trails in Labrador that can be used for snowmobiling that government should be maintaining in the wintertime. They should be groomed. If you go to the Quebec border, you can take your snowmobile and go anyplace you want in Canada and there are groomed trails. In the same way if you go down to the Straits area, you can go down the south coast, down to Sept-Îles and on into Quebec and Ontario.
The communities of Labrador City and Wabush were built by the Americans and the Canadians primarily to get ore and resources from there out to Canada because there was a need in the United States and Canada for steel and iron ore. We see the same thing in Voisey Bay.
We have seen the operation of the mining companies in Labrador west. The tax revenue is almost $1 billion, but we don't see any of that, or at least anything worthwhile, coming back into the communities of Labrador City and Wabush. We just don't see it. We see eroding of government services continuously, and we are continuously fighting government.
The federal government is no better. They download services onto the community and cut funding, and the provincial government is doing the same thing. There's no incentive for an individual to run for council and get elected because all he's doing is getting into headaches.
I'm quite willing to answer any questions on the brief.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr. Deshaies.
Mr. Deshaies: Merci. I'm sure I'm the same. People like us who come from the north of a province have a bad perspective when we see our profitable resources going to the south.
Can I resume...your need that the road is the first tool to develop? You have a choice. You said to start with the west because it's a good place, the border of the Quebec highway, and after go to Goose Bay and maybe in the future it will be able to go on the coast.
Mr. Roberts: Yes, that's right.
By the way, our community has a mutual aid agreement with Fermont, which is in Quebec. There's very close cooperation among the councils of Fermont, Labrador City and Wabush. In fact, Mr. O'Brien is in the process of setting up a meeting with politicians from Quebec and from Labrador to discuss the trans-Labrador highway, or the Baie Comeau road, as we refer to it.
Contrary to what the politicians will tell you, there is very close communication among the communities. If Fermont needs something and Labrador City has it, it's theirs. All they have to do is ask for it. In the same way, if we need help from Fermont for a fire or an ambulance, the doctor has access to the hospital in Labrador City, as do the people in Fermont.
Mr. Deshaies: It's because people from the north speak the same language.
Do you think that would be...because if you have a choice, it's the starting for yourself...? You said that after, you would be able to develop through your own capacity services for big companies like Irving Oil or something like that.
Mr. Roberts: I'm not quite sure of your question.
To get back to the communication factor, we talk to the Makivik Corporation because they're regional government in northern Quebec. There is correspondence there. We have discussions about problems that we have and that they have.
The road is not the answer to get into northern Quebec. I thought one time maybe the road would go to Schefferville, but I don't think you'll see it going to Schefferville.
Mr. Deshaies: When we have to write the report and choose between the most effective tools for rural development - it's a special area because you need so many tools - what is the best way to use the money? Is it to have a road from the south along the coast or from Wabush?
Mr. Roberts: I think, sir, that you have to start from both ends. There has to be a combined effort by government to start from both ends.
Mr. Thoms: The whole idea is what everybody else mentioned about the Labrador loop. It basically goes from Baie Comeau in Quebec, back around through the northern tip of the island, and then back through the Atlantic provinces.
Obviously, we agree with everybody else that the trans-Labrador highway is the key to any economic development in the whole of Labrador. This must go along with - as Mr. Hall stated very clearly this morning - the resolution of native land claims issues; if they aren't resolved these people are determined that there will be no development in Labrador.
I for one - this is a very personal remark - think that the Voisey Bay discovery is not the last Voisey Bay in Labrador. I think we're on the verge of a lot more, and we have to be very concerned about the aboriginal issues and the environmental issues. Also, we have to make sure that people like Inco are prepared to do their part in building a road from Voisey Bay to Goose Bay. This could perhaps be a railway from Voisey Bay to Schefferville to link up with ours. They have to share the costs.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: Thank you for your presentation. The message is clear here: you have really stated again that you need the highway, you need settlement of native land claims, etc.
I'm trying to get a summary here of what you, and perhaps some of the others who have testified here today, consider to be the impediments - the barriers, the obstacles - to the proper development of Labrador. Obviously, the highway and infrastructure is one. I get a sense too that there's a lack of decision-making ability down at the local level, and that it's another big obstacle for you that all of the decisions are not made here, where they should be.
Hand in hand with that, I get the sense there's too much of a bureaucracy, not from what you've said here but from what others have said. The bureaucracy from all of the various departments are there to say you can't do this, you can't do that, you have to fill out all these forms. That is also an obstacle.
You've mentioned that because of the financial situation there's no incentive for anyone to go into local government. It also is an obstacle.
What have I missed now? I'm trying to get a summary here of points to take away, to have something whereby if I had to think of six things the guys from West Labrador told me, it would be these.
Mr. Roberts: I won't say the people have been complacent, but they haven't been listened to. They've had their meetings, we've had meetings here; and this is not the first session like this I've attended over the years.
The politicians come in, listen to what we have to say -
Mr. Ringma: Nod their heads.
Mr. Roberts: - nod their heads, and say yes, you have a problem. I remember specifically one time when Jean Marchand came into Labrador West to look at the airport. He was Minister of Transport at the time. We spent two and a half hours in the Union Centre in Labrador City discussing the airport situation and the transportation system with Mr. Marchand. When we were done, he got up and thanked us all. He said he realized we had a problem, but that's all we ever heard of him.
Mr. Thoms: I think, Mr. Ringma, it has to be said that one of the major impediments to any recognition of the problem of Labrador - and I'd like to be more optimistic - is the fact that there are about 35,000 people in Labrador, which translates to I don't know how many votes, Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: That's 18,000.
Mr. Thoms: Okay, 18,000 votes. That's not a very big voice.
Mr. O'Brien: No.
Mr. Thoms: And it's a very big land. It's three times the size of the island portion of the province. It has a population of less than 10% of the island portion of the province. We've had ongoing struggles with the provincial government, and obviously we're having the same problems with the federal government.
In talking about Voisey Bay, I think it was Mr. Mitchell who asked about bringing in a labour force. In Voisey Bay we will need outside workers in very skilled areas, but we presently have a very well-trained, very well-educated labour force in Labrador. Recently, the mining companies in Labrador West have been downsizing, as has everybody in the country, so we're finding now that we have a bigger unemployment problem than we've ever had. I don't think we have to go outside of the area to get employees for these developments. Obviously, there will come a time when we just won't have enough people and they will move here.
I think one of the bigger impediments to development is just the population base itself.
The Chairman: Thank you. Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to relay a point relative to what I heard Mr. Roberts mention a few minutes ago. It won't be in the repeat mode this time.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh.
Mr. O'Brien: I look at the people from Rigolet who are going to be speaking very soon; I see the people from Cartwright back there; and I know where the combined councils and others come from. This is on winter trails, vis-à-vis federal environmental assessments.
We have a pot of funds that is very important there. By the way, trails across Labrador are extremely important, which you can relate to. Roads are the ultimate, but we need those winter trails. There's a transitional job fund, which is part of the EI bill that we all relate to. I want to put moneys right now into a winter trail from Rigolet to Valley Bay, on to Goose Bay and from Cartwright into Goose Bay, called the Ptarmigan Trail.
We cannot do it because of federal government laws, and everybody in Labrador wants it. It makes me sick. They say there has to be an environmental assessment first, which I heard you allude to, Mr. Roberts, in talking about the trails. We have to get past that stuff. We have to get past that garbage red tape.
I'm all for environment, first and foremost. But when everybody in Labrador or anybody in any part of this country knows what's best for them, who the heck is somebody in Ottawa to say we can't do it, that we have to find money to do this $100,000 study first in order to spend $50,000. There's something wrong. We have a problem, and that's the major problem.
I'm now caught in a bind in all areas of Labrador vis-à-vis that one item, winter trails, which he alluded to. I'll tell you, that's something we have to talk about, something we have to think about and something we have to get straightened away.
If the LIA, which is a land claim body that's close to resolution right now, writes a letter to the community of Rigolet, which they have done, and says they have no problem, that should be adequate to get on with the job. This is a big monster for me. If the Labrador Métis Association and the Cartwright council does the same, that should be adequate to get on with the job from Cartwright to Goose Bay.
I want to drive home that point, because if we can build what we call the Trans-Canada Trail across the country, and hundreds of thousands of miles of trails throughout Gander, why can't we get started in Labrador? We're nailed, crucified, knee-knocked in every which way, shape and form.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. O'Brien.
Thank you very much, gentlemen. We appreciate the fact that you have taken the time both to provide the testimony and to monitor the rest of the proceedings. I know your brief touches on a number of points that you have not been able to discuss verbally, but they will all be taken into account when we put it together. And we also appreciate your invitation to come back to a different part of Labrador.
Mr. Roberts: Thank you.
The Chairman: I'd like to now call on our next witnesses, from the Community Council of Rigolet, Charlotte Wolfrey and Richard Rich.
Welcome. We appreciate that you have been flexible on the schedule. We'd ask you to make opening comments, which will hopefully be kept to around ten minutes, and we'll then open it to questions from committee members. So perhaps you'd want to introduce each other.
Ms Charlotte Wolfrey (Town Manager, Community Council of Rigolet): I'm Charlotte Wolfrey. I'm from Rigolet. With me is Mayor Richard Rich. Right now, the shoe is going to go on the other foot. I'm going to do the talking and he's going to answer the questions.
The Chairman: Okay.
Ms Wolfrey: We're from -
The Chairman: One second, please.
Mr. Deshaies: Is it possible to show me where Rigolet is? It's so important to understanding your debate.
Mr. O'Brien: Rigolet is right at the mouth of Lake Melville. Goose Bay is here, here's the lake, and this is Rigolet.
Mr. Deshaies: Thank you very much.
Ms Wolfrey: I was going to ask somebody to do that along the way.
Like I said, we're from Rigolet, which has a population of 350 people who are predominantly of Inuit origin. Rigolet has a 200-year-plus history - that's the community itself. Prior to the formation of Rigolet, the Inuit used to live out around the bays, and they lived off the land. They invented a community called Rigolet, which the Inuit have no name for. They just used to call it a place to eat, a place from which to get food other than off the land. And for anyone familiar with Labrador, we are located at the mouth of Groswater Bay and at the end of Lake Melville.
Rigolet has many natural resources, including beautiful country, water, trees and a rich history of people. Having natural resources is one thing but, as we have found out, getting these resources developed and keeping them sustainable is an enormous task. Just to give you an example, Smokey used to be a fishing community some forty miles from Rigolet. It once had the richest cod fishery in Canada - and in the world, actually. This fishery was mismanaged and fished to the near extinction of the northern cod stocks, and then came the infamous cod moratorium.
Everybody knows about the cod moratorium. What is really unknown or is not talked about is the fact that a lot of our people were not eligible because of the criteria that were drawn up. Those criteria said something to the effect that you had to have fishing income in 1990 in order to qualify and to get moratorium money or whatever it was. But by 1990, the fish in northern Labrador were gone. They were overfished prior to that, so our people couldn't qualify. People who used the sea for generations and generations to make a living were suddenly faced with no fish, no income and no compensation. As a result, many of our people now have to rely on social assistance to survive. So you see, having other agencies, organizations and governments controlling our homeland can cause many hardships for our people.
We have nothing in here about land claims. We're assuming the Labrador Inuit Association will appear - or has appeared - and is going to take care of that. But we are in a land claims area, and we think our biggest potential for development lies in tourism. As I said earlier, we have beautiful country, fantastic views, no pollution, and peace and quiet that people anywhere would envy.
To get the tourism industry developed, we need a lot of infrastructure. We need training. We have proposed an interpretation centre. We need that to move forward, to become a reality. We need a trail system connecting us to Happy Valley - Goose Bay, and we also need upgraded trail systems for winter tourism.
We have an abundance of dog teams, which is how I made it here. Try to imagine, if you will, the adventure of stepping back in time, of taking a ride with a dog team, breathing the clean air, and just having the silence of the Labrador landscape to yourself and your dog-team driver in an enormous countryside. I don't know if you can imagine that, but if you can't, we invite you to come and share it with us.
We need the upgrading of what's called a ``coastal boat system'' in order to promote tourism, but at a time when the Newfoundland government is advocating giving up the coastal boat and the Canadian government is giving Newfoundland dollars for roads while taking away dollars from coastal boats, our pleas are falling on deaf ears. In what I call the dollars-for-roads campaign - it's really the Rails for Roads campaign - the Newfoundland government is putting all the money into roads for the island of Newfoundland, including roads and four-lane highways that nobody wants. Labrador is once again being left out.
Many of our people don't have the necessary collateral for development, and then there's the government red tape that is involved: studies, EISs, business plans, market studies, to name a few. Our people get tangled in this tape. They're led from one bureaucrat to the next, then to another, and they become discouraged and give up their ideas and their dreams. We're not advocating stopping these studies, but they could be made simpler, a lot less complicated.
There is a need for money to be put into infrastructure and into development plans, and we do need marketing strategies. We have the potential for rich industries with jobs for our people. With regard to economic development, Rigolet for many years was advocating a crab plant for our community. We are adjacent to some rich crab fishing grounds but, as usual, we push to have studies done to see how much crab is there and some other community gets the benefit.
Rigolet initiated studies on the kinds and quantity of crab around our area. There was crab found, but other communities with probably better systems of politicians to push for them - in some cases, politicians who were already in government and who knew them and stuff like that - got the crab plant. But today we know there's enough crab to support a sustainable small to medium-sized operation in our community. There are queen crabs - otherwise known as snow crabs - porcupine crabs, and stone-and-toll crabs in the waters north of Rigolet. With this information, our people still have no jobs and no prospects for the future. But these again are our experiences with governments.
When we came here, we suspected that the biggest development that would get most of the attention at these hearings was Voisey Bay. I think I only sat here for a few minutes and I heard Voisey Bay I don't know how many times - I should have counted, but I didn't. We're sure they're going to get a lot of coverage.
It just astounds us that in our homeland there are minerals that have made so many other people rich. There was a $4.5 billion exchange of money. Our people cannot even fathom a figure like $4.5 billion, can't even imagine how much it is.
These are resources that belong to the aboriginal people of Labrador, yet for the most part we're living in third world conditions. Some of our communities are not serviced with water and sewers.
In Rigolet, for example, we don't have any police services. If we want the police, we call them. If the weather is good the fastest they could ever be there is two hours. In an emergency it would take them two hours to get there, and that's if the weather is good. If we don't have good weather, we'll see them when the weather clears. If somebody is hurting you or somebody is being hurt, they can't help us. We don't have services like that. We have to wait for them to come.
We have no economic base. And as unbelievable as this may sound, even with the potential of Voisey Bay, the future still looks bleak for our people.
Rigolet is the northern Labrador community that is the farthest away from the mineral find, and it is also the farthest away when it comes to the benefits from Voisey Bay. We have a few people working there at the present time, but we don't expect much of that to change with the opening of a mine.
Our view is that there should be compensation to the aboriginal communities and to the communities of northern Labrador, because we know the majority of jobs and benefits of development will not be in Labrador. Our experience is that there will be development, somehow, somewhere and some day, but for somebody else. We know, because as the slogan goes, ``been there, done that'' - we've been there and seen that. If you missed the point, if I never got my point across, just think of Churchill Falls.
I'm almost finished. We've only touched on some of the topics that are relevant to us. For the most part our community is under-developed and under-serviced. What we would really like to see is infrastructure and an economic base for Rigolet. We have the potential, we have people who are willing, ready and eager to work, but the problem is that there are no jobs. And with all due respect, we don't think the answer lies in studies, royal commissions, and steering committees on issues. We need work.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Ringma: Ms Wolfrey, help me try to get a picture of what you need in Rigolet to make you self-sustaining, independent and happy. Let's leave Voisey Bay and Churchill Falls and all that to one side.
I get the picture that the people in your community are totally capable of getting out. You want work. You have some of the resources there. If we look at the sea alone, you're telling me that the resource has been there, but your hands are tied to go after the crab, or the quotas aren't there or whatever it is. I guess the bureaucracy in some way....
Fine. You have the talent and the people who are capable of working and who understand the sea. They have some of the skills needed. What else do we need to make that community self-sustaining without regard to Voisey Bay or anything else?
Ms Wolfrey: Like I said, we have crab pretty close to our community, but our fish plant.... For example, when all these dollars were available - you know how the money used to be there to do everything and to build everything - for some reason or other Rigolet got overlooked, and I suspect it's because we have 350 people but only 190 of them are voters.
The plant we have in Rigolet is just a fish-holding facility. They take salmon in and hold them for the boats to come and take them out of there. So we don't have the infrastructure or the quota. When you look at the quota that's given out, there's no quota for our community.
Mr. Ringma: Just to zero in on that, why isn't there a commercial opportunity? Why doesn't some processor say this is a community with a good workforce, and the access to the crab is there. What's stopping them from going in and putting in a processing plant?
Ms Wolfrey: Because they've put processing plants in other southern Labrador communities.
Mr. Ringma: It's more attractive elsewhere.
Ms Wolfrey: I think so. The plants and infrastructure were already there when all this money was available. I guess people knew what strings or ropes or who to go see or whatever.
They've got crab plants in Cartwright and Mary's Harbour. I'm really not sure about southern Labrador, but I know that those two places use some of the crab from northern Labrador and actually want more crab from northern Labrador to run their operations.
Then you've got the Bill Barrys of the world, who takes fish out of northern Labrador and into Nova Scotia if he wants to. He gets rapped on the knuckles but nothing happens, so he can do it again this year.
I think a lot of it is political. People don't look at the small communities and small voters.
Mr. Ringma: I would guess -
The Chairman: Mr. Rich, did you want to comment on that?
Mr. Richard Rich (Mayor, Town of Rigolet): Yes.
I'm a fisherman. I've fished there since I was 16 years old. For 20-odd years we've fought for a plant in Rigolet. We've done a lot of good proposals.
In 1985-86 a plant was built in northern Labrador. Do you know where that plant ended up? In Smokey, about 40 miles outside of Rigolet. People didn't stay but four or five months of the year. The plant went out there, and the people in Rigolet - we did go in Smokey. Some stayed in Indian Harbour and tried to get a car to get everybody's stamps, or got to Makkovic or elsewhere.
Just because we're in Rigolet is not the only thing I'm going to bring up here today. We have done a lot of stuff. I'm proud of the way the community stood up, because the garbage that was spent on the fishery.... The Hudson Bay Company was there. I started in 1959, because my father got it all marked down up until today.
In the late 1970s, Bay Roberts Fishery came in. These companies would be there for about three or four weeks and then they were gone.
In 1981 we formed the Torngat Fish Producers Co-op and that's what we have there today. It's not because the people didn't try to make money in Rigolet, because right now, and especially since the new premier in Newfoundland seems to have a little bit of heart for us - at least he talks to us, especially on the fishery. I know we can make a go of it in Rigolet.
I did a proposal in August. I did one with the co-op and one with Human Resources and whoever else. Human Resources - I think that building down there should be shock-shelled, because it's useless. We can't get people coming out to our community. What I'm saying is that I can make Rigolet people put up their own damned clapboard - we can build our own houses.
We've got the crab, the turbot, and the sea urchin products - that's another thing that's going to start this year. We had an experiment last year, but that's supposed to go out in April. We hope we can make a go out there.
There are other things we've got there. For 20-odd years we were fighting for the seal fishery. When I say seal fishery, I don't mean just going to land marks. You've got eight dog teams. You've got people who make sealskin boots. I can take a sealskin today, for you lucky people on the coast - a 40-by-80 sealskin is $25. A harbour is about $30. We said for years we wanted a seal fishery for canned food for our dogs, for pet food. I don't just mean for husky dogs - cats, whatever you have in any community. We could make things go, but we can't get that through the government people's heads.
I heard Mr. Rompkey's name there. They never seem to mention it to me, because it's over 20 years and he never answered one of my phone calls. What did I do to the man?
I know I get pretty uptight and I say what I've got to say, but while I'm on this motion I'm going to say another thing about Rigolet.
With all the communities in Canada, we have to send our kids out to a gymnasium, out on the airstrip road, out on the harbour with gales of wind whistling and the vapour flying over their heads.
I got a chance before to say stuff to everyone. We had four premiers in that community. Oh yes, they'd do something. What's done? Nothing.
Our poor kids. I'm proud of the kids, because when they go to university they're tough lads, but don't think when they get to university.... What's a jib? What's a jib? The name? They haven't got a clue, the poor buggers, when they get inside.
I think we're learning to work with our new MHA. We might get a few other things, but for the last 25 years Rigolet was overlooked until the last. Like the trail. We're talking about a trail from Molioch that's already there. We want to get the thing widened up and a few signs up saying you're coming down through Molioch Path. Another way we come is around Carawalla. You are coming down Carawalla to this turn. If you didn't look, you'd be going right out into the ocean.
Stuff like this we've preached for years, and no one took notice of us. Thank you.
The Chairman: Have you finished, Mr. Ringma?
Mr. Ringma: Yes, I guess so. It would be interesting to carry on, but I've got the picture. The main thing is that nobody listens.
The Chairman: Mrs. Cowling.
Mrs. Cowling: I have to come back on the last phrase of Mr. Ringma's, because clearly we would not be here if it were not for Minister McLellan, who does listen and who does care about rural economic development. We have Pat sitting in the back listening to your concerns. We will be going back and telling the minister. We will do whatever we can to help your members help you make yourself a place on the map. Because you are important. Your testimony is certainly enlightening to this committee. It has been extremely well done. We will take your message back and we will do whatever we can to help you through this process.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: Mr. Chairman, this is emotional. You can sense that. I may rage and roar, and so may Charlotte and Richard, but I share this passion, I live in it. I've been with these people for 14 years as chair of the native agreements. I'm part of this job. I relate to everything they say, day in and day out. The important thing is they're not asking for anything from anybody. You recognize that. All that these people are asking for is recognition and a fair share of the resources that right now are being by-passed for the great big industrial world outside of us. If we can get a little shot at that....
Torngat fisheries, by the way, is a locally-owned cooperative, and Torngat would love nothing better than to build a plant in Rigolet.
I am heading to St. John's tomorrow to meet with the political people of the Minister of Fisheries, and I have a promise from the Minister of Fisheries that he is going to do better for Labrador than has been done in the past. I'm going to take him up on that promise, starting tomorrow morning. I'm leaving here tonight.
Because if we can't do better than what we heard the first thing this morning from communities like Rigolet, better than 250 tonnes of turbot or whatever the case might be, I think we're all losers. The country is the loser as well, because while Ontario or Toronto or Montreal may think they are the engines that drive this country - and so they might be, from an urban point of view - I happen to think, and I'm sure lots of you share my views, that if it weren't for the human resources and the natural resources of our rural and frontier regions of this country.... It takes a great blend to make us the people we're so proud to be.
I think we're hearing it from all ends in all ways and all means. I'm very pleased that you came to hear this. I'm very pleased, Richard and Charlotte, that you took the time to come from Rigolet, which is at the lower end of Lake Melville, and where I grew up, by the way - at the bottom end, about 100 miles from here.
Thank you. You are making my job ever so slightly easier, because we're driving home the point, and I'm going to keep with you on that.
The Chairman: Just before we let you go, I think Mr. Reed wants to make a comment.
Mr. Reed: Yes. I wanted to make kind of an observation on what we have learned all through these hearings, everywhere.
You talked about urban Canada and rural Canada. There's a real problem here. Urban Canada does not yet appreciate the fact that it wouldn't exist if it wasn't for rural Canada, whether that's the fishery, or whether it's farming, mining or forestry - whatever it is.
You quite rightly allude to the fact that in many respects it could be a numbers game, because to those of us who are rural - I still claim to be, although the city is growing out on me where I live - it seems the attitudes that sometimes drive government policy are the attitudes that will drive public opinion, and these attitudes are very often urban. The rural portion, as a result, gets ignored.
This is why we're on this tour, specifically to raise that awareness - to have you raise our awareness, if you like. I'm often wondering - there was a proposition put to this committee yesterday that maybe there should be, in some respects, separate legislation and a separate regulation process for rural Canada as opposed to urban Canada.
Take something like the trail system here, running into obstacles that should not exist. I can tell you when we go back to the minister with that report, rural Canada is going to take on a new meaning with the government I have the honour to serve.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Reed.
Thank you, Ms Wolfrey and Mr. Rich, for your testimony. You have certainly provided a very eloquent case and we very much appreciate it. Thank you.
I'd like to now call on the representatives from Cartwright, Jessie Bird and Allen Dyson, to come forward and to prepare for their testimony.
Ms Jessie Bird (Deputy Mayor, Cartwright Community Council): Just for your information, I'd like to point out where Cartwright is. Cartwright is located at the mouth of Sandwich Bay. We are roughly 150 air miles from Goose Bay.
Mr. O'Brien passed out the newspaper clipping. That tire was taken along this route, up through here into a place we call Back Bay. There are sections of ice that that had to cross where if you didn't know exactly where you were going, forget it. You're travelling on snow on open water.
This is what we have to travel. This is what my grandparents and great-grandparents travelled on dog teams. They were better off then, because at least the dogs wouldn't go out on open ice. Snowmobiles, unfortunately, haven't built-in brains.
There's a proposed snowmobile route, and it's mentioned there - the Ptarmigan Trail. It would take you safely in behind the mountains over the land, as opposed to the North Atlantic and a rather questionable body of water called Lake Melville.
There is a snowmobile trail in place from Cartwright down to the strait, actually to Red Bay. Weather conditions permitting, these trails are groomed to the best of the development association's abilities to pay their operators and keep the equipment in running order. Believe me when I say you have no idea what can be dished out and what people will willingly travel in to get somewhere.
You talk of ``rural Canada''. Most people from rural Canada wouldn't cut it on the coast, I'm sorry to say. We have untold resources at our fingertips, and we watch it go away, one after the other - less than 40,000 people.
You talk about rural development. This rural section of Canada definitely has the means to support itself and a goodly portion of the rest of the province and the region. But unless we get a decent transportation system.... The trans-Labrador highway can't end here, 150 miles in from the coast. It has to come out and eventually it has to go its way north. The northern section is definitely going to take time, because you have the land claims to settle first, but there is absolutely no reason on God's green earth why we are still living in third world conditions.
There's a community just out here, Black Tickle, on a little island. They don't even have a decent drinking water supply. The water supply that was being developed, due to the fact that it's surface water, surface fed, this year had bacteria counts in it you certainly wouldn't want to be consuming. You have the same conditions on the north coast, with inadequate water supply.
Here we have Voisey Bay again, $4.5 billion. We have three people in our community, one of whom has gone back to Voisey Bay and done consecutive terms of employment. The other two get to go back every now and again. This is local involvement. This is somebody's idea of development of your resource by those adjacent to it.
The lip service has got to end. We had the turbot, walking by everybody's doorstep. You have communities that have been there since - well, the Europeans arrived a couple of hundred years ago, but the native population was there thousands of years ago. They can't get a fish. Somebody explain it.
If we have all these wonderful policies of adjacency, which everyone will take to the rest of the country and to the rest of the world, it's got to be applied on a regional basis as well. Otherwise you have no right to stand up and say a word when some other government sends its people over to take resources.
When you look at Labrador, there are very few people scattered throughout it. Like I say, we have the means to support a goodly portion of the economic development in the region. We have in this section of Labrador here, and again in around the Goose Bay area, a considerable forestry resource. We have people who want to develop this. We have people trying to develop it, but because they are local people who don't have the huge companies backing them and the deep pockets, they're struggling. And I know that from a first-hand basis.
The fellow in the picture is my husband. He dragged home the tire. The week after he got into Cartwright with that tire, he came back to get another load of building material for someone in Cartwright, and as he was going back the vehicle the tire was on slipped down into the ocean. This is how we travel. This is what we have to do to try to make a living.
I don't think you have people in your constituency who are enduring these conditions; I don't know of anyone else apart from the far northern section and the other coastal areas. They have no concept. This committee really should try to get out to the coast, because as far as we're concerned from the coast, this isn't a rural area. This isn't isolated. Sorry.
Tuesday was the first time in a week that we had mail in Cartwright. The weather was bad. They couldn't fly. I don't know if your mail service has been interrupted for a week.
We have the means to support ourselves, support ourselves well, and through a lack of political will and a lack of backing for the local people who are trying their damnedest to develop the industry to support themselves and their community.... It has to be applied in practice that yes, we are going to help you, we are really going to help you; we're not going to just sit there and say we're going to help you, but we are going to assist you to develop your own resources to support yourselves.
If we had a road system we wouldn't need Marine Atlantic, or not very much. Actually, on the south coast you wouldn't need it at all. You'd take your land point then, and then we would service whatever portions of the north coast and the small southern communities couldn't be reached by road. The marine service is being cut back, and they say they're going to take the money from the subsidy and from the cost of running Marine Atlantic and put it into the roads. That can't happen. That can't happen until you have a road link to the coast and all these communities, or the bulk of them, can get their freight and it doesn't cost them an arm and a leg. You can't expect the coast, the poor impoverished, down-trodden coast, to get a road just to here and then still be left at the end of the day with no road and no boats.
I think I've run on a little bit too long, but there you have it.
The Chairman: What's the population of Cartwright?
Ms Bird: Cartwright has 640 people and Paradise River has an ever-dwindling population. I think they're down now to about 12. Black Tickle is struggling to hang on. They have about not quite 400 people.
Mr. Ringma: How did you travel here? By air? By water?
Ms Bird: By air.
Mr. Ringma: Does the seaplane get here?
Ms Bird: No. The communities have airstrips.
Mr. Ringma: Okay.
Ms Bird: You can get small bush planes in.
Mr. Ringma: How about the hydroelectric power?
Ms Bird: We have diesel-generated power.
Mr. Ringma: You have diesel generators. Most of the outports then have that?
Ms Bird: In the straits area they have now hydro from the Quebec side.
Mr. Ringma: But by and large the coast generates their own -
Ms Bird: Diesel and diesel. And we have all the power from Churchill Falls. It's possible with the cutting of transmission lines...if you're going to cut a transmission line, put in a road too.
The Chairman: Are you ready for questions now?
Ms Bird: Go ahead.
The Chairman: Marlene.
Mrs. Cowling: I want to follow up on the chair's question with respect to the population. What is the average age of your population?
Ms Bird: The average age in our community would be probably in the mid to late thirties. We do not have a large younger population. People, as they leave high school, are leaving the community in an attempt to find employment elsewhere or going out to further their education.
Generally speaking, those who go out to further their education do not come back because we don't have the jobs for them when they're finished.
Mrs. Cowling: Is my assumption that the priority for your community is the road correct?
Ms Bird: Yes. I think we'd be very pleased if someone showed up tomorrow and said they were going to start cutting the skidoo trail.
We're not looking for anything the rest of the country would consider above and beyond their due. We really don't have a Trans-Canada Highway. Until the Trans-Canada Highway hits the open North Atlantic, it's not quite across the country or across the continent.
The first tourists - I suppose you could call them - who showed up were the Vikings. They named a stretch of sandy beach the Wunderstrand. It's over forty miles of the most gorgeous scenery you could ask for. If we were a heartier species, we wouldn't mind going out and swimming it, but the cold North Atlantic is a little bit too chilly for me.
If we had a road, or even in the winter a snowmobile trail, where you could go and you didn't have to worry that the snow is going to chew the living daylights out of the undercarriage of your snowmobile, you could actually enjoy it.
We have so many people who are afraid to travel off this continent. We have something that very few have seen, and we'd love for people to come out and safely enjoy what we take for granted.
Mrs. Cowling: With the road there is the possibility of tourism.
Ms Bird: Definitely. With the possible exception of a couple of rivers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we have the best salmon river in the world - the Eagle River. It's gotten a little bit of controversy now, but it's still a beautiful river and it will be there for generations.
There are people who pay an arm and a leg to get to these places. If we can take a little bit of that cost away, perhaps people will be able to drive in and even more people can come and appreciate it.
The Chairman: Mr. Reed.
Mr. Reed: We certainly get your message; it's been loud and clear. The time has come for us to turn it into -
Ms Bird: Action.
Mr. Reed: - some kind of action.
What is your opinion on the information highway?
Ms Bird: It's fine when it's open.
Mr. Reed: The question is about access to it, because the opportunities that present themselves through the information highway are of course higher education in remote areas, and the whole business of developing entrepreneurship and accessing things like capital.
Those facilities obviously don't exist for you at the present time. Do you see the information highway, or the Internet and those tools, as important for the future?
Ms Bird: We have access to the information footpath.
Mr. Reed: You have a library.
Ms Bird: Actually, our school is hooked up to the STEM-Net, which is the provincial education version of the Internet. As far as computer availability goes, we are probably ahead of the provincial average and possibly even the national average.
We have a computer lab with 14 stations and each classroom has its own computer. They have computers from the kindergarten classroom right through.
I think we have 136 students from kindergarten to grade 12, and most of these classrooms are double-graded. As a matter of fact, we may possibly within the next couple of years even look at a triple-graded class due to government cuts.
Here we are having advocated to us that we have to stay in school. You have to get the best education you can. The only reason we have physics offered to the high school students is because it is coming over the distance education system. And in order to get chemistry offered for the high school students, the kids in the community went and collected cans, and entered a provincial competition to see which school could collect the most cans per capita. They won second place, and with the revenue from the sale of the recycled cans and the prize money from the competition, they went out and purchased the chemicals and the equipment needed to offer that program to the high school students.
Mr. Reed: I'm very happy to hear that your students are entrepreneurial and going at it. I'll tell you that in the part of the world I come from, which is supposed to be the most privileged, we are suffering severely from an inability to raise funding for things such as computers.
Ms Bird: Yes, but the computers can be looked at, when you compare it say to an actual course that's being offered in the school system, as a frill. We don't have to go out and raise money just for frills. We have to go out and raise money for core material. And there should be no need.
Mr. Reed: We have to do the same.
Ms Bird: I know.
Mr. Reed: Unfortunately.
Ms Bird: But somewhere along the line if you're going to advocate literacy, obtaining a good education, you have to make sure that the means are there to provide it.
Mr. Reed: Is education and the means to education not a serious deficiency in your community?
Ms Bird: Yes, it is.
Mr. Reed: It is?
Ms Bird: It is.
Mr. Reed: How?
Ms Bird: We're being provided with an ever-eroding dollar amount, and that automatically impacts on the quality of education you're going to get.
Mr. Reed: Okay.
Ms Bird: And when you listen to other schools in larger centres, Goose Bay included, when they start to take to the airways and to the media saying they're losing their music teacher, they're losing their arts instructor, I'm sorry, but don't expect sympathy from me. We keep losing teacher units - half a position here, a full position there. We're down to not enough teachers to instruct our children properly in core subjects, let alone the frills.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: Just a quick point. I want to pick up on the item of the Ptarmigan Trail, the seven-year-old trail. What would be your view vis-à-vis my earlier statement? You heard me earlier talk about the trail and the environment. What is your view for us, for the government, vis-à-vis getting that up and running? I've said to you I am assigned now as a member of Parliament on the transitional job fund. I am one of them. If it were left to me I would be prepared, as I said before, to dedicate the vast majority of the funding to Rigolet and the Ptarmigan Trail, but you heard about the impediment.
Ms Bird: Yes.
Mr. O'Brien: What's your suggestion to us vis-à-vis that? I'd like to hear from you, because you heard mine.
Ms Bird: You can be held hostage by the system, and this is a prime example. If the money is there to do good within the country, within a region, do it. It would cost more, in all likelihood, time-wise.... Perhaps this winter will be the winter when somebody finally wanders out between Pease Cove Head and Carawalla and goes through the ice and is lost. When you hit that water, you do not have time to get out and get to safety. You are probably finished as soon as you hit that water.
If you take into account the paltry few dollars it will take to run the snowmobile trail through.... The money is there to do it, so for God's sake get it done.
Mr. O'Brien: I can't do it. You understand that I can't do it.
Ms Bird: I do. However, when you look at the dollars that have gone into Labrador, what development that has taken place in Labrador has basically been as the result of federal money.
With the Labrador agreements the federal government puts in 70%; the remaining 30% is put in by the province. A goodly portion of the 30% is also provided by the federal government. Whatever money we are going to get is going to come from the federal government. The province doesn't seem to be doing much of anything. It's paying a lot of lip service to it, but that doesn't do much.
Some way has to be found to simply go ahead and do this trail.
Mr. Allen Dyson (Councillor, Cartwright Community Council): I know for a fact that tomorrow morning I can get forty or fifty people to go to work right away. We're just waiting. I've got the list. I faxed the list to you, Lawrence. I don't know whether you got it or not.
Mr. O'Brien: I have a final supplementary.
The only reason as I see it, from talking to HRD people - they've got this long list in the minister's office, of course. There are criteria, and if you fail on any of the the points they can't give you the money. The one we're failing on now is the one we're talking about: the EIS vis-à-vis the trail. I'm at a loss that the rest of the country....
It's a catch-22 position, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. We have the money to do the trails, but we don't have the money to do our EISs. How can we do the trails if we can't do the EISs?
I think it's wrong. I think if the Government of Canada or the government of any province demands that you do an EIS, they should take some responsibility in making sure that the EIS becomes part of the process. We are in a catch-22 position here. We cannot move on the development of these trails in Labrador because we can't get funding to do the EIS.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma, did you have a comment?
Mr. Ringma: Yes, I need a couple of clarifications. EIS is employment -
Mr. O'Brien: No. Environmental assessments -
Ms Bird: They're environmental impact statements.
Mr. Ringma: Very quickly, then, can you describe these trails more for me. Are they just winter trails or are they for all year around?
Ms Bird: No, the bulk of them are simply to be used in the winter time. Because of the terrain, there's a lot of crossing of water involved, crossing brooks and such. A lot of these brooks are used by trout, some of them by salmon.
Mr. Ringma: Okay, so that's where the expense comes in.
Ms Bird: Yes.
Mr. Ringma: I understand it better now.
Ms Bird: You would have to put in a decent bridge. For now, if we go somewhere and can't get across a brook, we drop a few trees and go across on the trees.
Mr. O'Brien: I have to clarify this a bit more.
We do have a trail system in southern Labrador from the straits - which is down there in the Strait of Belle Isle, right on the tip of this map, as Jessie and Allen pointed out - all the way up to Cartwright. That trail system is as pristine to nature as you're going to get.
No environmental impact statements were required for that. I don't see why, and they don't see why, we have to go through mega dollars to do another one now simply because two to five years ago somebody wrote a regulation. Some nice bureaucrat with a fine suit determined the destiny of people in Labrador with new regulations.
This is the problem we're facing - bureaucratic red tape.
Mr. Ringma: We've heard it over and over again. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: I'd like to explore a couple of quick areas with you.
You and a couple of other witnesses have made reference to the development of Voisey Bay. I don't know what the right term would be, but an unhopeful term would probably be a fair characterization.
I just want to explore this for a second. Is the feeling that it isn't worth proceeding with the development, or is the feeling that you're not confident the development will happen in the best interests of all the people of Labrador?
What you need to see, and I suspect as negotiations proceed, is a system that will ensure the benefits from the harvesting of the natural resource flow to the people of Labrador.
Ms Bird: Yes.
The Chairman: If you're giving a message to this committee, the natural resources committee, about the development of that natural resource, you must make sure that whatever process is put in place includes the wealth going to the people of Labrador, for the further development of the people of Labrador.
Ms Bird: Yes, and that goes directly back to this grand theory of adjacency.
The projects being looked at, even the development of the Voisey Bay mineral find.... With an apprenticeship program there is no reason why every single position on that job site - in the smelter, wherever - with a little bit of time and training, could not be filled by people from Labrador.
The Chairman: For your information, the companies developing the tar sands in northern Alberta are in partnership with the communities doing exactly that - providing the community colleges of the area with support to train specifically according to their needs. Then they have very specific agendas on whom they hire, and they make sure they hire people from northern Alberta for those jobs.
I think that's probably a fair objective in dealing with the resource company that's doing the development. I would suspect those two things would be a minimum: 1) that they help establish the training; and 2) that they make a commitment to hire those people who are being trained for those jobs.
Ms Bird: Yes, and there's no reason why a similar program couldn't be put in place here.
The Chairman: I'd like to thank you very much for providing the testimony and for being flexible with the time. I imagine we signed you up two or three times before we spotted you in there. We very much appreciate that and very much appreciate your presentation.
Ms Bird: Thank you for allowing us the time. I'll see that you're provided with a more coherent package.
The Chairman: Thank you. There was nothing incoherent in what you said.
Ms Bird: Thanks.
The Chairman: Thank you.
I'd like to call on our next witness, from the Citizens Committee for Improved Health Care. We have with us Mr. Mike Barnes, the chairperson. We'd ask you to make an opening statement, Mr. Barnes, and then we'll turn it over to committee members for questions.
Mr. Mike Barnes (Chairperson, Citizens Committee for Improved Health Care): I have a prepared statement. I gave copies to one of your people at the door.
The Chairman: I believe we all have copies of it.
Mr. Barnes: I'm chairperson of a group of about ten residents of Happy Valley - Goose Bay who formed a concerned citizens committee about three years ago to try to improve health care services in Happy Valley - Goose Bay in particular and Labrador in general. We call ourselves the Citizens Committee for Improved Health Care and are basically a lobby group that has been lobbying the provincial government, both directly and indirectly through other groups, individuals and public forums.
We felt that two very important changes were needed to accomplish improved health care services in Happy Valley - Goose Bay, and throughout Labrador. First, we felt Labrador needed its own health care board, composed of Labrador residents, to deal with the many unique and challenging problems experienced in this region when dealing with health care issues.
Second, we felt that Labrador needed its own regional health care centre and Happy Valley - Goose Bay was the obvious central location. With the help of many groups and individuals in Labrador, we were successful in persuading government to establish a Labrador health services board for approximately 26,000 of Labrador's 30,000 residents. The 4,000 residents of south coastal Labrador chose to remain with the Grenfell Regional Health Services Board, based out of St. Anthony. This was a major accomplishment, given the past politics of the region regarding health care services delivery.
With regard to the second most important change needed to improve health care services provided in Labrador, two years ago the provincial government gave a commitment of engineering design money, which disappeared with subsequent budget cuts.
At the present time the provincial government is saying it is on the top of the list for new hospital construction in the province. This commitment is being overshadowed by an expansion to Gander regional hospital to the tune of over $50 million and the expansion of the Health Sciences Centre of St. John's to accommodate the Janeway Children's Hospital, which will cost hundreds of millions.
As you can see, being on the top of the list for new hospital construction doesn't mean much when expansion of existing hospitals is getting priority. The estimated cost three years ago to build a regional health care centre for Labrador and Happy Valley - Goose Bay was about $40 million to $50 million. This was less than the cost to expand the Gander hospital, which is only 100 kilometres from another regional health care centre facility in Grand Falls - Windsor. Our committee members questioned the fairness of the distribution of our provincial tax dollars in light of this situation.
When you consider who's getting the bulk of the financial benefits from developments in Labrador, maybe our committee should also be approaching the federal government, as well as the Quebec government, for funding for a regional health care centre. This is something our committee will have to give some consideration to.
To elaborate on this point a little more, one has to think only of the Churchill Falls hydro development. It is a fairly publicized fact that the Quebec government and the Quebec people get the bulk of the financial benefits from the hydro development at Churchill Falls and the Government of Newfoundland gets barely enough to run the hydro plant.
The bulk of benefits from the iron ore development in Labrador West go to Quebec. Seven Islands does the bulk of the processing of the ore and is the main shipping centre. It is my understanding that the population of Seven Islands went from about 5,000 to 50,000 when the iron ore mines were developed in Labrador West. The population of Labrador West was never much more than 10,000 to 12,000 people.
The military activity at Happy Valley - Goose Bay generates substantial dollars from the European countries that use the base facilities and practise low-level flying over Labrador. Most of the money goes directly into the federal treasury.
The economic benefits being created by the building and upgrading of the trans-Labrador highway are going to the trucking firms, wholesalers, and distributors in Quebec. Quebec has derived the greater part of revenue from development in Labrador to date, but because Labrador is part of the province of Newfoundland, Quebec has no responsibility for providing government services in Labrador.
This is hardly a fair and equitable situation for the Government of Newfoundland or more especially for the residents of Labrador. The standing committee may want to consider how Quebec could be contributing to the government services in Labrador, given the huge amount of revenue that province is realizing because of development in Labrador.
Voisey Bay is the latest development to take place in Labrador, and it seems at present that the bulk of the revenue will remain or be generated in this province, although not necessarily in the Labrador region. The people who are losing out the most on all of these developments are the residents of Labrador.
Most of the jobs created by these developments are going to workers from outside Labrador. Labrador residents are not getting sufficient training to acquire many skilled jobs, and company hiring practices favour trained workers the companies may have at another location as opposed to hiring local workers and providing training.
In closing, I'd like to say that if Labrador residents were getting any kind of a reasonable return from the tax revenues generated by development in the region, which are presently going to the governments of Newfoundland, Quebec, and Canada, there would be more than enough money for adequate health care services and facilities, as well as other government services.
Labrador residents could have a standard of living up to provincial and national standards instead of having the conditions that now exist in most parts of Labrador, which in some communities border on Third World conditions.
The Chairman: Mr. Deshaies.
Mr. Deshaies: I have just a few comments.
What you said may have shown that when a province or a state or a country like Canada invests to builds roads or infrastructure to develop this area, it gives money back. When you said Quebec takes advantage of the development of Labrador, sure, because it might be Quebec that injected money to build a road to go to Wabush. So I think if Wabush is working and Churchill Falls is working, maybe it's because they have a road from Quebec and they paid in the past to have profit now.
I don't know whether it's through Newfoundland or Quebec, but I think you need to keep in mind that you need roads or infrastructure or tools if in the future you are to have a hospital here and upgrade your health care.
It's hard to address your needs right now, because the federal government doesn't have direct responsibility for health care. I understand that indirectly you report on federal activity, to complete or to advance.... I don't know how to explain it in English, but the result you want is to upgrade your health services, no matter what comes from Newfoundland, Quebec, or the federal government. Is that it?
Mr. Barnes: Yes, that's basically our position. We've been trying to pressure the provincial government to put into place a health care facility here in Labrador, a regional type of facility. Up until now the regional facility for Labrador is at St. Anthony, which is at the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland. That has always been a problem in serving the people's needs in this region.
Now, building the regional centre for Labrador is going to cost $50 million. The point we're trying to make and are going to pursue - and which we hope your committee will give us some assistance on - is this. The governments of Canada, Quebec, and Newfoundland are deriving revenues and benefits from developments in Labrador. I think the three governments should jointly share something like a regional health care facility for the people of Labrador.
They should probably jointly share something like the construction of the trans-Labrador highway. In the first instance people in the Quebec government are going to get the benefits from the trans-Labrador highway because of the trucking firms, the wholesalers, the distributors. Newfoundland will get the 12% or 15%, whatever it's going to be, from the sale of goods, but Quebec is getting the first benefit.
The thing that really irritates me is the fact that Quebec is deriving a lot of benefits from developments in Labrador. Churchill Falls hydro development stands out as the big one, but they're getting benefits from Labrador City and Wabush from the infrastructure built up at Seven Islands.
You're getting jobs and revenue from supplying Labrador with goods over the trans-Labrador road, but you're not putting any money back into the region to develop what the people need in the way of servicing the facilities from government.
Because of the way the system is set up in this country, if a particular province has jurisdiction over a particular group of people or a particular body of land, they're supposedly responsible for providing the services to the people on that land. It's kind of ironic that one province will be getting better benefits and revenue from a particular region, while another province is responsible for putting services in there. The money is going out in one direction, and it's got to come in in another.
The system has to change if the people of Labrador are going to get goods and services of a standard that's enjoyed in the rest of this country and the rest of this province. I mean, all you have to do is travel around Labrador, particularly coastal Labrador, to know what I'm talking about.
Mr. Deshaies: Mr. Barnes, I think as Mr. Hall from the chamber of commerce.... We missed in northwest Quebec because it's a young area.... It started 70 years ago. We lost the possibility of having a sustainable industry for wood. Companies came and went with the profits. It's an opening area here. I think you have a good role to play in giving a strong message that if the industry wants to come here and pick the natural resources, they have to return a good part of their profit to build your area.
You said Quebec can have profit through the highway and it's time to build a partnership with the neighbours. I'm a neighbour to your riding. I think it's time to give the message we're open for partnership and development. I think it's the better way right now because money.... We know they have a lot of money in the bank, but when it's time to build, it's hard to find this money.
I think you are a group of lobbyists who work for the welfare of your community, and you have to continue. I think the member from your riding has to transport your message. Being on the border you have so many needs that partnership with Quebec and the federal government is necessary. You need the trail and the money for each study on the environment. Whether it is necessary is another question. You need the money for the highway. You need the money for the infrastructure. You need money for the small communities that do not have the minimum for their needs.
Mr. Barnes: There are a lot of needs here. There's no doubt about that.
Mr. Deshaies: But you have a lot of -
Mr. Barnes: There is also a lot of potential here in Labrador for development.
Mr. Deshaies: Yes. The message is keep the pressure on to ensure a good return.
Mr. Barnes: Our committee will certainly be approaching the three governments to share the costs jointly for this regional health care facility, and we'll see what the response is. We hope your committee will assist us if you're able to, especially in approaching the federal and Quebec governments to come to some kind of an agreement that favours the residents of Labrador first - not the companies, not the governments of other provinces that are well off to start with.
Favour the people of Labrador, who have always had what I consider to be a very poor standard of living, at least in a lot of parts of Labrador. It's only because of neglect. Everyone's got the attitude, well, how much can we take out, how little can we put back? It has to change. This is almost the year 2000, and we have parts of Labrador that are bordering on, if not already in, a third world type of situation. Go across the country, and you'll see it's utterly ridiculous to look at well-developed regions that have been developed with money that may have at least partly come out of Labrador. Yet these people are living here without the minimum standards.
We'll certainly push on the health care issues. We will get involved in them. As you said, there are a lot of needs in Labrador. Health care to my mind is one of the most important government services, so we're certainly going to push for the health care end of it. Maybe that will start something.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: Mr. Barnes, the justice or the injustice of the situation as you've described it is pretty clear, but what isn't clear is what can be done about it, given the constitutional slice-up, health care being a provincial thing. Mind you, the federal government is in on the act. As you're well aware, it still disperses about $7 billion a year to the provinces for health care. The Canada Health Act is a constraining thing, so I understand how you would say what you're saying to a federal committee while knowing that your main fight is with the provincial government. But it seems to me that this is just one other aspect of all of the stories we've heard here today. It's just one other example of Labrador getting the short end of the stick.
I guess this isn't even a question, it's more of a statement: All of the factors in Labrador have to combine together to shout it out as loudly as you can so that both superior levels of government get the message that you are not going to stand getting short-changed again and again.
The federal government takes responsibility by saying it will deliver a good, basic standard of health care wherever you are across Canada, so maybe there's a point that could be made specifically on the health care issue even though it's a provincial responsibility. If you are not getting it here or if you are not getting it in the little communities outside of here, maybe that's what you should base your case on. You are being inadequately served even though there's a statement there that all will be treated equally.
Mr. Barnes: Well, it's already done, sir. The health care system in the country is being reviewed. Our committee is a part of that review, and I've put forward that same argument.
Because it's delegated down through the provinces, we don't have one health care system in this country. We have at least a dozen. Each province has its own level of health care that it provides to the people by way of facilities, infrastructure and physicians and the like. Newfoundland has about the lowest in the country, and Labrador is second to that, so I put forward the point that Labrador has about the lowest standard of health care services in this country.
They're listening to people from all over the country, so that is one of the questions: Will health care go back to the federal government so that it will be administered nationally? In my mind, that's the only way that Canadians are going to get a standard of health care that's even across this country. Right now we're the lowest of the low in this region with regards to health care services, among a lot of other services. Until it's administered by one unit, like the federal government, it's not going to change. I don't know where it's going to go. We put forward that argument, and I hope someone was listening. If not, then we're just going to struggle on with what we have and we'll try to improve it.
Mr. Ringma: The last suggestion that I would make is that in addition to emphasizing your need for a regional health care facility here in Goose Bay - Happy Valley, you should perhaps underline the situations that are bound to exist in all the little villages throughout Labrador. I would think they really suffer. The smaller the village, the less the access to any sort of even basic care. Perhaps that should be documented to the extent that you can do it. Say ``Here we are'', and bring out the horror stories.
Mr. Barnes: There's no doubt that they're out there.
The Chairman: Mrs. Cowling.
Mrs. Cowling: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
You talk about health care. Some of the things we've heard about right across the country are the human infrastructure, the building of that human infrastructure, and the delivery of services. I would like your comments on whether or not the information highway is a vehicle that would help to deliver those services to the isolated areas of Labrador.
I had an opportunity to speak with the chamber of commerce person who was here today. She had indicated to me that maybe one of the ways to bring smaller communities together would be through a satellite. Many of these communities are isolated, so perhaps a satellite would allow people to gather in a hall to share and network with each other. They could be mentors to each other on that information highway.
I want your comments on that. Do you think it's something that might help this particular area?
Mr. Barnes: From what I can understand, that particular type of system is already being addressed through a grant from the International Grenfell Association fund. They're in the process of setting up some sort of satellite-type service to all of the coastal stations. But that won't address the basic problem of having someone there to provide service.
What's been happening for years on the coast of Labrador is that the service has been provided by nurses. Doctors have gone into these communities on a pretty irregular basis to provide primary care and to see that people come back to the hospital for the service that they require. But the problem you're up against here in providing service to people - and in having doctors in place to provide service - is that again Newfoundland and Labrador pay doctors the lowest wage scale in this country, and in North America.
Over here at Melville Hospital, which serves all of coastal Labrador north of Black Tickle - 4,000 people south of that are served by another health care board - you have a hospital that can't keep much more than half-staff. It has a job to provide a service to coastal communities when there is hardly enough to go around in this area. The problem that you're up against is keeping enough staff on location to be able to serve these communities with something other than nursing care.
The nurses are providing good care out there. I won't knock that. They're as good as.... Some people say they're better than a lot of doctors, but that's a matter of opinion.
But again, until the province deals with the issue of the low wage scale for doctors in this province, it's going to be a continuing struggle. The people on the coast, of course, are the people who lose out the most because there's a plane ride of an hour or two to get to them, then you have to see them, and then you have to get back to Melville Hospital if this is the regional centre - or supposedly regional centre - for the coast of Labrador. This all takes time. You have a doctor on a plane for two hours going and two hours coming. That's four hours. They have a way out, but how do you best utilize their time? Do you bring the people in? Do you send the doctor out? Or do you keep the doctors here and provide service to people here first? It's really a game of how to make use of what little resources you have.
It will help to have a satellite set-up and have the Internet and the whole bit. You'll get the information out there, but you still have the problem of having the human resources to provide the service.
Mrs. Cowling: Can I take it, then, that it would be a recommendation for the federal government to try to incorporate a satellite-type information centre for areas that are isolated, such as this area? Would that help the delivery?
Mr. Barnes: Sure, it would certainly help. But there are a lot of other things that need to be done.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Barnes. We appreciate that you have taken the time to provide the testimony, and that you have brought a perspective that we hadn't heard of before.
Mr. Barnes: Thank you.
The Chairman: I'd like to call on our next witness, from the Combined Councils of Labrador (Goose Bay), Judy O'Dell. Would you like to come forward, please?
Your brief has been passed out to the members. We'd ask you to make an opening statement of about ten minutes, and then we'll go into questions. Please proceed.
Ms Judy O'Dell (Combined Councils of Labrador (Goose Bay)): First of all, I would like to welcome the House of Commons Standing Committee on Natural Resources to Labrador, particularly to the upper Lake Melville area. Located in central Labrador, Lake Melville is the jumping-off point for much of the activity that occurs to the north, south and east of Goose Bay.
Throughout Labrador, there is a greater use of and dependency upon the renewable resources, such as the caribou and fish that may be harvested. This promotes a great awareness of the surrounding natural environment and all that it entails. The caribou hunt is determined by the migrating habits of the George River caribou herd, with hunters travelling to different points of the interior to take part in this pursuit. Caribou, fish and birds are used to supplement the food stores of the people of this region.
With the decline in the fishery and the lack of adequate road structure, food prices continue to be higher in this area. Often, people will supplement their incomes with moneys made from trapping the various areas of Labrador. Furs and pelts provide an additional source of revenue. Pelts and hides are often used in the local production of craft items, boots and coats. This resource is now experiencing a growth spurt, as much effort is being made to attract tourists.
The importance of the specific resource activity varies between communities. Fishing may be the most valued activity in one, trapping in another. Although the upper Lake Melville area sees the harvesting of wild game and fish as a minor supplement to the income and food intake of the region, the activity itself is viewed by the community as very important for the natural harvesting cycle, and a tool to promote tourism.
The Labrador central region, which includes Happy Valley - Goose Bay, Sheshatshit, and Mud Lake, has an economy based primarily on military and government administration. Although during recent months downsizing has occurred in these sectors, renewed hope for continued prosperity is being experienced due to the new mining activities to the north, and expected increased activity related to forestry. Once again, a major effort must be made to attract pulp and paper companies to come into this area and process the pulp wood here. However, once again the lack of a proper road infrastructure has a limiting effect due to the high transportation costs that constrain the various developments.
Over the past 50 years the base has experienced several periods of expansion that have required the services of large numbers of both skilled and unskilled workers. The influx of workers brought new ideas, new skills and new value systems. With the possibility of privatization, individuals presently employed there are seeking new opportunities for employment. As a result of this, individuals are looking more to the natural resource-based industries located on their doorsteps to gain meaningful employment in order to maintain their current lifestyle.
Labrador is rich in natural, cultural and historical attractions and offers much to the traveller, particularly those who seek the experiences of a remote area. In light of the potential that exists, over $1 million has been spent on tourism promotion since 1985. The future development of Labrador is hinged on the upgrading and completion of the trans-Labrador highway. This will provide the important key to increased success in the national and international tourism market, the expansion of the mining-related businesses and forestry-related projects.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention our hydroelectric power facilities located at Churchill Falls. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal government of Canada, should make every effort to attract private and government support for the development of the lower Churchill, as well as a revised and more equitable contract for the upper Churchill. Development will come once the power source is secured at a cheap rate to attract new and expanded businesses.
The future of defence and mining sectors is central to the future of the service sectors in Happy Valley - Goose Bay. The highway now facilitates surface delivery of goods to central Labrador at a cost much higher than other regions of Canada, due to the condition and distance that they must travel over substandard road surfaces.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the panel for allowing me to address the needs of this area for continued development. What better place to discuss natural resources than in an area which boasts such vast terrains, culture and history. All the peoples of Labrador must work together in partnership with governments to promote what we take for granted.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Ringma: Thank you, Ms O'Dell. You've covered quite a range of things, many of which have been covered today. I'd like to zero in a bit on tourism and some of the obstacles to that, one of which is the international perspective on what it is that we do in Canada. I'm thinking of the fur trade as one, and seals as another.
I live on the west coast, and from my living room I can look out at a reef about half a mile away. In season it is covered with seals, barking and barfing away. It annoys me because I know they're eating all of our fish, yet we can't do anything about it. When I was young we had a $2 per nose bounty on seals, and that kept them in check. But we've got this international, the Brigitte Bardots and everyone else there saying oh no, you can't do this. Even our big pulp and paper companies on the coast are being held to ransom sometimes because of environmental concerns by the international markets.
I would think your concern must be the same as mine, but how are you coping with this international and even national pressure, because there are pressure groups within Canada that are saying you can't do a seal cull or a seal hunt?
Ms O'Dell: I think a lot of education needs to be done, and we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians need to do that education of the general public. I think videos such as were shown from the Petty Harbour fisherpersons last year did more harm than all the good that could possibly be done for a long time to come.
We need to show that we're not barbaric. We need to educate people. They eat beef but there doesn't seem to be an outcry that they had to kill the cow in order to eat the beef.
I think we need a travelling road show, so to speak. We need to have the products that can be made out of this type pelt and we need to be able to market those products.
I understand there's a company coming into Newfoundland to harvest the seals for pelts and for production. The fisherpersons of Newfoundland and Labrador are hurting right now because of the fact that the seals are eating the fish. They are so numerous that the seals themselves are suffering because they develop worms and other diseases because there's not enough of the food chain to keep them going.
I see it as an educational type of venture that the people of Labrador, particularly on the north coast, where last year a number of the seals taken were not in a healthy state, and it's because of the lack of food in the food chain and the numbers of seals that are out there.
So I think an educational campaign needs to be undertaken, either by the sealing association or by the governments of today.
Mr. Ringma: Okay. Can I read into our conclusions that you also look to the federal government to do its share in helping you - whether it's the Department of the Environment, or Natural Resources - and that they should understand your problem totally and act as one of your partners?
Ms O'Dell: Right. I think a lot of the items that I needed for Labrador, such as the skidoo trails and to promote outdoor tourism and to do videos.... I think there has to be more of an understanding by government departments that we need a marketing strategy for Labrador. Destination Labrador has done a wonderful job in the past, but it needs additional influx of cash and funds and trained personnel to promote this area.
I understand that Ontario does a tremendous multi-million-dollar business with skidoo trails, and where better than Labrador to promote outdoor tourism, especially in February and March?
Mr. Ringma: Yes. It strikes me that this is perfect country for the German tourist. Those who come here must think this is just paradise. Do any of the airmen who come here from The Netherlands or the German air force ever get out and...?
Ms O'Dell: They do outdoor survival training here, as do the Americans. A number of armed forces people come back here on a yearly basis in February and March.
Part of that is the tourism drive - the annual carnival on the base or the annual carnival in the valley. But they do come back to this area and they bring their families and they do take part in fishing and hunting. Even going down on the base and fishing through the ice for smelts - they find it such a big attraction that they come back year after year. We've seen that word-of-mouth tourism is really increasing in this area.
Mr. Ringma: Good. Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: I want to put this in relative terms. I wanted to say something when Mr. Barnes was up, but I was speaking to one of the staffers here. I wanted to thank him for the comments he made and the focus on health care. If we're going to have strong economic development, if we're going to have the youth being the nucleus driving the future and so on, we'll need the good health, and that is a very pressing need. Even though it's a provincial jurisdiction, I think Mr. Barnes made a very good point when he said that others are responsible. While it's primarily a provincial responsibility, he brought the point out well, and he alluded to it in terms of later development - i.e., low-level flying and so on.
In terms of the combined council's presentation here, what you're saying.... Mr. Roberts has been here all day, and you've heard the same message. It's a very common theme here. It's very basic, very down to earth. What's being driven home here in your report is almost as good a summary of concluding remarks as there was in the introduction - the first ones from the mayor. It's ironic that we heard from Mayor Harry Baikie at 9 a.m., and we have Councillor Judy O'Dell from the same town, who's also vice-chair of the combined councils, making those comments with her companion from western Labrador, Mr. Roberts.
I don't have to explain to you that the common denominators are very clear. The message I've been trying to push on the national scene and will continue to.... I think I'm on course on what I'm saying vis-à-vis the views of the people of Labrador.
Ms O'Dell: In summary, I think we need a total partnership between all peoples of Labrador to get on with the land claims and get on with the future development of Labrador. I think the federal and provincial governments have to make a concerted effort to promote development and finalize the land claims issue.
The Chairman: I have a question I want to ask you about tourism. You mentioned that as a potential economic benefit here. I suspect that a part of that occurs in development, with the private sector developing certain hospitality and accommodation types of enterprises. Do you have any knowledge as to how difficult or not difficult it is for private operators to access capital to begin those types of businesses in this area?
Ms O'Dell: From what I can gather, the local lending agencies such as ACOA, the Labrador Venture Capital or Community Development Corporation are very keen to promote this area, and I don't believe there has been any problem in the past obtaining funding to upgrade facilities to establish bed and breakfasts, for example. I understand that the aboriginal funding helped with the hotel next door. So there has been a real push to get more accommodations here. We'd like to see more federal-type panels coming into this area and us having the accommodations to accommodate whoever wants to come to this area.
We'd like to have a civic centre. Can you tell us how we can access one?
The Chairman: From your response I take it that the private sector, the chartered banks, are not your prime source of funding for development, but rather the programs like ACOA.
Ms O'Dell: For the most part, yes. They're more likely to lend and usually at a lower rate than the bank. People tend to go to these agencies first.
The Chairman: So you would speed the continuation of the regional development agency here in Atlantic Canada as a priority.
Ms O'Dell: As a must.
The Chairman: Okay. That's even better than a priority.
Mr. O'Brien: Tell it to the Ontario caucus, though.
Ms O'Dell: Without it we'd have very little development.
The Chairman: I asked this question of the mayor, and I'll ask it of you. The government had an infrastructure program in 1994 that sought their contribution -
Ms O'Dell: Two-thirds in this area. We really liked the infrastructure program. We'd love to have a sewage treatment plant for this area. It's our mandate to try to get that over the next number of years, but we're only a small municipality and the cost involved with this type of infrastructure is huge. But when you have the Province of Newfoundland - we have been good corporate citizens, and not put our community into debt - refusing to pay their one-third shot of our water system, a sewage treatment plant would be beyond our grasp at this point in time unless we get an infusion of cash from an infrastructure program.
We would even like to see it fifty-fifty, that the province pay it and let the poor little municipality continue on with its day-to-day business. But that's pie in the sky.
Mr. O'Brien: I know it's beyond my time, Mr. Chairman, but may I interject a point. I want to say to you that what she's saying is 100% of the sewage going into the Churchill River is raw sewage. There's no treatment at all.
Ms O'Dell: It goes out to salmon rivers, which we as a community would like to correct.
The Chairman: Mrs. Cowling.
Mrs. Cowling: The issue of land claims has come up several times today. I think it's only fitting to say that I and the chair both sat on the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee in the House of Commons previous to our involvement with this committee. We both know it is in fact a priority of our government to get those land claims settled as quickly as possible.
Ms O'Dell: It's good to hear.
The Chairman: Thank you for your testimony. We very much appreciate it.
Ms O'Dell: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: I'd like to call on our next witness, from the Economic Development Corporation, Mr. John Hickey. Mr. Hickey, we appreciate your being here and the fact that you've been here most of the day, if not all of it.
Mr. John Hickey (Director, Economic Development Corporation): First of all, Mr. Chairman, may I say how very pleased I am to sit before your committee.
I'll give you a little of my history. I'm a town councillor for the town of Happy Valley - Goose Bay. Judy O'Dell, my colleague, gave a presentation on behalf of the combined councils. I'm a past president of the combined councils.
I'm 42 years old, and I've spent 38 years of my life in Labrador. For the last 22 years I've worked throughout most of the communities in Labrador. I grew up here, in the town of Churchill Falls. During the construction of that major development here in Labrador I sold papers to the construction crews down at the main campsite.
So I have a great knowledge of Labrador. I have a great knowledge of the people of Labrador. As a Labradorian I have great concerns for the future of our children and our grandchildren here in Labrador.
I also want to say how very pleased I am that our new MP has taken the initiative he has to bring MPs from Ottawa into Labrador. We have not seen that in the past. I think - and I support his approach - we need to educate the people in Ottawa, as well as the people in St. John's, about some of the needs and aspirations of the people of Labrador.
I want to take you back a few minutes to talk about our history. Our history is very important. To understand how we feel, it is sometimes interesting to look at our history and our past.
I guess it goes right back to 1927, when the Privy Council in Britain gave the land mass of Labrador, the 112,000 square miles of Labrador, to the Government of Newfoundland at the time. They did this without any recourse for the people who were here at the time, the native people. There were no questions asked: it was done, given, ceded.
When we go back to our history and look at our resources, just in my short time here I can tell you that Labrador has not received its fair share of the economic wealth and economic benefits of our natural resources. You've heard some of our history this morning already, and I don't mean to belabour it, but it's very important.
Infrastructure has not been a priority of our provincial governments in the past. Some of us, indeed many of us, throughout Labrador believe it's not a priority of today, either. If you look at our forest industry, at our hydro industry, at many of the resources here in Labrador, the wealth has gone outside the region of Labrador to benefit others.
This must change. It has to change. I can tell you, young Labradorians like me are going to be on the forefront of making this happen. We are not happy with this marriage between Labrador and the island portion of the province.
This morning you've heard from many people, all of whom I know, who have told you about the problems of the coastal communities, communities that were self-sufficient in the days of the fishery. If the federal government of the day, with the provincial government of the day, had looked at adjacency, and said this resource must be for the benefit of the people who live adjacent to it, we would still have vibrant communities today. We would still have fish plants operating. We would still have people living useful lives with certainty, and with a future to build on. This has not happened, as you well know.
So the question we ask ourselves here in Labrador is how can we take our natural resources, which we have...? Everybody talks about Voisey Bay. I can tell you, as a Labradorian, I'm not excited about Voisey Bay. I'm excited that we have a major resource here, but from what I've seen to date - and I'm fairly close to it - the only thing Labrador is going to end up with from Voisey Bay is a big hole in the ground. I'm not happy with Inco and the attitude they have taken on this.
To give you an example, last year the contractor who was doing most of the cutting at Voisey Bay flew 30 line cutters from the island portion of the province to Voisey Bay to cut trees, to cut grid lines, for the exploration companies. But I can go to any community on the coast of Labrador and find experienced people who know how to use a chainsaw and know their way around the bush to be able to do that type of work. So this must stop.
A group of citizens down on the south coast just made a presentation to Inco, using the slogan ``The nickel stops here''. I think it's very fitting that this is the message we are going to be sending out to the federal government and to the provincial government. We want the full economic benefits of Voisey Bay. From what I'm hearing, however, that may not, and will not, be the case.
The question is, how do we approach this whole political issue here in Labrador? As in any political arena, there are views to the right, to the left and to the centre. There are some very strong views in Labrador that we should cease this association, or marriage, between Labrador and the island portion of the province. There are very strong views on that now. A lot of us don't know where we can go or what we can do to keep our resources for the benefit of our children and our grandchildren. We've been raped. We've been pillaged.
In terms of the political scene in which we live today in Labrador, we have only four MHAs in the House of Assembly in St. John's out of about 48, and we have one MP to represent our views in the House of Commons in Ottawa. So we lack that political clout.
The big question we have to look at - and I think Labradorians are prepared to look at it - is where do we go from here, and how do we protect the future for our kids and our grandchildren? This is the challenge.
You've heard some issues this morning, like the trans-Labrador highway. I've been involved in the politics here in Labrador since 1985, and this has been a burning issue. All we have got from our governments is lip service over the years.
There was a lobby on the island portion of the province to stop the trans-Labrador highway, not to support it. It came out of the economics of some of the communities on the island portion of the province, that basically they were the goods and services providers to the people on the coast of Labrador.
But when our council here in Happy Valley - Goose Bay challenged Clyde Wells and the Liberal government some years ago when the issue came up about plowing the trans-Labrador highway from here to Churchill Falls to open it for the winter, it was interesting that the province came back to us and said to us as a municipality, ``We will give you $400,000. See if you can plow the road.'' I remember myself and Deputy Mayor Shouse, who was sitting in on that meeting, we said to former premier Wells, ``That is not acceptable. Besides, transportation is your responsibility.''
The relationship we have with the island portion of the province, and particularly the provincial government, is that you don't spend money in Labrador: ``It costs money in Labrador to do things, and we don't have the money.'' Well, the nickel stops here, and the message we're going to be sending loud and clear is that if you don't have it, go borrow it, and use the $80 billion worth of ore in Voisey Bay as the collateral.
You listened here this morning. You heard a citizen from our community here, Mr. Mike Barnes, talk about health care. On your way to the airport, if you would be so kind as to get someone to drive you by the local hospital here, that hospital facility, my friends, was put there by the American forces and given over to the province for $1. That's what we have here for our hospital. It's outdated, and its structural integrity is certainly questionable.
We have a situation now where it's ``Oh, you're top of the list, top of the list, top of the list.'' Well, we're sick and tired of being on top of the list. It's no good being on top of the list if you don't get any money to do the things we've got to do here. The roads network, the health care issues, the economic development issues off the coast of Labrador - these have got to be addressed.
I think you're going to find there's a political unrest in Labrador right now, especially with the younger people. The older folks - I think for much of our history we were sort of complacent and we didn't speak out. But there's a term we use now, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and let me tell you, I believe the squeaking is going to start. I think Voisey Bay is really going to be the tinderbox, the match that's going to really spark people to say ``No, no, we cannot lose this.''
Another issue I just want to touch on regarding our natural resources - and I heard some talk about it here this morning - is tourism. I happened to be in Saskatoon a couple of years ago when we were bidding for the 1993 national broomball championships, which I chaired, and it was my first opportunity to talk to people from across the country. I was quite amazed at the fact that not many people knew a lot about Labrador. Some people didn't even know where it was located, which really surprised me.
What I found out from that, from my own personal view, was that we hadn't done our homework either, as far as getting the message out as to where we are. Nor do I think our politicians in the past have done a very good job of getting out the good word as far as what Labrador has to offer - what we have to offer not only the province, but the country as a whole. When we talk about a trans-Labrador highway and we talk about a highway system that will come out of the States and into Nova Scotia, into Quebec, down the coast of Labrador, back into the island portion of the province - what we call the great circle route, as Clyde Wells once called it - we see that as the key.
The amount of tourists and economic spin-offs that will be put both into our own province of Newfoundland and Labrador but also into the provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia.... This is a very, very, very interesting project. I think it's a Canadian unity project. These are the types of project we should be doing, we should be looking at - connecting people together.
This morning I heard some of the presenters here talk about the Ptarmigan Trail and trail systems. We would love to be tied in with the trail system with northern Quebec and with Manitoba. Can you imagine the amount of travel that would take place between our provinces?
As far as our own economic situation here, we see ourselves having economic ties with the province of Quebec. It's in our interest. Why should I have a package of Kraft dinner shipped all the way from Toronto down to Sydney and across to Port aux Basques, travel the island portion of the province, put on a boat and sent back up here to me, when I can put it on a transport truck in Toronto and have it come in through Quebec over the trans-Labrador highway into our town?
We have two proposed national parks for Labrador. One is in the Torngat Mountains, a very beautiful part of Canada. I've said before that I think Labrador is probably Canada's best-kept secret. Torngat Mountain National Park should be a priority of the federal government. It should be a place that we keep pristine because of its unique ecosystems.
As far as the George River caribou herd, the calving grounds are found in a part of Labrador. For those of you who don't know, it's around 700,000 animals, and is the world's largest herd. It's just a spectacular sight to see these animals.
We have the second proposed site for a national park in the Mealy Mountains, just to the southeast of here. But we see the road connection down the coast of Labrador to Cartwright and on into the straits, and we see a national park in the Mealy Mountains, and we believe that could be the economic driving force. There's no point in putting a park in the Mealy Mountains if we're not going to let people see it. Why not put a road there?
But it would also access our great forest industry. We have over one million cords of pulp in inventory, of which I think we're allowed to harvest 110,000 cords annually. Right now we only process somewhere around 15,000 or 20,000 cords. There is great potential there, but we need the road systems to be able to make it happen.
I could go on for some time, but I want to talk about one last issue before I stop for questions, and that's the land claims. As you know, we have three aboriginal groups here in Labrador: the Labrador Inuit Association, the Innu and Naskapi-Montagnais, and the Métis.
I want to say to you, as a committee, that whatever help you can give, whatever push you can give to this issue of land claims, we must - we must - deal with this issue of land claims now, and we must deal with it in a fair and equitable manner.
It is my support to the aboriginal people that at the end of the day the economic benefits will hopefully go back to them and their communities. I support this very strongly, because as a Labradorian I see that wealth flowing back into the Labrador economy, so we all benefit from that.
On that note, I'll take some questions.
The Chairman: Very good. Thank you.
Mr. Deshaies: It's not really a question because your words enforce the message from other witnesses.
Today I learned a term from my neighbour, ``political football'', and I said ``what's that?'', because my English is poor. It's something we don't have to say anything about, the history of the transfer of Labrador to Newfoundland. It's part of political football, and we don't have to speak about that, especially with Quebeckers like me.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Hickey: You got an opportunity and you messed it up.
Mr. Deshaies: What we have in common is to ensure that each rural community receives the full return on their development. It must be kept in mind that if you want to maintain suitable development for each rural community, you need that.
There is the same feeling in each part of Canada that our natural resources go to the north, to the south. I call that coming from the north. You have a good occasion with Voisey Bay - not the only occasion, I think, because if the nickel goes too far, you will lose your full return.
We have heard a similar message from other witnesses, that road communication is the most important way to develop your rural area. Thank you.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: First, I thank you for mentioning the two national parks. It's the first time I've heard of it. I think it should be part of your overall picture here for the pushing for the roads. I think it's a very worthwhile thing.
Second, I'm a British Columbian. B.C. has, over my lifetime, been to some degree separatist as a function of its dissatisfaction with the central government in Ottawa, and what we perceive to be the power of Quebec and Ontario, who say ``We've got it made here''. That dissatisfaction has, on and off, over all those years, provoked some degree of separatism. I liken that in a sense to Labrador vis-à-vis Newfoundland.
I don't have any great sage counsel for you. In fact I kind of have to throw the question back at you, the question that you've asked yourself: what do we do about it? I mean, you sort of made some veiled threats there, that when the situation gets to an intolerable point, something is going to happen.
Specifically, do we need a change of system here? And if so, what direction should it take?
Mr. Hickey: This issue of separatism in Labrador does exist; let's not try to brush it clear. There are very strong feelings that we would probably be much better off as a territory if we could utilize our resources and if we had the revenues and the taxes of our resources coming in to a central or a regional government here in Labrador to be dispersed.
Having said that, that may be fine for us to wish that, and to think that, and to look at that whole bit, but the reality of it is that first of all, if we had a referendum in Labrador tomorrow, I would venture to say probably 85% of the people of Labrador would vote for a different association or a different relationship with the province. It's fine to say that, but then to get that to happen is another issue.
My personal view on it is that I would much rather, as a Labradorian, work within the system that's there now, both federally and provincially, to be able to look at our economic future, to provide training for our kids, to provide an economic opportunity for our communities. This is what we're asking for. These are feelings that come out of frustration. It's not that we want to separate. Why put our whole energy into that issue? The problem we've had and our history is that we have never been able to get that message home.
I still believe that there is a thinking within the government, within the bureaucracy of the provincial government, to not put any infrastructure up in Labrador. If you put infrastructure in Labrador, it draws more people. More people is more power. More power, and we've got ourselves a problem. That's my view. That's where I think we are.
That's why I think the smelter will go on the island. The Voisey Bay refinery will go on the island, and Labrador once again will not get the infrastructure. We will not get the infrastructure of this development. I'm making that prediction. I hope I'm wrong, but I can tell you from my knowledge of staying close to it, that I won't be. We'll find that out toward the end of the month.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. O'Brien: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
It's not strange to me to hear Mr. Hickey's comments. I served for 11 years on the same council with him, and I believe the sentiments coming forward are indicative of the views of the people.
There are a couple of points I'd like to mention and to try to put into perspective. I'm going to ask Mr. Hickey to comment on it. This is what they call the two extremities of life, if you wish - where we're going, where we are and where we were yesterday.
We all hear of the Voisey Bay find. I just had an article handed to me - ``The lure of nickel has brought modern times to barren Voisey's Bay''. There's a photograph of an elderly lady from Nain walking down one of the worst roads in the world with a cane.
I just came back from Nain. Twenty miles from Nain is the greatest find. I was in Nain on Monday on behalf of the Honourable Diane Marleau to open a battered women's home. Likewise, I was in Hopedale. When I was in Nain I was called to a meeting on short notice. It was probably strategically established time-wise, because the member of Parliament was there, as was the local member of the House of Assembly, Willy Andersen.
This was to deal with the greatest single tragedy that we, as a people on this planet, can witness. It's called the tragedy of a community. I want to show you the two extremities. In a six-day period prior to the Monday I was there, two people committed suicide and two people attempted it. Two people shot themselves. Four people in six days in a community of 1200 people.
You heard it all today. You heard it from one extreme to the other. What do we do? What are we up to? I'm asking and begging the people of Canada and you, as parliamentarians, and others to listen. I don't expect us to be the only place in Canada. I've been up through Manitoba and other places. I've been in northern Manitoba, and I've seen it elsewhere. I'm not saying Labrador is uniquely different, but there are parts of Canada that are uniquely the same. In some ways, we get swallowed up.
Mr. Hickey, how do you feel about the statement I made? If you look at it in terms of the socio-economic, the culture, it's such a comprehensive.... There's a big mix there. It's very difficult to put it in perspective. What are your views on that?
Mr. Hickey: I'm very familiar with what you're saying, Lawrence. Right now, in many of the communities.... For instance, let's take Nain. Last year in Nain, which is our most northern community, had 1200 residents. Suddenly, when the exploration started last year, we had an influx. There was more activity. There were more choppers - you almost needed an air traffic control centre at the airport, there were that many choppers and aircraft coming in with this big rush for exploration activity.
I think for a lot of the communities.... I'll just go back to Nain on the issue of the municipality there, because I know it well. Last year they had a meeting with the provincial government and said they didn't have the infrastructure to handle this, didn't have the water supplies, the sewers or most of the infrastructure needed to meet the demands being placed on their community. The provincial government told them sorry, they didn't have the money.
Can you imagine telling a community that's been impacted by a major rush and an ore deposit worth $80 billion sitting 20 miles southeast of it, sorry, we can't help you any more than we can help a community on the south coast of the island portion of the province? But a community on the south coast of the island wasn't after getting it with a major influx and development.
I think this whole issue of social problems that have sometimes been caused within the communities - a lot of the time the communities don't have the support mechanisms to deal with these very important issues. We're talking about the lives of people within these communities.
I think this is where both the federal and provincial governments.... I was glad to hear this lady mention the information highway this morning, and about bringing high-tech information to some of these communities, because a lot of these communities now have schools. Some of them need to be upgraded, there's no question about that, but at least give them the opportunity to access the information through the Internet. This is very important. I think all northern communities should have this access.
Having said that, I think the support mechanisms have to come from governments that see what's happening within the communities. The way to do that is to talk to the people within the communities. We can take you to communities throughout Labrador where projects have failed because engineers, consulting firms or what have you, have basically gone in with their own ideas, using a southern mentality, southern knowledge and tried to implement it in a northern town. We wasted money. There are many white elephant projects on the coast of Labrador where this has happened.
It's very important to include the local people. As you heard from the community of Hopedale this morning, these young people know what they want. They're living it every day. These are the people you listen to. The Mayor of Rigolet was here this morning. Who knows the town of Rigolet better than the mayor and his town clerk? Who? Nobody in this room, nobody in this region. Nobody in this country knows it better than the people who live in these communities.
These are the people we have to listen to and take advice from. Sometimes bureaucrats step in the way. We should try to get rid of some of this red tape and get right down to the grassroots, because that's where the people are hurting. That's where the need is, that's where we should be putting our efforts, and Nain is a prime example of that.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Hickey. I know I speak on behalf of all committee members when I thank you for bringing us that perspective. You've brought together a lot of the testimony we've heard from various groups today, and we appreciate that. We certainly appreciate the frankness of your comments. Thank you.
Mr. Hickey: Thank you very much. I hope you people will come back and will enjoy your stay here in Labrador.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Our final witness of the day will be from the Labrador Métis Association. Mr. Russell, I would ask you to make an opening comment of about ten minutes, and then we'll turn it over for questioning.
Mr. Carter Russell (Labrador Métis Association): On behalf of Todd Russell, the president of the Labrador Métis Association, I would like to offer my apologies, as he could not be here. He is currently on the coast. I will present on behalf of him and on behalf of the association.
I found out about this about half an hour ago. I just got back to town, so bear with me. I have a presentation that is of a certain length. Within the last half hour I've been trying to condense it in terms of what would be the most important to present. I'll try to keep within that timeframe.
The Labrador Métis Association is pleased with the decision of the standing committee to hold hearings in Labrador, particularly at this crucial time in our history as Labradorians and as aboriginal people. The Métis, Inuit and Innu of this territory, along with the 1500 other souls who have been long-time Labradorians, are in need of significant assistance in meeting the challenges of resource development in the 1990s and beyond.
Just to give you a little background with regard to the association and our land claims process, on November 8, 1991, the Labrador Métis Association filed its statement of comprehensive land claims with the federal government. In 1977 the Labrador Inuit Association had filed a comprehensive claim in Labrador on behalf of the Inuit and Inuit descendants who had lived in Labrador since 1942.
In the same year the Naskapi-Montagnais Association, now the Innu Nation, also filed a claim. Both claims were accepted and considered valid within a matter of months by the federal government. Negotiations with the LMA and Innu only began in the 1990s, however, owing in part to a need for supplemental research requirements, and in part because of the Province of Newfoundland's position regarding participation in land claim talks.
In 1992 the LMA and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development agreed to conduct a rather unique process of pre-validation research. Previous claimant groups, including those in Labrador, began work on much of their historical land use and genealogical studies, only after initial acceptance of the claim. This created delays in the negotiation process, and such delays have sometimes reduced the confidence of the people, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, in the negotiation process as a preferred approach to settling title and aboriginal rights.
The old approach also cost claimant groups a great deal of money for research, which is of equal if not greater benefit to the federal government and the provincial participants in the treaty process. It is our hope that the extensive pre-negotiation research the LMA has conducted will permit negotiations to move more swiftly once the validation exercise is completed by the federal government.
Just a little information with regard to the Métis heritage and identity. The Labrador Métis Association represents a unique adaptation of aboriginal society. Descendants of the Inuit people of southern and central Labrador were referred to by early explorers as the Arbuchtoke. Our society has incorporated and blended with European newcomers, as well as with Innu and other Indian people.
In terms of a little contemporary information with regard to our organization, the LMA has a membership of approximately 3,400 adults. The term ``Métis'' has become a favoured style of self-identification by our people over the past few decades, and within the context of the Labrador Métis refers to persons who are descendants of mixed blood, in this context, predominantly Inuit and European.
Before summarizing the recommendations we would like you to take away with you, it is very important to understand that we as a people are very determined. We have set out our development policy with some clarity.
We are losing control of our resources and our land base. We are facing rapid and potentially disastrous economic harm from overfishing and overhunting by non-native people. New economic ventures are under way or being promised.
Sometimes we have been involved, and we may even have taken leadership roles, in economic opportunities, but we have, more often than not, been excluded from decisions and treated as outsiders, along with our interests and our way of life.
Like so many aboriginal communities before us and like our Inuit and Innu cousins here in Labrador, we are taking a stand. This is what our land claim really is about. It means standing up for our rights and for ourselves. It means making decisions about what we want for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren.
So our goal in the land claims is to put our communities back in charge and to stop the arbitrary rule over our lands, which has been a constant threat since the defence of Britain and Europe in the Second World War fully introduced us to Canada and Newfoundland.
We accept that third-party interests must be protected, but third parties and their interests must be defined. We do not include what we see as illegitimate third parties, outsiders and foreign corporate interests, that the province has brought in for profit, and recently, to exploit what the province simply does not have an unfettered right to alienate.
We are first and foremost concerned with making sure that Métis, along with Inuit and Innu, interests are fully represented. How this is done will have to be negotiated, of course, with the governments of Canada and Newfoundland. In the meantime, our doors are open to industrial proponents to work out interim arrangements, such as impact and benefit agreements and the like. But if the industry or regulators try to do an end run around the Métis, their proposals will fail. This is not a threat; this is reality.
Our second goal is to ensure respect for the interests of non-aboriginal citizens of long standing in Labrador. In this regard, we hope to be working very closely with all community councils in Labrador to ensure that not only our interests are protected and respected, but that your interests and needs are also met. In this regard, we are also open to proposals to establish new governing institutions for Labrador that blend our inherent right of self-government with the needs and traditions of settlers.
After these primary interests come private interests that are active in Labrador, such as those of mining companies and the interests of other Canadians.
I'll expound somewhat briefly on some of our objectives that have come out of a tour that took place in 1990 and an assembly in April 1995.
First, we wish to make sure that fish, game and forestry are harvested to meet conservation needs first, followed by the needs for aboriginal and community survival and economic development. Only then are the needs of wider commercial associations to be considered.
Second, our communities should be recognized as having enough power to control the decisions that affect us most directly, including our cultural, social and economic future.
Third, our people should be compensated for past losses to our way of life and livelihoods, which suffered as a result of outsiders taking our resources and making irreversible decisions affecting us.
Fourth, we want to ensure that we will be adequately compensated for the future exploitation of our lands and resources and so provide our communities with a basis for developing, maintaining and strengthening our culture, economy, identity, institutions and traditions.
Fifth, we must promote the development of Labrador society generally in unity and cooperation with Inuit and Innu peoples, and with all Labradorians.
Sixth, the settlement of land claims should not lead to any reduction in the services, programs or entitlements that we already enjoy as Canadians or as provincial citizens.
Seventh, there should be equitable access to health, education and other crucial social programs designed to support aboriginal peoples elsewhere in Canada and in Labrador.
Eighth, an appropriate revenue and tax base should be provided for our communities in order for us to advance our community welfare on an equal basis with our governments and peoples.
And finally, ninth, there should be an interim recognition and protection for our aboriginal right to access and protect our wildlife and fishery resources. There should also be measures to protect Métis communities in Labrador from dislocation or disruption from developments, including the fisheries crisis we now face as a result of the irresponsible actions of non-aboriginal governments.
There is quite a bit more to the brief, but I will not go into any further detail. Does anyone have some questions?
The Chairman: What I can assure you, Mr. Russell, is that the entire brief will form part of the record of the committee. We do have the brief here, and it is being tabled. We appreciate you summarizing it, but I want to assure you that everything you have in your brief is part of the committee record.
Mr. Deshaies: Many witnesses before you spoke about the settlement of the land. You have a lot of suggestions. This suggestion is one of them. Is it the sixth one on the list? You said the settlement of the land must be resolved before anything else. Is that the first priority of your group?
Mr. Russell: It is a priority of our group, naturally, but we would think that within the context of the other groups in Labrador, and indeed within the context of those interests that wish for certain developments to go ahead, the resolution of land claims would be a priority for not only us, but for those groups as well. That would offer more clarity in the manner in which developments would proceed.
Mr. Deshaies: There is always trouble with priorities. Sometimes it means that you will not move on other actions before the first one is resolved. Is it your position that many other things will wait before this one is resolved?
Mr. Russell: Not necessarily. We have a variety of priorities. Undoubtedly, that would be one of our major priorities, but there are a variety of other priorities that we are working on.
Actually, from our perspective, we find that the lack of movement in terms of that area is a hindrance to us in terms of movement in other areas. That's not by us, but by other parties.
In terms of the variety of different areas, we see the province not moving in terms of some economic development issues and in issues that the association is undertaking because land claim issues have not been brought to the point where our claim has been accepted by the federal government.
In terms of us, we have a variety of priorities, many of which we're working on simultaneously. Some are higher than others, but nonetheless, we are working on several other priorities at the same time.
Does that answer your question?
Mr. Deshaies: Part of it.
The Chairman: Mr. Ringma.
Mr. Ringma: Where does the Labrador Métis Association stand right now with regard to the negotiation of a settlement, both with the feds and with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador?
Mr. Russell: Our document of comprehensive claims has been submitted. It is our understanding that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has accepted it, and it has now gone to Justice for review.
It's our understanding that by Christmas of this year there should be some decision. We fully anticipate that it will be accepted and that we will begin preliminary negotiations early in the new year.
Mr. Ringma: Is there a commission in place here as there is out in my home province to -
Mr. Russell: A land claims commission?
Mr. Ringma: It's a commission that's comprised of the federal representatives from DIAND and provincial representatives. Of course, it hears from all the first nations. They have a commission that has actually been established, and it travels around the province.
Mr. Russell: I am far from the expert on associations when it comes to land claims. Actually, I work in human resource development, but to the best of my knowledge, no, there is no commission.
Mr. Ringma: Here's my last question in that area. Have negotiations come to any sort of point at which you can start to identify what would be a just and equitable settlement in terms either of money per head or acreage per head or anything along that line?
Mr. Russell: No. Negotiations have not begun at this point.
Mr. Ringma: They haven't gotten to that state at all.
Mr. Russell: As I explained earlier, our claim has not yet been accepted. We anticipate the acceptance of the claim early in the new year, and then negotiations will begin.
Mr. Ringma: Yes. If B.C. is any example, you've got a long way to go on a tough trail. Good luck.
I keep hearing many witnesses today who say that you have to come up with a just settlement of these things before we go too much farther. Everyone is saying that. They want it. I hope it happens.
Mr. Russell: From our perspective, despite the point we are at, I'm sure that we can work expeditiously. There are time constraints here. We can work expeditiously. It should not require up to 15 to 20 years to reach a settlement. It can be done faster than that, but it's a matter of other parties being willing to move on this also, not only us.
Mr. Ringma: Yes. Thank you.
The Chairman: Mr. O'Brien.
Mr. O'Brien: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Carter, you have the distinction of being the final presenter here today. I know the Labrador Métis Association operates with distinction, as we have seen.
I'd like to put a single pointed question to you. I know how important your land claim is to you. I know where it is. As you just stated, it's in the process of development. But if I were to say to you that you should forget about land claims at this point in time - land claims would just be an ongoing situation - what would be the single most important issue for you, your organization and the people you represent within the next few months or a year or whatever vis-à-vis the needs of those people?
Mr. Russell: In a very broad sense, there are economic issues. I don't know how familiar the members of the committee are with regard to the closure of the northern cod fishery. Labrador Métis, through an inshore fishery, have always played a significant role in the cod fishery. Consequently, many of our communities are now very quiet. There's little economic activity as a result of the closure of that fishery, which begs the question: in the future, what areas of economic development will be there?
Because of the closure of the fishery, there is quite a need to move forward in terms of others areas of economic development. Wrapped up in that is the need for necessary infrastructural development, such as the trans-Labrador highway.
Other developments have begun, in particular in the Cartwright and the Port Hope Simpson areas. These are small forestry operations that seem to illustrate that there is potential for the expansion of these operations and significant, but not massive, employment in terms of that particular sector. But again, without proper transportation links, that will be a problem.
In terms of other areas, such as tourist development, again, there's a need for infrastructure.
The second issue that is most pressing to us obviously is economic development. Without economic development, many of the coastal communities that are there now may not survive. So that would be the issue of second most importance to us.
Mr. O'Brien: So you're saying that infrastructure is -
Ms Russell: It is one component of that.
Mr. O'Brien: Okay. That's it.
The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Russell, for pinch-hitting. You've done an excellent job. As I said, we have your complete brief on the record.
I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank the whole community for hosting us today through the local member of Parliament, Mr. O'Brien.
I can assure everybody here that as you heard him today espousing and representing his constituents, he does that in the House and through the various means at his disposal on a regular basis. I just thought it was important that we say that. I thank you all and appreciate the time and energy that everybody has put in.
Mr. O'Brien: I'd like to reiterate my thanks to the committee and the groups in Labrador. This came about on fairly short notice. I'd like to give particular thanks to a staff member of mine in Ottawa, Elsie McDonald, who worked hard at this.
I think what's important is that this identified a few themes, or common denominators, if you wish, from a mathematical perspective. I think you've heard it clearly that these themes are land claims, roads, infrastructure, and economic development.
Our communities have been deprived, even though we're in one of the richest lands in the world. We're also one of the poorest in terms of the cultural environment in the communities. The struggles are there. It's very clear.
I want to point out the note made by the people in all the communities, but particularly those in Hopedale and Rigolet. When they hear us talking about the trans-Labrador highway, they shiver, because we're not talking at this point in time about people in northern Labrador. But let me assure you that I will not, as your member of Parliament, forget the transportation needs of those people. While the focal point for Labrador West, Lake Melville and the south coast of Labrador is a road, the focal point in the north is for trails from Rigolet to Goose Bay, the winter trail, boat services in the summer, and good plane service in the winter.
The first time I stood on my feet in the House of Commons - I was a little more shivery than I am now - it was to speak about the Nain airport and the safety of it. As Mr. Hickey alluded to in his discussions, there were more than 300 movements a day on an airfield that's 2,000 feet long. On the north side of it, there is a hill that's a few hundred feet high.
Try going into Nain. I tell you, I shiver going into Nain. I've taken the westward approach into the Nain airport. I almost panic, and that's the truth. I have my reasons for it. On October 17, 1995, at 9:10 a.m., I was in a different position then. I was heading up an economic development initiative for the province. I was with Ernie McLean and Wally Anderson. The three of us are now elected, but we were in that process at that time. We went into a straight drop from 150 feet to within 30 feet of the ground. It was only an act of God that we survived. The pilot got control.
I went in there again last Monday. We made a similar attempt. We landed, but it was kind of scary.
These people have given big time economically. They've given to the junior mining companies. They've given to Inco, and so on. I think that's what we're hearing here, and this kind of forum is giving back a little.
In my concluding comments I heard people mention also that I've been bringing other members of Parliament to Labrador. The Minister of Transport was here this summer, the Honourable David Anderson, for eight days. He didn't come to go fishing, contrary to what people might think. When I bring an MP to Labrador, it's obvious that they were coming to go fishing, so I started bringing them after the season was closed to prove that I was not bringing them to go fishing. They're still welcome to come back to fish, I might add, but on certain terms.
I want to say a big thank you to you, to the members who came before you and to others who are coming. The fisheries and oceans committee is coming as well. I'm a member of that committee, but for the purposes of today I sit as a member of this committee.
I will be tabling a motion on the trans-Labrador highway. I have the motion in front of me. Pardon me, my friends from the Bloc Québécois and the Reform Party in this case, but the motion I want to table was passed unanimously two weeks ago at the biennial Liberal national convention in Ottawa. I wrote the resolution. I put it through. I lobbied my members. They in turn lobbied their delegates. We got the kind of resolution we were looking for from within our caucus.
I thank everyone. I thank the members of the Reform Party for pushing the idea of the road last year during the election. You did a magnificent job as a party in that undertaking in the campaign. Mr. McGrath was my counterpart for the Reform Party. He did a great job in moving forward the motion. I give credit where credit is due.
I think it's in the Bloc Québécois's benefit to have this road across Labrador, because they will be beneficiaries, both from tourism and from the service sector point of view. I think you've heard that point today.
I call on everyone to make this unanimous. The motion is something like this. It was in the local paper, by the way, last week. It was headed: ``Trans-Labrador Highway Highlights National Liberal Policy Convention.'' The resolution reads:
I have a full plate, a full platter and a full house at times in terms of the issues, but I'm up to the challenge. With the support of the people and my colleagues on all sides of the House, I think we can make progress. I think this is what it means to be part of a great land, a great country and a great Parliament.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Ringma: Will you make that a private member's bill?
Mr. O'Brien: I certainly will.
The Chairman: The meeting is adjourned.
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