JCP crunch felt on the southwest coast

Brodie Thomas
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An ongoing delay on the approval of Job Creation Partnership (JCP) grants is being felt on the southwest coast of the island.

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Charmaine Hatcher serves on the Burnt Islands Economic Development Board. She said July is coming to a close and that community’s sole tourist attraction is still shuttered.

The Hook and Line Interpretation Centre gives tourists a window into the local traditional fishery. It is widely advertised in local tourism literature, including publications put out by the province.

For a decade it has been staffed by locals hired with JCP grants.

Mrs. Hatcher was told to expect word on the grants sometime between June 11 and June 15.

“I don’t know what good it is now Tourist season is winding down,” said Mrs. Hatcher. “Minister (Joan) Burke is saying there is a timeline for us to get the applications in but there’s no timeline for her to get an answer back to us.”

She said people in the community support the centre and have donated artifacts. The development board doesn’t have funds to hire staff to open the building.

Tourists are showing up at the site only to find the doors locked. At this point, the development board is just looking for an answer.

“Even a definite answer - even if it was a no - would be something,” she said.

Tidy Towns

Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said he has been receiving comments and complaints about the state of gardens and lawns on public property around the gateway town.

He apologized at the last council meeting on Tuesday night, and blamed the unsightly grounds on the outstanding JCP applications.

For years the town has relied on those grants to create summer jobs and keep up town property. He said the sudden and unexpected withdrawal of funding has left the town scrambling to find workers to get the work done.

“I apologize on behalf of council that we don’t have the resources to do what we normally do,” said Mayor Button.

With an upcoming visit from Tidy Town judges, the mayor suggested it would be unfair and a waste of time to have them come judge the town in its current state.

The council passed a motion unanimously to withdrawal from the competition. Mayor Button said he hoped it would send a message to the provincial government, which has a hand in the Tidy Towns program.

The mayor said next year the town would plan its summer schedule accordingly to keep lawns and gardens tidy.

Burgeo-La Poile MHA Andrew Parsons has been demanding answers on the delay for over a month. So far he said he hasn’t received an answer. All he knows is that local bureaucrats have passed on the applications to St. John’s and he said the tie-up seems to be there.

“I don’t know why they’re not getting it done,” said Mr. Parsons. “Is it incompetence? Is it laziness? There’s a part of me that thinks they’re trying to discourage people from using JCPs.”

Mr. Parsons said the province has done a great job in advertising tourism outside the province but now it is taking a step backwards in providing services and attractions to tourists once they arrive.

“This tourism industry that we tout, and which the province does a great job in advertising, but they’ve gone completely backwards in providing basic services to the tourists

Response

The department of Advanced education and skills provided a written response to questions provided by The Gulf News. Minister Burke was in cabinet meetings and unable to do a phone interview.

“Although there are unfortunate delays with the approvals for this round of JCP projects, we are working very hard to assess participant needs to determine if they have marketable skills, whether they have past training, and whether or not their training and skills match the labour market and incredible labour demands that we are experiencing in the Province,” said a spokesperson for the department. “Before we implement work experience programs, like the JCP, we need to make sure we have provided supports necessary to help potential participants attach to current job vacancies we are seeing right now in the province.”

Organizations: Department of Advanced, The Gulf News

Geographic location: Burnt Islands, Port aux Basques

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