Ted Markle: A sense of harmony
Never test another man by your own weakness.
– Joseph Conrad, Lord Jim
My friend Ashok called me out of the blue. He was Christmas shopping and verging on panic.
Dear editor; A copy of this letter has been sent to our local (Burgeo-La Poile) MHA Andrew Parsons. While driving on the East Coast in August, I finally understood why there were no warning signs on the highways of the S.W. Coast; the East Coast has them all...I kid you not!
With all the work taking place down there, I also realized why ours is in such disrepair; there is no money left over for us.
I am truly beginning to believe that our lives do not matter; nor does the lives of those who travel over those same highways to and from the Marine Atlantic ferries. There are some potholes that have not even been repaired from 2015 and here we are with winter just around the corner. There are also huge holes where once there were "shoulders"; meaning 'safe' areas when one needs to pull off but when filled with water or when driving in the dark, they are no longer 'safe areas' but are accidents waiting to happen. I would even be so bold to say they are 'death traps'.
Along Route 470 you find similar conditions. It was laughable as I watched the white/yellow lines ‘finally’ being painted over areas that had no pavement, just holes. There were stretches of highway that once had passing lanes but no longer; they barely have enough pavement to paint a single line to divide the lanes and about the 'shoulders'...well, let's just say, “What shoulders?” Once again a lot of this mess is still ‘leftover’ from last winter.
With so much money invested into the tourism industry, one would think that a greater investment would be made into our highways, not only to keep the tourists coming into our province safe...but to keep them coming back. While driving through the Terra Nova Park area, I saw a lot of construction taking place. By the look of all the equipment there; the work that has been completed to date and the work yet to be done, it will likely most likely be a very costly project. To be honest, I saw nothing wrong with the condition of the actual pavement and can only assume it as to do with “some people” getting impatient with the absence of double lanes? If that is the reason, just take a look at the S. W. Coast; we are supposed to be the Gateway to NL with thousands of vehicles coming off our ferries yearly, yet we have very few double lanes and definitely no divided highways but apparently the area of T.N. Park is in more ‘dire’ of it than us. Would not the tax dollars being spent there, be more wisely used on our coast so we can travel safely to our doctor’s appointments; drive our children to their sporting events or just to be able to relax and have a day of shopping into Stephenville or Corner Brook?
We too have had ‘close calls’ due to the conditions of our highway. I have also witnessed way too many near accidents involving others who have swerved to avoid such holes...forgetting to watch for the oncoming traffic. I wonder how much money has been spent on repairs to our vehicles just in this last year; enough no doubt to do a lot of “cold patching” repairs and a few truck loads of gravel to give us back some “shoulders”.
It will soon be too late to replace sections of our highway, as winter will soon be here; laying new pavement after mid-October will be a total waste of money. I need answers...I need to know why our government officials and especially the Department of Highways do not care about the people who live on this end of the island? Will it take a loss of life for someone to care? I am surprised that the Town Councils; Local Service Districts; local businesses (Marine Atlantic, DRL Buslines, MacKenzie Ambulance, Gateway Buslines, just to name a few) who all have a vested interest on the S.W. Coast have yet to my knowledge made no public outcry. We are never going to have safe highways if we do not pull together and say, “We will stand for this no longer”.
In closing, I would like to say, “Please give us answers as to why ‘our lives do not matter’ in this province? When I see money being poured into projects like that of the T.N. Park area just for the sake of double lanes, I can only shake my head in disgust as we here are being continually forced to drive on unsafe highways.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.
Port aux Basques
Thanks for taking the time to write. Perhaps the best way to respond is in order of your comments and concerns as listed in your email. Firstly, I am obviously concerned about the state of roads in our district and province; I constantly list it as the primary concern brought to my attention by constituents. It is a topic I discuss regularly with citizens, councils and with Government officials, including the Department of Transportation & Works and the Minister (who I think is to be recognized for actually coming out to our district and driving the roads with me so he could see them firsthand – this is not a regular occurrence and I certainly appreciated him doing this).
I obviously disagree with the notion that “our lives do not matter”. I live in the district and drive the roads the same as you do. Are there repairs needed? You better believe there are. I spent my first four years in politics in the Official Opposition pleading for work to be done, with my requests often falling upon deaf ears. I have been in Government now for 10 months and we have seen an increase in funding being spent on roadwork in our district. Is it enough? No, I think that we will need significant investment over the next number of years to make up for the lack of attention paid to our district by the previous administration. But that takes time, that is simply the reality.
As it relates to construction taking place around Terra Nova, all I can say to you is that that is a federal project regarding a federal jurisdiction roadway with federal funds, we have no say in that matter. I’m glad to see the investment, but cannot control it.
As it relates to public outcry, I can assure you that the groups you name have on many occasions made known to me their feelings, and we communicate on a regular basis. I also discuss it regularly with constituents that bring it up. You may not always see that, but it takes place. And I now have an opportunity to deal with it on a regular basis with the Department, staff and Minister. It’s not something I had much luck with during the previous 4 years. But again, you don’t fix years of neglect in 10 months. It takes time. Frustrating I know, but again, it is the reality of the situation.
In response to your final question, Please give us answers as to why our lives do not matter in this province?, the only answer I can give is that it’s simply not true, and I certainly hope you don’t believe I feel that way. If so, I can only say I am disappointed given that I have always taken every opportunity to chat with you, or answer questions. I don’t want to entangle what I think are rhetorical or provocative points like that from the very real issues you point out regarding roads. From a purely financial perspective there has been a huge increase in the investment, and most importantly, we are actually receiving attention from the Department, a marked change from the previous 10 years. The roads are not where they need to be, but for the first time in a long time, we can see improvements on the horizon.
Thank you again for writing, please feel free to contact me anytime to discuss this or any other issue. Take care,
Hon. Andrew Parsons
MHA Burgeo La- Poile
Minister of Justice & Attorney-General
Department of Justice & Public Safety