Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair MHA Lisa Dempster said it’s been one heck of a year for Labrador. She said in her district there were a number of highlights, not the least of which is roadwork. She said there was over 100 km paved in her district and repaving was done as well.
Internet speeds have been an issue in southern Labrador for some time and Dempster said she’s been working on it since she got elected in 2013.
“I put a lot of energy into that file,” she said. “At the end of the day, we had the biggest federal-provincial announcement for broadband money in Atlantic Canada, $12.6 million.”
The new ferries announced in September for Labrador were another highlight Dempster mentioned. The two ferries are coming online in March of 2019 with the coastal ferry offering roll on, roll off service for the first time.
“It has extra vehicle and passenger capacity, which is needed,” she said. “What is happening is as we’re opening up as Canada’s last frontier we’re seeing a lot more tourists coming and needed more space on the ferry.”
She said the roll-on, roll-off ferry for the coast will be a game changer for some of the smaller communities, notably Black Tickle.
Another item that wasn’t near as big of a price tag but will have a large impact was the expansion of cellular coverage for six communities in southern Labrador. Dempster said the project was in conjunction with the Nunatukavut Community Council and Bell.
“Even though it’s just within their community it’ll be a huge change,” she said. “This is just the beginning. The broadband and cellular changes will really make a difference.”
A file that has been a challenge in Labrador has been the medical assistance travel program. The program, which provides funding for people who have to travel for medical reasons, was criticized for not covering enough to reflect the reality of airfare costs from Labrador. The province changed it from coverage of 50 per cent of the first $1,000 and reimbursing the other half later to covering the full $1,000 upfront in the 2018 budget, a change Dempster said was welcome news.
“It made no sense,” she said. “Why cover half if we’re going to give you back the other half anyway? The other thing we heard was people were waiting way too long to get their money back. So we’ve hired several more dedicated people for the program to improve the service.”
An immigration office was opened in the straits this year as well, which Dempster said was needed. She said the Straits has some of the highest immigration rates in the province and her constituency office was getting constant calls and people coming in about immigration and foreign worker questions.
Social housing is another highlight Dempster brought up, with about $1 million in funding in Labrador.
“I believe it’s the first time we’ve put affordable housing in my district,” she said. “The units are going up in Forteau and they’re on track to open in February and I understand there’s quite a nice long line up of seniors hoping to get in.”
Dempster said she’s been happy with the investments in Labrador in the last year and credits the hard work of the MHA’s and the premier, who is Minister of Labrador Affairs.
“People thought he would be too busy as premier to really focus on Labrador,” she said. “I think the investment we’ve had in the region shows his, and this governments, commitment to the region.”