Allan Bock, in the July 4, 2006 edition of the Northern Pen
Govt’ supports Polar Centre proposal
The provincial government says it will provide 80 per cent of the cost for phase one of a new regional civic centre complex at St. Anthony.
Straits and White Bay North MHA Trevor Taylor, in a short address to more than 2,000 people at St. Anthony Olympia last Monday prior to the Rex Goudie concert, [talk about reflected glory! – ed.] said his government had agreed to support a proposal from the Town of St. Anthony to construct a facility to replace the aging stadium.
The first phase is valued at $6-million, which means the province will commit $4.8-million.
“We have decided to fund this project under the Municipal Capital Works Program, not the federal-provincial-municipal program as suggested by the town,” he told the Pen. “Since this is a regional facility, the town has the ability to look at other sources for the 20 per cent it will be responsible for.”
Contrast this with the provincial government’s stance on the long-awaited, long-delayed, and evidently still-delayed Mealy Mountain Auditorium project in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
In 2003, the former provincial Liberal administration committed to pay 80% of the costs
of this auditorium, which will replace the former Goose High Auditorium. There is no other comparable performance space anywhere in Labrador outside Labrador City. The former Liberal federal government committed the remaining 20%
through the Cultural Spaces program of Heritage Canada.
During the 2003 election campaign, Loyola Sullivan cited the auditorium project as one of many examples of the former Liberals’ “trying to buy people with their own money” (Western Star, September 20, 2004). And one of the first acts of the Danny Williams government was to shelve it
And off the shelf it sat for over a year. Then, during the 2005 federal by-election in Labrador, Chairman Dan, always on the hunt for a new enemy, and always looking for any opportunity to sing “Blame Canada”, wrote in a letter to the Goose Bay Citizen’s Coalition:
May I also take this opportunity to highlight for you our recent efforts on another issue of importance to the people of the region - namely, the request for a new auditorium. My Minister for Labrador Affairs and Tourism, Culture and Recreation, Paul Shelley, was just in Ottawa where he spoke with his federal counterpart on this matter a number of times. A senior member of my staff has also raised it directly with the Prime Minister’s Office. With a federal by-election looming in Labrador, federal parties are paying closer attention to Labrador’s unique needs and considering ways that Ottawa can do a better job of addressing them. This is the ideal moment to draw attention to these needs and to propose solutions. Our government is endeavouring to work collaboratively with the Government of Canada to identify ways for the federal government to bear the majority of the costs of an auditorium project.
This statement was bizarre on three counts. First, in the middle of a federal by-election, suddenly the federal government is expected “to bear the majority of the costs” for a provincial project in the Labrador portion of the province.
Second, the Goose Bay Citizen’s Coalition is concerned, solely, with military issues at Goose Bay. The choice of audience was bizarre, but Chairman Dan, knowing that the letter would get a wide circulation, especially among voters not inclined to vote Liberal, wouldn’t dare miss a chance to play “Blame Canada”, especially with a federal Liberal government in office at that time.
Third, from the physical formatting of that paragraph, it was very, very obviously thrown into the letter in haste. (By whom? And why?)
When Chairman Dan ostensibly took the project back off the shelf earlier this year, making himself the hero (and hoping that people would forget he was the one who deferred it in the first place), the same “Blame Canada” proviso applied. From a March 13 press release
Government is announcing a $1.9 million provincial contribution to proceed with performance space in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Government will continue to explore a partnership with the federal government to share in the total project cost estimated at $4 million.
It is anticipated that the capital construction cost will be roughly $4 million with the funding requirement being shared between the federal and provincial governments. The provincial government will commit $1.9 million towards the cost and will seek partnerships with the federal government for cost-sharing.
(Never let it be said that Chairman Dan hasn’t learned anything from Tobin or Smallwood: Announce It, Then Announce It Again!
On March 23, Bev Oda, the new Canadian Heritage Minister, recycled the previous government’s commitment
on the proportion
of funding shortly thereafter. (The dollar amount
is larger, reflecting the increased expected project costs, due largely to increasing materials cost since the original, 2003, commitment was made.)
But heaven forbid the provincial government, especially the provincial government of Chairman Dan, actually pay full freight, or even 80% freight, for anything in Labrador, whether auditoriums or highways. On March 27, CBC reported the provincial reaction to the federal contribution:
Labrador Affairs Minister Paul Shelley welcomed the funding announcement. He said the provincial government will be pursuing additional federal support through a municipal rural infrastructure fund.
“Through a municipal rural infrastructure fund
”.The very same one
that Trevor Taylor and Chairman Dan’s government thinks isn’t appropriate for the facility in St. Anthony, for which they, the provincial government, are kicking in 80% of the cost.
In an October, 2005 interview with The Labradorian
, Chairman Dan feigned surprise, and found an enemy to blame, for the negative reaction to his original decision to defer the auditorium:
In the very first speech that I gave when I accepted the leadership of the party I said one of my major priorities was Labrador because I felt that Labradorians had the same argument with the island that the province has with Canada — the fact that we have a lot of resources and they’re being taken away from us and we’re not getting anything fair in return. I’m particularly sensitive to the needs of Labrador but I find…and maybe a lot of it is generated by the opposition up there, a lot of negativity has come out of some members up there. And I don’t mean Mr [Labrador West MHA Randy] Collins, but specifically Ms [Cartwright-L’anse-au-Clair MHA Yvonne] Jones, who has taken a very negative reaction to any initiative we’ve undertaken.
A few weeks later, his Parliamentary Secretary was again playing the blame-shift game. As VOCM
reported on November 11:
The only government member for Labrador says two major projects continue to move forward as high priority items on government's agenda. Lake Melville MHA John Hickey told VOCM Back Talk with Linda Swain, government is working with Ottawa to cost share the construction of an auditorium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
No, Chairman Dan, the “negativity” surrounding your backstabbing and hypocrisy wasn’t generated by Ms. Jones.
You yourself set the bar.
You yourself said, in your first speech as your Party’s leader:
“It’s high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else’s treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of our province. We cannot expect fair treatment from Ottawa if we don’t practise what we preach.”
And hence the “negativity”: You have not lived up to your own words. You have not met your own standards. Demanding that the federal government pay the majority of the costs of a project in Labrador, for no other apparent reason than the fact it is in Labrador
, while you commit 80% of the costs of a comparable project in Newfoundland; shifting the blame for your own policy decisions and funding priorities to the federal government; that, Chairman Dan, is not treating Labrador “like an integral part of our province.”
It is not “practis[ing] what we preach.”
And the announcement to proceed with the auditorium project — maybe, kinda, sorta; the thing still seems to be in limbo — especially with a time line that puts shovels in the ground in the weeks before the 2007 election, you might even call that, as Loyola Sullivan would put it, “trying to buy people with their own money”.
Except that he and Chairman Dany are trying to buy them with the federal government’s money, or at least the majority of it. Labrador, in Chairman Dan’s view, can be bought with fifty-cent dollars.
So why the double standard?
Why one set of rules and priorities and funding schemata for St. Anthony, and another for Happy Valley-Goose Bay? Why 80% for the former, while the federal government is expected “to bear the majority of the costs” for the latter?What is the sound, rational, coherent, and articulated basis on which an auditorium in Labrador is distinguished from an arena in Newfoundland?