labradore

"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Acts of Clarity

Courtesy John Hickey and others, labradore is pleased to offer up the following clarification of the still-murky situation surrounding the “deal”, or lack thereof, to pass the buck — that is, cost-share — the “completion” of the Trans-Labrador Highway, or at least the part of the TLH that is anchored on either end by a PC MHA:

Does your party support a Federal-Provincial cost-shared agreement to complete the TLH? [Danny Williams to all federal party leaders, November 28, 2005]

Yes, a Conservative government would support a cost-shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway. [Stephen Harper to Danny Williams, January 4, 2006]

The Town of Labrador City… is urging the Conservative government to keep its election promise concerning the Trans Labrador Highway. Mayor Graham Letto noted he had the chance to speak briefly with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference from June 2 to June 5 and while he didn’t receive a firm response, Mr. Harper said he would have an answer for Labrador soon. “The time is getting late for this year... They made a commitment (to the people of Labrador ) during the election campaign and it’s time to live up to that commitment.” [The Aurora, June 19, 2006]

Leo Abbass… said, is running out for meaningful work for this year. “We’re probably in the middle of our construction season right now, and if there’s no funding designated [soon], this year’s a write-off, which is disappointing,” he said. [CBC News, June 19, 2006]

It’s time the federal government honoured its election promise regarding the surfacing of the Trans Labrador Highway. That’s the view of Waylon Williams, executive director of the Combined Councils of Labrador… “The Combined Councils of Labrador are asking Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Lawrence Cannon to now honour that commitment. With Labrador’s short construction season rapidly passing by, the time to act on this commitment is now.” [Northern Pen, July 10, 2006]

Asked why the province didn’t proceed with its own $7.5M worth of work this year, Hickey says he and his government “aren’t willing to let the federal government off the hook.” [53 North, July 23, 2006]

The Labrador City town council is disappointed with the federal government. In last week’s council meeting, a letter was tabled from Lawrence Cannon, the federal Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, which referenced a letter that was sent to the minister in December regarding the paving of the Trans Labrador Highway... “I don’t know how long we are willing to wait,” Mayor Graham Letto said indignantly. Mr. Letto said he expected the federal government to honour its commitment to put $50 million into the TLH this year, but he now believes Labrador may have a fight ahead. “It’s safe to say that this construction season is a wash,” he said. [The Aurora, July 24, 2006]

“No, I don’t think the lack of federal money should have prevented work here this summer,” says [Graham] Letto. “If [the provincial government] had $15M committed to this project, they should have gone ahead and begun work.” [53 North, July 30, 2006]

The federal government will not spend money on the Trans-Labrador Highway this year, but it is promising millions in funding for the project in 2007, says a municipal leader in Labrador. Mayors from Wabush, Labrador City and Goose Bay, along with the province’s transportation minister, were in Ottawa on Tuesday. They were trying to get the Harper government to live up to the federal Conservatives’ election promise to help complete paving the highway. During the last federal election, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams offered to spend $50 million on pavement if the federal government contributed the same amount. Stephen Harper wrote back, saying that a government run by the Conservatives would participate in the completion of the road. However, Labrador City Mayor Graham Letto said they were told Tuesday that the road is not eligible for funding this year because it is not classified as a core highway... “I certainly am very disappointed, and so is the rest of the group, that there will be no work in 2006,” said Letto. “In all honesty, I thought we would see some work this year. So 2006 is a wash and nothing will make up for lost time.” [CBC News, August 2, 2006]

There’s some big money under discussion between the federal and provincial governments for work on the Trans Labrador Highway. A delegation from Labrador, including Transportation Minister John Hickey and the mayors of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Wabush, and Labrador City, were in Ottawa to make the case with the federal government. Regional Cabinet representative Loyola Hearn suggests it was a good discussion. Hearn indicates the province is talking about 100 million dollars over ten years, with the feds to come in with half of that. [VOCM News, August 3, 2006]

No money for the Trans-Labrador Highway this year” was the message from Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon during a meeting in Ottawa on Tuesday. Says [Graham] Letto, Cannon is now assuring them that will change “before the end of the year”, and that funding will be in place for the 2007 construction season. [53 North, August 6, 2006]

John Hickey, Minister of Transportation and Works and Minister responsible for Labrador Affairs, is optimistic that surfacing of the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City-Wabush will get underway in 2007. “Minister Cannon reaffirmed the Prime Minister’s earlier commitment to Premier Williams to cost-share completion of the TLH, and also committed to sign an agreement by the end of the year,” said Minister Hickey. [Press Release, August 7, 2006]

“It will be done.” Those were the words spoken by federal Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon last week when Labrador ‘s leaders asked for a hardtop on the Trans Labrador Highway. …Minister Cannon committed to putting a program in place before the end of 2006 which would allow the feeder group to be funded. “That’s the commitment that we got,” [Mayor Graham Letto] said. “What we asked for is $100 million over five years to be cost-shared between the province and the feds... If all goes as planned, we can have upgrading started early in the construction season of 2007, which considering where we are today is probably the best we could have hoped for… I was given the impression during the election campaign that we should have seen some upgrading this year,” he stated. “It’s certainly been a disappointment.

Wabush Mayor Jim Farrell… said he is confident now, that after all three mayors and Minister Hickey put forward their case and enlisted the support of Newfoundland MP Hearn, the case for hardtop on the TLH was made clear to Minister Cannon. “I am sure that by the time December comes that money will be there from the federal government to match the $50 million already committed from the provincial government,” he said with confidence. “I feel that Cannon and Hearn will get the support in Cabinet for this...Cannon committed to us that he will have the agreement in place by the end of December.” Farrell fully expects to see work commence by June of next year on the $100 million-hardtop project that will span five years before completion. “It will be a little over $20 million per year for that five years and I am very happy about that,” he said. “I think it was good to go to Ottawa and give them, firsthand, the cold hard facts of life in Labrador. We gave it to them and the Minister sympathizes with us and he understands it. And I said to him (Minister Cannon), ‘is it safe to go back and say the road will be started next spring or early summer?’ and he said, ‘yes, you can say that.’ So, it gives me the feeling that’s it’s all in the bag. I think, finally, this is all going to happen.” [The Aurora, August 7, 2006]

The Minister of Transportation says he expects to see federal funding for the Trans Labrador Highway flow from Ottawa next summer. Speaking on VOCM Open Line with Randy Simms, John Hickey said he has made the case to the federal government for additional funding for the highway, and has received assurances from Federal minister Lawrence Cannon. Hickey says an agreement with the feds for $100 million over the next five years for hard surfacing of TLH from Goose Bay to Labrador West should be signed by June of next year. [VOCM News, August 23, 2006]

The mayor of Wabush is pleased with the work of the province’s new transportation minister. “I walked away from the meeting [with John Hickey] with a great feeling,” he said emphatically. “We’ll have an agreement signed by Christmas hopefully on $100-million 50-50 cost-shared for the Trans-Labrador Highway between Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Hopefully it’ll be done early enough that we’ll be able to get the best prices and we should be able to start construction in June.” [The Aurora, September 18, 2006]

“I am confident we will see success and that we will see an agreement signed between our government and the federal government on further upgrading of the TLH — that means hard surfacing from the Quebec-Labrador border to the Straits,” Hickey said, adding that he will continue to lobby Quebec to improve Route 389 from Baie Comeau to Labrador City before finishing 138. [The Telegram, September 23, 2006]

Prior to the meeting in PEI, a delegation consisting of Minister Hickey, Mayor Leo Abbass of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Mayor Jim Farrell of Wabush, and Letto met with Minister Cannon in Ottawa. Cannon promised a framework [for the TLH] by the end of the year, and an early start to the construction season. [53 North, October 1, 2006]

Minister Hickey wants the federal government to throw in $100 million over five years, with the first $20 million ready for the 2007 construction season. “I also spoke with the minister [Cannon] and told him I would be in Ottawa certainly by mid-October to look at these issues and have this agreement signed by the end of October or the first of November.” [The Aurora, October 2, 2006]

Mr. Brian Jean (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC): We are awaiting at this stage a business case from the province in order to ensure that the project will provide results for Canadians and accountability for Canadians. [House of Commons Debates, November 23, 2006]

Transportation Minister John Hickey says the federal conservatives and the province are still 100 percent committed to the Trans Labrador Highway. This morning on VOCM Open Line with Randy Simms, Labrador MP Todd Russell said he raised the issue in the House of Commons yesterday and was floored by the response from a spokesman for the federal minister of transportation. Russell says the Parliamentary Secretary to Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon, who is Brian Jean, indicated Ottawa is waiting for a plan from the provincial government for the Trans Labrador Highway. But Minister Hickey says what Russell failed to mention was that the feds renewed their committment moments later in the Commons. Hickey says Jean said — quote — “the Conservative government intends to honour it’s committment to contribute 50 million dollars for the surfacing of the Trans Labrador Highway.” The minister says it doesn’t get any clearer than that. [VOCM News, November 24, 2006]

A senior member of the Harper government suggested this week that provincial delays are holding up improvements to the Trans- Labrador Highway... But provincial Transportation Minister John Hickey said the Williams administration is simply concluding its “due diligence.” He expects to have a deal in place by the end of December. [The Telegram, November 25, 2006]

Transportation Minister John Hickey says paving of the Trans Labrador Highway should begin next year. [VOCM News, November 25, 2006]

“I was talking with Minister Hickey this morning and was told by the Minister that he had recently inked a deal during his last trip to Ottawa and that the deal was in front of him, on his desk, as we spoke.” [Nic McGrath, quoted in 53 North, November 26, 2006]

MS JONES: A year ago, the previous Minister of Transportation and Works along with the current minister, who is the Member for Lake Melville, announced in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, with tremendous fanfare I might say, Mr. Speaker, that the Province would ante up $50 million for the Trans-Labrador Highway and go after the feds for matching dollars. In fact, the then minister, Mr. Speaker, predicted an agreement by June, in his own words, and it did not happen or materialize. In August, the current minister told myself and others in Port Hope Simpson that he would have the roads deal signed off come December, he said. Well, Minister, we are four days away and through questions by the federal Member of Parliament for Labrador in the House of Commons over the weekend, the feds claim that they have not even received a submission from you.

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, this government has been engaged with our federal counterparts. This is a number one priority, the Trans-Labrador Highway, for the Department of Transportation and Works and for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am happy to report here today, Mr. Speaker, that we are in discussions with the federal government. We have had a number of meetings, and I can say with all confidence today, Mr. Speaker, that at the end of the day here, we will see the hard surfacing of the Trans-Labrador Highway start as early as next June. [House of Assembly Debates, November 27, 2006]

MS JONES: Maybe he can clarify another falsehood, Mr. Speaker. The minister, in a phone conversation with Nick McGrath, the President of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, in Labrador City last week, indicated that he had a deal signed with the federal government on the Trans-Labrador Highway on his last trip to Ottawa. In fact, the signed deal was in front of him in his office on that day. Yet, in the House of Assembly yesterday the minister said that, we are negotiating. I quote, he said: We are now negotiating with the federal government on this deal. Mr. Speaker, the federal Department of Transport has said that there has not even been a business proposal submitted. I ask the minister today, Mr. Speaker: Why is he misleading the public on this issue? For God sakes, come clean and give us the proper information.

MR. HICKEY: There is no misleading the House, Mr. Speaker, none at all. Mr. Speaker, this government, as I stated yesterday, is working with the federal government on a deal to hard surface the Trans-Labrador Highway. I will tell you, I will tell the people of this Province, what is going on here today. You see, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, along with her cohort there, the Member of Parliament from Labrador, has been doing nothing on the file regarding the Trans-Labrador Highway. They now know that we are near to having a successful agreement on the Trans-Labrador Highway, now they want to get onboard and make the people believe that they were the ones who got this.

MS JONES: Mr. Nick McGrath was quoted in the 53 North newspaper in Labrador City, saying that: I was just talking with Minister Hickey this morning and was told by the minister they had recently inked a deal during his last trip to Ottawa, and that this deal was in front of him as we speak today. Yesterday, in the House of Assembly, the minister told me that he is only negotiating with the Department of Transport. I ask the minister again: Can he find it somewhere in him to provide proper information to this Legislature?

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, we are providing information. We are also providing progress, I say, on the Trans-Labrador Highway. Mr. Speaker, as has been said here in this House, they do not like hearing the truth. They do not like seeing the successes of this government and this minister. Let me say this, Mr. Speaker: We are working with our federal counterparts and I have every confidence — every confidence — that we are going to see hardtop on the road between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador West, and we are going to see that in June of 2007. [House of Assembly Debates, November 28, 2006]

“Earlier this month, I, along with departmental officials, met with Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, after which Minister Cannon presented an offer for federal funding to surface the Trans-Labrador Highway.

“Prior to signing any contract, this government will perform due diligence to ensure it is the optimum deal for the people of the province. We remain optimistic that an agreement will be finalized next month with an expectation that hard-surfacing of the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City-Wabush will get underway next summer and construction of Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway will be complete in the fall of 2009.” [Press release, November 28, 2006]

Transportation Minister John Hickey is confident the federal and provincial governments will each contribute $10 million next year as part of the five-year, $100-million hard-topping contract for the Trans-Labrador Highway. Hickey, the Tory MHA for Lake Melville, told reporters outside the House of Assembly Tuesday no deal has been signed between both sides but one is coming. “We don’t have a signed agreement,” he said. “What we have said is we have every intention on getting all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed, and it is my hope and intention to have a deal signed... so that we can begin work on the Trans-Labrador Highway in June next year.” [The Telegram, November 29, 2006]

JOHN HICKEY:We have not inked the deal. We are, as I said earlier, we don’t have a signed agreement. What we have said is we have every intention on getting all the Is dotted and the Ts crossed and it is my hope and intention to have a deal signed and an agreement so that we can begin work on the Trans Labrador Highway in June of next year. Officials within the departments are working out the details. The commitment that the Minister Cannon made to me and to my officials that were there is that the federal government is prepared to partake in the fifty-fifty funding arrangement on the Trans Labrador Highway and that we’d like to see that start as early as June the first. [CBC Labrador Morning, November 29, 2006]

Provincial Transportation Minister John Hickey says the federal government will live up to its commitment to cost-share the hard-topping of the highway. Hickey hopes the final deal will be inked before Christmas. He says the first 20 million dollars will be spent on the highway next June. [VOCM News, November 29, 2006]

Mr. Letto also had the opportunity to talk to Minister Cannon about the Trans Labrador Highway while in Ottawa. He asked about the status of negotiations between the province and the feds regarding the upgrading of the Trans Labrador Highway. “Minister Cannon did tell me at that time that they’re (the federal government) still waiting on a business plan from the province on the upgrading of the Trans Labrador Highway,” he said. “I’m not sure what a business plan consists of, but it’s my opinion our proposal put to him back in August regarding the funding required, provided enough of a business plan to move forward, but I guess we have to go through the process.” [The Aurora, December 4, 2006]

“I must respond to set the record straight. Earlier this month, I, along with departmental officials, met with Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, after which Minister Cannon presented an offer for federal funding to surface the Trans Labrador Highway,” Mr. Hickey said. He said the province intends to ensure the contract is the best possible deal before any contracts are signed. “The hope is that an agreement will be finalized this month.” [The Labradorian, December 4, 2006]

Ottawa and St. John’s are apparently on the verge of inking a deal to cost-share, 50-50, the next stage of the Trans-Labrador Highway from Labrador City to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. That’s according to Nov. 24 comments by provincial Transportation Minister John Hickey. [The Telegram, December 9, 2006]

The last meeting he had in Ottawa, Hickey received a proposal from the federal government. “There was $10 million to start work next year on the hard surfacing on the highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador West,” Minister Hickey stated adding that the province will match that amount. “These are funds that have been identified by the (federal) minister…identified by the Department (of Transportation).” Just a little over a week ago, Hickey again met with Minister Cannon along with Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn and says there is nothing but positives to report. “I can tell you, the Trans Labrador Highway wasn’t the biggest issue because it’s understood we are moving forward on that,” Hickey said of his latest meeting with Federal Minister Hearn and Cannon. “What happens now is standard paperwork back and forth. There is a commitment there from the federal and the provincial side, we can’t get any better than that… something we have been wanting for a long time. [The Aurora, December 11, 2006]

Deal, or No Deal! The MHA for Labrador West Randy Collins says he doesn’t think there is a formal deal, just yet, on upgrading and eventually black-topping the Trans Labrador Highway. But Collins believes there is an understanding between the provincial and federal governments that funding will be provided for construction and paving to go ahead in 2007. Collins says as of late, there has been a lot of activity on the road, including brush cutting and surveyor crews on the highway doing the necessary prep work to widen the road in places. [VOCM News, December 27, 2006]

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC) : Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact it is March 2 and we are working with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. I have had the opportunity to meet Minister Hickey to discuss this issue with him and the discussions are ongoing. [House of Commons Debates, March 2, 2007]

We have worked diligently and trying with the federal government and I have got to say my patience has absolutely been worn thin at times. You know we thought we were going to be able to sign an agreement with them in early January and then of course the Christmas holidays came in and of course you knows that everything stops in Ottawa... I’ve had a good relationship with Minister Hearn and Minister Cannon on this particular file. And I never forget when we had those three Mayors in Ottawa and it was Mayor Jim Farrell from Wabush who looked across at the Transportation Minister, Minister Cannon and he said to him, he said Minister can I go back home to my community and tell the people of Wabush that this is a done deal and that you are going to participate in a fifty-fifty cost shared of the Trans Labrador Highway and Minister Cannon looked across the table, he said, “it is done, you can go back and tell your people that we’re committed to this project.” [John Hickey, VOCM Nightline, March 11, 2007]

Premier Danny Williams took time out for media last week to discuss happenings and future plans for Labrador West. When asked what the people of Labrador Wet should expect in the next couple of years, the premier talks of what is already committed. “The one thing is, I didn’t want to come in here and be accused of making all kinds of election promises,” he stressed promptly.

“We already indicated last year that we are prepared to put $50 million into surfacing the road. The $50 million we allocated last year we couldn’t use because we were waiting for the feds to step up.” Even if the feds don’t step up to the plate, the premier assures the province will go ahead with the hardtop anyway. The reason the province waited until this year, he explained, was to ensure the whole thing got done.

“In fairness, because it’s such a huge contribution and expense, those 50 per cent [federal] dollars are huge to us. Why start and do half when if we can get them onboard with us we can get the whole thing done? The total cost of doing all that alone by the province given what we are trying to do in other phases of Labrador is a big nut to crack.” [The Aurora, March 12, 2007]

The province is planning to begin hard surfacing the section of the Trans Labrador Highway between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay this year. Transportation Minister John Hickey said the province has been ready to start the project for some time now. Though money was set aside, he said the start of the project was delayed when the federal government didn’t come up with its share of the cost. He added there are times when the federal government doesn’t progress as fast as one would like. “I have a solid commitment from the regional minister that he wants to move this forward. He certainly wants to do this sooner rather than later, but then again, sometimes things are slow. I wish it were faster.” Once the agreement is signed with the federal government, work will begin. Hard surfacing will be done in the same order the road was built. The first stretch will be from Happy Valley-Goose Bay because that section was built first, Mr. Hickey said. ‘The second phase was from Cartwright to Red Bay. We would hard surface that next. Then of course, we’ll look at the completion of Phase III between Cartwright and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, which would be completed in 2009 and that would be the last surface to be hard surfaced.” [The Northern Pen, March 19, 2007]

MS JONES: Back in November of 2006, the minister issued a news release that the federal government had presented an offer for federal funding to surface the Trans-Labrador Highway. I ask the minister: Is this deal signed and ready to go, or is this another area where the federal-provincial relations are strained and the Province cannot reach a deal with the federal government?

MR. HICKEY: The Department of Transportation and Works, and indeed this government, has been in discussion with the federal government for a number of years now about the Trans-Labrador Highway. It has been a priority for this government and it has been a priority for this Premier. I say to the hon. member, that just yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I spoke to Minister Hearn and we are about ready, in his words, to get this deal signed off on the Trans-Labrador Highway. Along with that, Mr. Speaker, another $45 million of (inaudible) funding in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

MS JONES: I heard all of that before, Mr. Speaker. I even heard a deal was inked, Mr. Speaker. I heard it was inked. I heard the contract was ready to be tendered, Mr. Speaker, and it is still not done. The Prime Minister committed in writing to the Premier, and I quote: That a Conservative government will support a cost-shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway. I ask today: Has the Province submitted a proposal for a cost-shared agreement to complete the full Trans-Labrador Highway from L’Anse au Clair to Labrador City? If not, how come you have been lax in asking the federal government to deliver on that commitment, I say to the minister?

MR. HICKEY: This government has been committed, and will continue to be committed, to the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway. Just this year, Mr. Speaker, we spent up to $70 million on construction of Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway. We have just completed $25 million on a new bridge across the Churchill River. I can say to the hon. Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, that we will complete the Trans-Labrador Highway with or without the federal government, I say, but it is their responsibility, Mr. Speaker, to cost share this fifty-fifty with the Province, and that is what we have been in negotiations with, with the federal minister and with the regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the federal budget there was a $600 million infrastructure agreement signed on highways, the largest infrastructure agreement announced, in the federal budget yesterday. The money is for core highways only in a country which does not include the Trans-Labrador Highway, so I am glad today to hear the minister say the Province will go it alone. Do I have a commitment from this minister today that his government will put the funds necessary to do the Trans-Labrador Highway servicing this summer, with or without the federal government’s (inaudible)? [House of Assembly Debates, March 22, 2007]

Williams said the province will move ahead on some issues, with or without the federal government. He singled out the paving of the Trans-Labrador Highway from Labrador City and Wabush to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. “We can’t allow the Government of Canada to have us on our knees all the time so we will remain behind the eight ball because they’re not going to provide funding. I’m not going to allow that the happen,” Williams said. [The Telegram, March 23, 2007]

Premier Williams has said the province will complete the highway with or without help from the federal government. [CBC News, March 26, 2007]

Mr. Hickey is most encouraged that Mr. Hearn has committed to setting up a meeting with him soon so they can sign off on these two projects and the federal government’s $50 million share for the TLH. “I can tell you the business plan from the province on the TLH has been in to Ottawa since January. We’ve got to get down to brass tax [sic] here. “Once this is signed off with the federal government, there’s no turning back, they’re committed.” Mr. Hickey says once the deal for the TLH is signed off, officials in his department will put together a tender almost immediately as they are eager to get started on the work. The next step in construction, he says, is to spend $50 million widening the road by thee metres. Once that is complete, hard surfacing begin. [The Labradorian, March 26, 2007]

“Other than that, I have yet to talk to any officials, but I don’t see any money allocated to the Trans Labrador Highway,” [Labrador City Mayor Graham Letto] stated. “Whether it’s hidden in the fine print, I guess that remains to be seen.” [The Aurora, March 26, 2007]

MR. HICKEY: I have received word today from the hon. Loyola Hearn that he is now looking at dates to sign off on the agreements, on the CSIS agreements here in this Province, Madam Chair. [House of Assembly Debates, March 26, 2007]

The Newfoundland and Labrador government will start paving the Trans-Labrador Highway this summer, even without a written agreement for federal participation, a provincial minister says. Transportation and Works Minister John Hickey said Ottawa has informally pledged to match a $50-million provincial expenditure on paving a stretch between Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. However, there is no written agreement, and Hickey said the province can wait no longer. “We are going to continue to press the federal government here. We are not letting them off the hook,” said Hickey. “I am not letting them off the hook, I can assure you.” Hickey — who said he expects a firm commitment from Ottawa soon — said paving work will start in June. Putting pavement on the gravel surfaces that cover much of the Trans-Labrador Highway has been a key issue for years in Labrador, and surfaced most recently in this month’s Labrador West byelection. Premier Danny Williams reiterated the pledge during a campaign stop. “The premier made the commitment, and when this premier makes a commitment, he lives up to it — each and every time,” Hickey said. [CBC News, March 29, 2007]

“I’m very disappointed there was no money allocated for the Trans Labrador Highway,” [Wabush Mayor Jim] Farrell said in a separate interview with The Aurora. “A promise was made to us on the first of August last year in Ottawa when we met with Minister Cannon. He said ‘how can we refuse when you already have a letter signed by the Prime Minister saying that you will get money for the road?’ It’s like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come and he didn’t come.” [The Aurora, April 2, 2007]

[HVGB Councillor Dean Clarke] then weighed in federal funding from Ottawa on the Trans Labrador Highway. Coun. Kelly chimed in saying Mr. Hickey had been quoted in the press recently that the money is there and the road will be widened this year. Coun. Clarke says he’s looking forward to Minister Hickey securing the funding so the residents of Labrador can begin to see hardtop — not chip seal — on the TLH. [The Labradorian, April 2, 2007]

Federal cabinet minister Loyola Hearn has announced a chunk of money which he says can be used for the Trans Labrador Highway. A new infrastructure fund gives the province 175 million dollars over the next seven years. Hearn says Transportation Minister John Hickey has fought hard for funding for the TLH. Hearn says unlike other programs, this fund has no strings attached. Labrador City Mayor Graham Letto says the funding for the Trans Labrador Highway has been a long time coming. Letto says there has been a lot of lobbying for improvements to the highway. Transportation Minister John Hickey has welcomed the new 7 year, 175 million dollar federal infrastructure fund for the province. Hickey says department officials will be talking to their counterparts in Ottawa over the next few days to work out the details. He says it would take an estimated 3 hundred million dollars to complete the Trans Labrador Highway, but the provincial government remains committed to accomplishing that. Meanwhile, local officials are heralding it as a “new day” for Labrador. Wabush Mayor Jim Farrell says $100 million — half from the province and half from the feds — should be enough to hard-surface the road from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Labrador West. [VOCM News, April 3, 2007 ]

“The provincial government has stated in the media several times in recent weeks that the Trans-Labrador Highway is a high priority for them. I am pleased to announce that this $175 million basic infrastructure amount may be used to help fund this $50-million project,” Hearn said. [The Telegram, April 3, 2007]

Since the release of the federal budget in March, there’s been much controversy over commitments the federal government failed to live up to, not the least of which was Ottawa’s share for the completion of the Trans Labrador Highway. The uprising in the local area may have been quelled slightly last week as Newfoundland’s representative in the federal cabinet announced $150 million in per capita funding and an extra $25 million in base funding for infrastructure projects in Newfoundland and Labrador. “What had been happening, and was highlighted by projects like the Trans Labrador Highway, was that under the regular infrastructure fund, by the time you’d carve out the need within any province if you took a major chunk out of that money, you’d have very little left to do all the others.” “Are you going to satisfy twenty communities or one? You know what the answer to that is,” contends Mr. Hearn. Mr. Hickey, in speaking to the Labradorian from St. John’s, however says that the TLH is the number one infrastructure priority in the province for the Williams administration and that the federal share of $50 million can come from the $175 million announced. He says his officials from the department of Transportation and Works will be working with their federal counterparts to work out the details of the arrangement, but the plan is to begin completion this year. “The first phase of that we hope to have out this summer, will start this summer in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador West, and as soon as the weather clears, we are sending a team to Churchill Falls because the first thing we have to do here is that we have to widen the roads by an extra metre. Then of course, once the widening is done, of course the hard surfacing is laid. “Once the project is started to hardtop the Labrador highway, no government will be able to stop it until its completion,” insists Mr. Hickey.The day the announcement was made, he says it’s one of those rewarding days in politics. [The Labradorian, April 9, 2007]

All systems are go for the Trans Labrador Highways says the province’s Transportation Minister John Hickey. The $175 million allocated for infrastructure in the federal budget, he says, definitely contains the $50 million needed to match the province’s contribution to pave the TLH. “Mr. Williams has said on a number of occasions — and I have said it on a number of occasions — this is the No. 1, and I repeat, the No. 1 infrastructure project for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Hickey. “The $50 million is there from the federal government and I think Mr. Hearn has made that clear. And the $50 million is there from the province and will continue to be there.” [The Aurora, April 9, 2007]

“The provincial government has stated in the media several times in recent weeks that the Trans Labrador Highway is a high priority for them. I am pleased to announce that this $175-million basic infrastructure amount may be used to help fund this $50-million project,” Mr. Hearn said. [Northern Pen, April 16, 2007]

The provincial and federal governments do not appear any closer to inking a deal on the Trans Labrador Highway. Provincial Transportation Minister, John Hickey, is calling on federal cabinet minister, Loyola Hearn, to get moving on the project. The province has set aside its share of the funding to widen and upgrade the highway but there has been no announcement yet from the federal government. [VOCM News, April 22, 2007]

Phase I was supposed to be completed this summer with the commencement of hard surfacing between Labrador West and Central Labrador, and following an announcement by regional federal Minister Loyola Hearn two weeks ago that Ottawa would supply its share through a $175 million infrastructure funding program, it looked to be a reality. But now there’s a speed bump along that route. Minister Hickey says Transport Canada Minister Lawrence Cannon has indicated that it will be up to three months before an official announcement regarding the funding could take place, essentially negating the commitment made by Mr. Hearn. The provincial minister finds it particularly upsetting when he considers how Labrador is “fuelling the economies of Central Canada.” “When we look at the billions of dollars in mining resources alone, not to mention what’s happening on the Upper Churchill and the 5400 megawatts that we ship off to the U.S. each and every day, for the federal government to say they’re not going to come forward, and start reneging and making a bunch of bureaucratic red tape out of this, it’s absolutely unacceptable,” he states. The premier likens it the scenario that has played out between Ottawa and the province recently on the equalization formula where the regional minister says one thing and the departmental minister and prime minister say another. “The other cute game they’re playing, is that if this money gets approved, it could be eight, 10, or 12 weeks coming,” explains the premier. “We have to start on this now because we have a short season in Labrador.” “What they’re saying is that if you start, you don’t qualify for the funding, you go it alone. That’s the type of shenanigans this government is up and what they’re capable of.” [The Labradorian, April 23, 2007]

We’re going to do it without’em. Now if that happens to be the Trans-Labrador Highway, or if that happens to be the Lower Churchill, we’re going to move foreward. We can’t wait for the presumed generosity and largesse of Ottawa to advance our province. [Danny Williams, CBC Radio News, April 25, 2007]

MS JONES: The minister continues to announce the money for ‘hardtopping’ of the Trans-Labrador Highway, telling people, going back as early as six months ago, he had a signed deal in front of him, on his desk, with the federal government. Then, like a broken record again just a few weeks ago the minister announced — for the fourth time, I think, this government, in the last three years — that a deal is now reached and they will proceed. Yet, the federal Member of Parliament in the Cabinet for Newfoundland and Labrador has said that there is no deal signed.

As recent as Friday the Premier was noted in the news as saying that without a deal, if the Province moves forward, the federal government has said they are on their own.

I would like to ask the minister today, Mr. Speaker: What is the real story? Will your government be moving forward with the paving of the Trans-Labrador Highway, and is there a deal with the federal government?

MR. HICKEY: Just to correct the Member for Cartwright-L’Anse au Clair, I never, ever said — she said, I never said — that we had a signed deal. What we had from the federal government, Mr. Speaker, was a proposal, which we accepted, of $10 million from Minister Cannon and Minister Hearn. That was in November of last year.

Mr. Speaker, I went through the correspondence there just yesterday. We have had seventeen engagements with the federal government, and that includes my predecessors, in this government since we have been.... This is the number one project for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The sad part of all of this, Mr. Speaker, is that just recently in a meeting in which my deputy minister spoke with the deputy minister from the Department of Transport Canada we were informed, after Minister Hearn had made a $175 million infrastructure announcement in the Province, of which he had included the Trans-Labrador Highway, we find out in a meeting of the officials that the deputy minister of Transport Canada said he really did not care what the regional minister had announced, but he had also stated that we could not — because obviously we would like to start this, this June — the deputy minister has stated that it will take ten to twelve weeks before the agreements are signed. Further, Mr. Speaker, he said that Treasury Board and the Cabinet had not approved the funding up to this particular point in time.

MS JONES: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the minister that it was him, in a telephone conversation with an individual in Labrador City, who ended up in the local papers in Labrador, quoting him as saying he had a signed deal in front of him. I just remind him of that, Mr. Speaker. He has a short memory; short on facts, for sure.

Mr. Speaker, communications are so poor now between the Province and the federal government they cannot even get clarification on a public announcement.

On March 22 in the House of Assembly you committed, in Hansard, Minister — you can read it — that the provincial government would proceed with or without the feds on the Trans-Labrador Highway.

I ask you today: Do you stand by that commitment, and will the Trans-Labrador Highway start this spring?

MR. HICKEY: Mr. Speaker, let me say without question that this Premier, this government, this minister — the Trans-Labrador Highway is the number one infrastructure going forward in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and we will start this highway this summer and she will have the pleasure to come in to the announcement. [House of Assembly Debates, April 25, 2007]

MR. T. MARSHALL: …we are making a major commitment this year of $17 million for construction of Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway. Last year, we also made a commitment to apply a sealed surface on Phase I of the highway and budgeted $15 million, to be cost-shared 50-50 with the Government of Canada. Once again, we are putting forward our $7.5 million share and challenging the federal government to match it. Let me make it clear, that our government will proceed with hard-surfacing this year with or without a federal contribution. [House of Assembly Debates, April 26, 2007]

There are still some minor details to work out, but federal cabinet representative Loyola Hearn confirms funding has been found for work on the Trans Labrador Highway. Hearn says they have just recently identified monies to complete the TLH and they are looking forward to meeting with the provincial minister shortly to finalize plans to get the project up and running. The province has indicated it will start work on the Trans Labrador Highway this year - with or without the federal government. They were hoping to have about $15 million spent on sealing the road surface this summer - split 50/50 with the feds. However, the province's $7.5 million share will be spent either way. As well, the provincial government has reaffirmed that $17 million will be spent on phase three of the Trans Labrador Highway. [VOCM Radio News, May 2, 2007]

I have word from Minister Hearn’s office, my office this morning is in contact with his office in Ottawa looking at a time when we can sign off on the federal share for the Trans-Labrador Highway… I’m just elated this morning to hear that Minister Hearn may have identified the money and they’re about ready to contact the province and myself as the Minister to get that signed off. We have said that we would start it alone. This is a very, very important project for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it is certainly the number one infrastructure project for the province. [John Hickey, VOCM Open Line, May 2, 2007]

There.

All cleared up.

3 Comments:

At 1:57 PM, May 02, 2007 , Blogger kodak said...

Succinct and clear, that should be the end of that.

 
At 1:57 PM, May 02, 2007 , Blogger Brian said...

Ok, got it now, yes boy, all clear to me. About as clear as the Minister for WST on VOCM this morning on His/thePremiers/Governments commitment to Labrador. Boy was that some incoherent rambling bumbling [have not had my 10 cups of coffee] something or other.

 
At 5:48 PM, May 02, 2007 , Blogger WJM said...

Boy was that some incoherent rambling bumbling [have not had my 10 cups of coffee] something or other.

There's your problem; if you had had your 11th or 12th, you would have understood everything!

 

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