ANCHOR POINT, NL – There was no shortage of issues for the Great Northern Peninsula Joint Council to address during its Oct. 14 meeting in Anchor Point.
Ten of its members attended the meeting, including mayors, deputy mayors and councillors from Roddickton-Bide Arm, Main Brook, Flower’s Cove, Englee, Hawke’s Bay, Anchor Point and St. Lunaire-Griquet.
The joint council includes all municipalities from River of Ponds to the north.
The joint council’s chair Gerry Gros, mayor of Anchor Point, went through some of the main issues discussed during the meeting with the Northern Pen.
They are highlighted below.
Status of northern tax deduction petition
In May, the Great Northern Peninsula Joint Council sent a petition to the office of Gudie Hutchings, MP for Long Range Mountains, requesting that towns on the Northern Peninsula be eligible for the Northern Residents Tax Deduction due to their remote location.
They hoped the petition would be brought to the attention of the Canadian Parliament.
However, Gros says they’ve received no response from Hutchings and, as far as they know, it’s never been presented.
“We’ll be following up on that, contacting her to find out where it’s at and why we haven’t heard (anything),” he said.
One of the joint council’s main arguments is that there are federal employees living in the area – such as RCMP officers and people working for Crown corporations – that are receiving remote allowances.
“So obviously they think that it is more costly to live up here,” said Gros.
The joint council is questioning why federal employees receive this allowance but residents cannot receive a tax deduction.
Northern Peninsula residents from Cow Head to the north once received the deduction but were deemed ineligible for it 26 years ago.
Gros describes the inconsistent application of garbage collection policies as a major issue for a number of Northern Peninsula towns.
The Northern Pen reported last week about at least three municipalities – Anchor Point, Roddickton-Bide Arm and Flower’s Cove – where NORPEN Waste Management’s contractor has refused to pick up residents’ garbage.
One of their policies states that garbage has to be within 10 feet of the road for collection.
But according to the mayors of those towns, policies such as this have been applied inconsistently, leaving residents frustrated and confused.
Condition of the roads
Gros says a number of sections of the highway along the Northern Peninsula need to be upgraded.
Some of these include Route 430 from Plum Point to Eddies Cove East, Route 432 from Plum Point to Roddickton and other towns, and all of route 436 to L’Anse aux Meadows.
Gros says a number of municipal roads need an upgrade as well.
But earlier this year, the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment increased the municipal share for capital works funding for municipal roads from 10 per cent to 50 per cent.
It’s harder for small towns to come up with this kind of money and, therefore, it is more difficult to get their roads paved.
“That’s a major issue,” said Gros.
Lack of cell coverage
There are a number of dead spots where drivers are unable to get cellular coverage between Deer Lake and St. Anthony.
Gros cites sections from Deer Lake to Parson’s Pond, St. Anthony to the airport, and Route 436 up to L’Anse aux Meadows as particularly bad regions. And he notes the town of Cook’s Harbour doesn’t have cell coverage at all.
“We’re lobbying government to improve cell phone coverage,” said Gros.
He says he’s been told proper cellular coverage would improve the high-speed internet in the area.
Training for municipalities
The joint council discussed the need to hold municipal training sessions on the Northern Peninsula.
Currently, for instance, the nearest locations for councillor orientation training were scheduled to take place in L’Anse au Clair on Oct 14 and Deer Lake on Oct 28.
“Just Deer Lake is 300 kilometres for us, 400 and some odd kilometres for St. Anthony,” said Gros. “And usually it requires an overnight for a lot of training.”
The joint council wonders why they can’t have training somewhere on the Northern Peninsula, perhaps either Hawke’s Bay or St. Anthony.
“We’ll more than likely write Municipal Affairs asking why they can’t use provincial staff in the region to do the training for us,” said Gros.
Becoming more active
According to Gros, there was some discussion about towns getting more involved with the joint council.
He says they had a “pretty good” turnout for their meeting on Saturday but were hoping for more.
“We’d like for all the municipalities from River of Ponds to the north to participate in this,” said Gros. “There’s a certain amount of strength in numbers.”
Their next meeting is scheduled for Nov 25 in Hawke’s Bay.