Municipal leaders in the St. Anthony region are demanding that cuts announced to the local campus of the College of the North Atlantic be reversed.

They say the Northern Peninsula has endured more economic blows recently than they thought possible, and the cuts in St. Anthony were disproportionately high.

"We have once again been singled out and shut down," Flower's Cove Mayor Keith Billard stated in a joint news release.

The public college announced a week ago that the construction/industrial electrician program in St. Anthony was being suspended because of low enrolment, with roughly a half-dozen people accepted for the fall.

'Once again rural Newfoundland and Labrador gets the axe. Stabbed in the back again.' - St. Anthony Mayor Ernest Simms

The decision means the elimination of three permanent positions at the campus, and was part of a broader reduction that will result in the loss of seven programs at various campuses around the province.

As a consequence, 11 permanent positions are being cut, along with 34 contractual jobs.

Forcing people out

St. Anthony Mayor Ern Simms accused the college of setting a "false cut-off date on applications" to justify the cut, saying it shows a lack of respect for students and staff.

shrimp St. Anthony

Mayors on the Northern Peninsula say CNA cuts are the largest economic blow for the region. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

"Once again rural Newfoundland and Labrador gets the axe. Stabbed in the back again," said Simms.

'This is yet another strategy to force the baymen out of the bay.' - Sheila Fitzgerald

Roddickton-Bide Arm Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald said removing such opportunities for post-secondary education is a further blow for young people in the area.

"This is yet another strategy to force the baymen out of the bay," she said.

Cuts at the college amplify an already dire situation on the Northern Peninsula, where fish harvesters, plant workers and spin-off industries — such as offloading — face a bleak year because of quota cuts.

The area's economic foundation has been crumbling for decades, beginning with the cod moratorium, and mayors say they feel abandoned.

"We are calling on (St. Barbe-L'Anse aux Meadows MHA) Christopher Mitchelmore and (Advanced Education Minister) Gerry Byrne to work closely with our college and community to reverse this decision," said St. Lunaire-Griquet Mayor Dale Colbourne.

Byrne was asked about the cuts on Friday, and said "we cannot offer programs for which there are no or few students."

He acknowledged, however, that the campus is a "precious, important instrument of economic and social growth for the Northern Peninsula," and stressed there are no plans to close it.

"I am committed to the St. Anthony campus," he said.