North coast ferry route change will raise costs in Torngat Mountains, says new MHA
People are concerned about rising costs for food and housing materials, says Lela Evans
Torngat Mountains' new Progressive Conservative MHA says the Liberal government's change to the north coast ferry route will increase prices and reduce food security for her constituents.
Freight used to leave from Lewisporte to head to Labrador's north coast, but a policy change means it will soon begin leaving from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. That will increase the cost of products like building materials and food for some of her most vulnerable constituents, said Lela Evans.
The government's suggestion that people on the north coast deal with the change by purchasing from Quebec instead of Newfoundland is "shocking," Evans said, especially considering Premier Dwight Ball is the minister responsible for both Labrador affairs and Indigenous affairs.
"When they were told that in the meetings, the people in my district, the communities and the town halls, they were actually shocked," she said.
In September, freight service to Labrador's north coast was cancelled. Freight shipments from Lewisporte were stopped when the Woodward Group and Labrador Marine were contracted to start shipping from Happy Valley-Goose Bay. That means goods have to be trucked to that Labrador community, then brought to the north coast by either air or sea, depending on the time of year.
That change adds both logistical challenges and costs for shipping to the north coast, Evans said.
'Our people are the most vulnerable'
Evans, a rookie MHA, used the opportunity of her first questions in the House of Assembly to address the ferry changes, which she said will have the biggest effect on the most vulnerable people in her region.
Building materials, for example, will increase in price, she said, which will raise costs not only for individuals and businesses but for Torngat Housing, an organization that builds homes and makes repairs for her district's Inuit population.
"There's going to be less houses built, and there's going to be less repairs because of this additional cost, so it's going to impact them greatly," Evans said.
People are also concerned about increases in food prices in a region where they're already high, she said.
"Food security is a big issue on the north coast because of the increased cost of actually getting materials into the north coast because there's no roads," Evans said.
Her constituents expect to spend more on food both in local stores and when ordering in bulk for the winter months, she said.
"Now everybody is going to have to find a way to get all that food supplies trucked up to Goose Bay and then put on the boat."
The changed ferry route could hurt people living in Newfoundland as well, Evans said, if north coast residents begin ordering supplies from Quebec instead of established suppliers on the island. But what is most important, she said, is the hardship for Inuit people and vulnerable people in her region.
"Regardless of how it's going to affect the island and the province, we've got to look at our people, because our people are the most vulnerable."
The Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker says the government has cut down on freight fees to offset any increased costs to Northern Labradorians.
With files from Here & Now