Little Bay Islands gets $10M to cover resettlement tab
Government approves funds of up to $270,000 per household
Little Bay Islands has been given official stamp of approval, and the government cash, to become the next community in Newfoundland and Labrador to resettle.
The Liberal government has approved $10-million to move its 54 residents elsewhere in the province.
"What we've done now is, we're sending out letters of offers to the residents," said Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Graham Letto.
"If 90 per cent of them come back and accept the offer, then the resettlement proceeds."
In that deal, single people will receive $250,000, while families can receive up to $270,000.
The payment offers are the final step in a process that has taken years, including one failed vote on resettlement and a lot of bad blood between residents. Much of that is in the past now, with the move imminent, pending the community response to the government payout.
Its residents have already voted unanimously in favour of leaving.
"We will give them some time," said Letto.
"We hate putting deadlines on this, but certainly, we hope to hear back from them in the next month or so. If this proceeds in a timely manner we hope to be able to be in a position to have this completed by fall."
The school, clinic and all stores have already closed in the isolated Notre Dame Bay community, and the provincial government calculates it will eventually save more money by removing the remaining services than it will spend on resettlement cheques.
"We have determined through our analysis and our research on this process that government will save $20-million over 20 years," said Letto.
"Most of that would be on the ferry and the power plant."
The MV Hazel McIsaac currently services Little Bay Islands, Long Island and Pilley's Island.It will discontinue its run to Little Bay Islands once resettlement wraps, and changes will be made on its other stops.
"The existing route will be adjusted to meet the needs of the remaining communities in a way that's responsible for all taxpayers," Letto said.
Residents of Little Bay Islands will be allowed to maintain ownership of the houses they'll leave behind, so they can return for visits. While residents are relieved the matter is settled, many will leave with heavy hearts.
"It's very sad. It's a sad thing," said Letto.
"But when people request and they realize they need to move to avail of better services, that's a decision the community makes. I'm sure they go through a lot of trial and tribulation making that decision. It's not something they decide lightly."
Not every resident is planning to leave the community.
Mike and Georgina Parsons weren't eligible to vote on resettlement or receive compensation because they haven't lived in the community long enough. They say now they'll go off the grid and stay in Little Bay Islands, alone.
They've already bought a generator and snowmobile in preparation for their upcoming isolation. They also plan to grow their own vegetables and stock up on essentials to get them through the winter when their boat will be iced in.
"There's two reasons (for staying)," Georgina said. "One is to be by ourselves and try it out as an adventure. And the second part is not to give up this place we love. Not yet."
Her husband won't be lonely, but she wonders about how she'll cope with having no neighbours.
"I may be (lonely) at times," she said.
"That's what my family is worried about. My dad's actually said to me several times, 'what about right now? You socialize sometimes.' I said, yeah, but at least in the summer there's going to be a lot of people coming back here still."
With files from Chris O'Neill Yates