Nfld. & Labrador

Resettlement offer appealing to tiny N.L. communities, say leaders

Residents of two isolated communities in the province have become more interested in resettlement since Tuesday's provincial budget nearly tripled the amount of money offered to households to relocate.
Little Bay Islands has a population of 69. (Google Maps)

Residents of two isolated communities in Newfoundland and Labrador are more interested in resettlement now that the provincial government has nearly tripled the incentive to leave their homes.

"I think that's a wonderful idea, to be honest with you," said George Russell, the chair of the local service district in William's Harbour.

"I've gone around to every household in the community. We got seven households here right now and it seems everybody is on side. Nobody got nothing negative to say about it."

Residents get money, community shuts down

In Tuesday's budget, finance minster Jerome Kennedy increased the payout to help people move from isolated communities to larger centres from $100,000 to $270,000 per household. 

To take advantage of the relocation money, 90 per cent of the residents of the community would have to agree to move. After resettlement, government would then terminate all services, such as electricity.

Russell said 17 people live in William's Harbour, a community on a small island off the south coast of Labrador. The residents had considered resettlement in 2009, when the government's offer was $100,000 per family, but they decided against it.

Town councillor 'a bit ecstatic'

Dennis Budgell, a town councillor in Little Bay Islands, said he was "a bit ecstatic" when he heard the province was increasing the money to encourage resettlement. 

Budgell said 69 people live in Little Bay Islands, located on a small island in Notre Dame Bay. Earlier this winter, Budgell said 55 of them indicated they wanted to move, and he made inquiries to the provincial government on their behalf.

Now that government is offering more money, Budgell figured many of the 14 people who wanted to stay would now prefer to move.

"Yeah I think it [$270,000] will change a lot of people's minds here on the island that didn't want to go, which wasn't a big lot anyway, but I'm sure it will help out," said Budgell.

Former fishing communities

Both William's Harbour and Little Bay Islands were once thriving fishing centres, but over the past two decades, families have been moving away as work in the industry dried up. 

Only three children live on Little Bay Islands, and many residents in both communities are seniors. William's Harbour can be accessed by ferry and air. Little Bay Islands is served only by ferry.

Both Russell and Budgell said residents in their communities would be meeting shortly to discuss the new, improved offer from government.

Russell figured most people in William's Harbour would resettle in the nearby south coast Labrador communities of Port Hope Simpson and Charlottetown, where they have relatives.

Budgell said he thinks Little Bay Islands residents would scatter more to the winds.

"I think you're going to see them [the residents] spread all over Newfoundland," said Budgell. "A lot of them is talking about St. John's, more, Grand Falls, some Lewisporte. So, we'll see."