Nfld. & Labrador·Video

Reinvent – don't resettle – in rural communities, CBC N.L. forum told

Ideas on how to reinvest and reinvent rural Newfoundland communities were offered Wednesday night at a CBC town-hall forum in Gambo, the birthplace of Joey Smallwood.

Town hall forum Rethinking Resettlement held Wednesday in Gambo

Rural residents gave their thoughts on resettlement in modern Newfoundland and Labrador during a town-hall discussion hosted by CBC N.L. on Wednesday night. Kevin O'Reilly, left, Linda Lush and Shane Noble, right, spoke. (CBC)

Businesses, and their workers, can survive and thrive in rural Newfoundland — if they play to their strengths and "continuously innovate," according to an entrepreneur living in Centreville-Wareham-Trinity. 

Shane Noble inherited Noble Mouldings from his family, who he says were resettled to the community from Fair Island and Silver Fox Island.

He says his manufacturing business, which makes wooden products like cabinets and stairs, employs 16 people, and supplies stores across the province from its home base in Bonavista North.

Craig Pollett makes some points about the resettlement discussion at CBC's town hall forum in Gambo 3:19

"We know that we can't compete on the low-end stuff, so we compete on the quality product and we do well for ourselves, I must say," he said.

We now rely on things like Pinterest and stuff like that, where customers are sending us images. We can then use our equipment — which is virtually state of the art — and make what needs to be made." 

During the resettlement programs of the 1950's and 1960's in Newfoundland and Labrador homes were often floated from resettled communities to designated growth centres. (CBC archives)

His comments came during the town-hall forum Rethinking Resettlement, hosted by CBC N.L. in Gambo on Wednesdsay night.

Town councillors and rural residents came to the forum to discuss resettlement and potential alternatives.

Len Muise of Gambo said the fiscal realities in Newfoundland and Labrador demands a "realignment" of resources in the province. He said it was unrealistic to pay millions to support ferries to rural communities. (CBC)

Noble said his workforce has gotten younger in the past decade, bucking the trends in rural Newfoundland, because he's been able to market his success to friends he knows want to return to work in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Make sure they have a cabin, because a cottage in Newfoundland is $10,000 to $20,000," he said. "You go to Algonquin, Ont. you're looking at, well, a million."

Infrastructure upgrades

Discussion at the forum ranged over the cost of ferries —with St. Brendan's deputy mayor Kevin O'Reilly saying his community never asked for a multi-million dollar ferry for their community — to the prospects of distance-education programs to ensure rural schools stay viable.

The MV Grace Sparks cost $6 million to operate in 2016, serving the community of St. Brendan's. Kevin O'Reilly, deputy mayor of the town, says his constituents never asked for a multi-million boat with shifts of nine crew. (Cal Tobin/CBC)

Alan Pickersgill, a resident of Salvage — a town with a population of 124 on the Eastport Peninsula, says infrastructure in his community needs a big upgrade.

He told CBC's Ramona Dearing that he only recently had a landline phone installed in his home, and cell and internet service aren't near the standards in other communities.

Alan Pickersgill says infrastructure in rural Newfoundland needs a big upgrade if communities are going to be viable for young families. (CBC)

"How in the hell are you going to get any young people to go and work in an industry, if you can't get the internet for your kids?" he asked.

"It's not fluff anymore. Your kids have to have the internet to do their homework."

Gambo resident Linda Lush said the issue of resettlement is much greater than a budgetary calculation.

"If we have resettlement, if we have a realignment, if we pave over rural Newfoundland, we will need to develop a new identity for our province and a new tourism strategy," she said.

"Rural Newfoundland — It is not a town, it is not an outport, it is not a location, it is our culture."

You can watch the CBC N.L. town hall in full below.

About the Author

Garrett Barry

Journalist

Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.