They don’t want to talk

Rudy Norman
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Last week’s edition of the Nor’wester carried an article about the desire of some people on Little Bay Islands to resettle their tiny community.

Resettlement is a word that’s been on the tongues of people from Little Bay Islands for some time, and to say it’s a hot-button issue, would be an understatement.

This newspaper has written articles on the topic, talked to people on the island and gotten their opinions. There have been phone calls, emails, letters to the editor — you name it, and we’ve seen it.

We know where many of the residents of the island stand … we know where council stands … but we still don’t know where the provincial government stands.

Government appears to remain neutral on the issue of resettlement, and in all the time doing articles on the subject, this newspaper has never been able to get Minister of Municipal Affairs to discuss the issue.

Last week, after speaking to a member of council on the island about this latest attempt at resettlement, we learned that letters had already been sent to government about the issue.

To confirm this, a phone call was made to the Department of Municipal Affairs communications staff.

A message was left on the department’s voice mail explaining what information was being sought and return contact information was given.

No response had been forthcoming by deadline time for the article.

Instead, we received an email response to our phone call, the day the paper came out, saying: “Discussions regarding relocation must be initiated by the community. In these cases, Municipal Affairs will provide information with respect to Government’s relocation policy and the related process as well as answer any questions communities have in their consideration of relocation. The relocation policy requires that at least 90 per cent of residents vote in favour of relocation. In the case of Little Bay Islands, at the request of the community, representatives from the Department of Municipal Affairs visited the community approximately two years ago to discuss the topic of relocation. At the time, the community was clearly divided on the issue with no where near the required 90 per cent ready to vote in favour. As a result, there was no further discussion undertaken at the time. Recently, we have been approached again by the community, and we are currently reviewing this matter.”

For those of you who aren’t aware, this has become the classic method of communication by our provincial government of late.

We can only conclude that by delaying their response, the department has ensured that they aren’t included in an article with comments from others involved who may be for or against the issue at hand, and thereby, leave an impression that government is choosing sides.

Second, when dealing with government from a media perspective, it’s rare to get a comment on the phone anymore — likely because it’s much easier to edit, craft and filter a message when it’s written in an email.

The fact of the matter is, this is a real issue for real people, and in a time when government is preaching financial restraint, you’d think this is something they’d be willing to consider.

We have emailed a request for an interview with the minister so we could ask relevant questions the residents of Little Bay Islands want and deserve to have answered.

That was last Thursday. As of this writing, it’s mid-morning the following Wednesday and we still haven’t received a response.

Apparently, they don’t want to talk.

Organizations: Department of Municipal Affairs

Geographic location: Little Bay Islands

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Recent comments

  • Sharlene Hinz
    March 01, 2013 - 04:09

    I do not understand government's position. The community is only asking that a vote be conducted, that request is community driven by the majority of full time residents that are eligible to vote on this issue. Government is making an assumption that the 90% is not there. How will you know without conducting the vote? Newfoundlanders are very closed mouthed when it comes to their business and especially in a small community. The only way to put this issue to bed is to come and conduct the vote. The policy for Community Relocation has steps that have to be followed and that is not happening in this case. Maybe it is because the policy is only in effect until Jan 2014 and then it is up for review. Maybe they are waiting it out. It would be so much better if they would go to the island and conduct the vote because those that are sitting on the fence would then make their decision, but when you live in a small community like LBI it is easier to live with each other by staying out of anything political until you know it is serious and not just chatter.