Hedley Ryland, mayor of L’anse Au Loup Labrador, is threatening to get lawyers, head to Ottawa, and legally join Quebec. There’s been no word how Quebec would feel about the proposal.
The plenitude of potholes along the Trans-Labrador Highway is the mayor’s major agitator, and joining Quebec is at least technically doable: they’d need only move the arbitrary lines of border between Quebec and L’Anse Au Loup; L’anse au Loup is but two small towns from the Quebec border.
It’d be a shame, given that L’Anse Au Loup states it is one of very few rural towns in the province that still has a growing population.
Recent pothole-provoked protests included a blockade of Labrador MP Yvonne Jones’s office, as well as a blockade of the highway maintenance depot.
Interestingly enough, the provincial government recently promised Labrador $45.4 million to be used to improve a section of the Trans Labrador Highway, but that money seems to have mostly gone towards widening and paving Route 510 from Charlottetown junction to Cartwright junction. Roughly half that money came from the province, while the other half came from the New Building Canada Fund.
Ball himself has said that “the Trans Labrador Highway project is extremely important to Labradorians, and is vital to the economic development of the region,” and said his commitment there “remains steadfast.”
Minister Al Hawkins said that although it’s a long-term plan, the provincial government is taking steps in collaboration with federal colleagues “to ensure a transportation system throughout Labrador that meets the needs of citizens and supports economic development.”
But Mayor Ryland says their issue isn’t a road issue, it’s a safety issue. He says residents can’t, or won’t drive at night, for fear of blowing out tires, damaging vehicles, and getting hurt. According to him, it’s so bad local garages are getting rich off repairs.
L’Anse Au Loup has a population of about 650 residents, making it the largest town in a group of seven smaller municipalities along an 80-KM stretch of highway along southern Labrador — a cluster of communities known as The Labrador Straits.
In July, 100 people from the area gathered near the Quebec border, where protests delayed all commercial vehicles from flowing freely. Police were present but did not interfere. The mayor says there’ll be more of this until their issues are addressed.
The province committed to fixing an 11-KM section, but Ryland wants all 20 of the troublesome KMs between Quebec and L’Anse Au Loup fixed, and fixed now, not eventually. He figures doing it all upfront would only cost another million, and not committing that money equates to rendering them “second class citizens.”
On their end, it appears government has committed to repaving the Trans Labrador Highway, but it’s a five-year plan, and Ryland is unclear when it’ll begin. He’s stated that if the roads aren’t fixed by the time school starts in September, he’ll be keeping school busses off the road for safety reasons.
Many in the area blame the state of the roads on heavy truck traffic going to and from the Muskrat Falls construction project in central Labrador.
Ryland is in favour of joining Quebec, because he’s observed that the state of the road on the Quebec side of the border is always in better shape. Besides, many people living in the area of the The Labrador Straits already do most of their shopping, and even medical visits, across the border.