Lower Trinity, North Shore yet to see benefits from oil

Denise Pike
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Seniors, economic development groups urge minister to invest more in rural Newfoundland

Representatives from the Seniors Resource Centre and the Mariner Resource Opportunities Network Inc. (M-RON) got a chance to tell Finance Minster Tom Marshall how to spend some of the province's money earlier this month.

Zoe Kopetsky, vice chair of the Baccalieu Trail Seniors Resource Advisory Committee and Marie Ryan, regional coordinator of the Seniors Resource Centre, Baccalieu Trail Satellite Office, along with Fraser March, chairman of M-RON and Karen Davis, executive director, prioritized their funding needs during a Feb. 8 pre-budget consultation meeting in Carbonear.

M-RON - Fraser March, chairman, Mariner Resource Opportunities network holds up a map of the Bay de Verde Peninsula and asks Finance Minister Tom Marshall to allocate some money for rural Newfoundland during a Feb. 8 pre- budget consultation in Carbonear.

Representatives from the Seniors Resource Centre and the Mariner Resource Opportunities Network Inc. (M-RON) got a chance to tell Finance Minster Tom Marshall how to spend some of the province's money earlier this month.

Zoe Kopetsky, vice chair of the Baccalieu Trail Seniors Resource Advisory Committee and Marie Ryan, regional coordinator of the Seniors Resource Centre, Baccalieu Trail Satellite Office, along with Fraser March, chairman of M-RON and Karen Davis, executive director, prioritized their funding needs during a Feb. 8 pre-budget consultation meeting in Carbonear.

The satellite office for the Seniors Resource Centre, located in Spaniard's Bay, opened last year as a one- year pilot project to provide seniors with access to local services, programs and resources. It is the only satellite centre of its kind outside of St. John's and is focused on promoting independence and good health among older adults.

"Unfortunately, when it comes to receiving funding, the small rural communities often lose on services that are easily offered to their urban counterparts due to geographics," Kopetsky told the minister. "We're really hoping the Baccalieu Trail Satellite office will receive core funding so we can continue to provide services to seniors along the Baccalieu Trail."

"We're an aging population and because seniors differ so much in their situations and lifestyles, they also differ in their needs," Kopetsky continued. "We (Seniors Resource centre) are dedicated to providing information and services to our seniors whether it be about housing, medical services, community social services programs and many other services. By collaborating with other agencies we can and have made things happen for older adults.

Accomplishments

Over the past year volunteers at the satellite office developed a resource guide for seniors on a variety of services such as government and crisis agencies, home repairs and old age security. They also hosted three one-day workshops on basic computer instruction for seniors. Human Resources Labour and Employment, Carbonear supported the event

"This was a huge success and we now have over 90 names of seniors interested in participating in this program," said Kopetsky.

The satellite office partnered with the Bell Aliant Pioneers and were able to obtain a number of refurbished computers, at no cost, for seniors.

They also hosted a Seniors Awareness/Appreciation breakfast. Over 100 seniors showed up for the event, which was supported by Communities Against Violence. This past November (2009) the Resource Centre received $8,000 from the Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. The money will be used to host a six-week healthy cooking/eating program.

"We've partnered with the Trinity Conception Family Resource Centre, Communities Against Violence and the College of the North Atlantic on this program," said Kopetsky. "The program will educate seniors as well as young single parents on the benefits of healthy cooking and eating while on a tight budget."

Although the one-year satellite office pilot project is coming to an end, volunteers are hoping for an extension and looking ahead to the future. The group, along with the town of Spaniard's Bay, have applied for funding to create a community garden.

"We hope to see seniors, youth and youth with intellectual disabilities working side by side cultivating this garden," said Kopetsky. "The project will provide physical activity and social inclusion, while developing important connections between generations."

Kopetsky urged the finance minister to consider seniors living in rural areas when allocating money in this year's budget.

"Your support will ensure programs and services are available for seniors here in the area and help them remain active, contributing citizens," she said. "Our request to secure core funding could have many benefits and yield extraordinary returns for older adults."

M-RON

Meanwhile M-RON, the regional economic development board for zone 17 (Trinity Conception) wants the government to pump some of its money into the northern half of the region.

Holding up a map of the peninsula Fraser March, chairman of M-RON, pleaded with the finance minister to allocate some seed money for economic development and investment towards rural Newfoundland.

"There are many communities and towns in this province that are not benefiting from the oil revenue coming into the province," said March. "All you have to do is visit the towns on the northern half of the peninsula and you can see it for yourself. The economic activity in the southern half, in the Upper Trinity area is pretty good, but in the northern half, in the Lower Trinity, it is very slow. The people there are not seeing the benefits of the oil revenue. The fact of the matter is the economic pump needs to be primed in the northern part of the peninsula as well as in the southern. The people of Winterton deserve and have as must right to benefit from the oil money as the people in Blaketown do."

The M-RON chairman said the wealth from the successful development of the provincial oil, gas and mineral industry is not being equally shared across the province.

"To date the proceeds from the development of our province's non-renewable resources have yet to be realized by the more rural areas of the province. Many of these areas continue to experience the effects of declining industries, lack of year round employment, substandard wages, outdated services and infrastructure, and substantial out-migration of residents," said March.

He encouraged the minister to consider setting up a special fund to address some of the economic concerns in rural Newfoundland.

"Special attention has to be given to this issue. I'm asking the minister to think about setting up a special fund, funded by oil revenue, to be used to develop and enliven the economy in the parts of the province which are not benefiting from oil revenue," said March.

"There needs to be a particular focus on tourism, agriculture, the fishery and any other enterprise that will contribute to the economy of rural Newfoundland. Allocating provincial funding to the renewable resource sectors would ensure long-tern sustainable economic success."

Social concerns

March also highlighted some of the accomplishments achieved by M-RON over the past few years.

"M-RON has taken an active role in addressing a variety of social concerns in the region," March said. "We deliver, on behalf of the federal government and provincial partners, the Supported Employment Services Program and the Youth Employment Centre. Both of these programs have benefited hundreds of people. In fact since 2007 over 4,700 young people have been assisted at the Youth Employment Centre. We also took an active role in helping to establish a satellite office for the Seniors Resource Centre in Spaniard's Bay. These programs and services are extremely valuable to the people who use them and we hope to see them continue."

Other M-RON Inc. initiatives include a Strategic Economic Plan, an inclusive assessment of the regional labour market and the development of a business support network.

M-RON, in conjunction with the Newfoundland and Labrador Blueberry Industry Corporation, has also begun work on the development of a blueberry project. The organization also hopes to establish a local farmers' market and agri-tourism venture in the region.

March also talked about the need for government funding to help retired people find employment.

"We are not utilizing the skills and experience of our seniors as we could and should be," he said. "Many of our seniors want to return to the workforce after they have retired, but are unable to because they do not have the training."

Quoting a senior he recently chatted with, March said: "To be a senior in this province means you are disabled. There is little training available, therefore you are very limited. There's a huge demand for training and retraining programs. Funding these types of programs would not only help our seniors find meaningful employment, it would also contribute to the economy.

Organizations: College of the North Atlantic, Resource Centre, M-RON Mariner Resource Opportunities Network Baccalieu Trail Seniors Resource Advisory Committee Baccalieu Trail Satellite Office Bell Aliant Pioneers Community Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador Youth Employment Centre The M Supported Employment Services Newfoundland and Labrador Blueberry Industry

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Lower Trinity, North Shore Carbonear St. John's Baccalieu Upper Trinity Winterton Blaketown

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