Is the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay ready for Muskrat Falls? Are we prepared to take on the enormous challenges that lie ahead? Will we be overwhelmed with problems like traffic congestion, additional strain on an already existing housing crisis and increased crime? Is our basic infrastructure up to par? Do we have adequate recreational facilities? Will our health-care system be able to handle increased pressures?
Whether you are in favor of it or not, the Muskrat Falls project is a reality. We can take advantage of this development to promote long-term sustainable economic activity, or become a victim of the negative impacts of the boom-bust cycle. As a community we have to determine which path we want to take. Obviously, we want to avoid the boom-bust situation. That’s why it is extremely important that our Town Council develop a long-term strategic plan to guide us through the ‘boom’ phase so that the decisions we make today do not result in our community being a casualty of the ‘bust’ scenario down the road.
The Town Council has a Strategic Plan, but it isn’t long-term and it fails to address the Muskrat Falls project and its potential impacts to any great extent or in a meaningful way. While the plan is full of desired outcomes, it appears no strategic actions have actually been put into play as it relates to this project.
During a public forum hosted by the Town Council last week, residents, business owners and community groups all expressed concerns over the negative impacts that will result from this project. Those in favor felt the town isn’t ready. Some felt the Town Council should be lobbying Nalcor and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to provide funding to enhance or upgrade current infrastructure and recreational facilities. Others were vehemently opposed to the project for a variety of reasons – from fears of potential flooding to methylmercury contamination.
As a community, we should be mindful of all of the impacts that will come as a result of this major development.
Many people are falling through the cracks, displaced by this current economic boom that’s just beginning, who simply can’t find or afford to pay for a decent place to live. Younger people are finding it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to build new homes because of the high cost of land. Is the Town Council contributing to this increasing high cost of land? Is there an administration charge applied by the Town Council on each plot of land that is developed? Seniors housing is virtually non-existent, and long-term care beds are in high demand.
Residents are concerned about our water – both its quality and quantity. How many people, particularly those who live in the Valley, refuse to drink the water? How many hot water tanks were replaced last year?
Many of our streets are in desperate need of upgrading and replacement. Since work began on Muskrat Falls (long before the official sanctioning) we have seen a significant increase in vehicle traffic in our community. This traffic will continue to increase, resulting in congestion, more accidents and a further deterioration of our streets.
Recreation is an important issue for our community. While there is a gym and tennis courts available at 5 Wing Goose Bay, many residents are unable, for a number of reasons, to utilize these facilities. As well, the Labrador Training Centre is old and costly to maintain, and its swimming pool is far from adequate to meet the needs of the community. Furthermore, we have an aging arena that was closed last summer for a number of weeks due to mold.
Increased prosperity and growth brings an increase in crime. For a community the size of Happy Valley-Goose Bay we certainly have had our share of armed robberies, home invasions, break and entries, and so on. Street drugs are more available now than ever. As a community we need to stand up and take a stand against crime, and the Town Council should be taking the lead. We need to work with the RCMP and community groups to find solutions to effectively prevent crime.
While Happy Valley-Goose Bay will benefit tremendously from Muskrat Falls, it also has the most to lose. As residents we need to take advantage of the economic opportunities that will arise to ensure improvements are made to our infrastructure and facilities while, at the same time, focusing on making sure our community remains as healthy and as safe as possible for our children, our grandchildren and future generations.