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Transportation and Works
March 11, 2011

Province’s Newest Ferries Christened Today

Champagne flowed over the bows of Newfoundland and Labrador’s newest ferries today, as the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIsaac were officially christened in the waters at Cow Head near Marystown.

“Grace Sparkes and Hazel McIsaac were true political pioneers and trailblazers for women in this province and we honour them both today with the christening of these vessels,” said the Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Transportation and Works. “These are the first ferry vessels built in this province in 20 years and the first two of our vessel replacement strategy. Christening these vessels the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIsaac is a fitting way to pay tribute to such extraordinary women and community leaders.”

Louise Hickman, niece of the late Grace Sparkes, officially christened the MV Grace Sparkes while Kim McIsaac-Bennett, daughter of Ms. McIsaac, officially christened the MV Hazel McIsaac. Both christenings were part of a ceremony at the Kiewit Offshore Services Cow Head facility.

“My mother would be terribly pleased and extremely honoured to have a vessel christened in her name,” said Doris Cohen, daughter of Grace Sparkes. “My mother was a lifelong Newfoundlander and she was devoted to her country. I know she would be proud and humbled if she were alive to see the vessel that carries her name. I would like to thank you for this gracious tribute to a woman who gave so much to her community.”

“We have always taken great pride in mom's achievements and her sheer perseverance in challenging social, economic, political and gender boundaries,” said Ms. McIsaac-Bennett. “It is extremely gratifying for all of her family and friends to see the Provincial Government acknowledge, in such a historic move, her contributions to her beloved province. She was strong in her beliefs, articulate in voicing her opinions, and steadfast in her loyalties to the people, not just of her district, but the entire Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Among the guests at the event were family of Grace Sparkes and Hazel McIsaac, Members of the House of Assembly, officials from the Department of Transportation and Works, management and staff of Peter Kiewit Sons, invited guests from industry and local municipal council representatives.

“The vessels we see before us today are the culmination of years of planning and hard work and fulfill part of a promise made by this government to renew our provincial ferry fleet,” said Minister Hedderson. “We welcome the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIsaac to the fleet, and I am sure these new vessels will long serve the people of this province.”

The MV Grace Sparkes will be assigned to serve the St. Brendan’s route, while the MV Hazel McIssac will be assigned to serve the Long Island/ Little Bay Islands route.

The sister ships are 42-metre, 80-passenger vessels with capacity for 16 passenger vehicles or one transport-truck and 11 passenger vehicles.

The vessels come at a construction cost of approximately $27.5 million each and upon final completion of the MV Hazel McIsaac, which will enter service later in the spring, will have created more than 400,000 person hours of employment.

Budget 2010: The Right Investments – For Our Children and Our Future allocated a record $1 billion for provincial infrastructure investments, for a total infrastructure strategy valued at more than $5 billion over the next several years. As part of this investment, $55 million was allocated in 2010-11 to continue with the vessel replacement strategy. In addition to the MV Grace Sparkes and the MV Hazel McIsaac, the Provincial Government is currently engaged in various stages of work towards the construction of eight additional vessels for the provincial service.

Vessel Specifications and Construction Highlights.pdf PDF (161 KB)

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Media contacts:

Roger Scaplen
Director of Communications
Department of Transportation and Works
709-729-3015, 697-5267


Grace Sparkes

Grace Sparkes was born in Grand Bank on February 19, 1908. Ms. Sparkes’ life’s work spanned teaching, journalism, and acting, as well as volunteer contributions to the YMCA, Canadian Red Cross, Kiwanis Music Festival, Memorial University’s Board of Regents, the United Church of Canada and the National Council on Aging.

When the National Convention was called in 1945, Ms. Sparkes became a strong supporter of a return to responsible government. Though never elected, Ms. Sparkes was the first woman to run for election to the House of Assembly, post-Confederation, running as a Progressive Conservative in the Burin District in the first provincial election in May 1949. She would later run for the federal Progressive Conservative Party in the riding of Burin-Burgeo in the federal election of 1949 and again for the provincial Progressive Conservatives in Burin in 1951.

Ms. Sparkes was honoured by her region for her contributions to the area and the province with the naming of Grace Sparkes House which provides safe accommodation and services to women and children who are victims of family violence.

Ms. Sparkes has also received numerous other honours for her work, including honorary degrees from Memorial University and Mount Allison University, membership in the Curling Hall of Fame, and Alumna of the Year of Memorial University.

Hazel McIsaac

Ms. McIsaac was the first female Member of the House of Assembly post-Confederation. During her time in office, she was devoted to environmental and social issues.

Born in Robinsons in 1933, Ms. McIsaac was educated at the Sisters of Mercy Convent Boarding School in St. George’s. Through the years, she worked at Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville, managed two local businesses and was later appointed as town clerk in St. George’s, where she was the first woman to ever hold the position.

In 1975, Ms. McIsaac set her sights on provincial politics and on September 16, 1975 was elected as a Liberal Member of the House of Assembly. In 1980, Ms. McIsaac returned to her role as town clerk in St. George’s and later was elected mayor.

Ms. McIsaac was devoted to her community, contributing to the library board, local development associations, Parks and Recreation Committees, Women’s Institute Seminars, and in the 1980s, opened her home as a community residence for young offenders.

2011 03 11             2:15 p.m.

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