Government�s Blueprint for the Future and the 2004 Budget made strong commitments to Labrador. Government has begun to deliver on these commitments over the past year and has commenced implementation of a social and economic strategy that reflects the needs of Labradorians.

Government is announcing the following initiatives based on the strategic priorities of Labrador:

Health and Wellness
The health and well-being of all citizens of the province is of primary importance to government. Premier Williams made strong commitments to the people of the province, specifically Labrador, during the First Ministers� Meeting in September 2004.

Medical Travel
Government is building on its Blueprint commitment to provide more equitable access to health services through a new annual investment of $167,000 to assist residents of Labrador West traveling to Happy Valley-Goose Bay for medical procedures. This assistance will improve access to services and help offset the high costs Labrador residents incur when traveling outside their communities to obtain medical services. This initiative puts Labrador West residents on equal footing with residents of the Labrador North and South Coasts, who currently pay $40 for round trip flights to access CT Scans and laparoscopies in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and St. Anthony. It is anticipated that approximately 220 residents of Labrador West will benefit from this initiative in 2005-2006.
This new initiative also enhances the existing provincial Medical Transportation Assistance Program, which currently provides assistance to patients who travel via commercial air to access insured services outside the boundaries of their regional health authorities. Funding is based on a $500 deductible, which is applicable once in a 12 month period, with the balance of eligible expenses cost shared at 50 per cent.

Captain William Jackman Hospital
A 2003 operational review of Health Labrador Corporation identified physical infrastructure issues at the hospital in Labrador City. In response, government will invest up to $200,000 in Budget 2005 to complete a role study and needs assessment to begin addressing these infrastructure issues. The findings will assist the Labrador-Grenfell Regional Integrated Health Aut hority (RIHA) and government identify the best approach to dealing with infrastructure needs. The Labrador-Grenfell RIHA will issue a request for proposals to select a consultant to begin the work as soon as possible.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Prevention
Government will invest $100,000 to support a FASD prevention initiative in partnership with the Labrador FASD Advisory Committee and Labrador-Grenfell RIHA. The initiative will target women of childbearing years and their support systems. It will focus on increasing public awareness, prevention and health promotion at the community level. This represents the first investment specifically targeting prevention of FASD in the province. The Advisory Committee is hosting a regional FASD workshop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on March 15-17, 2005 to examine strategies and best practices in the prevention, diagnosis and intervention of FASD.

FASD is caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol and has lifelong implications for babies. Other factors, such as maternal health and nutrition, use of drugs or other addictions, violence and other lack of supports may also influence the effect of alcohol in a pregnancy.

Aboriginal Peoples
Labrador�s aboriginal communities face unique challenges, but they are also full of hope and promise. Premier Williams made a very strong commitment to address the many needs and opportunities of our aboriginal peoples � especially the children - both during the September 2004 First Ministers� Meeting and during his visit to the North Coast last summer. The high population of young children represents great opportunities for the future, if provided the proper tools for success. Aboriginal women are embracing their social and political power, to heal and advance their communities. Government is focusing its efforts to ensure that Labrador�s aboriginal communities have the tools to build a better future. All levels of government have roles to play; the province will continue to press the federal government to work with us and with aboriginal leaders to address their pressing needs and issues.

Protecting Children
A more responsive child protection system has resulted in significant increases in the number of reported cases in which children need protection. Having discovered the depth and gravity of the need for child protection, government is providing an additional $250,000 to permanently hire three additional social workers in Natuashish and other aboriginal communities. This builds on the $500,000 commitment made in Budget 2004 for an additional five social work positions for Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Sheshatshui and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Shushepishipan Group Home
The Shushepishipan Group Home is a six-bed residential environment for adolescents. It accepts youth placements under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Child, Youth and Family Services Act. In August 2004, with the support of the current Band Council, the Department of Health and Community Services ended the previous service agreement with the home�s Board, due to programming concerns and inadequate financial accountability. Government has been working with the current Band Council to develop a plan to reopen the home, emphasizing quality of care, administrative accountability and program development. In Budget 2005 government will invest $70,000 to begin the transition process to reopen the home. The home will build community capacity for responding to youth and families in crisis. Labrador Group homes are also located in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Nain.

Early Childhood Development, Learning and Care
Recognizing that children of all abilities and socio-economic backgrounds deserve to be given an equal chance to succeed in life, government recently announced plans for new investment in early childhood development, learning and care. $1.6 million will be invested this year, and a total of $16.8 million of federal funding over five years, to increase the number of low-income families accessing the Child Care Services Subsidy program throughout the province. For the first time since 1998-1999, this year the income eligibility threshold will rise from $13,800 to $20,280, with a further increase to $22,080 in 2007-2008. As part of this initiative, the children of approximately 30 Labrador families will now benefit from more learning opportunities.

Investments will also focus on enhancing the quality of child care environments including more professional support services for early childhood educators and family child care providers, augmented professional support services to assist special needs children, enhanced quality programming and the availability of more specialized equipment for children of different abilities.

Government will continue to invest $210,000 annually to support family resource programs in aboriginal communities offered through the Shakastueu Pisham Centre in Sheshatshui and the Piguttuk Family Resource program in Nain. These programs promote healthy child development and parenting skills. Parents receive support through parenting workshops and information on child development. In addition, children and paren ts participate together in play-based and early learning activities.

Supporting Aboriginal Women
Government recognizes aboriginal women in Labrador need support to restore healthy communities, reduce violence against women, improve access to women�s shelters, prevent fetal alcohol syndrome and have greater access to employment opportunities.

Government is committed to preventing violence against aboriginal women and will provide $100,000 to target community-based awareness and education activities and materials, as well as access to other aboriginal violence prevention models and networks. Government will also provide $70,000 to support the opening of a much-needed women�s shelter in Hopedale.

To ensure aboriginal women�s voices are heard in Labrador, the government will provide $20,000 for a conference where critical social and economic needs and priorities can be identified and a plan of action developed to address these issues.

Infrastructure is the foundation for sustainable communities and a key component of government�s economic development strategy for Labrador. Strategic investments in transportation and municipal capital projects are essential to fostering long-term economic growth and opportunities that benefit all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Trans Labrador Highway Phase III
Government intends to complete Phase III of the Trans Labrador Highway (Happy Valley - Goose Bay to Cartwright Junction) by the Fall of 2009 through a combination of provincial and federal investments. Government is strongly advocating for the federal government to include Trans Labrador Highway (TLH) as part of the National Highway System, creating a road link between this province and the rest of the country and making TLH road work eligible for federal funding. The total cost of Phase III is estimated to be $110 million.

In this construction season, tenders will be called for approximately 28 km of road work and a permanent bridge across Paradise River. Including carryovers from the 2004-2005 construction season, $40 million has been allocated in the 2005-06 budget year for continued work on the TLH.

Government will ensure the highest possible level of environmental protection during construction and operation of the TLH. Responding to concerns raised during the Environmental Assessment process, government has made changes to the original routing and has strengthened the ongoing regulatory and resource management processes to the TLH.

New Depot
Since the road between Red Bay and Lodge Bay opened in the fall of 2000, severe winter weather conditions have made it extremely difficult to keep this road open and safe. Government will construct a depot in the area to house specialized snow-clearing equipment; the estimated cost of this project is $750,000.

Chip Seal
Throughout 2005 and 2006, the Department of Transportation and Works will evaluate the performance of the 15 kilometre chip seal road surface that was laid in 2004 at the suggestion of local representatives, to determine its suitability as an alternative to conventional asphalt in the Labrador environment. Chip seal has been successfully used on low-traffic-volume roads in the Maritime provinces, Quebec, British Columbia and the Yukon; this is the first time this material has been tried in Labrador.

Municipal Capital Works
$3.3 million has been allocated for Labrador, from the province�s $17.5 million Municipal Capital Works budget for 2005-2006. The Municipal Capital Works Program provides funding to assist municipalities with major essential infrastructure projects, su ch as provision of drinking water, sewage disposal, roads, waste management, fire protection and recreation facilities. These projects are primarily cost-shared with municipalities on a 50/50 basis, although this ratio may be adjusted as far as 70/30 when municipalities are unable to fully fund their share.

An additional $10 million has also been allocated for Labrador communities under other infrastructure programs such as the Multi-Year Capital Works Program, the Canada/ Newfoundland and Labrador Infrastructure Program and the Canada/ Newfoundland and Labrador Inuit Communities Agreement.

Value-added Resource Development
The forest resources of Labrador contain tremendous potential. Government will spend $155,000 in 2005 to assess the potential for secondary manufacturing and value-added wood products development in Labrador. We have consulted on the terms of reference for this study with representatives from industry, including existing harvesting and sawmill operations, as well as town councils, Innu Nation, Labrador Metis Nation, zonal boards and regional economic development groups, and environmental groups.

Tourism and Recreation
Tourism continues to hold great potential in this province. Nowhere greater is the potential than in Labrador, with its vast untouched landscapes and outdoor opportunities second to none in the world. With this extraordinary outdoor asset available to enjoy, we are fortunate that recreation is key to developing strong and healthy young people for the future. We must provide our citizens with recreational opportunities throughout the province.

Destination Labrador
Government will provide $300,000 over three years to support the tourism sector through the Destination Labrador program. Destination Labrador is a non-profit organization comprising industry and federal and provincial representatives from all regions of Labrador, established in 2003 to promote Labrador as a tourism destination. This provincial government investment is expected to leverage investment from federal and industry partners, for a total project commitment of $1.38 million over three years in cost-shared funding.

This initiative is in keeping with its commitment to making strategic investments to grow the economy. In addition to generating tax revenues, tourism brings new money into the province, creates opportunities for small business and rural communities, creates both seasonal and year-round employment, and increases the viability of amenities such as restaurants, gas stations and hotels in rural communities. These benefits are particularly important for Labrador, which faces unique socio-economic challenges imposed by geography and extreme climate.

Labrador Winter Games
Government will provide $500,000 in Budget 2005 to support the 2006 Labrador Winter Games. Held every three years, the Labrador Winter Games began in 1982 as a way to promote the development of sport and recreation programs throughout the communities of Labrador; encourage, promote and enhance cooperation and understanding among all peoples of the region; and revive and encourage the development of traditional sports and activities associated with the traditional lifestyles of the region.

The 2006 Labrador Winter Games will bring together approximately 450 athletes and involve approximately 1,000 volunteers from all communities of Labrador during a week-long competition. Many of the events, including snowshoeing, rifle shooting, dog sled racing and the seal crawl, are part of the Labrador culture. Government recognizes the unique opportunity presented by the Games, to mobilize Labrador as a community and to enhance the pride and culture of Labrador.

Provincial Government Presence in Labrador
The governance of Labrador must respond to the challenges of a mixture of cultures and languages, an immense geography and a physical separation from the island part of the province. The provincial government is aligning government structures to respond appropriately to this complex environment.
The Regional Council of Labrador�s senior provincial public servants is a very useful mechanism for coordinating provincial government activity and sharing information across departmental boundaries. This mechanism will be retained and strengthened in the future.

The Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs will continue to serve the interests of Labradorians from two bases: the Labrador Affairs Branch in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the Aboriginal Affairs Branch in St. John�s. The Deputy Minister position will continue to be located in Goose Bay and this position is expected to be filled in the very near future. This office is part of the public service of the provincial government and it supports the work of two Ministers and a Parliamentary secretary who all advance Labrador�s issues within the government.

The provincial government has fulfilled an election commitment by creating a new senior position with appropriate supports in Labrador West, with an investment of $250,000. This position is an executive level role within the Department of Natural Resources and will serve the interests of Labrador� s mining, agricultural, and energy sectors. The focus of this position will help ensure that the benefits of resource developments are real and sustained for Labradorians. Recruitment for this position is currently underway.

Finally, the government will follow through on its commitment to establish a branch of the Premier� s Office in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. This Office will not duplicate the work of other provincial organizations. It will not substitute for the role of the Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Ministers or the Parliamentary Secretary. The role of this office will be to ensure a direct conduit between Labrador and the Premier on the priorities, views, and concerns of Labradorians, and will identify opportunities for the region.

Through all of these mechanisms, the provincial government will have an unparalleled presence and involvement in the public life of Labrador compared to any administration in the past.

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