Tougher times for tourism group

Less than a dozen people turned up, including the media and special guests, but organizers of the Southern Avalon Tourism Association's annual general meeting at the Celtic Rendezvous Cottages in Bauline East on Saturday say they still feel optimistic about the group’s future.

Posted on October 18, 2016 .

MUN economists to test political leaders in pre-election debate

     Newfoundland’s three political party leaders will face off in a pre-election debate hosted by three leading economists at Memorial University on October 14.

     Professors Doug May, Scott Lynch and Wade Locke of the Collaborative Applied Research in Economics (CARE) group, an initiative of the Department of Economics at Memorial, will also devise the questions for the leaders.

     The debate takes place from 7-9:45 p.m. in the lecture theatre of the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation, room IIC-2001. It is open to the public and the media. 

     Dwight Ball of the Liberal Party, Premier Paul Davis of the Progressive Conservatives and Earle McCurdy of the New Democratic Party have all agreed to participate.

     The economists will provide four questions to all three parties two weeks in advance of the debate. The moderator will read the questions verbatim. Each party leader will have time to respond to each question, followed by a discussion of the question among all three leaders before the moderator moves the debate onto the next question.

     The debate will provide an opportunity to promote greater understanding of both the economic and fiscal issues facing the province, said Dr. Locke.

     “This debate should facilitate the ability of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to make a more informed decision on Nov. 30,” he added.

     This fall’s election is coming on the heels of a severe downturn in oil prices and some metals commodities, including iron ore, upon which the provincial government is heavily dependent for revenue. The next provincial government is also expected to have to grapple with challenging demographic pressures posed by an aging population and shrinking economy as several megaprojects come to completion over the next several years.

     CARE's philosophy, adopted by May, Lynch and Locke, the group’s principal investigators, is that the provision of unbiased and technically competent analysis, delivered in an understandable format, is essential for public discourse and debate on important public policy issues faced by Newfoundland and Labrador. According to a university spokesperson, CARE is not an advocacy group, nor a consulting agency and it is not politically affiliated. The self-identified mandate of CARE is to promote greater understanding of applied economic issues within the province.

Posted on September 3, 2015 .

Genesis Centre hatches deal with Microsoft

     Memorial University’s business incubator, the Genesis Centre, says it has been selected to join the Microsoft BizSpark Program as a network partner.

     The BizSpark Program is a global program designed to accelerate the success of early stage start-up companies by connecting them to network partners: active members of the global software ecosystem who can provide mentorship, guidance and resources to BizSpark start-ups. BizSpark creates an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship between Microsoft Corp., start-ups and network partners, a spokesperson for the university said in a press release.

     The Genesis Centre focuses on helping start-up Newfoundland technology companies get on their feet. Past companies helped by the Genesis Centre include Verafin and SubC Imaging.

     The centre helps to accelerate start-up companies through all stages of idea development, connecting clients with top mentors and advisors and providing assistance with marketing, funding and office space.

     “The BizSpark offering at the Genesis Centre will provide start-ups with valuable resources as they navigate exciting but challenging ventures,” said Greg Hood, chief executive officer of the Genesis Group. “The Genesis Centre is committed to working together with BizSpark to deliver access to networks that can offer guidance and support that will lead new start-ups toward success.”

     The BizSpark Program is committed to fostering innovation and entrepreneurialism by offering start-ups the support they need most at a time when it may be least affordable and accessible – during a company’s first three years, with no upfront costs and minimal requirements, he added.

     According to the Genesis Centre, BizSpark provides “fast and easy access to Microsoft’s current full-featured development tools and platform technologies, as well as production licences to bring to market innovative solutions for the next generation of user experiences.”

     To be eligible for the Microsoft BizSpark Program, a company must be actively engaged in development of a software-based product or service that is a core piece of their business model, have been in business less than three years at the time of enrolment and have less than USD$1 million in annual revenue. Start-ups may enrol for the program by obtaining an enrolment code from a designated BizSpark network partner.

     For more information, please visit

Posted on September 3, 2015 .

How going lean saved these companies

Renita Dominaux of Dynamic Air Shelters, Mark Gillingham of Blue Oceans - Sky Hawk, and Bob Tetford of Restwell Mattress shared stories of how the adoption of lean manufacturing processes developed by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association have transformed their companies. The company managers spoke during a CME conference held in St. John's May 22.

Posted on May 22, 2015 .

St. Peter's Junior High Gets Go Ahead for Expansion

It was with a large dose of reservation, but Mount Pearl City council has given the English School District approval for a “pretty sizable extension” of St. Peter’s Junior High School on Munden Drive.

The work will include the creation of a new exit from the parking lot of the school onto Munden Drive, which council hopes will ease traffic problems in the area.

Planning and Development Committee chairman Andrew Ledwell said the extension includes completion of a “junior high sized” gymnasium with a stage and change rooms. The main floor of the old gym will be converted into a cafeteria and kitchen, with a second floor added to accommodate six new classrooms. The existing cafeteria will be converted into two additional classrooms. The work is expected to take 18 months to two years.

“This is a pretty sizable extension,” said Ledwell, adding the plans include expansion of the parking lot and the creation of a driveway around the school leading to the new access on Munden Drive.

To gain the new access, to be situated between 93 and 95 Munden Drive, the school board needs to acquire city owned land that is now used as a pathway.

“It is proposed that it will be a single lane with a side walk and right turning only,” said Ledwell.

A public meeting on the development was held March 19. Three people attended. The City issued over 200 notices to residents in the neighbourhood about the meeting.

“There were a number of concerns that were expressed,” said Ledwell. “Those revolve around traffic flow, the impact on the neighbourhood in terms of noise and safety, potential problems with traffic – both on foot and on four wheels – and the loss of some green space.”

Ledwell said the longer driveway around the school will allow for the stacking of some 75 cars, which would enter from the current access and exit through the new one. “It’s thought that the stacking of the 75 cars would allow for traffic to come off of Munden Drive thereby reducing congestion on the street,” he said. “At least that’s the hope.”

The school board has committed to install privacy fencing between the new exit and the neighbours immediately adjacent to it. Ledwell said that after much discussion at the committee level, the recommendation is to approve the application. He then moved that the city also conduct a survey on the land needed for the new exit so that it can be leased to the school board.

Councillor Lucy Stoyles said she could not support it.  “I have a major concern with this,” said Stoyles. “I have had since the get go.”

Stoyles said she attended all but one of the public forums about school changes that were held by the board last year and has spoken with residents around St. Peter’s. “I’m quite familiar with the school, my three children went to this school,” she said. “From the time it was built it was too small, it was busting out of the seams.”

Stoyles said while the extension is needed she objects to the effect the new exit will have on the immediate neighbours. “If I was living there, I wouldn’t want it next to me,” she said. “I really can’t support that access going in there.”

Stoyles suggested the school board should have tried to buy one of the neighbouring houses to make more room for the exit. “I really don’t think the school board did a good review of the whole system,” she argued. “People were up in arms for months last year, almost all the public forums were full.”

Deputy Mayor Jim Locke, who chaired Tuesday’s public meeting in the absence of Mayor Randy Simms, asked Stoyles what she would do differently. Stoyles said she would send some of the children to a different school.

Councillor John Walsh said the changes to the school are “substantive and sweeping” and he shares Stoyles’ concerns. He noted the neighbour who is most affected by the changes, who has problems with vandalism and noise over the years, also continues to have concerns.

“But I recognize as a councillor that something has to be done,” Walsh said. “It’s not as easy as saying, ‘Put them in another building.’ There is no other building. The buildings are all overcrowded, unfortunately.”

Walsh said as long as the new exit from the school allows for right turning traffic only, the new configuration should alleviate some of the traffic congestion on Munden Drive. “For me this is about balancing, using the resources that you have and trying to find the suitable balance,” he added. “I share the concerns , but I see this as an opportunity and I want to make sure that our Planning Department and our council really hold the School Board’s feet to the fire in terms of following through, particularly on the promises made (to the neighbour)… When you look at everything in totality, this is the best and safest and most prudent decision. It’s not perfect, but the fitting in of the school building into the neighborhood was never perfect. This is as good as it’s going to get.”

Councillor Dave Aker urged council to reach out to the neighbours to ensure their concerns are taken into account by the school board. He agreed the proposed loop around the school should alleviate traffic problems in the area.

Councillor Paula Tessier too said the proposed changes are a chance to make the traffic situation better. The privacy fence might also improve things better for the resident when it comes to vandalism, she said.

Ledwell said while he is also sympathetic about the impact on the immediate neighbours, he agrees with Walsh that council must err on the side of safety. “I think we have to let this go ahead, because we have to look after the safety of our students,” he said.

Calling the vote on Ledwell’s motion, Deputy Mayor Locke observed that “If it doesn’t work… we’re not averse to revisiting it.”

On the vote, the motion passed with everyone in support except Stoyles, who voted nay.



Posted on May 22, 2015 .

Petty Harbour Council Looking for Answers from Canada Post

The council in Petty Harbour – Maddox Cove intends to put more pressure on Canada Post to come up with a solution to the lack of a Post Office in the town.

But Mayor Nat Hutchings indicated at Monday’s public council meeting the Crown Corporation has not been very cooperative, even when it comes to answering requests for information.

Councillor Linda Doyle said it’s time the town told Canada Post to find a permanent location. “Because we all know Canada Post is trying to get rid of the Post Office,” she said.

Petty Harbour lost its local Post Office over a year ago, when the businessman who had the contract to provide the service declined to renew it so that he could focus on his other business interests.

The corporation has since tried to find someone willing to rent or build space for a Post Office and operate it 24 hours a week at a reported pay of some $20 an hour, which includes labour and building rental and operations.

“Nobody is coming into town for the money they’re offering for rental and the running of the Post Office,” said Mayor Hutchings. “We have people in town who would have (taken on the service), but the money wasn’t there.”

Since the Post Office closed, Canada Post has been providing mail at a set of temporary Super mailboxes.

Councillor Harry Chafe said the corporation is only looking for excuses to avoid re-opening a Post Office in town. “They had a couple of places in the harbour where they could have went,” he noted. “But they came up with all kinds of excuses. If we don’t push the issue they are going to stay there (with the Super Mailboxes) and we’re not going to have a Post Office. I think we have to push the issue and get them (Super Mailboxes) out of there.”

Chafe added the corporation failed to adequately clear snow and salt the area around the mailboxes this past winter.

Hutchings said the priority is to get some kind of answer from Canada Post about its plans. “Because right now we don’t know,” he admitted, adding he has been leaving messages for a corporation manager for over a year, but has not received a response.

“That can’t be a permanent location,” Doyle said of the Super Mailboxes, referring to the temporary site on Parish property behind the Town Hall.

“We will try to get a meeting,” said Hutchings. “This has gone on long enough.”


Road Work

Meanwhile, Canada Post isn’t the only government body causing frustration at the Town Hall.

Councillor Corey Lee said repairs need to be done by the provincial Department of Transportation on the road leading to Cove Beach in Maddox Cove. The soil along the shoulder is starting to crumble because of frost, he pointed out, including around the guardrail.

Mayor Hutchings said he has been on council a long time and during much of that period the town has been trying to get the Department of Transportation to fix up that road. The last council, in particular, tried a number of times to get action, even inviting local MHA Keith Hutchings down for a personal inspection.

“And they never done a thing with it,” the mayor added. “Perhaps it’s time to get after Keith Hutchings again and say ‘Listen Keith, we need something done.’”

Mayor Hutchings said five school buses travel over that portion of the road and it is potentially very dangerous. “It’s time to get Keith on the ball now,” he said. “Like you say, this is an election year, and this should have been done long ago. We’re after being promised over the last year and a half that it was going to be done – the main road for sure – and it’s come to a point now where the road is being jeopardized.”

Posted on May 22, 2015 .