I have been involved in politics since the time Joey Smallwood turned against the loggers who kept the A.N.D. Mill in Grand Falls and Bowater’s Mill in Corner Brook supplied with wood by outlawing the Union they had chosen to represent then. That’s a long time ago, but today I see politics at its worst. I have voted for all three parties in my lifetime and spent considerable time with both the Liberals and PCs, but today I see no one I could support.
Last week, (Torngat Mountains MHA) Lela Evans quit the PC party because she couldn’t get the support from her colleagues for things very near and dear to her heart, things badly needed for her district. Prior to the cod moratorium, I spent considerable time fishing out of Makkovik and got to know those wonderful people quite well. I always referred to Makkovik as my second home.
Lela’s family, the Evans and Andersons, were well respected families all over Labrador.
Lela was a young girl at that time, but I got to know her better after the moratorium, when the girls’ broomball teams came from Labrador to play in the provincial broomball tournaments, which I attended. I was their favourite cheerleader. The first time they played was in Grand Falls-Windsor. It was a big feat in itself to raise enough money from such a small town to pay the cost of 1,000 km travel by plane and hotels, etcetera.
Besides being probably the first time any of them had visited the island, through the determination of the total team, and the leadership of their captain, Lela Evans, they won gold and no one could be any prouder than I was, watching Lela through these games with her determination to win and not backing down from anyone.
I said to myself, ‘This is a girl who will succeed in life.’ After Makkovik stopped playing broomball in the provincials I lost contact with Lela until she appeared as the MHA for Torngat Mountains – not a surprise for me – and I got to meet her again at the wake of the Hon. John Crosbie at Confederation building. She gave me a big hug and said, ‘Wilf you could have been the mayor of Makkovik,’ words that showed a respect from my friends of Makkovik, words I’ll take to my grave.
Lela is one of four MHAs for Torngat Mountains whom I have known over the years. I watched her closely both in the House and her statements to the press. It wasn’t long before I said to myself we finally got a breath of fresh air in the House of Assembly, something I haven’t seen for years, someone who is doing what she was sent there for, to speak for her people, and that she did. The way I’ve heard people speak of her, if a poll had been done she would have been voted number one. The other 39 should take a lesson from her and maybe we could bring respect to the House of Assembly.
She mentioned things had changed since Ches Crosbie stepped down as PC Party leader. Prior to this election, there were two people in the PC party I kept in touch with, providing them with some information and ideas about the fisheries and other things. One was Jim Lester and the other Mr. Crosbie whom I thought would make a good premier, and who, like his father, only wanted the best for this province. He would have won if we had had a sensible election where the people could go out and vote.
Since the election in February – May, I have sent numerous letters to the 40 MHAs about important issues in this province and cannot get a reply from anyone, except one MHA, my own member MHA Brian Warr, who asked for my help when he decided to run for the Liberal Party, to which I gave freely of my time and money. But he refused to help me when I asked. After that I lost my faith in politicians.
I guess this frustration was felt by Lela, that the current 39 members are only concerned with their own districts and not with what is best for this province. That is no way to govern and the very reason that we are in the financial mess we are today.
To Lela I have always said Northern Labrador is a Forgotten People and we owe it to them to treat them as equals. You are among three other Independents who are not afraid to speak up for the people who gave them their jobs.
Do not quit working for your people. You are a shining light and the only hope they have now. Keep on doing what you did when you were captain of the number one broomball team in this province. Hold your head high, look the Premier in the eye and let him know you are there for your people.
(Ret.) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett, firstname.lastname@example.org