By Mark Squibb
MHA for Carbonear – Trinity – Bay de Verde Steve Crocker says 2023 was a busy year, and he’s looking forward to the year ahead.
It was also a year of challenge, according to Crocker.
“The challenges we face in the district I’m fortunate enough to represent are the same challenges you see on the evening news,” said Crocker, who resides in Heart’s Delight-Islington. “We’re no different than most places in the province.”
One of those challenges is, of course, health care, and the question of doctor recruitment.
“We see from time to time that there are issues at the Carbonear hospital and at Wilkinson in Old Perlican,” said Crocker. “There are great teams at those hospitals that are always recruiting, but obviously recruitment, not only here in the province but across Canada, is one of the bigger challenges.”
Crocker said that concerns prevalent in 2023 surrounding health care, housing, and high prices will carry over into 2024, though perhaps to a lesser degree.
He said that the six-week snow crab fishery shutdown this spring hit hard in communities such as Bay de Verde and Old Perlican, where fish plants employ a significant number of residents year-over-year.
That shut down was due to price negotiations between seafood processors and fishermen.
On a positive note, Crocker added the Quinlan Plant in Bay de Verde has recently begun processing salmon in addition to Snow Crab, which has created about 50 full-time seasonal jobs.
“The district is quite busy,” Crocker said. “We’re seeing construction in the Carbonear area, we’re seeing new businesses open, and so that’s always good. And even though the fishery got off to a rocky start this year, it concluded as successfully as could be after such a delay.”
Crocker, who is also the Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts and Recreation, said tourism is continuing to rebound following the pandemic, and he’s excited for the opportunities 2024 will afford.
“2022 was a banner year,” said Crocker. “Come Home Year was a great initiative that got people home and boosted the industry. And the industry is strong again this year, but still faces challenges. But wherever I am in Canada, everybody says the same thing, which is that recovery is slow. But we have a great initiative planned for next year with our Year of the Arts, as a way of celebrating some of the great culture we have here in our province. And we’re going to celebrate our 75th anniversary of confederation in 2024, so we have a lot of exciting initiatives planned looking forward to 2024. 2023 was a good year for tourism, but we still have a way to go to get back to the trajectory we were on in 2019.”
Crocker said that despite inflation, people who can afford it still seem keen to travel, and the province’s tourism potential is still vibrant.
The minister faced his own personal challenges in 2023 when he was forced to undergo emergency surgery in January.
“I’m eternally grateful for the support I received in 2023,” said Crocker. “I had some pretty serious health issues in 2023, and I spent about 16 weeks off of work to recover from two different surgeries. So, I did want to thank everyone for the support that I received, because it was a tough year. I wasn’t able to do as much as I would have been able to do in the past, so I’m looking forward to a healthy new year, and the ability to get back to a normal year.”