By ROSALYN ROY
SOUTHWEST COAST – Scott Reid’s Bluetooth signal is cutting in and out as he drives from Stephenville to the Codroy Valley on Wednesday morning, Jan. 27. The cell service, or rather lack thereof, is one of those things he’d like to fix if he’s successfully elected for a fourth term.
“I’ve got a house in Stephenville and I’ve got a place that I share with my father in the Codroy Valley,” said Reid.
Reid likes to maintain close ties to the Codroy Valley. He credits the area’s support for helping him win the Liberal nomination after Joan Burt stepped down, triggering a 2014 by-election.
“This will be my fourth election in less than seven years,” noted Reid. “I was around politics before I ran myself and I guess I knew what I was getting into when I decided to run.”
Reid is no stranger to campaigning, although with the COVID-19 restrictions in place, he’s still having to adjust his approach. He’s always been accessible on social media, but lately he’s upped that presence, and even taken to cold calling constituents and mail outs inviting them to contact him directly. He says that he’s responding as quickly as he can to messages and e-mails.
“I’ve been doing some door-to-door. I was sort of hesitant as to whether I would do any door-to-door this time and I know people are cautious,” said Reid. “In Newfoundland we’ve been good, but still there are precautions you have to take if you’re doing door-to-door.’
Like other candidates trying the in-person approach, Reid adheres to pandemic protocols by wearing a mask, dropping literature and staying outside at an appropriate distance.
Cell service problems aside, Reid has a lengthy To Do list for the riding of St. George’s – Humber.
“It’s a combination of maintaining services we have, improving services we have, and also having a long-term vision – improving the economy of the area and adapting to the changing needs of the district.”
The biggest need that he has identified is the poor road condition, which he considers to be a safety hazard as much as an inconvenience.
“I would say they’re the biggest issue that I’m up against there in the district because it’s something that impacts everyone traveling around within the Valley,” observed Reid. “To be quite frank, they’re in atrocious condition.”
Reid says that improving them for residents, employers like the fish plant and larger agricultural producers is important. To show the potential benefits instead of just the necessity of these repairs, he is looking at tying in tourism access and even enticing more residents to the area.
“People I think will come back and relocate back to the Valley for a lifestyle,” said Reid.
In particular, he wants to target a demographic he calls “silver entrepreneurs” who are looking for that lifestyle. They aren’t quite ready to retire but are seeking to change their lifestyle and might want to keep a hobby farm. Reid believes the Valley would be a perfect fit, but enticing more permanent residents to increase the tax base requires better maintenance of basic infrastructure.
Reid seems to spot opportunities practically everywhere. One of the most obvious is in agriculture.
“We don’t grow a lot of the food that we eat in this province,” said Reid. “I’m encouraged by some of the things I’m seeing.”
He mentions a 26-acre potato farm in South Branch, and another farm in Bay St. George as examples of successful smaller scale producers.
“We’ve seen changes in the way that people buy their food. It used to be that people bought their food at small stores,” he said.
But large grocery store chains require a guaranteed supply, and that can be tricky for smaller farms.
“I think we have to work with the producers to either co-operate or grow to a level where they can compete with the producers in PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia,” said Reid.
Others might do better by setting up a farmers market or even erect a kiosk on their property, perhaps adjacent to the main road, so that consumers can buy fresh produce and proteins directly from the producer.
“I think there are opportunities for agriculture in the Codroy Valley and I want to work with people to develop that.”
Reid said that there’s already multiple federal and provincial funding available for agricultural growth, even for smaller producers.
“There’s a lot of funding for those who want to start agricultural enterprises. There’s funding for equipment, there’s funding for people who want to clear land, stuff like that,” noted Reid. “If anyone is interested, I’m certainly willing to work with them and help them out and help them navigate the funding opportunities that are there.”
When it comes to tourism, Reid is quick to point out the Coastangs Trail. Developing the trail network and other opportunities will, by extension, necessitate better roads.
“When I talk to people in government, they talk about things like destination trails, where you have a product that’s so good that people will travel from around the world to come and hike these trails, they’re so good,” said Reid. “Sometimes people are a little upset that all of these funds aren’t going towards roads, but I think we have to have a balanced approach. One sort of aids the other. If you have these other economic things happening, they’ll demonstrate a need for other services in the area.”
Reid said that the government funded a study into the potential for trail development. It found trails in the Codroy Valley were comparable to the world-renowned trails in Gros Morne.
“There are opportunities to attract people from Gros Morne down our way,” said Reid, “As well as local people to have opportunities to hike these trails as well.”
Helping existing businesses continue to grow is another part of his long-term plan. Reid pointed to fish plant owner John Osmond as a prime example, stating that Osmond is “very innovative in the work”. Reid believes that kind of approach benefits the entire Southwest Coast, not just the Valley.
Something else that could benefit the entire region is affordable housing, particularly for seniors. Funding already exists there too.
“I think there is probably a need for seniors accommodations in the Codroy Valley, and I think there’s an opportunity there for a private sector or a government assisted sort of living,” said Reid.
Pulling these pieces together like a kind of jigsaw puzzle is going to take time, and like residents around the district Reid gets frustrated too. Still, he promises to chip away at it as best he can.
There was some road work done last summer, and he is the first to concede that there’s still much more to be done. But to do it requires a specific vision, and Reid clearly has one.
“We have to think about how we can solve our problems in innovative ways.”