Long-term are better than make-work projects

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photographs from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Pauline Avery, 1986

Pauline Avery, 33, has an infectious laugh and a love of challenges. When she was 16 she left her native Hodge’s Cove and bravely set out for Toronto.

“Somebody should have knocked me over the head,” she mumbles.

Five years later, tired of factory work, she returned to Hodge’s Cove to change the world in her own back yard. She went fishing with her father, George Churchill, and three brothers in a 35-ft. longliner, then in 1979 organized the first local fishermen’s committee. Her efforts to get a wharf extended led to the forming of a local development association and she became the first president. Today, six years later, Pauline is Coordinator of the Southwest Arm Development Association which includes 15 communities and has 250 members. In its relatively short life, the Association has received grants totalling $2.5 million.

“We have a sub-committee working on an iron foundry,” says Pauline warming to her subject. “Atlantic Consulting in St. John’s did a study for us and say it’s feasible. It would produce four jobs plus office and management jobs. We’ve got federal funding for it but nothing from the provincial government yet.”

Pauline says that while the provincial government has not rejected the project, government officials are worried that a foundry in Southwest Arm producing things like bolts and zinc alloy castings would give them the potential to compete with other small Newfoundland businesses in allied fields in what is a limited market.

“They are worried about what we might do,” says Pauline. “But anchor bolts and zinc alloys are things brought in from the mainland now and just making them would create some long-term jobs without competing with other Newfoundland businesses.”

Long-term jobs are Pauline’s real interest. Despite the Association’s success at getting grants, Pauline is not very happy about how the grants are used.

The wharf at Hodge’s Cove that Puline helped find funding for.

“We’re caught in a make-work trap. Last year we had a Special Fisheries Response program to help fishermen and plant workers get enough stamps for their unemployment. We spent $248,000 on community halls, slipways, and wharves—I think we’ve got enough slipways to haul up the entire Newfoundland inshore fleet now. Yet for two years we’ve been looking for $350,000 to build the forge to create permanent jobs and we can’t get it.”

The $350,000 would be for plant and machinery. The Association would then have to attract an operator with about $200,000 to invest. She’s convinced private enterprise is the only way to operate such a venture.

“We’re a volunteer organization. Can you imagine us running a business? We’d have to have meetings every second night.”

Another venture the Association is pushing is the development of a local fish market in the large vacant space below the Association’s offices. Hodge’s Cove has only eight fishermen (and one fisherwoman) and the residents often have trouble buying fish.

“There’s always people looking for fresh fish. You can’t buy it off the fisherman because he wants to sell it to a plant to get his unemployment. So it’s go to Sobeys or the Co-op. We’ve got somebody who wants to start a fish market here but he has to come up with $100,000 for equipment. That’s not easy to get from a bank. Now if they put some of that government money used for make-work projects into a revolving fund, we could help. There are some people that a bank might not take a chance on, but we would, because we know them.”  

Being cast in the role of a social worker rather than an economic developer is one of the less pleasant parts of Pauline’s job.  

“There’s a committee that does the hiring for make-work projects, but I’m the most visible,” admits Pauline ruefully. “I had to come up here one Christmas Eve because people had moved into the office and wouldn’t leave until they got jobs.  We didn’t have the jobs to give them. The government gets the glory for passing out a few dollars and we get all the headaches. It seems no matter who you give a job to, there’s always somebody worse off than the fellow who gets the job.”  

One social chore Pauline did enjoy was the new Southwest Arm Seafood Festival that began this August.  

“We couldn’t get a lot of seafood but we got a good crowd and we took in $6,000. We had a mock jail and a couple of students dressed as policemen. You could pay 50 cents to put somebody in jail for 15 minutes, and it was full all the time. When a real police officer came down a couple of kids had him put in jail the moment he stepped or} the beach. Morrissey Johnson the MP spent most of the day in jail. They could have bailed themselves out for a dollar, but hardly anybody did.”  

The Festival also featured local entertainers and Pauline vows it will be bigger and better next year. In the meantime, she works through the piles of papers in her office which overlooks two longliners tied to a wharf she helped find funding for.  

“I loved fishing. You feel so healthy on the water. We used to leave Monday morning and go down around Old Bonaventure and didn’t get back before Saturday night. It was pretty cramped with five of us sleeping in the boat, but we had fun.”  

If Pauline hadn’t decided to try to improve the wharf she probably wouldn’t be sitting where she is now.

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Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, March 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.