Origins and Growth
The Southern Labrador Development Association has its roots in the development assocation movement that spread throughout Newfoundland and Labrador in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The background to that movement is explored briefly below.
By 1969, social and economic conditions and a dissatisfaction with government had spurred a desire amongst southern Labrador communities to work together to achieve improvements in economy and likestyle. Community representatives met and the SLDA was formed. The organization was formally incorporated in 1973.
Joint meetings between development associations led to the creation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Rural Development Council (NLRDC), an umbrella organization, in 1969. Govt support for development associations was slight at first but expanded greatly in 1971, when government announced a plan for 46 associations across the province. Each association would receive a $10,000 annual grant (the NLRDC was provided $25,000). To be eligible, associations were required to conform to the government's plan.
Ties between development associations and government strengthened during the 1970s, with the creation of the Department of Rural Development and the formal recognition of development associations as the delivery mechanism for government's rural development plan.
Decline of the Development Associations
In 1992 government released a new Strategic Economic Plan which led to the establishment of 18 new Regional Economic Boards across the province as the vehicle for development. Government support for the development associations dwindled and, in 1995, all funding was cut to associations and the NLRDC. In a 1995 newspaper interview the Minister for Development suggested that associations should organize bingo games and other fundraisers to support themselves.
Without government support many associations closed. A few survived though new partnerships and efforts to achieve self-sustainabilty. The SLDA had invested in the construction of an office building at Forteau, drew income from rental and built partnerships with government agencies for service delivery.
Background to the Development Association Movement
The social and economic inequality between rural and urban regions in Newfoundland and Labrador is longstanding and well documented. While attempts to stimulate rural development predated confederation, it was mainly after Newfoundland's union with Canada in 1949 that government programs and initiatives targeting rural areas became prevalent. These schemes proved largely unsuccessful and, by the mid 1960s, people in rural parts of the province decided to take matters into their own hands and formed groups to promote local improvements. These ad-hoc groups arose in various areas and eventually grew into a full-fledged organization with a network of Regional Development Associations (RDAs) across the province.
Regional Development Associations in Newfoundland and Labrador, Laurie Bonia, MA Thesis, MUN, 2006.
The inequality between rural and urban regions relates to the fisheries-based economy of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador. A settlement pattern with numerous dispersed, coastal communities was advantageous for accessing marine resouces in coastal waters. Yet outside the fishery itself there were few opportunities for employment and little or no economic diversity in these small communities. In contrast, urban areas (primarily St. John's) were the seat of policy-making government and home to large merchant enterprises which traded in the fish caught in rural communities.
Through the 1950s and 1960s government embarked on various development schemes to improve the economy of rural regions. There were attempts to create manufacturing industries for textiles, shoes, gloves, even hockey sticks and chocolates. A few enterprises survived, such as North Star Cement Company, while many failed.
Government also embarked on a resettlement program, whereby the residents of small communities were encouraged (with financial incentives) to relocate to larger "growth centres". While some 7,500 people were resettled, the program created significant unrest in rural communities and contributed to the desire for greater local control of economic development activities. In the late 1960s and early 1970s development associations were formed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.