Saint Lucians living in Calgary, Canada gathered to share views on current affairs as part of activities organized by the Saint Lucia Calgary Cultural Association to celebrate Saint Lucia’s 34th Anniversary of Independence.
On Friday, March 8, 2013, a town hall-style meeting was held at Greenwood Inn, Calgary, where Consul General Michael Willius was formally introduced to the general membership.
While Willius has been in constant communication with Kenny Husband who heads the association, this meeting provided an opportunity to interact directly with citizens. During his introductory remarks, the consul general reaffirmed his commitment to providing effective and efficient representation to all Saint Lucians in Canada.
During the meeting, several concerns were raised, ranging from the plans of the government of Saint Lucia to protect Saint Lucia’s heritage, to the bottle neck at the registry and immigration department in Saint Lucia.
Citizens lamented the inconsistencies in requests and requirements when processing applications for and rectification of birth certificates, stating that it causes unnecessary delays in receiving new passports which is sometimes very costly.
In response, Press Secretary Jadia Jn. Pierre-Emmanuel, who represented the prime minister at the meeting, spoke of the necessity to verify birth records to protect our identity and avoid fraud. Emmanuel highlighted initiatives such as the data entry assistance provided under the NICE program, as well as the services provided by the Adjudicator’s Office, aimed at addressing some of the delays currently being experienced.
Citizens were advised to tap into the services provided by the consulate in Toronto, as in some cases, misinformation lead to inefficiencies. Following up on questions regarding the processing of applications for passports, Willius reminded all in attendance that the consulate can assist, and in cases where passports have expired, an emergency document can be provided for one way travel to Saint Lucia.
Information on the ongoing construction stimulus package as well as other initiatives in the 2012/2013 budget were discussed.
Members in attendance expressed concern about the impact of VAT on Saint Lucia as well as the ongoing debate about the construction of the Freedom Bay Development in Soufriere.
In response, Emmanuel highlighted that Saint Lucia has the largest basket of exempt goods in the region and noted that currently, water and electricity services are zero rated. The notion that VAT represents an additional 15 percent burden was addressed as Willius reminded members that VAT has replaced consumption tax and environmental levy.
Emmanuel took the opportunity to reaffirm government’s commitment to protecting the Piton Management Area (PMA), stating that the development, which has its genesis as far back at 2006, is within a zone where construction is permissible and does not pose any threat to the outstanding universal value of the PMA.
The meeting highlighted the need for greater information sharing. In his presentation, the consul general revealed that a new website will be launched in the coming weeks, which will provide links to important sites such as the government of Saint Lucia. This, he says, will address the information deficiency which can sometimes lead to inconsistencies and misinformation.
The celebrations continue with the 26th Annual Dinner and Dance slated for Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony will deliver the keynote address.