'Much quieter': N.L. couple prepares for life alone as town resettles


TORONTO -- By the New Year, Michael Parsons’ hometown will become a private island.

While the Newfoundland property won’t have the tiki bars and turquoise waters of other private islands, it will bring Michael and wife Georgina the peace and quiet of retired life they’ve been craving.

As their neighbours continue to move out around them on Little Bay Islands after a resettlement vote earlier this year, the couple is finishing preparations to stay put. By Dec. 31, the province says it will cut all services to the town -- no electricity or snow removal, no ferry or postal. Past resettlements, which are part of a decades-long provincial initiative to centralize the Newfoundland and Labrador population in growth areas, have saved the province tens of millions of dollars.

“The town has gotten much quieter,” Michael told CTVNews.ca last month. “Every day now people are packing up and leaving.”

All the while, the Parsons are doing the opposite -- beefing up their ability to stay.

They’ve spent about $50,000 on preparations, including a solar power system (the bulk of the prep price tag), a new well for fresh water and a “souped-up first aid kit,” including everything from chewable aspirin to general antibiotics.

They’re stocked up on dry and canned goods and have packed six deep freezers full of enough protein to hopefully last two years, including moose, beef, pork and lamb. They’re even raising their own chickens for fresh eggs.

The couple has multiple boats to get them to the mainland when needed (about 10 to 15 minutes by speedboat). But when the arctic ice comes in during the worst of winter, they could be stuck on the island for as long as six weeks, they said. They aren’t worried about emergencies though. Georgina was recently certified in first aid and CPR, just in case.

It’s the power that could be the biggest adjustment. They’ve been living “off the grid” for more than two months, just to prepare. When they spoke to CTV’s Your Morning back in October, they weren’t scared about their time alone. They still aren’t.

“We’re not nervous at all,” said Georgina. “It still feels a bit unreal.”

Georgina doesn’t anticipate the reality of the resettlement to sink in until the island goes officially off the grid. “When the last few people leave, the big thing will be when they cut the power,” she said.

On a recent evening, she was admiring the beautiful reflection of the street lights on the ocean water and realized they won’t see that anymore.

Chances are they’ll be the only ones on the island at Christmas as fewer than 20 households were left to make the trip to the mainland as of the end of November. The Parsons are the only ones who decided to stay year-round.

They weren’t eligible for the resettlement fund (at least $250,000 depending on household size) since they moved to the island just a few years ago after more than 20 years in Ontario. Only residents who had lived on Little Bay Islands for a specific time period qualified.

It won’t be a full year of solitude since new resettlement agreements allow residents to retain ownership of their homes. Many of the Parsons’ neighbours will use the properties as summer homes.

For the Parsons, the quiet island life is what they’ve wanted for a long time.

“To use the old cliché, people talk about living their dream,” said Michael. “This is exactly what me and Georgina are doing.”