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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Royal Commission on Newfoundland and Labrador's place in Canada

I recently took some time to review the final documents generated by the Royal Commission on renewing and strengthening Newfoundland and Labrador’s place in Canada. Even though the commission delivered its final report back in 2002, I don’t believe many people in the province and country have taken the time to examine the results, nor do I believe the media or both levels of government have given enough thought to its contents.

Going on the premise that an informed public is an empowered public, I have added a link on the right side of this web page to a site where these documents can be reviewed. It might be worthwhile for anyone who has an interest in the topic to take an hour or so and view them.

There are a lot of points made by the commission. I can’t say I agree with all of their conclusions and interpretations, but nevertheless the information gathered does touch on some very critical issues.

Here are some excerpts:

“…The poll indicated that only 12% of respondents thought Newfoundland and Labrador should leave Canada and become an independent country….”

“…There is a strong sense that the fundamental issues facing the province are not well understood by the federal government and are too often ignored or dismissed as regional…”

“…The current federal/provincial relationship is in disarray…”

“…Priority must be given to the rebuilding of fish stocks…”

“…earned income per capita in Newfoundland and Labrador was only about 48% of the national figure in 1950. By 2001, it had risen to just under 72%. This is a marked improvement, but achieved only after 50 years. Yet there is still substantial disparity. A gap of 28 percentage points remains. If future progress were to be no better than the past, it would take another half century to fully catch up…”

“…We have been cast into a grouping as an “Atlantic” province along with the “Maritime” provinces, with the resulting implied assumptions – not always true – that we have the same interests and even identify with, the older grievances and conservative political culture of the Maritimes…”

“…the relative position of the province within the Canadian federation has not changed…”

“…Unemployment remains the highest in Canada. Earned income and personal income were only 72% and 79% respectively of the national average in 2001, the biggest gap with national levels of any province…”

“…In a commission poll, 72% of Canadians viewed Newfoundland and Labrador as culturally distinct from Canada…”

The commission was given the mandate of examining Newfoundland AND Labrador’s place in Canada. As a result, it would not have been performing its duties completely if it had not identified some of the issues which exist between both parts of the province. Below are two of several very valid comments on the Labrador experience.

“…an undercurrent of alienation exists within Labrador. Given the enormity of the challenges they must face together, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians cannot afford to be divided....”

“Labradorians sense that the provincial government continues to primarily view Labrador through the lens of what Labrador can do for Newfoundland and the provincial treasury…”

All very interesting points indeed and obviously I have only touched on a few that are contained in the documents. There is much more to be gleaned from reading through the results, both positive and negative.

A couple of the points outlined above immediately draw my personal attention and I'd like to focus on them for a moment.

The first is the fact that 72% of Canadians see Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as a distinct culture. This is very telling. Quebec has been officially recognized in this way for some time. With this type of support existing throughout the country, I have to wonder why the province hasn’t pushed for the same status.

The second point is that 12% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe the province should separate. The commission viewed this as a sign that most people would like to remain in Canada, but do they really? When you consider that 12% support exists for separation based solely on personal sentiment, this number becomes much more interesting.

To date there has been no organized, planned and concerted effort by a well led political group to promote separation in any way, shape or form in the province. If a true movement, such as the one that exists in Quebec, were to be developed, what would the numbers look like in a decade or so?

Under the guidance of a charismatic and popular leader, who could strongly promote a valid case for separation, would the tenuous bond that currently exists between the province and the country withstand the pressure? That remains to be seen.

Definately food for thought.

So, in closing, it doesn't matter if you harbour separatist sentiments or are a proud Canadian. Regardless of your point of view, or for that matter if you are even from the province, the commission report is an interesting and informative read for anyone interested in the Canadian experience. Do yourself a favour and check it out. You never know what you’ll find.

6 comments:

wayne said...

can you post the url to this report please?

Patriot said...

Wayne:

The link is in the NL SPECIFIC LINKS section in the right hand column of this page.

Paul S. said...

you're right, it is interesting reading. I spent some time looking at the report last night and it has a lot of interesting stuff. None of it is really new to anyone living here, but its nice to see that at least they recognized a lot of the issues.

Like you, I don't agree with all of the recommendations and conclusions, but they did listen at least.

One of the most interesting to me was the balance sheet issue. It has to be hard to really figure out if we pay more in or get more from the country, but overall it left me with the impression that it is a fairly even deal and we could probably make it on our own.

Nice to know.

namut said...

Wonder if newfoundland could make it without Labrador?, food for thought as it will be an issue if any serious action is taken.

namut said...

Bye de bye me ol son. Looks like my rhetorical question has been answered, lot quicker than I imagined too. Just got home from the dock here in Nain. There is a bleed’n great tug n barge laid off, heard it’s here to take chunks off ice bergs for the famous Newfoundland vodka.
What’s de ol say’n….the more things change de more d’y stay de same.

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