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Friday, September 09, 2005

Citizens Committee Formed to Address Newfoundland and Labrador's Place in Canada

A public gathering of citizens who are concerned with Newfoundland and Labrador’s status in Confederation was held at the Capital Hotel in St. John’s last evening.

The meeting, which was organized by former school teacher Lloyd Taylor, attracted people from all walks of life and widely varied social and political backgrounds. Perhaps the only thing those attending had in common was the deep belief that the province has not being treated fairly by Ottawa or by many of its political representatives both federally and provincially over the years.

The meeting, which the organizer hoped would mark the formation of a citizen’s action committee or think tank on our place in Canada, was attended by members of the general public as well as several well known local personalities, including the former head of Fishery Products, who in later years became a well known fisheries advocate, Mr. Gus Etchegary. Also in attendance was former Conservative MP Tom Hickey, now heading up the newly formed NL First Party and of course, yours truly.

Although the session started slowly, the room quickly came to life with many emotional and often eloquently delivered testimonials from those in attendance. Many topics were discussed during the meeting including Churchill Falls, federal representation, or lack thereof, out migration, fisheries issues and natural resources.

For those in attendance it provided an opportunity to vent long held frustrations and in some cases the meeting helped attendees understand that they were not alone in their feelings. That indeed, there are others out there who feel similarly, on a myriad of topics.

Although nearly everyone in the room agreed on what the issues facing the province are, one of the biggest roadblocks to anyone hoping to change the current situation became painfully clear, a lack of unity on the approach to fostering change.

While some liked the idea of forming a committee to “brainstorm” on issues and look for solutions, which was the primary intent of the organizer, others like Mr. Hickey of the NL First party took the stance that the only route to change is to back his party and make a political stand. According to Mr. Hickey, there are already too many splinter groups in the province and the only way to move forward was to unite under the NL First banner.

Although it was generally agreed that unity was critical, some wondered if unity under the party’s banner was the only option.

Many in attendance agreed that eventual change would only come through political actions, however that doesn’t mean that groups like the citizens committee, which formed last evening, do not have a role to play. It also doesn’t mean that individual groups necessarily need to be at odds with each other.

There is no reason that groups like NL First, the Rural Rights and Boat Owners Association or any other group in the province could not make use of a politically independent “Think Tank” type of committee to help plan their party platforms, direction or strategies based on the group’s research and recommendations.

Regardless of how various factions might unite for the common goal of improving their lot in life, it is very clear that a lack of unity will always be a major stumbling block to change unless someone finds a way to bring various factions together.

What form this type of coalition might take is open to discussion. Perhaps the solution will require bringing the various factions together under a common banner or perhaps a loose affiliation of independent organizations. Organizations that while remaining focused on their individual efforts, are also coordinated and supportive of each others actions. After all, there is power in numbers.

Regardless of the direction, unity is critical. Perhaps this might be the first challenge that should be addressed by the new citizens committee.

Unfortunately, this task might prove to be the most difficult one to accomplish.


Although an initial group was formed at the meeting last night, there is still interest in adding more "Thinking" resources to the team. If you are interested in joining the Citizens Action Committee you can find out how by contacting me at higginsmyles@yahoo.ca

I'll be more than happy to forward your message to the organizer.


NL-ExPatriate said...

I was expecting more info on its outcome. I didn't read anything in the papers?

Sign me up, you know my details.

Its only through our combined efforts, knowledge, experience, and voices that we will affect change, other wise were doomed as either Expatriates like myself or N extPatriates!

Expatriates could have great input into NL future through their experiences and knowledge.

Patriot said...

You're right EX-P, there wasn't a lot of coverage. VOCM did a story on it and I know the Telegram had a reporter and photog at the meeting but I don't know if they did a story on it or not.

My article is also available online at the Canadian Democratic Movement site and in Canada Free Press.

Other than that, I don't know of any coverage.