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Friday, September 30, 2005

Political Reform or Political Secession?

The following was originally published on the site:
and has been re-published here with the consent of the author. The commentary is presented in its complete form however some minor editing has been done for clarity only and does not impact the intent or meaning of the piece.

The people of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador have long said they need more representation in Ottawa. This is a fact, and it is even truer in the Labrador portion of the province. Simply put Labrador needs more political representation at both levels of government! Not because of the population, but because of the sheer vastness, remoteness and inaccessibility of the region.

The work done there to date is a credit to those MHA’s and MLA’s who have served this area in the past, as well as those to come in the future, if the province chooses to remain a part of Canada. Newfoundland and Labrador is approximately 6 times larger than the other Maritime Provinces combined, yet it only has 7 members of parliament. The Labrador area, which is nearly 3 times as large as the island portion, has only one.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to further divide our already divided province, rather I wish to highlight the need for reform within Canada and the province. Our Confederation is in dire need of an overhaul.

Perhaps a formula which factors in both geography and population should be used to determine fair and equal representation. This would ease the burden on those MHA’s and MLA’s who have large geographical constituencies.

If Canada isn’t willing to recognize and change this injustice then the very least our province should do is give up one of the island’s representatives to better enable Labrador members to cope. Any additional costs involved could be recouped by abolishing the Lieutenant Governor’s position which serves no purpose other than to remind us of our colonial roots. We would be better off if we cut those roots and grew a new tree starting with a sprig for Labrador in the form of another MHA. The Lieutenant Governor’s house would make a fitting Premier’s residence (Presidents residence for the Republic of NL?)

Since additional seats were added in Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador’s representation has become even less effective in Ottawa and if the current process for defining ridings continues, the province will lose even more representation in the years to come, due to out migration. I propose splitting Labrador into two separate ridings one in the West and one in the East. We could go further by adding representatives, even token none voting representatives, for each of our Native communities/Cultures which would allow them to have a real voice in the House of Commons / House of Assembly.

The ball is in your court Canada! You wanted us to join so badly in 1949, what are you willing to do to keep us here now that our eyes have been opened to exactly what Confederation means, at least in NL?

I wouldn’t expect government and big business to go along with this proposed change but the people of Canada, with a sense of fair play and justice just might.

I don’t think any of these proposals are unreasonable or off the wall, but rather they are something that a lot of the other provinces would probably agree with and want to be a part of.

By Todd & Greg Byrne
For more on this topic and others visit Greg’s site at:


Gordon said...

Thoughtful ideas. I have a couple of comments to make on them. They are similar to previous comments I have made on similar issues. First, the it is the House of Commons that is supposed to represent population (so Toronto, for example, has lots of MP's while Newfoundland and Labrador has few) while the Senate is supposed to represent areas. The problem in Canada is the Senate is an unelected body full of old party war horses who usually rubber stamp what is done in the lower house. Another problem is that no one can agree what to do with the Senate. Quebec wants to axe it, while Alberta wants a "Triple E" Senate. "Triple E" is certainly better, but..... Quebec, for the most part, would never have it; Canadian democracy is all the worse for it.

As for the Governor-General (and the Lieutenent-Governor), I have stated before and I will state again that it is an anchronistic and absurd post. Having said that, it could evolve into something useful. For example, it could become an elected post. An elected head of state would have far more respect than all of the hacks (who have so far occupied the post) put together.

I still think we could show the way forward by having our own elected Senate and Lieutenant-Governor in Newfoundland and Labrador. There would be a lot of excitement generated by this sudden increase in democracy. As I also stated in a previous comment, even the UK now has a several elected Lords! In our case, it would not be too expensive; just six upper house members would be sufficient. The Lieutenant-Governor could act as a tie breaker in the more contentious issues. It would not cost too much money to pay for this extra democracy, perhaps less than a "Royal Commission". The rewards would be wonderful for everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador, and we could show the way forward vis a vis better, more representative government.

So, as much as I am a separatist, I still think there is much we can do to make government more accountable and representative. In other words, the ball is still very much in our court. And we do not have to even look beyond the Commonwealth. Australia has an elected Senate and it is well served by it. Singapore, India and South Africa have elected heads of state and, once again, they are well served. The presidents of these three great nations are very well respected.

What I am suggesting is hardly a new thought. Nevertheless, most Canadians are generally complacent about government. We in Newfoundland and Labrador are also complacent, yet we cannot afford to be. How can we expect Canada to change if we do not change ourselves? There is room for maneuver. Our house has accumulated old rubbish, some of which has to be thrown out while some things need only be mended.

I think if we do our best to make Newfoundland and Labrador a better province, but the rest of Canada does all it can to suppress progressive change (and that could happen!), then we will have little choice but to separate. However, for now, let's concentrate on changing the way we run ourselves. More democracy = better government.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Great points about changing ourselves as opposed to trying to change someone else Gordon. Especially since according to you we have the right to make these changes? It would also be a stepping stone to secession if Canada doesn't feel the need to follow suit.

Personally I would rather be poor proud and free than poor downtrodden and governed. This way the people would be more a people rather than minions to Quebec and Ontario.

I bet if Rowdie Goudie asked for it and asked people to voice their dismay at the lack of democracy both on the provincial and federal level the people would become interested! What the people need is a spokes man/Leader to incite their democratic values and make them speak up and out. Maybe www.NLfirst.ca?

Once again the question arises how?
How do we the people accomplish this change?
Are we allowed to affect change on our own? Lord knows the politically stacked Supreme Court won't agree with us. We would need an international outside agency to arbitrate IMHO.
Which political party or representative will champion this? None, not politically correct more like political suicide. No it's up to the people to lead the charge.
How about a chain letter to the Provincial government?
Mailing lists to discuss and get the word out?
Web page to inform and provide options?
A petition in the newspapers to be mailed to the Provincial Government? Free mailing.
We could learn a lot from these Seal harvest protest groups on how to get the word out.

Canada doesn't have a constitution per say according to Walter F Kuhl's Canada A country without a Constitution, A factual Examination of the Constitutional Problem.

In fact there is nothing stopping us from seceding even now, because Canada doesn't really exist legally according to this report. Even Quebec knows this and just uses their threat of separation as a bargaining chip. Point in case if they have enough Federal seats in Ottawa to make up the official opposition of the country I'm pretty sure they have enough to secede! No they know where the money is and are willing to milk it for as long as possible. Call it retribution for their defeat at the hands of the British. Je Me Souvien!