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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Perception is Not Reality in Newfoundland and Labrador

Many Canadians have come to see Newfoundland and Labrador as the place where the people are “always whining and looking for more.”

The “whining” part of that statement is a bit of a stretch but the fact that the people of the province want something “more” is right on the money.

Speaking of money, it’s often the financial quarrels the province has with Ottawa that capture the headlines but money is only the most obvious symptom of a far deeper problem. One that’s existed since long before the province entered confederation.

The real problem is one of a total lack of respect and understanding.

Long before Newfoundland and Labrador entered the federation it was, and continues to be, seen as a poor little colony with no value outside of its resources, as a source of cheap manual labour or as fodder for countess low brow jokes.

Consider that Newfoundland and Labrador’s resources, most notably a world renowned fishery that sustained the place for nearly 500 years, was taken over by Canada in 1949 and, less than 50 years, completely decimated through neglect, mismanagement and corruption. At the time of the fishery collapse the headlines spoke of over fishing but in reality this once great renewable resource was traded away to foreign fleets in exchange for trade agreements that primarily benefited Ontario and Quebec manufacturers.

In the 1960’s the province developed one of the largest hydro electric projects in the world, at Churchill Falls, but was prevented by Quebec from selling power to the rest of North America because the federal government refused to step in and stop Quebec from blocking distribution at its border. A similar problem exists today with the development of the lower Churchill project and there is no sign that attitudes have changed in Ottawa or Quebec.

There has never been any respect shown to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and that reality exists to this day.

Recently Prime Minister Harper is reported to have said to the province’s premier that he was not concerned if the premier waged an anti-conservative campaign against him in the next election because, “I don’t need Newfoundland to win an election”.

Even the Heritage Minister, Josee Verner, and other federal representatives, insist on making slight after slight to the proud people of the province on a regular basis.

With the anniversary of the founding of Quebec City being celebrated this year Minister Verner is publicly referring to Quebec City as the oldest city in Canada, a position documented in official literature from her Department.

Verner recently referred to Quebec City as "the first Canadian city". Her predecessor, Bev Oda, called Quebec "Canada's oldest urban settlement" and the department's 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities named Quebec City, founded in 1608, as "Canada's oldest city” yet historical records show that European ships frequented St. John's harbour a hundred years before the founding of Quebec City and according to the Canadian encyclopedia, Europeans had already begun to settle around St. John’s harbour by 1583.

Is there any act more reprehensible and disrespectful than to revise history in at the expense of one member of the federation in an attempt to pander to the voters of another and truth be damned?

Unfortunately the lack of respect that exists towards Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is not limited to government officials and political figures.

When the government of Newfoundland and Labrador went after big oil for more resource royalties media pundits referred to the Premier as a dictator yet when Alberta did the same thing the pros and cons were discussed in the media in a rational manner.

When aid is given to western farmers it’s seen as being the right thing to do yet when Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen received support, after Ottawa decimated and then closed the cod fishery, putting more than 10% of the province’s population out of work and destroying communities that had existed for hundreds of years, the aid package was viewed across Canada as a “handout”.

The disrespect shown to Newfoundland and Labrador, and to each and every one of its residents, is like a virus that has permeated the federal political mind space and infected the public at large.

This virus has grown to a point where it’s now common for many Canadians to take part in this virulent form of disrespect with pleasure. The proof of this is evident in every “newfie” joke and every “stupid newfie” comment used on a daily basis right across the Country.

When Quebec threatens separation the nation’s ears perk up and federal coffers fly open. When an individual in Newfoundland and Labrador mutters the idea under their breath they are begged to leave and to take the burden of support off the rest of the nation.

The fact that Newfoundland and Labrador has been responsible for pouring billions into the Canadian economy since being dragged into the federation makes no difference.

The fact that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have laboured to build office towers and to man mills, factories and mines across the Country and in doing so helped build the nation is simply dismissed.

The fact that Newfoundland and Labrador citizens account for 5 times the number of Canadian forces personnel than the population would suggest they should is not even a consideration.

The fact that Newfoundland and Labrador, after years of financial crisis, entered Canada with a budgetary surplus and over the past 60 years has been forced into a position where it now has the largest per capita debt in the nation is seen as a provincial failure with no refection on the nation.

Every time a political figure, entertainment superstar or fundraising organizer speaks of embarking on a “coast to coast” tour, from Vancouver to Halifax it is a slap in the face to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Though the headlines may scream it, the biggest issue Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have with the Canadian federation is not a financial one, but one of respect.

Financial issues are but one aspect of the underlying problem, one that unfortunately garners the biggest headlines. It’s a reality that can only be attributed to the need by some to feed the Canadian stereotype of Newfoundland and Labrador as a place where everyone is “always whining and looking for more”.


nadinebc said...

Well said.

Calvin said...

We can only reason from what is; we can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities.- Thomas Paine

Well done Patriot .

Anonymous said...

Good points!!!

On the fishing side if things, not only did Canada trade away quotas, they fail to enforce fisheries regulations and stop illegal fishing. What follows is from a british newspaper today:

...“We know that it’s much too easy to land illegal fish in European ports, and we are really eager to block their access to European markets,” Ms. Thom said.

If cost is an indication, fish are poised to become Europe’s most precious contraband. Prices have doubled and tripled in response to surging demand, scarcity and recent fishing quotas imposed by the European Union in a desperate effort to save native species. In London, a kilogram of lowly cod, the traditional ingredient of fish and chips, now costs up to £30, or close to $60, up from £6 four years ago.

“Fish and chips used to be a poor man’s treat, but with the prices, it’s becoming a delicacy,” said Mark Morris, a fishmonger for 20 years in London’s enormous Billingsgate market.

On a wintry day at 5 a.m. in Billingsgate last month, as wholesalers unpacked fresh fish from all over the world, the vast international trade that feeds Europe’s appetite was readily apparent, even if the origins of each fillet and steak were not.

Less than 24 hours before, some of these fish were passing through Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, a port with five inspectors to evaluate 360,000 tons of perishable fish that must move rapidly through each year. The Canaries, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco, have become the favored landing point of illegal fish as well as people.

Once cleared there, the catch has entered the European Union and can be sold anywhere within it without further inspection. By the time West African fish get to Europe, the legal fish are offered for sale alongside the ill gotten.

“In the fish area, we’re so far behind meat where you can trace it back to the origins,” said Heike Vesper, who directs the Fisheries Campaign of the World Wide Fund for Nature. The long distances and chain of fishermen and traders make that a difficult task, and every effort to regulate catches, it seems, pushes fishing fleets to other regions...

Anonymous said...

January 16, 2008 1:04 PM I made some points to my father on how farming Cod was going to become a billion dollar industry.After he finished laughing at me,he noted how all thease fish farms along the avalon are releasing the fish to collect the insurance money.

Funy how those with money are now taking over an industry that once beloned to all of us.My god we have sold our birth right for a bag of Canadain gold .Shame on us .

PS, see you in one wake up call Newfoundland .:)

Anonymous said...

This sort of lack of respect and abuse is nothing new. Between the Churchill robbery by Quebec, Ottawa's control over our offshore resources, Quebec city claiming to be older than St. John's (give me a break) and Quebec publishing maps that show parts of Labrador as belonging to them, we won't have to leave Canada, we'll eventually be eroded away anyway.

On the "oldest city in Canada" claim, there is more to be said.

Historical records show that Quebec city wasn't settled until 1608. Europeans had already begun to settle around the St. John's harbour by 1583, when Sir Humphrey Gilbert went ashore to claim the island Britain.

Worthy of Note: ...already begun to settle...

If Europeans had already begun to settle in St. John's prior to 1583 the big question is when did they first start to settle. This might tell us if St. John's is not only the oldest city in Canada but in North America.

St. Augustine Florida was supposedly settled in 1565 (18 years before Gilbert landed.) There is a case to be made that if year round settlement was happening in St. John's prior to 1565 then it would really be the oldest in North America, not just Canada.

It's disgusting that the department of Heritage which is supposed to protect and promote history would actually try to revise the historical record for political reasons.

What a great Country we are imprisoned in.

time for a change said...

Mexico City is much, much older than St. John's and continually inhabited. St. John's is not the oldest city in North America.

And yes, our fishery sustained us very well for 500 years, in the same way that it sustains many coastal African states.

If you genuinely believe we are socially or financially worse off because of Confederation you are on crack. You really ought to talk to your grandparents. They'll set you straight.

Anonymous said...

Time for a change is a hundred percent correct. Ask your grandparents for an honest and objective description of the standard of living in Newfoundland and Labrador BEFORE Confederation.
Life is much better within the federation than without.

Ussr said...

"please pass the crack " Icelands Cod fishery is worth how much.!!!

Not millions but trillions,when is the federal government going to start reconstruction on what they destroyed!!!

Ottawa of course had no influence on the Smallwood Governement when it came to the ChurchHill !!! They had no input on the fishery in Newfoundland and labrador as well !!!

Another hired gun defending Ottawa and its policy of Destruction !!!:(

Have they "NO" shame .

This Patriot makes me ashamed to say that I'm Canadain.I'm a Newfoundlander and if i did something to hurt someone or a culture of people I would be big enough to stand up and say the magic word,"SORRY" !!!

Mike said...

You don't speak for my grandparents Anon and don't even attempt to. My grandfather before he died would rather have starved than sell out to the Canadian wolf and it's a-holes like you that he was smart enough to vote against. Ask your granparents my ass.

If everyone wanted canada and figured it was so good why did the vote squeak through under such questionable circumstances.

My granfather was a proud Nler, not like A-holes like you and, from what you said, your anscestors.

Anonymous said...

well said Mike.

fisher said...

Trillions? Yeah, whatever!!!