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Monday, November 03, 2008

A New Definition for "Have" and "Have Not" Provinces

I’ve been saying it for years, as have others in the Atlantic region, that when it comes to Canada there are not only financial “have” and “have not” provinces but also “have” and “have not” attitudes among the people. The two realities don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

For decades, ever since Newfoundland and Labrador entered confederation in 1949, the province has been ridiculed by many Canadians as the poor cousin or the federal equalization sink hole of Canada and its people have been labelled as lazy whiners who continue to take and take while wanting more from the federal purse.

Even in the past year or so, as the province has reached the cusp of finally becoming a financial “have” province, there are those who still feel the need to label the place as a drain on Canada and are more than happy to ridicule the people living there.

If you ask many Canadians which province benefits the most from federal equalization transfers they will automatically say Newfoundland and Labrador. Never mind that Quebec actually accepts the lion’s share of those federal tax dollars, 8 billion last year compared to just 12 million for Newfoundland and Labrador.

When it comes to EI benefits its may be true that Newfoundland and Labrador has a higher percentage of users than many other provinces but this is due primarily to the rural nature of the place and the seasonal employment that kind of environment brings with it.

High unemployment also stems from the shut down of the 500 year old cod fishery in 1992 after decades of mismanagement by Ottawa. A situation that caused the loss of 10’s of thousands of jobs and still has repercussions on the economy to this day. Some analysts have compared the event (on a per capita basis) to the entire city of Mississauga losing their jobs on the same day.

Percentages are one side of the story but if you look at the actual numbers of individuals collecting EI and the dollars spent on the program in different regions of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador no longer sits at the top of the heap among the provinces or in the cost to Ottawa.

When it comes to Newfoundland and Labrador most Canadians have no trouble singling out the people of the province as whiners who can’t wait to pick up an EI cheque and who never get enough of suckling on the equalization teat. It seems that no matter what the reality may be nothing has changed when it comes to attitude of Canadians toward their favourite “whipping boy”.

Now that Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy is starting to turn around and the province plans to accept zero equalization next year it is Ontario and Quebec who are the ones complaining to Ottawa that their share of the pie is not big enough.

The economy in both of those provinces is slumping and it seems that Ontario may now require federal equalization assistance to remain afloat. The Ontario finance minister, Dwight Duncan, has already sent a strong message to his federal counterpart that any plan to short change Ontario on equalization assistance will not be acceptable. He has also signalled that changes to the EI program will be demanded to help the people of Ontario.

Meanwhile Quebec, also with an ailing economy, is looking for even more assistance from Ottawa than they now accept as Canada’s largest equalization recipient.

As both provinces are looking to Ottawa to assist them, which they have every right to do, why is it that nobody has seen fit to write letters to news editors or jam open line programs calling the people of either province a bunch of lazy whiners or saying they are looking for handouts rather than taking care of themselves. Not that I'm saying they should, my question is simply why it isn't happening.

Nobody has done that yet there are those who are still saying it about Newfoundland and Labrador every time the people of the province (or its premier) have anything to say on federal /provincial issues.

Yes indeed, there is definitely a hierarchy to the pecking order of provinces in Canada and a sort of “have” and “have not” status when it comes to the attitude of many regarding the larger and smaller provinces.

If this weren’t the case would the people of Ontario or Quebec, even in these tough economic times, feel as justified as they do in demanding more federal support while their unemployment rates sit at between 6.4% and 7.1%, yet still view Newfoundland and Labrador as a drain on federal coffers even as the province happily moves away from accepting any federal equalization but still suffers from the worst unemployment rate in Canada at more than 13%?

It seems now more than ever that perception is reality. With this in mind maybe we should all forget the financial side of the equation and look instead at public attitudes in creating a new definition of "have" or "have not".


Glenn said...


Myles, above table shows federal dollars flowing out under Canada's transfer payments. Equalization makes up approximately 20% of the REAL pie. Out of the total pie this year, NL will receive 1.625 billion. The pot was 59.847 billion in 05-06 and has increased to 70.827 billion in 08-09, an increase of 10.98 billion, or 15.5%.

NL's share has gone from 1.712 billion in 05-06 to 1.625 billion this year, a decrease of 87 million or 5%. Not only has the pie increased in size (+15%) but NL's % has decreased (-5%). It is the only province in the country to see its slice decrease since the formula is now "fairer" as it is based on a per capita basis.


This table shows real GDP growth per year over year for same 3 years 2005-2007 that transfer pie increase occurred. ON economy grew by 45.111billion and there share of transfers grew by by 3.5 billion.

Only in Canada could an economy grow by 45 billion and at the same time require an extra 3.5 billion dollar handout whilst being called a have not province. If only we were that lucky when we were have not.

calvin said...

Well, I said that I wasn’t going to post here again but I guess that I’m going to turn myself into a liar. What I can’t get over Patriot, in your writing is that you have asked this question before. And, I am going to state the same answer as I have before.

It’s “RACISM.”

You can call me Newf or Newfoundlander, but in the back of their minds they are still thinking the same thing. “NEWFIE. “ And, along with that comes the stereotypical thinking.

I know before I even finish writings this what people are going to say. Bellyacher, crybaby, or even dramatic. But ,when it comes down to it ,they picture you as a lazy fisherman that wants nothing more then his 10 weeks of EI stamps and a bottle of black Rum. Why do you think that we have students in MUN that do whatever it takes to lose their beautiful dialect before they leave the Island or finish school? Why are they felt to feel ashamed of how they speak or were they come from? ( Outports compared to St Johns ) “Because, Ya know now that’s its not proper to be speak’ in like dat when you go’s Up Along, right “

I’ve seen it myself. Can anyone explain this? I would love to hear some comments in regards to that Patriot

People are always going to be ignorant Patriot. It’s not up to us to grow as a people, its time for Canada to grow and change before there is no Canada left to save. There is so much more to my beautiful Island then fish and rum. It’s the people that make it the most beautiful place in the world to live and work.

And , if Ontario wants to place some blame for someone taking all the help canada can dish out they only have to look east. And they dont have to look past Quebec.

Fisherman from Cape Broyle said...

Myles, EI is actually lower in NL since the closure of the cod fishery as there are fewer seasonal workers. EI was more common when the cod fishery was in its heyday than in its decline.

Patriot said...

Truth be told EI numbers are lower across the Country but numbers can be confusing. The reason isn't because unemployment here or elsewhere is low, it's because the rules make it tougher to qualify.

It's a matter of the fed downloading the expense to the provinces and the welfare roles. It looks great for the federal statistics but does little to actually solve the problem.

Anonymous said...

"numbers can be confusing"


Anonymous said...

Mr higgins, may I shake your hand, figuratively , of course, for stating what is often thought but rarely stated about newfoundland and the relationship /opinion that has developed with canada andsome of the other provinces of this country. It's good to have a voice for thse of us who feel lost in the shuffle but screaming inside to try to make changes occur , or rather, help bring about a change of attitude in a world sometimes stuck way back when by their opinions, sign me a fella from the northeast coast, great collumn, read it often.