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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Newfoundland and Labrador - Canada's Forgotten Province

In what can only be described as a stroke of magnificent luck, earlier this week I found myself to be in possession of a very rare and cherished commodity, some free time.

This wonderful thing doesn’t come my way very often and after basking in its glow for a reasonable, yet limited, amount of time I found myself pacing the carpet and wondering what I to do with myself.

It was at that precise moment that my darting eyes fell upon a crumpled copy of a report written by the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy that had been resting on the bookshelf for quite some time.

In a moment of weakness and desperation I decided to dust it off and give it a good read.

I don’t know whether that was a good idea or not.

I recall initially reading the report quite some time ago, and may have even commented on its contents at the time, but on re-reading it my long standing concerns about Newfoundland and Labrador’s position in Canada came flooding back like a tidal wave.

What had moments ago been a sea tranquility in my modest living room suddenly turned into an angry ocean roar between my ears. My blood pressure threatened to explode a very large vein in the middle of my forehead as my hand once again turned page after page.

Not to worry dear reader, it may not be a comfortable medical situation but it’s one that I’ve been all too used to experiencing over my years of doing what I do.

Never the less, here is the essence of what I read and what once again raised my Newfoundland temper.

The study, which was undertaken by the Harris Centre, covers the time period from 1981 to 2005 and as the final report clearly points out, when it comes to successive governments in Ottawa, regardless of their political stripe, their direction is always one of moving away from maintaining any presence in Newfoundland and Labrador and leaving Canada’s tenth province to sink or swim on its own.

The report clearly shows what so many in the province have said for a long time.

Where it differs from most of the coffee shop or kitchen table chatter is in clearly referencing the official numbers and statistics that prove the point.

An example of Ottawa’s abandonment of Newfoundland and Labrador can be found in the number of military personnel stationed in the province.

The report shows that even while supplying Canada with about 8% of its military personnel and roughly an equivilent percentage of its Afghan casualties, when it comes to maintaining a presence in Newfoundland and Labrador the numbers are far different.

The report states, “In 2005 there were approximately 86,000 military personnel in the Canadian forces (regular and reserve)…Surely strategic considerations should dominate...locational decisions. However consider…it (Newfoundland and Labrador) is the most easterly part of Canada; it has 17,500 kilometres of coastline; and it is adjacent to the North Atlantic Ocean and the huge area of associated waters that fall within the 200-mile limit. Moreover, its land mass is approximately three times larger than the three Maritime provinces combined. It has an apparent abundance of land that could be used for military training and exercises and ice-free ports on the south coast; in fact, Argentia was used as a major American naval base during World War II and several decades thereafter…”

“…since 1981 the number of (military) personnel has never exceeded 2,500…As of 2005, there were only approximately 1,400... Of those 1,400, the majority, approximately 900, were reservists. Thus, in 2005 only 500 regular military were stationed in the province. That is only 0.8% of Canada’s 62,000 regular forces.

The picture doesn’t get any better when you look at the federal presence on the civilian side of the equation either.

According to the Harris Centre report, “…there were fewer people employed by the federal government in 2005 than in 1981. The difference between the two is almost 25%. Over the same time, there was also a decline in federal government employment throughout Canada but that decline was 5%, a much smaller percentage reduction…”

The report says that between the years 1993 and 1999 federal employment in Newfoundland and Labrador fell by 30%. Recall that this reduction was undertaken at the same time that the disastrous effects of the federal cod moratorium were also in full swing and the provincial unemployment rate was at 20%.

“Since 1999 there has been no significant recovery in federal employment…However across the Country federal government employment has been increasing…Between 2000 and 2005, total federal government employment in the Country increased by 10%...” the report contends.

One of the key indicators of the federal government’s lack of interest in all things Newfoundland and Labrador can also be seen in the limited presence of senior level employees in the province, in other words employees with the power to make decisions and directly influence government policy on the national level.

The report found that the number of executive positions in the province was almost the same as the number found in Prince Edward Island even though Newfoundland and Labrador has four times the population. On the other side of that equation, Nova Scotia, with just twice the population of Newfoundland and Labrador has four times the number of senior federal staff.

The report contends that these numbers are the result of a federal mindset that sees the entire Atlantic region as a single entity and does not take into account the differing needs of each of the 4 provinces.

Overall, the number of senior positions in Newfoundland and Labrador make up only 1% of the overall number and that figure has been decreasing since ever since 1997.

As sad as these figures are, I’m sure they come as no surprise to anyone living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One the most unfortunate things about the contents of the Harris report is the fact that since it was written very little has changed for the better. In fact most people will tell you that the number of federal employees in the province has only gotten worse in the intervening years.

Another very unfortunate occurrence, this one on a much more personal level, is that my eye even fell upon this particular document during such a rare period of tranquility in an otherwise hectic week.

Oh well, as they say, neither the good times nor the bad last forever, but the bad ones sure as hell feel like they do.


Anonymous said...

Myles your accounting on the Report written by the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy, which covered the time period from 1981 to 2005, clearly pointed out, when it comes to successive governments in Ottawa, regardless of their political stripe, their direction was always one of moving away from maintaining any presence in Newfoundland and Labrador and leaving Canada’s tenth province to sink or swim on its own.

That is what I was referring to, when in an earlier article which you wrote to your blog, I stated that the economy which was bestowed upon the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was one of 'DESIGN' rather than an economy which evolved from the natural ebb and flow of its own natural resource base.

Ottawa took away by reducing drastically any Federal presence, such as Military bases and Federal jobs, which it had formerly bestowed upon the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and added it to Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces. It also directed the natural resources of Newfoundland and Labrador, such as fish for processing, minerals and oil for smelting and refining, to where the need was most urgent in Mainland Canada to keep towns alive, which were becoming weak and about to die off because of the lack of resources.

Ottawa assured that towns which had smelters and refineries dying off for the lack of raw product were going to survive, to hell with the towns of Newfoundland and Labrador.

By so doing Ottawa gave the province of Newfoundland and Labrador the 'kiss of death' with regards to creating a market economy and the 'kiss of life' was bestowed upon those places in Mainland Canada to which Ottawa saw the need to have the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador exported so as to fuel their economies.

It is as noticeable as the noses on our faces, and we cannot be silent as to what happened. We must impress upon our Federal Politicians that the sordid story must be told to everyone who will lend a listening ear. The proof is not only in Dr. Leslie Harris' Report, but it also rears its ugly head in the footprints left by the extraction of the resources.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have had smoke screens thrown up to camoflage the tactics of the Federal Government and it worked very well. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had no idea as to what was transpiring around them.

Those smoke screens have worked so efficiently that I doubt any more than 5 per cent of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are aware of what transpired around them.


NL-ExPatriate said...

Great piece Myles, sorry to hear the truth hurt's so but no one likes to come to the realization that the political system which they are a part of continually discriminates against them.

Just for Anon. There is no such thing as Ottawa not is there any such thing as federal govt.

Both of these entities are only which ever national party is holding the reins of power at the time.

And since all of the national parties have to work within our current systemically flawed political system where tyranny of the majority rules via the national proxy parties in power at the behest of the majority who live in Ontario and Quebec.

No national party will ever do anything but pander to ON/QU if they want to stay in power nor will the opposition parties object to the national governing party as long as it is in the best interest of the majority who live in ON/QU, if they know what is good for them.

I don't have much hope of this flawed political system changing anytime in the near future because it works for the majority and change has been tried by greater men than you or I and failed miserably because human nature is what it is people take care of their own.

I think it is time we stopped worrying about the things we can't change like the Federal political system of Democratic Discrimination against minority provinces like ours by all of the national parties and start working on the things we can achieve like becoming masters of our own house.

How might we do that you might ask, well that is the first step, asking yourself how you can help your province and your brothers and sisters become self sufficient and stay that way.

Now you answer will be different for everyone. For some it might be to quit smoking, volunteer locally, speak out in support of your province like Myles does here, write letters to the editor, start a business, put up a wind mill, advocate, .

But it has to be more than the old status quo of becoming self sufficient another way of saying Hewers of wood and drawers of water, it has to be global in nature where by we become net exporters of our strengths as well as self sufficient in our weaknesses.

Of that number of military in the province Myles a big part of them are actually temporary positions of students attending the fisheries college not really an operationally manned military base.

Anonymous said...

Myles I just added a post to your article titled to "Federal Budge Will Do Little for NL Economy.


Anonymous said...

The study, which was undertaken by the Harris Centre, covers the time period from 1981 to 2005 and as the final report clearly points out, when it comes to successive governments in Ottawa, regardless of their political stripe, their direction is always one of moving away from maintaining any presence in Newfoundland and Labrador and leaving Canada’s tenth province to sink or swim on its own.”

I believe that we had our own study done. I think they called it “ Renewing and Streghtening our Place In Canada.” What has it accomplished. Absolutly nothing. The points have been made and taken down, but that’s it. Nothing has changed, save one thing and one thing only. And, that’s called Hebron. As always we are looking to the future. The same mind trick was placed upon us with Hibernia. Then came the 1990’s and along with it poverty to the point that the people were almost calling for Independence on the streets because people were being forced to move away and leave their homes in order to feed their familys. I believe a wise man once said ,” the more things change the more they stay the same.”

I myself am dumb struck. I thought that given the choice Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans alike would have chosen their own party. I really thought that the NLFirst would have made a far bigger splash than it had . I do believe that that fire went out when Mr Hicky decided to leave the Party. I don’t know the present leader all that well, but I would hope that he can somehow manage to make the party successful in the province. I would like to throw an article up by Micheal Temelini.

Maybe those with a pro-canadain view in the province will come to see that even those outside the province see more than they do.


From Friday's Globe and Mail

June 29, 2007 at 6:29 AM EDT

The Rock's new-found nationalism

It's easy to write off the province's grievances, but there's good reason why the word 'secession' is being heard

Let's face it, in the dispute over the Atlantic Accord and equalization, it's hard to take seriously the position of Newfoundland and Labrador. It's easy to dismiss Danny Williams's behaviour as grandstanding or greed. Columnist Derek DeCloet described the Premier's equalization policy as a "popular stunt" and his government's demand for 5-per-cent public ownership in offshore oil projects as a "Danny Chavez routine." On the Atlantic Accord, this newspaper's editorial warned: "The mice should be careful not to bite off more than the country will let them chew."

The problem with superficial commentaries is that they underestimate the sincerity of popular opposition to federal policies. More critically, they fail to appreciate the authenticity of resurgent Newfoundland nationalism.

If we want a federalism based on just and fair principles, we need to start by taking this nationalism seriously - not as opportunism, but as an authentic form of patriotism aimed at progressive social improvement. Recognizing that Newfoundland clearly constitutes a national minority opens our eyes to the legitimacy of its various historical demands for self-determination and special status. Justice entails addressing historic grievances, not cleverly avoiding them.

Many Newfoundlanders, and I'm referring to those on the island, not in Labrador, are genuinely fed up with Canada. In letters to the editor, call-in shows and editorial columns, some have even suggested secession. But this is not Quebec (or Scotland). There are no popular political organizations actively promoting such strategies, at least not yet. Newfoundland nationalism is expressed in unique music, literature, art, and theatre, and finds its voice in provincial politics. Newfoundlanders regard their House of Assembly with more relevance than the Parliament of Canada as the guardian of national interest. The fullest expression of national self-determination is not based on language and culture, as in Quebec, but on resource ownership and control.
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Some might be tempted to dismiss this as copycat nationalism, in light of the federal government's recognition of the Québécois nation. But this would be a profound ignorance of history. Several hundred years before incorporation into Canada, Newfoundland was a functioning European settler society with a distinct language and culture, within clearly defined borders, laws and institutions. The capital, St. John's, was founded in 1583, when Sir Humphrey Gilbert claimed the area under the Royal Charter of Queen Elizabeth I.

Its first civil court was established in 1791, and its first chief justice was appointed in 1792. A system of governors was established in 1729, the first popularly elected legislative assembly convened in 1832, and responsible government was achieved in 1855. From that date, Newfoundland was essentially a country and, except for the power to sign international treaties, it exercised all the normal powers of sovereignty that Canada did, including self-defence and the issuing of postage and legal tender. There's even a national anthem - the beloved Ode to Newfoundland - that is regularly performed at official ceremonies and still moves some to tears.

This long independent history profoundly influences Newfoundlanders' popular self-understanding. Many older citizens who were born in the Dominion of Newfoundland (and an increasing number of younger ones who were not) still lament the loss of their historic state. Refusing to see themselves as a region, "Atlantic" Canada and the neighbouring "Maritime" identity have no resonance. But Newfoundland nationalism is not a sentimental longing for a bygone era. Many are deeply disillusioned with Confederation, and have serious concerns about the province's steady economic decline since joining. In fact, there is compelling evidence that the billions of resource-based profits exported every year far exceed the net income received by federal transfer payments.

Another explanation for resurgent nationalism are the ominous demographic challenges. Unlike elsewhere in Canada, the 2006 census revealed that Newfoundland is slowly disappearing. Since the 1990s cod moratorium, 11 per cent of the population of just over half a million people has emigrated - 63,000 people. Dozens of historic outport communities are vanishing. This would be comparable to an exodus of more than a million people from Ontario. Imagine if the cities of Windsor, London, Kitchener, Sudbury and Thunder Bay began to disappear off the face of the map. Even more disturbing, the death rate has surpassed the birth rate. If these trends continue, very few people will be living outside the Labrador mining towns and the greater St. John's metropolitan area. We are witnessing an entire generation without hope, enthusiasm and access to meaningful, steady employment.

In this respect, many Newfoundlanders share the long-standing Québécois fear of disappearing and the historic struggle for survival. This is the motivation for special status under the equalization program. This need, not greed, explains the overwhelming consensus for the Atlantic Accord. It explains why this government, more than any other in Canada, has pursued public ownership and control over natural resources.

This is not to say that depopulation and economic decline are entirely Canada's fault. But Canadians and their governments do bear significant responsibility for siphoning off Newfoundland's wealth. Federal and provincial governments have refused either to recognize or help solve the province's economic and demographic crisis, and have offered no clear vision or assistance to address these problems. It seems that Canadians simply do not know, or care, that this 500-year-old civilization is disappearing.

This is the context in which the current demand for control over resources must be understood. Rather than seeing it as a money grab, this dispute must be understood as a golden opportunity to undo historic wrongs, and as an authentic desire for cultural survival and self-determination.

Kind of shocking to see that even someone from the Globe and Mail can see the truth Myles yet those that scream their love for our province cannot.

OH the magic game of deception they play. I think the message has gotten out anon January 22, 2009 6:11 PM, but as long as we keep this attitude of "all things are greener with Canada" then we are killing ourselves.

"OH Canada" how I wait for your demise.

Anonymous said...

You may have a point Myles, but you represent the most vulgar expression of it.

Anonymous said...

I don't see a point.

Anonymous said...

but you represent the most vulgar expression of it.

Anon,January 25, 2009 7:54 PM, if you live in our great province ,can you please do me a favour.

Open your window and look outside.The Province is changing.Maybe you should talk more to some real Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans .Not just the CFA's

WestEast said...

I thing is no one knows. They don't understand the shaft that we(NL'ers) get from Canada.

What we really need is a way to get all of this information out to the rest of the province.

Maybe you should find someone to help turn your blog and others into a Free weekly Newspaper for the province.

I'll donate money to that!