Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Order of Canada and a Newfoundland Separatist

It was 25 April 2010, and I was taking in a NTV show called meeting remarkable people. I did not know, nor had I heard of the gentleman being interviewed. He was, however, wearing an Order of Canada pin on his lapel. The show was a replay and apparently was aired in 2008 before Mr Williams officially executed the "ABC" strategy of dealing with the federal government. For those of you that don't know, the ABC strategy means "Anything But Conservative". The guest spoke of this stategy and how he believed the Premier was on the right track. He said years of talking to Ottawa to straighten out the long standing issues Newfoundland had were going no where fast, and this strategy was a solid effort to turn the heat up. Fair enough.

Quebec has the BQ, and they are nothing but a regional protest movement - albeit on the payroll of Canada. Alberta had the Reform Party - again regional protest. So why shouldn't Newfoundland take a similar strategy and, while not having an actual party representing them in protest, send a message by definately not voting for or with the Conservatives. Many would consider that not only fair, but also a semi-unique exercise of provincial influence in national affairs.

Here is the kicker. This well-educated gentleman then goes on to state that he was all in favour of Newfoundland going its own way as it "never really fit into the Canadian model". His evidence of this was the fact that Newfoundland had an unemployment rate of 14%, that the ferry service was poor, and that other Canadians made Newfie jokes. Well, I have to tell you I could not believe the words coming from his mouth, and my mind immediately went to " how does a joker like this get an Order of Canada?". It is common knowledge that at the end of the Second World War the British Empire was dissolving - primarily due to the cost of the war. Newfoundland was left facing a future as an independent country or a province of Canada. A hard choice for a people with strong ties to Britain, and a fierce pride in their own traditions and culture to be sure. What people, like the man on the show, seem to always refuse to see or speak to is where would Newfoundland be today if it had not joined Canada.

Well, in fairness, he did bring up the examples of Iceland and Ireland as two successful island nations that went their own way. As noted earlier, the show was recorded in 2008, before the great market meltdown. Iceland, which has lost many people to emmigration since its independence, completely melted down. They had to take humiliating loans from the Dutch and British just to stop the complete collapse of their banking system. They are grossly indebted and even unable to pay back a relatively small debt of $5 billion dollars. Then of course there is Ireland. Well, the foolishness of this statement should be readily apparent - especially to someone from Newfoundland. The great many Newfoundlanders are of Irish descent, your's truely included, and if it were such an iconic nation-state people would not have to literally die to get out of it. They were starving to death. They were in an unending civil war. They had massive unemployment. The Irish populated many of the "new" countries. All of this points to a country that has had its problems through out history - including today. Again, the financial collapse of 2009 caused the collapse of many Irish banks, and massive unemployment. Joining the EU and its status as a tax free zone for banking helped make Ireland in recent history, however there are now many countries that  have banking havens, and the Irish advantage appears to be fading - quickly.

So, judging by his comments, the gentleman wants Newfoundland to be a country with a crippled banking system, massive unemployment, massive emmigration, but atleast we can say she is ours...Come to think of it, wasn't that the condition Newfoundland was in when it joined Canada. My own Grandmother had to leave Newfoundland, along with her five sisters, for Montreal after her father was knocked off his boat by the boom and drowned off Long Tickle. Two of her older brothers were already there working, as were many from the Bonivista area. From a family of fifteen one brother remained. They were third generation Newfoundlanders. The reason they went to Montreal was the same reason people today are going to northern Alberta - work that pays. Newfoundlanders helped build many parts of Canada. They have always been welcomed and loved in any part of Canada that I have been to. The dollars raised in the rest of the country have often gone back to help out on the Island, and even today fuel much of the economic boom occuring here. Not one Canadian bank folded during the meltdown of 2009, and Canada is in a strong position throughout the world. How is it then that this gentleman doesn't think Newfoundland fits with the Canadian model.

Perhaps, in 2008 when the story was first aired, he was intoxicated by $145 a barrel oil. That although Newfoundland had been relying on the rest of the country for many years, now that it had to contribute back, it was time to cut the anchor rope and sail off. Although there are legitimate issues Newfoundland has, especially the going over it has been getting from Quebec Hydro, it has no better fit than Canada. Newfoundlands's future depends on modernizing and diversifying it's economy - much like Saskatchewan did. The trade, income and expertise to do that comes from its place in Canada. The stronger our union, the stronger our international position to the betterment of our people. Instead of looking at others to criticize for our position it is time to look in the mirror at those that are in charge of shaping the economy here.

To the gentleman wearing the Order of Canada lapel - please take it off. You do the people of Newfoundland a disservice. It is not always about "standing up for Newfoundland". We need to work hard for what we want. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Shed the complex.