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)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Tri-colour Dam

Muskrat Falls is about one thing only - money. That's not unusual in business. What makes Muskrat Falls so different from most modern business proposals is the sell. The sell, of course, is aimed at the audience - in this case the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that will be expected to pay for this "business development". The medium for the sell is Newfoundland nationalism.

My great - great -  grandfather arrived in Newfoundland from Ireland in the 1830's - along with many escaping the miseries of Irish life. His name was Micheal O'Meagre. He was from the same family as the man who created the Newfoundland tri-colour (old pinky) - Thomas O'Meagre. Thomas also created the Irish republican tri-colour. At that time it was a romantic notion that these nations would become republics in their own right. In Ireland's case that did become a reality. In Newfoundland's case it did not. Newfoundland went from being a British colony, to representative government, to financial default, to a province of Canada in 1949. Newfoundland was never a republic.

Yet, the tricolour can be found in many places in Newfoundland. Societies such as the "Smiling Land" foundation based in Toronto have it on their logo. When I asked Tim Powers, Newfoundland ex-patriot and VP of Summa, why his Smiling Land group had a republican flag on its logo he said:

"Smiling Land takes its name from the Ode to Newfoundland. That predates the current provincial flag. A connect with our history. "

Which would be fine except the question was:

"@powerstim Wondering why your Smiling Land group uses a republican flag on its emblem rather than the provincial flag? "

To the casual observer it would be an odd response to a specific question to Mr. Powers. However, the truth of the matter is Newfoundland nationalists wrap themselves in a faux history that eerily resembles the Irish blarney of their forefathers. Mr. Powers answer eludes to this: "..predates the current provincial flag."The tri-colour was never an official flag of Newfoundland at any time in it's 500 year history - never. Just like the rest of the rhetoric, the Newfoundland tri-colour never flew over Newfoundland. Never. It is the invention of a man that wished to see Newfoundland as an independent republic. Yet it is perpetuated as having some sort of historical, cultural relevance - which it does not.

Of course we've seen this in Canada before - Quebec. The "quiet revolution", and Quebec nationalization of industries. It really is no different. Quebec was never an independent country - let alone a republic. Yet, Quebec nationalists have perpetuated the myth of nationhood. They fought the federal government on every level, and an appeasing federal mentality allowed a narrow-minded nationalist movement to grow.

Adding to the Newfoundland nationalist mentality was the "humiliation" of having to become a province of Canada. You see Newfoundland only joined Canada after the "confederates" won a second referendum by about 7000 votes - the narrowest of margins. Even more telling was the fact that a massive majority in St.John's voted against joining Canada, while a massive majority in rural Newfoundland and Labrador voted to join Canada. Many historians attribute this vote result to the "Baymen" wanting to rid themselves of the "tyranny of the Townies". Over the years resentment about joining Canada by those opposed has taken on many different angles. Whether it be the devastation of fish stocks, or the lack of federal jobs. The sense that somehow Newfoundland has been wronged has become endemic in these circles.

Successive Newfoundland Premiers have perpetuated this myth through the years in an attempt, ironically so, to imitate the success Quebec nationalists have had winning concessions from Ottawa. This time around the spin is being used to sell Muskrat Falls. Whether it be Danny Williams:

 “This is a day of great historic significance to Newfoundland and Labrador as we move forward with development of the Lower Churchill project, on our own terms and free of the geographic stranglehold of Quebec which has for too long determined the fate of the most attractive clean energy project in North America,”

Or the current Premier, in her attempt to marginalize former Premier Peckford's public criticism of Muskrat Falls:

 "missive from afar...A debate that you have not been engaged in or public information sessions that you haven't participated in, it's difficult for me to deal with."

The message remains the same in Newfoundland nationalist circles: If you don't agree with where we are taking the province you are, to quote former Premier Williams, "traitors". The message is repeated over and over again to the public. Just as the Quebec government has perpetuated the myth amongst Quebecers over the last 40 years that Quebec can separate at any time, the Newfoundland nationalists perpetuate the myth that dissention equals disloyalty. Both are fallacies designed to achieve given ends. Both are a despicable abuse of public influence. In the old days we just called it as it was: propaganda. The latest battlefield of Newfoundland nationalism centres around Nalcor and Muskrat Falls. It won't be the last, and it isn't the first. The government's stated reasoning for the construction of Muskrat Falls is as phony as the tri-colour that they wrap it in.

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