Difficult to celebrate being Canadian
These are difficult and uncertain times for many in this province, especially if you work at a seafood processing plant, or happen to get a paycheque from the federal government.
Plants have been falling like dominos in various areas of the province in recent weeks and months, with companies announcing their intentions to walk away from the operations, saying they are no longer viable for one reason or another. These are crippling blows to communities like La Scie, Burin, Marystown, Port Union, Black Tickle and St. Lewis, with the future of many hundreds of rural residents now looking very bleak.
Then there’s the ongoing effort by the Canadian government to balance the federal budget over the next few years. News of more severe cuts began making headlines last week, including 400 jobs nationwide at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which will save roughly $80 million. Also on the chopping block are marine communications centres in St. John’s and St. Anthony. This follows previous revelations that cuts are also coming to various other departments, including Service Canada and the Canada Food Inspection Agency.
It appears to many that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government is mercilessly burdening this province with a disproportionate amount of the pain, and there are suggestions this may result in the unnecessary loss of life at sea. And we can’t forget those promises to bolster the military presence in Happy Valley-goose Bay and St. John’s. It’s now clear we were deceived by a politial party attempting to win our votes, and nothing more.
These cuts and broken promises are generating anger and feelings of alienation at every level of our society, with St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’keefe suggesting Newfoundland and Labrador is quickly becoming a “colonial outpost” of Canada. Labrador MP Peter Penashue, who is this province’s minister in the federal government, has taken his share of the criticism. He has been referred to as “Ottawa’s ambassador” to this province, instead of our representative in Ottawa. It’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
So how should leaders in this province respond? Should we call for a non-celebration of Canada Day on July 1? Why not. It’s clear that Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s diplomatic hand-holding with the feds has not worked, so it may be time to ramp up the pressure. Why not put all our emphasis this July 1 on Memorial Day ceremonies, which are held each year to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel during the First World War. We don’t need to make a big anti-canadian spectacle out of it, but rather a pro-newfoundland approach.
And here’s another novel suggestion. All three provincial political parties, along with our Liberal and NDP MPS, should unite with one voice on this issue and exert what little influence we still have in this province. It’s unlikely to reverse any of the cuts, but it would help if we could deliver our concerns and frustration to Ottawa with a strong and united front.