Dif­fi­cult to cel­e­brate be­ing Cana­dian

The Compass - - OPINION -

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.

Terry Roberts

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