Anew year offers the opportunity to overcome challenges and presents the hope that things will be better in 2019. Such are the resolutions beckoning to 2.3 million residents of Atlantic Canada. And nowhere is that promise looking more positive than in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council is projecting that N.L. will have the top economic growth in the region, and only second behind British Columbia, as it rebounds from contraction numbers in 2018. Higher oil production from the Hebron field and major projects should bring back positive growth in 2019, projected at more than 2.3 per cent.
There is some good news for the other three Atlantic provinces, with real growth expected to continue but at a slightly slower pace than 2018. Atlantic premiers must continue with efforts to bring down barriers to interprovincial trade. It’s estimated that more than $8 billion a year could be added to the Atlantic economy if the provinces adopt uniform regulations and standards.
It will be an active political year in both N.L. and Prince Edward Island, with two general elections on the horizon. Both provinces have legislated election dates for early October but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed in year-end interviews he will stay with a federal vote Oct. 21.
So, the provinces must switch — P.E.I. will likely go to the polls later this spring while N.L. Premier Dwight Ball may select late November. Island voters also face a referendum question on electoral reform — retain First-Past-the-Post or embark on a proportional representation (PR) option.
The decisive defeat of PR in a B.C. referendum a month ago won’t help its cause.
Electoral reform supporters will point to the skewed New Brunswick results in October where ex-premier Brian Gallant won the popular vote by a full six percentage points, but trailed by a seat to the Progressive Conservatives, and eventually lost the government. Under PR, Mr. Gallant would have won the most seats and still be premier, perhaps in a coalition with the Greens.
Opportunities for democratic renewal are expanding in the region. N.L.’s House of Assembly has struck an all-party committee on electoral reform that is expected to get down to serious work this year.
There is a new wedge opening among Atlantic provinces. N.B. is the lone holdout without a carbon pricing agreement with Ottawa and is joining a court battle challenging the federal government’s climate change plan. Other Atlantic provinces reached individual deals to mitigate higher carbon prices while moving forward on carbon reduction goals.
There is also a growing complaint in N.S. that economic and employment opportunities, and population increases, are largely confined to the Halifax Regional Municipality — at the expense of Cape Breton, Annapolis Valley, South Shore and Northern Nova Scotia.
But the same demographic shifts are evident elsewhere in the region as Atlantic Canadians continue to relocate from rural to urban — to St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown and Moncton. It presents one of the greatest challenges to Atlantic governments in 2019 and beyond.
The 1993-94 Acadia Axemen posed for a team photo modeling customized underwear.