Pos­i­tive prom­ises

Valley Journal Advertiser - - OPINION -

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.

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