Newfoundland Royal Commission Applauds Confederation

The NEWFOUNDLAND list of grievances is long and true. The province's fish are gone, its hydro power has been developed for the benefit of Quebec, its offshore oil revenues are filling Ottawa's coffers more than its own, and its young and talented are leaving at a huge clip.

Newfoundland Royal Commission Applauds Confederation

The NEWFOUNDLAND list of grievances is long and true. The province's fish are gone, its hydro power has been developed for the benefit of Quebec, its offshore oil revenues are filling Ottawa's coffers more than its own, and its young and talented are leaving at a huge clip. Still, if you thought Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were ticked off at the country, you'd be only partly right. As its royal commission proclaimed in an unexpected Canada Day gift, separatism and sabre-rattling are not the answer, and only a small handful want to continue along that path. Better to change federal-provincial attitudes on both fronts, starting at home.

While the Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada may have started life as a would-be election platform, its final report won't be much help to a careering Liberal Premier Roger Grimes, who's been threatening court action and constitutional warfare over the moribund fisheries. Headed by former fish tycoon Victor Young, the commission wants to change Ottawa's remote paternalism. But all in all, it says, "Canada has made a magnificent contribution to Newfoundland and Labrador." And on the key provincial issues: it says the Lower Churchill's hydro potential should be developed without linkage to past grievances; the province should have a say (not jurisdiction) over the fisheries; and resource revenues should be renegotiated, but only if St. John's first gets its own fiscal house in order. In words that Newfoundland's original true believer, the late Joey Smallwood, might well have written, the Canadian way, the commission said, "is a risk worth taking."

Maclean's July 14, 2003