25 March 2007

Responsible government not their concern

The Bloc-head mentality is spreading in Newfoundland and Labrador and it does so to our collective detriment.

A few years ago, then-Premier Roger Grimes suggested the way forward for the province lay with electing a group of members to the federal parliament (MPs) who had nothing as their goal save bringing back the maximum level of booty from Ottawa.

The same idea, now called electing "independent" MPs, is getting more support in the wake of the latest federal budget.

Proponents of this idea can only claim is that prime minister Stephen Harper "broke his promise" to remove non-renewable resource revenues from calculations of Equalization entitlements.

Not a single one - including Premier Danny Williams - has been able to state clearly and simply how the federal budget proposals will adversely affect Newfoundland and Labrador.

Not a one.

Of course, facts have never bothered the purveyors of the victim mythology in Newfoundland and Labrador politics. They charge ahead undaunted.

If Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were genuinely concerned for the betterment of their province, then they would reject out of hand the views of columnists like Bob Wakeham and Peter Jackson, both of the Telegram, for example.

Wakeham's effort is little more than series of hideously inaccurate and inappropriate references to Newfoundland and Labrador as a battered wife. It is devoid of anything substantive, unless one already is persuaded of the view that the people of this province are perennial victims, incapable of running their own government either in the province or as part of the federal government.

Jackson's effort is not a direct endorsement of the Bloc-head party but it does use the warmed over myths of victimization.
In Mulroney’s day, keeping the Hibernia project afloat was a major battle in itself. When Gulf Canada pulled out of the Hibernia consortium in 1990, then-cabinet minister John Crosbie and others convinced Ottawa to take an 8.5 per cent equity share. This was achieved against a backdrop of relentless criticism of government involvement in such a high-risk project, most notably from West Coast oil analyst Ian Doig.

The subsequent Liberal government reaped the benefits of this inheritance while steadfastly refusing to restore the intended spirit of the Atlantic Accord, i.e., affording maximum benefits of offshore oil to the province without equalization clawbacks.

The problem with Jackson's comment on the 1985 Atlantic Accord is that it is completely wrong.
The 1985 agreement provided Newfoundland and Labrador with the ability to set and collect its own revenues from offshore oil as if it was on land and therefore entirely within provincial jurisdiction. The Accord provided the province with co-management rights and in most cases, control over development. Look at the Hebron and Hibernia South projects as proof that Newfoundland and Labrador controls offshore development.

The original deal also provided temporary declining Equalization offsets. The deal worked exactly as intended. The intended spirit was honoured in its entirety.

All this makes plain the hypocrisy of Wakeham's final sentences:
And, as well, letting the country know Newfoundlanders are quite capable of taking care of themselves.

That they’re not to be treated like sixth-graders.

That they know all about responsibility.

And integrity.
The entire basis of Wakeham's argument is that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians cannot take care of themselves. He absolves the provincial government - successively and of any political stripe - of having any responsibility for any decisions at all, let alone for running the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.

If Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were interested in the betterment of their province, they'd reject out-of-hand the tired presentations of journalists like Wakeham and Jackson.

After all, if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians want to stop being treated not just like sixth graders but like ignoramuses, why not start at home?

That would be the first move to recalling that in 1949, we gained responsible government. Too bad many opinion leaders in the province, politicians and journalists, seem bent on promoting the opposite form of government.