02 July 2009


The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been hearing a lot about equity these past few years.

They’ve been hearing about it just recently from the fellow who likes to call himself the Leader of the Province. 

He mentioned it a few times within the past couple of weeks when he announced another offshore oil deal.  He was talking about equity as in shares in a business, as in the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador running a small oil company.

Listening to fisheries minister Tom Hedderson last week on CBC Radio’s Fisheries Broadcast, people in the fishing industry likely had another meaning of equity in mind.

Hedderson told listeners that the provincial government was prepared to help out the thousands of  people  - the “workers” - affected by the crisis in that industry. They’d help, at some undefined point in the future, maybe,  with some way of bridging people onto employment insurance.  The provincial government would find a way to stamp them up, but only if necessary and at this point while things were bad, the point of necessity didn’t appear to be there just yet.  Well, certainly, to paraphrase Hedderson, no one had come to government with the documentation to show them conclusively of the necessity at this point. 

And what’s more, anything else for the industry, well that would be a subsidy and subsidies were not the way to go, according to Hedderson.

The Premier said much the same thing last week, via another medium.

No subsidies. 

No “investments”.

Only make-work and then EI.

If necessary.

That’s where the other meaning of equity likely came in for a host of people.  The “equity” they were thinking of was equity meaning fairness,  equity meaning to treat like things alike.

The Telegram editorial on Thursday talks about some of the things people across the province have noticed.

The paper workers [at Corner brook Pulp and paper] got a full-court ministerial press: the moment the 130 layoffs were announced, not only Premier Danny Williams, but Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale, Human Resources Minister Susan Sullivan and Justice Minister Tom Marshall were all on the plane to meet with the workers' union that very afternoon. Heck, the news release had the names of a record-breaking five separate media staffers to contact on the bottom.

Not so with fisheries workers. When fisheries workers occupied a government building in St. John's on Monday, Williams was in Europe on what is arguably a mission with only limited possibilities for demonstrable success. (Williams is talking to European Union officials about the already-done-deal of the EU seal ban, and about Canada-EU trade negotiations, where the EU has already said they deal with national governments, not individual regional ones.)

Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson was in Houston, and the only minister available to meet with the group was Kathy Dunderdale - but she'd only meet with the group if they agreed first to leave the building.

That's a very different response for workers in a very similar circumstance.

The Telegram calls it a double standard.

That would be treating likes things differently.

They are right.

That’s not equity.

It is in the inequity of its own policies - the real or perceived lack of fairness - that the provincial government finds the root of its current political problems with the fishery.

And offering to stamp people up, in place of “investments”, and only maybe, at some undefined point in the future, if necessary?

Some might call that iniquity.