22 April 2010

Strategic Social Plan (1995) – Social Profile

This Province's unique advantage is the strength of character, resilience, ingenuity and enterprise of its people. In the past 50 years, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have experienced a political, cultural, economic, and social revolution.

People who have not yet reached retirement age have lived through, and coped with, the events of World War II and the impact of the establishment and subsequent decline of American and Canadian military bases; the dawn of the nuclear age; the change of political status from a British dominion to a province of Canada; the surge toward industrial development, inflow of national and multinational companies, globalization of trade, decline of traditional resource industries and shift to new-economy enterprises; the disappearance of hundreds of small rural communities; the victory over tuberculosis, and the threat of AIDS; progress in achieving women's rights and equality of opportunity and the emergence of women as a force for social change, economic renewal, and expansion of the labour market; changes in traditional family structures; the establishment of social safety nets such as unemployment insurance, social security programs, and universal health care; chronic unemployment, the loss of career security and the increase in public awareness of, and concern for, the environment.

The pace of change has been challenging for North America generally, but it has been more dramatic in Newfoundland and Labrador because of the relatively sheltered existence and relaxed lifestyle which we enjoyed before the flood of highways, radio and television, fast-food and retail chains, and computers. Other people in cities and towns across Canada and the United States have not had to make such a quantum leap economically and culturally in the past half-century.  It is a long way indeed from pondering the literary delights of The Royal Readers to indulging in nightly armchair visits to the televised violence in the streets of downtown Detroit.

Economists and historians talk of the three great revolutions which have shaped civilization: the agrarian (natural resource), industrial, and information ages. Many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have experienced all three eras in the condensed time frame of the past five decades.

We have not only withstood such immense culture shock, but we have profited by it. This Province's unique advantage is the strength of character, resilience, ingenuity and enterprise of its people which has endured and intensified through 500 years of colourful, often chaotic, and always challenge-filled history. We have a tradition of turning constraints into opportunities, adversity into achievement, and despair into hope. It is this legacy of self-reliant determination and creativity that has sustained Newfoundland and Labrador through recession, fiscal restraint and the loss of its basic resource industry, and is building an economy that will be stronger and more diversified in the global market-place. It is also the force which must be brought to bear upon the challenge of effectively addressing social changes and issues of the late 1990s, identifying future trends and planning appropriate long-term strategy and allocating available financial resources in a manner that supports the goals and objectives.

In this respect, the Province's social ing efforts are constrained by national fiscal  realities. Social reform in Canada today is characterized by reductions in Unemployment Insurance benefits, limita­tions on the Canada Assistance Plan, re-evaluation of health care, less federal assistance for education and training, and a move toward block funding for overall provincial social programs.  Untenable and unsustainable national and provincial debt loads and lower transfer payments combine to further restrict the ability of Newfoundland and Labrador to address pressing social issues. The comparative national and provincial fiscal resources are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

The message is clear:  we have to find ways and means to spend smarter; in other words to do more with less.  It is a daunting challenge.

In order to accomplish this task, we must first consider realistically where we are and where we are heading as a province.  We cannot address 21st century problems with 20th century (or in some cases 19th century) approaches, solutions, or attitudes.

Although sectoral issues and trends will be dealt with in greater detail in succeeding chapters of this Consultation Paper, certain elements of our Provincial social profile are highlighted in this section in order to put the planning exercise in perspective and to provide the basis for determining an overall social vision, appropriate guiding principles, and attainable goals and objectives.


Next:  Demographic Change and Challenge