05 March 2015

The Offshore Ownership Fight Examined #nlpoli

Last year was the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant events not only in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador but of Canada as a whole.

The agreement between the federal and provincial governments known as the Atlantic Accord resolved a dispute over the control of oil and gas resources offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ray Blake is a historian at the University of Regina with a research interest in federal-provincial relations.  His latest article is “Politics and the Federal Principle in Canada: Newfoundland Offshore Oil Development and the Quest for Political Stability and Economic Justice.” (Canadian Historical Review, volume 96, number 1, March 2015)

Here are some extracts from the last two paragraphs:

Federalism and the Constitution were not established as simple instruments of coercion to impose a final victory between the two orders of government. They were designed to manage and mediate, not eliminate, conflict, but in the offshore dispute no compromise was achieved between successive Newfoundland premiers and the
federal government.

The Atlantic Accord represented a new approach to federalism and regional development. Peckford’s federalist dreams had come in a bilateral political agreement, not a constitutional one, and it applied
only to oil and gas, not to fisheries or electricity. … Peckford succeeded in reducing the power and influence of the national bureaucracy in one sector of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy.

Blake has written a concise account of the dispute and the resolution.  He has also captured the importance of the final agreement.  As recent as this history is,  too many people seem unaware of it.  Blake’s article will help change that.

This article is based on research for Blake’s book - Lions or Jellyfish?  Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations since 1957 – due later this year.