Sometime late in the last century, Bloc NDP leader Tom Mulcair said something in the Quebec National Assembly about Newfies.
Mulcair apologised for the remark during his campaign stop in St. John’s on Sunday, and well he should
“Newfie” is a slur. Even if it is used by people from Newfoundland, the word is still offensive. In some sense, It conveys an attitude about the place as being one so destitute that people leave it in droves for a better life. In another sense, it conveys an attitude about the people as buffoons.
So Tom apologised and, as far as that goes, we should hear no more of it. What we should continue to discuss, though, is the rest of what Tom had to say.
A decade ago, Stephen Harper promised to restore weather forecasting at Gander. Local Conservatives and their local pseudo-nationalist allies – read New Democrats and some Liberals - had whipped people up into some sort of frenzy about a decision to shift forecasting from Gander to Montreal.
Once in office, Harper moved a few forecasters to gander but left the bulk of the wok in Montreal. The Conservatives and their allies cheered, despite the fact that the promise was bogus and, what’s worse, had not been fulfilled
Now we have Tom Mulcair promising to put back a couple of office loads of people in St. Anthony and St. John’s. The issue was nonsense from the start. The federal Liberals and Merv Wiseman made a big deal out of it but truth be told the offshore is as safe now as it ever was. Putting the jobs back in those communities will drive up costs but do nothing to improve safety.
Mulcair will pump the oil out of a wreck on the northeast coast. ell, not himself personally, but he’ll make sure some people do it.
And he spoke of a local fish and chips take-out, pineapple Crush soda pop, and went fishing for codfish.
If you have the sense that Mulcair’s remarks were little more than cliche and stereotype, you are right on the money. You also can see in this a very good example of a politician who on the one hand can apologise for using an ethnic stereotype and then, on the other, deliver a speech that was one such stereotype after the other.
Tom Mulcair did not come up with this stuff himself just like Stephen Harper didn’t come up with the big promise about weather forecasting. These are the products of the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on the federal NDP campaign, just as the Conservatives relied on their local bigwigs for what will play big in the Land of the Newfies.
There is no accident, by the way that the same people who are driving the NDP federal campaign in Newfoundland and Labrador spent the past decade backing the local Conservatives on their pseudo-nationalist kick. That is what these characters do. They tell Newfoundlanders that they are stupid and then hold themselves out as the saviours of the folks who are - by their measure - too stunned to look after themselves.
In that sense, we cannot fault some fellow from Quebec who just takes his cues about Newfoundland from someone like Ryan Cleary. We can fault him, though, for not caring that he was perpetuating a ridiculous stereotype. Imagine the reaction if some federal politician went to deliver a speech in Quebec City and held up a Joe Louis, a Pepsi, and a plate of poutine. It is hard to believe he would not be flayed alive by even the federalist media for being a patronising, condescending clod.
There are plenty of serious local issues the New Democrats could have discussed. he might have discussed offshore oil and gas development. In the east we have to look at development outside the 200 mile limit. In the west, we have to look for co-operation with Quebec. In both developments, the federal government can and should play an important role. That Tom, Ryan Cleary, and Jack Harris have stayed silent on these issues should cause us all to worry should Mulcair become Prime Minister.
Then there is the Mulcair plan to eliminate the senate instead of reforming it. This will cut in half the province’s representation in Ottawa. The NDP plan would make the federal government forever the slave to the interests of the larger provinces. The fact that the supposed champions of the province’s interests - like Cleary - support an anti-Newfoundland policy just shows the extent to which Cleary’s pseudo-nationalist posturing is a fraud.
In Quebec, they’d lynch politicians for the kind of crap Thomas Mulcair delivered to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on Sunday. In St. John’s, a few hundred Dipper partisans cheered wildly.
If there are any Newfies in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mulcair and the NDP certainly have their support.