And so the divisive smear politics that has dominated public debate south of the border and in Ottawa has found its way to Newfoundland and Labrador.
It is disheartening. No good can come from this.
To be clear, there is a big difference between political sparring or healthy political debate and the kind of nasty, polarizing, black-and-white discourse promoted by the Harper Conservatives, where those with different points of view are vilified and maligned, whether they be unions, non-profits, or simply the opposition parties.
The Harper Conservatives have perfected and popularized this kind of "you're either with us or against us" mentality in Canadian politics in their quest to annihilate their political opponents and to force people into taking sides.
It's why no one batted an eye when Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said to members of the opposition parties that they either sided with the government or with child pornographers with respect to the Internet "snooping" bill.
This was no middle ground, no compromise, no room for thoughtful or thought-provoking criticism. No room for the opposition parties to do their job: to hold the government to account, to ask questions, to be constructive, to ensure that legislation is implemented that is in the best interest of Canadians.
And now we see the same black-and-white polarizing rhetoric being used in our province.
Last week's throne speech referred several times to narrow agendas. Presumably those narrow agendas are held by people who disagree with government policy, whether it is Muskrat Falls, the fishery, or just in general.
The provincial fisheries minister has been pretty clear that criticism on matters of public policy is not welcomed, especially if that criticism comes from the fisheries union, which he has accused of acting in self-interest. He has not been so vocal with his concerns, if he has them, regarding the "self-interest" of players like Ocean Choice International (OCI).
OCI's actions with respect to the hiring of scabs on the Newfoundland Lynx have not been subjected to the same level or, indeed, any ridicule from the provincial government. And yet the union's attempt to protect the owner-operator and fleet separation policies is condemned for, and equated with, having a narrow agenda.
Make no mistake, the attack on the fisheries union by the minister is being cheered on by fish companies like OCI, whose real self- interest in maximizing profit margins, and its irreprehensible behaviour, goes unchallenged.
The decision by the provincial government to halt funding of science programs carried out by fisheries union members in retaliation for criticizing the government will have a chilling effect on Newfoundland and Labrador's civil society.
This is similar to the actions of the Harper government, which stopped funding feminist organizations for daring to be critical of the Conservative government's positions on child care, women's equality and the Court Challenges program. As with that situation, the real danger here is the message to those who depend on the provincial government for funding - criticize us and risk losing that funding. In other words, there will be consequences.
You are either with us or against us. You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Disagreeing or critiquing is deemed to have a narrow agenda or be self-interested.
George Bush was perhaps the first to heavily depend on this kind of polarizing political discourse for his own political interests. Most will remember his "you're either with us or with the terrorists" comments in 2001.
For the most part, these kinds of divisive tactics are designed to force those who would not normally be part of the conflict into becoming allies or risk being deemed the enemy. Sometimes it scares people and organizations from getting involved in discourse at all, for fear of retribution.
And yet, intertwined with the message of divisiveness, last week's throne speech made several references to building partnerships and working as partners.
Partnership means give and take. It means compromise. It requires an understanding of the structures others work within. It means respecting that sometimes partners in furthering the interests of the province will disagree. There is never one solution to a problem, but multiple solutions that, hopefully, will result in compromise for the overall good of our society. It means understanding and respecting that civil society organizations have an important role to play in our provincial discourse, including unions.
It means respecting that we all have a job to do and, while sometimes we disagree, that does not in any way mean we do not have the interests of the people and the province as our motivating factor. To say otherwise is wrong. It is to paint those who disagree as enemies to building a healthy, prosperous, democratic and equitable Newfoundland and Labrador.
We would do well to remember the words of J.F. Kennedy: "Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed."
Ensuring our province succeeds means making it safe for all to feel like they can be part of the discussion, and sometimes that discussion will include disagreement. It's not personal. And, ultimately, it is healthy.
Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by email at email@example.com. Her column returns March 24.