Driving to the right, fuelled by oil

Brian
Brian Jones
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A plea to my fellow Newfoundlanders (and Labradorites): please do not follow the lead of Alberta and keep a Progressive Conservative government in power for 41 years.

They are already insufferable, and they’ve been in power since only 2003. Imagine the levels of arrogance and condescension Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy could reach by 2044.

Nonsense, some Newfoundlanders (and Labradorers) will say. We are nothing like Alberta.

Wrong. The similarities between the two provinces are astounding.

One main difference, of course, is Newfoundland, on a per capita basis, has a lot more fiddles, and they are played in kitchens rather than in barns.

Another difference, so far, is who benefits from the oil. A running joke in Alberta in the 1970s held that all the farmers were driving Cadillacs. With offshore oil, fishermen have much less of an opportunity to get in on the bonanza. Generally, the benefits are less widespread, or are taking longer to filter out to the peasantry, whether they be land-based or sea-based.

In social, economic and political terms, St. John’s in 2012 seems quite similar to Calgary in the 1970s. A boomtown is a boomtown, apparently.

A few years from now, when all the approved new office towers and hotels are built, the St. John’s skyline — such that it is — will be markedly different.

During Calgary’s building boom, so many downtown office towers were being constructed that another running joke was that the civic bird was the crane.

It was true wit. During my daily trip to the University of Calgary, there was a clear view of the city centre. In the late 1970s, you could easily count 15 cranes at work. From a distance of a few miles, the downtown skyline resembled a gigantic derrick.

 

Urban sprawl

Merely a handful of years ago, even the most optimistic real estate agent in St. John’s wouldn’t have predicted that by 2012 the average price of a new house would be pushing $350,000. Huge swaths of rocky bush have disappeared beneath new subdivisions.

Similarly, Calgary’s growth steamrolled over vast tracts of surrounding ranchland, spreading five to 15 miles in a decade, depending on which direction you looked.

On sunny days, I’d get on my Raleigh 10-speed and head south to Highway 22X. Turning west on that quiet road, it was a glorious ride, with the Rocky Mountains blue in the distance and the only sound an occasional neighing horse.

Then subdivision development kicked into gear. One day — in about 1979, give or take a year or two — I passed through a strange new neighbourhood. The houses were huge, and every one had an attached three- or four-car garage. Who the heck owns four vehicles? Residents of boomtowns, that’s who.

Plenty in common

Like Albertans in the 1970s, Newfoundlanders are entering a new economic era, during which a truism will be realized: money is not everything, but it sure is good to have.

Politically, the comparisons are inescapable. Each province has a justified hate-on for Central Canada — Newfoundland for Quebec, and Alberta for Ontario.

Looking toward Ottawa from either the west or the east, there is/was a resident prime minister worthy of a whole province’s contempt.

Why have Albertans voted Tory for 41 years? The answer can be found in three words: Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Or, equally, another three: National Energy Program. P.E.T. and the NEP forced Alberta to sell its oil to Central Canada for less than market value. Thus the once-popular slogan: “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.” (Note: in Alberta, “eastern” means “Ontario.”)

Albertans have good reason to detest Liberals. Even so, four decades of Tories is a bit much. Please, not here.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: University of Calgary, The Telegram

Geographic location: Alberta, Calgary, Newfoundland Rocky Mountains Quebec Ottawa Ontario

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  • Scott Free
    April 27, 2012 - 08:45

    Well written Mr. Jones and yes, we should be very cautious not to mimmick too much of our right-wing cousins and republicans of the north. And, John Smith...I must correct you; democracy is dead in NL and dying in all of Canada, thanks to Prorougie Steve and Little Man Dan and his Dunderdales dimwits and bobbleheads. Contempt of parliament on the national stage, the house rarely opened provincially; corruption abounds within the Con Party of Canada and within that secret society known as the Con Party of NL. Political patronage appointments of the lowest order and plum senate paybacks are vile and disgusting; and on and on in the life of the Republican North.

  • Christopher Chafe
    April 27, 2012 - 08:19

    Mr Jones correct me if I am wrong but ain't Alberta, the richest province in Canada, they have the highest disposable income, they have the highest gross earnings on average, they have NO SALES TAX they have the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. So ya it's no wonder they vote for the Progressive Conservative's. Also if it wasn't for BIG BAD Alberta and their Conservative government Newfoundland & Labrador would be pretty much a welfare destitute province!

    • Holden
      April 27, 2012 - 10:53

      So what is the connection with all these "benefits" and the Progressive Conservatives,, oh yes, I see the Oil Companies own that Party.

    • Melvin
      April 27, 2012 - 13:40

      Actually Alberta was a have-not province until the 30's after they discovered oil. I guess god put it there because they worked sooo hard for it.

    • David
      April 27, 2012 - 18:37

      Melvin: More people in Alberta have accomplished monumentally more with the opportunities presented them from oil than will ever even be conceived of in Newfoundalnd....same oil, different life outlook and work ethic. Fact.

  • Chicken Little
    April 27, 2012 - 08:13

    Is the sky is not falling as Jones claims. He seems to have a memory to recall Alberta political history but not the political history of this province. The words " arrogance and condescension" were used to describe the previous Liberal government (14 years in power), and the Tory government before them (17 years in power) and the Liberal government before that (22 years in power). Notice that the trend has been towards shorter periods of power by a party. If the Liberals get a good leader for the next election then that trend may continue.

  • John Smith
    April 27, 2012 - 07:31

    All I can say Mr. Jones is we have a system here...it's called democracy. You must have heard of it. People all go out and vote for a person or a party, and who ever gets the most votes wins. It's a crappy system...to be sure, yet it is the best one human kind has come up with so far.Perhaps you would rather live in North Korea, or Cuba?

  • Pierre Neary
    April 27, 2012 - 07:18

    The Harper Government has gone so right it can't see the horizon anymore.