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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org