Taking responsibility for a falling population

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Our government’s comment, (“Government says population strategy pending,” Feb 15) on our expected future population decline, displays a disturbing attitude; one that seems unconnected and unconcerned for a large segment of province.

Their response to this potential future situation sounds like a solution to another problem in a day at the office that will be simply addressed and fixed.

Our government’s response came only after a respected think-tank in Toronto mentioned the potential future decline in our numbers. Add to this, mind you, that over half our population, living in the 95 per cent of the land mass off of the Avalon Peninsula, have been suffering and sounding alarm bells for years about their declining situation of lost economy, jobs and community strength.

This begs a question of our government: where have you been?

Before there is or can be an answer, a solution to any problem, the problem itself has to be fully understood.

Our government’s normal way of approaching any problem in which it happens to be involved in or partly responsible for (and make no mistake, they are at the root of our population decline in Newfoundland and Labrador), is to not see or blame themselves as part of the problem.

Thus, the solution is “out there” somewhere, away from them, and they will, at arm’s length, fix it!

The looming population decline that this province may be facing, and understanding its real solution, will never be addressed or resolved by a government that does not see itself as a major part of the problem.

Perhaps it would be helpful, as a start, to shed further light on our declining population problem, by comparing the populations of rural and coastal Newfoundland and Labrador with that of St. John’s and the Avalon. In particular, go back in the records to the year of the moratorium in 1992, starting from there to the present, and see the trends, if any, between the Avalon population versus that of rural/coastal parts of the province.

If these two segments of our province have different graph timelines, such as one being flat or up while the other is down, it would be revealing.

A much longer discussion, of course, is needed on this important issue — but one can’t help but mention the obvious and wonder how much influence the moratorium of ’92 has had on our population loss and its future, with 40,000 fisheries jobs gone and some 90,000 people vacating coastal Newfoundland and Labrador because of it.

Losing our heritage fishery because of the mismanagement of our government is at the crux of our population situation.

If the fishery is not protected and restored with a resulting return of thousands of fishers to our shores, with our government realizing its part in its failure, no “population strategy pending” will ever understand or correct a declining future population.

What chance do we have of this provincial government seeing the truth of all this, accepting their involvement, and trying to correct it?

Well, if we take our government’s actions in the recent Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the European Union, where they gave away our minimum processing regulations and their protection of our plants (which eventually will close of the few coastal community plants we have), we will have no chance at all of the government protecting our population.

Our government may say there is a “pending population strategy,” but first I would like to hear from them why the strategy they have in place and have been using — “the population decline strategy” — has failed.

Phil Earle writes from Carbonear.

Organizations: European Union

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Toronto, Carbonear

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Recent comments

  • Christopher Chafe
    February 21, 2014 - 20:52

    Mr. Earle, from reading your "opinionated" reasoning as to why our population has declined I am left with 2 lingering questions: 1. What about those that could care less about the fishery? 2. Why were there so much out migration during the fisheries prime years?

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 21, 2014 - 11:48

    This issue is troubling and one that none of us have any simple answers to. As for the politicians, they are merely spouting the same old jargon and attempting to buy people's hearts and minds with oil money. Recently, our governments have bought into the corporate mentality that promotes the "bigger is better" mantra of multinational corporations. Sure, it is for them, but that does not mean it truly works. It puts control and power directly into their hands in a way that governments can only dream about. The corporations can truly hide behind their privacy and scheming, while governments are purportedly "open and accountable' while emulating the corporates. Thus, we have the spectre of Bill 29 and the passage of legislation to control or exclude the PUB and other bodies that are supposed to provide oversight. The loss of the rural economy…...due mainly to the collapse of the cod fishery and a subsequent failure of governments to build a sustainable resource going forward….led to the decline in rural communities. Now, with a rebounding cod fishery, the government still has no real concept of how to exploit this resource for the benefit of rural areas…... and therein lies a tragedy. Control by Ottawa and St. John's has cost us dearly and will never lead to any real future for rural communities. Unless there is a way to develop regional governance of, and control over, resources, we will see the continuing decline and ultimate death of many rural towns. The lack of local control ensures that these resources are exploited for the benefit of the few. We can never hope to incorporate these resources into a long term development and survival strategy……. as long as control resides in Ottawa and St. John's. The far way bureaucrats and self-serving politicians will never act in the best interests of local people, but you can expect them to spout their platitudes come election time.

  • david
    February 21, 2014 - 10:14

    Newfoundland's declining population is due to one thing...lack of sufficient, visible economic opportunity for people to stay and to have families. That's it. The reason for it, in largest part, has been the myopic decisions of successive Newfoundland governments to engage in self-serving strategies to win short term votes at the cost of completely wasting public funds (most of it borrowed money...!). Virtually nothing the government has ever done on the economy has ever produced a positive, intended result. A track record like that requires a real commitment to stupidity. So please forgive my outright panic with this latest government "initiative" .... with the money available to them now, and the exceptionally high level of arrogance they have developed lately, this one should really be "world-class".

  • a business man
    February 21, 2014 - 07:49

    Frankly, I am happy with the way the population has shifted. I am happy that rural Newfoundland is dying and losing jobs, and I am happy that people are moving to the city. I am happy that we have lost so many fishery jobs, and I am happy that young people are aspiring to be more then just fishermen. Becoming better than you are means abandoning who you were. I truly beleive that we are better off without any fishery jobs, and that is why I support CETA. Also, there are non-fishery provisions that benefit my line of business, so I must support CETA to get that benefit even though I know it will be another nail in the fishery's coffin. I willingly accept that the fishery will suffer from CETA because I stand to benefit from CETA.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 21, 2014 - 06:59

    It's been said that "recognizing one's own ignorance is the first step towards knowledge", and you point out very well indeed that government is yet to even recognize its own ignorance. But then how can it, when it keeps, as you say, looking "out there", outside their own actions (and lack thereof) for answers? And how can they find answers, when they do not seem to understand the problem? ..... Valid points, all very well made.