Why Harper has no MPs in N.L.

Letters to the Editor (The Telegram)
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By Keith Hannaford
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are emphatically proud of their province and its people. And for good reason: we have a personality, history, culture and linguistic heritage that is unique in the world. We are shaped by the land we live on, both as an extremity of an entire continent and as a rugged, volatile and yet nakedly beautiful terrain that thus reflects the attitude of its people.

These days, however, there is something else of which I am most proud. It is much more fleeting and impermanent, but it is meaningful when we think about our home vis-à-vis current Canadian federal politics: we are the only province in which Stephen Harper’s Conservatives hold no seats.

You might expect me to launch into some shallow Harper-bashing, but the point I want to make is greater than that. I maintain that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ rejection of Harper is as much a part of our collective personality as of our politics, and in three distinct ways.

We are famously friendly. It has been commented upon time and again that we are the nicest people travellers encounter. We will gladly offer directions, suggestions for trips and warm wishes for a pleasant visit.

Such friendliness is not characteristic of the Harper government, however. Notoriously, Harper’s style of governance is overly tactical and strategic. There are no well-wishes offered to anyone except those who declare absolute loyalty — and, as the case of abandoned Senate appointee Mike Duffy illustrates, sometimes not even then. What could Newfoundlanders and Labra­dorians, always ready with a smile and an ear to lend, possibly value in a party that’s run that way?

And Harper is as much a lone wolf as he is a strategist. Harper’s circle gets smaller and smaller as he trusts fewer and fewer. Hardly even a cabinet minister can speak without his approval. And time and again Harper has pounced on weakness (such as through his shameless attack ads) and threatened to starve his fellow parliamentarians to death (such as by cutting the per-vote subsidy, upon which other parties relied for funding).

We abhor this kind of senseless grudge-holding. Indeed, how can one sustain such a grudge when we live in a land that has, historically, compelled us to face a choice: co-operate or perish? We think nothing of pushing someone’s stuck car through a snowdrift, moving a heavy piece of furniture, helping someone who has slipped and fallen on ice, or inviting a knocking stranger to come in out of the rain and wind. We could not thrive here if we tried to go it alone.

Finally, we largely exhibit a small-town sensibility and frequently engage in enthusiastic conversations with neighbours and townspeople. A Newfoundlander or Labradorian will tell you a story with little prompting, and likely will invite you in for a cup of tea or a bite to eat while he tells it. Perhaps this makes us “rubes” — or un-urbane, at the very least — but it is part of our social fabric to be straightforward and not shy. It is, without question, a charm.

Against that, no greater contrast could be made than the closed paranoia of the Harper government. Media have terrible trouble gaining access; Harper only occasionally appears in Parliament and officials are rarely available for comment, let alone an interview. Indeed, last year’s Conservative Party of Canada convention in Calgary rudely shunned any kind of public access. Such conventions are often employed to show off a party’s enthusiasm and momentum; this was more like the meeting of a secret society. Conversely, a Newfoundlander or Labradorian could hardly enjoy life (especially nightlife) without the company and conversation of his fellows, or anyone else for that matter.

Harper is often lauded for his economic piloting, his calm and reserv­ed demeanour and his unsensational priorities. Most of Canada has been distracted by these traits because they have failed to notice the others, which belie contempt for co-operation, openness and multi-partisan governance. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can therefore swell with pride about our ability, ingrain­ed in us socially and geographically, to see through the veneer. When Canadians look around in the near future and see their Parliament weakened, their political parties divisive, their citizens excluded, may they say of us, “they knew better.”

Keith Hannaford writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Conservative Party of Canada

Geographic location: Calgary, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Anselme Bellegarrigue
    May 23, 2014 - 01:12

    "Power only possesses what it takes from the people, and for the citizens to believe that they have to give what they have in order to get welfare, their gentle minds must have been deeply distorted." - Russell Brand "If governing is called a job, I ask to examine the products of this job, and if those products don't suit me, I declare that forcing me to consume them would be the strangest abuse of power a man could exercise on another man. It is true that this abuse is done by force and that I am the one who supports, on my own coins, this force I am complaining about and denoucing. That said, I'm coiling back on myself and recognize that though I am a victim, I am also an idiot. But my idiocy only stems from my isolation, which is why I say to my fellow citizens: Let's rise up; let's only trust in ourselves; let's say: let freedom be, and freedom shall be." - Bill Hicks

  • Fred Bushor
    May 23, 2014 - 00:40

    A great deal of logic and common sense in that article. Both are in short supply and barely used any more so might not be recognized. Thank you sir.

  • Jeremy
    May 22, 2014 - 14:12

    After reading a few comments I've come to the conclusion most of you are total self hating newfies, Newfie hating "Canadians", trolls and politically paid staffers doing your smearing job on our dime. I have seen virtually no factual or actual debating comments, just self defeating BS. Seriously people are more intelligent here or anywhere then the majority of commentary on here coming from the brainwashed, brainless peanut gallery. Your wasting your time trolling, you're the only ones that want to hear your words.

    • Anne
      May 22, 2014 - 19:24

      Jeremy,you are so right. The comments here are unbelievable. The rest of Canada is finally realizing what Newfoundlanders knew about him years ago. And for those who want to condemn your fellow Newfoundlanders, thank God you are in the minority. There is enough Newfoundland bashing in the rest of Canada without those Judases here joining in. I can assure you no citizen of any other province would be so accommodating or so stupid.

    • I don't hate Canadians
      May 23, 2014 - 08:57

      I like Canadians on the same level as I like my Newfoundland and Labrador brothers and sisters. The ordinary Canadian isn't responsible for what government does. Their politicians are responsible for the ills and inequalities that exist in society. What I don't like is how the Federal Government allows a province like Newfoundland and Labrador that holds such a great location for it and a great pantry of natural resources to have been shafted for such a lengthy time, economy-less, by allowing all of our natural resources to be shipped out in the raw state for other jurisdictions to prosper. Then we had not only had to put up with a bad economy but sleights that we were bums. No other province would have put up with that kind of harsh treatment.

  • Anna
    May 22, 2014 - 13:57

    You sir are a simpleton. It was fine for Mr. Williams to tell everyone to vote anything but ABC, he had enough money that he doesn't need anything from Ottawa. He was a dictator like Mr. Harper but in this case Mr. Harper was the Prime Minister so nothing good came of us voting ABC. (not that I was one of the sheep). This not having a MP in Ottawa will hurt us for decades to come as the damage has already been done to our Province. Fabian Manning, not that I'm a fan of his told the truth and we all knew it but no one would ever come out and say it before. For Mr. Marshall to say that happened before January is a joke.

    • Keith Hannaford
      May 22, 2014 - 15:21

      So, let's recap: you regard PM Harper as a dictator and yet you appear to wish that we had voted for one of his party members simply so we'd hold some sway in Ottawa. My position is that I am proud simply upon principle that my province supplied no support to a contemptuous power-hoarder. Well, in this case I am happy to be judged by the nature of my opposition.

  • chas batten
    May 22, 2014 - 13:21

    Prime Minister Harper and Pierre E. Trudeau shall go down in history as The New Fathers of Confederation.

  • david
    May 22, 2014 - 11:36

    For 60 years we had nothing but the goodwill, tolerance and billions in largesse from the ROC. Then, solely through the initiatives and good fortune of Chevron and Mobil, we were handed a brand new fate. And ever since, we've been just about the worst lottery winners in history.....wasteful, Arrogant, vindictive, boorish fools. This era shall end, faster than anyone wants to admit, and not only will we have exactly ZERO to show for it all, but we'll have no empathy from anyone in Canada whatsoever. Party on.

    • The dollars sent by Otawa to Newfoundland and Labrador were far out-weighed by the benefit of the Raw Natural Resources NL sent in return that built the Canadian Economy.
      May 22, 2014 - 12:11

      @David You forget or must not be aware David that the few Billion that Ottawa sent our way for us to run our affairs that left us unfairly inequitable to rest of Canada were far out-weighed by the Hundreds of Billions of dollars worth of Raw Nature Resources we sent back to Canada to create the vibrant economies that they sported for the past 65 years. Such coveted resources as Fish, Hydro-electricity, Iron Ore, Nickel Ore, Oil, etc etc

    • Gerald
      May 22, 2014 - 16:01

      My father used to say, "Put a beggar on a horse's back and he will ride to hell."...thus Nfld.

  • Roy
    May 22, 2014 - 11:01

    You forgot to mention that, as a people, we like to be babied by our governments. And any government that doesn't baby us, doesn't get our support. Even when they do baby us we still resent them for it.

  • Harvey
    May 22, 2014 - 10:56

    When Mr. Williams left prov. politics a poll showed that his leadership was approved by 80 percent of the electorate. Most NLers saw him as a fighter for the province. He made us proud to be NLers again. He stood up to the arrogant, bullying , truth twisting Harper. Before Harper he brought home 2 billion from Ottawa that was rightfully ours, he would not give in to oil producing giants until he got what he wanted for us. Morris and Scott Free, I respect your opinions , but finding another leader who will have the guts to fight for uslike Mr. Williams did is not in the immediate future. Good going , Mr. Hannaford.

  • My Take
    May 22, 2014 - 10:40

    I sincerely believe that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are basically Liberal supporters, engrained in their minds from the influence of their parents and grandparents who adored Joey Smallwood and credited him with everything that this province enjoys today, especially the social benefits and our sense of pride. We sometimes 'flirt' with other parties, but, it seems, we are always looking for reasons to return to the Liberal party. In the case of Mr. Harper, it seems he represents everything that we despise and that is reflected in the way we have rejected him at the polls.

  • david
    May 22, 2014 - 09:06

    As addicted to government pork as we are (and that cannot possibly be refuted or understated), we simultaneously and completely resent every single dime. One hand is palm up, while the other remains "middle finger up". Into this scenario floats St. Danny, egotistical little dictator that he is, used the euphoria of a very temporary economic windfall to selfishly stoke our flawed characteristics of immaturity, resentment, vindictiveness, spite, and complete ignorance of political pragmatism. Danny said "ABC!".....and we obeyed like a herd of mad cows. It suited his agenda perfectly......ours, not so much. But it is our destiny to be exactly who we are...so we got that going for us.

  • Keith Hannaford
    May 22, 2014 - 08:57

    Scott Free: I will take whatever feeble damage Harper and his successors deign to inflict upon us in exchange for the pride of knowing we rejected his contemptible, not to mention contemptuous, vendetta-governance. I'm surprised so many people need reminding that the 2011 election took place after Danny was gone; and he was even goner during last year's Labrador by-election, in which the Big Land spit back out the cheating bum Penashue.

  • Keith Hannaford
    May 22, 2014 - 08:05

    Morris: first, there is no such thing as a federal PC member. Second, I'm not ruling out political motivations for excluding the CPC; I'm just identifying another relationship. Third, the provincial PCs have backed down unequivocally on restricting access to information. Furthermore, their most recent budget was quite generous to other parties, in that it implemented several policies for which they've been asking. Though I'm not interested in defending them, it's not entirely fair to say they cannot be open and multi-partisan. In any case, the sometimes reflexive and reactionary behaviour of the PCs is trivial compared to the purposeful policy of undermining parliament and opposition parties in which the CPC has engaged.

    • Real Conservative
      May 22, 2014 - 10:15

      What utter nonsence and bafflegab. Your comments reflect those of the troika liberal/ndp propaganda rags (The Telegram, Toronto Star and G&M). Little facts..just a regugitation of the daily dose of proud Nflder BS and Ottawa/Harper is evil. It makes me wonder if you've ever been outside of Nfld.

    • Keith Hannaford
      May 22, 2014 - 10:50

      "Little facts" is, conversely, a suitable description of this waste of a comment. I'd sooner appreciate an actual counter-argument.

    • Jeremy
      May 22, 2014 - 12:48

      Real conservative, your name is nothing but a misnomer. A real conservative would be pretty angry with harperland politics. You don't even know the meaning of the word conservative, nor do you know the actual underlying goals of a true conservative canadian political party. Harper is not a conservative.

  • Scott Free
    May 22, 2014 - 07:45

    The Danny Damage Era will plague this province for decades and generations to come; Senator Manning is correct and the only politician to speak truthfully in our time.

  • LIttle Man Dan
    May 22, 2014 - 07:41

    Correction; the reason Harper has no MPs in NL, is because I said so; any my sheep listened and delivered. And, if you really want to test my control, may I remind you that I've personally hand-picked the last 3 Tory bobble-head premiers and nudged 2 other plants to lead the Liberals (see Dean & Cathy). If you don't think I am in charge here and really want proof that I still run this place as chief puppeteer, a month before the next provincial election, I'll form a new Danny First Party, run 48 lapdogs and win the election with an overwhelming majority.

  • Morris
    May 22, 2014 - 06:45

    "Our pride is ingrained in us socially and geographically",! Remove the word Harper from your comments and include the word Williams, ! Your profile of Newfoundlanders labradorians is nothing other than -media and politically manufactured faux-heritage!

  • Morris
    May 22, 2014 - 05:48

    " contempt for co-operation, openness and multi-partisan governance. " !! You are joking , seriously!! You must believe our house of assembly is a fine example of multi- party governance! How about the ABC campaign of our glorious Leader Danny Boy! You conclusions about the relationship between Provincial Pride and Political Positioning are not valid. I suggest you consider the " follow the leader and the media" analogy, with respect to understanding why there are no Federal PC members from this Province!