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GUEST COMMMENTARY: Great job handling the pandemic, but what about the economy?

Premier Dwight Ball
Premier Dwight Ball - Telegram File photo

This newspaper recently published my letter to the editor which covered some of what this commentary is about. Since that time, matters have rapidly deteriorated as the deepening impact of the coronavirus pandemic unfolds causing added stress on our national health care systems and economy and our already critical provincial situation.

My letter to the editor dealt primarily with the impending energy cost increase that is coming because of the Muskrat Falls project. We also know more now about Newfoundland and Labrador’s worsening financial situation with Premier Dwight Ball’s letter to the prime minister pleading for help, and the knowledge that the province was only able to satisfy its current borrowing needs through the feds’ intervention with the Bank of Canada. With the province’s consistent year-over-year deficit budgeting, it is little wonder we are in trouble. At this point, we are in an untenable position that requires urgent attention.

Our population is widely dispersed to many communities throughout the province; however, we are required to provide transportation and communication, education, and health care services to all those communities. No one should be surprised then, that our per capita cost for these services are much higher than the national average.

Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949 and never caught up to the Canadian standard of living in many areas. In the meantime, Canada has benefited greatly from the resources we brought into the confederation. Confederation must be a two-way street, otherwise its only working for one party and that is not a fair arrangement.

Here are just a couple of examples where Newfoundland and Labrador has been shortchanged in the relationship:

The fish resources we brought into the fold were enormous and in great abundance in 1949 when Canada took over management of the stocks off our coast. Today many of those stocks are at perilously low levels and, unbelievably, are still being handed around to interest outside of this province while our provincial fishing interest are struggling to make ends meet.

Let’s look at our transportation network. We have half a million people living in a province with an area just over 405,000 square kilometres. That is an area more than three times the size of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI combined.

Our population is widely dispersed to many communities throughout the province; however, we are required to provide transportation and communication, education, and health care services to all those communities.

No one should be surprised then, that our per capita cost for these services are much higher than the national average. That’s just a reality of this province and instead of browbeating our people into relocating to some place they may regret going to, our politicians, federal and provincial, should get on with providing services as is done in every other provinces. New Brunswick, for example, has a rail line and two twin highways traversing the province, and no one must use a ferry to travel to a neighbouring province. Newfoundland and Labrador has one two-lane Trans Canada Highway, an awfully expensive and frequently interrupted ferry service, and about 100 kilometres of twin highway that we had to give up our rail line to get.

To take the argument for resettlement to the nth degree, why stop at Little Bay Islands? Let’s move everyone to the mainland of Canada. Better still, there are only about 37 million people living in all of Canada, let's resettle them all to the north side of Lake Ontario. That should save a lot of money.

No….this country was built by hard working industrious and innovative people, who despite the hardships and difficulties they endured to be where they are, are not only making do, they have created one of the best countries on the planet in which to live, work and raise a family. Our Canadian standard of living is the envy of tens of millions of people living elsewhere. To get there we have helped each other along the way. That is the underpinnings of our federal/provincial system of government.

Part two of this commentary in July 8 Telegram.

Rolly Card,
St. John's

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