That was Premier Cathy Dunderdale, quoted verbatim from The Telegram Editorial page, Saturday, May 19, 2012, edition entitled “Fracas With the Feds”. Of course, the lament was directed at the Prime Minister.From the time Newfoundland entered Confederation, every Premier has felt ignored by the federal government; Smallwood had a running battle with Diefenbaker, Peckford with Trudeau and Chretien, Wells with Mulroney and now, Dunderdale with Harper. Do you see a trend?
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians seem to think that Ottawa wakes up every morning hell bent on screwing us. Somehow, we can’t seem to figure this out: Ottawa simply wakes up. That’s it. They are not hell bent on ‘screwing us’; Ottawa just doesn’t think of us, at all!After more than sixty years in confederation, we still don’t get it. Well, it’s time that you get it! Think of this as boot-camp for the politically naïve.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Ottawa doesn’t think about us because we simply don’t matter, OK? Our whole population is barely equal to a Toronto city block, our GNP is barely noticeable on the national register and politically we are rarely in sync with the governing party in Ottawa. If, you are feeling nauseous about your sudden loss of perceived self-worth, save your blood pressure pills for another day.
Now, every time you get upset that Ottawa, (where 308 MPs meet), is not listening to Newfoundland and Labrador, repeat after me: “NL has only eight seats, only one is Tory. NL has only eight seats; only one is Tory”. It’s best that it is used as an incantation, and repeated several times. You must, by now, realize that you have discovered a simple statistical truism. The math does not lie.Your province is not a tour-de-force in the country.
Likely, all of a sudden, you are starting to feel as if you have been rather silly! Well, come to think of it, yes, you have.Now, a warning! You will have to swallow tougher medicine, yet.
Work with me. For this question, the older you are, the better luck you will have with the answer.Who were the Newfoundland Cabinet Ministers who got the most stuff for NL, when they represented us in the Federal Cabinet? I know what you’re thinking. It’s a trick question, right? You think the answer is, zero. No, no, it isn’t. We actually had a few MPs who upon becoming Cabinet Ministers, performed some very good work. Still, knowing the odds were so poor that you might actually know their names, I came prepared to help out.
Since Confederation, there have been only four outstanding NL federal cabinet ministers. No, it wasn’t the Admiral. No, no, it wasn’t Rompkey, or Simmons or Reid, or Byrne or Baker or Efford or Hearn. Now, you seem really stumped!Let me help you out. The four most successful NL cabinets Ministers were Pickersgill (it seems unfair having to go back to ancient Greece to find this guy, but it’s not easy for me either), then Jamieson, next was Crosbie followed by Tobin. There! Yes, only four; four successful NL Cabinet Ministers in sixty three years!
No matter how aggrieved you may feel, this is not a good record. Indeed, much of the blame that has been directed at Ottawa, over the years, might have been put to better use right here, at home.Now, don’t jump ahead of me! I know what you are thinking already. I didn’t mention the current Federal Cabinet Minister, Peter Penashue. Actually, that was deliberate.
If a Province doesn’t have enough seats to matter in Parliament, and if you have elected only one rookie to operate within a 165 seat majority government, and even if that rookie gets to sit around the big federal cabinet table, where he is only one of 39, and many of them are smart, more experienced, hold bigger portfolios, come from larger and more powerful provinces, some of their buddies hold those big powerful portfolios, too; now, let me ask you, why are your expectations of Peter Penashue bigger than those of Bono at a rock concert?You need reminding that Peter is a rookie, has never been to Ottawa, likely still can’t find the parliamentary washroom, got no friends, certainly not in Cabinet. He has a Cabinet post because he was the only one elected from this province and all Prime Ministers, if they possibly can, want every province represented. So, essentially, if you had sent a cocker spaniel to Ottawa the PM would have placed him/her in some minor post in Cabinet. And that’s what Penashue got! A minor post. Nothing to trade and, as a result, no one with whom to make friends. And you want Peter to do what?
What else? You, my friends, have committed the cardinal sin. Because you fell for Danny’s silly ABC Campaign, you allowed Peter McKay to become regional Minister for Atlantic Canada; you let Peter get a look at our tiny candy jar. It’s a bloody wonder that the Taxation Centre isn’t already pitched in Central Nova along with the Coast Guard Center and a few fisheries offices. What were you thinking!!!!! Peter McKay, with the big Defense portfolio, regional Minister, lots of buddies in Cabinet. That’s called ‘fair trade’ to a Nova Scotian.The fact that Peter McKay is from Nova Scotia is no minor matter. It is a fact of Canadian history, that every Nova Scotian Cabinet Minister would screw NL, (or any other Province, except Quebec, who would screw them first), if it meant having the Feds pave an extra mile of road, or offer up a big military contract. Just ask Brian Peckford, how many times Nova Scotia tried to screw NL on the Atlantic Accord, allowing Chretien and co. to use a lesser offshore oil agreement, against us, knowing all the time, if we won more, they would get it too! For Pete’s sake, people!
Now, let’s go back to the beginning. What was Dunderdale’s frustrated response again…rrroolll the tape: “We try to co-operate; it doesn’t work. We vote for you; it doesn’t work. What is it?” Stop the tape, stop the tape, god, stop the tape! “We vote for you”?!!! Well, folks, we didn’t vote for him. We sent one lone MP from Labrador, for which Bono could claim as much credit as Dunderdale. How many MPs went to Ottawa from the island? NONE!“We try to co-operate…”, and we are letting this Premier make a $5 billion decision on Muskrat Falls. Cathy, let me help you out. If the PM is not returning your calls, don’t just blame your service provider.
(AND, YES FOLKS, THERE IS A PART TWO. TUNE IN ON THURSDAY, May 31st).