Whither Newfoundland? The Past In The Present !

Whither Newfoundland —The Past In The Present

The Abdication of Leadership

With the Agreement between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Newfoundland Association of Public of Employees whereby there is a no layoff clause for the duration of the four year agreement , the Government has abdicated its prudent and responsible duty for the finances of the Province .

How could replacing equalization payments with local revenues lead to a disaster like Muskrat Falls and the highest debt per capita in the country and more public servants per capita than the national Average ?

And still sign a no layoff deal?

Like other things , leadership has vacated the Province .

It did not have to be this way. I think that there are many in the Province who agree with me.

In Marystown in the 1950’s I was taught by the Sisters of Mercy about courtesy, manners, punctuality and living within ones means . My parents and my grandparents followed the same credo.

As I pranced up Elizabeth Avenue in 1961 for the opening of the new campus of Memorial University no one in those thousands would have contemplated that in 2018 we would be facing similar omnious signs as we witnessed in the early 1930’s when we lost the Governance of ourselves , notwithstanding the later irresponsible announcement by Premier Smallwood of free tuition and salaries .

The people of Mary’s Harbour , Fox Harbour , Port Hope Simpson and Tub Harbour toiled at their nets and looked forward to a better time when I was there in the early 1960’s.

So, too, did George Prole of Indian Burying Place , Michael Chaytor of Croque who made a great living fishing off Gray Island in a motor less skiff. And my friend in Lapoile , notwithstanding the looming light of trawlers miles from shore .

When I graduated from Memorial University in 1966 I , and many like me, thought that our place would not only survive but prosper, notwithstanding factory freezer trawlers , gill nets and unemployment insurance

In my leadership of 1979 there was hope and a cultural revival with Rising Tide, Gerald Squires, Lin Jackson etc .

I remember at a rally in St Mary’s Bay first uttering the phrase ‘ a revolution between the ears’ notwithstanding the persistent comments of localism and division, the brutal reality of the Upper Churchill , the remnants of Doyle and Shaheen.

When campaigning for the Atlantic Accord mainly by helicopter I remember getting on the back of pick up trucks and with mega phone in hand to explain that Prosperity was to us like a UFO—we would not recognize it.

Later , though, in the nineteen eighties , I remember a giant rally in Marystown , my home town for five years while a boy. I felt forced to tell the story of an incident there.

My pal had invited me to his house for lunch. At the table I mentioned the fact that I had noticed a man down the road( no street as such then) building a new garage and how wonderful that was whereupon the Mother chastised me with the words—‘that’s uncle George’s son, George was no good nor will any of his crowd.’

There was a hushed silence over the crowd —it was electric—-then sudden realization of the veracity of the statement , and the utter wrong of it. How we must move on and rise above the narrow , and move forward together with broader principles , and a vision.

Applause broke out . I think they understood and wanted a better time and to be done with the shackles of a ‘smaller’ time.

NTV carried that speech for many weeks there after , although always late at night .

I remember an incident when I was Minister of Mines and Energy . We were developing a new hydro project called Hind’s Lake . The town of Buchans was a fading mining town and looked upon this project as a way to gain employment . In fact they demanded special treatment and first call on the jobs. A big rally was planned on a coming weekend and I was asked to attend. Community leaders and union leaders had publicly indicated that they wanted special consideration for Buchans.

I went to the meeting—arrived punctually —entered the packed building , gradually moving to the stage at the front accompanied by boos and a few negative comments.

The community and union leaders all spoke and lambasted the Government , me and the Premier for what they saw as our terrible policy.
And finally I was allowed to speak .

Of course, smelling blood , the CBC was there .

I left the stage and spoke from the same level as the audience just in front of the front row.

Slowly , I made the case —we are all one people —we all own the water , we are all entitled to work anywhere in the Province. We must not further divide —we must rather bring ourselves together. How many of us were working in other parts of the Province and how many worked in other Provinces ? What about those Provinces suddenly saying no more people working here from other Provinces? How about you could only work on projects in your own district?

Ever so slowly , there was complete silence—-then a lady in the third row, was heard to say—yes , that’s right—-then a man in another row uttered agreement with something I had said.

Within another fifteen minute there was applause for some of my statements .

And , finally, at the end almost a full standing ovation.

The so called leadership had been defeated in their own backyard!

Of course, many will not remember this but rather remember the nurses’ strike and the teachers’ strike , both acting as beginning and end posts of my time . Or , the essential service legislation.

But positions had to be taken. Then those positions must be advanced and defended. That’s leadership!

And lo and behold elections were won!

It involves persuasion in the public square .

Not capitulation in the public square.

All this is to come almost full circle ironically—-in that almost the full Cabinet today in the Province has post secondary education , with seven graduates of Memorial and three from other Universities! Over 50 years after the Celebrated new Memorial campus !

In my first book ‘The Past In The Present , A Personal Perspective on Newfoundland’s Future ‘, I posed in the introduction the question of whether we could shed the shackles of a troubled past of poor Government Governance and become masters of our place .

There are many like those referenced above who wanted a better and different outcome and thought they were moving toward , warts and all.

They have been let down by our leadership and their hope has been shattered.

The jury is ready with a verdict . And it is not favourable.

With my helicopter campaigning ringing in my ears ——

We did not recognize it!

Yes, The Past In The Present!

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