March 2, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #3

Insights from the West Side
Written from Stephenville, NL
Appeared in the Carbonear Compass on March 2, 2004

I wrote this one during midterm week, a time of great stress for college students, so please bear with me on this one.

As you probably know, Premier Danny Williams has recently restructured his cabinet to make it leaner and more efficient.

I have a great respect for Mr. Williams. The man has undertaken a huge job to bring this province out of the hole that it had dug itself in pretty much since Smallwood brought us into Canada. It’s a huge burden. You have to be a certain kind of person to be a premier. I wouldn’t be able to do it. Would any of you be able to do it? I’m just hoping that he’s not just making empty promises like many other leaders we’ve had.

I do sympathize with NAPE and understand the union’s problems with his decision to freeze the wages, but the truth is there is no extra money in the provincial treasury to raise wages right now, except for borrowing from the federal government, which would drive us deeper in debt.

As Williams said in his State of the Province Address on January 5, 2004, “we cannot expect to improve our lives without first enduring some short-term pain in return for long-term and meaningful results.”

He’s right. To prepare for a difficult exam, you have to study hard, and sometimes get a stress headache. This could very well be one of the province’s greatest tests.

Give the premier a chance. He may be able to do something. During the speech, he acknowledged that “it will be difficult to accomplish this task over our four-year mandate, as we stated during the election, it is our responsibility to try.”

Currently, Newfoundland’s deficit is 827.5 million dollars, which is 161 million dollars over budget.

We are potentially a very rich province. The regional disparity between Newfoundland and the rest of Canada is wide. From my point of view, since Confederation, the country has always taken our province for granted – depleting our fish stocks, taking our electricity via Churchill Falls, and so on. We’re suffering from a great “brain drain” as everyone that receives education from post-secondary education is attracted to the good life promised by Alberta or Ontario. I fear that I myself will have to take off for one of those locations if I can’t find anything after I finish my journalism program at CONA.

If we could get that long-awaited Voisey’s Bay smelter set up in Argentia, it would give us a measure of control over the Labrador nickel deposits…I would think.

Speaking of Labrador, it would be nice to get those people more involved in provincial affairs – the tension between the government and the Labrador people has to end soon, so we can finally become a fully unified province.

To bring Newfoundland and Labrador out of this rut, it is necessary for Williams to rebuild the province from the ground up. Is his “treating the province as a business” approach the right way? Ultimately, we will have to wait and see how this will all pan out.

However, we need less talk and more action - now.

Well, enough procrastination. It looks like it’s time to get back to the books. As always, my email address is hutchings_ian@excite.com.

God guard thee Newfoundland.

No comments: