Thursday, March 05, 2009

Just What Canada Needs... More Separatism

Liberal Senator muses about Newfoundland separatist party

In comments made on a St John's radio station, Liberal Senator George Baker has managed to set off what could become a major political controversy.

While speaking about the budget -- and, more specifically, $1.7 billion that some Newfoundlanders believe they're been bilked out of -- Baker mused that federal neglect of Newfoundland could lead to the formation of a separatist party in Newfoundland.

"When you talk about young people, you may see in the future a new political party on the horizon that represents Newfoundlanders just like the Bloc Quebecois represents the people of Quebec better than any other political party," Baker said.

The $1.7 billion represents 20% of Newfoundland's budget, and is only the most recent in a litany of fiscal grievances the province holds not only with the Stephen Harper Conservatives, but with the federal government in general.

"If this continues for [Harper's] term ...then what you are going to see is a completely different party," Baker later told CTV. "There's going to be a political party that says, 'We are going to stand up for Newfoundland and Labrador.'"

"It's gotta be stopped, if its not stopped in the House of Commons, they are going to be facing ...a new party in Newfoundland that would be comparable to the Bloc [Quebecois]."

"This should be reason enough to have a Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador running in the next federal election if this keeps up, and a real campaign to get them all elected," Baker added.

Naturally, the Conservative party from trying to take advantage of his comments, somewhat disingenuously.

"I think [the comments] are very concerning. [You've] got a member of the Liberal caucus calling on the creation of a 'Bloc Newfoundland'," said Stephen Harper spokesperson Kory Teneycke. "He's talking on the most glowing terms imaginable about the Bloc Quebecois and what they've been able to achieve. Clearly, this is beyond the pale and Sen. Baker should be removed from the Liberal caucus."

Conservative Senator Mike Duffy expressed deep concerns about the sentiment. "George Baker's a great Canadian, or he used to be," Duffy mused. "I can't wait to hear what he has to say about it, because it's certainly not the old George that I know and love."

"I'd probably consider it," Baker mused when asked if he would lead such a party. "But I'm a bit too old."

Interestingly, separatism has a long but quiet history in Newfoundland -- a province which had to vote in a referendum twice before joining Canada.

Michael Ignatieff should remove George Baker from his caucus. To disagree with the government's fiscal treatment of Newfoundland is one thing -- Newfoundlanders do, indeed, have a strong case to argue.

But to pretend that disagreements over money is reason enough to seccede from Canada is, indeed, beyond the pale.

The last thing Canada needs is more separatists.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Peter L Whittle - "Baker Tells It Like It Is"

Townie Bastard - "Baker Off the Deep End Again


  1. As is so often the case, the radicals make everyone else in their community look bad.

    Like you said, Newfoundlanders have a lot of legitimate grievances, particularly in the way that the current Grand Falls deal could be a big help to Newfoundland and Labrador's economy and their long-standing sense of political alienation and frustration, which in some ways ties into our own out west-look at Clyde Wells' support for a Triple-E Senate and Newfoundland newspaper editorials bitterly criticizing their Liberal MPs for not standing up for their province during the Atlantic Accord debates back in late 2005, due to party discipline keeping them in line.

    Same thing with Quebec-the rest of Canada's longstanding refusal to recognize that province as the distinct society that it is, and the unique challenges it faces in North America-and the hypocrisy of the rest of the country in expecting Quebec to make an exception for its English population while most of the rest of the country screams bloody murder when French Canadians outside the province try to assert their own rights-are what drives Quebecers up the wall, and drivem any of them to secession.

    Sadly, people like George Baker will simply cause many Canadians in the rest of the country to view Newfoundlanders as selfish whiners or kooks, the way many people in the rest of the country view Quebec or even Alberta when those provinces talk about secession, instead of actually taking the time to see things from Newfoundland and Labrador's point of view.

    It's the same old story-different regions and groups have genuine problems and beefs that frustrate them and lead them to protest what they view as unfair treatment, only for some people to start musing about separation. That provokes a backlash in the rest of the country, who reject them out of hand instead of trying to actually understand their arguments.

    Only in Canada.

  2. I sincerely hope that Newfoundland separatism doesn't pick up steam.

    Newfoundland is a big part of the heart and soul of Canada. It would be every bit as much a loss as Quebec or Alberta.

  3. Newfoundland is a big part of the heart and soul of Canada. It would be every bit as much a loss as Quebec or Alberta.

    Agreed. If Newfoundland and Labrador, Alberta or Quebec were to seperate, would be like losing a hand, a foot or an eye-you might be able to continue, but you've lost an essential part of yourself.

  4. Besides, if Newfoundland left Canada where would Newfoundlanders go to find work?

    (I joke, I joke. I kid, I kid.)

  5. Inform yourself
    Royal Commission on Newfoundland and Labrador's place in canada.

    Report on negotiations duress, conflict of interest leading up to Upper Churchill contract.

    Quebec gets 2 Billion a year from Upper Churchill.

    Short history on Equalization/Atlantic Accord

    Great summary of Atlantic Accord/Equalization links.

    Video presentation on automatic extension renewal clause for Upper Churchill.

    Independent cost benefit analysis

    It's our cake why shouldn't we be allowed to eat it?
    To expand on the simplistic cake/Grand Banks resources metaphor.

    You do realize no federal party can call a referendum so the separtist schtick is moot.

  6. Churchill Falls was extremely unjust. Newfoundland should enjoy the full benefit of its resources.

    That being said, there's no reason why a province that is becoming a "have" province should continue to be treated as a "have-not" province, vis a vis the Atlantic Accord.

  7. The Royal Commission NL-Expatriate cites was very useful to me for a term paper I wrote a few years ago comparing Alberta and Newfoundland & Labrador's places in Confederation. It's fascinating to see how much we have in common vis-a-vis our positions on party discipline and the need for electoral and Senate reform, and our natural resource disputes with Ottawa.

    That said, with the Atlantic Accord I think it could be justified to a limited extent, as a short-term helping hand to provinces who've historically had a hard time in Confederation.

    However, we also need to know when these extra payments will end, otherwise the rest of the country will want to know why Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia are getting what they view as special treatment. One thing I'd like to ask Newfoundlanders who support Danny Williams would be to ask just when the extra payments and clawback exemptions would no longer be necessary, and the province can be brought back into the standard equalization formula.

    Otherwise, many Albertans, whose own oil money has been a huge contributor in transfer payments for decades, not to mention an employer for hundreds of expatriate Newfoundlanders, will be more than a little upset at what they view as special treatment to buy votes, as was the case for Quebec for so many years. Saskatchewan, for example, has had its own beefs with the Harper government over equalization.

    If Newfoundlanders view Churchill Falls as special treatment for Quebec (which is a perfectly understandable perception), going on too long with exemptions under the Atlantic Accord will lead people on the Prairies to view Newfoundland & Labrador as getting special treatment.


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