I have to challenge Randy Simms on a question he asked this morning (Thursday, Feb. 11th, 2010) on Open Line …
I’m pretty sure I got his drift: other than the Terms of Union, is the Atlantic Accord the greatest document we ever signed?
Forget the upper Churchill contract, in my opinion the Terms of Union amounted to the mother of all NL giveaways.
Under the Terms of Union, we signed over control of our fisheries to the Government of Canada, which mismanaged the groundfish resource into the ground, into oblivion — and is doing next to nothing to stimulate recovery.
The Terms of Union weren’t negotiated. To simplify, Ottawa couldn’t give Newfoundland any more than any other province.
As for the Atlantic Accord, if the Terms of Union had been “negotiated” (or treated as a living document) Newfoundland would own the oil beneath the Grand Banks today.
How is it that Alberta owns the oil beneath its soil, but Newfoundland does not own the oil beneath its sea?
Soil, sea — what’s the difference?
Under the terms of the Atlantic Accord, Newfoundland is supposed to be the principal beneficiary from the offshore. But we’re not. Ottawa takes in more, especially with the 8.5 per cent stake in Hibernia. (Which the Conservatives aren’t too eager to hand over.)
How is the Accord a great deal when the terms aren’t lived up to?
But then we shouldn’t have needed the Accord in the first place. If Newfoundland hadn’t of joined Confederation the Government of Canada would not own the oil beneath the Grand Banks today.
In my opinion both the Terms of Union and the Atlantic Accord are bad deals. We lost control of the fisheries and relinquished ownership of offshore oil.
The following is the text of my speech to a public rally on Friday, May 11, 2007 on Confederation Hill in St. John’s:
More than 60 years ago during the debate over whether Newfoundland should join Canada, the great anti-Confederate Major Peter Cashin said it is the solemn duty of a country to shoulder the responsibility of governing it.
I stand before you today not as an anti-Confederate, but as a Newfoundlander and Labradorian first.
The rising tide that sweeps our land does not reflect a movement to separate from Canada, but to become an equal and contributing member of the federation.
Not to demand a bigger share of handouts from provinces like Quebec and Alberta, although equalization, in theory, is one of the programs that makes this country a great one.
I stand before you not to bash Prime Minister Stephen Harper, although the message must be sent to all of Canada that Newfoundland and Labrador will not stand for broken promises.
I do not stand before you to cheerlead for Premier Danny Williams, although I do walk beside him in his quest to push this place forward.
I stand before you not to talk about a Quiet Revolution. If we need to be Masters in Our Own House we need to rant and roar.
We need to be heard.
For too long Newfoundland and Labrador has been seen as a drain on Confederation.
For too long Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been looked down upon as dependents in this federation.
For too long we have been pacified for the little that Confederation has brought us.
For too long we have blamed others for our own shortcomings.
For too long we have been silent.
Why are we here today? Why did you come to this rally? What do we hope to achieve?
I know why I’m here.
I’m here to say it’s time for Newfoundland and Labrador to grow up. It’s time to tell politicians to care more about us than their own careers. It’s time for voters to look past what they can get and towards what we can achieve — together.
It’s time for corporations to show respect and consideration for the people who own the resources that they want to exploit.
It’s time for us to care more about our future.
It’s also time for us to question.
Ask yourself — should being a Conservative, Liberal or New Democrat be more important than being a Newfoundlander or Labradorian?
Ask yourself — why does ExxonMobile deal with us the way they do?
Ask yourself — why does the federal Government of Canada deal with us the way they do?
Ask yourself — why does Hydro-Quebec deal with us the way they do?
Ask yourself — why do foreign fishing nations deal with us and the Grand Banks of Newfoundland the way they do?
What is it about us that makes them think they can deal with us the way they do?
I’m not here to bash them. I’m here to ask you why we don’t question more?
Why we don’t fight back?
Why we accept our lot in the Confederation federation?
The fish belongs to us. The oil and gas belongs to us. The ore belongs to us. The hydro electricity belongs to us. Why don’t we benefit more from the astonishing wealth that surrounds us?
Why is every Newfoundlander and Labradorian seen as a drain on the coffers of every other part of Canada?
I’ll tell you why — because we let them.
This rally is a sign of a new direction for Newfoundland and Labrador. A sign of a yearning for self-reliance; a yearning for self-sufficiency; a yearning for the control of our own destiny.
A yearning for respect.
Sixty-nine years ago Major Peter Cashin stood in the Colonial Building in the debate over Confederation and predicted that the people would win through.
He said this about us: “They will triumph, emerge from this ordeal, because there are still in this country such things as pride, courage, and faith — pride in the great traditions which have come down to us through centuries of independent living, courage to face up to life and hew out our own individual fortunes; and finally, faith in our country and in the great destiny which I am convinced lies ahead of us.”
It was true then. It’s true today, and it’s up to us to ensure it remains the truth tomorrow.