Goes Back, b'y    Interactive - Articles - Does the Fed See NL as a Province or Simply a Colo

Author: Myles Higgins

Web Talk - Newfoundland and Labrador

The Colony of NFLD

A study conducted by Memorial University which was released this week identifies the fact that the government of Canada has reduced its presence in Newfoundland and Labrador significantly since the early 1990s. In fact, the study shows that while federal activity in other provinces is currently on the rise, in Newfoundland and Labrador has been all but eroded.

The study looked at the federal presence in the province from 1981 through 2004 and included statistics on employment, salaries and goods & services expenditures. The results paint a picture of an absentee government in the province. The study have led some in the province to comment that the federal government views the province as nothing more than a colony to be exploited for its resources.

The study shows that although Federal expenditures on salaries have increased since 1981, the average earnings for employees in Newfoundland and Labrador remains thousands of dollars below the national average. The same story is true for goods and services spending. While having increased since 1981, the rate of increase in spending continues to lag behind the national average.

The study also shows that since 1981 federal employment in the province has dropped by 25% overall while the decline in the rest of Canada was less than 5%. The period with the heaviest rate of decline took place between 1993 and 2004, a period when the province was also being hit hard by a federally instituted cod moratorium and was suffering an unemployment rate of 20%. During that period alone the number of federal positions plummeted by 32%.

While federal positions in the rest of Canada have once again begun to grow, in the period from 2000 to 2004 that rate of growth across Canada was about 12% while Newfoundland and Labrador saw only 1% growth over the same period.

The province also has the lowest number of executive staff positions in the nation. In fact, the share of federal executives was less than half of the number that would be expected based on the province’s share of the overall Canadian population. This is considered an important issue since executive level positions often bring with them important influences on policy decisions, the less executives there are in a province means less influence on policy.

Another subset of employment that many are finding very upsetting is the lack of military personnel. At 8%, Newfoundland and Labrador accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of Canadian military personnel in comparison to other provinces, based on its population. The province’s location as the most easterly coast in the Country and its 17,500 kilometers of open coastline in conjunction with its size (three times larger than the other Atlantic provinces combined), would appear to make it an excellent location for military presence.

The study shows that of the 61,828 full time military personnel in Canada, only about 500 are stationed in the province and many of those are simply on teaching contract with the Marine Institute.

During the course of gathering information for the study several specific instances of job losses were identified by the research team. Some of these instances are worthy of special note.

Although the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador has been the backbone of the province’s economy for centuries and is currently suffering from low stocks, current plans are to move 5-9 DFO scientific positions, studying toxic chemicals, from their current location in St. John’s to other provinces.

Since 1995 federal personnel working with Canadian Forest Services in the province have declined by 65% even though forestry and the production of forest products is one of the province’s key employment sectors.

In spite of the fact that Newfoundland is perched in the middle of the North Atlantic where weather is considered difficult to predict at the best of time and has been known to change without notice, in March of 2003 the federal government closed the weather office in Gander and moved 11 positions to Halifax leaving the province dependent on information gathered hundreds of miles away.

Although the report has not been widely circulated within the province at this point, some who have seen it are saying it will be a factor in their decision making process during the upcoming federal election.


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