Back in the dark days of our adolescence when the Boomer generation thrived on what’s now regarded as politically incorrect humour, I recall that far too many of the rough jokes would focus on Newfoundlanders. Later in life, a few folks from Canada’s youngest province became close friends, and they told us even better jokes.
Right now, chances are there’s a joke making the rounds about Dwight Ball, the recently-elected Liberal Premier of what we now call Newfoundland and Labrador. “Dwight, the good news is you won the election, but that’s also the bad news.” There’s absolutely nothing funny about the financial crisis on the place they call The Rock.
A decade ago, when multi-millionaire Danny Williams was Premier, Nirvana had finally arrived. After the tragedy of losing most of the fishery in the early 90’s, and several decades of almost total dependence on Employment Insurance, and other transfers from the rest of Canada, Newfoundland was suddenly a ‘Have’ province or very close to it, thanks to the riches of offshore oil.
Many of the people who took the ferry to the mainland in the 70’s and 80’s and headed west in search of a decent living were coming home to cash in on the better life that resulted from oil that was selling for $100 a barrel or more. But Nirvana was destined to not last very long.
The economy of Newfoundland shrank by 3.5% last year, and chances are it will shrink by a similar amount this year. The government of Premier Ball has responded with a budget that will jack up the costs of every single service that the province offers. It is truly scary, but the scariest part is the fact that there won’t likely be any light at the end of the tunnel for a long long time, if ever.
Sadly also, gone are the days, at least for now, when a young Newfy could head out to Saskatchewan or Alberta to find a paycheque. Like Justin Trudeau is fond of saying, “It’s 2016.”
I’m Roger Currie