Lions or Jellyfish: Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations since 1957

About the Book

This book addresses important questions about the role of history, society, economics and culture in policy formation and contemporary politics and government in Canada. Each episode considered in the book captures a real response by federal and provincial governments to the economic and social realities of Canada. The book does not present a chronology of federal-provincial developments between Newfoundland and Ottawa; rather, it attempts to explore the visions and imperatives of first ministers to shed light on the dynamisms that were driving politics and society in Canada and Newfoundland, and how political leaders responded to the changing priorities that they believed existed in the citizenry they represented. At its core, the book explores the conundrum facing all political leaders -- how does a political community ensure fairness and equity and empower disadvantaged peoples and regions. The book utilises various methodologies and theoretical frameworks to examine the role of a handful of influential Newfoundland and Labrador premiers and Canadian prime ministers in shaping and reshaping the intergovernmental relationship between Newfoundland and Ottawa while at the same time balancing provincial and national interests and concerns and redefining Canada. This approach brings individuals and an understanding of the political culture and environment in which they governed back into the study of Canada. For Newfoundland premiers (Smallwood, Moores, Peckford, Wells, and Williams), the battles with Ottawa were essentially over Newfoundland’s place in Confederation, the struggle for economic justice, equality, and fairness, and the shaping Canada. For Prime Ministers St. Laurent, Diefenbaker, Pearson, Trudeau, Clark, Mulroney, Martin, and Harper, the issue was also economic justice, equality, and fairness, but they have had to balance the legitimate demands of Newfoundland with other priorities in the national polity, regional politics, and balancing the demands of the various communities that constitute the nation. When Newfoundland and Canada joined in 1949, they shared the basic political goal of all liberal democratic states – that each should flourish under the new constitutional arrangement. Although the union was premised on notions of fairness, prosperity, and stability, this book shows the two political communities often disagreed on how to best achieve their shared goals. Each chapter comprises a case study of a particular issue that explores the unique relationship between Newfoundland and Ottawa. Chapter one examines Term 29 and how Ottawa and Newfoundland differed over how best to deal with the fiscal pressures that Newfoundland faced in its transition from dominion to province. Chapter two looks at hydroelectricity and Ottawa’s role in Newfoundland’s attempt to develop Churchill Falls and transmit power across Quebec to markets in Ontario and the United States. Chapter three presents an overview of the early years of the provincial resettlement program when Ottawa refused to become involved in the spatial redistribution of Newfoundland’s population. Chapter four continues the theme of resettlement and examines the later years of the program when the interests of state planners in St. John’s and Ottawa aligned and the two governments co-operated to relocate more than 20,000 people. Chapters five and six deal with the long history of the quarrel over ownership and control of offshore oil and gas. Newfoundland had insisted since the late 1950s that Ottawa’s acceptance of provincial control over the offshore would allow it to improve the province’s fiscal capacity and enable it to bridge the economic gap that existed with the other Canadian provinces. However, Ottawa, worried about the challenges to the national community from the existing oil-producing provinces, was determined that all oil and gas on the offshore would be used to strengthen the national community, not contribute to the further fragmentation of Canada. Chapter seven turns to constitutional reform and examines the role of Premier Clyde Wells in the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord. Chapter eight bring the subject to the present and focuses on Danny Williams, Paul Martin, and Stephen Harper struggles with equalization. There has been a tendency recently to dismiss interstate and executive federalism as ways to understand Canada. Critics contend that such a focus on the persistence of conflicts and confrontation between the two orders of government privileges the role of elites and institutions. Lions and Jellyfish contends these groups reflect and are shaped by the milieu in which they govern. Such an approach does not ignore the role of societies, citizens, history, and culture in the investigation and scholarly analysis of Canada. In fact, the approach adopted in this book incorporate societal factors, history, political culture and myths, as well as other embedded ideas; when considered together they become important to understanding change and continuity in Canada because decision-makers are shaped by issues that their provincial and national societies have prioritized as well as by their philosophy and ideology. First ministers and their coterie of officials understand and represent the particularisms of their province and their citizens. This book shows particularly that the past exerts a strong hold on the present in Canada. Moreover, the major economic, political, social, cultural, and constitutional issues that were important in Canada and Newfoundland found their way into federal-provincial negotiations. Lions and Jellyfish, whose title is taken from former Premier Danny Williams (“I would rather live one more day as a lion than 10 years a jellyfish,” while reflecting on his battles with Canadian prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper) captures the essence of intergovernmentalism in Canada. Not a single premier or prime minister could ever allow him or herself to be the jellyfish in any of the federal-provincial battles that have marked the often bitter and protracted history of intergovernmental relations in Canada even though both premiers and prime ministers actively tried to solve national and provincial problems to provide social and economic security to all Canadians. The books amply demonstrates that first ministers are not governed by the simple political desire to gain or retain power but are motivated primarily by how to ensure fairness and equity for the political community they represent. The very success and stability of the Canadian federal arrangement – and Canada itself -- is premised on the ability of both levels of government to provide economic security for all provinces and all citizens regardless of place, but Canada has had long periods of disharmony between provinces and the federal government because its political leaders often have different strategies for reaching their goals. Premiers and prime ministers have also lost sight of the common good and have become fixated on issues of jurisdiction and on their opponents rather than what might be the best policy choices for the citizens who elected them. Lions and Jellyfish demonstrate that governing is often a messy and confrontational pursuit in federal states such as Canada where jurisdiction is divided between two orders of government. Yet, federalism was never intended as an instrument for securing final victory over one’s political enemies; rather it was a framework for managing conflict and differences in Canada, not to eradicate conflict. Conflict has been a constant in Canadian federalism but the members of the political community have been able to find a compromise eventually that seeks to restore some normative balance to the nation. If that had not been possible then political consent for the federation would have been lost forever lost and the legitimacy of Canada itself imperilled. That search for stability and social and economic justice has been the raison d’etre of the relationship between Newfoundland and Ottawa. This book attempts to show that a successful state must find within itself the capacity to accommodate its constituent parts to ensure political stability and social and economic justice for all. That after all is the purpose of all liberal democratic states such as Canada.

About the Author

Raymond B. Blake holds a PhD in Canadian History from York University and undergraduate degrees from Memorial University. He is currently a Professor in the Department of History and was previously Director of the Saskatchewan Institute of Public Policy and the Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University. His research interests and publication are quite varied, but his primary interests are in Canadian political history and public policy. His first book, Canadians At Last: Canada Integrates Newfoundland as a Province that was republished in 1994 examines how Canada integrated Newfoundland as a province in the decade immediately following the union of Canada and Newfoundland in 1949. His other publications have also focused on trying to understand why the federal government adopted particular policies on certain issues. This theme is also explored in From Fishermen to Fish. The Evolution of Canadian Fishery Policy (2000), and is also the focus of a just completed manuscript "Policy and Politics: A History of Family Allowances in Canada." His other publications include: Trajectories of Rural Life: New Perspectives on Rural Canada (2003), Canada and World Order: Facing the New Millennium (2000), The Welfare State in Canada: Past, Present and Future (1997), and A History of Social Welfare in Canada: Selected Readings (1995). Several more books will be published in 2006, including Beyond National Dreams? Essays on Canadian Nationalism, Citizenship, and Identity; Social Fabric or Patchwork Quilt? The Development of Social Welfare in Canada; and Transforming the Nation: Policy in the Era of Brian Mulroney. He is also completing a two-volume survey of the history of Canada.

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