Friday, August 27, 2010

Happy Birthday Brian Peckford

Newfoundland has not traditionally been plagued with the best leadership; prior to Confederation in 1949, a series of Whitehall stooges led the nation down the garden path, all the while bankrupting a place so teeming with natural resources that it should never have ended up a have-not province in the first place. Even the man who brought the province into Canadian confederation Joey Smallwood spent most of his time as Premier building up his own legend; when called upon to conduct the province's business, he often did so to Newfoundland's detriment, such as the hot mess of a deal he negotiated with Quebec over Churchill Falls, the Valdmanis affair, and on and on...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketThen in 1979, Brian Peckford became Premier. Not only did Peckford battle with Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau over provincial autonomy during the Constitution process, he also tilted at one of his own windbags - er, windMILLS - when he came to blows with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, a fellow Tory. Although he'd supported Mulroney's two pet projects, the Meech Lake Accord and NAFTA, Mulroney's grasping after the revenues of the Hibernia off-shore oil finally got Peckford's Irish up.

Since Peckford left office in 1989, Newfoundland has been gifted with three strong, visionary Premiers. Clyde Wells, who dared to stand up and say that if Quebec was a country, so was Newfoundland - especially since Newfoundland (unlike Quebec) had actually been a sovereign nation prior to becoming Canadian.

Brian Tobin came to the job having ordered, as Fisheries minister, a Coast Guard vessel to fire upon a Spanish trawler stealing fish from Newfoundland waters with gill nets. Having seized those nets he then took them to the United Nations to show the world who was really responsible for over-fishing in the North Atlantic. Currently in Newfoundland's corner is Danny Williams, whose position on Hibernia (not to mention Churchill Falls) is so combative, I'm sure the spinning Smallwood's doing in his grave could power Quebec all by itself. All of it, though, is descended from the leadership of Brian Peckford.
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