Premier Dwight Ball: Thoughts on Confederation

By: Premier Dwight Ball

When you are the Premier of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, you are always engaged in important issues that shape our future. As a result, it is rare for me to get a free moment for personal time, let alone time for personal reflection.

But when The Herald approached me to be part of the 70th anniversary of Confederation edition with past premiers, I took some time to think about our province’s union with Canada, the leaders who shaped our province, and the changes that have taken place in our province over the last 70 years.

The Confederation debate at the end of the 1940s focused on whether we would be better off on our own, or if Confederation with Canada would raise living standards for everyone. Through a narrow vote, we joined Canada, and the merits of that union have been debated by people ever since.

Premiers have been some of the most outspoken voices on this matter, with some being fiercely nationalistic, and others singing the praises of being part of a great nation. I’m looking forward to reading what some of our past premiers said in this special edition of this magazine.

Feelings of pride

But how do I feel? Well, for me, if you are going to be part of something, pride plays an important role.

You have to be proud of what you have joined, you have to be proud of yourself, and you need to be proud of what you contribute.

We can be very proud to be part of a nation that is known worldwide for its strong economy, good health care and education systems, freedom of speech, diversity of culture and breathtaking landscapes as varied as the people who live in them. And we have a lot in common with our fellow Canadians. We all believe in building a better future, and we believe in our ability to make that future possible, not only for ourselves, but also for our neighbours. 

And when it comes to building that bright future, that’s where our pride in ourselves comes in to play. 

Building a community

You have seen that pride through generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who have committed themselves to building up their home communities and their province through the years. That unwavering commitment has made our province a very different place today than it was in 1949. 

The fishery was why we came here, but through the work of a long list of creative innovators and visionary people from this province, our province is now famous for much more. 

We are now globally recognized as a leader in natural resource development. That includes a fishery that now harvests more species than ever, using more advanced technology than ever, serving more markets than ever around the world. A fishery filled with resilient, smart, hard-working people who faced the cod collapse head on, and in doing so, forged a new future in shellfish and other ocean resources. 

Through their work, the value of our fishery has now exceeded $1 billion in each of the last four years, and we are a national leader in seafood exports. 

Our national resource riches also include growing oil and gas, mining, aquaculture, agriculture, and technology activity that is attracting billions in investment from companies around the world. 

I am proud that our government stood side by side with business and community leaders in attracting that investment to grow these industries. Through The Way Forward, we continue to put in place the supports they need to compete internationally, thrive, and create meaningful jobs for current and future Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

And it’s not just our natural resources that are drawing people to our shores, and by extension, Canada. Our wonderful, welcoming culture, has become internationally famous through Come From Away, an award winning production highlighting the generosity of our residents, and their willingness to help those in need. Our restaurants and accommodations are praised in publications in far away countries. 

Our province provides the scenery for internationally acclaimed film productions while our actors and writers create award winning performances that build further interest in this place we call “home” – and by that I mean both our province, and our country. And I haven’t even mentioned our authors, dancers, and visual artists who continue to captivate people with their art while defining our culture. One such artist, Christopher Pratt, not only helped define our culture with his art, but also defined our provincial identity by designing our flag in 1980!

‘I think of us as a family’

So there are many reasons to be proud of our country, many reasons to be proud of ourselves, and many ways we contribute significantly to the nation. There are a lot of provinces and territories in that nation, and as I sit with other provincial and territorial leaders at national meetings, I often think of us as a family.

Like any family, we have strong views on who is the favourite. We get into arguments with each other from time to time. But I will say this: for so long as we stand together on important matters and look out for each other’s best interests, I will always be proud to be part of this Canadian family, proud of who I am as someone from Newfoundland and Labrador within that family, and so very proud of what our people contribute toward the good of our family.

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