‘Newfie’ In The News Again

Newfoundland and Labrador is banking on financial help from Ottawa, which means the province’s problems are Canada’s problems. And those problems will cost billions.
Newfoundland and Labrador is banking on financial help from Ottawa, which means the province’s problems are Canada’s problems. And those problems will cost billions.

Warrick Chubbs is like a character out of a tourism commercial.

If, on a summer afternoon you show up at his home in St. Lewis, Labrador, he’s liable to invite you in for tea and cake, then take you on a tour of his vegetable garden. Then it’s on down to the wharf, to see the salted codfish drying in the sun.

St. Lewis is rural and remote, and feels like real frontier living. Older folks like Chubbs can remember a time when the only way to get around in winter was by dogsled, and until they built the road, the only way to get around in summer was by boat. Folks still live that traditional, hardy existence; because they’re so remote, they don’t have any other choice.

“We pretty much live from the garden and from the ocean,” Chubbs says. “We can get our heat for very little. We’ve got to go in and cut a little wood, but that’s only exercise.”

It’s an idyllic life, but call Chubbs up and get him talking about politics, the mood turns dark. The economy is in trouble, and the provincial government’s finances are in terrible shape.

“One of these days, we’re going to go bankrupt,” Chubbs says grimly.

It’s not just Chubbs thinking that way. A January poll by Abacus Data found that 53 per cent of Newfoundland and Labrador residents expect the province to go bankrupt sometime in the next few years, the most likely outcome a federal bailout.

The province is facing a perfect storm of geographic, demographic, fiscal and economic problems, and as the walls close in for Newfoundland and Labrador, the fiscal choices get more and more desperate. And increasingly, people like Chubbs who live a traditional, coastal way of life, are caught squarely in the crosshairs.

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