When first heard that Liberal MP-turned-Senator George Baker was musing about Newfoundland separatism, I assumed his remarks had been taken out of context. (I thought he said Newfoundlanders might start a separatist party, not that he would support one himself.) But it does indeed appear that Baker has dipped into one too many little green bags:
The Prime Minister’s Office is demanding the expulsion of a Newfoundland senator from the Liberal caucus, for publicly musing about the virtues of the Bloc Quebecois and the creation of a similar, separatist party for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Liberal Senator George Baker, a former Chretien-era cabinet minister and longtime parliamentarian, told a popular radio talk show in St. John’s on Monday that a new “Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador” party should contest the province’s seven federal seats in the next election.
Baker, like many Newfoundland politicians, is a critic of the Conservative government’s new budget, which he says cuts $1.7 billion in federal transfers to Newfoundland, largely thanks to unilateral changes in the way Ottawa interprets a deal to share offshore oil revenues.
“How much more do we have to put up with?” Baker told VOCM radio on Monday night. “This should be reason enough to have a Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador running in the next federal election if this keeps up, and a real campaign to get them all elected.”
He said an independent bloc of Newfoundland MPs could be as “effective” for their province as he considers the Bloc Quebecois to have been in pushing its agenda in Parliament.
Ryan Cleary, the radio host to whom Baker made his comments – who himself has advocated independence for Newfoundland and Labrador – said a well-led and well-financed separatist party might fare well in the next election.
“There’s been a lot of debate in the last couple of years about whether a Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador party would work,” said Cleary, who came close to winning a seat for the federal NDP in the last campaign.
“There’s a growing political unrest here, because people feel alienated from Ottawa, and they feel like their hands are tied.”
My fellow Newfoundlanders are upset, not without reason, because of the new federal budget. Of course, if we separated from Canada altogether we’d get nothing from Ottawa, but who thinks about things like that when the nationalistic juices start flowing?