I am glad to see the National Post is finally waking up to the reality of the Maritimes and Atlantic Canada. That being that people for years have been plowing ahead, with some success, to chart a new economic course for the region. In the front-page article headlined "Maritimes chart new course away from federal handouts," a reader embracing the subject for the first time might think this form of navigation is new. It is not. But better this headline now than never from a news organization that has been long disconnected from what is really happening in the east.
Business leaders and assorted politicians have been pushing with vigour for well over a decade, and certainly in spots before, for less government dependency. Newfoundland and Nova Scotia have worked to maximize the benefits of oil. New Brunswick, though it did it in a clumsy way, recently tried to severely lessen its debt burden by disposing of a significant asset - NB Power. Prince Edward Island continues to work to advance itself through trade in agricultural goods and impressive efforts in tourism advancement. People at home aren't sitting on their butts waiting for a pogey cheque from mother Ottawa.
On the ideas front, the region is blessed with wonderful universities at the forefront of things like medical research at Memorial in St. John's and Dalhousie in Halifax, to give but two examples. AIMS, the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, has been a powerful homegrown force speaking to the virtues of open markets, less regulation, enhanced trade, less government and greater economic independence.
Never mind that it was an Atlantic Canadian with a trade agenda for the United States that helped the entire country prosper. John Crosbie, not Brian Mulroney, was the originator of Canada's pursuit of NAFTA in the 1980s. Crosbie started the debate during the 1983 Progressive Conservative Party leadership race. Mulroney co-opted it as wise policy when he became Prime Minister.
We still have lots of work to do in Atlantic Canada including having a real discussion about and making some tough choices on our fisheries but we have shown we are not afraid of tough choices. Maybe if the National Post built back a presence in the region they'd be more up to speed with what is going on.