J.R.Smallwood, first Premier of
50th Anniversary of Confederation
Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth Canadian province in 1949, thus completing a nation that spans half a continent. This year the Province celebrates 50 golden years of union with Canada.
Benefits for the Province
Confederation with Canada hastened the pace of economic and social progress for the Province, bringing about considerable change in 50 short years. Frequently quoted indicators of well-being, such as per capita GDP and personal income, provide clear evidence of this progress. In 1949 personal income per capita in Newfoundland and Labrador was only 51% of the Canadian level, compared with 80% today. While a gap continues to exist, considerable progress has been made in developing the economy and raising the standard of living. After adjusting for inflation, real incomes in the Province are more than five times as high today as in 1949.
Confederation contributed to the Province's advance in several ways including direct federal spending, social transfers to individuals and funding to the Province to develop the education system, health care, social services and infrastructure. For example, in the first five years of Confederation, an average of 95 miles of new road was completed each year compared with a yearly average of 37 miles for the five years prior. Better infrastructure, combined with higher incomes, spurred consumer spending. During the first 25 years of Confederation the number of passenger motor vehicle registrations per 1,000 population grew almost nine-fold, triple the increase for Canada.
Contributions from the Province
While it is clear that Newfoundland and Labrador benefitted significantly from union with Canada, it is equally true that the Province played an important role in the progress of Canada. International trade is a case in point. With most of the Province's exports destined for international markets and most imports coming from other provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the highest per capita contributors to Canada's international trade balance, ranking behind only Saskatchewan and Alberta. From a natural resource perspective, the Province is responsible for over half of national iron ore shipments, 19% of the value of fish landings, 8% of newsprint shipments, about 7% of electric power generation and, in about five years from now, one-third of Canada's conventional light crude oil production. The Province's position, as a major resource producer, should continue to expand in the future with a burgeoning oil and gas industry and pending developments in Labrador of mineral wealth at Voisey's Bay and new power generation along the Churchill River. Furthermore, the Province's vast coastline, its maritime heritage and abundant marine resources continue to enhance Canada's stature as a preeminent maritime nation.
In terms of contribution to the federal treasury, revenues from the Province in recent years have been in the $1.8-$2.0 billion range. Despite its relatively small population, the Province has a long history of contributing to the social and cultural milieu of the nation. Its people are active in the arts, the military, business, education and politics. The Province's role in the Canadian military and arts is a disproportionate one. For example, although the Province has less than 2% of Canada's population, it represents about 5% of Canada's military personnel.
Much to celebrate - Soirée '99
To mark this historic occasion of 50 years of Confederation, a major celebration has been planned. From the French word "soirée" meaning "evening party", Soirée '99 will feature a year full of festivities highlighting the vast natural and cultural treasures of the Province with an invitation for all to attend.
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