The merchant days are over

“We need to stand together and show that we are more than the quaint people hanging clothes in tourist commercials.”

We have never taken the easy road.

Our ancestors left sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, comforts and despair, joys and sorrows, all to start anew. All to find a better path and a brighter future for generations to come.

They traveled across a vast expanse of unknowingness only to find themselves abandoned on an unforgiving land of wind and cold. Every move they made the harsh weather and suborn land fought against them, but they stood their ground; it was their nature.

They fought to cultivate the land so they could grow the little the land would give them. They fought the sea to carve out a harsh living, not knowing each time if it would be the last day they would ever see land again. They would then give what little they had to the merchants for supplies. The merchants then in turn sold these essentials at wildly inflated prices. All this while the common people’s children went hungry at home.

The merchant system was little more than a feudal institution which kept the rich in power and the poor subservient. The merchants would impose a deep debt that would often be compounded with interest that the common person could never receive relief from. But we stood our ground. We pushed through each day with the belief that tomorrow would be better for our children.

Eventually that system gave to another, but the Newfoundlander’s and Labradorian’s woes did not end. Our children did have better tomorrows but those bright days still seem dull compared the rest of the country. There were ups and downs that caused hope to ebb and flow. Promises that proved to be half-fixes at best. But we stood our ground.

Despite harsh discrimination and stereotypes projected on us by the rest of our nation we became educated, we became aware, and we proved we could be more than they ever thought we could.

It seems, however, we have been taken hostage again. Of course this time it’s not the merchants. It’s the very people we hired to see that the future would be secure for our children and grandchildren: our Government.

Like in merchant times, we again see no hope of relief from the financial restrictions placed upon us. Many of us long for the days when we were living paycheck to paycheck. The reality is that one cheque does not come close to meeting the next. Saving for the future is a luxury that many can only imagine. Yet our Government fails to see the advantages of reinvestment, and would rather tax us sums that very few of us can possibly pay. They cut services that the most vulnerable among us depend on to survive.

 We are a strong, proud people who will not back down until we are treated fairly and with respect. We must unite and organize, and tomorrow will be better for our children.

In merchant times, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were illiterate and uneducated. This helped to keep the status quo and the merchants, who were perhaps the most literate, gained at their debtors’ expense. This is a notion that our current government appears to favour. The cuts and disgraceful restructuring to our education system, along with the elimination of the rural library system, ensures that an ill-informed citizen is a subservient one.

The truth is that we have protested and we have spoken up, but now is the time for action. The people Newfoundland and Labrador need to prepare ourselves for large scale change. We must organize, we must use the law of confederation to our advantage and we must dissolve this government. There is no other way. We need a government that understands how to manage our vast natural resources: our oil, our minerals, our aquaculture and most importantly, our people.

We must open our eyes and see that we cannot simply stand our ground — we must move the ground we stand on.

There are a few avenues we can take from here.

First, we must appeal to our Lieutenant Governor, Frank F. Fagan, and make it clear that this government has lost the confidence of the people. We must request that he dissolve this government and grant the people of Newfoundland and Labrador an election.

Further, we must ensure that a province-wide petition calling for the removal of the current government is circulated. We must make this petition widely available so that every citizen that is eligible to vote has the opportunity to sign.

Lastly, we need to make Ottawa aware of our discontent so that they can work with the Lieutenant Governor to see that the will of the people is respected and upheld.

We need to stand together and show that we are more than the quaint people hanging clothes in tourist commercials. We are a strong, proud people who will not back down until we are treated fairly and with respect. We must unite and organize, and tomorrow will be better for our children.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the merchant days are over. Let’s not see a repeat of the past.

Jackie Hamilton / Newfoundland

Editor’s note: The author of this letter is an employee of the provincial government and has used a pseudonym to protect themself and their coworkers from potential reprisal.

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