Newfoundland and Labrador reached a milestone Monday by becoming a have province for the first time in its history as a Canadian province.
Premier Danny Williams released the news during a media conference, saying that figures released Monday by the federal finance department showed for the first time ever the province would not be receiving equalization payments from Ottawa.
"This is a very proud day for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I can tell you. We received information today from the federal government at the finance ministers' meeting that as a result of changes in the figures that as of today — which is a notification — but effectively this year Newfoundland and Labrador is now a have province. That's a momentous day for the people of this province."
In its April budget, the Newfoundland and Labrador projected that it would come off equalization, a federal program that ensures comparable levels of public service are provided across the country, at some point in 2009. Williams said government learned the move happened a year earlier than expected.
In April, Tom Marshall, then the minister of finance, said Newfoundland and Labrador residents should prepare for a "revolution between the years" because of the shift that should come with being a have province.
Williams said Newfoundland and Labrador is operating on its own resources and its own monies because of oil revenues, corporate income taxes, commodity prices and retail sales.
"Today is a significant day. It's a huge event," Williams said.
"For 60 years we've been part of the great Canadian federation and we have been recipients of equalization payments from the Canadian government. Over the years we have been ridiculed for that. At times times we've been presented as the poor cousins in Canada. Now we can hold our heads high and feel very good about it … I consider it to be a very significant day for all the people of the province and I want to share this moment with them."
Monday's news finally fulfilled former premier Brian Peckford's prophecy made during his victory speech in 1982.
"I am more convinced than I have any time in the past that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians speak [with] one voice when we all say one day the sun will shine and have-not will be no more," Peckford said on April 6, 1982.
Ontario will qualify for $347 million in equalization payments next year.