N.L. marks 60th Confederation anniversary with whispers

No tributes, no ceremonies and no parties were held Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Canada.

No tributes, no ceremonies and no parties were held Tuesday to mark the 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Canada.

Premier Danny Williams had planned last fall to hold a celebration to mark both the anniversary and the province's recent designation as a so-called "have" province, as Newfoundland and Labrador no longer qualifies for equalization.

But Williams said with the national economy in disarray and many people in Newfoundland and Labrador still mourning the 17 people killed in the March 12 Cougar helicopter crash, it would be wrong to host a party.

"It's not a time for celebration, and it's not appropriate," said Williams, noting the government had already scaled back its have-status plans well before the Cougar crash.

Williams said the quiet marking of the anniversary has nothing to do with his endless political wars with the federal government.

"We are very proud as a province to be part of Canada," Williams said Monday in St. John's.

"Canada is a great country and despite the fact that we may have differences of opinion from time to time with various governments, that certainly wouldn't impede an overall celebration," said Williams.

"But, at this particular point in time, we just really sincerely feel that it's not appropriate."

'Doesn't seem extra-special'

Williams also said the nature of the diamond anniversary itself did not strike him as particularly important.

"Centenaries are important, half-centenaries are important. If it just happens to be another decade, the 60th, to me [it] doesn't seem extra special," Williams said.

At Tuesday's session at the house of assembly, only Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones rose to pay tribute to the anniversary. Jones said the vast majority of people in Newfoundland and Labrador remain proud Canadians. She added the attachment is particularly strong in her home area of southern Labrador, where the 1948 referenda were milestones in citizens becoming involved in having a say in their future.

But during question period, Jones asked Williams why the anniversary seemed to be "not even an event worthy of comment."

Williams reiterated that he is proud to be a Canadian, but wasted no time in criticizing the political leadership in Ottawa.

"We will not be trampled on by [the] governments of Canada," said Williams, who had earlier sparred with former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin.

Marking the diamond anniversary so quietly stands in contrast to previous anniversaries. In 1974, a full year of celebrations — including concerts and even a tribute record album consisting of songs composed just for the event — was organized. In 1999, then premier Brian Tobin presided over Soiree '99, which marked the golden anniversary as a tourism marketing event.