Martime union idea leaves East Coasters divided

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

There's a 'unite the right' movement — of sorts — afoot in Canada.

According to the National Post, Senators Mike Duffy, Stephen Greene and Mark Wallace are rehashing an age-old idea of a maritime union to "rescue the region's stumbling economy:"

"[The Senators] have put together a detailed proposal for a union of their three provinces to be unveiled this weekend, including an idea for the name of the new province and the mechanics of power and representation," the report notes.

"We're hoping to move the ball forward and have the people in the Atlantic region, those who are thoughtful, talk about this. We need the public to demand that the political operatives here, the elected governments, start to co-operate," said Mr. Duffy in an interview.

He compared it to retail economics — big-box stores can offer lower prices because they buy in large volume."

The so-called union concept was rehashed last week by Donald Savoie, the Canada research chair in public administration at the University of Moncton.

"What I mean by it is — full union — is to have one government for the three Maritime provinces," Savoie said on Thursday according to CBC News.

"In Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown, people are going to say, 'That's going to be a problem.' Sure it will be a problem. Status quo is always preferable if you can afford it. I don't think we can afford it anymore."

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While it's unclear if the three Senators are actually proposing a "full-union" solution, it appears — as Savoie predicted — many Maritimers want nothing to do with the plan.

In the P.E.I. legislature, on Tuesday, Deputy Premier George Webster he was 'shocked and dismayed' by Duffy's stance.

"I feel it's quite inappropriate for a person that's representing us at the national level," Webster said according to the Guardian.

Readers of the Guardian seemed to have the same inclination:

"As if the unelected Senate is the right place for such a conversation," one online commenter asked.

"Sounds like Upper Canadian arrogance coming down here telling us little folk why we're so ignorant again. How many times are we going to put up with this nonsense?"

Kevin Lacey, the Atlantic Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation argued on Twitter that a maritime union would not reduce costs.

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Others thought the idea had some merit, but don't believe it will ever happen.

"Can't merge provinces without reopening constitutional can of worms," CBC News Brunswick reporter Jacques Poitras wrote on Twitter.

What would they call the new 'union'?

Peter David Johnston of the Halifax Media Co-op had some good insight — from a historical perspective — on what the new Maritime union could be called.

"Acadia", "New Ireland" or simply "The Maritimes" are names, which have been proposed in the past. The original premier of New Brunswick, Thomas Carleton, was the first to the notion of "New Ireland" or "Nova Irlanda" due to the overwhelming influx of Irish immigrants into the Saint John harbour in the 1850s —as well as most other Maritime ports.  This name identifies with a large number of maritime citizens, having Irish immigration in almost every part of the three provinces."

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