Margaret Wente admits she was wrong about Newfoundlanders after all.
The sometimes contentious Globe and Mail columnist stirred some controversy 11 years ago after writing off the province as an isle of “surly islanders” living in a “vast and scenic welfare ghetto.”
In a column published Saturday, Wente said since she learned that islanders have a long memory. She elaborated that after actually visiting the province she ridiculed over a decade ago, her opinion has changed.
Wente writes in her latest column:
Over scallops and beer, they treated us to tales of their early life: five kids to a bedroom, hauling water from the well, eating seal to get them through the winter. Their conversation was salty and wonderfully accented. They dropped and added “h”s and didn’t bother with “th” at all. Aubrey told us about the job he had as a kid, lighting the fires in the morning at the merchant’s house on the hill. “I remember dem all in deir beds, all huddled up in deir noightcaps,” he recalled. I felt like I was in a Dickens novel.
But some aren’t charmed by Wente’s visit to Fogo Island last month or by the revelations she experienced travelling somewhat incognito under her married name “Peggy McLeod.”
A columnist with The Independent brushed off Wente’s piece as an insincere attempt to right her condescension. Hans Rollmann said Newfoundlanders were right to make noise over equalization payments ten years ago.
“Our lament was never that we should be given special treatment. Our lament was that we should be treated fair,” wrote Rollmann.
A waterfront studio at the Fogo Island Inn in 2011. (Photo: View Pictures/UIG via Getty Images)
Equalization payments are a form of federal funding meant to help poorer regions maintain its public services, such as education and health care, on a comparable level with other provinces.
Wente said she got “thousands” of emails from people “who wanted to boil me in seal oil” after her original column was published.
“Judging by my email, I am 90 per cent forgiven. The other 10 per cent still think I stink worse than rancid cod,” she told The Huffington Post Canada in an email.
Comments on her latest column range from acceptance to mockery of Wente’s late praise of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“‘Suddenly Newfoundland is hot’...? Where has she been the past decade or so? Boy, that Wente, always on the cutting edge she is,” wrote one user. But those words likely will fall on deaf ears to one of country’s biggest columnists.
“I generally don't read the comments,” Wente said.