After the War, Newfoundland became a key player on the world stage. Longer range airplanes stopped for refueling at Gander airport on their way from Europe to North America. By the 1960s, new long-range jet planes were able to by-pass Gander, though Soviet and East Bloc countries continued to stop here on their way to & from Cuba (causing many to defect on their stop-overs). Gander airport was back in the limelight on September 11, 2001 when the US closed off its airspace following the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center towers, forcing many trans-oceanic flights to be diverted to Gander.
After the Second World War, Britain’s massive war debt forced it to devalue its currency to rebuild its economy, which cause great turmoil in Newfoundland’s export industries, and especially lumber and fishing. Again, people out of work were looking to their government for a social “safety net”. As Newfoundlanders tried to being themselves up to the standards of living and the level of social services others in North America were so used to receiving, it was quickly realized that there were benefits to joining Canada.
A Newfoundland commission spent four years to discover that bringing social capital to a minimum level would require an outlay of over one hundred million dollars (in 1958 dollars) plus another 40 million for the Trans-Canada Highway. This was more than could reasonably be levied by provincial taxes.
In 1948 a referendum was held (it actually took two referenda to pass), allowing people to choose self-government, remaining a British Colony, or union with Canada. Newfoundland joined Canadian Confederation in 1949, and Joey Smallwood who championed the cause became the new province’s first premier.
The 1960s were a time of great change in Newfoundland. The Hamilton Falls (renamed Churchill Falls) in Labrador was built, selling its power output to Quebec, The Tran-Canada Highway was built and paved, connecting the many towns and cities around the province. The government also moved many thousands of people from smaller isolated outports to larger centres where health care and education could be cost-effectively provided, causing upheaval for many.
In the 1970s, the offshore fishery began to decline with fish stocks, which suffered greatly from European overfishing. Canada extended its territorial sea to 12 miles in 1970 and unilaterally declared a 200-mile economic zone in 1977. In Newfoundland, the number of registered fishers had increased by 41%, registered vessels by 23%, and the total catch by 27% by 1981. Then, in the 1990s, the government declared a moratorium on fishing some species, to enable stocks to rebuild (though the Europeans continued to fish).
Oil was discovered in the Grand Banks, which could only be explored and extracted using very expensive offshore drilling rigs, built to withstand not only North Atlantic storms but the iceflows that are brought to the area by the Labrador Current. The huge rigs needed to drill the offshore Grand Banks were assembled in Bay Bulls before being towed to drilling sites. The royalty income from this is hoped to help the Newfoundland & Labrador government self-sufficient.