Da Legal Stuff...

All commentaries published on Web Talk are the opinions of the contributor(s) only and do not necessarily represent the position of any other individuals, groups or organizations.

Now, with that out of the way...Let's Web Talk.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Alexis Portnoy Arrested and Turned Over to the Canadian Border Services for Deportaion

Newfoundland and Labrador breaking news:

December 22, 2005

Early this morning an RCMP spokesperson announced the arrest of Alexis Portnoy, an Israeli immigrant who has been the center of a province wide effort to save him and his family from deportation.

Mr. Pornoy and his family have been receiving asylum in a church basement in Marystown, Newfoundland since October when he along with his pregnant wife and 4 children were ordered out of the country.

The family, which has been living in Newfoundland for more than 10 years and by all accounts have been welcome and productive members of the local community. In the past few months the unprecedented outcry of people across the province, including many local municipal leaders, has gone largely unheeded by federal officials and ministers, including requests by citizens groups for a stay of deportation.

The Portnoy case has touched the hearts and minds of most people in the province largely due to the fact that two of the family’s four children suffer from medical conditions, including one who has cystic fibrosis. In addition to this, the two younger children were born in the province and are by birthright Canadian citizens. The only response from government on the issue of the Canadian children was that they were welcome to stay but both parents and both older siblings would be forced to leave.

This case which has touched and angered so many people took an unexpected turn early this morning with the announcement of Mr. Portnoy’s arrest in the Burin Peninsula area.

According to early reports, Alexis Portnoy had sneaked out of the church around 10pm last evening intent on emptying clothing collection bins belonging to the Canadian Diabetes Association. Prior to his moving into the church he and an associate had been under contract with the charity to collect donated clothing from the drop off locations and deliver it to the collection center. With Christmas just a couple of days away and a feeling of generosity in the air, bins in the area were overflowing and it appears Mr. Portnoy was intent on ensuring that they reached their destination.

RCMP spokesperson Sergeant Chris Fitzgerald informed the media this morning that Mr. Portnoy had been stopped on a routine traffic violation and upon running his license the outstanding deportation order was identified. Mr. Portnoy was immediately arrested and turned over to the Canada Border Services agency. At this point his exact whereabouts are unknown.

The family had been working with an immigration lawyer to prepare an application for citizenship on humanitarian grounds which they hoped to present to government in the new year. As of this morning the remainder of the Portnoy family was still inside the basement of the Sacred Heart church in Marystown. The major concern of many in the province, and more especially his wife and children, is that Alexis Portnoy may already have been taken out of the province and perhaps even be on a flight back to Israel before the end of the day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Party Politics in Canada

Hi folks,

With the federal election starting to cool off for Christmas (if it ever really heated up), I thought this might be a good time to look at options to the current parties and system of government in this Country.

It seems like most people have reached a point where they plan to vote for the party or leader they feel will do the least harm as opposed to the one they really want elected. That's a sad statement on the Canadian condition, but I believe an accurate one.

Over the past few months I, along with others have been listening to what people have been saying about the various issues and we have decided to begin drafting a platform document for a possible future party tentatively named the People First Party (PFP).

Over the coming days I will be posting portions of that platform for your review and comments. We hope that through your feedback we can develop a platform that is truly representative of what the public wants.

This represents the first installment of that document, Political Reform. Take some time, digest it and let us know what you think about it. Give us your feedback, suggestions and ideas. It is through your input that we will design the final draft.


The complete contents of this discussion draft can be found at: www.peoplefirstparty.blogspot.com/

Mission Statement:

The People’s Voice Party (PFP) a voice for all Canadians.

A voice for sweeping political and social reforms, PFP is dedicated to the principle of open and equal government through increasing power to provinces & territories while protecting our Nation’s social & economic values.

Political Reform:

The PFP is fully dedicated to the creation of a triple E Senate. This will allow each of the Country’s provincial partners to have a more equal say in policy and legislation regardless of their population base. We believe that the archaic practice of appointing senators is one that provides no real value to Canadians but instead serves to reward longtime supporters of individual political parties. In comparison, an elected senate will ensure that the public receives the sort of regional representation they deserve.

Although the details of a specific senate structure and processes will require much planning and development, the PFP vision is to implement a triple E senate that has the powers necessary to ensure that the needs of all province’s and territories are met. One option the PFP is currently considering is a mechanism by which legislation would require the agreement by a minimum of 60% of the senate, plus the agreement of a majority of the senators from at least seven provinces and/or territories, in order to be enacted.

In addition to the creation of a triple E senate, the PFP will undertake a review of the current system of parliamentary election. We are in favor of fully reviewing the current “first past the post” system that allows a party to form the government even though that party may have captured less than half of the popular vote. We believe that electoral reform must be undertaken on two fronts, a senate that provides regional representation and a Parliament that provides proportional representation. It is in this way that the voice of the people will truly be heard.

As a party, the PFP intends to work with the provinces and territories to ensure they have the freedom and powers they need in order to prosper. We believe that while a federal presence is a necessity for all Canadians it should not impede the development and growth of the provinces on an individual basis. The PFP believes that Canada is much more than simply the sum of its parts. We believe that by loosening Ottawa’s centralized grip on the nation, the individual parts will begin to flourish and in turn lead to an even stronger nation.

The PFP believes that much of the pomp and circumstance that currently exists within government is antiquated, unnecessary and overly expensive. A clear example of this is the current practice of maintaining a Queen’s representative in Ottawa and in each province (Governor General/Lieutenant Governor). This is an outdated custom that has no real value in the twenty-first century. We believe that while the office may provide a comfortable reminder of our history, its does not warrant the cost of maintaining it going forward and should be done away with.

The PFP vision of government is one that is open and responsive to the needs of the nation. In an effort to ensure accountability and sound financial practices the PFP would greatly increase the powers of the Auditor General by allowing the office to fully investigate spending in all areas of government. All members of parliament including cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister would be subject to the Auditor’s review. The office of the Auditor General would report directly to parliament in an open forum available to all, in essence making it accountable to the general public.

Although we understand that the plans outlined above will take time to implement, we believe they are a major first step in creating a more even handed government that will better serve all Canadians. Other changes will need to occur over time, but we believe that these steps will significantly improve how this country is governed.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Canada's Colonial Rule in Newfoundland and Labrador

I recently wrote an commentary in which I speculated on whether Ottawa viewed Newfoundland and Labrador as an occupied colony than as a true province. The idea was mentioned in reference to the fact that the federal presence in the province has dropped by around 30% in the past couple of decades resulting in very few federal employees or services existing here. The comments were also spurred on by the fact that even though nearly all of Canada's eastern coastline, 17,500 kms of it anyway, is contained in the province yet there is no military presence to speak of.

Since writing that piece I’ve decided to look back into history a little bit in order to see just how the province really does compare to the colonies of old. To take a look at our own history and see just where we fit inside the great Canadian family or if indeed we do.

As you may or may not be aware, Newfoundland entered confederation on March 31, 1949 after years of heated debate that pitted religion against religion and family against family. Although Newfoundland had once been an independent nation, just prior to joining Canada it was a British Colony, under the rule of the King so to speak and was in essence a colonial outpost of the British Empire.

In the late 1940s, with WWII having just ended, Britain was in grave financial difficulty due to a massive rebuilding effort that was underway. As a cost saving measure the British government decided to divest itself of many of its costly colonies in places like India, Africa and yes, Newfoundland. These activities basically signaled the end of British colonial rule which had been in a decline around the world for many decades.

While most colonized lands were returned to the people who had historically ruled them, this was not a part of the master plan for Newfoundland. When a delegation from the island visited England and requested an opportunity to work out specific terms for a return to sovereignty they were met with a very cold and unfriendly reception. In essence they were led to understand that this was not a topic that would be discussed.

What the delegation didn’t know was that secret plans were already underway behind the scenes, in partnership with the Canadian government, to annex Newfoundland. Any other course of action was simply brushed aside by the leadership of the day and treated with utter contempt.

By the time Joey Smallwood was identified as the man who could successfully lead the confederation movement forward, the outcome was already a foregone conclusion in some circles. As a result of quiet, yet substantial, political and financial backing from both England and Canada, the movement to promote confederation found its wings and in a very heated and closely fought public referendum Newfoundland was brought kicking and screaming into the dominion.

With barely better than 50% public support, it was at that point in history that Newfoundland signed on as a Canadian province, at least on paper. Official records and political rhetoric identify the province as an equal partner in Canada, but did Newfoundland really become a province in the true sense of the word, or is it still nothing more than a colony being governed from afar?

A quick scan of several dictionaries leads one to the following commonly accepted definition of Colonialism:

a policy in which a country rules other nations and develops trade for its own benefit; a country or area controlled politically by a more powerful country; belief in and support for the system of one country controlling another

Does any of this sound even vaguely familiar to anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador, a land that was once an independent nation, but is now controlled by a much larger country? A land that has little, if any, real political power within the ruling government and a land where resources have been utilized and traded for the greater good of the nation, sometimes to the detriment of Newfoundland and Labrador itself.

Newfoundlanders often question why they were considered less important to Canada than Quebec was when it came to permitting the province to sell billions of dollars worth of Upper Churchill power to the nation? Why did it take years of fighting and maneuvering to change a situation were resources located under ground, such as in Alberta’s oil fields, are considered the domain of the province while those under water, on this province’s continental shelf, were considered to be in the federal domain? People often ask themselves, why foreign fishing fleets have been given quotas off this province’s shores? Quotas that were denied to local fishermen but were issued to foriegn nations in an effort to improve international trade for the benefit of Ontario textile mills.

These issues are of great importance to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. So to are the words often spoken by federal politicians who tell the public that by joining Canada Newfoundland gained many benefits it would otherwise never have had. Benefits such as roads, hospitals, improved education and so on. “Where would you be today if it weren’t for Canada?” they often say.

What follows is a quote from the “History of the Indian Sub-Continent”. Does this sound familiar to anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador today?

“While few educated South Asians would deny that British Colonial rule was detrimental to the interests of the common people of the sub-continent - several harbor an illusion that the British weren't all bad. Didn't they, perhaps, educate us - build us modern cities, build us irrigation canals - protect our ancient monuments - etc. etc.”

The document goes on to describe how, although still a developing nation, the reality of the situation was that as an independent Country, the people of the land ended up much better off than they had been under Colonial rule and in fact, after 50 years of freedom they have improved their lot in life well beyond where they were when colonial rule ended in the late 1940s.

In Newfoundland and Labrador today, we indeed have hospitals, schools, roads, etc, but at what cost and to what benefit? Our hospitals are seriously under funded, our province’s literacy rate is still one of the lowest in Canada and anyone who has traveled the roads of this province, including the TCH, will attest to the fact that they are in deplorable shape and worsening every year.

The province once had a railway from one end of the island to the other. This is gone.

The province’s fisheries have been destroyed while under a federal watch.

Newfoundland and Labrador has practically no representation in the nation's centralized government.

The province is physically cut off from the Country that governs it by a province that continually vacillates between nationalism and separation. As a result of the federal government not wanting to tip the balance by ruling against the larger province, Newfoundland and Labrador can’t even move its resources across Quebec’s borders.

After more than 50 years under Canadian rule, Newfoundland and Labrador continues to be the butt of countless Canadian jokes half the time and the grease that turns the wheels of the foreign affairs department the other half.

Is Newfoundland and Labrador a province or a colony? I’ll let you make up your own mind on that. As for me, all I have to say is welcome to my old colonial home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Canoe.ca and Slam Sports Promote Hatred of Atlantic Canada

I’d like, no in fact I need, to take a few minutes to comment on a very disturbing article today on the Canoe.ca Slam-Sports web site. The commentary is entitled “The Last Word” by one Bill Lankhof, or as I would prefer to call him at this point, Bill F-Off. Mr. Lankhof works for a publication out of Toronto which I will not name directly since I would prefer to give the particular rag in question as little free publicity as possible.

It is clear to me and should be to any other thinking person that this individual is nothing more than an ignorant, uneducated, self serving pustule who has never traveled outside of his own little fiefdom (possibly within his own mind, but more likely someplace in central Canada).

In what should have been a very celebratory sports article describing the Brad Gushue Olympic trial victory on Sunday in Halifax, this micro-minded waste of oxygen managed to insult the province of Newfoundland and Labrador at least 6 times and still managed some space to throw in a crude comment about the sinking of the titanic for good measure.

Let me give you an example of the pure crapulance he was allowed to bring to the public in his attack on Newfoundland.

Lankhof's first insult lead off the article when he began the piece by saying the win was the biggest thing to happen in Newfoundland, “since the invention of pogey”. He then followed up with such wonderful insights as, “The local sport of baby –seal whacking is no longer coming across on TV as a great spectator sport” and noting how Newfoundland’s Gushue was a good fit for curling since he came from a land of “Booze, ice and rocks”.

As if this were'nt bad enough, he didn’t stop there. He then went on to say, “Locals now have something to chew the fat over --other than that yucky whale blubber they've been gnawing on…”.

I have no idea where his narrow mind, if he even has a mind, managed to dig that little ditty up, nor do I understand why he would follow such a remark with, “Newfies finally have someone named Skip to look up to again whose livelihood doesn't depend on a cod fish to be born later.”

To top it all off, in the warped mind of this lump of useless organs, it appears that crude references to the titanic sinking, where hundreds of souls were lost, are considered a funny thing. He says, and I quote, “The last time Newfoundland made such a big international splash the Titanic tried deep-sea diving”.

I ask you, is this idiot supposed to be a sports writer, or is he simply trying to take the wind out of the sails of this world class team while intentionally insulting, denigrating and stereotyping a large part of the Canadian population?

This man, and I use the term very loosely, not to mention the latte sipping morons who keep him on their payroll need to take a long hard look at reality. They might just find that there is much more of value to be found in Canada than exists in their own backyard.

It is this kind of crude and degrading commentary that has long made Atlantic Canadians, and Newfoundlander's in particular, feel like outcasts in this Country. For an organization like Canoe.ca to provide this individual with a forum for spewing his hatred is nothing less than an embarrassment to the management and staff of that company.

I'm sure many Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans who have read the article will be asking for an official apology. I as an individual will not. Not because I don't feel that we deserve one, but because an apology will simply not rectify a very serious problem like the one his paper and anyone else who would promote his drivel has. Instead this man should be fired, along with anyone who would dare to defend his comments. Then again, I guess that's a lot to ask from a company that would hire this excuse for a human being in the first place.

Maybe I'll do my part to help the stereotype of Newfoundland along by dashing off to Toronto and getting a job. Maybe I too can be a sports writer. I understand there is a certain paper there that will hire anyone with a head full of rocks. Let me see, how about if I start by following Bill Lankhof's lead. Maybe the next time someone like Chris Brosh of the Raptors has a great night I can amuse myself and my readers by talking about all the fried chicken and watermelon that will be consumed at the after game party.

No, I don't think I'd like a job like that. I'd probably need to be at least two people to carry it off because one person certainly couldn't be that much of a moron all by himself.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Election Night in Canada – With Bob Cold and Hairy Kneel

Bob – “Welcome back to election fans across the Country. Well it’s been an odd game to this point. The Liberals are leading but they’re looking a little tired out there and I have to say they’re definately being a out skated so far in the contest. We’ve got a stoppage underway at the moment as the officials have gone upstairs for a ruling on the last play. It’s difficult to tell from this angle if the last shot made it through so this might take a while.”

Hairy – “Absolutely, Bob, the puck was bouncing around quite a bit on that play and I can tell you that the folks in the video booth don’t want to make any mistakes on this one.”

Bob – “In the mean time Hairy, why don’t we bring our viewers up to date on the action so far.”

Hairy – “Sure thing Bob. We’re about mid-way through the first period and this veteran Liberal team has a small lead. I can tell you right now though that their lead sure doesn’t reflect the action in the game to this point. This upstart Conservative expansion team is really taking it to the Liberals at every opportunity.”

Bob – “They sure are Hairy. The Liberals may be the odds on favorites in this game, but it looks like someone forgot to tell these Conservatives that. What’s your take on what we’ve been seeing so far?”

Hairy - “Well Bob, right now the Liberals are looking like a team that’s back on its heals. They’ve gone into a defensive mode trying to hang onto their small lead, but it’s still early in the game and they desperately need to put some insurance on the board. This game is not over yet and this is no time to sit back.”

“Conservative captain, Stephen Harper, really set the tone for this game from the opening face off when he fired a GST bullet past the Liberal defensemen and drove it home. I think that really took the big red machine by surprise and they still haven’t managed to fully recover from it.”

Bob – “Sure thing Hairy and that turnover down in the far corner early in the game didn’t help either.”

Hairy – “There's no doubt that hurt em Bob. On their best chance of the game the Liberal Captain picked up the puck in offensive zone with that Gander Weather Office pass but he failed to capitalize on it. He just didn’t seem to know what to do down there. He stick handled around the issue way too long and finally had the puck picked right off his stick. Harper, who’s been very quick out there, took it the length of the ice and drove it home to pick up a big point for his team. A really bad decision on the Liberal’s part not to take the shot Bob.”

Bob – “Indeed Hairy. I have to admit I expected much more from this veteran team, but they don’t really seem prepared for this game.”

Hairy – “I think you’re right Bob. I don’t think they expected this upstart Conservative team to get off to such a quick start, but there’s a lot of game left to play yet and we may see two completely different teams coming out of the dressing rooms after the intermission.”

Bob – “The action in this one has been pretty much one sided to this point Hairy and we’ve only seen any real chances from the starting lines. The second and third strings have been a non-factor to this point.”

Hairy – “Absolutely, I mean that’s true on both ends of the sheet. So far both Captains have been carrying their teams and that’s going to have to change if one side or the other hopes to break this game open. Some of the key offensive players on both sides just haven’t shown up for this one and neither captain can keep up this pace for the duration”

Bob – “True, I certainly expected to see much more action out of players like McKay and Stronach for example. I have to wonder why we haven’t seen more of these two so far? Is that big mid-season Stronach trade still playing itself out in this game?”

Hairy – “Could be Bob. That move caught everyone by surprise. The McKay / Stronach line was a big one for the Conservatives but since the trade we haven’t seen much from either player.”

“Neither one has had any real ice time in this game. I think both teams are a little wary of pitting them against each other in such an important contest. They may not be sure of what could happen. The Conservatives look like they want to stick to their game plan and not let things to get to aggressive out there, not yet anyway. They’d rather use their speed and agility to wear down their opponents. On the other side of the coin, the Liberals can’t afford to get too rough. If they take any more penalties or they could knock themselves out of it all together.”

“They did manage to kill off that Goodale income trust penalty a short while ago but they sure can’t afford to take too many more of those if they want to stay in this one.”

Bob – “Are you surprised the Conservatives haven’t been a little more aggressive in the corners and along the boards Hairy? I mean this Liberal team is much older and they’ve been beaten up pretty badly the entire season. Wouldn’t the Conservatives be better off if they started hitting a little harder?”

Hairy – “I think a lot of people expected exactly that from this team, but I think they’ve come into this one realizing that they have to be wary of the experience of this Liberal team. It's definately going to be a big factor in the outcome. It looks like they’ve decided on a different game plan but we may see them get a little more aggressive if they’re still behind late in the game.”

Bob – “A lot may depend on whether or not the current review results in a point for the Conservatives. The referee is still talking to the officials. Why don’t you walk us through the play that lead up to this delay Hairy.”

Hairy – “Sure thing Bob. It all started back in Liberal territory when Martin stepped out and tried a long lead pass over the hand gun issue. The play had the potential to open things up for him here at home but he fanned on the pass and his counterpart intercepted it in the neutral zone. Harper took it back down the ice, split the defense and managed a weak bouncing shot on the net that may or may not have scored. We’ll just have to wait and see what the decision is on this one.”

Bob – “Indeed we will. In the mean time, everyone’s been talking about all the money this Liberal team spent getting ready for this contest Hairy, do you think its going to pay off for them?”

Hairy – “I really don’t know Bob. Yes they’ve spent a lot of money but the big question is have they spent it wisely. Did they spend it in ways that would ensure a win? I’m not so sure they did.”

Bob – “Ah, here we go folks, it looks like we have a decision and.... yes, it looks like the Conservatives have scored another one on that hand gun issue. This game just got a little closer. Here we go again, now let’s get back to the action”

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Hynes Dismisses Simms' Talk of Private Forecasting

media release - 7 December 2005 PORT UNION

Aaron Hynes, Conservative Candidate for Bonavista-Gander-GrandFalls-Windsor, today expressed disappointment over his Liberal opponent's continued refusal to commit to reinstating public, marine and aviation weather forecasting services in Gander.

In St. John's on Tuesday, Hynes and Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper made a written commitment to fully restore the public, marine and aviation forecasting services that were removed from Gander by the federal Liberal government two years ago.

Prime Minister Paul Martin refused to even meet with advocates of reinstating the weather services while in St. John's, and answered in rambling and evasive terms when asked about the issue. Hynes' Liberal opponent Scott Simms has also refused to commit to reinstating forecasting services in Gander. Instead, Simms says talks aimed at allowing a private company to provide those services were being held until the election was called.

Hynes stated, "Paul Martin's embarassing rambling when he was asked about the weather station proved how out of touch the Liberals are on this issue, and Scott Simms is only making matters worse by talking about privatized forecasting services. Constituents have told me they are very concerned about any plan that would place such essential safety services in the hands of a private company."

Hynes also pointed out that Simms' own party is not on side with his plan, and questioned Simms' assertion that talks between the private company and Environment Canada have been going on for six months. Hynes said, "Two months ago, I wrote a letter to the Environment Minister asking him to reinstate Gander's weather services. The reply I received last month defended the removal of those services from Gander, and made no mention of any plan involving the private sector.

It's obvious that the Prime Minister isn't aware of any such talks either. It looks like Mr. Simms is freelancing on this issue to conceal his party's lack of commitment to the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Stop Canada's Policy of Destroying Loving Families

For those of you who may not be aware of the situation currently playing itself out in Newfoundland and Labrador and similar ones across this country let me fill you in. There are, as I write this, any number of families and individuals who are heading into the Christmas season under the specter of a deportation order from Canadian Border Services. Deportation orders that were issued by a single bureaucrat who is part of a system that has no appeal process for those who are affected by the decision.

Some of these individuals are skilled craftsmen gainfully employed using skills that can be found nowhere else in the province if even in the Country. When they go, so to do their jobs and other jobs dependent on them, not to mention the highly sought after products these people produce will no longer be available. Of course in the situation here, in Newfoundland and Labrador specifically, that wouldn’t matter to the bureaucrat in Halifax who made the decision.

Others under deportation order include people like the Portnoy family, from Israel. Thousands of people from all parts of the province have rallied around this family and shown their limitless support for them. At this point I doubt anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador does not recognize the name or feel deeply for this family. In other parts of Canada their name may not be known. With Christmas coming up and the feeling of love and friendship, not to mention an election in the air, let me give you a short synopsis and update on this family’s plight.

The family of 6, a mother, father and 4 children, are now living in the basement of a local church where they have been seeking sanctuary for several long months. They have been unable to return to their home during that time. The father, Alexi Portnoy, was gainfully and happily employed until he was forced underground with his family. The Portnoy family has put down roots and nurtured many friends in the 10 years they have lived here waiting for a dysfunctional federal department to decide their fate. To decide if they were qualified to remain in the Canada. Now after all this time, the family is being told they must leave.

Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, who is also the Minister in charge of Canadian Border Services, has denied the family a stay of deportation that would have allowed for a review of their case to be conducted. This is in spite of the fact that a local support committee sent a 20+ page document to the Minister outlining the specifics of the case, where the system had failed them and clear justifications for the request.

Ms. McLellan didn’t even have the decency to respond to the request directly or even in writing for that matter. Instead, in a warm hearted, spirit of Christmas type of gesture, McLellan passed her decision verbally to area Liberal MP Bill Matthews, and had him do her dirty work for her.

That isn’t even the best of it folks, wait until you hear her decision. It’s a real heart warmer.

According to MP Bill Matthews, who was given the Minister’s response via telephone, Ms. McLellan recommends that the family go back to their home for Christmas and spend a few weeks preparing to leave the Country. She would like them to leave voluntarily in early January. She also recommends that once back in Israel they apply for re-entry and the government would “see” about expediting their application.

Well folks, what a great suggestion. Let’s have this family prepare to leave. Let’s have them take their ailing daughter out of the country. A daughter who suffers every day from Cystic Fibrosis and who nearly died within the past week or so (her family couldn’t even leave the church basement to be with her in the hospital for fear of deportation). Let’s have them pack her up and leave the Country, along with their other children, two of whom were born right here in Newfoundland and are Canadian citizens by birthright. I mean, what’s the big deal. They can re-apply for entry once they get to Israel right?


Despite Ms. McLellan’s generous Christmas gift, they are free to apply, but they have no chance of being accepted. It turns out that they’re daughter, the one with Cystic Fibrosis, would not qualify to come back to this Country for medical reasons. Once they are gone they are gone for good folks. Gone back to a Country who will likely welcome them with less than open arms since they left as refugees citing fear and danger if they remained.

As a gesture of good will, when asked about the moral dilemma presented by deporting the two younger children, who were born here and are Canadian citizens, Mr. Matthews told a representative for the family that those two children could stay if they chose to do so, but the rest of the family would have to go.

What a kind guy, sort of reminds me of Santa Clause. In his favor Matthews said he is asking the Minister for assurances that the family will not be harassed by officials if they attend to their ailing daughter in future, should she once again require emergency services. As of yet there has been no response to this request from Ms. McLellan.

I have to ask myself where it all went wrong. When did we become a nation that sends honest hard working family people away like they were a scourge on our landscape while our government spends millions of dollars protecting the rights of suspected and even proven criminals and terrorist types?

When did we become such a cold, callous and unfeeling nation that we have no problem deporting our own citizens, in the case of the two youngest Portnoy children, or coldly giving two loving parents the option of leaving their children behind forever? When did this happen to us, when did we become what we are?

People in the province are continuing to support the Portnoy family both morally and financially and they have decided to refuse the wonderfully Grinch like offer of Anne McLellan and the government of Canada. Instead this family will remain in the basement of the local church for as long as it takes. With the help of an immigration lawyer and the support of thousands of Newfoundland and Labrador residents, they will continue to fight for their cause on humanitarian and medical grounds. It's the last chance they have now.

I hate to politicize such a personal and painful situation, but I believe every avenue must be explored that might help these people and the communities in which they live, regardless of where that is in Canada. If there is one thing a politician understands fully it is public opinion and votes. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Although this particular situation is a very high profile issue in Newfoundland, it is not well known in other parts of Canada. With election time at hand, I ask everyone to do their best to make this a national issue rather than just a local one. Shout it from the rooftops if you must. Make sure that every person and every politician in this country recognizes the injustice that is happening to people like the Portnoys.

You might want to start by emailing your thoughts and feelings on this issue directly to the Canadian Border Services at:


Perhaps you might want to follow this up by placing a few, a dozen or even hundreds of toll free calls to the Canadian Border Services at:


Tell them how you feel. Deluge their email and phone systems so nothing goes in or out of their offices unless they deal with this issue.

It's time we brought our Country back from the brink. This is not simply about saving the Portnoys or other loving families and children from uncertain futures. It’s also about the kind of country we want to be. It’s a slippery slope we are on folks and if we let this issue die, if we let our government destroy the lives of these good people and others like them, we may find that it is too late for any of us to keep from going over the edge.

Take a stand today. Let’s be heard and heard clearly. Let’s do it today, not tomorrow or next week or next month, but today, right now. Let’s do it before it’s too late.

Do You Support Canada's Current Board of Directors?

I’ve heard the comment that you can’t run a Country or a Province like a business. People’s lives and futures are at stake, there are social issues that need to be addressed and there are wants and needs that can’t be denied. These are indeed facts, but never the less, a government is, in essence, intended to manage and ensure that the best results are delivered for the Country. In this way running a Country can be equated to running a business.

As the people supplying the funds to run this country, through our taxes, we are in essence the company’s shareholders. We have an elected government that can be considered our board of directors. Each department in this government is much like the divisions or departments within a company. We have the Departments of Health, Defense, Finance, Industry, Natural Resources, etc and since we all ultimately work to build and grow this Country, we are not only its stock holders, but its employees as well.

If we consider Canada to be our business and every man, woman and child in Canada as both employees of this company and as the company’s stock holders, it may provide us with the ability to view our current situation with a little less passion and a lot more clarity.

As things stand, our company will be holding its AGM on January 23 rd. At that time we as stock holders will all be asked to review the performance of the current board of directors and decide whether or not they should be replaced.

You will need to ask yourself some very honest questions if you seriously want your company to grow and prosper.

Do you believe the current board has and continues to take your company in a direction you want it to go?

Are you receiving the sort of dividends that you believe you should from your investment in this company?

Do you have trust in your board of directors after it has been shown to have misappropriated millions of your investment dollars and perhaps even been involved in illegal financial activities?

Do you believe that your current Chief Executive Officer, who was the company’s Chief Financial Officer while many of the misdeeds took place, knew nothing about them?

If you don’t believe it, can you now trust him enough to allow him to remain in control of your company?

If you do believe it, then you need to ask yourself if he is fit to run your company when he couldn’t control its finances in the past?

Do you believe the kind of pre-vote spending undertaken by the current board just prior to this AGM was in the best interest of your company or merely a self serving attempt to curry favor with you as a stock holder?

From an employee perspective, do you believe the company’s current health and retirement plans are solvent, efficient and generous enough under current management to meet your family’s needs? In other words, do you think enough has been done by this board to maintain and improve your employee benefits?

Do you feel that your company is responsive to your family’s needs regarding child care, elder care or a myriad of other benefits issues?

After asking yourself these and other questions you may decide that the status quo is just fine, or you may not. Either way, the exercise of separating emotion from your decision and instead taking a long hard look at your Country from a purely business led perspective may help you see the direction you want to take.

We all have a major investment in this Country/company of Canada. Our income tax, sales tax, EI payments and CPP/QPP payments have all been invested in this company for many years. In fact, it is undoubtedly the single biggest investment many of us will ever make in our lifetimes. The AGM is only a few weeks away. This might be a good time, as company owners, to start thinking about how we plan to vote and who we want to run our business.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Road to Independence

The following was sent to me just a few minutes ago by one of our readers who was inspired by some of our recent comments on this site related to Quebec separation. It's interesting to say the least and if nothing else it should spark some discussion. Enjoy.

Future Scenario for Newfoundland and Labrador

2009 - Quebec holds referendum and opts to separate from Canada;

2009 - Newfoundland and Labrador no longer borders Canada but instead now borders the independent Country of Quebec;

2009 – 2012 - As an independent Nation Quebec grows its trade relations with parts of Canada and with other nations;

2014 – After just 5 years, as Quebec’s geographically close neighbour, resource rich Newfoundland and Labrador officially becomes one of manufacturing rich Quebec’s biggest trading partners;

2018 – Having been physically removed from the rest of Canada for nearly a decade the relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador and Canada has slid further and further down hill. The domino has begun to topple;

2019 – Because of the feelings of abandonment felt in the province, the NL Separation Party is formed and headed up by a well known, charismatic and trusted local leader;

2020 - Anti-Federal sentiment, which has been brewing in the province for decades, begins to grow as people watch a successful Quebec prosper economically while NL continues to struggle along in Confederation;

2023 – The NL Separation Party begins to grow in popularity and strength capturing its first few seats in the provincial legislature;

2027 – The NL Separation Party becomes the official opposition party in the provincial legislature as it continues to gain strength;

2031 – The NL Separation Party wins a majority of the seats in the province and forms the provincial government;

2038 – Having been in power for two highly successful terms the NL Separation Party has begun to turn around the NL economy and grow the province’s industrial base;

2040 – After winning a third term and with the specter of huge revenues about to be realized from the Upper Churchill, the NL Separation Party decides to put the question of separation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador by holding a referendum on Confederation;

2040 – The province decides to separate from Canada by a margin of 54% to 46%. Newfoundland and Labrador is once again an independent Country;

2041 – As an independent nation, all revenues from the Upper Churchill, Lower Churchill, the oil and gas industry (new mega-finds having been developed over the past decades) and all other resources and industries including fishing (now under NL control) and forestry remain in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Country negotiates its trade with other nations such as the U.S, Canada and Quebec, as an equal partner.

The Beginning.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Paul Martin Visits the Colony of Newfoundland and Labrador

Paul Martin was on the campaign trail in Newfoundland and Labrador this week and took some time to speak with Randy Simms on the VOCM radio open line program. Anyone who may have heard his comments and responses to the host’s questions were witness to political side stepping and spin at its best.

It was patently clear throughout the interview that Mr. Martin was not going to be pinned down by making hard commitments on any of the issues discussed. A prime example of this was when he was asked about re-instating the Gander weather office. His response was to the effect that there should be centers of excellence in Canada to study the weather and global warming and the unique climatic situation in this province made it a clear choice for this kind of study.

I may be a little dumber than the average bear but nowhere in his answer could I find anything that told me he planned to reopen the office. In fact I’d even go further and say that his political double-speak could only be interpreted as a definite NO on opening the office, regardless of the positive spin he applied to it.

On whether or not the federal government would assist in the development of the Lower Churchill, he simply said that federal involvement was up to the provincial government. Nice side step Paul, what does that mean exactly, other than the fact that you are trying to shift responsibility from your shoulders to the province. Weren’t you the one who called for an East-West national power grid? Aren’t you the one who obligated us on Kyoto and supposedly put billions in a pot for that cause?

According to Martin, custodial management of the fisheries is at the top of his priority list. He didn’t show anyone the actual list however. This voter would love to see it because it must be one hell of a long list. If I remember correctly custodial management was a key priority for the Liberals during the last election campaign, yet a year and a half later it is still no closer to being done and once again it is a key priority.

According to pundits Paul Martin, as the incumbent PM, is planning to highlight his government’s successes in this campaign. He will talk to the fact that unemployment is at a 20 year low, how the federal government, through sound fiscal management, is seeing yearly surpluses and how they have put so much into improving wait times in the health care system. I certainly hope he isn’t depending on these points to get Liberals elected in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In reality, federal surpluses are the result of high oil prices and ongoing cuts successive liberal governments have made in transfer payments, health care and education throughout the Country in the past decade or more. In this province unemployment is at 15%, hardly an all time low, and wait times at hospitals are some of the highest in the Country.

A recent poll suggests the Liberals may capture all 7 seats in Newfoundland and Labrador. If this poll proves to be correct, I can only speculate what that means for the province. One thing is certain. Once again, Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans will have given the rest of the nation plenty of ammunition to use when discussing the intelligence of our population.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The campaign trail will be cold, let's heat it up a little

People sometimes accuse me of being a complainer. You always see the glass as half empty rather than half full they say. What about all the good stuff that’s happening? Why don’t you comment on the growth in our economy for example rather than the problems in Ottawa? The answer is simple really. Pushing good results into the face of a politician or telling the public how wonderful everything is doesn’t accomplish much.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see myself as a spokesperson for anyone but myself. I’m no different than anyone else. The truth is that it’s the responsibility of us all to yell, scream, push and pull our leaders into doing the right thing whenever possible. If we don’t, who will?

They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. There’s a lot of truth to that. If individuals didn’t stand up and fight for what they felt was right, where do you think we’d be today? Nobody knows for sure, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a very nice place.

Each time someone writes a scathing commentary on a political or social injustice, it makes a small pin prick in a politician’s leathery skin. Each time a citizen calls an open line program and brings an issue into the light, it makes a politician cringe. Each time a group of people pick up placards and march in front of television cameras, politicians sit up and take notice. Whether or not they are willing to admit it, they do indeed notice and on rare and wonderful occasions the limelight gets hot enough for them that something actually gets done to correct the situation at hand.

Politicians will tell you that voting is your chance to be heard. I don’t fully agree. The spin doctors for the various parties manipulate the electorate on a continuous basis and this often results in our electing one useless representative after another. Think about how many times you’ve seen the candidate you voted for get elected. Now think about how many times he or she actually did anything of importance to you while in office.

No, the real chance to be heard and to influence change is not through your vote alone, but through the swaying of public opinion and pressuring our leaders. Using every means possible to get the issue out in the open and make our callous leaders squirm in their boots. It’s only then that anything will get done.

We all have a role to play and never more so than during an election campaign. Every one of us has the obligation to be as frank as possible with a nominee when they come knocking at our door. Most people simply say hi, shake their hand and tell a smiling face how nice it is that they took some time to stop in. What a waste.

I would suggest that this time around we all take this golden opportunity to tell the person who needs our vote exactly how pissed off we are with the status quo. Tell them what your concerns are and what you want from Ottawa. Find out where they stand on issues of importance to you. Write their responses down if you like and even have them sign it. If they refuse to do this then tell them they can forget your vote as well as anyone else’s you can sway. After all, if they expect you to write your X on a ballot they certainly shouldn’t have a problem signing their name to a piece of paper with their policy stand on it, should they?

A vote is a vote is a vote, but making sure a politician knows exactly where you stand and ensuring that you get them to take a stand in return for that vote, now that’s where the real power lies.

People may call me a complainer and I guess in a sense I am, but nobody ever accomplished anything by telling a politician how great a job he was doing. It’s going to be cold on the campaign trail this winter. Let’s all do our part to make things just a little hotter for our politicians.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What if they Called an Election and Nobody Came?

The talk on the streets leading up to the latest federal election circus seems to be more about who people don’t want to vote for rather than who they like. Not surprising after 17 months of exposure to political corruption, wife swapping (read Belinda Stronach), broken promises, smear campaigns, inaction and infighting.

Current polls put Liberal support at around 35% followed by the Conservatives at 30% and the NDP at about 15%. In essence the results show that the past year and a half was much like the season from Dallas when Bobby Ewing died. It was all a dream. Nothing has changed in all this time other than the public getting even more fed up with the whole situation.

The right, or as some would say, the privilege to vote in a democracy is something that should be a major event in one’s life. It is intended to mark our ability to select the leaders of our own choice. To select leaders who will represent our views on major issues such as the law, morality and justice. To select leaders who represent our communities on matters of development, financing and growth. Good luck with that.

Instead we are faced with one party that is morally bankrupt, another one boasting members so ultra-conservative as to make a southern tele-evangelist shake in his hush puppies, a third that will jump into bed with anyone or anything that has a few dollars to leave on the nightstand and another that is a one province anti-federal federal party. What a choice.

As a result of this grab bag of choices the average voter seems to be looking at which is the lesser of the available evils rather than who they would like to see in office. I recently heard one gentleman comment, “You have a white cat and a black cat. Why would a mouse vote for a cat?”

Simple words but maybe he was on to something. Maybe what needs to happen is for the 60% of the population who actually still vote these days to join the other 40% of the population and simply not vote for anyone. If one person does it it’s a wasted vote, If a million people do it it’s considered apathy by the voting population, but if everyone does it I’m sure Ottawa will get the message. There may be nobody there to do anything about it when it happens, but they’ll get the message.

I used to think that low voter turnout was a symptom of a public that took its freedom and rights for granted. Now I’m not so sure that the non-voting segment of the population isn’t on to something.

It may sound crazy, but in reality it isn’t. In fact it may be the only sane option we have at this point. As Canadian humorist Rick Mercer recently put it, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, now that’s the definition of insanity.”

Monday, November 28, 2005

Profile of a Crazy American

Today I'd like to depart from the norm just a little. I don't normally make a habit of it, but since we have several regular visitors to this site, I thought it might be interesting to profile one of them and get to know him a little better. I hope you enjoy.

On September 11, 2001 48 year old Stephen Imholt of Ohio, was just eleven days into a new job as a Business Analyst with a major U.S. group travel agency in Connecticut. Until that day Stephen, who prefers Steve, admits that, “…beyond being able to locate Newfoundland on a map, I knew next to nothing about it.”

September 11 changed that in a heart beat.

After the twin towers fell in New York, Steve recalls sitting in a company conference room deeply engaged in disaster management meeting, “Everyone was trying to come to grips with the magnitude and scope of the disaster, when suddenly we were told that all travel in and out of the US was being halted, effective immediately.”

It was then that he and his co-workers tried to determine where they might have customers who would be impacted. They quickly came to the realization that the answer was everywhere and that all of these people would be in serious trouble.

There was no sleep for Steve that night, in fact he doesn’t remember if he finally managed to get some sleep on the night of the 12th or the 13th. Steve recalls, “…things were not only hectic they were that mixture of sadness, confusion, frustration and anger that hits everyone when a disaster strikes.”

It was during this time that Newfoundland and Labrador entered Steve Imholt’s consciousness in a way he never expected and would never forget. He recalls being informed that the province had begun taking in planes and people, including his firm’s clients, without any understanding or expectation of what was going to happen next. “There were no questions and no demands, no thoughts at all from the people of the province except to do what needed to be done.”

During the days following the attacks Steve admits that this knowledge was the one thing that made him feel better about what was happening. He remembers that when he finally managed to find a quiet moment to himself, the events taking place in far away Newfoundland and Labrador brought tears to his eyes.

The horrendous events of that fateful day and the reaction of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are what first sparked Steve Imholt’s interest in the province. Since that day he has made a concerted effort to learn everything possible about the people, industry, economy, politics, culture and social issues that make the Newfoundland and Labrador unique. For Steve it’s more than just a passing interest, it’s a passion that has continued to grow during the intervening years.

Perhaps Steve’s own words say it best.

“It was the events following 9/11 that first interested me, but it wasn’t simply as a vacationer. It was the interest of someone who wanted to know more about a place and a people who would do such a thing.”

“What I found was more than I had any reason to expect.”

“I've found kindness in reading about the people and I've discovered the full scale of human interaction and motivation, including the stubbornness to keep going, the willingness to try to make a rock into a home, and a deep and abiding love of a homeland.”

“In the writings of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans I’ve also seen a prevalence of common understanding of their own humanity. Time and again I see humanity without stereotypes and it is this humanity that has made me most appreciative of a people and a place I new nothing about just a few years ago.”

Perhaps this is why Steve continues to be so interested in the province.

At 52, Steve is now working on contract to the City of New York as an Information Systems Project Specialist on their 9-1-1 system. He still lives in Connecticut with Toni, his wife of 31 years and says now that his children, one son and three daughters, have begun their own lives, the youngest having just started university, he has a little more time to research and discuss his new found passion.

More time for reading every thing he can lay his hands on and for visiting web logs and internet discussion sites devoted to the issues and concerns of those in the province. His passion for the place has even led him to become more than just a little familiar with such official (and often extremely dry) documents as the Terms of Union and the Atlantic Accord, among others.

It was on my own web site, Web Talk – Newfoundland and Labrador that I first came to appreciate Steve Imholt’s insightful comments. I immediately recognized a clear understanding and genuine concern for the people of the province. In fact I admit to being a little intrigued that someone using the online nickname ‘Crazy American’ could possibly know so much about the concerns and affairs of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. This sentiment has been expressed by others as well.

Many people have commented over the past few months that if it were not for that nickname, they would never have believed this person hadn’t been born and raised with the issues of the province swirling around him his entire life. When asked about his online persona Steve simply says, “... I've found that if you start out telling people you are a little crazy it makes them more open to actually interacting with you as a real person…”

Whether he considers himself crazy or not, a glimpse into his clarity of understanding can be seen in Steve’s perceptions of people in the province.

“What I see as the single biggest difference between the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and people in many other parts of the world is their feeling of community. Although I haven’t been there myself, I’m willing to bet that many people, especially in the outports, don't even lock their doors.”

“Perhaps that alone is enough to make me want to know more, and to continue to see how I can return the favor shown our people during 9/11. The only problem is that it’s a really big favor to repay and I keep getting more insight into the province’s humanity, diversity and essential goodness all the time. As a result of this new knowledge, the size of the favor just keeps growing for me. But that’s a good problem to have I think.”

Steve regularly does his best to open up dialogue on issues in the province through applying his new found knowledge and professional analytical skills to discussions on a myriad of provincial issues. There is no topic he won’t tackle, from the Atlantic Accord to Churchill Falls, from out migration to the seal hunt, from transfer payments to rural development and even the sometimes stormy relationship between Labrador and the island. No subject escapes his notice. His views on these topics and others speak loudly, not only of his deep understanding of their complexities, but of the deeply held feelings for the people themselves.

Here are just a couple snippets from his comments:

On the topic of energy security as identified in a recent provincial discussion paper:

“….without an effective transmission and distribution system neither hydroelectric generation or oil drilling and recovery provides any energy security at all.”

On the topic of the seal hunt and the approach of some animal rights activists:

“…ignoring the reality of the people who live and die on the basis of the very marine ecosystem activists are supposedly trying to protect strikes me as an exercise designed to cause animosity and enmity, not solutions. “

”…you cannot remove a people's livelihood then suggest paying them to take scraps from your table and expect them to like it…”

As insightful, and sometimes even humorous, as his comments may be, Steve is often his own worst critic when it comes to their validity and value. Anyone who has read them usually finds them nothing less than educational, inspiring or at the very least interesting.

In spite of the fact that he is less than convinced of their value, in a continuing effort to, as he puts it, “…return the favor” and at the prodding of many who have come to know him, Steve continues to make his comments available on various web sites and has even begun emailing them to Canadian officials at both the provincial and federal levels.

It’s often said in this province that “people from the outside think they know better than us how things should be done here.” Perhaps being aware of that saying is one of the reasons Steve Imholt is often hesitant to put his views forward. Perhaps he feels that coming from an “outsider” they’ll be disregarded, ridiculed or resented. They aren’t, and with good reason. No matter what your feeling on an issue, when you read a comment from the “Crazy American”, it’s obvious your are reading the words of someone who truly cares.

We may never fully realize the impact 9/11 has had and continues to have on this province. The simple yet honest acts of kindness displayed at that time have had an immeasurable impact on people here and around the globe. It’s changed how our province is perceived throughout the world and in some ways even how we perceive ourselves.

Perhaps the deep impact 9/11 has had on Steve Imholt is one of those little understood outcomes. It’s clear to anyone who has spoken with him that even though he wasn’t born here, never lived here and has never even visited here, Steve Imholt has somehow managed to become a true Newfoundlander or Labradorean at heart.

Steve has told me that although his work commitments are quite hectic, he and Toni hope to make their first trip to the province within the next couple of years. Who knows, maybe he’ll even take part in that old provincial custom, the “screech in” and become an official Newfoundlander and Labradorean.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Does the Fed See Newfoundland and Labrador as a Province or Simply a Colony?

A study conducted by Memorial University which was released this week identifies the fact that the government of Canada has reduced its presence in Newfoundland and Labrador significantly since the early 1990s. In fact, the study shows that while federal activity in other provinces is currently on the rise, in Newfoundland and Labrador has been all but eroded.

The study looked at the federal presence in the province from 1981 through 2004 and included statistics on employment, salaries and goods & services expenditures. The results paint a picture of an absentee government in the province. The study have led some in the province to comment that the federal government views the province as nothing more than a colony to be exploited for its resources.

The study shows that although Federal expenditures on salaries have increased since 1981, the average earnings for employees in Newfoundland and Labrador remains thousands of dollars below the national average. The same story is true for goods and services spending. While having increased since 1981, the rate of increase in spending continues to lag behind the national average.

The study also shows that since 1981 federal employment in the province has dropped by 25% overall while the decline in the rest of Canada was less than 5%. The period with the heaviest rate of decline took place between 1993 and 2004, a period when the province was also being hit hard by a federally instituted cod moratorium and was suffering an unemployment rate of 20%. During that period alone the number of federal positions plummeted by 32%.

While federal positions in the rest of Canada have once again begun to grow, in the period from 2000 to 2004 that rate of growth across Canada was about 12% while Newfoundland and Labrador saw only 1% growth over the same period.

The province also has the lowest number of executive staff positions in the nation. In fact, the share of federal executives was less than half of the number that would be expected based on the province’s share of the overall Canadian population. This is considered an important issue since executive level positions often bring with them important influences on policy decisions, the less executives there are in a province means less influence on policy.

Another subset of employment that many are finding very upsetting is the lack of military personnel. At 8%, Newfoundland and Labrador accounts for a disproportionately high percentage of Canadian military personnel in comparison to other provinces, based on its population. The province’s location as the most easterly coast in the Country and its 17,500 kilometers of open coastline in conjunction with its size (three times larger than the other Atlantic provinces combined), would appear to make it an excellent location for military presence.

The study shows that of the 61,828 full time military personnel in Canada, only about 500 are stationed in the province and many of those are simply on teaching contract with the Marine Institute.

During the course of gathering information for the study several specific instances of job losses were identified by the research team. Some of these instances are worthy of special note.

Although the fishing industry in Newfoundland and Labrador has been the backbone of the province’s economy for centuries and is currently suffering from low stocks, current plans are to move 5-9 DFO scientific positions, studying toxic chemicals, from their current location in St. John’s to other provinces.

Since 1995 federal personnel working with Canadian Forest Services in the province have declined by 65% even though forestry and the production of forest products is one of the province’s key employment sectors.

In spite of the fact that Newfoundland is perched in the middle of the North Atlantic where weather is considered difficult to predict at the best of time and has been known to change without notice, in March of 2003 the federal government closed the weather office in Gander and moved 11 positions to Halifax leaving the province dependent on information gathered hundreds of miles away.

Although the report has not been widely circulated within the province at this point, some who have seen it are saying it will be a factor in their decision making process during the upcoming federal election.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Time for Santa Williams Christmas Wish List

During the last federal election campaign Premier Danny Williams recognized the value of extracting a public promise from the leaders of the three primary parties. Although negotiations after the election took months and sometimes turned ugly, it was this promise that eventually ensured Newfoundland and Labrador access to additional royalties from offshore oil and gas production.

It will soon be election time again and once again the polls are showing that the two leading contenders will be embroiled in a close battle. Thus far there has been no hint from Premier Williams on whether or not he plans to use the tried and true technique to gain something else this province deserves.

Yesterday in the House of Assembly Labrador West MHA Randy Collins made it known that he wanted the Premier to press the leaders for a commitment to pave the Trans Labrador Highway now that it has been name a part of the national highway system. This was brushed aside by Provincial Transportation Minister Trevor Taylor who said the Province is waiting for the release of the National Transportation Strategy before moving on any paving projects.

My opinion is that there should indeed be one or even two promises forced on the federal leaders during this campaign. I’m sure the Premier would not want to push for too many causes as it might make him look greedy in the eyes of the rest of Canada, but one or two might be considered reasonable. After all, there are a lot of issues that really ought to be addressed and it’s not like he would be pushing for something the province doesn’t deserve.

The obvious list of potential promises seems clear.

- Paving of the Trans Labrador Highway

- Making 5 Wing Goose a key base within the Canadian Military (with troops)

- Joint management of the Atlantic Cod stocks and perhaps even enacting custodial management

- The opening up of a nation wide power grid that would allow NL to wheel power through Quebec without being robbed blind in the process

- A major grant of (1 billion +??) to assist in development of the Lower Churchill or perhaps development of the Churchill isn’t the issue. Perhaps they should provide a grant to enable the development of necessary infrastructure to allow Labrador and the island to utilize the power once it’s available. Due to the nature of the project perhaps money set aside for Kyoto initiatives could be used.

These are just a few that immediately come to mind. I don't believe I'm off base when I say that all of them are very important to this Province. I’d appreciate your comments on these or any others issues you feel are even more worthy of our Province backing the federal leaders into a corner once again. I’d also like you all to let me know what you feel are the top 2 that you would like Williams to force the issue on during this campaign. Lets see how creative we can be.

Press Release: DFO Releases Strategy for Rebuilding Atlantic Cod Stocks

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Nov. 23, 2005) - Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), along with his provincial counterparts from New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec today released a federal-provincial strategy for the rebuilding of Atlantic cod stocks.

"I am pleased that federal and provincial governments have been able to work so co-operatively together on a co-ordinated, multilateral approach to the rebuilding of shared cod stocks," said Minister Regan.

In 2003, three federal-provincial Cod Action Teams were established for Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec and the Maritimes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI).The primary objective of these teams was to develop a stock rebuilding strategy for Atlantic cod stocks. Each Cod Action Team undertook consultations with a variety of stakeholders, including industry, Aboriginal communities, academics, environmental groups and local interests to develop these long-term strategies.

"Stakeholders played an important role in the development of these rebuilding strategies by providing direction on issues related to their respective stocks," said David Alward, New Brunswick Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture. "Their continued contribution will be key in the implementation phase of the strategy. In order to move forward, concerted efforts will be required by all partners.

"These cod stocks remain at various stages of rebuilding. While some continue to be at very low levels compared to historic highs, others have shown some signs of rebuilding over the past number of years."The co-operation between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Canada on the cod recovery strategy lays the foundation for greater federal-provincial collaboration in the management of adjacent fish stocks," said Newfoundland and Labrador Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Tom Rideout. "Our government looks forward to moving ahead with the federal government on this extremely important initiative for the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery."

In delivering on their mandates, the individual cod rebuilding strategies share many common elements, including cod stock status information, examination of some of the key factors affecting rebuilding and the importance of shared stewardship, among others.

Currently, 12 aquatic species, including four Atlantic cod populations, are being considered for listing under SARA by the Government of Canada. Regardless of whether or not these stocks are listed under SARA, these federal-provincial cod rebuilding strategies will inform and assist in the development of management plans and/or recovery strategies as required.

"Cod stocks have been and are currently being affected by a number of major factors, including shifts in environmental conditions, even when fishing efforts have been minimal," said Chris d'Entremont, Nova Scotia Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. "Stock levels are low, but there is potential for recovery over time. I think these reports provide an excellent reference for us to facilitate recovery in a practical and realistic way."

The federal-provincial Cod Action Teams rebuilding strategies provide the federal and provincial governments with recommended objectives, principles and measures for ongoing collaboration. They allow governments to take a comprehensive, targeted and focused approach toward cod stock rebuilding.

"I look forward to working closely with my federal and provincial counterparts and the industry in the rebuilding of this vital resource," said Prince Edward Island Fisheries Minister Kevin MacAdam. "The success of the Prince Edward Island fishery depends on continued access to a diversified resource, the maximization of its value, and thus contributes to the goal of a sustainable cod fishery."

"Due to the importance of the cod fishery in many maritime regions of Quebec, we believe that the governments' concerted approach will help the rebuilding of stocks," said Laurent Lessard, Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. "I wish however to emphasize that the plan for rebuilding cod stocks must be conceived as a group of global actions to put in place jointly while taking into account regional differences."

These rebuilding strategies provide the necessary groundwork for efficient and effective rebuilding efforts, to ensure the conservation and sustainability of the cod fishery in Atlantic Canada for current and future generations.

"The level of teamwork and dedication shown in building this strategy underlines the economic, historical and social importance of cod stocks to Atlantic Canada and Quebec," said Minister Regan.

The following documents related to this announcement can be found on DFO's website at http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/media/infocus/2005/20051123_e.htm (or you can access them through this site's Fishing snd Sealing Links section.)

- The multilateral overview document: "A Federal-Provincial Strategy for the Rebuilding of Atlantic Cod Stocks"

- The Cod Action Teams Reports: - Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador - Canada-Quebec - Canada-Maritimes

- Backgrounders on each of the Cod Action Teams Reports: - Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador - Canada-Quebec - Canada-Maritimes

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Our election or theirs: government in abdication

Hello folks,

I recently read this article and thought it might be of interest to readers of Web Talk. The author was kind enough to grant permission to re-publish it here. I think it clearly shows that even though you can get no further apart goegraphically than BC and Newfoundland & Labrador, some issues are universal in nature.

Contributed by: Robert Billyard
Langley BC

Canada is on the eve of another federal election and the political parties are in a self-indulgent jousting match as to the exact timing with each trying to milk the advantage.

With modern-day elections the question arises: Where does ownership lie with the politicians or the people? Ideally an election is supposed to be a dialogue between the electorate and the candidates but more than ever this dialogue is a one-sided bombardment of sound bites, photo ops, well placed platitudes and sloganeering; all managed by clever campaign managers and pundits strategizing in back rooms.

As former Prime Minister Kim Campbell noted, an election campaign is no time for the discussion of serious issues, but of course it should and must be as it is the crucible where we find out a party’s position on critical issues.

The problem is compounded by the fact that elections are poll driven. Polls taken during the campaign become an issue in themselves and the parties are in turn directed and driven by their standing. Polls are a blight on the modern electoral process as political parties pander to pollsters instead of addressing issues of substance. In a more perfect world polls would be banned from the time the writ is dropped. Politicians would have to deal with matters of substance rather than ephemeral percentages.

Increasingly, elections are becoming exercises in political deception rather than elucidation. Bamboozling the electorate is the name of the game.

We the electorate are complicit in the degradation of our electoral process as we are much too passive. We deserve the government we get. We have the means at hand to take back the agenda and insist that issues be addressed in a substantive manner. We can dispense with trash talk and hold politicos feet to the fire. We can with some modest effort steal the agenda from the spin doctors, the backroom strategists, and the pollsters; especially if the media is willing to assume its rightful role-now largely forfeited.

We must never forget that political parties, though they are supposed to represent our collective will are still self-serving entities. They are quite capable of serving their own interest ahead of the larger public interest. They all too often go off topic and the public needs to jog them back to relevance, accountability, and yes, reality!

A voter’s shopping list might include the following issues:

Finance Minister Ralph Goodale has a big package of tax breaks to win votes as the centre piece of Liberal campaign window dressing. But if this means starving our education and Medicare systems do we really want to participate in this ruse? Bribing voters with their own money has always been a dubious concept and Goodale should know better.

The cost of higher education in this country is formidable and an issue that must be addressed.

One reason this election has come about at this time is that NDP leader Jack Layton and the prime minister could not agree on protections for the Medicare system. The PM failed to allay Layton’s concerns about the privatization of our universal health care--one of the best and most cost-effective systems in the world yet we seem intent on destroying it!

What protections are necessary should be a matter of public debate--and what better time? It has been suggested that there should be an annual report on Medicare--just as the auditor general reports to Parliament.

Right now there is a bill before Parliament that will allow police and security agencies to snoop into our personal lives without any legal protections. This is a gross incursion of our civil rights and our right to privacy.

Anne McClellan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, claims such bills are necessary to be compatible with changes being made in other countries and to effectively deal with the threat of terrorism. The real agenda though is that the Canadian government is under great pressure to bring our law enforcement practices into line with the shameful US Patriot Act, a huge omnibus bill, just passed into permanent statute and a naked hijacking of American civil liberties-in the aftermath of 9/11 never have so many enforcement agencies been so amply rewarded for their incompetence- and never have so many nitwitted politicians been hoodwinked into such heavy-handed and superfluous legislation.

Similarly, Justice Minister Irwin Cotler is willing to oversee the Americanization of our justice system. He is willing to buy into the discredited and utterly futile US war on drugs. Numerous US enforcement agencies, the CIA, FBI, USDEA and Texas Rangers are operating freely on Canadian soil. It would seem that our justice ministry cannot distinguish between “cooperation” and “capitulation.”

This Liberal government has a hard time mouthing “Canadian sovereignty” as it lapses into the deceitful and insidious expedience of deep integration.

When the Chinese oil giant CNOOC attempted to buy the American owned oil giant, Unocal, the US Congress was swift and decisive in blocking the sale-claiming(and rightfully so) it was not in the US national interest to see ownership of one of its major oil companies pass into foreign hands.

When Canadian owned Terasan Gas was sold to a US conglomerate there is not so much as a murmur of discontent from this felonious Liberal government. Even though oil is a rapidly diminishing resource and global demand is skyrocketing Canada does not have a stated energy policy. Our government’s only response is to sell off our resources as quickly as possible--an odd posture for a Northern and highly resource dependant country to take.

Political parties prefer to slide through elections without accumulating any political IOU’s. Assuming office with a blank slate is an ideal world. Making promises, all too often discarded, are something of a nuisance. They deal in vapid cliché’s and platitudinous doggerel only because we let them get away with it.

Prime Minister Martin has stated that he sees the economy as the central issue in the election. From his standpoint, this is a rather succulent red herring as it avoids the real and pressing issues and is utterly contemptuous of the electorate. The economy is doing just fine for the most part, but addressing the real issues requires real commitment and intellectual and political vigour. Instead of a retreat from governance a stated platform is required--maybe even a mission statement! Under present circumstances this surplus cash becomes the measure of abdication.

Having the economy as the central issue in this election serves not only the governing Liberals but also the aspiring Conservative Party of Canada. While the Liberals would like us to forget they have been playing fast and loose with the public purse, Stephen Harper would like us to forget that his greenhorn party, born out betrayal and political expedience, has not exactly gelled into a daunting political juggernaut. His tenure as leader of the opposition has, to be kind, been lack luster and marked with his personal petulance. The big tent party that was supposed to be a home for all conservatives has purged its Red Tories. The CPC, like the former Alliance, is haven for a ragtag group of closeted disgruntled wannabe Republicans of the neoconservative persuasion lacking the political courage to out themselves.

Whenever this election comes our political landscape is cratered with undesirable choices. Canadian political culture needs rehabilitation and this responsibility falls to the electorate. How this is addressed is a daunting conundrum but a good starting point is to let our politicos know that we expect a nationalist vigor, higher standards, and greater candor and accountability.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Government Inaction vs. Government In Action

It’s amazing how quickly the political machine in Ottawa can move when a politician’s butt is on the line.

Yesterday the House of Commons passed four separate bills which are now before the senate for approval. One of these bills approves a much talked about home heating rebate for low income Canadians. During the session debate was simply a formality and all parties nearly tripped over one another in their attempts to jump to their feet and show approval.

In addition to this lightning fast action, word on the Hill is that the senate will put in many late hours, streamline processes and even have cabinet ministers sit in on their review of those bills this week. All in an effort to ensure that they move swiftly through the Senate and are put before the Governor General for royal assent on Monday.

I’m used to commenting on government inaction, but I have to admit it’s pretty rare to be actually reporting on government in action.

It’s just too bad elected officials can’t move this quickly during the normal course of their duties, you know that quiet period of federal hibernation between elections that usually lasts about four years. A bustle of activity like this hasn’t been seen on the Hill since, well, I don’t know if there has ever been a bustle of activity like this on the Hill.

A word of advice folks, don’t let the spin doctors for the various parties fool you on this one. The rhetoric coming out will of course take the direction of, “Well we all wanted to ensure this money got into the hands of those who need it and didn’t get held up by the pending election.”

Nothing could be further from the truth so don’t believe it for one minute.

The reality of the situation is that the Liberals want to get the money out the door so they can score election points by claiming they have once again acted in the best interest of the public and worked diligently while in office for all Canadians. On the other side of the coin, as much as the opposition parties would love to take this plum away from the Liberals, none of them can afford to be nailed to a cross during this election campaign for having stopped those bills from passing. It’d be political suicide for them.

No matter how they try to spin it, all of this fervour is nothing more than a simple case of the good old boys (and girls) covering their behinds and safeguarding their political future, plain and simple. It’s a case of survival instinct taking over in a political jungle, a situation where only the fleet-of-foot can outrun defeat at the polls.

I have to give them all credit on this one though. It used to be that the Liberals were the undisputed masters of buying votes with the public’s own money. Now even the opposition parties have found a way to buy a few with it as well. Maybe it’s just me, but it sure seems like a dollar buys a lot more in Ottawa these days than it does around my neck of the woods.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Province of Newfoundland and Labrador Practices Discrimination Against Quebec Business

With open discussion just beginning across Newfoundland and Labrador on the potential development of the Lower Churchill river in Labrador, now seems to be as good a time as any to re-open the debate on the status of the Upper Churchill generating plant.

The Combined Councils of Labrador recently released an updated position paper on the proposal for this new development. Along with many valid points relating directly to the Lower Churchill, they also make note of a request to Provincial authorities to examine the value of section 92A of the Canadian Constitution in enabling the Province to capture increased benefit from Upper Churchill power generation.

As every Newfoundlander and Labradorean knows, the current contract between the Province and Hydro Quebec, which was signed in the late 1960's, is slated to remain in place until the year 2041. This contract sees the Province supply Hydro Quebec with electricity at 1960's rates, which they in turn sell into the marketplace at current prices. The result is a situation that sees NL barely cover the cost of production while Hydro Quebec pulls in hundreds of millions each year.

In addition to the one sided financial arrangement, people in many parts of Labrador must rely on diesel generated power and there is little electricity available for industrial growth in many areas. A recently released Provincial discussion paper also identified the fact that the island portion of the Province itself will exceed its baseline requirements for electricity within the next 5 years.

Over the years a number of attempts have been made to have the current Upper Churchill contract disposed with and a more equitable arrangement put in place. None have been successful however. Now the Combined Councils of Labrador seem to feel that the Canadian Constitution iteself may hold the answer.

Here is what the specific section of the Constitution says, in part, with regard to the separation of powers between the Federal Government and the Provincial Legislatures. I have highlighted some of the key wording in bold for our reader’s benefit:


(1) In each province, the legislature may exclusively make laws in relation to

(a) exploration for non-renewable natural resources in the province;

(b) development, conservation and management of non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province, including laws in relation to the rate of primary production there from; and

(c) development, conservation and management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of electrical energy.

(2) In each province, the legislature may make laws in relation to the export from the province to another part of Canada of the primary production from non-renewable natural resources and forestry resources in the province and the production from facilities in the province for the generation of electrical energy, but such laws may not authorize or provide for discrimination in prices or in supplies exported to another part of Canada.

Very interesting stuff, but how can this be interpreted to mean that Newfoundland and Labrador might be able to claim better benefits within the Upper Churchill contract?

The three most interesting parts of this section of the Constitution for me are the statements that the Provinces have the right to make laws in relation to, “management of sites and facilities in the province for the generation and production of electrical energy”, that they can “…make laws in relation to the export from the province to another part of Canada…” and that “…such laws may not authorize or provide for discrimination in prices or in supplies exported to another part of Canada

Consider for a moment the definition of the word “discrimination”. Webster’s defines it as:

1 a : the act of discriminating b : the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently

2 : the quality or power of finely distinguishing

3 a : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually b :
prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment

Nowhere in this definition do we find reference to the commonly perceived meaning whereby the person or entity being discriminated upon is treated in some way that may be detrimental to them. In other words, the definition does not state that the “discriminatory” treatment must hurt the recipient, only that the treatment be different in some way.

Perhaps this is where the opportunity lies. Section 92A clearly states that a Provincial Legislature may make laws as long as such laws may not authorize or provide for discrimination in prices or supplies exported to another part of Canada. This, according to the definition of “discrimination” is exactly what is happening on the Upper Churchill.

Hydro Quebec has been and continues to be the target of discrimination by the Province in the sense that they are being treated differently with respect to purchasing and utilizing power than the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are.

The contract currently in place sees power exported and sold to Hydro Quebec for 0.25 cents per kilowatt hour and this will decline to 0.2 cents in 2016. Within the Province itself, consumer rates and perhaps more applicably, industrial rates are much higher.

In addition, there could be a case made for discrimination in the area of supply in light of the huge power supply going to Hydro Quebec while parts of Labrador don’t even have a stable supply to utilize themselves.

Both of these situations would appear to be in direct contravention to article 92A. The current contract could be interpreted as the Province having entered into a situation where they:

“…provide for discrimination in prices or in supplies exported to another part of Canada.”

Naturally Quebec Hydro will never do anything about these particular cases of discrimination but perhaps the Province should. After all, if the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is truly acting in direct disobedience of the Canadian Constitution, they really ought to act quickly to correct the situation.

Elections, Retirements and U-Hauls - It's Christmas in Ottawa

Well folks the buzz these days seems to all be about the pending non-confidence vote in the House of Commons on November 28 and by extension the general election to follow early in the New Year. The big question is what will the political landscape look like after the polls close?

Will Stephen Harper be backing the U-Haul up to the door of 24 Sussex Drive? Will Paul Martin dither his way through yet another term, perhaps with a majority this time? Will Jack Layton have to hang up his peacock costume and stop strutting around Ottawa like he owns the place, or will he continue to carry the big stick of a government killer? These questions and many more are running through the minds of political groupies across the Country.

Most people I’ve spoken with are of the opinion that in spite of their record of corruption, cronyism and patronage, the Liberals will hang on and win this election. Its sad that we as Canadians don’t have the sense to punish a government like this one, but like it or not, the conservative powerbase continues to primarily live in the West. Atlantic Canada is still reeling from Harper’s less than friendly comments a few years ago. Ontario is not going to change its stripes and if you wear conservative blue you have about as much chance of winning a seat in Quebec as a skunk does of making it all the way across the 401 at rush hour.

The real question we should be asking is whether the Liberals can gain a majority or will continue as a minority government. If the former happens then we have 4 more years of the same old tired story to look forward to. Conversely, if a minority government is the order of the day then we will have lived through endless months of dysfunctional politics, name calling and even a winter election, only to start the whole process over again at square one.

Not exactly a win / win situation is it, but regardless of the overall outcome, there will be some changes following the election. One of those changes may see an increase in seats for the NDP party. With the general public being sick and tired of the red and the blue snapping at each other everyday since the last election, some people may decide its time to give the little guy a boost. It’s doubtful this will translate into anything other than an extra handful of seats, but hey Jack’s not proud right?

Another change, more directly related to Atlantic Canada and specifically to Newfoundland and Labrador is the impending decision by John Effordless not to run in this election. John is not saying anything just yet (I guess Paul Martin has to proof read his statement and untangle his marionette strings first) but the word on the street is that he has decided, for health reasons, to retire.

Apparently his decision has nothing to do with all the heat he has been taking for pulling down a $213,000.00 salary while soaking up the sun in Florida, or for his long list of shortcomings in dealing with issues in his home province, like the Atlantic Accord and the listing of cod on the endangered species list. No, according to insiders his retirement is due to his health, not the fact that although he was once considered unbeatable, these days he couldn’t get elected as a dog catcher.

There will be new faces in the new and improved House of Commons and some old ones will no longer be around. Either way, the machine will continue to grind and the machinations of politics in Canada will continue to provide grist for the news mills on a daily basis. It’s just a matter of what the next scandal or the next issue will be, of that there is no doubt.

It might be nice as well if, somewhere along the way, our elected officials actually manage to get something accomplished this time around. Now that would make for good headlines.