Da Legal Stuff...

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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Are Newfoundland and Labrador Legion Members Getting A Fair Deal?

Mud, muck, blood and slime. Cold, wet, freezing wind. Bullets, bombs, shells and shot. Lost arms, legs, lives and sanity.

These are just a few of the words that can be used to describe what our veterans have gone through in their valiant efforts to protect our way of life and our freedom. They are a pale attempt to characterize the gruesome and bloody days, weeks, months and years that veterans from this province and throughout the world have had to endure in the name of God and Country. Pale words because nothing can do justice to what they have witnessed.

Most, if not all of our WWI veterans are gone now. They are the lucky ones. Lucky not to be here to see the way the Provincial government is stealing away the freedom of the remaining veterans of other conflicts like WWII.

Most of the WWII veterans are now in their 80’s or 90’s. They too are not long for this world and they are now at an age when all they ask to be able to live out their lives in comfort and peace.

Enter the Provincial Government of Newfoundland and Labrador with new anti-smoking legislation that will see these brave men and women forced to leave their own Legion Halls to enjoy a simple cigarette. Remember, most of these brave men and women grew up in a time when smoking was the norm and not considered a curse on society. It is a part of many of their lives and now the government is planning on infringing on their ability to enjoy one of the few pleasures these people have left.

The new anti-smoking law, which is due to come into effect on July 1, Canada Day by the way, would see everyone “Butt Out” in all public places. No Ifs, Ands or “BUTTS”. No exceptions have been made for organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion who’s members paid the ultimate price for our freedom and lifestyle.

Everyone knows that smoking is a major health concern and nobody is arguing the underlying motives of our government. What many people are concerned about is the heavy handed and misguided way in which they are bringing in such a law.

If protection of the workers in clubs or other public establishments is indeed the main concern, then what is their argument for not allowing smoking on the outdoor decks of bars and especially Legion Halls that have one?

A request by the Beverage Industry Association to allow bar owners to setup special smoking rooms for customers was flatly denied by government yet they will allow smoking rooms to be setup for the very staff members they are trying to protect. What does this mean? It means that all over this province you will soon be hearing of something very nasty happening.

At Legion Halls all over the province 20 or 30 year old bartenders may soon be telling our aging, ailing war hero’s to put out their cigarettes or leave the establishment they helped create. Then many of these young people will turn around and walk into special room to enjoy a smoke of their own.

It’s a great province we live in isn’t it?

Footnote: I'd like to thank the Canadian Democratic Movement for re-publishing this article on their web site. Check them out in our links section.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Big on Talk - Small on Action

It was announced recently that the Federal Government is planning to spend $1.2 million to assess the possible impacts of an oil spill in Placentia Bay or along the South Coast of Newfoundland. The study, which is being commissioned by Transport Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, will look at what would happen to both the economy and the environment for up to 10 years following a major spill.

This study is being undertaken because a previous Federal study conducted 15 years ago identified Placentia Bay as the most likely place in Canada for a major oil spill, due to the volume of tankers that pass through the area. Since the first study was completed, traffic is estimated to have increased 10 fold.

All sounds great doesn’t it? But wait a second, let’s think this through.

If the government spends $1.2 million on this study, at the end of the day we will have a document that will tell us what the possible impacts will be to the environment and economy. Rather than a study, couldn’t the money be used to protect the environment and stimulate the economy?

Let me elaborate.

The Study conducted 15 years ago identified Placentia Bay as a danger zone, but nothing of consequence was done then. It’s now 15 years later and tanker traffic has increased ten fold. Exploration continues and life goes on. Why should we expect that anything would be done as a result of this new study?

Regardless of what the study shows, we are not going to shut down Come By Chance or the trans shipment facility at Whiffen Head. The economy of the Province would be devastated if we curtailed oil production and shipment. The Canadian economy would suffer, jobs would disappear and there would be an impact, no matter how small, to world oil prices. Nothing is going to happen to the industry no matter what the study shows

We all know that oil spills along any coast are devastating. We don’t need a study to tell us that. In this light, wouldn’t it be a much better use of our $1.2 million in tax dollars to setup an emergency response team in the area and arm that team with state of the art equipment?

There are several companies in the province that cater to the needs of the oil industry. These companies produce and distribute everything from containment booms to oil absorbent materials made from peat moss and even special microbes that actually eat hydrocarbons. The economic benefit to these companies and the increased probability of limiting any spill damage would be a much better use of this money than another study would be.

What happens if we have a major spill while the study is being conducted? Wouldn’t it be better to act rather than create another pile of useless government paper?

Simply put, the oil is not going to stop flowing and the threat of a spill is not going to disappear simply because of another expensive government study. Instead of wasting time and money on examining possible environmental and economic impacts, let’s put the infrastructure in place to deal with the situation if it does happen. In this way we can quickly respond to the situation, limit the environmental impact and help stimulate the local economy.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Wanted - Qualified Baby Sitter

The NDP have stated that they may work out a longer term deal with the Liberals aimed at keeping them in office. For this support the NDP would expect movement on a handful of issues that they want to see put in place, primarily, electoral reform, environmental actions and protection for pensioners.

I have my opinions on this (you knew I would), but I would also like to hear yours.

What do I think? In a nutshell, I like it.

I don’t like the idea of a corrupt government remaining in power, but after the last non-confidence vote and with the result of the by-election in Labrador, it’s obvious that nobody is ready for an election. The voters don’t want to go back to the polls and the Conservatives, with Stephen Harper at the helm, are not ready to lead a country.

What I like is the fact that the NDP are making progress in their social agenda.

Electoral reform would see a more even distribution of power throughout the provinces rather than the current concentration in central Canada. Even a little movement in this direction would be a great thing for our province.

Protection for pensioners is good for everyone and I know there is an NDP bill currently before the house that would protect pension plans and salaries in cases where a business goes bankrupt. This bill would ensure that employees are the first ones paid rather than the business creditors and that pension funds are not lost.

Environmental reforms are good for all of us in general. Economically, they are important for Newfoundland and Labrador since they might help push forward development of a good deal on the Lower Churchill, as well as various wind powered projects that are being investigated in the province.

Add to all of this the fact that the current budget, as modified by Finance Minister Jack Layton, is arguably the best budget for the province since Confederation. It addresses, among other things, the environment, more low income housing, cuts to the cost of post secondary education and money for training programs for aboriginal peoples. All of these items are very important to this province.

The way I see it, if we have to live with a corrupt government, (even if the Liberals were defeated by a non-confidence motion, I doubt the Conservatives in their current state could win an election), then why not have a socially conscious party like the NDP keep them on the ball by forcing them to put more money into social programs.

The Liberals are like a spoiled child who’s been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. You can’t kick him out of the house, but maybe you should have someone keep a closer eye on him. Jack Layton comes across to me as a pretty good baby sitter.

That’s my opinion, what’s yours?

Interesting Globe and Mail Article - May 26, 2005

Halifax -- The crew of a Latvian fishing boat that caught fire off Newfoundland yesterday was rescued by an Icelandic vessel that responded to a call for help.

"The 15 personnel on board have been evacuated and they are now safe on board the Icelandic fishing vessel," said Lieutenant Sue Stefko of the Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax.

The Latvian boat caught fire on the Flemish Cap, about 400 kilometres east of St. John's. The fire was put out but Lt. Stefko said the boat's status was unknown.


I find this interesting on a number of fronts.

First let me start by saying that I am very happy that the crew of this vessel are safe and sound. I wouldn't want to see anyone hurt in any way. I do have some concerns about this situation however.

Number one, why was a Latvian fishing vessel fishing on the Flemish Cap, 400 Kilometers off the coast of our province? 400 Kilometers is just a little over 200 miles and just outside our territorial limit.

Number two, isn't it interesting that while there were no Newfoundland fishing boats in the area to come to the rescue, there was an Icelandinc vessel. One could easily make the leap to assume that the Icelandic vessel was also fishing in this area.

Number three, why was there no Canadian Coast Guard presence in the area to come to the rescue? One would think that the Coast Guard would be patroling the area in an effort to protect the Flemish Cap from foriegn overfishing.

Number four, Although the article doesn't state it, the rescued crew was transported to Newfoundland. Will they be questioned on what they were doing in the area, or will it all be swept under the rug as is so often the case?

Just a few points to ponder.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Big Land, Newfoundland or No Man's Land

We as a people have been treated like a poor cousin in Canada. We have been allowed to flounder around for decades. Our resources are taken to provide jobs in smelters and refineries. Very little funding is given for our infrastructure, roads, hospitals, etc. Infrastructure funds are usually doled out according to population base and we have such a small population. When an issue arises that is of great importance to us, we are the last to be heard because we have so few elected seats. The list goes on and on.

Stop for just a second....

I don’t know how many Newfoundlanders realize it, but when reading the previous paragraph, if you simply substituted the word Newfoundland for the word Canada in the first sentence, you would be telling the story of Labrador, and it’s treatment within the Province.

As much as we as a province feel left out and used by the Federal Government, so to do the people of Labrador feel abandoned by the Province itself. Many of us who live on the island don’t realize that we have a crisis within our own province that is a mirror image of the one we are having within the country. The people of Labrador are fed up, and rightfully so.

Labrador with a land mass 3 times bigger than the island only contains about 5% of the population of the province. This population is spread out over a huge geographic area and many places are cutoff from the world for months at a time. The big land is a treasure trove of minerals that are being used to feed the coffers of the federal and provincial governments. Very little of the wealth and fewer jobs – in the form of smelters, mills, etc. – comes back into the area.

Labrador has been a part of Canada for over a half a century and still it only has about 100 miles of paved road. Think about that the next time you complain about a pothole on the Prince Philip Parkway or on Main Street in Grand Falls – Windsor.

It amazes me that in a province so attuned to the way we are treated by the rest of the Country, we could be so blind to the way we are treating a segment of our own population.

We all know the arguments that Ottawa has given us over the years. The most common of which is that the population is too small to warrant such a large expenditure. In reality we know that we aren’t getting what we need because the money will buy more votes in Upper Canada. Knowing these things, how can our own Provincial Government turn around and make the same arguments to Labrador? How can they pander to the voting public on the island while neglecting a key member of our family?

I am a strong advocate for our fair treatment within the Dominion of Canada. Having said that, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t support the people of Labrador. Their fight is a just one, a struggle for fairness and equality.

I put the challenge out to everyone on the island to look at yourself in the mirror and tell me what you see. Do you see someone who would fight alongside the people of Labrador, or someone who feels that they themselves deserve better, but to hell with everyone else. Think about it.

My mother always said, what comes around goes around. There are plenty of those types of sayings and we’ve all heard them over the years

As yea sow, so shall yea reap. Treat your neighbour as you would be treated yourself. These platitudes all say basically the same thing. Do the right thing and the right thing will be done for you. They have been passed down from generation to generation because they are more than just pretty words. They are words to live by.

In closing I just want to say that I know it will take a lot more fighting, dealing and pressuring in Ottawa for us to finally rise up to where we belong in this Country. We would do well to remember that we stand a much better chance of winning if we are all united and if we can show by our handling of Labrador issues that fair and ethical treatment is the hallmark of our people and our Government.

Before we can win the war we have a number of battles to fight and more than a few of them are with ourselves.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Offshore Accord Situation - Point by Point

Politics is a strange and ever changing landscape. This has never been truer in Canada than in the last few weeks and days, or even the last few hours. Never let it be said that politicians can’t move quickly, especially when their political future is on the line.

One of the key federal issues on most Newfoundland and Labrador minds these past weeks is of course the Offshore Revenue deal. A deal that would see our province reap billions of dollars in revenues from our offshore oil resources. The questions that permeate the collective consciousness of the province are quite simple. Will we ever see this deal become a reality, and when?

On the surface this would sound like a simple question. Not so. I’d like to take some time to examine the possibilities and politics surrounding this issue and perhaps gather some comments on what you all think of the current landscape. Lets all take a deep breath, put our chairs in a comfortable position, settle back and dive right in.

First we need to set the stage.

1. We have an arguably corrupt, minority government which has signed a deal with NL and NS that would see us access the revenues we deserve.

2. This government is under pressure and is caught like a deer in the proverbial Conservative headlights and under investigation for corruption.

3. Stephen Harper, the Conservative leader, is desperate to defeat the government on a non confidence vote and has decided that the budget bill is the way to do it.

4. Of course, our deal is buried deeper than most adscam secrets within bill C43, the budget bill which Mr. Harper has targeted.

5. Tireless attempts by NL members of the Conservative caucus to split out this deal and fast track it have been blocked by the Liberals. Why? Well that brings us to my next point.

6. By keeping the deal within the bill C43 the Liberals hope to put pressure on NL and NS MPs to vote against their own party and support the budget, thus propping up their government.

7. The NL and NS MPs would appear to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

8. If they vote with their party and against bill C43, they will be committing political suicide in their ridings. The electorate will have their heads.

9. If they vote for the bill, against their own party, they will be outcasts and totally ineffective should the Conservatives form the next government.

10. That was the situation as it stood on Monday, but things can change pretty quickly.

11. Enter Belinda Stronach. A founding member of the Conservative party. A woman who recently made a strong run at the party leadership against Mr. Harper and a woman who is the darling of Ontario, the most vote rich province in the Country. Seemingly out of nowhere, Ms. Stronach decided, just two days before the non confidence vote, to jump ship and cross the floor to the government side.

(Tired? Hold on, its not over yet.)

12. Ms. Stronach’s move has a myriad of repercussions, some of which are still not clear.

13. One of the most obvious impacts of her move is the way the numbers now break down in the Commons. Currently the Liberal and NDP alliance (along with the one independent vote they have sewn up) account for 152 votes. With the exit of Ms. Stronach, the Conservative and Bloc alliance also has 152 votes.

14. There are two independents who are not saying which way they will vote. This leaves us in a situation where one of the following can happen.

15. First, the Conservatives could pick up both independent votes and defeat the government.

16. Second, the Liberals could pick up both independent votes and remain in power.

17. Third, they each pick up one independent vote and remain tied at 153 a piece.

18. In the third scenario, the Speaker of the House would cast the tie breaking vote.

19. History, and the fact that the Speaker of the House is a Liberal MP tells us that this type of vote would most likely favour the reigning Liberal party, but with the scrum taking place in Ottawa these days, nothing is a given. Lets take the following for example:

20. Having been punched in the gut by Ms. Stronach’s departure, Mr. Harper is showing all the symptoms of a man who has lost control of his own party.

21. As a result of this loss of control, the Conservative caucus, lead by Mr. Norm Doyle of NL have decided not to vote against bill C43. Instead, they will support the budget bill and the Offshore Revenue deal it contains.

22. This takes the political pressure off the Atlantic MPs to some degree.

23. This is also a slap in the face to Mr. Harper since he has been burning up the media over the past few weeks saying he will kill the budget bill. Now his own party have decided otherwise.

24. Hang on just one second though, there is a catch. The Conservatives will indeed vote for C43 so they can say they didn’t vote against their own provinces, but they are going to vote against bill C48, the amendment to the budget that was proposed as a part of the Liberal deal with the NDP.

25. If bill C48 were voted down it would have the same effect as voting down C43, the government would fall and the Offshore deal would die in the House. The only difference is that nobody can say the Atlantic MPs voted against the Offshore deal.

26. All of this is happening at a time when nobody can even speculate on who would win an election if one were to take place, and

27. The Conservative Party now has a leader who may not be able to control his own party at a time when he desperately needs to do so.

28. He has lost a key, and very influential figure to the other side.

29. He has publicly stated over and over again that he would work to defeat C43 and now his caucus has gone against him on the issue.

30. None of this even addresses Mr. Harper's public image which is not the most trusted in the majority of the Country and could impact the chances of the Conservative Party winning any public support.

31. Add to this the fact that as a result of his loss of control, he may even be facing a leadership review himself and the party may see a new leader, most likely in the form of Peter McKay.

(Confused Yet? Welcome to the club.)

The stage has now been set.

(Take another deep breath.)

Aaaannndddd we're off again.

The big question for us in all of this mess is, what does this all mean to the Offshore Revenue deal? Here again, there are a number of scenarios to look at.

In the first scenario, the Liberals remain in power and the budget slowly winds its way through the Commons and Senate. Remember, since this is only the second reading that everyone is talking about voting on.

1. This deal is still not guaranteed. Bill C43 would still have to go through the senate committee and achieve Royal Assent. This is a slow process. In fact,

2. The budget from 2004 just passed a month or so ago. If the same thing happens to the 2005 budget it means we won’t see any money until at least next January or February.

3. Even if the budget finally passes next year, it still means we will have lost millions in interest between now and then and it is still not a given that it will ever pass. This is simply because,

4. At any time between now and then, the government could still fall over another issue. This to would kill the deal.

In the second scenario, the Government falls, either this week or at anytime before we recieve the cash, and the bill dies. In this case what are the possibilities?

1. The first possibility is that an election is held and the Conservatives win what by all accounts would be no more than a minority government.

2. The Conservatives have sworn they will then table the deal as a stand alone bill and move it quickly through the house. Will they, and can they?

3. There is nothing to stop them from modifying some of the content of the deal as they see fit.

4. There is no guarantee that the Liberal members in opposition (especially those from Ontario and Quebec, if the Liberals can even win any seats in Quebec, but that is a whole other issue.) There is no guarantee that they would vote for the deal.

5. We know as well that the Bloc won’t vote for it.

6. As a result, even if the Conservatives do decide to re-introduce it, it could still die on the order paper.

7. Another question is: Will Mr. Harper be the leader of the party if an election happens six months or a year from now?

8. Mr. Harper is the one who signed up for the deal with NL as an election promise a year or so ago. If he is no longer the leader, will the Conservatives even back the deal? Again, especially those from Ontario.

Another third possibility is that the Liberals win an election and regain power.

1. Since the bill would have initially died with their ouster, there are no guarantees here that they would re-introduce it in its current form, if at all. A new government is a new government.

2. The Liberals, because of the Adscam muck that is being tossed around, may themselves have a major shakeup that might see Mr. Martin himself lose control of his party. What does this mean for the leadership of the party?

3. One possibility that comes to mind is the fact that the most high profile MP currently in the party, and the darling of vote rich Ontario, is the newly acquired Belinda Stronach.

4. If Ms. Stronach were to assume the reigns of power and lead the new government, again, there are no guarantees that she would table a bill that was based on an election promise of a disgraced and ousted leader. A deal that does not make her Ontario power base very happy.

Another scenario is one where the Conservatives so infuriate the electorate over forcing an election that the Liberals achieve a majority government in the election.

1. In this scenario, similar to the previous one, there is no guarantee they would re-introduce the bill.

2. In a majority situation they wouldn’t have to worry nearly as much about the consequences of pushing it to the back burner or killing it completely.

There are many other possibilities and permutations that may arise from the current situation, not to mention as a result of the moves that might happen over the days, weeks and months to come.

A book could, and probably will be written about all of this eventually. There are far too many to go into here. For example, another that easily comes to mind is the possibility that Peter McKay ends up at the helm of the Conservative Party while Belinda Stronach takes control of the Liberals. (Remember, these two have been sweethearts for some time. Nobody, at this point anyway, seems to know it the relationship is still underway.). What would that entail for us or for Canada in general.

Another possibility, as far fetched as it might be, is that the activities of both parties so infuriate the public that the NDP make a grab for power. Just today we saw the result of the provincial vote in BC where the NDP moved from 3 seats to 33 overnight. Is this some sort of omen?

No matter how you slice it, the political landscape of the next little while will be one to watch. It is a landscape where almost nothing is certain except for a couple of things.

1. The Offshore deal is by no means a given.

2. NL and NS are now caught up in a federal machine that may just chew us up and leave us as a casualty by the side of the road.

3. The soap opera that is our government has never been more sordid, scandelous or disheartening.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Stop the Presses: Statement by the Prime Minister Re: Belinda Stronach

May 17, 2005
Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Paul Martin today made the following statement:

"Last night, after returning from Atlantic Canada, I met with Belinda Stronach at 24 Sussex Drive to talk with her about the current political situation, about all that is at stake with Thursday’s vote on the budget -- and, most of all, about what is required to build a stronger, better future for all Canadians.

We found that on critical questions of both policy and politics, we have much in common.

We both believe in centrist, balanced and moderate policies. We both believe in a strong economic and fiscal program. We both believe in the need to equip our people with the skills to compete anywhere, with anyone. And we both believe in the Gomery Commission.

Based on these shared beliefs, she and I have agreed that she fits more comfortably, can serve more appropriately and can contribute more substantially as a member of the government caucus.

Accordingly, I am very pleased to announce that Belinda Stronach will cross the floor and has agreed to join the cabinet as Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

In addition, Ms. Stronach will assume responsibilities for democratic renewal and will help guide the implementation of the recommendations that flow from the Gomery Commission’s final report.

I would like to take a moment to thank the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Honourable Lucienne Robillard, who has so capably directed the ministry of Human Resources and Skills Development during this time in addition to her existing cabinet responsibilities and her role as National Campaign Co-Chair.

Finally, I want to thank Martha Hall-Findlay, who has agreed to stand down as the Liberal candidate in Newmarket-Aurora.

Before turning things over to Ms Stronach, let me say one thing further.

I am proud to have Belinda Stronach as a member of the government and as a member of my cabinet. She is capable. She has achieved great success already in the fields of business and politics.

But I am particularly proud to have her join us at this important time.

The significance of her decision is not that it necessarily alters the outcome of Thursday’s vote – indeed we still do not know whether the budget will pass.

The significance is that on Thursday, Members of Parliament will stand and be counted in the most-watched vote of the past 25 years. And Belinda Stronach has chosen to stand for what she believes is best for Canada.

She believes it would be wrong for the country if the Conservative Party combines with the Bloc to kill this budget and force an early election. And she’s doing something about it.

That’s gutsy.

And that’s why I’m proud to have Belinda Stronach as part of my team.”

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Last of our Great Political Leaders.

Late last week I witnessed what can only be described as a truly class act performed by one of the nation’s best known and most veteran politicians. It may have slipped past some of you in your daily activities, since it received ten full seconds of national news time, but it did happen. A politician actually did what was best for the Country and the Commons rather than acting along party lines. This is unheard of on our Country and is so refreshing to see.

I’m referring of course to Mr. Ed Broadbent. A man who has been in the political arena for longer than many of us can remember, or would care to. Mr. Broadbent is of course a member of the NDP party and for many years was their leader, arguably one of their greatest. He has always been known as a fair minded individual, but his actions last week were the crowning proof of this fact.

You will notice throughout this article that I keep referring to Mr. Broadbent as Mr. This is because after his actions last week, more than anyone else on Parliament Hill, he deserves this title of respect.

What did Mr. Broadbent do? A very simple act really, he actually offered to sit out the non-confidence vote coming up this week in order to offset the fact that the Conservatives have a member in hospital, who cannot make the vote. It is a simple act indeed, but one that shows the true stature of the man. An act of genuine selflessness by a politician, can you believe it!!

Mr. Broadbent, without any thought for the agenda of his party, offered to sit out this crucial vote in order to ensure that it would lead to a fair and honest result for the nation.

At issue is the fact that the Liberal Party is fully aware that in calling the vote for Thursday May 19, they could ensure that a member of the Conservative Party would not be able to attend. They knew he had cancer surgery scheduled for quite some time and of course could not postpone it. This is the type of game this government is playing in order to hang onto power. They’re a really soft hearted bunch those Liberals.

Of course the NDP Party is supporting the Liberals in the upcoming vote, but even though his party would like the Liberals to remain in office long enough to push through some key NDP agenda items, Mr. Broadbent, who’s own wife is quite ill, saw through the sleazy and politically driven timing of the vote and he decided that enough was enough. Even though the Liberals are seeking to hang onto power by the most deplorable means possible, Mr. Broadbent decided that at least this one tactic was not going to pay off. Not on his watch.

I’m sure that he, like other members of the NDP Party would love to achieve their agenda. The fact that the party is backing the Liberals proves this. Most politicians have no moral issue with using any means possible to achieve their objectives. In Mr. Broadbent however, we find one who has not completely sold his soul to the federal machine. The fact that he took the step of offering to sit out the vote shows clearly that there is indeed someone left in Ottawa who still has integrity. In fact, others in the Party have followed his laudable example and made similar offers across the floor.

By making this offer and setting this example, Mr. Broadbent is doing what he can to ensure that if the Liberal Party does remain in power after Thursday’s vote, it will be because they have the support of the House of Commons (even if by one vote). It won’t be because the Liberal Party scheduled the vote to ensure that some members of the opposition couldn’t be there to take part. This is the type of class and fairness we would like to see from all of our politicians, a class that unfortunately, most of them could not muster on their best day.

Although this gesture did not receive a lot of press and the ramifications of it are yet to be felt, I thought it was only fair for someone to make note of this moment in history. It is a moment that may change the course of our nation, depending on the results of the vote. It is also a moment when one of our political leaders showed true greatness by performing a simple act, doing the right thing.

I can' t say that I have been a big supporter of the NDP party. I have voted for just about every political stripe over the years, depending on the issues of the day and the candidate being offered. I can say however that I remember when you led the NDP party. I remember your approach to solid leadership and your ability to get under the skin of the ruling party of the day. I also remember the glow of honesty that you always managed to project when speaking on issues of national importance. Today Mr. Broadbent, you have proven your honesty to one and all.

Thank you Mr. Broadbent, thank you for your years of service to this country and thank you for making one of your last acts in federal politics an act of compassion and honour. You are the type of political leader this Country needs and upon your retirement, which it appears will be very soon, you will be sorely missed. I know history will rank you as one of our last great political leaders, and rightfully so.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Show me the money!!!

I find the Liberal approach to the finances of this country very interesting these days. We now have a Liberal government in their death throws signing big money deals with provinces, all dependent on them staying in power of course. Recently they even agreed to let the NDP leader act as their new Finance Minister.

I have highlighted Liberal election spending in a previous article, “Liberal Election Give Away Watch” dated May 9, 2005. I continue to update this article as election promises roll in, but for those who don’t pay close attention, I thought I would comment on a related topic. What follows should be obvious to anyone who has lived in this country for any length of time, but in case it isn’t, or if you are a new Canadian, that’s what I’m here for. Not to state the obvious, but to ensure that it is obvious to everyone.

Simply put, Liberal spending is not only a matter of spreading around dollars without care. Rather it is an obvious grab for specific votes, in specific areas, in the upcoming election. When billions of dollars are being promised to various provinces it makes sense that Ontario and Quebec would receive a larger portion of the pie when it comes to social program spending. They have the largest populations and therefore are most likely to need the larger sums. I don’t take issue with that. What I do take issue with is the obvious grab for votes that is now underway in Ontario.

Whether or not Ontario deserves a bigger slice of the transfer funding pie than they have received in the past is a debate best left to people in the know, but what bothers me is the ease with which they signed up for $5.4 billion last week. The speed at which this was signed doesn’t speak to the needs of Ontario or the validity of their argument about the lopsided equalization formula. What it does speak to is the rich crop of votes in that province. Votes the Liberals savagely want and desperately need.

Think about it. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador had to fight tooth and nail for nearly 9 months to scrape a decent transfer payment deal from the Liberals. If you count the 2 years or so that John Hamm fought the battle alone then it actually took closer to 3 years. These two provinces have 11 and 7 federal seats respectively.

Saskatchewan has recently started talks to improve their transfer regime. Now Saskatchewan, which has 14 federal seats, seems to have hit a brick wall in their negotiations. Surprise, surprise!!

Recently one pundit, when referring to Premier Lorne Calvert’s efforts, said that he has been getting such a run around in Ottawa that he’s worn the bottoms out of all of his socks. Compare this to Ontario which easily managed to ink a deal that is bigger than N.S. and NL combined and I have no doubt that it would also be bigger than all three if Sask. manages to get a deal at all.

How hard did Ontario’s Premier have to fight? Basically it took a few comments in the national press and a couple of meetings. That’s it folks. Bye the way, just in case you didn’t realize it, Ontario has more federal seats than any other province, 106.

For anyone who is interested, here is how the federal election districts break down:

Ontario: 106
Quebec: 75
BC: 36
Alberta: 28
Saskatchewan: 14
Manitoba: 14
Nova Scotia: 11
New Brunswick: 10
Newfoundland and Labrador: 7
Prince Edward Island: 4
Northwest Territories: 1
Nunavut: 1
Yukon: 1

What does all of this mean? Well, in a nutshell it means that if any province or territory wants to ink a major deal with the Liberals they had better be in the top 4. With a vote scramble underway I doubt these guys will even look at anyone with less than Alberta’s 28. Don’t get me wrong, there is no real problem getting little $4 and $5 million dollar side deals if you are in key ridings where the Liberals feel they have a shot, or a riding they already own and would hate too lose, but don’t expect the big deals. No, when the deals get into the hundreds of millions or higher, you had better move to Ontario, Quebec, BC or Alberta if you hope to even have a prayer of reaping those kinds of benefits.

It’s a good thing we live in a democracy where we are all treated equally.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Liberal Election Give Away Watch

CENL, in an effort to keep Canadians informed, is now posting some of the financial give aways the liberals are signing off on, in an attempt to buy the next election.

In the past weeks alone the Liberal Government has announced over 70 new projects. Some estimates put the spending spree currently underway at between $100 and $200 million dollars a day since Paul Martin addressed the nation.

We will never be able to list them all, but from now until the election call, we will be updating this article whenever new items come to light. Feel free to send us any you might hear about and we'll add them to what we expect to be a quickly growing list.

Check back often for updates. Here we go, let the money flow:

Late April - Liberals cut deal with NDP worth in excess of $4.6 billion. This deal buys NDP support to prolong the election call and softens the Liberal image in the eyes of many by including money for low income housing and lower tuition fees for post secondary education, pension fund protection, an increase in the gas tax rebate for municipalities and more for foreign aid. Something to buy votes from just about everyone.

Late April - Liberals announce 1.2 billion under various infrastructure initiatives in Quebec. Including money for Highway improvements. This must be to help the folks in Quebec get to the polling stations and vote Bloc.

Late April - Liberals announce $25 million and $60 million for Toronto Film Festival and Parks respectively. That should help buy a few hundred yuppies.

Friday May 6 - Liberals announce $510 million in research grants - $5.4 million of this was announced for distribution in NL by John Efford on May 9th in an attempt to help him buy his seat. $13.2 million is slated for Manitoba. I wonder if Manitoba has double the number of seats contained in NL? Oh wait, they do: 14 vs. 7

Friday May 6 - $6.3 million for crime prevention initiatives in Quebec.

Friday May 6 - Liberals sign provide Ontario with $1.8 billion in day care funding over 5 years, ($272 million to be available this year). In fact in the past couple of weeks they have signed day care deals with Ontario, Manitoba and Sask. All contingent on the current budget being passed.

Friday May 6 - $230 million U.S. in high risk loans to two Delta Airlines subsideries so they can purchase planes from Bombardier. This brings this type of loans to Delta and up to around the $2 billion mark. All in support of Bombardier.

Saturday May 7 - Liberals announce $5.8 billion to placate Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty with regard to his arguments over Federal Transfer embalances and soften up vote rich Ontario.

Monday May 9 - Liberals announce $200 million for a joint transit system project in conjunction with the government of Ontario and the city of Ottawa.

Monday May 9 - Liberals announce $8 Billion in rent reductions for the nation's airports.

Tuesday May 10 - According to an article published today in the Ottawa Citizen, Liberal election spending has now reached a staggering $22.3 billion in the 18 days since Paul Martin addressed the nation on national television. This equates to $1.24 billion a day with no signs of slowing down. I think we have a new record.

Tuesday May 10 - Ralph Goodale announces $4 million for neighbourhood renewal programs in Regina, Sask. This money is to be provided through multiple government agencies.

Friday May 13 - Prime Minister Paul Martin and Social Development Minister Ken Dryden today ink a $100 million dollar 5 year child care deal with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This, like all the rest is contingent on the Liberal budget passing. According to reports, the money is intended to provide higher quality child care facilities and to provide raises to child care workers. Way to go guys, dangle the carrot of wage increases in front of some of the most underpaid in our society so you can get a few more votes.

Friday May 13 - Liberals announce $262.5 million to aid Bombardier in building a new plane. With all the money spent on this company in the past decade, the government could probably have purchased a real company like Lockheed-Martin outright.

Saturday May 14 - Liberals announce $300 million for Saskatchewan to go to several uses including education, labour development and city infrastructure projects.

Monday May 16 - Paul Martin signs $137 million dollar child care deal with Nova Scotia.

Fishing in the 21st Century

Newfoundland and Labrador was all over the national news services again last week. The big story was fish, fish and more fish. Between the international fisheries conference held in St. John’s and the protests surrounding the proposed Raw Materials Sharing Plan in the crab industry, the fishery hasn’t made as many headlines since the cod moratorium in ’92.

If you live outside this province it must look like we have gone back in time. Back to the days when fishing was Newfoundland and Labrador’s only real industry. Granted, it is a component of our economy, but not the way it once was. The big dollars in NL fishing these days are made in the half a billion dollar a year crab industry. These dollars are nothing to sneeze at here in the far east, but the industry is certainly not a major one on a global or even a Canadian scale. This is a fact that I think some of us forget or never even realized.

We all know that this industry is important to many areas of rural NL. We realize it has an impact on our overall economy, and on the lives of those connected to the industry. What we sometimes forget is that even though it may seem big to some of us it is not necessarily big to the rest of the world.

I have often wondered why the Feds pay so little attention to the fisheries. Why they don’t step up security on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks at the cost of angering some of our NAFO partners. Why they have used the fishery as a bargaining chip in foreign trade agreements over the years. Why they don’t seem to care as much about this industry as we would perhaps like them to. I believe I finally understand the reason. Simply put, it is not a big industry, not by a long shot and is not at the top of the Federal priority list. This may hurt our NL sensibilities and it may be hard to hear, but never the less, it is a fact.

Let’s look at the numbers. The most recent economic indicators from the Federal Department of Industry shows a nation wide GDP of 1,061 billion. This is made up partly of the following items:

Finance, Insurance and Real Estate – $214 billion
Manufacturing – $186 billion
Retail Trade – $61 billion
Construction – $59 billion
Professional Services - $47 billion
Information and Culture – $43 billion
Mining and Gas Extraction – $38 billion

Where does fishing fit in? Well, as a matter of fact, the report issued by the department doesn’t even define fishing by itself, let alone the crab breakdown. Instead it is grouped with other industries. What it shows is that if you combine Fishing, Agriculture, Forestry and Hunting, you get a total GDP of only $24 billion.

Statistics also show that for the year 1999, (the latest year I could locate), the entire fishing industry in all of Atlantic Canada had exports of only $2.6 billion. This from an industry that during the 2000 – 2001 period, required regulation and control by DFO at a cost to the federal government, (our tax dollars), of $1.4 billion. If you do the math it is easy to see why the Feds don’t spend as much energy on this industry as some would like. $2.6 billion (export value) - $1.4 billion (DFO Cost) = $1.2 billion.

What does this really mean? Well, it means that once you factor in DFO costs, fishing exports in the Atlantic region account for just over 1 thousandth of the Canadian economy. That would equate to you or I having $10 and 1 cent in our pocket. I doubt we would cry too much if we lost the 1 cent.

On the Provincial front fishing means much more than just straight economics. It is a part of our culture, it keeps some towns alive and it feeds other industries. We all realize these things, but from a strictly economic perspective, it may not be as critical to our economy as many would like to think.

The number of a half a billion dollars has been tossed around as the value of the crab industry in this province for example. The GDP for NL this year is projected at $20 billion, which means that the crab industry accounts for 2.5% of our GDP. Not insignificant, but not a show stopper either. Factor in the Provincial Government cost of maintaining and delivering services to small communities where most fishing activity takes place and you can see why Mr. Williams is willing to take such a hard line in the current crab dispute.

I have endeavored to sit on the fence in the crab dispute and I will continue to do so. I do however think it is time to bring out some of these facts. The fact is, nobody wants to see the crab industry shut down for the season. If it is, a lot of people will be hurt and the economy will indeed suffer, but if fishers think they have the Premier over a barrel financially, the numbers say different and they should understand that.

We all realize that the crab industry and the fishing industry overall is important to us in different ways. For some it can’t be given a price tag because it is a matter of the ultimate importance, survival. What we often fail to realize is that in the grand scheme of things, it is not the end all and be all of our provincial or Federal economies in the 21st century. The days of our rural fishing economy are slowly and painfully winding down and we will eventually have to face that fact. The world knows this; the Canadian Government knows it and I believe our current Provincial Government knows it. Unfortunately it’s usually those closest to an issue who are the last to know what’s happening.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Missing Link

I just read a comment posted this morning on one of my articles: How Much is an Election Really Worth? The comment was sent in by Cyril and speaks about our ferry service from the Island portion of the province into Canada. This comment started me thinking about our physical connection to the rest of the country and just how tenuous it really is.

As anyone who has visited this site knows, I have a hyperlink from this page to the web page of the NL Fixed Link Project, (on the right side of the page). I’ve had this link up for a while and I’ve scanned the site on occasion. It was Cyril’s comments that made me decide to pop over there again today and look at it more closely. I have to say, I’m impressed. These folks really appear to have done their homework and they truly make the link sound possible.

I know, it’s been a dream of many of us for decades, but it does indeed seem possible if the proponents of the link have done their homework and if the will of government and business is strong enough. The plan identified on the Fixed Link site includes the ability to transport people, electricity and oil/gas. It looks like a winning combination but why don’t you check out the site for yourself and let me know what you think.

I have a great interest in the type of outside the box thinking that has gone into this plan and I have to agree with people like Cyril, the ferry service we now have just doesn’t cut it. During the winter there is only the link from Port Aux Basques. During the summer months the lineups can be endless. You can sometimes see the tractor trailers lined up in huge numbers, just waiting to get across. I don’t even want to guess what this costs you or me when we go to the grocery or dry goods or hardware store. Time is money. How it plays with potential tourists is anyone’s guess, but I bet they don’t plan on spending hours or perhaps days in a ferry lineup.

A connection to Canada was guaranteed when we joined Confederation. The Government of Canada owes us that much. How well that connection works or how much money the Government puts into it is a matter for debate. I mean isn’t it time we took a more serious and determined look at alternatives?

We have pretty good reasons for wanting more stable access to the rest of the country, don’t we?

We are not talking about the type of ferry service most people in the country think of when they talk about ferry services. We’re not talking about connecting a small island in a sheltered bay. Nor are we talking about an island with a few hundred people, or a 20 minute ferry ride. No, what we are talking about is crossing 90 miles of open North Atlantic Ocean during all kinds of weather, about a province of this country that is virtually cut off and dependent on a supply chain that is dependent on a ferry boat and weather conditions. We are talking about a population of half a million people and we are talking about a scenic country side that is a tourist’s dream. They just need a better, faster and more convenient way to get here.

I know it is a big effort to build a fixed link. I know it may only be a dream for now. I also know that if a national will was there, it could be done. The transcontinental railway that opened up the continent is a prime example of that kind of will. So is the fixed link to PEI.

Here is another example of will. In the mid nineties Japan was facing land space problems. They needed a new international airport but didn’t have the space. They didn’t have the land so they built the land. Kansai Airport rests on a man made island offshore. The main terminal building is 1.7 kilometers long and the airport serves over 11 million passengers a year. The freight trans shipment building is one of the largest in the world and manages millions of packages and containers a year. Construction of the island, airport and connecting bridge (rail and vehicle traffic across 5 kilometers of ocean), took over 7 years and cost billions of dollars to complete. Outside the box thinking and the will to carry it out has made Kansai a world wide hub for travelers and freight traffic alike.

Anything man can think of, he can accomplish. All it takes is the will to carry it out.