Da Legal Stuff...

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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Canada Day - Remembering the Battle of the Somme

Tomorrow is Canada Day. A celebration of the nation we live in, but did you know it’s also the anniversary of the battle of the Somme? It was on July 1, 1916 that this historic battle at Beaumont Hamel began. It was also this day that the Newfoundland Regiment fought its first engagement in France. An engagement that would prove to be the regiment’s costliest of the war.

After the battle, one report on the efforts of the Newfoundlander's, from the Divisional Commander stated, “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault failed of success because dead men can advance no further.”

For its size, no unit suffered heavier losses than did the Newfoundland Regiment which began the battle with 801 men. Only 68 answered to roll call the next day.

For decades it was a custom in the province to remember these fine men on July 1, the anniversary of the day so many perished. With official recognition of Canada Day having been set for the same date, the people of the province would attend solemn ceremonies and watch legion parades in the morning then raise the Canadian flag in the afternoon. Some would call it a livable compromise, but even this is no longer happening.

These days the parades and legion gatherings are relegated to another, arbitrarily determined day. Newfoundland and Labrador lost many sons in what was arguably one of the bloodiest battles of World War I, four from one family alone. The historical acts of remembrance that people of the province took part in is woven into the fabric our shared history. That fabric is now torn and tattered. The memories relegated to the back pages of history and the dust of battle swept under the collective carpet of this country.

On July 1 a small group of protestors usually gather to remember the day by wearing black arm bands and marching on Confederation Hill. Will they do the same this year or a year from now, or will they’re numbers begin to dwindle over time? One can only hope that at least some segment of our population does not forget those that went before.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a rich and vibrant history that should make everyone in the province hold their heads high with pride. The problem today is that the people of the province have been stepped on and pushed around for so long that they don’t even realize it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Newfoundland's Blossoming Separation Movement

Since Newfoundland and Labrador entered the Dominion of Canada in 1949, some in the province have questioned whether or not that decision was the right one. Fifty-six years later there are still many who wonder if, “the fix was in”, so to speak, or “what would Newfoundland and Labrador be like today if we were an independent country again”?

For those too young to remember, there were two public votes on the subject of Confederation, not one. In the first vote the outcome did not see the population choose to join Canada. The ballot that year contained three options:

Confederation with Canada;

Responsible Government (Independence); and

Commission of Government,(Outside appointed rule).

The result of that vote was 44.6% for Responsible Government, 41.1% for Confederation and 14.3% for Commission of Government.

Although Responsible Government received the most votes, neither of the options had won a clear majority of public support, as a result, Commission of Government, the lowest in the poll, was dropped from the ballot and a second referendum was scheduled.

This time the result was 52.3% for Confederation and 47.7% for Responsible Government, hardly a resounding show of support. Factor in as well rumors of vote buying and ballot box tampering and the fact that a couple of ballot boxes turned up years later still unopened and uncounted. The table was set for decades of debate.

When you add it all up, the result is a situation where questioning the referendum result, and our place in Canada, has become a major pastime in the province.

Separatist rumblings have been growing in the province since the day the ballots were counted. Today you can see green white and pink Newfoundland Republic flags, which have become a symbol of separatist sentiment, flying from homes in all parts of the province. Lately, more and more people have been re-examining the contents of the Terms of Union itself. This document, signed by the governments of the province and the country, contains the official terms by which Newfoundland and Labrador’s union with Canada was formed.

Examination of the document from a legal perspective is an interesting exercise and even a cursory reading would lead one to believe that perhaps the federal government has not lived up to many of its obligations to the province as set out half a century ago.

Perhaps one of the most obvious situations is related to resource royalties in the province. Many people throughout Canada are familiar with recent changes to the Atlantic Accord which, which just passed through the senate yesterday, will see NL receive billions in revenues from offshore oil. What most people don’t realize however is that this accounts for less than 50% of the overall royalties, the remainder still goes into the federal purse. In addition to this, the province makes very little, if any revenue, from other natural resources like nickel, gold and iron ore, even though article 37 of the Terms of Union clearly states:

“All lands, mines, minerals, and royalties belonging to Newfoundland at the date of Union, and all sums then due or payable for such lands, mines, minerals, or royalties, shall belong to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador”

Another point clearly defined, this time in article 44 of the document, clearly states:

“Canada will provide for the maintenance in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador of appropriate reserve units of the Canadian defense forces, which will include the Newfoundland Regiment”.

Currently this article is of major interest to many in the province. The town of Happy Valley Goose Bay is disparately struggling to convince the Canadian government that the military base at 5 Wing should be maintained and utilized by our own forces. As things stand today, it is clear that the spirit of this particular article is not being met. There are currently more McDonalds employees in this province than there are armed forces personnel. This might be fine if the province is attacked by the Hamburglar, but not so good if a foreign force decides Canada’s east coast would make a good entry portal to the rest of North America.

Article 32 of the act deals with the gulf ferry service. It states:

“Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles”

As recently as a few years ago, Ottawa had been entertaining the notion of privatizing this ferry service, a service which provides the primary physical link between the province and the rest of the country. This ferry service is considered to be a part of the TCH itself yet just a few days ago it was prevented from running by protesting fishermen in Nova Scotia. The federal government did nothing to stop the protest. Would they have done something if a section of the TCH leading into one of the other provinces was blocked by a protest group for the best part of a day?

Another point of contention is article 31. This article encompasses most public services in the province and specifies that the government of Canada would assume responsibility for the following:

(a) the Newfoundland Railway, including steamship and other marine services;
(b) The Newfoundland Hotel, if requested by the Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador within six months from the date of Union:
(c) postal and publicly owned telecommunication services;
(d) civil aviation, including Gander Airport;
(e) customs and excise;
(f) defense;
(g) protection and encouragement of fisheries and operation of bait services;
(h) geological, topographical, geodetic, and hydrographic surveys;
(i) lighthouses, fog alarms, buoys, beacons, and other public works and services in aid of navigation and shipping;
(j) marine hospitals, quarantine, and the care of shipwrecked crews;
(k) the public radio broadcasting system; and
(I) other public services similar in kind to those provided at the date of Union for the people of Canada generally.

This article contains many key areas of concern to those in the province.

Section (a) clearly identifies the railway as being one of the services to be managed by the federal government after Confederation. As many in the province will remember, when it was decided by Ottawa that the running of this railway was no longer feasible, the government of the day was obligated to make reparations to the province for its retirement. In exchange for provincial agreement to dismantle rail services the federal government instituted the “Roads for Rails” program. This saw money flow from Ottawa to improve the provinces road network in preparation for the loss of the railway.

Clearly the federal government at the time was fully aware of its obligations as set out in article 31 of the Terms of Union. But what about their obligations related to some of the other items identified in the same article?

Section (b) The Newfoundland hotel. This hotel was privatized years ago.

Section (c) Postal and Publicly owned telecommunications services. Currently most postal outlets are privately run in the province and in recent years, when some of these have shut down, the federal government has not stepped in to replace them and the provinces telecommunications systems are now privately run.

Section (d) Civil aviation, including Gander Airport. Civil aviation in the province is a private enterprise. Gander airport itself was sold by the federal government. What guarantees or concessions did the province get for this breach of contract?

Section (f) defense. The level of defense, as addressed previously, is a clear issue in the province and one that could have a detrimental effect on the entire nation and the continent as a whole. It is clear that we are a nation who’s front door is wide open to anyone who would like to use it.

Section (g) protection and encouragement of fisheries and operation of bait services. This particular section is a sore point for many separatists and anyone else in the province who feels they have been wronged by Ottawa.

The argument people in the province are making is that Ottawa has not provided adequate protection or management of this valuable and renewable resource and in fact has mismanaged it to the point where the cod fishery, which was the backbone of Newfoundland’s economy at the time of confederation, is now dead. Rather than protect these stocks, Ottawa issued quota after quota to foreign fleets in exchange for auto plants, textile products and aerospace contracts in other parts of the country.

When the fishery was closed in 1992 income support for those displaced by the loss of the industry was provided to cover the 10 years it was expected to take for the stocks to rebuild. That time has come and gone and still there is no viable cod industry. In fact, the switch to other species like crab, at the encouragement of the federal government, has seen those stocks dwindle as well.

Section (i) lighthouses, fog alarms, buoys, beacons, and other public works and services in aid of navigation and shipping. This section clearly identifies, “works and services in aid of navigation and shipping”, yet lighthouses have been closed and marine weather services have been moved out of the province to other locales. Every year the number of federal employees in the province becomes less and less.

There are many other examples like these throughout our short history as a Canadian province, the list is a long one. Some feel that material and multiple breeches of contract have taken place and are continuing. The current feeling is that Ottawa should be pushed to rectify the situation so the province can become an equal partner in Confederation or that a case for nullification of the Terms of Union should be brought before the Supreme Court of Canada.

While there has always been a segment of the population who feel that we do not belong in this country, most would simply like to see the kind of fair and ethical treatment that is to be expected from a nation like Canada. Times were hard when the decision was made to become a part of the Dominion of Canada, but they were hard everywhere. The great depression had just ended a little over a decade before and Newfoundland was suffering from the fallout of WWII.

Times have changed a lot since then and as a result, it is difficult for many to believe that a Newfoundland and Labrador, which entered Canada with a financial surplus in 1949, is somehow better off fifty-six years later while running yearly deficits and staggering under an $11 billion debt.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Inuit Land Claims Agreement Achieves Royal Assent

Late last week a Labrador Inuit Land Claims agreement between the Inuit people, the Canadian Government and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was given royal assent by Gov. General Adrienne Clarkson. The bill, which will allow the Inuit people to have some control of their own future, is a long overdue step in our provincial and national history.

This agreement which will see the formation of Canada’s newest territory, Nunatsiavut , Inuit for “our beautiful land”. The agreement has been many years in the making. William Anderson, president of the Labrador Inuit Assoc. has been there from the beginning of negotiations in 1996 and was in Ottawa for its passage in the House, the Senate and at Rideau Hall for the historic signing.

The agreement provides the Inuit with full ownership of nearly 16,000 square kilometers of land and co-management status, along with the Provincial Government, of a further 58,000. As a part of the agreement, the federal government will transfer $140 million to the Inuit Association to help finance the creation of this new level of government.

The Inuit must now focus on the road ahead, one of true self government. The agreement allows the Inuit to develop their own laws, government and social systems as well as manage their own tax and revenue regimes, contingent on all activities remaining within the parameters of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It will no doubt be a long hard road, but one which the Inuit hope will lead to a renewed sense of pride and responsibility the likes of which has not been seen in the big land since Europeans claimed it as their own.

After centuries of abuse and mismanagement these people are finally being given a hard fought opportunity to stand on their own feet and make their own decisions. It may not be a perfect solution but it is one that may be workable.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish the Inuit people all the best in their home land and to congratulate them all, especially William Anderson and others like him, who worked so tirelessly for the better part of two decades in order to make this dream a reality.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Oil Prices, Newfoundland Conspiracy Theories - Part Two

In my last article I tentatively dipped my toe into the frigid and shivery waters of conspiracy theories. At the end of that article I innocently mentioned a possible conspiracy related to oil prices. This offhand remark has caused my email box to be flooded with requests for more on the topic and has basically thrown my head into a spin.

The impact of that innocent remark was completely unexpected and I have to admit somewhat flattering. Why anyone would want to hear more of my feeble ramblings on such matters is beyond me, but being someone who hates to let anyone down, I give you another installment of my conspiracy theory ramblings. I promise this one will be the last, (so no more email please).

The question on everyone’s mind these days is why the price of oil, and in turn gasoline, is so high. The topic has been debated and discussed to death, yet the answer appears to be ever elusive. Just on the tip of the brain so to speak. OPEC claims there is no valid reason for the skyrocketing jump in prices. Various market analysts say it is because of everything from high demand in China to low reserves in the U.S. Others say it’s simply investor nervousness over supply in the marketplace. Who do you believe?

If you’re a conspiracy theorist then you don’t believe any of them.

The Theory goes like this:

The heads of several world governments are secretly driving up the cost of oil as a two pronged attack on the public. The Kyoto protocol was adopted by most of the world’s industrialized nations, including Canada, in recent years. Simply put, it requires nations to clean up their act, burn less fossil fuels and cut greenhouse emissions by specific amounts by certain deadlines. If these countries can’t meet their Kyoto requirements they face penalties, not to mention the ridicule of their Kyoto partners, but how to do it?

Simple, by driving up the price of oil on world markets they can ensure that the average consumer begins to buy more fuel efficient cars, cut down on long drives and even lower the heat in their homes. It’s a simple matter of cutting back on fuel consumption or starving to death. A choice made easy by a government that assumes everyone is so stupid that they need simple choices.

The dizzyingly high prices also ensures that industry actively pursue alternative sources of energy. Energy sources that must be cleaner than those currently in use or the Department of Environment, (another government agency involved in the conspiracy), will never allow its use. Not to mention the fact that every environmental group from Alaska to Auckland would pounce on them like a pack of hungry hyena.

But wait, there’s more. If this environmentally friendly trick were the only motive for the conspiracy then there would be some who might look the other way, but it isn’t.

Every nation in the free world charges dreaded and painful taxes on all fuel products. Everything from gasoline to furnace oil is taxed at a huge percentage. As a result, the obscenely higher prices have had the effect of putting untold billions into the coffers of our governments. First they reap revenues from oil companies who extract oil under their various jurisdictions, they then tax the consumers who purchase oil and gas products. For the government it’s a financial bonanza.

It’s a simple theory really, but that’s the beauty of it. Somebody must have told the heads of these governments to use the K.I.S.S. principle, Keep It Simple Stupid. They also learned a valuable lesson during the 1970’s when the world was supposedly suffering an oil shortage. Thirty years later we still haven’t run out of oil, but the reason we have so many small fuel efficient cars on the roads today can be directly attributed to that supposed crisis.

As a footnote, my writing always has a local Newfoundland and Labrador slant and although the price of oil affects everyone, including those in my homeland, I would be remiss if I didn’t include a specifically NL twist to this theory. This angle deals with the fact that another component of the whole conspiracy is the impact on NL itself.

Taxes in this province are higher than anywhere else in Canada. Unemployment in the province is higher than anywhere else, the average income is lower and the weather can be some of the harshest, (requiring more home heating costs). As a result NL is somewhat unique in the way it is impacted, (places like NWT, the Yukon, etc. may also have an argument for this one).

The high cost of fuel, and an inability to pay for it, is driving more and more people to migrate out of the province and into larger centers like Ontario and Alberta. This has always happened of course, but now the incidence rate is starting to rise like we haven’t seen in a while.

You may ask what the Federal Government could possibly gain from this and if you’re not a conspiracy theorist, then you probably will ask.

Ottawa bases its provincial transfer payment calculations on population. Its simple really, the less people a poor province like NL has, the less Ottawa has to pay the province in transfer payments. On the opposite side of this coin, since these people are moving primarily to Ontario and Alberta, two “have” provinces, they can pay into the pot by filling unwanted jobs and contributing to those provinces GDP. This of course means higher payments into the federal transfer purse from those provinces.

Nice trick huh?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The FPI Conspiracy Theory

Conspiracy theories have been a part of society from the time Eve gave Adam a light snack at the prodding of a conniving serpent. Some say it’s in the nature of large cultures to suspect an unknown entity of manipulating their lives. Others insist on looking for some unseen hand if the morning paper arrives late. I don’t count myself in either of these groups but rather as a skeptical believer.

We don’t have far to look to see the possibility of conspiracy all around us in Newfoundland and Labrador. The hard times we’ve had in the, “far east of the western world”, for centuries, provide plenty of fodder for this type of thinking. Granted hard times may just be hard times, but could there really be some subtle hand pulling unseen strings in our everyday lives, throwing a spanner in the works and secretly leading us in some unknown direction?

Take FPI for example. Fishery Products International are saying they would like to sell off 40% of their marketing wing. To do this they require the Provincial Government to agree to that sale. Consider as well the dire predicament of the town of Harbour Breton. This is indeed the stuff conspiracy theories are made of.

Many questions immediately leap to mind while trying to twist the grey cells around this particular issue.

First and foremost, why would a company spend untold millions to buy factory freezer vessels one day and the next claim to be in grave financial difficulty? Why too would they want to sell off nearly half of their most profitable business line? The requirement for a cash infusion is one thing, but what kind of future can a company have if it sells off its biggest money maker? Is there more going on here than we the people are aware of?

Add to this the Harbour Breton situation and we have a plausible case of conspiracy beginning to form.

Back in November when plant workers were told they would be out of work very little was done to help them. Months later, at the same time FPI is going to government for approval on their sale, Harbour Breton is brought into the mix and used by the company as a blackmail tool to pressure MHA’s into voting in their favour. Is this a coincidence?

Enter the Provincial and Federal Governments, a credible villain for any conspiracy.

The province claims they are negotiating with the company to get the best deal they can for the town, but at the same time the Premier claims he doesn’t want to be, “too heavy handed with FPI”. This coming from a man who forced the Federal Government into a $2.6 billion dollar deal on offshore revenues by lowering the Canadian flag, who forced our biggest public sector union back to work and who told the oil industry in no uncertain terms that there would be no more free rides.

The difficulty in gaining a much needed fish quota for the town is also a situation of interest. The Province claims it’s a federal decision to issue a quota. The Feds say the Province must find a quota for the town. Who is telling the truth?

Yes, the Feds issue quotas, but the Province controls processing.

There was a quota used in Harbour Breton for years, what happened to it? Currently FPI plans to use the quota in another plant which brings up even more questions. Why was FPI allowed to keep the quota? One would think that their original quotas were issued based on the number of processing facilities and when one was shut down they would have lost a portion of their allotment. This does not appear to be the case.

The province claims it cannot force FPI to relinquish a part of the quota but they had no qualms implementing raw materials sharing in the crab industry. This program saw the province dictate precisely how much crab could be processed in specific plants. If they can legislate crab distribution among plants then why not other species?

Over the last couple of days some well placed sources have been saying that none other than Brian Tobin, Captain Canada himself, has been working behind the scenes in an effort to lobby the government of the province in an effort to push the deal through.

To cap all of this off, one only has to check the Toronto Stock Exchange listings on this company to see that they have a market value of about $106 million. One has to ask the question, if the entire company, plants, quotas, equipment, ships and the U.S. marketing division is worth $106 million, how can they expect to get $100 million for a mere 40% of the marketing division by itself?

People are beginning to wonder quite loudly if there is more going on behind the scenes of this whole situation than we are aware. I have to admit that they are starting to build a pretty good case for just that.

I don’t want to be labeled a conspiracy theorist, but sometimes when people are out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking. Maybe one day I’ll let you know my thoughts on the connection between high oil prices, Kyoto requirements and out migration in the province.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Fighting Newfoundlanders

2005 is the year of the Veteran. With this in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to talk about the treatment of these brave men and women in our culture today. As mentioned in a previous article – Are Legion Members Getting a Fair Deal – from May 31st of this year, I believe our Veterans are getting a raw deal in this country and even in our own province.

As of July 1 they will no longer be allowed to light up a cigarette in their own Legion halls, as they age, they are often forgotten in senior’s homes and, as they have always had to do, they continue to fight tooth and nail for every cent of support they can squeeze out of Ottawa. Add to this the fact that our youth know little or nothing of their exploits and you may be able to appreciate the sad situation they are in.

Although each of these factors are of major importance to our Veterans, I would like to address specifically the lack of knowledge by our young people.

Ask a teen today about our war history or our military contributions around the world and you will most likely get a blank stare. This is due in part to our school system itself. A system that would rather discuss the merits of popular music than to delve into the history of our unsung heroes. It is also the fault of every one of us, every Father, Mother, Aunt or Uncle. The fact is, none of us are doing enough to keep the memories alive.

There was a time when stories were handed down from generation to generation, today the only stories we see are on a television screens. The interaction of people that used to ensure the spread of our culture through conversation and song has all but disappeared and with it so does our knowledge of the people and events in our history that we should all be proud of.

In this new fast paced world, it is not a stretch to see why the brave men and women who ensured our freedom on foreign shores often feel like outsiders and outcasts.

In an effort to help bring to light some of the true heroism demonstrated by the “Fighting Newfoundlanders”, I’d like to tell you the story of one of them in particular. His name is Cyril Gardner, originally from British Harbour. Lieutenant Gardner has the distinction of being the only known allied serviceman to receive the German Iron Cross during WWI.

The Iron Cross was handed out to only the bravest German military personnel and even though Lieutenant Gardner was not in the German forces he was given this honor on the battlefield.

It might appear at this point that perhaps the Lieutenant was a traitor or a spy for the Germans. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Gardner was a true hero who performed his duties so well that he not only served our country, he gained the respect of enemy forces as well.

It all happened one night when Gardner’s unit was engaged in battle with a German patrol consisting of about 70 men. During the evening, as darkness fell and the weather turned, fighting eventually stopped and both sides dug in. It was in the night that Gardner, who spoke German, took it upon himself to grab his machine gun and head out to the enemy encampment.

As he approached the enemy stronghold Gardner began speaking in German. Thinking it was one of their own, the Germans let him approach. The Lieutenant immediately turned his machine gun on the officers, capturing them unharmed. With their “head” cut off so to speak, the remainder of the troop quickly surrendered. Lieutenant Cyril Gardner had single handedly captured an entire German Patrol.

It was as our Newfoundland Hero escorted his prisoners back toward his own lines, their hands behind their heads, the incident took place that earned him his odd prize.

Approaching his own encampment he was met by a British Officer who congratulated him and immediately brought his weapon to the ready. The officer said he intended to shoot the prisoners immediately rather than have to care for them.

As the German soldiers looked on in horror at what they understood to be happening, Lieutenant Gardner once again demonstrated not only his sense of bravery, but his sense of fair play as well. Risking court marshal or even having his superior officer turn his weapon on him, Gardner stepped into the line of fire to protect his prisoners. He told the officer that if even one German was shot, then the officer would be the next one to die.

After a moment of hesitation the British officer stood down and walked away. It was then that the commander of the German patrol, who had many medals on his uniform, stepped up to Gardner and removing the iron cross from his chest, pinned it on Gardner’s, to the applause and cheers of the German soldiers.

It’s an amazing story and one that is not very well known in our province. This display of pure bravery and compassion is a clear example of the kind of people our province can and has produced.

This is the type of story that our children should hear. It is through the efforts of men like Lieutenant Cyril Gardner and many others that we live in a free country today. It is these people that are our past, it is these people that can help us understand the kind of culture we used to be and perhaps should become again.

If we don’t respect them, listen to them and help them in their golden years then we are not only letting these men and women down, we are letting ourselves down. By not taking the time to learn about and listen to our fighting heroes we are forgetting their past and losing our heritage.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Feds Condemn Town to Economic Death

The Federal Government announced today that it will provide $2 million in aid to Harbour Breton Newfoundland. The town was devastated by the closure of its main industry, a local fish plant, and is currently in jeopardy of collapse.

The owners of the now empty fish plant have agreed to provide $3 million in interim funding and sell the town the plant, including all equipment, for $1. The Provincial Government has chipped in by offering financial assistance to the town and has been seeking Federal assistance in the form of interim funding and the issuing of a fish species quota for the area.

The federal “gift” of $2 million, with no promise of a fish quota, was made today, although the Federal Government says the issue is entirely within provincial jurisdiction.

“…entirely within provincial jurisdiction”?

The reason the plant owners, FPI, pulled out of Harbour Breton, as uncaring and backhanded as they may have been in the way it was done, is a matter of simple business requirements and economics. Simply put, there is not enough fish to keep all of FPI’s plants working to capacity so one of them was closed.

Who is to blame for this lack of raw material? The Federal Government, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible, Period.

It’s a simple thing to understand so let me walk you through it.

Fish stocks, especially cod, are in short supply.

Overfishing of these stocks is what caused the current supply situation.

It is the Federal Government that determines who gets a fish quota and how much that quota will be;

It is the Federal Government that continues to look the other way while foreign vessels trawl the nose and tail of the Grand Banks, (a key breeding ground for Atlantic species);

It is the Federal Government who, through bad science, the issuing of unplanned quotas and allowing foreign overfishing, caused the collapse of the fish stocks.

It was, and is, the Federal Government who mismanaged the fishery to the point of collapse; and

It is the Federal Government that made the decision to close the cod fishery in the 90s after they had mismanaged it to the point of no return.

If the situation in Harbour Breton is an entirely provincial issue then I’m Angelina Jolie, (I’m not by the way, my beard is too thick and where her endowment is closer to her upper torso, mine is just above my belt line. Other than that we could be twins.)

The Federal argument has always been that they provided billions in aid through make work projects, retraining programs and the like after closing the cod fishery. This is true, but it isn’t the full story.

The aid provided in the 1990’s was intended to assist in the survival of people and towns during the 10 year period the Federal Government estimated it would take for stocks to rebound. The cod stocks haven’t rebound due primarily to the fact that DFO estimates were overly optimistic and as already mentioned, the Feds insist on looking the other way while foreign vessels continue to deplete existing stocks.

Another argument Ottawa likes to use is that the fishing industry in the province is now as lucrative as it was when cod was the main resource. The new life in the industry is due to the utilization of other species like crab and shrimp. This as well is only a part of the story. While these species are indeed a mainstay of today’s industry, does it not occur to anyone that these stocks would eventually have been developed anyway?

Imagine what the provincial economy would look like today if there was a viable cod industry in place right along side the current diversified fishing industry. There would be a fishing boom! We would not be in jeopardy of overfishing the crab and shrimp stocks as we are now in danger of doing and towns like Harbour Breton would not be dying before our very eyes.

An entire peninsula in our province is dying. (The town of Harbour Breton is the hub of the entire Conagra Peninsula on the island portion of the province.) Families are being uprooted and people are losing everything they have spent their lives working for. While parents worry, children cry themselves to sleep at night and families are ripped apart.

In the face of this desperation the Feds see fit to throw the province a bone of $2 million. This on the very same day they announce a commitment of $5.2 million to help ensure salmon stocks on British Columbia’s Fraser River because two reports blamed government mismanagement, poaching and high water temperatures for the loss of 1.6 million salmon on the river last year.

I don’t doubt that the salmon industry in BC needs that assistance and more, but if the Feds can accept responsibility for the mismanagement of these salmon stocks, what argument can they possibly bring forward to say they are not responsible for the situation in the Atlantic fishing industry and in Harbour Breton itself?

The $2 million and the comment, “…entirely within provincial jurisdiction”, is a slap in the face to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and a nail in the coffin for a once vibrant community and the entire surrounding area.

What Harbour Breton needs is a major cash infusion and a fish quota, of any under utilized species, to get back on their feet.

Ottawa has no problem bailing out publicly traded and private companies like Bombardier, Air Canada, GM and the like. They argue that it ensures jobs will not be lost. The fact is, the situation in Harbour Breton means hundreds of jobs will be lost and a vital part of rural Newfoundland and Labrador will die. Why doesn’t this rate a large cash infusion and the kind of support from Ottawa that major Ontario and Quebec based corporations often receive?

When jobs are lost in an auto plant in Ontario or at an aircraft manufacturer in Quebec it is no doubt painful to those involved, but they can move on. There are other industries in the area where one can go to find meaningful work and this provides hope.

When jobs are lost in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, the only real option is to move away and start over from scratch. The people displaced must leave their homes and community, towns that their families have lived in for generations. They must leave to physically survive, but what does this mean for their mental and spiritual survival?

The impact of the first scenario is indeed sad but the impact of the second is nothing short of devastating.

What kind of Country are we living in when major corporations, in vote rich areas, can utilize billions of dollars in tax payer’s money while towns and citizens in smaller centers must fend for themselves or die?

Something to think about this weekend.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Feds and Quebec Hold Two Provinces Hostage

The Liberal government of Ontario has admitted today that plans to shut down all of Ontario's coal-fired generators by 2007 will not be achievable. Energy Minister Dwight Duncan warned that Ontario would not be able to close all its coal plants if it could not find enough new generating capacity to replace them.

This news comes on the heals of a press release yesterday in which the Ontario Medical Association stated that air pollution is expected to kill 5,800 people prematurely in Ontario this year and that this toll could spike to 10,000 a year in the next two decades if the province does not take drastic measures to curb it.

The shut down of Ontario’s coal fired generating plants is intended to provide half of Ontario’s greenhouse-gas-reduction contributions under the Kyoto Protocol and help ensure the health of the province’s citizens. Currently Ontario is suffering under extreme smog conditions caused in part by emissions from its coal fired plants.

Meanwhile, here in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we have huge hydroelectric generating capacity at Lower Churchill Falls. This power project, which could supply much of Ontario’s needs, has been held up for decades due to the stubbornness of Quebec. Quebec has always insisted on what amounts to a ransom demand in order for Newfoundland and Labrador to wheel electrical power through the province.

Currently the provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador is reviewing expressions of interest in the development of this project which were submitted earlier this year. One of these was a joint submission by Ontario and Quebec Hydro.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is weighing all the options carefully to ensure that it is not pulled into a one sided deal like the one currently in place on the Upper Churchill plant. The existing contract sees Quebec reaping record profits while the owner of the resource, Newfoundland and Labrador receives a pittance by comparison.

It has always been a mystery to me why the Federal Government has never stepped up to opening a power, gas and oil corridor across the country. This would ensure that provinces could market resources within the Country to any area that might need it. It would also ensure that one province could not hold another ransom by restricting their ability to bring resources to market.

As things stand, Ontario is desperate for clean power, Newfoundland and Labrador has clean power to spare that it would love to market and Quebec sits geographically between the two preventing anyone from getting what they want.

All of this would not be an issue if a national corridor were opened up. This would prevent provinces like Quebec from profiting obscenely at the expense of its fellow provinces. Provinces like Ontario who's citizens are dying by the thousands in smog infested cities or provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador, the poorest in Canada, which is struggling under massive debt while desperately trying to increase revenues and lower unemployment.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

If I only had a Brain - The Gerry Byrne Story

Gerry Byrne…

Do I need to say more?

This guy has got to be either one of the dumbest men on the planet or one of the biggest sell outs this province has seen in decades. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is simply as dumb as a bag full of rusty door knobs.

Here we are struggling with the Feds to get some sort of emergency support and a long term plan in place to save the town of Harbour Breton and this guy jumps into the middle of the discussions telling key cabinet ministers that if they do anything for Harbour Breton they have to do it for other communities (I assume he was referring primarily to those in his riding).

Way to go Gerry! This simple minded statement has thrown a monkey wrench into the discussions and is scaring away the feds. They don’t want to end up on the hook for decades to come and who can blame them.

Gerry’s only defense is that he is looking out for the best interests of his riding. Well here’s a news flash idiot, if you’d kept your mouth shut and let something be put in place for Harbour Breton, then you could have gone back to Ottawa and told them that since they had set a precedent, they now couldn’t say no to other areas. It’s not rocket science pal.

The Premier, the town of Harbour Breton and even his own caucus colleague Bill Mathews are stunned by this turn of events. Who wouldn’t be? Bill Mathews has even been quoted as saying he is having trouble working on the issue since the statement from Goofball Gerry (my name for the guy, not Bill’s). He can’t for the life of him understand the reason why his fellow member would do this. The reason may not be clear to Bill Mathews, but it is clear to me why he did it.

Gerry Byrne obviously has two brain cells left in his skull and they are refusing to talk to each other.

Great Job Gerry, way to represent your province!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Federal Crusade or Nation Wide Spectacle?

The battle for the survival of Harbour Breton has heated up and it looks like practically the entire Province is backing the town. Fishery Products International (FPI) is being taken to task and is being pushed to make concessions in support of the area. It now appears that if the Feds step up to the plate and provide a fish quota for the town a deal can be sealed and this rural area will survive.

At issue is the fact that upon closing their fish plant in the town, FPI saw fit to walk away with the fish quota that was traditionally processed there. Now, in an effort to increase their cash flow they would like the Province to agree to changes in the FPI Act that would give them the ability to sell off a portion of the most profitable part of the company. FPI desperately wants this money and have made some movement to buy the support of the legislature through various commitments including giving the town of Harbour Breton the existing fish plant for one dollar.

A town owned plant would be a wonderful thing for the area, but without a quota to process in it, it is basically useless.

Enter Danny Williams to defend the town and push for more from FPI. He is looking for money to repair the plant and money to resolve certain environmental issues at the site. I believe he should be commended for taking the stand he has, and for taking the issue to Ottawa in an effort to secure a quota for the town.. What I question is his latest tactic of threatening to lead a delegation of people from the area up to Ottawa if a quota is not issued.

According to Premier Williams, he plans to take a delegation of people from the area, and I quote “Anyone else who wants to come along”. There is no doubt that the sight of a horde of down and out fisher families camped out on the steps of the Parliament building is not one that Paul Martin or his ailing government wants to contemplate. From this perspective, the threat itself may be powerful enough to force the hands of the Feds, but what if it isn’t? How will these people be regarded in the nation’s capital?

It will no doubt appear to the average Upper Canadian that Newfoundland is once again coming to Ottawa with its hand out. Once again it will look like the poor cousin is trying to get yet another free meal from the rest of the country. Of course talk will turn to the $2 billion plus provided in the Atlantic Accord deal and people will start to question when enough is enough.

I’m not saying they would be right in their arguments, in fact just the opposite. Never mind the fact that the Feds themselves, through DFO’s inept management practices, are as much to blame for the collapse of the Cod fishery as any other reason. Never mind too that as a result of that fishery collapse we find ourselves in the predicament we are in. These are facts that are all too clear to the people of Newfoundland. They are facts however that are not even on the radar in the rest of Canada.

I worry about how this type of grand standing will play out with the Starbucks set. I wonder if, after getting so much heat over the Atlantic Accord, does the Liberal Government have the stomach to make what would be very public concessions to our Province? Will Premier Williams and by association, the entire Province, look like a bunch of whiney kids grabbing for another cookie?

It’s a fine line between a crusade and a spectacle. Premier Williams has threatened to lead the crusade, the question is, will it be a crusade we can win, or will he simply make a spectacle of all of us?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Cod Fishing Protest Planned for July 16

The following, according to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, is the definition of a kental of fish:

quintal n also cantal, kental, kintal(l) a. 'a hundredweight (112 lbs.)' (c1470-); 'esp in measuring fish' (1651-); DC 1 esp Nfld (1712-) 1 A measure of cod-fish caught by fishermen.

On July 16th of this year, despite DFO regulations, some Newfoundlanders (and perhaps some Labradoreans) will take to the water in an attempt to catch a few cod fish. Perhaps even a kental or two. They are asking people all over the province to support them and even join them in this unsanctioned food fishery. They are asking everyone to go out and fish on that day. They are asking people to risk arrest and possible fines, to risk being dragged through the courts and perhaps to risk having boats and gear confiscated.

I applaud them!

The cornerstone of the protest is the concept that Newfoundlanders, by virtue of being a coastal people, have the legal and moral right to catch fish. In the past, the UN has discussed the possible validity of this argument in relation to other coastal areas and has given it some merit. Fishing is a part of our long heritage and according to some legal experts it may also be legal for us to fish. It appears that there may still be a law on the books protecting that right.

The topic of an entrenched right to fish in our coastal waters has come to the forefront in recent months because of a court case involving a couple of islanders. These gentlemen have gone to the courts to question the right of the Federal Government to control the Newfoundland fishery within three miles of the coastline. The legal case centers on a law guaranteeing every Newfoundlander the right to catch two kentals of fish. This law, which existed for years prior to Confederation, was never legally removed from the books and according to the proponents, is still valid.

The argument is being made that the Federal Government has no right to change this law. These gentlemen are arguing that the law was never revoked and is still valid.

Do they have a case?

According to some legal experts and provincial officials, they do.

Recently the case went before the courts in the province. The judge in the case in essence agreed that there was merit to hear the case but decided that since it would require a ruling involving federal law, the provincial court was not the place for a decision to be made. At this point, all signs point to the possibility of bringing the case before the Supreme Court of Canada.

There are obviously a lot of hurdles to be jumped before a ruling is finally made one way or the other, but never the less, it appears that this recent activity and the fact that some validity has been given to the argument, has hardened the resolve of several Newfoundlanders and convinced them to challenge the status quo.

The sad part of this situation is that none of this might have been necessary if DFO had agreed to allow a summer food fishery in the province. In the past they have allowed summer long food fisheries in Nova Scotia and Quebec. Meanwhile Newfoundland, which is known world wide for its fishing culture, has intermittently been given a weekend or two for this purpose. So far this year, no food fishery has been announced for the province at all.

There will no doubt be some who argue that fish stocks are in such jeopardy that a food fishery will only worsen the situation. That argument doesn’t hold as much water as a leaky bucket on a windy day.

The volume of fish caught by recreational or food fishermen is miniscule in comparison to the volume taken by foreign vessels, through by-catch during commercial fishing and through study catches sanctioned by DFO themselves in an effort to evaluate the stocks. In fact, the amount taken would be so small as to not even register on the proverbial radar.

Another key point to consider is the fact that other provinces are often given summer long fisheries. The cod stocks are low in the North Atlantic, Period. This is not just an issue off the coast of Newfoundland. Fish don’t have border lines drawn on the bottom of the ocean or sign posts telling them where they are swimming. They have no idea when they are in Nova Scotia waters or Newfoundland waters. Fish swim where they like. If recreational fishing is allowed in one Atlantic coastal province it should be allowed in all of them.

I don’t believe for a minute that any of these protesters plan to go to sea in order to catch the full two kentals of fish this ancient law allows. Most recreational fishermen will most likely go out looking for 10 or 20 fish to salt or store for the occasional meal. The majority of these people are not idiots. They know that there is a small stock and abusing this would only hurt everyone involved. There are others interested in fishing rights who may only take to the water once in a summer or not at all for that matter. The issue isn’t the amount of fish an individual can go after but rather the right to go after it at all.

I’m sure this protest planned for July 16th has caught the eye of Federal officials and I’m sure they are taking keen notice. It will be interesting to see the outcome to the protester’s request for support as well as the reaction of DFO on that day. A lot may hang in the balance.

All the best guys and I hope our coastal waters turn black with boats.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Petroleum Pricing, or Price-Fixing, Office

Contributer: Kevin S.

The price of gas on da Rock is outrageous, but, you don’t need me to both tell you that, nor remind you. I apologize if I have upset you. The Petroleum Pricing Office, who’s existence was intended to stabilize fluctuations in gas prices, has not only failed to achieve this goal, but has cost Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans hundreds with the high gas prices.

Today, as I write this piece, the cost of regular gas in St. John’s is 99.9 cents per litre. Here in New Orleans (where I live), it is a 51.5 cents a litre. This is a 48 cent difference! For a fill-up of my truck (Ford Ranger), this is almost $10 per fill-up that I would be paying extra if I lived on da Rock.

Does this upset you? If you are paying those high prices, then it should.

You should also be asking the number one question of the year – “Why are gas prices so high?”

Lately, it seems as if the oil producers and retailers will use any lame excuse to keep the money rolling their way. Over the past few months, I have heard that a snowstorm in Europe caused a 2-week price hike because a refinery had to reduce production. I guess that was their first ever snow fall.

Remember the great black-out a few years ago, you know, when New York, Detroit, and Toronto lost power? Guess what – that caused the price of oil to go up.

This week, the excuse is that China and India are consuming more oil, so the demand is up globally. We all know about supply-demand, so this sounds a bit more plausible, except when you think about it.

Have China and India suddenly discovered the invention known to the rest of the world as automobiles. Maybe just last week, Apo and Lin Lin were visiting Canada and were amazed to see people riding in horseless carriages. They quickly headed back to their countries and told everyone, who then bought horseless carriages for themselves, thus driving up global demand for fossil fuels. Yes, it makes perfect sense.

So, nothing new that the big oil companies want to make more money. They can pretty much tell us that the price of oil is going up because the wind is blowing from the east today and we have no choice but to accept that. They control the oil, we want the oil, and they know that.

Back to da Rock and the Petroleum Pricing Office. They are billed as being on the side of the consumer, but yet, the price of gas is higher than elsewhere in Canada (right now, you can buy gas in Nova Scotia for 89 cents a litre).

I wonder if they have a hidden agenda – is this another tax on the poor (like the lottery). They are ripping off consumers to the tune of at least 10 cents a litre. Add that up over a period of weeks and months and you are talking a large chunk of your hard-earned cash lost forever.

This is one issue that needs to be given more time in the spotlight and under a microscope.

Canada May Claim the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks

According to a recent CBC article, Canadian researchers will begin mapping the floor of the Arctic Ocean next year in an effort to enhance the country's sovereign rights to the area. The mapping process, which is part of a multi-year plan, is estimated to cost about $70 million and will provide an undersea inventory of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.

The program to map these areas began after Canada ratified the International Law of the Sea agreement in 2003. This United Nations convention allows countries to claim ownership of territory past their traditional 200-mile limit. Canada now has 10 years from the signing date to prove that the continental shelf off its coast is an extension of its landmass.

According to the article, a United Nations study suggests that Canada's continental shelf contains up to $700 billion worth of natural resources.

Canada will begin mapping its east coast later this year.

This is obviously good news for Canada as a whole, but it may also be the news Newfoundland and Labrador has been waiting to hear for decades. If Canada can convince the UN that specific areas of the Grand Banks commonly referred to as the “Nose” and “Tail” of the banks are part of the countries continental shelf, it will mean that Canada can extend its 200 mile limit and jurisdiction to include this area.

About 10% of the Grand Banks, the richest fish nursery in the world, lies outside the current limit. As a result, it’s been all but impossible to take foreign vessels to task for illegally fishing in the area. The situation has been a major concern for the NL fishing industry for years.

Over the past couple of decades, large numbers of vessels have been spotted over fishing and using illegal nets in this area. Vessels from Portugal, Iceland, Spain and several other countries regularly skirt the edge of the 200 mile limit and rape this key breeding area of its resources.

Canada has made a couple of highly publicized arrests over the years, but since the area is technically outside the Country’s sovereign jurisdiction, prosecuting these vessels has been an uphill battle. In one case, not only did the offending vessel return to its home port after being arrested, the government was later successfully sued for wrongful arrest and forced to pay reparations.

The Province has been fighting to have the Canadian government take custodial control of the area ever since the collapse of the cod fishery in the nineties. It is an accepted theory in many circles that until the over fishing in this critical area is stopped, the cod stocks will not rebound and the local fishing industry will continue to struggle for survival. Canada has been reluctant to move toward policing the area since it is technically regarded as international waters.

This new mapping and the ability to claim the entire continental shelf may finally allow Canada to take necessary steps to protect and nurture the area. The hope is that the area will be allowed rebuild it’s stocks and eventually allow for the re-building of an ailing and ever worsening industry in Canada’s poorest province.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Electoral Reform for Individual Representatives

Electoral reform has been discussed in this Country for decades but very little has been done to move these reforms forward. This isn’t surprising. Consider that reform requires those who wield most of the power be willing to relinquish part of it.

Some of the possibilities for reform have included proportional representation, fixed election dates and senate reform. None of these possibilities has been adopted as of yet but with the NDP being a big supporter of electoral reform and with the Liberal party depending on NDP support for survival, some movement in this area may come sooner than we think.

Recent events in Ottawa bring to mind another possible reform that would ensure valid representation, down to the individual riding itself.

The dramatic defection of Belinda Stronach from the Conservative Party and the recent defection of Liberal Pat O’Brien bring the question to mind. Should members who have been elected as a candidate for a specific party retain their seat if they decide to leave that party?

Of course defections have been happening since the early days of our Country. Every party has seen members leave to sit as an independent or worse yet, cross the floor to the other side. It’s been happening for longer than anyone can remember but does that make it right?

When Belinda Stronach went from door to door campaigning for her seat in Ottawa, she did it as a Conservative and the public elected her as a Conservative, not a Liberal. When Pat O’Brien kissed babies at his local Kinsmen or Lion’s clubs he didn’t tell the parents of those babies that they would soon be represented by an independent.

Another example is the case of Carolyn Parrish, who was in essence ex-communicated from the Liberal Caucus. She is now sitting as an independent. In her case there was a push from inside the party that basically stripped her constituents of the representation they had voted for. In this case, her constituents did not elect an independent, they elected a Liberal and they were denied their constitutionally elected party of choice by the party itself.

On the political scene, a similar situation recently occurred in the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature when a member of the ruling PC party, Fabian Manning, was ejected from the Conservative caucus for not staying in line with the team.

What can or should be done to ensure that we are represented in the way we want to be represented?

Perhaps we need electoral reforms in the area of individual members as well.

One option would be to deny a party the right to kick a member out of caucus. Once the people have decided they want to be represented by an individual, what gives a political party the right to circumvent that election result?

Further to this, in situations where an elected representative decides to speak out or vote against their party line perhaps they should be presented with two options. Either the member should remain in the party caucus and continue to fight for their constituents no matter what the atmosphere or they should submit to a by-election.

The option to sit as an independent or to join another party should not exist.

Taking away the option of defection would ensure true representation for an electoral district. If a return to the polls is required it would allow the public themselves to determine who represents them. This would place this all important decision back into the hands of the electorate which is the only place it truly belongs.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Paul Martin - Prime Minister or Agriculturalist

With the Federation of Municipalities meeting on our province this week, we have been afforded the opportunity to see campaign style visits by the leaders of all three major Federal parties, and what a spectacle it’s been.

I don’t want to take party sides in the soap opera that is our Parliament, and even though there were plenty of sound bytes from the other leaders to fill this article, I would like to focus on Mr. Martin and his band of wise guys simply because he is the one on the Canadian throne at present.

It was almost sickening to watch our Honorable Prime Minister running from venue to venue like a frightened deer caught in Stephen Harper’s headlights. In his address to the delegates he did everything in his power to pressure the leaders of our municipalities into strong arming their local MPs. His approach is to apply pressure on opposition MPs to vote for his budget bill and as a result, prop up his government.

His main tactic of course was the old Liberal dog and pony show of fear mongering and seeding doubt throughout the visit. Something he and his party have become experts at.

There seems to be a great game of fear mongering going on within the Liberal party over the past few months. Fear mongering about the opposition. Fear mongering about the state of the country and fear mongering about everything in between.

The sad part about the use of this tactic is that it’s working.

A good example of this tactic is the way everyone feels about opposition leader Stephen Harper. Just about everyone has some concern about his politics, his motives and his direction. Ask anyone, especially in Atlantic Canada and they will tell you they don’t trust Mr. Harper, not one bit. They will immediately follow this statement with “I don’t know why, I just don’t”.

In my opinion, the reason why is the Liberal Party machine. I’m not saying we should trust Mr. Harper. I don’t trust him myself, I don’t know why, I just don’t.


Stephen Harper has never had a chance to make the kinds of mistakes we all fear that he will, and he has never been given the opportunity to lead us in a direction we might not want. Regardless of this fact, the Liberal spin doctors have made him look like Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin all rolled into one and wearing a ten gallon hat. He may very well be the anti-Christ himself, but we really have nobody's word for this but the Liberals. We all know how honest they are.

The Liberals have also used fear tactics to prop up their corrupt government by saying that if the budget bill is defeated then the child care reforms, gas tax for municipalities and the Atlantic Accord deals will die. The reality of the situation is that all the major parties have agreed to support those specific issues even if the government collapses, but of course we shouldn’t cloud the issues with facts. Fear mongering again.

Three Liberal MPs have now threatened to vote against the party line on the budget bill in a protest against Liberal policy on same sex marriage. Again the party fear mongers are saying these MPs should vote with the party or the country itself may split up and life as we know it will end. The reality is that the only result of this move would be the Liberal party losing power. The country would not split up and life would indeed go on.

Somehow the Liberals have gotten into a mind set where they think they ARE the country itself. They are not.

Fear is a great way to rally support from the masses. George Bush has been using it constantly since 9/11. Out of the blue he will have his puppets issue a condition yellow or condition red to scare the general public. When asked why the alerts are issued they simply reply that they "heard some chatter" or that they can't say, “for security reasons". In the meantime everyone is afraid to speak out against the president. They even voted him in after he and his daddy all but stole the previous election and he has them mired in a war they don’t know how to get out of. After all, who wants to replace their leader during a national crisis? Fear is a great motivator.

Keep then off balance and they can’t knock you over.

Yes, fear is a great motivator and Paul Martin has learned this lesson very well. He knows that there are points in his budget that everyone wants to see passed. The reality of the situation is that if the budget does not pass, there is about a 99.7 percent chance (I like making up statistics) that the key points on day care, gas tax and the Atlantic Accord will eventually get through anyway. They might take a little longer, but they will get through. He knows this, but he also knows that everyone hates the idea that these items might, just MIGHT be in jeopardy if the bill does not pass.

It doesn’t take much to sow a seed of doubt. It would appear that Mr. Martin is getting lots of prep time for his retirement and he’s using it wisely. At this point he sure knows how to plant his seeds in the garden of our country and grow exactly the kind of crop he’s looking for.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Titan Rocket Booster - Chemical Soup on the Grand Banks

News reports this morning are warning of the possible impact of a Titan rocket booster on our fishing grounds. Not an impact from the sky as such, but a potential environmental impact, the results of which may not be seen for years.

According to information gathered through the freedom if information act, the Titan rocket booster that landed near Hibernia just a short while back contained between 900 and 2,250 kilograms of highly poisonous chemicals when it hit the water.

The typical fuel used in Titan rockets contains a mixture known as Aerozine-50. The chemicals contained in this mix are highly poisonous, corrosive and carcinogenic. Merely breathing the vapours can cause death.

The following is a breakdown of the lovely soup that the American government saw fit to dump off our coast.

Aerozine 50 is a 50/50 mix of hydrazine and unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH). It is used as a rocket fuel, typically with nitrogen tetroxide as the oxidizer, with which it ignites on contact.

Hydrazine was touted in the 1950's as a "wonder chemical". Not only did it make a good rocket fuel, there were also indications that it made a good fertilizer, but there were problems. For one, it's quite unstable-- the chemical plant in which it was being manufactured had several very thick concrete walls separating the various stages of the process, in hopes that an explosion would only wreck part of the plant. Later on it was found to be carcinogenic.

Hydrazine is very soluble in water. At ordinary temperatures it is a colorless, fuming liquid that has an ammonia like odor, but when frozen it forms white crystals. Hydrazine is corrosive. It reacts with water to form hydrazine hydrate, a colorless liquid that boils at 120°C. Hydrazine and its derivatives are also used in the manufacture of algicides, fungicides, insecticides, and agricultural chemicals.

Unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) is a rocket fuel ingredient, often used in combination with the oxidiser, nitrogen tetroxide. UDMH is toxic, and can explode in the presence of oxidisers.

Nitrogen tetroxide is a brownish yellow liquid which is easily vaporized. It is a powerful oxidizer, and is highly toxic and corrosive.

It’s good to see that our federal government is protecting our interests in the form of our offshore by allowing the Americans to use us as a dumping ground for hazardous waste. We can only wonder what impact this sludge will have on fish stocks in the area, not to mention the fact that eventually, some of these chemicals will wash up on our shores.

There is a line of discussion currently underway that suggests the feds should recover the booster and its contents, if they haven’t already entered the ecosystem. The bill for this recovery should be presented to the American government and a new process of co-operation should be developed to help avoid this type of situation in the future.

Will the government take these steps? It’s a pretty good bet that they won’t. They would rather cover it up. There will no doubt be a press release very soon stating that the content of the booster was lower than originally thought, or that the chemicals when diluted in sea water would cause no real risk. These are the types of press releases the government loves. It allows them to close the issue without any real effort or cost.

No cost to the government coffers, but what cost to our coastal marine environment and our fishing industry?

If you would like to contact your MP, the Environment Minister or the Prime Minister to comment on this situation or to pressure them to do something about it, you can do so by clicking the Canadian MP email link on the left side of this page. This will take you to a site containing all of the email addresses for our elected government officials.

UPDATE, June 6, 2005 - 1:02pm NST

The following are excerpts from a Globe and Mail article available on their web site today in reference to the chemicals stored in the Titan rocket booster.

...even heavy firefighting suits cannot protect against the toxic effects. Both chemicals dissolve in water, with the latter forming toxic nitric acid. Dimethylhydrazine initially floats on the water and produces toxic vapours on contact with air.

Sebastien Bois, a spokesman for Environment Canada, says the U.S. Air Force and NASA carried out an environmental assessment covering the Titan IV launch, though the document was not made available to Canadian authorities for “security reasons.”

...Space analysts say the U.S. frequently launches similar rockets along the same flight path, allowing spent boosters to splash down in the North Atlantic.

...Canada's apparent lack of official concern over the toxic rocket chemicals contrasts sharply with new legislation to protect the marine environment that came into effect three weeks after the splashdown.

Bill C-15, which became law May 20, imposes hefty fines — a minimum of $500,000 for the most serious offences — on ships that dump oil and other toxic substances in waters off Canada's coasts.

Friday, June 03, 2005

This is Your Site

A couple of months ago, when this site was just beginning, we put out a call to anyone interested in sending along an article for publication. There was not a lot of response.

Since that time our readership has grown dramatically, some of our articles have been picked up by other sites and there seems to be a growing interest in the site's content.

With this in mind, we thought it might be a good time to re-state our request.

If there are any topics you would like to see included in our forum or if you would like to publish an article yourself on the topic of your choice, please feel free to contact us at the following email link: (higginsmyles@yahoo.ca)

Maybe you have some insights into the offshore oil revenue issue, sealing, our lack of a power base in Parliament, our current government (Federal or Provincial), or maybe a topic that is far removed from these but one that never the less has a bearing on our place in Canada.

Whatever the topic, feel free to let us know. We'd love to hear your opinions and thoughts.

Remember, this is your forum.

Thanks, Patriot

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Premier Danny Williams - Dictator or Hero?

Premier Danny Williams has taken a lot of heat on a number of contentious issues in our province these past two years. He has managed to raise the hackles of everyone from public sector workers and fishermen to ATV users, smokers and bar owners. His hard line approach on several issues has not gone over well with some to say the least. This writer has been one voice that has questioned his decisions on several occasions and will continue to do so, but that is where I draw the line.

Questioning a government’s decisions is one thing, but there are some who have resorted to personal attacks. Comments have been made to the effect that he is a dictator who’ll do whatever he wants, no matter the consequences. He’s been called everything from a Napoleon to a spoiled little rich kid. There have even been reports of physical threats on his person.

Although I have no problem taking any government to task on any issue, personal attacks, either verbal or physical, are taking the matter to a level we should never sink.

So, half way into the Government’s mandate, the question is: What does the general population really think of our provincial leadership?

The answer: Nobody seems to know.

Currently there appears to be two camps that change members on a moments notice. Simply put, one camp views the Premier’s, approach as a one man ego trip while the other sees it as an example good solid leadership.

It’s been said that there is one given in politics. If a government does anything, they are assured of pleasing some segments of the population and upsetting others. This would naturally mean that a government which doesn’t upset anyone isn’t doing anything.

Some may accuse the current government of a lot of things, but we can’t accuse them of doing nothing.

Whether you are a member of the “Dictator” or “Good Leader” camp, it’s a solid bet that you’ve wavered from time to time depending on the topic or day of the week. Most of us have. What does it say about our population that the minute the Williams government takes a direct and hard line approach within the province, the phone lines light up like a Christmas tree on the open line programs? At the same time, when they adopt the same approach outside the province they are heroes.

When Premier Williams stood his ground with the Federal Government during the Atlantic Accord negotiations, he was welcomed home with open arms.

On Monday of this week he met with oil industry executives in Nova Scotia. In his comments at that conference he made no bones about his intentions. This province wants better royalty regimes for oil, gas, minerals and even hydro power. In essence he said that the water of Churchill Falls could continue to run out to the sea and other resources could stay in the ground or under the ocean for the next 20,000 years if they had to. There haven’t been too many complaints from our residents over those statements.

Nobody should ever agree with everything a government does, including this government. In fact most people would agree that the Conservatives are making some serious mistakes along the way. These things are a given, but then again, what government doesn’t make mistakes? But when one takes a step back and rationally looks at the overall performance and the direction taken by the government so far, the scale appears to tip toward a leadership that has the best interests of the province at heart.

The quota sharing move is intended to stabilize the industry for fishers and plant worker alike. ATV legislation is intended to protect our children and anti-smoking laws are intended to protect the overall health of our people. Is the approach taken by government sound? Time will tell, but regardless of the outcome, or what the opposition parties might say, it is difficult to dispute the motives behind these moves.

It would do us all good to remember that this is a government led by someone who is not used to the, “watching the grass grow”, speed of government. Rather he is more used to acting as a CEO. Picture his cabinet as VP’s who provide information and advice, but ultimately it is the CEO who makes the tough decisions and makes them quickly before moving on to the next issue. This is a person with a business like proactive rather than reactive approach.

We should also remember that Premier Williams is leading a party that, until the last election, was sidelined by the Liberals for the best part of two decades. As a result, they are somewhat inexperienced.

The party is leading a province that has built up a massive and crippling per capita debt. They are dealing with the results of the less than stellar financial management regime left behind by the Liberal Party after so many years in office. All of this is happening at a time when the province is in a major state of flux. Not an enviable situation for anyone to be in.

The Conservative Government is only two years into a four year mandate. Who knows that the next two years may bring. When their mandate is up they will be judged on what they have done. At that time, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will decide their fate. In the mean time we may as well get used to the fact that, for good or bad, they are doing what they were elected to do, govern the province.

With these things in mind, it would be a good thing if everyone continued to speak out against policies and legislation they disagree with, gave the occasional pat on the back when pleased with a decision and fought along side the government when needed.

What people need to stop doing is making personal attacks on our leaders that only serve to muddy the issues, drive a wedge between us all and weaken us in the eyes of the rest of the country.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dumb; Stupid; Uneducated; Dirty; Violent; Drunken...

Foolish; and

If I used any of these words to describe a segment of the world’s population, say Hispanics, Jews or members of the African community, I would be immediately branded a racist and ostracized by my community. I should be.

Why then is it O.K. for people in all parts of the country to use these terms when talking, or making jokes about Newfoundlanders?

In many parts of the country we are viewed in this way. Often you will hear comments like, “Goofy Newfies” or someone will say that the “Good old Newfs should get off welfare and unemployment and get back to work”.

These too are racial slurs of the worst kind, but slurs that seem to be acceptable in our country.

Stereotyping an entire culture is wrong in so many ways. It does a true injustice to the people insulted and it makes life a much more difficult proposition when people start believing the rhetoric.

Some say that it is only a joke, but so are black jokes and Jewish jokes. They may be jokes but they are nothing to be laughed at.

Some say that they are not commenting on a race or culture but simply a province, the way you would make comments about your neighbouring town. This argument does not hold water. Newfoundland IS a unique culture. We have been an independent nation in the past and we are only a couple of generations into our place in Canada. Nowhere else in the country, with the possible exception of Quebec, will you find a more unique culture.

We have our own approach to life. We have developed our own dialects and to some degree our own language. There are words that have come into existence in our language that exist nowhere else in the world. Our customs are unique and so are our people.

There are some people who insist on making jokes that use a Newfoundlander as the central character, and not all of them are bad, but the context and source needs to be considered. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with a Newfoundlander sharing a funny joke at our own expense and for our own enjoyment, but when someone uses those same jokes to truly portray us as less than we are, I have a major problem.

Let me put it this way. When an African Canadian calls someone a (excuse the language), Nigger, it is his prerogative. When a white person says the same thing it is reprehensible. Why then is it acceptable for a person from anywhere but Newfoundland to call someone a “Newfie” or to use any other derogatory language to describe us?

Can anyone out there answer that for me?