Da Legal Stuff...

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

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

Friday, July 29, 2005

For Sale: The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador?

For Sale: One Canadian Province, going cheap. Spacious, pristine and hardly used by owner. Please contact the government of Newfoundland and Labrador for more information.

I personally don’t recall ever seeing this ad appear in the classifieds, but apparently it must have. Why else would so many major corporations think they can walk away with the province’s lands, forests, fish, minerals, oil and waters?

Over the past 50+ years countless instances of plundering and attempted resource raping have taken place in the province.

There was the infamous giveaway of Churchill Falls, a recent plan to build a pipeline from an iron ore discovery in Labrador to a processing plant in Quebec and even the theft of fish quotas by Fishery Products International in Harbour Breton. It seems like these companies feel the province is nothing more than a giant bargain basement where everything must go, go, go!

One of the worst examples of this type of mentality took place just this week in the case of Abitibi Consolidated and its demands on the province and people.

Abitibi, one of the world’s largest newsprint manufacturers has been logging and milling paper in Newfoundland and Labrador for decades. This effort has provided thousands of jobs over that time and communities have grown up around the company’s mills. Now, even though they have been given millions in benefits from the province over the years and have had generous access to forest resources, they have decided to make a grab for the entire province.

Recently Abitibi informed the government and the public of plans to shut down their mill in Stephenville and one of two paper machines in Grand Falls-Windsor, putting hundreds of people out of work and devastating a dozen or more communities dependent on mill and logging employment.

The only thing the government has to do to avoid such a catastrophe is to build power generating plants, which would be owned by Abitibi (at an estimated tax payer expense of $300+ million), and give the company (free of charge) first rights to every single stick of wood in both Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. Simple really and what a bargain.

It’s hard to understand why the current government wouldn’t jump at the offer. After all, it would save those jobs and the only cost would be about 10 to 15 percent of the money the province picked up from the Atlantic Accord re-negotiations, giving Abitibi control of the second largest power source on the island even if they shut down both mills in the future.

Of course it would also mean that Abitibi, in essence, would own every birch, spruce, fir, pine and apple tree in the province, but who needs them. Don’t they just serve as breeding grounds for black flies and a hiding place for pesky beavers and moose anyway?

It’s really amazing the gall some of these companies, but what is even more depressing and disheartening than this type of corporate mentality is the tendency of governments in the province to buckle under to such demands.

As of the time this article is being written, the provincial government has said they will not get into this type of deal with the company. I applaud them for that, but I also wonder. As we all know, governments have a way of saying one thing and doing something completely different.

If no deal is made, the Stephenville mill will almost assuredly be shut down. The province does hold one ace up its sleeve when it comes to the Grand Falls-Windsor mill however.

Currently legislation exists that would strip abitibi of most of its timber licences in the province should they fail to maintain a two machine operation in Grand Falls-Windsor. Provincial leaders have vowed to hold the company’s feet to the fire on this one, but will they?

When Fishery Products International requested changes to the FPI Act there was a furor and politicians lined up to go to battle. FPI wanted government to make changes to legislation allowing them to sell off a part of its marketing division. In the end, in one of the oddest votes ever seen in the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature, the act was changed and FPI got exactly what they wanted. It makes one wonder what will happen this time.

All indications are that the people of the province and even the hard working people most affected by this move, the mill workers and loggers, are fully in support of telling Abitibi exactly where to go. They would rather see both mills shut down than submit to this type of blackmail.

I don’t believe any government could hope for a stronger mandate than to have the union representing mill workers telling them to let the company shut down if that’s what it takes. Hopefully this endorsement will have the desired effect and officials will take the high road rather than giving away the shop.

Years ago the owners of a similar mill in Corner Brooke closed up shop and moved on. It didn’t take long for another company to see the benefit of the operations and to move in. Currently this mill is thriving. There is no reason the same shouldn’t happen again.

The current mills in the province produce one of the cheapest selling forest products in the world rather than high end products like building materials. For heaven’s sake, even the toilet paper used in the province must be imported.

It’s time the province waved goodbye to poor corporate citizens like Abitibi that have been the mainstay of the economy and said hello to those who would see new and innovative products produced for the benefit of themselves and the people in the area.

Let’s all hope our leaders stick to their guns and tell the blood sucking vultures running this company that they will not have publicly funded hydro projects given to them carte blanche and they do not and will never own the provincial forests. Let them know that the people of the province can live without them and oh, bye the way, don’t let the door knob hit you in the butt on the way out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Feds Giveth and the Feds Taketh Away.

To all of you who viewed the dripping prose and rosy sentiment of my last article with disgust, I deeply apologize, and to those who enjoyed the fact that I had stopped to reflect on the sunny side of things for once, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately for the latter, I must inform you that my medication has now worn off and so has my chemically induced complacence. Having gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business.

The topic for today has to be the current provincial / federal sparring over who should chair the CNLOPB (Canada Newfoundland & Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board). For those not familiar with the situation, let me fill you in on the background. This board basically deals with offshore oil related issues in the province and according to Premier Williams, the chair of the board is basically the "guardian of the Atlantic Accord".

In order for a new chair to be appointed, both levels of government must agree to the candidate. Some time ago candidates were put forward but an agreement on the final selection could not be made. As a result, an independent panel was setup to deliver a slate of candidates, create a short list of those available and determine who the best candidate might be. Enter the problem.

When the short list was provided to the province, Premier Williams was not pleased with the results and instead offered up a new possibility for the position, none other than current St. John's Mayor of St. John’s and all around S#%T disturber Andy Wells. This did not sit well with Liberal MP Elmer Fudd oops, I mean John Efford.

Once again the historically dysfunctional relationhip between the province and Ottawa has moved to the fore. Swords are rattling, the rhetoric is flying around like so much pizza dough in Little Italy. The test of wills has begun in earnest once more. Don't let the pats on the back and handshakes that inevitably take place after big some big deal fool you. The province has never had a smooth relationship with the Ottawa elite and it’s doubtful it ever will.

Neither side seems to be backing down which of course leaves Mr. Wells hung in a kind of limbo. He doesn't know if he will get the job, which means that he doesn't know whether or not he should gear up for a mayoral campaign due in the fall.

There are a number of reasons that Mr. Efford might be opposed to this particular appointment. Perhaps he's still sore over the fact that Mr. Wells backed the province during recent Atlantic Accord talks by speaking personally with Paul Martin and participating in the so called "Flag Flap".

Perhaps Mr. Efford and the Liberal government are still sore over being bested in the previously mentioned negotiations and just want to win one for a change. Perhaps they feel that Newfoundland and Labrador must be made to pay for their insolence.

Any of the above might be the reason for the current federal stance, but I would prefer to give our national leaders a little more credit than that. I doubt they would be so petty as to hold the past against the province, especially when a reason exists that might benefit them way beyond a few high fives in the back rooms of the parliament buildings.

Could the real reason be the fact that Mr. Wells' own personal mentality would never allow him to do anything that might short change the province by one thin dime? Mayor Wells may well be one of the most controversial municipal leaders in the country, but I doubt anyone can accuse him of being anything but a tiger when it comes to building revenues in his constituency.

Don't get me wrong, I don't blame Mr. Efford for the stance he's taken, after all ever since entering federal politics he’s been nothing more than a mouth piece for Paul Martin. He has lost all sense of pride in his province and has tried to short change Newfoundland and Labrador on several major issues over the past year or so. Not the kind of guy who would want to interact on a regular basis with someone like Andy Wells. After all, by comparison, Mr. Wells is the kind of man who might consider throwing his own mother over a wharf if it meant increasing revenues for the capital city or province.

Instead, Mr. Efford (and by extension Paul Martin) would rather see a more fed friendly personality sitting in the big chair. One who's strings can be more easily pulled. The only question is, which liberal friendly supporter does Mr. Martin owe the next patronage appointment to?

I wouldn't want to speculate on who the puppet finally selected might be (though I could), but after the intense negotiations that took place over the Atlantic Accord, you can bet your last dollar it will be someone who answers to the federal piper. Someone who will ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador gets as little as possible from future dealings with Ottawa.

Oh well, you can't win them all. The feds giveth and the feds taketh it away.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

From Bricks to Bouquets, the Side Effects of Headache Medication

Due to the nature of the columns I've written and the comments I've made in the past, I have all too often been labeled everything from a whiner to a malcontent. There may be some merit to those words. I have to admit that I cannot fully disagree with all of the adjectives that have been hurled in my direction. Whiner or not, I have always been of the opinion that it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. I have seen this theory proven too many times to change my mind now.

Nobody ever sparked change or improved their lot in life by quietly accepting the status quo.

In past commentaries I have taken exception with everyone from NASA to the Newfoundland and Labrador Legislature and from Paul Martin to Gerry Byrne, especially Gerry Byrne. I don’t hide from the slings and arrows shot at me when I make the comments I do, nor do I rail against them. Rather, I cherish every one of those words. Pro or con, they speak to one thing I hold dear to my heart. The fact that people are listening and a dialog is taking place. That after all is the only thing one can hope for.

Today though is different. Maybe it’s the beautiful weather we are experiencing at present or maybe it’s the potential overdose of ibuprofen I ingested this morning, regardless, today, in an effort to prove that I am not all gloom and doom I’d like to toss out a few bouquets and focus on some of the good things all around.

The first bouquet I offer has to go to none other than Newfoundland and Labrador’s reigning premier, Danny Williams.

Since his election, Premier Williams has taken on Ottawa and won. He has lain down the law to major oil companies, hoping to do business in the province, and (whether intentional or not) he has ignited a spark of resolve within the province, the likes of which has not been seen for decades.

This is not to say there haven’t been bumps along the road. Mistakes have unquestionably been made and many issues still remain to be resolved, but all in all, the direction Newfoundland and Labrador has taken under its current leadership, is one that everyone in the province should be proud of.

This naturally leads me to the second set of congrats I'd like to offer. This pat on the back has to go to the people of the province themselves.

I’ve lived in the province for most of my four decades and have heard much about it, but I have never witnessed the spirit of the fighting Newfoundlander as it exists today. It is a force that has suddenly appeared like a galleon through the mist. A force that can almost be felt in the very air we breathe.

Everywhere one looks these days, green white and pink flags of old are flapping from garden and rooftop poles. Open line programs are continuously buzzing with discussions on every conceivable topic and protests over everything from fisheries to health care are happening on an almost daily basis. The fighting spirit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorean’s has been awakened and that cannot be a bad thing.

Although I often comment on what I see as our provincial and more pointedly, our country’s short comings, there are good things happening and those also deserve attention before my medication wears off.

The economy of this province is growing by leaps and bounds. The oil industry off the provinces coast now accounts for about 25% of Canadian production. Provincial mineral deposits, timber and hydro potential are in demand like never before. Our tourism industry is growing, as are our music and film industries. All of these things point to a very vibrant and healthy future. One we all hope to be a part of.

Thanks to the province’s growing economy and the strong spirit and vision of its people, for the first time in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador’s union with Canada the province can sit at the table and dine on the fine cuisine of confederation like an equal rather than arriving at the banquet and begging for a stale roll.

There are indeed a lot of good things happening but the battle is far from over. In future articles I will no doubt revert to my old ways. There will be complaints, demands for action and the sarcastic comments you have become accustomed to. That’s in the future.

Today the sun shines outside my window, the breeze smells of wild roses and everywhere I look I see the smiling happy faces of neighborhood children.

On a day like this its hard to look at the down side. It’s much easier and perhaps even beneficial to sometimes stop and smell those roses. It’s heartwarming and comforting to listen to the children’s laughter and see the possibilities for a bright future in the freshly scrubbed slate that is the face of a toddler. A toddler whose world is one of beauty, absolute wonder and endless possibilities.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Yankees are Coming, The Yankees are Coming!!

The following excerpts are from a July 13 Department of Fisheries and Oceans press release:

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) are initiating joint marine security and law enforcement patrols along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River…

"… This partnership will help protect these important waterways in areas of national security as well as in the prevention of organized crime," said Mauril Belanger, Minister for Internal Trade and Associate Minister of National Defence….

This initiative is a component of the Government of Canada's announcement in April of a $300 million, five-year package designed to further enhance the security of Canada's marine transportation system and maritime borders.

Hold on one second, back up the turnip cart just a minute and let me get this straight.

The government is beefing up security on the great lakes in order to protect our borders. Do they think we are going to be invaded by the Americans?

Head for the hills everyone, the Yankees are coming, the Yankees are coming.

Here’s a message to the federal brain trust in Ottawa. If the Americans decide to invade us, all of us had better run our tidy whities up the flag pole ‘cause we’ll have about 2 minutes to drop our guns and get our hands in the air.

All kidding aside, I understand that in a post 911 world we need to strengthen our security. I also know that illegal drug pipelines need to be shut down, but is this the best place to spend hundreds of millions of dollars?

This country has approximately 250,000 or a quarter of a million kilometers of largely unprotected and often unpopulated coastline. Who is protecting that? Who will keep terrorists from entering Canada by boat and moving freely across the country? As far as organized crime prevention, who will stop the movement of drugs, illegal cigarettes and alcohol up and down our coastline?

Just a couple of weeks ago there was a boat captured off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador with a cargo of $120 million dollars worth of drugs. How many like this are plying our coasts and moving drugs quietly across the country from east to west or visa versa?

Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to protect these coasts rather than cruising around the great lakes, an area where people are already inside Canada or the US? One would think, from a terrorist perspective, anyone already roaming about in either of these countries should have been identified and perhaps already be under surveillance or investigation.

The plan to enhance protection in the great lakes and the St. Lawrence will have the effect of protecting Canadian people from American people and American people from Canadian people. After all, these are the only two countries bordering those areas. So much for the world’s longest unprotected border, I guess we just don’t trust our neighbour’s anymore.

It would seem to me that a better approach to marine security and drug enforcement might be to stop as many of these low life criminals as possible from getting into our respective countries in the first place. The airports of both countries have already beefed up security to prevent just that, but what about our ocean approaches?

By protecting the waters off our shores rather than the water inside our borders, wouldn’t we help close this entry point to foreign terrorists, disrupt drug pipelines and, as added benefits, reduce the incidence of foreign vessels illegally fishing in our waters while providing added functionality and ability in maritime rescue/response services.

I don’t believe anyone in our government, or for that matter any right thinking person, knows how the terrorist mind really works. That is not to say that politicians are necessarily right thinking. Never the less, I would be willing to bet that the powers that be have looked at this issue and decided that Central Canada would be the most likely target for terrorist attacks. I also know that the drug trade in places like Ontario and Quebec is a major concern. I can’t disagree with these points and far be it from me to question the motives of our government on this issue. My problem is not with the motives but with the solution adopted.

Even if the suppositions of our government are correct and Central Canada is a target for terror, wouldn’t it be better if terrorists are prevented from ever getting close to these areas? Wouldn’t it also be better if drugs were not allowed to land on our secluded beaches and be trucked in from the coastal provinces? Wouldn’t this approach provide the people of Central Canada with a higher level of comfort than letting the bad guys stroll right onto their doorstep before we try to stop them?

I’m no security or military genius. I don’t know a lot about terrorist tactics or public protection, but I do know one thing. If someone was out to get me, I’d much rather have him hundreds or even thousands of miles away than have him knocking on my door and hoping the boys in blue were going to show up in the nick of time. Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the political types on Ottawa have watched enough episodes of NYPD Blue to know exactly what they’re doing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I Just Wanna Know

With very little happening on the national and provincial political scene the past few days, my thoughts have been free to ramble, never a good idea. So it is, as I sat to write today’s article that I began to wonder what the topic should be. Of course there are always strange and wonderful things to comment on in this province, never a dull moment as they say.

With the current lull in activity however, this seemed like a good opportunity to toss off a few questions to the political powers that be. Perhaps in their letters home from fat camp, or band camp or dithering camp or where ever those little devils get off to during the lazy days of summer, some of them might like to fill me in on a few nagging questions that will not go away.

Let’s start with the following:

Why is the federal government planning to announce a 6 week food fishery with the purchase of tags in parts of Newfoundland while allowing an 11 month tag free fishery in Nova Scotia?

Why has the federal government all but abandoned 5 Wing Goose when the big land offers such vast training opportunities? Foreign military groups have seen the potential for years and the base is in such a strategically important location on the east coast, why is it dying?

Why would the federal government say they wanted to focus on commercially viable species rather than cod in an attempt to qualify canceling funding for the only independent inshore cod researcher in the province? Isn’t it true that the reason cod is not commercially viable is because a lack of government science led to its decline? Couldn’t good science help it become economically viable one day?

Why are people in Newfoundland and Labrador the highest taxed, lowest income and most under employed people in Canada?

Why does Newfoundland and Labrador provide about 10% of Canada’s armed services personnel but has practically no military presence in the province?

Why are there less and less federal government jobs in the province year after year after year?

Nothing too difficult to answer, after all, we are in the dog days of July and I wouldn’t want to have some politician throw a brain gasket rushing out to buy a pad and pen so they can dash me off a quick and clear response to my queries.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador - A land of Ocean Breezes and Out Houses

The promotional slogans and buzz words used to attract tourists to this province roll off the tongue like so many drops of water on the morning leaves.

“Newfoundland and Labrador – The Far East of the Western World”,
“The place where land, water and sky embrace like old friends”,
“A land as old as time”,
“Western Newfoundland, where wonder comes naturally”

Even the small town where I currently reside has its own picturesque slogan, “Where the sun meets the sea”.

Of course these catch phrases conjure up a very idyllic, peaceful and happy place where one might easily imagine playful dolphins nudging baby seal pups up onto blue white icebergs. A utopia where the people are at one with nature and the traveler who is fortunate enough to land here can expect to slip easily into a virtual heaven on earth, a mid-Atlantic Shangri-La.

The words themselves are indeed a great way to promote the provinces tourist industry both nationally and internationally, but do they go far enough?

Most of these catch phrases, when used on tourism commercials and in promotional pamphlets, are accompanied by images of jumping whales, drifting icebergs and rugged coastline. To the uninitiated, those who have never visited the province, it would appear that we have a pretty easy and simple life and that the land is all but empty except for the trees, rocks and wildlife.

If I were an outsider who happened to catch a glimpse of one of those commercials I might marvel at the beauty of the province’s nature, but wonder if this strange place had any hotels and restaurants, or should I backpack my groceries and sleeping roll in. I might also wonder if there was anything else to do besides staring at the ocean for hours on end or if I should take a good book to read while waiting for an errant iceberg to show up.

The commercials very rarely show the infrastructure available for tourists. The hotels, convention centers, golf courses, nightclubs, live theatre, ski resorts, hunting/fishing lodges, museums, galleries and so on and so on. This province has a lot to offer the traveler but for some reason someone doesn’t seem to want them to know it.

Yes, there is a segment of the tourism market that would love to walk along the beach all day, and we have been very good at capturing some of that market, but there is also a segment that would like to club hop at night or play a round of golf during the day. Aren’t their dollars any good?

Most cities and provinces promote themselves by playing up the “fun” things to do, the culinary delights of Montreal, the theatre festival in PEI, amusement parks or the zoo in Toronto. These areas have realized that to grow the industry you need to attract people of widely varied interests. As beautiful as it might be, not everyone wants a picturesque and quiet Eden. Some people actually yearn for thrills and excitement.

Perhaps it’s time for our provincial and federal tourism departments to start taking a more holistic approach to promotion of the province. This might be a better and even more profitable approach than reinforcing the old stereotype of a rural community, with simple people living in a place where the only piece of physical infrastructure on the landscape is a wharf.

Perhaps the current promotional ads are a part of the reason that there are still people in other parts of Canada, and even more especially the US, who think we live in igloos and eat raw fish all day.

I don’t have an issue with promoting our ties to the sea, but for heaven’s sake, let’s start getting the word out that we at least have electricity and the miracle of indoor plumbing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Royal Commission on Newfoundland and Labrador's place in Canada

I recently took some time to review the final documents generated by the Royal Commission on renewing and strengthening Newfoundland and Labrador’s place in Canada. Even though the commission delivered its final report back in 2002, I don’t believe many people in the province and country have taken the time to examine the results, nor do I believe the media or both levels of government have given enough thought to its contents.

Going on the premise that an informed public is an empowered public, I have added a link on the right side of this web page to a site where these documents can be reviewed. It might be worthwhile for anyone who has an interest in the topic to take an hour or so and view them.

There are a lot of points made by the commission. I can’t say I agree with all of their conclusions and interpretations, but nevertheless the information gathered does touch on some very critical issues.

Here are some excerpts:

“…The poll indicated that only 12% of respondents thought Newfoundland and Labrador should leave Canada and become an independent country….”

“…There is a strong sense that the fundamental issues facing the province are not well understood by the federal government and are too often ignored or dismissed as regional…”

“…The current federal/provincial relationship is in disarray…”

“…Priority must be given to the rebuilding of fish stocks…”

“…earned income per capita in Newfoundland and Labrador was only about 48% of the national figure in 1950. By 2001, it had risen to just under 72%. This is a marked improvement, but achieved only after 50 years. Yet there is still substantial disparity. A gap of 28 percentage points remains. If future progress were to be no better than the past, it would take another half century to fully catch up…”

“…We have been cast into a grouping as an “Atlantic” province along with the “Maritime” provinces, with the resulting implied assumptions – not always true – that we have the same interests and even identify with, the older grievances and conservative political culture of the Maritimes…”

“…the relative position of the province within the Canadian federation has not changed…”

“…Unemployment remains the highest in Canada. Earned income and personal income were only 72% and 79% respectively of the national average in 2001, the biggest gap with national levels of any province…”

“…In a commission poll, 72% of Canadians viewed Newfoundland and Labrador as culturally distinct from Canada…”

The commission was given the mandate of examining Newfoundland AND Labrador’s place in Canada. As a result, it would not have been performing its duties completely if it had not identified some of the issues which exist between both parts of the province. Below are two of several very valid comments on the Labrador experience.

“…an undercurrent of alienation exists within Labrador. Given the enormity of the challenges they must face together, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians cannot afford to be divided....”

“Labradorians sense that the provincial government continues to primarily view Labrador through the lens of what Labrador can do for Newfoundland and the provincial treasury…”

All very interesting points indeed and obviously I have only touched on a few that are contained in the documents. There is much more to be gleaned from reading through the results, both positive and negative.

A couple of the points outlined above immediately draw my personal attention and I'd like to focus on them for a moment.

The first is the fact that 72% of Canadians see Newfoundlanders and Labradorians as a distinct culture. This is very telling. Quebec has been officially recognized in this way for some time. With this type of support existing throughout the country, I have to wonder why the province hasn’t pushed for the same status.

The second point is that 12% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe the province should separate. The commission viewed this as a sign that most people would like to remain in Canada, but do they really? When you consider that 12% support exists for separation based solely on personal sentiment, this number becomes much more interesting.

To date there has been no organized, planned and concerted effort by a well led political group to promote separation in any way, shape or form in the province. If a true movement, such as the one that exists in Quebec, were to be developed, what would the numbers look like in a decade or so?

Under the guidance of a charismatic and popular leader, who could strongly promote a valid case for separation, would the tenuous bond that currently exists between the province and the country withstand the pressure? That remains to be seen.

Definately food for thought.

So, in closing, it doesn't matter if you harbour separatist sentiments or are a proud Canadian. Regardless of your point of view, or for that matter if you are even from the province, the commission report is an interesting and informative read for anyone interested in the Canadian experience. Do yourself a favour and check it out. You never know what you’ll find.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Labrador - 600 Kilometer Pipline to be Constructed from Drinking Straw

Recently it was reported that New Millennium Capital Corp. is proposing to construct a 600 kilometer long pipeline from an iron ore find near Schefferville, Labrador to a pellet processing plant inside Quebec.

This pipeline, which would be the longest of its kind in the world, would allow the company to directly pipe an expected 500 million tons of concentrated ore out of the area. The ore would then be processed at a new plant, to be constructed in Sept-Isles, rather than building the plant in Labrador itself.

Do I need to say it folks, “Here we go again.”

This ore deposit is expected to be worth in the neighborhood of $50 billion. The company does not currently have a pellet plant built, yet they intend to build one 600k away in another province. I have to ask, what is wrong with building it in the province where the ore is located?

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest unemployment rate in the Country. A project of this kind could provide much needed jobs and would remove the need to undertake such a massive pipeline project.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, they have added insult to injury by not consulting with local Innu peoples on the proposal. The mine site in question sits inside Labrador Innu Nation Territory, yet it appears they were not even aware of the company’s intentions. Rather, the company has struck a partnership arrangement with an Innu group in Quebec.

Smart move guys.

Think about it folks, the current Premier has already threatened the largest oil companies in the world and watched them come back to the table. He has told the world that no resources will be exported from the province without maximum benefit for Newfoundland and Labrador. What kind of message should that send to a company like New Millennium Capital Corp, which is currently trading on the venture stock exchange for about .57 cents a share? Let’s get real.

Recent events in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador have taught the government and the citizens some valuable lessons. First and foremost, the province has some of the richest natural resources in the country, if not the continent itself. Second, everyone wants those resources, and third, it’s OK to just say NO.

People in the province have found a voice that has lay dormant inside them for decades.

Newfoundlander’s and Labradorean’s are a strong and proud people. Hard working and honest people, who settled in the middle of a harsh and unforgiving North Atlantic. They are a people, who for centuries have had to fight for every scrap of sustenance and who have never had an easy road.

After giving up their sovereignty and entering Canada just over 50 years ago, many of these people lost their voice. Perhaps it was a matter of being the new kid on the block, or perhaps it was the fear of what speaking out might mean. Whatever the reason, it became the status quo to take what was offered and walk away, head hung low and with an awkward thank-you on the lips.

The latter is perhaps the Newfoundlander or Labradorean that most Canadians can identify with, but it’s the former that people in the province remember.

Currently the people of the province are experiencing a kind of rebirth. A newfound pride in their capabilities, their land and their potential. They are also feeling a newly discovered streak of independence, no doubt left over from the days before entry into Confederation.

Government leaders in the province now know two things very, very well. If they sign any deal or allow any development that even smells of a giveaway, the people of the province will ride them out of town on a hot steel rail. Conversely, if they fight their battles every inch of the way and don’t back down from anyone, these same people will stand behind their leaders, champion their causes and keep electing them to office term after term after term.

In the end, isn’t that what every people and every politician wants?

This symbiotic relationship between leader and led is one that the province is just becoming accustomed to, but the hope exists that it may be the catalyst needed to shake things up and set the stage for a new era.

So come on New Millennium Capital Corp. and all the other Corp’s or Co’s or Ltd’s out there, its time to recognize and even embrace this fundamental shift in the landscape and culture of Canada's eastern most province.

Whether you like it or not, it’s time to start working with some of the most stubborn people on the face of the planet. Not only that, you may as well get used to it. When someone from the Far East of the Western World sets their mind to something, you have about as much chance of changing it as you do of digging 500 million tons of iron out of the ground with a silver spoon and piping it to Quebec through a drinking straw.

Newfoundland and Labrador Considers Marketing Hydro Power in U.S.

In recent months I have written a number of articles related to development of the Lower Churchill Hydro Electric project in the big land of Labrador. The most recent pieces are still available on my personal web site, Web Talk – Newfoundland and Labrador.

One such article, dated March 15 of this year, deals with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, and his public request for proposals to develop the project. Another, from early April, discusses the merits, or lack there of, of a proposal by Ontario and Hydro Quebec. A proposal that would see little by way of benefits for the province that owns the resource, while providing massive revenues to Quebec and a large power supply to Ontario.

It was in the March 15 article that I suggested we should look at running undersea cables onto the island, allowing both areas of the province to make use of this low cost power. The technique has been proven on the island of Hong Kong and as a result is not that far fetched. It’s a novel idea indeed, but one that now appears to be a possibility.

The Evening Telegram (located in St. John’s, NL) recently ran an article on one of twenty-five proposals submitted to the provincial government for development of this mega project. According to the article, a joint proposal was submitted by two companies, one from BC, the other from the state of Maine. This proposal would see power distributed via land and undersea cable, through the island portion of the province and into the US market, leaving Quebec out of the equation.

Power would be wheeled across the province, where it would tie into additional wind generated systems planned for the island, thus providing the low cost energy the province requires for economic growth. Excess power would then travel by undersea cable into the power grid on the eastern seaboard of the US.

I am not a proponent of shipping needed power out of the country, but I have to admit that this alternative sounds like it has merit. Most people in Newfoundland and Labrador are still reeling from a deal signed with Hydro Quebec on the Upper Churchill River project decades ago. One that currently sees hundreds of millions of dollars flow out of the province and into Quebec coffers while NL receives a pittance and is in desperate need of clean energy.

Due to the fact that Quebec geographically separates Newfoundland and Labrador from the rest of the country, moving power out of the area has always been contingent on that province. It appears that times are changing.

I have nothing against the people of Ontario or Quebec but government and big business in these provinces have, for decades, used their political strength, goegraphy and deep pockets to plunder the rich resources of Canada's newest province. It is truly time they learned that this will not continue.

If the country of Canada is truly in need of new power sources, as Ontario can attest, then it’s time for those who want this valuable commodity to step up to the plate and make an offer that will see the poorest province in the country receive a fair return on the resource. If the powers that be, are so short sighted as to not see the value of this asset then perhaps Premier Williams should seriously examine all options before him, including cutting the rest of the country out of the loop.

In a world of Kyoto, greenhouse gas emissions, high energy consumption and even higher energy costs, clean energy is arguably one of the most valuable resources on the planet. It’s clear that the proponents of this latest proposal can see just that. The question is, does Premier Williams and just as importantly, will the rest of the country?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador MP Voting Records

Have you ever wondered how hard your Member of Parliament has been working on your behalf? Now a great new website lets you know just that.

The site, which can be accessed at: www.howdtheyvote.ca. , identifies MPs by party, name and province. It provides lists of voting records showing how they voted or if they were absent from the vote. It also provides actual quotes from commons debates.

Today I thought I'd spend a few minutes examining the records of the 7 members from Newfoundland and Labrador with an eye to: how many votes they've missed and how often they spoke during debate.

According to this new web site, here are the member’s records.

John Efford, Liberal Cabinet Minister, was absent for 9 of 48 key votes and spoke 86 times.

Bill Matthews, Liberal MP, was absent for 7 of 48 key votes and spoke 12 times.

Scott Simms, Liberal MP, was absent for 4 of 48 and spoke 28 times

Todd Russell, Liberal MP, attended all 11 votes held during his time in office, (recently elected in a by-election). He also spoke 1 time.

On opposing ends of the scale are our winners and our losers.

The attendance and debating champion during the most recent sitting is none other than Conservative MP Loyola Hearn who only missed 1 vote out of 48 and spoke up 157 times. Mr. Hearn is closely followed by caucus mate Norman Doyle. Mr. Doyle was only absent for 2 of 48 key votes and spoke 41 times

Who is the big loser, none other than the people who elected Liberal MP Gerry Byrne.

In an effort to prove to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, not to mention the population of Canada in general that he was earning his hefty salary, Mr. Byrne missed a whopping 23 of 48 votes and only stood to speak 14 times.

All of these numbers are interesting but especially those of Mr. Byrne. His record makes one wonder how he can honestly tell the people of the province that he’s earning his salary and working on their behalf.

Just one month ago Mr. Byrne saw fit to throw a monkey wrench into critical provincial negotiations with Ottawa over income support in the dying town of Harbour Breton (see June 14 article on my web site: “If I only Had a Brain – The Gerry Byrne Story”). Now it appears he has missed 48% of the votes in the House of Commons. As a matter of fact, the 23 missed votes Mr. Byrne has to his discredit is the exact number missed by all other Newfoundland and Labrador MPs combined.

Great job Gerry, keep up the good work. Your pension is only a few years away.

Indeed, the information contained on this web site is both interesting and informative. It's easy to access and I’d suggest to all Canadians that they take a few minutes to visit and learn exactly how the member they elected is doing. You may be pleasantly surprised or, like Gerry Byrne’s constituents, you may be shocked and dismayed.