Da Legal Stuff...

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

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

2041 is Fast Approaching

The year 2041 is ingrained in the Psyche of all Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. That date, so long awaited, is when the current Upper Churchill power contract between Hydro Quebec and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will expire.

It may seem a long way off, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t that far away.

The year is tossed about in the province like a distant dream. Every so often you can hear it drift on the wind. The longing for time to fly can be captured in snippets of conversation from one part of the province or another. On that day “have not will be no more”. Finally poor old Newfoundland and Labrador will get its rightful dues.

But will we?

Everyone just assumes that when that magic date arrives huge sums of money will begin to flow into the province and all will be right with the world again.

Are we so sure this will happen?

Hydro Quebec has contracts to sell much of this power to the U.S.

The Feds refused to force Quebec into permitting an uninhibited power corridor through the province in the 1960’s even though they had every right to. Will they force Quebec to allow it in a few decades?

Do we expect that Hydro Quebec will just sit idly by and suddenly allow us to wheel power through the province?

Do we believe that in one fell swoop this corporation will simply remove a billion dollars a year from their bottom line without a fight?

What about those U.S. contracts? What if they extend beyond 2041, or what if the U.S. for whatever reason, doesn’t want to pay our price at the time?

Do we think we can just pull the switch and shut off power to the eastern seaboard without suffering major repercussions?

I pose these questions for one simple reason. The same reason people have asked questions since time began. I simply don’t know the answers.

I am not trying to make any subtle comment on the situation, nor am I playing devil’s advocate. I simply don’t know the answers and that bothers me. Worse than a bother, in fact it sickens me because it leads me question what will actually happen in that fateful year, or more likely in the years leading up to 2041.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling where you know something bad is about to happen but you just can't put your finger on it? As a result, there is nothing you can do about it either. It doesn't feel good.

Will another deal be brokered and signed? Will this one be a “Great Deal” for Newfoundland and Labrador, or will the powers that be use every trick in the book to see to it that the status quo continues? Will the Country’s political leaders ensure that the apple cart is not upset, so to speak?

The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m not sure of anything.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts whatever they might be.

All I ask is that you don’t kid yourself into thinking we will simply wake up some sunny morning and suddenly start reaping all of the revenues now going to Quebec Hydro. If you do, I have only one question for you:

What colour is the sky in your world?

It's Time to Get Off the Sidelines and be Heard

Hello folks,

I have to say, I'm a little underwhelmed and disappointed with the number of signatures that have appeared on the petition to return Newfoundland and Labrador's Military History.

I originally put out the call for signatures on this site 10 days ago. In that time, the site has been hit by nearly 1000 visitors. This has resulted in a grand total of 20 signatures. Not very impressive, in fact it's terrible.

I realize we are all busy, but it only takes a minute to click the link, read the petition (which is only a couple of paragraphs) and sign it. The way I see it, if you are interested enough in the Newfoundland and Labrador experience to visit this site, how can you not be concerned about the fact that our pre-Confederation history is stored away someplace in Ottawa.

Come on folks. Take a minute to help us ensure that our children and our children's children have the opportunity to learn about the rich past of their province. You may think that your one signature won't make a difference, but it can.

In this, The Year of the Veteran, I make a request to all fair minded individuals out there to visit http://www.petitiononline.com/MILNL/petition.html and sign the petition you find there.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Lately it’s been all over the television news broadcasts, papers are screaming it in banner headlines and pundits are discussing the implications ad-nauseum. The world is ending,


What? How can this be? How can the center of the universe possibly have been hit with such a catastrophe? Say it isn’t so!!

I don’t mean to be sarcastic, but in reality my concern lies with the people of this picturesque province. I mean, how can the people of Ontario possibly hold up under the strain of being on par with third world areas like Nova Scotia, or God forbid, Newfoundland and Labrador? How will they ever survive the shame and disgrace? Heaven only knows. My heart goes out to those poor souls.

Seriously, though, doesn’t this mean they will have to start accepting transfer payments or, in other words, government hand outs? Of course it also means, as some national columnists have put it in the past when referring to Canada’s poorer provinces, that they should accept what they receive and, “be thankful for how well Canada is treating them”.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the quaint and folksy people of the poor little province of Ontario. As a matter of fact I visited there once and found them quite charming in there own way. I just wish they would start pulling themselves up by their own boot straps and get to work making things better in their own province. After all, is it really right for them to depend on the rest of the Country’s tax payers to come to the rescue on a continuous basis?

All in all, Ontario has been treated quite well in the Dominion of Canada and we as Canadians want to see them prosper, but complaining about transfer payments and looking for more from Ottawa is not the way they should be going. They are like a poor brother in-law that came for a two week visit 6 months ago, has been raiding the fridge ever since and now has the nerve to complain that the couch is too lumpy.

It’s time Ontario realized that they have to work a little harder if they hope to one day stand on their own two feet. It’s not that the Canadian tax payer minds helping where they can, but depending on the largesse of the Canadian public is no way to become an equal partner in Confederation.

Come on Ontario, we know you can make it if you just apply yourselves and get off the proverbial couch.

Oh, by the way, thank-you Premier Williams for ensuring that Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore revenue deal wasn’t tied to Ontario’s fiscal capacity as Ottawa had wanted. Good save!

Footnote: I apologize sincerely to the fine people of Ontario for the content of this article. To certain national columnists in papers like the Globe and Mail and the National Post, I have one question: How does it feel?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Noah in Twenty First Century Canada

Recently Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Danny Williams, announced plans to encourage economic and business growth in the province through reduction of government red tape by 25% over the next 3 years.

In light of this, I thought it might be interesting for everyone to read the following story of the trouble Noah might have if he planned to build his Ark in Canada today.

Various versions of this story have been around for years. An American version appeared in Reader’s Digest a number of years back and I have seen several others since then. This one is based on a Canadian version that appeared a few years back.

And the Lord said unto Noah, “I see the earth is wicked and over populated. Build me an Ark and gather the animals of the land, air and sea two by two. Take with thee only the best of living people and gather all aboard the Ark that they may survive and multiply. Noah, you must show all haste in your task for in six months the rains will begin and all mankind will perish.”

Noah, being a good and devout man, set about his task with all haste and vigor never once questioning his Lord and Master.

This is where the trouble began.

Six months later the rains began to fall. The Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping mightily in his flooded yard. There was no Ark in sight. As lightening flashed and thunder roared the Lord spoke.

"Noah," He roared, "Where's my Ark?"

"Please forgive me, Lord," begged Noah sobbing uncontrollably.

"Things have not gone well, not well at all."

“First the town placed a stop work order on me. They said I needed a building permit and it had to be properly displayed on the job site.”

“I've been arguing with provincial fire and safety inspectors about the need for a sprinkler system and they say I can’t bring people on board unless I have a system in place.”

“My neighbours claim that I’ve violated neighbourhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my front yard and that it contravenes municipal height limitations. As a result I’ve spent weeks fighting with the Development Appeal Board over the issue."

"Transport Canada, the Department of Highways and Hydro want a bond posted to cover the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions in order to clear passage for the Ark to be moved to the sea. I argued that the sea would be coming to us, but they won’t listen."

"You wouldn’t believe the problem I’ve had getting wood.”

“I had to get a logging permit but that isn’t as easy as you might think because there's a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl. I tried to convince the departments of forestry and environment that the reason I needed the wood was in order to save the owls. No go!”

"When I began to gather the animals I was sued by multiple animal rights groups. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will and told me the accommodation was too restrictive. They said it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in such a confined space."

"The Workplace Safety Commission shut down the job site for nearly a week because of all the animal droppings in the area. They said it was a slip and fall nightmare and if any of my workers were injured I'd be liable."

"After all of this, Environment Canada decided that I could not build the Ark without first filing an environmental impact statement on your proposed flood."

"Then the local town engineers wanted a map of the expected flood plan. I sent them a globe - and they went ballistic!

“I'm still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many visible minorities I'm supposed to hire for my building crew and now the trade unions are on my back. Apparently I can’t use my sons to help me build your Ark. The unions say I have to use unionized resources with Ark building experience.”

"To make matters worse, Canada Customs and Revenue have seized all my assets. They claim I'm trying to leave the country illegally, without a valid passport and with several endangered species.”

“Forgive me Lord, but at this rate it’s going to take me at least ten years to finish this Ark."

Suddenly the skies cleared and the sun began to shine. A rainbow stretched across the sky. Noah looked up in wonder.

"You mean you're not going to destroy the World Lord?" Noah asked.

"No," said the Lord. "Your government already has!"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Canada Makes a Show of Force in Disputed Arctic Region

Two Canadian navel vessels, the HMCS Shawinigan and Glace Bay are currently heading into Eastern Artic waters and will be joined shortly by a third vessel, the frigate HMCS Fredericton in what can only be described as an attempt by the Canadian government to ward off perceived threats to its sovereignty in the North.

For decades Canada and Denmark have disputed ownership of the small island outcrop known as Hans Island. Little more than a barren rock and measuring a little over one square kilometer, debate over ownership of the island recently heated up when a Danish vessel patrolled the site, leading to a visit there by Canadian Defense Minister Bill Graham.

In Churchill last weekend, Navel Commodore Bob Blakely told reporters, "This is a demonstration of Canada's will to exercise sovereignty over our own back yard." The Commadore went on to say, "Use our resources wisely and don't pollute the fragile northern ecosystem. It's like having a path behind your house. Nobody minds the neighbours walking along. Just don't dump your garbage there and don't take my vegetables out of the garden," he said.

Better management and protection of the Artic appears to be a major issue for Ottawa lately. Plans are being discussed to launch a satellite which will be used to monitor shipping in the area and the government plans to spend millions in road construction which will allow for access up the MacKenzie River Valley and into Tuktoyaktuk in the North.

While sabers rattle over what many purport to be a useless chunk of rock, in an area not expected to contain any mineral or oil reserves, another chunk of rock sitting in the North Atlantic goes all but unnoticed and unprotected.

The island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador has been surrounded for decades by foreign fleets. Fleets that openly rape its coastal waters of fish, pollute nesting grounds of migrating birds by intentionally dumping bilge oil and destroy the area’s undersea habitat through dragging of the ocean floor. All of this while Canadian government and military officials sit idly by and watch.

No protection is offered to this island which is quickly becoming Canada’s emerging oil and gas capital and is home to half a million citizens. One wonders what it will take for the Canadian military to display its sovereignty in this area.

Currently there is practically no military presence either on the land or at sea in the province with the exception of an air training base in the mainland portion of the province, Labrador. A base that has been all but closed by the federal government in recent years.

It’s an interesting paradox that a one square kilometer island in the remote Arctic, that has no inhabitants, can require Canada's military to send war ships to its defense and spur the federal government into spending millions on roads, while a populated island like Newfoundland measuring 112,000 square kilometers does not even rank a canoe with a boy scout on board.

What about the big land of Labrador?

Labrador has a land mass 3 times larger than the 3 Maritime provinces combined. A land mass containing perhaps the world’s most abundant sources of iron, nickel, uranium and other precious minerals, yet it is losing its military base and while a road is planned for access into the remote Arctic, Labrador doesn’t even have a highway. Instead many residents must travel from community to community by boat or air and in some cases over gravel roads, weather permitting.

What will it take for the Canadian government to recognize the fact that Atlantic Canada exists? Maybe the good folks just off the coast of Newfoundland, in the French colony of St. Pierre, should swing by in a dory and plant a French flag on shore. It might just give Canada’s Defense Minister an excuse for a visit.

Recent VBNC Decision Will Negatively Impact Labrador Economy

The following article originally appeared on the web site: Our Labrador and has been re-published here with the gracious consent of the author. If you would like to check out other interesting articles and general information related to the “Big Land” you can find a link to this great site in the NL SPECIFIC LINKS section on the right hand side of this page.

The Combined Councils of Labrador are appalled by the recent decision made by VBNC to pay for 80% of travel costs for workers living outside of Labrador to the Voisey’s Bay Mine Site.

The EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) Summary and Conclusions that was developed by Voisey’s Bay Nickel Company stipulated that six North Coast communities and communities such as Happy Valley – Goose Bay, Labrador City, and Wabush would essentially become “Bedroom Communities” whereby workers from outside of Labrador would relocate to Labrador communities.

Ford Rumbolt is President of the Combined Councils of Labrador, “VBNC must be held accountable for this decision. If we are to have development in Labrador, then we need people to come and live in Labrador. Too many organizations and groups in Labrador have put too much time and effort into promoting the region, only to have VBNC negatively impact all that hard work.”

“The Combined Councils of Labrador request that VBNC revisit this issue and stick with the original agreement. If VBNC are permitted to make this change, then where will it end?”

Arthur Williams is the Mayor of North West River and Combined Councils of Labrador VP for Central Labrador, “As Mayor of North West River, I am very disappointed with VBNC’s decision. Communities of Labrador were supposed to be benefiting from the VBNC Project. Labrador Communities will lose a tremendous amount of revenue and the economy of Labrador will be destroyed”.

“It is my fear that we will revert back to a time when Labrador was a place to work and not a place to live. VBNC must stay with the original agreement”.

Jim Farrell is the Mayor of Wabush and Combined Councils of Labrador VP for Western Labrador, “I am very disappointed Labrador West will not be able to reap benefits from Voisey’s Bay that were clearly outlined in the EIS”.

Waylon Williams is the Executive Director of the Combined Councils of Labrador, “The decision reached by VBNC will have a negative impact on all communities in Labrador. VBNC would be better suited by promoting Labrador as a good place to live rather than just a place to work. Also VBNC should offer workers living outside of Labrador an aggressive relocation package rather than covering 80% of the travel cost.”

“The Combined Councils of Labrador are calling on all Labrador Communities to raise the alarm on this issue. There is too much to lose if this decision is not changed.”

By Waylon Williams, Combined Councils of Labrador

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Does the Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Aspire to be Prime Minister?

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the current popularity of Premier Danny Williams is staggering. During the time he has been in office Mr. Williams has actually managed to increase his popularity from where it was during his “honeymoon” period, just after election. Obviously there are those who have not been happy with some of his decisions, but just as obviously there are many more who like his brand of leadership.

What does this popularity translate into for the rookie Premier, and what are his long term aspirations?

These are couple of the questions I recently tried to pose to our provincial leader however my recent requests for an interview have not been responded to in the past few weeks. If I were a paranoid person I’d think I had become persona non grata for some reason. Regardless, these are questions the public would like the answers to and as I have said to Premier Williams communications director in the past, when facts aren't available, speculation follows. So lets examine the situation just a little.

When elected to the top job in the province Mr. Williams made the kind of quick and decisive moves that have marked him as a man of action. His reign has been one of change and new direction which, after many years of the Liberal status quo, was something many felt was warranted. His tough stance on the issues of the day, have solidified him as a strong leader and may have already placed him in position to take the next election when it’s called. But have the events of the past two years impacted the Premier’s outlook on his own future, as well as his vision for the province?

The unspoken thought running through many minds is simply this, "Is Danny Williams happy continuing to fight the good fight for Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, or does the still fresh Newfoundland and Labrador Premier now have aspirations beyond provincial politics"? Does he plan to continue to grow the province or have his personal ambitions now overpowered his provincial ones.

One has to ask these questions in light of recent events, not to mention the fact that the federal Conservative party is basically floundering in its own crapulence. They are in desperate need of a solid leader and granted, the provincial PC party is a separate entity, but never the less, Conservative blue is Conservative blue.

Nothing has been said on the topic by the Premier’s office, but you only need to look around you to see the possibilities.

In Danny Williams the public sees a strong leader who is willing to put it all on the line for a cause. Whether or not the public can forget his tactic of lowering the Canadian flag during a dispute with Ottawa is something that will need to be addressed, but no matter what the sentiment on that issue, it’s clear Mr. Williams has cemented himself as a fighter worthy of note. In the eyes of all Canadians he is a strong leader and more to the point, he has gained unprecedented support from his fellow Premier’s across the Country.

His battle with Ottawa over the Atlantic Accord placed him in the spotlight and his win on the issue showed his ability to take on the big boys and win. The fact that a deal was eventually signed that became the envy of the 9 other provinces speaks to just how successful his campaign was and this didn’t go unnoticed in political circles.

Premier Williams seems to have a penchant for finding his way into the national press and thus into the minds of Canadians.

Just recently this rookie was selected by his fellow Premiers to chair the newly formed Pan Canadian Energy Group, which will be calling on Ottawa to acknowledge the constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces in energy negotiations. This nomination being bestowed on a first term Premier from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which is a mere infant in the world of oil and gas, is a resounding endorsement from his fellow Premiers. Especially when you consider the fact that the likes of Ralph Klein from Alberta will also sit on this panel.

Now it appears Premier Williams will be acting as co-chair at the New England Governor’s Conference. Pretty heady stuff to say the least and great stepping stones for anyone interested in a career on the federal scene.

Over the past few months Mr. Williams has also endeared himself to the great unwashed masses by baring his chest to the U.S. ala Pierre Trudeau. First the little guy from Newfoundland and Labrador put the nation on alert and forced a costly delay in a NASA rocket launch that was to pass over our waters. On top of this he is taking them on again by refusing to accept an altered U.S. version of daylight savings time. Although we don’t usually talk about it, it remains a fact that the average Canadian just loves a leader who isn’t afraid to take on our neighbour to the south.

Of course there is no hard evidence that Premier Williams has his sights set on Canada’s top job and even less evidence that he could ever win it, but if someone were to examine his resume during his short time in office, it doesn’t take much of an imagination to see how he might begin to harbour such aspirations and may even be moving in that direction already.

Of course time will be the only judge of exactly where his personal brass ring is hanging and if his love of Newfoundland and Labrador can outweigh his ambitions. In the mean time there will no doubt be an undercurrent of concern in the province. Not that Mr. Williams’ goals and those of his home province need to be mutually exclusive. It’s simply a matter of wondering whether a decision to make a run at the top job, means he might sell our social, economic and political future down the Churchill River in the process.

I’m not trying to impugn Mr. Williams character, in fact I like much of what I’ve seen from him to date, but if anyone has a right to fear being sold out by politicians, it’s Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. That isn’t speculation. Just the facts.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Confirm Your Own Beliefs

“If you want to know what’s going on in your country look outside it. If nothing else, it will Confirm your own beliefs and knowledge”.

Boy, those are some very powerful words that contain a lot of meaning.

These words were left as a comment by one of our devout readers recently. I beg the author’s forgiveness, but I just had to repeat them. I would also like to thank him for inspiring this article.

As the saying goes, truer words were never spoken.

The context of this statement was in reference to local media and the often biased way in which the political happenings of our country are portrayed on a daily basis. It’s a fact that any event can be spun to make the public think or feel a certain way about it. We see it all the time in the advertising world when a negative is spun into a positive.

“Orange juice NOT from concentrate, 40 cents a glass, orange juice FROM concentrate, 18 cents a glass. Now that’s hardly a fair comparison is it?” Here’s a news flash folks, FROM concentrate is not as good as the 40 cent juice.

Dodge, Chrysler. “If you can find a better car, buy it.” Well, there are lots of better cars out there. It’s not really that difficult to find one. Just about any Honda, Toyota or Nissan will do.

The point is, the corporate world recognized the value of spinning a tale a long time ago. Many of our politicians come from the corporate world. You make the connection.

Like every good ad man, every politician knows full well that perception is reality.

You can stop Canadian citizens from hopping a plane in St. John’s or Montreal if you tell the world they are a potential risk. You don’t have to tell anyone that this person may only be a risk to the political career of a particular MP because he is speaking out for constituents in that member’s riding. (Just an example of course, but I don’t doubt it will happen eventually and probably to someone just like me.)

Paul Martin can be the Finance Minister, in essence the Chief Financial Officer of Canada, for years while millions and millions of tax dollars are siphoned off to private interests in Quebec and into Liberal party coffers. None of that matters as long as he pleads his innocence in a nation wide address and lets an inquiry go ahead.

The CFO of Enron went to court. Paul Martin went to 24 Sussex Drive.

Who do we depend on for our information and “spin” when it comes to political reporting? For the most part we depend on CBC coverage. The CBC is known for covering everything from Parliament to foreign affairs, domestic issues and political conventions. Yes sir, the most comprehensive political coverage in the country. Never mind the fact that it’s funded by the federal government and by extension, the leading party of the day.

Where else do people turn? Well, there are always newspapers like the Globe and Mail or the National Post. Of course these almost always turn every story into a commentary on the way the two largest provinces in the country are affected rather than the impact on the entire country.

How about local stations? There might be some value in these, but most carry little or no national news items.

Add to this the fact that most newspaper and television media outlets are run by major corporations who tend to support one political party or another and you can see why the statement I led this article with rings so true: “If you want to know what’s going on in your country look outside it. If nothing else, it will confirm your own beliefs and knowledge”.

The comment which contained this gem suggested using the wonderful technology at our command today. Satellite, internet, short wave radio or any other means to see what people in other countries were saying about us. After all, what could the BBC, the London Times or for that matter even the Elbonian Tattler, have to gain from slanting Canadian news?

It’s something to think about.

It might also be a good exercise to step outside ourselves even within our individual provinces. From time to time news stories about local matters do hit the national or international services. Usually it’s in the form of a commentary rather than a straight story, but never the less it is often very interesting to see how we are viewed by the rest of the country and around the world.

We may not always like what we see when we look in the mirror. We may not always agree with what is said about us, but isn’t it better to hear what is perceived by many to be the truth than to simply accept what is being spoon fed to us by the mainstream media?

In the words of a Motown classic: “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

Inspired by Expatriat

Complacency is the Canadian Way

How often do any of us take the time to sit down and really think about how we plan to vote in a public election? How many of us actually weigh the pros and cons of our choices, look at the broad view rather than the immediate impact and actually make an informed decision? My opinion is purely antidotal, but I bet very few, if any of us, really do.

Take for example the current government in Ottawa. The Liberal party has had control of the country since the days when a bar of gold was actually more expensive than a gallon of gas. They’ve been through scandal after scandal and have shown their contempt for public opinion time and again, yet they retain power. While taxes continue to eat away at any loose change we may have in our pockets and while securing funding for everything from health care education is a constant battle for provinces, the federal surplus becomes more obscene year after year. Yet there they remain.

Why do we continue to elect officials who don’t answer to their constituents? Are we so gullible as to continue to believe broken election promise after broken election promise? Are the spin doctors that are paid for by our tax dollars so good that they have the entire population hypnotized?

I’m the first to jump on an issue when I feel the powers that be are not doing the right thing, but in reality it’s not the governing party that’s at fault in these situations, it’s the public. That’s right, you, me and every other voter out there (and especially the 50 to 60 percent of the public who don’t vote) who are ultimately to blame.

We see it time and time again. MPs like Gerry Byrne from Newfoundland and Labrador who misses as many votes in the House of Commons as he attends, or Minister John Efford who continues to curl up at Paul Martin’s feet like a well trained lap dog, even at the expense of his own constituents.

A prime example of this type of blind voting occurred in a by-election in Labrador. The voters of the Big Land were in a position where their Liberal man in Ottawa had sadly passed away. The Liberal government was in a position where they needed every single vote they could muster if they hoped to avoid a non-confidence vote and retain power beyond the summer. What did the fine folks of Labrador do? They elected a Liberal of course and helped cement the party’s powerbase, rather than taking the opportunity to elect an independent. This was a chance to elect someone who would only have to answer to the electorate, not a party, and could force some real attention on Labrador issues like the survival of the 5 Wing Goose air base. Go figure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing any particular party or candidate, just the concept of educated voting for a change. The “blind voting” phenomena is not just a Newfoundland and Labrador issue either, though those where the examples I used to illustrate the point. If it was, it wouldn’t be the end of the world since the seven federal seats the province has is only a blip on the national radar. No, it’s a nation wide issue and one that should have every one of us hanging our heads in shame.

We are all like a bunch of dogs that have been kicked by our masters for so long, we’re afraid to do anything that might even resemble independent thought or movement. God forbid we should take some time to review the voting records of our elected officials. It’s too much work for us to sit and think back over a government’s previous term in order to see how we really feel they performed. No, it’s much easier just to wait for a candidate to show up at our door or a local bbq and which ever one looks the friendliest can have our vote.

It’s no big deal, after all, it’s only our future, our money and our lives that they have in their hands when the go off to Ottawa. It’s not like they’re doing anything important. I mean complacency is the Canadian way.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Two Magical Strands - By Anonymous

Boy, Some great comments and musings have been coming our way lately.

Hot on the heals of a great commentary sent in by Gordon (see previous article) we have one that is a little more poetic and philosophical in nature. Unfortunately the author did not leave his or her name but never the less I ask you to take a minute to read the piece. Its time well spent.


Each year in the dead of winter in a small outport, or a mine, or a post, or a town, the ghosts of yesterdays Newfoundland gather together. You might see them in a winter fog, chilling to the bone and the heart. You might think it would be frightening to behold, but it isn’t. For they come together not to haunt, but to hope, not to frighten but to foretell, and not to look back, but to look foreward.

With their eyes changing color like the northern lights of Labrador, they gather to splice and twine the past together. They knit and darn, pulling pieces of valor, and fame, discarding infamy and greed and fashioning a single cable of the history and heart of the people.

You can see the French, the Irish, the English , the Native peoples and even German and Dutch criss crossing through the threads of the strands. You could see the long strands of the Micmac, the Inuit, the Metis, the Innu, and even the Beothuk. Where one strand ends, another is woven to it, bringing the years together in a single cable of incredible strength and flexibility.

They’ve been braiding the rope not for five years or even for five decades but for five centuries, adding in strands as new heros are born. Pulling out wayward threads as the children leave. The rope is thinner today than it was long ago. But what remains is strengthened by the twining, the weaving and the flexing.

As they reach todays ending, the ghosts will look back at the length of the coil, checking it for weakness or loose ends. Just as they have for each year going back the centuries, they’ll search for the two magical strands

What are these magic strands. One is the person who will not only tighten the coil at last, but will allow the rope to be lashed to the rock and the big land and pull them together.

The other is the strand that will tie the groups together into a single people.

When will be the year the ghosts complete their tasks?

An open Call to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians

The following was initially sent as a comment to one of our previous articles by a reader who goes by the name of Gordon. In keeping with the intent of this site to openly discuss our issues, I asked Gordon if he would mind our re-printing the piece on the front page. He graciously agreed so here are his comments in their entirety (with some very minor editing for clarity.)

Thanks Gordon and keep the comments coming.
The Editor

As I see the recovery of the "Fighting Newfoundlander" is an inevitable development in history. Sadly, the events of the past and how things are developing now may hurt as well as help..... but it does not have to be so negative. Let me explain.

We seem to draw a lot of our nationalist sentiment from 1949, i.e., not the final result but from the fact that the debate was so close and so bitter. The victors of the referenda decided to bury the other side's arguments. Even the losing side tried to bury their roots. Yet, whenever there was a problem, it became so easy to take convenient little elements of the the other side.

Joey did that from time to time. Note, for example, his reaction to the IWA strike. "Battlin' Brian" exploited the old alternative brilliantly enough to rule for ten years. Even the other Brian tried to ape the other side from time to time, even if cartoonishly.

The problem is, we generally dismiss the alternative, and we are left with the likes of "larger than life" premiers who talk loudly yet carry no stick. I think we are yearning for leaders with real qualities, the kind that get results. We also have to acknowledge that a large part of who we are is not convincingly Canadian. We cannot really be "Canadian" because being "Canadian" is part of the probem we have yet to deal with.

We all know that Newfoundlanders had little to do with the referenda and that really it was a deal between Britain and Canada. By the way, part of the deal included Canada canceling Britain's war debt. Now, do you think that made the Brits neutral observers? And how "Canadian" does that make us?

The negative side of all this is that we vote for politicians who are aggressive even when they do not have to be. You can really piss off the wrong people when you do that. Having said that, what we need is a Newfoundland and Labrador builder, a nation builder, if you will. He/ She can be a separatist or not. The main thing is to unite us as a nation and push us forward. We have the buttons to do it as a province, although we might have more as a country.

We can get rid of the foreign fishing fleets by negotiating our way out of it..... but only WE Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can initiate the negotiations because, quite frankly, we mean little to Canada.

We should also find a way to get Labrador electricity to the island and from there to St. Pierre and even the Maritimes and perhaps the USA. The main point here is to develop a cohesive province/nation. I think that it will be critical, considering that oil is not a renewable resource.

In the short-term, a trans-Labrador highway is also essential. But let's go further. We should even have a kind of elected senate in Newfoundland and Labrador to better reflect the distinct parts of our province. Having said that, our Lieutenant Governor should be an elected leader rather than some party hack nobody remembers, let alone respects.

As things stand now, we are looking increasingly at selected bits of our history for inspiration. Look at the resurrection of the Pink, White and Green as our flag. Few areas of the world outside the Balkans go back into the past to see where they are today. Mind you, it's a cool flag. I have a big one....er, flag, that is.

We really must unite this province, this is where OUR nationalism is key, or else we will have not only Confederate vs. Separatist, but townie vs. bayman and Newfoundlander vs. Labradorian and there might even be blood spilt. You see, nationalism gets tough sometimes.

First things first. I say as an ardent separatist, let's build this province and then tackle Confederation. I might not live to see a Newfoundland and Labrador passport but I surely hope my newly born son will live to see (and have) one. To do it will take time and thinking outside the box.

Tactics like threatening to blow EU fishing boats out of the water make us look immature. That said, the kind of popular opinion being expressed in this province these days can be useful to a clever leader. It can strengthen his/her resolve and it gives them more "teeth", not to mention more room outside the box in which to walk.

The real nationalists and separatists in today's Newfoundland and Labrador should not ape the kind of cartoon nationalism exhibited by certain post-confederate leaders. Rather, we should look deeper at who we are, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and become a real nation at long last.

Don't forget, Labrador was only part of Newfoundland for one year before the Statute of Westminster was thrust upon us (which was really more Britain's independence from its White colonies, rather than the other way around). The Commission of Government was a British-controlled sham designed to make Britain look good at our expense. The 1948 referenda was largely a British attempt to rid itself of a crippling war debt; and Canada is a part of that scam. These events helped form our legacy, but we can rise above all that in a responsible, peaceful, creative and sensible way.

First of all I’d like to ask all responsible, peaceful, creative and sensible nationalists/ separatists to please rise.

See? Now we're getting somewhere.

Mark my words, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Canada, Return Newfoundland and Labrador's History

It seems that lately everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador has an axe to grind and all sorts of valid causes to take on. Every day we hear more and more about incidences of civil disobedience, organized protests, letter writing campaigns and online (or paper) petitions circulating in the province.

All of these efforts have one common element. They all require somone, or a group of someones, to step to the front and get the ball rolling. In the past months I’ve commented time and again on many of the current issues in the province and I’ve signed many of the petitions out there, in fact I promote some of them on my site, Web Talk. Now, after much soul searching, I have decided to take another step.

Just today I’ve decided to create and circulate a petition of my own. I guess it’s my turn to step up to the plate and focus on what I feel is an important cause, rather than just talking about it. Yes, I feel that the commentaries I make are important or I wouldn’t be writing them. I feel that the forum my site provides is important or I wouldn’t be doing that either. Neither of these truths is really the point though. The point is, is it enough? I don’t think so.

The biggest issue for me, being the outspoken sort that I am, was not the decision to make that initial plunge into openly soliciting signatures. It wasn’t putting myself on the line for a cause either, I do that every day in my articles. For most normal people these may have been tougher decisions. For me and other loud mouths like me, that’s second nature. No, the problem I had wasn’t deciding to stick my neck out, it was determining exactly which cause I should take on.

Here is where my love of communication came in. As a person who is addicted to the discussion of the social and political issues surrounding the Newfoundland and Labrador experience, whenever possible I devour news stories, read the commentaries of others and listen to the local open line programs. It was the latter that sparked my interest in my new found cause.

One night while listening to a local call in program I heard a gentleman relate to the moderator his feelings over the unfairness shown to Newfoundland and Labrador immediately after joining Confederation. This man eloquently spoke of how our rich military history had been stolen away by the Department of National Defense when Newfoundland and Canadian military forces merged on March 31, 1949.

I have no idea who this man was, and if he is out there I would appreciate it if he made contact with me, but I was touched by the fact that he not only knew so much about our history but that he felt so strongly about it.

He spoke of how one of the Victoria Cross medals won by a Newfoundlander in WWI was sitting in a museum in Ottawa while the other was on loan to a museum in Nova Scotia. Neither resided in the province itself.

He spoke of our great exploits in both world wars, the Crimean war, the war of 1812 and even the American Revolution. All of which happened while Newfoundland and Labrador was an independent entity and most definitely not a part of Canada.

This man touched me deeply in the passionate way he spoke of countless battles and inhumanly heroic exploits. His story of how one young soldier’s daily diary, kept during battle, was filed away somewhere in Ottawa, could not be ignored. How photographs and service records belonging to the Newfoundland and Labrador military had become the property of Canada as soon as pens cleared paper in 1949.

It was then that I made up my mind what my cause should be. What I should collect signatures for.

Simply put, the Return of Newfoundland and Labrador’s History.

Our children no longer learn about local history in our classrooms. Our veteran’s are becoming fewer and fewer every year. Newfoundland and Labrador’s rich history is slipping further and further into the mists of time.

Isn’t it time, 56 years after they were taken away, that these priceless historical relics should be returned to their rightful place. A place where they will be cherished by the descendants of those who fought and died? A place where future generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans can view the rich history and culture that is so much a part of who we are.

In this, The Year of the Veteran, I make a rare request to all fair minded individuals out there to visit http://www.petitiononline.com/MILNL/petition.html and sign the petition you find there, or you can access it as a link on the left side of this page.

Newfoundland and Labrador are indeed a part of Canada, but is it right for the Country to expect Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans to forget their past in exchange for being a Canadian province? The Country has our present and most likely our future. Do they need to take our past as well?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Notice to all Web Site Users:

I have recently added a new section to this site. It resides just below the index on the right, and contains links to various online petitions.

These petitions are out there just waiting for signatures like yours.

The listing will be updated over time as new petitions come online and old ones are completed. Hopefully the section will become a regular feature on the site.

Please take a few minutes to review the current list and put your democratic rights to work by signing those that are important to you. They are all for very worthy causes and the minute or two it takes for you to access them and add your name could make a big difference to the outcome.

Myles Higgins
Web Talk - Newfoundland and Labrador

The Fighting Newfoundlander May be Recovering from His Long Illness

It seems that lately everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador has an axe of some kind to grind and all sorts of valid causes to take on. Every day we hear more and more about incidences of civil disobedience, organized protests, letter writing campaigns and online (or paper) petitions circulating in the province.

In the past months I’ve commented time and again on many of the current issues in the province. I’ve signed many of those petitions and am currently providing links to two of these documents on my own web site, for anyone interested in taking part.

To the outsider, the current flurry of activism in the province might appear to be symptomatic of some serious issues that have been developing recently. Newly formed cracks in the cement of our existence so to speak. This is partly true of course, but for the benefit of our readers from outside the province, the issues facing Newfoundland and Labrador today are by no means a new circumstance.

Serious problems have existed in this province for generations. Most in the province have grown up knowing the issues existed and but accepted them as a fact of life. The reason why we are hearing more about them these days is not because they are only now becoming apparent, rather, we are hearing more about them because the population has finally begun to reach a point where they are no longer willing to suffer in martyred silence.

In a recent article I made the comment that the “Fighting Newfoundlander” was dead, or at least on life support. That comment was intentionally made to illustrate a key point related to our place in the Country and to see what kind of a reaction it would receive. The reaction was swift, passionate and promising.

The ensuing days brought a deluge of email telling me that the “Fighting Newfoundlander” was not dead, but rather alive and fighting mad. I was informed that the 20 something generation was indeed willing to fight and that perhaps the fighting spirit had missed my generation (the 40+ to 50+ set) but it was now fully alive, alert and active.

I applaud the 20+ set and I have to agree. Many of our youth are involved in social and political issues. They are quick to rally behind a good cause and they do not sit quietly by when an issue hits their hearts. The spirit of the “Fighting Newfoundlander” does exist in many of our youth. The fighting spirit displayed by our youth is clear, but what is more promising is the fact that, regardless of the fact that some people think the 40+ generation doesn’t have the spirit, they are now beginning to stand up and be counted.

As previously mentioned, one of the comments I received noted that the fighting spirit had perhaps skipped the previous generation. A year or two ago I would have had to agree with that comment. Now, happily, I’m not so sure. The spirit may have been sleeping for far too long, but I’m finally starting to think it didn’t skip a generation at all.

Think about it for a minute. Most of the green, white and pink flags flying in the province these days are not flapping above the houses of 20 year olds, but the houses of their parents. Our youth are not the leaders of today’s fishing protests, nor are they the driving force behind getting a weather office in Gander or a fish quota in Harbour Breton. These causes, which are so important to our province, are being lead by more mature protestors and this is what gives us all hope.

The new generation is indeed laying the ground work for the future and hopefully they can maintain their boundless energy. It is through many of them that change will happen, but we cannot escape the fact that the older generation appears to have finally woken up and that is the best sign of all.

Not to make light of the importance of the efforts our youth take part in, but even if they don’t believe it, the youth of every generation has fought for change. That is a natural part of the growing process that has taken place in every culture and in every age. On the other hand, it is much tougher to keep that spirit alive as one grows older and has the responsibilities of a job, house, family and bills.

It is when we begin to see the older generation beginning to wake from the malaise of their day to day drudgery and take up causes outside their immediate concerns, that one can smell change in the air. That is what we have been seeing in the province lately and it is a very exciting thing to witness. One can almost smell the electricity in the air and feel the spirit of our ancestors beginning to stir within the populace.

Who knows what might have awakened this spirit or if it will continue to grow. Perhaps it was sparked by Premier Williams when he took on Ottawa over the Atlantic Accord. Maybe it was shaken awake with the protests that killed a previous attempt to develop the Lower Churchill project under former Premier Roger Grimes. It may even be a single spark that is traveling from issue to issue and growing by feeding on itself. Whatever the fuel, it is being fed and will hopefully continue to grow.

To all the fine folks who took me to task over my “Fighting Newfoundlander” comments. Thank-you and I apologize for saying he had died. He is not dead, but he is still not as strong as he needs to be. Over the past months he has shown signs of recovery and promise but there is still a long road ahead. Who knows, maybe someday soon he will regain his full strength and we can remove the life support systems he currently relies on.

So here’s wishing the “Fighting Newfoundlander” a full and speedy recovery. In the mean time, everyone should give him all the attention he deserves. The signs are encouraging and perhaps a win or two on some of the issues out there might just provide the added push he needs to rise from his bed.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Canada's Rich Cultural Legacy

Integration is one word for it. Other words include naturalization, incorporation and assimilation. What ever the choice of word, the concept is the same. It’s all about fitting into a new environment.

Canada likes to bill itself as a country that takes pride in its diverse cultures. The official line of our Government is that unlike the melting pot of the U.S., which would have immigrants adopt the American culture, Canada is a rich tapestry of diversity. Over the years millions have been spent bringing this message to the fore. But just how true is it?

Upon entering Canada in 1949 Newfoundland and Labrador was a unique and distinct society. The people were hearty and strong. The need to survive a harsh life in the middle of the North Atlantic had hewn a breed of people as hard as the very rock on which they lived. It was from this stock that the “Fighting Newfoundlander” was bred. A special kind of individual who can be envisioned driving a hard right hand into the jaw of an enemy while perhaps pulling a small child to safety with his left.

All too often these days I hear many in the province make the comment that the fighting Newfoundlander is dead. That the spirit has been sucked out of the people and we are no longer willing to take up a cause with a vengeance in times of trouble. Granted, there are still some who are willing to make a stand, but by and large, I believe there is an element of truth in those statements.

When the Lieutenant Governor recently announced his annual garden party, it attracted thousands, to sip on tea and socialize. Meanwhile, repeated calls in support of protest groups trying to protect our fishing heritage gained the support of only few dozen strong souls. What does this tell you?

It tells me that Canada has done a pretty good job of assimilation. Over the years it has quietly broken the back of the province. It has bred the fighting spirit out of the majority of the population and is working on crushing that spirit completely.

Recall that at one time, Newfoundland and Labrador was a separate country and a member of the Commonwealth in its own right. In other words, it was Canada’s peer on the world stage and an equal in every way. Our entry into Confederation wasn’t just a matter of gaining a piece of territory. An entire country was being brought into the fold and the nationalist spirit that came along with that country had to be considered and dealt with.

I’m not saying the process was fully planned by some dark conspiratorial force. In fact it more likely happened as a series of events, each of which served a more mundane purpose at the time. Never the less, the result was the same. Our independent spirit, if not dead, was put on life support.

One of the first moves made by the Canadian government after 1949 was to merge our military. This was a natural enough step, but not only did they take command of the troops, they also stole our rich military history.

Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have been a fighting force to contend with over the years. They have been involved in many conflicts and proven themselves worthy of honour after honour in such major conflicts as the Crimean war, the war of 1812 and World War I.

This rich part of our history, including war records, medals, diaries of some of our service personnel and even photographs, were spirited off to Ottawa after Confederation. We couldn’t get them back if we fought to the death for them. Not that we would, because taking them had the effect of stealing our collective memory of what we were capable of.

How many people today know that our forces actually fought on American soil at one point and battled into Maine?

How many know about the heroic acts of our soldiers in foreign lands. Some of whom were merely boys of fourteen or fifteen when they answered the call?

How many people today know that two Newfoundlanders have won the Victoria Cross, the highest honour that can be given by the British Monarchy? Even more importantly, how many know that one of those historically priceless medals sits in the War Museum on Ottawa while the other is on loan to a museum in Nova Scotia. Neither resides here.

Destroy the past and the present will take care of itself. That seems to be the way things have been handled when it comes to dealing with Newfoundland and Labrador. First our military history was taken away, then our railway, which was so much a part of our history. Next, the fishery and the traditions that went with it.

By taking away our pride in our past, Canada has broken, or at least severely weakened our resolve. By building a culture of dependence on social programs such as EI, Welfare, Health Care and CPP, it has bought a certain kind of docility and control. A similar approach has been taken with the breeding of cattle. By selectively breeding the least aggressive, the herd can be more easily managed.

When was the last time you saw a dairy cow look anything but half comatose?

Will we ever regain our hearts and spirits in this province? Most likely not, although small flashes of it can still be glimpsed from time to time like a distant beacon.

Perhaps some unknown catalyst will spark a renewed strength one day, who knows. After all, some still remember and care. Unfortunately it may soon be too late.

With every passing generation the light becomes dimmer and the ghosts of the past fade further into the background. Stories of past glories are told less and less often to the newest generation of our children. Children who crawl into their warm beds, cover themselves in soft sheets and scratch their full bellies. Children who know little of the hunger and passion that burned so strongly in their ancestors just a few generations ago.

More likely is the simple reality that we will eventually become true Canadians in every meaning of the word.

Canada's rich tapestry of diversity my A##!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Signs of the Times.

There are times in the life cycle of any civilization when a major shift takes place, a fork in the road that moves everything in a different direction. These are recognizable in history by certain sign posts along the way. Markers of a clear transition from one way of life to another.

In prehistoric times, perhaps the first such sign post was the discovery of fire. From that day forward ancient people could ward off attack by animals, purify food by cooking, settle into small communal groups and populate the colder regions of our planet.

There have been many such events that have changed the course of history for one civilization or another.

The discovery of the new world, the industrial revolution in Europe, the American Revolution, both world wars, the list goes on and on. At the time these events were taking place it’s doubtful that those closest to them clearly understood the impact they would have on the populace. It is only the clear perspective hindsight provides that allows these moments in time to become clear.

For the province of Newfoundland and Labrador one event that can clearly be defined and examined has to be our entry into Confederation on March 31, 1949. It was an event that changed how we lived, how we saw ourselves and to some degree, who we were.

For better or worse, that particular fork in the road would forever change our lives. But did we know we were making such a fundamental change at the time? One has to wonder if there were any clearly identifiable clues to be seen. Was there some way, ten or twenty years before Confederation, to have sensed the change in the air or recognized that some major event in our history was about to happen?

Let’s examine the situation at the time.

Prior to Confederation, the future province, with the exception of the St. John’s area, was lightly populated and many small communities were scattered throughout the land. This made it difficult for the central government to manage social and economic issues. Not to mention the cost of maintaining infrastructure.

Much of the population was poor.

A myriad of health issues existed and it was next to impossible to meet the medical needs of such a widely dispersed population.

The education system was spotted at best and in some cases practically non-existent.

Many villages and communities along the coasts were all but left to fend for themselves and to survive if they could.

The smallest of communities depended on the fishing industry and cod for their survival.

In the capital city some of the poorest begged in the streets for a scrap of bread.

These were the conditions at the time we entered into Canada and it was these conditions that led the population from many of the hardest hit parts of the land to adopt Confederation as a desperate attempt to improve their lot in life. These were the sign posts of change if you like.

Need brings change. It was true for the cave man, the people of America during the revolution, the countries involved in both world wars and it was true for Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1940s.

Now that we have identified some of the more common signs of change, perhaps by looking around today, we can predict when such major events might happen again. Perhaps we can predict when a shift will occur.

Perhaps, but of course things are not the same today. After 56 years of Confederation we have new shiny buildings, an oil and gas industry, stable government and social programs.

Today, with the exception of the St. John’s area, the province is lightly populated and many small communities are scattered throughout the land. Of course, this makes it difficult for the central government to manage social and economic issues. Not to mention the cost of maintaining infrastructure.

Much of the population is poor.

A myriad of health issues exist and it is next to impossible to meet the medical needs of such a widely dispersed population.

The education system is spotted at best and in some cases practically non-existent.

Many villages and communities along the coasts have been all but left to fend for themselves and to survive if they can.

The smallest of communities depend on the fishing industry for survival.

In the capital city some of the poorest beg in the streets.

Things have clearly changed. No longer do people beg for a scrap of bread, now they beg for loose change or play a guitar for pennies and quarters. The smallest of communities still depend on the fishing industry for survival but now there is no cod to be had.

Nope, no signs here I guess.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Lower Churchill Development Decision is a No Brainer

Over the past couple of days I've had an opportunity to reflect on the issue of who should develop the Lower Churchill hydro project in Labrador. I've listened to the open line programs, chatted with friends and aquaintences and tossed the idea around the old noggin for a while. After all of this, I have come to one and only one conclusion.

Question: Should the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador develop the Lower Churchill itself?

Answer: How in the name of God Almighty can the government of Newfoundland and Labrador even consider doing anything except going it alone on this?

It's a no brainer, unfortuately my brain takes a little while to absorb the facts or I would have had the answer the first time someone asked my opinion, rather than the forty-first.

The province is in desperate need of power to fuel industrial growth. The entire province, especially the Labrador portion, is arguably one of the richest sources of mineral deposits on the continent, if not the planet. Currently most of that material is being exported for processing. Why is this happening? The answer is simple. There is no available source of inexpensive and abundant power in the province that would enable smelters to be built and efficiently run.

I say “available source” because there is indeed abundant power in the area and there always has been. Never the less, it is not available for the development of the province. Instead it is being exported and used to fuel economic development in Quebec and beyond.

Can the province afford to make the same mistake with the Lower Churchill as it did with the Upper? Forget for a moment making the type of bad financial deal that was made in the past. The more critical issue if the province afford to give up the potential for industrial development that would come from controlling this much power?

According to their web site, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro currently has a generating capacity of approximately 7,289 megawatts. This is used to supply the province’s current needs but leaves little for growth. Consider as well that the Lower Churchill project has the ability to produce 2,824 megawatts or approximately an added 40% of the capacity currently in place.

Even though development estimates on the project run as high as $9 billion dollars, this could be a bargain at the price.

It has been estimated that the Upper Churchill plant has generated over $24 billion in profits since coming on line in 1972 (approximately 96% of this revenues has gone to Quebec Hydro, 3-4 % to NL). The value of clean power continues to rise and it is a revenue stream that will never stop. Although the Lower Churchill is only about half the size of the upper project, the numbers are still staggering and once the initial outlay has been recovered, the money would flow faster than the river itself.

Financing should not even be an issue in the current political environment. The provincial government is in better financial shape than it was in the 1970s, when the original deal was signed, and it would not be a stretch to expect the federal government to cost share the project in a big way.

Canada has extremely large and difficult commitments to meet with respect to Kyoto. The Lower Churchill project alone would allow the Country to meet nearly 10% of this requirement. This doesn’t even take into account the Kyoto benefits that could be gained by shutting down the province’s Holyrood oil fired generating facility.

Currently the Holyrood generating station burns an estimated 6,000 barrels of heavy fuel in each of its three units, for a total of 18,000 barrels a day, in order to generate a mere 490 megawatts of power. In addition to helping Ottawa meet Kyoto commitments, how much money could be saved by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro if they did not have to purchase approximately 6.5 million barrels of fuel a year at today’s prices?

The province, in conjunction with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is now considering options for the development, when in reality what they should do is throw out all the proposals and begin the task of developing the most cost effective and timely plan to develop the project themselves.

Not only should the project be developed by the province, the power should not be sold into the North American market at all. The timeline to develop the project would see first power flow in 2014. This gives the province a decade to market the power potential to energy hungry industries around the globe. Industries that will jump at the chance to have access to clean, stable and reasonably priced power.

The potential is staggering in proportion. No longer would ore be pulled from the earth only to be processed elsewhere. The smelters would come to us.

No longer would raw materials of any kind need to leave the province. The factories and mills would come to us.

Perhaps most importantly, no longer would our people need to migrate out of the province in order to find work. The work would come to us.

Retaining control of this power source is not something that would be nice to do. It is something that must be done.

If the project is managed correctly, within a year or two of first power, the province of Newfoundland and Labrador could see itself in a position where it is experiencing massive industrial growth.

Within a few years of first power, the province could see itself experiencing in-migration rather than out-migration.

Within a decade of first power the province could see itself with a booming oil economy that, although large, is only a small percentage of its revenues, rather than its life’s blood.

Within three decades of first power the Upper Churchill contract would expire and the staggering revenues from that mega project would begin to flow to it’s rightful owners.

In less than 50 years, less than the time the province has been a part of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador could experience a population explosion. Power brings industry, industry brings jobs, jobs bring wealth and wealth brings people.
The migration of 1 or 2 million people into a province with the land mass of Newfoundland and Labrador would not be a problem, in fact it would be a god send.

Finally, add to all of the benefits outlined above the biggest and perhaps ultimate benefit of all to the province. Massive in-migration would eventually equate to additional seats on Parliament Hill and with those would naturally come an entirely new kind of power.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Can Newfoundland and Labrador Develop Churchill River on its Own?

Since the Lower Churchill development short list was announced by Premier Danny Williams yesterday, the topic of who should actually develop the mega hydro project has moved front and center in the minds of many Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans.

What will no doubt shape up to be a lively and exciting debate over the coming months, has begun in earnest. Open line shows are buzzing and coffee shop commentators are quickly choosing sides. The ideas are flowing faster than the double doubles.

A straw poll (that is to say, my ear has caught much more of one comment than another) shows that at this point, the overwhelming sentiment is in favour of a provincially developed project rather than a partnership with any of the outside proponents, especially Hydro Quebec.

Premier Williams stated yesterday that with Newfoundland and Labrador’s improved financial situation, due in part to offshore oil revenues, that provincial development is an option to be considered. The statement may be nothing more than a bargaining chip he intends to use in future negotiations, but if you add to that statement the long standing mistrust existing within the province when it comes to outside interests –

- The one sided deal brokered for the Upper Churchill hydro project;

- What was seen as an outside company, FPI grabbing fishing quotas from Harbour Breton and in essence leaving the town to die;

- The current resource grab being made by Abitibi Consolidated in the province,

to name just a few, and you have a climate where it may be difficult to sell any other option. The reality of the situation is that the people of the province are not only concerned about another “bad deal” but they are also hungry to try a project on their own.

Perhaps it represents a sort of “coming of age” for the province. Perhaps there’s some “little engine that could” feeling, or perhaps it’s simply a matter of needing to show the big guys that the little guy can do it all by themselves. Whatever the reason, the “go it alone” sentiment is rapidly growing.

The question is, can it really be done?

Where would the money for development come from?

There are options of course. The province does have $2 billion in the bank from the recently signed Atlantic Accord deal and future revenues beyond that number, a portion of which could be funneled into the project. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has some funds available, not to mention borrowing power. More creative options like issuing bonds or some sort of income trust could also play a part in the financing and of course there is always the “Green” fund setup by the Feds.

Would it be worth the cost of development?

Of course it would. The revenues generated from a project of this sort could run into the hundreds of millions a year. Current estimates put Hydro Quebec revenues from the Upper Churchill at about $800 million a year. Although that project produces slightly more power than this new project, the ramifications are clear.

Beyond the direct financial value to be gained from a power project of this sort lie the secondary and perhaps even more valuable benefits, benefits that come with controlling so much low cost, renewable energy. Benefits like the ability to attract industry.

Currently, large industries in Ontario and throughout North America are suffering from a lack of power. Comments have been made to the effect:

“If they move here they won’t have that problem and it would take the strain off the power grid in the major centers”.

“Ontario won’t have to worry about brown outs if some of their factories move to Newfoundland and Labrador”

“Maybe if we can attract power hungry industries, the jobs might mean we can start seeing in-migration rather than out-migration for a change.”

Indeed, all of this sounds great, but is there still a catch?

Well, there may be one. Simply put, for Newfoundland and Labrador to develop the project on their own they must adopt a “If we build it they will come” attitude. The reality is that a return may not be seen on the investment until and unless these industries actually move into the province and start using the power.

The power produced from this project will far exceed anything the province itself can currently use. The original Upper Churchill hydro project has shown that Hydro Quebec will do everything possible to stop the province from moving power across it’s grid, unless they recieve the lions share of the revenues. It’s a sad reality, but a reality none the less.

Should the province go it alone?

Theoretically, it makes sense in the long run.

Financially, it’s possible.

Politically, the move could be a king maker.

Emotionally (for the public), it is a given. The public needs to begin feeling stronger and more in control their own destiny.

Never the less, the problem of geography still exists. The big question is whether or not the intestinal fortitude exists in the province to take the hit initially and wait out the returns. No matter how much the people of the province would wish it wasn’t so, the cruel fact is that geographically and philosophically the province will always be at odds with Quebec. This is a reality that is never going to change unless enough pressure is applied to Quebec by the feds and other power hungry interests.

Who knows, perhaps it takes a major move like this to put the province on a more even playing field with it’s neighbours. If the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which already has ample resources, were to add excess power and a major industrial base to its portfolio, it might make for more beneficial dialog both federally and inter provincially down the road.

Only time and the final decision on the project in a few months will tell the tale. Until then, may the coffee and conversation flow faster than the Churchill River itself.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador hosts North America's Oldest Sporting Event

On Wednesday, August 3rd the 187th officially recognized running of the Royal St. John’s Regatta took place. Not that anyone would know it. If you were not in Newfoundland at the time you probably missed it. If you are not from Newfoundland and Labrador, you probably never even heard of it. So let me fill you in.

The Royal St. John’s Regatta is an annual event officially dating back to the early 1800’s, however some evidence points to the fact that these boat races were held as early as the late 1700’s. In fact, the Regatta is considered to be the oldest continuing annual sporting event on the continent. It also has the distinction of being the only sporting event that has its own holiday.

Every year in the City of St. John’s, the entire population wakes early and intently listens to the radio station of their choice. The reason is simple. If the wind conditions are right and the Regatta Committee makes the decision to proceed with the boat races, then a holiday is declared. If not, it’s off to work they go, only to try again the next day.

The day long event is steeped in history and this year consisted of 28 boat races, drew 118 rowing crews, untold thousands of fans lined the lake front and the day culminated in the Ladies and Men’s Championship races in the evening. The weather was not quite as warm as many had hoped this year, but that did little to dampen the spirit of those in attendance and a carnival like atmosphere abounded.

This race, as exciting and historically important as it may be, is a hidden jewel that has never caught the attention of television networks like CBC or TSN. In fact, the only television station to carry the event was the local community cable channel. What a waste.

Sports magazines don’t write articles about it, newspaper sports editors (outside the area) don’t mention it, even in passing. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that tens of thousands attend the race each year and hundreds of rowers practice for months on end to compete, one might think it was the figment of somebody’s imagination.

Canada has too long ignored its sporting history. Professional hockey is the only sport really promoted in this country. What about paying at least a little lip service to other Canadian sporting events? The sporting history of Canada is a rich one but unfortunately most people think it began with Lord Stanley, it didn’t. According to historical records, our sporting history officially began with the 47th anniversary of the coronation of King George III and the regatta.

The Royal St. John’s Regatta is a prime example of the type of event that should garner some Canadian press and perhaps even a little air time. History and tradition have always been important to Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. It’s just too bad nobody outside the province is aware of the rich past, and present, the province has.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Never a Dull Moment in Newfoundland and Labrador

One thing nobody can ever say about the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is that life is dull. Indeed, for anyone interested in politics and current affairs, there is never a dull moment in the province.

Even with the provincial legislature being shut down for the summer break, there is no shortage of fodder for commentary and no end to the open discussion and debate that are so popular in bars, coffee shops and street corners throughout the land.

The politicians may be out of the office, but the work of dealing with issues from every nook and cranny of the province goes on, not to mention the work of talking and writing about it.

A number of issues have grabbed the attention of most people over the past weeks. Issues such as:

The closure of the Abitibi mill in Stephenville and their paper machine if Grand Falls - Windsor, not to mention the power grab they are attempting with the provinces timber and hydro power;

The never ending battle for the survival of the air base at 5 Wing Goose and the survival of the town of Harbour Breton; and of course

The ongoing and ever increasing protests over cod fishing in the province.

While all of these things have been happening, I've been on a short vacation. This has afforded me the opportunity to travel to various parts of the island (I apologize to the fine folks in Labrador but I didn't get a chance to get up there this year). It also gave me the chance to see and chat with people from parts of the province where I don't usually get a chance to go. I have to say it was a pure delight and highly educational to boot.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are nothing of not outspoken and informed.

Most of the people I was fortunate enough to meet with during my hiatus were happy to bend my ear on all of the topics noted above and more, but the one topic that seemed to illicit the most emotional and heart felt comments was the recent cod fishing protests and the response of DFO to them.

It is simply impossible for most people in the province to understand how the feds can allow cod fishing in other parts of this country while banning it in areas of Newfoundland and Labrador. People are angry and upset that DFO has decided to lay charges against several protestors who took to the water recently while continuing to allow foriegn vessels to ply the same waters and catch thousands of tons of cod.

It is an issue that people in all areas of the province are interested in but one that seems to be of more than just a passing interest to the fine folks I spoke with in places like Conception Bay and Petty Harbour. Although I have to admit that in the latter, the production of the CBC series Hatching Matching and Dispatching in the town ran a close second.

To people in these areas this battle is a passionate one. One that will not go away simply because a few charges have been laid or because orders have been given in Ottawa.

A recent article by St. John's writer and lawyer Averill Baker clearly described the issue as seen by people in the province. In the piece Ms. Baker identifies the actual amount of cod fish that boats from other countries are allowed to take from Newfoundland and Labrador waters.

According to her article, countries like Russia, Japan, the U.S., Spain and others have permission from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans to take hundreds of tons each from areas where individuals in the province cannot even catch a single fish to put on the dinner table. This is shameful and is completely unfathomable to anyone in the province.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador do not give up a fight easily and I doubt they will give up on this one. As I have mentioned in past articles, the battle over fishing rights inside the provincial 3 mile limit is now winding its way throught the courts. Protests are growing and everyone is becoming more and more vocal. This is an issue that isn't going to just go away and in fact, regretfully, may become more militant.

Thus far, about the only segment not heard from on the issue are provincially elected officials. In fact MHAs in the province seem to be more quiet than one would expect them to be on any issue, especially such a hot one.

This unnatural silence is making some wonder why they are staying out of the fray. In fact, it is making the public speculate all sorts of mean, nasty and ugly things from conspiracy to payoffs (perhaps with a 2 billion dollar cheque).

Speculation can be a very bad thing if it is believed. I heard much of it in my recent travels and I worry about what can happen when people convince themselves that something is true without having direct evidence. Such things can lead to anarchy and chaos. Perception can become reality if it is left to fester. Perhaps its time for our provincial leaders to get behind the people of the province who elected them and take a stand. Better they fight along side their brothers than stand against them.

I like many others would love to see our politicians stand up and fight. They know how to do it, they've done it before on other issues.

I would like to say to everyone I had the opportunity to "jaw" with over the past couple of weeks, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have been a delight.

Everyone from Port Aux Basque to Bishop's Falls, from Deer Lake to Arnolds Cove, from St. John's to Stephenville and all points in between. With the exception of Premier Danny Williams himself who turned down a chance to chat with me recently, I feel I've spoken with just about everyone I could have possibly gotten to in the time I had (Of course I will try to fit the Premier in should he change his mind).

To all of you, don't ever stop tugging on the strings of our leaders and don't ever stop sharing your opinions. Remember, It is not our leaders who foster change, but rather it is you, you and most especially you.