Da Legal Stuff...

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Well folks, Christmas is finally upon us so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best. We may not always agree on points of concern, sometimes angry words are exchanged and there are even those who visit here that would prefer every Newfoundlander and Labradorian would get washed out to sea (or in the case of WJM, just every Newfoundlander). That doesn't matter today because this is a time for all of us to put aside our differences and spend time with our loved ones.

I'll be taking a little break during the holiday season but I'll be back again in the new Year. I hope you will as well.

Happy Holidays, keep safe and (INSERT PREFERRED DEVINITY HERE) Bless you all.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who WIll Speak for Newfoundland and Labrador

By Myles Higgins & Darren Fancey

Today several groups in the province stood together to deliver the message that the time has come for everyone to stand up and speak for Newfoundland and Labrador. No longer is it good enough to simply wait for someone else to do something. No longer is it good enough to depend on politicians. The time has come for each and every person in the province to make a stand and make a future for the province.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL) in partnerhip with groups like the Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth (FINALY), The Community Linkages Concept Committee (CLCC) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmer's Forum (NLYFF) launched a new web site today, WeStand.ca, a site intended as a venue for youth to share ideas and discuss their futures. These groups were joined by bright and talented Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, artists and entrepreneurs like Shelly Broomfield, Jill Curran, Jamie Baker, Rhonda Tulk-Lane, Chan Wiseman, our very own Steve Penney, Ray Johnson and Rex Goudie.

Together they delivered a simple yet powerful message: that the will and passion of the Newfoundland and Labrador people will be the strength that drives this province into future prosperity. The message was directed at the teachers and parents of our youth to instill in them the positive spirit of Newfoundland and Labrador. To encourage them to believe that the choice work in Newfoundland and Labrador, that the choice to be innovative and create new industry and ideas is attainable right here at home. The message was also directed at those who would challenge the idea of revitalizing rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and would discourage our youth from following their dreams. The message for the nay-sayers is that a fundamental shift in thinking is necessary to drive the positive force that is our youth and that the time has come to take charge of our own futures.

The conference opened with the inspirational words of Ray Johnson of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. Ray is Chairperson of the Flambro Head Heritage Society, Acting Chair of the Community Linkages Concept Committee and a member of NLDL. He shared his passion for the province and spoke of the choices our youth have in front of them.

“...some of us must make the choice to leave, others wonder if they have a choice to stay.”

When questioned on how we can resolve the choice of our youth to stay Ray responded “With inventiveness” He spoke of the hard-work and ingenuity that has built this great land. The never-say-die attitude of past generations who made it work because they had to; because the bond with their home strengthened their resolve. We as Newfoundland and Labradorians have to recapture some of that attitude and ingenuity and with it we will prosper.

The conference also highlighted by some of examples of the ingenuity and drive of our youth who have managed to build successes in rural Newfoundland and Labrador:

Jill Curran returned to N&L and built a business in Ferryland offering a unique tourism experience. Her venture called Lighthouse Picnics has grown from a makeshift roadside stand to a business which employs seven people. She spoke about increasing rural economic development.

Jamie Baker is a columnist originally from Dildo spoke passionately about the need for regionalization.

On Youth issues Steve Penney of the NLDL spoke about education and the obstacles of student debt.

Shelley Broomfield is an Innuit from Labrador who is a brilliant mind and well-spoken Labradorian who told the conference about Aboriginal Youth Issues.

Rhonda Tulk-Lane of FINALY spoke about out-migration and her own experience in taking the leap of faith to return to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chan Wiseman of the Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers Forum used his experience growing up in a farming family to speak about diversifying rural Newfoundland and Labrador economies beyond one-industry towns.

To close the list of guest speaker Rex Goudie, who went through hell and high-water to make sure he was able to make it to the conference, spoke about valuing where we come from and what we have. Without any notes Rex spoke from the heart, describing seeing so many of his classmates and friends working out west. He spoke of the simple pleasures that he grew up with and still looks forward to when he returns to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The conference closed with a final thought from Ray Johnson who asked, “Who will speak for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?”. His answer: “I Will. You Will. We Will.”

All organizations and individuals involved are convinced that there is a future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador and they are determined that the press conference today will be just the beginning of further efforts to ensure that change is pushed from the bottom up since successive govenments in the province have done little to save the province they all love.

Monday, December 18, 2006

NL Groups Hosting Star studded Press Conference on December 20th

Is Rural Newfoundland and Labrador Alive?

Is there a choice for our youth growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

Are there success stories among all the doom and gloom we so often hear?

The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL) says there is!

The Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers Forum says there is!

Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador Youth (FINALY) says there is!

The Community Linkages Concept Committee (CLCC) says there is!

Watch your local news coverage on Wednesday Dec 20th for a press conference containing more on how we can all play our part. The conference will include guest speakers:

Ray Johnson of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas and a member of both the CLCC and NLDL, young entrepeneurs like Chan Wiseman of the Young Farmers Forum, Shelly Broomfield, Jill Curran and special guest, platinum award winning musician and proud son of Newfoundland and Labrador, Rex Goudie!

Other well known names will also be in attendance so make sure to tune in and check your local papers the next day for further coverage.

Stay tuned Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Free Speech, Spin Doctors and Black Lists

I’m not one to hold back when it comes to speaking out on something I don’t agree with. That said, today I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to the editorial staff of the Independent, Newfoundland and Labrador’s only truly local newspaper. A paper that by and large is a stand up publication when it comes to provincial issues. I’ve been a reader of the Indy since its inception a few years ago and have even contributed to its content from time to time, but I had to do a double take upon reading a few of the paper’s articles over the past month or so.

It all started on when the paper published a guest column from a gentleman by the name of Harry Tucker, not a letter to the editor mind you, but a full fledged column. In his column Mr. Tucker spoke of coming back to Newfoundland in an attempt to leverage his New York experience for the benefit of the people here. Helping to grow our economy and make a difference is indeed a laudable endeavor to say the least. Unfortunately Harry felt that he ran into what he saw as a defeatist attitude and according to him that wouldn’t let him do what he wanted to do, so he planned to return to his American home with no intention of letting his children or grandchildren grow up in such a defeatist environment.

Following on the heals of Harry Tucker’s controversial article, the Independent published not one, but two separate articles, in which they quoted an economist who spoke of his belief that the province has no option other than to sell all the power from the Lower Churchill via the Quebec corridor. According to this so called expert the Quebec route is the only viable one. My immediate reaction was to question this person’s motives, a valid reaction when, upon reading further, I discovered that he hails from, of all places, Quebec. Who knows, maybe he’s right, but it sure does make me wonder where his loyalties lie.

According to this Quebec economist, the underwater route to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick would require the use of untested technology and is simply not feasible. Never mind that many countries around the world have used similar technology spanning much larger distances, with less power and have enjoyed great success.

He went on to say that the Lower Churchill project, as well as those at planned for development by Hydro Quebec just outside the Labrador border, will not be viable unless the projects share the cost of transmission. Could it be that this statement alone reveals the answer to at least one economist’s take on the world?

The Lower Churchill will produce 2800 megawatts of power and can easily stand on its own. Personally I’d rather see the power from the project used to attract industry inside the province, but never the less I believe it can be developed and transmitted in a cost effective manner no matter what the route. I can easily believe however that the Hydro Quebec projects, which will generate far less power, are not as economically viable. This of course makes one wonder if perhaps the motivation of the economist quoted might simply be an attempt to convince the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to pick up a good chunk of the transmission costs for that project. If that’s the case it’s a cute little ploy and one I can understand someone dreaming it up. My question is, why in the hell would the Independent promote two separate articles on the subject?

As I noted above I’ll try, as long as possible at least, to give the Independent the benefit of the doubt. I believe the paper’s editor, Ryan Cleary, and I have developed a sort of mutual respect for each other over the past year or so and I hope he’ll take this article in the spirit it’s intended. Recently the paper published some less than flattering articles about Premier Danny Williams and the Premier hasn’t spoken to anyone from the publication since. Hopefully Ryan is a little more reasonable and won’t shut the door on me from here on in but whatever the outcome, damn the torpedoes, free speech is free speech right?

A big part of the reason I’m willing to hold out hope for the paper is because of, believe it or not, Harry Tucker himself, the gentleman who wrote that the less than flattering article about the “negative” people here. Since writing the article Harry seems to have softened his stance just a little bit and has even decided joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL.org), a very pro-active and pro-NL group. In defense of his article Mr. Tucker recently commented to one NLDL member that his comments were meant to, “drop a verbal bomb”, that would get people riled up. It worked. My only hope is that in giving so much ink to this Quebec economist Ryan and the good folks at the Indy were trying to do something similar. I can always hope right?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Globe and Mail Seeks HSUS "Seal" of Approval

Once again we find ourselves treated to another slanted, narrow minded and painfully misinformed article from the brain trust at the Globe and Mail. Adding his name to the ever growing list of columnists with one lonely brain cell, a list that includes the infamous Margaret Wente, is none other than their newest purveyor of piffle, Chris Morris. A writer who most likely gained any knowledge he has of seals from 1960’s National Geographic magazines, the Flipper TV series and a visit or two to Toronto Zoo.

In an article thinly disguised as a news report on sealers in Quebec, PEI and Newfoundland & Labrador who have requested tighter regulations, Morris clearly abandoned any semblance of unbiased journalism in favour of pressing his personal agenda to the paper’s already misinformed readers. Don’t get me wrong, I love opinion pieces as much as the next guy, even if I don’t always agree with their content, but if you’re going down that road don’t disguise it as a news article. In all aspects of life there are certain lines that you don’t cross, dressing up an opinion piece as an unbiased news story is one of them.

In the article, the title of which contains the words: Hatred and confrontation on the blood-stained Ice floes, (my first thought was hell no, there can’t be an ounce of bias in this article) Morris says the sealers, “… want Ottawa to establish tighter regulations governing the growing number of hunt observers, most of them from groups dedicated to the protection of wildlife.”

Lord help me. Where has this guy been for the past several decades? Groups dedicated to animal “protection” include the World Wildlife Fund, the SPCA and a handful of others, who, by the way, are not protesting the seal harvest. Animal protection groups do not include the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), PETA or the Sea Shepherd Society. These groups are not interested in protecting animal. They are animal rights groups, not animal protection groups and there’s a big difference.

What these groups espouse is awarding animals precisely the same “human” rights as you or I have. In other words it wouldn’t matter what an animal was being utilized for (commercial, medical, food) or how humane the process was, these groups are against it, end of story. As far as they are concerned everyone on star ship earth should eat tofu and drink green tea all day. In their eyes not one single solitary animal should ever be used for any reason what so ever. Starve if you must but Bambi must be protected at all costs.

These groups have nothing to do with animal protection but rather the promotion “animal rights”, an unrealistic, utopian vision. They are promoting a vision of a world where everyone lives in harmony and sheep lay down with lions. Sure, it might be a nice daydream and I’d love to live there myself, but forcing this vision upon reality is a different story. Put a sheep next to a lion and see how fast you get my point.

In pretending to present the government’s position that the use of high powered rifles is causing concern for the safety of sealers and protestors alike, Morris’ bias shines through once again. Instead of speaking with someone who might know a thing or two about hunting safety Morris chose instead to interview Rebecca Aldsworth of the Humane Society of the United States. Ms Aldsworth began her diatribe by talking about the “pro-sealing Minister” and said she, “believes observing the hunt is a right, not a privilege.” She went on to say that observers, already have to stay at least 10 metres from harvesters.

Thank-you Mr. Morris for ensuring that Ms. Aldsworth got her propaganda quota filled once again this week. By publishing her “pro-sealing Minister” statement and her other five or six “message riddled” quotes I’m sure you made her day. If I were writing the piece however I might have asked Ms Aldsworth to tell me if, since she believes observation is a right instead of a privilege, she would like government to fly in animals from around the world to observe the harvest. I mean she believes that animals have all the same rights as a person doesn’t she?

I’d also ask her what she knows about hunting safety especially since she believes that 10 metres is a safe distance from someone firing a high powered rifle. She obviously has a little bit to learn on the subject. Maybe a bullet or two whizzing past her ear this spring will help her get the message loud and clear, not that I’d ever hope for such a thing to happen of course.

Morris closes his pseudo realistic news story by making sure to mention that Ms. Aldsworth’s animal “protection” group is organizing visits to the hunt by European parliamentarians, who are considering a Europe-wide ban on seal products. It sounds impressive and indeed she is working with European leaders to legislate just such a ban, but that isn’t the whole story.

The reason she’s gained some support in Europe is quite simple. Canadian seal products are sold in various places around the world but very rarely, if ever, in the countries she’s talking with. I guess it’s pretty easy to support a ban on something you’ve never bought in the first place. It’s sort of the European equivalent of the U.S. restaurant boycott her group promoted last year. At that time Aldsworth claimed that hundreds of American restaurants were refusing to buy Canadian seafood. What she cleverly forgot to mention was than many of the restaurants she listed were vegetarian establishments and had no reason to buy seafood in the first place, no matter where it came from. I guess Chris Morris and the crack editorial team at the Globe and Mail missed out on that one huh? Amazing for a team of well respected journalists.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reform, Revolution and Retirement

As someone who actively speaks out on numerous issues facing Newfoundland and Labrador I have to admit that invoking any kind of change to the status quo is a very daunting task. It’s not that there’s a shortage of issues to speak out on, quite the contrary. The difficulty is in getting enough people to actually stand up say something.

The list of concerns facing the province is a long one. The issues range from less than effective representation in Ottawa to destruction of the fisheries. They include atrocious air and ferry services, a lack of control over resources management and the removal of federal offices in the province. The list goes on and on and is far too extensive to relate in a single article. The fact that these problems exist is clear and everyone in the province knows it but there is a big difference between knowing it and actually working for change.

In most societies government mishandling, abuse or neglect causes an outcry from the masses. Protests are held, revolutionaries are born, hunger strikes happen, civil disobedience takes place and eventually something happens for better or for worse. Not so in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least not to this point. As others have said in the past, we are different than any other province in Canada. While I’m the first to trumpet our differences and proudly list them, unfortunately this lack of action is also one of those differences that can’t be denied.

Don’t get me wrong, there are groups of individuals, small pockets of resistance if you will, who are willing to stand up and be counted. Groups like the Rural Rights and Boat Owners Assoc. or the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL), of which I’m a proud member, work diligently to address the issues, but it’s an up hill battle. The difference with groups in Newfoundland and Labrador, as opposed to those in most other places, is not the heart, the will or the passion of those involved. The difference is, believe it or not, the age of the population. This factor alone is perhaps the most debilitating single problem facing anyone in the province hoping to invoke change.

Consider that throughout history most social and political change has come as a result of public outcry, and the loudest, proudest and most vocal people have been society’s younger citizens. Generally these are university students, twenty somethings, who see a need for change and are willing to make it happen no matter what the consequences. This isn’t the case in Newfoundland and Labrador and by the very nature of the population it will likely never be. That reality alone is something any politically active group needs to face.

Groups like the NLDL are made up of some very strong willed people from various walks of life. Photographers, business people, computer consultants, fishermen, logistics experts, linguistics experts, marketing people and entrepreneurs fill its ranks but no matter the makeup of the membership, without wide spread and active support in the general population they are up against a wall.

I may sound like I’m blaming the public for their lack of support but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I completely understand their hesitance to get involved. Statistics show that the average age of the population in Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the oldest in Canada and on average the people here are aging faster than those in other areas. This means a large and important segment of the population is either already retired or within a few years of doing so. These are people who have raised families, put in a full life’s work and are now looking forward to enjoying their golden years.

The government of the province and a myriad of expert analysts have discussed the problems of an aging population. A shortage of new people entering the work force, the drop in provincial tax revenues and many other issues are all a part of it. From an activists perspective an aging population is also a major roadblock. These people are within arms reach of taking advantage of programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and Social Security and they are more than ever becoming dependent on the public health care system. Understandably they have no intention of rocking the boat.

One of the biggest battles facing any socially or politically minded group in the province today isn’t its fight with Ottawa or even with the provincial government. The biggest battle, and perhaps the hardest to win, is gaining broad based support for any issue facing Newfoundland and Labrador. A single voice is simply lost in the wind. Ten voices will fall on deaf ears. A thousand voices may invoke a limited response, but to change an existing reality in any meaningful way, ten times that number must begin to shout. The challenge is convincing the people to find their voices.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Smoke and Mirrors

On Friday December 1 the St. John’s airport was buzzing with federal conservative celebrities including Ministers Loyola Hearn (fisheries), Rona Ambrose (environment) and Lawrence Cannon (transport). They all came to get their 5 minutes in the spotlight and to tell everyone what a wonderful job they were doing up on the hill. Oh and they also announced the stationing of a new surveillance aircraft in New Brunswick that would protect our coasts from rogue vessels dumping bilge oil, killing sea birds and destroying the coastline.

According to the Ministers the craft, a modified Dash 8, is equipped with state of the art aerial surveillance equipment that will allow Transport Canada to detect marine polluters better than ever before.

The Ministers also carried the message from their keepers that, “Canada is prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect our marine environment”, (please don’t start laughing just yet) and to let us know that they are, “fully committed to protecting and preserving our pristine environment…”

Between standing in the way of a UN sponsored ban on destruction of the ocean floor, developing a “hot air” plan for dealing with greenhouse gasses, supporting rogue nations like Spain in patrolling the waters outside the 200 mile limit and putting a single plane in place to patrol all of Atlantic Canada and the Great Lakes, this new government has been very clear where it stands on the environment. About as far away from it they possibly can.

Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, is quoted as saying, "This new technology is an excellent example of what Canada's new government is doing to protect our environment.” I agree with her. It is a perfect example of what the new government is doing or more precisely, what they aren’t doing.

Minister Ambrose seems to believe that this single plane is sufficient to patrol the estimated 3,000 kilometre stretch of shoreline from Duluth, Minn., to St. John's, NL plus the Great Lakes. I’m just amazed her government didn’t schedule it to cover the Pacific and Arctic oceans as well. (I wonder, have they considered that they may not be able to refuel in Gander once that airport closes due to lack of support from Ottawa).

Talk about wearing rose colored glasses, the members of the Harper government must have had surgery to implant colored contacts directly onto the corneas if they can stand behind their record on the environment .

As one environmental expert put it, this plane is “…kind of like having one cop car for the province of Ontario. If you're a criminal and you're planning to dump oil, and you know that the only chance of you getting caught is one plane that's covering basically all of eastern Canada, well, if I was them, I would just dump the oil…”

Harper, the puppet master, along with all of his puppets may not have discovered the answer to resolving issues like overfishing, environmental problems, social programs, foreign affairs, equalization, and the rest but there is certainly one thing they’ve mastered in their short time in office, the use of smoke and mirrors.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dealing with Five Decades of Psychological Warfare

Once again today we see evidence that Newfoundland and Labrador is being left behind by the rest of Canada. Although enough resources exist on the land and in the seas surrounding the place to sustain a much larger population, people are going hungry. The way those resources have been managed and developed in combination with the political marginalization of the people that’s existed for decades has resulted in something completely unconscionable. In 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador’s hunger rate is the highest in the country.

HungerCount is a national survey of emergency food programs in Canada conducted by the Canadian Association of Food Banks (CAFB). Their most recent survey found that 5.59% of the province’s population have been forced to make use of food banks in order to feed their families, the highest per capita rate in the Country. When you combine this information with outmigration that sees thousands leave every year, the lowest birth rates, the highest unemployment and a population that’s aging faster than anywhere else in Canada, the possibility arises that eventually the government of Canada will get exactly what it has so desperately wanted from Newfoundland and Labrador since pre-confederation, all of the resources and none of the people.

Since 1949 the government of Canada has been systematically robbing Newfoundland and Labrador of any hope for a future. I believe that immediately after confederation it may have been done intentionally in order to achieve a backroom plan intended to break the will of the people, get them under control (remember only about half the population wanted to be a part of the Canada) and ensure that they could be assimilated into the Canadian framework. Over the years the minds behind this horrendous practice have come and gone but by the time they did the practice itself had become second nature and was such a common practice that it simply continued to exist. It’s doubtful that today’s political leaders even realize what they are perpetuating but the effects are the same.

What we see today are a people who, by and large, have lost the will to stand up and fight to protect their heritage, their homeland and their way of life. We see a people who appear on the surface to be just like any other Canadian but they most certainly are not. Instead they have lived on the fringes of Canada, both physically and figuratively, for so long that many don’t even see the reality of what this ongoing practice means for them. They don’t even realize that by standing up as one they may have a chance for survival. Most of them simply go about their daily activities oblivious to the fact that they are, in many respects, worse off than the rest of the Country and that if current trend continues, in a few generations the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will become as extinct as the original Beothuk population

Taken down from the high level to that of the individual, the story becomes even more bleak. The lack of work is real. A lower than normal birth rate is real. Hunger is real. Poverty is real. These all contribute to a lack of self esteem and self worth that permeates the entire culture and the effects of this low self esteem are all too clear. It’s the reason why someone will sit in a room full of so called “fellow” Canadians and simply accept being called a “stupid newfie” or a “cod chucker”? It’s the reason why someone who is qualified for a top level position will simply accept being passed over in favor of someone who isn’t from “the Rock”? It’s why an entire people, who were once part of an independent nation in their own right, will quietly accept little more than handouts from Ottawa while their neighbor, who is supposedly an equal partner in confederation, is simply given the gift of nationhood.

When a person is put in a situation where they feel a total lack of control over their destiny, when they are told what they can or can’t do, when they have their belongings, their pride, their independence taken away and when they are put in a position where they must ask someone else for even the basic necessities of life, there is a commonly accepted term for the psychological state this type of dependence causes in many who are put in that position.

Definition: Stockholm syndrome - a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage exhibits loyalty to the hostage-taker, in spite of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. The victims become emotionally attached to their victimizers, and have even been known to defend their captors.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Two Nations Under God with Liberty and Justice for None"

So it begins. It’s the morning after the night before and the drunken exuberance on Parliament Hill seems to have left the entire Country with a hangover.

What follows are excerpts from various news articles, public statements and opinions that have been expressed across Canada, in the United States and around the world today. The day after the Canadian Parliament adopted a motion to recognize Quebec as a nation, within Canada, by a vote of 266 to 16.

When it comes to the Pandora’s Box this has opened, I believe the following excerpts say it all.

“United we stand, divided we fall” or perhaps a more appropriate phrase comes from Alice Cooper’s classic hit, “Welcome to my Nightmare”.

…Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that if Quebec deserves special recognition, then so do Canada's aboriginals.

…Harper's move to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada was passed decisively through parliament but opponents say it could eventually tear the country apart.

…The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League, a provincial advocacy group, has approached at least one MP from that province to push for a motion to recognize that province, which was once an independent nation. The group is also circulating a petition on the subject.

…It is the formalization of the Balkanization of Canada on the way to perfecting the North American Union. The craftsmen are bent on destroying sovereignty and nationhood for all citizens.

…What is being proposed now is that we will have the Québécois (and that will imply Quebec, whether we want to or not) as being one nation and the rest of Canada another nation. Quebec separatists will use this as an argument to nullify the Clarity Act, as one nation can't impose conditions on another nation, stop paying taxes to Ottawa, etc. Civil disobedience will run rampant.

…critics say the move could bolster efforts by pro-independence Quebecers who now plan to push for extra powers such as the right to speak at international meetings.

…Discussions regarding the fundamental structure of our country are delicate and potentially devastating. They should never be brought up willy-nilly in an attempt to curry regional political favour. There is simply too much to lose.

…it is a measure of its ambiguity -- a studied and contrived ambiguity -- that the resolution can be interpreted in so many lovely ways.

…veteran Ontario francophone MP Diane Marleau, among a cluster of Liberals…angrily blamed Michael Ignatieff for sparking the "stupidity we're getting into."

…How will it inform our challenge to bring this country together when there are four or five interpretations possible?” he said. “This puts us into word-smithing, into semantics, and it puts us into games playing that I think has harmed this country in the past. – Gerard Kennedy, Liberal leadership candidate.

…Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May says that yesterday's House of Commons vote to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada is a shameful example of political expediency that could come back to haunt a future Canadian government.

…Quebec as a nation within a nation, but with no powers, is the first formalization of Canadian disintegration.

…Sovereigntist lawyer Guy Bertrand says Quebec needs its own hockey team as much as any other nation. Bertrand, wants Quebec to field a team for the world hockey championships in 2008.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Harper Sets Stage for European Style "Canadian Union"

Folks, it’s pretty much a done deal. Quebec will be recognized as a “Nation within a united Canada”, but where does this leave the rest of us? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing in fact I like the idea. It sort of smacks of a “European Union” situation and maybe that’s what Canada needs right now. I can’t help but envision a scenario where we all use the same currency and essentially have the same constitutional rights but where there is room for independence and control of localized matters such as immigration. Not a bad plan, in fact I heartily endorse it.

The reason I like it so much is that it gives Quebec the recognition it truly deserves as a distinct people. They’ve been fighting for this for a very long time, they deserve it and they are welcome to it with a heart and a half. They ARE without a doubt a distinct people, just like the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Once this new definition of Quebec is passed it may well set a precedent where by other parts of Canada can opt to be recognized as well and nobody has a stronger case than Newfoundland and Labrador. Here we find a place that was not even a part of Canada until 1949 and was once even a sovereign nation of its own. Who can deny them the right to become a “nation within a united Canada” as well? To do so would be idiotic under the circumstances.

What about Alberta? Alberta would likely have a case. They are certainly different from other parts of Canada with their rodeo’s and cowboy gear not to mention an economy that’s so distinct it’s almost frightening. I suppose as well that not having a definable culture of their own, other than what has been imported from around the world or as “America Lite”, Ontario could be called a Nation. I mean the people there certainly have nothing in common with those in any other part of Canada. What about our First Nations People (hell their title even has the word “Nation” in it) and what about the Green Gables crew in PEI or the Bluenosers in Nova Scotia? I’m sure they can make a case.

So, where does this all leave us? Personally the longer I think about it the more I like it. Over time perhaps this seemingly small move on the part of Stephen Harper will actually be what Canada needs to survive. Who knows, maybe we’ll find ourselves with a group of Nations all working together for the common good rather than a group of oppressed provinces biting and clawing at each other on a daily basis.

As distinct and individual Nations united as one it would of course be necessary for all of these nations to be given an equal say in the happenings of the new union. As things now stand Ontario and Quebec account for the vast majority of political power in the House of Commons and essentially control Canada, often to the detriment of the rest of the provinces. This could not continue to be the case in a world where distinct Nations must work together. In this new world each Nation would need to be on an equal footing, perhaps with one vote per nation on issues of common concern.

I like it. I like it a lot.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Loyola Hearn's Propaganda Machine

I’ve always believed federal politicians are essentially self centered and arrogant but I’ve never before had the overpowering urge to call one an all out liar. Not until reading the latest press release from federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn. I can’t think of any other way to say it than to say that Loyola Hearn is completely and unequivocally full of S*&t.

Tuesday November 21 was World Fisheries Day. A day meant to bring the world’s attention to the importance of our oceans and the life they contain. To mark this event Canada declined to support a UN sponsored move to protect high seas fish stocks and Loyola Hearn issued a press release touting the great work Canada is doing to protect the oceans. What a useless waste of oxygen this guy is.

Let me quote a few lines from the propaganda message the Dis-Honorable Loyola Hearn put out on such an important day.

“…we are still confronted with rampant overfishing on the high seas… Scientists are also warning of a collapse of Atlantic bluefin tuna if fishers of the eastern stock don't start following the rules.”

“…When members of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission decided to deal with shrinking Pacific salmon stocks, they stopped high seas salmon fishing in the North Pacific Ocean and pooled their efforts to enforce the changes. Strong cooperation on monitoring and surveillance has cut illegal driftnet fishing in this area by 90 per cent.”

Boy, reading those quotes might fool anyone into thinking the Canadian government is actually concerned with marine ecosystems. Sorry but that’s where the problem lies and unfortunately it’s also where the politician himself is lying to Canada and the entire world. The statement is pure propaganda, plain and simple.

The minister’s message went on to say:

“…it means…considering fish habitat and sensitive marine areas when we make decisions. It also means erring on the side of caution when we don't have all the facts on how the fish are doing.”

Yet when asked by the United Nations to support an initiative that would, “err on the side of caution” by temporarily prohibiting bottom dragging on the high seas, Loyola Hearn and the Conservative government sided instead with nations like Russia, Japan and Spain. Nations who are the worst offenders when it comes to fish stock destruction. Canada declined to support the UN initiative intended to protect unregulated areas until scientists can determine where sensitive environments exist that might be destroyed forever.

The release also included the following statement:

“…We also need to remember to act sooner than later; to forget the short-term gains and to focus on long-term interests.”

The statement may make a nice sound bite but it’s a lie. Canada and NAFO continue to allow fishing fleets to rape the high seas and even the edge of Canada’s continental shelf. This is exactly what the minister is supporting by continuing to allow foreign vessels to ply the Grand Banks and the entire continental shelf outside the 200 mile limit.

The ultimate insult, from a Canadian perspective, has to Loyola Hearn’s statement in reference to the previously mentioned moves to protect Pacific Salmon:

“…Canada and its allies were determined to get similar results at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization this September, and it worked.”

What worked? What exactly did NAFO accomplish in to protect North Atlantic fish stocks in September? Anyone who has watched the corrupt and business focused meanderings of this organization over the years will tell you they have accomplished exactly what they always accomplish, absolutely nothing. Instead they’ve brainwashed much of the public into believing that something has been done when absolutely nothing has.

A release by Loyola Hearn in September spoke of the great strides NAFO had made in protecting the North Atlantic from illegal fishing and from nations who disregard the rules and regulations. If you ask Loyola Hearn today he’ll tell you that these new regulations were put in place to ensure that rogue vessels return to port and face penalties for breaking the law. Perhaps they do, though returning to their home port and being put at the mercy of their own governments, which often subsidize their efforts, is not much of a disincentive.

Regardless of that, since the rules were put in place only one vessel has been reported to have been charged and sent home. It remains to be seen how the captain of that vessel makes out but does it really matter? Does it matter at all when you consider that some estimates put the number of boats illegally fishing off our shores at a hundred or more each and every day? I’m no math whiz but if that number is even close to correct it means that about 9000 vessels have plied those waters since the new regulations were put in place and only one has been charged. Does anyone really believe this approach will make any difference at all and can anyone believe anything Loyola Hearn says anymore?

I remember following Mr. Hearn’s career for years. I remember his heart felt speeches about taking control of the Grand Banks. I remember his calls for custodial management and his statements about the need to protect and grow the fishing industry in Atlantic Canada. I remember writing an article in which I supported his position and looked forward to the day when Loyola Hearn would take on the mantle of Fisheries Minister for Canada. With that in mind, I’d like to apologize to anyone who read those articles and promise you that I won’t make the same mistake again.

I guess like the man says, you get what you pay for. In this case we paid with our votes for a man who has decided to sell out his principles and his people for political reasons. That said there is an end in sight. There will be another election, likely within the next year and this voter plans to do his best to ensure that Loyola Hearn is returned to whatever rock he crawled out from under.

Good luck on your next election campaign Mr. Hearn. I believe the people are finally beginning to wake up and that they’ve had enough of the mess that’s been made of the fisheries in Atlantic Canada as well as the politicians who have stood idly by and let it happen.

See you on the campaign trail Mr. Hearn.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Canada's Sell Out on High Seas Trawling

If anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador needed further evidence that a proposed UN moratorium on high seas dragging was a good idea they got it last week. The evidence came from none other than the chairman of Clearwater himself, John Risley, a man who’s been public enemy number one in provincial fisheries circles for some time.

According to Risley, there is no proof that bottom trawling causes any damage to the sea bed. Risley said at a recent meeting of the St. John’s Board of Trade, “There is zero scientific evidence, not one shred of scientific evidence that these fisheries do any damage to the bottom environment whatsoever.” He went on to say that, “We could not have a shrimp fishery, we could not have a ground fishery, we could not have a scallop fishery, we could not have a clam fishery, if it wasn't for bottom trawling."

How can anyone say with a straight face that dragging a weighted net across the sea floor and scooping up every last thing in its path does no harm to the environment? Come on folks, do you really need to be a scientist to see the idiocy of that statement?

On the fishing side of the equation, it’s all well and good for Mr. Risley to tout the consequences to local fisheries, but a temporary high seas ban would not affect Canada’s shrimp fishery, ground fishery, scallop fishery, clam fishery or any other fishery for that matter. It wouldn’t affect any of these fisheries because they are all conducted inside Canada’s 200 mile economic zone and are not subject to the proposed UN plan.

Mr. Risley’s protest and the decision by Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, who I’m sure know each other quite well, makes me wonder if perhaps there is not something else at play here. Could it be that Mr. Risley has financial interests that are indeed plying international waters and involved in the rape of our oceans in places where prying eyes can’t see what’s happening? Could it be that Mr. Hearn is aware of those interests?

The government’s argument for not supporting the UN plan is lame at best. All you have to do is look at it. They claim that supporting the plan would put pressure on Canada to stop dragging inside its waters. Bull!!! Canada has the exclusive right to manage its own water and the sea bed beneath it. Besides, when has Canada ever buckled to ill informed international pressure when it comes to doing what it wants to do? If it did we wouldn’t have a viable and sustainable seal harvest in the Country today.

Mr. Hearn, in all his wisdom, has publicly said that the proposed ban would be useless since it wouldn’t be enforceable that far out to sea. Very well then, if it isn’t enforceable what’s the harm in supporting it? It might do no good to have the ban in place but by the Minister’s own admission, it can’t do any harm either.

When I first heard Loyola Hearn say Canada would not be supporting the UN position I was floored, absolutely floored. I couldn’t believe that a Minister from Newfoundland and Labrador, a place that has been so hard hit by the depletion of fish stocks, could take the side of nations like Spain and Russia. Nations that have consistently broken international fishing laws and helped destroy the North Atlantic fish stocks. At first I just thought he might have sold out on this issue in exchange for pushing through some recently announced reforms to NAFO regulations. It’s not that I’d agree with an approach like that but at least I could have understood it. Now it seems the real reason for his position might be even more sinister.

During his comments to the Board of Trade Risley said most of the areas over which bottom dragging is performed is little more than gravel beds anyway and there is really nothing there to protect. In response to that statement Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist with Dalhousie University, pretty much said it all. Myers agreed that the majority of trawling now takes place over areas that are essentially gravel beds but went on to say, "…they weren't mere gravel beds when they started.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trans Canada Highway into Newfoundland Nearly Abandoned by Ottawa

The Terms of Union, the official agreement by which Newfoundland and Labrador entered Canada in 1949, specifically identifies the delivery of ferry services as the responsibility of the federal government. Article 32 of the Terms of Union state:

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

This article was included in the final agreement for the express purpose of ensuring that the island portion of the province would not be cut off from the rest of Canada and that it would have an equal access to goods and services as any other province in the Country.

In essence, the ferry system is a section of Trans Canada Highway itself. Mile 1 of the Trans Canada Highway begins in St. John’s NL. The highway extends to the west coast of the province where it meets the gulf ferry service. These ferries then allow passengers to once again connect to the TCH in Nova Scotia and continue across the Country.

I wonder if Canadians in Ontario, Manitoba or elsewhere would simply sit by and allow the federal government to allow the TCH in their area fall into disrepair. If they would let them get away with allowing it to become impassible at times resulting in their province being cut off from the rest of the Country. If protestors, demonstrators or striking government workers were to block other portions of the TCH would Ottawa have them removed? If retail prices were rising because tractor trailers couldn’t deliver goods over the TCH, would everyone just shrug it off and let it continue? I wonder how long it would take the fed to ensure that any obstruction to the highway system in those areas was cleared and traffic could flow unimpeded.

Why is it that when it comes to the TCH link in Newfoundland, the ferry service, these situations are allowed to happen again and again and continue to worsen with each passing year?

Marine Atlantic’s aging ferry fleet consists of 3 primary vessels, the Caribou, the Leif Erickson and the Smallwood. The ferries run 7 days a week, 365 days a year and each year they become more and more prone to repair issues and accidents. The Union representing navigators, engineers, electricians and radar technicians aboard these vessels have said that its time Ottawa examined the costs of repair in comparison to that of replacement.

Anyone who has used the Marine Atlantic service between Port aux Basques, NL and North Sydney, NS over the years has seen the long lineups, especially during the summer months. Truckers in particular are hard hit by the limited service and capacity available, a situation that is severely worsened when a vessel is out of service due to maintenance issues or a labor disruption. At times trailers containing goods destined for the province are stuck in line ups for days if not weeks. This delay to the delivery of goods means that truckers cannot make a living elsewhere and this in turn drives up the cost of supplies and materials essential to the province.

Union representatives are also concerned with safety issues after one ferry recently lost power and collided with a concrete dock barrier. Had the loss of power happened at sea or during inclement weather the result could have been catastrophic. They are sounding the alarm about the potential safety threat of the aging technology on the vessels and what that could mean to passengers and crew members.

In another incident in July, at the height of the provinces short tourist season, 1,300 passengers were stranded at North Sydney Nova Scotia when the Leif Erickson lost a turbo thruster and a replacement had to be shipped in from Switzerland.

The ferries are an essential part of the highway system across Canada and are required for the movement of goods but also for passenger traffic. In an average year the service moves 500,000 people (the equivalent of the entire population of the province). A large number of those passengers are tourists who travel during the short summer season and the provincial government has identified the lack of capacity on these ferries as factor limiting tourism development.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a huge land mass. Many tourists prefer to drive to the province rather than fly. This allows them the freedom to move about the province at their leisure and visit the many towns and outports without the added expense of a rental vehicle. Unfortunately the limited service offered by the federal government’s ferry service often means visitors opt not to come to the province because they have difficulty reserving space on the ferries or are not willing to face long and uncertain lineups.

If we look more closely at the Terms of Union and specifically at article 32, it states: “…Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering…” and “…will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.”

This clearly indicates that the intent of article 32 is to ensure that the ferry system has the capacity to meet the needs of the province. This is obviously not the case and with each year the problem worsens while Ottawa continues to ignore it.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a long ship building history. Currently there are idle shipyards in the province that would jump at the chance to build new, larger capacity, ferries for Marine Atlantic. All it would take is the go ahead from Ottawa to upgrade the fleet. Why then is the federal government ignoring this problem? One that’s affecting economic development in the province, driving up the cost of consumer goods and causing Newfoundland and Labrador to become more and more cut off from the rest of the Country?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Extended Life Expectancy for Grand Banks Oil Fields

The TSX moved into positive territory on Thursday thanks in part to Husky Energy’s announcement that it was increasing its estimate of the recoverable resources in the White Rose oilfield off Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to Husky, the southwestern section of the field is believed to contain 40 to 100 million barrels of recoverable oil. Earlier in the year Husky’s analysis of the western section of the field led to an increased estimate in that area to between 50 and 200 million barrels.

A spokesman for Husky said, "The results of this delineation program, along with the strong performance of the current development, should allow White Rose to significantly extend its production plateau."

In other oil news, in June of this year, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board revised its official estimates for the combined fields on the Grand Banks of the province. The offshore regulator said the fields now appear to hold 2.751 billion barrels of oil — up 696 million barrels from previous estimates. These estimates are generally considered to be on the conservative side and do not include the latest updated information from Husky.

Many business focused columnists for news services like the Globe and Mail, have been up in arms about stalled negotiations on the Hebron oil project in the province. Negotiations broke down when the companies involved in the consortium, led by Exxon, requested half a billion dollars in tax breaks from the cash strapped province in order to develop the field and were averse to allowing he province to take an equity position in the development.

Over the ensuing weeks these narrow minded and business blinded columnists have compared Premier Williams to the dictator Hugo Chavez and gone so far as to bemoan the hardship the little province of Newfoundland and Labrador is forcing on the big oil companies involved. Many have noted that the oil wells already in production have a limited life expectancy and that the new Hebron field needs to be developed right away in order to ensure the stability of the oil industry in province.

Locally this latest news from the offshore petroleum board and Husky Energy is seen as a vindication of the provinces stand and shows that these companies often come into projects with low ball estimates of their value only to increase them incrementally over time. The result is a much bigger profit for these companies than is identified when the initial royalty contracts with the province are signed.

While some have said Newfoundland and Labrador must develop new projects quickly, no matter if the direct benefits to the province are acceptable or not, many in the province now feel that the extended life expectancy of existing fields removes any pressure government may have been feeling about having to move forward with new developments at this time. These announcements provide the province with the time it needs to continue pushing for regulatory and legislative changes that will see the province gain added value from its valuable resources.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our Fisheries Future

Hello everyone. I came across the following commentary on another blog site. I found it quite interesting and thought provoking so I figured Web Talk's readers might as well. I'd like to thank the author for allowing me to republish it here.

Our Fishless Future

Tuna, Salmon, Cod. Imagine trying to explain to your grandchildren what they tasted like. This grim scenario was laid out last week in a groundbreaking study published in the world’s most prestigious research journal, Science.

Dr. Boris Worm from Dalhousie University led the investigation, which predicts a near complete collapse of ocean ecosystems by 2048. While the scale of this catastrophe seems right out of science fiction, the implications are very real.

Scientists looked at records around the world and throughout history to get a picture of where the world’s fish stocks have been and where they are going. The projected line of steady decline hits bottom at 2048, the year Dr. Worm predicts the world’s oceans will largely be populated only by toxic algae.

This apocalyptic future is the twin prodigy of ever more efficient fishing technology, coupled with incompetent and shortsighted government policy. Far from leading the world in solving this problem, Canada is one of the worst offenders and our story is a telling study on how the world ended up in this mess.

For years, Ottawa has consistently opposed restrictions on the use of dragger technology, a widely used fishing method that is so wasteful and destructive that our fishless descendants may well marvel at our collective stupidity.

Dragger boats do exactly that, dragging a net weighing several thousand pounds across the ocean floor, with predictable and devastating impacts on sensitive bottom habitat. The net can be large enough to swallow a 747, and anything swept up by this maw is long dead by the time it is hauled up on deck.

“By-catch” is the quaint euphemism used by both industry and government to describe the enormous volumes of unwanted marine life dumped overboard, which can make up over 90% of the catch. It is akin to picking apples by first cutting down the tree.

Ottawa recently joined our traditional fishing foes, Spain and Iceland, to block a proposed international moratorium on draggers on the high seas. Canadian fishermen do almost no dragging in international waters, so why would our government collude with countries we have in the past called “fish pirates” in blocking the protection of international fish stocks? Even George Bush supports this UN sponsored effort.

Documents obtained through access to information reveal that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is apparently worried that such a prohibition might undermine their ability to allow the continued scouring of the ocean floor within Canadian waters.

This latest incident illustrates a culture of incompetence within DFO that almost defies comprehension. Having presided over the obliteration of our once-legendary cod stocks, this moribund department then allowed west coast salmon stocks to be fished close to extinction.

The response to this self-created problem was to create yet another, when it became department policy to aggressively promote net-pen aquaculture, now implicated in the massive infection of wild fish with parasites from these so-called “salmon farms”.

The case study of a wealthy, developed country such as Canada destroying our own fisheries resources through shortsighted motives and sheer stupidity has been repeated around the world. Fishing in international waters, where virtually no laws apply or are enforced, poses an even more daunting challenge.

The challenge now facing the world is essentially one of morality. This is the first time in history that we have the ability to catch virtually every fish in the ocean. Because we can, does that mean we will? It seems that morality has become essential not only for our own survival, but for the survival of most other life now sharing the planet with its new childish gods.

While time is short to save the world’s oceans, there is much we can do - if that is our choice.

Marine protected areas that are off-limits to commercial fishing have been shown to be highly effective at restoring ecosystems and repopulating adjacent areas.

Selective commercial fishing methods that do not destroy bottom habitat are not only less wasteful, but produce higher quality fish and provide more employment than dragger boats.

Certain forms of aquaculture such as catfish, trout and shellfish are not dependent on fishmeal as food, and can buy us some time to restore global ocean ecosystems.

Lastly, we need bold and principled leadership, starting at home. Incredibly, some of the same DFO bureaucrats that presided over the collapse of the cod are not only still in positions of power, they have since been promoted. This department is long overdue for a complete overhaul and many of these individuals should quite simply be fired – if not frogmarched to the curb. There is no time to waste being polite.

The scientists at Dalhousie deserve our gratitude for so clearly and convincingly showing where past and present practices are leading us. Let us hope we have the courage to change that path before it is too late.

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer living in Vancouver

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Will Newfoundland and Labrador Look to Other Provinces for Direction on Retaining University Graduates?

There is a movement underway in Newfoundland and Labrador intended to convince the provincial government to waive interest charges on student loans. The initiative, led by local university graduate and social activist, Travis Parsons, is attempting to convince government that one of the reasons so many young people are continuing to leaving the province is their crippling student debt and an inability to attain salary levels in the province that would allow them to meet their loan obligations.

Retaining university graduates by easing the financial burdens is not a new concept, however it’s one that is just beginning to be recognized in parts of the Country. Earlier this year, the province of New Brunswick instituted a process that allows graduates to receive rebates of up to 50 per cent of their tuition costs, to a maximum of $10,000. The rebates are issued over a period of several years, to a maximum of $2,000 a year. Manitoba is also considering similar legislation in an effort to curb a growing problem with out-migration.

At this point the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has not publicly said it will support a debt reduction plan however Parsons and others believe that if any province should be concerned with out-migration it’s Newfoundland and Labrador. Recent reports have shown that the provinces population is falling, thousands of people a year are leaving for other locales, the skills base in the province is slipping and a large percentage of the population will soon be reaching retirement age or has already done so. All of which makes it extremely difficult to attract industry and grow the economy, two planks in the Tory government’s platform.

Convincing young people to remain in Newfoundland and Labrador is an issue that is growing more and more important with each passing year. These people are the future of any province however retaining them can be difficult when salaries, on average, are lower than those available in places like Alberta. One option to resolving this situation may be to ease the burden of student loan interest or to rebate tuition itself, in exchange for the graduated remaining in the province for a set period of time. Many graduates leave the province soon after graduation. It is believed that if those students could be convinced to begin their careers inside the province they would be more likely to remain for the longer term.

Reports suggest that under a pledge by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government, Manitoba which is now considering student debt relief, could be in line for a major funding boost to help cover the cost of its initiative. If this is the case, one wonders if Newfoundland and Labrador might also be able to leverage federal funding for a similar scheme. According to the latest census, Manitoba lost 8,635 people between July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2006. Newfoundland and Labrador also lost thousands of people to out-migration during the same period, however while Manitoba's population continues to grow, thanks mainly to increased immigration, Newfoundland and Labrador’s is falling steadily. Regardless of whether or not the federal government is willing to support such an initiative in the province, many feel that if something isn’t done soon, the problem will continue to worsen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lest we Forget

Saturday November 11 is Remembrance Day.

Many courageous soldiers have been proud to call Newfoundland or Labrador their home, both before and after its Confederation with Canada. This is the story of just one of them.

Lest we forget.

Thomas (Tommy) Ricketts, V.C. - Recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born on April 15, 1901 in Middle Arm Newfoundland, Ricketts was underage at the time he enlisted.. Ricketts joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at the age of 15 and 4 months. Just two months earlier, the Regiment had been decimated at Beaumont Hamel, during the Battle of the Somme.

After shipping overseas Ricketts was was wounded in the leg at Cambrai, but soon returned to his regiment. The following deed took place October 14, 1918 at Ledeghem, Belgium, for which Ricketts was awarded the Victoria Cross.

No. 3102 Pte. Thomas Ricketts, 1st Battalion, R. Newfoundland R.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 14 October 1918, during the advance from Ledeghem, when the attack was temporarily held up by heavy hostile fire and the platoon to which he belonged suffered severe casualties from the fire of a battery at point-blank range.

Pte. Ricketts at once volunteered to go forward with his section commander and a Lewis gun to attempt to outflank the battery. Advancing by short rushes under heavy fire from enemy machine guns with the hostile battery, their ammunition was exhausted when still 300 yards from the battery. The enemy, seeing an opportunity to get their field guns away, began to bring up their gun teams. Pte. Ricketts, at once realising the situation, doubled back 100 yards under the heaviest machine-gun fire, procured further ammunition, and dashed back again to the Lewis gun, and by very accurate fire drove the enemy and the gun teams into a farm.

His platoon then advanced without casualties, and captured the four field guns, four machine guns, and eight prisoners.

A fifth field gun was subsequently intercepted by fire and captured.

By his presence of mind in anticipating the enemy intention and his utter disregard of personal safety, Pte. Ricketts secured the further supply of ammunition which directly resulted in these important captures and undoubtedly saved many lives.

From The London Gazette Issue 31108 January 3, 1919 (Fourth Supplement January 6, 1919 p.309).

For this incident, Ricketts was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V himself, and promoted to Sergeant. On the 18 January 1919 Thomas Ricketts received a message informing him that he was to be invested with the Victoria Cross by King George V on the following day, Sunday, 19 January 1919. As he was shortly due to return home to Newfoundland, the King instructed that Ricketts should proceed by train to Sandringham, the sovereign's country estate in Norfolk, where he would be invested with his VC. The ceremony took place in the estate's York Cottage where the King, accompanied by Princess Mary and Prince George, chatted with Ricketts for ten minutes before pinning the VC on his uniform coat. He was then the youngest living recipient of the Victoria Cross, and was introduced by the King at the investiture as "the youngest VC in My army."

The King later wrote in his diary on Jan. 20, 1919, the following entry: "Yesterday I gave the V.C. to Private Ricketts, Newfoundland Regiment, who is only 17 and a half now, a splendid boy."

Ricketts also received the British War Medal 1914–1920, the Victory Medal 1914–1919, 1937 GVIR Coronation Medal, 1953 EIIR Coronation Medal and France's Croix de Guerre with Golden Star.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Realities

Today I can’t help reflecting on that oft quoted line from that great masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.”

Could this have been a prophetic statement about the province of Newfoundland and Labrador I wonder?

The province’s economy is on a meteoric rise and statistics show it will lead the country in GDP growth once again. Wonderful news one would think, until you stop to consider the thousands of poor disenfranchised souls lined up in the cold for hours on end in a desperate attempt to find a job, any job, anywhere and at any time. I believe one local reporter noted that the scenes he witnessed just last week were reminiscent of the long bread lines of the great depression. I’m a little young to recall those images but it certainly reminded me of the stark news footage broadcast during the final bleak days leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949 it brought with it one of the richest fisheries in the world. It also brought vast mineral, oil and gas reserves. Massive deposits, like the iron ore of Bell Island, were known at the time of confederation but much of the province’s resources, from gold on the island to uranium in Labrador is only now beginning to be unearthed. Several oil fields offshore have come on stream in past years yet they are believed to represent only a fraction of the available reserves yet to be discovered. Forests abound, hydro electric generation capacity is massive and the scenic beauty of the place is a tourism operator’s wet dream. Yet the province can’t support a mere half a million people and it remains a “have not” area. Newly minted ghost towns spring up everyday, highways are congested with departing U-hauls and the population is slipping forever toward some as yet unknown point, a point where the meager services and necessities required by those remaining will become unsustainable.

I won’t go into my personal thoughts on why the province finds itself where it is today. I’ve gone down that road many times. Suffice to say that surviving as a resource rich colonial outpost is not easy, especially when the local overseers are more interested in re-election than renewal. That aside, something needs to be done to rectify a desperate situation before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.

Some will suggest that the province can only survive by regaining control, and the primary benefit, of the resources it brought into confederation. Others will call for federal support to move forward on such issues as fallow field legislation or wheeling hydro power across Quebec. We need to ensure that all secondary resource processing happens right here someone will shout. Another will call for a complete overhaul of the federal parliamentary system, a system that allows two provinces to wield more political power than the other eight combined. Where does a system like that leave for a province with less than 2% of the seats in the House they’ll moan.

There are many things that need to be done but none of them will ever happen, not without something else happening first. As I see it, the first step has to be convincing the provincial and federal governments that a problem exists. You wouldn’t think that would be difficult with the facts on the table as they are, but it is. The issues that abound and the root causes of them will never be addressed unless someone in a seat of power decides to stop, take a long hard look around and say loud and clear, “the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is dying.” The ship is listing to forty degrees, the lifeboats are over the side but the band plays on and is somehow oblivious to the water swirling around its ankles.

I wouldn’t wish for anyone to see the heartbreaking images many in Newfoundland and Labrador witnessed this past week. No longer are we seeing tens or even hundreds of people searching for work in other provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador, unlike most other provinces, isn’t seeing workers migrate out and others arrive, as can be expected in any free country. The province has now reached a point where thousands, even tens of thousands, of men and women are flooding recruiting drives held by companies from out west. Mothers and Fathers, with small children in tow, their dazed expressions providing a glimpse into the life altering, or perhaps life shattering, decisions they face, fill out forms and hope in quiet desperation to be the one chosen for a better life. If anyone can witness these sights and still believe that the province’s economic situation is improving they need ponder their understanding of improvement.

Provincial coffers are indeed in better shape than they have been for years and yes our GDP is on the rise, but what does any of that mean to a man or woman who must leave their family behind simply to ensure they have food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over their heads. Pure economics don’t translate into a hot meal any more than the provincial GDP translates into jobs. When you consider that a large percentage of the economic improvement, or GDP growth, is related to the export of oil and minerals, with little or no processing taking place inside the province, it isn’t hard to see the disconnect.

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.” Now that I think about it, maybe this doesn’t represent the reality in Newfoundland and Labrador. The economy continues to grow while the lineups of sad, yet proud, men and women stretch ever longer. I guess in reality the best of times are already over and most dishearteningly the worst of times are still to come.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

He Said, She Said...

Will politicians ever change? It’s like they’ve all graduated from the school of thought that says you address every issue by playing the blame game and ignoring what’s really happening. We see it all the time in Ottawa and in our local legislatures from coast to coast. Opposition member’s rail against the government for its inaction only to be rebuffed by the current government who says the problems began when the former government was in power. Never mind that the issue itself is swept aside during this game of “he said she said”, it plays well for the media and a sound bite is worth a thousand votes (or something like that).

We have a perfect example of this sort of school yard mentality playing itself out in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador these days. Thousands of people are leaving the province because there is simply not enough work to keep them here. Families are split apart, the population is shrinking and more communities are dying every day. While all of this is happening, the Liberal opposition is blaming the current PC government and the government is blaming the former Liberal leadership for years of inaction while they were in office. Who’s right and who’s wrong? The answer is nobody and everybody.

Yes, the current government has some blame and should do everything it can to correct the problem but it’s an issue that’s been around a lot longer than the 3 years this government has been in power. Yes, the former Liberal government had over a decade to address the issue and did little to stem the tide. The fact of the matter is that people have left this province to find work elsewhere since day one. Ever since John Cabot landed here people have worked seasonally and moved on to other areas when times got hard. It’s a reality that’s been around for hundreds of years, long before anyone in government today was even a gleam in their Daddy’s eye but it’s a problem that needs to be addressed now, not by the next government. Playing the blame game for the benefit of the news media isn’t going to change anything.

Politicians, as a rule, have a very limited view of the future. Their vision of long term extends out to about 3 months before the next election. As such they have no appetite for doing anything that would benefit the public in the long term. They simply want actions that are seen to happen within their current mandate. God forbid a decision or action might actually come to fruition years down the road when the “other” party is in power because they might want to take the credit for it. It doesn’t matter that it’s the right thing to do it just can’t be done.

Watching our elected officials yell, scream, heckle and taunt each other while in office may have become a favorite pass time for many but isn’t it time politicians realized that the silent majority would much rather they got down to business and did what they were elected to do. The electorate is getting smarter with every generation and information is now at the finger tips of anyone who chooses to access it.

With the wide spread availability of the internet, twenty four hour news coverage and the independent voices of groups from across Canada like the NLDL in Newfoundland and Labrador, people no longer have to depend solely on what they are told by political leaders. With any luck this will eventually translate into a new breed of elector and a new breed of politician. A politician who understands that he must address the issues rather than simply jumping up and down about them and pointing the finger. Our political leaders need to be reminded that they are no longer children and that it’s time to put away their childish ways.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will the Last Person Out Please Turn Off the LIghts?

How can anyone, especially Premier Danny Williams, watch 5,000 to 10,000 people pack themselves into the Capital hotel for a job fair held by out of province employers and not consider using every tool at their disposal to promote industrial development and keep people here? Oil may be spewing from the wells off our shores but our best and brightest are also spewing out of communities across the land and heading directly for the nearest airport.

“It’s heartbreaking”, said one job seeker at the fair. “I’ve lived here all my life but there’s just no work. If I want to feed my family I have to leave them behind.”
When you consider that according to financial analysts Newfoundland and Labrador is a hair’s breadth from being considered a so called “Have” province, the irony of the situation really hits home. There is an abundance of resources in the province, oil, minerals, timber and hydro power and so on, but none of these has translated into the kind of local jobs the province needs. The unemployment rate remains in the double digits, the highest in the nation, and people are leaving by the plane load as lights go out all along the coast.

The truth is that the problem rests squarely on the shoulders of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian and nobody else’s. Yes, the federal government has thrown up roadblocks to our futures. Everything from mismanagement of the fisheries to denying the province the same rights to manage it’s oil and gas as places like Alberta, but in the end it is the people of the province who have elected provincial government after provincial government, the members of which, have no vision beyond the very next election and another four year term.

When oil was discovered offshore nobody stood up to make sure that refineries and petrochemical industries were lured here. While we all know power from the Upper Churchill was whisked away through a seriously flawed deal with Quebec we still have the right to recall enough of that power annually to support at least one industrial player who could provide a few hundred badly needed jobs. Instead our government simply sells that power back to Quebec. The Lower Churchill project is now being considered for development yet the only option the Premier seems to recognize is selling the power outside the province rather than using it to attract industry here.

The list of wasted opportunities goes on and on but it’s by no means infinite. Sooner rather than later the last chance, the last resource find that can be used to help build the economy, will have been given away. We all know what will happen then. No longer will a couple of flights a day be enough to handle the mass exodus of people from this place. When that day comes the province will look a lot like a third world nation in the hours leading up to some monstrous natural disaster. Every artery, every flight and every ferry out of this place will be filled to overflowing and the entire province will become little more than a footnote to history.

Would the last person out please turn off the lights?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lower Churchill - Last Chance for Newfoundland and Labrador

As a citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador, it’s difficult for me to understand the mentality of premier Danny Williams these days. Unlike people in other parts of Canada I don’t disagree with his direction on big oil or his fight with Ottawa over equalization, in fact I applaud him for it. What has me confused is how Williams can fight these battles under the umbrella of ensuring that his people gain the maximum benefit of their resources yet he sees nothing wrong with exporting power from the Lower Churchill development.

A major problem facing this province is the lack of a clean and steady supply of power. We see it in Labrador where many people use diesel generated power to light their homes. We also see it on the island of Newfoundland where much of the power produced comes from the burning of oil and where industries like Abiti Consolidated have closed their doors because of a lack of reasonably priced energy. With this reality, I have to wonder how the Premier can even consider spending billions on the last undeveloped mega-project in North America only to export that power elsewhere.

The economy of Newfoundland and Labrador is largely dependent on seasonal industry. The fisheries, tourism, logging, construction and so on may bring in revenue for a few months of the year but high unemployment rates in the province and the mass exodus of workers speaks volumes about the lack of dependable long term employment here. The only hope this province has is to attract industry and lessen its dependence on seasonal work. Smelters, mills, factories and the like are capable of providing employment that is sorely needed to stabilize and grow the economy. These industries all have one thing in common. They move where they can find a steady supply of power.

As I write this, firms like Alcoa, the world’s leading producer of aluminum, are scouring the earth looking for places to setup shop. The reason is a world wide shortage of electricity. These industrial giants are looking for a place that can provide them with the power they need to run their smelters.

When government discusses the energy capabilities of the Lower Churchill they often explain its potential by telling the public that it can supply about 1.5 million homes. This makes it sound like exporting the power is the only sensible thing to do since the province of Newfoundland and Labrador only has 500,000 people. What you don’t here them say is that this energy, if retained, has the potential to attract and supply dozens of major industries and provide thousands of high paying, long term and stable jobs for the province.

Yes, exporting Lower Churchill power will put millions into provincial coffers but if the current cycle of out-migration continues and if unemployment rates remain at a nation wide high, what good will it do? On the other hand, using the power to attract industry to the province would increase the industrial and personal tax base dramatically which would increase provincial revenues as well. I ask you, if you had a car but no job, would you sell it for a quick buck or would you put a taxi sign on the roof and make a steady income from it? It looks like Danny has decided to put the for sale sign in the window without even considering the options.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Hi folks, Below is a great article by Averill Baker issued today. Enjoy.

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”

Averill Baker
The Nor'wester

They are dirty rotten scoundrels in the tradition of the two con men in that 1988 movie.

The scoundrels are in this case our politicians, and other so-called fisheries experts, who declared publicly that they support bottom dragging on the high seas.

These scoundrels now include our MP’s and even some of our own cabinet ministers in this province who displayed their ignorance in public pronouncements that if the United Nations banned bottom dragging on the high seas that Canada would then be forced to ban it inside 200 miles.

What a stretch. What a display of unmitigated stupidity. Or, if they knew the difference, what a lie they told and are allowed to continue to tell by our publicly funded CBC media.

In my first year at law school I learned enough about the Law of the Sea to know that a coastal state has absolute jurisdiction within 200 miles. You don’t have to go to law school to learn that. All you need is an ability to read or to listen. Perhaps therein lies the problem - our representatives may either be totally illiterate or refuse to listen to the truth, or both.

What we have here is an intentional obstruction of the truth by those in power who have now intentionally turned the tables into a discussion of what would happen inside 200 miles if it were outside 200 miles.

I even heard a fisherman on CBC national radio claim that a lot of the fish processed in Newfoundland comes from draggers, so he was against the ban. The poor unfortunate fisherman actually thought that what was under discussion was a ban inside 200 miles. The host of the national show also didn’t know the difference. It is behavior like this by the CBC that makes people want to take away that one billion dollar-a-year subsidy taxpayers give to the CBC. On issues like this, the CBC has a job to do and they have failed miserably because they are just too lazy to do some investigative reporting or at least try to be impartial.

So what is the answer – do we just grin and bear it? Do we bow to the lies and deception of those in power who want to continue the destruction of our natural resources?

There are 17 foreign nations out there bottom dragging, and Canada is not one of them, ripping the daylights out of the spawning grounds of our Groundfish on our Continental Shelf outside 200 miles and we have a bunch of people in power who think more about those foreigners than they do their own people.

Maybe they just don’t know the difference. Maybe our Ministers of Fisheries take their advice from their deputy ministers. In Ottawa the deputy minister is the same person who holds the job of president of NAFO. In St. John’s the deputy minister is a member of the board of Directors of the Fisheries Council of Canada and a well-known delegate to and supporter of NAFO. I found it strange that Tom Rideout, when he first heard of Canada’s position stated publicly that it sounded rather strange but later in a prepared release said that he supported Canada’s position. I bet he checked with his deputy minister.

The Fisheries Council of Canada declared their support for Canada’s position saying that a Decima poll showed that 87% of Canadians did not support a ban on bottom dragging. I do not believe that Canadians are that stupid and I publicly challenge them to produce that poll.
I don’t believe they can produce it because I don’t believe it exists.

One thing should be pointed out in this discussion and that is the use of the term “bottom trawling”. I spend a lot of my time defending fishermen in court and if there is one thing that I learned over the years it was never to be opposed to trawls. Ordinary fishermen used trawls – a long line with hooks attached close to the bottom – to catch fish. It is the best fishing method known to man – a baited hook. That is why the scoundrels call it bottom trawling and not bottom dragging which is what is really happening on the high seas.

So, in this discussion, you will note that I use the words “bottom dragging” and not the words used by those who seek to mask their outrageously destructive methods of dragging the ocean floor.

And don’t let anyone tell you that Canada does this on the high seas – we do not. We have only shrimp draggers, limited to 65-feet long by law, who drag in defined areas of the bottom that amount to a needlepoint on a large map inside our 200-mile limit. We do not own any of those 100 large draggers five times 65-feet long who drag every day of the year on our continental shelf outside 200 miles – all because we have a government in Ottawa who care more about foreigners than they do about Newfoundlanders or the resources of the ocean.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is Transport Canada Fee Gouging in Newfoundland and Labrador

In Newfoundland and Labrador one of the biggest impediments to business and tourism is the cost of transportation, not to mention its impact on the traveling public in the province. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when flying from one part of the province to another, say from St. John’s to Goose Bay, can cost more than an all inclusive vacation to some resort down south.

Labradorians in particular are the hardest hit by this issue. There are a number of factors that may contribute to this problem but according to recent reports, a part of the reason for the exorbitant fares is the cost of landing fees. It seems that airports run by the government of Canada through Transport Canada have an unsettling range of fees in place. Airports such as those in St. Anthony or Wabush have landing fees that are two or three times those charged in places like Blanc Sablanc Quebec. One has to ask why Blanc Sablanc, which is situated just outside the Labrador border, would have rates so much lower than those inside the province?

Travel between the island of Newfoundland and other parts of Canada is expensive enough as it is, but for those flying in or out of Labrador the cost can be crippling. Imagine having to fly from your community for medical reasons or to attend a business meeting and the ticket alone ended up costing you more than a vacation excursion. Imagine the impact that situation would have on your local economy. Is it any wonder areas like Labrador have such difficulty attracting business and tourism in comparison to other parts of Canada or even to Newfoundland itself.

The fact is that many flights from St. Anthony make their very next stop in Blanc Sablanc Quebec before proceeding to Labrador. The two communities are only about a 10 minute flight from each other. I’d like to know how Transport Canada can justify their fee setting scheme or if they are even willing to try. Is this an oversight on their part, is there a valid reason for the huge difference in cost or is this an attempt by the fed to appease some interest in Quebec while sticking it to this province?

Labrador Liberal MP Todd Russell has promised the people of the province that he would investigate the issue and see what can be done. I for one will be keeping my eyes and ears open to see what comes from that promise. I mean it’s a simple question isn’t it? Why do airlines have to pay more to land at an airport gateway to Labrador than they do in most of Newfoundland and why is there such a massive discrepancy between landing fees in this province and Quebec?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Will Lower Churchill Be Another Giveaway?

I’m so sick of the giveaway mentality shared by successive governments in Newfoundland and Labrador. People in the province have rallied behind Premier Danny Williams since he came to office. They tout him as Dan da Man, the guy who is going to end giveaways once and for all, but is he really?

When Danny Boy stood up to the vultures of big oil I was in his corner all the way. When he fought Ottawa over offshore revenues I cheered right along with the rest of the Province and when he talked about the volatile political situation in Quebec I nodded my agreement, but I have to say, his position on the Lower Churchill really has me pissed.

For months now Danny Williams has talked about exporting power through Quebec or via the so called Anglo Saxon route. He referenced the east/west power grid as a means of pressuring Ottawa into supporting his export plans. Just this week Williams told a local reporter that the Quebec route is his preferred option and he’s sure he can work out a deal. That bothers me like you wouldn’t believe because the one thing I’ve never heard him say is hat he wants to use the power right here at home.

Why does Newfoundland and Labrador have to export power in order to take advantage of it? What’s wrong with using the resource here and why the hell does the government of this province once again think the only way forward is to give everything away?

It all started back when Newfoundland and Labrador gave away its sovereignty and nothing’s changed since. Just look at the pathetic record of past governments.

The Upper Churchill project - billions of dollars flow into Quebec coffers for another 35 years while Newfoundland and Labrador barely makes enough to keep the turbines spinning.

Voisey Bay - INCO signed a deal to build a smelter in the province and years later ore continues to be flow to Ontario and Manitoba faster than water down the Churchill but there’s still no smelter and even the location for it is being debated.

Offshore oil - The province has a burgeoning oil industry yet not one drop of the stuff is refined here and there are no petrochemical industries in the Province. Every drop is shipped out to be processed.

The list goes on and on, yet the Premier sill says his preferred option is to export power through Quebec.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest unemployment rate in the Country, some of the highest taxes, massive out-migration, a dependence on seasonal industries and is facing an aging population base. Come on Danny, get with the game. Instead of looking for ways to export that power why not adopt a “No Export” policy on all electrical energy. Instead, why examine the feasibility of improving the internal distribution grid so the power can be used to attract industry to the Province.

Using wind power, Lower Churchill power and eventually even Upper Churchill power as a catalyst for industrial growth is the only way the province will ever see the full benefits of the resource and the only way for those benefits to be understood, shared and felt by the people. The future depends on growing the economy and the best way to foster that growth is by retaining and using renewable resources to attract industrial development.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s ability to supply low cost, stable and clean energy, in combination with its port facilities, an available workforce and the its physical proximity to North American and European markets uniquely positions the province to become an industrial nirvana. An ample power supply, one that will grow much larger in 2041, can encourage industrial growth and it has the potential to:

• Drastically improve the province’s economic situation;
• Lower unemployment rates;
• Stem the tide of out-migration;
• Broaden the industrial tax base;
• Lessen dependence on an unstable or seasonal economy;
• Provide a mechanism for ex-patriot Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to return to their homes; and
• Increase the province’s shrinking population;

The only possible argument against this approach is a limited ability to finance the development, but there are ways around that. In fact the project itself could be developed in partnership with industry. It’s not a new concept. In the 1940s, British Columbia wanted to develop sparsely populated parts of the province and establish new population centers without risking taxpayers' funds. Aluminum manufacturer, Alcan, was invited to the area and they worked with the BC government to develop the Kitimat-Kemano power project, which in its day was the largest privately-funded construction project ever undertaken in Canada. As a result Alcan continues to be an industrial leader and major employer in BC today.

Like BC, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador has the opportunity to use its power resources to grow the province. It has the opportunity, over time, to resolve a lot of the problems that exist today. It has the opportunity to do things right at least once. It has the opportunity, but will it, or will the government of today simply give it all away once again?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Politics Makes Strange Bed Fellows

Premier Danny Williams’ threat to torpedo the federal Conservatives in the next election has resulted in the pelican plop hitting the fan and led to a rather odd reaction from the provincial Liberal party in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Current and former Liberal leaders, Gerry Reid and Roger Grimes, have both condemned Williams’ approach. In his exuberance Roger Grimes now sounds like a Conservative campaign manager talking up the virtues of MPs Norm Doyle, Fabian Manning and Loyola Hearn. Both men are saying the Province has nothing to gain by taking a hard line with Ottawa. “What if Harper gets upset and won’t provide loan guarantees for the Lower Churchill”, they moan like two aging hens sitting on a nest of hard boiled eggs. Give me a break!

I find it very interesting that these supposedly experienced politicians don’t see the very political game happening right under their noses. Mr. Grimes, Mr. Reid, has either of you ever negotiated a contract? A solid one I mean. Sorry, perhaps I shouldn’t ask that while our people continue to deal with a number of agreements signed by you folks in the past.

In his response to the comments Williams came as close as he could to telling the Liberals what he was up to when he noted that by shoring up the federal position the Liberals were weakening Newfoundland and Labrador’s. Apparently neither man understood the subtext of that message.

Gerry, Roger, not to put words in the Premier’s mouth but likely his message didn’t refer to equalization talks alone. I may have referred to the Province’s overall negotiating position with Ottawa. You see to negotiate effectively you should start from a position of strength not weakness. The Upper Churchill is a clear example of what happens if you forget that. In order to get a good deal you want to strengthen your own position and weaken your opponent’s while putting him off balance. It’s that simple.

That’s the background info gentlemen now here’s the scenario we have before us.

During the last election Harper promised to remove non-renewable resource revenue from equalization and said no province would be worse off as a result of reforms. Only an idiot would believe the PM can live up to the first promise and only a bigger one would allow him to renege on the second.

The PM can’t remove those revenues. Quebec and Ontario, the two most politically powerful provinces in the Country, simply won’t allow it. I know it, the people of the province know it and the Premier knows it. That, along with Mr. Harper’s election promise, means however that the province has a card it can play during upcoming talks.

Thanks to the Premier’s recent tirade the PM is now weakened and off balance with equalization talks looming. Harper is being attacked from all directions and his numbers are plummeting fast. To save face and get his poll numbers up he has to find a way to get out of the very public mess Williams put him in. So the question isn’t so much if we’ll be able to protect our revenues but what Harper is willing to sweeten the pot with. In a sense we’ve won before the talks even begin.

Perhaps Harper will “sort of” honor his commitment by removing a percentage of resource revenues. That move might placate Ontario and Quebec and if you want to split hairs Harper can claim he never said he’d remove 100% of revenues, just that he’d remove them. If he did that we would keep all offshore revenues for the life of the accord agreement and half of them after that date, which is more than we have today. Who knows how he’ll handle resource revenues but what matters is that we put him in the mess and he wants out very, very badly so he’ll find a way.

As for the Province losing money through equalization reform, Harper simply won’t do it, not now. The PM knows exactly how loud the people of this province can get. He’s heard how deafening we can be on two separate occasions and from both sides of the House. The PM isn’t going to want to deal with that during an election. It won’t take much to ensure that this Province doesn’t lose any money and that’s exactly what Harper will do, one way or another, thanks in part to the very loud reminder we just gave him. I’ll bet visions of Paul Marten’s embarrassment at the hands this Province have been flashing through his mind ever since last weekend. The back door is closed.

Why all the noise and what does Danny boy hope to gain from all this if not protecting our revenues? Let me tell you.

The whole exercise was meant to soften up the ground before going into the equalization talks by publicly positioning our province as royally ticked at Harper’s lies and his plans to rob us blind. Now our negotiators, likely behind closed, locked and very well bolted doors, have the leverage they need to talk to the PM about other key issues of importance to the Province. The PM is not a stupid man. He knows that in order to keep Danny from throwing a monkey wrench into the election he’ll have to step up to the plate on something we want. It’s called politics guys and you should really try to learn the game sometime.

It’s likely none of us will know what the backroom talks cover off but when you realize that all this noise may well allow us to keep every cent of offshore and equalization revenue that we have today and could potentially get us an additional 50% after the accord expires along with another deal or two to be named later, the result isn’t that bad. You see Gerry and Roger there is indeed something to be gained by taking a hard line with Ottawa.

Maybe the PM will suddenly decide to come on side with fallow field legislation or find a bigger role for 5 Wing Goose. Maybe he’ll commit to some big bucks for the Lower Churchill or an increased federal presence in the Province, who knows. All I know is that I’m no politician, thank God, but even I can see that the broken axe handles being thrown about have a lot more to do with side issues than they do with equalization. I’d have thought the same idea would have crossed the minds of the Liberal leadership but apparently it hasn’t. Well if nothing else they’ve received a valuable lesson in politics and negotiation here today and for that the whole Province can be thankful. It may even come in handy some day.