Da Legal Stuff...

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Newfoundland and Labrador Energy Plan Consultations Underway on the Island

As a precursor to the development of a Provincial Energy Plan the government is currently involved in Province wide public consultations. I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to attend the third of these sessions last night at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s, the first two took place in Labrador, and I have to admit the well attended session was very enlightening.

Although the session, attended by Minister of Natural Resources Ed Byrne and several Deputy Ministers, attempted to squeeze too many presentations into a limited timeframe some valuable points were discussed. Since all presentations were also supplied to government in full the actual session came across more as an exercise in public relations. In other words, it’s not enough to be doing something you must also be seen to be doing something.

The presenters at the St. John’s consultation ran the gambit from ex-politicians to business owners, from environmentalists to oil industry executives and from union representatives to a consumer advocate. All in all a good mix with a very diverse set of ideas and concerns.

During the session several issues resonated with me. Below are some of the highlights.

Thomas Johnson – Consumer Advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador: Going forward changes should be made to the regulations governing electrical rate setting. The current process sets consumer rates based on the utility’s earnings and doesn’t provide an incentive for them become more efficient. (The less efficient they are the lower their earnings and the higher they can raise their rates).

Recommendation: Switch to performance based rate setting or PFB. This would allow consumers to take advantage of off peak period rates. The cost of supplying electricity is lower during periods when demand is low. Consumers should be given an opportunity to reap the benefit of lower rates during those periods if they choose to do so. In this way consumers would be more likely to schedule usage during off peak periods.

Fonse Fagan – AJ Fagan Consulting: Government needs to improve efficiency in the area of changing legislation within the oil and gas sector. The current process requires both federal and Provincial agreement and since the federal government requires consistency across all provinces this in essence means the tacit agreement of all producing provinces for anything to happen.

Current policy allows an exploration company to take advantage of a “Significant Find” license when they discover a petroleum deposit. These companies should be forced to prove the economic viability of their find before such a license is issued. Currently companies can receive a license and sit on the property in perpetuity without developing it, denying access to anyone interested in exploring the area. (An example given is a situation in the Jean D’Arc Basin where a company tested a well and discovered as little as 17 barrels of oil. That company now has a Significant Find license and has full control of the entire area.)

Bob Clarke – IBEW (representing several hundred hydro workers): The supply of power on the island will not be enough to meet demand in the coming years. The situation is such that the Province cannot wait for any potential interconnectivity with Labrador and the Lower Churchill. Instead Hydro must move to install a new unit at Holyrood before it’s too late. The seriousness of this situation was evidenced on the night of the federal election when Newfoundland and Labrador Power requested that consumers ease up on their use for the evening or possible brown outs would likely take place.

Carl Powell – Retired Mining Engineer: Mr. Powell recognized the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador as “A man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing”. He went on to say that the Province should not only produce power at Lower Churchill but use it. According to Mr. Powell the financial benefit to Quebec from Upper Churchill power is well beyond the 1 billion a year estimate often used and is actually closer to 5 billion. This is due to the secondary and tertiary jobs that have developed as a result of that power, jobs in smelters, mills, construction and even at Bombardier. According to Mr. Powell the actual numbers show a benefit of 20 jobs per MWH or 100,000 jobs in total.

Bruce Pierce – Green Communities Canada: Any plan must have conservation and efficiency as a major pillar not just an after thought. Movement in the direction of energy savings should be as important as any new development. According to Mr. Pierce, since 1970 conservation and efficiency have provided more available power than any new sources of energy at an average cost of 3.1 cents per KWH.

Stephen Campbell – Trans Ocean Gas: In the early 1970’s $30 billion dollars worth of natural gas was discovered on the Labrador Shelf and this gas find was never developed. At the time technology and the lack of a distribution system did not make the find economically feasible however this is not the case today. Mr. Campbell, who is involved in the development of technology to transport compressed natural gas via ship and container, stated that the company exploring the area at the time took a tax write off on the find and left it unused. Due to current regulations this company still has all rights to the area and as a result nobody else has the opportunity to develop it. Mr. Campbell said would like these regulations to change to more of a “use it or lose it” approach.

Mr. Campbell stated that he was currently involved in a $250,000 study into the potential for tidal power in the Bell Island Straits which he believes has the potential to supply up to 10,000 Megawatts of energy.

Jerry Heffernan – Axxel Consulting: Mr. Heffernan identified the fact that the government’s discussion paper on the proposed energy plan states that he Province would like to become an energy warehouse. He challenged the government to put some solid numbers around that statement. Mr. Heffernan would like to see targets set that would clearly identify the Province’s direction. He suggested goals of power 25% in excess of need, zero thermal energy use by 1012 and the lowest energy costs in North America as possible targets.

Mr. Heffernan also suggested that one of the natural bi-products of hydro generation is hydrogen and that this is a potentially untapped resource of great value that could be exported onto the international market.

There were many other points made however the sample outlined above gives some idea of the diversity of thought that has been feeding the current process. The session closed with Minister Byrne thanking everyone for their input and identifying the fact that he was very impressed with some specific presentations especially the ideas of changing exploration regulations and the suggestion that any benefits from the energy sector needs to benefit all areas of the Province, not just the Avalon. (This point was raised by Burt London of the NL Federation of Labor who said that the plan must re-deploy wealth throughout different areas of the Province.) Mr. Byrne’s response to this point was, “…if that doesn’t happen then this plan will be a failure.”

Two notable local figures were also in attendance and although they did not make formal presentations they did comment during the open question period at the end of the session. Jim Morgan questioned the Minister on the ability to pipe power through Quebec and also why the Province did not approve a proposed wind farm in Labrador. The Minister responded that times had changed and with the international agreements and regulations in place today Quebec could not force the same sort of deal they did in the 1960’s.

On the wind farm he stated that he was not prepared to approve any plan until he had all the necessary information on impacts and possible benefits that might accrue from such a development. Byrne went on to say that doing so would be the same as telling SNC Lavilin (the developer of the Upper Churchill project) to go ahead and develop the Lower Churhill and that they could reap all of the benefits. According to Byrne he would not allow that to happen and he expected the people of the Province wouldn’t stand for it either.

Another well known figure was Tom Kearns, long time proponent of a fixed link between Newfoundland and Labrador who spoke of the potential impact of not creating such a link (one that would supposedly transport not only people but oil/gas and electricity as well). According to Mr. Kearns highway 128 from Quebec into Labrador will be completed in a short timeframe. Eventually Quebec will have two roads into the big land and once that happens it will open up the area to Quebec interests more so than Newfoundland interests.

Kearns proposed that within 50 years Newfoundland would lose its hold on Labrador if a fixed link was not put in place. According to Kearns allowing Quebec to have closer contact than the island was capable of would allow for more industrial and personal interaction with the other Province and over time the people of Labrador would have more ties economically and socially with Quebec than they would with Newfoundland. He saw this as the beginning of the end for this Province as we know it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Should Newfoundland and Labrador Lead Canada in Senate Reform?

Should Canada’s youngest province help the Country take its first baby steps into the world of Senate reform?

One of the planks in the conservative party platform during the recent election was the promise to do away with political patronage as the Country’s method for filling senate seats. They promised to do this by introducing the reality of an elected senate and now an opportunity to do exactly that exists here in Newfoundland and Labrador. Unfortunately it now appears that our newly minted government in Ottawa is a little wary of moving forward on this promise right away.

With the passing of the late Senator Bill Doody just after Christmas Newfoundland and Labrador has an empty seat to fill. The question now is should it be filled with an appointed senator or should the province and the new federal government seize this opportunity to move forward on their agenda for senate reform?

Reports over the weekend seem to confirm that the Conservative party is leaning toward a simple appointment. They are claiming that the reforms they’ve suggested would take time and that waiting would leave the Province with one less voice in Ottawa. Perhaps this is true, but what better way to force the issue and speed up the process of reform than to move forward while this empty seat is available?

Think about the spin the new government could get out of this with regards to looking like a truly national party. I can read the headline now:

“Western ideas bear fruit down East.”

One of the problems Mr. Harper is going to have with actually moving forward on Senate elections is how to get the first senator in his desk, or rather how to pry the old senators out. The reality is such that the current Senate is made up of members who have basically been given lifetime jobs (until age 75 anyway) so its not going to be that easy to simply open up seats for election. Here we have an opportunity, albeit the result of a very sad event, but an opportunity none the less to move forward.

I for one don’t mind if the Province has one less Senator in Ottawa for the time being if that means we can help get these reforms put into place. The fact is I’d rather have any seat filled with one elected voice answerable to me than a hundred voices answerable to no one, or even worse, answerable to those who appointed them.

Perhaps the Province itself should take the bull by the horns and simply force the issue. I’m not talking simply about our Premier and members of the public pushing this issue back into the face of our new Prime Minister by yelling and screaming, no I’m talking about taking real steps for reform.

Maybe Newfoundland and Labrador should simply put out a call for senate candidates, then go right ahead and elect our choice for representative. No doubt there would be some pretty strong push back from Ottawa over the validity of the election and its results, and technically they’d be right, but the ball would then be in their court.

The federal government would be forced to face the fact that the people of a Province have decided who they want to fill their senate seat. That isn’t something the government could simply ignore and it isn't something they could pretend didn’t happen. The reality is that our federal government would be faced with three real possibilities in a situation like that:

1 – They would be forced to move quickly forward with promised reforms so as not to be out maneuvered by the Province and in order not to look like they are stepping back from their senate reform promises. If they are seen to be soft on instituting these reforms they would likely lose much of their core support out West and that could spell the end of the party as a major entity in Canadian politics;

2 – They could leave the actual reform process to be addressed later but stand by the choice of the people and appoint the individual elected. This would not move the official cause of Senate reform forward but it would send a clear signal and might even set a precedent that would likely be followed by other Provinces and other Prime Ministers in future. This might provide much the same result as true election reform.

3 – They could ignore the will of the electorate and simply appoint a member of the party faithful that is not recognized by the people of the Province. The backlash from a move like that would no doubt resonate to the four corners of the Country and likely cause the complete collapse of Conservative support within its Western strongholds and perhaps right across the Nation.

Of course making this move would be a bold decisive action on the Province’s part, but the new government in Ottawa has already promised to give more power and voice to the Provinces and here is a perfect opportunity to facilitate that.

If there are three things I’ve learned over the years it’s that power isn’t something someone gives you but rather it's something you earn or simply take on. Secondly, only by using power do you really have it and finally, as I’ve always said, “It’s far easier to get forgiveness than it is to get permission.”

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Green’s Favorite Terrorist

I came across the following article the other day and thought it might be of interest to our readers. With February/March just around the corner we will soon be back into another seal hunt season and of course with that comes the annual protests, or as I like to call them the annual fund raiser.

As you all know one of the least popular people in Newfoundland and Labrador during the hunt is none other than Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Society. With this in mind read on and enjoy.

The Green’s Favorite Terrorist
By Thomas Ryan
FrontPageMagazine.com May 4, 2004
Original article: www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=13159

The guise of modern-day terrorism is no longer limited to Palestinian suicide-bombers or the visceral images of the tragedy of 9/11. In a world of ever-increasing ideological disharmony, a new, equally violent terrorist has emerged – the eco-terrorist. Like the purveyors of radical Islamic terrorism, the eco-terrorist uses fear, intimidation, and violence in attainment of its goal, which for the eco-terrorist is simply the reclamation of the Earth to its pre-humanity condition, no matter what the cost. Heading-up this domestic terrorist offensive of radical animal-rights and extreme environmentalism is Paul Watson, who, even amidst the nation’s grief over 9/11, made the audacious and frightening statement, “There's nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.”
Paul Watson is considered by many to be the originator of environmental terrorism; what he refers to as “passionate activism.” Watson was one of the founders of Greenpeace, the largest environmental rights organization in the world, with over 5 million members claiming allegiance in over twenty countries. Watson left Greenpeace, which originated as a splinter faction of the 1960’s anti-war group, “Don’t Make a Wave Committee,” due to the passivity of the group. Of Greenpeace’s objection to the use of excessive violence in their protests, Watson declared his former group the “Avon ladies of the environmental movement.”

In 1977, Watson founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), which Watson describes as a “policing organization,” but which is in fact a radical terrorist outfit the travels the oceans of the world enacting violence against the world’s fishing industry. Watson oversees a small fleet of ships outfitted with cement-filled bows built for the sole purpose of violently ramming and sinking ships they deem as enemies of the environment; this could take on the shape of everything from large whaling ships to small commercial fishing vessels. Each boat of Watson’s is armed with high-powered water cannons and is protected by electrical barbed wire. They have used acid, explosives, and a host of other means to disable and sink “enemy” ships. Watson himself has been known to brandish an AK-47 that he has used to fire on targeted fishing vessels. And painted on the sides of his ships are the names of those boats he has sunk.

The method of operation of Paul Watson isn’t all that different from the nineteen suicide highjackers of 9/11. Instead of airplanes, Watson uses his boats to ram and sink the objects of his disdain. Of his 1979 sinking of a commercial whaling vessel, Watson stated, “I set out from Boston in the Sea Shepherd with a crew of 19 volunteers…I hunted down, rammed, and disabled the pirate whaling ship Sierra…(We) fired up the engine and made for the Sierra, which was in the middle of the harbor. I hit her at full speed….” Although this attack failed to sink the Sierra, Watson and his crew returned for a second attack on the vessel and “blew the bottom out of her and permanently ended her career.”

Although there is no definitive count, Watson is responsible for ramming, scuttling, and sinking a slew of boats across the world’s waterways, all in an attempt to bring about the cessation of the fishing industry in its entirety. Watson has also used the mere threat of force in pursuit of other activist causes, including socio-political causes. In 1992, despite his animals-first/humanity-last stance, he threatened to sink a fleet of ships reenacting Columbus’ voyage of the discovery of America on its 500th anniversary if the re-enactors didn’t sign an apology for Columbus’ mistreatment of American Indians.

Watson’s dogmatic and authoritarian love of animals and nature, and hatred for all of humanity en toto, has found him making such absurd statements as “earthworms are far more valuable than people.” Watson has gone so far as to preach a blasphemous set of “ten commandments” that he authored, with the goal of elevating animals and nature above people. Watson’s commandments are bookended with his apparent loathing of humanity: his first commandment reads “Don’t bring any more humans into being;” and his tenth reads, “Don’t get caught by the forces of anthropocentrism.”

Watson’s continual disregard for the value of human life is clearly discerned from his terrorist actions. When a former Greenpeace colleague criticized his sinking of half of a fleet of Icelandic whaling boats in 1986 as being a “cowardly, despicable, criminal, and (an) unforgivable action,” Watson barked in retort, “So what? We did not sink those ships for you or for any of the six billion hominid a--holes on this planet…we could not give a damn what human beings have to say about the actions.” Demonstrating the true extent of Watson’s distaste for humanity, he has said, “The world will be a much nicer place without us,” and that he “owed no allegiance to humanity.” This message is in stark contrast to his attesting to using the SSCS “as a vehicle to empower people.”
Aside from jeopardizing the lives of seamen in the world’s fishing industries, Watson has also taken his terroistic crusade to land. Watson oversees the radical activist group, Coeur du Bois (Heart of the Wood), which spikes trees targeted for cutting by the logging industry. Watson himself has claimed to have created “tree spiking,” which consists of driving large nails into trees in attempt to hurt lumberjacks upon their felling or milling. His plan succeeded, and in 1987, a mill worker in California received a broken jaw when his band saw struck spikes in a tree, causing the blade to splinter in an explosion of shrapnel. Of the use of tree-spiking and its possible deadly consequences, Watson said, without a shred of remorse, “Those loggers don’t give a damn for future generations… And if they don’t have any compassion for the future, I don’t have any compassion for them.”
For his crimes against both people and property, Watson has spent much time in the jails, and before the judges, of numerous countries, from Canada to Costa Rica. In 1997, Watson was imprisoned in a maximum-security prison in the Netherlands, where he was picked up for the scuttling of a whaling ship at dock, and the intentional ramming of a Norwegian coast guard vessel. Most recently, Watson was investigated by a Costa Rican court for the attempted murder of a Costa Rican fisherman. In 2002, when he came across a shark fisherman in a 13-foot vessel, Watson attempted to ram the small boat with his SSCS mammoth flagship “The Farley Mowat,” originally named “The Ocean Warrior.” When the cameras are on, Watson pretends to accept incarceration as the price for saving the planet from the scourge of humanity. “Going to jail is simply the price of doing business as an activist,” he has said. However, after posting bail in the Costa Rican case 2 years ago, Watson fled the country.
In April of 2003, Watson was elected to the board of directors of the Sierra Club, “America’s most influential environmental organization.” Watson’s goal for the Sierra Club is to alter the club’s founding philosophy to include his own brand of radical eco-terrorism. At an “animal rights” demonstration, Watson declared, “One of the reasons I'm on the Sierra Club board of directors right now is to try and change it...we're only three directors away from controlling that board...Once we get three more directors elected, the Sierra Club will no longer be pro-hunting and pro-trapping and we can use the resources of the $95-million-a-year budget to address some of these issues."
What can an eco-terrorist like Paul Watson do with $95 million of the Sierra Club’s funds? Most likely, more ship-ramming and tree-spiking, in what Watson describes as an “open war.” At the same animal-rights demonstration, Watson continued, “we should never feel like we’re going too far in breaking the law.” He has also shockingly said, “If you do not intend to kill anybody, if you make every effort to not kill and injure anybody, that’s all you really can do. You can’t stop somebody from walking into a situation, and we really can’t be too overly preoccupied with this.”

In a recent interview, when asked if he viewed violence as a “legitimate means of social change,” Watson replied, “We are a violent species, and we always solve our problems with violence. There have been no exceptions. Nonviolent victories are a myth. Force has always prevailed…One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter.” While Watson continues to roam the seas with aspirations of violently sinking the world’s fish suppliers, somewhere in the world, Islamic terrorists – Watson’s idea of “freedom fighters” – are seeking the complete destruction of the United States, regardless of our policies on the environment. Politically, they differ. In terms of their tactics, they are Watson’s soulmates.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

West and Atlantic Out Performing Central Canada

Could it be that poor little Newfoundland and Labrador is really being recognized for its impact on the national economy? Could it also be that the impact of the eastern and western provinces on that economy was the impetus for the outcome of Monday’s election?

What follows are excerpts from an article today on interest rate hikes by Eric Beauchesne of the Ottawa Citizen. The article deserves a read if for nothing else than to finally see a situation where the beginnings of an upswing in Newfoundland and Labrador is finally being recognized.

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 - Ottawa Citizen

The Bank of Canada should not stop raising interest rates to try to cushion Central Canada's weak manufacturing sector from a stronger dollar, a major economic think-tank argues in a report released yesterday.

As the dollar flirted with a near-14-year high of more than 87 cents, the C.D. Howe Institute said monetary policy should not try to reconcile the growing economic divide between the booming resource-rich economies of Western Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador and the struggling, export-dependent manufacturing sector of Central Canada.

The report was issued in the wake of this week's sixth straight quarter-point increase…

…"Yet economy-wide statistics mask major regional disparities," it noted…

"Jobs and investment are flowing between sectors, and from Central Canada to the western provinces and Newfoundland. These changes will continue regardless of the level of the policy interest rate and the exchange rate…"

The complete article is available at: www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Lessons on Labrador Issues

With the federal election behind us many people are wondering if the narrow Conservative minority can move forward with any of its policies. Some wonder what the make up of the new Conservative cabinet will be and others wonder how long the new government can reasonably hang on to power. I’ve been thinking about many of those questions myself, but today my thoughts run much closer to home. Today my thoughts are right here in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador or more specifically Labrador itself.

For decades there has been a sort of rift between the “Big Land” and the island. Many people in the mainland portion of the Province feel misunderstood or even abused by the island based government and in addition to this there are many issues in Labrador that don’t necessarily exist in our neck of the woods so to speak.

I for one can certainly sympathize with the fine folks to our North, but I have to admit that never having actually lived there, in some ways I’m an outsider when it comes to understanding their local issues. I’ve always tried to understand and see the point of view taken by our brothers and sisters up there, so today I’d like to improve my knowledge a little more.

For decades Labradoreans have been asking islanders to understand their perspective so today I make you an offer. In the following paragraphs I will honestly and openly discuss my limited understanding of some of the major federal issues in Labrador as I understand them. I know a lot of the problems in your area are more likely Provincial in nature, but in light of the recent election and in an effort to bite off chewable chunks so to speak, I’ll limit myself to federal issues for the moment. After I give you my perspective, I will extend an offer to all present and past residents of the big land to help enlighten me on the realities of their situation.

Here goes:

As I understand it, aside from the more common issues we all have such as jobs, development and the fisheries, perhaps the top three federally related issues specific to Labrador are the completion of the Trans Labrador Highway, the survival of 5 Wing Goose and Native issues such as the reserve at Sheshatshiu and the general improvement of the conditions and lives of the areas indigenous populations. (not necessarily in that order)

This is where my puzzlement comes from this morning. I guess I am asking for clarification on these points to ensure that I haven’t been under a misunderstanding of what is really important to the residents of Labrador. The reason I’m puzzled is because if these truly are the key federal issues in the area, it seems to me that the most likely result of Monday’s election would have been to send Mr. Goudie to Ottawa, not Todd Russell, yet here we are with another Liberal representative.

Here is my perspective on the situation as it relates to the reserve and other Native issues. The Liberals stated that they would indeed open the reserve at Sheshatshiu by the date specified in Premier Williams letter to the leaders (I believe June), while Mr. Harper stated that he would not commit to a precise date however he did make the following statement:

“…every effort would be made to proceed in a timely fashion, it would be premature to commit to a timeline until consultations have taken place and a satisfactory agreement has been struck with the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation.”

My understanding of both commitments is:

A: The Liberals would develop the reserve on schedule. Nothing more or less.

B: The Conservatives would develop the reserve after consultations with the affected peoples. Yes, it would have been nice to have provided a firm date for the opening, but so it goes. The nature of consultations often precludes such hard constraints. The likely intent of those talks would be to ensure that the initiative is carried out correctly and most beneficially for all involved. Likely it is also to ensure that a plan developed by their predecessors truly is the best approach. I have heard many Native spokespersons, and Labradoreans in general for that matter, often state that nobody listens to them and they are never consulted. In this light I would think the Conservative approach would be a good one for the area.

From a policy perspective, the Conservatives have said on several occasions that when it comes to providing funding for Native initiatives they are in favor of doing just that but unlike the Liberal approach they would need to ensure accountability of how the money is being used and where it is being spent. Again, from an outsider’s perspective that sounds reasonable when you consider the countless millions that have been spent over the years and the fact that it hasn’t really solved a lot of the major issues for our Native peoples.

Am I off base on this?

Next, with regard to the Trans Labrador Highway, the Conservative party has clearly stated that they would cost share its completion. The Liberal party simply said that since the highway was now a part of the National Highway System it would be eligible for funding like all other highways. In essence this means it would go into the pool and have to compete for available funding with other road networks. My take on that approach is simple, if you have to compete for funding with highways in highly populated centers with heavy commercial and tourist traffic the completion of the TLH could be a long time coming. (as if it hasn’t been already)

On 5 Wing, while the Liberal party committed primarily to promoting the base for foreign training and throwing money at the problem in the form of portable threat emitters, instrumented pods, training equipment, ACOA funds and an aerial surveillance craft, the Conservatives committed to a real solution. Correct me if I’m wrong but none of the Liberal initiatives seem to me like they are going to give the people of Labrador what they want, which is a functioning manned and operational base that will provide jobs and generally improve the economic situation in the area.

The Conservatives on the other hand have clearly identified a plan to also promote the base for foreign training and to station a 650 person battalion at there, making it a truly operational requirement. In addition to this their policy generally is to grow the military and since 5 Wing is a major base on the East coast, this growth could very well provide even more future opportunities for growth.

I ask you again, am I of base on this one? (No pun intended)

Well folks, there it is, my understanding of the top three federally related issues in Labrador today. With the understanding I have, you may be able to see why I have difficulty understanding why a Liberal is once again being sent to Ottawa by the people of the big land.

I’m sure that like anywhere else there are tons of other issues and as a person who honestly wants to learn more about his Province I ask you help me out. Let me know what the other major issues are, tell me where I’ve gone off base and if I haven’t, please let me know why another Liberal MP is packing his bags for Ottawa.

Thank-you and I look forward to hearing a great deal of insights from our brothers and sisters to the North.

Footnote: Practically every time I write a piece related to Labrador it elicits a response from a reader known simply as WJM. I can only assume this article will not be different. As always everyone is welcome to put their views forward however it’s only fair to our readers to make a couple of points clear.

Most of WJM’s comments are very pro-liberal, regardless of the issue or even the Liberal stance, nothing wrong with that in and of itself however during the recent election it was hinted by someone that this person might actually be working inside the Liberal machine, perhaps on a campaign. He was asked on a couple of occasions who he was working for and he refused to respond. In fact he hasn’t commented since. I tell you this not to pass judgment but simply to make our readers aware of the situation and to allow them to guide themselves accordingly, when reading this contributor’s comments.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Election 2006 – A Newfoundland and Labrador Perspective

This week’s slim minority win by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives is the topic of debate for political junkies from coast to coast these days. Some like it while others don’t. The reasons are simple. Mr. Harper’s slender mandate will likely make it difficult for him to implement many of his party’s policies in the House of Commons. For truly devout Conservatives this is no doubt a cross to bear while for many other Canadians, still concerned with the man and the party itself, it may have been the best possible outcome.

In the current landscape Mr. Harper is forced to build consensus if he wishes to prove himself and further the Conservative cause. In order to accomplish this he has no choice but to walk straight down the middle of the road. His government will be incapable of passing any ultra right wing legislation and will even be prevented from drifting too far to the left in order to appease the NDP since they don’t have enough of a presence to prop him up on their own.

Some pundits are calling this a “Show me” mandate. A situation where the Conservatives are being given a chance to prove that they are not really the redneck truck driving radicals they’ve been painted as by the Liberal party while also giving them the opportunity to prove themselves as a viable alternative. In the U.S. Mr. Harper would likely be referred to as a “lame duck”, a descriptor that’s not far off base, but that doesn’t mean valuable legislation can’t be developed and implemented during his mandate, only that it be acceptable to a majority in the House.

The success of this Parliament will be predicated on Mr. Harper remembering that even though he is leading a minority government, none of the other parties want another election any time soon. By using that reality to build alliances he may be able pass many of the policy changes already identified in his election platform, as long as they don’t force the opposition to hold its collective noses. Fortunately for the all of the Provinces and in particular for Newfoundland and Labrador, there are a number of policies and election promises that fit that bill.

One such change in policy is the removal of non-renewable resources from the equalization formula. Although the Liberal government has refused to do this in the past and even fought for nearly a year with NS & NL over offshore revenues (the details of which included an exclusion from equalization), all parties would likely be committing political suicide if they were to deny this money to the provinces by voting against it in the House. Nobody, with the exception of Paul Martin, denies that a true fiscal imbalance really does exist between Ottawa and the Provinces and anyone who were to stand in the way of legislation aimed at easing this problem may not be well received back home.

The Conservative platform has identified 57 separate initiatives to ensure a cleaner and more accountable government, initiatives such as increasing the powers of the Auditor General and whistle blower protection. In light of the scandals that have come to light over the past year or so and due to the fact that this entire election was based on the premise that Liberal corruption denied them the right to govern, it’s going to be difficult for any party to oppose this type of legislation and expect to get away with it.

From a day to day operational perspective the Conservatives should have no problem keeping their promises to re-open the weather office in Gander, cost share the completion of the Trans Labrador Highway and station 650 troops at the air base at 5 Wing Goose. The only question is if they still want to do all three. These promises addressed supposedly key issues 2 separate districts that have long been a major problem for the province. At the end of the day however the same voters who fought so long and hard over these issues still saw fit to elect Liberal members in those districts even after the Liberal leadership refused to make any solid commitments on the issues. Hopefully Mr. Harper either isn’t a person to hold grudges or has a very short memory.

Some of the lesser talked about nuances of this election as they relate to Newfoundland and Labrador are not so much the result of a Harper win as they are a Liberal loss. One such reality is that with that loss and the imminent retirement of Paul Martin himself, a verbal threat that was fired at the province’s future can no longer be enforced by that government. Many people in the province will no doubt recall the words of top Liberal advisor and Spin Doctor Scott Reid, who stated publicly during Atlantic Accord negotiations that, “the province will pay for this”. Mr. Reid is now advising the opposition rather than the government and upon the retirement of Mr. Martin the question of how much influence his close confidant will really have is questionable.

Another nuance that may bring a smile to the more vindictive among us is the defeat of Deputy Prime Minister Ann Mclellan. Over the past few months a large number of people in the province have been fighting for a stay of deportation in the case of an immigrant family from Israel. Ms. Mclellan was contacted directly on the issue several times in an effort to help the family. With one stroke of her pen she could have delayed the order long enough to allow the family to appeal their case. She did not. There are those in the province who, while they may not have been squarely behind the movement to protect this family, have to admit that it spoke volumes about the character of Ms. Mclellan that she didn’t even bother to respond directly to those involved. Instead her response was supplied verbally as a second hand message from local MP Bill Matthews.

Ms Mclellan’s departure from the political scene will not bring tears to the eyes of anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador.

So what’s next for this newly minted government? Supposedly over the coming days Mr. Harper will begin to form his cabinet in preparation for the next session of the House. The big question on the minds of many Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans is what that new cabinet will look like. No doubt there will be a strong western representation but he will need to appease the other regions as well, especially Quebec. With this province sending three Conservative representatives to Ottawa, two of whom are very influential and committed party pillars, the expectation is that one of them will be offered a major portfolio while another will likely play a major role outside cabinet itself.

The current thinking is that perhaps MP Loyola Hearn will be offered the post of Fisheries Minister. Time will tell, but such a move would no doubt be a welcome change from Liberal Geoff Regan who many in the province consider nothing more than a pencil pusher with no understanding of the portfolio. Mr. Hearn on the other hand is well known in the province for his stance on custodial management along with other fisheries issues and his appointment to this portfolio would send a strong message on the Conservative purported commitment to rebuilding and protecting this long suffering industry.

No doubt there is a lot to digest about the somewhat unexpected outcome of Monday’s election but no matter what anyone says, there is one thing of which there is no doubt. Both from a Provincial and National perspective the next session of parliament will be one to watch. The parties and policies may have changed but the realities of political maneuvering within the confines of a minority government remain the same. Do what you can, survive as long as you can and don’t get caught on the wrong side of an issue. It remains to be seen how well that approach will work for Canada’s newest Prime Minister.

East Meets West in Federal Election

The ballots have been counted, the campaign signs are being stowed away and many Liberal candidates are either settling down with their plump pension checks or looking for new employment elsewhere. The results are in and although yesterday’s election results couldn’t exactly be termed a blue wave, more of a ripple really, it never the less sent a message to Ottawa that Canada is indeed ready for a change.

This morning the blue crew is busily planning for our collective future and many Canadians, especially supporters of the other parties, are wondering just what kind of future it will be. For years many people have fretted over what it might mean to have such a purportedly right wing party in charge of the Nation’s business. They’ve been told for years that Stephen Harper and his band of rednecks don’t really represent Canada, only the west. Today this is not the case.

With the exception of PEI, election 2006 has shown that there are people in every province, including Quebec, who are willing to give this new Conservative party enough rope to hang themselves with and why not. It took the Liberal party 13 years to pull the trap door and snap the rope tight, but eventually they did just that. Why not give the other guys the same opportunity, and besides isn’t the west part of Canada, aren’t westerners Canadians too?

I, like many folks in the east, have my own particular concerns about this party, but I also have an open mind on the subject. I’m not naive enough to believe the Country will dramatically change overnight, for good or bad, or for that matter even within a single mandate. That doesn’t mean that change can’t happen when new ideas and ideologies are allowed to take root. It’s always good to shake things up every now and then if for no other reason than simply to do it. The issue at hand now is whether or not this divided Parliament can function and if any of the Conservative platform planks will ever see the light of day.

From a strictly Atlantic Canadian perspective, I have to wonder if the fact that this party has a strong western power base and western mentality really is something we need to worry about or if in fact the truth may be quite the opposite.

For decades, here in Canada’s forgotten colonies, we’ve complained about our central government and how it only represents the views of the larger centers like Ontario and Quebec. This is a sentiment often expressed by westerners as well and one that many hold deeply in their hearts.

For years many of us have also complained that government has its hands into too many issues best left to our province(s). This is another western complaint.

Here in Newfoundland and Labrador in particular there has long been an undercurrent of independent pride running through our veins, perhaps a vestige of the days when we were a sovereign Nation. Many of us still harbor feelings of independence, not totally unlike that felt by people in Alberta who would prefer to see their province more in control over their own future.

Atlantic Canada, like the west, is becoming a major player in the oil and gas sector and also like the west many people here are reliant on nature (in the form of fisheries and logging) for their livelihood. A livelihood often marked by hard times and adversity not unlike that experienced by farmers and loggers in our western provinces. Nature is a difficult master and perhaps the only ones who may understand that nearly as well as easterners are those from the west.

Of course there are and always will be differences between the east and west but I suspect not as many as we have with places like Ontario. A province that has anointed itself the center of the universe while holding our fate in their hands for so long.

The reality is that the similarities between both coasts are numerous, with one glaring exception. The west is by all standards quite wealthy while Atlantic Canada most clearly is not. This has to make one stop and wonder if perhaps western ideas aren’t that scary after all. Maybe, just maybe, moving Canada’s power base away from the central regions where it’s been held for so long, will be a good thing for Atlantic Canada if it also brings with it the ideas, objectives and management styles that made the west what it is today.

If only from that perspective, yesterday’s election may prove to be a very interesting one for Atlantic Canada. I mean how bad can the west really be when thousands of our best and brightest pack up every year to move there? Perhaps in time we can begin to import some of the better ideas of the west rather than exporting our people.

Don’t get me wrong, don’t for one minute think I’ve been totally brainwashed by Conservative slogans and promises, I haven’t. I’m simply willing to give the new guys an honest try. In future articles I’ll surely throw the same sorts of barbs, jabs and volleys in the direction of our new government as I did at the old. I’ll continue to hold any politician’s feet to the fire, if the circumstances merit it. During their time in power the reds gave me plenty of ammunition to use against them and I’m sure the blues will do the same but until they do I’ll simply give them as much rope as they need. What they do with that rope is entirely up to them.

As a final note, Congrats to all the candidates who not only won, but who put themselves out there and were willing to fight for a seat. It's only by doing that anything gets done.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Day in Canada - Vote 2006

Today is the day folks. The rhetoric, slogans and mud slinging are over and its now in the hands of the great unwashed masses to decide the future of Canada for the next parliament. I've had my say as have others on this site but for today I too put it all aside.

Today is not a day of talk, today is a day of action. A day when indeed the pen (or pencil) is mightier than the sword. A day when the simple act of marking an X can change our collective reality for years to come.

A lot of questions are hanging in the air today. Will the next government of Canada be a red one or a blue one? Will the new government be given a majority or minority and if a minority, which party will hold the balance of power? Will the Bloc increase its mandate in Quebec or will it lose ground? Will the Conservatives finally break new ground in Ontario and Quebec and become recognized as more of a national party rather than a western one?

A lot of questions and a lot of debate will no doubt fill the day and the days to come. For a political junkie this election is like a second Chritsmas Season and today is the big day. Today the politicians are quiet. Today the people of Canada speak.

All I have to say today is either speak out by not voting (if that is how you intend to make your point) or get out and mark your X, but don't just sit this one out simply because of apathy.

The polls are open until 8:00pm on Labrador and 8:30 on the island.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Where do the Federal Leaders Stand on Newfoundland and Labrador Issues?

Just prior to the Federal election campaign Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams sent a letter to the leaders of the Liberal, Conservative and NDP parties outlining 17 key priorities for the province and requesting each leader to identify their level of support for each.

Now, less than a week prior to the actual vote the responses have arrived and have been evaluated by the Provincial government.

It’s quite understandable that everyone doesn’t have the ample free time I do to waste by closely reviewing every dry, interminably long piece of drivel produced by politicians, so as always, I thought I’d help out with that problem. In an effort to ensure a well informed electorate, I’ve decided to save you the trouble and simply provide a synopsis of each issue and my understanding of the responses.

Of course my understanding of the content is open to interpretation as well and as such this is no substitute for reading the details yourself, but if you’re lazy, drunk or have attention deficit issues caused by a brain imbalance or too much alcohol, here is the straight story. The Coles notes version you might say.

By the way, EV = EVASIVE (and for our very special readers, YES = YES and NO = NO)

Cost shared early retirement program in fisheries: L – NO, C – NO, NDP – YES

Provide Northern Shrimp Allocation: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – YES

Custodial Management: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – YES

Use Cod Strategy not List cod as endangered: L – YES, C – YES, NDP –YES

Comprehensive Aquaculture Agreement: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – EV

Assist Lower Churchill development: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – EV

Sell Federal share of Hibernia to NL: L – NO, C – NO, NDP – YES
Federal Presence:
Part A: Re-instate Gander Weather Office: L – NO, C – YES, NDP – YES

Part B: Increase Federal presence in province: L – YES, C – YES, NDP - YES

Equalization Reform: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – YES

Cost share TLH: L – EV, C – YES, NDP – YES

Make 5 Wing Goose an operational requirement: L – NO, C – YES, NDP – EV

Create reserve at Sheshatshiu by June of 2006: L – YES, C – EV, NDP – EV

Stabilize Marine Atlantic services: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – EV

Bilateral cost share for economic development: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – YES

Ensure Fed. contracts for Marystown and Bull Arm: L – NO, C – NO, NDP – YES

Cost sharing waste management strategy: L – EV, C – EV, NDP – EV

Final Tally: Liberal: 5 NO, 3 YES and 9 Evasive answers
Final Tally: Conservative: 3 NO, 5 YES and 9 Evasive answers
Final Tally: NDP: 0 NO, 11 YES and 5 Evasive answers

Of course there’s some subtlety to each of the evasive answers that might allow one to interpret them as being either for or against the issues, but I thought it best to simply label those as EVASIVE and get it over with. We all know it doesn’t pay to read between the lines with political types and unless it’s spelled out what does it really mean?

In all fairness, some of the evasive answers may have been valid and perhaps the Premier himself should have been aware of potential problems prior to even asking. For example, how could anyone support a shrimp quota for a community until confirming and ensuring viability prior to allocating it? I believe it was moves like handing out quotas willy-nilly that helped lead us to the sorry state of a fishery we have today.

This leads to another interesting point. Some of the questions NDP leader Jack Layton responded affirmatively on should perhaps have elicited a more evasive answer, including the aforementioned question on the shrimp quotas. I guess it’s the age old adage, if you know you don’t have to deliver then saying yes is easy.

What does all of this mean to the average voter?

The first point of discussion is the NDP. Yes, they have provided the most pleasant and heart warming responses among all three parties, but since they won’t be forming the next government and have about as much chance of winning a seat in Newfoundland and Labrador as an angry seal protestor in March, they aren’t an option.

Second point, I guess each of us has our own priorities and these will no doubt sway our votes (at least it will sway the votes of the 30 or 40 percent of voters in the province with an open mind who aren’t just going to vote the way their Pappy’s Grand-Pappy did). For one person the Gander weather office may be the most important issue, in which case they should perhaps support their Conservative candidate. For another person the most important issue might be the Sheshatshi reserve, in which case they might vote Liberal.

Our Provincial government has already given their blessing in a statement from the Deputy Premier in which he said that the optimum result for this election (from a Newfoundland and Labrador perspective) would be a Conservative majority. He also said that a Conservative minority with the NDP holding the balance of power would not necessarily be such a bad thing either. That’s their opinion for what its worth.

What do I think? Well, since you asked I’ll tell you. I’ve already said that the NDP doesn’t stand a chance in hell (or in this province either) so I won’t be voting for them, even if I do like some of their platform planks. I also think anyone who votes Liberal in this election, especially after all of the scandals, insulting election ads and the contents of Paul Martin’s letter, should have their head examined by a top notch proctologist, publicly funded of course, none of those private proctologists for you. Other than that I’m pretty much on the fence.

What is my preference, minority or majority Conservative government?

I’m really not sure. On one hand, a minority government might help ensure that the NDP could get a few kicks at the cat with regard to the issues they claim to support in their letter, issues that the Conservatives were a little evasive on like federal ship building contracts for Bull Arm and Marystown. On the other hand, it might also mean that the Conservatives could be blocked from implementing some initiatives that the NDP were evasive on, like making 5 Wing Goose Bay a military operational requirement. It really is one dilly of a pickle we’re in down here don’t ya know!

I guess when it boils right down to it we all have to do a little soul searching and hard thinking before we step into that ballot box next Monday. Regardless of the outcome nationally, I will predict this much:

At the end of the day 45% of eligible voters in this province won’t even bother to go to the polls and of those who do, half will simply vote the way they and their family always have and at the end of the day the seat breakdown in Newfoundland and Labrador will look pretty much like it does today with the possible exception of the one that doesn’t have an incumbent.

Welcome to politics in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Big Announcement Today in Labrador - Congrats folks

Canadian Wind Energy Developer Announces Canada's Largest Wind Farm to be Built in Labrador

ST. JOHN'S, Jan. 17 /CNW/ - Toronto-based wind energy developer, Ventus
Energy Inc, and Metis Energy Corporation, a subsidiary of Metis Development
Corporation, announced today plans to develop a $2.5 billion wind farm near
Churchill Falls, Labrador.

Through a newly-created partnership, Labrador Ventus Limited Partnership
(labradorventus.ca), the wind farm will be the largest in Canada with an
installed nameplate capacity of 1,000 megawatts. This new generation facility,
to be called "Height of Land Wind Park", is expected to produce over three
terawatt hours of electricity per year. Development plans include a phased
construction approach over a three-year period. Pending regulatory approval,
construction could begin in 2007.

"We spent much of the last year carefully evaluating our potential
partners for this innovative development opportunity," says John Douglas,
President and Chief Executive Officer of Ventus Energy Inc. "Over time, the
choice became obvious. Who better to proceed with than the people of

Ventus Energy forged a relationship with Metis Development Corporation,
and had preliminary discussions with the Innu, Government of Newfoundland and
Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. "We are very keen to ensure that
the concerns of the Innu and Innu business community, and other residents of
Labrador, are fully considered in this development," says Mr. Douglas. "We
look forward to participating with the province in the evolution of its energy
plan and firmly believe there is a viable role for an independent power

Labrador Ventus Limited Partnership will conduct public consultations
throughout the province beginning in February 2006.

"We agreed to partner with Ventus Energy because they have a strong wind
energy development team and have been well capitalized by reputable
institutional shareholders," says Jamie Snook, General Manager of MDC.

"Development plans have been structured to ensure that every dollar possible
is spent in the province and that maximum economic benefits accrue to the
people of Labrador."

Labrador Metis Nation President Chris Montague says the development will
advance Labrador into the 21st Century as a world leader in wind energy. "We
are very impressed with Ventus as a developer, and we look forward to working
with them in this exciting project," he says. "This is a sound
environmentally-friendly project that will result in benefits for the people
of Labrador, the province, and the entire country."

The Height of Land Wind Park will have the capacity to produce enough
zero-emission electricity to power 500,000 homes and displace the equivalent
of three million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Local, regional and
provincial economic benefits will be significant, providing over 2,000 direct
and indirect construction jobs and over 200 direct and indirect long-term
operation and maintenance jobs in Labrador.

This private-sector solution to energy development will not require any
provincial or federal grants or loans in order to proceed. Negotiations of a
power purchase agreement to sell the expected annual production are currently
under way with potential customers.

Development activities to date include:
- the completion of a comprehensive wind prospecting field trip
throughout Labrador and Newfoundland in the summer of 2005;

- the installation of wind monitoring equipment in the project area,
which included obtaining permits from Transport Canada, NAV CAN and
Crown Lands (Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and
Conservation and the Department of Natural Resources);

- the submission of an interconnection application to Newfoundland and
Labrador Hydro in October 2005;

- the filing of and Environmental Registration Document with the
provincial Department of Environment and Conservation; and

- the filing of a Project Description with the Canadian Environmental
Assessment Authority.

Federal Election Update and Analysis

With exactly one week left until we head to the polls it might be a good time to review the current status of the parties, to take a look at some key promises they’ve made and review their stance on Atlantic Canadian issues.

According to the latest polls, the Conservative party is enjoying a lead of between 8% and 13% nationally, however in vote rich Ontario the story is quite different. In that area the Liberal party is well in the lead and appears to be holding strong.

A poll released just today indicates that currently 55% of Canadians would be happy with Stephen Harper as the next Prime Minister. Some analysts believe that unless Harper, or another key member of his party, suffers a meltdown and really says something stupid, the election is all but won. Whether or not it will be a majority or minority is the big question this week.

A breakdown of some of the key promises made by the leaders shows that while each has come up with some good ideas and some not so good ones, it seems that the Conservative party seized the advantage and never let go after their proposed GST cut early in the campaign, a move that has hit home with many average Canadians, even though some analysts don’t agree with the approach.

Although officially there are 5 major parties involved in this election (Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Bloc and Green), the reality at this point is that it’s a two horse race and as such I’ve decided to simply compare the two top parties here.

There is no point comparing the bloc to the other parties nationally since they are only a factor in one province. It also wouldn’t be fair at this point in the game to compare the promises of the NDP or Green parties since even they are fully aware that they aren’t going to win and as such they would never be held accountable for their promises. This is not the case with the Liberals and Conservatives.

Here are a few of the key issues that appear to be of importance in this election and each party’s stance for comparison purposes. Each item is followed by my own personal ratings of the policy (should it were ever to be implemented that is):

Liberal – Despite what the other parties say, their platform has been cost out and is fiscally achievable:

Cuts to personal income tax – A plus (This would stimulate savings and investment by providing more expendable income for many Canadians)

National child care plan – B minus (A pretty good idea, but how does the creation of child care centers really help mom and pop in highly rural areas, areas which make up a big part of this Country where day care centers don’t and won’t exist. People in these areas will still need to rely on baby sitters and family members to help and this plan does nothing for them);

Health Care – C plus (Promises of a continued reduction in wait times through staying the course with regard to the health care deal signed with the provinces would help but it is not enough. The real issue is the lack of experienced specialists and health care providers resulting in delays of diagnosis, not so much in the actual treatment of the illness. Often patients must wait months for a diagnosis and it is not until after this point that the measurement of wait times begins. This situation is largely due to the fact that cuts to health care of the years have setup a scenario where it is difficult for some regions to afford to attract or retain personnel.)

Gun registry – Status Quo/No Change – F (Long a sore spot with many Canadians this fiasco is costing hundreds of millions and has no real value. The Liberal party would leave it in place.)

Violent Crime - Banning hand guns – D minus (Personally I don’t care if every hand gun in the country is banned, but doing so isn’t going to solve gun violence. Criminals who want guns will get guns. The banning of hand guns is a futile attempt to stem the tide of violence and the implementation of the program will probably end up as another gun registry fiasco costing billions.);

Liberal promises directly important to Atlantic Canada

5 Wing Goose Bay – D minus (Even though it has been a major issue in Labrador, no real solution has been offered for the survival of the armed forces base at 5 Wing Goose Bay, just more empty dollars but no military presence.);

Fisheries issues, joint management and custodial management – F (No support for joint management of fisheries or custodial management outside the 200 mile limit. More talk about increasing money for science but this rings hollow after the Liberal government cut science funding during the last term.);

Re-instatement of the Gander weather centre – D minus (No promise to re-instate weather forecasting in Gander, even though over 100,000 voters in the province signed a petition to have this done and records indicate a potentially dangerous or even deadly lack of accuracy in current forecasts from outside the province. The Liberal party recently tried to confuse the issue by promising to re-open the office but this is not a re-instatement. Instead it would only bring back a handful of resources and leave the office a shadow of its former self. They also offered to make Newfoundland a centerfor ice studies but this is a separate issue which the party has tried to mix up with the weather office issue.);

Overall ranking C minus

Conservative – Despite what the other parties say, their platform has been cost out and is fiscally achievable:

Cuts to GST – B (As most financial analysts agree, a personal income tax cut would do more to stimulate investment and savings, but this one retains a somewhat high mark because it puts money back into everyone’s pocket, even those who pay no income tax, and seems to be a hit with the general public);

National child care plan – B minus (A pretty good idea, giving 100 per month for each small child directly to the parents and building some child care spaces, although less than the Liberal plan. It works for me because the money would be of use to people in rural areas where day care spaces would not exist and therefore gives them an option. Over all, both the Liberal and Conservative plans have merit and problems and as a result I’ve scored them equally);

Health Care – C (The promise to guarantee wait times is one that many people can appreciate but how truly feasible is it? The solution may require a loosening up of rules around who provides health care and this will have some screaming about a two tiered system. The reality is that if certain diagnostic services (such as MRI, CT scans, bone scans, etc.) were available through independent providers, then those who could afford the fees involved would choose this option rather than waiting six months or a year for testing. This would speed up the process and lessen the strain on the publicly funded system allowing others to move through more quickly. Not really a bad thing, however it could result in these private companies paying higher salaries than the public system and stealing away already under available resources. I give the Liberal party a very slight edge in this area);

Gun Registry – Promised to abolish the gun registry – A plus (This move alone will make hundreds of millions available for other programs and policies.);

Violent Crime – A minus (The Conservatives have promised tougher sentences for violent criminals and those using weapons. The Conservatives win this battle. Canadians are tired of what they see as a justice system that is soft on criminals. There are studies that show that stiffer sentences don’t really deter criminals, but neither will the banning of hand guns outright. The up side to the Conservative approach is that at least those who would use guns will be off the streets longer. The plan is soft on the root causes of violent crime such as poor economic background, lack of education and drug use.);

Conservative promises directly important to Atlantic Canada

5 Wing Goose Bay – A ( The Conservatives appear to have a plan for the base that is part and parcel of their overall military improvement plan. They has promised multiple times to station a contingent of Canadian forces (rapid response team) at 5 Wing Goose Bay, along with continuing to promote the base internationally as a training area. The Conservatives have pledged to grow the military and as most Canadians are aware, a large proportion of forces personnel traditionally hail from Atlantic Canada. This would result in a growth in career opportunities while enhancing Canada’s military capabilities. In 1945 Canada had the fourth most powerful military in the world. Today a quick check of rankings showing the top 30 does not even list Canada.

Fisheries issues, joint management and custodial management – C plus (Harper has agreed to discuss increased involvement of provinces in fisheries science and management, although this does not translate into a direct promise on the subject. He has also come out in support of working toward custodial management outside the 200 mile limit, but again that is not the same as saying it will happen. An interesting side note to this is that in reality there is no point enacting custodial management unless you have the military and coastguard capability to enforce it, supposedly a capability that an enhanced military would be able to provide.

Re-instatement of the Gander weather centre – A plus (A clear commitment has been given to re-instate the Gander weather office to its original level and Harper has gone so far as to actually sign the public petition on the issue)

Overall ranking B plus

The reality is that both parties have some issues with their policies and platforms and the only party that has pretty much agreed to everything Atlantic Canadians are looking for is the NDP, but as mentioned, they would not be expected to deliver on those promises so it doesn’t really cost them anything to make the offer.

Overall it would seem that the Conservative party has the edge in policy from Atlantic Canada’s perspective and perhaps from the perspective of other Canadians, outside Ontario, which is exactly what the most recent polls seem to be telling us. The problem at this point is that all of the parties are currently so heavily involved in mud slinging that most people probably can’t even recall what each team is offering.

A quick check of the web sites for the Liberals, Conservatives and even the NDP reveals the fact that the attacks on their opponents have taken precedence over promoting their own policies and objectives. Perhaps at this point they're all a little afraid that someone might really take notice of their weak points and as such they're happier to cover up those weaknesses with the mud that’s flying around so freely.

It's odd as well that the old party loyalties and family histories are still playing such a role in Newfoundland and Labrador even in this day and age. Dispite the national trend and some attractive promises by the Conservative party for the province , Newfoundland and Labrador appears to be opting for the status quo. Current polls have it at 2 conservative seats and 4 Liberal seats, only one is up in the air. With John Efford's shameful departure from the political scene late last year, the Avalon could go either way. The Conseravative candidate, Fabian Manning is a well known and well liked political figure in the area, but the area itself is historically a Liberal stronghold. The polls have that one too close to call at this point so it looks like we won't know until election night.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Are Ottawa and the Provinces Committing Crimes Against Their Own Citizens?

This article was researched and suggested to me by one of our readers, Cyril Miller from Newfoundland, who has expended a great deal of time and effort studying Canada’s Constitution and the lack of provincial control that has been exhibited in managing our taxation processes. I would like to thank him very much for his efforts and for bringing a very serious issue to the forefront of our collective consiousness.

Although I have tried to present the key points of his research here, space limitations and clarity of concept precluded me from including all salient points. For that I sincerely apologize, however I believe that the arguments presented in the piece, while by no means all inclusive, are sufficient within its context.

Are our governments intentionally fleecing the people of Canada?

A case can be made for exactly that since Governments, at both levels, have allowed federal taxation crimes to be perpetrated against all Canadians. This has been done by keeping the general public largely in the dark over the contents of thier own Constitution and by blatantly disregarding its contents.

Copies of our Constitution are available to us through many sources, but how many of us have ever been encouraged to read it or been educated in any way on its contents? The fact is that most of us know virtually nothing about our Constitution because unlike the people of other countries, Canadians are not encouraged to learn about it and it is not a part of our school curriculum.

It’s odd that one of the most vitally important documents that has ever been created by our nation, “The Constitution, The Supreme Law of the Land”, a document which Canadians are supposed to be able to look to for protection from injustice, is a document that virtually no one in our Country knows anything about and one that we are not educated about, or encouraged to understand, by our federally funded schools.

Perhaps being aware of its contents might open some eyes in the general public, especiallly with regard to something that affects each of us every day of our lives, taxation. With regard to taxation, here is a little lesson in two small sections of our Constitution for the enlightenment of all Canadians and to perhaps pique our interest in what other facts we are largely unaware of in our Nation's laws.

The Canadian Constitution came into being based primarily on a clear and concise separation of legislative powers between the provincial and federal governments. It is a little understood fact among many people today that contrary to the rhetoric of our Federal Government, the exclusive jurisdiction conferred upon the provinces and upon the federal government by the constitution in areas such as education, health care and taxation, categorically do not overlap.Article 52.1 of the Constitution clearly states, “The Constitution of Canada is the SUPREME law of Canada and any law that is inconsistent with the provision of the Constitution is, to the extent of that inconsistency, of no force or effect“.

In other words, no level of government, the Prime Minister himself, and no court (not even the Supreme Court of Canada) can make any law or judgment that is inconsistent with the express stipulation of the Constitution.

Article 92 opens with the heading, “EXCLUSIVE powers of the Provincial Legislature”. This is followed with “In each province the legislature may EXCLUSIVELY make laws in relation to matters coming within the classes of subjects next hereinafter enumerated.” Among the items identified in article 92.2 is “DIRECT TAXES.” It states that all forms of direct taxes, (this would include personal income taxes and GST) falls under the sole and EXCLUSIVE authority of the Provincial Government.

This means that even though most people are unaware of it, the direct Federal Income Tax being deducted from the pay cheques of every Canadian by Revenue Canada is an illegal, anti-Constitutional theft of their hard earned money since it is a direct tax and as such should be the exclusive jurisdiction of the province. It means that in reality the Federal Income Tax Act, supposedly the law of the land and a law to which we are all subject, is an illegal act that is “inconsistent” with the express stipulation of article 92.2 of the Canadian Constitution.

Our current tax process and policies, which are administered and enforced by Ottawa, are in reality a criminal offence contrary, or as the Constitution says, “inconsistent” with, the express stipulation of 92.2. In addition to this, it is also Constitutionally illegal for Provincial governments to delegate their EXCLUSIVE power to the federal government, or vice-versa. It is also illegal for either level of government to accept the delegation of the EXCLUSIVE powers of the other. Yet this is a situation that currently exists in Canada and has existed here for decades.

The following are two of numerous statements made by Supreme Court Justices on the matter over the years.

Statement #1 - “…Neither the Parliament of Canada nor the Legislature of any Province can delegate one to the other any of the Legislative authority conferred upon them by the BNA act and especially by sections 91 and 92 thereof. The Legislative authority conferred upon Parliament and upon a Provincial Legislature is Exclusive and in consequence neither can bestow upon or accept power from the other.” (Source - Dominion Law Reports, Attorney General of Nova Scotia versus Attorney General of Canada, October 3rd 1950.)

Statement #2 - “…While the two former sections (sections 91 and 92) provide for a distribution of legislative powers between Parliament and the Legislatures of the Provinces, they go further and bar one from entering the Legislative field of the other. Beyond their respective spheres, both Parliament and the Legislatures are powerless and each is specifically denied the legislative powers given to the other.” (Source - Dominion Law Reports 1950 4 DLR A G of N S versus A G of Canada.)

The truth is that every employer, whether federal, provincial or private who has ever deducted this tax from your pay cheque and submitted same to Ottawa has committed and continues to commit a criminal offence in collusion with our federal and provincial governments.Of course we all understand that governments need revenue in order to provide necessary services, but the setting, collection and enforcement of those taxes and tax law is a power bestowed by Canada’s Constitution on the Provinces, not on Ottawa.

The provincial Legislatures are absolutely, unequivocally sovereign in this matter and do not need to ask Ottawa’s permission, or even include Ottawa in the decision to put an immediate and abrupt end to this criminal offence. All the Provincial Governments have to do is exercise their Constitutionally enshrined right to these areas of exclusive provincial jurisdiction, publicly declare the illegality of direct federal taxes, (in all forms) and order all employers whether federal, provincial or private to immediately cease and desist from the perpetration of this criminal offence against the people of Canada.

It is clear that Provincial leaders are fully aware of the sections of the Constitution outlined here( among others that solidify the argument further), in fact current federal Conservative candidate Stephen Harper, in a signed letter to Alberta’s Ralph Klein, broached the subject a number of years ago while he was working with a citizens taxation committee. In the letter, later to become known as the "Firewall Letter" Harper, among others, stated:

“…We believe the time has come for Albertans to take greater charge of our own future. This means resuming control of the powers that we possess under the constitution of Canada but that we have allowed the federal government to exercise…”.

“…Collect our own revenue from personal income tax, as we already do for corporate income tax. Now that your government has made the historic innovation of the single-rate personal income tax, there is no reason to have Ottawa collect our revenue. Any incremental cost of collecting our own personal income tax would be far outweighed by the policy flexibility that Alberta would gain, as Quebec's experience has shown…”.

As Stephen Harper recognized at the time, even though it is the Federal Government who has implemented and collected these illegal taxes over the years, it is the Provincial Governments who are 100% responsible for allowing the activity to take place.

Our Provincial politicians, from all political parties, are fully aware, or ought to be aware of this fact and in Newfoundland and Labrador they have had since 1949 to put a stop to it and to take control of taxation revenues. Instead they have chosen to actively aide and abet Ottawa in the perpetration of this criminal offence against their people. The facts are clear, yet according to those people who have been pushing for provincial governments to retake control of their their own destiny, it appears nobody is listening. In fact, a letter recently sent to Provincial Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan by Mr. Miller (see introduction to article), outlining the details of a case for Provincial control of taxation, invoked this response.

Dear Mr. Miller:

On behalf of the Premier, I thank you for your analysis on the division of federal provincial powers under the Constitution Act as they pertain to taxing authority. While the analysis is interesting, there is an abundance of judicial decisions which uphold the constitutional authority of the federal government to impose a direct tax. Consequently, I am unable to support the expenditure of funds for legal costs to challenge the federal government on this issue. However, as a taxpayer, you have the right to appeal any tax assessment if you feel it is not supportable under law.

Yours sincerely,
Loyola Sullivan
Minister of Finance

Apparently Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Harper are miles apart on this issue. It seems very odd that the Consititution would appear to clearly identify taxation as being a Provincial domain and that the man who would be Prime Minister also feels that the Provinces have the authority to control taxes while one of our Provincial leaders feels that we don't have that right. Very, very odd indeed.

Public Service Announcement: Energy Plan Consultations

Public Service Announcement:

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador will be holding public consultations in an effort to gather input into the development of a provincial energy plan which is expected to be completed by early summer of 2006.

This process is a follow up to the discussion paper which was released in November of 2005. Eleven separate consultation meetings will be held across the province beginning on Monday January 16th and members of the general public are encouraged to attend and/or make presentations.

If you are interested in making a presentation you are requested to pre-register by contacting the Department of Natural Resources toll free at: 1-866-440-4044 or by sending an email to: energyplan@gov.nl.ca

Meetings are scheduled for the following times and locations:

Labrador City – January 16, 7:00pm – Arts and Culture Center

Happy Valley–Goose Bay – January 17, 7:00pm – Aurora Hotel

Cartwright – January 18, 7:00pm – Cartwright Hotel

St. John’s – January 30, 7:00pm – Holiday Inn

Clarenville – January 31, 7:00pm – Clarenville Inn

Marystown – February 1, 7:00pm – Hotel Marystown

Gander – February 2, 7:00pm – Hotel Gander

Hawkes Bay – February 6, 7:00pm – Maynard’s Torrent River Inn

Stephenville - February 7, 7:00pm – Holiday Inn

Corner Brook - February 8, 7:00pm – Greenwood Inn and Suites

Grand Falls-Windsor - February 9, 7:00pm – Mt. Peyton Hotel

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Liberals Reach a New High in Lows with Latest Campaign Ad

Paul Martin and the Liberal Party of Canada have pulled a lot of fast ones over the past decade or two. They’ve quietly made back room deals equivalent to selling your own mother. They’ve employed kick back schemes, exhibited cronyism like it was an art form and openly lied to the people of this country time and time again. For all of this and more, they have gone unpunished by the voters in election after election. In fact we as a nation have practically rewarded them for their efforts. Now, in the middle of a closely contested election campaign where the central issue is the very integrity of their party, they have reached a new high in lows by all but spitting in the faces of every military man and woman in this Country.

As many people are aware by now, in a recent Liberal election ad this desperate and morally bankrupt group, in an attempt to impugn Harper’s Conservative party, had the audacity and utter poor taste to present a scenario where our own military would be rolled into the streets and turned against us if we voted Conservative. Think about this folks. What are they really telling the Canadian public? Here is what I read into that ad.

Firstly they were saying that a Conservative win would be somewhat akin to putting a Nazi government in place. That suddently little Jimmy, your neighbour’s boy who joined the infantry out of high school last year, would become some sort of SS sniper who would shoot you in the streets. Perhaps your cousin Sheila, who has been posted out west for the past few years, would be assigned the task of creating internment lists, maybe even one with your name on it. That your friends and neighbours, perhaps even your own children who serve in Canada’s forces, cannot be trusted to protect you under another party’s leadership. That only the Liberal party can protect you and keep the military from taking over the streets.

Has a political party in this or any other western democracy ever sunk so low? I doubt it. The ad is not only despicable and disgusting, it insults every military person in this Country, past or present and it scoffs at the very intelligence of the general public. This is a new low, even for the Liberal party.

Granted the party says they intend to pull the ad. In fact they claim it should never have been aired in the first place. With sentiment I can heartily agree, it shouldn’t have been aired, but does that let them off the hook for this vicious attack on our armed forces and the general public? I don’t believe it does. Indeed they may never have intended for this to air but even producing such a disgusting and insulting ad in the first place speaks volumes about the level this group will sink to if it suits their agenda.

I can just picture the Liberal brain trust sitting in some back room laughing at the gullibility of the voters they were targeting. I can perhaps envision them slapping each other on the back and cracking jokes about how they were going to scare the crap out of Joe Six Pack and Sally Lunch Pail. After seeing what this corrupt collection of egomaniacs has done in the past, I’d be willing to bet that even if they hadn’t initially planned to run the ad, if they had suddenly found that it was even a little effective on some segment of our population it would still be running from coast to coast.

We all know election campaigns can sometimes get nasty, even downright dirty and a lot of mud can be slung on all sides. Mud is one thing, this is something completely different. When a party tries to use cold callous and calculated scare tactics to convince the public that armed troops will be rolled into the streets and that our own military, the prime purpose of which is to protect our way of life, will be used against us, they've gone way too far. There’s a line that doesn’t get crossed, even in the heat of an election and even by a government that feels it is entitled to its position. The Liberal Party of Canada has not only crossed that line, they can’t even see it in the distance behind them.

The saddest thing about all of this is that I doubt they feel even a glimmer of remorse for the whole situation. I fear the only thing they are even remotely sorry about is the possibility that this fiasco may have an unwanted impact on the number of votes they can capture on January 23 and that too is very telling.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Stephen Harper First Federal Leader to Respond to NL Premier's Demands

On Friday of last week federal Conservative leader Stephen Harper was first off the mark to respond to a letter sent by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams just prior to the start of the election campaign. In the letter, sent to the leaders of all three major federal parties, Williams outlined multiple issues that he considers of major importance to the Province. He also requested that each leader send him a response (in writing) to let the province know how or if they would address each of those issues.

This tactic of extracting promises from the leaders while they are in election mode is not a new one for the province’s premier. Williams used a similar tactic just prior to the last federal election resulting in the now infamous promise by Paul Martin for revenue sharing on East coast oil revenues. A promise that eventually was fulfilled, but not before nearly a year of negotiation and a federal/provincial battle that saw the national flag removed from flag poles across Newfoundland and Labrador and the career suicide of long time Newfoundland politician and Liberal cabinet minister John Efford.

This time around Mr. Martin has been much more hesitant to agree to anything put forward by Williams. When directly questioned on his stance, on the issues raised in Premier Williams letter, Martin has repeatedly side stepped the questions and in one case even provided an answer that was so amazingly convoluted as to be nothing more than gibberish. In fact, the answer, provided to a local open line host was so strange that it eventually ended up as the topic of an editorial in the Globe and Mail.

Just last week Premier Williams appeared before the media and spoke of his serious concern with the fact that none of the party leaders had to that point responded to his letter, even though the election campaign was well underway. Although both the Liberal and NDP parties have since said they will provide a response in the coming days, Williams appears very pleased to have received Mr. Harpers response on Friday.

The issues outlined in the Williams letter encompass a myriad of topics from the fishing industry to ferry services and from federal transfer calculations to development of the Lower Churchill hydro project. In his response Stephen Harper addressed each of the issues however it is not yet clear what his precise responses were on each topic. What is known at this point is that his party is promising to cost share (on a 50/50 basis) the development of the Trans-Labrador Highway and they intend to station over 600 military personnel at the 5 Wing Goose Bay air base which has been struggling for survival since foreign military forces who trained at the base for years began pulling out.

Harper has also promised to provide loan guarantees to assist the province in developing the Lower Churchill hydro project, a project that is considered of prime importance to the province’s future and one that is very attractive federally for its potential impact on the nation’s Kyoto committments.

One of the topics Harper addressed in his written response was very pleasing to many people across the province, but particularly to those in the Gander region. For months the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have been fighting to have a weather office, that was closed by the Martin government, returned to the area. Now, on the eve of the election, the Conservatives have promised to do just that. This response has pleased many in the province although it was not a complete surprise since a petition on the subject that was circulated across the province and which captured over 125,000 signatures already boasts the signature of the Conservative leader.

In the coming days it is expected that the exact details of all of Mr. Harpers committments will become public knowledge. It is also hoped that the other leaders will take the time to put their responses down on paper. The Premier’s request has become a major news item in Newfoundland and Labrador and it is believed by many political followers that the the individual responses of the leaders will ultimately provide the framework for many voters to make their final decision when they enter the polling booth on election day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Liberal Party Has Made Media Manipulation a Fine Art

As if it weren’t bad enough that many Canadians receive their news and political insight through the CBC, a crown corporation beholding to the government for the bread on its table, now we’re beginning to see ever more blatant manipulation of supposedly independent news agencies by the federal Liberal government.

Most people are fully aware that the spin doctors inside the Liberal party can make a warthog look like a prize pony, but many people don’t realize just how much power these people really have when it comes to getting their side of the story out for consumption and in manipulating public opinion.

Have you ever noticed how there are always rumors and “insider” leaks of information available to news agencies a day or two prior to any major policy statement or official new release by the Liberal government? Have you noticed how accurate these supposed rumors always are? Why is that? Just how do the reporters and analysts for the major newspapers, television and radio services get this information?

According to those on the inside, the answer is simple really. The Liberal spin doctors quietly slip the information to selected reporters who get the story out, often days before it’s officially announced. This is exactly what the government wants because it allows the public to digest the announcement and make peace with it before the official release. It also allows the government to guage reaction and tweak the policy prior to the official announcement in order to limit any negative impact to themselves.

Since the opposition parties would look like fools responding to rumors, by the time they can respond to the official release the story is already old news and nobody cares anymore. The benefit to the governing Liberal party is clear in this scenario, but why do supposedly impartial reporters play along with this game?

Again the answer is quite simple. If a reporter were to decide not to run a piece on the “rumor” he or she would be creamed by their editors for allowing others to scoop them on the story. These reporters also keep their sources, who they know is the government itself, a closely guarded secret because if they were to confess to the collusion they would be black balled by the Liberal government’s information offices and wouldn’t get anything more than a glaring look from them going forward.

Not playing along means losing either your job or your contacts and either way you lose your value in the press. This game isn’t a new one by governments, but it is one the Liberal government has raised to a high art. It’s just too bad our nation’s mainstream news services don’t have the strength of character to band together and take a stand for true freedom of the press rather than playing the Liberal public manipulation game.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2005 Year in Review - The Highs and Lows in Newfoundland and Labrador

Happy New Year everyone, I trust you’ve enjoyed a happy and fun filled Christmas season with your family and friends. With a new year upon us I thought this might be a good time look back over the previous year, before we hurl ourselves too far into the new one.

2005 was undoubtedly a year of upheaval in our little corner of the Atlantic Ocean.

Newfoundland and Labrador saw battles with the Liberal government in Ottawa, one part of our province had the opportunity to take control of the federal government but squandered it, another part of the province saw numerous towns and one family torn apart and in addition to all of this, weather or at least weather forecasting, was a major topic throughout the year.

2005 began with a bang as the battle over offshore oil revenues heated up between St. John’s and Ottawa. Paul Martin’s Liberals, having promised the deal during a close election campaign several months earlier, had their feet held to the fire by the Country’s newest Premier. After much kicking and screaming, after Canadian flags were lowered and after public sentiment started to turn against his minority government, Martin finally acquiesced and signed a deal with the province. He was not happy.

A year later the money is in the bank and being used by the province but many still wonder if the words of one of Martin’s top aides spoke of more than simple frustration on the part of the Liberal government. During negotiations the Prime Minister’s press secretary, Scott Reid, said that Newfoundland would be made to “pay for it” in the long run. Some feel that this “pay back” is already happening.

One of the most noticeable examples of the impact of the Atlantic Accord negotiations can be seen during the current election campaign. While the Conservative and NDP parties have been very outspoken in their support of several provincial issues, Martin’s Liberals have refused to make any real promises to the province. It seems as though Mr. Martin is a little gun shy when it comes to making election promises in this province after being held to one he made in the last election. Does this mean he is trying to make Newfoundland and Labrador “pay” as some think, or does it simply mean that his government doesn’t mind making promises, they just don’t like having to keep them.

Part way through the year Labrador was embroiled in a federal bi-election after long time Liberal MP Lawrence O’Brien passed away. The people of Labrador went to the polls during a time when the nation was poised for the potential fall of the federal government. They went to the polls during a time just following a vote in the House of Commons that saw the Liberals barely survive, thanks to a single independent MP, Chuck Cadman. They went to the polls with an opportunity to sit an independent representative in Ottawa who might just hold the balance of federal power in his very hands. They voted Liberal.

2005 was a year that saw much suffering and pain in rural communities across the province. While income trusts and an RCMP investigation of Ralph Goodale’s potential role in insider trading are a key topic of debate during this election, much earlier in the year the province had its own issues around income trusts.

During the year Fishery Products International approached the province about setting up an income trust. In order to carry this out they needed provincial acceptance of the plan. After much debate and negotiation a supposed “free” vote in the provincial house of assembly opened the door for FPI. The trust still didn't happen.

Even after the oddest vote in provincial history, one that saw the Premier vote to deny FPI while most of his party voted against him and agreed to accept the deal, the trust was not set up. The reason was the tax review on income trusts that was underway by Ralph Goodale at the time and is making so much news today. FPI deferred the plan and as a result several towns in the province did not receive the financial support or industrial infrastructure enhancements they had been promised by the company.

2005 was also the year the town of Stephenville saw both a major flood and the loss of its primary industry.

After experiencing a natural disaster that saw hundreds evacuated from their homes, just before Christmas Abitibi announced that its Stephenville mill would be shutting down for good. The fate of another Abitibi mill in Grand Falls-Windsor is still in the air and both towns are reeling.

Comments from the Federal government on the issue often took the angle that Ottawa was not in the business of providing financial support to business enterprises and although it would do what it could to support the town, it would not provide federal funds to assist the company. I guess companies like Honda and Bombardier are different in some way from the ones on this province. Who knew?

Just before Christmas was also when Israeli immigrant Alexis Portnoy and his family were separated from each other, upon his arrest and detainment by the Canadian Border Services.

Having lived in Canada for a decade and after becoming an integral part of his community, Alexis was arrested and taken to Montreal where he is awaiting deportation. After an unprecedented campaign by many in the province in an effort to keep him and his family to here, the Federal Minister in charge has continued to turn a deaf ear. Alexis is now expected to be flown back to Israel on January 16. His pregnant wife and four young children, including two who were born in Canada, remain secluded in a church basement in Marystown. Their future is as yet unknown.

Another issue that saw unprecedented support in the province this year was the petition to reinstate the Gander weather office. Since the closure of the office by the federal Liberals all forecasting for the province has been managed from Halifax while marine forecasts originate in Quebec. It quickly became clear to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that this was not such a good thing. Forecasts for 10 centimeters of snow saw the province receive 50 or 60 centimeters. Forecasts for rain saw snow and forecasts for storms saw clear skies. All of this is of course a major concern for a province that is so large and where so many people work on the land and on the sea.

In a few short weeks the petition to reinstate the office circulated around the province and gathered signatures from over 125,000 people, including the Premier and even federal opposition leader Stephen Harper. At this point both the Conservatives and the NDP parties have clearly promised to reinstate the office. Only the Liberals have held out claiming they have much bigger plans for forecasting in the area. Exactly what those plans are is very sketchy however. Many in the province are wondering why a government that supposedly has "bigger plans" for weather services in Gander closed the office in the first place saying it wasn’t necessary and could be done on the mainland.

In some ways 2005 was a different kind of year in Newfoundland and Labrador, in other ways it was much of the same. In a province that has become accustomed to the highs and lows of life, 2005 was not really all that different.

The year saw the province win a major revenue fight with Ottawa and lose the economic engines of multiple communities. It saw the province make plans to develop the hydro capacity of the Lower Churchill River and it saw protests by animal rights activists over the annual seal hunt at a time when fishermen themselves protested over a provincial crab sharing scheme.

The year saw the people of the province cheer as the Brad Gushue curling team won their way to Turin and the olympics and immediately saw its bouyant spirit slammed by a slanderous sports editorial in the Toronto Sun.

Throughout the year as the stories have changed so too have the feelings. Emotions have gone from those of joy to fear to anger and back to joy again. Newfoundland and Labrador is a textbook example of contradictions and this can easily be seen in the events of the past year.

In a time when the province is experiencing unprecedented, nation leading economic growth, the unemployment rate is the highest in the nation and several key industries are in serious trouble.

In a time when the province is being lead by a conservative government and a Premier who enjoys an almost God like approval rating (nearly 80%), after being threatened by Liberal representatives in Ottawa and having countless provincial issue ignored by the reigning government again and again, the people refuse to send a message to the Liberal government. The province only elected 2 conservative representatives in Ottawa in the last election and appear to be leaning toward electing even more Liberals this time around.

Never a dull moment in Newfoundland and Labrador and 2005 has been no exception. An interesting year to say the least, I wonder what 2006 holds in store?