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Friday, February 24, 2006

Atlantic Rating on the Rise for Harper's Conservatives

With the new Conservative government having been in power for a few weeks already I thought we should take a quick look back at some of their election promises to Atlantic Canada in General and Newfoundland and Labrador in particular. During any election campaign I take all promises offered by those seeking gainful employment with the same Skepticism as I do the resume padding of a university graduate pounding the pavement. Having said that, it doesn’t mean I’m willing to forget what was promised and simply move on.

Some of the key promises made to this part of the Country during the winter election were included in a letter from Conservative leader Stephen Harper directly to Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador. The list was an extensive one but 5 major points spring immediately to mind.

  • Help with development of the Lower Churchill hydro project.
  • A federal move toward custodial management of fish stocks outside the 200 mile economic limit.
  • The placement of a 600+ armed forces contingent at the air base in Labrador.
  • Re-instatement of weather forecasting services at the Gander weather center.
  • Remove natural resource revenues from equalization calculations.

    In the case of assisting with the Lower Churchill hydro project the Conservative leader was a little evasive in his wording at the time around exactly what sort of help would or wouldn't be forthcoming. Having said that, since the Province is still reviewing proposals for development it hasn’t yet reached a point where local politicians are even ready to discuss the matter with Ottawa. I guess this one is still a wait and see situation and I will be one who indeed "waits and sees".

    Custodial Management of fish stocks is an issue that has all the ear marks of being addressed at least from a PR perspective. Nothing has outwardly been done to this point and it still remains to be seen if it ever will be, but all the signs are there. The new Fisheries Minister hails from Newfoundland and Labrador and has his finger on the pulse of fisheries issues in the region. Loyola Hearn has long been an advocate for custodial management and with the appointment of another Atlantic Canadian, Peter McKay, to the Foreign Affairs portfolio, the table is set. Hearn has also been quoted in the national press talking tough on the subject and is clearly sending a strong message to other nations. Time will tell on this one but it isn't dead at least.

    The placement of troops in Labrador appears not to have been forgotten in the bustle of ramping up in the new government. Just the other day during a visit to CFB Shearwater in N.S. the newly minted Defense Minister was pressed about stationing a 650 person rapid response team at that air base. His response to the press and politicians in attendance was simple. No. He stated in essence that contingents had been promised to Labrador and several other bases around the Country and unless someone could prove to him that this direction couldn’t work then that's what was going to happen. No playing for political points during that visit I guess.

    The reinstatement of weather services in Gander appears to be something that may be in the offing for next week. Representatives of Environment Canada including the Minister of Environment are expected in Gander next week to meet with local officials. It is believed they will announce the re-opening of the Gander weather office at that time.

    The last promise, removal of natural resource revenues from the calculation for equalization has not yet come to fruition however that’s to be expected. The implications of this promise are far reaching and will likely take time to implement and account for. The buzz is that the plan is still in place and since this promise was designed to help close the fiscal imbalance with the Provinces it’s unlikely Mr. Harper would even consider backing out of that one.

    So there you have it folks. Only a few weeks into the Conservative mandate, the House hasn't even come into session yet, and already we are seeing some movement on election promises made. Granted nothing solid has actually happened yet (though Gander may change that situation next week) but all signs are pointing in the right direction. If nothing else it’s a far cry from the Martin school of election promises.

    Does anyone remember the offshore oil revenue promises made by Paul Martin to Newfoundland and Labrador during the previous election? Of course you do and you probably also remember the ensuing battle between the Province and Ottawa simply to have that promise honored. Flags were stripped from flag poles, the Premier stormed out of meetings in the Nation’s capital and people in the Province were up in arms. The battle raged for months before Paul Martin was shamed into complying with his election promise and even then he used the accord agreement as a pawn to prop up his government in the House of Commons by hiding it inside an unpopular budget bill. I may have forgotten to do it at the time so I'd just like to take a second and personally thank Mr. Martin for that one.

    I hate to say it but this time around it seems almost anti-climactic. How much fun can a political junkie have if politicians insist on keeping their promises? I guess we’ll just have to bide our time and hang in there in the hope that sooner or later the guys (and gals) in Ottawa get complacent and start reverting to the old school approach. For the good of the Country let’s hope they don’t but somehow I suspect that if they think they’ve lulled us into a deep sleep then the old “ugly” attitudes will start to creep out once again.

    I think I'll keep these promises and others in mind over the coming months just to see if they are really acted upon. What else do I have to do while our political leaders are actually doing what they were elected to do? When complaining and throwing verbal bricks fails for lack of a target only dogged vigilance remains to keep me warm at night. Politics does indeed make strange bed fellows.


Anonymous said...

Talk about pride! You are really going to look good now!

McCartneys to observe seal pups before hunt
Updated Tue. Feb. 28 2006 1:45 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Heather are set to visit the Maritimes later this week to observe harp seal pups prior to Canada's annual seal hunt.

The Humane Society of the United States says the celebrity couple will highlight the work of animal protection groups that oppose the hunt.

The McCartneys, who are long-time animal rights activists, will take the trip on Thursday and Friday to "highlight the work of two animal protection groups to stop the Canadian seal hunt," the society said in a release.

"Heather and Paul's visit to the seal pups will shine a global media spotlight on this cruel and needless slaughter," said Rebecca Aldworth, the society's director of Canadian wildlife issues.

The hunt generally runs from mid-March through to mid-April, but the timing of this year's hunt is still uncertain.

Meanwhile, warm weather has left much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is normally covered by thick ice, spotted with patches of thin ice.

As harp and hood seals generally give birth to their pups on ice floes, the thin ice could leave many of the young facing a fight for life.

Celebrities have long taken part in protesting against Canada's seal hunt, with the anti-sealing movement reaching its peak in 1977 when Brigitte Bardot cuddled up to baby seals on the ice floes.

In 2005, TV's MacGyver, Richard Dean Anderson, added his voice to the movement.

The Canadian government has endorsed the hunt as a cultural right for many Maritimers -- announcing a management plan in 2003 with a quota of 975,000 seals over three years.

This outraged conservation groups and animal rights activists and protests resumed on the ice floes.

A year later, the federal government estimated there were 5.9 million harp seals on the East Coast, up from two million in the early 1970s. Ottawa estimated the value of the hunt was around $16 million.

In early February, 11 protesters convicted of getting too close to seal hunters in 2005 said they would spend 22 days on a hunger strike in jail rather than pay $1,000 fines.

CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

The Harper-Bloc Axis:

President Lyndon Johnson was a master at counting the votes when he was Senate Majority Leader. He knew that principles counted, but having them passed into legislation meant another set of counting: how many votes did he have?

To understand the dynamics of the Harper government, one must count the votes.

Firstly, the Liberals and NDP are impotent in this Parliament because they do not have enough votes to defeat Harper’s New Tories. So their votes do not count.

Secondly, the balance of power in this Parliament lies with the Bloc. Only they have enough votes to singlehandedly ensure that Harper’s legislation is passed or voted down. So the votes of the Bloc count.

Thirdly, the Harper-Bloc Axis is one of convenience – both sides need each other for certain purposes. Harper needs the Bloc’s votes to pass his program. The Bloc wants to negotiate as much transfer of powers (taxation, other) from the federal government as possible, and so will support Harper if he gives them this.

Fourthly, the Bloc has Liberal Premier Charest boxed in. He cannot be seen to be opposing the transfer of power from Ottawa to Quebec because this will cause him lost support in the next election. So he has to march to the Bloc’s tune and support the Harper-Bloc Axis program of the dismantlement of the Canadian confederation.

Where does that leave Canada?

There is no-one standing up for Canada, and no-one with the votes who will defend Canada.

The only hope for Canada is if it becomes transparent what is taking place, and the citizens start voicing their concerns. The pressure to preserve Canada must now come from the voters, in each and every constituency.

Aided, of course, by progressive bloggers, who are a new force in the political universe.