Da Legal Stuff...

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

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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Call for Boycott of Costco Stores in Canada

Image Courtesy of Our Place in Canada
The Newfoundland Experiment

As has been speculated for weeks, Costco has decided to pull seal oil capsules from its shelves across Canada. When approached for comment by media outlets yesterday and today Costco officials refused to comment, however the Barry Group of Companies, a producer of the product, has confirmed the retailer’s move.

As many people know seal oil capsules are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which have been proven as an effective supplement for the prevention and control of various health problems such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.
According to reports Costco made their decision at the urging of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. An animal rights group, which has been linked with such extremists as Dr. Vlasik, who has publicly stated that he believed that the taking of a few human lives would be worth it to save the animals. The group is lead by an extremist leader, Paul Watson, who has himself been quoted in the past as saying that terrorist tactics were a valid approach to achieving his goals.
I personally find it difficult to believe that a company like Costco would align themselves with such a group and against many of their own customers who value this product.

By removing this supplement from their shelves Costco has decided to support a questionable individual in his effort to adversely impact the sales of a legitimate Canadian product. They have also decided to jeopardize the incomes of some of the the very same local people they expect to continue frequenting their stores.

The hunting of seals is a legitimate and highly regulated activity in Canada. It is sanctioned by the Canadian government and for Costco, as a company that has prospered from Canadian dollars, to take this action is nothing more than a slap in the face to many of their patrons.
I for one intend to boycott this company until such time as they publicly agree to return this valuable and potentially life saving product to their shelves.

I urge anyone who would like to express their concerns over this action directly to Costco can do so through their customer service department at: 1-800 463-3783, or by email at: http://www.costco.ca/en-CA/CustomerService/EmailUs.aspx

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Newfoundland (Celebrates?) 57 Years of Confederation

The end of March will soon be upon us. It's a time of year that means different things to different people. For some folks, primarily sealers and animal rights activists, March brings with it an annual opportunity to reap some sorely needed dollars, no matter which side of the debate you may be on. For others March marks the end of a long cold winter and the beginning of spring rebirth. For many people in Newfoundland and Labrador March 31 also marks the end of a cold, dreary period that was replaced 57 years ago by an even colder shoulder and a poor cousin’s welcome.

March 31, 2006 marks the 57 anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Confederation with Canada. To this day Confederation itself is an event that some in the Province tout as the beginning of our bright future, while others see it as simply the beginning of the end. Regardless of which side of the wharf on which you tie your boat, some facts are indisputable. One basic fact is that it hasn't been a smooth ride.

Newfoundland and Labrador entered Canada by the slimmest of margins, with the referendum vote split almost exactly down the middle. The day we walked through Canada’s proverbial back door, on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland (later to be re-named Newfoundland and Labrador) was given a few much needed crumbs that ensured its survival. It was then immediately assessed by Ottawa for what the land and resources could contribute to the good of the Country, not necessarily that of the people who lived in the Nation's newest Province.

There are those who always like to remind us that Newfoundland was basically bankrupt at the time it entered Canada. True, but I believe I also read somewhere that there was one million dollars in the bank. Not much by today’s standards of course but far better by comparison than the 12 billion dollar debt the Province has accumulated since being taken under Canada’s wing.

The truth is that Newfoundland was truly in dire financial need at the time. Much of the problem was the result of actually pay off its massive war debt from WWII. While Nation after Nation, including some of those very close to home, simply defaulted on their obligations, poor little Newfoundland didn’t and as a result was ripe for the picking when big brother Canada made its play for control.

Has it all been bad since then? It depends on your perspective I guess. What some people see as the benefits this Province has reaped as a result of Confederation others see as a hindrance. In other words, what one man views as support and safety, another may see as a crutch leading to everlasting dependence. It all depends on your perspective I suppose.

The list of potential or imagined pros and cons with regard to Confederation is far too long to recite. In fact, I doubt there is enough paper at an Abitibi-Consolidated newsprint operation to hold that list. Putting aside the “grey shades” of many of those issues, there are definitely certain long standing ones that have never been right since Joey Smallwood put his BIC to the Terms of Union that fateful day. Every day since then that list grows longer.

The list includes everything from a collapsed fishery (managed to extinction by Ottawa), the disappearance of a railway that once ran across the island (Ottawa decided that we didn’t really need that), the people of Labrador traveling hundreds of miles on a National highway that isn’t paved and a population that is ever dwindling because the best and brightest are forced to travel to places like Alberta if they want to find a job.

Would Newfoundland and Labrador have been better off if it had never joined Canada? Who knows, certainly not me. That debate has been going on since that March day in 49, but there is something I wonder somtimes. If the government of the day had simply borrowed 1.5 billion (12 billion by today's dollar value) would we be any worse off than we are now? Could we have used those funds to turn the place around, and would we still have a viable fishery? Remember, at the time you could buy a new house for less than the price of many used cars today.

I guess some folks will look back on March as the first month of spring and they'll begin looking ahead to the showers April will bring. In the mean time I’ll just sit here and contemplate the reality that is today’s Newfoundland and Labrador. I'll wonder what could have been and I’ll wonder too if we really shouldn’t have waited that one extra day before letting Joey sign us up. Maybe it would have been just a little more appropriate that way.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ottawa Fails to Support Atlantic Canada

When will Ottawa finally stand up for Atlantic Canada and simply stop allowing activist groups to use the seal hunt as their annual fund raiser?

Yesterday Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said that DFO intended to continue granting permits to animal rights groups, allowing them to visit the ice and film the hunt. His arguement was that we are conducting a legal hunt in a humane manner and keeping people from seeing the process would make it look like we had something to hide. In my opinion Mr. Hearn's statement is nothing more than a cop out.

When was the last time anyone can recall activist groups being given free reign to video tape the inner workings of a slaughter house? When was the last time they offered public tours of the killing floors in a meat processing plant? The beef, poultry and pork industries do not allow activists to wander around their place of business and for a good reason. What happens isn't very pretty.

Does the public take this ban on general entry as a sign that something wrong is going on inside? No, becuase the industry is monitored and the factories visited by various agencies to ensure that humane treatment and health guidelines are followed. The same should be done in the sealing industry.

Permits to view the hunt should be issued to unbiased, perhaps even international observers, who are willing to report the truth, good or bad, but not to slant it in a way that meets a predefined agenda. Yes, if this were done activist groups would no doubt shout and stamp their feet for a while. They'd probably claim Canada was trying to hide atrocities and they'd lobby to be given access. Let them.

With independent authorities monitoring the hunt and giving the public all the information it needs to make an honest appraisal these groups can yell into the wind all they want but what ammunition would they really be able to use?

When a country is accused of human rights violations the international community will often send independent observers and investigators. They don't allow activist groups who've already made up their minds to appraise the situation. When a country is thought to be dealing with nuclear weapons the international community will have independent inspectors review the situation, not uninformed movie stars or aging musicians.

We've all heard the misinformation some of these activist groups spread. An example of this is the recently published list of restaraunts that are supposedly boycotting Canadian seafood. According to one activist group the boycott is going great and gaining momentum. A consumer group recently contacted over a third of the restaraunts named and found that many were still serving Canadian seafood. Those particular restaraunts did not even know they were on the list. Others contacted were vegetarian restaruaunts that never did serve seafood and many others never served Canadian seafood in the first place. According to the report only about 13% of those listed were actually supporting the anti-seal movement in their boycott.

Can we trust organizations who spread this type of mis-information to honestly appraise the methods and standards employed at the hunt? Mr. Hearn's comment about letting them continue to monitor the hunt is just the latest in a series of sell outs by governments over the years. Can these people not see beyond the ends of their noses.

Yes, we should absolutely allow the hunt to be monitored. In that way we can all ensure that humane and safe practices are employed. Having said that, I believe it's time our government stood up for Atlantic Canada and stopped passing out permits to activist groups, like so much candy. I mean come on folks, are activist groups, who stand to make millions from protesting the hunt, really the ones who should be monitoring it?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

PM Harper Defends Screening of Members Statements

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has publicly responded to what some are saying is an attempt to gag government members and limit what the public gets to hear. Harper was quoted as saying that his desire to have all public comments (speeches, public addresses, press releases etc.), cleared by his office is nothing unusual and is aimed at ensuring that his ministers don't contradict each other.

While Harper defends the approach some are calling it an erosion of public access to their representatives. They feel that the move is intended to limit public knowledge of the workings of government. They also see it as restricting public knowledge of what is happening around any given issue and how the government views that issue or are planning to react.

I have the precisely the opposite opinion, (I bet you knew I would).

I have no problem with a politician from any party presenting his or her point of view publicly, but only if it is clearly understood that the comment is nothing more or less than that, a personal opinion. What we too often see are situations where a government member, or worse yet, a cabinet minister starts spouting off in the media, or in a public statement without making that distinction. The result is a public that is left with the belief that the comment made is the official stance of the government. Often it isn't.

We’ve seen it time and again, a situation where an elected representative begins rolling along and makes some idiotic statement in direct contradiction of party policies and platforms. Sometimes those comments even fly in the face of basic common sense, but that’s another article all together. A good example of this is the flap caused by the Finance Minister when he reportedly blamed the Atlantic Accord deals signed with Newfoundland and Labrador & Nova Scotia for all of the problems inherent in the equalization process.

What Mr. Harper has effectively done is ensure that his government will ultimately be held responsible, at least by the public, for the comments made by its members. By vetting every statement trough the Prime Minister’s office the public will rightfully expect that any comment made going forward by a member of that government has the approval and agreement of the Prime Minister.

This will result in a very limited ability for government members or the government itself to back away fom any statement after the fact. It may even be impossible to do unless the PM is willing to publicly say that the representative who made the statement knowingly ignored a direct order by PM himself. In such a case the public has the obligation to hold the PM’s feet to the fire and should rightfully expect that some form of punishment be meted out.

As I see this as a win/win/win situation, for the public at least. It will:

  • Force politicians to think before they speak;
  • Lead to politicians to clearly identify for the public any remarks that are simply their personal opinions; and
  • Make the PM fully accountable and responsible for living up to what is said in every single solitary comment made by his members;

Now who wouldn’t love that? Come on guys and gals, let's start hearing more of those promises you've always passed out like candy. Bring 'em on!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Confusion Rampant in Sealing Debate

When it comes to the Atlantic Seal hunt, I have to wonder when enough is enough, as far as public opinion polls go. In the battle between the anti and pro hunt sides, opinion polls are used like an AK-47’s to spray the general public, in the hope that some of the bullets will find a vulnerable target.

The recent spate of polls quoted by the media, the government of Canada and various animal rights groups are a great example of polling gone mad. The result is a situation where it doesn't seem to matter which side is right but rather which one has the best promotional staff. Caught in the middle are the sealers and the seals.

Some experts claim that opinion polls by their very nature can be self fulfilling. If you tell everyone that 80% of people refuse to eat blueberries because they cause tooth decay, that by itself may be enough to convince a large segment of the population to stop eating blueberries. In the I.T. world this is what’s known as an “endless loop” and it isn’t a good thing.

Others, including the founder of one the world’s largest polling companies, have recently said that today’s poll are often suspect at best. At one time “cold calling” for public opinion returned a response rate of over 90%, today that number is likely below 30%.

This change in response is primarily due our evolving lifestyles. Many people today simply don’t want to take the time to answer questions and because cell phone usage makes it much more difficult to reach householders, only limited result sets are captured in many polls.

Experts say this can lead to skewed results since the numbers may be largely based on the opinions of a small segment of the population who don’t have much else to do but answer questions, or who are largely averse to advances in technology or other areas. If the belief is true, i would certainly narrow the playing field.

Questions around polling accuracy certainly don’t stop special interest groups on either side of a debate from touting the poll that favors their opinion. Proponents often tend to brush aside any polls that support an opposing view while promoting those that do. As a result we are a public that is only made aware of the specific opinions presented in the article, commentary or news item we are exposed to. I guess the hope of proponents on either side of the issue is that the numbers they present will be the ones that will “self fulfill” themselves.

Let me give you an example.

A March 16, 2006 article, written by Chris Cutter of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, quotes a 2005 poll. This poll supposedly found that 69 percent of Canadians were opposed to the commercial seal hunt. The case being made of course was that Canada should stop the hunt because its citizens are against it. Similar numbers, likely from the same poll, were quoted by musician Paul McCartney during a recent interview on Larry King Live.

On the other side of the debate we find the Department of Fisheries and Oceans recently quoting a February 2005 Ipsos-Reid poll which concluded that 60 per cent of those surveyed were in favor of a “responsible hunt.”

Who is right?

Adding to the confusion of these hand picked results are situations where non-scientific polls are actually manipulated by special interest groups in order to reflect that group’s views. A good example of this is a seal hunt poll conducted on the CTV website. The poll was open to the general public, but there was no concerted effort by CTV to ensure it that the poll was widely publicized. As a result, while members of the general public who wished to express an opinion were left of either find the poll or not, the Animal Alliance of Canada took it upon itself to “rally its troops”, in an effort to control the poll’s results.

The following was contained in an email dated March 16 and written by Karen Levenson, Program Director for the Canadian Seafood Boycott, of the Animal Alliance of Canada. The email was sent to the organization’s mailing list members and states in part:

"Hi Everyone,

CTV has a poll on the Seal Hunt. Please click on the link below. It Will take you to the CTV.ca home page…”

“Please vote "No".

“Please distribute this poll to as many people as possible.”

The email was clearly intended to manipulate the poll’s results. The motive for this action was no doubt to ensure results that could later be used in promotional materials intended to sway public opinion to organization’s side of the debate, the “endless loop” once again. Ms. Levenson didn't even identify for her recipients precisely what the poll question was, she simply asked them to “vote No”.

So what is the real truth? Who should we believe when it comes to the true level of support for Canada’s seal hunt? What do Canadian’s really feel about the issue? I don’t mean, "what does either side want the public to believe" or "What does either side want to make the public believe", simply what do Canadians actually believe.

That, unfortunately, is something we may never know, but I recently came across the results of yet another poll that at least on the surface seems to reflect my belief. I figure that if everyone else is publishing the results of polls that reflect their personal points of view then why shouldn’t I.

This recently released poll highlights the overall lack of knowledge that exists around the entire subject. According to the poll nearly 70% of Canadians admit to having very limited knowledge about the hunt and say they know little about the how it is conducted.

Like other polls I suspect that this result should be taken with a grain of salt, but having said that, I have to admit that the numbers don’t surprise me. With the level of misinformation being published by various media outlets and spread by other means, it wouldn’t be a great shock if the public were more than a little confused over the issue.

Beyond the lack of public understanding suggested in the poll, there is another reason this particular result caught my eye. It interested me because it made me wonder, if we are to believe the results then should we not call into question the results of those other polls, or at the very least take the opinions of those responding to the issue with a large truck load of salt.

Remember, public opinion polls published by various animal rights groups show that 69% of respondents are opposed to the seal harvest. Polls presented by DFO show that 60% of Canadians actually do support the harvest? Yet a recent poll shows that most Canadians admit not really knowing much about the hunt at all. In this light I have to wonder what the people responding to either of the first two polls were basing their opinions on.

With all of these opinions going around it really is confusing but I’d like to share my own opinion on the subject before I sign off.

As far as I’m concerned, if 70% of Canadians don’t actually know the facts surrounding the seal hunt, then their opinions aren’t really of much value one way or the other. At the very least they don’t provide a solid argument for either side to hang its hat on.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Man From Newfoundland

After I wrote my recent article on the derogatory use of the word “Newfie” I received an email from a young lady in Ontario named Valeri. This lady hadn’t yet read the piece but instead had read a commentary of mine written shortly after the Newfoundland and Labrador rink captured their gold medal in Turin. She wanted me to know that she had been touched deeply by the piece and also wanted to share something very special. Considering my previous article, her timing couldn't have been better. I was so touched by her story that I in turn wanted to share it with all of you.

Here is what Valerie had to say:

Today I was sent an email with a copy of your article, "Curling Gold And National Pride in Newfoundland and Labrador", by my favorite Co-worker who happens to have been born and raised in Newfoundland. I really enjoyed the article, found it very informative and just had to share something with you.

My father, God rest his soul, immigrated to Canada from Northern Ireland and settled in Toronto, Ontario years ago. He worked as an electrician at Canada Packers and he always saw the good in people. He was also very good at putting in to words how he felt.

My father was not a professional poet but loved to write poetry. Many years ago he wrote a poem titled "The Man From Newfoundland”.

Back in 1990 he sent a copy of his poem to the Downhomer who published it in December of that year. This is what he said in the note he attached to the poem:

Dear Sir,

I wrote the enclosed poem a few years ago, after hearing some of the negative jokes about the people of Newfoundland. I hope this poem will put Newfoundlanders on that special plateau, which is reserved for hard-working, fun-loving people like themselves.

I am originally from Ireland and I have noticed a striking similarity between the Irish and the people from Newfoundland.

Yours Sincerely,
Les Martin,
Willowdale, Ontario

As I mentioned, he was a very special man who always found the good in everybody and always looked on the bright side of life. I am constantly inspired by his wisdom as I go through life and I am sure many others were as well. Thank you for taking the time to read my note and the poem about the wonderful people from Newfoundland. Thank-you also for offering to share it with your readers, I would love that. I am sure my father would be pleased!

Whenever I am having a bad day, I pull out the poem, read it and become transported away from what was bothering me for a short while. Dad would have been very happy to know that he has touched others even after his passing. I hope you enjoy the poem as much as my friends from Newfoundland have.

Every time I read it, it brings back the beautiful memories that I have of my father.


Thank-you Valerie, I’m sure our readers will enjoy it very much as well.


The Man From Newfoundland
By Les Martin
Dec 18, 1931- March 19, 1999

You will meet him as you go through life
And he’ll always shake your hand
You can count, when you’re in trouble
On the man from Newfoundland

When some folks talk about him
Telling jokes which aren’t too grand
You can tell that they are jealous
Of the man from Newfoundland

From St. John’s to the Grand Banks
And all through this great land
You’ll never find another
Like the man from Newfoundland

He’ll invite you in and treat you well
And when you drink his brand
He’ll tell you all the stories
Of good old Newfoundland

In Corner Brook or Marystown
When you’re dancing to a band
Just listen to the fiddler
He’s the man from Newfoundland

Perhaps some day you’ll meet him
Then you will understand
Why he makes the world a better place
The man from Newfoundland

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

From Newfies to Niggers and Other Terms of Endearment

As a proud Newfoundlander it makes my skin to crawl and my blood pressure spike whenever I hear people use the word “Newfie” in a derogatory way. I’ve come to see this word in the same way I see words like “Nigger”, “Kyke” or “Polack”. Each of those words are extremely disturbing to hear, just as disturbing to commit to paper and I hope even more disturbing for you to read.

I believe the reason such words are so repulsive is that they serve no purpose other than to belittle and insult an entire group of people. Unfortunately, unlike many other words of their kind “Newfie” is still a term that remains acceptable for use in general conversation.

You often come across “Newfie” in the most unexpected places. No place is immune, the work place, business meetings, news articles and even in the comments of less enlightened government officials. Sometimes the term is used by someone who simply doesn’t realize it is offensive to many people, but more often than not it’s clearly intended to send a message. The message is that the speaker doesn’t respect Newfoundlanders in the least and that views, beliefs, or anything else related them, are insignificant and simply don't matter.

For years “Newfie” jokes have made the rounds and for just as many years Newfoundlanders have kept quiet when hearing them. Perhaps in this way, and in continuing to use the word ourselves on occasion, we’ve been our own worst enemy. For far too long we’ve let this word live and spread around the globe with all of its ugly connotations firmly in place. Perhaps it’s finally time we began saying something when we hear it used again. Maybe it’s time we stopped using the word in our own conversations. Maybe too it’s time we began educating others that it’s not O.K. to for them to use the word “Newfie” under any circumstances.

A clear case of someone using the word “Newfie” in the vilest manner was reported just this week in Western newspapers. The story related how an Edmonton police officer listed someone’s status as "newphie" on an official document while detaining them under the Mental Health Act. The officer was eventually charged with discreditable conduct and given a warning for stating in the document that one of the reasons for apprehending the person was because: "He is a newphie."

My first thought on reading this story was to wonder about the mental capacity of the officer involved, not the person apprehended. This wonderment was only reinforced by the fact that the officer didn’t even know how to spell the word correctly. Once my initial anger settled I began to think less about the officer involved and more about a system that only saw fit to issue a simple warning over the incident.

It seems no matter how hard the people of Newfoundland and Labrador struggle to improve their place in this Country there are always those who are more than willing to knock us back down, just as there are those who will look the other way when it happens.

There will always racists who continue to use the term “Newfie” for all it implies. Perhaps this officer is one of those people, though I sincerely hope he isn’t. The people who refuse to stop using the word will doubtlessly be the same ones who refuse to move away from using other derogatory terms when speaking about people outside their limited circle. Those situations I can understand even while disliking the people involved. Having said that, is it too much to ask that this one word be treated like others of its kind and for the word to be recognized as socially unacceptable to use? Is it too much to ask that using the word “Newfie” be considered taboo at the very least and perhaps even racist at its worst?

The common factor with words like “Nigger”, “Kyke” and “Polack” is their ability to lower the status of an entire people and to verbally assault those people by making them feel belittled and uncomfortable. Use of the word “Newfie” is no different than using those other words, so why is its use still acceptable in an age when using those other words is not?

There will no doubt be those who will laugh off this situation and see it as just another “Newfie” blowing things out of preportion. They will claim that Newfoundlanders are not a distinct people like some other groups so there isn't a problem. Those people need to consider the following:

1. What this particular officer did shows a clear lack of seriousness regarding the gravity of the incident he was addressing.

2. His actions show a lack of empathy and understanding for the impact such a charge might have on the person being apprehended.

3. The officer displayed a level of ignorance and racism that would likely have been addressed more severely by his superiors if a term such as “Nigger” had been used in that document.

This situation has arisen, at least in part, because of the accepted use of the word “Newfie” and all that implies. In the eyes of this officer and his superiors Newfoundlanders are “insignificant” enough that this is not a major issue for them.

If you don’t believe a simple word like "Newfie" can have that much of an impact, think about this:

In this particular incident a Canadian citizen was denied his right to freedom by a law enforcement officer partly, according to the officer’s own words, because the man was from Newfoundland. The officer's punishment was a warning.

Do I need to say more?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Conservatives Flex Their Intellectual Muscle

What is it about the new Conservative government that makes it so dysfunctional? We all know the previous Liberal government was little more than a corrupt old boy network but at least they had the excuse of too many years in office and the resulting attitude of entitlement. What excuse can the Conservative government possibly have, after only two months in office, for displaying the combined mental capacity and communication skills of a bunch of dyslexic chimpanzees?

Back in December and January the Harper clan all climbed aboard their pick-up trucks and toured the Country blasting their Liberal predecessors for corruption and calling for the creation a new more accountable government. “Stand up for Canada” they shouted, vowing to create an elected senate and fix the equalization process, all in an effort to address fiscal imbalance. Ahhh, it seems so long ago.

Here it is March and already Conservative platform promises are disappearing faster than a snow bank on a rainy day in June. Since being elected this bunch has already bribed a member of the “corrupt” Liberal party to join their ranks and appointed an unelected, unaccountable crony to the senate and cabinet. Now, in their latest display of mental incapacity, the federal Finance Minister is whining to anyone who will listen that offshore oil revenue deals inked between the Liberals, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador have made a mess of equalization calculations. I guess that’s the Conservative equivalent of a chimp throwing feces around. Hell its like starving your dog for weeks and then blaming him because he started rooting through the garbage can.

My first thought is, “Has this guy even read the platform statements he was elected on?”

The Minister Jim Flaherty has been busy over the past week stirring up animosity between the provinces over the perceived inequity of those so called “side deals”. He’s been instrumental in reminding Saskatchewan that it didn’t get the same deal, in stirring the pot of dissatisfaction that already exists in Ontario and he’s been making it look like the two Atlantic Provinces involved are the main reason the equalization process isn’t working. I guess in Conservative circles that’s a productive week. At least these guys haven’t yet managed to start World War III or bring down a plague of locusts around the globe. At least I don’t think they did but I haven’t had a chance to see what the Foreign Affairs office has been up to lately.

The truth is that the deal signed with Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland and Labrador excludes all revenues from offshore oil when calculating equalization payments, nothing more and nothing less. Is that different than the calculation for other Provinces? Yes I guess it is, and the Minister is right that it creates two separate methods of calculation, but why is that a problem? If Mr. Flaherty simply took a few minutes from his hectic media babbling sessions to read his party’s platform, or even speak with someone inside the party, he might see the solution right in front of his face.

During the election the Conservatives proudly promised to remove all non-renewable natural resource revenues from the calculation of Provincial equalization payments. All the Minister has to do is make good on that promise and the problem goes away. Why this person would instead choose to stir the media pot about a non issue is beyond me. Is it because the intention of the new government is to break this election promise? Is it because the Minister is like one of those guys who hangs out in the local bar starting fights for no reason, or is it simply because the Prime Minister Bonzo has made another brilliant strategic move by naming the dumbest chimp in the pack to the finance portfolio? What’s next, an international trade deal with Honduras? I can read the headlines now, “Canada trades Technology for Bananas.”

If nothing else the Harper government is making great strides in their plant to build a stronger Canadian Armed Forces. The way I see it, if these guys continue running things the way they are now, they may have accidentally stumbled on a way for Canada to create the biggest volunteer army in the world. Hell, by the time the House of Commons actually opens, most Canadians may be just too happy to get shipped off to Afghanistan or Haiti. At least those Countries are working to improve their democratic systems and stabilize their governments. Here at home we don’t have a clue what our government is trying to do, but that’s not the scariest part, what’s really scary is that they don’t have a clue either.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Web Talk Celebrates Major Milestone

Well folks, Saturday March 11 marks a major milestone for Web Talk Newfoundland and Labrador. On Saturday our site, your site, will celebrate its one year anniversary. I have to say I’ve enjoyed ever minute of that time and I actually find it hard to believe it’s been a year already.

When I initially decided to start this venture my intentions were clear in my mind. At the time I simply wanted to provide public voice to my own views and those of others on topics related to the Newfoundland and Labrador experience in Canada. Today I believe we are still providing that venue and every day our readers as well as our contributors continue to increase.

I recall the first few weeks when I was quite happy to check the hit counter on the site and discover that we had receive 5 or 6 visits from inside the province. Over time as new commentaries were published and new issues were discussed the numbers continued to grow from the low twenties to the forties and then from double to triple digits each day.

Today as I look at the hit counter for this web site I can see we are receiving hundreds of visitors a day and thousands per month. Visitors are coming to us from over 15 countries around the world and from nearly every Province across Canada. Somewhere someone is listening and although our views may be controversial at time at least they are being heard.

Over the past year we have discussed a wide range of topics from the fishing industry to offshore oil revenues. From U.S. rocket boosters crashing off our shores to federal elections. From Churchill Falls power to Federal and Provincial powers. From the seal hunts and fixed links to job hunts and fixed elections. We’ve remembered our fallen soldiers and tried to forget our disgraced politicians. No topic of interest to our people has been brushed aside and no comment, on either side of an issue, that has presented comments in a clean and non-vulgar manner has been censored.

The commentaries that appeared only on this site only a short year ago now often appear in newspapers and web sites around the globe. I have seen them published in Toronto, Alberta, Florida, Australia and even Russia. Not bad progress in such a short time.

I have to admit that writing an average of 3 to 4 commentaries a week while working at my actual living (yes I do have a job folks, not everyone in our Province is unemployed, lazy or to dumb to work) has been a difficult one at times. Having said that I don’t think I’d trade the opportunity for anything.

I have met some great folks over the past year including other web site editors, bloggers and contributors to our comments section. All of them have shared in our success whether it be by publishing one of our commentaries, placing a link on their site, making a comment that exposes a new idea or challenges us to respond they have all moved us forward in some way.

I have to say I’m proud that we are still here. I’m proud that we are finding an ever growing audience and I’m doubly proud that we have remained true to the initial intent of this site.

Thank you everyone for your contributions to this site. Without those who contribute, even if it’s only in stopping by and reading an article, we would not be where we are today. I wish you all the best and I’m sure with your continued support and contributions we will keep this site going for a long time to come.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

From Beatles to Seals or “That’s No Lady, That’s My Wife”

We all know an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant, but can a Beatle save the seals?

The answer is probably not.

Late last week ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife Heather visited the gulf region near PEI (although they thought they were in Newfoundland and Labrador). The photo op played itself out as those things usually do with doe eyed baby seals in the foreground being fawned over by even more doe eyed celebrities in the background.

The McCartney visit to the ice is the latest in a string of many others of its kind that have taken place over the decades with everyone from Martin Sheen to Brigitte Bardot. Although there was really nothing new about the visit, one that has become an annual right of passage for every eco-centric, “hurray for everything” activist on the planet, the publicity following it was perhaps a little more pronounced than most.

The level of attention isn’t really surprising however since that was obviously the intention of the Humane Society of the U.S. when they invited the McCartney’s to, as Paul said, “Witness the event.” Of course nobody is quite sure exactly to which event he was referring since neither he nor Heather actually witnessed anything except perhaps for some questionable film footage and a few cuddly looking seal pups. As a side note one of those cuddly looking seals proved it wasn’t really that cuddly after all when it tried to bite the hand of the latest Missus M.

During the visit both Paul and Heather found the time to hook up with CNN for an appearance on the Larry King Live program where the former Beatle and the former guest host of the program were both given the royal treatment by the obviously liberal leaning Larry. Although King was very careful to not appear as to be a proponent for either side of the issue he and his producers did see fit to allow the McCartney’s a clearly unfair advantage during the broadcast.

For the first half of the program the pop pseudo-royals were given free reign to discuss their personal point of view while multiple clips of seal hunt footage ran both before and after multiple commercial breaks. All of this took place prior to the McCartney’s facing any sort of rebuttal from the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. Add to this Larry King’s repeated reference to the McCartney’s as “Sir Paul” and “Lady Heather” and then addressing a Canadian Provincial Premier as “Danny” and the outcome was a forgone conclusion.

They say you can’t fight feelings with logical facts and by the time Premier Williams hit the airwaves the minds of most viewers had no doubt already been made up. When you add to this the elevated status given to the McCartney’s, the disrespect shown to Premier Williams (I bet Larry wouldn’t address a U.S. Governor on air as “Jimmy” or “Tommy”) and the un-lady like, argumentative and controlling manner of “She’s no Lady” Heather, and her constant interruption of the Premier and it’s obvious that the truth didn’t stand much of a chance of actually being heard.

Given the reality of Premier Williams being confronted with an obviously biased situation where he was intended to portray the villain of the piece, all in all he comported himself quite well and actually managed to score a few small points despite the eye rolling, facial expressions and total lack of volume control exhibited by Heather McCartney.

To the argument that most seals were clubbed Premier Williams replied that 90% are actually taken by firearms not clubs. To the view that the hunt has no purpose but to supply the fur industry Williams replied with a list of products for which seals are used, including fur, food, oil and omega 3 fatty acids (used for medicinal purposes).

Perhaps William’s best shot across the bow of the HMS McCartney (after clarifying for them that weren’t actually where they thought they were) was when he invited them to take up the cause of protecting the Atlantic Cod which, unlike the healthy seal population, has actually teetering on the brink of extinction for years.

Williams asked the McCartney’s for assistance in curbing foreign over fishing by European nations that has been a major impact to cod stocks for decades. (Isn’t Paul from somewhere over in Europe, hmmm?) McCartney’s response was less than stellar on that request when he replied, “One cause at a time Danny, one cause at a time.” I guess cod just aren’t quite cute enough, but in McCartney’s defense, it really is difficult to take a good publicity picture with a doe eyed cod fish, believe me I’ve tried it.

Of course the “pro-seal” arguments were nothing new in fact they’ve all been used before, including using emotion to negate actual facts. That said I did find the McCartney’s comments about the boycott of Canadian sea food by some U.S. restaurants slightly interesting. The McCartney’s quoted lost sales to Canada as over a hundred million dollars and said they couldn’t understand why the Canadian government wouldn’t simply shut down the seal industry (worth an estimated 16 million) in order to save those sea food sales. As I said, I those comments interesting but certainly not mind changing.

The McCartney’s are correct when they mention a restaurant boycott but I question if the actual losses quoted are correct. Yes, I concede that government sources say the boycott has resulted in lost sales in the U.S. but living in a fishing community where fish harvesters were on the water all of last season I have to say I haven’t actually seen any crab, lobster or shrimp rotting on wharves or piling up in fish plants. This is likely because U.S. restaurants aren’t the only market for these quality products and like any valued product when one market shuts down another one isn’t too hard to find.

No, I’m quite sure the Canadian sea food industry will survive despite a U.S. boycott, although the inferior products some of the restaurants involved may be forced to serve to their patrons could result in more than a few of them permanently closing their doors.

The truth is that even if there was a huge economic impact to Canada from such a boycott, that impact in and of itself wouldn’t be a valid reason to allow special interest groups to shut down a legal, sustainable widely accepted industry.

With the mind set of many U.S. citizens in mind I’m sure many (even those who oppose the seal harvest) can understand why you don’t back down when you honestly believe you are not doing anything wrong and you certainly don’t back down simply because someone is attempting to blackmail, intimidate or coerce you into doing so. An example of this is easy to find. I for one don’t like the fact that Heather McCartney is referred to as a Lady but I bet if I started a national boycott of steak and kidney pudding the Queen wouldn’t actually revoke her title. (Or would she? Hmmm, now there’s a thought.)

The visit by the McCartney’s didn’t do much to change opinions on the subject either in Newfoundland and Labrador or within the Canadian government. The aftermath of the event was also pretty much the same as it always is.

On my own website at www.freenewfoundlandlabrador.blogspot.com the comments are pretty much the same as always. The pro seal hunt folks continue to quote un-listened too facts to the activist contingent while many of the same people who cringe at the thought of harming any animal use vulgar language and threats to further their cause. According to the Premier’s office government email has been flooded with thousands of correspondence. Most of it is supportive of the Premier’s stance while some of it (I’m betting un-supportive ones) includes threatening and even violent comments.

If nothing else was accomplished because of the Larry King Live program at least it woke up our federal politicians. Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn has since extended an invitation to Sir Paul to actually visit Newfoundland and Labrador (for real this time) and meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper (or as Lady Heather refers to him, “Steve”).

I like the idea of federal representatives finally stepping up to the plate. In reality the seal harvest is a Canadian industry taken part in by other Atlantic Provinces and Quebec. It isn’t just a Newfoundland and Labrador issue. The appearance on Larry King Live by Premier Williams was simply evidence that there is at least one government official with enough intestinal fortitude to take it on the chin for the national good.

I doubt the McCartney’s will actually take the government up on the offer since they’ve probably already moved on to more pressing business like saving children in Haiti or stopping child prostitution in Thailand (oh that’s right they aren’t involved in those less important causes are they?). Never the less I hope they do accept but maybe this time around Paul should try doing what he said he was open to doing, listening to all sides of the issue. Perhaps he might also want to consider leaving Heather (or as I’ve come to refer to her: Yoko the sequel) back at their humble home in Switzerland. That way someone besides the good lady might actually manage to get a few words in side ways.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Paul McCartney Swindled by Activist Group

Well folks today I've seen it all. Paul McCartney and his wife lying on an ice flow with a cute little white coat seal and telling everyone they are in Newfoundland (pronounced NewFinlend) to try to stop the slaughter of these animals. It was indeed a surreal sight. (By the way his wife almost lost a few fingers when a seal pup she was petting like a dog decided to turn around and make a snap at them. I guess as cuddly as these animals look the McCartneys now should realize these are predatory wild animals, not pets.)

How misled was Mr. McCartney? According to all reports Mr. McCartney was not even in the Newfoundland area but on the ice off of Prince Edward Island. First lie fed to the man who no doubt didn't know the difference. Secondly, he posed with a cute white coat leading people to believe there was a slaughter of them underway. The fact is I don't believe Mr. McCartney even realizes that there is not white coat hunt anywhere in North America and hasn't been for decades.

Finally reports say that while enroute to PEI Mr. McCartney was in discussion with a federal fisheries representative to whom Mr. McCartney said he was under the impression that there was an issue with conservation and protection of the seals and that populations were falling. The truth is that the herd is actually estimated at between 5.8 and 7 million seals (bigger than it has been in decades) and growing. An example of excellent conservation and management success beyond anything ever done in fisheries itself.

I don't doubt for a minute that Mr. McCartney is sincere in his efforts but I feel just as strongly that he has been lied to. It is obvious he doesn't know the facts about the population, the non-white coat hunt or for that matter even where he was visiting.

As a side note, Premier Danny Williams requested an opportunity to discuss the hunt with McCartney during his stop over in this Province on his way to PEI but that meeting never took place. Instead when the McCartneys appear tonight at 10 Eastern on Larry King Live the Premier will deliver a taped message intended to educate the McCartneys and the viewing audience.

I have to say I wish him luck. Apparently federal officials were approached but none had the guts to step up to the plate. Instead Premier Williams will appear not to represent Newfoundland and Labrador specifically but to speak for Ottawa. I guess the folks on the Hill found their scape goat.

I'm sure Premier Williams knows enough about the issues to send a clear message but I have doubts about the format. My concern is that his video message will (a) be edited and not show all of his points, (b) it will allow the McCartneys or any other guests to refute or argue against him without providing him the ability to respond directly and (c) that it will give the McCartneys the last word.

I sincerely hope it doesn't work out that way but I have my doubts. Premier Williams has been placed between a rock and a harder rock. If he doesn't appear he will be blasted for not standing up for Newfoundland at home while the activists will claim he was afraid to face the "facts" as they see them. If he does appear under this format he will be an open target with no defence. I guess the folks who should be standing up on this issue (Harper or Hearn) saw the perils of the situation and figured better that Newfoundland and Labrador take the heat than the entire Country.