Da Legal Stuff...

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Consultation or Confrontation

Consultation or Confrontation, those are the words being spun by Conservative Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, in his current media blitz leading to the latest round of NAFO discussions. Great alliteration huh, can’t you just picture those Ottawa spin doctors sitting around, sipping latte’s and trying to come up with that catchy phrase? A phrase intended to placate the public about their mishandling of the fisheries and to stick in our collective mind like such other keepers as “Make my day” or “Where’s the beef?”, which, by the way, are my thoughts exactly. Where the hell is the beef in that statement and when will Mr. Hearn or anyone else in Ottawa go ahead and, “make my day”?

Of course the fisheries minister’s plan is consultation rather than confrontation, but I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you that. Just the fact that Ottawa feels the need to feed Canadians a catch phrase about how they plan to either slow down or speed up the destruction of North Atlantic fish stocks says it all doesn’t it? I say speed up or slow down the destruction because if you’re like me, a long hard look at the results to date leaves me wondering exactly which it is they’re trying to accomplish.

When Loyola Hearn sat in the opposition benches he knew what needed to be done and, though you would never say it, he knows it now. Custodial management of the fisheries and Canadian control of the Grand Banks was, and is, the only solution. Now that he’s gotten the big job, like his predecessors, Mr. Hearn seems to feel that talk is the best course of action. Sorry Loyola, but the time for talk is over. That foreign fishing ship has sailed.

For decades Atlantic Canadians have watched a once vital and vibrant resource dwindle and die. For just as long we’ve heard politician after politician promise to resolve the issue of over fishing through NAFO and for as many years those discussions have done nothing to improve the situation. In fact they may even have done more harm than good. Today there are hundreds of foreign ships raping the Grand Banks while, as local comedic talent Buddy Wasisname said about the state of the fishery, “since the moratorium we been feeding Kraft Dinner to the gulls”.

I know the truth, the fishers know the truth and Loyola Hearn certainly knows the truth, even if he won’t admit it these days. Simply put, NAFO is a useless organization made up of greedy countries all looking for a piece of the pie when it comes to the fishery off our shores. Talking about protecting fish stocks today is not going to get Canada any further than it got us over the years and that’s a fact. During the election campaign, the Conservative party and Mr. Hearn specifically, promised to invoke custodial management if elected. So what happened? Come on Loyola, stop the BS and do your job!

Eventually, and perhaps sooner than the Conservatives would like, another election will be rolling around the corner. Mr. Hearn had better not expect to come back to Newfoundland and Labrador telling everyone about his great accomplishments in the fisheries portfolio. He shouldn’t expect to come back with renewed talks of taking control of our waters and invoking custodial management. No Mr. Hearn, you’ve already played that card and you don’t get to play it twice. In fact, don’t come back to the province at all unless you are willing, before the road to the next election campaign even begins, to send some navy ships out to the Grand Banks, invoke custodial management and start firing at anything out there that floats.

The people of Atlantic Canada are watching you very closely Mr. Hearn and you can bet that commentaries like this one will continue to become more and more common as the next election approaches. The time for talk is over. The time for action is now. Get some gun boats and send them forth before it’s too late. It’s time to start blowing some boats out of the water and it’s time to start representing your people to Ottawa rather than representing Ottawa to your people.

Monday, August 28, 2006

INCO Employees Back Miners at Voisey's Bay

Hat’s off to the Steelworkers at Inco’s processing plants in Thompson, Manitoba and Sudbury, Ontario, who have publicly vowed to back mine workers at the Voisey’s Bay mine site by refusing to process any ore concentrate shipped from that location until the strike there is settled.

Just a few days ago, Ray Goldie a spokesman for Inco, said the company was not concerned about their bottom line and was in fact “cleaning up in the marketplace” because they had shipped enough nickel concentrate from the mine prior to the strike to supply their operations long enough to wait out the union. Well think again Ray. You may have plenty of ore but it isn’t going to do you much good if the fine folks working at your smelters refuse to process it.
Talks are currently at a stand still and it was looking more and more like Inco was willing to leave workers out in the cold and basically starve them into submission. It is hoped that this move by Steelworkers at the two primary smelters where Voisey’s bay ore is processed will bring an end to the standoff.

Currently workers at the mine are reported to be making as much as $30,000 less per year than their counterparts in other Inco operations in Canada and the benefit packages provided to workers at the Newfoundland and Labrador operation are sub standard. Adding to these insults is the fact that employees are expected to endure sort of treatment while having to put up with the obvious travel and employment dangers inherent in working at a remote location.

Once again, I’d like to offer a hearty thank-you to the fine folks at both the Thompson and Sudbury operations. Even though their employers may feel that the folks in Newfoundland and Labrador are nothing but second class citizens to be used as a cheap source of labor, apparently Inco’s workers do not and are telling the company exactly that. Good on you!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Highway Robbery

Promises, promises, promises, like the hot steamy air emanating from a candidates mouth during a cold winter election campaign, they rise on the prevailing winds for a brief moment before drifting away on a wisp of vapor. Such is the case with the promises made and the promises broken by Ottawa’s new conservative elite.

On a national level the big issue is the back sliding Canada’s PM has been doing over his promise/preference to remove non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization formula. While that’s undoubtedly a hot button issue in resource rich and economically poor Newfoundland and Labrador, it isn’t the only broken, or at least delayed, promise that so easily dripped from Stephen Harper’s well fed maw while jockeying for every possible vote down east last Christmas.

During the election campaign the future PM also promised to cost share the paving of the Trans Labrador Highway. As a result of that promise the cash strapped province budgeted millions to cover its share of the effort. To date the feds have yet to pony up one red cent even though the Combined Councils of Labrador, a group of municipal town leaders, has been pushing for them to do so. The Trans Labrador Highway, which consists of mainly gravel road, has been a major thorn in the side of the area for decades and is a danger to anyone using it.

In addition to the highway robbery being committed Harper’s little band of rogues, other promises such as re-instituting the weather center at Gander Newfoundland and posting a rapid response team at 5 Wing Goose Bay, in Labrador, have not yet been fulfilled. At this point people are starting to wonder if they will ever see any movement on these files or if they will remain dead until magically appearing once again only when the nays beat the yeas in the House of Commons and the election trail heats up once more.

I know where I’d place my bets.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Is VOCM Being Used as a Propaganda Tool?

Recently VOCM radio has been airing a story entitled, “From the Daughter of a Soldier”. According to the station’s disclaimer, VOCM was simply sent the story and makes no claims on its authenticity. The piece is about the interaction of a child who’s Father is in Afghanistan and a Canadian soldier leaving for that part of the world. Its wording it contains and the timing of the release of the letter, when Canada is experiencing high mortality rates in the conflict makes the entire thing suspect at best and raises a lot of questions that should be answered. Here are some excerpts:

“…greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.”

“…When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for it hit me. I'm not alone. I'm not the only red blooded Canadian who still loves this country…” “… I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work and home without fear or reprisal…”
“…thank God for them and their sacrifices. At the end of the day, it's good to be a Canadian.”

Is it just me, or is this thing dripping with the sort of cheesy, patriotic propaganda we often see from south of the border? I, like most people, support the men and women of the Forces and pray they return safely, but come on, “red blooded Canadian”, “…so we can go to school, work and home without fear of reprisal”, “It’s good to be Canadian”. Does anyone else smell something a distasteful here?

A request to VOCM for contact information on their source along with other research has been unsuccessful in uncovering the author. This leads my conspiratorial little grey cells to work overtime and they tell me there’s something wrong. They tell me there is at least a possibility that a federal government spin doctor is behind the pen and paper that created this story. I ask myself, “if it was a true story wouldn’t the author be more than willing to step forward?”

In the real world when any government begins taking heat for a military conflict, one of the first things they do is to rally support by bombarding voters with sappy, “wrap your self in the flag” rhetoric. This piece reeks of that and I suspect there is a reason for it.

I have no way of proving that there is anything unsavory about the letter, but then again VOCM admits they haven’t validated it either and that bothers me more than anything. It unnerves me that a radio station, especially one that with so many journalism awards and so well respected by its listeners, could be convinced so easily to promote this story.

The tale may be heartwarming and no doubt is being embraced by the public, but if it is pure propaganda, wouldn’t that be the reaction it was intended to produce. There’s a growing voice for power in Newfoundland and Labrador these days and the fact that this letter mysteriously arrived at a local radio station unsolicited leads me to suspect that it may be someone’s idea of the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone? Could this be an attempt to rally support for Afghanistan while fosteing feelings of Canadian patriotism in a Province with a high number of sons and daughters in the armed forces?

Granted this has not been presented as a news story by the station, but it is incumbent on all news agencies to ensure that high standards of integrity are maintained at all times. In this light, it might be advisable for VOCM and its award winning staff to dig a little deeper and to uncover exactly who or what is behind “From the Daughter of a Soldier”. If not to protect the public from potential manipulation then at least to protect their own reputation and ensure that they aren’t being used as a propaganda machine by the Canadian government or the military.

Friday, August 18, 2006

When is a Promise just a Preference

I guess the status quo hasn’t changed any with the changing of the guard in Ottawa last January. The Liberals may have raised their bloated heads out of the pork barrel for a while but their replacements, the new Conservative government, have now stepped up to the trough, started filling their bellies and are getting down to the tough job of breaking the promises they made during the last election campaign. Like any good leader, right at the front of the line to say things like, “well I didn’t really mean that”, is none other than the Prime Porker himself Stephen Harper.

With the recent breakdown in equalization talks between the provinces, it now falls to the PM to make the tough decisions on how each province will share our tax dollars. No doubt there are a lot of factors that need to be considered before a final decision is made, not the least of which will be how to please both Ontario and Quebec, but there is one issue that should not be open to debate yet seems to be causing a great deal of fuss at the moment.

The removal of non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization formula was a clear and undeniable promise made by Stephen Harper while buying votes in the last election. It was a promise that was known to all the provinces, whether they are among those who would benefit from the move or not, and while the promise didn’t stop anyone from electing a Conservative government, it may very well have convinced some voters to cast a ballot in their direction. Now, after only half a year in office, the PM is claiming that removing those revenues is his “preference” but not really a promise. Really Mr. Harper, let me quote directly from a letter you sent to Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador just prior to your election last January.

Stephen Harper:

“A Conservative government would support changes to the equalization program to ensure provinces and territories have the opportunity to develop their economies and sustain important core social services. We will remove non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable service sectors across Canada. The Conservative government will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula.”

That sure doesn’t read like a mere “preference” to me. The reason the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador asked for this promise in the first place is clear. From a the province’s perspective the impact of not removing those revenues may be lessened by the offshore revenue deal that was extracted from a screaming and crying Paul Martin before his disgraceful exodus but that’s as far as it goes. The offshore deal is only a short term one and eventually those revenues will once again be clawed back. The upshot of that will likely be a major blow to the province in the same way it currently is to places like Saskatchewan.

Come on Steve, who do you think your fooling here? Saskatchewan knows you’ve promised this and they want it. Newfoundland and Labrador wants it. Nova Scotia wants it. Alberta wants it. I know Ontario and Quebec don’t like the idea since they have little or no resource revenues to speak of, but for once is it possible for a politician to do what they said they would do, not simply pander to the voters of Canada’s two behemoths.

Remember Steve, the voters are the ones who put you in your nice comfy office with the gold plated feeding trough. The voters are also the ones who can take it all away from you. Right now you’re looking for support in Ontario and Quebec and that’s understandable, but no matter what you do, you will never please 100% of the voters in both those places, that’s a Canadian reality you have to live with. Another reality is that when it comes to the big crunch in the next election you WILL need votes right across the country. You better start thinking about that now and hoping that those votes will be there when you need them. As things stand, our local neighborhoods may very well be visited by pink little political porkers with outstretched hooves begging for move votes long before the much more appreciated Easter bunny gets a chance to make his own rounds.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fisheries Minister Presides Over Cod Stock Destruction


In a recent email to Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn I asked the Minister if it was his government's intention to invoke custodial managment over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the flemish Cap. Here was his very political response:

Loyola Hearn: As I have stated on several occasions, I have every intention of taking every available opportunity to deal with this challenge. We have several initiatives underway which all lead in the same direction.

I then pressed him in a follow up email to answer the question of custodial management directly and informed him that I expected a response within 5 business days. Now, weeks later, there has still been no response from Mr. Hearn. A far cry from the direct statement he made during election campaign in January. At that time Mr. Hearn said for the record:

Loyola Hearn: Our party initiated the idea of custodial management. We had a resolution to that effect passed in Parliament. In our policy statements we commit to taking custodial management if we become government.

The commentary:

So, if you live in Newfoundland or Labrador, did you actually make it out on the salt water over the past few of weeks to catch the 5 fish per day you have been permitted to take during August? Boy isn’t it grand how Ottawa has finally let us have access to the fish off our coast? Now we can catch enough for the odd meal or two before the season is over. I just hope they see fit to let us do it all over again a year from now and I believe they just might, if we are all really good and don’t do anything to “rock the boat” so to speak.

If you detected the strong smell of sarcasm in the previous paragraph you get an big ‘A’ for paying attention, if you didn’t, then you’re likely a member of the Canadian government. I mean come on folks, enough is enough, either the fish stocks are in trouble and need protection or they’re not, which is it?

On one hand we have the Fisheries Minister telling Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans over and over just how lucky they are to be able to get out on the water for a few days. Then, the next thing you know he’s all over the news warning everyone to be good little boys and girls and not to abuse this wonderful thing he’s done. No sir, you better not abuse this gift he’s bestowed by or you’ll lose it quicker than you can say, “Please pass the hard bread and water”. After all everyone needs to do their part to protect this delicate species right? Wrong, apparently Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are expected to do their part but not Ottawa itself and certainly not the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

While Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are being made to feel like naughty little children, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is busy giving foreign fishers free reign in to catch tons of fish in the same waters. Just a few weeks ago Loyola Hearn announced that several North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) countries will be deploying patrol vessels off our shores in order to help Canada protect the area from illegal foreign fishing. How stupid does he think people are? Consider if you will that these patrol vessels will be sent from the very countries that have an estimated 100+ fishing boats plying those very waters daily, countries that subsidize those illegal fishing enterprises with hundreds of millions of dollars a year so they can afford to sail here and return to their home ports profitably.

In another bold move Minister Loyola Hearn proudly announced the creation of a blacklist for vessels and countries that are caught illegally fishing in the NAFO region. These countries will be denied access to ports and other sanctions may be taken against them if they are discovered breaking the law. Great news right, wrong again. Once again the announcement is little more than a bad case of the Ottawa spin doctors at their sleazy best.

The statement sounds great until you read the fine print. It’s there that you’ll discover that while the blacklist will impact some smaller offenders like the Dominican Republic, Cyprus and Panama, the list will not be used against vessels from NAFO member countries. Nations like Spain, Portugal, Iceland, and others, nations that are often considered the worst offenders in the area. Instead Canada will depend on the patrol vessels sent from these very countries to arrest their own people, charge them when they return to their home ports and ensure that they are convicted and punished by the very governments that are assisting them to fish here illegally.

Now, as if to add insult to injury and clearly prove once and for all exactly how stupid Ottawa believes the public is, local lawyer and columnist Averill Baker identified in a recent article that tender calls have gone out in the U.S. for fishing quotas off the Newfoundland coast.
Apparently these quotas will be available to U.S. fishers only (not Canadian and certainly not Newfoundland or Labrador fishers). They will include everything from redfish to squid, shrimp, to yellowtail flounder and hake to skate. Some of you may be thinking, “Well at least the government isn’t allowing them to catch cod”, sorry, wrong again. When you consider that fishing vessels are permitted a certain level of by-catch based on their overall quota, the end result is that tons of cod fish will sail out of the area and wind up in U.S. processing plants. Not the 5 fish per person and not 15 fish per boat that locals have been granted the gift of taking from the water, but tons of cod fish and every ounce of it will be fully sanctioned by Ottawa.

Way to go Minister Hearn and well done all our representatives in Ottawa! What’s next, contracting Russian or British navy vessels to sink any Canadian fishing boats that might venture from port? Why not, you may as well just kill them outright rather than waiting for the slow death you’re currently presiding.

Monday, August 14, 2006

In Persuit of the Pink, White and Green

I’ve long been a proponent of an empowered and emboldened Newfoundland and Labrador but I have to admit there are times when I question whether or not my words, and those of others, are falling on deaf ears. At times there seems to be strong movement afoot to re-take control of our destiny, but at others this sentiment seems almost non-existent, a figment of an overactive imagination if you will. It’s at times like these, when frustrations run high and apathy creeps into the old bones, that a little dash of encouragement goes a long, long way.

Having lived just outside the city of St. John’s for the past decade now, I sometimes wonder if the new economic reality in this area has been the catalyst spurring people here into thinking about alternatives to the status quo. Those thoughts, by their very nature, lead one to the suspicion that perhaps, as is the case with many other issues in these parts, that the rest of the Province might not give a rat’s ass about examining our political future or the potential of a “made right here” NL. I wonder if perhaps keeping body and soul together and a roof over their heads might lead some to consider such thoughts to be little more than the musings of those in far better straits. I don’t wonder anymore.

My travels over the past weeks have taken me to places as diverse as Clarenville, Gander, Lewisporte, Bishop’s Falls, Deer Lake, Corner Brooke, Rocky Harbour, Cow Head, and into Southern Labrador. Without exception, in each and every town and community I visited, or even passed through along the way, I was met with a sight that caused my heart to swell and my mental load to lighten. The pink, white and green standard that so many people on the Avalon have embraced as an emblem of provincial pride is alive and flourishing across the land.

Throughout the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador the PWG flag can be seen flying from gate posts, flagpoles, rooftops and sign posts. I’ve seen it soaring over places of business like the Warehouse Theatre in Cow Head. I’ve seen it emblazoned on hats and shirts worn by everyone from teenagers on up and as much as some of my acquaintances in Labrador may claim that this “townie flag” has no presence in their portion of the Province, I’ve seen it with my own baby blues, flying from multiple homes in the big land. (I won’t identify the specific communities in order to protect the innocent).

During my travels I’ve seen these beautiful colours adorning everything from license plates to slabs of rock, including one massive map of the island (in pink, white and green) painted on stone near the Fogo Island ferry.

In nearly every gift shop, to which I was dragged while on my sabbatical, I was afforded the opportunity to pick up some multi-coloured doodad or another, including fridge magnets, bumper stickers, patches and pins. There seems to be no end to the presence of the pink, white and green across this land and no limit to the number of people willing to proudly display their pride of place.

If anything could have brought home to me the belief that something new and exciting may actually be happening in this province, that perhaps the desire to shake things up is more than just a “townie fad”, my recent travels did just that. Vacations are intended to re-charge the batteries and refocus one’s sense of direction. I have to say that this is exactly what traveling around our beautiful homeland has done for at least one Newfoundlander this summer.

As a side note, if there was one thing that didn’t sit well with me regarding our “new old” flag, it was the odd occasion when I witnessed the corruption of the PWG by a certain mainland firm. I’d like to pass along a quick comment to the Montreal based company, that I won’t name here, which is currently flogging their version of the flag at local discount stores. Simply put, Pink is pink, it’s not purple, it’s not mauve and it’s certainly not puce (I got that last one form my wife). Come on, if you are going to take advantage of our pride in order to turn a quick buck the least you can do is show us some respect by getting the colours right.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Dominion of Canuckistan

Since I'm still enjoying my tour (sabatacle?) of the Province, I haven't had the opportunity to put together any new commentaries lately, however I thought I'd take a minute to publish this one which I originally wrote the July 22 edition of the Independent. Enjoy.

When you think about it, Newfoundland and Labrador, along with most other Canadian provinces, is little more than a glorified colony to the great Ontario metropolis, with the exception of Quebec that is. Quebec’s great struggle for independence — though not yet successful in its primary objective — has resulted in a situation where the rest of the country has wound up sitting on the sidelines of a battle of the titans. A battle for the biggest bone of them all, who will eventually be the top dog in a two-dog fight and who gets to pick the carcass of Canada clean.

With 308 seats in the House of Commons and 181of those in Quebec and the big O, it doesn’t take Rex Murphy or even Rex Goudie to figure out where that leaves the rest of us. In a nutshell, the boys’ club is full and they aren’t taking any new members. In that context, Newfoundland and Labrador’s seven seats don’t even register on the Ottawa radar and as long as the colonies keep the supplies pouring in, everyone who really matters in this dominion will be contented and maybe, just maybe, they won’t crush us for the sport.

As things stand, the role of the other Canadian provinces, or as I prefer to call us, the colonies, is little more than that of supplier to the great insatiable appetite of central Canada. The purpose of good old Newfoundland and Labrador, as it is with the other colonies, is to supply iron, nickel, uranium, gold and copper to satiate the appetite of the great smelters of metropolis. We are here to cut down forests so they can build their multi-million dollar hobbit holes and ensure that the great Ontario court has a steady supply of paper for their “national” newspapers and personal toiletry needs, both of which are interchangeable.

We are expected to suck our land and ocean’s dry of every last drop of oil and gas so, as the old song used to say, “… their derrieres won’t freeze” — likely when they expose them for us to kiss. Oh yes, let’s not forget, we are also expected to smile sweetly and bow our heads in respect when the great metropolites bestow upon us whatever pittance our unworthy slovenly selves might be given by their grace.

One hell of an existence, isn’t it? Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all rape, pillage and plunder, no sir, not in the great Dominion of Canuckistan. We hear wonderful stories from time to time about how Newfoundland and Labrador is now second only to Alberta when it comes to leading the nation in economic growth. Sounds great until you realize that in Newfoundland if someone sells a gallon of blueberries near the overpass our numbers skyrocket into uncharted territory. If we keep our eye on the ball, who knows, some day, God willing, our revenues may even surpass those of a KFC outlet in Toronto. We’ll get some pat on the head then, eh? (I hope our revenues aren’t capped at the capacity of some Ontario chicken outlet. I’ll have to look into that.)

Simply put, Newfoundland and Labrador has about 500,000 people, or at least we did until the latest mass exodus. In other words, this place has the population of a small- to medium-sized North American city. We have huge oil and gas reserves, a landscape that’s a tourist’s dream, more mineral deposits than my Aunt Lucy’s bathtub, enough hydro power to supply 1,000 Sprung greenhouses and that’s not even considering the potential for a properly managed and rebuilt fishery, our human resources and our greatest untapped resource of all, a stubborn streak as wide as the Atlantic. With all of those riches available to our little city-state, has anyone ever stopped to ask the simple question: “Why the hell are we always one step ahead of the bill collector?”

Maybe it’s time for someone to ask that question. Maybe it’s time to find out if we’d be better off just sitting back and depending on the largesse of Ontario’s royalty or if we should jump in the pool and try to sink or swim on our own.

Thanks to the creative financial management of the great metropolis, the colony of Newfoundland and Labrador can barely survive on the pittance it’s allowed to keep. Maybe it’s time we took a step back, took a long hard look at ourselves and cut the apron strings. Maybe we should just bite the bullet, save up the damage deposit and go get a place of our own. I’ll be happy to chip in on the groceries, help cover the lights and whatever else I can do. Who’s with me? Hell, at least then if we starve to death we can always say we did it to ourselves. It’s either that or we can continue to sit on the couch and watch while our colony is robbed blind before our very eyes.

So which is it, should I ask Mr. Cleary if I can place an ad (in the Independent)for a nice big apartment or are we simply going to look for a good deal on a used couch that sits half a million?