Da Legal Stuff...

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will the Last Person Out Please Turn Off the LIghts?

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

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

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

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

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

Would the last person out please turn off the lights?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lower Churchill - Last Chance for Newfoundland and Labrador

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

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

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”

Averill Baker
The Nor'wester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is Transport Canada Fee Gouging in Newfoundland and Labrador

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Will Lower Churchill Be Another Giveaway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Politics Makes Strange Bed Fellows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2006

Press Release: Fur Institute of Canada

Fur Institute of Canada’s Sealing Committee

For almost twenty-five years, the Fur Institute of Canada has played an effective role as a ‘round table’ for addressing wildlife conservation and animal welfare issues. Consistent with our commitment to improved understanding and appreciation of the role played by rural and Aboriginal people in wildlife conservation, the Board of Directors has recently created a new Committee to provide leadership on the sealing issue.

The interest in having such a body emerged from an all-day "think tank" hosted by the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami in their Ottawa office in January 2005 and attended by representatives of Aboriginal people, the scientific community, east coast sealers, industry, conservation groups, the health community, and federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The Sealing Committee will act as a network for seal-related issues and work with all stakeholders from government and the private sector to provide balanced stories on Conservation/Marine Management, Animal Welfare, Socio-Economics and Human Health.

Campaigns which show graphic photos or make emotional statements may raise millions of dollars for the benefit of anti-animal use groups, but they do nothing for the conservation or welfare of the wildlife. In fact, these self-described ‘environmentalists’ care little for the environment or for the effect their campaigns will have on the true environmentalists, those people who support themselves through the conservation and sustainable use of the renewable resources of the land and sea.

Currently, the governments of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the European Union are considering new import bans on seal products. While they are, no doubt, well intentioned and believe they are promoting conservation and respectful use of wildlife, these governments have been grossly misinformed.

As Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), all of these countries are committed to the implementation of the CBD’s three main principles: conservation, sustainable use, and sharing the benefits derived from, renewable resources. The imposition of trade barriers on products coming from abundant seal populations will be contrary not only to this commitment, but also to the sustainable use philosophy of the IUCN, the World Conservation Union.

We are puzzled too by what appears to be a policy disconnect – some would call it a double-standard – whereby ‘proper conservation’ for abundant wild species within the European Union, such as deer or muskrat, seems to require one set of values, while ‘proper conservation’ for largely non-EU species, such as seals, appears to require another set of values.

The Fur Institute of Canada’s Sealing Committee will endeavour to create a better understanding of real conservation values through promotion of messages such as those outlined on the attached page (See comments section for details). We are in the process of building a website, (www.sealsandsealing.net), to provide a venue where the network of people who believe in seal conservation can share real stories from real people with legislators, the media and the general public.

From the many comments we have received since the Sealing Committee’s inception, the feeling is that this is long overdue. If you would like to be added to our mailing list for sealing related information, or to contribute in any way, please contact Fur Institute of Canada Executive Director Rob Cahill at (613) 231-7099, or e-mail at info@fur.ca.


Bruce Williams

Why is Fighting for What's Right Considered "Fed-Bashing"?

In a recent Globe and Mail article, reporter Daniel Leblanc, covered the Newfoundland and Labrador PC convention and the tense relationship between the province’s premier and the visiting prime minister. It strikes me as odd that the attitude of reporters and likely the general public, outside the province is so different that it is inside. In the piece the reporter referenced the “latest round of fed-bashing” and noted that it would be popular in the province.

It’s an interesting spin on the situation. From the local perspective the issues that exist between the two levels of government have nothing to do with “fed-bashing”. In fact if anyone is being bashed it’s the province, not Ottawa.
Consider what it is that Newfoundland and Labrador is trying to get the prime minister to agree on.

One key point is equalization. Most provinces who have been blessed with non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas, agree that it should be removed from the formula for determining federal funding. The reason is simple, these resources have a very limited lifespan and if the revenues they generate are clawed back by Ottawa then the province does not have these funds necessary to build and diversify its economy in a way that would eventually allow it to move off of equalization all together and require even less from Ottawa.

In addition to the removal of non-renewable resources, one plan being considered by Ottawa as a potential change to equalization would see every province in Canada receive additional funding while only one, Newfoundland and Labrador, would receive less. Equalization is enshrined in Canada and is designed to allow all of the provinces to provide similar levels of service, such as health care, at essentially the same levels of taxation. In essence, what the plan under consideration would do is take funding away from one of the provinces least able to provide those services and which already has the highest levels of taxation in the nation.

It is also a fact that Mr. Harper, in a signed letter to the premier during the last election, promised exactly these things. His letter stated that non-renewable resources would be removed from the equalization calculations and that no province would be worse off as a result of changes to the system. Both of these promises are now being ignored by the prime minister.

The other major issue the province is fighting is the lack of support in Ottawa for fallow field legislation. This type of legislation would allow the province to force oil companies to develop properties in a set time frame or they would lose their rights to them. It is similar to legislation already in place in provinces like Alberta. Think about it. A big oil company finds billions of barrels of oil and decides that because their busy on other projects or because they are in no rush to develop it, they will simply sit on it for 20, 30 or even 50 years. Meanwhile the province has no ability to do anything to move the project forward. Apparently Ottawa sees no problem with this.

The problem the province has with it is the reality that if the oil were under the land, as it is in Alberta or Saskatchewan fallow field legislation would not be an issue because the province would have total control. Since the oil and gas in these parts lies under the water it’s a different story and Ottawa has to agree to the legislation. Fallow field legislation is nothing new. Other provinces have it in place already but with Ottawa standing in the way, it won’t happen in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As I said, I don’t see the current tensions between the premier and prime minister as “fed-bashing”, not at all. What I and most people in the province see, is a premier who is simply trying to get Ottawa to live up to its obligations east of Quebec rather than the historical approach of most Canadian leaders which has been to continually side against the province on major issues of concern.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Canada to Abandon Military Defense of Newfoundland and Labrador

A recent senate committee report has characterized the air base at Goose Bay Labrador as a “Boondoggle” and claims it has no military value for Canada. The report suggests that the Canadian government should walk away from the base instead of proceeding with its plan to deploy a 650 person rapid response team at the site and it uses a multitude of colorful language when speaking of just how useless the place is to the nation. In addition to its attack on the base itself, the report also says government should not continue with its plans to its purchase icebreakers for the Canadian navy to be used in arctic and Northern patrols.

Is it just me or does this sound like a very short sighted recommendation by a bunch of central Canadian bureaucrats with their heads firmly lodged someplace the sun hasn’t ever shined? Perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps instead this report is the result of some heavy behind the scenes lobbing by MPs, special interest groups or even military bases in other parts of the Country that would prefer the money went their way. Either way it’s a sad day for Canada.

At a public forum in St. John’s this week the senate committee members who attended were asked what this would mean for Canada’s ability to defend its Eastern most border, which stretches all the way from the southern tip of Newfoundland, along the coast of Labrador and up into the Arctic. The response was that Canada could not afford to protect this area. Nothing more, nothing less but simply that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which essentially makes up the entire eastern flank of the nation, was on its own.

This is nothing new of course since there has essentially been no military presence in the province for years and aside from the obligatory fly in during election campaigns the entire area has all but been abandoned by Ottawa.

The brain trust in Ottawa has apparently decided that since the fall of the Soviet Union, the only areas of concern are nations on the Pacific side of our continent and therefore there is no need to defend our Atlantic borders. They’ve determined that there is no need to protect against invasion or attack from the east and no need to protect our Arctic regions.

Never mind that as the North West Passage continues to thaw it becomes easier for vessels to take advantage of Canadian waters. It doesn’t matter because without a presence there we won’t even notice.

Never mind that foreign vessels are raping our fishing grounds on the East coast every day because if we don’t have a presence off our shores we won’t notice that either.

Never mind that rogue nations such as North Korea now have nuclear capabilities, which if combined with their known intercontinental missiles, would allow them to attack the U.S. via an Arctic flight route. It doesn’t matter because by the time anyone notices the missiles coming it will be too late to worry about anything except what position you would prefer to have your corpse found in.

There are two North American gateways to the arctic. One is through the Pacific via Alaska and the other is through the Atlantic via Labrador. I wonder how the American government feels about protecting its gateway? I also wonder about the mentality of any government that would even consider a report like the one this senate committee has produced, not to mention the senators who actually produced it.

Where on earth will you find another nation that couldn’t care less about protecting two of its three most vulnerable borders from potential attack? While the Western coast of Canada has a viable military presence, the Eastern most coastline and the Arctic region does not. Can someone tell me, where but Canada would a member of the senate actually tell the citizens of one of its Country’s provinces that the nation can’t afford to protect them militarily, that they don’t plan on trying and that the province is on its own?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Minister of Fisheries Sells Out National Interests.

I’d like to publicly call for an RCMP investigation into the whereabouts of Loyola Hearn. I don’t mean the guy parading around Ottawa pretending to be the Minister of Fisheries, no, in fact they should start the investigation by asking that guy, “Where is Mr. Hearn and what have you done with him?”

When Loyola Hearn sat in opposition he told anyone who would listen about what needed to be done to protect fish stocks. That was before he had the power to actually do anything so it was easier I guess. He shouted louder than anyone that taking control of the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap was the only way to protect species from foreign vessels bent on raping the ocean of every living thing. He pounded the table, fought in the trenches and bent the ear of anyone who would listen and it worked. It got him elected. That was then, this is now.

Where is that Loyola Hearn now? He certainly isn’t the same man who sits on the government side of the House and who now has the power to do something but isn’t. The powerless Mr. Hearn screamed that custodial management was the only solution. Now that the empowered Mr. Hearn has assumed the top job in fisheries he, like other MPs before him (Liberal John Efford immediately springs to mind) seems to feel that the best course of action is to side with the foreign affairs office and to represent Ottawa to his constituents rather than the other way around.

According to Mr. Hearn, if Canada took control of these nursery areas it might offend some of our trading partners. I don’t know about anyone else but I personally find it extremely offensive that our trading partners have no problem destroying fish habitat that Canadian fishermen depend on for centuries and I find it disgusting that Mr. Hearn is all too happy to let them do it.

For decades Canada has idly watched as a vital, vibrant and valuable resource has dwindled and died. For just as long politician after politician has done nothing about it. Now, instead of taking control and actually doing what he was elected to do, save a dying resource, protect fish stocks and help coastal fishing communities, Mr. Hearn has decided to simply give it all away once and for all and get it off his plate.

Instead of taking control of fishing practices the Canadian government has issued public tender calls in the U.S. for fishers to catch quotas of various species inside Canadian waters. They have also decided to use foreign patrols to police the area outside the 200 mile economic zone in an effort to identify illegal fishing vessels. Fishing vessels that are subsidized by the same governments who own the patrol boats and who pay the salaries of those now being assigned to arrest and prosecute the offenders.

Rather than fighting for custodial management, Mr. Hearn has signed a much touted agreement with NAFO which he claims will protect fish stocks. The new deal would see illegal vessels boarded however the captain of the rogue vessel will be permitted to decide where in the world he wishes to dock and enforcement officers have no choice but to leave the rogue vessel if requested to do so. Oh, I almost forgot the best part. The government that subsidized the illegal fishing activity in the first place will determine the punishment to be meted out. Does this sound like a good system to anyone except Loyola Hearn and perhaps the Minister of Foreign Affairs?

Adding insult to injury, Mr. Hearn most recently decided that even though most of the world supports a UN sponsored ban on bottom dragging fishing gear, gear known to strip the sea bed clean and leave nothing but a lifeless wasteland behind, his government will not support it. Hell, even George W., not a man known for his level of intelligence, recognizes that this ban as a no-brainer. Apparently Loyola H. doesn’t.

Instead of supporting the ban, Mr. Hearn has once again taken the side of rogue nations known for their destructive activities on the high seas in areas including very Grand Banks nurseries he claims to be protecting. Hearn isn’t actually saying he supports foreign fishing fleets over his own countrymen though. Instead he is attempting to put a different spin on it by saying that the science doesn’t provide all the information needed for him to support a ban. I guess the old adage, “Perception is Reality” was never truer.

Mr. Hearn has taken his stance even though documents released by DFO just this summer show that the trawl gear can strip the ocean floor so clean that it can take hundreds of years to recover, if it does at all. It also shows that some species never return to those areas after the destruction has taken place. Unfortunately the same document also says that since it can take centuries for the environment to rebuild itself the studies done to date, which only cover only a few decades, do not tell the whole story. I guess this is the lack of full scientific information he refers too.

It looks like our government intends to study this issue for several more centuries so they can see for themselves what happens when you run a massive scraper over a fragile sea bed. Maybe they’re depending on Loyola’s great, great grandson to make the call on bottom dragging. I doubt he’ll have too though because at the rate the fish stocks and the ocean floor itself are being destroyed there won’t be any fish left to protect in a couple of decades. Good work Mr. Hearn.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Canada's Colonial Empire

How is Canada still managing to hold itself together after all these years? It may sound like I’m asking that question facetiously but I’m not, not at all. Why has it not disintegrated, even though it’s should be obvious to even the dimmest among us, that Canada is essentially made up of two provinces and a cluster of territorial colonies. Let’s face it, there are only two provinces as far as Ottawa is concerned and one of those has itself been flirting with hopping the next bus out of town for decades, so why not the rest of us?

Both the west and the east have no voice in what happens or where we are all heading in this Country. Oh, by the way, when I say “east” I’m referring to the real east, you know that little cluster of provinces just right of Quebec on the map in your kid’s geography book. At least I think it’s still included on Canadian maps but you never know these days.

The only thing the governments of Quebec or Ontario have to do is yell loud enough about wanting a more lucrative equalization deal and “Poof!” it’s done. Never mind that it means the rest of the Country will have to tighten its metaphorical belt. Hell, a few less dialysis machines in our hospitals and a steady supply of 1960’s encyclopedias for the classrooms out this way might even be character building.

Looking for a huge federal influx of cash to keep your auto plant or aircraft factory from going bankrupt? Not a problem, as long as you’re in big O or the mighty Q.

Do you need a few sympathetic judges on the Supreme Court of Canada? Then you better hope you live in a place where the hockey players wear red jerseys and a big C on their chests because if you hail from a place like Newfoundland and Labrador you won’t even find one. It’s like the commercial says, Never had it, never will.

Simply put, Ontario and Quebec are the biggest kids on the block and every year they solidify their strangle hold on the playground in Ottawa. Don’t get me wrong, I’m don’t have an issue with those provinces using their political might to make things better for their people, in fact I applaud them. They’d be crazy not too use it. My problem is with a federal political that nurtures two provinces at the expense of the other eight.

The only thing that exists outside these two behemoths, as far as Ottawa is concerned, is a vast empire of resources for their consumption. The rest of us are simply poor peasants (yes, even in oil rich Alberta) who are meant to serve it up and smile while we do it.

Let’s try seeing what Ottawa sees when they look at us shall we?

Newfoundland and Labrador – Petroleum, fish, forest products & minerals.
PEI – Lobster & potatoes;
Nova Scotia – petroleum, fish & coal;
New Brunswick – forest products and potatoes;
Manitoba – Wheat, wheat, wheat & more wheat;
Saskatchewan – petroleum & wheat;
Alberta – petroleum, beef & wheat;
BC – Lumber, fish & some wicked good weed;

That’s it folks. That’s all we are to the Ottawa elite. I know, I know, I can hear you all out there in the great expanse mumbling that your province has more to offer than just that. You’d be right of course. We all do, but I’d love to see you convince the federal leaders from Canada’s two provinces. Just try telling it to some MPs from the big two. I can see the expression of utter dismissal on their faces already. Just try telling them that there are people in Nova Scotia manufacturing products or in Newfoundland producing goods. I can here the response now. “Yeah, sure they are. But beer in buckets in their basements doesn’t count.”

It’s a harsh reality but that’s all we are to Ottawa and we might as well face it. We’re nothing more than resource rich clumps of soil populated by ignorant serfs. We, the people of the wilderness are peasants who are expected to supply Canada (read Quebec & Ontario) with raw materials, drink our homemade slurry and mind our manners while we wait for them to something else that they want and we have.

So, I’ll ask my question once again. How is Canada still managing to hold itself together after all these years? I really want to know because I’ll be damned to hell if I can figure it out.

Oh, one more thing. I realize my commentary neglected to mention the Canadian territories but I figured they had been so forgotten by Ottawa that they might just prefer to be left alone. I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell the feds where their hiding.