Da Legal Stuff...

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Well folks, Christmas is finally upon us so I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best. We may not always agree on points of concern, sometimes angry words are exchanged and there are even those who visit here that would prefer every Newfoundlander and Labradorian would get washed out to sea (or in the case of WJM, just every Newfoundlander). That doesn't matter today because this is a time for all of us to put aside our differences and spend time with our loved ones.

I'll be taking a little break during the holiday season but I'll be back again in the new Year. I hope you will as well.

Happy Holidays, keep safe and (INSERT PREFERRED DEVINITY HERE) Bless you all.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who WIll Speak for Newfoundland and Labrador

By Myles Higgins & Darren Fancey

Today several groups in the province stood together to deliver the message that the time has come for everyone to stand up and speak for Newfoundland and Labrador. No longer is it good enough to simply wait for someone else to do something. No longer is it good enough to depend on politicians. The time has come for each and every person in the province to make a stand and make a future for the province.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL) in partnerhip with groups like the Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth (FINALY), The Community Linkages Concept Committee (CLCC) and the Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmer's Forum (NLYFF) launched a new web site today, WeStand.ca, a site intended as a venue for youth to share ideas and discuss their futures. These groups were joined by bright and talented Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, artists and entrepreneurs like Shelly Broomfield, Jill Curran, Jamie Baker, Rhonda Tulk-Lane, Chan Wiseman, our very own Steve Penney, Ray Johnson and Rex Goudie.

Together they delivered a simple yet powerful message: that the will and passion of the Newfoundland and Labrador people will be the strength that drives this province into future prosperity. The message was directed at the teachers and parents of our youth to instill in them the positive spirit of Newfoundland and Labrador. To encourage them to believe that the choice work in Newfoundland and Labrador, that the choice to be innovative and create new industry and ideas is attainable right here at home. The message was also directed at those who would challenge the idea of revitalizing rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and would discourage our youth from following their dreams. The message for the nay-sayers is that a fundamental shift in thinking is necessary to drive the positive force that is our youth and that the time has come to take charge of our own futures.

The conference opened with the inspirational words of Ray Johnson of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers. Ray is Chairperson of the Flambro Head Heritage Society, Acting Chair of the Community Linkages Concept Committee and a member of NLDL. He shared his passion for the province and spoke of the choices our youth have in front of them.

“...some of us must make the choice to leave, others wonder if they have a choice to stay.”

When questioned on how we can resolve the choice of our youth to stay Ray responded “With inventiveness” He spoke of the hard-work and ingenuity that has built this great land. The never-say-die attitude of past generations who made it work because they had to; because the bond with their home strengthened their resolve. We as Newfoundland and Labradorians have to recapture some of that attitude and ingenuity and with it we will prosper.

The conference also highlighted by some of examples of the ingenuity and drive of our youth who have managed to build successes in rural Newfoundland and Labrador:

Jill Curran returned to N&L and built a business in Ferryland offering a unique tourism experience. Her venture called Lighthouse Picnics has grown from a makeshift roadside stand to a business which employs seven people. She spoke about increasing rural economic development.

Jamie Baker is a columnist originally from Dildo spoke passionately about the need for regionalization.

On Youth issues Steve Penney of the NLDL spoke about education and the obstacles of student debt.

Shelley Broomfield is an Innuit from Labrador who is a brilliant mind and well-spoken Labradorian who told the conference about Aboriginal Youth Issues.

Rhonda Tulk-Lane of FINALY spoke about out-migration and her own experience in taking the leap of faith to return to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chan Wiseman of the Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers Forum used his experience growing up in a farming family to speak about diversifying rural Newfoundland and Labrador economies beyond one-industry towns.

To close the list of guest speaker Rex Goudie, who went through hell and high-water to make sure he was able to make it to the conference, spoke about valuing where we come from and what we have. Without any notes Rex spoke from the heart, describing seeing so many of his classmates and friends working out west. He spoke of the simple pleasures that he grew up with and still looks forward to when he returns to Newfoundland and Labrador.

The conference closed with a final thought from Ray Johnson who asked, “Who will speak for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?”. His answer: “I Will. You Will. We Will.”

All organizations and individuals involved are convinced that there is a future for rural Newfoundland and Labrador and they are determined that the press conference today will be just the beginning of further efforts to ensure that change is pushed from the bottom up since successive govenments in the province have done little to save the province they all love.

Monday, December 18, 2006

NL Groups Hosting Star studded Press Conference on December 20th

Is Rural Newfoundland and Labrador Alive?

Is there a choice for our youth growing up in rural Newfoundland and Labrador?

Are there success stories among all the doom and gloom we so often hear?

The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL) says there is!

The Newfoundland and Labrador Young Farmers Forum says there is!

Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador Youth (FINALY) says there is!

The Community Linkages Concept Committee (CLCC) says there is!

Watch your local news coverage on Wednesday Dec 20th for a press conference containing more on how we can all play our part. The conference will include guest speakers:

Ray Johnson of Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellas and a member of both the CLCC and NLDL, young entrepeneurs like Chan Wiseman of the Young Farmers Forum, Shelly Broomfield, Jill Curran and special guest, platinum award winning musician and proud son of Newfoundland and Labrador, Rex Goudie!

Other well known names will also be in attendance so make sure to tune in and check your local papers the next day for further coverage.

Stay tuned Newfoundland and Labrador.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Free Speech, Spin Doctors and Black Lists

I’m not one to hold back when it comes to speaking out on something I don’t agree with. That said, today I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to the editorial staff of the Independent, Newfoundland and Labrador’s only truly local newspaper. A paper that by and large is a stand up publication when it comes to provincial issues. I’ve been a reader of the Indy since its inception a few years ago and have even contributed to its content from time to time, but I had to do a double take upon reading a few of the paper’s articles over the past month or so.

It all started on when the paper published a guest column from a gentleman by the name of Harry Tucker, not a letter to the editor mind you, but a full fledged column. In his column Mr. Tucker spoke of coming back to Newfoundland in an attempt to leverage his New York experience for the benefit of the people here. Helping to grow our economy and make a difference is indeed a laudable endeavor to say the least. Unfortunately Harry felt that he ran into what he saw as a defeatist attitude and according to him that wouldn’t let him do what he wanted to do, so he planned to return to his American home with no intention of letting his children or grandchildren grow up in such a defeatist environment.

Following on the heals of Harry Tucker’s controversial article, the Independent published not one, but two separate articles, in which they quoted an economist who spoke of his belief that the province has no option other than to sell all the power from the Lower Churchill via the Quebec corridor. According to this so called expert the Quebec route is the only viable one. My immediate reaction was to question this person’s motives, a valid reaction when, upon reading further, I discovered that he hails from, of all places, Quebec. Who knows, maybe he’s right, but it sure does make me wonder where his loyalties lie.

According to this Quebec economist, the underwater route to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick would require the use of untested technology and is simply not feasible. Never mind that many countries around the world have used similar technology spanning much larger distances, with less power and have enjoyed great success.

He went on to say that the Lower Churchill project, as well as those at planned for development by Hydro Quebec just outside the Labrador border, will not be viable unless the projects share the cost of transmission. Could it be that this statement alone reveals the answer to at least one economist’s take on the world?

The Lower Churchill will produce 2800 megawatts of power and can easily stand on its own. Personally I’d rather see the power from the project used to attract industry inside the province, but never the less I believe it can be developed and transmitted in a cost effective manner no matter what the route. I can easily believe however that the Hydro Quebec projects, which will generate far less power, are not as economically viable. This of course makes one wonder if perhaps the motivation of the economist quoted might simply be an attempt to convince the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to pick up a good chunk of the transmission costs for that project. If that’s the case it’s a cute little ploy and one I can understand someone dreaming it up. My question is, why in the hell would the Independent promote two separate articles on the subject?

As I noted above I’ll try, as long as possible at least, to give the Independent the benefit of the doubt. I believe the paper’s editor, Ryan Cleary, and I have developed a sort of mutual respect for each other over the past year or so and I hope he’ll take this article in the spirit it’s intended. Recently the paper published some less than flattering articles about Premier Danny Williams and the Premier hasn’t spoken to anyone from the publication since. Hopefully Ryan is a little more reasonable and won’t shut the door on me from here on in but whatever the outcome, damn the torpedoes, free speech is free speech right?

A big part of the reason I’m willing to hold out hope for the paper is because of, believe it or not, Harry Tucker himself, the gentleman who wrote that the less than flattering article about the “negative” people here. Since writing the article Harry seems to have softened his stance just a little bit and has even decided joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL.org), a very pro-active and pro-NL group. In defense of his article Mr. Tucker recently commented to one NLDL member that his comments were meant to, “drop a verbal bomb”, that would get people riled up. It worked. My only hope is that in giving so much ink to this Quebec economist Ryan and the good folks at the Indy were trying to do something similar. I can always hope right?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Globe and Mail Seeks HSUS "Seal" of Approval

Once again we find ourselves treated to another slanted, narrow minded and painfully misinformed article from the brain trust at the Globe and Mail. Adding his name to the ever growing list of columnists with one lonely brain cell, a list that includes the infamous Margaret Wente, is none other than their newest purveyor of piffle, Chris Morris. A writer who most likely gained any knowledge he has of seals from 1960’s National Geographic magazines, the Flipper TV series and a visit or two to Toronto Zoo.

In an article thinly disguised as a news report on sealers in Quebec, PEI and Newfoundland & Labrador who have requested tighter regulations, Morris clearly abandoned any semblance of unbiased journalism in favour of pressing his personal agenda to the paper’s already misinformed readers. Don’t get me wrong, I love opinion pieces as much as the next guy, even if I don’t always agree with their content, but if you’re going down that road don’t disguise it as a news article. In all aspects of life there are certain lines that you don’t cross, dressing up an opinion piece as an unbiased news story is one of them.

In the article, the title of which contains the words: Hatred and confrontation on the blood-stained Ice floes, (my first thought was hell no, there can’t be an ounce of bias in this article) Morris says the sealers, “… want Ottawa to establish tighter regulations governing the growing number of hunt observers, most of them from groups dedicated to the protection of wildlife.”

Lord help me. Where has this guy been for the past several decades? Groups dedicated to animal “protection” include the World Wildlife Fund, the SPCA and a handful of others, who, by the way, are not protesting the seal harvest. Animal protection groups do not include the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), PETA or the Sea Shepherd Society. These groups are not interested in protecting animal. They are animal rights groups, not animal protection groups and there’s a big difference.

What these groups espouse is awarding animals precisely the same “human” rights as you or I have. In other words it wouldn’t matter what an animal was being utilized for (commercial, medical, food) or how humane the process was, these groups are against it, end of story. As far as they are concerned everyone on star ship earth should eat tofu and drink green tea all day. In their eyes not one single solitary animal should ever be used for any reason what so ever. Starve if you must but Bambi must be protected at all costs.

These groups have nothing to do with animal protection but rather the promotion “animal rights”, an unrealistic, utopian vision. They are promoting a vision of a world where everyone lives in harmony and sheep lay down with lions. Sure, it might be a nice daydream and I’d love to live there myself, but forcing this vision upon reality is a different story. Put a sheep next to a lion and see how fast you get my point.

In pretending to present the government’s position that the use of high powered rifles is causing concern for the safety of sealers and protestors alike, Morris’ bias shines through once again. Instead of speaking with someone who might know a thing or two about hunting safety Morris chose instead to interview Rebecca Aldsworth of the Humane Society of the United States. Ms Aldsworth began her diatribe by talking about the “pro-sealing Minister” and said she, “believes observing the hunt is a right, not a privilege.” She went on to say that observers, already have to stay at least 10 metres from harvesters.

Thank-you Mr. Morris for ensuring that Ms. Aldsworth got her propaganda quota filled once again this week. By publishing her “pro-sealing Minister” statement and her other five or six “message riddled” quotes I’m sure you made her day. If I were writing the piece however I might have asked Ms Aldsworth to tell me if, since she believes observation is a right instead of a privilege, she would like government to fly in animals from around the world to observe the harvest. I mean she believes that animals have all the same rights as a person doesn’t she?

I’d also ask her what she knows about hunting safety especially since she believes that 10 metres is a safe distance from someone firing a high powered rifle. She obviously has a little bit to learn on the subject. Maybe a bullet or two whizzing past her ear this spring will help her get the message loud and clear, not that I’d ever hope for such a thing to happen of course.

Morris closes his pseudo realistic news story by making sure to mention that Ms. Aldsworth’s animal “protection” group is organizing visits to the hunt by European parliamentarians, who are considering a Europe-wide ban on seal products. It sounds impressive and indeed she is working with European leaders to legislate just such a ban, but that isn’t the whole story.

The reason she’s gained some support in Europe is quite simple. Canadian seal products are sold in various places around the world but very rarely, if ever, in the countries she’s talking with. I guess it’s pretty easy to support a ban on something you’ve never bought in the first place. It’s sort of the European equivalent of the U.S. restaurant boycott her group promoted last year. At that time Aldsworth claimed that hundreds of American restaurants were refusing to buy Canadian seafood. What she cleverly forgot to mention was than many of the restaurants she listed were vegetarian establishments and had no reason to buy seafood in the first place, no matter where it came from. I guess Chris Morris and the crack editorial team at the Globe and Mail missed out on that one huh? Amazing for a team of well respected journalists.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reform, Revolution and Retirement

As someone who actively speaks out on numerous issues facing Newfoundland and Labrador I have to admit that invoking any kind of change to the status quo is a very daunting task. It’s not that there’s a shortage of issues to speak out on, quite the contrary. The difficulty is in getting enough people to actually stand up say something.

The list of concerns facing the province is a long one. The issues range from less than effective representation in Ottawa to destruction of the fisheries. They include atrocious air and ferry services, a lack of control over resources management and the removal of federal offices in the province. The list goes on and on and is far too extensive to relate in a single article. The fact that these problems exist is clear and everyone in the province knows it but there is a big difference between knowing it and actually working for change.

In most societies government mishandling, abuse or neglect causes an outcry from the masses. Protests are held, revolutionaries are born, hunger strikes happen, civil disobedience takes place and eventually something happens for better or for worse. Not so in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least not to this point. As others have said in the past, we are different than any other province in Canada. While I’m the first to trumpet our differences and proudly list them, unfortunately this lack of action is also one of those differences that can’t be denied.

Don’t get me wrong, there are groups of individuals, small pockets of resistance if you will, who are willing to stand up and be counted. Groups like the Rural Rights and Boat Owners Assoc. or the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL), of which I’m a proud member, work diligently to address the issues, but it’s an up hill battle. The difference with groups in Newfoundland and Labrador, as opposed to those in most other places, is not the heart, the will or the passion of those involved. The difference is, believe it or not, the age of the population. This factor alone is perhaps the most debilitating single problem facing anyone in the province hoping to invoke change.

Consider that throughout history most social and political change has come as a result of public outcry, and the loudest, proudest and most vocal people have been society’s younger citizens. Generally these are university students, twenty somethings, who see a need for change and are willing to make it happen no matter what the consequences. This isn’t the case in Newfoundland and Labrador and by the very nature of the population it will likely never be. That reality alone is something any politically active group needs to face.

Groups like the NLDL are made up of some very strong willed people from various walks of life. Photographers, business people, computer consultants, fishermen, logistics experts, linguistics experts, marketing people and entrepreneurs fill its ranks but no matter the makeup of the membership, without wide spread and active support in the general population they are up against a wall.

I may sound like I’m blaming the public for their lack of support but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact I completely understand their hesitance to get involved. Statistics show that the average age of the population in Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the oldest in Canada and on average the people here are aging faster than those in other areas. This means a large and important segment of the population is either already retired or within a few years of doing so. These are people who have raised families, put in a full life’s work and are now looking forward to enjoying their golden years.

The government of the province and a myriad of expert analysts have discussed the problems of an aging population. A shortage of new people entering the work force, the drop in provincial tax revenues and many other issues are all a part of it. From an activists perspective an aging population is also a major roadblock. These people are within arms reach of taking advantage of programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and Social Security and they are more than ever becoming dependent on the public health care system. Understandably they have no intention of rocking the boat.

One of the biggest battles facing any socially or politically minded group in the province today isn’t its fight with Ottawa or even with the provincial government. The biggest battle, and perhaps the hardest to win, is gaining broad based support for any issue facing Newfoundland and Labrador. A single voice is simply lost in the wind. Ten voices will fall on deaf ears. A thousand voices may invoke a limited response, but to change an existing reality in any meaningful way, ten times that number must begin to shout. The challenge is convincing the people to find their voices.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Smoke and Mirrors

On Friday December 1 the St. John’s airport was buzzing with federal conservative celebrities including Ministers Loyola Hearn (fisheries), Rona Ambrose (environment) and Lawrence Cannon (transport). They all came to get their 5 minutes in the spotlight and to tell everyone what a wonderful job they were doing up on the hill. Oh and they also announced the stationing of a new surveillance aircraft in New Brunswick that would protect our coasts from rogue vessels dumping bilge oil, killing sea birds and destroying the coastline.

According to the Ministers the craft, a modified Dash 8, is equipped with state of the art aerial surveillance equipment that will allow Transport Canada to detect marine polluters better than ever before.

The Ministers also carried the message from their keepers that, “Canada is prepared to do whatever is necessary to protect our marine environment”, (please don’t start laughing just yet) and to let us know that they are, “fully committed to protecting and preserving our pristine environment…”

Between standing in the way of a UN sponsored ban on destruction of the ocean floor, developing a “hot air” plan for dealing with greenhouse gasses, supporting rogue nations like Spain in patrolling the waters outside the 200 mile limit and putting a single plane in place to patrol all of Atlantic Canada and the Great Lakes, this new government has been very clear where it stands on the environment. About as far away from it they possibly can.

Environment Minister, Rona Ambrose, is quoted as saying, "This new technology is an excellent example of what Canada's new government is doing to protect our environment.” I agree with her. It is a perfect example of what the new government is doing or more precisely, what they aren’t doing.

Minister Ambrose seems to believe that this single plane is sufficient to patrol the estimated 3,000 kilometre stretch of shoreline from Duluth, Minn., to St. John's, NL plus the Great Lakes. I’m just amazed her government didn’t schedule it to cover the Pacific and Arctic oceans as well. (I wonder, have they considered that they may not be able to refuel in Gander once that airport closes due to lack of support from Ottawa).

Talk about wearing rose colored glasses, the members of the Harper government must have had surgery to implant colored contacts directly onto the corneas if they can stand behind their record on the environment .

As one environmental expert put it, this plane is “…kind of like having one cop car for the province of Ontario. If you're a criminal and you're planning to dump oil, and you know that the only chance of you getting caught is one plane that's covering basically all of eastern Canada, well, if I was them, I would just dump the oil…”

Harper, the puppet master, along with all of his puppets may not have discovered the answer to resolving issues like overfishing, environmental problems, social programs, foreign affairs, equalization, and the rest but there is certainly one thing they’ve mastered in their short time in office, the use of smoke and mirrors.