Da Legal Stuff...

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Curling Gold and National Pride in Newfoundland and Labrador

On Friday February 24th history was made when the Newfoundland and Labrador men’s rink captured curling gold for Canada. Many in the Province and throughout the Country watched with pride as Brad Gushue and the team from the St. John’s curling club captured Canada’s first ever gold medal in curling and the first gold medal of any kind for Canada’s newest Province.

I watched that game with the sort of pride I always feel when a Canadian team reaches for the podium, but this time there was something more, this time my feelings ran just a little bit deeper. This time it was the local boys who had brought it home.

As proud as I was at that moment I didn’t realize that it was even possible to experience an even stronger feeling of pride, not until those initial feelings were eclipsed a few short moments after the game was over.

Let me start by saying that the good folks at CBC Sports deserve a huge round of applause for their treatment of the moments immediately following the Gushue victory. The act of empathy, understanding and diplomacy they displayed during that time touched me and many others very deeply.

Yes Newfoundland and Labrador is indeed a Canadian Province and yes the win was indeed a Canadian win but when CBC Sports took it upon themselves to capture the moment by airing a full and uninterrupted rendition of the Newfoundland Anthem, “The Ode to Newfoundland” they displayed a depth of character the likes of which is not often seen. They also displayed a deep understanding of the Province’s culture and sense of history that should not be forgotten.

For many people across Canada it was perhaps the first time they had heard or even realized that Newfoundland had an Anthem of its own. It was this that started me thinking about our existence in the Canadian Dominion and about how little so many people across this great Country really know about us. Often Newfoundland and Labrador is viewed as the “poor little” province down East or simply the place where “those Newfies” come from. "Kiss da Cod" and grab some "Screech" bye's.

All too often many Canadians are unaware of the rich history and the feelings of pride this place invokes in its people.

Many in the Province, including myself, often debate our treatment at the hands of Ottawa. We talk of having our resources taken to supply smelters and mills “up along”. As a lightly populated Province we sometimes view the current program of equalization based on population as a stumbling block to self sufficiency and growth. We feel that we’ve been let down by the mismanagement that has resulted in the collapse of our fishery, which was the backbone of this place for so long, and we wonder why this Province always seem to take one step forward before taking two backward.

Today, after listening intently as the Ode to Newfoundland being played and upon recognizing the understanding exhibited by a network that cared enough to air the song right across the Country, I have to wonder if we haven’t been fighting the symptoms rather than the problem itself?

If we really examine it closely what it all boils down to is respect. That’s really the only thing any of us really wants isn’t it? Don’t we all want to hold our heads up high and simply know that the rest of Canada truly understands that this place is different? Not that it’s any better or worse than the other Provinces, it’s not that at all, simply that it’s different. I wonder if all aspects of our Canadian experience might not improve it we could simply achieve such a level of understanding.

YesCanada, we do have our own anthem, two in fact, since the Labrador portion of the Province also has a very beautiful one of its own. The reason we have an anthem is because up until the early 1930’s we were an independent Nation on an equal footing with Canada. North America was made up of 4 Countries, Canada, America, Mexico and Newfoundland.

Newfoundland and Labrador has its own dialects, words and phrases that are used nowhere else in the world. We have our own forms of art, music, songs, poetry and lore. We have a history that includes Norse visitors to our shores 500 years before other Europeans even knew North America existed.

During the time of sail we saw settlers and traders arrive on our shores from places like Spain, Portugal, England and France. When the Europeans arrived on U.S. shores onboard the Mayflower and began to settle in the area of Plymouth Rock it was Newfoundland merchants that they traded with for much needed supplies and which helped ensure their survival. While New York was little more than a muddy village St. John’s was a bustling sea port involved in world wide trade.

During the dawn of air travel our little corner of the North Atlantic made Newfoundland the cross roads of the world for international travel. During World War II thousands of allied aircraft built in the U.S. and Canada destined for the war in Europe, left from this place and when the first wireless signal reached across the globe ushering in the age of radio, television and wireless internet that signal was sent from this place.

We are a people that lost 10% of its population during World War I, a level of committment unmatched by any other Nation and we are a place that has seen natural or man made disasters touch our shores and our lives nearly every single year of our existence.

The Province has a culture of closeness and caring that sees the people of Canada’s poorest Province consistently rate as the highest per capita donors to charitable causes in the Country. We are a place where people are accepted for what they are, not what we expect them to be and we have a culture where the pursuit of wealth has, and always will, take a back seat to the nurturing of our family and friends.

People have survived in this sea swept outpost almost continuously for over 500 years and this could not have been accomplished without strength of character, a will to survive and the ability to pick up your neighbour when he’s down, all the while knowing that he will undoubtedly have to do the same thing for you one day.

Life in this place has not always been an easy one. Icy winter storms often rip through the North Atlantic and gale force winds can send merciless waves crashing through villages along its shores. The people have survived here for centuries and it is through this survival that a pride of place has grown in our people. Although life is often much easier today this sense of pride still exists. It flows through the veins of every Newfoundlander and Labradorean, from generation to generation, Father to son and from Mother to daughter.

Yes we are Canadian, but Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are a people who also feel the same pride in their Province that most other people feel for their Country and I believe that is what we really want the rest of Canada to understand. I believe that if the people of Canada, and by extension the government of Canada itself, were to fully understand what makes this place so special to its people then everything else would begin to fall into place. Simply put, Newfoundland and Labrador is a unique and very special place with all of the trappings of a Nation but none of the power it needs to control its own destiny.

Former Federal MP and Tory Finance Minister John Crosby (Skipper John) once said, “You can always tell who the Newfoundlanders are in Heaven. They’re the ones who want to go home.”

Friday, February 24, 2006

Atlantic Rating on the Rise for Harper's Conservatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier to Spend $2 Billion in Oil Revenues

Ever since Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams won a 2 billion dollar test of wills with former Prime Minister Paul Martin over offshore oil revenues last year many in the Province and in the halls of Parliament Hill have been wondering exactly how the Province would use those revenues. Would the Province, as the Premier initially said, be used to pay down debt and balance the Provincial budget or would Province squander the proceeds as governments the world over have done in the past when faced with a large influx of cash?

When the revenue agreement was reached it was settled that the 2 billion dollars received by the Province was in fact an up front payment on revenues due to the Province over the next 8 years and with this in mind the disbursement of the funds has been a critical issue for the Province. Earlier this week news finally hit the streets that a decision on how to make use of those dollars was finally in the offing.

It appears Premier Williams has decided to pour the lion’s share of the 2 billion into paying off a portion of the unfunded public sector pension plans. These plans, which include the retirement funds for teachers (who appear to be the primary beneficiary’s of this move), public employees and police officers, were essentially raped and looted by former governments during leaner times. The result of this looting was a fund that is set to be completely bankrupt by 2014, at a time when many baby boomers will be retiring.

The Province is currently staggering under the highest per capita debt in the Country, approximately 12 billion, which includes billions in unfunded pension liabilities. According to Premier Williams applying the cash, perhaps as much as 1.5 billion, to the pension funds and this will allow the Province to reap about 100 million per year in interest income in perpetuity plus another 40 to 60 million per year in borrowing savings. Those additional savings are expected as a result of the improved bond rating that is expected to follow the move.

In addition to the immediate savings outlined the province will save another estimated 150 million a year in pension costs that would arise 8 years down the road when government would be forced to pay pensions to retirees as a result of the collapse of their pension funds.

According to the board of trade, banking officials, bond rating agencies and others, including Federal officials involved in developing and managing transfer payment calculations, this is a good move for the Province and will provide benefits far after the 8 year timeframe the 2 billion dollars was intended to span, however some in the Province have different thoughts on the issue.

The leader of the official opposition Liberal party does not agree with the approach taken by government and would rather have seen a more diverse approach to the disbursement of the funds. Opposition leader Jim Bennett would rather the funds were divided between debt repayment on high interest loans, pension funding, infrastructure improvement and health care as well as in the hiring and deployment of new teaching staff.

According to Bennett, there are pressing needs in the Province that must be met and it’s “typical” of the Conservative government to focus solely on debt. In Bennett’s opinion the public won’t be pleased with the decision of government.

Some in Newfoundland and Labrador have speculated that Premier Williams would invest a portion of the funds in a Provincial buy out plan aimed at purchasing the Federal government’s 8% stake in the Hibernia oil field while others thought the money might go toward a Provincial stake in development of the Lower Churchill hydro development project. As things stand today, neither of these appears to be in the offing.

Over the coming days and weeks there will no doubt be much conversation and debate over government’s decision both pro and con. The truth of the matter is that regardless of how the money was utilized the decision would have had its proponents and its detractors. Either way it goes, the deal finally appears to be done.

Are there better ways the money could have been used, perhaps, I guess that depends on where you stand and what your “issue of the day” might be at any given time, but regardless of whether or not there might be a better investment (and I believe some other options could have been assessed) I for one see this as a strong, decisive and sound move. It’s a decision that can only help the Province going forward and I’m not so sure the public reaction expected by Liberal leader Jim Bennett will come to pass.

When you consider the stability and security this move will provide to many in the public service sector, the improvement in our bond ratings (read lower borrowing rates) and the guarantee of an extra 100 to 160 million a year in revenues (not counting the savings of over 150 million a year beginning in 2014) the decision can’t be that bad. If the Province has any intention of investing in Hibernia or the Lower Churchill or Spaghetti Factories for that matter then they can no doubt work out a way to do that through borrowing (at lower cost than we can borrow now) or through some sort of time managed payment arrangement. These options still exist.

In addition to the financial benefits of the plan there are two very big benefits I see coming from this decision. The first is the fact that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans no longer have to worry about the government simply frittering and wasting the money away as might have been done by other leaders. The second, and perhaps just as important benefit, is that this government did not put the Province in a position where anyone in Ottawa or anywhere else in the Country will have any reason to continue under the mis-conception that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans must be, “led by the hand”, or, “managed”, because they, “don’t know how to take care of themselves”.

I’ve thrown verbal “bricks” and “bouquets” at Premier Williams over the course of his mandate, today I toss a very big bouquet. My Mom always said, “Watch the nickels and dimes and the dollars will take care of themselves”. I’ll even go so far as to say that it’s likely his Mother and mine would have gotten along just fine if they had ever met over a cup of Tetley tea.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Portnoy Family Press Release

The following press release was sent to me yesterday. I thought I'd pass it on.

Myles

Press Release Portnoy Action Committee
P.O. Box 368, Marystown Newfoundland and Labrador
AOE 2MO Email: portnoyactioncommittee@hotmail.com Webpage: www.supporttheportnoyfamily.com

Contact Persons (Committee Co-Chairs):

STOP, LOOK & LISTEN: Basic advice aimed towards children apply to Portnoy’s bid to stay in Canada: February 19, 2006 Immigration lawyer, Lee Cohen, upon meeting with the Portnoy family in Marystown and local support committee, insists that the family will win this battle for the privilege to stay in Canada. The Portnoy Support Committee is preparing to launch a Petition Campaign with the theme STOP LOOK and LISTEN.

Ms. Joanne Mallay-Jones explains the message is: “STOP the deportation order. LOOK at the best interests of the children involved and LISTEN to the local community when we state we want this family to stay! We are asking the new government to review this case on its own merits. This is the essence of this humanitarian and compassionate application and is the nucleus of this struggle.

The petition campaign will occur in a number of facets: through schools, churches, community service groups, online petitions and the public as well as federal and provincial politicians are urged to weigh in positively on the issue”. Ms. Mallay - Jones also explained that, “contact made by Mr. Cohen, prior to the announcing of the new Conservative Cabinet, with local Canadian Border Services Agency officer states unequivocally that Angela Portnoy will be arrested if she leaves sanctuary for any reason. This is contrary to earlier statements made by local MP Bill Matthews.

Ms. Mallay -Jones acknowledges that the family was fearful of accepting this statement from Mr. Matthews when the comments were made, as we had nothing in writing at any level to support this. By deciding to maintain this deportation order, a serious oversight of the previous Liberal Immigration Minister, the family especially Angela is subjected to a cruel “cat and mouse game” with the federal government and this bullying behavior has to come to a stop!

“Accountability has been an issue in the past; we are hoping that our experiences in the past will prove useful in dealing with the new government. Official contact will be made shortly to see how the new Immigration Minister will handle this case. The mountain of evidence why this family should stay is impossible to ignore. This will be done through legal representation and through the campaign soon to be underway”.

“The family and committee are hopeful that the New Minister of Immigration will see the irony and total lack of logic in continuing this deportation order when a New H & C document is on the books. It would make complete sense to allow this family to return to their home in Marystown until the decision concerning the H & C is completed. Loyola Hearn has spoken publicly on this issue in the last number of weeks and we are hopeful that means there is room for discussion on this issue with the new Immigration Minister Monte Solberg”.

Ms. Mallay-Jones notes that many continue to ask how they can help with the family, legal and committee efforts, the family is most grateful for all support they continue to receive. Financial, and pledges of support is needed anyone wishing to; download petitions, sign online petition guestbook, or make a donation or participate/organize a special event, visit the website for contact information www.supporttheportnoyfamily.ca or email portnoyactioncommitte@hotmail.com.

In closing, Ms. Mallay-Jones explains that, “the next few weeks will be spent organizing and executing this campaign locally and federally. Of course the new government is still settling in and through the family’s legal representation and the public campaign we hope that this issue will not go unnoticed and may resolved positively for all involved sooner rather than later”. Newfoundlanders are quite use to struggles and hardship, maybe that combined with our own sense of Immigration history is what makes many relate so well to this family. This is not going away and as more people are becoming aware of the case, it is growing exponentially

Friday, February 17, 2006

Lloyola Hearn Gets Tough on Foriegn Overfishing

The following is a very interesting article that appeard in this morning's National Post. Read on.

Tories to get tough on fish turf

Portugal, Spain can expect Canadian patrols, sanctions, Minister says

John Ivison, National Post
Published: Friday, February 17, 2006

OTTAWA - The new Conservative government has indicated it is going to get tough with European boats that fish illegally in the waters off Newfoundland -- a move that could set Canada on course to reignite the "turbot war" of the 1990s with Spain.

Loyola Hearn, the new Fisheries Minister, identified Spain and Portugal as countries that "constantly break the rules" and said Canada has to take on the responsibility of policing the waters beyond its 200-mile territorial boundary. Actions could include closing our ports to vessels from nations that violate the regulations, he said.

"It's about time we stood up for ourselves and our people ... We sometimes have been real weak when it comes to international dealings, but it's like the guy in the bar -- you can talk your way out of a lot of issues, but sooner or later, if someone is persisting, the coat comes off, and that might happen."

While Canada can issue citations to boats guilty of overfishing, they amount to no more than "a warning ticket on the highway," Mr. Hearn said. "These people go home and the offending nation is supposed to deal with that. In most cases, the boat is back out again as fast as they can get here."

The soft spoken Mr. Hearn is an unlikely Captain Canada, the name given to his fellow Newfoundlander, Brian Tobin.

As Fisheries Minister in the mid-1990s, he held a news conference on a rented barge in New York, opposite the headquarters of the United Nations, to lament the plight of "the last lonely, unloved, unattractive little turbot clinging by its fingernails to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland."

That incident -- dismissed as by Mr. Hearn as "a media show ... that got us nowhere" -- came at the height of the "turbot war," in which a Spanish trawler was boarded and seized in international waters by Canadian authorities on the charge of breaching fishing agreements.
But the new Fisheries Minister is determined to bring to an end decades of overfishing on the Grand Banks and Flemish Cap, off Newfoundland.

He has been the driving force behind the Conservative government's plan to "exercise custodial management" over international waters beyond the 200-mile limit that marks Canadian territory. He said he is determined that Canada will make up for more than a decade of what he characterizes as inaction on the file. "It's a pet peeve of mine and we have some ideas of how we move on this. Hopefully, it doesn't come down to High Noon, but somewhere along the line it might have to. There is no future in going the way we are going."

Numerous parliamentary committees have complained over the years that the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, which is meant to enforce fishing quotas, is toothless and in urgent need of reform. However, Mr. Hearn said it is too late to reform NAFO, and Canada has to take on its responsibilities with the backing of other nations that oppose overfishing.

"Are there ways of doing something about it? Yes. Are we moving that way? Yes. Are we going to let this thing go on? No. So it's a matter of trying to do it and do it right, so we don't just get someone saying, 'Hearn's a great guy for sending out a warship' but in the meantime, overfishing is twice as bad as before we did it," he said.

Mr. Hearn's call for urgent action is backed by third-party research that suggests some ground fish are being fished to the point of extinction. The World Wildlife Fund last year criticized Portugal, Spain, Russia and Canada for fishing at levels that made the recovery of stocks impossible.

However, the more muscular approach is likely to have its critics. Mr. Hearn recalled that when the Department of Foreign Affairs was asked for its input before the standing committee on fisheries and oceans, it recommended taking no action because to do so might disrupt international relations. "Seeing that I came from an area where most of my friends that I played basketball or hockey with were now packing meat in Brooks, Alta., for eight bucks an hour or whatever they get, I wasn't overly happy with that presentation."

The Portuguese embassy issued a statement yesterday that said it shared Canada's concerns about overfishing and is "respectful of all its commitments" under NAFO. Portugal signed a pact with Canada last year promising to monitor the catches of its trawlers. The Spanish embassy said the matter falls under the jurisdiction of the European Union.

Mr. Hearn has suggested one of the first steps Canada could take is to close Newfoundland's ports to the boats of transgressor nations. With increases in the cost of fuel, many boats now fish off the Grand Banks, offload a catch on the Rock and then return for another. If this ceased to become an option, it could eat into profit margins of foreign boats.

Canada gave Denmark an ultimatum last year, threatening to close its ports to Danish ships unless they stopped overfishing for shrimp.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ontario Government Lies to Public About Energy Development

Below is a snippet from the Government of Ontario’s Energy Plan released about a month ago. To most people in Ontario the following may look like a fairly mundane set of announcements and numbers but they aren’t. In fact, one statement in the plan is an out and out lie and an obvious one to the people of Newfoundlander and Labrador.

Read on:

(Excerpts from Ontario’s Energy Plan)

  • “…the province is also maximizing Ontario's existing electricity assets by: Investing almost $1 billion in a new tunnel from Niagara Falls to the Adam Beck generating complex...”

  • “Reaching an… agreement will see Bruce Power invest $4.25 billion inOntario's economy and the creation of as many as 1,500 jobs”

  • “Signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Manitoba to purchase 200 megawatts of electricity...”

  • “Working with Quebec to develop a major hydroelectric generation project at the Lower Churchill River in Labrador, from which670 megawatts would come to Ontario.”

Does anyone in Ontario recognize the problem with the last statement? (I bet everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador does.)

Here it is.

In the first two bullets the Ontario government speaks of two projects inside their own province. No problem. In the third bullet they speak of a potential deal with Manitoba to purchase electricity, still no problem. The issue is the last bullet that says Ontario is working with Quebec to develop a project in Labrador that will provide 670 megawatts of power to the Province.

The truth is that neither Ontario nor Quebec owns or is working on development of that resource. Newfoundland and Labrador, which is not even mentioned in the statement, is the actual owner. The reality is that nobody is currently working on that development in Labrador and nobody has been given any kind of permission to do so as of yet. Quebec and Ontario have simply been short listed along with 3 other proposals for the development. Those proposals are being reviewed by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, nothing more and nothing less.

The reality is a far cry from the official statement in their energy plan, “Working with Quebec to develop a major hydroelectric generation project at the Lower Churchill River…” especially when you consider that one of the possible developers of the project still in contention, along with two others beside Ontario and Quebec, is the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador itself. In fact the Premier Williams has stated in the past months that there will be no development at all if the results of the request for proposals does not deliver a deal that is acceptable to the Province.

For the Government of Ontario to have the audacity to make the claim that they are working on development of the project, a resource they don’t own and have not even been approved to develop, is not only an affront to the owners of the resource, the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but an out and out lie to the people of Ontario.

The statement could easily lead anyone reading Ontario’s energy plan to conclude that the Province is already involved in the development of 670 megawatts of new power when in reality they are not even in the front door and may never get there. A review of the energy plan by potential investors who are looking at new locations to setup shop (read factories, plants, etc.) would lead them to believe that the Ontario government has project underway that will help ensure stable energy capacity going forward. The reality is that at least 670 megawatts included in their plan, enough to power to supply over 150,000 homes, is simply on their wish list at this point and no project exists.

I’m not sure about the ethics or impacts of this sort of out and out lie to the Ontario public, including the business community, but I do know one thing, it sure isn’t playing well in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Being a Fed Fisheries Minister from Newfoundland: Blessing or a Curse?

Newly minted Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn is in Newfoundland this week for meetings with DFO staffers and Provincial Fisheries Minister Tom Rideout among others. Of course these meetings are largely intended to give the new Minister with the lay of the land and provide an opportunity for him to meet the players. That reality hasn’t stopped local interests from already trying to promote change in several areas of fisheries, and nor should it.

Many people see the appointment of Loyola Hearn as a blessing for this province in the sense that the top fisheries position will be filled with someone who has fought for years in the over the issues and understands the fisheries as well, or perhaps better than, anyone else in political life. It may indeed be considered a blessing for many in the Province but it's likely somewhat of a curse for Mr. Hearn himself.

Before his feet hit the rock there were already calls for specific high value items to be addressed. First and foremost in the minds of many in the Province is the move toward custodial management outside the 200 mile economic zone. Stopping foriegn fishing in those hatching grounds is critical to the survival of the the cod biomass as a whole, not to mention the local industry. This is something Hearn himself has championed for years and in a public statement late last week he said that he is already looking into doing just that. The big question is how much progress can realistically be made on this file by a minority government.

A unilateral move of this kind will likely invoke a major backlash from other Countries and this won’t sit well with the Minister of International trade or perhaps even the Foreign Affairs office. Add to this the simple reality that saying you are invoking custodial management and actually doing it are two completely different things. Without a military presence to enforce the stand it will amount to nothing more than an internal PR move that causes rancor in international circles. A lose/lose situation for any Minister.

The next item on the public agenda is the so called food or recreational fishery. This one has been a sore point for many individuals for years. The last straw came when the outgoing Fisheries Minister (Regan from Nova Scotia) put a food fishery in place in his home province on the way out the door while leaving Newfoundland and Labrador to fend for itself. Before leaving office Regan saw to it that Nova Scotia had a 9 month a year food fishery allowing 5 fish per person / per day with no tagging required. Meanwhile Newfoundland and Labrador continues to fight for any kind of reasonable food fishery. This move by Regan simply stoked the fires of anger in NL and it's an issue that Mr. Hearn will have to address fairly quickly if he hopes to maintain local support.

There are also calls for the new Minister to examine claims that the Province, not the federal government, should be the one in control of fisheries within 3 nautical miles of the coastline. Many argue that this right has been the Province’s since Confederation and that it was usurped by Ottawa when they brought in the cod moratorium in 1992. Whether or not Mr. Hearn will address this issue remains to be seen but if he does, and if the decision is to return control of those waters to the Province, the entire question of a recreational fishery may be a moot one since the decision to open a fishery of any type within those boundries would then rest in the hands of the Provincial Legislature, not the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Of course there are many other issues that are being hurled at the new Minister including the setting of quotas and management of the seal hunt among others. Although the issues are perhaps too numerous to list these three in particular should be coming across loud and clear these days. Mr. Hearn has always been an advocate for fisheries issues and now is the time for him to step up to the plate and take some action. The time for talk is over.

I for one would love to see a new joint Federal/Provincial Fisheries board setup to manage the resource. Patterned along the lines of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB), this body would allow for joint management, the setting of qoutas, fisheries regulations and science. But hey, who am I to get involved right?

Anyway, the truth of the matter is that taking visible and relative actions quickly may ruffle some feathers of some in Ottawa and abroad. Perhaps it will even result in Mr. Hearn being removed from his cabinet position eventually, but the result of not taking action may be far worse for him in the long run. It’s one thing to be left out of the loop within your party, it’s quite another thing if you don’t have a job at all.

Reality Check: Clear inaction by a Fisheries Minister from this province is a sure way to ensure that you don’t get re-elected in Newfoundland. Clear action, any action will result in upsetting about 50% of the general public but at least the possibility of re-election will still exist.

What a blessing this job truly is for Mr. Hearn.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Why are Newfoundlanders so Dumb?

It’s long been said by people in Newfoundland and Labrador that, “everyone else thinks they know better than we how things should be done.” We’ve been given reams and reams of unsolicited advice by “outsiders” for decades, since long before joining Confederation in fact. There have always been plenty of government officials, business interests and even advocates for everything from save the seals to protect the wild bologna who love nothing more than telling us how to live. It’s almost a way of life for many of them.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe we’ve been wrong all along. Maybe, just maybe we are, as many believe, an obstinate, stupid and uneducated bunch of barbarians who simply don’t know how to do anything for ourselves. Maybe we do indeed need to be taken by the hand and given a clear direction. I know what you’re thinking, we’ve survived here as a transplanted European culture for longer than any other in the Americas, but hell that could have been just the result of dumb luck as much as anything else, right?.

I think it’s high time we started listening to those superior intellects in other parts of Canada and the world. It’s time we realized that we’re not capable of managing our own future and it’s time we followed their caring guidance. I feel sure that if we do this our collective future will be a far different one than anything we could possibly attain if left to our own accord.

The first thing we should do is give back all the royalties we earn from our offshore oil industry. The so called national news services based in places like Ontario seem to think the money is nothing more than a hand out anyway so let’s listen to their point of view and simply give it all back. What do we need a few billion dollars for anyway?

The next thing we’ll do is stop complaining about the lack of fish quotas for our local plants. We’ve been a thorn in the side of Canada’s foreign affairs office for decades with our stubbornness over that issue. How can we possibly expect our federal officials to continue brokering backroom deals with places like Iceland and Denmark if we continue to make a fuss about not having enough fish to supply our local industry? It’s really a miracle those wonderful people managed as well as they have over the years what with our meddling causing so many problems for them.

Another big issue we need to address is the seal hunt. We should just stop the seal hunt and move on immediately. Yes, we all know seals aren’t really an endangered species and that they eat tons of fish (without any concern over the fact that some of those fish ARE becoming endangered), but none of that matters. Yes the industry provides work for fishers and furriers alike, but that doesn’t matter either. The only thing that really matters is that the hunt upsets the finer sensibilities of restaurateurs and latte sippers alike in places like New York and Sydney, Australia so let’s give it up folks.

Of course once we start listening to the advice of our betters we can’t stop with a few token acts, no not by a long shot. Our next move should be to give Hydro Quebec and the Ontario government full and free access to develop the Lower Churchill. We also need to stop bugging the oil companies for a bigger slice of the pie in the offshore oil industry. I mean come on, Ontario really needs that source of power, Quebec Hydro wants the electricity for resale and even though the oil companies are making record profits these days they could surely stand to make a little more. What do we want that stuff for anyway?

Our provincial government should go ahead and spend hundreds of millions to build a new generating facility on the Exploits River so they can hand complete control of it over to Abitibi Consolidated free of charge lock, stock and barrel. While we’re at it lets also pass all timber rights in the province over to them like they wanted us to do in the first place. What do we want all those silly trees for anyway, and who cares about the salmon in the Exploits?

While we’re on the subject of natural resources it’s starting to look more and more like INCO is feeling trapped by the deal we forced them into signing over building a smelter in the province. Forget it INCO, we don’t care anymore, go ahead and continue shipping the ore out, we don’t really want any secondary processing here anyway. Fill your boots.

Yes indeed, I think if we started taking the advice everyone keeps foisting on us we would indeed have a much different future. Of course there wouldn’t be any jobs here but that doesn’t matter, we can always resolve that pesky little problem by having the legislature invoke a sort of mainland draft. Much like a military draft we’ll just force our youth to move out of province and work in Ontario factories or Alberta oil fields immediately after graduation. That’s if our simple minded kids can manage to graduate. Those who aren’t bright enough for that will simply have to leave as soon as the flunk out or quit. Many people are forced to move away from the province to find work anyway, the only difference is that we need to legislate it. No big deal.

I can see the future now, a vast treeless desert stretching from coast to coast. Nothing but tree stumps and rocks as far as the eye can see. Just think how much easier that would make it for oil and mining companies to explore and exploit at will. Not a tree standing and not a person living, but a paradise for seals and seagulls alike.

What a picture to behold!

I wonder why we never thought of this approach ourselves, just stupid I guess. Why oh why does it always take someone from the outside to open our eyes and show us the way?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Stephen Harper Exposes a Psychological Disorder

On Monday newly elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled his choices for cabinet. During the day there were more than a few surprises including the defection of a high profile Liberal member who will now sit in the Conservative cabinet and slightly improved the government’s hold on power in the House.

There are far too many subtleties to this round of cabinet appointments announced to cover in one article but there are a few that stand out because they are so obviously good, bad or questionable.

The Good

The new cabinet consists of 27 members (including the PM) from various parts of the Country and is much smaller than the preceding Liberal cabinet. Tightening up government and removing unnecessary high level positions will not only save on salaries and expenses but remove redundancy and hopefully speed up the decision making process.

The appointment of Stockwell Day to the Public Safety portfolio provides three primary benefits to the reigning Conservatives and perhaps to the Country. The appointment of a high profile western MP will ensure not only the support of his followers inside the Conservative party but more importantly those in the Western Provinces. As an ultra-conservative Day may prove to be a good choice to deal with crime, gun and violence issues and his appointment to what some would consider a “lesser profile” cabinet position may ensure that his “interesting” comments and views don’t receive too much publicity. (Maybe, but I doubt it.)

The appointments of Peter McKay and Loyola Hearn to the Foreign Affairs and Fisheries portfolios respectively may lead to a major step forward in the resolution of some key Atlantic Canadian fisheries issues. With the appointment of these two Ministers from the Atlantic region the stage is set for potential movement on custodial management of fisheries off our coast.

As far as fisheries matters go, Loyola Hearn is one of the most knowledgeable government members to have held the portfolio in many years. His mandate will include protection of fish stocks and if there is to be any hope for progress on custodial management it will require the support of the Foreign Affairs office. With a Nova Scotia MP heading up that portfolio there may be some movement.

Stephen Harper’s decision to name McKay to the Foreign Affairs portfolio was likely motivated more by self preservation than out of concern over fisheries issues but the result is the same. It was widely expected that this post would go to McKay in order to ensure that Harper’s most highly visible potential rival for leadership would spend a great deal of time out of the Country, but as they say every cloud has a silver lining.

As a side note, McKay will also be responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) an agency that was not previously run by a Minister. This move may signal a greater focus on Atlantic development issues and could mean greater control and accountability of activities within the agency. In the past ACOA has been alternately criticized for fiscal waste or applauded for supporting new economic initiatives. As for Loyola Hearn, being a Fisheries Minister from Newfoundland and Labrador may be a blessing and a curse. No matter what decisions he makes in this role he will undoubtedly upset somebody in the Province. The appointment may be good for the Province but it could very easily destroy Mr. Hearn’s career.

The Bad:

The appointment of former Liberal MP and Cabinet Minister David Emerson to the International Trade portfolio will not sit well with either the members of the Conservative party, the opposition parties or the general public.

One has to wonder about the ethical standards adopted by a government that would select an MP who has crossed the floor immediately after an election and before any issues have even arisen that could possibly lead to such a step on his part. The people who voted for David Emerson clearly rejected the Conservative candidate in favor of a Liberal one. They thought they were voting for a Liberal during the election two weeks ago and until today they thought they had elected one. Add to all of this the fact that he was formerly a high profile member of a disgraced and ousted party that just a few weeks ago were blasted by the Conservatives as being untrustworthy and this may well be the first big mistake of the Harper government.

The Questionable:
What was the Harper government’s second big mistake, perhaps the appointment of unelected Michael Fortier to the Senate and then giving him a Cabinet seat. Stephen Harper has said in the past that he doesn’t agree with appointing ministers who are not elected, in fact he said he wouldn’t do it, and now in an effort to appease Montreal voters who did not vote for his party in the first place, Harper has done a clear flip-flop on his own publicly voiced position.

Everyone recognizes that a very large segment of the Canadian population resides in the Montreal area but we have to question if the people of the area really deserve, or should they even expect, representation from a government they had no part in electing. I have to wonder if this were Winnipeg, Regina, St. John’s or Halifax would such a move have been made. The reality is that you only have to look to P.E.I to find that answer. There we have an entire Province without representation and no move being made to ensure that they do.
Since the appointment Mr. Fortier has stated publicly that he was tasked with building Conservative support in Montreal. Listening to him speak you have to wonder if he will have any time left over to actually devote to his portfolio.

The government ran a campaign based largely on accountability. The result of the Fortier appointment is a Public Works Department now being headed by a Minister who was not elected and who will not even have to face criticism or debate in the House of Commons. With Fortier’s own acknowledgement that his focus will be on winning support in the Montreal area it’s clear that the appointment was made for the obvious benefit of the Conservative party and not with the best interest of the Nation in mind.

There could not have been an odder choice for the leadership of the Department of Public Works than Michael Fortier, an unelected, appointed and highly partisan party campaign worker is now in charge of a department that was the center point of controversy during the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

The good, the bad and the questionable decisions taken by Canada’s new Prime Minister on his first day in office has left many confused and tentative voters right across the Country. Many are left wondering if Mr. Harper’s next decisions will be any less bi-polar (or is it schizophrenic) than his first ones have been.

Monday, February 06, 2006

U.S. Supports and Protects Known Terrorist Group

For many of those who contribute to the Sea Shepherd Society, Paul Watson is recognized as a man who cares about nature and has dedicated his life to protecting it. I don’t doubt that there is some truth to that perception, but many others outside his sphere of influence also recognize him as nothing more than a home grown terrorist. Even many of his former friends and activist acquaintances are all too familiar with this reality.

While he is known as much for his own shamelsss self promotion, rhetoric and the questionable pictures or video footage he has presented to a world wide audience, Watson himself is a bit of an enigma. Many wonder, "Who is the real Paul Watson?"

Let's turn the camera around, adjust the lens a little and see if we can bring the man behind the movement into sharper focus.

Watson was born in the 1950’s. At ten years of age, some say he was already exhibiting the signs of a budding terrorist when he shot another child in the rear end. In his early adult years Watson worked for the Canadian Coast Guard and Norwegian and Swedish merchant marines before becoming a full time paid eco-terrorist.

Watson himself cites his own reasons for his leaving Greenpeace in 1977, a group he helped found, the reality is that he was kicked out of their ranks due to his violent tactics and extremist rhetoric. Watson went on to found the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) which in essence is nothing more than a pirate organization sailing around the world, terrorizing fishermen while enjoying tax exempt status at home.

Watson, perhaps lost in his own fantasy world where he is a high seas pirate, has been known to wear a long bowie knife and wander the deck of his ship carrying assault weapons such as AK-47s. On several occasions, with no regard for the potential loss of human life, Watson is known to have used his own ship (the bow of which had been filled with concrete and which had sharp metal protrusions referred to as “can openers” welded to the outside) to ram and sink other ships that wouldn’t submit to his demands.

Watson has spent a small amount of time in the jails of several countries including Canada and the Netherlands and was once quoted as saying that doing time in prison “was all a part of the business”. He made that statement just after posting bail and just prior to skipping the country in question in order to avoid actually spending any real time in prison.

Watson is not only a terrorist himself, he has also helped train others, in fact he’s been directly connected with the career start ups of some of the most violent animal-rights activists known around the world.

SHAC terrorists Rodney Coronado and Joshua Harper have both served as crewmembers on Sea Shepherd Society expeditions. Coronado is known as a longtime ringleader of the Animal Liberation Front, a criminal enterprise that the FBI has classified as America’s most dangerous domestic terrorism threat. Harper meanwhile describes his goal in life as “the complete collapse of industrial civilization” and he has said he will happily break laws, and bones, to achieve it. Harper was jailed in 1997 for assaulting a police officer and in 1999 for attacking Native Americans.

Watson’s questionable financial affairs while leading the SSCS have been the topic of several investigations as well as a financial expose by yours truly just last year. Even with a serious cloud hanging over both his financial dealings and his legal standing he has managed to capture control of the Sierra Club, a once respected environmental group, with revenues in excess of $95 million a year. One has to wonder how these funds will now be spent.

I’m sure Mr. Watson will rationalize much of what has been written here. The childlike name calling and blatant lying he uses to respond to anyone who attempts to shine a light of truth on his personality doesn’t bother me in the least. The fact is that I don’t need to embellish or make up stories about Paul Watson and his philosophy in order to show him for what he truly is. His own words do that far better than I or anyone else ever could.

The following are actual quotes from Paul Watson:

“There are 30-million plus species on this planet. They’re all earthlings. They’re all equal. Some are more “equal” than others, I admit: earthworms are far more valuable than people.”
- Paul Watson, “Animal Rights 2002” convention

“There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win. Then you write the history.” - Sierra Club board member Paul Watson, Animal Rights Convention 2002 , (post 911)

“Animal Liberation Front tactics are going to continue. There’s not a damned thing you can do about it, you’re not going to stop it. So you might as well incorporate it into the movement.” - Paul Watson, “Animal Rights 2002” convention

“If you don’t know an answer, a fact, a statistic, then ... make it up on the spot.”
- Paul Watson, in Earthforce: An Earth Warrior’s Guide to Strategy

“We should never feel like we’re going too far in breaking the law, because whatever laws you break to liberate animals or to protect the environment are very insignificant.”
- Paul Watson, Animal Rights convention (date unavailable)

"I won't give one penny for Katrina relief. I’ll give for the animals but not for relief efforts until the oil companies pony up millions for the destruction caused by global warming."
- Paul Watson, Animal Rights convention 2005 (just prior to this statement tax records show that he accepted a $100,000.00 donation of Exxon-Mobile stock from a contributor making him a shareholder in the biggest oil company North America)

“For those who are interested in tax deduction issue for their contributions, the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act…suspends limitations on individual and corporate tax deductions for cash contributions to charitable organizations”
- Watson in an open letter to his contributors, 2005 (even though he was not willing to “give one penny” to Katrina relief, he appears more than happy to exploit the tax laws developed as a result of it.)

"Just because you were born stupid doesn't give you any right to be stupid!"
- Watson yelling at native tribal hunters who would not stop their traditional hunt

“…human numbers must be reduced for there to be any hope of protecting bio-diversity”
- Watson interview - the Vegan Voice

The following are details of some of the illegal acts committed by Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd from 1977 to 1994.

Source: The High North News Extra, no. 7. April 10, 1994

1977: Paul Watson, one of the founder members of Greenpeace, was expelled from the organization after a campaign against sealing during which he threw the sealers’ clubs and skins into the sea. His actions temporarily cost Greenpeace their tax-exemption status in the US.

1979: A Sea Shepherd vessel rams the whaler “Sierra”.

1980: The “Sierra” is sunk in Lisbon harbour with the help of limpet mines. Sea Shepherd claims responsibility.

1981: Sea Shepherd sinks the two whaling vessels, Ibsa I and Ibsa II, in the Spanish harbour of Viga (Sole source Sea Shepherd. This has not been confirmed by any other source).

1986: Sea Shepherd activists shoot at Faroese police with a line rifle and try to sink their rubber dinghies.

1986: Sea Shepherd claims responsibility for the sinking of two whaling vessels in Reykjavik, Iceland.

1988: Paul Watson arrives in Iceland demanding to be held responsible for the sinking of the whaling vessels in Reykjavik in 1986. He is arrested and held for questioning. He realizes that he risks facing several years imprisonment. In a press release from the Icelandic Ministry of Justice it says: “At questioning Paul Watson has admitted that he has given some remarks that connect him with the sabotage, but in spite of this he now claims that he neither took part in the planning nor the execution of the sabotage.”

1991: Mr A. Ferreira, A US crew member on a Mexican fishing vessel, reports … that Sea Shepherd rammed his vessel causing considerable damage. Some of Sea Shepherd’s crew was armed with rifles.

1991: Scott Trimmingham, president of Sea Shepherd quits in protest. “We had rules about not hurting anyone, about not using weapons. I left because those rules and that philosophy seem to be changing,” he said to “Outside” magazine (Sept. 1991).

1992: Sea Shepherd makes unsuccessful attempts at ramming three Costa Rican fishing vessels.
1992: Sea Shepherd makes unsuccessful attempt at scuttling the combined whaling and fishing vessel "Nybr├Žna" at her moorings in the Lofoten Islands.

1993: Paul Watson orders the crew on board the Sea Shepherd vessel “Edward Abbey” (formerly US Navy) to open cannon fire at a Japanese fishing vessel.

1993: Sea Shepherd makes an unsuccessful attempt at scuttling the combined whaling and fishing vessel "Senet" at her moorings in Gressvik.

1993: Sea Shepherd concludes that the organization has sunk 8 ships and rammed and damaged a further 6.

While The United States of America is a country known for condemning terrorism around the world it is also the home base for the Sea Shepherd Society. While the Society travels the world practicing illegal acts of terrorism it also enjoys tax exempt status and is eligible for funding by government agencies within the United States.