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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dealing with Five Decades of Psychological Warfare

Once again today we see evidence that Newfoundland and Labrador is being left behind by the rest of Canada. Although enough resources exist on the land and in the seas surrounding the place to sustain a much larger population, people are going hungry. The way those resources have been managed and developed in combination with the political marginalization of the people that’s existed for decades has resulted in something completely unconscionable. In 2006, Newfoundland and Labrador’s hunger rate is the highest in the country.

HungerCount is a national survey of emergency food programs in Canada conducted by the Canadian Association of Food Banks (CAFB). Their most recent survey found that 5.59% of the province’s population have been forced to make use of food banks in order to feed their families, the highest per capita rate in the Country. When you combine this information with outmigration that sees thousands leave every year, the lowest birth rates, the highest unemployment and a population that’s aging faster than anywhere else in Canada, the possibility arises that eventually the government of Canada will get exactly what it has so desperately wanted from Newfoundland and Labrador since pre-confederation, all of the resources and none of the people.

Since 1949 the government of Canada has been systematically robbing Newfoundland and Labrador of any hope for a future. I believe that immediately after confederation it may have been done intentionally in order to achieve a backroom plan intended to break the will of the people, get them under control (remember only about half the population wanted to be a part of the Canada) and ensure that they could be assimilated into the Canadian framework. Over the years the minds behind this horrendous practice have come and gone but by the time they did the practice itself had become second nature and was such a common practice that it simply continued to exist. It’s doubtful that today’s political leaders even realize what they are perpetuating but the effects are the same.

What we see today are a people who, by and large, have lost the will to stand up and fight to protect their heritage, their homeland and their way of life. We see a people who appear on the surface to be just like any other Canadian but they most certainly are not. Instead they have lived on the fringes of Canada, both physically and figuratively, for so long that many don’t even see the reality of what this ongoing practice means for them. They don’t even realize that by standing up as one they may have a chance for survival. Most of them simply go about their daily activities oblivious to the fact that they are, in many respects, worse off than the rest of the Country and that if current trend continues, in a few generations the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will become as extinct as the original Beothuk population

Taken down from the high level to that of the individual, the story becomes even more bleak. The lack of work is real. A lower than normal birth rate is real. Hunger is real. Poverty is real. These all contribute to a lack of self esteem and self worth that permeates the entire culture and the effects of this low self esteem are all too clear. It’s the reason why someone will sit in a room full of so called “fellow” Canadians and simply accept being called a “stupid newfie” or a “cod chucker”? It’s the reason why someone who is qualified for a top level position will simply accept being passed over in favor of someone who isn’t from “the Rock”? It’s why an entire people, who were once part of an independent nation in their own right, will quietly accept little more than handouts from Ottawa while their neighbor, who is supposedly an equal partner in confederation, is simply given the gift of nationhood.

When a person is put in a situation where they feel a total lack of control over their destiny, when they are told what they can or can’t do, when they have their belongings, their pride, their independence taken away and when they are put in a position where they must ask someone else for even the basic necessities of life, there is a commonly accepted term for the psychological state this type of dependence causes in many who are put in that position.

Definition: Stockholm syndrome - a psychological response sometimes seen in an abducted hostage, in which the hostage exhibits loyalty to the hostage-taker, in spite of the danger (or at least risk) in which the hostage has been placed. The victims become emotionally attached to their victimizers, and have even been known to defend their captors.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Two Nations Under God with Liberty and Justice for None"

So it begins. It’s the morning after the night before and the drunken exuberance on Parliament Hill seems to have left the entire Country with a hangover.

What follows are excerpts from various news articles, public statements and opinions that have been expressed across Canada, in the United States and around the world today. The day after the Canadian Parliament adopted a motion to recognize Quebec as a nation, within Canada, by a vote of 266 to 16.

When it comes to the Pandora’s Box this has opened, I believe the following excerpts say it all.

“United we stand, divided we fall” or perhaps a more appropriate phrase comes from Alice Cooper’s classic hit, “Welcome to my Nightmare”.

…Phil Fontaine, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said that if Quebec deserves special recognition, then so do Canada's aboriginals.

…Harper's move to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada was passed decisively through parliament but opponents say it could eventually tear the country apart.

…The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League, a provincial advocacy group, has approached at least one MP from that province to push for a motion to recognize that province, which was once an independent nation. The group is also circulating a petition on the subject.

…It is the formalization of the Balkanization of Canada on the way to perfecting the North American Union. The craftsmen are bent on destroying sovereignty and nationhood for all citizens.

…What is being proposed now is that we will have the Québécois (and that will imply Quebec, whether we want to or not) as being one nation and the rest of Canada another nation. Quebec separatists will use this as an argument to nullify the Clarity Act, as one nation can't impose conditions on another nation, stop paying taxes to Ottawa, etc. Civil disobedience will run rampant.

…critics say the move could bolster efforts by pro-independence Quebecers who now plan to push for extra powers such as the right to speak at international meetings.

…Discussions regarding the fundamental structure of our country are delicate and potentially devastating. They should never be brought up willy-nilly in an attempt to curry regional political favour. There is simply too much to lose.

…it is a measure of its ambiguity -- a studied and contrived ambiguity -- that the resolution can be interpreted in so many lovely ways.

…veteran Ontario francophone MP Diane Marleau, among a cluster of Liberals…angrily blamed Michael Ignatieff for sparking the "stupidity we're getting into."

…How will it inform our challenge to bring this country together when there are four or five interpretations possible?” he said. “This puts us into word-smithing, into semantics, and it puts us into games playing that I think has harmed this country in the past. – Gerard Kennedy, Liberal leadership candidate.

…Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May says that yesterday's House of Commons vote to recognize Quebec as a nation within Canada is a shameful example of political expediency that could come back to haunt a future Canadian government.

…Quebec as a nation within a nation, but with no powers, is the first formalization of Canadian disintegration.

…Sovereigntist lawyer Guy Bertrand says Quebec needs its own hockey team as much as any other nation. Bertrand, wants Quebec to field a team for the world hockey championships in 2008.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Harper Sets Stage for European Style "Canadian Union"

Folks, it’s pretty much a done deal. Quebec will be recognized as a “Nation within a united Canada”, but where does this leave the rest of us? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing in fact I like the idea. It sort of smacks of a “European Union” situation and maybe that’s what Canada needs right now. I can’t help but envision a scenario where we all use the same currency and essentially have the same constitutional rights but where there is room for independence and control of localized matters such as immigration. Not a bad plan, in fact I heartily endorse it.

The reason I like it so much is that it gives Quebec the recognition it truly deserves as a distinct people. They’ve been fighting for this for a very long time, they deserve it and they are welcome to it with a heart and a half. They ARE without a doubt a distinct people, just like the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Once this new definition of Quebec is passed it may well set a precedent where by other parts of Canada can opt to be recognized as well and nobody has a stronger case than Newfoundland and Labrador. Here we find a place that was not even a part of Canada until 1949 and was once even a sovereign nation of its own. Who can deny them the right to become a “nation within a united Canada” as well? To do so would be idiotic under the circumstances.

What about Alberta? Alberta would likely have a case. They are certainly different from other parts of Canada with their rodeo’s and cowboy gear not to mention an economy that’s so distinct it’s almost frightening. I suppose as well that not having a definable culture of their own, other than what has been imported from around the world or as “America Lite”, Ontario could be called a Nation. I mean the people there certainly have nothing in common with those in any other part of Canada. What about our First Nations People (hell their title even has the word “Nation” in it) and what about the Green Gables crew in PEI or the Bluenosers in Nova Scotia? I’m sure they can make a case.

So, where does this all leave us? Personally the longer I think about it the more I like it. Over time perhaps this seemingly small move on the part of Stephen Harper will actually be what Canada needs to survive. Who knows, maybe we’ll find ourselves with a group of Nations all working together for the common good rather than a group of oppressed provinces biting and clawing at each other on a daily basis.

As distinct and individual Nations united as one it would of course be necessary for all of these nations to be given an equal say in the happenings of the new union. As things now stand Ontario and Quebec account for the vast majority of political power in the House of Commons and essentially control Canada, often to the detriment of the rest of the provinces. This could not continue to be the case in a world where distinct Nations must work together. In this new world each Nation would need to be on an equal footing, perhaps with one vote per nation on issues of common concern.

I like it. I like it a lot.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Loyola Hearn's Propaganda Machine

I’ve always believed federal politicians are essentially self centered and arrogant but I’ve never before had the overpowering urge to call one an all out liar. Not until reading the latest press release from federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn. I can’t think of any other way to say it than to say that Loyola Hearn is completely and unequivocally full of S*&t.

Tuesday November 21 was World Fisheries Day. A day meant to bring the world’s attention to the importance of our oceans and the life they contain. To mark this event Canada declined to support a UN sponsored move to protect high seas fish stocks and Loyola Hearn issued a press release touting the great work Canada is doing to protect the oceans. What a useless waste of oxygen this guy is.

Let me quote a few lines from the propaganda message the Dis-Honorable Loyola Hearn put out on such an important day.

“…we are still confronted with rampant overfishing on the high seas… Scientists are also warning of a collapse of Atlantic bluefin tuna if fishers of the eastern stock don't start following the rules.”

“…When members of the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission decided to deal with shrinking Pacific salmon stocks, they stopped high seas salmon fishing in the North Pacific Ocean and pooled their efforts to enforce the changes. Strong cooperation on monitoring and surveillance has cut illegal driftnet fishing in this area by 90 per cent.”

Boy, reading those quotes might fool anyone into thinking the Canadian government is actually concerned with marine ecosystems. Sorry but that’s where the problem lies and unfortunately it’s also where the politician himself is lying to Canada and the entire world. The statement is pure propaganda, plain and simple.

The minister’s message went on to say:

“…it means…considering fish habitat and sensitive marine areas when we make decisions. It also means erring on the side of caution when we don't have all the facts on how the fish are doing.”

Yet when asked by the United Nations to support an initiative that would, “err on the side of caution” by temporarily prohibiting bottom dragging on the high seas, Loyola Hearn and the Conservative government sided instead with nations like Russia, Japan and Spain. Nations who are the worst offenders when it comes to fish stock destruction. Canada declined to support the UN initiative intended to protect unregulated areas until scientists can determine where sensitive environments exist that might be destroyed forever.

The release also included the following statement:

“…We also need to remember to act sooner than later; to forget the short-term gains and to focus on long-term interests.”

The statement may make a nice sound bite but it’s a lie. Canada and NAFO continue to allow fishing fleets to rape the high seas and even the edge of Canada’s continental shelf. This is exactly what the minister is supporting by continuing to allow foreign vessels to ply the Grand Banks and the entire continental shelf outside the 200 mile limit.

The ultimate insult, from a Canadian perspective, has to Loyola Hearn’s statement in reference to the previously mentioned moves to protect Pacific Salmon:

“…Canada and its allies were determined to get similar results at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization this September, and it worked.”

What worked? What exactly did NAFO accomplish in to protect North Atlantic fish stocks in September? Anyone who has watched the corrupt and business focused meanderings of this organization over the years will tell you they have accomplished exactly what they always accomplish, absolutely nothing. Instead they’ve brainwashed much of the public into believing that something has been done when absolutely nothing has.

A release by Loyola Hearn in September spoke of the great strides NAFO had made in protecting the North Atlantic from illegal fishing and from nations who disregard the rules and regulations. If you ask Loyola Hearn today he’ll tell you that these new regulations were put in place to ensure that rogue vessels return to port and face penalties for breaking the law. Perhaps they do, though returning to their home port and being put at the mercy of their own governments, which often subsidize their efforts, is not much of a disincentive.

Regardless of that, since the rules were put in place only one vessel has been reported to have been charged and sent home. It remains to be seen how the captain of that vessel makes out but does it really matter? Does it matter at all when you consider that some estimates put the number of boats illegally fishing off our shores at a hundred or more each and every day? I’m no math whiz but if that number is even close to correct it means that about 9000 vessels have plied those waters since the new regulations were put in place and only one has been charged. Does anyone really believe this approach will make any difference at all and can anyone believe anything Loyola Hearn says anymore?

I remember following Mr. Hearn’s career for years. I remember his heart felt speeches about taking control of the Grand Banks. I remember his calls for custodial management and his statements about the need to protect and grow the fishing industry in Atlantic Canada. I remember writing an article in which I supported his position and looked forward to the day when Loyola Hearn would take on the mantle of Fisheries Minister for Canada. With that in mind, I’d like to apologize to anyone who read those articles and promise you that I won’t make the same mistake again.

I guess like the man says, you get what you pay for. In this case we paid with our votes for a man who has decided to sell out his principles and his people for political reasons. That said there is an end in sight. There will be another election, likely within the next year and this voter plans to do his best to ensure that Loyola Hearn is returned to whatever rock he crawled out from under.

Good luck on your next election campaign Mr. Hearn. I believe the people are finally beginning to wake up and that they’ve had enough of the mess that’s been made of the fisheries in Atlantic Canada as well as the politicians who have stood idly by and let it happen.

See you on the campaign trail Mr. Hearn.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Canada's Sell Out on High Seas Trawling

If anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador needed further evidence that a proposed UN moratorium on high seas dragging was a good idea they got it last week. The evidence came from none other than the chairman of Clearwater himself, John Risley, a man who’s been public enemy number one in provincial fisheries circles for some time.

According to Risley, there is no proof that bottom trawling causes any damage to the sea bed. Risley said at a recent meeting of the St. John’s Board of Trade, “There is zero scientific evidence, not one shred of scientific evidence that these fisheries do any damage to the bottom environment whatsoever.” He went on to say that, “We could not have a shrimp fishery, we could not have a ground fishery, we could not have a scallop fishery, we could not have a clam fishery, if it wasn't for bottom trawling."

How can anyone say with a straight face that dragging a weighted net across the sea floor and scooping up every last thing in its path does no harm to the environment? Come on folks, do you really need to be a scientist to see the idiocy of that statement?

On the fishing side of the equation, it’s all well and good for Mr. Risley to tout the consequences to local fisheries, but a temporary high seas ban would not affect Canada’s shrimp fishery, ground fishery, scallop fishery, clam fishery or any other fishery for that matter. It wouldn’t affect any of these fisheries because they are all conducted inside Canada’s 200 mile economic zone and are not subject to the proposed UN plan.

Mr. Risley’s protest and the decision by Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, who I’m sure know each other quite well, makes me wonder if perhaps there is not something else at play here. Could it be that Mr. Risley has financial interests that are indeed plying international waters and involved in the rape of our oceans in places where prying eyes can’t see what’s happening? Could it be that Mr. Hearn is aware of those interests?

The government’s argument for not supporting the UN plan is lame at best. All you have to do is look at it. They claim that supporting the plan would put pressure on Canada to stop dragging inside its waters. Bull!!! Canada has the exclusive right to manage its own water and the sea bed beneath it. Besides, when has Canada ever buckled to ill informed international pressure when it comes to doing what it wants to do? If it did we wouldn’t have a viable and sustainable seal harvest in the Country today.

Mr. Hearn, in all his wisdom, has publicly said that the proposed ban would be useless since it wouldn’t be enforceable that far out to sea. Very well then, if it isn’t enforceable what’s the harm in supporting it? It might do no good to have the ban in place but by the Minister’s own admission, it can’t do any harm either.

When I first heard Loyola Hearn say Canada would not be supporting the UN position I was floored, absolutely floored. I couldn’t believe that a Minister from Newfoundland and Labrador, a place that has been so hard hit by the depletion of fish stocks, could take the side of nations like Spain and Russia. Nations that have consistently broken international fishing laws and helped destroy the North Atlantic fish stocks. At first I just thought he might have sold out on this issue in exchange for pushing through some recently announced reforms to NAFO regulations. It’s not that I’d agree with an approach like that but at least I could have understood it. Now it seems the real reason for his position might be even more sinister.

During his comments to the Board of Trade Risley said most of the areas over which bottom dragging is performed is little more than gravel beds anyway and there is really nothing there to protect. In response to that statement Ransom Myers, a fisheries biologist with Dalhousie University, pretty much said it all. Myers agreed that the majority of trawling now takes place over areas that are essentially gravel beds but went on to say, "…they weren't mere gravel beds when they started.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trans Canada Highway into Newfoundland Nearly Abandoned by Ottawa

The Terms of Union, the official agreement by which Newfoundland and Labrador entered Canada in 1949, specifically identifies the delivery of ferry services as the responsibility of the federal government. Article 32 of the Terms of Union state:

“…Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.”

This article was included in the final agreement for the express purpose of ensuring that the island portion of the province would not be cut off from the rest of Canada and that it would have an equal access to goods and services as any other province in the Country.

In essence, the ferry system is a section of Trans Canada Highway itself. Mile 1 of the Trans Canada Highway begins in St. John’s NL. The highway extends to the west coast of the province where it meets the gulf ferry service. These ferries then allow passengers to once again connect to the TCH in Nova Scotia and continue across the Country.

I wonder if Canadians in Ontario, Manitoba or elsewhere would simply sit by and allow the federal government to allow the TCH in their area fall into disrepair. If they would let them get away with allowing it to become impassible at times resulting in their province being cut off from the rest of the Country. If protestors, demonstrators or striking government workers were to block other portions of the TCH would Ottawa have them removed? If retail prices were rising because tractor trailers couldn’t deliver goods over the TCH, would everyone just shrug it off and let it continue? I wonder how long it would take the fed to ensure that any obstruction to the highway system in those areas was cleared and traffic could flow unimpeded.

Why is it that when it comes to the TCH link in Newfoundland, the ferry service, these situations are allowed to happen again and again and continue to worsen with each passing year?

Marine Atlantic’s aging ferry fleet consists of 3 primary vessels, the Caribou, the Leif Erickson and the Smallwood. The ferries run 7 days a week, 365 days a year and each year they become more and more prone to repair issues and accidents. The Union representing navigators, engineers, electricians and radar technicians aboard these vessels have said that its time Ottawa examined the costs of repair in comparison to that of replacement.

Anyone who has used the Marine Atlantic service between Port aux Basques, NL and North Sydney, NS over the years has seen the long lineups, especially during the summer months. Truckers in particular are hard hit by the limited service and capacity available, a situation that is severely worsened when a vessel is out of service due to maintenance issues or a labor disruption. At times trailers containing goods destined for the province are stuck in line ups for days if not weeks. This delay to the delivery of goods means that truckers cannot make a living elsewhere and this in turn drives up the cost of supplies and materials essential to the province.

Union representatives are also concerned with safety issues after one ferry recently lost power and collided with a concrete dock barrier. Had the loss of power happened at sea or during inclement weather the result could have been catastrophic. They are sounding the alarm about the potential safety threat of the aging technology on the vessels and what that could mean to passengers and crew members.

In another incident in July, at the height of the provinces short tourist season, 1,300 passengers were stranded at North Sydney Nova Scotia when the Leif Erickson lost a turbo thruster and a replacement had to be shipped in from Switzerland.

The ferries are an essential part of the highway system across Canada and are required for the movement of goods but also for passenger traffic. In an average year the service moves 500,000 people (the equivalent of the entire population of the province). A large number of those passengers are tourists who travel during the short summer season and the provincial government has identified the lack of capacity on these ferries as factor limiting tourism development.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a huge land mass. Many tourists prefer to drive to the province rather than fly. This allows them the freedom to move about the province at their leisure and visit the many towns and outports without the added expense of a rental vehicle. Unfortunately the limited service offered by the federal government’s ferry service often means visitors opt not to come to the province because they have difficulty reserving space on the ferries or are not willing to face long and uncertain lineups.

If we look more closely at the Terms of Union and specifically at article 32, it states: “…Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering…” and “…will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.”

This clearly indicates that the intent of article 32 is to ensure that the ferry system has the capacity to meet the needs of the province. This is obviously not the case and with each year the problem worsens while Ottawa continues to ignore it.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a long ship building history. Currently there are idle shipyards in the province that would jump at the chance to build new, larger capacity, ferries for Marine Atlantic. All it would take is the go ahead from Ottawa to upgrade the fleet. Why then is the federal government ignoring this problem? One that’s affecting economic development in the province, driving up the cost of consumer goods and causing Newfoundland and Labrador to become more and more cut off from the rest of the Country?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Extended Life Expectancy for Grand Banks Oil Fields

The TSX moved into positive territory on Thursday thanks in part to Husky Energy’s announcement that it was increasing its estimate of the recoverable resources in the White Rose oilfield off Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to Husky, the southwestern section of the field is believed to contain 40 to 100 million barrels of recoverable oil. Earlier in the year Husky’s analysis of the western section of the field led to an increased estimate in that area to between 50 and 200 million barrels.

A spokesman for Husky said, "The results of this delineation program, along with the strong performance of the current development, should allow White Rose to significantly extend its production plateau."

In other oil news, in June of this year, the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board revised its official estimates for the combined fields on the Grand Banks of the province. The offshore regulator said the fields now appear to hold 2.751 billion barrels of oil — up 696 million barrels from previous estimates. These estimates are generally considered to be on the conservative side and do not include the latest updated information from Husky.

Many business focused columnists for news services like the Globe and Mail, have been up in arms about stalled negotiations on the Hebron oil project in the province. Negotiations broke down when the companies involved in the consortium, led by Exxon, requested half a billion dollars in tax breaks from the cash strapped province in order to develop the field and were averse to allowing he province to take an equity position in the development.

Over the ensuing weeks these narrow minded and business blinded columnists have compared Premier Williams to the dictator Hugo Chavez and gone so far as to bemoan the hardship the little province of Newfoundland and Labrador is forcing on the big oil companies involved. Many have noted that the oil wells already in production have a limited life expectancy and that the new Hebron field needs to be developed right away in order to ensure the stability of the oil industry in province.

Locally this latest news from the offshore petroleum board and Husky Energy is seen as a vindication of the provinces stand and shows that these companies often come into projects with low ball estimates of their value only to increase them incrementally over time. The result is a much bigger profit for these companies than is identified when the initial royalty contracts with the province are signed.

While some have said Newfoundland and Labrador must develop new projects quickly, no matter if the direct benefits to the province are acceptable or not, many in the province now feel that the extended life expectancy of existing fields removes any pressure government may have been feeling about having to move forward with new developments at this time. These announcements provide the province with the time it needs to continue pushing for regulatory and legislative changes that will see the province gain added value from its valuable resources.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our Fisheries Future

Hello everyone. I came across the following commentary on another blog site. I found it quite interesting and thought provoking so I figured Web Talk's readers might as well. I'd like to thank the author for allowing me to republish it here.

Our Fishless Future

Tuna, Salmon, Cod. Imagine trying to explain to your grandchildren what they tasted like. This grim scenario was laid out last week in a groundbreaking study published in the world’s most prestigious research journal, Science.

Dr. Boris Worm from Dalhousie University led the investigation, which predicts a near complete collapse of ocean ecosystems by 2048. While the scale of this catastrophe seems right out of science fiction, the implications are very real.

Scientists looked at records around the world and throughout history to get a picture of where the world’s fish stocks have been and where they are going. The projected line of steady decline hits bottom at 2048, the year Dr. Worm predicts the world’s oceans will largely be populated only by toxic algae.

This apocalyptic future is the twin prodigy of ever more efficient fishing technology, coupled with incompetent and shortsighted government policy. Far from leading the world in solving this problem, Canada is one of the worst offenders and our story is a telling study on how the world ended up in this mess.

For years, Ottawa has consistently opposed restrictions on the use of dragger technology, a widely used fishing method that is so wasteful and destructive that our fishless descendants may well marvel at our collective stupidity.

Dragger boats do exactly that, dragging a net weighing several thousand pounds across the ocean floor, with predictable and devastating impacts on sensitive bottom habitat. The net can be large enough to swallow a 747, and anything swept up by this maw is long dead by the time it is hauled up on deck.

“By-catch” is the quaint euphemism used by both industry and government to describe the enormous volumes of unwanted marine life dumped overboard, which can make up over 90% of the catch. It is akin to picking apples by first cutting down the tree.

Ottawa recently joined our traditional fishing foes, Spain and Iceland, to block a proposed international moratorium on draggers on the high seas. Canadian fishermen do almost no dragging in international waters, so why would our government collude with countries we have in the past called “fish pirates” in blocking the protection of international fish stocks? Even George Bush supports this UN sponsored effort.

Documents obtained through access to information reveal that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is apparently worried that such a prohibition might undermine their ability to allow the continued scouring of the ocean floor within Canadian waters.

This latest incident illustrates a culture of incompetence within DFO that almost defies comprehension. Having presided over the obliteration of our once-legendary cod stocks, this moribund department then allowed west coast salmon stocks to be fished close to extinction.

The response to this self-created problem was to create yet another, when it became department policy to aggressively promote net-pen aquaculture, now implicated in the massive infection of wild fish with parasites from these so-called “salmon farms”.

The case study of a wealthy, developed country such as Canada destroying our own fisheries resources through shortsighted motives and sheer stupidity has been repeated around the world. Fishing in international waters, where virtually no laws apply or are enforced, poses an even more daunting challenge.

The challenge now facing the world is essentially one of morality. This is the first time in history that we have the ability to catch virtually every fish in the ocean. Because we can, does that mean we will? It seems that morality has become essential not only for our own survival, but for the survival of most other life now sharing the planet with its new childish gods.

While time is short to save the world’s oceans, there is much we can do - if that is our choice.

Marine protected areas that are off-limits to commercial fishing have been shown to be highly effective at restoring ecosystems and repopulating adjacent areas.

Selective commercial fishing methods that do not destroy bottom habitat are not only less wasteful, but produce higher quality fish and provide more employment than dragger boats.

Certain forms of aquaculture such as catfish, trout and shellfish are not dependent on fishmeal as food, and can buy us some time to restore global ocean ecosystems.

Lastly, we need bold and principled leadership, starting at home. Incredibly, some of the same DFO bureaucrats that presided over the collapse of the cod are not only still in positions of power, they have since been promoted. This department is long overdue for a complete overhaul and many of these individuals should quite simply be fired – if not frogmarched to the curb. There is no time to waste being polite.

The scientists at Dalhousie deserve our gratitude for so clearly and convincingly showing where past and present practices are leading us. Let us hope we have the courage to change that path before it is too late.

Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer living in Vancouver

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Will Newfoundland and Labrador Look to Other Provinces for Direction on Retaining University Graduates?

There is a movement underway in Newfoundland and Labrador intended to convince the provincial government to waive interest charges on student loans. The initiative, led by local university graduate and social activist, Travis Parsons, is attempting to convince government that one of the reasons so many young people are continuing to leaving the province is their crippling student debt and an inability to attain salary levels in the province that would allow them to meet their loan obligations.

Retaining university graduates by easing the financial burdens is not a new concept, however it’s one that is just beginning to be recognized in parts of the Country. Earlier this year, the province of New Brunswick instituted a process that allows graduates to receive rebates of up to 50 per cent of their tuition costs, to a maximum of $10,000. The rebates are issued over a period of several years, to a maximum of $2,000 a year. Manitoba is also considering similar legislation in an effort to curb a growing problem with out-migration.

At this point the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has not publicly said it will support a debt reduction plan however Parsons and others believe that if any province should be concerned with out-migration it’s Newfoundland and Labrador. Recent reports have shown that the provinces population is falling, thousands of people a year are leaving for other locales, the skills base in the province is slipping and a large percentage of the population will soon be reaching retirement age or has already done so. All of which makes it extremely difficult to attract industry and grow the economy, two planks in the Tory government’s platform.

Convincing young people to remain in Newfoundland and Labrador is an issue that is growing more and more important with each passing year. These people are the future of any province however retaining them can be difficult when salaries, on average, are lower than those available in places like Alberta. One option to resolving this situation may be to ease the burden of student loan interest or to rebate tuition itself, in exchange for the graduated remaining in the province for a set period of time. Many graduates leave the province soon after graduation. It is believed that if those students could be convinced to begin their careers inside the province they would be more likely to remain for the longer term.

Reports suggest that under a pledge by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government, Manitoba which is now considering student debt relief, could be in line for a major funding boost to help cover the cost of its initiative. If this is the case, one wonders if Newfoundland and Labrador might also be able to leverage federal funding for a similar scheme. According to the latest census, Manitoba lost 8,635 people between July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2006. Newfoundland and Labrador also lost thousands of people to out-migration during the same period, however while Manitoba's population continues to grow, thanks mainly to increased immigration, Newfoundland and Labrador’s is falling steadily. Regardless of whether or not the federal government is willing to support such an initiative in the province, many feel that if something isn’t done soon, the problem will continue to worsen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lest we Forget

Saturday November 11 is Remembrance Day.

Many courageous soldiers have been proud to call Newfoundland or Labrador their home, both before and after its Confederation with Canada. This is the story of just one of them.

Lest we forget.

Thomas (Tommy) Ricketts, V.C. - Recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born on April 15, 1901 in Middle Arm Newfoundland, Ricketts was underage at the time he enlisted.. Ricketts joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at the age of 15 and 4 months. Just two months earlier, the Regiment had been decimated at Beaumont Hamel, during the Battle of the Somme.

After shipping overseas Ricketts was was wounded in the leg at Cambrai, but soon returned to his regiment. The following deed took place October 14, 1918 at Ledeghem, Belgium, for which Ricketts was awarded the Victoria Cross.

No. 3102 Pte. Thomas Ricketts, 1st Battalion, R. Newfoundland R.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 14 October 1918, during the advance from Ledeghem, when the attack was temporarily held up by heavy hostile fire and the platoon to which he belonged suffered severe casualties from the fire of a battery at point-blank range.

Pte. Ricketts at once volunteered to go forward with his section commander and a Lewis gun to attempt to outflank the battery. Advancing by short rushes under heavy fire from enemy machine guns with the hostile battery, their ammunition was exhausted when still 300 yards from the battery. The enemy, seeing an opportunity to get their field guns away, began to bring up their gun teams. Pte. Ricketts, at once realising the situation, doubled back 100 yards under the heaviest machine-gun fire, procured further ammunition, and dashed back again to the Lewis gun, and by very accurate fire drove the enemy and the gun teams into a farm.

His platoon then advanced without casualties, and captured the four field guns, four machine guns, and eight prisoners.

A fifth field gun was subsequently intercepted by fire and captured.

By his presence of mind in anticipating the enemy intention and his utter disregard of personal safety, Pte. Ricketts secured the further supply of ammunition which directly resulted in these important captures and undoubtedly saved many lives.

From The London Gazette Issue 31108 January 3, 1919 (Fourth Supplement January 6, 1919 p.309).

For this incident, Ricketts was awarded the Victoria Cross by King George V himself, and promoted to Sergeant. On the 18 January 1919 Thomas Ricketts received a message informing him that he was to be invested with the Victoria Cross by King George V on the following day, Sunday, 19 January 1919. As he was shortly due to return home to Newfoundland, the King instructed that Ricketts should proceed by train to Sandringham, the sovereign's country estate in Norfolk, where he would be invested with his VC. The ceremony took place in the estate's York Cottage where the King, accompanied by Princess Mary and Prince George, chatted with Ricketts for ten minutes before pinning the VC on his uniform coat. He was then the youngest living recipient of the Victoria Cross, and was introduced by the King at the investiture as "the youngest VC in My army."

The King later wrote in his diary on Jan. 20, 1919, the following entry: "Yesterday I gave the V.C. to Private Ricketts, Newfoundland Regiment, who is only 17 and a half now, a splendid boy."

Ricketts also received the British War Medal 1914–1920, the Victory Medal 1914–1919, 1937 GVIR Coronation Medal, 1953 EIIR Coronation Medal and France's Croix de Guerre with Golden Star.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Tale of Two Realities

Today I can’t help reflecting on that oft quoted line from that great masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities.

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.”

Could this have been a prophetic statement about the province of Newfoundland and Labrador I wonder?

The province’s economy is on a meteoric rise and statistics show it will lead the country in GDP growth once again. Wonderful news one would think, until you stop to consider the thousands of poor disenfranchised souls lined up in the cold for hours on end in a desperate attempt to find a job, any job, anywhere and at any time. I believe one local reporter noted that the scenes he witnessed just last week were reminiscent of the long bread lines of the great depression. I’m a little young to recall those images but it certainly reminded me of the stark news footage broadcast during the final bleak days leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

When Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada in 1949 it brought with it one of the richest fisheries in the world. It also brought vast mineral, oil and gas reserves. Massive deposits, like the iron ore of Bell Island, were known at the time of confederation but much of the province’s resources, from gold on the island to uranium in Labrador is only now beginning to be unearthed. Several oil fields offshore have come on stream in past years yet they are believed to represent only a fraction of the available reserves yet to be discovered. Forests abound, hydro electric generation capacity is massive and the scenic beauty of the place is a tourism operator’s wet dream. Yet the province can’t support a mere half a million people and it remains a “have not” area. Newly minted ghost towns spring up everyday, highways are congested with departing U-hauls and the population is slipping forever toward some as yet unknown point, a point where the meager services and necessities required by those remaining will become unsustainable.

I won’t go into my personal thoughts on why the province finds itself where it is today. I’ve gone down that road many times. Suffice to say that surviving as a resource rich colonial outpost is not easy, especially when the local overseers are more interested in re-election than renewal. That aside, something needs to be done to rectify a desperate situation before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.

Some will suggest that the province can only survive by regaining control, and the primary benefit, of the resources it brought into confederation. Others will call for federal support to move forward on such issues as fallow field legislation or wheeling hydro power across Quebec. We need to ensure that all secondary resource processing happens right here someone will shout. Another will call for a complete overhaul of the federal parliamentary system, a system that allows two provinces to wield more political power than the other eight combined. Where does a system like that leave for a province with less than 2% of the seats in the House they’ll moan.

There are many things that need to be done but none of them will ever happen, not without something else happening first. As I see it, the first step has to be convincing the provincial and federal governments that a problem exists. You wouldn’t think that would be difficult with the facts on the table as they are, but it is. The issues that abound and the root causes of them will never be addressed unless someone in a seat of power decides to stop, take a long hard look around and say loud and clear, “the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is dying.” The ship is listing to forty degrees, the lifeboats are over the side but the band plays on and is somehow oblivious to the water swirling around its ankles.

I wouldn’t wish for anyone to see the heartbreaking images many in Newfoundland and Labrador witnessed this past week. No longer are we seeing tens or even hundreds of people searching for work in other provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador, unlike most other provinces, isn’t seeing workers migrate out and others arrive, as can be expected in any free country. The province has now reached a point where thousands, even tens of thousands, of men and women are flooding recruiting drives held by companies from out west. Mothers and Fathers, with small children in tow, their dazed expressions providing a glimpse into the life altering, or perhaps life shattering, decisions they face, fill out forms and hope in quiet desperation to be the one chosen for a better life. If anyone can witness these sights and still believe that the province’s economic situation is improving they need ponder their understanding of improvement.

Provincial coffers are indeed in better shape than they have been for years and yes our GDP is on the rise, but what does any of that mean to a man or woman who must leave their family behind simply to ensure they have food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in and a roof over their heads. Pure economics don’t translate into a hot meal any more than the provincial GDP translates into jobs. When you consider that a large percentage of the economic improvement, or GDP growth, is related to the export of oil and minerals, with little or no processing taking place inside the province, it isn’t hard to see the disconnect.

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.” Now that I think about it, maybe this doesn’t represent the reality in Newfoundland and Labrador. The economy continues to grow while the lineups of sad, yet proud, men and women stretch ever longer. I guess in reality the best of times are already over and most dishearteningly the worst of times are still to come.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

He Said, She Said...

Will politicians ever change? It’s like they’ve all graduated from the school of thought that says you address every issue by playing the blame game and ignoring what’s really happening. We see it all the time in Ottawa and in our local legislatures from coast to coast. Opposition member’s rail against the government for its inaction only to be rebuffed by the current government who says the problems began when the former government was in power. Never mind that the issue itself is swept aside during this game of “he said she said”, it plays well for the media and a sound bite is worth a thousand votes (or something like that).

We have a perfect example of this sort of school yard mentality playing itself out in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador these days. Thousands of people are leaving the province because there is simply not enough work to keep them here. Families are split apart, the population is shrinking and more communities are dying every day. While all of this is happening, the Liberal opposition is blaming the current PC government and the government is blaming the former Liberal leadership for years of inaction while they were in office. Who’s right and who’s wrong? The answer is nobody and everybody.

Yes, the current government has some blame and should do everything it can to correct the problem but it’s an issue that’s been around a lot longer than the 3 years this government has been in power. Yes, the former Liberal government had over a decade to address the issue and did little to stem the tide. The fact of the matter is that people have left this province to find work elsewhere since day one. Ever since John Cabot landed here people have worked seasonally and moved on to other areas when times got hard. It’s a reality that’s been around for hundreds of years, long before anyone in government today was even a gleam in their Daddy’s eye but it’s a problem that needs to be addressed now, not by the next government. Playing the blame game for the benefit of the news media isn’t going to change anything.

Politicians, as a rule, have a very limited view of the future. Their vision of long term extends out to about 3 months before the next election. As such they have no appetite for doing anything that would benefit the public in the long term. They simply want actions that are seen to happen within their current mandate. God forbid a decision or action might actually come to fruition years down the road when the “other” party is in power because they might want to take the credit for it. It doesn’t matter that it’s the right thing to do it just can’t be done.

Watching our elected officials yell, scream, heckle and taunt each other while in office may have become a favorite pass time for many but isn’t it time politicians realized that the silent majority would much rather they got down to business and did what they were elected to do. The electorate is getting smarter with every generation and information is now at the finger tips of anyone who chooses to access it.

With the wide spread availability of the internet, twenty four hour news coverage and the independent voices of groups from across Canada like the NLDL in Newfoundland and Labrador, people no longer have to depend solely on what they are told by political leaders. With any luck this will eventually translate into a new breed of elector and a new breed of politician. A politician who understands that he must address the issues rather than simply jumping up and down about them and pointing the finger. Our political leaders need to be reminded that they are no longer children and that it’s time to put away their childish ways.