Da Legal Stuff...

All commentaries published on Web Talk are the opinions of the contributor(s) only and do not necessarily represent the position of any other individuals, groups or organizations.

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

New-Mouseland (and Labrador)

With all the tension between our province and Ottawa over equalization, the lack of support for fallow field laws, lower churchill support, marine atlantic rates and countless other issues maybe it's time to look for inspiration from someone who Canadian's themeslves see as one of their greatest native sons. How appropriate that he would have been born in Saskatchewan, another province embroiled in a long and tiresome struggle for decent treatment by Canada.

The following is commonly referred to as Mouseland.

It's a parable first told by Saskatchewan political powerhouse, Tommy Douglas, in 1944.


This is the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do. They even had a Parliament.

Every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you'll see that they weren't any stupider than we are.

Now I'm not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws--that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds--so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: "All that Mouseland needs is more vision." They said:"The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we'll establish square mouseholes." And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn't take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, "Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don't we elect a government made up of mice?" "Oh," they said, "he's a Bolshevik. Lock him up!" So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can't lock up an idea.

Thanks Tommy. I hope everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador remembers that story when they are offered a choice between a red or blue or even an orange cat in the next federal election. I only hope there are a few mice on the ballot as well.

Newfoundland and Labrador - Province Wide Call to Action

UPDATE - May 2, 2007

The protest rally is scheduled for Friday May 11
at 11:00am.

Several high profile members of the public, in discussion with The Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League(nldl.org), the leaders of the major provincial parties, unions, chambers of commerce and community groups have been actively planning a massive non-partisan public protest at the Confederation building in St. John's in the coming days.

According to the organizers, the rally will give the people of Newfoundland and Labrador a chance to show their strong support for the province’s position on equalization.

Recent budget decisions out of Ottawa have the potential to impact Newfoundland and Labrador far into the future. This has galvanized the public and cut across all political and social groups. The current situation, one that places a backdoor cap on the 2005 Atlantic Accord the province fought so hard for, is one that affects every man, woman and child in the province.

Many provincial organizations are already supporting the call to action and the non-partisan approach being taken by the organizers. They are calling on all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to stand united and strong on this issue and to attend the event if at all possible.

The protest rally is still in the planning stages and a final date has yet to be set, however the expectation is that it will happen on May 4th or 11th. If you would like to help organize the event or are looking for more information you can call: 709–576-2330 or email whittlep@nf.sympatico.ca

As one supporter noted, "By standing shoulder to shoulder as proud Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we hope to send a clear message to Ottawa that the people of this province refuse to sit idly by while our future is stolen from us."

"It's time to stand up and make this the biggest public protest in the history of our province!!!"

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sidestepping Equalization Rules

It looks like the Sask. government is looking at some interesting ways to turn the tables on Steve Harper's underhanded attempt to screw smaller provinces on equalization. The following appeared in the Star Phoenix recently. It looks like two can play at the type of bait and switch so popular in Ottawa these days. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador may want to take a long hard look at the possiblities being examined in Saskatchewan as well.


Sidestepping equalization rules

Province explores ways to recoup resource money

Murray Lyons, The Star Phoenix
Published: Saturday, April 28, 2007

Finance Minister Andrew Thomson hinted Friday the provincial government is looking seriously at working around equalization rules to prevent what he calls a $1.2-billion con- fi scation of resource cash by Ottawa.

Under the scenario, petroleum, potash and uranium companies would make direct contributions to build infrastructure such as hospitals or highways. It would mean the money would go directly to third parties or specifi c projects -- royalty resources would not end up in the province's general revenue fund and be counted by Ottawa in its equalization calculations.
The $1.2-billion fi gure is the estimated equalization payments that would come to Saskatchewan if there was no dollar-for-dollar clawback of resource revenue.

A senior Finance Department offi cial confi rmed "preliminary" studies of this and other possible scenarios are occurring within the department. The offi cial admits it's similar to an idea fl oated by academic Thomas Courchene in a recent paper in the Policy Options magazine of the Institute for Research on Public Policy.

Courchene, one of Canada's foremost experts on the federal equalization formula, suggested the alternative to general revenue fund royalties in the paper, which was published after the federal budget.

"Why would the province continue to collect any royalties?" he wrote. "Why not reduce them to zero and require energy companies to make compensatory contributions to hospitals and universities."

Thomson, in a 20-minute presentation Friday to the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce, made no mention of Courchene's thinking in his speech. However, he admitted the plan was under consideration during a question-and-answer session.

Without mentioning Courchene by name, the fi nance minister described the academic's proposal as a "very interesting way for us to work around the agreement" and "essentially not charge royalties.

"We would simply require through some kind of legislation that resource companies send a direct percentage of their profi t to a health board, a school board . . . or whatever," he said. "I hope it doesn't come to that.

"I would rather we continue to pool the tax and resource revenues as it gives us more fl exibility to deal with changes that we see with different industries." He says the potash and uranium industries, for example, which are hugely dependent on international markets, need a more sophisticated tax system than simply one that is designed "to recoup what we are being cheated out of by equalization."

Speaking on background, the senior Finance offi cial points out the Courchene proposal is not too different from the manner in which Quebec and Manitoba collect hydro "rents." The provinces receive artificially low revenues from their hydro-electric resources by charging citizens "lower than market rates" for electricity. As a result, any rental rates for use of the water resource for power generation does not get counted in the general revenues of those hydrorich provinces.

Saskatchewan often uses a comparison with Manitoba in discussing equalization.
Thomson told his business audience that this fi scal year Manitoba, with roughly the same GDP as Saskatchewan, will get $2 billion in equalization while Saskatchewan will get zero.
Questioned by reporters, Thomson says the fact the Quebec government used its gains in the new equalization formula unveiled recently by Ottawa to immediately give its citizens a tax break helped show Saskatchewan residents a new perspective on equalization.

"It helped to draw the line from A to B and to demystify a lot of what equalization was about," he said. "Equalization is a complicated formula and there is no easy solution to it.
"But when we're losing $1.2 billion worth of revenue and the federal government is able to provide $2 billion in support to Manitoba and $800 million to Quebec to cut taxes, people wonder why there is no money to do more here."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Maîtres chez Newf", ala National Post

This week the National Post again proved itself to be nothing more than the equivalent of a roll of cheap toilet paper. Not the soft and pleasant kind either and not nearly as relative, readable or insightful as a square or two of that famous kitten brand.

In an opinion piece entitled, "Maîtres chez Newf", writer Jonathan Kay verbally assaulted Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, the people of the province and even the province itself.

During the attack Kay recounted (in reference to Williams) “…his juvenile decision to lower the Canadian flag during a 2004 spat with Paul Martin’s Liberals about — what else? — the size of the handouts Newfoundland was getting from the rest of Canada.”

In reference to this week’s throne speech and the issue of becoming more autonomous Kay said, “That’s all very nice. But if Mr. Williams is so keen on becoming master of his house, why does he spend most of his time playing the surly teenager, endlessly haranguing his parents over the size of his allowance? A “proud nationalist” would be embarrassed by the fact that his province survives only because it receive transfers from Ottawa of $1.67-billion…”

His final hit (these guys always use the 3 strikes your out rule) was aimed directly at the province and people and it was by far the most interesting and telling.

“Mr. Williams”, Kay observed, “and the voters who support him — have got to decide what their political schtick is. Either they’re rugged individualists, proud of their identity and self-reliance. Or they’re professional welfare cases, endlessly harassing the rest of us for more handouts. You can’t have it both ways.”

Good one. Where did you ever come up with such original material? Have you been reading your own paper or was it the Globe and Mail? Never mind, it’s clear such a witty observation could only be gleaned by sticking your head firmly up your posterior (or that of someone else) and rotating it a full 360 degrees. Not very enlightening but a nice trick none the less.

Well folks all joking aside, I’m going take the high road here. That's a place where I know I won't run into anyone else of Mr. Kay’s ilk who might make some nasty remark about me, like I care.

I’ll put aside the rhetoric, forget the stereotypical and racist comments made in the article and even forget for a moment that this guy writes for a so called National paper, so respected in Atlantic Canada, that they couldn't even sell enough copies here to warrant distributing it.

Instead I’ll focus on the underlying message in the article. No, not the clear evidence of Mr Kay’s narrow minded bigotry or his afore mentioned ability to twist his body in freakishly unnatural positions, but the political and social statements he put forth.

What you are saying Mr. Kay, if I might respond to you directly, is that any political leader, province or people who claim to want autonomy and a stronger role in their own destiny should not fight with Ottawa for improved funding arrangements and transfers. If they do they are nothing more than, “professional welfare cases” and should be embarrassed to call themselves “proud nationalists”.

Thanks for that and may I just say, I appreciate the stand you've taken. I also know that since nobody reads your paper here you likely feel free to take those sorts of shots with impunity. Though you may want to reflect on how your comments will play out with your readers in that other autonomy seeking, equalization receiving province, Quebec.

The so called “professional welfare cases” there might not be as easy going and charming as I am.

Johnathan Kay, "National" Post writer and part time contortionist, can be reached at jkay@nationalpost.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Self-Reliance by Becoming Masters of Our Own House

This week, at the opening of the Legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador, the throne speech was geared to set the tone for the upcoming session and its likely to be an eventful one. The speech entitled, “Achieving Self-Reliance by Becoming Masters of Our Own House: Throne Speech 2007”, was heavy on terms like “autonomy”, “economic independence”, “unique culture” and “control over our own destiny”.

In the speech the government laid out the province’s vision and determination to "achieve self-reliance by becoming masters of our own house." It spoke of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians moving forward to strengthen the province’s financial autonomy and noted that "We will achieve this vision for our province by reducing Newfoundland and Labrador’s burden of debt on our children, diversifying our economic base, pursuing a fair fiscal balance between levels of government and reducing our dependence on equalization payments."

In his comments on the speech Premier Williams said that, “the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador has never been more ideally positioned to take control over its own destiny and lay out a path for renewal and economic prosperity.”

"Our people have learned that the best way to achieve self-reliance economically is to take charge of our future as a people," added the Premier. "We have learned that we cannot rely upon those elected to offices outside of this province to deliver what is in our best interest.
He went on to say he plans to, “…harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater financial autonomy vis-à-vis the federal government."

Premier Williams said that his government will affirm Newfoundland and Labrador’s status as a distinct people, not uniform in lineage but multi-cultural, one nation inclusive of many nations living in harmony together. "As equal partners, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal together, we will write a new future for Newfoundland and Labrador, a future of our own design, where mutual understanding, justice, equality and cooperation are the order of the day."

Williams also said this is the time to stand firm and confident in defence of the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador. "After nearly four years of responsible fiscal management and rewarding investments in economic growth opportunities, never before have we been in such a position of strength to take a strong stand on the national stage. We will be unrelenting in holding Ottawa to its obligations and promises to Newfoundland and Labrador, but at the same time we will use the opportunities and tools at our disposal to grow our own economy and set our own course for a future of self-reliance."

Typically the throne speech and the Premier’s comments are intended for a provincial audience but this one will no doubt be of interest to a much wider audience. While Premier Williams said the intent was not to promote separation from Canada, the message was clearly intended for Ottawa and no doubt came through loud and clear.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Dion Pledges to Work with N.L. Premier

Dion pledges to work with N.L. premier, who has history of fighting Ottawa
Canadian Press

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. (CP) - Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is pledging to foster a relationship of co-operation with Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams, who has a history of high-profile feuds with Ottawa.

Dion and Williams met Saturday in St. John's and discussed several issues, including equalization and the province's fisheries, after which Williams said Dion is a man he can trust.

The pair said they hadn't intended to reach any formal agreements, but rather open a dialogue that would continue if Dion is elected prime minister. "We conclude with the most valuable gain that two human beings may have - mutual trust," Dion told a news conference following the meeting.

"I intend to become prime minister of this country, and the premier will be a very good partner because he will always know that when I come with a commitment, I honour it."

Williams has been engaged in a very public fight with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, especially since the release last month's federal budget.

The Conservative premier has accused Harper of breaking a campaign promise by introducing a new equalization formula that includes 50 per cent of non-renewable resource revenues, as well as a fiscal cap.

Newfoundland and Labrador is among the provinces that wants those revenues excluded from the formula. Williams was emboldened by figures released this month by Memorial University economist Wade Locke. He concluded Newfoundland would receive $1 billion less than if it sticks with the offshore accord signed with the previous Liberal government and old equalization formula until 2020.

However, Harper has denied breaking any promise because Newfoundland has the option of sticking to the principles of its offshore accord, which protects the province from clawbacks in equalization due to resource revenues until at least 2012.

On Saturday, Dion and Williams cited the issue as evidence Harper cannot be trusted, suggesting the prime minister left Williams no choice but to lash out. "We don't want to be seen to be fighting all the time with the federal government," said Williams. "When a commitment is made by a leader of a federal party, then we expect that promise to be honoured."

Dion has said a Liberal government would respect the offshore accord without capping the amount of money East Coast provinces can receive in offshore revenue and equalization.
"The problem is not premier Williams," said Dion. "The problem is the prime minister . . . because he broke his word."

Williams launched a national ad campaign attacking the prime minister soon after the federal budget, and has urged Newfoundlanders not to vote Conservatives in the next federal election.
Last week he demanded Finance Minister Jim Flaherty resign, accusing him of giving the province misleading information about the impact of the new equalization formula.
And it's not the first time Williams has taken on Ottawa.

In December 2004, he ordered all Canadian flags pulled down from provincial buildings during talks with the former Liberal government over offshore revenues.

While Williams said Dion was an "honest" man of "integrity," he stopped short of endorsing him for prime minister or committing to actively campaign for him in an election.

"Mr. Dion did not ask for that commitment from me at this stage," said Williams.

Other provinces have also condemned the Conservative government's solution to the so-called fiscal imbalance, notably Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia Premier on The Atlantic Accord

The following speech was disseminated by the Nova Scotia premier’s office. Entitled "The Accord is about more than dollars", Premier MacDonald (of Nova Scotia) clearly states his belief that an agreement violated is an agreement nonetheless.

Premier Rodney McDonald's Speech:

“Nova Scotia’s Offshore Accord has a clear purpose: to improve our province’s self-reliance so that equalization might no longer be needed one day.

“Two weeks ago, I told Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the Offshore Accord is not just about an agreement; it’s not just about dollars; it is about the hope that we Nova Scotians have for a better future.

“We have always believed within ourselves that we will once again stand on our own two feet and give back to this great country to which we belong.

“The Offshore Accord showed us that Ottawa shared our dream.

“The Accord is a bilateral, legal agreement that continues in effect today. It is a fundamental agreement between Canada and Nova Scotia.

“When the first Accord was signed in 1986, we expected that the offshore would eventually help us move from being a "have not" to a "have" province.

“The Accord is rooted in the economic development principle that is enshrined in section 36(1) of the Constitution. In the opening statement of the Accord, the parties agreed that the development of the offshore resources would occur in a manner that builds “lasting social and economic structures.”

“The Accord promises that Nova Scotia would be the principal beneficiary of the offshore revenues – 100 per cent.

“But the federal equalization formula, with its power to claw back payments from Nova Scotia, posed a challenge. So, Canada agreed to pay Nova Scotia offset payments to neutralize the claw back.

“History showed that the offset payments fell short, so Premier John Hamm started the Offshore Accord Review in 2002.

“In Ottawa, it was then-Opposition Leader Stephen Harper who played the role of helping to champion our cause. He was key to helping Nova Scotia succeed in getting the federal government to respect the Accord.

“The 2005 Agreement recognizes Nova Scotia’s “unique economic and fiscal challenges,” which includes its high debt levels relative to other provinces and “the strong commitment of the province to improve its fiscal situation.” In this regard, Nova Scotia demonstrated its commitment to debt reduction by applying the 2005 Agreement’s $830 million advance payment directly and fully to the provincial debt.

“The 2005 Agreement to the Accord stipulates the offset payments from Ottawa are to be based on the equalization formula “as it exists at the time” – meaning the equalization model that would be in active use.

“But in its budget delivered two weeks ago, the federal government gave us two equalization choices, neither of which is consistent with the 2005 Agreement to the Accord.

“Ottawa’s newest equalization formula introduces a cap on Nova Scotia’s equalization entitlement. The cap is measured based on fiscal capacity alone and ignores Nova Scotia’s debt position.

“Moreover, Nova Scotia’s offshore revenues are projected to exceed the cap, which would mean a cut in our equalization. We could thus fall short of the guarantee to receive the benefit of 100 per cent of our offshore revenues.

“All Nova Scotians should be concerned about this. That's why my government is prepared to take every step to fight for our rights.

“What is at issue is very simple. Equalization is a right under our Constitution, and our Offshore Accord is a legal, bilateral right.

“Our offshore development revenues represent unprecedented and historic opportunity for us to get out of decades-old “have not” status.

“Our future is at stake. We will not lose our focus: a Nova Scotia that ensures services for its citizens and keeps a promising future alive for our children and their children.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Penny Saved is a Penny "Hearned"

As one local political analyst recently put it, “In Stephen Harper’s world, a penny saved is a penny Hearned.”

Even after an independent analyst has proven that the federal government reached into the pockets of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to the tune of billions, Ottawa’s representative to the province, federal cabinet minister Loyola Hearn, is still saying his government is delivering a lot of permanent, long term benefits, “while he works on other issues like equalization.”

My first response after hearing that comment, after I finished choking on my morning coffee, was to wonder aloud (and with a few well chosen expletives) why the hell Mr. Hearn would even need to “work on equalization” at this point.

If he hadn’t supported his party over his province and if the Conservative government truly intended to live up to its promises, rather than shafting the province by sneaking through a budget implementation bill that undermines the Atlantic Accord, Mr. Hearn wouldn’t be worried about trying to fix the mess he, Fabian Manning and Norm Doyle allowed to happen.

Too little too late Mr. Hearn.

Hearn is also quoted as saying he doesn't believe anybody can argue with the government's decisions to re-locate the weather office to Gander, the planned stationing of two major ice-breakers at St. John's and Argentia and the announcement of over 100 million dollars for the Canadian Forces in St. John's along with a Battalion of 100 personnel. He then has the nerve to claim that this proves the Harper government is fully committed to the province.


The weather office and the location of troops in the province were done because of massive public outcry and to ensure that you and other Conservative MPs could manage to get elected on the last go around. The deployment of the ice breakers wasn’t done because Newfoundland and Labrador so desperately needs them, which it does, but because it would have cost the federal government millions in infrastructure funding to keep them in their original locations. It's a cost saving measure and nothing more.

It’s interesting to see a grown man squirm like this but it looks good on him. It’s interesting as well to hear Loyola Hearn say he is, “working on equalization” when his own government is claiming they kept all of their promises and that Newfoundland and Labrador got a “sweet deal”. Which is it Loyola?

Cut the bull Mr. Hearn.

It’s clear from your statements and the statements of other federal officials that math isn’t a strong suit of your government but if you can just stop for a second and ask yourself the following question it might become a little clearer to you:

“If you simply stayed in the province doing nothing else but handing out multi-million dollar crumbs for the rest of your term in office, exactly how many of those crumbs would you need to announce to fully repay the $11 billion dollars denied to the province through your support for Stephen Harper and the Conservative party?”

I'd love to hear the answer to that.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Russia to Fund Fixed Link

Earlier this week Bloomberg reported that Russia is planning to build the world’s longest tunnel across the Bering Strait to Alaska. According to the report which was brought to my attention by a strong supporter of Newfoundland and Labrador issues (and no he’s not from the province) the tunnel will form part of a massive corridor intended to supply the U.S. with oil, natural gas and electricity from Siberia.

The tunnel will cost an estimated $10 to $12 billion dollars and will form part of a 6,000 kilometer , $60 billion dollar, rail transport corridor from Siberia to Alaska, through Canada and into the U.S. heartland. Russian officials hope to formally present the plan to U.S. and Canadian governments next week.

The undersea tunnel portion of the project will be constructed under some of the most inhospitable waters in the world and contain a high-speed railway, pipelines, power lines and fiber-optic cables.

The project envisions building high-voltage power lines inside the tunnel to supply the new rail links and also for export to North America. In addition to the ability to move resources, “The transit (people) link is that string on which all our industrial cluster projects could hang,'' a spokesman said. It is believed this corridor will go far in resolving the economic woes of Siberia, a land that has been cut off from much of the world throughout its existence.

Does any of this sound the least bit familiar anyone? Well if it doesn’t it sure should.

For decades people in Newfoundland, also an isolated land with massive untapped resource potential, have lobbied for a tunnel or some other form of fixed link between the island portion of the province and mainland Canada. For just as long, the idea has been brushed aside as unnecessary, unfeasible or simply laughable. Despite this the government of Canada will soon be deciding whether or not to work with Russia and the U.S. to build a much longer, more expensive and more environmentally challenging link between those two nations.

Boy it sure would be nice if government would stop to consider linking all Canada’s province’s before getting involved in international links on this scale.

The distance from Newfoundland to Labrador, on the mainland, is far shorter than the proposed tunnel envisioned in the Russian venture, far less expensive to build and just like Siberia, the province is rich in electrical energy, oil, gas and minerals. It also has the economic woes that come with isolation, including great difficulty getting the province’s gas and abundant electrical energy to market.

Some may say that the Russian venture is different because it won’t cost Canada anything to develop, after all the Russians intend to pay for it. They’d be wrong.

Indeed there is no intention to ask Canada for funding but it’s clear that if Russia is willing to fund such a massive project to build an oil/gas and electricity corridor to markets in the U.S. then they expect a solid return on that investment. Why then can’t the Canadian government see the financial potential of linking resource rich Newfoundland to the rest of the Country and how much revenue will be lost because they refuse to do it?

A fully costed plan for a Newfoundland and Labrador fixed link, very similar to the Russian one, has already been developed by local engineer, Tom Kierans.

Mr. Kierans’, who helped design the Upper Churchill power plant, has been trying in vain to promote this project for years. His pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Like the Russian plan, the Kierans’ design also includes a rail line, oil/gas pipelines and electrical distribution capability that would power the transportation link and deliver power to market. Go figure.

Now in his 90’s its doubtful Mr. Kierans will be able to continue tilting against this particular windmill for too many more years. It’s a shame.

After decades of laughing off the so called “stupid idea” of a fixed link inside Canada I wonder what the reaction will be when this new Russian venture is tabled next week. Somehow I expect the proponents of the plan won’t get quite the same condescending reaction out of Ottawa as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have received.

I also suspect that an agreement, quietly reached in the House of Commons a couple of weeks ago, to “form a committee to examine the potential for a Newfoundland and Labrador tunnel” was nothing more than a pre-emptive attempt by Ottawa to soften the province’s position for when the Russian plan is formally presented.

I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stephen Harper - Voted Canada's #1 Dysfunctional Dad

As Canadians we all live in a strong federation of provinces. We are all a part of a proud and historic alliance. We are a union of diverse jurisdictions which equal far more than the sum of our individual parts. A family, if you will, of brothers and sisters, all equally loved and nurtured by a parental and protecting Ottawa.

Excuse me while I puke!

That may have been the dream a long time ago but these days it certainly isn’t the reality at 666 Canuck Lane.

Today we all ramble aimlessly around a house divided. It's like we're the kids of divorced parents and we got stuck living with the unfit one.

We're all living with a parent who figures its just fine that the two biggest kids in the family have everything they want, even if it means snatching it out of the hands of their smaller siblings. Going to Dad to complain gets us nowhere. Hell it might even mean a good hard slap across the face. In the end the little ones have no other recourse but to scream in vain hoping someone, anyone, will listen. They never do.

The entire Country as it exists today is nothing more than the ultimate dysfunctional family and, other than those who always end up holding the short end of the stick, nobody gives a rat’s ass!

These days it’s common for Dad to break open little Junior’s piggy bank, give the cash to his big brother for beer and hookers and not even tell the poor little guy until the money’s all spent and big brother is staggering around the house beating up the furniture and slapping the other kids around. Sound familiar anyone?

It’s also acceptable for half the brothers and sisters in the family to be as pissed as hell at what Dad’s doing. It’s OK as long as it’s the right half that is.

Hell, our latest father figure has been in charge for well over a year now and not once has he called all the kids into a room for a serious chat. Ever hear of a First Minister’s Conference Dad? With everyone at each other’s throats these days I think we could use one right about now don’t you?

No, probably not. I guess Dad figures if he just ignores the problem long enough it’ll go away. Good strategy Dad. You may even be right because if things don’t get any better around this bloody house sometime soon a lot of the kids might just decide to pack their bags and get the hell out.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Fisheries Renewal Plan or Fisheries Destruction Plan?

Last thursday the federal and Newfoundland and Labrador governments announced their plan for a Federal-Provincial Fishing Industry Renewal Initiative. They launched the initiative at a press conference identifying measures both governments claim will “fundamentally change the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery.”

The new plan appears to include many necessary financial and safety changes in support of fishers. In fact it seems to address many aspects of the industry from a commercial perspective, but that’s exactly the problem. While commercial issues needed to be addressed, what is sadly lacking are any measures to ensure the future of the fish being caught and by extension the future of the fishing industry.

Nowhere in the plan is there any mention of an approach to phasing out destructive fishing techniques. Nowhere is there any recognition of foreign overfishing and nowhere is there any mention of the illegal activities or ways of enforcing regulations off the province’s shores.

The initiative spreads around a great deal of money to enhance the industry from a commercial perspective but from an environmental sustainability angle it completely misses the boat (no pun intended).

The new initiative includes:

• Fleet rationalization allowing the combining of fishing enterprises;

• Flexibility on vessel size;

• Elimination of volume restrictions that existed in the former vessel replacement policy;

• Conversion of temporary inshore shrimp permits to regular licenses;

• Changes to capital gains measures meaning potential savings of up to $60 million in taxes in 5 yrs;

• Measures to eliminate trust agreements;

• Improving fishers’ ability to access financing by facilitating the use of licenses as collateral;

• An enhanced fisheries loan guarantee program;

• $3 million to enhance market research and promotion;

• $6 million for fishing industry research and developmental including work associated with the development of new species, new products, new markets and new techniques to harvest, handle, process and market the resources;

• $1.5 million for a voluntary fish auction;

• $2.5 million for Fishing Industry Workforce Adjustment; and

• $750,000 for Occupational Health and Safety initiatives.

The only initiative that could even possibly be seen as an attempt to do something to protect the fish at all is the following item:

• $19.5 million will be invested in fisheries science over the next three years.

While some will say that $19.5 million for science is wonderful, when you consider that $9 million of that (and likely much more with the usual cost of government overruns) will go to keep the science vessel, the CCGS Templeman in service for a few more years. The aging and decrepit vessel is in service now so that’s nothing new, though anyone who’s actually seen it might be amazed it can still float, thus the millions in funding to keep it in service.

The federal and provincial governments have termed their new initiative an “Ocean to Plate” approach to fisheries management when what it might better be termed is a “Boat to Market” approach. I don’t know where the “Ocean” part comes in. Maybe someone should go offshore and ask a cod fish what it thinks of this plan, if they can find one alive.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Newfoundland and Labrador to Lose 1 Billion with Equalization

Memorial University economist Wade Locke has released the findings of new calculations on the impact of the latest equalization formula to Newfoundland and Labrador. Locke presented a report last week revealing that Newfoundland and Labrador could potentially gain over $5 billion under the new formula (over the Atlantic Accord). His latest findings, based on new information related to the calculation process identified in the March budget, shows instead that the province actually stands to lose $1 billion in funding.

According to Locke a stricter interpretation of the new equalization formula may actually widen the rift between Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government, with billions of dollars in oil royalties being held in the balance. Locke undertook his new study after determining that equalization calculation changes released in the March budget held the potential to impact to his base assumptions. The result has come as quite a shock to many in the province.

Originally Locke's findings showed that while the Atlantic Accord contract would generate just over $18 billion for the province between now and 2020, the new forumla would increase that number by about $5.6 billion however this still fell well short (by nearly $5 billion) of the promise made by Ottawa to remove 100% of non-renewable resource revenue from the formula.

After the most recent review it seems that in reality the new equalization formula will actually leave the province with about $17 billion over the same period a net loss of $1 billion dollars and $11 billion less than the original Harper promise.

At the same time these numbers are being released, tax payer funded federal ads are running in the province telling everyone that Newfoundland and Labrador is much better off under the new formula and that, regardless of what Premier Williams is saying, Prime Minister Harper has kept his promise.

Loyola Hearn, the province's cabinet representative in Ottawa who last week touted Locke's numbers as proof positive that the province was treated fairly and that he made the only move possible by supporting his government's budget does not seem as pleased with the revised numbers as he was last week. This week Mr. Hearn is saying simply that, "...the numbers are premeature," and "...hypothetical".

The Prime Minister and finance minister have yet to comment on the latest figures but it will be interesting to see their reaction in light of the clear statements made by Mr. Harper that "no province would be adversely affected by the new formula." I don't know about anyone else, but I'd certainly call a net loss of anywhere between $1 and $11 billion dollars (depending on which figures you use) an "adverse effect".

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NY Times links Stephen Harper to American Far Christian Right

The following was originally published by "The Canadian" while Harper Govt. was still in opposition. (The photo was not)

Though a little dated, with the Harper Conservatives now in power in Ottawa, the article contains information that is extremely important for all Canadians to consider.

Over 20 candidates and members of Parliament for the Conservative Party of Canada, including leader Stephen Harper, Justice Critic Vic Toews, Foreign Affairs Critic Stockwell Day and Firearms Critic Garry Breitkreuz, have had on-going links to organizations established under the umbrella of the Council for National Policy (CNP), an American group that David Kirkpatrick in a New York Times article on August 28, 2004, calls a “club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.”

Robert Dreyfuss in the January 28, 2004 edition of the Rolling Stone reports that the CNP -- which is not well known in Canada -- has “funnelled billions of dollars to right-wing Christian activists.”

Several years before Stephen Harper would become Prime Minister of Canada, he reportedly addressed CNP members in 1997 at its meeting in Montreal. Reportedly, the effort to impeach then U.S. President Clinton was conceived at this meeting, as reported by Robert Dreyfuss, “Reverend Doomsday,” Rolling Stone, January 28, 2004.

Addressing the elite group is no small feat, given that guests may only attend meetings with the unanimous consent of the Executive Committee, as confirmed by David Kirkpatrick, “Club of the Most Powerful Gathers in the Strictest Privacy,” New York Times, August 28, 2004 edition, and specifically on p 10.

Since Mr. Harper’s address, links between Conservative Party members and groups sponsored by the CNP like Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition of America and the National Rifle Association have grown. In turn, these groups have taken an increasingly forthright role in influencing Canadian politics through radio broadcasts, Canadian affiliates, and training for grassroots advocacy efforts in support of Conservative Party candidates.

This should perhaps come as no surprise given that the Vancouver Sun estimates that “roughly half the current 98 members” of the Conservative caucus “are religious social conservatives,” which is “well over double the national average.” It suggests, however, that powerful forces may be affecting the distribution of political power in this country about which Canadians may not be aware.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sue Kelland Dyer - Adding Sarcasm & Wit to the Equalization Fiasco

I’ve noticed that many of my readers also take the time to read the articles of local activist and commentator Sue Kelland-Dyer. While Sue and I may not always agree on issues of concern in Newfoundland and Labrador I believe that at heart we both want what's best for the province and the people here. This is why I was so pleased recently when I heard some comments from Ms. Dyer about the Harper equalization fiasco on an open line program. I was doubly pleased with the wonderful idea she proposed for resolving the current impasse.

I’m sure Ms. Dyer presented the plan with her tongue firmly planted in cheek, (I know she brought a smile to my face) but she also raised some good points in the process and since Sue hasn’t been doing much writing lately (and I was stuck for an article) I figured I’d share her thoughts with you all. (paraphrasing of course)

The idea was quite novel really.

First the background:

As we all know Stephen Harper promised on multiple occasions, in several locations and in two elections to remove non-renewable resource revenue from the equalization calculation. No Caps. No 50% inclusion. No limitations of any sort. 100% removal was the promise made and the promise broken. Harper claims the government didn't break any promises. Yes, He and the Conservative party did break a promise but since they weren't actually the government at the time he made the promise, technically I guess he's right. (Don't you just love the ease with which sleazy politicians twist the truth)

Anyway, enough said on that.

Another fact is that equalization is based in part on a province’s population. Essentially the federal government does a head count, identifies how much revenue a province has at its disposal and based on both of these figures calculates the amount of equalization to deliver (or not) to the province.

In the Newfoundland and Labrador context, we all need to understand that the backbone of our economy for centuries has been the fishing industry. A fishing industry that has been decimated because of mismanagement and trade negotiations carried out by the federal government. As a result of their mishandling of the file the province’s fishing industry collapsed a couple of decades ago resulting in a moratorium being instituted in 1992. Fifteen years later the cod still haven’t returned.

The moratorium saw over 20,000 people leave the province at the time and the exodus is still going on. As a result, thousands upon thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are now having their heads counted elsewhere and, in addition to working and paying taxes, are helping to increase the amount of equalization funding provided to other provinces. On the flip side of the coin, since the head count here has fallen so dramatically the amount of equalization available to Newfoundland and Labrador continues to fall.

The idea is simple according to Sue. (I just love this) Since the federal government presided over the collapse of our province’s main industry, Newfoundland and Labrador should simply agree to accept the equalization cap and even the inclusion of 50% of resource revenues, but only when the cod come back.

The federal government presided over the collapse of the province’s economic engine so the least they should do is allow Newfoundland and Labrador to generate economic stimulus needed to replace it.

Good one Sue. I doff my hat to you.

Deadly warming cools seal hunt

The following was written by a Washington Post columnist and appeared as well in the Chicago Tribune. Finally the mainstream media across Canada, the U.S. and the world have been given a chance to see what a balanced, well researched and well written account of the annual seal harvest should look like.

This article presents both sides of the debate clearly. The writer doesn’t try to slant the story by only presenting the pre-conceived ideas, misinformation and stereotypes so commonly spread by the anti-sealing movement.

Well done.

Deadly warming cools seal hunt

By Doug Struck
The Washington Post
Published April 5, 2007

TORONTO -- Hunters and animal-rights activists face off on the ice this week as Canada's annual seal hunt begins, but a succession of unusually warm winters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence already has drowned thousands of the animals.Canadian authorities reduced the quotas on the harp seal hunt by about 20 percent after over flights showed large numbers of seal pups were lost to thin and melting ice in the lower part of the gulf off Prince Edward Island.

"We don't know if it's weather or climate. But we have seen a trend in the ice conditions in the last four or five years," said Phil Jenkins, a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. "The pups can't swim for very long. They need stable ice. If the ice deteriorates underneath them, they drown."

Rebecca Aldworth, an activist for the Humane Society of the United States, flew over the area this week. "We should have seen vast ice fields but we saw only a few floating ice pans," she said. "We should have seen thousands of seal pups but we just saw a few."

Jenkins said only two of the usual fleet of about 40 seal-hunting boats ventured into the southern gulf when the hunting season opened Monday. "There weren't many seals there to hunt," he said.

In the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the Labrador Sea, ice conditions were normal and the hunt was to start Wednesday with the now-traditional confrontation between hunters and people who oppose the hunt.

Canada set a quota of 270,000 seals for the hunt this year, down by 65,000 from the previous year. The hunters, most of them commercial fishermen from the seaside towns and villages of eastern Canada, get about $90 per seal for the fur and seal oil.

"All we are looking for is to go to bed with a full stomach and a tight roof over us," said Jack Troake, 71, a fisherman and seal hunter in the town of Twillingate, on Newfoundland's northern coast. He said he has been hunting since he first went out with his father in 1950. "We're coastal people, just hanging on by our fingertips. We need the seal hunt to make ends meet."

The economically depressed fishing towns depend on the spring seal harvest to pay bills and buy gear to start the crab and shrimp season, about all they have left after the cod disappeared, said Jim Winter, co-founder of the Canadian Sealers Association."

The real bottom line is that killing seals is no different than killing pigs or cows or lambs to sustain your family," Winter said from St. John's. "We are using the same methods they do in abattoirs," or slaughterhouses, he said. Most hunters shoot the seals, but some kill the animals with clubs. "Because this is out in the open, it's the Bambi syndrome run amok."

Aldworth, who has been watching seal hunts for the Humane Society and other organizations for nine years, contends that "year after year, people continue to see unacceptable forms of cruelty."

"This is a hunt of baby seals for their fur," she said. "Most of them are under 3 months, and many of them are under 1 month old. They are killed to produce fashion items."

The United States banned imports of seal products in 1972, and several European countries have moved to impose bans or restrictions. The Humane Society has promoted a boycott of Canadian seafood products to try to end the seal hunt.

Jenkins, of Canada's fisheries department, argues that these moves are a product of emotionalism."We've brought this seal herd back from 1.8 million in the 1970s to 5.5 million in 2004," he said from Newfoundland, where he was to monitor the hunt. "We look at this as a conservation success story. We feel very strongly we are going to keep this herd in abundance and keep it healthy."

Jenkins said the loss of so many seal pups this year in the lower Gulf of St. Lawrence was not unexpected, because of warmer weather. "Our scientists say that the 5.5 million population can sustain this kind of event, but it has to be managed" with the lower hunting quotas, he said.

Aldworth said the milder winters provide another argument for protecting the seals."We're going to see far higher levels of mortality," she said. "We can't control global warming in the short term, but we can control the hunt by ending it."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Premier Lorne Calvert to take out Anti-Harper ads

Originally published on the CTV News web site.

Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert has climbed on the same soapbox as his Newfoundland counterpart, saying the federal Conservatives have broken a key budgetary promise to his province and may lose support as a result.

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has taken out national newspaper ads slamming the government and has criticizing the budget in numerous interviews, calling on Newfoundlanders to vote against the Tories in the next election.

During an appearance on CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Calvert said he's equally angry, claiming Prime Minister Stephen Harper simply didn't keep his promise to fully exclude non-renewable natural resources from the formula used to calculate equalization payments to the provinces.

Harper's promise, made during the last election, would have meant hundreds of millions more in funding for the Saskatchewan.

Instead, the Conservatives' allowed for the option of removing resource revenues, but capped the amount of money paid out to provinces under the equalization program.

Much like Williams' current campaign, Calvert said he is working to convince people in Saskatchewan that the Conservatives -- a party that holds 12 of 14 federal seats in the province -- have let the province down.

"The people of both of our provinces have been promised by this prime minister and this Conservative government that when it comes to the calculation of equalization we would see 100 per cent of our non-renewable natural resources revenues excluded, so we would stop sending these revenues from the province to other parts of Canada," Calvert told CTV's Craig Oliver, co-host of Question Period.

"That was a promise made, not just in one election but two elections. It was made not just to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia but also to Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and the promise was broken."

In new radio ads running in Saskatchewan however, the Conservatives claim the new budget does keep the pledge to remove natural resources revenue, and that it delivers $878 million in new funding to the province and provides the largest per-capita investment of any province.
But Calvert said he is taking out ads of his own and is spreading his own message through a public awareness campaign. He warned the Conservatives could lose support over the issue.

"The fact of the matter is some of those (Conservative) seats were won on the promise to be fair to Saskatchewan when it comes to our non-renewable natural resources," Calvert said.
"Of course I'm a strong New Democrat, Danny Williams is a strong Progressive Conservative, but on this, I'll tell you, this is a promise made to the people."

Calvert said people from all political stripes in Saskatchewan, and across Canada, have united in calling on Harper to do more to keep his promise to exclude non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula.

Calvert also said he, along with every "Martha and Henry" in Saskatchewan, believes the new equalization measures mean the province's resource revenues are being used by the federal government to provide tax cuts to Quebec, and thereby buy votes in the key province.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Promise Made, Promise Broken

On Wednesday April 4 economics professor, Dr. Wade Locke of Memorial University, presented the findings of a study into the new federal equalization program and it’s financial impacts on Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the study Dr. Locke examined the 3 options currently available to the province under the revised equalization plan:

1. Maintain the Status Quo as set out in the 2005 Atlantic Accord contract;

2. Adopt the new equalization formula with 50% of non-renewable resource revenues excluded but capped at Ontario’s fiscal capacity;


3. Adopt the new equalization formula with 100% of non-renewable resource revenue included, also capped at Ontario’s fiscal capacity.

According to Dr. Locke the best direction for the province to take under the new regime is to remain under the Atlantic Accord contract until about 2009 and then switch to the 50% revenue exclusion option.

The report states that under the 50% exclusion option the province could potentially pick up an additional $5 billion in the next 13 years over and above continuing on its current course under the Atlantic Accord. But the story doesn’t end there.

This improvement in financial capability is apparently why Stephen Harper, Loyola Hearn and others have been saying the province is better off under the new plan, but Dr. Locke's study also shows that this doesn't mean there is no adverse impact to the province.
He goes on to say that had Stephen Harper and his government actually changed the equalization formula to exclude 100% of non-renewable resource revenues and not included a cap, as the province’s of Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador had expected Ottawa to do based on Harpers previous promises, it could have meant a further $5 billion dollars for Newfoundland and Labrador over the same 13 year period. $5 billion dollars that will not flow to the province under the new plan.

Dr. Locke based his findings on $51 dollar oil and the projected revenues for existing oil and mineral projects already operating in the province. This means there is also a potential that new discoveries and developments, or a higher average oil price, could inflate those numbers beyond the $5 billion estimated on either end of the equation.

Dr. Locke noted that he conducted his study with the intention of clearing the air and cutting through the federal and provincial political rhetoric surrounding the issue. While he was acting strictly as an economist and did not wish to involve himself in the political debate, I on the other hand have no problem charging into the battle.

Dr. Locke’s study shows that the province will indeed be better off under the new equalization plan, than it would have otherwise been, but that was never the issue from a political perspective was it? The issue was whether or not Stephen Harper lived up to his word or not and if not, would that have a negative financial impact on the province. The answer to those questions are clearly No and Yes. No, he didn’t keep his promise and Yes it will have a negative financial impact on Newfoundland and Labrador.

The study shows that while Newfoundland and Labrador may make some gains under the new forumula, it will still be far worse off than if Stephen Harper had done what he had led the people of Canada to believe he was going to do, worse off to the tune of $5 billion dollars or more.

If you are anything like me, wrapping your head around a number like $5 billion is not an easy task, so let me put it in perspective.

For years Canada was, and to some degree still is, involved in a major dispute with the United States over softwood lumber. In fact it's been the biggest and most contentious single trade issue between the two Countries for quite some time. Court cases have been fought, tribunals and panels struck and the government of Canada has essentially fought tooth and nail with its neighbors to the south over what is considered a major wrong doing on their part.

The financial impact of the softwood lumber dispute to Canada was approximately $5 billion dollars. The very same amount identified as the shortfall to Newfoundland and Labrador between what Stephen Harper said he would do and what he actually did. Yet Harper, Hearn and the entire Canadian government simply expect the province to accept this fact without argument.

If $5 billion dollars is worthy of occupying the massive resources of the entire federal government for years in an attempt to secure it for the people of Canada, imagine the impact of denying the same amount to a small and economically challenged province like Newfoundland and Labrador. Imagine what $5 billion dollars could have done to move the province forward and ensure it a stable and bright future.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Harper Propaganda Machine Swings into High Gear

Today the patchwork Federal Conservative government, formerly known as the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party, has launched an advertising campaign intended to portray Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams's recent newspaper ads as incorrect and misguided.

Premier Williams’ ads, which appeared in papers across the Country, highlighted the broken promises made by the Harper government in its all out pursuit of vote rich Quebec at the expense of other parts of the Nation.

In response to the ads Harper, taking a page directly from the play book of the U.S. Republican Party and current President George Bush has launched ads of his own.

Harper’s propaganda campaign now appears to be in full swing and includes telling the Canadian public that provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador are actually better off under the new equalization plan. These ads, while intended to undermine Mr. Williams credibility instead serve to provide further evidence that the truth simply doesn’t matter to Mr. Harper or his elected officials.

Adding to the stench of his latest tactic, the Harper government has paid for these self serving ads with tax revenue gained from the people of Canada, including the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, BC and New Brunswick, provinces that all feel hard done by under the new equalization plan.

While the ads may indicate that Newfoundland and Labrador is better off under the new Harper equalization regime, what they conveniently do not mention is that in order to pick up a few million dollars in short term equalization gains, provinces like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are required to give up any future hope of reaping the full benefits of offshore oil and gas reserves.

If anyone can recall the fuss caused when the government of the day tried unsuccessfully to foist the National Energy Plan on Alberta a number of years ago they will likely have a full understanding of where Danny Williams and others are coming from over this issue.

The option presented by the Harper government, rather than truly improving the lot of these poorer provinces, would instead see them sell their future for the few dollars they need to survive today.

While oil and gas revenues are indeed protected in the short term by the Atlantic Accord, these accords are set to potentially expire in just a few years and signing onto Stephen Harper’s new equalization plan will mean trading away future benefits that could be used by the provinces to pay down debt and diversify their economies.

The ads also fail to inform the public that the new system includes an accounting of the property values in each province when calculating equalization. In other words, regardless of how much revenue a province does or doesn’t have available, no matter what the economy is like at any given time, if property values are high or even slow to drop the provinces can kiss millions in equalization funding goodbye.

As BC premier Gordon Campbell noted recently, “Property values in BC went up by 24% recently but our ability to pay taxes didn’t go up by 24%”.

While continuing to pour billions into Quebec to prop up business interests like Bombardier (nearly $1 billion dollars was announced for the aerospace industry yesterday) and to be used for tax cuts for the people there, Harper has essentially gutted any chance smaller provinces have of building strong, self sufficient economies and becoming fully contributing partners in Canada.

Harper may well be willing to flip the proverbial finger at smaller provinces in pursuit of his ultimate goal, a majority government and an iron fisted grip on Canadians, but where will that leave the nation long after he is gone?

Already since taking office Stephen Harper’s neo-republican party has gutted federal funding to the poor, women’s groups and more. He has refused to recognize native agreements. He has forced provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia into a lose/lose choice on equalization. He is unrelenting in his attempts to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board and he has cost Canadian investor’s billions of dollars by not keeping his word over income trusts while leaving these companies vulnurable to foreign take over bids.

The judgment of whether or not Premier Williams and others are misguided in their complaints rests solely in the hands of individual voters across Canada, but it appears Stephen Harper is not willing to let that decision happen without an all out attempt to distort the facts in his favor. If this latest attempt by Harper to increase his power of Canadians and the damage caused in just a single year of a Harper minority government doesn’t make people stop and wonder about the future then it may already be too late.

Time will tell.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Harper and Williams Play He Said, She Said

Much has been said by federal and provincial leaders regarding the latest budget out of Ottawa and its handling of equalization. While the Prime Minister claims to have kept his word to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, Premier Danny Williams believes he and his people, and by extension, the people of Canada were lied to and deceived in some way. Perhaps even that the Prime Minister perpetrated some sort of fraud on the Canadian public.

The result of this has been a back and forth game of "He said, She said."

No matter what sort of spin might be placed on this by various government spokespeople, analysts and the media there can only be one truth in any situation, but what is it? Perhaps the following can clear the issue up.

Why should Newfoundland's possibility of achieving levels of prosperity comparable to the rest of Canada be limited to an artificial eight year period (the atantic accord)?

Remember in particular that these are in any case non-renewable resources that will run out. Why is the government so eager to ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador always remain below the economic level of Ontario?

The Ontario clause (cap) is unfair and insulting to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and its message to that province, to Nova Scotia and to all of Atlantic Canada is absolutely clear. They can only get what they were promised if they agree to remain have not provinces forever. That is absolutely unacceptable.

What is at stake is the future of Atlantic Canada, an unprecedented and historic opportunity for those provinces to get out of the have not status that has bedevilled them for decades.

- Stephen Harper, Nov. 2004

I believe the answer is clear.