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Monday, June 30, 2008

July 1 - Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador

With Memorial Day once again upon us, it seems appropriate today to reflect on the exploits of the so called “Fighting Newfoundlander” and remember those who fought or died in conflicts half way around the world.

When many think of the Newfoundland and Labrador's military history they immediately think of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Although Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have fought with the forces of other nations and continue to distinguish themselves today in the Canadian Armed Forces, it is with a special kind of pride that we remember the exploits of that particular Regiment.

Originally formed in 1914, The Newfoundland Regiment, as it was known at the time, consisted of what many refer to as the “first 500” or “The Blue Puttees” in reference to the blue leggings worn by the men.

An entirely volunteer regiment, the men of the “first 500”, along with those who joined them later, distinguished themselves in battle after battle during World War I. So valiant were their efforts that they were later bestowed by the King of England with the title of “Royal”, becoming the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the name we know them by to this day.

After only six weeks of training at home, The original Newfoundland Regiment containing the “first 500” set sail out of St. John’s harbour on October 4, 1914. This first group contained some of the best examples of the type of young men Newfoundland and Labrador had produced. Many were athletes, some had been involved in various boy’s brigades and all were determined to show their pride in the Dominion of Newfoundland.

According to some historical documents, the men of the Regiment had two primary goals in mind when they arrived in Europe. The first was that they were Newfoundlanders, and intended to be known as such; the other was that they had gone over to fight, not to do garrison duty in England.

At one point during their orientation on the Salisbury Plain the idea was floated that the Newfoundland contingent should join with a nearby Nova Scotia Regiment. Both groups were only the size of half a battalion and to the brass from England this seemed like a logical step. According to articles from the time the Newfoundlanders would have no part of it. They felt that if the two groups merged the contingent would lose its name, its identity and its individuality.

During the coming months the Regiment grew as new members arrived. In time, the proud men of the Newfoundland Regiment were given the opportunity they had wanted, a chance to fight for their homeland.

On the battle field these proud soldiers solidified their place in history. The Regiment earned no less than 280 separate decorations, 77 of which were awarded to original members of the “first 500” of which 170 were killed in action. In fact, one in every seven men among the original force received some sort of military honour.

Many people have heard the name of Tommy Ricketts who was given the highest honour possible, the Victoria Cross, however many may not remember some of the other brave men who fought for their homeland under the most dire conditions.

Newfoundland and Labrador has produced many great heroes, many who are not as well known, but no less deserving of recognition.Take for example the story of Cyril Gardner, originally from British Harbour.

Lieutenant Gardner has the distinction of being the only known allied serviceman to receive the German Iron Cross during WWI.The Iron Cross which was handed out only to the bravest German military personnel was given to Gardner on the battlefield.

As the story goes, Gardner’s unit was engaged in battle with a German patrol of 70 men. During the night, as hostilities wound down Gardner, who spoke German, took it upon himself to grab his gun and head out to the enemy encampment.

Sneaking into the enemy camp, the Lieutenant turned his gun on the officers, capturing them unharmed. With their leadership removed the remainder of the troop immediately surrendered. Lieutenant Cyril Gardner had single handedly captured an entire German Patrol.

Upon marching his prisoners back to his own encampment he was met by a British Officer who intended to shoot the unarmed prisoners rather than be saddled with caring for them.

As the German soldiers looked on in horror Lieutenant Gardner once again demonstrated his sense of bravery by stepping into the line of fire to protect his prisoners and telling his superior officer that if one German were shot the officer would be the next one to die.

After a moment of hesitation the officer walked away and it was then that the commander of the German patrol, who had many medals on his uniform, stepped up to Gardner and removing the iron cross from his chest, pinned it on Gardner’s, to the applause and cheers of the German soldiers.

For Centuries, even before the formation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have answered the call whenever it arrived. Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have been involved in major conflicts around the world since the mid 1600's, including:

The Anglo-Dutch Wars – 1652
The War of the Austrian Succession – 1743
The Seven Year War - 1756
The American Revolution - 1775
The Napoleonic Wars – 1796
The War of 1812
World War I – 1914
World War II – 1939

Add to this the number of young men and women who have proven themselves in places like Korea, Afghanistan, Bosnia and countless other areas of conflict or peacekeeping around the world, and we can clearly see that Newfoundland and Labrador has a lot to be proud of and, on this Memorial Day, a lot to remember.

On this Memorial Day and throughout the remainder of the year perhaps we should all take a few minutes to visit a local legion hall or war memorial, to stop and chat with an aging veteran and to offer a little show of thanks for the sacrifice these fine men and women have made to protecting our homeland and others.

Statistics show that every day in Canada an average of 80 veterans die. That’s more than at the height of conflict in World War II.

It only takes a moment to shake a veteran’s hand or buy one a cold beer. It might seem like a small gesture and it is, but even taking a moment to express a little gratitude may just brighten the day of some of our bravest and most deserving citizens.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Reform and the Common Man

The nineteenth century novelist, poet and politician, Lord Edward Lytton, once said that “reform is a correction of abuses and revolution is a transfer of power”.

After decades of colonization, first by England and now by Canada, and make no mistake but that Newfoundland and Labrador is little more than a colony in Canada, the question lingers whether the sort of revolution or reformation needed to ensure the secret nation’s survival might ever come to pass.

The possibility of the one may exist, for the other it may already be too late.

The truth is that revolutions require fiery revolutionaries to lead them and the exuberance of youth to feed them. After decades of governmental softening and quiet appeasement the quickly aging population left rattling around Newfoundland and Labrador would make for a sad revolutionary movement indeed.

In this instance, the more pertinent question ought to be if the seeds of reform, rather than revolution, can be nourished and brought into the life giving light of day.

After decades of being the “odd man out” in confederation, after having their wealth of resources, both natural and human, siphoned off to feed the Canadian economic engine and after being reminded for decades to mind their place, will Newfoundlanders and Labradorians ever take a stand and make a change?

Why is such change needed some may ask. The “province” is finally turning a corner. Its economy is beginning to grow and the tide of out-migration is about to turn. Good times are just around the corner.

Are they? Has anything really changed other than the size of government coffers?

Is Newfoundland and Labrador now truly an equal partner in Confederation or have the yardsticks simply shifted economically?

Rather than citing the countless, and often discussed disparities, wrong doings and cultural atrocities that have been, and continue to be, perpetrated on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador perhaps the best testament to the reasons why such “revolutionary reforms” are needed can be found in the words of two well known historical figures.

The first is Nobel Prize winner (for Science) and author, Alexis Carrel, who wrote:

"The first duty of society is to give each of its members the possibility of fulfilling his destiny. When it becomes incapable of performing this duty it must be transformed."

And Abraham Lincoln who said, “If by the mere force of numbers a majority should deprive a minority of any clearly written constitutional right, it might, in a moral point of view, justify revolution”.

I’ll leave it to others to determine if those critera have been met or if enough spirit, vitality and fire remains in the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to respond should it be so.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Putting a Human Face on Outmigration

Work in Alberta may be helping many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians survive in today's economic situation but there is a human toll to be paid. The following article from the Canadian Press points to one such case.

Out-migration of men to Alberta leaves families without fathers in rural N.L.

MARYSTOWN, N.L. — Tyson Farewell counts the number of sleeps he has left until his dad returns home.

"He lit up just like a tree," his grandmother Vivian Farewell says, recalling the last time the boy saw his father. But after a week of having dad at home, three-year-old Tyson acts out. He doesn't understand why his father has to leave, but knows his departure is inevitable.

"He'll be saying, 'Dad, dad,' going looking for him upstairs, crying," Vivian says.

"It's hard. It's sad."

Calvin Farewell, like thousands of Newfoundlanders, is a 20-and-eight father.

They're the men who work in Alberta's oilsands for 20 days, living in work camps on the outskirts of Fort McMurray.

They fly home to communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, often all expenses paid, where they play catch up with their wives and children for eight days.

A child's first words, another's graduation are missed because the men can't afford to skip work.

"For some reason or other, each time I do have to go away, I always miss out on something," Michael Murray says during one of his eight-day turnarounds.

"You do get lonely and you long for home."

The 59-year-old had spent nearly all of his working life at the local shipyard.

But last fall the welder found himself in a predicament that thousands of Newfoundlanders before him have faced. Murray lost his job.

The bills continued to pile, so he packed his bags and joined those Newfoundlanders working in the oilsands of Alberta.

"Unemployment is not my game," Murray says.

As mayor of Marystown and a guidance counsellor at a local elementary school, Sam Synard has seen first-hand the effects that out-migration has had on families.

"I know of many people who are now into this lifestyle who were, for the most part, from very strong nuclear families. Mom and dad were home everyday. They sat around the kitchen table every night," he says.

"All of a sudden this is a new lifestyle now where dad is gone for the majority of the time. How long can families survive like this?"

The increasingly prevalent face of the family unit in rural Newfoundland is missing something: a father.
The provincial government estimates that anywhere from three to five per cent of its workforce - roughly 6,000 to 10,000 people - leave Newfoundland for work. The majority of them are men.

The men go back and forth for work instead of moving their families to Alberta because, they say, they don't want to trade their relatively laid-back quality of life for the traffic congestion and higher housing prices that have resulted from the province's booming oilsands.

While out-migration has sapped Atlantic Canada of its workforce for years, Marystown has seen more of its men leave than many other communities.

The south coast town, which is celebrating its come home year, has lost 1,300 people - 19 per cent of its population - in the last decade.

The community of 5,400 and dropping was once one of the province's most prosperous towns. The construction of a fish plant and shipyard in the 1960s attracted young families in droves.

But since the closure of the cod fishery more than 15 years ago, the plant doesn't operate at the capacity it once did.

If not for infrequent work commissioned by the province's offshore oil industry, the shipyard would often stand idle.

"We haven't built a fishing boat here now for 20 years," says Henry Moores, president of a local union.
The sign leading to Marystown on the Burin Peninsula Highway is telling: From dories to drill rigs.

Today, Marystown is a poaching ground for oil companies out west looking to expand their operations, offering a labour force with highly coveted skills because of its once-booming shipbuilding industry.

Welders, pipefitters and electricians find they can ply their trade for $100,000-plus in Alberta, with perks to boot.

"If you have it on your resume that I'm a former employee of the Marystown shipyard, the large companies in Alberta would almost send a private jet to get you," Synard says.

In fact, the migratory workforce is what's driving the Marystown economy.

Families who previously couldn't afford to are now buying gas-guzzling pickup trucks and renovating the homes they recently furnished with new appliances.

As the operator of a hair salon, Darlene Mayo has reaped the rewards of a town eager to dig into its deep pockets.

When she began the home business 25 years ago, she had one assistant.

In the last three years, however, business has tripled and she has hired two hairdressers and three assistants.
"People have lots of money to spend, on themselves, on their children, on their grandchildren, because there's just so much money," Mayo says.

"If there was no Alberta, it would be a pretty sad Newfoundland."

But as a mother of a 13-year-old boy and wife of an electrician working in Alberta, Mayo says she'd prefer to have her family home.

"I am used to him being gone, but it still doesn't come any easier," she says. "As the years go by, it's almost worse."

Mayo has also seen the failed relationships and broken marriages that can come as an unintended consequence of out-migration.

"People go up there, meet somebody else and of course, they don't come back," she says. "Or the wife hooking up with somebody on this end because she's bored to death. The husband is gone. She has all this money, starts buying new clothes, gets a new look, gets new hair and all of a sudden, she's a new person."

The province is more affluent than it's ever been and is on the cusp of greater fortune.

Newfoundland is about to enter a period of unprecedented and sustained economic growth, largely fuelled by expansions in the energy sector.

But the constant exodus of people and the repercussions that have come with that are creating a problem that was unheard of in the past.

There are not enough people to fill jobs.

"We need to retain our young people, attract back those who have left the province and ensure that Newfoundland and Labrador is their province of choice for now and into the future," Premier Danny Williams said recently.

"It's not always a bad thing to move away and experience new things, but ultimately we want our young people to settle and prosper right here at home."

His government recently awarded a $50.5-million contract to the Marystown shipyard to build two ferries.
The project is expected to provide full-time employment for 150 people for a year.

Later this year, Ottawa is expected to announce whether it will award a $2.9-billion deal to Marystown to assemble three ships for the Canadian navy. Victoria is also vying for that contract.

"We're just waiting with bated breath," Synard says.

"You'd bring a lot of these people home."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dion to "Shift Green" Among Provinces.

A recent respondent to one of my articles spoke of their concerns with Stephane Dion's new carbon tax or “Green Shift”. In their words:

“…supposedly it's revenue neutral…The logic is that by "deciding" to use less fuel you can keep more of your tax money and spend it on the things that matter to you.”

“People in places like cold Labrador… who suffer through long cold winters can't "decide" to not heat their homes. It may have some benefit in BC…where winter temperatures are much higher but not here and not up north.”

“What about those living in rural areas who drive 20 or 30 kilometers to get to work. No mass transit for them. Great for Toronto or Montreal though (with mass transit).”

“What about Newfoundland and Labrador where, thanks to the fact that there is very little manufacturing, nearly everything consumed has to be trucked, shipped or flown in? Don't tell me the added cost of fuel won't cause skyrocketing prices.”

“This is a crock.”

Well said, but I’ll go further than calling it a “crock” and call it exactly what it is. A fraud.

The Liberals are absolutely right when they call it a “green shift” because ultimately it will shift a lot of green (dollars) out of places like Newfoundland and Labrador and into Ontario and Quebec.

Recently former Liberal MP, cabinet minister and interim leader, Bill Graham, posed a series of questions to a panel of experts reviewing the plan that cuts to the heart of the issue: “What does revenue-neutral mean? It sounds nice when you say it, but it will create winners and losers. Who’s going to win, who’s going to lose and who’s going to pay?”

Good point Bill. There is no such thing as “revenue-neutral”.

Perhaps from Ottawa’s perspective it makes sense in that government can return every dollar of carbon tax to the public in the form of other tax breaks, but that doesn’t mean that those dollars will flow back to the individuals it came from.

In essence the Liberal “green shift” is a system of taxes that will, much like the much hated national energy plan before it, shift a large amount of money from places like Newfoundland and Labrador to the wallets of voters in Ontario and Quebec.

In order to produce oil, for example, natural gas is often used in the extraction process. This will increase the cost of oil production leading to lower royalties for Newfoundland and Labrador and raise second thoughts among oil executives considering future projects that might be “gas intensive”.

The Holyrood generating plant, which currently supplies a huge amount of the island’s power, burns heavy oil by the millions of barrels a year. Meaning an increase in carbon tax will increase the electrical bills of every householder and business.

In Labrador a large number of communities depend on diesel generated power. Neither they, nor anyone using oil to heat their homes, can afford to simply cut back on their usage to any appreciable degree.

Granted the Liberal plan would provide tax cuts to offset carbon taxes but will it be enough to cover the cost for individuals who really don't have a lot of choices that might allow them to go greener and where do you think most of those tax breaks will have the biggest effect?

It’s not hard to figure out. Simple math will tell you. Surely the manufacturing sector in Central Canada will pay more carbon tax as well, but with more 60% of Canada’s population residing in Ontario and Quebec (many of which have access to cheap Churchill Falls power and mass transit systems) most of the tax breaks will be enjoyed there as well.

As far as Stephen Harper is concerned Newfoundland and Labrador may as well be a far off land that is of no concern to him. The Liberal Party of Canada, if elected, will try to push forward with their latest “Green Ontario/Quebec tax shift”. Either way you slice it this is not a good day for places like Newfoundland and Labrador on the federal scene.

Perhaps, as some have said before, it’s time to consider a “shift” of our own in Newfoundland and Labrador. Perhaps what we need is a political shift.

With a string of minority governments almost guaranteed in Ottawa these days, electing a locally focused “Newfoundland and Labrador” party may well be the way to go. Seven representatives in Ottawa fighting for Newfoundland and Labrador, rather than toeing the line for Canadian parties, may be the only hope this place has to block harmful legislation introduced by either of the mainstream parties.

It's certainly a better option than doing nothing and waiting for the axe to fall.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Final Agreement on 2 New NL Oil Projects Near

At the annual meeting of the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil Industries Association (NOIA) on Tuesday Premier Danny Williams told those in attendance that he's hopeful a deal for development of the Hibernia South oil field will be reached by the end of the year and he that expects to see a final contract on the larger Hebron oil development within a matter of weeks.

"We are moving closer, day by day, to signing that deal," Williams said.

"Both sides are working vigorously to conclude what has been an intense yet productive — and I mean very productive — negotiating process".

"I am fully confident that we will have positive news on that front in the very near future."

The Hebron oil development was a point of major disputes between industry partners and the Newfoundland and Labrador government just over a year ago when Williams informed the partners that his government wanted an equity stake and a richer royalty regime. After months of silence the oil companies returned to the table and, after agreeing to many of William's terms, last August a memorandum of understanding was signed. According to Williams, the final step in the process, before the project begins is now in the offing.

There had been rumors circulating for several days that the Premier would announce a final deal on the Hebron project during his address today but the Premier down played those rumors late last week by saying that he had indeed been shooting for this date but had no intention of rushing the details of the contract in order to accomodate it.

Both Hibernia South, estimated to contain 223 million barrels of oil and the Hebron field, estimated at around 750 million barrels, are long awaited developments that, when combined with the existing operations at the main Hibernia platform, White Rose and Terra Nova are expected to provide a major boost to Newfoundland and Labrador's already growing economy.

After Premier Williams' speech Glenn Scott, president of ExxonMobil Canada, a partner in both the Hebron and Hibernia projects, said, "I think we're all aligned and, you know, with everyone aligned and working as hard as they can, I think it's going to move quite quickly".

Monday, June 16, 2008

Ottawa Spending Scandal - A Case of Institutionalized Corruption

Thanks to widespread press coverage of the government spending scandal in Newfoundland and Labrador, with former provincial politicians and cabinet ministers winding their way through the courts for allegedly misusing constituency allowances, the report this week in the Toronto Star highlighting federal spending practices has a distinct ring of familiarity to it.

According to the news agency, federal Cabinet Ministers are making a practice of conveniently scheduling official business to coincide with Conservative party fund raisers and then claiming travel costs. The result: You and I pay for the expense out of our tax dollars while the Conservative Party of Canada reaps the benefit from the fund raising efforts.

The investigation highlights several trips made by a multiple Cabinet Ministers including Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn, Defense Minister Peter MacKay as well as Ministers Jim Prentice, Stockwell Day, Chuck Strahl and Gary Lunn.

This kind of misuse of taxpayer’s money is a familiar happening to the folks in Newfoundland and Labrador but that’s where the similarity ends.

As soon as the situation was uncovered in Newfoundland and Labrador the government’s top cabinet Minister was immediately fired, resignations were tendered, in both government and opposition ranks, a police investigation ensued and charges were laid. The reaction from the Harper government is simply to… well, actually there has been no reaction from the Harper government unless you count offhand comments from representatives who simply qualify their actions by saying, “… this is the way it has always been done and the Liberals did it too”.

Now that's a novel defense. That one was tried in Newfoundland and Labrador as well. Court dates were still set.

The Prime Minister for his part appears to have lost his voice and is once again displaying an inability to make the “tough” decisions that need to be made by a responsible leader who has the best interests of constituents at heart rather than those of his party and political future.

For nearly two years Stephen Harper and Danny Williams have made no secret of how completely opposed to one another’s points of view they are. It seems that when it comes to the misappropriation of public funds their individual approaches are no different. One took the actions required to clean up government, the other, who ran on a platform of clean government, refuses to even awknowlege anything is wrong.

When elected officials spend countless thousands in tax dollars to attend party fund raisers it’s a situation that should raise the ire of all taxpayers, especially those who don’t support the party in question but who, through this backdoor practice, end up helping to fill party’s war chest.

The following Toronto Star excerpts speak volumes about the immoral and unethical practices taking place in Ottawa and being tacitly condoned by the Prime Minister.

The Star easily found 25 examples of Tory ministers mixing fundraising and department business, each trip typically costing taxpayers several thousand dollars.

The federal Conservatives – elected on promises to be squeaky clean – are using government resources to help fill their election war chest.

When Peter MacKay flew to British Columbia in January, he split his time between government business and two Tory fundraising gigs. Taxpayers footed the bill.

When then-Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice flew to Nova Scotia to meet with provincial chiefs, he headlined a Conservative fundraising dinner in Prince Edward Island. Taxpayers paid for the trip.

When Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn jetted off from a Quebec fisheries forum to attend a government meeting in Manitoba, he also guest-starred at a local Tory fundraising banquet.

Hearn was also in Nova Scotia and attended a fundraiser.

Total cost (for Hearn's travels): about $5,500.

Stockwell Day (public safety); Chuck Strahl (Indian affairs) and Gary Lunn (natural resources) gave keynote speeches at the conference, and the theme was getting ready for the next election.

Strahl billed taxpayers about $5,000 for a five-day period that included the Tory conference. His expense report says he had "First Nations meetings" in Vancouver.

For the Conservative party, the trip cost nothing, though about $40,000 was raised in Victoria and Kelowna.

Lunn's expense reports show a $10,000 expense for several trips in a short period, leading up to the conference, and ending in British Columbia. His assistant, who typically travels with him, shows on her expense report a $5,000 bill to taxpayers for a five-day period that includes the three-day conference in Harrison Hot Springs.

Former Indian affairs minister Prentice, a Calgary MP who is now industry minister, travelled in February 2007 to Nova Scotia to take part in negotiations with Mi'kmaq chiefs in the province. He then attended a Conservative fundraising dinner in Malpeque, P.E.I. According to reports disclosed by the department, the total cost for Prentice and his political aide for the eastern trip was just under $7,000. A charter flight was included; the documents don't explain the destination.

The regularity of these trips and the huge amount of money both expensed and raised, to help fill Conservative coffers, make the fridge magnet purchases and charitable donations of disgraced and criminally charged Newfoundland and Labrador politicians pale by comparison.

When political mishandling of public money became known in Newfoundland and Labrador sweeping new spending controls were put in place. A full investigation was undertaken by the Auditor General and charges were laid. The position of the Newfoundland and Labrador government was clear, clean up the mess and let the chips fall where they may. Stephen Harper’s silence and total inaction over Ottawa’s misuse of public funds is clear indicator of his government’s position.

In the first quarter of 2008, the Conservative party has raised $5 million – outstripping both the Liberals and NDP with a dollar ratio of about five to one.

Sure we care about Ontario’s problems. No, really

In the spirit of fairness and presenting all sides of the story, the following article appeared in today's Halifax Chronicle Herald and contains an opposing view to the article posted on Web Talk yesterday from the Toronto Star. Both articles make some very good sense and, between them, likely express the conflicting sentiments of most people here in the middle of the North Atlantic.

Sure we care about Ontario’s problems. No, really
Mon. Jun 16 - 5:55 AM

CALLING all proletarians and Canadians! Rise up! Defend the oppressed autoworkers of Ontario! Fight for their jobs against globalization and General Motors! Make Ottawa ride to the rescue, and damn the cost!

At the risk of sounding alarmist, noble workers, this is a fight for the ages. General Motors is shutting down a truck plant in Oshawa and laying off 2,600 workers. In Oshawa, Ontario. You heard me right, people. Ontario.
This isn’t just some piddling fishery collapse or the end of Cape Breton coal mining. This is serious stuff, a national emergency.

Sure, tens of thousands of people were displaced in the Maritimes and Newfoundland when the fish got fished out. Thousands more got pitched when the coal mines shut down.

Thousands of Maritime jobs went when the forest industry fell, and it’s still falling. Sawmills that operated for generations are rusting out. Pulp and paper towns are ghostly.

But those things happened in the backward, dependent and lazy Maritimes, or over in Newfie-joke Newfoundland. You know, places sick with Stephen Harper’s culture of defeat. You expect economic calamities to happen in those places.

Besides, the collapse of fishing, coal mining and forestry Down East freed up strong backs and willing hands for the oil fields Out West. Even some skilled, smart folks headed there after getting their good educations back home.

You have got to love how that worked out. And in the nick of time too, just as the new oil boom hit.
No, you can’t compare the sad-but-inevitable depopulation of rural Atlantic Canada with the totally unexpected trimming of fat off the big old economic pork chop that is Ontario. What happened down East was progress. This Ontario thing is a crisis, people.

It’s so bad that premiers Jean Charest and Dalton McGuinty recently rounded up their ministers for a giant Central Canada cabinet meeting and weenie roast. They all signed "historic agreements" and got their pictures taken.

Ontario-Quebec is now "Central Canada," chirped McGuinty, the Maxwell Smart of Canadian politics. He looked like he had just found the place on a map. Even better, the Ontario premier reassured us that the Great Central Canada Photo-op was for the general good of all.

Any Maritimer could see what he meant by that. After all, Canada was built on the notion that what’s good for Ontario and Quebec is good for all the Bluenoses, Newfies, herring-chokers, cowboys, West Coasters, Northerners and whoever lives in the big flat space between Ontario and Calgary, if anyone.

"Whenever Quebec and Ontario do things together, that stands to the benefit not only of our people but to the benefit of the country as a whole," quipped McGuinty.

Whatever, his comment warmed my Maritime heart no end. To think the place that has swallowed our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, neighbours and friends is acting with such altruism. Why, it just makes a fellow go all mellow.

Forget that Premier Maxwell Smart thinks equalization is unfair because it robs little Ontario. As to the provinces that benefit from it, why, let them eat codfish. Their well-being has nothing to do with Ontario or its $597-billion economy.

But back to the truck plant shutdown. It’s hard to tell, but one wonders whether anyone noticed that GM is closing it because nobody wants to buy gas-guzzling Silverados and GMC Sierras when the precious liquid is $1.40 a litre and rising. Or maybe people don’t want vehicles that belch lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Or maybe they just want cheaper and more reliable transportation.

Whatever the cause, truck sales were down 39 per cent at GM last quarter and getting worse. The company lost $38 billion in 2007.

But McGuinty and Buzz Hargrove and the Central Canada crowd are calling down the Almighty on anyone who doesn’t see the wisdom of spending billions or changing trade rules to keep gas-guzzler production going in Oshawa.

To make matters worse, the warm and fuzzy Finance Minister Jim Flaherty forgot that he’s MP for Whitby-Oshawa, the very place where the plant’s closing down. He doesn’t want to send money to GM and insensitively suggests that Ontario help itself by lowering its business taxes.

Losing jobs is never a good thing. But shouldn’t people realize there’s no point building products that consumers don’t want? Central Canada stayed calm when the crises were here in the East. What it needs now is leadership, not subsidies and sympathy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What to Newfoundlander's Think

From Today's Toronto Star

Jun 15, 2008 04:30 AM
Linda Diebel
National Affairs Writer
PETTY HARBOUR, NFLD.–So this cartoon has Premier Danny Williams dropping a few bills into Dalton McGuinty's tin cup and asking his Ontario counterpart, "Know any good Newfie jokes, there Dalton?"

Likely it's the most popular cartoon taped to fridges across Newfoundland and Labrador these days. It reflects the mood of a province whose people haven't had a lot of fun being the butt of "Newfie" jokes over 59 years since joining Confederation.

Until recently, the idea of Ontario and Newfoundland trading places seemed absurd. But an April 30 report by the Toronto-Dominion bank forecasts Ontario is on track to becoming a "have-not" province and Newfoundland set for the ranks of the "haves" – at least according to this country's Byzantine formula for calculating equalization payments.

Thing is, the cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon of Halifax's The Chronicle-Herald, is funny because it isn't mean-spirited. Sure, it's a taste of payback, a bit of a giggle. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of ill will here on the Rock toward Ontarians.

"Yep, we'd help out (Ontario) if we could," said Jody Stack, on a break from stacking bins onto a forklift at the Fisherman's Processing Co-op in Petty Harbour, a hop along the Avalon Peninsula from St. John's. The crab boats were on their way home and their catch would have to be quickly iced and crated for export.

"No harm in that, now is there?" added Stack, 34, a Harbour man all his life. "Things are pretty good for us here, and it's only going to keep getting better."

Last week – another horrendously grim one for Ontario's manufacturing heartland – the Star asked Newfoundlanders about the future and whether it's time for King Ontario to take a tumble.

Uh-uh. Closing an auto plant is the same as closing a fish plant when it's the lifeblood of a community, and people have their own dreary history of seeing dreams and hard work go up in smoke, despite all efforts. They get the pain in Ontario better than most and, by and large, feel empathy.

"Sure, why not help Ontario?" seconded Gail Babstock, 52, a St. John's legal assistant in a red-hot economy. But she's cautious: "It depends on how well off we are. We've been suffering for so long we might be a little greedy at the outset of it all."

Indicators say Newfoundland is booming. While Ontario has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since 2002 (add another 2,000 with GM's announcement it will shut down its Oshawa truck plant next year), this province is taking the commodities boom to the bank.

In Petty Harbour, the depletion of cod stocks was devastating, but this year they're dredging the harbour, renovating the docks and the war memorial and welcoming an influx of foreigners, many arriving from Europe in top-of-the-line sailboats.

Offshore oil development is burgeoning, there's nickel in Voisey's Bay, iron ore in Labrador West and, in the capital, the money boys from away are setting up shop to work with the locals.

There's a different feel in the air. Conservative Williams was re-elected in a landslide last fall, largely because he stood up to the oil companies. Stack's a lifelong Liberal but his opinion is common: "Danny's done a real good job for us."

It just may be that a bleak chapter is ending. They're not going down the road to Ontario any more. Yes, they're still flying out on Fort McMurray specials to Alberta's oil sands, divesting whole towns in the process. Husbands, wives, kids – all gone.

But slowly, slowly, Newfoundlanders are coming home. Statistics Canada reported the population increased in the last half of 2007 for the first time in 15 years.

Also, according to StatsCan, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita went from being $10,000 below the national average in 1997 to $10,000 above the average of $46,221 in 2007 – "the largest turnaround in one decade in Canadian history." In contrast, Ontario's GDP per capita in 2007 dipped by 2 per cent to $45,121.
Still, everything's relative. Ontario's big urban centres, notably Toronto, with their financial, communications and information technology sectors are adding jobs, even as the manufacturing base crumbles.

Nobody on the Rock is counting chickens – not when the boom could be in the end, pure finance. Numbers, not real gains for people.

"We haven't seen anything yet," said Babstock. "We've been told by the premier and we're trusting him."
Three generations of her family were having lunch in a harbour-front mall, including her daughter Sheri, 31, who returned from Alberta to teach elementary school, and granddaughter, Paige, 5.

Babstock doesn't anticipate a better life for herself or her daughter, but said, "hopefully Paige won't have the struggles we've had." It's significant, too, she added, her son-in-law, a long-haul trucker since 2001, recently moved back with her daughter from Fort McMurray.

He doesn't have to be away to make a living any more.
Of course, some folks aren't too happy to see outsiders changing the face of their capital. It's not uncommon to pay $300-plus for lunch at a tony new St. John's establishment. Said one observer scornfully: "Newfoundlanders don't do that."

A person can drop a half million or more on a house. "It's the oil guys coming in from Houston, Aberdeen and Calgary," according to Babstock.

Still, on a sunny day last week, Chris Rossiter, 22, and Chris McEvoy, 21, saw their futures as "pretty bright." Both Memorial University engineering students are on work programs with Husky Energy Ltd., a company that recently announced it has regulatory approval to develop its 70 million barrels a day North Amethyst site, adjacent to White Rose off the Newfoundland coast, where Husky brings in 140,000 barrels a day.

"There's more money going into all of our programs (at Husky)," said McEvoy. "Be nice to see all of Canada do good."

But, a true Newfoundlander, he didn't stop there, concluding: "The thing is, how long is it going to last?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gold-plated propaganda

If anybody missed Joan Forsey’s article, “Gold-plated propaganda” in last weekend’s Independent you missed a lot. I love it when people in Newfoundland and Labrador stand up and tell it like it is. For far too long myths and lies have been spread about Newfoundland and Labrador and the mainstream media is all too happy to help spread the lies throughout Canada.

Here are some excerpts from Joan’s Article. There is a link to the Independent at the bottom of this posting for anyone interested in reading the entire text.

Gold-plated propaganda

Did you know that public services in Newfoundland and Labrador are superior to those in Ontario? In fact, public services in this province are “gold-plated.” What’s more, Ontarians — who can’t afford such “gold-plated” services themselves — have, along with Albertans, been paying for ours.

This tale has been appearing, in one form or another, in the Toronto-based media (The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Toronto Sun, Maclean’s) for months. They’ve obviously latched onto the argument promoted by the Atlantic Institute for Marketing Studies (AIMS), a Halifax-based “think tank.”

David MacKinnon, AIMS’ “senior fellow in fairness in Confederation; Ontario perspective,” told Toronto’s Empire Club about the “gold-plated” services last February, also calling them “breathtaking,” “excessive,” and “far beyond North American standards.”

He elaborated for the Toronto Sun in May: “In our individual lives we would regard the behaviour of someone who seeks donations from others to live at higher standards than the people from whom they are seeking the contributions to be reprehensible. Such behaviour is no less reprehensible when it is practised by provincial jurisdictions and it is especially reprehensible when it is funded and encouraged by the national government.”

Ontario, by the way, recently announced it would spend $3 million to provide up to 2,000 nurses with hand-held computers that will give them instant access to information such as drug databases, providing faster and more effective patient care. The Ontario government says it’s the first provincially funded nursing initiative of its kind in Canada.

Ontario’s other inferior services include the Doctors’ House Call Service in Toronto, which is free.

And, as everyone knows, Toronto’s hospitals are so inferior that they attract patients from across the country, and the Toronto Sick Kids’s Hospital attracts patients from around the world.

Wherever you look, there’s another inferior service. For example, Toronto’s public transportation system uses satellite global positioning to announce each stop. There’s now talk about the possibility of a program to help low-income households pay their heat and electricity bills.

Does Newfoundland and Labrador have anything similar?

The ludicrous idea that this province has public services superior to those in Ontario was advanced by AIMS in 2006…

Link to full Independent Article -->

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cultural Genocide: A Canadian Tradition

This week Stephen Harper apologized, on behalf of the government of Canada, to the 80,000 (surviving) Aboriginals forced to attend residential schools. Schools that, as the chief of the Assembly of First Nations says, “…served to disconnect them from their culture, families and communities and left them feeling "ashamed" of being born native”

“They tried to kill the Indian in the child, to eradicate any sense of Indian-ness from Canada. It was two cultures clashing, one dominant and imposing its will on the other, and the other suffered.”

"It was cultural genocide," said Ted Quewezance, a residential school alumni and director of the National Residential School Survivors' Society.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the era of residential schools, which ended around 1970, is a dark one in Canadian history. And while the program was one of the most violent and cold blooded examples of cultural destruction unfortunately it is not the only case practiced by a government that has claimed for decades to embrace multiculturalism.

Minus the kidnappings and beatings, Canada’s attack on unique cultures has been happening for decades in other communities as well and continues, though unrecognized, to this day.

A clear example of this fact is the systemic cultural attack on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador being waged in Canada. Thankfully it never reached the level of brutality experienced by aboriginal groups but never the less it is a clear case of two cultures clashing with the dominant one imposing its will on the other.

After losing its sovereignty and eventually becoming a part of Canada in 1949 Newfoundlanders (as they were known at the time) were encouraged, through a federally subsidized educational system, to forget their unique history in favor of the Canadian view of the world.

Nobody stopped to consider that Newfoundland’s history was not Canada’s history.

Nobody cared that Newfoundland’s music was not Canada’s music.

Nobody understood that Newfoundland’s art, cuisine, dialects, values and way of life were not the same as those experienced by Canadians.

In spite of the spirit of multiculturalism espoused by Canadians, for Newfoundland and Labrador, becoming a part of Canada meant giving up everything the people of the once proud Nation had ever known in favor of the Canadian way of life.

The “training” given to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador served to disconnect a people from their culture and leave them feeling ashamed of themselves for generations.

While the people of Newfoundland and Labrador were largely impoverished in 1949, over the years many opportunities to prosper where denied to them by Ottawa after Confederation. This, along with other government actions, prevented the people of Newfoundland and Labrador from achieving the progress they so desperately hoped to achieve and led directly to the high unemployment rates, poverty and desperation seen in many parts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Indeed, in the case of Aboriginal communities, Ottawa tried to kill the Indian in the child, to eradicate any sense of Indian-ness from Canada, but the government of Canada is also guilty of trying to kill the Newfoundlander (and Labradorian) in the child and eradicate any sense of that culture from the Canadian landscape.

After 1949 the schools in Newfoundland and Labrador were encouraged, through political and monetary pressures, to dispense with offering meaningful historical information that might instill a sense of pride in a people being incorporated into a new culture.

Young minds were spoon fed Canadian history and the Canadian experience. The exception to this regime was the occasional dalliance into negative historical lessons. Dalliances intended to shame “Newfoundlanders” by reminding them the dark events in their past, such as the extinction of the native Beothuk, rather than the historically significant contributions they had made to the world before joining Canada.

For decades 500,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, like the the Aboriginal people identified in this week’s apology, have been led to believe that they are of less value than “ordinary Canadians”.

Newfie jokes are one example of the sort of abuse perpetrated against the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Though the jokes are not directly attributable to government agencies the slurs never the less became accepted across the Country, as have terms like “stupid newfie” and “goofy newfie” and have been encouraged in many circles, including among the Ottawa elite and the general population. Nothing was done to quell these verbal attacks.

Within the Canadian culture Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were, and still are, often seen as nothing more than a cheap labour pool with limited intelligence. A people who can be used to tackle the menial jobs others abhor, but who can be depended on for little else.

Incorrectly viewed in many parts of Canada as drunks, seal beaters, uncouth and uneducated louts, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have, understandably, been left with deep feelings of inadequacy that are a direct result of the action and, more often than not, the inaction of Canada’s government and Canadians themselves.

The Ottawa led dismantling of Newfoundland and Labrador’s railway system was one means by which Canada’s government stole away a cornerstone of a unique culture that is older than their own.

Witnessing the greatest food fishery in the world destroyed, after being greedily pulled into Ottawa’s death grip, served to help break down the resolve of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Losing the ability to benefit from the massive power of the Upper Churchill hydro project, thanks to Ottawa’s support of Quebec, drove home the realization that, while there was a place for Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, it was not as an equal partner.

After having their means of financial survival stripped away from them, time after time, only to be repeatedly told they are a financial drain on Canada, is it any wonder many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, even the current generation, can’t wait to out-migrate rather leave than put their skills and abilities to work in a homeland they often perceive as sub par?

The actions of ordinary Canadians, and Ottawa specifically, since 1949 have left many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with a broken self image and a damaged culture that is only now beginning to repair itself.

In recent years Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have begun to recognize how unique their history and culture truly is. Thanks to their strength of character and the possession of a will that refused to be completely broken, many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are now beginning to see some light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

A new appreciation of their unique music, art, cuisine and traditions has begun to slowly spread throughout a place long encouraged to view itself as insignificant and unworthy of anything but disdain within Canada.

There is no doubt that Aboriginal groups in Canada deserve far more than the apology being offered by the government of Canada this week. Nobody can reasonably argue otherwise, but without detracting from their moment in time, it would serve all Canadians well to recognize another case of cultural genocide that has been practiced in Canada for decades and is still going on.

Unfortunately, while Newfoundlanders and Labradorians rediscover their past and rediscover their self worth not one of the half million people living there, or the countless thousands who have migrated around the world but are no less affected, is holding out any hope that their plight will be recognized or in any way understood by the Canadian people, let alone the people’s government.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hebron Deal Just Around the Corner

The following contains excerpts from the National Post.

Some long awaited major projects may soon be about to begin in Newfoundland and Labrador.

This afternoon transportation minister, Dianne Whelan, will be in Marystown where she is expected to announce the planned construction of two new ferries at the yard there, great news for the local economy of the region.

On an even bigger level the National Post is reporting today that Chevron Corp. and its partners are close to nailing down a binding agreement to move forward with development of the Hebron Ben Nevis oilfield.

According to Gary Luquette, president of Chevron North America Exploration and Production Co., Hebron will be a world-scale project producing up to 200,000 barrels a day from a concrete gravity-based structure, rivalling the Hibernia project.

San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron, the project leader, and partners Exxon Mobil Corp., Petro-Canada and StatoilHydro ASA, aim to complete commercial agreements by mid-year.

They can then quickly reassemble a project team in Newfoundland to oversee local construction, supported by Arctic experts in Calgary and deep-water experts in Houston.

Mr. Luquette said Newfoundland will need to repatriate some of its workforce from Alberta's oilsands for its offshore industry to succeed, something Mr. Williams is determined to see happen.

With Alberta's oilsands becoming less competitive due to rising costs and a higher royalty regime, Newfoundland's offshore now looks attractive when stacked against global opportunities and Chevron hopes to build it into a "material business," Mr. Luquette said.

Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell PLC are also planning two more exploration wells in the Orphan basin - one in mid-2009 and another in 2010, following up on the $200-million Great Barasway well drilled in 2006. The companies have not revealed what they found. The basin could hold five billion barrels of oil or more.

"This is a huge area, very under-exploited, so one well, even if the results are encouraging, does not a trend make," Mr. Luquette said.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nearshore Habitats: Sanctuary for Juvenile Cod

A news release from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) this week talks the need to understand the habitat required to promote and protect the survivability of juvenile cod. The release contains a wealth of information about survival rates and the location of the best “nurseries”. To the Scientists who recently uncovered this valuable information, I offer my heart felt thanks. It’s the sort of data needed if cod are to stand any chance of recovering. As for the officials at DFO, I offer anything but my thanks.

One paragraph in the self congratulatory release provides the best example of just how dysfunctional DFO is.

“When Newfoundland and Labrador's waters were teeming with Atlantic cod, there wasn't any pressing need to know about all the factors involved in guaranteeing that each generation of cod would produce sufficient replacements to sustain a robust fishery. The bounty was seemingly endless. It's a completely different story now. The collapse of the fishery in the early 1990s imposed a stark new reality on the industry and the people whose livelihoods depend upon it, and it is now crucial to understand every aspect of the cod's life cycle and what factors influence or inhibit its ability to survive to adulthood. While the effects of fishing upon the adult cod are fairly well documented, those of the environment upon a young cod's survivability are not. This is a new area of research - and it has to be built from the ground up, because next to nothing is known.”Can you believe the audacity of this bunch?

What have they been doing for the past 60 years, clearly not managing the fishery?

If they were managing the fish stocks from a conservation point of view wouldn’t they have known long ago where young cod grow and survive best? Why has it taken a collapse in the fishery and the intervening years of near zero recovery for them to figure out that they needed to enter into this, “…new area of research”?

Clearly DFO has been managing the fishery from a purely commercial perspective, rather than an environmental one, and they haven’t done much of a job at that. Even efficient commercial management should have led them to the simple conclusion that you can’t continue to fish without understanding the resource that is the basis of the industry. The collapse of the industry is proof enough of that and speaks volumes about their management techniques.

The saddest thing is they still don’t get it. When an official news release contains the line, “When Newfoundland and Labrador's waters were teeming with Atlantic cod, there wasn't any pressing need to know about all the factors involved in guaranteeing that each generation of cod would produce sufficient replacements...” it says everything that needs to be said about the attitude at DFO.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, as long as the fishery is controlled by DFO the cod don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

Friday, June 06, 2008

NL Govt. Orders (Quebec) Innu out of Labrador

The following contains excerpts from an article today in the Globe and Mail (or Mop and Pail for those who live in Newfoundland and Labrador)
With a report from The Canadian Press
June 6, 2008

QUEBEC -- More than 100 Innu families from Quebec occupying land in Labrador are being evicted by the Newfoundland and Labrador government as part of an escalating confrontation over land rights involving resource development and hydroelectric projects.

A lawyer for the Innu said yesterday the people of the Uashat-Maliotenam reserve in northeastern Quebec will take matters into their own hands if they are forced off the land.

"I've heard people saying that if they tear down our cabins, there won't be a single cabin standing, whether it's Innu or a non-Innu cabin, in Labrador," Armand MacKenzie said.

"We're going to call it 'Labrador Burning.'
The government posted the eviction notices late last month, and have given the families 60 days to demolish and remove "cabins located at or near Nairn Bay" in western Labrador.
Mr. Williams told reporters in St. John's yesterday that the Quebec Innu recently erected the cabins in the region, and government lawyers are questioning whether the action is legal.
Mr. Williams said he isn't sure why the cabins were built, but added that they appeared after discussions intensified on the development of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project. He believes the Innu moved in to assert their land claim over the territory, which would be affected if the hydro project goes ahead.

Mr. MacKenzie pledged to challenge the eviction notice in court. He said that some of the structures were built many years ago on the land, and that the Innu occupied it long before Newfoundland and Labrador was formed.
The Innu argue that their traditional homeland, which also cuts across part of Quebec, belongs to them under aboriginal title, and that resource development, especially hydroelectric projects, cannot proceed without their consent.
The entire article can be viewed at: Globe and Mail

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Choose Your Headline

Reports Suggest Stockwell Day Hiding Illegal Firearms at his Ottawa Residence.

Jim Flaherty Stole Funds from Toronto Banking Consortium in the 1990’s

Stephen Harper Caught in Intimate Affair with Under Age Neighbor.

None of the preceding headlines are real of course, but they say so much about the self serving position taken by Canada’s governing party when it comes to the actions of former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier.

For very good reason there are laws against possessing illegal weapons, bank fraud and sexual interference with a minor. There are also very good reasons why laws are in place when it comes to protecting classified government documents.

Why then does the Harper government refuse to call for a formal police investigation and continue to insist that the actions of Maxime Bernier are little more than a political gaffe? Why does the PM brush aside the fact that someone in Mr. Bernier’s sensitive position had an intimate relationship with a person directly connected to organized crime figures? Why, unlike the startling headlines above are Bernier’s actions touted as a “private matter”?

Would it be a private matter if the Finance Minister were indeed found to have committed a theft in the past, the Public Safety Minister broke Canada’s gun laws or the PM took part in an illicit affair with a minor? Of course it wouldn’t. Neither is it a private matter when someone with access to sensitive documents leaves them in the home of a “connected” person for over a month. There are laws against just that sort of activity.

Between the Bernier screw up in Afghanistan, NAFTA gate, the Chuck Cadman affair, the flip flop on income trusts, Jim Flaherty’s attack on the Ontario government, Bernier’s security breach and the Conservative’s stonewalling over every last one of those situations Canada’s governing party has gone from being seen as a calculating, controlling, but focused, group to a laughing stock across the Country. A Parliamentary version of the Three Stooges or the Apple Dumpling Gang.

When the Liberal party was under the gun over the Quebec sponsorship scandal they were rightfully recognized as corrupt and manipulating but they never, not even at their darkest hour, were seen as being comedic in their ineptness. In this respect Stephen Harper has reached a new low generally reserved for the likes of George Bush in the U.S.

There is nothing as deadly for a political party than becoming a laughing stock. As the butt of countless jokes the Conservative party has entered into uncharted territory in Canadian politics and as their comedic value continues to grow any public respect they possessed will fall accordingly.

It may have taken more than two years for the true character of the federal Conservative Party to show itself but it seems the truth is finally beginning to surface, no matter how hard the PM tries to throw a cloak of silence over it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

UPDATE June 5th - Govt. of Canada to Have Say on Lower Churchill

The article below has been updated with the contents of correspondence from a representative of the Newfoundland and Labrador government. It seems the situation outlined in this commentary is perhaps not as dire as was first believed. According to this recent correspondence the govenment of Newfoundland and Labrador has taken steps to rectify this sad situation.

If I've inadervertantly caused any concern on the part of Web Talk readers I sincerely apologize.

Please see the Update section at the end of this article for more information.

Recently there’s been a lot of talk about Newfoundland and Labrador’s plans for the Lower Churchill hydro project. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are eagerly awaiting what they see as a way to finally benefit from Churchill Falls power after decades of being fleeced on the Upper Churchill development by Quebec.

Most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will tell you they want things done differently this time. They believe this is as a chance to finally control their own destiny without Ottawa or Quebec pulling the rug out from under them.

They may need to think again.

While all eyes are focused on the new Newfoundland and Labrador Energy Corporation as the lead on the project what hasn’t been widely discussed is the existence of the Lower Churchill Development Corporation or the impact it could have.

Incorporated in 1979, under then Premier Frank Moores, the Lower Churchill Development Corporation is the legal entity actually tasked with moving this development forward. It also controls all of the water rights on the lower Churchill

The new NL Energy Corporation, on behalf of government, will act as the parent company of the Lower Churchill Development Corporation but that doesn’t mean it fully controls the actions of this subsidiary.

The Lower Churchill Development Corporation, not the new Energy Corporation, controls the development, distribution and sale of power on the Lower Churchill (NL Hydro would actually purchase power from its “sister” company) What’s more, the Development Corporation is only partly owned by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to the Lower Churchill Development Act, by which the corporation came into existence in ‘79, the company’s shares are owned jointly by Newfoundland and Labrador and, here it comes… the federal government.

Newfoundland and Labrador has a controlling interest, 51% to 49%, however this arrangement does not give the people of Newfoundland and Labrador a final say in the decisions made by the company.

Neither the Energy Corporation nor the government of Newfoundland and Labrador can make any major decision about the Lower Churchill development without the agreement of Ottawa’s representatives on the board.

The following are excerpts from the incorporation legislation relating to this:

The general policy for the operation of the Corporation shall be determined by its board of directors consisting of 12 persons of whom 6 shall be nominees of Newfoundland, 5 shall be nominees of Canada and 1 shall be the chief executive officer…

(the following) shall require the consent of a majority of the nominees of Canada and a majority of the nominees of Newfoundland…

…any agreement with the Province of Quebec relative to water flow in the Churchill River, any arrangements with respect of the transmission of electricity from the Project, the sale of electricity from the Project…

In other words the government of Newfoundland and Labrador does not actually have the final say on Lower Churchill development and isn’t the only government that stands to profit from it. It also means, among other things, that the decision on whether or not Hydro Quebec’s grid is used to access export markets depends on the agreement of representatives for the federal government.

Under these circumstances, and given the political clout Quebec has with Ottawa, how likely is it bypassing Quebec will be acceptable to the board. How likely is it that once again Quebec will attempt to profit as much as possible from the Churchill River?

Because of the existence of the Lower Churchill Development Corporation and the 49% stake held by the federal government, Newfoundland and Labrador may once again be at the mercy of Ottawa and Quebec over Churchill power.

Rather than simply dreaming of the day the Lower Churchill is developed, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador might be better served to ensure that their government is focused on regaining full control of the project for the owners of the resource. If they don’t, Newfoundland and Labrador’s aspirations of becoming “Masters of our Own House” will only come to pass if it’s acceptable to Ottawa and, by extension, Quebec.


Hello Mr. Higgins,

The answers to the questions you posed to Minister Dunderdale regarding Bill 36 are below. I hope the following explanation is sufficient. If you require anything else, please let me know.


Q: Does the Lower Churchill Development Corporation still have a role to play in this potential development and if so, what is that role?

A: The Premier announced in May 2006 that the province, through the energy corporation, would lead the development of the Lower Churchill Project.

The Lower Churchill Development Corporation was formed in 1978 as a means to develop the Lower Churchill. You are correct that the corporation, which is now inactive, is co-owned by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (51 per cent) and the Government of Canada (49 per cent). An option to obtain water rights on the Lower Churchill is currently held by the Lower Churchill Development Corporation, however, the Provincial Government will not be exercising this option.

Instead, Bill 36, which recently passed the House of Assembly, provides the authority to Cabinet to grant water rights to the Lower Churchill to the energy corporation, when requested.

Q: If the project moves forward, who controls the water rights and electrical capacity generated (who would capture the revenues from the development). NL Hydro or the Lower Churchill Development Corporation?

A: The water rights and electricity generated will be controlled by the energy corporation. Revenues from the development will be returned to the energy corporation and ultimately the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador .

Q: Is the Lower Churchill Development corporation still owned 51% by the Province and 49% by the federal government?

A: Yes, however, this corporation is inactive and not involved in the development of the Lower Churchill Project.