Da Legal Stuff...

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Message

With the Christmas season upon us I plan to spend some quality time with my family, bask in the warm glow of a crackling fire and imbibe the odd rum and eggnog.

I will be back in front of the old keyboard in the New Year but before I sign off I would like to offer a few Christmas wishes to one and all.

First and foremost I offer my sincere wishes for a joyous Christmas and wonderful New Year to those of you who have visited my site over the years and who never cease to amaze me with your insightful comments.

I spend what time I can offering up the truth about Newfoundland and Labrador and it is you who make that often frustrating task so much more bearable.

Thank-you so much.

On what you might call a less sincere note, I would also like to offer some Christmas wishes to a few other individuals of note.

To the newly appointed senator from Newfoundland and Labrador, Fabian Manning, I wish you all the best in your position at the federal trough.

You completely deserve the appointment that has been given to you.

No matter the party stripe, senate appointments have always been given to individuals who have placed party loyalty above all else, even any sense of morality. In this light you have every right to wallow in the mud with the rest of the senate pork barrel crowd.

No better example of this sort of party loyalty can be found than in Fabian Manning, a man who helped his party leader ridicule and mock an entire province. A man who actively condoned his party leader lying to the people of his home province and who went so far as to publicly attempt to sell that lie to the people who elected him.

Have a wonderful Christmas Mr. Manning and enjoy your blood money.

To Mr. Harper himself, may the spirit of Christmas, actually the 3 spirits of Christmas, be visited upon you during this holiday period.

Just as Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, who caused him to change his ways, may you also experience an epiphany of sorts before the New Year rolls around.

May you come to discover that there are far more important things in this world than personal ambition, ideology or political power.

May you come to understand that there are individuals who are suffering, families who are in desperate need and entire communities on the brink of collapse. These realities exist across the entire Country (which by the way does not end at the Quebec border even if that border has been redrawn to steal a large swath of Labrador).

A screw it, I can’t go on with this charade any longer.

In truth I wish Mr. Harper exactly what he deserves this Christmas, a big lump of coal or even a glob of tar sands sludge.

Have a great one folks and I’ll be back in the New Year.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Harper Plays Santa this Christmas

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause and if you are a blue blooded ultra Conservative stalwart his name is Stephen.

Conversely, believe it or not, Steve Clause also visited his gifts on Newfoundland and Labrador this Christmas even after failing to win a single seat in the Province during the last election.

Yes indeed, it also seems Newfoundland and Labrador is the recipient of more than a little of the PM’s Christmas spirit this year (unintended of course).

When it comes to cronyism no better proof of the PM’s spirit of giving can be found than the senate appointment of disgraced Newfoundland and Labrador MP Fabian Manning. A man who had the audacity to sit, laugh and even egg on the Prime Minister in the House of Commons a couple of years ago as the latter publicly ridiculed Manning’s home Province.

Indeed, no better example can be found unless you also look at the Prime Minister’s appointment of CTV’s Mike Duffy, a national political correspondent with more than a little bias toward his ultra conservative friends. A bias that has exposed itself more and more in recent years, especially when interviewing federal Tory friends or when snidely deriding Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Danny Williams.

Oh well, I guess that’s just the way things work in Ottawa, nothing new under the sun there.

What more would anyone expect from Santa Harper than a long list of patronage appointments after promising to never appoint senators. I guess the spirit of Christmas was just too much for the PM to resist. With plenty of personal time on his hands, having suspended Parliament so he couldn’t be forced to answer to a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons, the pork barrel spirit must have moved him to act.

Never having been a fan of blind partisanship there may be those who will be amazed at what I’m about to say next, but I would like to offer my heart felt congratulations to both Mr. Duffy and Mr. Manning.

At least with both of these men squirreled away inside the dusty old red senate chamber Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, along with Canadians in general, will no longer have to suffer through their partisan, one sided and self serving drivel.

There’s an old saying to the effect that the best way to relegate someone into silent obscurity is to appoint them to the Canadian senate. Looking at these appointments from that perspective perhaps the greatest Christmas gift of all this season has been given by the PM to Newfoundland and Labrador with the appointment of these two individuals.

Always look on the bright side folks. Always look on the bright side.

Merry Chrismas everyone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

NL Legislature Determined to Protect Public Interest

Today I’d like to offer the entire Newfoundland and Labrador legislature, both government and opposition members, my heart felt congratulations for their combined efforts this week.

By working together to quickly enact legislation intended to secure the people’s water and timber rights from Abitibi-Bowater, each of the Province’s elected members have shown that they can indeed work together in a non-partisan way for the betterment of the Province, when the situation calls for it.

Perhaps their federal counterparts in Ottawa would do well to learn from this fine example.

On Tuesday the Williams government presented the Abitibi expropriation bill to the opposition members, met with them to discuss its contents and all parties worked together to move the bill through 3 readings, the committee stage and royal ascent. All of this was accomplished in under 5 hours.

That process spoke volumes about the ability of all the parties to put aside their partisan differences and work together for the greater good of the people they represent and for that they deserve a pat on the back.

The bill, which will see the Province expropriate all water & timber rights as well as any power generating facilities held by Abitibi once that company closes its last remaining mill, is something that had to be introduced to ensure that the company could not simply walk away from the Province and continue to retain control of valuable provincial resources.

Unfortunately the logic and importance of the effort put out by the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature is something that appears to have been lost on some Central Canadian quasi-news agencies and corporate mouthpieces.

Apparently some of these highly paid shills think the Province should have simply allowed Abitibi-Bowater to close its mill operations, throw a thousand people out of work yet sell or even retain the valuable natural resources of the Province so nobody else could have access to them.

Globe and Mail journalist (and I use the term journalist very loosely) Konrad Yakabuski even decided that the time was right to break out the “Danny Chavez” rhetoric once again and to slam the province for ensuring that its resources are not sold off to the highest bidder so Abitibi could continue to profit from the Province even after it has closed its doors.

In his commentary Mr. Yakabuski, who comes across as being very upset that Abitibi will not be able to sell those assets to pay down debt, attacked the Williams government for “Bludgeoning” the company.

He went on to say that this legislation will, “sour any sensible business person with an eye to investing in the province…”.

The position taken by Mr. Yakabuski leads this writer to wonder where his pay cheque comes from or if he is truly that obtuse.

In a feeble attempt to justify his attack Mr. Yakabuski wrote in the Globe that while, “It is true Abitibi has been so stingy with new capital that the mill might have been doomed by its obsolescence. But the hydro assets are still valuable. Abitibi had been counting on them to ease its own financial difficulties.”

Go figure.

Personally I can only say that it’s about time the Globe took another shot at Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Ontario based paper hasn’t taken a good shot at Williams or the Province for weeks now and this fact alone had almost convinced me that the Premier had slipped into the same sort of complacent “giveaway” mentality that has plagued the Province’s leaders since entering Confederation.

I guess my worries were unfounded.

Now that Canada’s national rag is on the attack again (as long as “national” means Central Canada) I’m more convinced than ever that the provincial government (all parties) must be doing the right thing on this file.

Mr. Jakabusi’s editorial attack makes me wonder what the Globe’s reaction will be should the Ontario government decide to take similar steps with Abitibi. Already the legislature in that province is expressing deep concern about the company’s plans to sell off similar assets there and are meeting with mill workers to gather their input.

It would be interesting to see the Globe’s spin on something like that.

“Sour any sensible business person with an eye to investing…” indeed.

As one letter I received from a reader just this morning so eloquently pointed out:

“Someone should remind the Globe that when it comes to attracting business the Ontario elite have no room to talk."

"What was it Jim Flaherty said about Ontario, "It is the last place anyone would want to invest."

"Meanwhile Newfoundland and Labrador is now a "Have" province while Ontario is a "Have Not."

"Newfoundland and Labrador has a (1.3 billion dollar) surplus, Ontario is running a deficit."

"Newfoundland and Labrador has record car and home sales, Ontario's sales are in the toilet."

"Oil, gas and other companies are investing in new activity in Newfoundland and Labrador all the time including during this economic downturn."

"It seems to me that the folks at this Ontario based rag have very little right to tell Newfoundland and Labrador how to deal with corporate interests."

Well said, well said indeed.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where Once They Stood We (should) Stand

The pending closure of the Abitibi-Bowater mill in Grand Falls-Windsor is the talk of the Province these days. Hundreds of direct and countless indirect jobs will be lost once the mill closes and the future of Abitibi’s timber and water rights in the Province are in question.

This is another clear example of the kind of industrial rape Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have experienced for decades and it speaks volumes about the attitude of big business toward this place.

We’ve seen it before in the destruction of the Atlantic fishery.

We’ve seen it in places like Stephenville and Bell Island.

Now we’re seeing it in Grand Falls-Windsor.

Yes the economy is bad but that reality is not the reason the mill is being closed.

The mill is closing because Abitibi-Bowater ran it into the ground through a lack of upgrade or investment over the years and because their board of directors believe they can walk away from the town while still making millions of dollars in profits for decades to come.

It’s up to the government of the Province, and the people who live here, to see to it that not another penny of profit is sucked out of our resources by this company once the locks go on the doors.

Representatives of the Provincial government say they are in the process of determining what can be done to recover Abitibi’s timber and water rights. That’s all well and good. I hope they can successfully regain them, but barring that, there are other options that will ensure the pillaging of our province, at least by this one company, is stopped dead in its tracks.

While the mill is active and the people working, excess power generated by Abitibi on the Exploits river is being sold into the Provincial grid and purchased by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. Once that mill is closed, Abitibi management intends to sell all the power to Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and reap millions in profits each year. This cannot be allowed to happen.

The right to generate electricity on the Exploits river was granted to the company so it could power the mill. They cannot be allowed to benefit from this resource once the mill is closed.

No mill, no power.

If the government finds it has no legal means to regain those water rights it must direct Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, a crown corporation, to take a lesson from the Upper Churchill debacle and a page out of the Quebec playbook.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro must refuse to purchase a single kilowatt of power generated by Abitibi.

With no market for the power the company’s board of directors won’t be long figuring out that the generating station and water rights are completely worthless to them.

As for the timber rights, if government discovers it has no recourse for reclaiming those, it may well fall to the people of the Province to take a stand.

Weeks, months or even years of blockades and picket lines preventing wood laden trucks from rolling down the road and ships from hauling away this valuable resource may be needed.

The process will likely long, calling for great sacrifice on the part of many, including the possiblity of facing minor legal issues during the process, but in time the incessant delays, additional costs and resulting damage to its public image will force Abitibi to understand that leaving the Province means leaving the Province, not continuing to rape it.

No longer should Newfoundlanders and Labradorians sit idly by and be dictated to by greedy corporations.

No longer should the people continue to watch as their resources are stripped away for the benefit of companies and governments elsewhere.

If the people of Newfoundland and Labrador don’t make a stand with Abitibi-Bowater when will they make a stand and will there come a time when there is nothing left worth standing up for?

UPDATE: Premier Williams has announced that his government will introduce emergency legislation this afternoon in order to expropriate all timber rights, water rights and electrical generating facilities belonging to Abitibi-Bowater on the island of Newfoundland.

The Premier has stated that Abitibi-Bowater may receive compensation for damns, generating stations or other physical assets however no compensation will be paid for the timber or water rights.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Harper Breaks Promise – Rewards Political Cronies

Once again Stephen Harper is about to thumb his nose at the people of Canada.

This time around he’s doing it by casting aside any pretext of senate reform and instead appointing 18 conservative senators to the red chamber.

Not only is this move another example of the sort of two faced politics the Prime Minister is already known for (in Newfoundland and Labrador anyway where he didn't win a single seat last time out), but it’s also a flagrant example of his utter disregard for the will of Parliament itself.

When the Governor General conspired with Mr. Harper to suspend Parliament last week she allowed him to run and hide from a non-confidence vote. That was bad enough but she also left him with no restrictions on his powers even though she has the authority to do so, in the same way as she would if an election campaign were underway.

This has left the Prime Minister with the ability to do as he pleases and to rule Canada as he sees fit even though at the time Parliament was suspended every single opposition MP expressed their loss of confidence in his leadership, down to the person.

As a result 18 of the PM's conservative cronies will be getting a Christmas present consisting of a seat in the senate. A position that includes a hefty salary, a menu of expensive perks, very little work and a position that is considered the ultimate prize in federal circles.

There may be nothing unconstitutional or illegal about what the Prime Minister is doing but it is certainly immoral and deceitful for a lame duck Prime Minister to do this after being elected on a promise of not appointing senators and considering that he would already have been removed from office had he not locked the doors of Parliament to avoid losing power.

Personally I couldn’t care less if the PM fills every seat in the Senate with cigar smoking chimpanzees. What I find most distasteful is Mr. Harper's total lack of moral authority for doing what he is about to do, the fact that he lied about not making these appointments during two election campaigns and most of all, the distinct likelihood that since one Newfoundland and Labrador senate seat is open he will appoint one of biggest sellouts to the people of province, Loyola Hearn or Fabian Manning, to what amounts to the biggest taxpayer funded payoff in the Country.

Come to think of it I do care if the Prime Minister loads up the Senate with cigar smoking chimps. I believe I’d prefer that option.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

What’s bad for Canada is good for N.L.

The following is from the Sunday Halifax Chronicle Herald.

All I can say is "well said Mr. Locke".

Sun. Dec 7 - 4:46 AM

For those who think the current drama (or comedy, depending on your sense of humour) going on in Ottawa is a crisis I suggest you check the situation in India and Pakistan.

Listening to callers to radio phone-in shows screaming in full rage that this is undemocratic, a coup, and a "deal with the devil," I am disappointed that citizens don’t know more about how our parliamentary democracy works.

So, take a breath, wipe the spittle off the phone and pay attention. No one has dug up the guns from the backyard. Everything that is happening is perfectly legal and a legitimate democratic process of Parliament.
Welcome to the politics of minority government. It happens when the opposition has more votes in the House of Commons than the government and the government does something stupid. When Stephen Harper turned an economic update into a partisan assault on the opposition, instead of tabling a plan to stabilize the Canadian economy, it qualified as both stupid and incompetent.

The majority, all duly elected MPs of the House of Commons, thought so too, and Parliamentary process took it course. While the conservative masses in Alberta were burning up the radio talk shows, decrying the revolution, the rabid callers to St. John’s talk shows were raising the battle cry in favour of the coalition forces.

There were even public rallies in support of the possible coalition government in St. John’s last week. After all, Newfoundland and Labrador have a lot to gain, like seven MPs on the coalition side. Danny Williams might get his Christmas wish.

In Alberta, home of a more extreme strain of conservative ideology, they might be a little offended.
One thing the Ottawa follies has shown us is that Canada is a country of not only competing and opposing interests, but that parts of this country have absolutely nothing in common when it comes to political, social and economic ideology and values.

You often hear it said around here, "What’s good for Canada is bad for Newfoundland, what’s bad for Canada is good for Newfoundland." I’d guess there are similar sayings in Alberta and Quebec.

While the global financial crisis has slowed some things down in Newfoundland, it’s nothing like the economic troubles in other parts of Canada. In St. John’s, housing sales are up, prices are up, there are Help Wanted signs in the stores, construction is booming and new megaprojects are on the horizon. You don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the new luxury cars cruising Water Street. Getting seven MPs in a coalition government would be icing on the cake.

And what does Premier Danny Williams think of the situation? Other than saying the Conservatives brought it on themselves, we don’t know. He’s ducking reporters. His lack of opinion on the possible ousting of Stephen Harper is odd after injecting himself into the last federal election with an agenda to see Mr. Harper defeated. Or maybe what happens in Ottawa simply doesn’t matter to Newfoundland anymore.

Once upon a time Canada was a pretty middle-of-the-road place. Liberals were somewhat conservative and Conservatives used to be progressive. Now, Canada is becoming more polarized and people realize, or are finally admitting, parts of their country don’t really share the same values.

Remember, most real countries have had a few government overthrows in their history — often involving guns. The only gun in this show is the one used by the Conservatives to shoot themselves in the foot.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Canada’s constitutional coup: A warning to the working class

The following contains excerpts from an article that appeared on the web site "International" today and is worth a read.

It outlines the facts about what happened at the hand of the Governor General on Thursday, the postition taken by the governing Conservative party and why the combination of the two are so destructive and undemocratic.

The article presents the facts in such a way that even devout partisans of all political stripes should be able to understand the true implications of the recent events in Ottawa.

In a flagrant attack on parliamentary norms and democratic rights, Canada's minority Conservative government, in conjunction with the unelected governor-general, has shut down the country's national parliament in order to prevent the opposition parties from ousting the government in a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday.

Never before in Canada or, for that matter, any other country that follows the British parliamentary pattern, has a government prorogued parliament for the express purpose of avoiding a non-confidence vote.

Two further facts underline the arbitrary and undemocratic character of Governor-General Michaëlle Jean's decision to grant Prime Minster Stephen Harper his request that parliament be suspended until January 26:

* In an election less than eight weeks ago, Canadians once again denied the Conservatives a parliamentary majority, giving the three opposition parties 163 of the 308 House of Commons seats and well over half their votes. A result that should have ensured the majority of opposition members were able to place limitations and controls on the actions of a minority government.

* To demonstrate that the Conservatives had lost parliament's "confidence," and in accordance with long-established constitutional practice, the three opposition parties had officially informed the governor-general earlier this week that they were committed to defeating the government at the earliest opportunity and supporting an opposition coalition government for at least 18 months.

The suspension of parliament and of the MPs' right to defeat and replace the sitting government strikes at the most fundamental democratic right—the right of the people to choose their own government.

Turning reality on its head, the Conservatives, with the support of much of the media, have mounted a vitriolic and reactionary campaign, terming the opposition's attempt to bring to power an alternate government "illegal" and branding it an illegitimate attempt to overturn the results of the October 14 election.

They have labeled the proposed Liberal-NDP government a "separatist coalition," because the pro-Quebec independence Bloc Québécois, which has previously provided the Conservatives with their margin of victory in confidence votes, is backing it.

"That is as close to treason and sedition as I can imagine," declared Conservative MP Bob Dechert.

Even sections of the corporate media that favor the suspension of parliament concede that Harper and the Conservatives have openly incited anti-Quebec chauvinism.

In a nationally televised address Wednesday, Harper vowed to "use every legal means" at his disposal to remain in power.

Given that he has declared the opposition's attempt to form an alternate government a threat to Canada's "national unity" and "democracy," and has now shut down parliament, this vow raises the question as to how far he and his fellow Conservatives are prepared to go in subverting parliamentary and democratic procedures.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Canada, A True Monarchy

The Governor General’s decision to suspend Parliament and prop up a government that does not have the confidence of the House of Commons proves one point very clearly.

The Governor General’s office, as many have expressed in the past, is a complete and utter waste of taxpayer dollars.

The Governor General, with her decision, has set a precedent that will impact all future governments in Canada and dampen the ability of government to function.

By setting this precedent it will now be possible for all future governments to suspend the House of Commons any time they are facing a non-confidence vote, thus denying the elected House the ability to oust an ineffective, unpopular or even destructive leadership regime.

The office of the Governor General is expected to protect Parliament and ensure that it functions as it was intended, a role the current Governor General has abdicated by denying the will of the very Parliament she is sworn to protect and instead supporting one party over the will of the majority of elected members.

The will of Parliament, whether or not any single individual agrees with the sentiment, was to defeat the current government. Instead of allowing this democratic event to unfold as has happened throughout Canada’s history, the current Governor General has allowed the Prime Minister to hide from his responsibility and govern unopposed.

The Prime Minister is now free to wage a propaganda offensive against his opposition while continuing to control the public purse, speak on behalf of the Country and make decisions of national importance without having the support of the majority of the House.

There are those who will argue that the current Prime Minister should be allowed to continue governing rather than being removed from office.

There are those who believe the desire of Parliament should be followed by allowing a coalition government to lead Canada.

There are still others who might prefer another election be held to settle the issue.

No matter which side of the issue Canadians may subscribe to one thing is now abundantly clear:

In spite of those who believe Canada is a dysfunctional democracy, believe it or not, this is no the case.

In a democracy, even a dysfunctional one, the people can always hold out hope of invoking some kind of positive change. Now even that hope is gone.

Canada today is no longer a dysfunctional democracy. It’s a corrupt and disconnected monarchy.

The Governor General should not only be removed from her office but the office itself should be permanently closed.