Da Legal Stuff...

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Who Do You Believe?

The history: Ever since the idea of developing the Lower Churchill hydro project came to the fore I've been a big supporter of utilizing as much of the power as possible to attract local industry to Labrador.

Through multiple correspondence, between November 2006 and March 2007, with Newfoundland and Labrador's Minister of Natural Resources, Kathy Dunderdale, it was made abundently clear to your's truly that attracting industry (precisely building a smelter) in Labrador was not in the cards due to the costs involved.

Over the past few months Premier Danny Williams has publicly stated on several occassions that the building of a smelter in Labrador is indeed one of the key uses he sees for Lower Churchill power.

The Present:

On January 2nd of this year I took it upon myself to write the Premier about this apparent disconnect between his direction and the information I had been given by his minister. I followed up that correspondence again on January 22nd. To date there has been no response to my concerns.

What follows is a copy of my January 2nd letter. If anyone would like to "suggest" to the Premier that perhaps he should respsond to these questions I encourage you to do so. His email address is:


January 2, 2008

To: Premier Williams

From: Myles Higgins

Dear Premier. Williams:

I am writing to ask your office for clarification of the statements you have recently made to various forms of media which appear to be in direct conflict with those made previously by your cabinet representative, Ms. Kathy Dunderale.

Recently you have made it very clear that one of the mega-projects you hope to see come to fruition is the development of a smelter in Labrador that would make use of Lower Churchill power and create much needed jobs in the area. I congratulate you for investigating this approach to utilization of the Lower Churchill as I have long been a proponent of using that power to attract industry to the region rather than for export alone.

My concern lies in the fact that when I approached Minister Dunderdale in November of 2006 on behalf of the Newfoundland and Labrador Defense League (NLDL.org) to ask her why your government did not appear to be very proactive in pursuing a smelter for the region she responded to me that a study, conducted by ALCOA, had shown that, “…it was not a viable option and in fact required almost $1 billion of Government financial assistance.” (Please see attached letter “Dunderdale_Nov_2006.doc)

When questioned about the details of these costs Ms. Dunderdale said she could not go into the details of the study but reiterated that a smelter in Labrador , using Lower Churchill power, would cost ALCOA $1 billion more than other alternatives. (Please see attached letter “Higgins.pdf which was sent to me by Judy Beckwith on behalf of Minister Dunderdale in March of 2007)

My concern does not lay with the government’s intention to attract industrial development to Labrador , in fact I applaud the move. My concern lies instead with the apparent conflict in message between your office and that of your Minister. I am also concerned over which message is the correct one and as I expressed to Ms. Dunderdale at the time, my concern is also what the province might be lacking that would require an expenditure of $1 billion dollars in order to make Lower Churchill spin off development competitive with other options available to large organizations like ALCOA.

Your latest comments on the development of a smelter in the region have once again raised my concerns and additionally, I wonder why this massive expenditure no longer appears to be a factor. Has the cost simply disappeared for some reason, are we to expect that if a smelter is developed it will cost the provincial government a massive expenditure to make it happen, or is there really a drive underway to build a smelter at all or is this simply political posturing of some kind? I sincerely hope the latter is not the case.

Myles Higgins

Friday, January 25, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Globe Publishes Unbiased Article

Hey, the headline may be a bit over the top but when the Mop and Pail actually publishes something that doesn't trash Newfoundland and Labrador it's definately breaking news.

Here's the article for anyone who isn't so turned by the paper that they refuse to even visit their site.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

There are Lies and Then There are Damn Lies

Today I nearly fell off my chair after visiting the federal Conservative website and reading a press release issued this week. The funniest part of the whole site (funny in a rather sad way) has to be the verbal diarrhea they espouse on regular basis.

I have to admit to visiting various party sites on a somewhat regular basis. Not only is it good research into what these guys are up to but it helps solidify my personal opinion of the total lack of credibility these guys have and the political crap they heap on the public with apparent glee.

On visiting the Conservative site earlier this week I was taken aback by the fact that the site, at the time, prominently displayed no less than 6 large pictures of Stephane Dion but only 3 small pictures of the PM could be found after searching around the page. For a minute or so I thought I might have visited the wrong web site but this was not the case as the sea of blue there indicated in no uncertain terms.

Mind you each of the Dion pictures was accompanied by very cutting and often inaccurate attack commentary. In fact a quick trip to the site's press release page showed 16 anti-Dion releases but only 1 lonely pro-Conservative story. Doesn’t it say something about a party when it’s more concerned with trashing the opposition than highlighting its own merits? Then again, I guess you need to actually have some merits before you can brag about them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not a supporter of the Liberal party of Canada any more than I’m a supporter of the NDP, Conservatives or any other federal party. I’m more of a supporter of localized political groups who actually attempt to address REAL issues rather than those that turn everything into a political game and an opportunity for personal or electoral gain.

Sorry, I digress.

Speaking issues, today’s Conservative news release really sparked my interest and I admit, more than a little ire as well.

A key section of the release reads as follows:

With his priorities clear, Prime Minister Harper has followed through on his promises. Whether by providing direct support for parents to help with child care, taking real action to get criminals off our streets or allowing the hard-working taxpayer to keep more of what they earn, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has proven that he is a man of his word. He believes that government works best when it delivers on its promises and only promises what it can deliver.

Well folks, I guess I stand corrected. It seems you don’t really need to have merits in order to brag about them.

I love the line, “…government works best when it delivers on its promises and only promises what it can deliver”


Why then did the Harper government promise never to tax income trusts and then cause billions of dollars in losses to investors when they did?

Why did Stephen Harper promise to remove non-renewable resource revenues from the equalization formula but then back out on the promise and even deny he did so?

Why did Stephen Harper promise to station a 650 person rapid response battalion at 5 Wing Goose Bay and increase the military presence in St. John’s, only to do nothing of the sort?

Why did the Conservatives, while in opposition and on the election trail, push for a full inquiry into compensation for those affected by Agent Orange, fight to have custodial management put in place to protect Atlantic fish stocks and…

I could go on and on although by now I believe I’ve made my point and most of you are probably already adding some of your own favorite broken promises to the list.

It’s one thing to have government spin doctors bend reality a little, we’ve all come to accept that as one of the realities we face, like it or not. It’s quite another for a party, especially a governing one, to presente abosolute lies to the electorate on a regular basis.

There are those who will say that the great thing about a democracy is that the people get what they ask for by voting a party to power or voting them back out. The problem these days is that more often than not the public really has no idea who or what they are voting for thanks to the regular diet of lies fed to them on a regular basis.

It makes me wonder just how much control the public really has over the direction of the Country or if Canada is really a democracy after all, and that my friends is NO laughing matter.

The making of Danny Chavez

The following editorial is from the Telegram today. It's an interesting read for anyone trying to come to grips with why nobody in Ottawa, or outside Newfoundland and Labrador for that matter, seems to understand what all the fuss is over resource revenues in the province.

Swimming against the tide

Ottawa is a strange place: as the snow fingers down all day long, the nation's capital has a small traffic jam on its sidewalks. Not sidewalk plows, but small tractors with spinning brushes where plows should be, brushing the snow off the pavement like lint off a suit.

More than anything else, it suggests a casual dismissal of things that dare to get in the way, a kind of quick dispatch for weather that's not really appreciated in the middle of an otherwise busy day.

Welcome to the nation's capital, where it doesn't take long to discover why Newfoundland and Labrador's fight for offshore revenues is such a hard sell.

Any place you go, the questions are the same: in an office-tower boardroom, it's not long before strangers break the ice with "Is Danny Williams for real?" and "Are ordinary people really behind him?"

At a small Korean grill, over hard orange Formica tables dating back to the '60s, the questions are the same. Over kimchi - small dishes of fermented, spiced cabbage - federal civil servants have the same kind of questions: "Who is this guy?""What does he want?"And it's terribly hard to explain over the course of dinner, because there's just so much information that people outside our province haven't bothered to pick up over the past few months and years.

You can try and explain, but you can see the glaze skimming over people's eyes mere minutes in.And the media isn't helping, either. Not the Globe and Mail, not with its ads for an upcoming Report on Business Magazine. Back on page A10, next to the second half of an article about people using the Vimy Ridge war memorial as site for swingers, the ad has an angry Williams staring out of the page, his picture topped with a Communist cap and the headline "The making of Danny Chavez."

Chances are, the thing that most people will take from the ads, and maybe from the magazine itself, is the idea that we have some kind of angry near-dictator on our hands... Read Complete Article

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Williams and Harper Correspondence - $10 Billion Dollar Shortfall

For anyone who has been reading the public comments surrounding the correspondence between Premier Williams and Stephen Harper over the past few weeks but haven't had a chance to see the actual letters, here you go.

Letters from Premier Williams to the Prime Minister
December 3, 2007
December 11, 2007
December 18, 2007
January 3, 2008

Letter from the Prime Minister to Premier Williams
January 15, 2008

Letter of response from Premier Williams to the Prime Minister
January 16, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Atlantic Premiers Vow Collaboration on Energy

Excerpt from yesterday's Mop and Pail. Note that the article discusses the province wheeling 740 megawatts of power to external markets. Could it be that the concept of using the remainder of the power inside the province be more than just political rhetoric?

Atlantic premiers vow collaboration on energy

The Canadian Press
January 18, 2008 at 8:01 PM EST

SACKVILLE, N.B. — Atlantic Canada's premiers promised Friday to “collaborate” on energy projects, suggesting there's growing regional interest in bringing Labrador's massive hydro resources to the Maritimes via an undersea cable.

A meeting of four premiers and 24 provincial cabinet ministers wound up in Sackville with the premiers musing over the possibility that electricity from the proposed Lower Churchill Falls project could lessen the Maritimes' precarious dependence on imported fossil fuels.

The energy framework signed Friday calls on the provinces to “strive” to increase the “regional generation of electricity” and for more sharing of information among energy ministers.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham confirmed he's been talking to Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams about the idea of an undersea cable.

“Premier Williams and I have been working together on the development of the Churchill Falls project, which is the cleanest form of renewable energy,” Graham said during the news conference.

However, although Mr. Williams said the New Brunswick route is a “serious alternative,” he added he's keeping open the option of transmitting the power through Quebec and Ontario.

If Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's proposal to wheel 740 megawatts of Lower Churchill electricity ever becomes a reality, it could mean $25-million annually in transmission fees for New Brunswick's public utility.

Newfoundland's hydro company filed a request last year to wheel the power from the two proposed dams through New Brunswick's power grid and into other markets by 2015.
However, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro has also applied to Hydro-Quebec TransEnergie and the Ontario Independent Electricity System Operator to flow the power into those markets also.

Mr. Williams said some of the power from the Maritimes proposal could be sold in P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia while “some could be pushed right on through” to the much larger New England market.

“The energy framework is about all of us working together,” Mr. Williams said. “It's about sharing information, it's about sharing the most modern and innovative technology we can get.”
He cautioned that the premier's agreement was “general” in nature.

There's been a flurry of regional excitement lately over bringing the power from Labrador to the Maritimes by 2015.

One sign of growing interest came Monday when Nova Scotia's utility Emera Inc. announced it signed a memorandum of understanding “to explore the possibility of bringing energy from the Lower Churchill project to the Maritimes and New England markets.” - read entire article.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Perception is Not Reality in Newfoundland and Labrador

Many Canadians have come to see Newfoundland and Labrador as the place where the people are “always whining and looking for more.”

The “whining” part of that statement is a bit of a stretch but the fact that the people of the province want something “more” is right on the money.

Speaking of money, it’s often the financial quarrels the province has with Ottawa that capture the headlines but money is only the most obvious symptom of a far deeper problem. One that’s existed since long before the province entered confederation.

The real problem is one of a total lack of respect and understanding.

Long before Newfoundland and Labrador entered the federation it was, and continues to be, seen as a poor little colony with no value outside of its resources, as a source of cheap manual labour or as fodder for countess low brow jokes.

Consider that Newfoundland and Labrador’s resources, most notably a world renowned fishery that sustained the place for nearly 500 years, was taken over by Canada in 1949 and, less than 50 years, completely decimated through neglect, mismanagement and corruption. At the time of the fishery collapse the headlines spoke of over fishing but in reality this once great renewable resource was traded away to foreign fleets in exchange for trade agreements that primarily benefited Ontario and Quebec manufacturers.

In the 1960’s the province developed one of the largest hydro electric projects in the world, at Churchill Falls, but was prevented by Quebec from selling power to the rest of North America because the federal government refused to step in and stop Quebec from blocking distribution at its border. A similar problem exists today with the development of the lower Churchill project and there is no sign that attitudes have changed in Ottawa or Quebec.

There has never been any respect shown to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and that reality exists to this day.

Recently Prime Minister Harper is reported to have said to the province’s premier that he was not concerned if the premier waged an anti-conservative campaign against him in the next election because, “I don’t need Newfoundland to win an election”.

Even the Heritage Minister, Josee Verner, and other federal representatives, insist on making slight after slight to the proud people of the province on a regular basis.

With the anniversary of the founding of Quebec City being celebrated this year Minister Verner is publicly referring to Quebec City as the oldest city in Canada, a position documented in official literature from her Department.

Verner recently referred to Quebec City as "the first Canadian city". Her predecessor, Bev Oda, called Quebec "Canada's oldest urban settlement" and the department's 2007-2008 Report on Plans and Priorities named Quebec City, founded in 1608, as "Canada's oldest city” yet historical records show that European ships frequented St. John's harbour a hundred years before the founding of Quebec City and according to the Canadian encyclopedia, Europeans had already begun to settle around St. John’s harbour by 1583.

Is there any act more reprehensible and disrespectful than to revise history in at the expense of one member of the federation in an attempt to pander to the voters of another and truth be damned?

Unfortunately the lack of respect that exists towards Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is not limited to government officials and political figures.

When the government of Newfoundland and Labrador went after big oil for more resource royalties media pundits referred to the Premier as a dictator yet when Alberta did the same thing the pros and cons were discussed in the media in a rational manner.

When aid is given to western farmers it’s seen as being the right thing to do yet when Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen received support, after Ottawa decimated and then closed the cod fishery, putting more than 10% of the province’s population out of work and destroying communities that had existed for hundreds of years, the aid package was viewed across Canada as a “handout”.

The disrespect shown to Newfoundland and Labrador, and to each and every one of its residents, is like a virus that has permeated the federal political mind space and infected the public at large.

This virus has grown to a point where it’s now common for many Canadians to take part in this virulent form of disrespect with pleasure. The proof of this is evident in every “newfie” joke and every “stupid newfie” comment used on a daily basis right across the Country.

When Quebec threatens separation the nation’s ears perk up and federal coffers fly open. When an individual in Newfoundland and Labrador mutters the idea under their breath they are begged to leave and to take the burden of support off the rest of the nation.

The fact that Newfoundland and Labrador has been responsible for pouring billions into the Canadian economy since being dragged into the federation makes no difference.

The fact that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have laboured to build office towers and to man mills, factories and mines across the Country and in doing so helped build the nation is simply dismissed.

The fact that Newfoundland and Labrador citizens account for 5 times the number of Canadian forces personnel than the population would suggest they should is not even a consideration.

The fact that Newfoundland and Labrador, after years of financial crisis, entered Canada with a budgetary surplus and over the past 60 years has been forced into a position where it now has the largest per capita debt in the nation is seen as a provincial failure with no refection on the nation.

Every time a political figure, entertainment superstar or fundraising organizer speaks of embarking on a “coast to coast” tour, from Vancouver to Halifax it is a slap in the face to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Though the headlines may scream it, the biggest issue Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have with the Canadian federation is not a financial one, but one of respect.

Financial issues are but one aspect of the underlying problem, one that unfortunately garners the biggest headlines. It’s a reality that can only be attributed to the need by some to feed the Canadian stereotype of Newfoundland and Labrador as a place where everyone is “always whining and looking for more”.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s "ABC" Campaign Back on Track

After meeting with Stephen Harper in Ottawa Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Danny Williams, went before the media this week to let the public know that his ABC (anyone but Conservative) campaign, “…is back on.”

According to Williams, during last week’s first minister’s meeting Stephen Harper indicated that a written response to the province’s request for settlement of the 11 billion dollar equalization dispute would be sent to his office this week. Williams also said Harper informed him that he (Williams) “…will not be happy with the decision”.

Though the Prime Minister’s formal response has yet to arrive, premier Williams says Mr. Harper’s words have led him to end the truce that has existed for the past few weeks and once again begin moving forward with a campaign to defeat federal Conservative candidates in the province during the next election.

While speaking with the media Williams told reporters that during a private meeting between himself and Prime Minister Harper back in December, when Williams provided the PM with some options to end the feud, the PM responded that he, “didn't need Newfoundland and Labrador to win an election”.

Harper's office has since denied the PM said that.

At this point there appears to be no middle ground for the two leaders and it’s expected that over the coming weeks and months the war of words will ratchet up as the Commons heads into a new year and a new round of confidence votes.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Billion Dollar Aid Plan or Billion Dollar Election Campaign?

This week the federal government, or more precisely the leading federal party, once again opted to play petty politics with the people’s lives rather than address the needs of the public.

On Thursday, in an effort to head off the provincial premiers, Stephen Harper announced a billion dollar fund to help displaced workers in the manufacturing and forestry industries.

The rising Canadian dollar and an economic slowdown with Canada’s biggest trading partner, the U.S., has forced many mills and factories to either let workers go or shut down completely. In response, the Harper government has announced a plan that is not only ludicrous in its approach but politically underhanded as well.

The plan would see nearly a billion dollars divided among the provinces to aid displaced workers in the one industry towns hit hardest by closures. Unfortunately, the plan is not only short sighted, it’s completely blind.

According to the federal government the funds are to be used to retrain workers, but for what?

Many of the displaced workers, though not all, are already well trained in the trade of their choice. Many mill workers, for example, are pipe fitters, electricians, truck drivers, etc. Many are also well into their forties or fifties. Is retraining really the best use of funding when you consider that in one industry towns there are not likely to be any other jobs to train for?

10 million is to be provided to each province with the remainder divided on a per capita basis. A simple means to address a complex problem and clearly a method that was determined to appease the larger provinces rather than address the problem itself.

No consideration was given to the fact that less money will flow to smaller provinces even though the loss of several hundred jobs in a small province can have an equivalent, or even larger, impact than the loss of thousands in a larger one. No thought was given to the fact that this method of distribution will see provinces like Alberta, with a booming economy, receive more of the funding than a place like Newfoundland and Labrador or New Brunswick, provinces that are more severely impacted by mill closures.

To top it all off Harper has decided to use a desperate situation as a political cattle prod with the opposition parties. By tying the funding to the upcoming federal budget vote this cold hearted and politically advantages move is clearly designed to make the opposition parties either a) support his budget and not force an election or b) allow Harper to campaign by saying his opposition prevented him from supporting the unemployed.

This is very reminiscent of the game played by former Prime Minister Paul Martin when he tied the Atlantic Accord contracts with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador to a federal budget bill. It was a move intended to gain political support for his government, one that almost ended in the contract being lost long before the current PM walked all over it.

Harper may want to watch his step if he hopes to take a page from the Paul Martin playbook on this. There’s a saying in political circles that voters have a short memory, but it would do Stephen Harper some good to remember that Paul Martin’s underhanded approach didn’t save his hide in the end when it came to the election.

I’m not a proponent of government stepping in to prop up failing industries that clearly have a poor business model. This is not one of those cases. It’s not like the history of Bombardier for example. This time it’s about helping thousands of unemployed people get over a hurdle in their lives that must surely be devastating.

The problem is that the entire plan is poorly thought out, over simplistic in its implementation and intended, not to really help anyone except the Harper government by stomping on the backs of those who so desperately need support.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Ultimate Political Escape Route - Saving Face

Fact: On Friday January 11 the Provincial and Territorial leaders will spend an afternoon with Stephen Harper, supposedly discussing the economy and the rising Canadian dollar.

Speculation: There are those who suspect the long standing battle over equalization will once again come to the fore when Danny Williams and the newly minted Premier of Saskatchewan enter the room.

Prediction: Forget about it.

This meeting will turn out exactly as it's billed, a chat about the economy and nothing more (at least from Newfoundland and Labrador's perspective).

At this point in time both Premier Williams and Prime Minister Harper are toning things down. They've both been very non-confrontational since meeting back in November and even though Williams gave Harper a deadline for resolution, one supposedly marked by this meeting, the subject will not be discussed.

A lot has already been said in the media over the past several month, the positions of each man is well known to the other and there is little for either man to gain, but much to lose, in turning up the heat at this time.

No doubt there is movement afoot behind the scenes to make the entire issue go away before the next federal election. Harper doesn't want a loose cannon crisscrossing the Country while on the hustings and it's doubtful Williams really want's to spend so much time taking on an anti-campaign.

With the rhetoric on low simmer and the issues having slipped from the national spotlight the opportunity is there for both men to "save face" and come out of this with a compromise they can both live with. That opportunity will disappear if the upcoming meeting ends in another blood bath.

At this point Williams knows he is not going to get the full 10 billion the Harper election promise would have provided. Harper knows Williams' public and internal party disturbances are not simply going to go away.

Whether you like or hate either man one thing nobody can argue is their intelligence and it is this intelligence that will lead to a solution before Canadians go to the polls.

The trick here is for Williams to make some limited gains (perhaps a loan guarantee on the lower churchill and some other serious funding for projects or infrastructure) and for Harper to appear not to have given in to the province's demands. The only question remaining is how they will accomplish these two goals and that's something most of us will come to suspect but may never truly know.

In the coming months there are likely to be some announcements or developments that involve the federal government and the province but they won't be publicly announced as "compensation for the wrongs committed by Ottawa". Such an announcement would prevent Mr. Harper from saving face and at this point saving face is far more important to him than the original issue itself.

Don't look for any fireworks at the First Minister's meeting this week but keep your eyes and ears sharply tuned in for a period of unexpected federal / provincial co-operation over major projects in the coming year.

Monday, January 07, 2008

It's Your Move Mr. Prime Minister

For those who have been following the ABC (Anyone But Conservative) campaign that Newfoundland and Labrador premier, Danny Williams, has been threatening to wage against Stephen Harper, the intrigue just got much more interesting.

Enter Sinclair Stevens, a name and face from the past who is still very much consumed with Canadian politics.

Some of our older readers may remember Mr. Stevens as a political dynamo in the original federal Progressive Conservative party back in the good old days, once even taking a run at the party leadership himself.

Ever since the merger between the old Alliance and PC parties however Stevens has had a major dislike for the entire organization and more specifically for its leader, Stephen Harper.

Today Mr. Stevens publicly stated that he has been planning the formation of a new "Progessive Canadian" party for some time and, get this, has been in discussions with premier Danny Williams on the subject since last May in an effort to shore up his support.

Williams, for his part, has denied making any promises of assistance to Stevens but has admitted to talking with him recently, an admission that must be flying like a lead balloon at 24 Sussex Drive tonight.

At the very least this potential "New" party and, factual or not, William's part in its development, should send a clear message to Stephen Harper that the ABC campaign is not simply a fantasy and that there are indeed ways the PM's political future can be put in jeopardy.

It's certainly something Harper and his advisors need to consider in light of Williams' pre-Christmas request that the PM find a way to "make up" for the failure to follow through on his equalization promises and not honoring the Atlantic Accord.

As far as Newfoundland and Labrador itself is concerned, should this new party actually field candidates in the province (Stevens claims to already have candidates lined up) it would almost guarantee Harper's Conservatives would be shut out. The domino effect of the ABC campain, the Bill Casey factor and this new party might also be felt in places across Atlantic Canada and among sympathetic voters in Saskatchewan.

In Newfoundland and Labrador there are only 3 Conservative ridings and those are on the Avalon Peninsula, coincidentally in the area where the highest level of Nationalist sentiment exists.

Consider that a new Progressive Canadian party would likely run on a core of PC-like policies, make use of provincial PC workers appeal to conservative voters.

In addition, the newly formed NL-First party in the province would attract nationalist voters and with a former provincial Tory at its helm is sure to attract at least some old school conservatives as well.

Adding to all of this is the potential that Williams' might indeed use his unprecedented popularity with voters to truly make an attempt at defeating Harper and you've got a scenario that would see the conservative vote split among enough parties that it would almost assure a Liberal victory across the board.

In the past few weeks Premier Williams has lowered the volume on the ABC rhetoric, just a little, but neither he nor Sinclair Stevens are dumb when it comes to political brinksmanship. Make no mistake, the breaking of this story today was no accident. It was done with a clear purpose in mind and Stephen Harper might be well advised to put his pride in his back pocket, use the narrow window of opportunity given to him and find a way to once again make ABC something best left in the school yard.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yet Another 2007 Year End Review

What can I say, I haven't written much lately but like the rest of you I'm busy this time of year. That said, since I'm sitting in a hotel room tonight in the self proclaimed "Center of the Universe" and since over the past week or so I’ve listened to, or been reading, “year end review” pieces from media outlets and pundits alike I figured I might as well jump right in.

All the lists I've come across so far are mildly interesting as a means of reminding us of the events of the past year. Unfortunately they all failed to make note of some of the more important and relevent events relating to Newfoundland and Labrador. Well, rather than complain about the hard work of others, here’s my list.

Submitted for your approval, Web Talk’s 2007 "Year in Review"

January – Prime Minister Stephen Harper proves his concern for the environment by taking on a personal recycling project. In January Harper recycled the old Mulroney concept of an “Ambassador of Fisheries” by appointing former provincial Finance Minister Loyola Sullivan to the job. Since then the two Loyola’s have resoundlingly disproved the old adage that “two heads are better than one”.

February – It was February of 2007, just prior to the federal budget being brought down, that the Government of Canada (still referring to itself as “Canada’s New Government”) announced what would become a series of hikes in ferry rates and fuel surcharges. While Fabian Manning and Norm Doyle ran for cover and avoided any questions on the subject, Loyola Hearn proudly told anyone who would listen about how great this was for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador because it would allow Ottawa to put more money into the service. Can anyone say big raises for staff?

It was also in February that the St. John’s Airport Authority proudly announced that Astraeus Airlines was going to step in and take over the NL to England route abandoned by Air Canada (in deference to their preferred customers in Nova Scotia). Unfortunately later in the year the announcement would come that Astraeus was also pulling out because Air Canada, smelling competition, had undercut the service and (though not said publicly) idiotic customers in the province had failed to support Astraeus and instead bought tickets with Canada’s National Airline. I sometimes believe we are our own worst enemies.

March – Ottawa brought down its infamous budget. The federal budget unilaterally changed the signed Atlantic Accord agreements between the Feds and Newfoundland and Labrador (plus Nova Scotia) and essentially screwed over the people of Atlantic Canada.

It reversed promises made by Stephen Harper to remove all non-renewable resources from the equalization formula and touched off a war of words that is still underway today. The budget also forced a very proud and strong willed MP from Nova Scotia, to vote against his own party and in doing so get himself ejected from caucus.

Meanwhile a much less proud and weak willed MP from Newfoundland, Loyola Hearn tried to sell the benefits of the budget to his people while an even weaker MP, Fabian Manning, sat in the parliamentary chair of the Finance Minister and laughed along with Stephen Harper as he mocked the stand taken by the province. Like I’ve said before, we’re our own worst enemies sometimes.

April – It was in April of 2007 that Lieutenant Governor Ed Roberts delivered a provincial thrown speech in which the term “Masters of our own house” became cause for much discussion in Newfoundland and Labrador. The speech was peppered with nationalistic rhetoric and was clearly designed to send a strong message to Ottawa and to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that if Ottawa was going to stand in our way then to hell with them. We were going to do what needed to be done in spite of them.

May – On May 11 thousands gathered on Confederation Hill for a rally in support of the province’s position on equalization. The PWG and Labrador flags waved proudly all over the hill, VOCM’s Randy Simms hosted the event and, in a rare display of bi-partisan cooperation, provincial PC, Liberal and NDP alike joined on the steps of Confederation building to get the message out.

My favorite protest sign that day: “A penny saved is a penny Hearned”.

Unfortunately the demonstration got very few media cycles, with the national press, who opted instead to cover a story about 10 demonstrators outside Toronto city hall that evening. Typical.

June – This was the month Premier Rodney McDonald of Nova Scotia finally found some semblance of a backbone and testified before a senate committee looking into the budget and its impacts on the Atlantic Accord. In his statement Premier McDonald was almost poetic. His words were the words of a statesman and, though ultimately ineffective, were inspiring.

Unfortunately as well the same man who said in that testimony, “…the word of their government is to be questioned - and the contracts it signs on their behalf - not worth the paper they are written on”, later went on to bend over and sell out to the Prime Minister, much to the chagrin of the people of Nova Scotia.

This was also the month that talks over the Hebron oil project started to get back on track much to the chagrin of the pundits who had proudly expounded on the perceived fact that William’s had blown it and was driving the provincial economy into the toilet. Sorry guys but the economy is doing just fine.

July – Rumors make the rounds that General Rick Hillier has his eye on the Premier’s job when his military days are over. No confirmation or out and out denial ever surfaced so I guess we’ll all have to wait and see if we are dumb enough to elect someone who has spent his entire adult life taking orders from Canadian political leaders.

August – This was the month of all Hebron all the time. local media, political analysts and water cooler chatter were all consumed with the Hebron MOU. Everyone (except the Liberal party of Newfoundland and Labrador) loved the fact that Danny Williams had forced the hand of the biggest oil giant on the planet and won, but the questions around exactly what the deal meant would not go away. Liberal leader Gerry Reid posed a series of questions to premier Williams, fed them to the media and did everything in his power to make the Hebron MOU look like a bad deal for the province. Rightly or wrongly that view failed to gain any traction and likely helped lead to the demise of Reid’s political career in the election that followed.

September – Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly refers to Canada as a bi-cultural society and in doing so denies the historical stand of Canada that it supports a multiculturalism. According to the Prime Minister, who had already pushed through a motion to recognize the Quebecois as a nation, there are only two cultures in Canada and the rest of us simply don’t exist.

This was also the month before the provincial election and a time for campaigning by the candidates in the province. One of those candidates - Simon Lono - with the Liberal party, stands out in my personal memory for his antics and the ultimate outcome of his campaign. Good luck on the recovery Simon, both the physical and political.

October – This was a very busy month.

Of course October was election month in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was also a month that saw a massive blue tidal wave sweep over the province in one of the biggest election wins of any party in the province’s history. Not a good night for Prime Minister Stephen Harper I suspect.

Aside from the election itself, October 2007 was also a busy month on other political fronts.

Nova Scotia premier, Rodney McDonald, buckles under to the Prime Minister and accepts a pseudo-deal over the Atlantic Accord and in doing so publicly turned his back on the one federal MP in his province who did what Rodney asked of the province’s MPs. Stood by his people, something Rodney clearly was unwilling to do.

Also in October the fledgling Newfoundland and Labrador First Party (NL First) formally announced that it intended to run a full slate of candidates in the next federal election. Since that time the party has been formally registered as a federal party.

It was the month the Canadian dollar hit par with the green back and started a public outcry over the cost of goods. Why should we pay 30 or 40 percent more than Americans for the same products people wondered? Good question, but we still pay more don’t we?

It was also the month when stories broke that Russian test flights were skirting Canadian airspace without permission and that (even though Goosebay is not a required base in Ottawa’s view) Canadian fighters were temporarily stationed there because it was taking them too long to respond from the more politically, and less strategically, located base in Quebec.

November – Premier Williams, after months and months and a few more months of prodding by individuals and groups like NLDL.org, publicly states that he is working on a deal that would see a smelter built in Labrador to take advantage of lower Churchill power and create jobs here rather than simply fill provincial coffers by exporting the valuable resource. I guess time will tell how realistic or sincere his statements really are on this one.

December – Danny Williams is named newsmaker of the year by several publications and pundits, including those at the infamous Mop and Pail. It’s also the time when Santa circled the globe bring joy to boys and girls, except, as Loyola Hearn put it, to the “bad little boys”.

One message to Loyola Hearn: If I’m not in hell when you get there Loyola, you can start without me.

Anyway folks, there’s the Web Talk synopsis of 2007. Of course there were many other events that may have been on the top of your list but that’s what our comments section is for.

Have a great 2008 everyone and thanks for the wonderful support in the year gone by.