Da Legal Stuff...

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Budgets, Smelters and Power Lines - A Weekend Hodgepodge

UPDATE: February 3, 10:28 AM - Finance officials confirmed for the grits yesterday that Newfoundland will lose $1 billion over three years. Liberal finance critic John McCallum says the province has been unfairly penalized, unlike Nova Scotia and Manitoba where Ottawa has agreed to cushion the blow from the equalization changes.

For anyone who refused to believe it in the past it seems the message for Newfoundland and Labrador is clear today: The Province is not treated the same as other provinces in Canada. There is no equality when it comes to Newfoundland and Labrador.

UPDATE: February 2, 5:45pm - Liberal MP Todd Russell has decided to toe the party line and vote in favor of the federal budget even though it will cost his Province nearly $1.6 Billion Dollars.

Russell says he won't be breaking party ranks and voting against the budget. He says while he doesn't want to see the province adversely affected by the budget, there's strong points to be made for solidarity under the party's new leader, Michael Ignatieff.

It seems another elected MP from Newfoundland and Labrador has decided that his standing in his party is more important that his constituents or his Province.

It’s been a pretty hectic week on the political and business both in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Ottawa.

After tabling a so called economic “stimulus” budget that actually will result in the Canada’s newest province, which incidentally has the highest unemployment in the Country, being penalized to the tune of $1.5 Billion dollars.

The reaction of anger exhibited by both the Province’s Premier and the general population in Newfoundland and Labrador, though frowned upon by the Central Canadian media, was no less than should have been expected under the circumstances.

As Premier Williams noted, taking this offshore oil offset money away from Newfoundland and Labrador is the equivalent of the budget taking $22 Billion a year away from Ontario.

The day after the impact of the budget was made public it was uncovered by a reporter in Nova Scotia that the Prime Minister, knowing full well that the budget would impact both Nova Scotia and NL, quietly arranged an agreement with Premier Rodney Macdonald to ensure that his Province would not suffer any losses.

Later in the week Premier Williams held conversations with all six Liberal MPs from the Province as well as with the Liberal leader, Premier Rodney Macdonald , Premier Ghiz of PEI and Quebec Premier Charest, who is not pleased with a new cap on equalization (a separate issue but one also introduced in the latest budget).

As a result, at time of writing, Williams has said he has the support of the Premiers he’s spoken with. Three of the six Liberal MPs from the Province have said they will vote against the budget if changes are not made to rectify the situation, even if it means expulsion from the party.

The Liberal leader has yet to publicly state his position or any actions he plans to take on the budget issue or with his NL caucus members.

Currently three NL MPs have not stated their position on the issue. Those MPs are Sibon Coady, Gerry Byrne and Todd Russell.

Neither of these MPs have been available for media interviews over the past day or so. They appear to have gone underground.

This might lead one to believe, based on their current silence, that they have decided to toss their lot it with their party rather than support their province.

Considering that Ms. Coady was recently been named by the Hill Times as "an up and comer" and both Russell and Byrne were recently named to the Liberal shadow cabinet the possibility is not that far from a possibility.

In addition, both Russell and Byrne represent ridings that are considered Liberal strong holds that are safe and secure.

Depending on their decision over the next few days and the direction taken by their party these MPs may find that in Newfoundland and Labrador there is no safe seat.

UPDATE: 4:00PM - MP Coady has decided to back her Province and publicly stated she will not support the budget if the issue is not rectified.

The two MPs who have not voiced their position can be contacted at the following email addresses:

Gerry Byrne: Byrne.G@parl.gc.ca
Todd Russell: Russell.T@parl.gc.ca

On a brighter note, Vale Inco has entered into an agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador government to begin construction of its new smelter in Long Harbor. Concerns were raised earlier this week when an documents that were supposed to be completed by the company at the end of December were not filed even after the company was given an extension until January 22 of this year. At that time shipments of ore to smelters in other parts of Canada were halted and rumors were beginning to surface that the project might not move forward.

On Thursday the Premier announced what he is calling an “enhanced” agreement and said the delay was a result of completing that agreement.

According to the government the new development will take 14 months longer to complete but the final smelter will be larger than first anticipated and will create more employment and local benefits that the original contract.

On another high note, the Province’s energy corporation has begun moving forward with plans for an undersea cable that will allow power from the Lower Churchill to be used on the island.

The corporation is about to begin the environmental process in preparation for development of the line.

This line is expected to permit the province to mothball the oil powered generating plant and become a greener energy province. The line would also serve as the first link in exporting power through the maritime route to Nova Scotia or New Brunswick should the province choose that option rather than relying on the ability to freely access markets through the Province of Quebec

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nova Scotia Makes Secret Side Deal - NL Gets Budget Shaft

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and independent economist Wade Locke, has determined that the federal budget will cause Newfoundland and Labrador to lose approximately 500 million each year or $1.5 Billion over 3 years.

This comes at a time when the economy is already sputtering to hang onto life and the province is forecasting multi-year deficits which will be compounded by another half a billion a year thanks to this latest move in Ottawa.

The expected loss comes as a result of changes about to be introduced to the O’Brien formula and Atlantic Accord arrangements forced on the province by the Harper government. Changes which touched off the province’s ABC campaign during the last election.

Now the federal Conservatives have again changed the calculations unilaterally.

Premier Williams says he sees this move as a direct attack on Newfoundland and Labrador. Credence was given to this allegation today when reports surfaced that Nova Scotia Premier, Rodney MacDonald, has entered into a secret side deal with Ottawa to ensure that his Province will not be affected by this latest unilateral change to the Accord, leaving Newfoundland and Labrador the only Province of Canada adversely affected.

When asked by Randy Simms of VOCM radio if the six Liberal MPs from the Province plan to support their leader in voting for the budget MP Judy Foote responded that she will support the budget because her party has determined that “Canadians don’t want an election. They want us to get the job done…we have to do something and it means getting on with the job.”

Left unsaid was the fact that in “getting the job done” Ms. Foote and the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal caucus plan to do so on the backs of their constituents.

Perhaps Ms. Foote and her Liberal colleagues from the province might do well to remember the legacy left by Conservative MPs Fabian Manning and Loyola Hearn when they opted to toe the party line over the Accord rather than standing up for their province when the time comes to stand up in the House of Commons.

Even if the budget passes an election is likely within a year. Voters in Newfoundland and Labrador have already seen to it that no Conservatives were elected in the last election and they may well decide that the future is one where not only blue, but red as well, are no longer a part of the Newfoundland and Labrador election palette.

UPDATE January 30, 2009 - 2:03 PM NL Time:

News reports are surfacing that MP Scott Simms will vote NO on the budget in its current form.

Still no word from MPs Sibon Coady, Gerry Byrne or Todd Russell.

Will they stand with their constituents or will they decide to toe the party line in Ottawa instead?

UPDATE January 30, 2009 - 11:17 AM NL Time:

Thanks to the letters, phone calls and emails of constituents in the province Liberal MP Judy Foote has decided to support her province and vote NO on the budget if changes are not made to rectify this issue.

Here is an email I recieved from Ms. Foote today:

Thank you for getting in touch. I really appreciate hearing your views.

Let me put your mind at ease. For me, doing what is right for our province is to vote against this Conservative budget which I will be doing.

One of the problems in Ottawa is getting people to understand the seriousness of the situation.
I can talk until I am blue in the face but what I needed was hard evidence that the views I am expressing are real and represent the thoughts of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

As a result of my comments on Open Line yesterday morning I now have that hard evidence.
While I could have gone on open line and asked for e-mails and telephone calls to get your views, that could have been viewed as being contrived.

By laying out the options available to the NL MPs it generated the correspondence I needed that there is no question the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want their representatives to vote against the budget even that means sitting as independents.

I will be voting NO.


News reports today indicate that Avalon MP Scott Andrews has also decided to vote NO in support of the Province's position.

Author's Note: Web Talk encourages everyone to contact the Province's Liberal MPs and express their feelings over this issue. Anyone wishing to do so can contact them at the following email addresses:

Scott Andrews: Andrews.S@parl.gc.ca

Gerry Byrne: Byrne.G@parl.gc.ca

Sibon Coady Coady.S@parl.gc.ca

Judy Foote: Foote.J@parl.gc.ca

Todd Russell: Russell.T@parl.gc.ca

Scott Simms: Simms.S@parl.gc.ca>

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

NL Challenges Qubec over Provincial Border

A document has been filed by the Newfoundland and Labrador government with the joint environmental review panel assessing a Quebec Hydro plan to develop three new projects on the Romaine River.

The documents identifies the provinces concerns with the process and the maps being used in the process which depict the head waters of the Romaine River as being inside the province of Quebec. The document was filed on November 27th 2008 but only came to light this week when it was discovered by local media.

A number of times in the past I’ve raised the issue of the Quebec government’s insistence that a large swath of the Labrador portion of Newfoundland and Labrador actually belong to them.

Maps displaying portions of Labrador as belonging to that province have been in wide spread use in Quebec for decades and are still in use today.

Not only are official Quebec provincial maps depicting a part of Southern Labrador as falling under Quebec jurisdiction but in addition to official electoral boundaries maps, tourist maps, mineral claims maps and those produced by Quebec Hydro including the erroneous border, Official Canadian Armed Forces maps depicting the Quebec patrol area now include that area of Labrador as well.

This ongoing attempt by Quebec to claim territory clearly belonging to Newfoundland and Labrador has been a concern for this writer for some time. I know that I, and others, have brought it directly to the attention of the Newfoundland and Labrador government on several occasions.

I don’t know how others have faired when it comes to getting any kind of response from official channels but I can tell you that I’ve had no response at all.

I’ve always felt that this problem is one of those “sleeper” issues that nobody in power seems to be concerned about but which can, and probably will, turn out to be much larger and far more important than most people realize.

Perhaps that concern is about to be confirmed. Only time will tell.

In the submission the government of Newfoundland and Labrador claims the border is “invalidly depicted”, and expresses deep “concern” about not being consulted by either Hydro-Quebec, the government of Quebec or the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency over the issue.

Among other concerns, including the depiction of a non-existent maritime boundary drawn through the Strait of Bell Isle, the submission also notes, "…the headwaters and entire watersheds of the Romaine and the four other major Quebec North Shore rivers appear, incorrectly, to be within Quebec."The submission by the Province requests that these inaccuracies be addressed before any assessment is completed and that issues related to potential environmental impacts inside Labrador be fully addressed.

The document officially presented on behalf of the government of Newfoundland and Labrador appears to be a major departure from its past practice of ignoring Quebec’s boundary claims and is in direct contrast to Premier William’s comments just over two years ago.

At that time Mr. Williams told the St. John’s Telegram, “I don't even understand why it's being raised ... the boundary is not an issue for us. Every so often it will come up on a Quebec map showing the border being wrong, but from our perspective it's not a concern.”"I wouldn't even raise it - by just raising it, with all due respect, even doing articles on it just acknowledges maybe there is an issue here, in the minds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians."

This about face begs the question, why has Premier Williams, long viewed as standing up for his province, as ensuring “no more giveaways” and who has nurtured an image throughout Canada that he is willing to take on the biggest of the big, not more proactive on this issue?

It also begs the question of whether or not the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is finally challenging Quebec over this issue at the request of the Premier or in spite of him.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Where Can You Find 460,000 Newfies?

Answer: Just go to Google.

While reading an article about Newfoundland and Labrador tourism this week I came across a line in the piece that noted the large number of web sites still using the slanderous term, “Newfie” in either their title or prominently in the content.

This piqued my curiosity of course so I decided to take a look for myself.

A quick search on Google confirmed the article’s assertion by turning up more than 460,000 web sites matching the query “Newfie”.

I have to admit to being more than a little shocked. I knew the term was still in use, even after so many people have finally begun to see it for the bigoted slur it is, but I never suspected it was as widely accepted as it still appears to be. Not in the twenty first century.

Perhaps my saddest realization was that some of the web sites in question appear to have been, believe it or not, developed by well meaning people either living in, or formerly from, Newfoundland and Labrador.

These sites often discuss everything from Newfoundland and Labrador history and culture to family backgrounds or local cuisine. Believe it or not the creators seem completely oblivious to the derogatory stereotype they’re perpetuating on their own people.

They also fail to understand the irony of what they’re doing.

When Newfoundlanders themselves display such an obvious ignorance of the connotations of that particular term they help perpetuate the long standing Canadian tradition of “Newfie” jokes and the stereotype of the “Stupid Newfie”.

There is no question about it.

How intelligent can someone be who refers to themselves in such a belittling way without even realizing they’re doing it?

These sorts of misguided people, and the web sites they run, are bad enough but there are others out there far more disturbing. Some even border on outright hate mongering.

On visiting some of the links I discovered blogs and forums where people, most of whom are from other parts of Canada, gleefully spend their time defending the use of the word Newfie with whatever convoluted logic their limited brain capacity can muster.

On one such site, I found comments like, “…most Newfoundlanders are smart enough to NOT bite the hand that feeds them”. Clearly making the argument that that it’s OK to belittle Newfoundlanders because without the financial support of Canada “Newfies” would starve to death.

In other words, “We keep you fed (which is not true) so we damn well have the right to call you whatever we want” (also not true).

Never mind that by saying Canadians are supporting the “Newfies” these neophytes are also suggesting that they don’t see Newfoundlanders as being Canadians.

This may not be too far from the truth since the Province has never been treated like an equal partner in Canada since Confederation, but that’s a subject for another article.

Clearly the people who perpetuate these myths have one brain cell between them and, on the day that specific bigoted comment was made, it clearly wasn’t the writer’s turn to use it.

Another example of outright Newfoundland and Labrador stereotyping, whether intentional or not, can be found at the site of the Goofie Newfie Restaurant at 105 Queen St. West in Fergus, Ontario.

Here we find online advertising for a pub and restaurant using the name “Goofie Newfie” in an effort to attract and serve bigoted or uneducated clientele living in Ontario.

The proprietors, whether former Newfoundlanders or not, are clearly quite happy to pander to the lowest common denominator in an effort to sell a few chicken wings and make a quick buck, regardless of the harm they’re doing to an entire culture.

I wonder if they would be as willing to sell those hot wings at an establishment called the “Nasty N*gger”?

Perhaps they might expand their business to one day offer a nice bagel at the “Jittery Jew” or a fruit salad at the “Fancy Fag”.

I seriously doubt they would but the “Goofie Newfie”, that’s just fine in their books.

These are just a small sampling of what’s considered acceptable and what is being said every day about the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

With nearly half a million web sites (a number that rivals the entire population of the province itself) it’s impossible to know what other, perhaps even more disgusting, dangerous or destructive uses of this, or similar, terms are actually out there.

After so many years of hearing the “N” word you’d think I’d be used to it but I can’t bring myself to quietly accept it. In many ways it comes across to me as being reminiscent of the old south and I simply don’t like it.

It’s disturbing to realize that after decades of paying Canadian taxes, helping build the national economy, providing workers for the factories, mills and oil fields of the nation, supplying raw materials such as ore, oil and timber to the rest of Canada and after consistently filling the ranks of the Canadian forces with nearly ten times more personnel than the province’s population would suggest it should, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still treated with such open contempt.

It’s perhaps even more disheartening that all too often it’s Newfoundlanders and Labradorians themselves who are continuing to spread the term by buying into the bigotry, or buckling under its onslaught, and simply accepting that it’s somehow OK to be demeaned and belittled in this way.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Newfoundland and Labrador - Canada's Forgotten Province

In what can only be described as a stroke of magnificent luck, earlier this week I found myself to be in possession of a very rare and cherished commodity, some free time.

This wonderful thing doesn’t come my way very often and after basking in its glow for a reasonable, yet limited, amount of time I found myself pacing the carpet and wondering what I to do with myself.

It was at that precise moment that my darting eyes fell upon a crumpled copy of a report written by the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy that had been resting on the bookshelf for quite some time.

In a moment of weakness and desperation I decided to dust it off and give it a good read.

I don’t know whether that was a good idea or not.

I recall initially reading the report quite some time ago, and may have even commented on its contents at the time, but on re-reading it my long standing concerns about Newfoundland and Labrador’s position in Canada came flooding back like a tidal wave.

What had moments ago been a sea tranquility in my modest living room suddenly turned into an angry ocean roar between my ears. My blood pressure threatened to explode a very large vein in the middle of my forehead as my hand once again turned page after page.

Not to worry dear reader, it may not be a comfortable medical situation but it’s one that I’ve been all too used to experiencing over my years of doing what I do.

Never the less, here is the essence of what I read and what once again raised my Newfoundland temper.

The study, which was undertaken by the Harris Centre, covers the time period from 1981 to 2005 and as the final report clearly points out, when it comes to successive governments in Ottawa, regardless of their political stripe, their direction is always one of moving away from maintaining any presence in Newfoundland and Labrador and leaving Canada’s tenth province to sink or swim on its own.

The report clearly shows what so many in the province have said for a long time.

Where it differs from most of the coffee shop or kitchen table chatter is in clearly referencing the official numbers and statistics that prove the point.

An example of Ottawa’s abandonment of Newfoundland and Labrador can be found in the number of military personnel stationed in the province.

The report shows that even while supplying Canada with about 8% of its military personnel and roughly an equivilent percentage of its Afghan casualties, when it comes to maintaining a presence in Newfoundland and Labrador the numbers are far different.

The report states, “In 2005 there were approximately 86,000 military personnel in the Canadian forces (regular and reserve)…Surely strategic considerations should dominate...locational decisions. However consider…it (Newfoundland and Labrador) is the most easterly part of Canada; it has 17,500 kilometres of coastline; and it is adjacent to the North Atlantic Ocean and the huge area of associated waters that fall within the 200-mile limit. Moreover, its land mass is approximately three times larger than the three Maritime provinces combined. It has an apparent abundance of land that could be used for military training and exercises and ice-free ports on the south coast; in fact, Argentia was used as a major American naval base during World War II and several decades thereafter…”

“…since 1981 the number of (military) personnel has never exceeded 2,500…As of 2005, there were only approximately 1,400... Of those 1,400, the majority, approximately 900, were reservists. Thus, in 2005 only 500 regular military were stationed in the province. That is only 0.8% of Canada’s 62,000 regular forces.

The picture doesn’t get any better when you look at the federal presence on the civilian side of the equation either.

According to the Harris Centre report, “…there were fewer people employed by the federal government in 2005 than in 1981. The difference between the two is almost 25%. Over the same time, there was also a decline in federal government employment throughout Canada but that decline was 5%, a much smaller percentage reduction…”

The report says that between the years 1993 and 1999 federal employment in Newfoundland and Labrador fell by 30%. Recall that this reduction was undertaken at the same time that the disastrous effects of the federal cod moratorium were also in full swing and the provincial unemployment rate was at 20%.

“Since 1999 there has been no significant recovery in federal employment…However across the Country federal government employment has been increasing…Between 2000 and 2005, total federal government employment in the Country increased by 10%...” the report contends.

One of the key indicators of the federal government’s lack of interest in all things Newfoundland and Labrador can also be seen in the limited presence of senior level employees in the province, in other words employees with the power to make decisions and directly influence government policy on the national level.

The report found that the number of executive positions in the province was almost the same as the number found in Prince Edward Island even though Newfoundland and Labrador has four times the population. On the other side of that equation, Nova Scotia, with just twice the population of Newfoundland and Labrador has four times the number of senior federal staff.

The report contends that these numbers are the result of a federal mindset that sees the entire Atlantic region as a single entity and does not take into account the differing needs of each of the 4 provinces.

Overall, the number of senior positions in Newfoundland and Labrador make up only 1% of the overall number and that figure has been decreasing since ever since 1997.

As sad as these figures are, I’m sure they come as no surprise to anyone living in Newfoundland and Labrador.

One the most unfortunate things about the contents of the Harris report is the fact that since it was written very little has changed for the better. In fact most people will tell you that the number of federal employees in the province has only gotten worse in the intervening years.

Another very unfortunate occurrence, this one on a much more personal level, is that my eye even fell upon this particular document during such a rare period of tranquility in an otherwise hectic week.

Oh well, as they say, neither the good times nor the bad last forever, but the bad ones sure as hell feel like they do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Federal Budget Will Do Litttle for NL Economy

With less than a week to go before the Harper government brings down its much anticipated budget, speculation about what it will contain is rampant.

Across Canada Provincial Premiers, Mayors, lobby groups, business interests and individuals have spent weeks pushing for their piece of the pie. With just a few days left to go the question is which line items will actually appear in the Harper stimulus package and how will it be distributed across the land.

The most likely outcome of next week's budget will see the Harper Conservatives deliver a two pronged approach with support for ailing industry sectors and individuals across Canada as well as a pot of money for infrastructure spending in specific regions.

Unfortunately, even if this broad approach is taken, it will mean very little for Newfoundland and Labrador and here’s why.

Industry Specific Support:

The sectors being most often discussed and touted as needing federal support are manufacturing and forestry. Neither of which are prevalent in Newfoundland and Labrador, with the exception of the Corner Brook paper mill. Abitibi has already decided to close its doors in the Province and nothing is going to change that.

The fishing industry needs massive support. Not necessarily direct cash injections but with the collapse of the Icelandic banking sector, which has provided cash flow to the industry for years, loan guarantees or some other form of funding needs to be made available before the new season begins or the industry will be in dire straits.

Unfortunately the fishing industry has never been more than an afterthought during Ottawa’s discussions about industry stimulus and as a result will likely find little, if any, support in the new budget.

Individual Support:

When it comes to assisting individuals the federal direction seems to be focused on middle class tax cuts and the EI system.

Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff (Iggy to his friends) has already said he won’t support across the board tax cuts. I can’t say I blame him on that point however since a small tax break that adds an extra $5 or $10 to an individual’s paycheck isn’t likely to make them rush out and gleefully spend the economy out of recession.

As for changes to the EI program that’s an entirely different kettle of fish but...

The EI fund has been so mismanaged and abused by Ottawa over the years that there may not be enough left in the pot to support the massive numbers of unemployed about to enter the current system, let alone one that has undergone an overhaul.

Even with an influx of new funds from Ottawa the most likely changes possible will be to shorten the waiting period by a week, extend the benefit period and lower the number of weeks required to qualify in certain areas.

Currently anyone living in places like Toronto, for example, requires more weeks to qualify and they are eligible to receive benefits for a shorter period of time than someone say in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The reasoning behind the existing approach is simple. Ontario has an unemployment rate of just over 6% while Newfoundland and Labrador has a rate of over 13%. As a result, under normal conditions, it ought to be much easier to find a new job in Toronto, in a shorter period of time, than it would be in Newfoundland and Labrador, but these aren't normal conditions.

With the economy the way it is these days finding a job, even in Toronto, may not be quite as easy as it once was. With this in mind any extension of benefits or lowering of requirements will likely bring places like Toronto in line with places like Newfoundland and Labrador. There’s nothing wrong with that under the circumstances but once again, it does nothing to help the economy in Canada’s Far East.

Regional Infrastructure Spending:

The third prong of a likely Stephen Harper stimulus package is infrastructure spending. Once again there will likely be very little benefit here for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

It's not that the Province doesn't have any infrastructure needs, far from it. There are projects that have been on hold for years and are more than ready to go. The Trans Labrador highway immediately springs to mind as does rural broadband, bridge repairs and many other initiatives.

The problem for Newfoundland and Labrador is that the Premier’s of vote rich provinces like Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and BC have been lobbying hard to have their infrastructure needs met and they contend that the best way to distribute funding is on a per capita basis.

This would mean that Ontario and Quebec, for example, with more than 60% of Canada’s population would capture an equivalent amount of the funding.

Newfoundland and Labrador on the other hand would get somewhere in the order of 1.5% of federal infrastucture funds intended to get people working, even though the Province has the highest unemployment rate in the Country and when Canada's newest so called "Have" province is facing the potential of upcoming deficits.

Indeed there is likely to be very little in the way of stimulus for the Newfoundland and Labrador economy at a time when mills are closing, mining giants are cutting production and black gold has lost more than two thirds of its value.

On January 27th all across Canada, from Vancouver Island to Halifax the masses will gather around their T.V. sets in an effort to parse every word dripping from Jim Flaherty's lips only to wonder what it all will mean for them and theirs.

Author’s Note – Usually I’m the first person to jump on my soap box when a statement like “…across Canada, from Vancouver Island to Halifax” is made but in this case the term was intentional rather than bred from ignorance or neglect.

When you consider the likely outcome of the federal budget, what reason is there for anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador to bother tuning in on that day unless they're so desperate for help they want to be the first to discover the value of whatever table scraps are once again tossed their way?

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Federal Fisheries Minister Embraces Status Quo

As a matter of interest, on November 17, 2008 I sent a letter to the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea. The letter was also forwarded to several news outlets, both locally and across Canada, including the Telegram.

The letter was about news reports at the time relating to an assistance call that was made to the Canadian Coast Guard by a foreign fishing vessel plying the Grand Banks. The call concerned an ill crew member needing medical attention.

According to the reports, after receiving the distress call the Coast Guard responded and after traveling some distance toward the location they turned back when they were informed that another foreign fishing vessel in the area had a nurse onboard and was on its way to the scene.

My question at the time, as expressed in my letter, was why two foreign vessels were even there in the first place and perhaps more importantly why, after learning of their existence and already underway, did the Canadian Coast Guard not continue to the area, regardless of the cancellation of the distress call, and determine if any illegal fishing activities were underway.

As I asked the Minister, if there is one foreign fishing vessel making a distress call from the Grand Banks and it is responded to by yet another foreign fishing vessel, wouldn’t that cause the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, NAFO and the Canadian Coast Guard, all of which are responsible for protecting fish stocks, to wonder just how many boats are actually out there and what they are up to?

Well folks, today I finally have a response to my inquiry. Not from the Minister herself, but from one of the minions in the department.

Unfortunately the letter was sent to me via snail mail so I can’t post its original content here. I will however tell you that, as is the case with most bureaucrats, the response from this one is a full page letter that tells me absolutely nothing and never even attempts to answer my question.

I’m not surprised really. I’ve been down this road with Ministers, both federal and Provincial, before. The fact that any response was given at all is a testament to the fact that the Minister’s office was made aware that the letter had been sent to several media outlets, otherwise I doubt I would have heard anything from them.

Come to think of it, perhaps no response at all would have been better than the one provided.

Here are some key excerpts. Consider it your daily dose of political double speak, bafflegab and utter nonsense.


“…The department recognizes the advantages of cooperating with other States on issues of international interest and works through the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) to manage and conserve fish stocks outside Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In addition to patrolling Canadian fisheries waters, Canada invests significant amounts in carrying out aerial surveillance and continual, year-round at-sea patrols in the NAFO Regulatory Area (NRA). These patrols are conducted by Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) vessels, with DFO fishery officers onboard, acting in the role of NAFO inspectors, to carry out at-sea boarding and inspections of vessels fishing in the NRA.”

“Regarding your particular concern about the event involving the two Portuguese fishing vessels, the CCG vessel had been tasked, as you correctly identified in your letter…to assist in a Search and Rescue incident…Once it became known that the assistance was no longer required, the CCG vessel was released from this tasking.”

“I hope this answers your question and…” blah, blah, blah.

No it doesn’t.

Nowhere does the letter answer the question asked, why did the Coast Guard vessel, which was already on its way not proceed to the area and check out the activities of those two fishing vessels instead of simply returning to port?

The letter was signed by Paul Steele, Director General of the Conservation and Protection Directorate and was sent on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries, Gail Shea.

Clearly the Minister and Mr. Steele are working every day to put our tax dollars to use. Just what they are using them for we may never know.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Government of Canada Acts to Protect Atlantic Fish Population

Sorry folks, I hope you'll indulge me, but I just couldn't resist this one (see previous article)

Against incredible odds the determined people of Atlantic Canada are working diligently to curb the ever increasing menace of a large ice rat population that is causing untold damage to the Nation's commercial fish stocks.

The Canadian government, in partnership with local fishermen, is planning an organized and efficient hunt of the growing ice rat population in March of this year.

Large bodied ice rats can often be found along the East Coast of Canada in the late winter and early spring as they migrate on ice packs from the frigid north.

Recent population estimates for this dangerous carnivore, some weighing in excess of 100 pounds, place the population at between 5 and 6 million animals.

This number is more than 10 times the human population in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador near where most of the ice rats migrate each spring.

In recent years there have been an increasing number of reports of large ice rats traveling in packs of a dozen or more, trapping large numbers of valuable commercial fish species, such as the endangered Atlantic cod, into local bays and decimating thousands at a time in a wild feeding frenzy.

Ice rats have been videotaped leaving the ice, swimming up under large cod fish, ripping the stomachs out of them and eating their soft underbellies before leaving the fish behind and moving on to its next victim.

Recently small numbers of ice rats have also been spotted further inland on the island of Newfoundland, in places where they have never been seen before. These individuals are believed to be traveling along river beds and streams to hunt and eat inland fish such as salmon or trout.

Environmentally alert and ecologically sensitive local fishermen have expressed no interest in completely ridding the coastal areas of the migrating ice rats which are native to the North Atlantic region. Fishermen are instead hopeful that an annual hunt, with a well managed quota, will help ensure that the population does not expand or encroach further into more populated areas.

As one fisherman put it, "We just want to keep these things under control. If we don't there won't be any fish left."

Recently the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which is known for its unique and often quirky activities when it comes to promoting their cause, also sounded the alarm by singling out the world's fish as a species at risk.

In an effort to promote the protection of the ocean's fish populations PETA has begun referring to all fish as "Sea Kittens" in the hope that people will be less likely to eat them.

As PETA campaign co-ordinator Ashley Byrne told Canwest News Service this week, "Knowing that the fish sticks in the school cafeteria are really made out of tortured sea kittens makes most kids want to lose their lunch."

With a similar goal in mind, Canadian fishermen are also hoping to protect the overall Atlantic fish or "Sea Kitten" population by limiting the growing numbers of ice rats, sometimes called harp seals, which are known to destroy millions of tons of "Sea Kittens" each and every year.

By Myles Higgins

PETA's Public Manipulation and Propaganda

For anyone who missed it, or who doesn't read the Telegram regularly, there is an editorial in the paper this week that I just couldn't resist bringing to your attention.

Normally I'm not one to promote a newspaper that I personally find too federalist in its direction for my tastes, but this is an exception worth making.

For decades the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as others who participate in the Atlantic seal harvest, have been demonized and hounded by animal rights groups like the Sea Shepherd Society, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and others.

For just as long the people in this region, unlike the group's supporters, have recognized these organizations for what they are, self serving, opportunistic, business interests.

While PETA may claim to defend the "Ethical" treatment of animals, ethics are the furthest thing from their minds when it comes to finding ways to bloat their bank accounts.

Their latest attempt at public manipulation calls into question their definition of ethical and makes it abundantly clear that whatever their definition of ethics may be it surely doesn't align with the one held by a vast majority of the population.

This of course leads us back to the Telegram editorial and it's humorous, though insightful, look at PETA's latest propaganda campaign.

I've always said, when you can get your point across through humor it's always a good thing.

Here are some excerpts from that editorial entitled, "PETA's Latest Ploy".


You know they're only looking for news coverage, but it's so goofy, we just had to write about it.

...PETA has come up with a new marketing campaign to try and make fish cute, cuddly, and a little harder to sell.Their idea? Label the finned and scaled denizens of the deep "sea kittens."

...PETA campaign co-ordinator Ashley Byrne told Canwest News Service."Knowing that the fishsticks in the school cafeteria are really made out of tortured sea kittens makes most kids want to lose their lunch."

...Rebranding is the order of the day.

...PETA's efforts might even work to our advantage. After all, comedian Mark Critch argued ages ago that there would be much less protest over the seal hunt if seals were renamed "ice rats." (We'd better take some decisive action to stop those evil ice rats from eating up all those helpless sea kittens, don't you think?)

Why not go whole hog? Web-building spiders could be "nature weavers."

Rats? How about "dump puppies"?

Wait a minute - dump is just too gross. "Landfill puppies," then.

The new tuberculosis could be "slimfaster.

"Malaria? How about "the huggy shivers"?

Don't lose your job - accept an "employment freedom reassignment."

...But how about the animal rights groups? Shouldn't we rename them, too?How about "animal exploiters" or "pity abusers"?After all, they are multimillion-dollar businesses built on exploiting animal abuse for financial gain.

Heck, they're even willing to cash in on the longrunning ills of poor helpless sea kittens.How could they?...

All I can say is well said.

It is exactly this sort of public manipulation that has kept groups like PETA in business for so long and make no mistake about it, they are indeed a business and a very financially successful one.

Fortunately, at least around these parts there are people who understand the difference between utilizing the environment responsibility, including wild game, and abusing animals.

A good example of this kind of level headed thinking came from "Neil in St. John's" who commented on the editorial which is available on the Telegram web site.

Neil wrote, "I'm having fresh sea kittens for supper. Proably some piglet scrunchions (I think that's how it's spelled)....mmmmmmmm

Monday, January 12, 2009

Coming Crisis

As a follow up to the Web Talk article, “Joint Review Panel Named for Lower Churchill Development”, published on Friday January 9th (see preceding article), I thought it might be beneficial to take a look back at some of the key issues surrounding the Upper Churchill contract itself.

The following article appeared last year in the now defunct newspaper “The Independent” which was Newfoundland and Labrador’s only locally run newspaper before closing its doors, the rest of the papers in the Province being owned and operated by Transcontinental out of Quebec.

The Independent may no longer be in circulation but the following article, which ran in the March 21st, 2008 edition, summarizes some of the key issues surrounding the Quebec/Newfoundland & Labrador dynamic as it relates to the Upper Churchill contract. It also identifies the potential for future tensions between the two Provinces regarding that specific project as well as to the Lower Churchill development.

Coming Crisis
Research paper traces upper Churchill renewal clause; indicates Québec 'exploited the moment'

Friday, March 21, 2008

Relations between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador may become a little testier over the next eight years, predicts Memorial University economics professor James Feehan.

In 2016, the first 44 years of the infamous upper Churchill power contract expires. But then the “renewal clause” kicks in, automatically continuing the sale agreement between Hydro-Québec and Churchill Falls Labrador Corp. (CFLCo) for 25 more years — but further cutting the price of the already cheap electricity.

“I can imagine by 2016, where the prices of other things have gone up, and we cut the price of what we’re getting from Churchill Falls power by 20 per cent, that’s got to cause another, maybe not a crisis, but certainly it’s going to touch off other political events,” Feehan tells The Independent.

“People are going to get more upset about it as time goes along … and 2016 is not so far away anymore.”

Feehan, along with Memorial archivist-historian Melvin Baker, researched and wrote The Origins of a Coming Crisis: Renewal of the Churchill Falls Contract, published in the most recent edition of the Dalhousie Law Journal. The 52-page paper explores the negotiation of the Churchill Falls contract, particularly tracing the evolution of the renewal clause.

The authors show Hydro-Québec was fully aware of the ramifications of the deal they, in the end, were able to push to be signed.“Clearly there was no sympathy from the Québec side in terms of the resource owner, Newfoundland,” says Feehan.

“It certainly raises a lot of ethical issues for Hydro-Québec in terms of business practice. One wonders if anyone would get away with doing anything like this these days.”

In terms of the renewal clause, what began as an item of use to both sides at the table — in a 1963 draft, there was a brief provision allowing for the right to renew the contract “upon terms and conditions then to be agreed” — evolved “at a very late stage” into concrete terms, with fixed prices and time span.

In the paper, Feehan and Baker describe the post-2016 costs: “During the renewal period, the price is pre-set at two mills per kilowatt hour … two mills is 0.2 cents."

"Even in the late 1960s, a price of two mills was extraordinarily low … to put this price in perspective, in 2004 the average wholesale price of electricity in Ontario was 52.2 mills per kilowatt hour and in 2003 Hydro-Québec received an average of approximately 84.9 mills for its electricity exports.”

In other words, the authors say, that price “is barely distinguishable from being free.”

With about 30 billion kilowatt hours of electricity to be sold annually, the gap between the value of the electricity and the revenue for the province “could amount to billions of dollars per year for 25 years."

“Surely,” the authors continue, “this is the seed for a serious conflict involving the contracting parties and their owners, namely the two provincial governments.”

The vast discrepancy between the worth and price of the electricity is clear — and well-known to most Newfoundlanders and Larbadorians. But what Feehan and Baker systematically show, perhaps for the first time and using primary materials previously unexamined, is that the renewal clause was accepted in a high-pressure situation at a time when CFLCo was scrambling for cash and a deal.

“They didn’t want to do it,” says Feehan. “But they were in a position where, quite literally, it was a do or die condition for CFLCo and you know what you do? You prefer not to die.”

When beginning his research, Feehan says he — like many — was tempted to point the finger of blame squarely at Joey Smallwood or the provincial government for signing what should have been an obviously bad deal.

“I didn’t have the sense that the renewal clause came about the way it did; I had the sense this was something that had been in the works since the beginning. But dramatic change happened at the last minute.”

More damning still is evidence he found that shows Hydro-Québec knew very well what it was doing.

“Then you find the documents about what Quebec was saying about what a great deal this was and the price was so low, even in terms of 1968, everybody knew about inflation, everybody knew this was such a low price. It’s not that they were naïve on either side of the negotiating table; they knew that this price for renewal was incredibly low, yet it was pushed to the point where CFLCo had to take it or leave it."

"If I had found different facts, I would blame who I thought; and you can always go back and examine everybody’s role … but the party that really exploited the moment was Hydro-Québec."

"They knew exactly what they were doing.”

Feehan says he knows government “is aware of” his research, but hasn’t been privy to any discussions about potential upcoming challenges — legal or otherwise — to the renewal clause. He does expect discussions to heat up.

“Like the title of the paper says, Coming Crisis. Somehow, some way, as people get refocused on this, as 2016 comes and the price is cut as energy prices continue to rise …”

In adding further weight to the long-held feeling Newfoundland and Labrador was strong-armed by Quebec, Feehan also realizes his work could affect future negotiations between the two provinces.

“This sort of history very much spoils the relationship with Quebec for potential developments,” he says.

“You need some sort of basic element of trust to deal with another party.”

Feehan is paying attention as the province works toward developing the lower Churchill.

“In some ways it’s a separate issue,” he says. “You would think whatever happened on Churchill Falls shouldn’t influence the decision to make a good deal or not with the lower Churchill. If you have a good deal with any party then you should put aside the experience of a bad deal with a party in the past. But this still lingers in the background and it still creates political difficulties for relations between the two provinces.”

Friday, January 09, 2009

Joint Review Panel Named for Lower Churchill Development

The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in conjunction with the federal government, has named a joint environmental review panel to assess the Lower Churchill hydro development in Labrador.

A five person panel will review the proposed project, taking into consideration public comments during the process.

The panel has a mandate to examine the potential environmental impacts of the hydro development and determine means by which to mitigate those impacts.

The Lower Churchill hydro project, which has the potential to provide clean, renewable power to more than 1.5 million households, has been discussed for decades but has yet to become a reality for the Province. This latest action by government is seen as another step forward in bringing the project to fruition.

One of the biggest hurdles facing the project over the years has been the geographical location of Labrador and the inability of developers to reach energy markets hungry for “green” power.

During the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the Upper Churchill hydro project was developed in Labrador however at the time Newfoundland and Labrador was forced into a long term contract with Hydro Quebec because the Quebec and federal governments refused to permit the Province to wheel power through Quebec and on to waiting markets.

Newfoundland and Labrador, faced with the prospect of sitting on a massive power supply, that had already been developed, but with no ability to access markets, was forced to sell this power to Quebec at rates obscenely low even at that time.

Those low purchase rates have seen Quebec reap many billions of dollars over the years by reselling Upper Churchill power while Newfoundland and Labrador has barely made enough from its hydro resources to keep the generating station in operation.

The Upper Churchill ontract is still in place today and will remain in effect for decades to come.

As a result of the geographical roadblocks placed in front of it by Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador’s Lower Churchill development plans have been on hold for years.

With the maturing of new technologies the Province's plans for the development now include the examination of an alternate route for the export Lower Churchill power.

This alternate route would see any power not required inside of Labrador delivered via under water cable to the island portion of the Province and then on to the Maritimes and beyond, bypassing Quebec completely.

This alternate route, though more expensive to develop, is considered by many to be a valid option.

With the lopsided Upper Churchill contract always on the minds of the Newfoundland and Labrador people the ability of the Province to position itself in such a way that it can ensure it is not forced into another bad deal with Quebec is critical.

In addition to the local political advantage of developing a Maritime route for Lower Churchill many people are also concerned about what will happen to power produced on the Upper Churchill River if an alternate route is not in place when the Quebec contract expires in 2041.

They see the development of a Maritime route, with the capacity to handle power from the Upper Churchill as well, as the only way to avoid a future confrontation with Quebec over the issue.

Although the federal government has always had the authority to open up a power corridor through any Province, including Quebec (the so called east/west power grid) they have yet to do so.

Plans for such a grid were promoted by the federal Conservative government when they were first elected in 2006. At the time Stephen Harper called the east/west grid the most important development in Canada since the building of the railway opened up the Country.

The government of Quebec voiced its opposition to the plan very early on and since that time there has been no further promotion of the idea by Ottawa.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

National Post and Fraser Institute Twist Facts of Abitibi Case

In the January 7th edition of the so called “National” Post, Michael Walker, a self professed “Proud Newfoundlander” and senior fellow at the right wing Fraser Institute, wasted no time in attacking the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador for safe guarding the province’s water and timber rights or in ridiculing the intelligence of everyone in the province who supported the move.

Based on the content of his commentary I can only assume that Mr. Walker’s devotion and attachment to his ultra conservative think tank is far stronger than his understanding of the circumstances around this particular issue or his attachment to the land he professes to take such pride in.

Regardless of his theology, ideology or allegiance, the argument Walker puts forward against the expropriation of Abitibi’s timber and water leases has more holes in it than a rusty bucket. It seems to have more to do with ingratiating himself with his corporate friends, propagating misinformation and distancing himself from reality than it does with the facts.

In a nutshell Mr. Walker claims that Danny Williams ought to be the last person to strip away Abitibi’s water and timber leases because the Premier himself built his personal financial fortune by leasing cable rights from the federal government and then passing those rights along to another cable provider when he decided to leave the business.

According to Walker the initial investment Williams’ made to gain those rights would never have been made if there was any chance the government might decide to strip them away from him.

The last part of his diatribe may hold a very small droplet of water, but since the initial cost of the water and timber rights issued to Abitibi was zero, zilch and nada, beyond that there is little to be said for his position.

Mr. Walker’s take on the situation is a clear example of the sort of narrow minded cursory examination of the facts his kind are known for propagating when any issue arises that does not fit their capitalist agenda.

When you stack the two situations against one another there are a lot of similarities but none that back up Mr. Walker’s arguments. In fact the complete opposite is true.

The cable licenses granted to Mr. Williams were issued by the federal government for the purposes of providing cable access in the region.

The timber and water rights granted to Abitibi’s predecessors where issued by the Province for the purposes of operating a milling operation in the region.

When Williams left the cable business he sold the operation to another Canadian company and the cable licenses followed so the new company could continue to provide cable access to the people.

When Abitibi’s predecessor changed hands over the years and as new players partnered in the operations the water and timber rights followed so the new company could continue milling operations.

Those are the facts. They are facts that are not difficult to understand, even for a former “Newfoundlander” much more accustomed to life the Bay Street than life on Water Street.

Instead of recognizing and accepting these simple facts Mr. Walker instead has seen fit to stretch the preceding comparison well beyond the breaking point by claiming that even though Abitibi decided to shut down (not sell) their operations they should still retain the rights granted to them for the milling operation.

Just think about that for a moment.

This would be the equivalent of saying that if Mr. Williams had decided to shut down his cable operations but not transfer his license to anyone else then the issuing body, Ottawa, should have allowed him to do just that.

Mr. Walker, just in case you missed my point, if that had happened, it would mean that nobody, not a single soul living in Newfoundland and Labrador today would have any access to cable television because one individual decided that he wanted to keep those licenses for himself and he was backed up in his arrogance by the federal government.

Perhaps you should visit your former homeland more often Mr. Walker.

The hustle and bustle of the financial district seems to have had a terrible affect on your level of common sense. A nice walk along a river or through a nice wooded area, both of which belong to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, might do you some good.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Life Lessons - The Price of Progress

This past weekend my last surviving Aunt, my Father’s sister, Rita Dwyer, passed away in the town of Norris Arm at the age of 89. She will be sorely missed.

Aunt Rita (we always called her “Reet”) was a wonderful woman, salt of the earth as they say, and she will not be forgotten.

I bring her passing to your attention not because you may have known her personally but because many of us have known someone just like her over the years. A solid and dependable woman who married (twice in her case having lost her first husband at an early age), raised a family and ended a long and full existence in the same small town in which she was born.

With out-migration, labor mobility and all the other forms of rural exodus we are so used to these days, Rita’s style of life has become somewhat of a rarity, one that most of us will never know.

When I first heard of my Aunt’s passing my thoughts were not of her death so much as about her life. I found myself pondering all the things she must have witnessed in her nearly 90 years in that small town.

Born just after the end of World War I she would have grown up during the great depression and lived through the tuberculosis epidemic that ravaged Newfoundland’s people.

No doubt there were days when most things were in short supply. A time when not living, but survival itself, was the order of the day.

Being raised in a small community there may not have been much, but her family (my family really), grew their own vegetables and had a ready supply of milk from the family goat, both of which could always be supplemented with fish, caribou, rabbit and a variety of other wild game.

As she grew Rita would have had a front row seat to Newfoundland’s era as an independent dominion. She would have seen first hand the financial collapse that led to the commission of government and she knew full well the painful and often corrupt campaigns that brought her once sovereign homeland into confederation with Canada. A campaign that fostered heated battles and life long divides not only among neighbors and friends but even among members of the same family.

Aunt Rita well remembered the trains and how they carried thousands of American service men to the town regularly during World War II. How the soldiers would spend a few days at camp before moving on once again to far off destinations, perhaps never to return.

After having raised a family just mere feet from that railway track, she would later look out her window and witness the dismantling of the rail line in the 1980’s. All that remains running past her house these days is a gravel trail and a near constant cloud of dust kicked up by all terrain vehicles.

Aunt Rita grew up in a time when the fishery was indeed the backbone of Newfoundland and Labrador. Her second husband, Bill Dwyer, who like her first also predeceased her, was a small boat fisherman and as my Father often calls him, “a hard nosed sealer”. Aunt Rita often saw him go out to the ice in the Spring and no doubt she wondered if he would return. He always did.

During her early days the harbor at Norris Arm was alive with boats of every description. Wharves dotted the shore line and the water’s edge, like the local train station, was always a beehive of activity. That was the sort of life she grew up with.

In the 1990’s she, like all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians witnessed the collapse of the cod stocks and along with it saw most of the young people move away leaving only the older generation to continue on.

Today the one remaining wharf in the community is the so called government wharf. All the small family ones are long gone, as are the fishing boats. Now, even the odd pleasure boat entering the harbor is an oddity.

During my Aunt's lifetime nations have risen and fallen. Men have visited the moon and returned to tell about it. Communications technology has advanced from large, crackly radio sets to high speed internet and cell phones. Horses and oxen have given way to trucks and quads.

Cities have grown and prospered yet towns just like the one where my Aunt was born, married, raised a family and died continue to disappear every day.

It makes me wonder if “progress” is the right word under the circumstances and at what price progress simply becomes too expensive.

Thankfully my Aunt, God rest her soul, won’t be around to see how it all turns out.

God speed Aunt Rita.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Future of 5 Wing Goose Bay

With the Harper government having broken nearly every promise it ever uttered to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador many are speculating on whether or not the promise to re-invigorate the airbase at Goose Bay will ever be fulfilled.

After nearly three years that hope appears to be dim at best.

Very little has been said on the federal level and the Minister of Defence, Peter MacKay, who incidentally was also named to represent Newfoundland and Labrador’s interests in Cabinet, continues to dodge the issue.

So what does this mean for the future of the town, the base and the people of the area?

It was over the Christmas season, as these thoughts and others were winding their way through my grey matter that I happened upon an article in a small Ontario newspaper that caught my eye.

The story would no doubt attract the interest of anyone concerned about the future of CFB 5 Wing.

The article quoted Federal Conservative MP Rick Norlock saying, “During the 2006 federal election campaign, Conservative leader Stephen Harper promised an airborne unit would be located at the base."

“I’ve been pressing the defence minister to make the announcement. It was part of our campaign platform in 2006 and it’s only appropriate we live up to that commitment.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Could I be dreaming? Did Christmas really come? Was Mr. Harper visited by three ghosts in the night?

Alas this was not to be so.

Perhaps the egg nog had slowed my thought processes or I might have wondered sooner why this fantastic story was being announced in a local Ontario newspaper. Never the less, the truth finally began to sink in.

I’m sure the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador will be happy to hear that Stephen Harper has finally decided to live up to one of his election promises. Unfortunately, for the people of Canada’s most eastern colony, the base being discussed by MP Norlock is not 5 Wing Goose Bay but CFB Trenton, Ontario.

It seems that in Stephen Harper’s world, as it is with most federal leaders, it’s far more important to keep promises made in seat rich Ontario than those made in outpost Newfoundland and Labrador.

In this particular case that promise equates to an investment of nearly $1 billion dollars for new infrastructure, a training center and to move the elite Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) to the Trenton base. It’s a move considered, by the mayor of nearby Quinte, Ontario to be a, “tremendous investment” and one that will, “see tremendous economic spin off for the region”.

The town’s mayor went on to say, “Even before this announcement the federal government was investing millions and millions of dollars at the base. This is great news for the city and great news for the entire region. I don’t think we’ve ever seen this type of federal investment in our area. We're very fortunate.’’

Indeed you are Mr. Mayor. I’m sure the municipal leaders and people in Goose Bay will be glad to hear how great things are going for you.

Congrats and Happy New Year.