Da Legal Stuff...

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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.


The Public Eye said...

I'm firmly on the side of "Danny Chavez". Hats off to our Premier! He likely has the job as long as he wants it. The danger here, of course, is he will become another Ralph Klein, bloated on his power and popularity, eventually becoming a caretaker of the NL corporate state.

I do support Danny Dollars on this one, but I would be stupid if I didn't recognize the long-term impact this could have on future utility and heavy-capital investment in the Province. Will firms in these industries be so eager to invest in the Province if there is a nonzero risk they won't ever be able to leave? These are valid concerns, and are being brushed aside far too casually by the Williamsites in this province.

Still in Newfoundland and Labrador, we are ALL Williamsites now . . . .

Patriot said...

I don't believe anyone will be scared away by this. What is so scary about a government saying that they will grant you unfettered use of the province's resources while you are working here but you must give them up when they are no longer being used for the reason they were granted?

Good corporate citizens and reasonable business leaders will not have a problem with that. Anybody who hopes to rape, pillage and plunder this place might but personally I'd prefer they stayed away in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Why then do Big Oil and its ilk go to unstable countries such as the Stans of Central Asia, Cuba, and Sudan, where the War Lords have ruled for ever? Do you think the War Lords would allow AbitibiBowaters the rights that they think they have in Newfoundland and Labrador? You betcha they won't!

Big Oil and its ilk go to places where they can make dollars.

The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a piece of cake when it come to security of contract and government. It is just that when any contract, in future, is constructed on any of our natural resources, there will not be any clauses in the contract which will allow the Corporation to put a stranglehold on any piece of Newfoundland and Labrador whenever the Corporation wants to vacate.

For instance the likes of what AbitibiBowaters is trying to do at this very moment in Grand Falls. That company wants to leave, and still hold the territory and its natural resources on which they were operating in its possession, a territory which is three times the size of PEI and which holds great natural resources of hydro energy and timber rights and God only knows what else.

They simply will not be able to tie up the territory and the resources on it. No different than how they operate in the Stans of Central Asia, Cuba, and Sudan, where the War Lords have ruled for ever and have been glad to have made a fortune there without the securities they have enjoyed in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Rational Number said...

I heard Danny Williams on CBC radio talking about this. And he suggested the company had outstanding environmental liabilities with respect to the use of the water, etc. Simply, the company must clean up after they leave (or pay a cash equivalent I expect). He also suggested that part of the agreement was covered under NAFTA, and so he wasn't worried about a NAFTA challenge. I think he expects the company to settle rather than fight.

I'm with Mr. Williams here. I think is case is very similar to a disagreement over a contract between 2 companies, even though 1 is the government. May the best lawyers win!

Anonymous said...

The following is an excerpt from Patriot's article, I will make my comment below.

QUOTE 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. UNQUOTE

But Mr. Williams didn't decide to close up the business, he sold it and it the business still operates in Newfoundland and Labrador employing the same number of its citizens.

From what I am understanding AbitibiBowaters wants to sell Hydro Energy which will employ very few people.

The difference in my understanding is like day and night.

I would like to say that I view those Think Tanks as Lobbyists Organizations who work on behalf of Big Business and Big Governments, and the people who seem to get appointments to them are the equivalent of the Hedge Fund Managers of Society. They would sell their mothers into prostitution to make a fast buck.

babe in boyland said...

mr williams sold his business to an out of province company. any earnings rogers makes go back to mother purse, far away. programing decisions are made by the corporate masters far away. rogers is sucking money out of the newfoundland economy and imposing an outside vision on an important media outlet. and mr williams handed all that over to them - for a quarter billion dollars.

Patriot said...

You make a point "babe" but I have to admit I can't see for the life of me what point that is.

Your comments have nothing to do with the situation being discussed but instead seem to be an attempt to muddy the issue.

Yes, Rogers is a not a NL company and their head office is upalong but so is Abitibi's offices. The fact remains that the jobs at the cable company stayed here, the services are still being delivered here and the license is still in use.

Do you or anyone else think for a minute that if Abitibi decided to sell their milling operation to another company that would continue operations that the expropriation would have happend? The answer is an obvious No.

Why do you and others, like this Walker person try to cloud the facts with comments like you made? Why even bother bringing up how much the cable company sold for? These things mean nothing in this context.

Abitibi could have sold its operations to another operator for a dollar and it would not have been an issue.

Closing it down and expecting to keep the dollars rolling in by controlling the resources needed to run milling operations is something else and you know it whether you are willing to admit it publicly or not.

Anonymous said...


Patriot I listened to VOCM Open Line this morning for the whole show.

Bill Rowe in his preamble this morning brought up the January article which appeared in the National Post on Michael Walker, the self professed “Proud Newfoundlander” and senior fellow at the right wing Fraser Institute, who 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.

Patriot there has not been one call to Open Line this morning expressing disgust on that article.

I don't want to downgrade my own peoples' knowledge of what is going on around them, either at present or what has gone on around them over the past 60 years, but it appears to me that they are sorely lacking on the knowledge that the Federal Government has arms length organizations and individual rebutters or slaves who will do anything to downgrade, spin or put up smoke screens around anything it wants counteracted.

It is time for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to wake up and take a look at why we have not amounted to very much economically, despite our great natural resources, if not, their complacency will keep them in bondage for another 550 years.

I must say the Open Line Shows and your blog have done a half decent job in trying to educate people on what really is going on. But I think the Open Line shows hold the key and can do a bit more.

The hosts there know what is going on but they are reluctant to come out and spill the beans by telling their listeners that there are people who are employed out there through the Think Tanks and the Federal Government who are working against our agenda and always have been.

Matter of fact I saw in a blog connected to The Telegram that Linda Swain will be replaced by Ryan Cleary, and certain of those Federal Government loyalists are demanding that Mr. Cleary be non-partisan and not oppose the Federal Government. I think if Mr. Cleary takes the job he should play the role he played with his newspaper and that is tell it like it is and was. If he is going to be muzzled, it is better for him not to take the job. We want people who are willing to tell it like it is. The show will be no good if it is only willing to go half way. Our people are not able to decipher what is going on and what has gone on from half of the information.

VOCM has brought us a long ways, but it cannot seem to get us to homebase. The problem is they are unwilling to have the whole story told. What is VOCM afraid of, might it be advertising money? I don't know, do you?

I do believe that most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians still think that their fellowman, in their own province would never do anything to hurt them economically or otherwise by working counter to their government's desires.

It is time for our gentle kinfolk in Newfoundland and Labrador to wake up and shake themselves off and start living in the real rat race.

The rat race from the outside enveloped this province a long time ago, the time is long overdue that we should have come to that conclusion and become proactive.

If anyone reads this blog who is connected with VOCM OPEN LINE, I want to say you have done a pretty good job, there is much more to be done; and due to the fact that the ordinary Newfoundlander and Labradorian's mind is not as corrupted as those in other parts of the developed world as to how governments work with low grade transparency and smoke screens, I think it will have to be spelled out to them in ABC format so that they can take action by becoming proactive.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are still operating in Joey's World where we weren't told we had great natural resources and a great location, we were only told that the Federal Government would give us Baby Bonus and Old Age Pension, for which we pay anyway in our Federal Taxes and with our vast resource base which has found its way to augment industries in other parts of Canada and the World.

Ussr said...

These CFA’s have got to learn to keep their bloody mouths shut if they don’t know shit about what is going on. I personally can’t get over how someone with so much education can be so stupid. I’m starting to see a trend here Patriot.
This is nothing more than propaganda being spread by someone who has a bit of education thinking that Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans are going to be stupid enough to listen to this F&#@$% garbage. What kind of moronic idiots is going to listen to this stupid pile of horse shit? Sorry if I sound a bit up-set Patriot but I’m kinda getting tired of these so called “professionals” sticking their G#@ D@%# noses into something they don’t even understand, like the guy doesn’t even know what he is saying to be truthful. The guy has a buddy that writes for the same paper. J. Michael Robinson. Now if you read what he has to say about it, it goes a little bit different again. The way he sees it is as follows;

There is a constitutional position Mr. Williams could take. To paraphrase: "You Feds signed NAFTA and the law of Canada says provinces aren't bound by international agreements affecting their exclusive Constitutional rights, unless they accept them too." The case is Labour Conventions decided by the English Privy Council, then Canada's final appeal court, in the 1930s and legislating "property and civil rights within the province" is clearly an exclusive provincial power. Canada's Supreme Court has never reversed that decision.

But with all this horse shit aside why are people totally confused about the matter. Sweet F$@# I feel like I’m reading the freak in “ BoundPapers “ there’s so much spin going on with this story. As anon, January 07, 2009 3:38 PM, says “From what I am understanding AbitibiBowaters wants to sell Hydro Energy which will employ very few people. The difference in my understanding is like day and night.”

The contract simply states this, no paper mill, no access to natural resources. Now I’m not the sharpest nail in the basket but Holy shit, what is so hard to understand, Patriot? It’s not rocket science for God sake. All this is, are the people of Canada finally realizing that they are losing their meal ticket by not being able to go down east and steal, con, or bullshit the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador anymore. And they are F%@#&^ pissed off because we are finally thinking of our province and our children first from now on. Here is what the premier of Ontario has to say to the people that put him into office.

I want to thank all Ontarians who stood up for fairness in the recent federal election.
Thank you for raising the issue at the door, with your candidates, at debates and in letters and e-mails. Together, we put the issue of fairness in front of the candidates and asked them to stand up for a stronger Ontario — for a stronger Canada.
Our fight for fairness for our province didn’t end on Election Day. It will continue until Ontario families get the same treatment from Ottawa as Canadians in other provinces.
So now, we’re asking the 106 Ontario MPs that were elected to stand up for Ontario. We expect them to stand up for the families who elected them.
And as they take their seats in Ottawa, no matter which party they belong to, we expect them to represent the people of our province.
We want them to represent us when it comes to fairness in health care funding, infrastructure investments and Employment Insurance.
Our MPs need to know that we could do more — and do it faster — if we could keep more of our own money, and invest right here in Ontario to make ourselves even more competitive.
All 106 members from Ontario have an enormous opportunity to make a change on behalf of our province.

Now if Danny Williams did that what would Ontario have to say? They would start the name calling and the horse shit to do whatever they needed to, to try and con the good people of our province into signing some two hundred year contract.

But, let’s not get off topic here Patriot, because this is very much like another deal that was signed. Churchill Falls. Whats going to happen when “BRICO” loses the right to the Churchill River. That itself is only a lease. A lease to use the river for whatever time the agreement was signed for. The way I understand this, is that the Provencal Government of Newfoundland can tell this company that their lease is now up and that there is no more contract, so remove your power plant from our river. Can you imagine the shit that this is going to cause when that shit hits the fan.

PS, it’s nice to see that you’re attracting only the finest of people to your blog now Patriot. It sure has come a long way over the last six years.

Anonymous said...

Boy what the hell are these groups like the Fraser institute all about anyway and do any of the members talk to each other?

This guy is saying the Williams government will kill investment by doing this but...

The Fraser Institute just rated Newfoundland and Labrador number 4 in Canada in terms of building a positive investment climate.

Go figure.