Da Legal Stuff...

All commentaries published on Web Talk are the opinions of the contributor(s) only and do not necessarily represent the position of any other individuals, groups or organizations.

Now, with that out of the way...Let's Web Talk.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

60 Years

Grandfather and Confederation
by John B. Davidge

I was almost three months shy of my fifteenth birthday when Newfoundland and Labrador became the tenth province of Canada and I remember that day and the days leading up to it as if it were only yesterday.

To say that my parents and grandparents were anti-confederates would be very much of an understatement, but it was my grandfather’s strong opposition to it that I remember most.

His words and actions are recorded here as I’m sure he would want them to be.

Lest we Forget.

April the first, nineteen forty-nine
Was a day that I’ll soon not forget.
The radio blared that the “terms” had been signed,
Filling Grandfather’s heart with regret.

I can still see his eyes filled with anger and hate
At this terrible thing they had done.
A true Newfoundlander he felt t’was too late,
And he mourned as if losing a son.

He first lit a candle then he pulled down the blinds,
And he placed some black crepe on the door.
He looked somber and sad in his black suit and hat,
And the black satin armbands he wore.

He was eighty years old but he climbed up the hill
To the church with it’s steeple and bell.
His eyes filled with tears as his hands gripped the rope,
And he softly tolled the death knell.

There wasn’t a coffin, a body or grave,
The dying was all in his mind.
This joining with Canada wasn’t for him,
A patriot true to his kind.

I was only a “gaffer” but I still recall how his voice rang with passion and pride.
“You have sold out your birthright,
You’ve let down the flag
That your forefathers fought for and died.

That up-along bunch will be down here in droves,
They’ll force you to flee from your home,
There’ll be taxes on this, there’ll be taxes on that,
And you won’t have a thing of your own.

They’ll tear up the countryside, take all the land,
They’ll catch all the fish in the bay.
You won’t be allowed to have horses and cows
Unless you are willing to pay.

They have filled you with promises, all of them lies,
They say there is nothing you’ll lack,
They’ll give you the Bonus, the Pension and such,
And with taxes they’ll take it all back.

They got you to thinking the skies will be blue,
And the sun won’t again fail to shine,
But you’ll have second thoughts when this land of your birth
Is alive with corruption and crime.

You’ll have a new anthem,you’ll have a new flag,
They’ll watch what you write, say and do.
T’will be everything Ottawa, nothing St. John’s.
Mark my words what I’m saying is true.

That Smallwood’s a traitor and you’ll see the day
When the people will stand up and shout
That he’s not worth the powder to blow him to hell,
And his friends will be kicking him out.

But nobody heeded what Grandfather said
And nobody heeded his tears.
They called him a babbling, senile old man
Who was exaggerating his fears.

They all went their way with a smile in their hearts,
Hoping only good fortune would fall.
But I wondered in time would they look back and say
“Wasn’t Grandfather right after all?”

40 of 100 Endangered Caribou Shot, No End to Hunt in Sight

Over the past several days approximately 45 Quebec Innu hunters have been in Labrador hunting caribou from the endangered Joir River herd. Before the hunt began the herd was estimated at a mere 100 remaining animals. Since entering the area wildlife officials estimate the hunters have killed 40 of those animals and are continuing in their hunt.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government has complained to the Quebec government about a group of Quebec hunters that is apparently killing caribou that belong to a threatened herd in southern Labrador.

The Joir River caribou are protected under both the Provincial Endangered Species Act and the Federal Species at Risk Act.

Conservation officials say the group is using high-powered rifles while firing from their snowmobiles.

Officials have been watching the killing from a helicopter but their attempts to land and end the slaughter have been met with threatening actions by the hunters.

To date neither Quebec, the home Province of the hunters who hail from the Romaine, St. Augustine and Natasquan bands, nor the Federal government has made any move to assist in protecting the animals or putting an end to this illegal hunt slaughter of the last remaining Joir River caribou.

Newfoundland and Labrador Minister Kathy Dunderdale says the killings are "senseless and unnecessary," considering that hunting is permitted of the much larger George River caribou herd in the same region.

"If this killing continues, we run the risk of losing the entire herd.”

"The Quebec Innu are fully aware of the regulations and why they are required, and this was reiterated directly to the hunting party by our officers," Dunderdale added.

"Our requests that they respect provincial and federal laws ... are being ignored."

Based on the lack of response by authorities it appears Newfoundland and Labrador’s requests are not only being ignored by the Innu hunters but by the Federal and Quebec governments as well.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sealing the Fate of the Atlantic Seal Harvest

The following appeared in yesterday's Chronicle Herald and presents a clear case for why the anti-sealing movement and the planned EU ban on seal products is so ludicrous.

Unfortunately none of that matters. Regardless of what the article says about the federal government's position, because of a lack of any real action on their part, the anti-sealing movement is succeeding in its misguided quest. An EU ban will soon be going ahead.

Seals, science, sentimentality and 'brutality'
Chronicle Herald (Halifax)
Thu. Mar 26 - 6:18 AM

The mock baton attack on a stuffed seal during an anti-sealing protest in Halifax on March 14 by a Metro Transit bus driver was a bit bizarre, and not professional behaviour for someone in his position while on duty, but I can empathize that the relentless and obnoxious stridency of anti-sealing activists is provocative incitement to extraordinary expressions of frustration.

I think many Atlantic Canadians, upon hearing of this incident, might join me in pumping a fist in the air with the sentiment, "Yes!"

As for demands that the man be charged by police for expressing his opinion, get a grip! He didn’t hurt anyone, not even the stuffed seal, damage anyone’s property, and in the past, anti-sealing groups themselves have staged much more graphic mock seal clubbings, complete with fake blood, in attempting to dramatize their point.

I was pleased to learn that the federal government thumbed its nose at anti-sealing factions, and a European Parliament committee recently voting to recommend a bill that would ban imports of seal products to the European Union, with Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last Friday increasing the allowable harvest quota for this year’s East Coast hunt by 55,000 to 338,200 seals, from last year’s 283,200, based not on emotionalism, but rather "the advice of scientists to ensure the seal population is maintained."

Sentimentality, in the form of sappy animal rights ideology, is all the anti-seal hunting movement and money machine are based on, with no scientific fact or conservation reality supporting their contentions that seals are either endangered or treated less humanely than livestock killed in slaughterhouses to stock supermarket shelves.

As the European Commission’s own ambassador to Canada, Dorian Prince, observed during an official visit to New Brunswick last year: "Most people in Europe live in urban centres far removed from hunting, whether in Newfoundland and Labrador, Russia, Greenland or Finland ... As we get further removed from the realities of agriculture and hunting and so on, we get more sentimental."

In the rational world, at least two compelling arguments support seal hunting in Atlantic Canada:

1) Seals are an abundant, valuable, and renewable resource in a fishery beleaguered by declining stocks of many traditional catch species.

When whitecoat seal hunting was terminated 22 years ago, there were an estimated two million seals off Canada’s east coast. Today, the federal Fisheries Department estimates those harp, grey and hooded seal herds number about 6.4 million animals.

2) Abundance of seals is not coincidental to stock declines of other species, and the seal population must be diminished if there is to be any hope of saving some currently threatened fish species.

The marine ecological balance is indisputably out of whack, but allowing one species whose natural predators (eg: sharks) no longer exist in numbers sufficient to sustain a healthy balance to proliferate unchecked is not going to improve things.

Aside from sentimental idiocy fostered by the cuteness of whitecoat seal pups (which, as noted, haven’t been hunted in Canada since 1987), there is no rational reason not to hunt seals, and bringing the seal population down from its current record levels is ecologically beneficial. Besides predation of vulnerable and valuable fish stocks, seals also damage fishing gear and are an incubator for worms that infest other species.

Of course, none of these logical conclusions will ever convince the fanatical animal rights zealots of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who routinely misrepresent facts, disseminate half-truths, use imagery calculated to press emotional buttons, and outright lies to gull well-meaning but ill-informed folks into their web of deceit and ideological extremism, diverting energy, attention and resources away from legitimate ecological and conservation issues toward what is essentially an animal rights hobby-horse and powerful lever for prying money out of the pockets of well-meaning but ill-informed urbanites.

According to Ottawa, sealing is an important source of employment for about 12,000 Canadians, and while fashion is of course one important market for seal products, just as it is for leather goods made from cowhide, seal meat is also a valuable source of food protein, and one of the richest and most bio-available sources of marine Omega-3 fatty acids for nutritional supplementation.

Seal oil supplements are 20 to 25 per cent richer in Omega-3 polyunsaturates, including docosapentaenoicacid (DPA), which is minimal to non-existent in fish oils.

Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung once observed that "Sentimentality is a superstructure covering brutality."

"Brutality" is a term the anti-sealing crowd like to fling at hunters, but arguably real brutality characterizes those who would sacrifice the livelihoods and well-being of 12,000 sealers, their families and communities, by banning the harvest of a renewable resource currently experiencing a population explosion to the tune of 12 per cent annually.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Web Talk Exclusive - NL to Address Labrador Boundary with Federal Agencies

On several occasions over the past years Web Talk has brought the Quebec / Labrador boundary dispute to the attention of its readers. The most recent time was in the February 12th article, “Through the Looking Glass – A Constitutional Crisis in the Making”.

Quebec’s decades old refusal to accept the official boundary between itself and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, specifically in the area of Southern Labrador is an issue that cannot be ignored.

The boundary was officially determined by the Privy Council in 1927, more than 20 years before Newfoundland and Labrador became Canada’s newest “Colony” and was recognized by the Canadian Constitution when it was written into the Terms of Union in 1949, a fact that Quebec continues to openly ignore.

All official Quebec maps depict a border which extends well into Labrador.

This is an issue that has been on the radar of Web Talk and many of its readers for a long time now and while the provincial government recently issued a letter of concern over maps in use by a federal / provincial panel reviewing the environmental impact of Quebec’s Romaine River hydro project, little else has been said about the issue thus far.

Personally I couldn’t care less if the government or people of Quebec want to delude themselves. The real problem becomes clearer when one considers the potential for Quebec’s position to be accepted outside that province.

They say perception is reality and the boundary issue is a perfect example of this adage.

Quebec has been using their “corrupted” maps for so long now that they are now beginning to convince Federal agencies that their fantasy is factual.

The use of erroneous maps by a joint Federal / Quebec environmental panel, which finally spurred the Newfoundland and Labrador government to voice its concerns, is just one case that proves the point.

Shortly before publishing the February 12th article Web Talk, as it has done in the past, brought the issue directly to the attention of the provincial government.

This time, instead of simply focusing on maps issued by Quebec, Web Talk also provided the government with maps currently in use by Federal agencies, specifically the CBC and the Department of National Defense, which also depict the erroneous border.

A response to that correspondence arrived a few days ago.

While it seems they still do not believe the issue is a major concern, at least nobody in government can claim they are not aware of the growing acceptance of Quebec’s position within Canada. The Minister of Natural Resources, Kathy Dunderdale, has committed to address the concerns presented to her by contacting both of the federal agencies involved.

Here is the Minister’s response in its entirety.

RE: Quebec Boundary

On behalf of Premier Williams, I thank you for your e-mail in which you provided examples from numerous sources of the erroneous Labrador/Quebec boundary line.

The inaccurate depiction of the boundary between Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, as described in your e-mail, is a matter of concern for the Province. However, we are confident in the legal and binding nature of the interprovincial boundary as set out in the 1927 decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the Constitution of Canada by Term 2 of the Terms of Union of Newfoundland and Labrador with Canada. The Government of Quebec is well aware of our displeasure about their use of the fictional boundary. Their continued use of that depiction is disrespectful, but will have no real effect on the constitutional reality of Canada.

The inaccurate depictions of the boundary in images used by the federal government and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are new developments and we appreciate you bringing them to our attention. We will contact the Department of National Defense and the CBC to ensure that these errors are corrected immediately.

I thank you for your interest in this matter. We will continue to be vigilant in the protection of our sovereign territory, including the Labrador/Quebec boundary.

Yours sincerely,

Kathy Dunderdale

c. Honourable Dave Denine, Minister Intergovernmental Affairs

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Abitibi Negotiations Break Off - "Demands too high" Says Industry Minister

From the CBC today:

Compensation talks between N.L. government, AbitibiBowater break off

Last Updated: Monday, March 23, 2009 5:40 PM NT

Newfoundland and Labrador's Deputy Minister said Monday that talks between the provincial government and AbitibiBowater have broken off because the government's offer of compensation for the expropriation of the company's assets is too low.

The two sides had been trying to settle on a price for all of AbitibiBowater's physical assets in the province, except the mill in the central Newfoundland town of Grand Falls-Windsor.

Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale won't say how far apart the two sides are, but the pulp and paper company wants $300 million from the government.

Dunderdale told the house of assembly on Monday that there is no way she's willing to pay that.
"At this point in time, talks have broken off between the government and Abitibi," she said.

AbitibiBowater spokesperson Jean-Philippe Côté said Monday he is surprised that Dunderdale made the situation public but confirmed the company walked away because the government offer was "way too low."

AbitibiBowater is still willing to negotiate a compensation price, however it is also pursuing a legal challenge under the North American Free trade agreement.

Dunderdale won't say what the government offered except that it is short of the $300 million the company wants.

"We are not going to pay more for the asset than we think it's worth," she said. "So, we have determined a range of value for those assets. And, you know, we can't go beyond that just in order to settle."

Talks are also on hold regarding severance pay for loggers in central Newfoundland.

While AbitibiBowater has no legal obligation to pay any severance at all, the government has been pressuring the company to pay it anyway as it did when it closed its mill in Stephenville.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One Man's Traitor is Another's Patriot

The Mast Head of the Web Talk – Newfoundland and Labrador quotes American writer, George William Curtis, immortal words, "A man's country is not an area of land, mountains, rivers, and woods, but a principle. Patriotism is loyalty to that principle."

Regular readers of Web Talk will know that my online “handle” is Patriot. Perhaps it may be pretentious on my part to refer to myself in this way but I believe it to be true.

I am a Patriot to Newfoundland and Labrador if not to Canada.

On the other hand, rather than being viewed as a patriot, over the past several years I’ve all too often been branded by some “anonymous” federalists as a traitor. The term has been used to describe others who support and defend our homeland.

Over time such comments have given me pause for reflection and much soul searching as I’m sure it has for others. I’m happy to say that on my part those moments of self doubt have long since passed.

The reason is simple.

History is written by the victors, not the vanquished.

Take the example of the American Revolution. During that turbulent period Ben Franklin is quoted as saying, “We must hang together or we will surely hang separately”.

Today nobody questions the fact that Franklin, Jefferson and the like were indeed great American patriots, the fathers of their Nation even, not that I would put myself in their league, but the point is this: Why does history remember them the way it does?

Simply put, it’s because they won their struggle for freedom and dignity.

Had they lost the revolution and had America remained under the control of England those same men who are viewed as Patriots today would now be viewed as traitors. They would have been tried for treason and been executed, as Ben Franklin clearly understood.

Those same federalists who so often try to weaken the resolve of those among us yearning for a better future for Newfoundland and Labrador, whether inside or outside of Canada, use words like “crackpot”, “tin hat brigade” or the like to attack our beliefs.

They say we have no chance of making a difference and should “stop whining”.

They may honestly believe this. I don’t.

I don’t see speaking out as “whining”, far from it.

I see it as educating the masses.

I see it as ensuring that our concerns are not brushed silently under the Canadian carpet.

I see it as a necessary step, a first one perhaps, but a necessary step to a brighter future for our people.

Some time ago I read a novel, the title of which I no longer recall and is of no importance, but I do recall one particular passage from it. It describes the thoughts of an individual near the end of his days and goes something like this.

“…A tear formed in his eye. So many people counting on us but we failed. Yet did we fail?”

“Is it failure if you plant a seed which others nurture? Is it failure to have begun a thing which had daunted the best and bravest for decades? Is it failure to have called the attention of all humanity to the plight of your people?”

No, I don’t believe it is.

As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians there are lessons in those words and in the history of the American Revolution.

Failure only comes with never having tried in the first place.

The only difference between a Patriot and a traitor is their level of success.

From Today's Halifax Chronicle-Herald

The bus driver’s attack: A completely acceptable, harmless counter-protest

Ottawa Bureau

LAST SATURDAY, a Metro Transit driver stopped his bus and jumped out to disrupt an anti-seal-hunt protest at the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park Street by pretending to beat a stuffed seal.

The driver has not been interviewed, but protest organizer Bridget Curran said he was trying to be funny.

"He obviously thought that it was quite funny to simulate an act of violence against a seal," she said.

It is quite funny, I think, the kind of offbeat news item that gave us a crucial smile in a week when the newspaper — and life — was full of grim economic news.

The driver, whom Metro Transit has suspended with pay, likely should not have abandoned his bus, but it is difficult not to be cheered by his display of impish humour if you, like me, are an instinctive supporter of the seal hunt.

But Ms. Curran, director of the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, said it’s "extremely alarming" that no charges have been laid against the driver.

"What the police are saying by not charging him is that it’s completely acceptable," she said.

I hope that’s what they’re saying, because it seems to me like a completely acceptable impromptu counter-protest, harmlessly making fun of the protesters.

This whole issue comes down to one question: whether or not you think it’s acceptable to club seals.

Like a lot of Atlantic Canadians, I think it’s an acceptable — even praiseworthy — part of our East Coast tradition of making a living from the sea, tied up in my mind, in a muddled, romantic way, with our beautiful fishing and seafaring traditions and my admiration of the stoic outport fishermen of Newfoundland.

Thus, for me, being in favour of the seal hunt is a question of loyalty.

For opponents, though, it’s plainly awful to use clubs to smash in the heads of juvenile seals, skin them and leave the bloody carcasses on the ice.

The people opposed to the hunt — many of them young women — are motivated by a real love of animals, a deep affection that is incomprehensible to me and that I think rests on flawed, anthropomorphic ideas about animals but that is deeply meaningful to them.

While some of them, like Clayton Ruby, are hypocrites who eat meat and wear leather while protesting the seal hunt, others are vegans, who believe it is wrong to kill animals.

You can disagree with them, but if they are willing to forgo strip loins for extruded wheat gluten, you can’t question their sincerity.

But you can question their accuracy. They are motivated exclusively by a desire to stop "sadistic baby-killers" — the words of activist Paul Watson after three sealers died during last year’s hunt.

Since they are protecting helpless babies against killers, activists therefore feel comfortable bending the truth.
For years they warned that the hunt was not sustainable. When those warnings started there were two million seals. Now there are 5.6 million.

They routinely use images of cute whitecoat seals in their fundraising, although we haven’t hunted whitecoats for 20 years.

The American Humane Society has been caught lying about the effectiveness of an American boycott of Canadian seafood, part of their effort to show that the hunt costs the Canadian government more than sealers make.

In this, in fact, they may in fact be right. The coast guard provides icebreaking service to sealers every year, at some considerable but unknown cost, and the plunging price of pelts means the industry is not the bonanza it once was.

But I don’t care, any more than the anti-sealing activists care about the fact that the herd poses a threat to fish stocks if left to grow unchecked.

I believe the hunt is ecologically sustainable and as humane, more or less, as farmyard practices, but if I were to learn that it does cause suffering to seals I still wouldn’t care very much.

Those of us on either side of the issue are immune to reason, because we support or oppose the hunt for emotional reasons.

The struggle is for the hearts and minds of people who don’t already have deeply held opinions and, on that front, foes of the hunt are winning, which may mean the hunt is doomed, since it depends on foreign markets that are vulnerable to public opinion.

In the 1970s, activists managed to persuade the United States to ban the import of seal products. Now, they are about to win a ban in the European Union. Even former KGB man Vladimir Putin has bowed to pressure to end the Russian seal hunt.

In Spain this week, where they routinely torture bulls to death for sport, several hundred Spaniards stripped down in the street and splashed themselves with fake blood to protest our seal hunt.

There have been about a dozen protests in Canada this year, and the hunt hasn’t even started.

The only pro-hunt demonstration was the impromptu act of a Halifax bus driver.

The sealers had better hope that the Chinese are slow to catch on to this animal rights business.

Web Talk Comment: It's too bad there aren't more "metro bus drivers" across Canada.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Harper To Take Steps to Bail Out Biggest Media Supporters

How much more evidence does anyone need that the mainstream media has a political agenda and is ultra-biased. It might do one well to remember the following when reading editorials and stories in the national media about issues related to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Last month, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore dodged questions regarding how he might help the financially strapped media giant Canwest Global.

However, Moore was quoted on Wednesday in a Canadian Press story saying that the government is looking at how to assist Canwest.

Canadian Press also reported that Canwest has contracted former Conservative campaign strategist Ken Boessenkool to “help plead its case”.

Nobody should be surprised that the Harper government will pull whatever levers it can to ensure the Asper family, which owns Canwest, retains control over company.

Canwest is an important propaganda tool for the Prime Minister because it owns Global TV, the Vancouver Sun, the National Post, the Vancouver Courier and other daily papers in several markets.

The Aspers and Harper have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship in recent years. Harper ensured that the family patriarch, Izzy Asper, saw his dream of a human-rights museum come to fruition in Winnipeg, courtesy of massive sums of public funding.

In return the Aspers helped ensure that Harper would remain prime minister when Canwest provided supportive editorials and "spin" before the 2008 election including hammering the idea of a Liberal-NDP coalition government supported by the Bloc Quebecois.

It seems spinning the news in favour of the sitting government has its benefits. So much for public discourse in a democracy. Under these conditions is it any wonder this Province has become the favorite whipping boy of so many media outlets?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Today a Country Dies

What joining the Dominion meant for Newfoundland, sixty years ago this month.

The following article, by Dorothy Howarth, “New Province Tomorrow,” originally appeared in the Toronto Telegram on March 31, 1949, the eve of Newfoundland and Labrador's becoming a Province (colony?) of Canada.

It's sometimes interesting to take note of what others saw, heard and felt, not to mention the perceptions of others from outside Newfoundland and Labrador, at a time that was so dramatic and traumatic for our people.

Today a country dies.
By Dorothy Howarth
March 31, 1949

Not as they die in Europe by enemy fire and sword, or by aggressive annexation, but by its own hand, the democratic choice of its people.

By a majority vote of only 6,401 of its citizens, Newfoundland today gives up its life as an individual nation in the British Commonwealth to become, instead, the 10th province of the largest Dominion in the Commonwealth, Canada.

There is no celebrating in St. John’s today. People move quietly about their everyday business, through the steep up-and-down roads. Two-wheeled carts, filled with coal and produce, clatter in the cobbled streets. Fur-hatted policemen patrol their beats and long-shoremen wait on Water Street, leaning idly over the railing, above the docks where the tall ships come in.

“Ah, well, Miss, I think there are many of us feeling badly today, even though we be confederates,” said the doorman at the British Commission office.

“How would you feel in Canada if the United States were taking you over today? It’s like a country dying,” said the librarian.

“It doesn’t matter how you voted, confederate or responsible government, today still means that we are no longer a separate country. We’re only part of a larger one now.”

Above the hall of an Irish Benevolent Association rises in defiance what claims to be Newfoundland’s flag — pink, green and white. But far out the narrows from the top of Cabot Tower, whipped out in fierce wind, flies its real flag — the Union Jack.

“That’ll not change, thank God,” said a policeman.

In the hearts of many responsible government people there is real despair.

“We hate Canada; we hate Canadians,” said a well-known St. John’s professional man.

“Come in here with your baby bonus and take us over and you’ll name us a premier and cabinet that are like leopards that can change their spots. Now Tory, now Liberal. Well, once I was a Liberal but not any more. I’ll not be associated with that confederate outfit, I can tell you."

“Look at my office — it’s the same at my house . . .”

Every blind in the place was pulled down to the sill — as if death lay inside.

There is a rumour that before the day is out a number of anti-confederates will take a funeral cortege through the town to bury high on the hill above the city the body of what is supposed to be Newfoundland. But their procession, if it is carried out, will wind right by the same frame houses, lining the hill, from which nightsoil is still collected and from which issue nine and 10 children.

“Of course we’re glad to join with Canada,” said one woman, a baby in her arms. “Look what it will mean to us. I’ve five children and my husband’s work is uncertain. Those Water St. millionaires have bled us long enough,” she added, looking down into the town where the names of a number of merchants could mainly be read on the sides of their stores.

Store windows are the only evidence that Confederation has really come. Price tags on goods, with black lines drawn through the old prices, show the cuts. Nylons from $2.25 to $1.98: Linoleum at $1 a yard down to 50 cents. Drugs and cosmetics in particular show a tremendous difference.

“It’ll take me from three to six months to recover from the change,” said one druggist. “I’ll lose 20 percent on most of my stock.”

But his clerk, a girl, saw the other side of the story. “Now I’ll only pay $1.25 for creams, I paid $2 for before — and cologne is $1.98 now instead of $2.50.

“I saw a cotton summer dress in a store window today for $8.95 — last summer I paid $15 for the same dress. Confederation will certainly make things easier for me, but I am sorry to feel that I must sign my passport Canadian.”

There was an air of waiting over the whole city, waiting for what is going to happen, what Confederation is to bring in small things and in large.

“I was going to buy curtains for my living room, but I decided to wait and see,” said a woman, window-shopping.

Another window-shopper was interested in the drop of the price of linoleum. “I wanted new covering for my kitchen floor for Christmas, but we decided to wait. Now I see that I was wise to.”

Civil service in suspense

Waiting in government offices, figuratively biting their nails, are civil servants who have not yet been notified if their department is even going to exist after today.

Several slated to take trips to Canada on official business, find that financial provision has not been made for their journey.

Up at Government House, where tomorrow the official naming and swearing in of the new premier is to take place, faces are a little red. It isn’t too propitious that new government should be born on April Fool’s Day — a day kept here in the rowdy English fashion. It is said that is the reason the ceremony will not take place until 1:15, the traditional minute for April Fool’s Day to end.

The whole ceremony is being carried out as swiftly, as simply as possible with all the hush-hush trimmings of a military secret. There will be no fanfare: It was not even announced where or at what time the ceremony was to take place.

In schools there will be no special observance of the last day of Newfoundland’s nationhood. One schoolmaster said he thought he would probably address morning assembly for a few moments on the significance of the day, but other schools were ignoring it.

“We’ll be singing our national anthem, ‘Ode to Newfoundland,’ in the morning and ‘God Save the King’ when we leave at night,” another teacher said.

Baked seal a delicacy

Biggest event of the day will be when the first sealer comes in, its decks slippery with blubber and blood from the raw seal skins piled on it.

The Terra Nova, possession of the Eric Bowring stores, a Water St. merchant, was due today but because of high wind and its loaded decks, rolling in a heavy sea, it is still on its way.

“Oh you don’t have to worry about where it comes in,” said a clerk in the store. “Just tell the taxi driver; he knows where to take you. There’ll be lots other people there.”

Baked seal flippers and seal flipper pie will be on all menus when the first ship finally does arrive.

“Tastes just like beef, with a bit of a fishy tinge,” said a long-shoreman. “You’ll like it. Real Newfoundland dish. Can’t make it Canadian whatever you do.”

“I don’t know if we’ll have any here,” said the waitress in the restaurant. “Some-times we do,” then giving out the change, she noticed the silver. “There — there’s our 20-cent piece for you, and our little bitty nickel. Suppose they’ll go out of circulation. But I kind of like them. I’ll miss them. It’ll be all Canadian money instead of our own.”

She swabbed the table with her cloth for a moment.

“I’ve a sister in Toronto. She makes more than I do at the same work. But I don’t know, whatever happens, I still want to be a Newfoundlander.”

So it goes all through the city: Half sadness, some downright anger, some anxiety and some downright gladness. No one is quite sure about the future. Almost everyone realizing they’ve reached the end of an era and everyone waiting — waiting to see what Canada and Confederation will bring.


I don't know much about the cost of nylons or linoleum these days but knowing what we know now, I wonder what those who waited to "...see what Canada and Confederation will bring" might say today.

What was the true price?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tradgedy at Sea Raises Rescue Services Concerns

UPDATE: Sunday March 15, 2:14 pm - From VOCM News

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has confirmed that they have located at least some of the victims from Thursday's Cougar helicopter crash. The TSB says they estimate 10-13 bodies are inside the downed chopper. One of which has already been recovered, and is on board the Osprey.

The TSB has changed their original recovery plan. At first, they had planned to raise the mostly intact chopper with the bodies inside. At closer inspection, it appears the aircraft is not in as good shape as they had originally thought. They feel the best way to ensure safe retrieval of the victims is to recover them before raising the helicopter.


Once again this week the people of Newfoundland and Labrador find themselves facing a tradgedy at sea. This time the toll is 17 lives with one survivor in critical but stable condition.

When the news broke on Thursday that a Sikorsky helicopter carrying passengers from the Province to offshore oil platforms had gone down my mind immediately returned to the Ocean Ranger disaster more than 2 decades ago.

When the Ocean Ranger, the world’s largest semi-submersable oil rig, sank in 1982 it took all 84 lives onboard.

There were no survivors.

To this point nobody knows the reason for this latest disaster but as more news begins to filter out questions are being asked.

Newfoundland and Labrador has 3 major offshore production facilities. The people of the province have depended on the offshore and inshore fishery for centuries. There are ferry services between the island and Nova Scotia as well as between the island and Labrador. It is a Province that is directly linked to the frigid North Atlantic yet at the time this terrible incident happened there wasn’t a single search and rescue aircraft stationed anywere in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is not an attempt to blame the Coast Guard for the outcome of this tradgedy but questions have never the less been raised and they are quite valid.

The first aircraft to respond was another helicopter sent by Cougar out of St. John’s, the company that managed the down chopper as well. Search and Rescue aircraft did not respond until later, after the lone survivor and a single fatality had been plucked from the water by the Cougar crew.

The reason: All Search and Rescue aircraft had to fly in from Sidney, Nova Scotia where the crews were on training exercises. Not a single aircraft was available in Newfoundland itself.

When asked about the response time during a Thursday evening press conference Maj. Denis McGuire, who was leading the rescue mission gave a response that appeared to be an attempt to deflect criticism and soften the facts.

In his response McGuire said that the response aircraft were not dispatched from Gander because they were on training in Sydney which is in the Western region. As a result the response was about 30 minutes longer than would otherwise have been the case. He then said there is now way to know which area of the province's offshore would have an emergency, indicating that a crew could be in the opposite area (East vs. West) which was the case this time when the rescue call came in.

What Mr. McGuire did not say, but what is quite clear, is that these aircraft were not in the “Western” area of the Province. They were not in the Province at all.

Sidney, Nova Scotia is approximately 90 miles or 145 kilometres from the Western edge of Newfoundland. This placed the aircraft approximately 600 kilometres from the crash site rather than the 300 which would have been the case had they been at their base in Gander, which is centrally located on the island.

The esimate of the additional time it took to respond, 30 minutes, which was given at the press conference, was later modified from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

"In this case, it took approximately an hour longer for the aircraft to get on scene," McGuire told CBC News on Friday.

McGuire told reporters that the province had adequate search and rescue protection despite the training exercise.

Mr. McGuire may believe the service is "adequate" but I wonder if he would feel the same way if one of his loved ones was trying to survive in the North Atlantic in March. Knowing what he knows about response times how would he feel if he were the one being buffetted by waves in frigid waters offshore?

"I am satisfied that the persons of Newfoundland and Labrador had continued coverage for search and rescue," McGuire said. "The aircraft were on standby for this region, but they were doing it out of Sydney at the time."

Is this good enough?

Nobody is saying that a faster response time would have made any difference in this particular case, but what about the next time or the time after that?

In the past we’ve seen incidents of overturned or sinking fishing vessels that did not receive a response for hours because crew had to be called in “after regular working hours”.

The case of the Milinda and Keith comes readily to mind. In that case it was shown that a faster response time would have saved lives that were instead lost because of delays caused by not having a crew on duty and having to call them in after the distress was received.

Now is a time when the hearts and minds of everyone in the Province goes out to the families of those who lost their lives, as it should be. It's a time for communities to come together to offer whatever solace can be offered and that is happening across Newfoundland and Labrador. Never the less, in the coming days answers are required and issues need to be raised at the highest levels.

When, if ever, should there be an “after hours” period for emergencies to take place?

When is it acceptable for an entire Province, which is so dependent on the ocean, to be without a single search and rescue aircraft available?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We Want Your Mind, Not Your Money

The following commentary appeared in Today’s Globe and Mail. Portions are being republished here because the author, Mary Simon, speaks far more eloquently about the impact of anti-seal activism than I could ever hope to.

Her words, though focused on the impact to Inuit culture, reflect issues and concerns that I’m sure many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can identify with.

It looks like, when not publishing a commentary about Newfoundland and Labrador itself, even the Globe and Mail can sometimes get it right.

Globe and Mail
March 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT

Sunday will mark another annual day of protest against the Canadian East Coast seal hunt. In various countries, anti-sealing protesters will urge their governments to ban the seal hunt and the import of seal products.

This year, protesters will no doubt take satisfaction in knowing that Belgium and the Netherlands have already defied world trade laws to ban the import of seal products and that the European Union Parliament is being pressed to do the same. Last week, an EU commission voted to amend the proposed legislation so it would, in effect, be a total ban on the import of seal products…

While the target of animal-rights protesters is the seasonal killing of seals by commercial fishermen on the ice floes around Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the impact of the protests threatens, once again, to have painful consequences on Inuit communities scattered throughout the Canadian Arctic. Inuit in Greenland will also feel the pain.

Inuit are a maritime people. The sea and sea ice are our front yard. They are as much a part of our way of life as the family farm has been for the agrarian societies of this world. For most of us, the most important and reliable food since our arrival in the Arctic in ancient times has been the seal. We have hunted seals to sustain life itself in a world that is as harsh as it is beautiful.

We have harvested seals to feed ourselves, our children, our elders and the rest of our people in the Arctic. We have used seals to feed the dog teams that help us to hunt. We have used the pelts of seals to clothe ourselves and, in more recent times, to generate a modest level of cash from sales to the outside world. That flow of cash might not look like much to those who plan the EU's operating budget or who take in millions of dollars from members of the public through anti-sealing campaigns. But, for Inuit hunters, it often makes the difference…

For Inuit, hunting is not just about feeding families. It is also about sustaining our unique language and culture in a world that has all too often maligned or devalued them. The teaching of hunting skills from one generation to another is a way we build solidarity between generations and within families. The sharing of country food among households in communities is a way in which we show compassion…

For younger Inuit, such campaigns seem to be exercises in highly selective and culturally bound sensitivities: It is okay for those who live in rich Western, urban societies to do things that have generated enormous hardships and insult for an indigenous hunting people, while very little self-examination is invested into the conditions of domestic animals processed in highly industrialized fashion for big city supermarkets. It is doubtful that a wild seal living in the Arctic would envy the life prospects of a factory-raised chicken.

Some animal-rights groups, like some governments and legislators in Europe, have been quick to say that their anti-sealing efforts are not aimed at the seal-hunting activities of Inuit, and that seal furs resulting from Inuit hunting should be exempt from such things as import bans. It is hard for Inuit to take any comfort in these promises.

These assurances are issued in what appears to be willful ignorance that past anti-sealing activities have destroyed the markets for all seal pelts, whether taken by Inuit or others. They are issued without the prospect of any plausible machinery, methods or communications efforts that would somehow allow Inuit to continue to support themselves and our way of life in the Arctic with a measure of security. No, these assurances are all about salving troubled consciences, not offering respect and reasonable accommodation.

So, for those who will be joining in Sunday's anti-sealing protests, either directly or by sending money to animal-rights groups, the Inuit of Canada invite you to reconsider. Before investing your time, your money and your goodwill in such efforts, perhaps you might first satisfy yourself whether the groups organizing these protests have made any real effort to understand the Inuit way of life, or to take any real steps to avoid inflicting harm on us. Inuit are not seeking your donations. Rather, we ask Canadians to think through this issue, a more difficult but ultimately more enriching path for all of us.

Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is a former Canadian ambassador for circumpolar affairs and a former ambassador to Denmark.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker

Much has been made of Senator George Baker’s recent comments identifying a growing discontent in Newfoundland and Labrador and the potential for a new “bloc” style federal party to emerge in the province.

The federalists, most notably the Harper Conservatives, jumped on his comment as a promotion of separation. I believe they even came perilously close to calling the Senator a “traitor”.

Never mind that Mr. Baker spoke of a party that would defend Newfoundland and Labrador’s interests in Ottawa and never said anything about separation. Why would he in the federal context? After all only a provincial party, not a federal one, can make such a move. This is why the Bloc Quebecois never held a referendum on separation, the provincial party in Quebec has done so in the past, but not the federal one. It can’t

In this case, once again, political expediency and the automatic attack instincts of the PMO took over and when that happens everyone knows that reality takes a back seat.

A week after Senator Baker’s comment perhaps it’s time to take a step back, put aside the rhetoric and political hyperbole for a moment, look at the facts behind his belief that there is growing unrest in his home province and what the situation may lead to.

Most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don’t need to be reminded of the long list of reasons for their discontent but for the benefit of Canadians living outside the province here is a short and by no means complete, list of grievances.

1 - Questions still linger, even after 60 years, about whether or not the referendum that led to NL’s confederation with Canada was valid or not.

When Newfoundland and Labrador ceded power to Britain in the 1930’s the people were told they would one day be given back their autonomy as an independent Dominion. This was never done. Many believe it should have been done before the people were called upon to take part in a referendum on becoming part of another Country.

Most people don’t realize it but there were actually two votes held on Confederation.

In the first vote three options were presented on the ballot and Confederation with Canada DID NOT win that vote. As a result a second vote was undertaken the following year that offered only two options. In that vote Confederation won but by the narrowest of margins, just over 50%. A number that would never pass muster today if NL were to hold a referendum to exit Canada.

Also, as a side note, when NL entered Confederation it may not have been in the best fiscal or economic position but it had a financial surplus. Now, 60 years later it struggles under the highest per capita debt in the Country.

2 - In the late 1960’s Newfoundland and Labrador undertook development of the massive Upper Churchill hydro facility. Canada’s constitution guarantees the free flow of goods across provincial territories. In this case however Quebec refused to allow the province to wheel power across their territory and Ottawa refused to enforce their Constitutional duty by making them permit it.

As a result, Newfoundland and Labrador was forced into signing a ridiculous long term contract to sell the power to Quebec. Although NL still owns and runs the Upper Churchill power system it has made just a few million dollars in all the years that followed. Quebec, last year alone, made $2 Billion in revenues from Newfoundland and Labrador’s power and will make this or more every year from now until 2041.

3 - For 500 years visitors and settlers in Newfoundland and Labrador depended on the Atlantic Cod fishery as the mainstay of the economy. When NL joined Canada in 1949 Ottawa assumed control of fisheries management. By 1992 that 500 year old fishery had been mismanaged to the point of total collapse. This resulted in 15 – 20 percent of the province’s population being thrown out of work.

The fishery has still not recovered and is showing no signs of doing so. Foreign trawlers are still plying the spawning areas and Ottawa refuses to enact custodial management actions to protect them.

4 - The massive oil and gas reserves off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador are not controlled by the province but by Ottawa.

When NL entered Confederation 60 years ago it was standard practice for nations to have a 50 mile limit in the oceans around them (remember, NL was once a separate state), years later Countries around the world began adopting a 200 mile zone.

This means that had Newfoundland and Labrador not entered Canada the people of the province, not Canada, would control those reserves and receive all the benefits from them.

Essentially NL brought those reserves into Canada yet, unlike Alberta or Saskatchewan who control the oil beneath their soil, NL does not control the oil beneath its waters.

For clarification, recent battles related to the Atlantic Accord have nothing to do with equalization. They have everything to do with whether Ottawa or NL receives the most benefit from those oil and gas resources, not all the benefits, just the majority of them.

The Atlantic Accord was an agreement intended to ensure that the people who brought those resources into Canada would benefit the most from them. Recent unilateral moves by the Harper government have ensured that the agreement was watered down the point where it is practically worthless and that the benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador are severely limited.

5 - Newfoundland and Labrador, with less than 2% of Canada’s population has consistently provided about 10% of Canada’s military forces yet even with it’s strategically important geographical location (covering most of the nation’s Atlantic Coast) there is no appreciable military presence (or related jobs) in the Province.

As previously noted, the preceding list is by no means complete but it serves to show that although Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are often labeled as “whiners” or “malcontents” in the national media there are valid reasons for discontent to exist and grow.

So, the next question is what can be done about it?

This brings us back to Senator Baker’s comments.

Whether or not specific individuals in the province would or would not support a “bloc” style party just about everyone knows the situation as it currently exists. That situation is as follows:

Newfoundland and Labrador has no voice in Ottawa and nowhere to turn when serious concerns, like those identified above, come to pass. Under the status quo the province is essentially impotent.

Newfoundland and Labrador has only 7 federal seats out of the 308 in Parliament.

The vast majority of federal seats exist within Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, etc. As a result any federal action must, for purely political reasons, ensure that the voters of the larger provinces are served first, last and always even if that means harming smaller provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador.

Whether it’s a question of wheeling power across another’s provincial jurisdiction, finding more money for vote rich areas, keeping peace with foreign fishing nations so not to upset trade deals that benefit central Canadian auto, textile, aerospace or candlestick makers, or any number of other issues, Newfoundland and Labrador has been, and always will be, less important to federal political parties than central Canada.

The senate, which has problems on so many fronts it would take volume of books to recite, is neither equal nor effective. If it were then each province would have an equal number of senators and the senate would have the ability to do more than rubber stamp legislation. They do not.

The senate, as it was intended, is supposed to be the chamber of “sober second thought”.

Thanks to their long term appointments (remaining in office until the age of 75) senators are supposed to be immune from having to concern themselves with how their decisions might impact on their personal or party political futures. After all, if you don’t have to run for election you don’t need to pander to popular positions and are free to ensure that things are done fairly.

That may work in theory but unfortunately it’s not the case in practice.

It’s common practice, and considered quite acceptable in political circles, for elected party leaders to pressure and control the actions of senators who are members of their party. How often have you heard Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatief and others say something like, “He can’t even control his Senators”.

How independent and immune to political games can the senate really be if comments like those are considered appropriate?

With all of this in mind one can easily see why discontent is growing every day in Newfoundland and Labrador and why Senator Baker (though it took some guts to do it) said what he did.

The facts are clear. With all the problems the province has experienced, and continues to experience in Canada, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have four options in front of them and only one that has any potential to provide some relief.

They can either:

Stay in Canada and sit quietly by as abuse after abuse is heaped upon them with no hope things will ever change. This is not an option anyone should be faced with or should even consider accepting in a democracy.


Stay in Canada and desperately try to change the federal system, knowing full well that there is no political will in Ottawa to do so because the system works pretty well for highly populated and vote rich areas that politicians need to win elections. In other words Newfoundlanders are faced with another option that offers no hope of improving the situation.


Determine, through an independent feasibility study, if separation really is a truly viable and reasonable alternative. Since a study would require provincial government approval, perhaps even assistance in gathering information from Ottawa and would likely take quite some time to conduct if it were ever undertaken, this options does nothing to help in the short term if ever.

Or there is the option put forward by Senator Baker.

Support a “bloc” style party that can voice Newfoundland and Labrador’s concerns in Parliament without concern for the political interests of MPs from other provinces. Those “bloc” style MPs would hold 7 votes that might be important enough during a string of minority Parliaments that old fashioned horse trading could very well serve to see at least some of the province’s concerns addressed going forward.

It’s really the only option that has any merit.

Since he made his now infamous comments Senator Baker has been butchered in the mainstream media across Canada and ridiculed as a dottering fool.

I wonder who the fools really are?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Of Mice and Men (and Women)

Editor's note: I originally published the following in the June 1, 2007 edition of the "Current Magazine" and a couple of weeks later here on Web Talk.

With the current discussion regarding a "bloc NL" party and what it could mean for the province I thought it might be a good time to republish it, with a few updates, for those who may not have read it the first time around.

Myles Higgins

Of Mice and Men (and Women)

Newfoundland and Labrador, to put it simply, is a bloody mess!

We’re represented by seven puppets in Ottawa.

Our people are second class citizens in Canada and everyone is looking toward the latest provincial savior to guide us into a future that’s a crap shoot.

What can we do?

Here’s a novel idea. Let’s get off our collective butts and fight back for once!

Enough is enough!

Our situation reminds me of the legendary tale of “Mouseland”.

If you’ve never heard of it, Mouseland is a parable once told by Saskatchewan political dynamo and father of universal health care, the late Tommy Douglas.

Mouseland tells of a society of mice who go about their daily routines, working, raising children and so on, just like we do every day.

Every four years or so these mice elect a new goverment to lead them.

The funny thing is, for years they always elected a goverment made up of cats, black cats to be precise.

To paraphrase Mr. Douglas, the black cats made wonderful promises.

One time they promised smaller round mouse holes so cats couldn’t stick their heads in and eat all the little mice.

They delivered, but in doing so they made sure the holes were just big enough so they could still get their paws inside and pull the mice out.

After years of suffering the mice decided it was time for a change so they elected a new government.

They threw the black cats out of office.

This time the little mice elected a government made up entirely of white cats.

The white cats promised to get rid of the round mouse holes that had been causing so much trouble for the helpless mice.

“That’ll fix the problem”, they said.

Once elected the white cats were true to their word. They closed up all the little round mouse holes and built square holes, but the square holes were bigger than the round ones had been so the cats could get their entire heads back inside again.

The moral: Cats, no matter their color, are still cats. They aren’t mice.

It’s not that cats are inherently bad. In fact they actually do good things, for other cats, not for mice.

To paraphrase Mr. Douglas once again, what’s good for a Nation of cats isn’t necessarily good for a Province of mice.

Just as in Mouseland, it’s time we do as Senator Baker suggested and elect 7 independent or Bloc style "mice" and sent them to Ottawa instead of the usual purring gang of red, blue or even orange cats.

I can almost see the usual curmudgeons and party faithful shake their heads and ask, “What in God’s name can 7 independent MPs accomplish in a parliament of 308?”

Don’t listen to them.

Canada is facing a string of minority governments for long time to come.

A bloc of 6 or 7 "mice" who aren’t obligated to toe ANY party line can do a lot in that sort of environment.

They certainly can’t do any worse than our usual 7 (fat) cats.

What do we have to lose?

We gave away the upper Churchill for the benefit of Canada and the glory of another almighty savior, Joey Smallwood.

The fish are gone, the railroad is gone, mills are closing, unemployment is rampant and people are leaving by the plane, bus and boat load.

We have to do something or by the time the oil runs out the locks will already be on the door.

Ben Franklin once said, “Those who give up liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

In 1949 our Nation was sold into confederation for baby bonuses and the old age pension.

According to Ben, we got exactly what we deserved.

It’s time each of us did something to get ourselves out of the mess we’ve fallen, gotten pushed or were forced into, depending on your point of view.

The Ode to Newfoundland contains the line, “Where once they stood we stand”. Sadly the circumstances we find ourselves in today make me realize that most of us don’t stand for much of anything anymore.

Dismiss me as nut, a crackpot or worse, I really don’t care.

I’ve been called far worse, including a Liberal, PC and NDP.

I’d prefer the former names to the latter.

Tommy Douglas noted at the end of Mouseland how one little mouse called on his fellow citizens to stop electing cats. He was dragged away to shut him up.

That prospect doesn't bother me much either. Whether a local lockup or an entire Country, one prison is the same as another, it's just a matter of scale.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Liberal Senator Promotes Concept of NL Bloc Party

When Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Senator, George Baker, phoned into one of VOCM radio's call in talk shows earlier this week he stirred up a fire storm in Ottawa and raised the spirits of many nationalists in his home province.

Senator Baker told the show's host that Newfoundlanders may resort to separatism because of their treatment by the federal government. He also said that he believed his province might be better served by supporting a party similar to the Bloc Quebecois to defend its interests at the federal level.

"People will soon be advocating, you know, that we can't remain in the Confederation in which we're discriminated against and not respected," Baker said.

"How much are we going to put up with? You know, this should be reason enough to, to have a Bloc Newfoundland and Labrador running in the next election if this keeps up - and a real campaign to get them all elected."

The list of problems that have confronted Newfoundland and Labrador since entering Confederation is a long one. It includes Ottawa's continued mismanagement of a 500 year old fishery, being denied control of offshore resources the province brought into the Country in 1949, Ottawa's refusal to enforce the Constitution with regard to the Upper Churchill hydro development project in the late 1960's, the unilateral clawing back of offshore resource revenues and much much more.

It's these issues, and Ottawa's refusal to even awknowledge them, to which Mr. Baker was referring.

As a result of his comments the government of Canada did nothing to address the underlying problems but has instead demanded the Liberal party expel him from their caucus.

Outside the weekly Conservative caucus meeting, the Prime Minister's Office was distributing transcripts of the remarks and demanding Mr. Baker's ouster.

Sen. Mike Duffy is reported to have told reporters there won't be much left of Canada if people keep talking like Baker.

"There's no place for someone who holds those views in a party that purports to be in favour of national unity," said Kory Teneycke, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"You can't advocate for the creation of a Bloc Newfoundland, modelled after the separatist Bloc Quebecois, and sit in our caucus. So I don't think that should be the case in the Liberal caucus, either.

"These comments are beyond the pale, and he should be removed from their caucus."

Baker said his province contributes far more to the rest of Canada in per-capita exports than other provinces, and doesn't get the respect it deserves.

During his radio appearance Mr. Baker was asked by the host if a Newfoundland block could be effective in getting a better fiscal arrangement within Canada.

"Well, let me ask you the question: What about the Bloc Quebecois? Have they been effective? Of course they've been effective. . . . And just imagine the clout that we could present to the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada wouldn't dare to put into their budget a measure that's in there right now, stealing $1.7 billion from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador." Baker responded.

Here, here Mr. Baker!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Ottawa Sacrifices Atlantic Canada for EU Trade Relations

Canada is the European Union’s 11th most important trade partner.

The value of EU exports to Canada rose to nearly $42 Billion dollars in 2007. A roughly equivilent amount of Canadian exports entered the EU during the same period.

Value-added products such as machinery, transport equipment and chemicals made up 32% of the EU's imports from Canada. An additional 17.6 % of bilateral trade consisted of agricultural or energy-related products, as well, trade in services, particularly travel and transportation, is a growing area in the trade relationship.

Investment is also a particularly strong feature, with Canada as the third largest investor in the EU.

In 1976, Canada and the EU signed the first ever Framework Agreement for Commercial and Economic Cooperation between the EU and an industrialized country. The 1990 Transatlantic Declaration built on this agreement.

The EU and Canada meet in annual EU-Canada summits.

In addition, senior European Commission and Canadian Federal Government officials meet once a year in the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) to review the full range of issues relating to EU-Canada economic and trade relations.

The EU and Canada have signed a number of bilateral agreements designed to facilitate closer trade. These include agreements on cooperation between EU and Canadian customs administrators (1997), to combat fraud and to facilitate trade, and a Veterinary Agreement (1999) aiming to improve bilateral trade in live animals and animal products. A Wine and Spirits Agreement was signed in 2003.

Canada has recently expressed interest in a wider FTA (Free Trade Agreement) type agreement with the EU, and at their Summit in June 2007 the parties agreed to undertake a Joint Study to examine the existing barriers - especially non-tariff barriers - to the flow of goods, services and capital between the EU and Canada, and to estimate the potential benefits of removing such barriers.

At their Summit on 17th October, the EU and Canada agreed to "work together to define the scope of a deepened economic agreement and to establish the critical points for its successful conclusion".

During all of this the EU has continued to allow fishing vessels from its member nations to sail across the Atlantic in order to commercially harvest threatened fish stocks on the fringes of Canada’s 200 mile limit. They’ve done this while ensuring that harmful trade tariffs imposed against Atlantic Canadian shrimp imports to the EU remain in place.

On Monday, March 02, 2009, the European Union voted in favor of a complete ban on all humanely and harvest seal products from a fully sustainable Canadian seal harvest, a move that is almost sure to kill the industry and severely impact on low income families in rural Atlantic Canada.

The federal government of Canada, including Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, has since side stepped any questions put to them about imposing trade sanctions against the EU over their actions.

In the wake of this recent action by the EU, new trade talks between the EU and Canada are still slated to proceed as planned.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Straddling Stocks Report – Post Moratorium (1992)

In 1992 the government of Canada introduced a moratorium to protect cod stocks that were teetering on the brink of extinction.

This action, directly and indirectly, put over 10% of Newfoundland and Labrador's population out of work in the blink of an eye.

In the 17 years since this supposed ban on cod fishing was introduced the stocks have failed to make any real progress in growing their numbers and are still in dire peril of total collapse.

The following numbers may shed some light on why this is the case.

All the numbers presented below are based on North West Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) reported catches up to, and including, 2004.

Numbers after that point are not as easily accessible but are being gathered for potential future reports.

No data is available on the level of “under reported” or “non-reported” catches in these areas so the following only includes what has been officially reported to NAFO.

For those who are unfamiliar with the location of specific NAFO fishing zones, the nose and tail of the Grand Banks and the Flemish Cap, which are considered to be crucial breeding grounds or nurseries for Atlantic Cod, fall almost entirely within NAFO Zones 3M and 3N.

Note: The last set of numbers are some of the most interesting.

If you assume an average weight of 7 pounds per fish, which is probably generous due to the state of current stocks, these numbers represent about 200 million Atlantic Cod reported as caught after the 1992 moratorium was introduced and up to 2004.

As large as that number appears, nobody knows how many more cod have actually been caught and sold on world markets.