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.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Demise of Newfoundland & Labrador - Manufactured Right Here

What do hand soap and bathroom tissue have in common?

Both can be found in the bathroom. They are both considered basic necessities and, as far as I can tell, every scrap of either one used in Newfoundland and Labrador is imported from someplace else.

Why is that?

I mention those two products simply as an example but the same holds true for much of what we consume in Newfoundland and Labrador. For centuries our people have been contented to import almost all of the basic necessities of life while exporting our valuable raw materials elsewhere.

Will this outdated and short sighted practice ever end?

I recently read an article out of Memorial University that was written nearly a decade ago. One passage noted, “Newfoundland continues to import many of the products its people consume while exporting primarily raw materials, a trade imbalance which has served to exacerbate the island's economic troubles.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Before Confederation our biggest trade imbalance was with the United States, afterward it was (and is) with Canada. Only the players have changed, the game remains the same and it’s a one sided game that’s not in our favor.

The reality of 1949 is that many of those who voted for Confederation did so because they hoped for lower prices on imporated products. Very little consideration was given to producing many of those products, and related jobs, right here.

For as long as anyone alive today can recall Newfoundland and Labrador depended primarily on two major exports, fish and forest products. Today Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy isn’t as dependent on the fishery or the forest as it once was but the numbers show that little has changed with the overall picture of where we once were and where we are now.

In 1948 fish and fish products accounted for 40% of Newfoundland and Labrador’s exports, pulp and paper products 32% for a combined total of 72%.

These days (as of 2007 anyway) energy exports accounted for (wait for it) 72% of the Province’s exports.

We’ve traded fish and forests for oil and gas all the while continuing to import the vast majority of our manufactured goods.

Either way you slice it the Province still exports its resources instead of creating value added products for the local and export markets.

It seems we’d rather ship off our raw materials instead of creating a genuinely diversified economy through manufacturing right here.

Even after centuries of economic turmoil we've yet to learn the lesson that ending our narrow minded practice of exporting all raw materials and instead increasing our manufacturing capability will help us become a more economically stable place to live.

Increased manufacturing and local purchasing would eventually improve our export values, decreasing our import costs and create much needed employment. Something that might be quite helpful in an area accustomed to double digit unemployment.

The fishing and pulp & paper industry are now mere shadows of what they once were in Newfoundland and Labrador. Eventually the same will happen to the oil, gas and mining industries.

Unlike Fish and forests (both currently mismanaged) oil and minerals are non-renewable. Once they’re gone they’re gone. When that happens, as it surely must, gone as well is the last of the work in Newfoundland and Labrador. Gone as well are the exports and the Province’s revenues. Newfoundland and Labrador will cease to exist in any relevent way.

Why, after 500 years have we not learned from our past?

Why do we continue to depend on others to manufacture the goods we depend upon instead of supporting, encouraging and facilitating the development of local goods through our purchasing power and with provincial incentives?

Until the public demands more locally produced products at their favorite stores nothing will ever change.

Make no mistake, the Wallmart’s and Sobey’s of the world don’t give a damn about where they buy their products as long as their customers keep coming back. They also don't care who they sell them to and won’t hesitate to pull up stakes and move elsewhere when the resources and money run out.

The way I look at it, a simple bar of soap may not be as glamorous or as lucrative as high seas oil development but after a hard days work on the rigs I defy anyone to tell me it isn’t worth producing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Walking a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes

After months listening to Ontario politicians and the national media crying a river about how Ontario has had to stoop to collecting equalization payments I believe I’ve finally figured out what all the fuss is about.

The shame they are now wearing on their sleeve hasn't come to them because Ontario’s economy is on a downswing. It is, but that can happen anywhere.

It’s not even that Ontario doesn’t want to accept handouts from Ottawa, they do it all the time in other ways.

No, the reason for Ontario’s new found state of mental depression is that the province doesn’t like to receive their handouts in such a transparent and public way.

You see doing so makes it very difficult to continue pretending that Ontario is somehow better than the rest of Canada.

How many of us remember the words of Ontario’s interim Tory leader, Bob Runciman, when he told the Globe and Mail, “I think it’s a very sad day in the history of this province that we’re now going on the dole”?

What about references made in the Ontario Legislature to the effect that Ontario is now a “have not” province while, “Newfoundland and Labrador is not. Look how low we’ve sunk”. Clearly a statement intended to use Canada’s favorite whipping boy, Newfoundland and Labrador, as a means to show just how sad it was that Ontario was about to receive equalization payments.

With equalization now a reality for Ontario the province is screaming to change the way the system works or even to scrap it completely. They wonder how the people of Ontario can possibly continue their good work of subsidizing the rest of Canada through their tax dollars if they have to pay themselves out of that pot. It's like someone forgot to tell them that people in other parts of Canada (equalization receiving or not) also pay federal taxes and fund federal transfers.

The fact of the matter is that the $347 million in equalization payments Ontario will receive this year is a drop in the bucket when it comes to that province’s overall budget, yet to read the editorials, comments and news stories you’d think Ottawa transferring those funds to the province was a slap in the face rather than a simple financial exchange.

Equalization is simply one of many federal transfers to the provinces, including Ontario. Transfers that are funded by tax revenue, everybody’s tax revenue both inside and outside the self proclaimed "Center of the Universe".

Billions in Health transfers flow to Ontario each year but it doesn't make politicians there spout off about how hard times have gotten.

Gas tax transfers don’t either, neither does funding for highways or education or infrastructure.

Oddly enough, no fuss is made even after the most blatant handouts Ontario receives on a regular basis. Handouts like the recent multi-billion dollar payoff intended to convince Ontario to harmonize its sales taxes with the fed. Something other provinces received absolutely nothing for doing just a few years back.

Does Ontario hide its head in shame when Billions in infrastructure stimulus is offered to them? Of course they don't, instead every politician at Queens Park lines up for a chance to get in on the requisite photo op that accompanies any such announcement.

What about the billions being poured into Ontario’s auto industry these days? How shameful is that when forestry workers, fishermen and others across Canada are being ignored by Ottawa?

Apparently there is no shame when those sorts of bailouts take place so why the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the so called “dole” or equalization?

Is it truly because of Ontario’s self professed pride in “helping” the rest of Canada or is it really about the desperate need to Lord their “generous” nature over what are perceived to be lesser provinces and peoples, a sort of holier than thou scenario?

I suspect it’s the latter.

Certain small minded individuals tend to make themselves feel good by ridiculing others, we've all seen that sort of thing before, but when you have to walk a mile in someone else's shoes and those shoes are stepping out in a very public way, everything changes.

Some readers may view this commentary as a serious case of Ontario bashing. It isn't intended to be. In fact I see it as something of a long overdue reality check. After all, it surely can't be easy to look down your nose at yourself.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Let’s Be Honest for Once

George Washington is remembered to have said, “I cannot tell a lie.” Since then no politician has been able to make the same claim without being guilty of telling one.

These days truth itself should be placed on an endangered species list.

It’s gotten to the point where the truth is coming under a constant attack from all sides.

Today its truth, not lies, that have become something to be avoided at all costs and it’s no longer just politicians who have a monopoly on the practice, we’ve all gotten into the act.

With that in mind Web Talk is proud, well at least mildly pleased, to present a hastily compiled:

Top 10 list of (politically incorrect) Comments You Won’t Find in the National Papers


10 Rants For the Price of One

10 – I feel for Ontarians who are losing their jobs. Being from Newfoundland and Labrador I can sympathize with their plight and wish them the best. Having said that, I wouldn’t be human if some small part of me, deep in the back of my mind, didn’t feel like shouting the following from the roof tops:

“If Ontarians are really suffering from rising unemployment why don’t they stop their incessant whining about wanting more EI and do what they’ve been telling Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to do for decades, suck it up and move someplace where they can find a job. The rest of us can’t be expected to keep Ontarians living in a place where there’s no work so pack up and move on. By the way Ontario, your unemployment rate is still only about half of what it is in Newfoundland and Labrador so slag off.”

But I won’t say it. I really do care about the individuals being hurt in this recession, including in Ontario and I hope they work their way through this.

9 – North Atlantic Harp seals are not endangered. North Atlantic Harp seals are highly efficient and effective carnivores with big sharp ugly teeth. They are not cuddly little “ice bunnies”.

Activists say seals are not hunted for food so they shouldn’t be hunted at all. In reality it was anti-sealing activists who lobbied to destroy a once profitable market for seal meat and are now using the lack of one as an excuse to ban the hunt.

The seal herd is thriving, the meat tastes great (yes it’s still eaten across Newfoundland and Labrador) and the furs are warmer, softer and more beautiful than anything else you’ll ever wear.

Thanks to their screwed up view of the world animal rights activists will cause far more damage to the seals, the fish stocks those seals depend upon and the entire ecosystem in the region than the annual seal hunt ever did.

By the way, for anyone interested I’ve got a great seal flipper pie recipe I can send you, just let me know and I’ll get it right out to you.

8 – Yes the Alberta oil sands are without any shadow of a doubt a messy and destructive environmental catastrophe.

They are destroying the air, land and water, but droning on and on in a vain attempt to force oil companies into cutting emissions in an effort to meet Kyoto targets is the environmental equivalent of the misguided anti-sealing movement.

Those companies cannot and will not meet those targets without running themselves out of business and that isn’t going to happen. It would take a shutdown or at least a major scale down of most oil sands activity in order to meet those targets and simply put, neither Canada nor the U.S. can afford to do that no matter what it might mean for the environment.

Enough is enough. It’s time to tell the Kyoto zealots to go to hell (as should have been done with the seal protestors), find a sensible way to manage the problem, cut the grandstanding on all sides of the political arena and reach a compromise on this issue that will do the least harm to everyone and everything involved. If not then forget about it and move on.

7 – The future of Canada means absolutely nothing to Stephen Harper who is a right wing, egomaniacal, hillbilly, educated beyond his intelligence level. He is a man who would gladly sell his soul and those of his children, if he hasn’t done so already, for the one thing he craves above all else, absolute power and control.

Canada’s future also means nothing to Michael Ignatieff, who is a thinly veiled American decked out in Canadian clothing. A man who wants nothing more than to add the title “Canadian Prime Minister” to his scholarly C.V. so he can demand more for his book sales in the future.

Jack Layton, well, enough said about Jack. No point in kicking a dead horse, especially with so many animal rights activists around these days. It’s getting so you can’t swing a dead cat (or a live one) without hitting one of them.

6 – Stephen Harper claims to be defending Canada’s territory, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador interests, by not accepting a French claim for extended offshore territory. His position is pure and unadulterated crap.

All St. Pierre – Miquelon is looking for is a means to survive its economic challenges by extending its existing 200 mile corridor (away from Canada) to the edge of the Continental Shelf. This is no more or less than Canada itself plans to do under the U.N. Law of the Sea.

The small French islands should have a right to an extension of that little strip of territory and France is correct to demand it. Otherwise the islands will effectively be trapped inside Canadian waters with no free access to the open ocean once Canada makes its claim to an extended economic zone.

No matter what the Prime Minister says, this has nothing to do with protecting Canadian sovereignty or NL’s interests. It has everything to do with lucrative oil potential in the region.

5 – The Quebecois culture is no more distinct than that of Newfoundlanders & Labradorians. Period.

4 – Contrary to popular belief, Quebec is not benefiting from a one sided contract to purchase Churchill Falls power.

Neither Quebec nor Newfoundland and Labrador ever actually signed a legal contract.

Quebec committed fraud by using insider information and blackmail to get the signatures it wanted. Quebec has committed a criminal act and has been stealing billions of dollars from the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for decades. What’s more they’ve been doing it with the tacit acceptance of successive Federal and Newfoundland & Labrador governments, both of which refuse to take any decisive or clear action.

Personally I’d love to see the Province throw the damn switch at the generating station and turn off the lights right across the so called “Quebec Nation”.

3 – Canada is not a Country. It’s a group of individual provinces financially controlled, oppressed and blackmailed into subservience by a corrupt central regime.

Thanks to the lopsided political power wielded by Ontario and Quebec, Canada is nothing more than an excuse for ensuring the advancement of those two jurisdictions (upper and lower Canada) regardless of what that might mean for the rest of the population.

Calling Canada a real Country is an insult to honesty and intelligence on an epic scale.

2 – Brian Mulroney is corrupt and he is without a doubt guilty of all sorts of immoral if not illegal acts. Everybody knows it but nobody really gives a crap so let’s enjoy the death of his legacy, not to mention his squirming on the hot seat, and then move on.

1 - We are told that we have freedom of speech but that’s one of the most widely accepted lies out there.

Show me someone who has expressed their frustration at the political system by simply “saying” they would “like to see” something blown up and I’ll show you a person either under federal surveillance or actually in custody.

In fact, even this article has been self edited. Just try making a public statement about Brian Mulroney, as I did in the previous section, without qualifying it with a phrase like “if not illegal acts” and see how quickly you end up being sued.

Even if you forget the legal or civil methods of stifling our freedom of speech, the docile acceptance of so called political correctness we all subscribe to has done more to quiet the masses than any law ever could. Everyone is so afraid of being ostracized by their friends, neighbors and co-workers for being politically incorrect that nobody really says what’s on their mind anymore.

This top-ten list may not be as funny as some others but the truth seldom is.

In an effort to help fight censorship and political correctness Web Talk will, on occasion, tackle this subject just as it has today. Feel free to add your two cents but please remember, as much as it sucks, for our own protection even Web Talk must adhere to the same anti-free speech edicts as everyone else, so act accordingly (but don’t hesitate to push the envelope).

Monday, May 11, 2009

Not Quite Shovel Ready

As much as I hate to publicly admit it, during some of my weaker moments I’ve actually wondered if I have what it takes to enter the political arena.

To tell the truth I’ve actually been asked several times to consider exactly that. The suggestion has come both from serious proponents and those with less than complimentary opinions who have challenged me to either put up or shut up.

Without exception my answer has been a resounding no.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love to do more for the people with whom I share this corner of our planet but I question if I’m cut out for it.

Of course I do what I can to bring Newfoundland and Labrador’s issues to the public eye on my own web site and through other publications kind enough to provide a home to my ramblings but I wonder if that’s really enough.

In recent years I’ve also spent time quietly offering my assistance to various grassroots organizations, both political and social, as well as making my thoughts clearly understood by those elected officials willing to listen, as well as those who would prefer not. But to actually make a living as a politician – well it’s just something that remains a foreign concept to me.

I’ve always thought my biggest concern about taking something like that on was whether or not I actually have the leathery hide necessary to tackle the job. Putting that aside for a moment I also have to ask myself what more I could possibly say or do about the issues facing this place if I suddenly found myself on the election trail.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a very clear position on many of the problems facing Newfoundland and Labrador but that’s actually the crux of my problem isn’t it.

I mean what if I had to concern myself, not only with the problems at hand, but also with protecting my political future, both inside a mainstream party and with the voting public?

What if my party decided, as political parties are wont to do, that the needs of a more vote rich region of the Country should take priority over those of the people whom I profess to represent? How would I handle that?

What if I had to put the interests of my party on an equal or perhaps even greater footing than those of my constituents?

Could I do it? Would I even want to?

Under those circumstances I’m willing to bet I’d find myself suffering from a very terminal case of political suicide in record time.

Let’s take the economic turmoil we’re all facing these days. If I was on the election trail do I really hear myself saying things like…

“If elected I’ll see to it that each of your concerns are fully understood and acted upon in Ottawa.”

“Our party (pick party of choice) under (pick leader of choice) will see to it that the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador are not forgotten or callously swept aside during these hard economic times.”

“It won’t be easy but with your help and support we’ll make it happen together.”

“The former government (pick one) has painted our Province and our nation into a corner. For far too long they’ve ignored the concerns of the average working man and woman in Newfoundland and Labrador and right across this great Country. Once elected our party will see to it that this never happens again, no sir, not on our watch”

“I promise that if elected, within 30 days of entering office, our leader will form an expert committee to review the critical issues facing us today and we will bring forward a clear, concise and actionable list of recommendations to address the issues in a timely manner”

“At the end of the day we will ensure that there is a roof over the head and food on the table of every Newfoundlander and Labradorian.”

“We’ll see to it that there are shovels in the ground so every decent and hard working Newfoundlander and Labradorian in this great Province can hold their head up high without having to worry about how they’ll pay their bills or if they’ll lose their home.”

“On that you can depend.”

No, I honestly can’t see myself doing that.

Upon reflection, perhaps it isn’t my lack of a thick skin that’s kept me out of the political arena for so long. More likely it’s my extremely low tolerance for the utter B.S. demanded of those who choose that path.

I guess I’ll just keep on doing what I do and leave the politics to those better suited to the role.

One thought does occur to me though. Perhaps I’ll take what few savings I have and invest them in a good shovel factory someplace. In more ways than one the demand for shovels seems to be growing with each passing day.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Seal Hunt - An Environmentalists Perspective

In no way would I ever try to equate the current seal hunt ban to the terrors of the Holocaust but in some ways the words of a well known poem by Martin Niemoeller seem appropriate in the current context.

With a pending ban on seal products in the EU, can it be long before the industry is on death's door? Then, who will be next? What industry will serve as the next target for activist groups once the revenue generated from anti-seal hunt supporters has dried up and the cause itself is no longer a factor?

In the immortal words of Mr. Niemoeller:

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.

Any politician who is concerned about the future of the cattle, pork, poultry or fishing industries had better take note of what has happened and any who represent districts or regions where logging, mining or oil and gas developments exist had better be careful where they stand on the sealing issue.

Once the animal rights activists have effectively destroyed the sealing industry they will have lost their prime source of revenue and reason for existence. Do you think they'll just stop being activists?

More likely they will, coming off this triumph, begin searching for the next cause to fight for. Your region's industry and your people's way of life may be next.

With the recently approved EU ban on Canadian seal products capturing headlines across the Country and with anti-Newfoundland and Labrador columnists like the Globe and Mail's Margaret Wente callously recommending that displaced sealers simply move on and buy themselves some laptops, I thought it timely to re-publish an article from two years ago that speaks to this very subject.

The article was written by a member of the environmental and animal welfare community (note I refer to him as being involved with "animal welfare" not "animal rights", there is a big difference).

I believe this article cuts through lot of the myths and misperceptions that those living outside of Atlantic Canada often accept far too readily. It also highlights the sad reality that the anti-sealing movement is itself far more harmful to the protection of our planet than any sealer could ever be.

Cuter than cod
By Terry Glavin
March 7, 2007
Re-published on Web Talk with the kind permission of the author

I saw something the other day that made me sick to my stomach. It was in the February edition of The Grocer, a British retail-food magazine.

There was an article about a campaign that a group called Respect for Animals is waging to convince consumers to boycott Canadian seafood products. The magazine also carried two huge advertisements from the same outfit.

One of the ads consisted of a photograph of a masked man on an ice floe, and a seal lying prone at his feet. The man was brandishing a club with a spike on the end of it. The words "You Can Stop This" were superimposed upon the picture. The other advertisement proclaimed, "Boycott Canadian Seafood and Save the Seals," with a picture of a can of Canadian salmon.

The Canadian fishing industry exports more than $100 million worth of products into Britain every year. The point of the campaign is to squeeze those sales until the industry begs our government to end the seal hunt.

Here's what makes me sick.

The Newfoundland seal hunt is transparently and demonstrably sustainable and humane.

There are roughly half a million people in Newfoundland and Labrador, and nearly six million harp seals, which is almost three times as many seals as when I was a kid.

Free range seals

Roughly 6,000 fishermen, mostly Newfoundlanders, but some are from Quebec and the Maritimes, take slightly more than 300,000 harp seals annually. The fishermen share more than $16 million from the hunt at a critical time of year when there's little in the way of fishing income to be had.

The seals are harvested for their pelts and their fat, for a range of products, mostly for clothing and for Omega-3 vitamins. The killing is as about as clean as anything you're likely to find in an abattoir.

Seals don't spend their lives cooped up in paddocks or feedlots. They live free, and in all but the rarest cases, the ones that die at the hands of a swiler (a sealer) die instantly.

The hakapik (a spiked club) is an effective instrument. Even so, most seals are first shot with rifles.

The killing of nursing whitecoats was banned 20 years ago.

Exploiting empathy

Here's one of those obligatory disclosures: over the years, several environmental organizations -- the Sierra Club, the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, etc. -- have subsidized my preoccupation with things that move in the water by having me do research projects for them and so on.

With that out of the way, I can now say, if it isn't obvious already, that it's the seal hunt's opponents who turn my stomach.

It's not just that anti-hunt crusades like this are especially foul in the way they dishonestly misrepresent facts. It's also that they dishonestly manipulate one of the most redeeming traits the human species has inherited from hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection and cultural evolution -- our capacity to expand the embrace of our empathy to include other forms of life.

But far worse than all that, boycott campaigns like this muddy the important distinction between sustainability and sentiment, and between broadly co-ordinated acts of social responsibility and mere lifestyle choices.

When we fail to make these distinctions we undermine everything worthwhile that environmentalism has accomplished since it emerged in the early 1970s.

As citizens and consumers in free societies, we are burdened with the duty to make important decisions at the ballot box, in the work we do, and also in the marketplace. Boycotting Canadian seafood to try and stop the seal hunt is the consumer-choice equivalent of deciding to buy a tie-died shirt, move into a Volkswagen van and subsist solely on lentils and tofu.

Serious stakes

Just as the excesses of postmodernist relativism have enfeebled the left over the past quarter-century or so, a corrosive strain of fact-distorting, science-hating, Gaia-bothering obscurantism has enfeebled environmentalism.

It was there from the beginning, and it persists most noticeably in animal-rights crusades.

It is the environmentalist equivalent of anti-evolution, rapture-seeking Christian zealotry. It has to be attacked wherever it rears its head. There's too much at stake to pretend we can be innocent bystanders here.

This is a fight we all have to join. Here's why

The last time the planet was in the throes of an extinction spasm this cataclysmic was when the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago. One in every four mammal species, one in eight bird species, one in nine plants, a third of all amphibians and half of all the surveyed fish species on earth are threatened with extinction.

When Greenpeace was born in Vancouver in 1971, the single greatest cause of species extinction was understood to be habitat loss. Now, the greatest threat to biological diversity is global warming.

The last time the atmosphere was accumulating greenhouse gases this fast was 650,000 years ago. The prospects look exceedingly grim -- broad-scale ecological disruption, crop failure and famine, desertification and the mass dislocation of some of the most heavily-populated regions of the world.

A key reason environmentalists found themselves so ill-prepared to convince the world to take global warming seriously was that their movement had been corrupted by precisely the same trippy sentiment-mongering that has animated the holy war against the Newfoundland seal hunt, which now turns its sights on Canadian fisheries products.

Where was Greenpeace?

When the founders of Greenpeace were being born, back in the 1950s, the world's fishing fleets were taking roughly 40 million tonnes of marine biomass from the world's oceans every year. By the 1980s, it was 80 million tonnes. Then the seas just stopped giving. Fully 90 per cent of all the big fish in the sea -- the tunas, the marlins, the sharks, the swordfish -- are now gone.

Of the many fisheries collapses that have occurred around the world in recent years, it is sadly ironic that the greatest single collapse occurred in the seas around Newfoundland, where the bulk of Canada's Atlantic seal hunt takes place.

The Grand Banks cod fishery was the largest and oldest pelagic fishery in the history of the human experience. The cod were mined from the sea by the same big-boat offshore fleets that had caused such devastation everywhere else. A way of life disappeared, and by the early 1990s, tens of thousands of workers were reduced to welfare.

While all this was happening, what were environmentalists doing on the Newfoundland coast, in the country where Greenpeace was born, at a time when Greenpeace was at the height of its powers? They were out cavorting with rich hippies and snuggling up to harp seal pups on the ice floes. They were meditating cross-legged in the snow and posing for the television cameras and demonizing the good people of Newfoundland, while the seas around them were being emptied of cod.

Rational agreements

When you go looking for the good that environmentalism has accomplished, you'll find it in such covenants as the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances, and the Kyoto Accord.

It's in the sustainability provisions of elaborately negotiated efforts such as the Brundtland Commission on the Environment and Development, and the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing.

The toughest global instrument to protect biodiversity is the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Fuzzy eco-drivel has already severely damaged CITES by forcing non-threatened species, such as North Atlantic minke whale, onto the CITES appendices. Now, in Germany and Belgium, animal-rights activists and their friends in the European Parliament are attempting to override CITES, and the European Union's own rules, with an outright ban on products from Canada's perfectly abundant harp seal population(Web Talk note: This article before the ban passed its vote in the EU Parliament this week).

Similarly, seal-hunt opponents are dangerously undermining the historic victory that flowed from the Brundtland Commission.

The commission established a commitment to sustainability as the key universal value to guide natural-resource harvesting policies for all the peoples of the world, regardless of their distinct cultural practices and sensibilities. The whole point of sustainability is to ensure that people can exercise the rights and accept the responsibilities that come with sustainably harvesting the natural resources of the ecosystems within which they live.

The harp seal hunt is a living embodiment of that principle. That's why environmentalists should not just give the boycott a pass, or stay neutral, but should actively support and defend the seal hunt.

The one consolation we can take from the recent hullabaloo is that it's faltering.

Last year, when animal-rights activists in the United States boasted that they'd convinced more than 200 restaurants and seafood retailers to boycott Canadian products to protest the hunt, it turned out that only a small minority were doing so. Most of them didn't even know they'd been listed as boycott-compliant.

Also, the European Commission, citing the absence of evidence to support contentions that the hunt is inhumane, has refused, for now, to enforce the European Parliament's proposed ban on seal products. (Web Talk note: the EU later reconsidered and voted for the ban.)

Contested Council

But the consumer boycott campaign that's just begun in Britain is particularly insidious. Its aim is all Canadian fisheries products, and its targets are Tesco, Sainsbury's, Somerfield and other major retail chains that have already made a commitment to eventually carrying only those seafood products that have been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The MSC standard remains hotly contested by responsible environmentalists, but its coveted "eco-label" holds out the hope of forcing improvements to fisheries-management policies around the world.

In Canada, those improvements are increasingly driven by the fishermen themselves, because they want the MSC label on their product.

British Columbia's halibut fishery was turned down once, and has since re-applied, because groundfish management has significantly improved -- thanks in no small part to halibut fishermen.

Other fishermen are now lobbying federal fisheries officials to improve stock-assessment research to give B.C.'s dogfish fishery a shot at the MSC label. British Columbia's sockeye salmon fisheries have just undergone an arduous certification examination, and a decision is imminent.

If the cuddliness of a particular species harvested in a particular country is allowed to become the factor that determines whether that country's products are considered environmentally acceptable, then everything we won at CITES and in the Brundtland Commission is lost.

If those are the kinds of choices we present to everyone from major retailers down to ordinary seafood consumers, then we'll have wasted all our efforts to marshal consumer power to force the sustainable use of the oceans.

It's long past time for conservationists to make a clean, clear, open and unequivocal break with crystal-gazing animal-rights eccentrics and all their camp followers. For them, the conservation of wild resources was always just a flag of convenience. They're dead ballast, so over the side with them.

On the question of the Atlantic harp seal harvest, there's only one defensible and honest position for a conservation-minded citizen to take.

Support the swilers!!!

Once again Terry - Thank-you for your very enlightening article.

With the EU ban now well on the way toward implementation I believe it's only right to remind those political figures who made the decision, and those who secretly support them within Canada, that the road we are now following is a slippery one indeed.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Beware the Ides of March (or June or July or...)

Well thank goodness the rest of Canada, excluding Alberta perhaps, has finally begun to figure out what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have known almost from day one.

Stephen Harper is not a national leader, in fact some might say he isn’t fit to run a third world sweat shop, let alone an entire Country.

Newfoundland and Labrador voters unceremoniously booted the Harper Conservatives off the island (sorry about the survivor reference Labrador but it was just too easy) during the last election by denying them a single seat in the Province. Now that the rest of Canada is starting to see the wisdom of that action its beginning to look more and more like the dark days of Stephen Harper will soon be over.

All the signs are there.

The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff are consistently trending higher in the polls as the weeks roll on. Mr. Harper himself can’t wait to race from international meeting to international meeting, far preferring life outside Canada to that inside the nation he so poorly leads. For most political junkies nothing underscores the end of a political career like massive travel expenses.

Even Conservative MPs and Ministers, who until recently had their mouths hermetically sealed by the PMO as a right of passage, have now begun to publicly disagree with and freely contradict their soon to be ex-leader. Could anything send a clearer message of Mr. Harper's future in politics?

All is not well at 24 Sussex Drive. Who knows, with any luck the packing may have already begun.

What was it Newfoundland and Labrador's Premier, Danny Williams, said after one broken Harper promise or another?

“He did it to us and he can do it to you (referring to the Canadian public)".

Those words might seem almost prophetic in hindsight, to anyone outside of Newfoundland and Labrador. Those inside the Province had already recognized what the man is like.

Or perhaps a better Williamsism might be his very public claim that, “I can assure you I’ll be around long enough to see the back of his (Harpers) head”.

It looks like Mr. Williams and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will get their wish sooner rather than later now that Stephen Harper’s true persona is not only recognized in Newfoundland and Labrador but more so across the Country.

Failing to win a majority government the last time out, against a bumbling and ineffective Stephane Dion, certainly didn’t cement Mr. Harper’s support within his party, nor has his penchant for Liberal style spending in an effort to buy Quebec voters (those aren’t side deals folks they're just good politics). Add to this the mounting deficit and a very public attack on the Conservative party’s iconic Grand Poobah, Brian Mulroney, and it isn’t hard to see the writing on the wall for the PM.

Outside the party itself, Mr. Harper’s denial and later miraculous epiphany, thanks to his party’s near death experience, that an economic crisis actually does exist certainly didn’t help his chances of re-election.

His mean spirited and divisive approach to both politics and leadership has manifested itself so often and in such a manner right across the Country that there can be little doubt left about his self inflicted fate.

There are only three questions left for the Conservative party to answer:

Who will replace Mr. Harper?

When is the best time to do the nasty deed of decapitating him? (Figuratively of course, though Mulroney supporters in the party may wish it otherwise)

What approach will least harm the party brand? (In other words should their leader die the death of a thousand cuts or will he be permitted to quietly fall on his own sword?).

It’s all just a matter of time now. Once the decisions are made in some dark, dank and secluded back room of the evil empire it will be done quickly and decisively. If it isn't done, before the next election anyway, the electorate will make the party's decision for it and make them pay a price for their delay.

It’s a sad thing that it's taken so much time for Canadians to understand what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians figured out, and tried to tell them, a long time ago. At least they've finally begun to do so.

Political ideology and ambition aren’t necessarily a bad thing, within moderation, but when it comes to actually running the entire show you can’t survive forever by placing your personal agenda above all else or by pitting one group, one region and one individual against the other.

Sooner or later those who have been wronged or damaged by your actions will reach a certain critical mass where by they begin to outnumber those who have benefited from them. When that happens, the game’s over, as it surely is for Mr. Harper.

For the rest of us, perhaps unfortunately, Mr. Harper's pending political demise means one of two things:

Either the devil we know is better than the one we don’t, or he isn’t.

Only time will answer that question. Let’s all hope the majority of Canadians aren’t as slow to figure it out as they were on this go around.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

EU Bans Seals, Ottawa Sits on Fence

In the wake of a vote in the European Parliament the government of Canada has once again proven itself a champion at political doublespeak and dereliction of its duty to Canadian citizens.

This morning the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a ban on seal products, a move that has branded Canada internationally as being inhumane to the animals, will see many fishermen suffer financial hardship and may ultimately lead to the further decline or all out extinction of already threatened fish stocks in the region.

In response the Canadian government said it plans to challenge the EU ban at the World Trade Council (WTO). Unfortunately, the government of Canada, while talking tough at home, still plans to move forward on detailed Free Trade negotiations with the European Union.

Starting tomorrow Canadian representatives will be in Prague to begin detailed Free Trade talks with the EU and it has already been decided by the Canadian government that those talks will not include any discussion of the EU ban or its implications for Eastern Canada.

It’s clear from the position being taken by the government of Canada that they have no intention of doing anything beyond paying lip service to the demise of the an industry and a potential death blow to endangered fish stocks should predatory seal populations be allowed to increase unchecked.

By blustering and talking tough at home about a WTO challenge Ottawa hopes to silence those directly impacted by the unfair actions taken in the EU, actions spurred on by misleading anti-sealing propaganda, but on the international stage nothing has changed.

The government of Canada still plans to move forward with Free Trade talks and has no intention of actually standing up to protect Canadians who will not only see an important part of their annual income wiped out in the short term but may well lose their livelihoods completely if increased seal predation causes a further decline in commercial fish stocks.