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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July 1st - Memorial Day Remembered

Once again Canada day is upon us and once again I've opted to publish an article that I return to each year at this time.

With Canada Day celebrations about to go ahead I sincerely hope we do not forget that while July 1 may be a day of celebration for Canadians it is also one of the most solemn and sad days for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

July 1st marks the anniversary of the battle of Beaumont Hamel where so many of Newfoundland and Labrador's best and brightest were showered with shells. A day when an entire regiment was all but wiped out.

This Memorial (Canada) Day we should not forget those valiant men. If you have a flag, fly it at half mast until noon on Canada day, then go ahead with your celebrations.
Remember your past.

July 1st - Memorial Day Remembered

With Memorial Day once again upon us, it seems appropriate today to reflect on the exploits of the so called “Fighting Newfoundlander” and remember those who fought or died in conflicts half way around the world.
When many people think of the Newfoundland and Labrador's military history they immediately think of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Although Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have fought with the forces of other nations and continue to distinguish themselves today in the Canadian Armed Forces, it is with a special kind of pride that we remember the exploits of that particular Regiment.

Originally formed in 1914, The Newfoundland Regiment, as it was known at the time, consisted of what many refer to as the “first 500” or “The Blue Puttees” in reference to the blue leggings worn by the men. An entirely volunteer regiment, the men of the “first 500”, along with those who joined them later, distinguished themselves in battle after battle during World War I.

So valiant were their efforts that they were later bestowed by the King of England with the title of “Royal”, becoming the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the name we know them by to this day.

After only six weeks of training at home, The original Newfoundland Regiment containing the “first 500” set sail out of St. John’s harbour on October 4, 1914. This first group contained some of the best examples of the type of young men Newfoundland and Labrador had produced. Many were athletes, some had been involved in various boy’s brigades and all were determined to show their pride in the Dominion of Newfoundland.

According to historical documents, the men of the Regiment had two primary goals in mind when they arrived in Europe. The first was that they were Newfoundlanders, and intended to be known as such; the other was that they had gone over to fight, not to do garrison duty in England.

At one point during their orientation on the Salisbury Plain the idea was floated that the Newfoundland contingent should join with a nearby Nova Scotia Regiment. Both groups were only the size of half a battalion and to the brass from England this seemed like a logical step. According to articles from the time the Newfoundlanders would have no part of it. They felt that if the two groups merged the contingent would lose its name, its identity and its individuality.

During the coming months the Regiment grew as new members arrived. In time, the proud men of the Newfoundland Regiment were given the opportunity they had wanted, a chance to fight for their homeland.

On the battle field these proud soldiers solidified their place in history. The Regiment earned no less than 280 separate decorations, 77 of which were awarded to original members of the “first 500” of which 170 were killed in action. In fact, one in every seven men among the original force received some sort of military honour.

Many people have heard the name of Tommy Ricketts who was given the highest honour possible, the Victoria Cross, however many may not remember some of the other brave men who fought for their homeland under the most dire conditions.Newfoundland and Labrador has produced many great heroes, many who are not as well known, but no less deserving of recognition.
Take for example the story of Cyril Gardner, originally from British Harbour.Lieutenant Gardner has the distinction of being the only known allied serviceman to receive the German Iron Cross during WWI.
The Iron Cross which was handed out only to the bravest German military personnel was given to Gardner on the battlefield. As the story goes, Gardner’s unit was engaged in battle with a German patrol of 70 men. During the night, as hostilities wound down Gardner, who spoke German, took it upon himself to grab his gun and head out to the enemy encampment.
Sneaking into the enemy camp, the Lieutenant turned his gun on the officers, capturing them unharmed. With their leadership removed the remainder of the troop immediately surrendered. Lieutenant Cyril Gardner had single handedly captured an entire German Patrol.
Upon marching his prisoners back to his own encampment he was met by a British Officer who intended to shoot the unarmed prisoners rather than be saddled with caring for them.
As the German soldiers looked on in horror Lieutenant Gardner once again demonstrated his sense of bravery by stepping into the line of fire to protect his prisoners and telling his superior officer that if one German were shot the British officer would be the next one to die. After a moment of hesitation the officer walked away and it was then that the commander of the German patrol, who had many medals on his uniform, stepped up to Gardner and removing the iron cross from his chest, pinned it on Gardner, to the applause and cheers of the German soldiers.
For Centuries, even before the formation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have answered the call whenever it arrived. Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans have been involved in major conflicts around the world since the mid 1600's, including:
The Anglo-Dutch Wars – 1652

The War of the Austrian Succession – 1743

The Seven Year War - 1756

The American Revolution - 1775

The Napoleonic Wars – 1796

The War of 1812World War I – 1914

World War II – 1939
Add to this the number of young men and women who have proven themselves in places like Korea, Afghanistan, Bosnia and countless other areas of conflict or peacekeeping around the world, and we can clearly see that Newfoundland and Labrador has a lot to be proud of and, on this Memorial Day, a lot to remember.
On this Memorial Day, July 1st, and throughout the remainder of the year perhaps we should all take a few minutes to visit a local legion hall or war memorial, to stop and chat with an aging veteran and to offer a little show of thanks for the sacrifice these fine men and women have made to protecting our homeland and others.
Statistics show that every day in Canada an average of 80 veterans die. That’s more than at the height of conflict in World War II. It only takes a moment to shake a veteran’s hand or buy one a cold beer.
It might seem like a small gesture and it is, but even taking a moment to express a little gratitude may just brighten the day of some of our bravest and most deserving citizens.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fear and Phobia - The Loblaw Imperitive

Today I’d like to tackle the subject of fear. Not the sort of fear most of us feel when confronted with a life threatening situation. That fear is just our body’s natural survival instinct doing its best to hone our senses and keep us on our toes. The fear I speak of today is a phobia, Aquaphobia or, to be more precise in this case, (I’ve had to define a term to fit the situation) Salt-Aquaphobia.

Definition: The fear of traveling over salt water.

It’s clearly not a well known phobia (thus the need to coin a new term to describe it) and it’s certainly not something that’s often spoken of in the general population, but my instincts tell me it’s far more prevalent in Canadian society than most of us realize.

So called “mainland” Canadians may never recognize the problem but living on the island of Newfoundland it’s something I’ve seen first hand on countless occasions.

There is no scientific proof of the existence of the disorder but I know it must exist.

What else could account for the number of times Newfoundland is excluded from so called “Cross Canada” activities.

The latest example is the case of Loblaw’s which is promoting a “Cross Canada BBQ” this summer but, while holding events in more than 50 locations in Canada, will not be conducting even one such event in Newfoundland and Labrador or in PEI?

Just one isolated (and perhaps unthinking) case you say? Not so. It happens all the time.

I’ve lost track of how many companies have ignored Newfoundland and Labrador (I’ll let the PE Islanders speak to their own situation) over the years. Everything from Tim Horton’s promotions to Air Canada abandonment and even walks for charitable causes, and it isn’t just private companies or NGOs that suffer as a result.

How many of you remember the widely publicized “Cross Canada - Town Hall Tour” conducted by Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff a year or so ago, a tour that brought him from BC to Nova Scotia, but not to Newfoundland and Labrador (and I don’t believe to PEI but I stand to be corrected).

I know the people planning tours for these politicians, companies and charities must have a psychological issue with traveling over salt water. What else can explain it? I mean they wouldn’t intentionally ignore the donors, voters and product consumers in an entire province and still expect those same donors, voters and consumers to support THEM would they?

This is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed so I put out the call today to the general public, if you or someone you know suffers from Salt-Aquaphobia please come forward and speak out so we can get this problem out in the open.

Don’t hide in the shadows. A treatment will never be found if we don’t shine the light of day on this clearly debilitating mental problem.

As for Loblaws management (and others with this chronic condition) please bare in mind that the Labrador portion of the province is situated on the mainland of Canada. It’s a beautiful place and well worth visiting (no travel over salt water required.)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Latest Fishery Scores: BC 1 - NL 0

Today, June 15, 2010 is the day an official investigation into the collapse of sockeye salmon stocks on B.C.'s Fraser River is scheduled to begin.

The Cohen Commission of Inquiry is touted as being, “…a lengthy and technical probe into the disappearance of almost 10 million fish from the Fraser River sockeye run. The collapse of the stock prompted the federal government to order an investigation to be led by B.C. Supreme Court Judge Bruce Cohen.

According to reports, a discussion paper released in advance of this week's hearings indicates the inquiry will examine everything from fish biology to the organization of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and will attempt to gain a full understanding of the collapse.

One question Ottawa: In 1992 a moratorium was introduced after the collapse of the Atlantic Cod stocks, after 500 years serving as the economic engine of Newfoundland and Labrador. That collapse led, either directly or indirectly, to job losses for about 20% of the province’s workers. Why has there never been an official inquiry held to understand the reasons behind that collapse?

Could it be because the findings are already suspected in the circles of power and that those findings would finally expose to the light of day the way the stocks were mismanaged, sold off, bartered away for votes and foreign “favors” ending once and for all the fantasy Ottawa and DFO have foisted on the public?

In the absence of valid answers I simply ask.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Israel and Palestine of the North

An opinion piece by L. Ian Macdonald in the June 13th edtion of the Montreal Gazette caught my eye today, as I'm sure it did every other Newfoundlander or Labradorian who read the headline, "Let it go Newfoundland".

The article, at least for me, was quite perplexing and, if it weren’t so clearly oxymoronic, might even have spurred some anger on my part.

In his column Macdonald offered up some less than sage advice to Newfoundland and Labrador about moving forward, not looking back, when it comes to dealing with Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government on the Lower Churchill development.

Apparently Mr. Macdonald has taken offense with Premier Williams’ latest words of war against, what Williams referred to as Quebec’s “…sense of greed, arrogance and entitlement…” and decided to use the pages of the Montreal Gazette to air his feelings.

After reading (and re-reading) the article I decided to remain calm, I mean how can anyone be angry with a writer who somehow managed, in a mere 800 words, to prove Newfoundland and Labrador’s case while supposedly claiming that the province (and its leader Danny Williams) are wrong?

In the article Macdonald essentially told Newfoundland to forget the past and move on with a deal on the Lower Churchill project. He claimed that the anger surrounding past transgressions by Quebec is what’s standing in the way of a deal.

Let’s look at his arguments then shall we.

Macdonald began by noting that the Upper Churchill contract, which sees Quebec reap outrageous profits from Newfoundland and Labrador’s resources, happened in the 1960’s and that the lopsided contract was really Joey Smallwood’s fault, not Quebec’s, because as Ian put it, “…the deal on the Upper Churchill was approved by Joey Smallwood, the first premier of Newfoundland” and “Newfoundland did get screwed on the Upper Churchill -screwed by its own premier.”

Well at least he admitted that Newfoundland and Labrador got screwed, that’s something.

Indeed a contract was signed and I agree that Joey Smallwood signed it, but when you put it into context, something Macdonald seems determined not to do, a far different story appears.

In reality Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government refused to allow Newfoundland and Labrador the ability to wheel power across their province to markets elsewhere, leaving Newfoundland and Labrador no option but to negotiate a contract with Quebec on their terms. As anyone knows, when you have nowhere else to turn, it’s usually a pretty one sided negotiation.

As for Joey signing the contract, indeed he did, and many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians still despise him for doing it. In reality however it was Hydro Quebec that stretched out the negotiations for years, nearly forcing the project’s development company into bankruptcy, before using inside information on the company’s impending insolvency as the catalyst to present a final “take it or leave it” contract.

The options at that point were limited. Sign the contract and live with the consequences for the next 60 years, period.

There are still decades left on that contract so as much as Mr. Macdonald may see it as a thing of the past to be put aside, in Newfoundland and Labrador it is not. It isn’t a thing of the past in Quebec either where billions in revenue continue to roll in as a result of it.

In his next attempt to convince Newfoundland and Labrador to “move on” Macdonald noted that Premier Williams even mentioned the border between Labrador and Quebec in a recent speech, saying, “…he is so bitter and twisted about the past that he can't get on with the future. Not content to rant about the injustice of the Upper Churchill, he even thought to mention the British Privy Council decision of 1927, awarding Labrador to Newfoundland, and ripping Quebec for still including Labrador on its map on the government web-site. Get over it.”

Once again the point was missed completely.

Get over it, really?

Yes, the border between the two provinces was decided in 1927 but the act of trying to encroach on that border is continuing to happen every day in Quebec.

Maps are drawn up all the time by Quebec government agencies, including Hydro Quebec, the Tourism Departments, even by Quebec agencies that regulate mineral and oil exploration, depicting portions of Labrador as being inside Quebec or noting that the 1927 border is not officially accepted by Quebec.

How is the ongoing act of border modification a thing of the past to “get over” when that border is directly tied to the head waters and rivers from which Upper Churchill power is, and hopefully Lower Churchill power will, flow?

In his efforts to put Premier Williams (and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador) in its place, Macdonald claims Newfoundlanders are like “Palestinians” because we will never reach a deal due to past grievances. Premier Williams he claimed is over the top in referring to Quebec’s “greed, arrogance and sense of entitlement.

In the next breath, and throughout the article he then goes on to say that Williams is right when he says that Newfoundland and Labrador is getting screwed on the Upper Churchill, that Quebec uses revenues from the Upper Churchill and from buying cheap off peak power from Ontario, then selling it back to them during peak periods, to fund better day care than anyone else in Canada, to offer the lowest university tuitions in the Country and to artificially freeze Quebec power rates, instead of capturing those revenues and lowering the level of equalization payments Quebec receives (more than any other province in the Country).

Call me crazy but whose point is Macdonald actually proving here? The examples presented sound about as close to a strong sense of “greed, arrogance and entitlement” as you can get.

For some reason Ian Macdonald seems to feel that Premier Williams was out of line when, he denounced, “Quebec's "agenda to deny competitive power to the rest of North America," and when he called the decision of the Quebec energy regulator "the most biased decision that I have ever seen in 40 years as a lawyer ...”. Saying “The decision was so absurd and wrong as to be embarrassing to Quebec."

Clearly Mr. Macdonald has been spending far too much time listening to his inner voices rather than doing some valuable research.

It’s clear from examining the Regie (Quebec regulator) decision on transmitting power from the Lower Churchill through Quebec, and on the appeal documents now filed by Newfoundland and Labrador, that the board and its findings are, or should be, a complete and utter embarrassment to Quebec, ripe with incorrect assertions and outright falsehoods.

Among many, many other “mistakes”, the Regie somehow came to the conclusion that the existing Upper Churchill power plant, built in Labrador and run by a division of Newfoundland Hydro, falls under the jurisdiction and control of Quebec, also claiming that the power lines on the Labrador side of the border (remember the border) are regulated and controlled by Quebec.

In the most insulting and idiotic statement of all the Regie noted that the Quebec transmission wing of Hydro Quebec was not aware of the 1969 Churchill Falls agreement. I ask you, if that ludicrous assertion isn’t an embarrassment to the Quebec regulator what in heaven’s name would be?

So, it seems that Danny Williams is no longer Canada’s Hugo Chavez, a name that was born and quickly died out after his dispute with the oil elite finally garnered the province a respectable energy agreement and proved that his tactics wouldn’t drive companies away from the region.

Williams is now, according to Macdonald at least, Canada’s answer to the leader of the PLO with Newfoundlanders the Palestinians. I guess that makes Quebec the much maligned and altruistic Israel of Canada, at least in Macdonald’s twisted and oxymoronic mind.

Quebec, a place where everyone simply wants to live in peace and harmony but where they must forever be vigilant to defend themselves against their neighbors in foreign lands like Ontario and the Canadian Palestine of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ian must feel so bad for Quebec. If only Newfoundland and Labrador would stop picking on God’s chosen people.

Friday, June 11, 2010

NL Appeals Lower Churchill Transmission Ruling

This week NALCOR, Newfoundland and Labrador's energy corporation, on behalf of the Province, filed an appeal with the Regie in Quebec. Earlier this year the Regie, which regulates the power industry in Quebec, ruled that Quebec did not have to permit Newfoundland and Labrador to wheel Lower Churchill power across its grid to markets in Canada and the U.S.

The filing, which can be viewed here (or in our Links section under NL Development Links)clearly outlines the Province's position and details a number of factual problems with the earlier ruling. Everything from the board's conclusion that the Churchill Falls generating plant in Labrador is a fully controlled part of the Quebec authority and going so far as to boldly claim that Quebec Hydro's Transmission company was not aware of the 1969 existance of Churchill Falls power contract.

Reading the detailed issues and misrepresentations found in the original ruling, which are identified by NALCOR in its appeal document, it should be bewildering to anyone with even half a brain how the Quebec regulatators can function, let alone make sound decisions.

In this writer's opinion, and based on the content of the appeal document, either the decision making body of the Quebec Regie is totally ignorant of reality or they are even more blatently corrupt than anyone could possibly be without self destructing as a result of wallowing in their own crapulance.