Da Legal Stuff...

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

Monday, September 27, 2010

NAFO Approves Higher North Atlantic Cod Quota for Spanish Fleet

Here we go again. International relations and politics once more trump good conservation and science as the North West Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO) approves an increased quota for the Spanish fleet just days after fisheries scientists announce that there has been a small increase in cod stocks after nearly 20 years of a moratorium on the species.

In 1992 the cod fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador collapsed as a result of overfishing, both illegal and legally managed (or more accurately "mis-managed"). The fishery closure devastated the provincial economy throwing 15% of the employable population out of work overnight. Many more would lose their jobs in the months and years that followed as secondary industries dependent on the fishery also suffered.

The closure led to a mass outmigration of people. In the years following the collapse of the cod fishery the population of the province fell by a staggering 20% and is only now, like the cod itself, beginning to show some tentative signs of recovery.

Now, instead of staying the course, with stocks finally beginning to show some increase, the powers that be have decided its time once again to start raping the ocean.

At its meeting in Halifax last week NAFO increased catch quotas assigned to Spanish ships for the next year, with regards to two species: cod and Greenland halibut.

The quantity of cod which Spanish fleets will be able to catch will increase by almost 180 per cent, from 796 tonnes to 1,447 tonnes.

At the meeting, it was confirmed that cod stocks had recovered - though scientific evidence shows the recovery is small and stocks are still a mere fraction of what they were during the 1970's - in Newfoundland waters, so it was decided to increase the total allowable catch (TAC).

Participants in the meeting and ultimate decision to increase the quota included representatives from the European Union, Canada, United States, Cuba, Russia, Norway, Japan, Iceland, Korea, Ukraine, France, Faroe Islands, Denmark and Greenland.

Once again we see greed trumping common sense when it comes to all matters fisheries related. It's a sad day to be a lonely cod fish in the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Labrador. The question now becomes, how long before the last one is finally wiped from the face of the planet?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Today, as the Canadian military begins to arrive in Newfoundland to assist in the aftermath of Hurricane Igor, 4 days after the storm has passed. I'd like to express the thanks of Newfoundlanders across the island for the assistance of these fine men and women (no doubt a large percentage of whom are from this beautiful place). Our thanks for their efforts goes without saying, but once again we see the effects of Ottawa's political decisions impacting our province. Not to maintain a military presence here in the province is inexcusable.

As military assets are being sent in from other parts of Canada it's once again clear that it only makes sense for Canada, if it does indeed consider NL to be a part of the Country at all, to station a sizable contingent of personnel and equipment from all branches of the service here in this isolated outpost on the North Atlantic.

This is a place that not only makes up Canada's Eastern most Ocean border approaches but, due to its location, is prone to major weather events. Thankfully most of those events are not as terrible as the most recent one. Ottawa's continued refusal to ensure a military presence here, on the border of the nation itself, says a lot about its attitude toward Newfoundland and Labrador as well as its motives for where military bases ARE maintained.

Something else that says a lot are the images of Igor's aftermath. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Add Image

Friday, September 10, 2010

National Post: Williams slams Quebec hydro 'robbery'

Once again it's time to revisit the robbery Newfoundland and Labrador continues to suffer from at the hands of the Quebec government, Hydro-Quebec and, yes even the federal government (which played no small part in allowing the upper churchill fiasco to happen and continue to stand in the way of power export development in Labrador.)

The following appeared in the latest edition of the National Post and should be of interest to Web Talk readers:

Hypocritical, a bad neighbour, and guilty of "highway robbery": Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams called Jean Charest's Quebec government a few names in a St. John's speech, escalating a feud over hydroelectric power rights that has simmered between the two provinces for decades.

In a luncheon address to the St. John's Board of Trade on Wednesday, Mr. Williams denounced Quebec's opposition to Newfoundland's bid for federal funding to build a power transmission line from Labrador to Nova Scotia to potentially sell Labrador-generated power in the Maritimes and New England.

Calling Quebec's opposition to funding the project "shameful" and "abhorrent," Mr. Williams said Quebec "shafted us once" on the existing, 1960s-built hydro plant on the Churchill River and suggested it was trying to do so again with the proposed Lower Churchill project.

"[Quebec] wants it all, and that just doesn't go down well with me ... It needs to get out of the way of the progress of its neighbours," he said.

"The rest of the country and even Quebec itself is finally admitting that it has been getting away with highway robbery in Canada for decades."

The Quebec government has avoided the same kind of tough language so far. In a statement issued yesterday, Quebec Deputy Premier Nathalie Normandeau said the province does not oppose the construction of any undersea power transmission lines. What it opposes are federal subsidies for these on the grounds that they could distort the price and market for electricity. In a letter last month, Quebec asked Ottawa not to fund a joint Newfoundland-Nova Scotia hydro project on those grounds.

Mr. Williams characterized that move as "disgusting." His elaboration on that position on Wednesday was in keeping with his tendency to take aggresive stances against other Canadian politicians.

"Newfoundland and Quebec have been at loggerheads for a few decades now. The difference is, Danny Williams brings a very strong personal component to it. He has demonstrated
in relations with Ottawa and with other premiers that he [isn't] hesitant to butt in," said Nelson Wiseman, a University of Toronto political science professor, who noted public disagreements between premiers is rare.

That combative style plays well in Mr. Williams's home province, where his popularity ratings tend to stay above 80%.

"I guess his feeling is playing nice hasn't gotten them anywhere," said James Feehan, a professor of economics at Memorial University Newfoundland and the co-author, with Melvin Baker, of an article in the September issue of Policy Options magazine titled "The Churchill Falls contract and why Newfoundlanders can't get over it."

Driving Mr. Williams's anger is a desire to capitalize on Labrador's hydroelectric potential for the first time by piping power to the Maritimes, perhaps even finding a market for Labradorian electricty in New England.

The proposed Lower Churchill project could accomplish what the existing Churchill Falls project has failed to do for residents of Newfoundland and Labrador: namely, get hydro royalties flowing in the direction of St. John's.

For Newfoundlanders, Quebec's apparent blocking of attempts to develop the Lower Churchill project smacks of the Churchill Falls hydro deal signed in 1969, which has obliged their provincial power utility to sell electricity to Quebec for absurdly low prices. The deal angers Newfoundlanders still.

"There were events that took place that I think do not look all that clean in terms of business ethics. There were issues of conflict of interest, where Hydro-Quebec had an interest in [the Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation] at the same time," Mr. Feehan said.

Nalcor Energy, parent company of the Churchill Falls Labrador Corporation, launched a lawsuit against Hydro-Quebec in January. Several past attempts by St. John's to have the Churchill Falls deal changed or renegotiated have failed.

In the meantime, Mr. Williams reckons Newfoundland is selling Quebec more than $2-billion worth of electricity each year for around $50-million. The contract expires in 2041.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

MS Society Head in NL Resigns over Refusal to Back Clinical Trials

This post is a little off topic for Web Talk. Usually we deal with issues of political and social impact to Newfoundland and Labrador as it relates to the Canadian federation. Today however is a little different.

As someone who knows an MS patient very well, I believe its time the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, in fact right across Canada make it crystal clear to Health Canada and to provincial leaders that the time has come to distance itself from the recommendations of the MS-Society of Canada and move forward with clinical trials of the so called "Zamboni" technique for treatment of this dibilating disease.

While a ground swell of support for the trial has continued to mushroom across the Country and while NL as well as Saskatchewan have agreed to help fund those trials, the MS-Society itself has recommended that no trial should take place. Their reasoning is, if nothing else, self defeating.

According to the Society, while the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming, there is not enough clinical evidence to prove the treatment effective. If this is the case, then one has to ask why the Society does not want the trials to proceed. A process that would provide the evidence, one way or the other, on the treatment.

As a result of their stand the Chairman of the St. John's-Mt. Pearl chapter of the MS-Society of Canada, Ted Warren, has tendered his resignation. What follows are excerpts from his resignation letter. I believe his words speak far better on this topic than mine ever could and anyone reading cannot help but be touched by the case he presents.

“I am writing to express my profound sense of disappointment with the MS Society of Canada's decision to oppose clinical trials of the so-called CCSVI therapy for treatment of multiple sclerosis. I believe this attempt to undermine the growing national consensus supporting the need for such large-scale trials does a serious disservice to the very group the society professes to serve, namely those who live each day with this condition....”

“For those of us who have to live with the the harsh reality of MS ... the mornings when you awake to discover that one or more of your senses has been compromised by something that happened while you slept ... the days when you find you can no longer do the things that define you as a person ... the nights when you lie awake in terror, fearing how much more of yourself might be lost before the next dawn breaks ... for us, the personal accounts of recovery and return to the way things were before MS represent more than just compelling stories. They represent that all-too-rare opportunity for hope that we, too, can look to a better tomorrow. And that hope, in itself, is a powerful medicine...”

“I've watched the sheer delight in the faces of MS patients when they see a person who went from barely walking to building rock walls after receiving CCSVI treatment. I've shared their tears as we heard of a wife’s first dance with a formerly disabled husband who has now returned to all the precious joys of a ‘normal’ life. And finally, I’ve watched those same faces contorted in anger because the organization that is supposed to be devoted to helping them is refusing to acknowledge the sense of urgency that comes from the cruel reality of life with a degenerative condition.

“This is not a uniquely Newfoundland phenomenon. There are groups of MS patients in every part of this country who have been quietly lobbying for all 10 provinces to step up and fund a universal clinical trial for all Canadians living with MS. By stubbornly resisting this groundswell, the society has placed itself in the position of actively opposing an initiative that is supported by the vast majority of Canadians living with MS. Surely, an untenable position for this organization to take.

“What is perhaps most disturbing about the society’s stance in this matter is the lack of sensitivity it shows to the hopes and dreams of those who have the most to lose in this whole debate, namely individual MS patients. If there is any possibility that there might be an effective treatment out there, perhaps even one that can restore what has been lost, the MS Society should be doing everything in its power to make that treatment available to those who need it most at the earliest possible date. To do as the society has done this week and stand squarely in the way of this process is quite simply wrong.

“I urge you to reconsider this ill-advised, paternalistic policy before it is too late.”

There is no evidence, other than their position, to lead this writer to this conclusion but with so many stories of treatment success one can only assume the MS-Society of Canada is refusing to back this study because their own research has taken them in a completely different diretion. To switch gears now would force them to admit that they may have been wrong all these years and perhaps they fear such a situation would jeopardize their own research funding.

Thank-you Mr. Warren for looking into your heart and supporting the countless Canadians suffering from this terrible disease rather than backing the Society that is supposed to be looking out for the best interests of those same patients, not their own.