Monday, April 30, 2007

Power Trip

In the heat of the equalization squabble climate change is a welcome topic as far as Newfoundland and Labrador is concerned. The Council of the Federation meeting tomorrow in Toronto will see premiers and territorial leaders discuss the now much criticized Canadian greenhouse-gas action plan. The plan is at best, getting mixed reviews. It seems to be generally supported by industry, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Outspoken and respected scientist David Suzuki, Inconvenient Truth's Al Gore, and now a UN official, Yvo de Boer, have condemned the plan. So there is a strong desire for a better plan, sooner rather than later.

Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty is also thirsty for some clean hydro energy. Ontario has reduced reliance on coal plants by one third and wants to do more.
Provincial leaders should also ponder the idea of a national power grid in much the same way as the trans-Canada railway helped knit the country together ... The great thing about hydroelectric capacity is that it's a great renewable resource and it doesn't contribute to climate change. (CTV)

Ontario wants it, Canada, the U.S. and the world needs cleaner energy, so it would seem that NL's hydro potential is only becoming more valuable.
We’ve already reduced our reliance on coal by one third, which is the equivalent of taking two million cars off the road. The previous government increased emissions from coal by 127% and slashed the Ministry of the Environment budget... The leader of the official opposition wants to wait 13 years before even beginning to reduce greenhouse gases, and we would then have to wait another 30 years for any other significant change.- Ms. Monique M. Smith (Nipissing), Apr. 26, 2007: Ontario Legislative Assembly Hansard

Danny Williams said that the meeting will not be a fed-bashing event. Perhaps it might even be a time of political climate changes where cooler heads prevail. Since clean energy is what provinces and the nation want, developing NL's hydro potential could also be an opportunity for Harper, though he won't be at this meeting, to try and redeem himself by at least offering assistance to our province in developing this, in such a way that Newfoundland and Labrador is favored similiar to the way Quebec was for the Upper Churchill project. That very scenario probably won't happen, but it could be a chance for the Government of Canada to step in to repair current and historical wounds. How to best develop Lower Churchill is not certain, but it would be good to see all possible options.

The Road Not Taken

There were many positive points in the NL 2007 budget, including a $55 million Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador. This included $8.8 million for new schools in Port Hope Simpson and Sheshatshiu. Great news. However, with the surplus of $261 million it would have been fair to pledge more funds to the completion of the Trans Labrador Highway. This top infrastructure priority has been given fewer dollars than was expected and announced. While waiting for the feds to contribute whatever amount they will, an extra infusion from the budget surplus could accelerate this project in the meantime. There is a major gap (phase III) separating phase I on the west part of Labrador to phase II from the Labrador coast to inland. With the completion of the TLH the tourism and business possibilities will rise, not to mention convenience for Labrador travelers.

The NL government announced on Jan. 11 that $150 Million will be targeted for the province’s roads. But only

  • $17 million for ongoing construction of Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway;
    This is a lower amount than was first announced in 2005 by the NL government.

  • $15 million to commence hard-surfacing of Phase I of the Trans-Labrador Highway – subject to cost-sharing with the federal government;

    Unfortunately, the federal government has not exactly provided funds yet for this. It is still pending according to the federal Minister of Transportation representative, see Norman Andrews' blog of letter from Lisa Berthier, Atlantic Rep of Ministry of Transportation.

    The sooner the TLH is completed, the better for Labrador people, the Labrador economy and the province's as well.
  • Berated Birthday Greetings to Steve

    Lordy, Lordy
    Look who's a
    Lying, Conniving,
    Deceitful, Insulting,
    Unprincipled, Underhanded,
    Back-stabbing Pri.. me Minister

    History will show that Harper deceitfully used at least two provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan, to garner enough seats to win a minority government. His margin of win was 21 and that was the number of Conservative seats in SK, and the Atlantic provinces combined. If NL had the population and say 30 plus seats, then he probably would not have broken his commitment on equalization to begin with. His time as PM is only 14 months, and the next election may not be this spring or year. Many here in NL and maybe Saskatchewan will be voting ABS, anybody but Steve. It is unclear who will win next time. But his image from Newfoundland and Labrador's perspective will not be great when history looks back on his tenure. Then again, most historians are not from NL and the perspective could be rosier. But if they will overlook his treatment of NL and SK, then that's their prejudice. On his 48th birthday, it's nothing to be proud of.

    Thursday, April 26, 2007

    Faint Hope in a Time of Distrust

    When new political leaders come on the scene and want to build a support base they will often say what they know will please a particular regions palate. Example, Stephen Harper promising a too good to be true deal on equalization, and then avoiding the issue until B Day. While Stéphane Dion is reservedly saying agreeable things so far, which seems to be making a good impression on Premier Williams, he has not actually promised anything. He basically said "I am a man of honour who sticks to commitments." That's fine if you've made a commitment, better if it's in detailed writing, and best if there is some legal obligation to it.

    He did say a Liberal government would respect the offshore accord without capping the amount of money East coast provinces can receive in offshore revenue and equalization. The next time a potential Prime Minister makes a commitment/promise in writing, there should be more detail. You can promise things with general wording, and if you have lived up to a small part of that, then you can argue, promise kept. It's like a food item advertising "fat free". One might have thought when these types of phrases first appeared on packaging, that there was a zero fat. Now it can mean 50%, 75% or 20% fat free, plus with other harmful things like a certain amount of trans fats. But still it's not lying to call itself "fat free" because it's true to an extent.

    If possible the next time, any "equalization promise" should be legally binding, with clear specifics, especially since it deals with huge amounts of money, and is a politically touchy issue. Why not have Wade Locke-type analyses done by federal and provincial officials based on such detail to give us a more informed picture of what promises will actually entail. If this is not realistic to expect prior to a leader like Dion possibly becoming PM, then we still only have to cross our fingers and hope that the potential new parent of the mother country is trustworthy, objective, and has fair sense of how to treat the family.

    Tuesday, April 24, 2007

    Pretend You're Drunk, Like Grown-ups

    Alberta liquor stores are selling a children's non-alcoholic beverage called Robby Bubble, a fruity juice drink. You'll never guess who is selling this product! It's a wine-making company called Soare sekt a.s., out of the Czech Republic, and it's distributed in Canada by Authentic Wine and Spirits Merchants. The beverage comes in a champagne-style bottle with the words "Party, Party" on the label. The product's slogan is Celebrate like the grown-ups. MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, are speaking out against the sale of this as well.

    How insane and how dare MADD to condemn such a fine product and suggest it will encourage kids to start drinking alcohol some day. Boy, talk about misplaced energies. The next thing you know they'll be protesting against the delightful Captain Norgan Fun Juice for Kidz, or the Oxyconteen Power Candy. Alcohol companies are after all only trying to make the trip to the liquor store a family experience, and what is wrong with that? Kids know there's a juicy treat there for them, so that can't be bad.

    Seriously, there's well researched marketing psychology behind this, well of course there were the candy cigarettes, which many of us "smoked". Kids after all imitate adults in pretty well everything, from playing doctor, teacher, fireman to actor, and that's ok. However, associating something enjoyable with the idea of a trip to the liquor store, which is otherwise adult territory, seems like a bit of an insidious and subconscious lure for unsuspecting kids. Humans like to revisit places where something pleasant, or some treat originated, in other words, happy memories. It's a psychological association, and habit or tradition, where you're buying happiness.

    So far Robby Bubble is not on Newfoundland and Labrador liquor shelves, only in Alberta. Mothers Against Drunk Driving are right to protest this. Company profits are the driving force to get marketers to come up with schemes, new and/or old, to protect and increase revenues from previous years. Ensuring that a new and young generation has a fun or party image of drinking will help increase the likelihood that future company "prophets" will be, well, staggering.

    Sunday, April 22, 2007

    Charge it Forward

    If anyone is planning to do something "environmental" for earth day, that's good. One suggestion is to have that idea in mind, and to resolve to do it regularly, make it part of your life, like any daily habit. The world has procrastinated in doing the right things for the planet, and our western world, especially the U.S. has been highly responsible for the mess. Some people like to put the big corporates up on the pedestal because they "drive the economy". Well many will have helped drive it into the ground for current and future consumers. Costs of cleaning up emissions and for the mess we already have will no doubt be passed on to the consumer.

    If a more long term vision of resource use had been developed decades ago to stretch out the use of it over much more time, the income would be steady, and less pollution accumulating at a high rate. However, as with much of society now, the attitude is "live now", "make profits now", "you only live once", "it's all about me". So the price for this living is to charge it forward, let future generations pay the price.

    As a kid I would think about how oil and gas was finite, so if nobody tries to conserve it, then what will future generations do for energy? Well since then there are other alternatives for energy, though much still in development stages, but still, why should future generations be deprived of the choice of using oil and gas, just because our era's business want to drain every drop for profit now?

    As a kid you might think, they'll want to spread the use of fossil fuels over many many generations and centuries so that other can get a chance to use this type of fuel. The topic of fossil fuels being finite is not talked about in terms of long term conservation. It's all for use now for oil company profits now. Too much reliance has been given to this type of energy. I have to wonder how much influence big oil/gas/coal has had on the development or perhaps more precisely, lack of development of alternate energies. We hear of so many reasons for increases in oil/gas, from threats to supplies, to wars, to more winter use, a CEO's broken toenail, blah, blah, blah. Hey, too bad we as a society don't move in unison like some flocks of birds, and take the oil companies in a new direction. If a large group of drivers were to commit to drive 50% less one day a week, or some variation of that, then we might see how the decreased demand will bring down gas prices, if at all, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    Who are the Labrador Métis?

    Chris Montague and the Labrador Métis Nation has been making news lately. They had taken out ads which imitate Premier Williams' ads on Stephen Harper's broken promise. Now Danny Williams is the one they say has broken a promise. The Métis say Williams has failed to follow through on a pledge to allow Labrador Métis to hunt and fish for personal use.

    In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously confirmed the existence of Métis communities in Canada and the Constitutional protection of their Aboriginal rights. However, some of their members have been charged with illegal hunting, despite Williams' promise to abide by the Powley ruling, and further allow the Métis aboriginal rights to hunt. Tom Rideout, the minister responsible for aboriginal affairs, said the province cannot act until the federal government makes a key move.
    No negotiations have taken place, and none can take place until a … national government accepts the fact that they do, in fact, have the basis for a claim.
    The LMN say the government did break a campaign promise, so what's the hangup?

    The rights of the Labrador Métis are what's at stake here and the protests will continue by the Métis until this is resolved. So we will probably be hearing more on this. Until I did a some research on the net I did not know much about the Labrador Métis? Here's a little information on them:

    Labrador Métis are the descendants of European men and (primarily) Inuit women and today live in coastal communities from Lake Melville south to the Strait of Belle Isle." European men temporarily fished, traded with Labrador Aboriginals. They met and intermarried with Inuit women.
    The descendents of these two cultures can be seen within the communities that line the southern coastal and interior waterways of Labrador. The well-established community of Happy Valley-Goose Bay supports a large Inuit-Métis population, along with the smaller communities of Mud Lake, North West River, Cartwright, Paradise River, Black Tickle, Norman Bay, Charlottetown, Pinsent's Arm, Williams Harbour, Port Hope Simpson, St. Lewis, Mary's Harbour and Lodge Bay. The Inuit-Métis have lived, and continue to live, in other parts of Labrador, as well. - Labrador Metis Nation

    In 1999 they numbered about 5000.

    Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
    Labrador Métis Nation

    Update (from VOCM) "President Chris Montague says Ontario will see no power from the Lower Churchill without the involvement of the Labrador Metis. Montague issued the warning at the Opportunities to Develop Renewable Energy Projects with First Nations, Industry, and Government Partnerships conference in Toronto yesterday. He told the delegates Labrador Metis have to be "meaningfully included" in the project before it can proceed."

    Elliot Leyton on Virginia Shooting Rampage

    In an interview with CBCs Diana Swain anthropologist Elliot Leyton explained his theory about why mass murderers kill. He said they typically have a sense of exclusion and alienation, and feel worthless. They incubate a campaign of vengeance, having experienced a long period of frustration and rage. They seek revenge on those they perceive have provoked their misery. Leyton said they know that they will be killed by police anyway, so the event is actually a suicide and the killings are a suicide note.

    Dr. Leyton mentioned that there may be another possible factor in mass murders like this. He said that this may be part a renewed wave of violence. He alludes to a theory first put forward by sociologists Dane Archer and Rosemary Gardner, which says that when a country is participating in a war, and when the war is coming to an end, people become more desensitized to violence, and the murder rate will go up radically.

    The 33 dead and over 20 injured were all shot, and the gun debate is also on the rise. One argument says that had the killer been wielding a knife as opposed to a gun, the chances of so many being killed would have likely been much lower because the killer would have to be in physical contact with the victim rather than kill from various distances.

    Of course guns do not make the killer, and someone with the characteristics that Leyton described will find some weapon to get revenge. But society needs to continue finding out more about the murderers. What about them, or what about society has affected their behaviours and feelings about the world around them? If the killers feel excluded and frustrated, what does that tell us about them, their upbringing, our culture and human interaction? For example, is societal greed or competition a factor in making them feel excluded or worthless? Does society need to change the way it values people and individuality?

    This, the worst mass murder by gun in U.S. history, will be talked of for years to come. Hopefully more insight into whatever factors influenced the shooter will come to light and the chances of this happening again will decrease over time.

    Saturday, April 14, 2007

    Equalization Clarity?

    Just over a week after Wade Locke's presentation on the implications of the new equalization formula for NL, a new interpretation has produced drastically lower equalization benefits from the O'Brien version than was originally presented. In fact it is $5¼ billion lower than first thought. When the "Harper Promise/Letter" equalization version was no longer an option, then the O'Brien or 50% inclusion offer sounded like a pretty tidy consolation. But now that's been diminished to a $1 billion lower amount than the status quo equalization scheme NL is on.

    Dr. Locke explains that only a couple of hours prior to his April 4 presentation, he was contacted by officials from Finance Canada who contradicted information they had earlier confirmed, in which Locke based his presentation on. It was too late for him to adjust all his figures and thus proceeded with his original interpretation. The timing of this crucial and changed information from officials in the Finance Dept. seems very odd, not to mention shocking. It adds to peoples' skepticism about what to believe from officials and politicians. It's also interesting that no official version has been publicly released from the provincial or federal finance departments, that is, a similiar breakdown as Locke's. Politicians like Hearn and NL Finance minister Tom Marshall, just seem to rely on Wade Locke to give their latest version of events.

    Peoples' distrustful image of Stephen Harper will likely harden. Whenever the next federal election campaign begins it's going to be weird to visualize Harper campaigning here in the province (the token visits to St. John's). What will he have to offer? How can he first neutralize the anger he has ignited here over the latest equalization figures, let alone get people excited about any of his policies? Good luck with that Mr. Harper.

    Friday, April 13, 2007

    NL Residents Advised to Get More Cancer Screening

    This news item is worth repeating anywhere anytime. People in Newfoundland and Labrador have a higher incidence of deaths due to cancer than the average Canadian.

    Across Canada, an estimated 360 cancer-related deaths are projected for this year for every 100,000 people. In Newfoundland and Labrador, however, that number is 414. (CBC - Apr. 12)

    While we have a lower risk of developing cancer, the higher mortality suggests that by the time it is diagnosed, it is advanced enough to make the chances of surviving, much smaller here, than in the rest of Canada. Cancer support advocates in the province strongly advise to get tested early - the sooner you get screened, the better chance of survival.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Food: What You Don't Know Will Hurt You

    The following will make you reconsider using plastic containers and canned food, and products with high sodium levels. In recent days there are two significant news stories concerning this.

    Information on a chemical called bisphenol A has the potential to turn the plastics and canning industry upside down.

    Evidence shows that bisphenol A, a dangerous chemical used in plastics and cans, leaches into our bodies and has been linked to breast and prostate cancers, among other ailments.

    For years, we've also heard about salt being associated with high blood pressure, and now there is more scientific information about unhealthy high levels of sodium in food already. But you can reduce the amounts by reading the labels. You can avoid products that have more than 20% of the daily recommended allowable amount of sodium.

    Over the weekend the Globe had an extensive piece on the controversy surrounding bisphenol A. Here is a summary of key pieces of information taken from that article:

    Part I - Bisphenol A
    This is a toxin in plastics and cans that leaches into food or liquid and is ingested by practically all of us. Scientists and environmentalists contend that bisphenol A is one of the scariest manufactured substances in use.

    Here are some medical problems that low amounts of bisphenol A have been suspected to be associated with: the early onset of puberty, declining sperm counts, and the huge increase in breast and prostate cancer, among other ailments.

    Bisphenol A is used to make the resins that line most tin cans, dental sealants, car parts, microwaveable plastics, sports helmets and CDs. Government scientists classified bisphenol A as "inherently toxic."

    Dr. Patricia Hunt, a Washington State University geneticist, said she would "love to see it banned from the face of the earth." She began ditching her bisphenol-A-containing products after discovering that mere traces of the chemical were able to scramble the eggs of her lab mice. In humans, similar damage would lead to miscarriages and birth defects, such as Down syndrome. "I thought, 'Oh my God,' I'm going to throw out every piece of plastic in my kitchen."

    About 90 per cent of studies by independent researchers over the past decade, numbering about 150, have found adverse effects, ranging from enlarged prostates to abnormal breast tissue growth.

    Not too surprisingly researchers for companies that use bisphenol A in their products failed to find evidence of adverse effects. A further assessment will take place next month and thus put more pressure on companies to prove that it is not harmful.

    Bisphenol A has been used in increasing amounts since the 1950s in food and beverage containers because it doesn't impart a plastic-like taste, although traces leach out. Plastics that use it are often identified by an industry triangle symbol and the number seven.
    You will probably hear much more about this toxin in the months and years ahead. This story has the potential to be as huge as the cancer causing nicotine in tobacco, or the health risks of trans fats in food.

    More than one scientist involved in testing this chemical have given up using canned food and plastics. Manufacturers of plastics and cans are certainly threatened by this and may be forced to radically change how they produce their products. Isn't it so coincidental that their research finds no harmful relationship between bisphenol A and health while about 90% of independent and academic research over the last decade have found harmful effects?

    Imagine, scientific researchers being paid to withhold important information from the public, surprise surprise (think nicotine and trans fats). Hopefully if and when this news item broadens, people will question what other suspicious ingredients are in food that have the potential to harm us. There are currently 200 substances that Environment Canada and Health Canada has determined to be possibly dangerous and in need of thorough safety assessments.

    Related Links

    On the Trail of Water Bottle Toxins

    New Findings Make the Case for Bisphenol A Ban

    Part II - Salt
    Many of the food products we eat already have a high level of salt in them, more than the daily recommended allowance. According to Statistic Canada people consume far too much salt. The maximum upper level allowable doze for people 14 and older is 2,300 mg a day. However, the average for all Canadians was 3,092 mg of sodium a day -- one-third more than the maximum.

    When you exceed the recommended levels of salt you risk problems associated with hypertension (high blood pressure). If you went from high levels of sodium and drop down to the recommended levels, research shows that you should be able to drop your blood pressure possibly a 15 to 20 per cent reduction of your risk of stroke.

    Kevin Willis of the Canadian Stroke Network warned that even if you were to reduce your own use of salt and cut out salty snacks, that wouldn't necessarily get the levels down to normal. This is because salt is added to so many of the food products we consume.

    He suggested avoiding food products that provide more than 20 per cent of the daily value of recommended sodium. A good example of this is packaged shaved turkey or ham. I will be cutting out this for my sandwiches as it has 22% of the daily recommended level of sodium.

    These are only two substances that are making a splash in the news right now, but how many other substances are in everyday foods that are harmful or potentially detrimental to our health? It causes one to think, "Has there been a cover up of key information by plastics and can manufacturers?" or "Should nutrition charts and packaging be more detailed, or provide warnings about the risks of digesting certain levels of salt or other components of food products?"

    As was suggested by Kevin Willis, the food industry and government should work together to get the level of sodium down in foods "an across-the-board cut in sodium in our food supply".

    That would make sense and reduce peoples' risk of problems of hypertension. Question what's in your food, your plastic containers and cans of food because it could be causing you serious health problems.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2007

    Reminders of Courage and Freedom

    May the families of those courageous soldiers find strength to withstand the painful injury of their heartbreaking loss.

    Our province and country mourns as well because someone's young son, someone's brave dad, someone's husband, someone's energetic and caring brother has died, and will be missed forever. They will never be forgotten though, for it is with pride that we know that these brave young people, representing us, stood for peace. They contributed to the rebuilding of a nation torn apart by war, and will be remembered as brave men who faced hostility and oppression to overcome it, and make Afghanistan a better place for future generations of men and women.

    Recent coverage of Vimy Ridge reminded us of heros whose sacrifice made our freedom possible. The sacrifice of these six soldiers reminds us yet again of who we are, and the peaceful and democratic society that we are fortunate to live in.

    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    Merry Easter

    Post Ed. There were 6 Canadian soldiers killed over in Afghanistan today. My thoughts and prayers go out for them and their families.

    This is an interesting time of year because it highlights the histories and mysteries of the Christian church, and the messages of Jesus the man. Among his teachings He preached that people should be forgiving, and not self-centered. That actually has many important implications for how nations and diverse groups relate. Imagine if everyone were actually like that, you could expect to see much less fighting, more empathy, less greed and more sharing. For religious people this certainly makes sense, but it can for non-religious people as well. If Jesus were here today He might not care if you were a "religious" person, or a church-goer, but that you lived honestly, were caring, not hurtful, empathetic and forgiving. Those attributes can cover many problems, and prevent many as well. It is based on reason. How one lives is what counts.

    On religion in general, there are many kinds of it, lots of variety in rituals, prayers, songs, and beliefs. For the entrepreneurial types, it is merely a vehicle for making profits, for others the whole bible is to be taken outrightly as literal. In any case, there still remains much mystery about Jesus. Most of his life is not documented but the last couple of years that were is what changed the world.

    Today people from every walk of life have varying philosophical viewpoints on life. Some conceive individual philosophies to try and understand life, while again others from every walk of life choose churches of different faiths to guide their spirituality. There you will find highly educated, deep thinking, traditional believers, sporadic church goers, people who believe in some teachings of the church but not all, people who believe in it all but don't live by it, and people who are the most decent, kind, caring and loving people.

    Since science broke out of the religious grip centuries ago and was no longer seen as heretical, there became a divide between science based on reason and evidence, and religion. Today the view is that there is hardly an estrangement between the two. For example, the Director of the Human Genome Project, Dr. Francis Collins, is a scientist and a believer in God. He sees no discrepancy between believing in evolution and God. He was an atheist for many years while working as a surgeon. There he was faced with life and death all the time and began wondering more philosophically of how the world began and what happened after we die.

    Creation is indeed the ultimate mystery. Let's go back 13.5 billion years to when our universe first began. In reference to the big bang theory a small unimaginably dense amount of matter exploded, and at millions of miles per second, with material, gases, particles, going in every direction, expanded into what we now know as the universe. If that's how the universe started, then the ultimate question is, well how did the matter get there in the first place. This is the point in which Dr. Collins thought, there had to be a creator, "God", who did this. But even more mysterious, is if God created the matter which made the universe, of which the planets, life and eventually we as humans eventually evolved, then where did God come from? It's an impossible question to answer because how can you conceive of nothing creating something? How can someone have always existed? So while we try to figure that one out, Jesus, whether you believe He was the son of God or not, did leave important teachings to live by. Then again, other religions did too, like the Buddhist Eightfold Path, similiar to the Ten Commandments. You will likely find many good lines to live by in many world religions, and also from many non-religious people and groups.

    While there are people who predictably but subtly like to equate religion with non-intellectualism or not being open-minded, perhaps some of their treasured lines to live by are very similiar to teachings from Jesus and other religious doctrines. It is valuable to find more of what people have in common, i.e., their beliefs, to build bridges to communication instead of walls of prejudice and understanding.

    I personally am not a big church goer, and have lots of questions about events 2000 years ago, but I see much goodness in people I know who do believe in God and Jesus very much. I can't help but admire and respect them. It is sad when others try to belittle that which is so meaningful to people like this. Then again, nobody's perfect. Happy Easter to you.

    Friday, April 06, 2007

    Lafleur Charged with Illegal Chequing - Could Get Major Penalty

    That's Jean Lafleur, not the famous Montreal Canadian Guy Lafleur. Guy Lafleur was a high scoring forward who played with finesse and amazing skill. He was a graceful skater, and played fair. On the other hand, ad executive Jean Lafleur, who faces 35 fraud charges related to the federal Sponsorship scandal, has been seen to spit his gum on restaurant floors, pour poor wine on restaurant grounds, and may not have played fair in his game. Lafleur alledgedly over-billed for work that was never done. He is accused of defrauding the government of almost $1.6 million through contracts his advertising firm secured through the Sponsorship program. His company had gotten contracts worth $65 million from the program.

    Lafleur has spent most of the last two years living in the Central American countries of Belize and Costa Rica. He lived in a condo, had evening barbecues with rare French wine, and partied loud. He is currently behind bars awaiting bail. We'll see in months to come if his defence team can score a victory.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    Wade Locke's Assessment of Equalization - Implications for NL

    Dr. Wade Locke of MUN's Dept. of Economics began crunching numbers shortly after the 2007 budget. Tonight he gave a detailed presentation of three different equalization options. There were many charts and figures which will be posted tomorrow at

    I will just offer a few pieces of information I took from this. Dr. Locke emphasized that even for him understanding and analyzing how equalization works stretched his skills to the limit. He also stressed that he is just presenting his assessment for public knowledge, and not making any recommendations to people or the government.

  • There are three equalization options:
    (1) Status Quo
    (2) O'Brien recommendations/"50% Option" - (50% inclusion of natural resource revenues in the equalization formula, with cap)
    (3) The "Harper Letter" (no natural resources 0% included in formula and no cap)

  • In terms of the economic benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador, the O'Brien option (50% inclusion of natural resources) is an improvement over the status quo.

  • The 50% option would also allow NL to keep the Atlantic Accord longer than would be possible than under the status quo.

  • In two (2) years time (2009), NL may not qualify for equalization payments, or the next couple of years following that. There is currently a two year delay in the equalization formula, i.e., we would still get an equalization payment in 2011 but not 2012. That means by 2012 we would be considered a "have" province and not get equalization for 2012. Therefore, after 2012 a new set of equalization rules would have to be applied to NL in that case till 2020.

    (Please excuse my lack of detail here but it was challenging to observe, interpret and take accurate notes in the time provided - the next item is where I am unsure of the particular term he used, could have been "natural resource revenue", will have to verify that tomorrow)
      Up to 2020

    • using the Status Quo formula NL would get $18.5 billion
    • using the 50% option, with cap, NL would get $22.8 billion
    • using the "Harper Letter", without cap, NL would get $28.6 billion
  • Dr. Locke was asked by someone in the audience if he personally had a preference. His suggestion was to stay with the Status Quo for the next two years, and then switch to the 50% (O'Brien) option.

  • Total revenue from oil alone up to 2029-30 is approximately $18.6 billion

    Like a lot of people I'll take much more time to read the details of what Wade Locke presented and form a clearer opinion. However, based on his presentation, my feeling about our options are more positive than before this information. Even without the "Harper Letter" option where a promise was kept, it appears that NL still does much better than the status quo. The Harper Letter option would be best for the province, but if that's not going to happen, the 50% option sounds better than the status quo to this blogger, so far anyway.
  • Historical and Geographical Speed Bumps

    For the Williams government, the disgraceful deal struck with Quebec in the 1960's on the Upper Churchill, and hence the physical existence of Quebec itself, are the major impediments to the Lower Churchill development. The Upper Churchill development was a lopsided Quebec-winning absurd deal. The federal government at the time did not intervene to assist Newfoundland and Labrador in getting a fairer deal. It has often been said that Quebec threatened separation if the federal government intervened to allow NL to build transmission access across Quebec, therefore, NL was left with little choice but to go by PQ and Hydro Quebec rules for development. That is the injury that every premier since Smallwood has not wanted to suffer again. Williams doesn't want to repeat that. Unfortunately, our province is low on options. Dean MacDonald of NL Hydro recently said that undersea electrical transmission route for Lower Churchill power was a realistic option, but Simon provides some information to make that claim sound doubtful and disappointing.

    Ontario wants the clean energy power, but Quebec is in the way.
    "We have an air quality problem. We have a need for new power. We think the east-west energy grid is the railroad of the 21st century." - Dwight Duncan, Ontario Energy Minister.

    It still seems unclear how the project will be financed. Will the federal government give NL loans to "go it alone", or will, Hydro Quebec, Allah forbid, be involved again to finance it? Of course, there are other proposals out there, that has so far been rejected by Williams. In any case, what would the deal look like now in the likely case of going across Quebec? What will the cost be of using Quebec territory again? It would be a great time for the federal government to intervene this time to help Newfoundland and Labrador be compensated for the ludricous deal that gave Quebec virtually all benefits from the Upper Churchill.

    Monday, April 02, 2007

    Harper Not Taking any Chances

    The Harper government certainly wants to ensure that they do not lose more public support. They are taking out radio and newspaper ads Tuesday to say that Ottawa never broke its promise, and that Danny Williams wants a special deal which would be unfair to other provinces. Perhaps the Harper government realizes that the 21 Conservative seats in NL, Sasketchewan and the other Atlantic provinces, can make a difference in getting a majority in the next election. Or, he is trying to dissuade voters in general from voting for Layton and Dion, or he is turning the tables on Danny to paint him and/or Newfoundland and Labrador as greedy and being out of line in his demands. In any case it is an acknowledgement that yes, we do exist. I guess the image as a promise breaker is getting a tad worrisome.

    There was a CTV interview with Premier Williams on Saturday in which he said that it was the long term potential benefits to the province that was in question, not the Atlantic Accord as it is. However, the Harper government line is that no promise was broken, which refers to the Atlantic Accord being untouched till 2012, or 2020. But that time frame is not what is in contention - correct me if this is not the case. So if the ads approach is to tell the public that Premier Williams' asserts that an Atlantic Accord promise has been broken, then that would be a misleading advertisement by Harper's government. The Atlantic Accord stays the same at least till 2012, that is not what Williams is arguing against. If the Conservative ads are informing the public this way, it would amount to the same level of honesty the anti-sealing propaganda offers each year, and that is malicious.

    Sunday, April 01, 2007

    FPI Purchased by Former First Lady & Barbara Amiel

    Former first lady Mila Mulroney and Barbara Amiel, wife of Conrad Black, have jointly purchased FPI assets. Amiel's share of the purchase is 60% and Mila Mulroney's is 40%. They plan to re-open plants in Harbour Breton, Marystown and Gaultois, and have renamed the company to Ameila Fish. Both Mulroney and Amiel will meet with unemployed fish plant workers and FFAW president Earle McCurdy in Gaultois later today to discuss Ameila Fish. Taking time off from the trial of Conrad Black, Ms Amiel told reporters that the idea first came up while they were on vacation in Black Tickle last winter. "Conrad laughed at the idea at first, but later took it serious after a seal flipper dinner."

    In a press statement Ms Mulroney expressed her excitement at their venture. "I see it as a way to spend more time in a place I know well. We will process cod, oyster, spiny-shell jellyfish, and of course Pacific salmon. Nobody is processing these under-utilitized species here anymore, not a sole."

    Both Amiel and Mulroney are hoping that fish processing will slow the problem of outmigration. Says Amiel, "Once we catch the cod, they'll never have a chance to outmigrate again." They are optimistic that other plants can be revitalized in Newfoundland and all over Labrador. You can expect to see Amiela Cod on the shelves soon.
    (Related update here from Sept. 10, 2007