Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

His name was Igor - we have a different one for him...

As the outer rain bands of Hurricane Igor pounded Random Island, my family gathered to watch at the dining room window - 15 feet from the ocean. We new something was not quite right as the eye of the hurricane was still some 400 kms off Cape Race. We were to find out the brutal, ferocious power of Mother Nature at her finest. The power went out in the early afternoon, followed by the phone service some ten hours later. Life was about to become much like that experienced by our ancestors. Gone were the electrical powered luxuries and distractions of modern life. Gone was the freedom of unimpeded motor travel - except of course bikes (ATV's).

We, the whole community of Hickman's Harbour, were hunkered down in our homes, isolated and vulnerable, ernestly listening to our emergency radios for any news of the events unfolding around our little Harbour. For us it was VOCM. We listened to the morning show, we listened to the afternoon show, and we listened to the evening show. All the family huddled around the table under candlelight. Like a few generations before us, the radio waves kept us enthralled and connected.

Newfoundlanders are, for certain, the great communicators of Canada, and for four uncertain days they communicated on the phone-in shows from coast to coast. At first, when events seemed centered around St John's, the shows seemed almost to downplay the events unfolding. The best, or worst example I can recall was talk show hosts and callers decrying the apparent fact that "townies" don't know how to use a four way stop. I recall this because it seemed so absolutely foolish, trivial, and out of touch with the hell unfolding around us. Yet, as the roads in town turned to raging rivers, and the fields and lawns to ponds, the tone seemed to get more grave. It was as if an understanding of something far more ominous was beginning to sink in.

Finally the news started to circulate of the massive devastation around the Burin and Bonavista Peninsulas. The news broke of the first, and thank God the only, fatality of Igor - Mr Alan Duffett. Although I never met the gentleman from Britannia, friends told me he had successfully fought cancer twice and survived several heart attacks. A man of obvious strong determination. It seemed particularily tragic that Mr Duffett should have to die in such a violent and random way. Yet, true to the nature of this storm, nothing was to be untouched by it's fury. The mood seemed to darken over the province.

In our Harbour, like many around the province, people began to emerge from their homes and check on their neighbours and friends. They started to clean their yards and streets. However, their hands were tied when it came to the massive destruction of the roads and flooded areas. The power, phones, water, and fuel were all out of their hands - although some determined souls managed to take bikes to distant communities for jerry cans of gas.

What we learned was that this old land was created by sea, travelled by sea, and populated by sea. The Bights, Coves, Harbours are all used to describe the sea shore at their communities - unlike many places in the country. We were reminded that there is really only one road that runs through the province, and how the link can be shattered at whim. Yet our sea links can not. Even after ferocious Igor pounded the Island, the seas were back to their original, unaltered, state within days. No reconstruction is required there. No intervention by governments. It's as if nature is reminding us of the basic truth that Newfoundland is, and will always be, a land tied to the water.

As we move to reconstruct this land, let us move together, as we always have, and rebuild it stronger than before. In defiance of the odds, and in the knowledge that we are preserving this beautiful land for those that will follow.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In Politics there is a Right Way and a Wrong Way

Recently, actually for some time, I have often reflected on a story my father once told. A story he would have known, as he was there. It occured during the Italian campaign during World War II at a place called Monte Cassino. The German army had dug into positions on the slopes below the ancient abbey on top, recognizing and respecting it's historical and religious significance. The Germans even informed the Vatican of their positions so there would be no mistake. Unfortunately, the Americans deemed it to be a "possible" position for observation and or bunkering so they used their air force and leveled it. The Germans then occupied the position, using the ruins for maximum cover from air and land forces.

Getting back to my Father, he always maintained that the battle for Monte Cassino should have never happened. As a young Sargeant on the ground, and in regular contact with the Herman Georing Division, airborne, that was defending the area, I like to think he knew of what he was speaking. Interestly, my Dad believed that the allies could have simply driven right around Monte Cassino, without firing a shot, and the entire German contingent on the hill would have been cut off and forced into surrender. The lives that could have been saved on both sides, and the Abbey itself, would have been worth it.

Likely, somewhere up the command, a shiny four star felt that blowing it into oblivion was the right thing to do. Certainly it was one way. History, however, would suggest it was the wrong way. Just because the capability is there, we still have to consider how we use it. Clearly, the young Canadian Sargeant on the ground could see that. I like to think I got my sense of "the right way and the wrong way" from him. This picture of Monte Cassino after the bombing, illustrates the result of the wrong way...
Battle of Monte Cassino

Friday, September 10, 2010

Newfoundland 1 - Quebec 0

What can you say. There was a time when the province of Quebec produced some, if not most, of the great political people of our day. It looks like those days are behind us. In response to Premier Danny William's warnings to Quebec yesterday of a "new and aggressive" approach, in dealing with the Upper and Lower Churchill projects, the best the Quebec government can come up with is the PQ's Intergovernmental Affairs Critic - Bernard Drainville? Really. Drainville, apart from being a seperatist,  is not even a member of Mr. Charest's government. Perhaps a deliberate slight toward our Premier. Likely. A serious misjudgement though.

Mr. Drainville, try to ignore the last name, came back at Premier Williams today with the startling accusation that Newfoundland had a "special deal" for it's drilling on the offshore. His other charge: that Quebec has been "screwed" many times since Confederation. Let's deal with the last statement first. Everyone in Canada knows Quebec hasn't lost since it lost. Just some examples: keeping the language and culture; bilingualism; new anthem; new flag; draconian language laws; language police; preferential systemic hiring throughout the federal civil service; domination of federal politics and positions of power; undemocratic numbers of representatives in the House of Commons and Senate; apparently a hockey arena in Quebec City; Bombardier; the Canadian Space Agency; CSIS headquarters; the Museum of Humour; equalization payments; and so many others that they could not be fully listed here. It makes any thinking human being laugh out loud at such a statement.

Now for the "special deal" charge. Mr. Drainville states that Newfoundland enjoys a special deal to develop and drill off hore petroleum resources which Quebec does not. True, but only in the slightest sense. Newfoundland and Labrador negotiated an agreement with the federal government to drill on the offshore. Any province that wishes to do so can, and must negotiate an agreement with the Federal government first. That is the law. It lays out who gets what money, and the rules and responsibilities of those developing as well as the provincial and federal governments. Quebec has not negotiated an agreement with the feds for several reasons. Firstly, as Nathalie Normandean states, they want the agreement to " recognize Quebec's full jurisdiction in the Gulf of St Lawrence". As if any national government in the world is going to give a province jurisdiction over any water way, let alone a strategic one. Then again, the folks in Quebec City tend to see themselves, and want us to see them, as a nation.

Mrs. Normandean has found herself in a bad position as the Newfoundland government has issued drilling rights to Old Harry, the rich site at the centre of controversy between Quebec and Newfoundland. Corridor, the company awarded the rights is set to drill in 2012. Quebec wants this resource for itself, and is pressuring the federal government to grant it the offshore agreement needed to begin drilling - on their terms of course. According to Mrs. Normandean: "The federal government is telling us to go negotiate with Newfoundland and we'll see after that. We say no,no,no,no. Why would we negotiate with Newfoundland if we think there is no problem with the 1964 boundary?" One reason I can think of - if you don't, Newfoundland will empty Old Harry before you can reach a deal with the feds. Perhaps. The other interesting fact of note is that Quebec has a self-imposed drilling ban in place in it's "jurisdiction" until atleast 2012.

At the very least, Quebec has really shot itself in the foot on this one. So using this "special deal" as a comeback on the Churchill projects is really assinine. Throw in the hypothetical and say Newfoundland had a special deal. What possible relevance does that have to Quebec's plundering of the Upper Churchill, and blocking of the Lower? Is there an implication that Newfoundland should sit back and take it in the stomach, because it was forward looking enough to develop it's "own resource". It has not plundered or otherwise taken advantage of Quebec or it's resources. The Upper and Lower Churchill are, after all, Newfoundland's resources.

Premier William's should be sitting back and smiling after todays show. The weakness of Quebec's response correctly reflects the weakness in their position. The days of Quebec crying and the rest of the country running for paper towel are over. In all this, it is important to remember that the people of Quebec have no more say in the policy and actions of Hydro Quebec, or the Quebec government, than any other populace in the country. It's also important to remember that it is irrelevant how much money Quebec gets from the rest of the country - in so far as this battle goes. We can't be suckered into an anti-Quebec stance. We need to stay focused on the issues of the Lower and Upper Churchill falls. We need to use the tools availabe to us to achieve these ends, and we need not explain nor apologize to anyone for using them. All in all though, I would say one to nothing for us.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Way to go Premier Danny Williams!

In a speech Wednesday to the St John's Board of Trade our Premier came out and stated: "the dispute with Charest will take a new, aggressive approach". I guess, when you consider that most people might think Mr. William's has already been fairly aggressive in his approach with Quebec, that the new approach will be a doozy. Certainly, if he hopes to be successful, it will need to be. Quebec's territorial strategy is long and deep, and they won't easily bend. Think I'm over stating it? How about this quote from then Quebec Premier Jean Lesage, 1965:

" The primary and absolute condition is that all energy that will enter Quebec becomes property of Hydro Quebec. That condition...has always been the same, and we will never negotiate from another basis. We will never permit, under any condition, others to build a transmission line on Quebec territory, or let others transport the energy produced at Churchill Falls whatever the destinationof that energy, whether it be the United States or the other provinces." quoted from Le Devoir, 1965.

Clearly, Quebec has taken a monopolistic, some might say anti-competetive, approach from day one in the development of their, and our, hydro electric power. I would suggest that Mr Lesage's quote from 1965, four years prior to the Power Contract being signed, clearly illustrates a lack of good faith from the outset.

In any case, when fighting any entity that hides behind the Law to fufill it's own inhumane agenda, the words of the great american Abraham Lincoln should be heeded:

" I did understand however, that my oath to preserve the Constitution to the best of my ability, imposed upon me the duty of preserving, by every indispensable means, that government - that nation - of which that constitution was the organic law. Was it possible to lose the nation, and yet preserve the constitution? By general law life and limb must be protected; yet often a limb must be amputated to save a life, but a life is never wisely given to save a limb. I felt that measures, otherwise unconstitutional, might become lawful, by becoming indispensable to the preservation of the constitution, through the preservation of the nation right or wrong, I assumed this ground, and now avow it. I could not feel that, to the best of my ablility, I had even tried to preserve the constitution, if, to save slavery, or any minor matter, I should permit the wreck of government, country and Constitution all together." Miscellaneous writings of Abraham Lincoln.

In these old words of wisdom lies a real grain of truth for Newfoundland and Labrador. We must fight, utilizing all the tools we have, to undo the 1969 Power Contract. Yes it is a contract, as was the American constitution of Lincoln's time, but when necessary for the survival of the whole it can be abrogated. If Newfoundland chooses to allow the Upper Churchill agreement to continue the result will be catostrophic for the people. Economically, as layed out here in previous posts, Newfoundland's economic survival is at stake. It's way of life is threatened. It's people's pursuit of happiness is not only diminished, but likely permanently thwarted. In other words, to remain in this agreement is to sentence the people of Newfoundland to an ever diminishing way of life.

Thank-you Premier Williams for seeing the fight, and taking it to those who need it. As you can see by history, when approached with submission, a great people step forward together in a singular purpose. It is in the leader's hands to show them the way.