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)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Is Stan the Man?

Ed is out and Stan is in. The bell rings. The King is dead, long live the King. No one ever learns here. There was the blind faith placed in Danny Williams. "If Danny says it's so it must be so". Years of it. Now the province languishes on the door steps of insolvency. The caucus all rallies around Dunderdale as Leader and Premier. No one must challenge. We are on the same path. Push forward, and ask no questions thy nay-sayers. Vote Liberal! Dwight Ball will lead us to a stronger tomorrow. Look at his team. Look at its IQ. These are wondrous business people. Dwight and his team will sort it all out. It's a landslide. No point in opposing. We need an opposition - just not in my district. On and on it goes.

Now it's Stan Marshall's turn. Time to be the saviour and absolve us of our sins Stan. We can see you are so concerned about your fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians being buried in the Muskrat Falls mess, and the overwhelming financial crisis that you sacrificed a short period of your retirement for a mere $650K a year. It doesn't matter that you are one of the wealthiest people in the province, we'll gladly bend at the waste to pay you the same as the last guy. We know your intentions are as pure as the driven snow - right?

Now you see, there's a problem here. Good old Stan is the largest shareholder in Fortis. He may be retired, but he has a significant interest in seeing his old corporation, that he created, is taken care of. Looking across the pond he can see his old arch rival Emera challenging his beloved Fortis in the vast US electric market. On the other hand, he can see that the Nova Scotia Liberals are deregulating Nova Scotia's market - allowing his other arch foe into the fray - Hydro Quebec. How to stop Emera?  How about deregulating their cash pot market Nova Scotia, and then stripping them of all that free power they're meant to get from this province - after Emera's full in on the link of course. Wouldn't it be ironic if Emera took a bite too much and became a takeover target, for, let's say, Fortis?

Bottom line, there isn't one bone in my body that thinks Stan suddenly burst upon the scene at the pathetic begging of our illustrious Premier. There isn't one bit of me that believes Stan is not in a conflict of interest - a very obvious one. Hence the Premier of Nova Scotia's phone call to our Dwight.

But hey, let's not leave the new Board of Directors at Nalcor out of the fun. John Green, our new Chairman, was also Fortis's corporate go to guy lawyer up until at least 4 weeks ago. Yep, good old John supervised the last two major US takeovers Fortis completed. Kind of gives you the creeps thinking the Fortis take over lawyer is now the Chairman of the Board at Nalcor doesn't it? Sounds like a Fortis takeover of Nalcor almost - doesn't it? I'm sure Stan and John are as pure as the driven snow, and the fact they could destroy one of  their main competitors in the US market never crossed their minds - surely not.

As one who opposes the Muskrat Falls project I hope it is put on immediate ice, but does that mean I'll give Stan and John a free pass from scrutiny? Not likely. Liberal governments have a habit of jumping into bed with Hydro Quebec. Just look at who will enter the Nova Scotia market that Emera had a monopoly on. The big question is will the Liberal government here try and ink a deal with Hydro-Quebec that sorts out the Lower Churchill? Is it perhaps a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Fortis takes out Emera and takes it over, Hydro-Quebec get's Labrador, and Newfoundland get's to shake its collective head and ask "what the hell happened". We'll have to keep a very close watch on our new saviour Stan. I don't believe in lilly white saviours anymore.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Racism in Newfoundland

Racism is always a tough topic to talk about, because it speaks to the ugly base emotions of the human condition. It is tribalism. It is virulent, and it is widespread here. Of course, Newfoundland is not alone in that department, but it takes a particularly nasty bent here - especially when money is involved. A fairly recent example was the case of Randy Simms, mayor of Mount Pearl and previously a radio show host on the provinces number one radio show. While having a debate with an Innu chief, over caribou herds, Simms referred to Innu people and aboriginals in general as "you people" and that they were "stupid". If you can stomach a tirade. that ought to turn your stomach, I've included two of the rants here . That was the most recent and publicly available example here in the province - until now.

Last week the Nunatsiavut government, representing the Inuit people of Labrador, presented a study conducted by Harvard University, which very specifically stated the Muskrat Falls hydro project would result, among other things, in a 400% increase in methylmercury in Lake Melville. Lake Melville is a massive lake at the bottom of the Churchill River where the Nunatsiavut people hunt, fish, and drink. It's been a critical part of their lives for thousands of years. The report states that under the high (worst case) scenario that once the Muskrat Falls reservoir is filled, with only partial clearing, that up to 66% of Rigolet residents would exceed the USEPA guidelines for safe mercury levels. Currently there are 20% of Rigolet residents that exceed the USEPA standards. Furthermore, the study found that among people living off hunting and fishing may see a rise in methylmercury levels of 1500%. These are some of the points from the study. I've included it here.

Under normal circumstances Newfoundlanders would be lightening quick to denounce the poisoning of woman and children. There would be outrage. There would be screaming and condemnation in the House of Assembly - if for no other reason than to score political points. Case in point the fracking fiasco at Corner Brook. Community outrage at having fracking drilling conducted near their watershed caused the development to be stopped in its tracks. An example of the outrage is a quote from a local opponent:

"When the health of the community is at stake, when mothers have to give their children water near fracked wells, there should be a scientific consensus that the practise is safe... Why would you experiment with the health and safety of our children and not your own?

Great words and sentiment, but one problem - the government never reacted when the Inuit said the same thing after the monumental Harvard study. In fact, the public never reacted either. In fact, not one word or one question was raised in the House of Assembly about the study be the world's foremost expert on the effects of methylmercury from Harvard. There were a few short stories in the media that covered the Nunatsiavut press conference. Then nothing, except the three daily radio shows whose hosts tried to enlighten people on the issue.  However, the three open line shows were almost devoid of any talk from people calling in about the poisoning of the Inuit. By the way, the Innu would also be poisoned in a similar if not worse fashion as they live closer to the dam site.

I was shocked, ashamed, and embarrassed at the members of our House of Assembly. Ordinarily, such a report would provoke a furor. The only reasonable explanation is they just don't care enough to even bring the matter up. Why don't they care? Because it's just a few "natives" up in Labrador. Racism. Pure and simple. there is no other explanation. Even the NDP, in their third party status, couldn't muster up a single question. No outrage. No questions. As if it never even happened. There is currently a petition on line requesting Labradorians separate from the province. Is it any wonder? The Inuit, Innu, and Nunatukavut (Metis) peoples form a good portion of Labrador's population, and an even greater share of its landmass. Yet this is how they are treated by the white folks down in the pearly gates of the House of assembly in St. John's. Is it any wonder they may want to leave so they can protect themselves from the townies? Newfoundlanders would be no different, and the Newfoundland government would scream bloody blue murder if the federal government did the same to them, and have. Racism is ugly. Racism justified by nationalistic dam projects is even uglier. It's evil, and it's unforgiveable.

EPILOGUE - Randy Simms, the man who made the racist tirade, ran for the Liberal Party here in 2015, lost, and word is he's been hired by the Liberal Party as a policy strategist...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where we're at

There is no question that Newfoundland and Labrador is in the "hurt locker". A self-inflicted hurt locker. During the period of 2004-2014 oil gave the province a sense of invincibility - fueled by the nationalist oratory of then Premier Danny Williams. He had massive, overwhelming public support. The kind of support I often refer to as the pied piper of Newfoundland leading the children into the sea. Over the last five years I have done my best through the open waves and the courts to stop the damage his agenda was going to inflict, but to no avail - a personal failure on my part. The people here simply, and blindly followed him into the sea. Now they are underwater. The betrayal will last as long as this place lasts.

But where does that leave us now? Now that the oil-fueled potential has been frittered away ($25 billion in 10 years), and the normal revenue brought in by taxation, etc has been similarly blown ( about $60 billion in 10 years), the window for making Newfoundland and Labrador a place we can all live in with ease has gone. That leaves us with the aftermath. Those of us that remain. People like David Cochrane of the CBC, who regularly trounced those of us that tried to stop the government from  building the suicidal Muskrat Falls project, will probably leave. Cochrane was gone off to Ottawa's CBC office before the ink dried on the Liberals devastating budget. Expect to see a lot more of that.

Here is where we are at today. The government is borrowing another $3 billion this year - for normal operations and capital projects ($1.3 billion of it going to Muskrat Falls). In addition, they are looking at borrowing similar amounts for at least the next five years. If that transpires as planned, Newfoundland and Labrador will have a gross debt of $33 billion by the end of 2021. Now, that's not the end of it, because that doesn't include Nalcor's debt. Nalcor right now owes just north of $10 billion. That puts the gross debt at $43 billion. That's not the end of it either. Our population was already on the downswing as the fastest aging demographic in North America. That means a lot less people to pay for this new massive debt.

That's not the end of it either though. Within the next three months the Quebec Superior Court is about to hand down a decision on who has the right to operate the Upper Churchill and how much power Nalcor is entitled to take from it. We are going to lose on both counts. Not because it's a Quebec court as all the nationalistic types will proclaim. No, the language of the Power Contract is very clear - very clear. This is simply another Williams/Nalcor bid at the high stakes gambling department with our money, and, as I've said in Court and on public media, we will lose. What happens when we lose? Our Water Management Agreement, which is basically a hostile takeover of the Upper Churchill, will be null and void. It will be unlawful to "bank" power. Without that provision, and the provision to force the Upper Churchill to run at full capacity, Muskrat Falls can only operate at 20% firm capacity. That means in order to break even power bills in this province will have to triple at  a minimum.

Think that's far fetched? Well it isn't. The math has already been done. That math by the way used the original cost figures for Muskrat Falls, and as we know those figures have grown from $5 billion to now over $9 billion including construction interest on the debt.

The point is that we are now on the edge of insolvency - bankruptcy. The same people who called us nay-sayers and alarmists, even dangerous zealots, will say this statement is similarly untrue. However, they were wrong then and they would be wrong now. At some point in time people must look past the spin and recognize the people who have been right all along. Not with parades, but with their ears and minds. Realize that a combined debt of $43 billion renders a population of 500,000 (or less) bankrupt. In default. That is the truth. You won't hear it come from the lips of the lying politicians in Confederation building, but do the math for yourself. Read the annual budget estimates. Understand the debt we have accumulated already and the debt the government intends to accumulate. Understand that failing to stop Muskrat Falls, with serious damage already caused by it, is a death sentence to the province. That is the fact and the truth.

The Liberals are already spinning in the press that we would default on the federal loan guarantee if we stopped the project. So be it. At this point defaulting on the federal loan guarantee is preferable to provincial bankruptcy. That being said, how many of you believe a Liberal government in Ottawa, who owns all seven seats in Newfoundland and Labrador, and which contains a Newfoundlander as Trudeau's right hand woman (Judy Foote) would place this province into a position of default? With a Liberal provincial government? It is do or die time Newfoundland and Labrador. We either stop the bleeding with emergency surgery or we die on the operating table. It is that simple and clear cut. Recovering from our current debt is almost impossible for a population this small to sustain. Recovering from the combined debt of Muskrat Falls and government operations over the next 5 years is impossible - period. Don't be fooled by what the politicians say about it. Don't be led by any more pied pipers. Do the math. Stand up. Be counted. Don't be a sheep to the slaughter. Fight. Be a fighting Newfoundlander and Labradorian.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Who is to blame?

Whose to blame for the state Newfoundland and Labrador is in? Former premier Danny Williams? No question he carries a lot of the blame. He has to. He had an iron grip on his government, and from what I can see over the years he had to - rarely has an entire caucus been so devoid of judgement and intellect that a first minister had to keep that much control over their every move. So sure, Danny Williams carries the blame for spending the vast majority of the $23 billion in oil wealth and the $50 billion of normal governmental revenue without paying out our debt or at a minimum saving a fair portion of it for a "rainy day". Irresponsible in the extreme.

But, and it's a big but, over zealous governments are often reigned in within a free and democratic society by a vigilant media and an engaged public. The truth of the matter is that the media in Newfoundland and Labrador is so utterly unprofessional that Williams and company simply did as they wished with almost no accountability. Whether it be the expropriation of Abitibi assets, which was so obviously a grab for the hydro assets of that company, or the far more catastrophic Lower Churchill project, Williams spun the move and the media lapped it up with little or no investigative reporting.

The media,  especially reporters like James MacLeod of the Telegram and David Cochrane of the CBC (now promoted out of Newfoundland) constantly berated and marginalized critics of the Muskrat Falls project for years - primarily on social media, but also in printed media. Whether it was me, Con O'Brien, Sue Kelland Dyer, Danny Dumeresque, or others the treatment was the same - "wack job". Those opposed to the spending and the Muskrat Falls project were officially classified by the government as "known critics", "nay-sayers", "merchants of gloom and doom". The media did nothing to counter that, and in fact perpetuated it, and still do.

So consumed are they by their own egos and their "place in the place" that they can't admit that they were the ones who were wrong. That they failed to properly investigate the facts surrounding the project. No, they loudly proclaimed that the "experts" knew what they were talking about and the "known critics" were but a joke - appropriate for mocking.

In a free and democratic society an informed and professional media is a necessity as it informs the public who may otherwise be too busy surviving to study and analyze topics of significant complexity - like over finances and the Muskrat Falls project. That's the same all over the world. Yet, for some bizarre reason, the media in Newfoundland and Labrador are essentially organs of the political backroom here. It's easy to see. Every election the media dutifully publish poll after poll on which party is ahead in the polls. They curtail any serious examination of the parties platforms, etc. They become like a newsmaker instead of being a news reporter. They don't investigate, but simply regurgitate what lines are fed to them by the "winning side". In other words, they lose their independence and become players in the game to stroke their own egos and sense of importance. By doing so, people like Williams simply played them like fiddles. Over and over and over.

Then came the day of reckoning. No mention in the media that the people fighting the spending and Muskrat Falls were right all along. Some, like Russell Wangersky wrote a column giving a passing mention to those who opposed what was happening, but no names. There is a reason for not personally acknowledging the critics who were right. The reason goes back to ego. The media were wrong to marginalize and personally discredit critics in the very first place. Now that everything the critics stated would happen is happening the media frankly look like the ones without credibility. They can't have that, so they leave the critics buried in the spot they left them in.

And, that's why the blame for the province's state today lies squarely with the media. They could have investigated the facts thoroughly when they had a chance to influence public opinion properly, but didn't. They acted as the PR agency for people like Willliams, glorifying him at every turn, even after he left office. They dog piled on the Liberals in the election of 2011, and then did the almost exact same thing to the PCs in 2015. They helped create the massive swings in governing parties that cause bad legislation and almost no opposition. Now the media will say: "don't blame the media", but the reality is that only serves to shield them from just criticism. Very convenient at times, especially times like today.

The truth is the media is to blame for where we are at today. They failed to hold a control freak premier to account. They failed to do research of any kind. They supplanted their opinions rather than the facts in the minds of the public. The public must be able to trust that the media is reporting the facts to them - after all, gossip is something we do at the corner store. We have to trust the media is independent and truthful, and informed. We rely on it. All democracies do. The media in Newfoundland and Labrador failed to hold a tyrannical government to account when it was needed, which gave the people the impression that all was well and the critics were loonies, and that's exactly the way the public responded. Now they have to pay the price of an egotistic and unprofessional press. For that, the press win the award for "who is to blame". Wear it well and learn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fire Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr

I'll be the first to admit it - I liked Erin O'Toole, the Veterans Minister under the Conservatives. He came in like a breath of fresh air into a dump. Before he arrived Veterans Affairs was a nightmare to deal with. He didn't have time to clean up all the trash, but he certainly made as big a dent as he could. There was no question who he was minister of. He was a retired air force officer looking after veterans - his troops if you will. He was minister full-time, all the time,  sincerely, and unapologetically so. I miss Erin O'Toole.

Trudeau gave us Kent Hehr. Why I wondered when I quickly noted the guy had zero military experience. Trudeau did have several veterans in his cabinet he could have chosen, but no, he gave us a Calgary lawyer. It seems that Hehr's real qualification may come from the fact that he's disabled (in a wheel chair) and the thinking was he would understand what veteran's are going through. Bit of a misnomer there though. For starters, not all vets are disabled in any way. In fact, the vast majority are not. So, unless they're now lawyers, he has nothing in common with them. Those of us that are disabled due to our service could theoretically relate to a minister in a wheel chair and visa versa. That's only in theory though.

As time has marched on since Hehr became minister I've grown more and more disillusioned by his performance. In the very beginning he seemed to be quite interested in veterans, but now he refuses to converse with them on social media. Instead, he goes to the odd dinner here or there with the Royal order of this, that or the other thing and shakes hands. Mostly, though, he likes to take selfies with himself and just about everyone - other than veterans. I follow him on Twitter, and he followed me back. We exchanged a few private messages. I gave him some ideas on how to better help injured veterans. He thought the ideas were good and promised to have his staff contact me to follow up. That was nearly five months ago. Never heard from his staff, and he no longer answers on social media. He's entered the Ottawa bubble. As I follow him on Twitter, I'm amazed at just how much he tweets about that has nothing to do with veterans affairs. In fact, if you didn't know better, you wouldn't know he was minister at all.

I became so agitated by his lack of a veteran presence I decided to count his Twitter broadcasts (Tweets). Not so shockingly I discovered of the 772 tweets he's made since January 1, 2016, only 159 have been military related in some way - that's a measly 21% of his social media activity. Most of his public presence is apparently consumed with meeting movers and shakers, and doing absolutely nothing for veterans. Here's an example of a recent tweet - many are similar in nature:

FYI, this one is from the Junos.

Apart what I'm going through as an injured veteran, another incident recently highlighted my concern with Hehr. Robin Brentnall, former airbourne soldier and severely disabled veteran has just been forced to undertake a hunger strike in Gander, Newfoundland. Why? Well, Veterans Affairs Canada refuses to qualify him for a $70,000 payout that he's qualified for under the new critical injury program. In fact, Robin has even had a stroke. He is severely disabled, although he does keep his fighting spirit. But here it is, the man is on a hunger strike because Veterans' Affairs are up to their old tricks - delay, deny, die. Minister Hehr was notified of the situation and his office sent a standard reply letter saying there was nothing the Minister could do as the Appeal Board had made their decision. That's simply a lie. In fact, the Minister has the power to make any award at his discretion according to the Act. When Hehr's office found out that Robin was going on a hunger strike they sent him a letter requesting he not do it as it could make his health worse... like they care. More like, "don't do it, we don't want the bad publicity - especially if you die". Disgusting.

Here's Robin with a chest full

In my opinion, Kent Hehr doesn't have the right to shine Robin's boots. He's a hand shaking, baby kissing, elbow rubbing, selfie taking,  do-nothing politician - who happens to also be disabled. He didn't keep his promise to veterans over their life-time disability pensions, nobody knows when the Liberal's budget promises will come into effect - least of all the veterans. Just really, really disappointing. It seems like the new minister is really nothing more than a Fantino without the arrogance. He certainly is no Erin O'Toole, and he most definitely should at least come to the aid of fellows like Robin Brentnall - wounded warriors that amde a real difference.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

BRIC this.

BRIC, the Brazil, South Africa, Russia, India, China economic alliance is under assault - major assault. Not in the military sense per se, but rather the clandestine, less in-your-face type way. It seems that the US is not at peace with BRIC's idea of a multi-polar world and is making it known.

Argentina is a case in point. Although not in the BRIC name, Argentina was an important part of BRIC's South American equation. In May, 2015 Russia consummated that relationship with a vast set of agreements that included funding for hydro dam and nuclear projects, oil and gas exploration agreements, and a memorandum of defence cooperation (read supply of advanced military weaponry). Argentina was even granted status as a food supplier for Russia. Then, in Nov, 2015, Mauricio Macri, leader of the "Let's change" Party, won the presidency against Christina Fernandez de Kirchner's (the one who signed the Russian deal) hand selected replacement.

Brazil is a second case in point. Brazil is a founding member of the BRIC alliance - hence the "B" in BRIC. In July, 2014 Russian President Putin and Brazilian President Rouseff signed strategic agreements in energy development, gas, health care, science and technology and defence cooperation (read arms sales to Brazil). In 2015 Rouseff initiated free trade talks with the BRIC countries to solidify their alliance. In July, 2015 Eduardo Cunha, House Speaker was implicated in a bribe scheme and immediately turned on Rouseff and her Worker's Party by calling for her impeachment. The scandal threatens to engulf Rouseff, who was re-elected in 2014 as President of Brazil.

South Africa is another case in point. South Africa is not in the name BRIC, but it is an important foot hold for the Russians and Chinese in Africa. In 2014 South African President Jacob Zuma signed an agreement with Russia to supply his country with a number of nuclear reactors. Officially that nuclear development is up for tenders now, but unofficially the close relationship with Russia seals the deal. Furthermore, the two have signed agreements in general trade and strategic military and defence cooperation agreements. In 2014, the Opposition in South Africa accused Zuma of using millions of dollars to upgrade his rural home with a swimming pool and theater among other things. Just 15 hours ago he apologized to the nation saying he did not believe the upgrades constituted a fraud and that he would repay the money. So far he is surviving, and is commonly known as a great "escape artist".

Now, in the latest move, a death threat letter to Chinese President Xi was posted on a Chinese language website in the US that is read by many Chinese. It found its way onto many domestic Chinese websites before the authorities took it down altogether. The letter states he should resign:
"Out of concern for the party's endeavors, out of concern for the future of the country and its people, and out of concern for the personal safety of you and your family." There is currently an investigation under way in China with 20 people detained - including at least one journalist. The letter refers to its writers as "we" and amounts to a challenge to the leadership of China.

All in all there seems to be a trend for BRIC countries from 2014 to present. There are only so many coincidences in politics, and even less so in the game of international intrigue. Adding up the events of the last two years it is clear that Russia and china are spear heading a Eurasia with global reach, and whose intended goal is to challenge not just American economic dominance, but also that of its currency and military. The creation of a bipolar world of the West and Eurasia is not something the US wants and considers it a threat to its "national interests". It appears the intended weapon to fight the battle, at this time, is covert political operations - not dissimilar to the events that led to the Ukrainian revolution. The larger, and as yet unanswered question, is how will Eurasia respond? Will India get cold feet and back away from its growing and cozy relationship with China and Russia? More importantly, will China use its vast and fatal economic arsenal to retaliate? Will Russia use its growing and strong military forces to respond - as in Syria? Perhaps all of the above? The old saying is don't awaken the Chinese dragon. Perhaps the same can be said about the Russian bear. In any case, watch to see how these so-called unrelated events in the countries of the BRIC play themselves out, and what if any reaction toward the West will transpire for its "BRIC this" stance.

o sign cooperation agreements in the areas of defense, education, energy cooperation, gas, healthcare, science and technology.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.
o sign cooperation agreements in the areas of defense, education, energy cooperation, gas, healthcare, science and technology.

This content was originally published by teleSUR at the following address: 
 "". If you intend to use it, please cite the source and provide a link to the original article.