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A Post-oil Newfoundland and Labrador?

Sure, the province decided to double-down on investment in oil in its last budget. That doesn’t change the fact that we’re heading toward a world with a lot less oil. There’s a lot of ink that could be spilled here about the various failures of leadership, citizenship and the media in getting us to the brink of a post oil-dependent world without any thought (never mind planning). But we want to focus on talking about what a future without oil might mean to us here. We’re not delivering solutions. We’re not prescribing tough medicine or pretending we know what medicine is the right kind. We are asking questions about what our future is going to be like and opening a dialogue. We’re hoping that, as a result, a few good ideas, some change-making energy, and some broader good comes of it all. We’re trying to move a mountain with a… Keep Reading

Global warming and corporate greed combine to destroy forests with fire and felling

The razing of millions of acres of forests by wildfires has been increasing in scale and intensity for the past few decades. This year has set new records for the number of trees and shrubs destroyed by fire—not just in the United States and Canada, but also in many other countries, including England, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, Latvia, and North Korea. Wildfires, of course, have been a yearly occurrence in the summer months for centuries. Triggered mainly by lightning, they were Mother Nature’s way of disposing of dead timber and providing fertile ground for new plant growth. That is still an important natural process, although many conflagrations today are unnaturally caused by human carelessness, such as poorly tended campfires and flipped-away cigarette butts. Far more devastating for the world’s forests today, however, are the effects of global warming, mostly caused by the greenhouse gas emissions that emanate from the burning… Keep Reading

Opinion/To Each Their Own

It’s not about a hotel

Really, all the ado is not about a hotel. If St. John’s is so awash in tourists that we need a new hotel, nobody is going to argue. Nobody minds a new hotel for the tourists. It’s work for contractors, it’s work for staff, it’s money for the local economy. What this is about is entitlement. It’s about a merchant class elite business community which really contributes very little to this city (trickle-down economics never worked; what’s more important is that the rich pay their taxes rather than stashing it in offshore bank accounts), yet considers that the city ought to jump through hoops, waive regulations and give them whatever they want on a silver platter whenever they ask for it. This small city doesn’t have much. It’s got an unemployment rate twice the national average (the second highest of any Canadian city), overcrowded hospitals, no family doctors taking patients,… Keep Reading


From Manitoba to Newfoundland – why understanding the significance of the treaty relationship is so important

When Loretta Ross was a young girl growing up in Manitoba, her school had a career day. The place was full of professionals from all sorts of fields. Yet there was only one Indigenous person. Ross was therefore drawn to him, and it was he who put the idea in her head that was to shape her future. “He said [Indigenous people] need lawyers. He talked a little bit about why we need lawyers—and I said that’s it! I’m going to do that. That’s what I want to be.” After the session, students returned to their classrooms, and their teacher asked them what careers they had decided they wanted to pursue. “I put up my hand, and she said: ‘What do you want to be?’ I said ‘I want to be a lawyer. I’m going to be a lawyer!’ And she squished her nose at me, and she said ‘Don’t… Keep Reading


It’s a Hard-Rock Life for Us: Unlocking Social Mobility to Fix our Economy 

In the summer of 2012, when oil was still going for over $100 a barrel, a Rex Murphy-led documentary returned from commercial break and opened with the line “he’s a symbol of [Newfoundland’s] happy reversal of fortune.” The camera cut to a shot of a rusty Bell Island Ferry and then to my mother’s home kitchen.  I had turned down a sizeable national scholarship in a decision to earn a bachelor’s degree in my home province, with the intention of running for the Bell Island town council inside of a year. Murphy saw my decision as an expression of the confidence people felt since shrugging off our status as a have-not province four years prior.  But we hadn’t all shrugged off our have-not status so easily. “Have” status in tow, every young (and old) Bell Islander can still recall someone refer to their hometown as Fraggle Rock—the setting and namesake… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

“God Curse Thee Megadam”: Greg Hewlett on Muskrat Falls

Six chance descriptions of the Muskrat Falls project: A project touted for its contribution to a sustainable energy future, and pursued doggedly for its renewable energy credentials by provincial and federal governments failing to meet emission targets, that not only produces huge amounts of CO2 and methane, but also becomes the foremost source of a debt that effectively binds provincial economic survival—at least in the near-term—to oil and gas production. A project presented as the cornerstone of the province’s long-term economic and energy security becomes a palpable threat to both. A project whose massive capacity is justified solely on the merits of future export revenues becomes one with no discernible viable markets. A project proposed as a major public asset, becomes the medium through which an essential service and its customers are financialized into a source of revenue on the global bond market, in an upward transfer of wealth that is as subtle as it is significant. In response… Keep Reading

Indy Essay/Journalism

Heroes, sisters and Christine Blasey Ford

I’m writing now about heroes: the different kinds of heroes sisters need in their lives, and the different ways sisters can—sometimes without knowing it—sort of accidentally, at the right time, be the kind of hero that sisters need.  I’m writing this today twenty minutes after a breaking news report tells us that Senator Jeff Flake has announced he will support Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court in the United States, just after survivors of sexual assault confronted Flake with their own stories. I read a Globe and Mail column that recounts Professor Blasey Ford’s story and the stories of so many other women who’ve come forward to tell us all that we still don’t know what to do about sexual harassment and assault and the inequalities it creates between men and women. I just read Elizabeth Renzatti’s words: “They’ll be remembered as heroes and I hope that counts… Keep Reading

Will the latest report on Canada’s shoddy childcare help to reduce government neglect?

A recent report on Canada’s abysmal failure to protect and care for the country’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens—its children—made headlines and stirred ripples of shame and outrage. Compiled by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, the study found that children in Canada suffer from shockingly high rates of poverty, obesity, infant mortality, abuse, suicide, and declining mental health. Calling these grim statistics “deeply disturbing,” Sara Austin, director of Children First, pointed out that “Canada ranks as the fifth-most prosperous nation in the world, but there’s a big disconnect between the well-being of our country and the well-being of our children. All levels of government need to do more to ensure that children benefit from Canada’s overall wealth.” This plea for decent high-quality child care in Canada is only the latest in a long list of such supplications. It is only the latest such report detailing… Keep Reading

Talking about the weather in Windsor Lake…

It’s unusual for this publication to let an election or even byelection go by with nary a comment. Yet despite the rapidly approaching Windsor Lake byelection, it took me a while to figure out what to say. I considered focusing on the Liberals. Oh, where to start? Their failure to tackle unemployment, which is the province’s biggest crisis and one nobody seems interested in talking about? Their failure to do anything remotely constructive to grow or diversify the economy over the past three years? The fact they fall to their knees grovelling at any big industry that comes knocking, handing the big mainland industrialists whatever they ask for on a silver platter, whether it’s royalty concessions or waiving environmental regulations? The fact that they’ve done nothing to secure the people of the province against ruinous energy bills as a result of the Muskrat Falls debacle, besides some vague promises that… Keep Reading


Two thousand hours: Speaking Mi’kmaw in Newfoundland and Labrador

When Marcella Williams’ grandmother was angry at Marcella’s mother, she’d let loose a string of words Marcella didn’t understand. It was only as an adult, when she started learning Mi’kmaw from fluent speakers in other provinces, that she realized her grandmother had been calling her mother thick-headed, or stubborn. And, it was only when she started going to gatherings and heard Mi’kmaw songs that she realized that some of her early childhood campfire songs were traditional Mi’kmaw songs. She didn’t know because nobody in her family identified the words or the songs as Mi’kmaw. That’s the long reach of colonialism: it forced generations of Indigenous communities in Newfoundland and Labrador (and around the world) to hide their culture for survival (if they could) to avoid discrimination. As a result, languages began falling away, one by one. Marcella says her great-grandmother would have spoken Mi’kmaw fluently. Her grandmother spoke phrases and words… Keep Reading

Opinion/To Each Their Own

The selfishness of thieves

The question on everyone’s minds is – why do they do it? Don’t they realize it’s hurting all of us? Making off with their ill-begotten gains? Just because they’re able to? How does their conscience let them get away with it? Do they do it just for a bit of fun? Because they’re young and they think the world is theirs to do with what they will? Of course, I see the temptation. We’re all hard up these days. Cost of living is through the roof, it’s impossible to get a nice affordable place to rent any more, and the electricity costs…don’t get me started. Yes, we’re hard up, but that’s no reason to just turn your back on your neighbours and line your own nest. It’s downright anti-social. We live in a society, and when any one of us decides we’re going to simply put our own needs above… Keep Reading

Trade unions get scant coverage in modern mainstream media

Back in the 1960s, 1970s, and into the ‘80s, almost all of the large newspapers in Canada had a reporter who specialized in labour-management relations. Wilf List covered labour for The Globe and Mail for an amazing 35 years. I wrote a labour relations column for the Toronto Star for 15 years (1968-1982), and the editorial staff of several other papers at the time also included labour columnists as well as labour reporters. Conventions of the largest labour unions and the Canadian Labour Congress attracted dozens of reporters. The names of union presidents were almost as well known as those of prominent politicians and corporate executives. Once a year, in my Star column, I listed, in order, the ten labour leaders I considered the country’s most influential, without having to identify them with much more than their names. Today, not a single daily newspaper employs a labour columnist, much less… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Essay

Good fences make good neighbours and other lies your father told you

Any number of  critics have noted how a poem, play, or novel appears to shift, to evolve, to grow with a reader. The change can feel quite dramatic in some cases, so much so that even a delicate haiku—all seventeen gossamer syllables—appears to become something quite different. You read it when you were thirty, and childless; now in your thirty-third year, your infant daughter has appeared. You have changed—not the three lines—but the profound change can make it feel like you are reading a new poem. This evolution of interpretation becomes even more intriguing when applied to entire cultures, rather than individuals. After the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after the fire-bombing of Dresden, after the My Lai massacre, the stirring patriotic speeches of Henry Vread a little differently, perhaps. Or take an example from pop culture: my entire generation has had to learn to reread the classic teen… Keep Reading

About Books/Featured

Waste, weeds, and poetry

Waste defines not only the modern era, but modern humanity, according to some writers. We are what we throw away. Or: we are because we throw away. Yet, waste has been invisible to many of us most of the time. No longer. Today waste is appearing everywhere. It isn’t staying neatly out of the sight of the middle and upper classes. It’s on our streets; it’s on our beaches; it’s in our fish and in our birds. There’s a waste research fund here at MUN. Researchers are grappling with questions about social justice and micro plastics in our oceans and mapping e-waste as it travels around the globe. Amidst all this, one small book of poetry appears on the scene in Newfoundland and Labrador: Mary Dalton’s Waste Ground, a book of short poems from the point of view of local plants that have been categorized as weeds. Defined as waste,… Keep Reading

Where next in the fight over Muskrat Falls and rate mitigation?

On Friday, a group of protesters gathered at the Public Utilities Building in St. John’s, as they have for the past few weeks, protesting current and anticipated power rate hikes as a result of the Muskrat Falls project. Earlier this week, meanwhile, a coalition of over two hundred prestigious academics and authors signed a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling for a halt to the Muskrat Falls project, in light of the risk of irrevocable damage it poses to the environment and culture of Indigenous-led communities in Labrador. On the Island: power rate hikes. On the Labrador: threats to health, safety, and culture. The thing that binds these two acts of protest is Muskrat Falls. It’s a scandal that has united the people of the province in scorn, derision and outrage against a bad deal signed and supported by successive provincial governments, which threatens the very future of the… Keep Reading

Science fiction helps us understand the future as well as past and present

When I started reading science fiction, in my teens, it was widely regarded as a disreputable form of literature. This was not surprising, since at that time—the early 1940s—sci-fi was confined to pulp magazines with lurid covers, often depicting scantily-clad heroines shooting ray-guns at BEMS (bug-eyed monsters). Living in Newfoundland at the time, while it was still a British colony, I had to order sci-fi periodicals from the United States. They had to be cleared by customs officers, who also doubled as the colony’s censors. The censor who examined the magazines mailed to me from New York was Mr. Howell, who happened to be our nearby neighbour. Shocked by the trashy cover art, he spent an hour or more leafing page by page through Amazing Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales, searching for evidence of pornography or obscenity, all the while shooting suspicious glances at me. Fortunately, the stories… Keep Reading

About Books/Featured

‘You’re not this and you’re not that’: author Lorri Neilsen Glenn

A few years ago, an aunt told writer Lorri Neilsen Glenn  about her great-grandmother’s tragic death in a steamboat fire in 1908 in northern Manitoba. Wanting to know more, she started a journey that led her to histories she didn’t know were hers. Neilsen Glenn learned that she had roots in northern Indigenous and prairie Métis communities. The haunting account of her journey became Following the River: Traces of Red River Women, a book that gives the reader insight into uncelebrated histories, including the stories of Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors and their contemporaries. The book mirrors the fragmented nature of these women’s lives, Neilsen Glenn says. She shows us who these women are in a mix of evocative poetry, documentary material, and narrative prose. Together, these pieces offer the reader incredible glimpses of the lives of Neilsen Glenn’s ancestors based on what she could find in newspaper reports, archives, and museums. I wanted… Keep Reading

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