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It’s time for serious talk about the NL fiscal bail-out

The news is full of prognostications of doom and gloom these days. Province set to go bankrupt, unassailable debt, unpayable power bills. What are we to do? For one, we need to start talking seriously about what a bail-out of this province’s crippled finances would look like, if it happens. More and more people (such as the economist cited in this CBC story) think it’s likely to happen. A country like Canada, which espouses to first-world status, does not simply allow an entire province to go bankrupt and shut down. What we should be focusing serious public discussion about, is not if there will be a bailout, but what the terms and conditions of that bailout will be, and how it will happen. On whose terms, and with what end-goal in mind. We need to be having that discussion now, and it is deeply troubling the government has not made… Keep Reading


‘I don’t consider myself an activist… I feel responsible’: Beatrice Hunter

Beatrice Hunter is one of about fifty Labradorians who occupied Muskrat Falls in 2016. The Inuk grandmother continues to fight the resulting civil and criminal charges that were laid against her (and other land protectors) in court. In light of the recent provincial court ruling that allowed criminal charges to go ahead against Justin Brake, the former editor of The Independent who entered the Muskrat Falls site to report about the actions of the land protectors, I asked Hunter if she would talk with me. I asked her about the status of the charges she is facing, her thoughts on the charges against Justin Brake, and what the future of Labrador might look like for herself and for her children. Hunter says that “the more the people know about the situation here in Labrador, the better.” She believes that Justin Brake’s coverage of the events changed the way the rest of the… Keep Reading

Who benefits from government policies? Usually just the rich and powerful.

“When it can be said in any country in the world, “My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor stress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want; the taxes are not oppressive . . . When these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.” –Thomas Paine. Lucius Cassius, a consul whom the people of ancient Rome revered as a wise and honourable judge, was often required to adjudicate disputes involving the laws or policies of the Senate. Time and again, his first question was “Cui bono?” which can be translated as “Who benefits?” or “To whose benefit?” His reasoning was that no political action could be explained unless it was first ascertained who gained from it. The even more illustrious Roman orator and statesman Cicero often quoted this… Keep Reading


The Maritime Link: Remember how we were going to use it?

Muskrat Falls was once touted as the key to long-term economic and energy independence for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. No longer would we be living under the shadow of the bad deal done at Churchill Falls, no longer would we need to burn oil at the aging Holyrood Thermal Generating Station, or face another DarkNL. We would have a transmission link to the mainland through Nova Scotia, giving us access to the energy-hungry eastern United States. Yet, last week the island of Newfoundland began importing mostly coal-fired power from Nova Scotia over the Maritime Link. The Maritime Link consists of two subsea cables that run 170 km across the Cabot Strait between Cape Ray and Point Aconi with the capacity to carry 500 MW of electricity. It was built by Emera to supply Nova Scotia with power from Muskrat Falls and provide NL with access to export markets.… Keep Reading

Fatal truck crashes are a serious problem in Canada, fuelled by government inaction

The reason there were fewer wrecks in the old horse-and-buggy days is because the driver didn’t have to depend entirely on his own intelligence. – Anonymous. For the past several years, on a part-time basis, I’ve been assisting the non-profit Canadian Owner-Operators’ Cooperative (COOC) in its efforts to lower its trucking members’ operating costs. These mainly include the costs of insurance, fuel, tires, and maintenance. But a much more crucial campaign the COOC has undertaken has been to improve driving safety and decrease the involvement of heavy trucks in highway crashes. Nearly 2,000 Canadians are killed each year and another 10,000 seriously injured in collisions involving a heavy truck (one with a gross vehicle weight greater than 12,000 pounds). Even on a per-distance-travelled basis, large trucks have a fatality rate double the rate for all other vehicles. The tendency, unfortunately, is for most people to blame the truck drivers, rather… Keep Reading


The Gossip Mill: 25 Years after the Village Mall Affair

One of the most fascinating things about the Village Mall affair is its longevity. Nearly a quarter century after the investigation into cruising at the shopping mall, people are still gossiping about what happened. Some people will recall the story of the Habs jersey. The rumour at the time was that men who were looking for sex at the Village would wear Montréal Canadiens jerseys in order to identify one another. This only makes sense if one forgets that the Habs won the NHL playoffs in 1993 the last time a Canadian team got the Stanley Cup. It is safe to assume that many men were wearing those hockey jerseys in the winter and spring of that year, not just ones cruising for sex. Recent discussions over Pride, police, and public apologies have raised concerns over the way LGBTQ histories come to be celebrated and the challenges that arise when… Keep Reading

About Books/Featured

‘Wounds don’t need to be closed’

Mi’kmaq poet and writer Shannon Webb-Campbell was living in Halifax in 2014, the February that Loretta Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador, was murdered. “I felt devastated and I wondered how I could help in any way. And so I started thinking maybe I could write a poetry book about this,” Webb-Campbell said. Who Took My Sister? explores the different kinds of trauma Indigenous women live through, with, and alongside. I invited Webb-Campbell to join myself and two other women as we talked about her new book (to be released March 20). So, in the middle of February, at an office in the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre, three women met to talk with Webb-Campbell by phone about trauma, murdered and missing Indigenous women, and love. Métis cultural support worker with the Friendship Centre, Amelia Reimer, musician and community arts organizer Kate Lahey, and myself, a Métis writer and… Keep Reading


Oil, gas, and cognitive dissonance

We remember the last oil boom, right? Couple years ago? And the bust that followed? Wealthy people got considerably wealthier while the rest of us strained to see the benefits promised us. What weren’t hard to see were the deep cuts to the public sector after all those revenues (on which the government decided to be fully dependent) suddenly vanished. And the public continues to pay the price. It’s 2018. We’ve known for many years that the future of human beings depends on cutting dependence on fossil fuels. Scientists the world over have insisted this is the case. In a 2012 report, the World Bank stated that “we’re on track for a 4 degree Celsius warmer world by century’s end marked by extreme heat waves, declining global food stocks, loss of ecosystems and biodiversity, and life-threatening sea level rise.” The Tyndall Centre for Climate Research says this rise in 4… Keep Reading


‘What we can learn for the future’: David Vardy on the Muskrat Falls inquiry

The name David Vardy has been linked with criticism of the Muskrat Falls project since its earliest days, when he had already retired from public service. Vardy, a former Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet and chairman of the Public Utilities Board, says the questions we really need to answer are about democracy and how we as a society are going to respond to Muskrat Falls. I sat down for an interview with him before he left for the Muskrat Falls symposium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Q: What makes you happy about what’s going on with the Muskrat Falls issue right now? Anything? So what makes me happy is that we finally have a public inquiry. And this is not the public inquiry that I asked for: what I wanted was a panel of people that were very knowledgeable about construction projects. And what do we end up… Keep Reading


FANE: It’s time to talk about ecology in Newfoundland and Labrador

It might seem like a bizarre moment to be fighting to bring ecology to the fore in decision-making in Newfoundland and Labrador. But our decisions about how to proceed in the future depend largely on how we understand our past. Do we trust our politicians? Do we trust Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall and the appointed “expert panel” evaluating the North Spur? Have we been listening and attentive to how the Muskrat Falls project will forever change the lives of the Innu and Inuit in Labrador? One not need look far into the past to see that ecological issues have in fact been included in the scope of considerations about the economic future of the province. For example, in 2010, the province’s Premier, Minister of Natural Resources, and Nalcor CEO Ed Martin all promised they would produce “clean energy” and “environmentally friendly” power. Yet in times of strife, the province’s political leaders,… Keep Reading


How to win over a gullible crowd: Stan Marshall and Muskrat Falls

Back in the days before most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians had college educations, televisions, or Internet, there were certain assumptions which were made by the elites who governed them. These included the following: 1) You can win over a gullible crowd by using the following: a lot of big words; a lot of numbers; photos of mechanical contraptions 2) If you show your audience that you’re trying to explain a complex idea to them in simple terms, they will love and adore you for it 3) If you convince people that you’re working hard at something, they’ll let you get on with whatever it is that you’re doing, even if they don’t understand it and even if it doesn’t really make sense 4) If you’re implicated in something unsavoury, the best way out of it is to shake your head, pretend that the sophisticated machinations of others are beyond your limited… Keep Reading

Will all Canadians enjoy prescription drug coverage soon?

The federal New Democratic Party has called for Canada’s public health care plan to be expanded to cover the cost of pharmaceutical drugs. If the ruling Liberal government doesn’t provide this extended coverage, the NDP promises to do so if it wins the next election in 2019. While I applaud this NDP initiative, I have to add that it’s jolly well about time. The party should have made the expansion of medicare a top priority a long time ago. And not just to cover pharmacare, but to encompass dental, vision, and other vital health needs as well. Apart from the United States, that’s what all other major countries did when they first inaugurated public health care for their citizens. When Tommy Douglas pioneered public health care in Saskatchewan 56 years ago, he limited it to the services of physicians and hospitals. He would have preferred to make the coverage all-inclusive,… Keep Reading


‘The courage to come forward’: Amelia Reimer talks about the upcoming MMIWG hearings

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry will be in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the first week of March, reported APTN Wednesday afternoon. Amelia Reimer has been sitting on a provincial planning committee for the hearings. We asked her what to expect. Q: Who are the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls In Newfoundland and Labrador? A: It’s all walks of life. There’s some people on the list that we don’t know their names because that was always hidden from the media. Their names were always withheld, so some of those I can’t really speak to. But for the ones whose families have decided to let the names be public it’s–I guess the stereotype with this type of violence across the country is that it’s sex workers, not that that should make any difference whatsoever. But here, it’s mostly domestic violence. The unsolved cases clearly we don’t know… Keep Reading

Featured/Opinion/To Each Their Own

Colonial narratives

On a bitterly cold Saturday, with ice crystals in the air and a light scattering of snow underfoot, five or six dozen people gather at the steps of the Court House in St. John’s. They’re here to demand Justice for Colten Boushie, the 22-year old Cree man from the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan who was shot and killed by Gerald Stanley, a 56-year old white farmer. The rally is hastily organized. There are two cheap loudspeakers, but most of the speakers forget to use them. There are no power outlets, and only one reporter present. One speaker forgot their gloves, and shivers as their skin turns an eerie shade of red. You’d think tears would freeze in cold like this, but they don’t—they flow strong and free. Drummers take to the steps of the Court House, and the rhythms they pound out, coupled with the clear and confident… Keep Reading


An all-white jury runs from justice in the trial of Gerald Stanley

Last night, a crowded Saskatchewan courtroom heard the verdict of the 12-person jury in the trial of 56-year-old Gerald Stanley, the white farmer charged in the 2016 shooting death of Red Pheasant First Nation member Colten Boushie. The decision to find Stanley ‘not guilty’ of the second-degree murder of 22-year-old Boushie set off a firestorm of reaction across social media, on both sides of the case. Here, Indigenous entrepreneur and commentator Robert Jago shares his perspective on what we should take away from the verdict. There is a video from outside the courthouse in Battleford, Saskatchewan, last night. It shows a screen which is split in four and displaying the courtroom, the jury box, the judge, and the accused in the Gerald Stanley case. As the verdict is announced, there are gasps and shouts; Colten Boushie’s mother cries out. Bailiffs grab Gerald Stanley and run out of the frame, and to a waiting truck… Keep Reading


Tax evasion is costing our government billions

“In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin. “In this world death is certain for everyone, but taxation is far from certain for those allowed to avoid it.” –Ed Finn. I recently received an unexpected letter from the Canada Revenue Agency. I always pay my income tax on time, but I still felt some trepidation. When my wife returned from the mail box and gave it to me, she said the expression on my face was akin to that of someone handed a ticking time bomb. My foreboding turned out to be unfounded. The four-page letter consisted of a detailed analysis of my 2016 tax return, with tables and graphs and a form to fill out and send back to the CRA. I could have trimmed the bureaucratic jargon to a single sentence: “We have reviewed your last tax payment and found that you owe the… Keep Reading


The last season of the cofferdam?

There are other sunken ships in Canadian waters that are labelled risks—ships besides the Manolis L., the one at the centre of this story. There are hundreds of other ships left at the bottom of Canadian waters, with names like Scout, Genie G., Arrel, M.F. Therese, the Northern Osprey, Dorothy B., and Mink. Sea Alert, Danny Boy, and Atlantic Charger, too. Many of them pose the same kind of environmental risks as the Manolis L. If you asked biologist and Memorial University professor Dr. Ian Jones, he’d say that’s what this article is really about. He’d say that what I should write about here isn’t just the Manolis L., with its fuel tanks deteriorating at the bottom of the Notre Dame Bay, off Fogo Island and Change Islands. He’d tell you that this story is about what biologists say is an ever-increasing risk of oil spills in the Canadian waters,… Keep Reading


Telling the story of harassment in the RCMP

On February 1, former RCMP Constable Janet Merlo spoke to a packed gathering hosted by the Department of Gender Studies at Memorial University about her experience of sexual harassment in the force. The harassment she along with thousands of other women in the RCMP experienced became the subject of a class action suit that was settled out of court last year. Her story, which is outlined in detail in her own book No One To Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP, is a powerful one that tackles a misogyny still deeply rooted in many workplaces, and one we thought we should share. Merlo looks out across campus, reminiscing about her days as a student and how much the university landscape has changed. An alumni of Squires House, she fondly recalls some of the antics of residence life. Joining the RCMP was not a career move she’d planned… Keep Reading

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