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Dam Nation: Fortis in Belize, Part 2

in Analysis/Featured/Journalism/Longread by

Should we be surprised that the practices fine-tuned by marauding corporations in the developing world are finally coming home to roost?

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There are No Captains at the Wheel

in Editorial/Featured/Longread/Politics by
election 2019 nl

This election is a referendum on Newfoundland and Labrador’s political class, and the status quo is losing. All we’re missing is a way to vote “no.”

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#NLRising, 3 Years On

in Opinion/Politics by

The 2019 NL provincial election is just eight days away, and yesterday marks three years since the #NLRising rally on Confederation Hill, organized by the NL Federation of Labour. I was invited to sing a couple of songs, so I took the opportunity to write a new one, directly addressing the 2016 Liberal austerity budget. Out came ‘Go Away Dwight and Cathy’, which singled out cuts to education and library closures, cuts to healthcare, and the ‘deficit reduction levy’. The 2016 Liberal budget was an attack on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, there is no doubt about that. But people spoke out. The rally worked, to some degree. The song? The downfall of writing political songs is that they are only usually relevant to a situation for a short period of time, however, they will always remain historically significant. ‘Go Away Dwight and Cathy’ never gets much airplay these…

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Oil is On the Way Out, but NL is Going All-In

in Climate Change/Featured/Opinion/Politics by
art by Katie Vautour

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swede, has jolted the world awake by simply telling a hard truth: adults have stolen her generation’s future because we have not confronted the climate crisis. “I don’t want you to be hopeful,” she tells us, “I want you to panic. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.” Her words have inspired millions of children globally to demand real action from their political leaders. This message is an essential one for Newfoundland and Labrador’s upcoming election. Greta and her generation know all too well that to have any chance of a liveable climate for most of us, global temperature increases must be kept below two degrees of warming. To do this, emissions have to drop steeply, reaching zero—no emissions at all—by 2050. It would have been a…

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The Red and Blue Doors Open the Same Room

in Analysis/Featured/Longread/Politics by

As promised in response to the budget/not-a-budget pre-election kick off, I thought it would be useful to take a deeper look at what the Liberals have accomplished in their four years in office. Halfway through the election campaign is as good a time as any. Everything old is new again. As both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives have now released their “costed” platforms, it’s probably a good idea to think back to where we were when the parties went through this exercise in 2015. Memories of Elections Past In the spring of 2015, Progressive Conservative premier Paul Davis brought down an austerity budget in response to the collapse in oil prices and the sudden realization that the good times of the previous decade had gone bust.  Budget ’15 projected staggering deficits and proposed a series of tax increases (including a controversial HST increase) and a public sector attrition plan…

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Sleeping On the Ballot Box

in Analysis/Featured/Politics by

Elections are one of our favourite things, and have been for as long as we can remember. From the excitement of following the “race” once the writ is dropped, to the thrill that comes from marking a ballot and shaping the future of your community, to the awesomeness of election night as you watch the results roll in: elections are entirely exciting and engrossing exhibitions of democracy. Then we get to do it again in four years’ time! It’s like the Olympics of civic engagement! Alas, we are election nerds: we like gathering data, we like following trends, and—in a nutshell—we are strange. Regardless of our personal preferences (and the obviously very fun parties we throw on election night), elections are incredibly important in a free society because they provide a number of key functions in a democracy.  They provide a mechanism by which citizens are able to select their…

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The Passion of Graydon Pelley

in Featured/Interview/Longread/Politics by
Art by Sarah Brown

The 2019 Newfoundland and Labrador general election is a very strange beast. The province finds itself in the throes of existential crisis at the same as it is mired in a full-blown political depression. Nominations have finally closed for all parties, but only the governing Liberals are running a full slate of 40 candidates. The Tories are a close second with 39, while the NDP trail a distant third with 14 candidates. There are nine people running unaffiliated. As far as provincial politics goes, you could be forgiven for feeling like things are starting to circle the drain. But then there is the other weird feature of the 2019 NL election: there is a new option on the ballot. In November 2018, former NL Progressive Conservative party president Graydon Pelley announced that he was resigning from the Tories to form a new entity called the NL Alliance. The Alliance is,…

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The Phony War

in Editorial/Featured by
Photo by CHMR/The Independent.

Well, the provincial election is finally here. After months of rumours and weeks of high-volume spending announcements, Premier Dwight Ball this week called a snap election for 16 May 2019. If your democratic morale is low, fear not—this will all be mercifully over by May Two-Four, so we’ll be able to flee into the woods and get drunk to process what’s happening. Lord knows it will be necessary. To be honest, this barely even feels real. The whole campaign is already a giant fever dream. Twirling Towards the Future Even though everything is happening according to their schedule, it’s hard to avoid the impression that the Liberals are flying through this by the seat of their pants. They spent the last month making major funding announcements obviously meant to shock and awe the electorate into submission. We got the $2.5 billion Hibernia Dividend; we got the elimination of tax on…

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Budget 2019: Shag It, Let’s Do Magic

in Featured/Journalism by

I went to the NL Budget Lockup to hear tales of a budget surplus in 2019. Don’t get me wrong; budgets are normally big policy events. Not only do they chart the government’s fiscal plans for the upcoming year and update us on how things went the last one, they also usually involve a myriad of specific policy announcements across sectors. But as communication strategists become more and more important in all aspects of government, budgets have become more of a public relations medium than they once were. There has always been political spectacle on budget days: the finance minister’s new shoes, surprise funding for new paving and the like, but there has usually been an actual budget obscured by the government’s marketing efforts. Budget 2019 in Newfoundland and Labrador takes the communications side of budget days to a new extreme. It’s a pre-election budget, which are usually long on…

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Confederation Chic

in Editorial/Featured by

Every history, so they say, is a history of the present. The past is brutally unchanging, but what flares up through its wreckage to the observer hinges on the moment they turn to look back. (“The way to see,” according to one French mystic, “is to not always be looking.”) This is especially true in the case of historical ruptures that never quite get stitched up, or those regularly reopened under political strain. Newfoundland and Labrador’s Confederation with Canada in 1949 certainly fits this bill. Confederation was legendary in its own time, thanks to both the propagandist in the Premier’s chair and the romantic reaction he generated. As it recedes from living memory its mythic stature will only grow. You need only see Joe Smallwood, ‘Last Father of Confederation’, decked out in a Newfie Republican tricolour bowtie to realize we regard our past through a thickening stained-glass windowpane. It’s been…

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Memory, Language and the Land: the Art of Marlene Creates

in Arts & Culture/Featured/Journalism by

It wasn’t until Marlene Creates decided to ‘think oppositely’ that she found her niche. She graduated art school and did as many artists do: she got a studio and started working, hoping that one day she would forge herself the perfect identity. Destiny would prevail and a lucid understanding of her abilities and passions would begin to shape her art. In 1979 she started working with stones. She would carry them into her studio from the landscape and form paper casts around them. The stones were representative of power—a structure that is hardly weathered by the acts of the elements. The paper was a fragile and sensitive juxtaposition. She says it was an unorthodox yet simple thought that was a defining moment in her work. “One day I thought, instead of hauling all of these rocks into the studio, why don’t I just take the paper outside?” Creates told The…

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Reaping Without Sowing: Government Support for the Arts in NL

in Featured/Journalism by

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Transportation, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Christopher Mitchelmore loves the arts. He is very excited about all the wonderful work being produced in this province by its artists, and he cannot wait to share their stories with the world. This is wonderful. Unfortunately, Minister Mitchelmore seems to have some trouble listening to stories from local artists when they’re directed at him. Spearheaded by playwright Robert Chafe and director Courtney Brown, local artists last week organized a letter-writing campaign to the provincial government looking for an increase in funding to ArtsNL. “[ArtsNL is] the only pot of funding, really, that exists in the province [and] that goes directly to working artists to start the product that will actually fill the theatre, fill the CDs, fill the film halls, that kind of thing,” Chafe told the CBC. “The cultural programming in the province wouldn’t exist without it.” ArtsNL funding…

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Memorial Students Rejected a Bad Proposal, Not a U-Pass Program

in Journalism by

If you’re disappointed with the results of the recent U-Pass student vote at Memorial, don’t be disappointed with the students. It’s good news that 51% of eligible voters participated, and it means that 71% of those students voting “No” is a clear rejection of the proposal by the student body. However, this vote can only tell us how students felt about this proposal. It does not tell us how students feel about a U-Pass in general. Students did not support the specific U-Pass program proposed by Memorial University, Metrobus, and the City of St. John’s because of ineffective communication, inappropriate pricing, and inadequate scope to address the core transit issue: that all true growth opportunities for Metrobus ridership lie outside the current service area. Metrobus and the City have been thinking about U-Pass programs as a means of improving public transit since at least 2011.  One of the recommendations in…

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The People’s Party of Canada is Not for Everyone

in Journalism by
Pre-rally seating at Maxime Bernier's People's Party of Canada Rally, St. John's NL, 2 March 2019.

This past weekend, St. John’s was graced by the first federal political rally of our long pre-election season. People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier was in town to help his fledgling riding associations dig up candidates, and he headlined a rally at the Capital Hotel on Saturday. The Independent was there to cover it. Dozens of men and some women turned out to hear the renegade ex-Conservative go off about the perils of Canada’s dairy regulations, the “crony capitalism” at the heart of Trudeau’s “socialist” government, and the sinister ambitions of the United Nations. (Spoiler: world domination in approximately 30 years.) Bernier promised to balance the budget in two years by eliminating all corporate welfare and foreign aid, as well as downloading taxes onto provincial governments. He also swore to use section 92(10) of the Constitution Act, 1867 to “impose” the Trans-Mountain and Energy East pipelines on Canada. He…

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Charting a Course Through 2019

in Editorial by

To those who do not know the world is on fire, I have nothing to say. – Bertolt Brecht Here at the Independent, the engines are being plugged in and warmed up. Soon they will thrum with paid (!!) content from the country’s finest writers, about everything that matters in Newfoundland and Labrador. In the meantime, it’s more or less just me. The Indy’s still in drydock at the moment, but I wanted to say a few words about the political forecast before we really take this thing out to sea. It’s barely three weeks into 2019 but it already feels like forever—and I’m not just talking about the weather. We are living in historic times. This much seems obvious if you are following America’s slow-motion implosion, or the post-imperial nervous breakdown called Brexit. Or the Gilets Jaunes roiling France, or the simmering trade and diplomatic wars with China, or the wildfires…

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“How can you lose hope?”: Denise Cole

in Editorial/Featured/Post-Oil NL by

MP: Before I head out the door and leave you in the editor’s chair, let’s talk about Muskrat Falls. All the stuff that coming out of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry–it’s incredible isn’t it? It’s sometimes hard to keep in mind what Land Protector Denise Cole says in The Sound of Post-Oil (link below): “How do you lose hope when you know at the end of all of this the earth is still stronger than all of us.” I mean, I’m happy it’s all coming out and we’ve known this was the state of things for a while now. But I’m unhappy that this all had to happen this way. THE SOUND OF POST-OIL In this moving story, Denise Cole talks about Indigenous resistance, what motivates her activism, and how she became a Land Protector. She recalls the moment in 2016, when the falls went quiet. DB: Good Lord. We need to invent…

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The feedback loop between cars and housing

in Editorial/Post-Oil NL by

MP: I’m thinking we can introduce the new editor at The Independent by having a conversation about homes of the future. What do you think, Drew? DB: I think that’s a marvelous idea! It’s always good to go back to basics when rolling out something new, and it doesn’t get any more basic than the roof over your head. MP: I guess to get this conversation rolling, I’ll admit to an obsession with home. I mean, I studied home for my PhD. Historic home, future home, Métis home, Newfoundland and Labrador home, all of it. But most of all for this conversation I’m interested in the Post-Oil Home. Most of our homes are addicted to oil or dysfunctional energy regimes in one way or another. THE SOUND OF POST-OIL Jerry Dick, Executive Director of Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, talks about how people in the province used to create…

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Building sustainable energy from the ground up in Newfoundland and Labrador

in Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL by

At first glance, the future of energy production and consumption in Newfoundland and Labrador doesn’t look so bad. The provincial government often boasts that when the Muskrat Falls mega-hydroelectric dam goes online, 98 per cent of the province’s electricity needs will be provided by renewable energy. Considering that fossil fuels account for 82 per cent of energy production worldwide, that’s an impressive number.  However, as many critics of the project have pointed out, renewable energy doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable energy. Once running, Muskrat Falls will reduce the province’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it also runs the risk of wreaking environmental havoc via methyl-mercury poisoning, flooding of communities or a collapse of the North Spur, in addition to the many social implications of massive cost overruns, which will likely be passed on to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians through increases in taxes and electricity bills.  “Yes, you need to be environmentally sustainable. But, in order…

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