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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Leave us something to build on?

in Editorial/Featured/Post-Oil NL by

As headlines tell us that Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest oil spill is now impossible to clean up and the provincial government promises to investigate the scope of  the C-NLOPB’s authority, my plea to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is simple: just build a solid line in your budget to provide real investment in the development of the sustainable energies of the future and the infrastructure needed for post-oil economies.  THE SOUND OF POST-OIL You can listen to Nick Mercer talk about the barriers to the development of wind energy in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the reasons it has strong potential. Nick Mercer is a PhD candidate in Environmental Management at the University of Waterloo. The province’s last budget doubled down on oil. Whether we agree with it or not, we know why: it seems like easy money. What else would induce provincial leaders to keep the province tied…

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The Future Project: Who will pay for tomorrow?

in Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL by

We’re so much better at looking back than we are at looking ahead. We can’t quite get hold of the seventh generation principle. We don’t know how to make decisions that take into account our children’s future, never mind seven generations ahead. Years of working within various versions of capitalist economies have tied our imaginations to the money that can be made from this season’s catch, during this quarter, or, as in this gig economy, this next contract we can win. That’s the point of the increasing income gap between the rich and the poor. When more people are struggling more and more to pay for housing and food, how can we organize to plan for a better future for generations we haven’t even thought of? And there’s this: The future is risky, isn’t it? The Sound of Post-Oil NL Listen to our conversation with Delia Warren about a future economy…

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Preparing for the post-oil economy

in Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL by

While some groups are helping workers transition out of the volatile oil industry, provincial legislation itself is proving a barrier to growth in renewable energy For nearly 30 years, crude oil has been a vital part of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. After the mass layoffs of the cod moratorium in 1992 left 30,000 people out of work, many hoped that the burgeoning industry would be the province’s financial saviour. In many ways, it was. By 2008, 10 years after the first barrels were pulled from the Hibernia oilfield, Newfoundland and Labrador became a “have” province for the first time in its history. The unemployment rate steadily declined, and for a time, things were looking good. The Sound of Post-Oil NL Listen to our conversation with Delia Warren about a future economy that takes advantage of the skills of the current work force, one that doesn’t leave oil workers…

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Southern Inuit feel leader used them for political gains

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Editor’s Note: This is a story co-published on APTN by Justin Brake. As a journalist with TheIndependent.ca, Justin Brake followed the land protectors onto the Muskrat Falls site and covered the occupation. He is facing criminal and civil charges from the event.  Justin Brake/APTN News Land protectors in Labrador facing civil and criminal charges related to the Muskrat Falls resistance are questioning the RCMP and a crown energy corporation’s decisions not to pursue charges against an Indigenous leader who went on to the dam’s construction site during a movement to stop the project in 2016. They also say that their leader, NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC) President and former Liberal MP Todd Russell, failed to support Southern Inuit who were criminalized after following his lead.  They say throughout the movement to stop Muskrat Falls Russell was in pursuit of separate deals with the federal government and a provincial crown corporation. A video taken…

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Northern Ireland’s Unlikely Spirit of Freedom: The Art of Laurence McKeown

in Indy Essay by

“Do you think it will ever end?” one character asks another in Laurence McKeown’s 2016 play Green and Blue. He is referring to the Troubles, the decades of violence in Northern Ireland that saw over 3600 dead, 16,000 shootings, and at least 10,000 bombings. McKeown is a former member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977 for attempted murder. He joined the IRA at 17 after seeing people he knew interned without trial and feeling that his freedom amounted to hypocrisy. He was released in 1992 following a campaign that framed IRA prisoners as political hostages kept behind bars indefinitely while ordinary “lifers” were set free after 7 or 8 years. Today, at 62, McKeown works as an artist, producing films, books, poems, and plays aimed at responding to the political struggle that has shaped his life.  For centuries Ireland had been under British rule.…

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A Post-oil Newfoundland and Labrador?

in Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL by

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…

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

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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…

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

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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…

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

in Featured/Indy Essay by

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…

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Heroes, sisters and Christine Blasey Ford

in Indy Essay/Journalism by

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…

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

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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…

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