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Opinion/Politics

#NLRising, 3 Years On

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… Keep Reading

Featured/Opinion

Your Vote Is Your Consent

I am talking to teenagers about consent. In the courthouse alongside, Chantel John’s mother suffers through a slew of new charges against her daughter’s accused murderer. Newfoundland and Labrador is attempting to hold this man accountable. Though in the land of Mary March, it is difficult indeed to ignore the violent colonial locomotion that blasts through us regardless of our objection or intent. I hike round a river named for these exploits. It is beautiful big birch country. The water is surging fast-forward with the spring breakup in full-on yellow flop where new-wet meets rock-face. The running signage recounts a tragic tale taught to us via elementary school readers. A Beothuk woman resisting capture exposes herself to her aggressors. The courts of the day rule there was no malice in her kidnapping or her husband’s death during the abduction. Their baby died, too. We are always told she revealed her… Keep Reading

art by Katie Vautour

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

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… Keep Reading

The Red and Blue Doors Open the Same Room

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… Keep Reading

Analysis/Featured/Politics

Sleeping On the Ballot Box

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… Keep Reading

Art by Philippa Jones.
Featured/Opinion

May Day from Central

I drive by a gas bar named for some other Megan and wonder if all her dreams came true. Traveling thoughts can take reckless turns when you’re headed westward on Newfoundland’s Trans Canada. Highway 1. Ground zero for colonialism where signage along the roadside declares that those who ruled at the starting hour of their agreed upon clock continue to do so today. And I wonder if the merchant still got me round the neck. As I pass blue and red squares proclaiming the hopeful inheritors of our little bit of earth, I feel the merchant’s hand tightening. Not that they refer to themselves as merchants anymore. The comms department sorted that before we even knew there was a comms department. They call themselves all kinds of generous, extravagant things now to confuse us. But a collar by another name is still a collar. My field of view is foggy… Keep Reading

Art by Sarah Brown

The Passion of Graydon Pelley

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,… Keep Reading

Photo by CHMR/The Independent.
Editorial/Featured

The Phony War

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… Keep Reading

Photo by CHMR/The Independent.
Featured/Opinion

Gaslighting a Generation

I know it’s been a whole nine months since I lived on the rock, but I was surprised to get the news the other day—after the budget was announced—that everything is great now. Apparently, there’s even talk of billion-dollar budget surpluses and public spending. It’s funny because I was under the impression that I had to leave at least in part because of budget cuts to higher education (and very little hope in any other sector). Of course, there are those in this magazine and beyond who think that all the good news might have more to do with an upcoming election than the real financial situation in the province. It’s hard to swallow that all those meetings I had to sit in where I was told there was no money, no vision, no future were actually inaccurate. Apparently, there has never been a better time to live in Newfoundland… Keep Reading

Featured/Journalism

Budget 2019: Shag It, Let’s Do Magic

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… Keep Reading

Editorial/Featured

Confederation Chic

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… Keep Reading

Featured/Journalism

Reaping Without Sowing: Government Support for the Arts in NL

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… Keep Reading

Featured/Opinion

Muskrat Falls and the Tip of the Iceberg

Last Thursday night, instead of attending a letter writing campaign at the LSPU Hall where dozens of local artists had assembled to write to government policy makers, begging for an increase in funding for our provincial arts council, I was on Springdale Street replacing a set of leaky kitchen taps in a rental property. The owner was a nice Scottish man who works in the oil industry. He complained about the lost equity in the house. He’s working in Azerbaijan now, but has fallen in love with a Newfoundland woman. He bemoaned the lack of work here, while I was under his sink. He said most oil companies would never build another major project in Newfoundland, after what went on with Hebron. He said the Koreans were much cheaper and better organized. “I worked on that project,” I said. “What a shit show.” We went on to discuss the rampant… Keep Reading

CHEAP Thrills: This Week at The House

Question Period is like a soap opera, except about politics and with terrible pacing. Old storylines are picked up wherever they left off while new, meandering subplots bubble up all the time. All the actors in the show have tangled, weirdly passionate interconnections that sometimes go back decades. But the script is badly written and all the drama is exaggerated beyond any resemblance to a reality most people would recognize. Prolonged exposure seems hazardous to human mental health, and I worry the surrealist funeral parlour lighting in the scrum room might trigger an acid flashback. Outside of the actual content of the House of Assembly, though, it has been a tremendous first two weeks at the House of Assembly. My colleagues in the press gallery are all lovely. I am deeply humbled to be part of that small cadre charged with checking on the stewards of the state. This job… Keep Reading

Journalism

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

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… Keep Reading

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