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Where Does Government End and Nalcor Begin?

In 1998, then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright captured perfectly the multi-generational culture of the US Foreign Policy establishment: “if we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.” That last part in particular has aged poorly. When she uttered it, the US-led West was ramping up its campaign to open and secure markets (“spread democracy”) in every corner of the globe—peacefully if possible; by force if necessary. Two decades later, it is hard to argue that this approach has been especially successful for the United States of America. In The Hell of Good Intentions, Stephen Walt, Professor of Foreign Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School, describes the culture of this entrenched establishment as “fiercely self-protective.” Professional success depends on reputation, and you do not advance your career by challenging orthodoxy, which in this case… Keep Reading


Newfoundland and Labrador’s “Climate Action Plan” is All Bark and No Bite

You could almost mistake its 55 glossy pages of picturesque coastal landscapes for a tourism brochure, save a strange word map of climate policy-related buzzwords. In reality, it is Newfoundland and Labrador’s brand new climate change action plan; or, to stay on brand, The Way Forward: On Climate Change in Newfoundland and Labrador. A five-year plan to guide provincial action and support implementation of the federal government’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. Does this beautiful PDF detail how to decarbonize the provincial economy and to help avoid the catastrophic impacts of global climate change? It has some strengths, and many weaknesses. Let’s start with the good news. First and foremost: kudos to the provincial government for recognizing the urgency of climate change. Annual average temperatures in Newfoundland and Labrador have already increased 0.8 degrees Celsius above historical norms, and the report does not shy away from… Keep Reading

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

The People’s Party of Canada is Not for Everyone

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… Keep Reading


What Does it Mean to Take Women’s Leadership Seriously?

Women are being asked to “Lean in,” to work harder, faster, stronger, smarter, to work a “Double-Shift,” to improve themselves so that they have “what it takes” to compete with men. What all of this advice misses is that women have been doing these things, and more, for a very long time. Women are not the problem when it comes to their absence from politics, from boards and commissions, and from holding the reigns of Fortune 500 Companies. Women show up. Prepared. They already are working harder, faster, stronger, and smarter. The problem is that they get blocked at the door, in the hallways, they don’t get offered a seat at the table, they face glass ceilings and they face glass cliffs. None of these are things that can be fixed by being talked at by men who have helpful “tips and tricks” on how to get along well with… Keep Reading

News You Can Use

The Indy Guide to Buying Weed in Newfoundland and Labrador

Recreational marijuana has been legal for nearly six months now. But between the wide variety of products on offer and the tendency of many people to react differently to the same drug, even experienced users can find legal cannabis daunting. (When they can find it at all, I mean.) This was the case when my prohibition-era pot supply ran out last week, and I was faced with my first foray into the legal market. But I did some research, checked out the local shops, and crowd-sourced opinions from friends and on Twitter to figure out what’s good in the wonderful world of legalized weed. Here’s what I found:   What to Buy Top Shelf: Broken Coast is the best supplier by universal agreement. If it’s available at your local shop, it’s probably your best bet. They sell four varieties:   Galiano: A sativa dominant hybrid called Northern Lights Haze.  … Keep Reading


A Phone Call from Astaldi

[Rome, February 2013] “Yes, hello, hello, Terra Nova? Hello! Newfoundland and Labrador, it is Franco Astaldi, returning your call. Si, calling from Roma. Buongiorno! How can I help you? Our bid for the hydro dam is low? Hey, you crazy, you wanna a higher price? No, seriously we are having a sale this month on gianormous concrete dams. Si, this is true. Look I tell you, in confidence, Si, those other bidders, they don’t know the secret: we continue building when it snows by working under giant dome, is like magic igloo. Hey, and if there a problema down the line we make adjustments to the billing, no biggie. Do we know snow? Hey, I grow up in Torino! Labrador same thing, no? SNC-Lavalin, yeah, I know these guys, you crazy? Libya, Gaddafi, the whole deal. We were there building a highway, they were working with Muammar’s kid on the… Keep Reading

Opinion/To Each Their Own

Make Them Pay for Muskrat Falls

It was voted The Telegram’s top news story of the year: the Muskrat Falls Inquiry into a project that is “publicly funded, years behind schedule and billions of dollars over-budget.” The public has been riveted as they follow the proceedings. Those in the spotlight trade barbs with each other and the inquiry officials; they rant self-righteously and sanctimoniously defend their reputations. It will be interesting to see what the Inquiry concludes. (So far, the longer it goes on, the less popular the Muskrat Falls project becomes.) Interesting, but little else. The $33.7 million inquiry is unlikely to lead to any substantive change, unless it identifies guilty parties and proceeds to sanction and punish them. ‘Guilty’ in the context of public decision-making, of course, can span a broad spectrum: guilty of hiding or ignoring important information; guilty of failure to do due diligence; guilty of failure to uphold the public trust… Keep Reading


Charting a Course Through 2019

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… Keep Reading

Editorial/Featured/Post-Oil NL

“How can you lose hope?”: Denise Cole

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… Keep Reading

Indy Fiction

Part 8: Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Save its Romance

Part 8: At home, you and your lover sleep in different rooms. You weigh yourself down with bedding and blankets like it will keep you anchored, keep you from bursting out in the darkest hour with some dramatic gesture – I love you, don’t leave, here is a song, here is a poem – something passionate and spineless containing no real evidence or external support. Everything you do or say now is poisoned with desperation. You lie in bed watching an unseasonal snowfall smother the new spring growth outside. Social media teems with complaints and side-by-side comparisons of the current climate versus kinder weather in other places. You hear the front shut – you lover leaving early. There will be no escaping the desire for better surroundings today. THE SOUND OF POST-OIL In this moving story, Denise Cole talks about Indigenous resistance, what motivates her activism, and how she became a… Keep Reading

Editorial/Post-Oil NL

The feedback loop between cars and housing

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… Keep Reading

Indy Fiction/Post-Oil NL

Part 6: Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain its Romance

Part 6: In the following days, you hold up your part of the bargain. For date night, you prepare a meal of fresh local food which you only had to ask four people how to obtain. You go out dancing to traditional songs, beautiful melodies composed from the most romantic of poverty-stricken situations. The two of you sway together. The music and fresh air encourage smiles and you feel warm and safe and loved. But when you are alone, anxieties fill reservoirs in your mind. Charm can’t fill the oil tank in February. How can you offer stability in this boom or bust life? You recall the restraint in the therapist’s voice: you sound frustrated. Well, no shit doctor obvious. 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 homes and communities that responded to… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Fiction/Post-Oil NL

Part 5: Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain its Romance

Part 5: Your lover presents you with a list. At least it is not a Dear John letter. You open it right away to show how eager you are to start getting things right. The list is a number of plans and tactics; “I” statements, honesty hour, date nights. Your lover says if we’d installed these practices long ago, we wouldn’t be in this rut. We wouldn’t have this surplus of despair. You agree and make sure to help with the schedule. For Honesty Hour, your lover has procured a therapist as they feel a neutral party is needed. Arbitration makes you nervous. Stages like this in grievance procedures can result in ultimatum. THE SOUND OF POST-OIL Rhonda Pelley forecasts Newfoundland and Labrador’s future using a series of tarot card visual art pieces she created. She said she wanted to create art in response to Muskrat Falls and to the province’s… Keep Reading

Indy Fiction

Part 7: Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Save its Romance

Part 7: The therapist talks about listening and being receptive to the other’s point of view and you realize all these instructions for really for you alone Your lover picks at their fingernails until the therapist pauses. When they unfold their prepared items for discussion, their hands tremble just a little. The urge to reach out is so powerful you sit on your hands. You’re good at sitting on your hands. Our life together is undermined by instability. I wonder if it can be any other way with you. I wonder if I’m crazy for staying. I wonder if I’ve done something to deserve this. We’re in a situation where even the concept of planning for the future is in danger – will there be work? Will there be positive change? Will we continue to love our friends and family as they distance themselves from you? Sometimes – and this is… Keep Reading

Featured/Journalism/Post-Oil NL

Building sustainable energy from the ground up in Newfoundland and Labrador

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… Keep Reading

Featured/Indy Fiction/Post-Oil NL

Part 4: Newfoundland and Labrador Considers How to Maintain Its Romance

Part 4: Your lover texts to say they’ll be home late. You wait, taking careful breaths. Every time you blink, you picture them with a different expression: their mouths forming a “no,” their lips curling with impatience. You hope you can beg for another chance without seeming too hopeless. You wish it was like those days at the beginning. One of the best things about learning to care about someone is witnessing the gradual emergence of their beauty. You notice how their cheeks fluctuate into a smile, into a laugh. You still see the shape of their shoulders when you close your eyes. In the stretch of falling in love, they become both known and new to you, like a surfacing, like a season of giving. Click on the links to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 in Bridget Canning’s series. You never thought of it as passion, but… Keep Reading

Editorial/Featured/Post-Oil NL

Leave us something to build on?

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… Keep Reading

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