"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

O! Canada

It's March 31st, which means it's time for the annual hand-wringing, black-armband, pink-white-and-green lament for a crypto-nation on the part of the Newfoundland nationalists and crypto-separatists who want us all to think the whole thing was a big mistake.

Not a few of whom have had their careers as Professional Newfoundlanders underwritten by the Canada Council and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Labradorians' sense of attachment to Canada is not, contrary to Newfoundland nationalist paranoid orthodoxy, the result of becoming vendus through 56 years of federal government cheques. Newfoundland nationalists, if they had any shame, which they don't, would do well to refer back to what Labrador residents themselves said in the leadup to the Labrador boundary case, more than 80 years ago. Malcolm McLean, progenitor of a large Labrador clan:

The inhabitants of this country are dissatisfied with the present state of things and are anxious, according to my knowledge, hardly without exception, that this country should be held to constitute part of Canada rather than Newfoundland. They believe that their lot cannot be any worse and expect that it is likely to be a great deal better if the question as to the boundary is decided in that way.
The joint statement by Thomas L. Blake, Amon Chaulk, and Joseph Michelin:

…we have never been given any representation in the Newfoundland Legislature nor any return for the revenue contributed by the inhabitants of Labrador except a mail service, which at best is a very poor one… According to our information, the inhabitants of Lake Melville and the Hamilton Inlet are, without a single exception that we have heard of, most anxious that Labrador shall be held to constitute part of the Dominion of Canada.
When the unelected Commission of Government finally gave Labrador what elected Newfoundlanders would not, the right to vote, in the National Convention election, Labradorians elected a solidly and openly pro-Confederation delegate, the Rev. Lester Burry. In the first round of the 1948 referendum, Labrador voted pro-Confederation at a higher percentage than any district in Newfoundland. In the second round, Confederation outpolled irResponsible Government more than three to one.

Remember this, Newfoundland nationalists: for over 100 years, your ancestors denied to mine the fundamental right of your so-called "nationhood"; the democratic franchise.

Don't ask me to mourn for your nation. And don't ask me not to celebrate the birth of mine.

O Canada! nunagivaptigit
Inungnit naglingersiorpotit
Omativut tettdlarput
Nunatsiavut! pivlutit
O Canada! NunatsiaK
pigârpogut, inôjogut illa,
Pigârpogut pivlutit Canada

Sunday, March 27, 2005

If you're gonna go for the heart...

... you might as well aim for the gut.

Check out the ALS Society of Canada's brilliant current PSA campaign.

The music's by Jim Guthrie (not Guthie).

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Loyola, of all people, would know

"Legislation in jeopardy" blares The Telegram's headline today. "Atlantic Accord Funding in Jeopardy", chimes in VOCM:

"One Conservative MP from this province calls it the sneakiest, lowest form of politics he's ever seen. Loyola Hearn says the Atlantic Accord is in real jeopardy because of a budget bill tabled by the Liberals. Hearn says Bill C-43 contains legislation on the Atlantic Accord, but it also contains several other pieces of legislation, including amendments to the Kyoto accord."

Ignore the other sloppy errors of fact for a second ("amendments to the Kyoto accord", "contains several other pieces of legislation")...

It would take Lieola Hearn — he of the Blame Canada Atlantic Accord resolution and more other pieces of Parliamentary and press obfuscation than one can shake VOCM's toll-free number at — to recognize sneaky and low forms of politics.

He is, after all, one of the sneakiest and lowest forms of politicians. This is the guy who counted his several hundred routine procedural interventions in the House, in his Parliamentary officer's role, towards his "working for you" count. Loyola, you may have been working alright, but that was on Peter McKay's and Stephen Harper' dime, not St. John's South's.

In any event, Loyola now finds himself in the same position he put Newfoundland's Liberal MPs just scarce months ago, only more so.

You refused to entertain any amendment to your cutesy little motion that might have eliminated the squirm factor, and you chortled, in your seat and on the airwaves as you watched your opponents squirm, as if on cue.

But he that lives by the recorded vote dies by it, Lieola.

Come Final Reading on The Deal and its governing bill, whose side will you be on? Got that VOCM switchboard number handy?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Innu-Eimun as a Second Language

The English language fails us. It’s a shame that Innu-eimun, for example, isn’t a provincial official language. If it did, it might just help us to understand one another.

Just then, I twice used what grammarians call the first-person plural: “us”. Where English has just one word for “we/us” – Innu-eimun has two.

In Innu-eimun there’s a first-person plural: ninan, “we/us”. But there is also another first-person plural, one which includes the person being spoken to, tshinan. Ninan = “me and my gang here.” Tshinan = “you and me together.”

In English, you say to your friend “we should rent a movie tonight”. That’s a tshinan-we. You and I. But if your friend invites you over to watch a movie, and you say “we have company”, that’s a ninan-we. Me and my gang here, not including “you”.

So one little English word has to do all the heavy lifting, where in Innu-eimun the work is shared by two. A distinction that is hard to make in English becomes perfectly clear.

Now Innu-eimun is very different from English, very different even from the languages that most people study as a second language in school or university. It’s not an easy one for someone to master as a second language, but it might just be worth it. If Innu-eimun was an official language, we would be better able to understand politicians. Rusty Innu-eimun would be better than the most fluent English.

Back in the 1960s, Joey Smallwood raved, in English:

We are completely selfish, let there be no mistake about that. This is our river, this is our waterfall, this is our land.”

It is ambiguous as to who is the “we” he is speaking for. Or it was, until he hit his “Newfoundland first!” line. Or, perhaps his “Newfoundland” included Labrador. Ninan-we, or tshinan-we?

When Smallwood says “our river”, would that be said in Innu-eimun as nishipiminan or tshishipiminu? “our river”, or “our river, yours and mine”? Nitassinan or tshitassinu; “our land”, or “our land, yours and mine”?

When Smallwood famously declared:

”If we are not big enough, if we are not daring enough to colonize Labrador, then somebody else will, and we won’t deserve to own it.”

An obvious ninan-we. “Us Newfoundlanders.” Not a tshinan, “you and we together”.

But that was the 1960s. A different time. Surely, no political leader could ever get away with that kind of language – in any language – today. No one would put up those walls of an exclusive-we, a ninan, that doesn’t include the people being spoken to, or spoken about.

Now, apply your newly-won knowledge of Innu-eimun to the following case:

“It’s high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else’s treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of our province. We cannot expect fair treatment from Ottawa if we don’t practise what we preach. We have the deed to Labrador, but we don’t have the heart and soul of its residents – and that must change. We must reach out and include Labradorians, and we must physically link our province by commencing a feasibility study on a fixed link sooner rather than latter.”

Ninan? Or tshinan? Who is this “we”?

That was part of the speech that Premier Williams gave when he accepted his party leadership four years ago this spring. I’ve often thought about that section of his speech. And I often wonder, in the parallel universe where Innu-eimun is an official language, what it would have sounded like if he had delivered it in the language of Ben Michel and Kashtin, instead of the language of Shakespeare… and Smallwood.

VOCM Open Lies

On Tuesday morning's VOCM Open Line, Premier Danny Williams told the following lies:

Randy Simms: “A little bit for everybody” [in the budget] is kind of the thought.

Premier Williams: No, you know, there is a lot for a lot of groups. I mean, we went into Labrador, and spent over $50 million, and then the criticism that comes out of there. “Oh that’s old money, that’s federal money. $40 million of that money is federal money.” Well, that is absolutely incorrect.[1] The money that is being spent in Labrador is from the Labrador Transportation Initiative fund which is provincial money,[2] which is money that is there because we have assumed the responsibility for the ferry services in the area. So you know, we take on responsibility, we take on liability and downloading from the federal government.[3] They transfer funds over to us but it is never enough[4] because the federal government continues[5] to download, as you are well aware, responsibility. We put that there.[6]

Lie #1: The money in the $56-million announcement, back in the first week of May is almost entirely “old”, and almost entirely from federal-sourced revenues. $31-million of the total consists of carry-over projects, previously announced and budgeted last year, on Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway. The remaning $9-million is the sum total of new TLH commitments, but the ENTIRE $40-million total comes from the Labrador Transportation Initiative Fund (LTIF). As much as Danny Williams and Tom Rideout would like to legalistically twist words to make it out as if the LTIF is provincial money, it isn’t. The province may now own the money, but the province did not supply it: every cent, every copper, every sous, came out of federal government revenues. None from the province. This, even though Brian Tobin promised, back in 1997, that Phase III would be paid for out of provincial coffers.

Large swaths, although in the obscure world of provincial government funding re-re-re-announcements, it’s hard to tell exactly how much, of the other $16-million re-re-re-announced on Danny’s $56-million day, comes from other federal or cost-shared sources as well, including the federal-provincial infrastructure fund, and last fall’s health care accord.

Lie #2: As discussed above, the entire LTIF consists of a fund transferred to the province, by the federal government, money which originated solely in revenues collected in right of Canada, not in right of Newfoundland and Labrador. Tom Rideout, you might own the money, but you didn’t pay the money; play with words all you want, but we did go to the same law school.

Lie #3: The Labrador Transportation Initiative, in which the province took over responsibility for the Labrador coastal marine services and the Strait of Belle Isle ferry, in no way constitutes “downloading”. The agreement was freely entered into, a voluntary agreement between the two orders of government, made on terms which both sides freely signed, and which was made at the instigation of the provincial government of Brian Tobin.

Lie #4: Well, it’s true that the federal government transfers to the province are “never enough”, but it’s true of all provinces, for all time, because once the federal government transfers a set amount to a given province for a specified purpose, the definition of “enough” immediately changes. Upwards. In 1997, the provincial government’s definition of “enough” was $340-million. How do we know this? That’s what they agreed to. Case closed.

Lie #5: The federal government does not “continue” to download anything. The transfer of responsibility was a one-off. It does not “continue”; the action is perfective, not imperfective or progressive. In fact, the provincial government is on the hook for less, in respect of Labrador marine transportation, in 2005, than they were eight years ago. Why? Because the construction of “Phase II” of the Trans-Labrador Highway has done exactly what it was intended to do: eliminated the need for publicly-subsidized coastal marine services to six of the south coast ports. If anything, the burden that has been downloaded has been reduced; it would be reduced even further if Lewisporte could get over itself.

Lie #6: Not sure of the antecedent of the “that” in this sentence, but, assuming it refers back to the LTIF money, no, Danny, you did not put “that” there, or do anything else with “that”. Not your government, and before your time.

Oh yes, "the criticism that comes out of there". Ungrateful little buggers, won't take our candy.

Maybe, Danny, if you'd stop re-re-re-recycling financial and political credit, people might give you credit where credit is due, instead of where it isn't. Who do you think you are? Brian Tobin? Joe Smallwood?

If you're not willing to earn your own praise, then learn to the perfectly fair "criticism that comes out of there", wherever "there" happens to be on any given day.

Prize season

Jane Jacobs is up for a prize.

It should be the Nobel, in Economics. Would the eligible nominators reading this blog please take the initiative?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Labrador is always on the federal agenda

As CBC News reports today, Paul Shelley is meeting with his federal culture-vulture and sporty-spice counterparts today in Ottawa.

As partial compensation for (yet again) refusing to fund a replacement for the hand-me-down auditorium, on the former American Side of Goose Bay, that was the main stage of the performing arts scene in central-eastern Labrador for decades, Shelley promises that "a new auditorium for Labrador is on the agenda [in his meetings with federal government types]."

The only problem is, the auditorium was already on the federal agenda. Canadian Heritage notionally allocated $300,000 towards the project, two fiscal years ago, under the department's now-defunct Cultural Spaces Program.

That funding, representing some 10% of the estimated price tag, had been allocated, and was held over, and held over again, on the vague promises of Paul Shelley's predecessors that the provincial share would soon be forthcoming. The notional allocation for the auditorium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay expires at the end of the current fiscal year — that is, nine calendar days from now, with the Easter holidays in between — along with the rest of Culture Spaces Program.

There is a disturbing, yet all-too-predictable pattern at work here. You saw it with the replacement of the hand-me-down Melville Hospital, also inherited from the Americans. The new Labrador Health Centre required an infusion of happymoney™ from Inco/Voisey's Bay Nickel before the Tobin government would unlock the remainder of the funding for a provincial hospital in a part of the province.

The Trans-Labrador Highway was the subject of yesterday's blawg entry.

And now the needed performing space for central and eastern Labrador. (Labrador West's cultural scene has a full-fledged provincial Arts and Culture Centre.)

Perhaps the auditorium isn't the highest item on the priority list for the province generally, or for Happy Valley-Goose Bay or Labrador in particular.

But... There's a "but". There are several.

If the provincial government, in spending $160,000 more on the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, $2.4-million for "the continued development of cultural industries", whatever that means, $6-million for the operation of The Rooms (does anyone care to check Hansard to see what the Tories used to think of The Rooms?), $2.29-million for the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, a subsidy for the Music Industry Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (an industry organization that really ought to be self-funding), reinstatement of the Art Procurement Program, &c., &c., &c.;

if, in short, culture and the arts are as big a priority for his government as the Throne Speech and budget docs would have it, then what credibility does Loyola Sullivan have in saying that there were other, more pressing priorities for Happy Valley-Goose Bay? (And is a town or region only allowed one priority at a time?)

Furthermore, what credibility does Danny Williams have in saying that arts and culture in Newfoundland and Labrador are part of his Grand Scheme, when so obvious an investment has been omitted from the goodies list for little better reason than... than what? That it's in Labrador? "Integral part of the province", blah, blah, blah.

Finally, if the provincial government, even when spoon-fed a substantial federal contribution, refuses to bite, what credibility does Paul Shelley have going to Ottawa to lobby for a federal contribution to this project, when his own government, in its budget, just turned Ottawa's offer down flat?

And just wait: within a matter of weeks, possibly days, the Tories will be complaining that they would build an auditorium for central-eastern Labrador, but that evil and nefarious Ottawa won't pay its fair share.

The questions bear repeating: Labrador is part of the province — a province — some province, somewhere — isn't it?

Do you happen to know which one?

Does Paul Shelley?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Tom Rideout's TLH stance is unbackupable

Cast your mind back to April 3, 1997, the day that the provincial government announced — for the first of many, many, many times — that it would build the Trans-Labrador Highway:

"[W]e intend to see that every dollar is used to build the Trans Labrador Highway, and to maintain necessary ferry services in Labrador," said Premier Tobin. "This compensation package makes it possible for the province to complete the Labrador West to Happy Valley-Goose Bay section, and a highway between Cartwright and Red Bay. However, it will not complete the link between Cartwright and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The province will provide additional funds to complete that portion of the road," he added. [SOURCE]
Not for the first time, a provincial Premier didn't quite graps the import of his own words. So, in relatively short order, the province began backpedalling on its own promise to use its own-source provincial revenues to build a provincial highway in the province. So, the Premier and his Ministers started using the following, obviously boilerplate language:

When we announced the Labrador Transportation Initiative in April of 1997, we realized that we would still have to find a way to link Central Labrador to the coast, a distance of nearly 300 kilometres.

We had lobbied Ottawa to help us complete the link, but our efforts, thus far, have not yielded any results.

I should note that our commitment to Phase III is not contingent on federal funding. Having said that, however, the opportunity for federal participation still exists. [SOURCE]
"Obviously boilerplate", because the same language was repeated here, and on other occasions which have been purged from official history.

No one seems to have asked, why and how should there be "an opportunity for federal participation" for the remaining segment of the Trans-Labrador Highway (a) when the federal participation has been paid up front over the past three decades, to the tune of nearly 90% of costs to date; and, especially, (b) when the province promised to pay the full freight for Phase III back in 1997.

Fast-forward to March 8, 2005.

Tom Rideout, now the Minister of Transportation, is re-re-re-re-announcing the Trans-Labrador Highway. He re-re-re-re-announces a bunch of projects that have been carried over from last year's work, adds a few new ones for this year, and — significantly — funds them from the Labrador Transportation Initiative Fund that was the subject of Brian Tobin's announcement eight years previously.

And, to complete the autologous Liberalism transplant, Rideout adopted Tobin's own backpedalling on the promise to spend provincial revenues on a provincial highway in the province.

"Government is strongly advocating for the federal government to include Trans Labrador Highway (TLH) as part of the National Highway System, creating a road link between this province and the rest of the country and making TLH road work eligible for federal funding." [SOURCE]

The local media, however, finally seem wise to the Multi-Material Stewardship Board's co-option of the entire provincial government apparatus, as evidenced by the re-re-re-re-re-re-announcing of re-re-re-re-re-re-cycling of (transferred) money. Rob Antle, writing in the Telegram on March 10th, poured cold water — or perhaps a warmer liquid — all over Rideout's announcement.

Rideout's blood pressure sufficiently elevated, he penned a letter to the Telegram which was printed on St. Patrick's Day, thereby satisfying the paper's quotient of blarney:

With the recent announcement of $40 million for work on the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH) that will be allocated for the 2005-06 budget year, there seems to have arisen some confusion regarding the ownership of this money. It is, of course, provincial money.

In March 1997, the province entered into an agreement with the federal government to accept responsibility for providing marine services on the coast of Labrador in exchange for $340 million and two vessels. The province agreed to maintain the marine freight and passenger services at such levels and with such subsidy, or other public financial assistance, in support of such services, as the province deemed appropriate for the various locations and sites on the coast.

There was no further direction on how the funds were to be spent, beyond providing the marine services, which the provincial government continues to do. At that time, the agreement did not commit the province to fund the TLH.

On Dec. 19, 1997, government enacted the Labrador Transportation Initiative Fund Act, setting up a board to administer the fund. It is, therefore, totally under provincial control. It was a decision by the provincial government of the day to specifically allocate a portion of this funding for transportation initiatives such as the construction of the TLH.

In which Tom does two curious things: he takes credit for a previous government's policy initiative, and political credit for the very-federal Labrador Transportation Fund.

It is true, absolutely, that the province now owns the Labrador Transportation Fund. But it is a blatant misrepresentation — a lie — to say that there is any confusion over the ownership of the money. No one is confused over the ownership of the money, but neither is anyone confused over the source: EVERY CENT OF THE LABRADOR TRANSPORTATION FUND CAME FROM HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN IN RIGHT OF CANADA.

Every penny.

So, what Tom Rideout, and the previous provincial government, to be fair, have reduced themselves to, is this: they are the collector of revenues generated in Labrador, the lobbyist for transfer payments from Ottawa in respect of funding the provision of public services in Labrador, and...

... that's about it.

They have, in short, made themselves into an exact facsimile of what they (unfairly) accused the federal government of being during the Atlantic Accord debate: money-grubbers. And buck-passers, to boot.

A word of advice to Danny Williams: If you really want to make Labrador feel like an integral part of the province, to use your code phrase, this a really lousy way to go about things.

The real question, Tom Rideout, is not how to make the Trans-Labrador Highway eligible for more federal funding.

The question, Tom Rideout, is hot to make the Trans-Labrador Highway eligible for any provincial funding at all.

And that doesn't mean funding that the province owns, either. Your legalistic word games in the Telegram are simply unbackupable. When will the TLH be eligible for funding out of the significant, out-of-whack by comparison to its per-capita share, contribution that Labrador makes to the provincial government's coffers?

Don't go cap-in-hand to Ottawa to bail the province out of a promise which it made, in respect of a piece of provincial infrastructure it should be building even in the absence of promises.

If Labrador is, or is to be, an integral part of the province, and not just in respect of the ability of the province to collect resource revenues and allocate resource usages, then it must be a two-way street. If you raise provincial revenues in Labrador, don't be surprised when you are called up on to spend provincial expenditures in Labrador. Don't pass the buck, political and financial, on to Ottawa.

Labrador is not a territory. Labrador is part of the province — a province — some province, somewhere — isn't it?

Do you happen to know which one?

If you reduce yourself to the role of money-grubbing middle-man, collecting the revenue, while (ineffectually and inappropriately) "lobbying" Ottawa to pay for the things your government, rightfully, under the Constitution, should be paying for, then Labrador, you will discover, will rapidly become much less "integral" than you care to realize.

And you will also find that the idea, long abroad, of cutting out the money-grubbing middle-man, has won its second wind under the tenure of the Premier who promised to make Labrador feel like an "integral part of the province".