Monday, 31 October 2016

Muskrat Accountability

Muskrat Accountability

By: Ryan Young

Here is a question I have to ask: If Muskrat Falls is so bad that everybody refuses to take accountability for it, why don’t we just scrap the whole damn thing? I am not the first person to point out the strangeness of many of the #MakeMuskratRight protesters saying that they don’t want the project stopped entirely. I am sure many people feel that we have too much invested to turn back now, but with the final cost likely to be double what we have already spent, and the questions surrounding the north spur and methylmercury, it is hard to justify the reasoning that we must forge ahead at any cost. None of our political parties are willing to take the bull by the horns and demand a real stop/go analysis of the project, and the Liberals and PC's seem to be entrenched in a never-ending game of who-done-it.

So, just who do we blame for the boondoggle that is Muskrat Falls? At the PC Annual General Meeting last weekend, we heard that their party was not responsible for the current issues with the project. This revelation was met with much eye-rolling and public scrutiny, as is to be expected. This was after all the party of Danny and Kathy, who were determined to push this project through no matter what the cost. For them to take such a stand is laughable, and none but the most partisan blues are buying it.

Whenever we ask the current Liberal government about it they shrug and remind us they didn’t sanction the project. This past weekend, some Liberal MHA’s were sharing a new website that mysteriously appeared at the height of public outrage at the Liberal inaction of the situation in Labrador, highlighting the Muskrat Falls timeline from 2005 until just before the Liberals took office in 2015. is full of quotes from current and former PC’s, and appears to be a hyper-partisan attempt to shift the heat that the government has been taking back onto the Tories. While the Liberals will deny any involvement in the website, its timing and content would make that appear to be suspect at best. They think the people have forgotten who started this mess, but they are wrong. The people remember quite well, which is why the PC party was reduced to just 7 seats last November. The people know full well who got us here, but they also know that they elected a new government to make things right. This latest move forces us to question if this government is only there to point fingers or if they actually plan to make any meaningful changes to the Muskrat Falls project.

Then we have others who like to blame the NDP and anyone else that was not crying foul of Muskrat Falls from the very minute that the words came out of King Danny’s mouth. Those who would say that if you were not there opposing the project in 2010, you have no business opposing it now. That is a very weak argument considering the many revelations that have come to the public’s attention over the past year or two. When it became clear that Nalcor had not been honest with the people on several issues, we began to wonder what else they might be lying about.

So, who do we blame for this monstrosity of a pickle we have gotten ourselves into? Not many members of the media were printing negative stories about the project in the beginning. Most people were too happy to be finally getting a one-up on the Quebec boogeyman to take a real hard look at the economics or the environmental aspects of the project. Those who did were written off as nay-sayers with their own agendas. Ed Hollett, Clyde Wells’ former EA, was a legendary Danny Hater. Cabot Martin, Dave Vardy, and Des Sullivan were the disgruntled Peckford Tories who were shut out of Danny’s government, Brad Cabana was written off as a Danny hater and a crack-pot, and many others were dismissed and ignored. Despite what your opinions of any of these people might be, they have all contributed to the ongoing Muskrat Falls discussion and have been instrumental in bringing the realities of the project into the public eye. All of these people were largely ignored by the media and the public at large for years. It is only now that the facts about the project are finally emerging that we are collectively realizing what a mess we have gotten ourselves into, and that many of the so-called nay-sayers were right all along.

Over and over we were told to trust Nalcor’s world class experts and science. We were told that the project was the only one that made sense, and that we were on-track to bring Newfoundland and Labrador energy independence. The economy was doing very well at the time Muskrat was announced, and most people were too busy working and enjoying being a “have” province to pay close attention to the handful of people who were daring to go against Danny Williams. Nalcor assured us all that science was sound and that there would be no negative impacts from methylmercury, no safety issues from the north spur, and cost overruns would be minimal.

Former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin told us blatant lies about how the contracts were let for Muskrat Falls. He said that they had used fixed-price contracts, but then later denied that statement and told us that the contracts we not actually fixed at all. This is one of the major reasons that cost overruns have greatly increased since construction began. Neither Martin, nor Lower Churchill head, Gilbert Bennett have ever been involved in a project like this before, yet we were told time and again to blindly trust their leadership without any public transparency or government oversight. Earlier this year, Stan Marshall was brought in to bring the project back on track, but other than to tell us that Muskrat was a boondoggle, silent Stan has been nowhere to be seen. As the project encounters even more problems and costs continue to skyrocket, we are being asked to blindly trust Stan. Sound familiar?

We all know that the PC’s sanctioned this project and basically gave Nalcor a blank cheque and free reign to do as it saw fit. A total lack of government oversight on the project allowed unqualified leaders at Nalcor to let things spiral out of control with not nearly enough attention paid to the economics and environmental concerns. A questionable company, Astaldi, was brought in to construct the dam, and the entire construction process has been mired in delay and controversy right from the start. Yet, if you look at the PC twitter feeds, you would swear that they were never involved in the project at all. Unless of course you ask them if it is still a good project. Then they are quick to defend Danny’s legacy and blame the current Liberal mismanagement for all of the current issues at Muskrat Falls.

No doubt, the Tories have had an easy time in opposition, with new ammo being served up on a silver platter by government almost daily, but their time in the wilderness does not seem to have given them much time for contemplation on how they ended up swept from power last fall. If the PC party is really serious about renewal, a good place to start might be take a long, hard look at how they got where they are in the first place. The Tory arrogance that people were so fed up with leading up to the last election has not gone anywhere, and trying to shift the blame for Muskrat Falls to the Liberals is not earning them any points from anyone but their own partisans.

And where is Wade Locke these days? The MUN economist was long the PC’s champion “expert” in justifying the business case for sanctioning the project. Locke assured us that oil prices would remain at record highs long into the future, and that the only option to be considered was Muskrat Falls. The words “lowest cost option” were thrown around so much that they lost all meaning to anyone who was listening. When asked by Pete Soucy when the project would no longer be the best cost option, Locke put the number at about $8 Billion. You would think that statement should have raised more eyebrows. Surely they must have anticipated cost overruns in such a remote construction location. With a ceiling of $8 Billion, they were left with very little wiggle room from the start. Now that oil is trading at less than $50 a barrel and cost overruns have but the project at $12 Billion and growing, it would be nice to hear Mr. Locke tell us at what point it makes sense to pull the plug.

That brings us back around to our current Liberal government. Yes it is true that they voted against the sanctioning of the project, but don’t read too much into that. Voting against a majority government is what opposition parties do. The real litmus test came when the Liberals took over last fall and were handed the keys to the Muskrat castle. We were given lots of words like “oversight” and “accountability,” but we didn’t really see any of those things, or any changes to the project. Pulling the plug was never on the table for the Liberals, and neither was further clearing of the reservoir to mitigate against methylmercury concerns until the protests got so loud. Instead the government followed the same template as their predecessors and kept Nalcor firmly in the driver’s seat. Finance Minister (and former PC supporter) Cathy Bennett sat on the board of directors at Nalcor and was accused of conflicts of interest regarding business contracts related to Muskrat Falls. It comes as no surprise that despite her harsh words for Nalcor in the budget speech, that she and her colleagues in cabinet were quite content for the project to keep moving along, business as usual. Unfortunately for her and the rest of the Liberals, that didn’t happen, and we were left with the Ed Martin severance fiasco, the mass resignation of the Nalcor board, and the nationwide protests that our premier assured us had no bearing at all on governments decision.

The Ed Martin debacle was a golden opportunity for the Liberals to break Nalcor and Muskrat Falls wide open. They could have opened things up to the public and let us see the extent of the mismanagement at our crown energy corporation. They could have ensured that the public fully realized the mess that the project became under the PC’s and would have earned an enormous amount of political capital without having to take any ownership for Muskrat Falls. Instead they chose to bumble and delay, and make themselves look like they were trying to hide everything from the public. For several days, last spring, each time the premier opened his mouth, lies came out. Instead of taking a golden opportunity to come out swinging and throw the PC’s under the bus, they decided to take ownership of all that negativity, and put themselves in a very tough position.  It makes one wonder what, or who, they might be protecting?

That brings us right back to where we started. Who do we blame for Muskrat Falls? The answer is certainly not black and white, and the blame runs deep. Danny, Kathy and the PC’s part played their part, as did Nalcor and its board and executives. The Liberal and NDP opposition of the day didn’t do enough to bring science and evidence into their political opposition to the project. The people have been too trusting of government, Nalcor, and the media to bring them the facts about the project. And now, the current government has not provided any degree of acceptable leadership to restore the faith of the people in the reasoning for finishing this project. It is easy to point the finger of blame and find a target when it comes to Muskrat Falls, but now that it has become crystal clear that this government has no intentions of stopping the project altogether, we need to stop talking about blame and start talking about responsibility.

The premier can stand in front of the province and say that he did not sanction the project and that his government inherited this boondoggle, but at this point those things no longer matter. The day he was sworn in as premier, he took responsibility for Muskrat Falls, and it is his responsibility now to make sure the concerns of the people are heard. The poor planning and management has continued under the leadership of Ball and Marshall, and the premier has dithered on each and every issue he has encountered. This has caused him to keep getting backed into corners and appearing weak whenever there are questions about his leadership. What we need is for our government to tell us the truth and stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes on Muskrat Falls like the previous administration did for so long. It was this attitude that pushed the PC’s back into the political wilderness, and the way things are going, the Liberals are very likely in for a similar fate.

All the blame in the world cannot hide the fact that the Liberals hold the power now. They have the numbers and the science in their hands and they have had more than enough time to develop a real plan for Muskrat Falls. The premier can stand at the microphone and say that the protests had nothing to do with the recent agreement with indigenous leaders, but we all know that this government failed to act until they were backed into a corner, again. Even then, he was quick to point the finger of blame, and suggested that we were asking the wrong premier questions about Muskrat Falls. Well here is some advice for our premier. Real leadership is not about pointing fingers and ducking out back doors. It is about meeting problems head-on and making decisions, even when they are hard or unpopular. It is about engaging the people who are desperately seeking your leadership on important issues, even when you know they wont agree with you. And most importantly it is about standing up for what is right and good, and inspiring others to follow you and to believe in you.

Does Dwight Ball have what it takes to be a real leader? I won’t attempt to answer that, but I do know that our premier has done very little to inspire confidence in our people. How can we believe in him, when he has not done or said anything to give us something to believe in? At this point we are left to judge on the track record so far, and for that, the 20% approval ratings might be generous. It is time for our premier and our government to stop playing the blame game and to stand up and lead this province. We can no longer afford to look to our past, the time has come to start looking to the future. So please Mr. Premier, stop playing the blame game and start leading.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Mixed Signals & Fiscal Fidgeting

Mixed Signals & Fiscal Fidgeting

By: Ryan Young

Yesterday we saw the release of the provincial fall fiscal update from Finance Minister Cathy Bennett. Mrs. Bennett has certainly come a long way from her tough talk in Budget 2016. Despite harsh criticisms for her predecessors and even harsher budget measures imposed on the people, Bennett has softened considerably since the spring, and has apparently lost her appetite for fiscal solvency. Thanks to increased oil revenues and the massive tax grab that was Budget 2016, our provincial deficit has been reduced from $1.8 Billion, to just under $1.6 Billion. Not much was said about the Liberals magical plan to get spending under control, but we were promised a “vision statement” from the premier in the very near future. It seemed that Bennett was at odds with many of her previous statements about her economic plan, but as we all know, communication is not this governments strong suit.

Trying to follow government messaging since last November has been an adventure, to say the least. Remember when Dwight Ball called the HST a job killer and repealed the 2% hike, only to reinstate it in the budget just a few months later? Former Liberal insiders have said that Cathy was never happy with Dwight’s opposition to the HST hike, knowing full well that we would need the revenue that it would provide. But once Dwight walked out in front of the camera and denounced the action as a “job killer,” the rest of the crew had no choice but to go along for the ride. As we all know, they formed government on a campaign platform full of wistful promises and within six months, Dwight had to bring back the job killing HST hike.

Then there was also the issue of job cuts. Dwight Ball was very quick to declare every job safe under a new Liberal government, but shortly after taking office, Cathy was telling us that everything was on the table. When we finally got to the budget, there were 650 public sector jobs cut. Despite the public outcry and comparisons to “Clyde Lied,” Bennett assured us that action was necessary to get the fiscal situation under control and to expect more action in the fall. Her very words from the budget speech were:

“Given the seriousness and scope of the current and forecasted fiscal situation, a new approach is required that moves beyond the traditional single year budget efforts. Budget 2016 contains decisive actions, and will be followed by more actions in a supplemental budget later this fall in conjunction with the Fall Fiscal update.”

This, of course, had us all bracing for cuts. High priced consultants were brought in to assist with labor negotiations, and the people could almost hear the knives being sharpened on Confederation Hill. Cathy had already told us that the spring budget was about “revenue actions” and the fall would see new “expenditure actions,” so it was odd when Dwight told us over the summer that the fall budget was not about cuts, but about creating new sources of revenue for Newfoundlander’s and Labradorians. Then, in September they decided to scrap the fall budget altogether and go with a fiscal update.

All of this is great political jargon. The Liberals are masters at it. But when push came to shove, it the government had little stomach for facing more outrage and protests against more broken promises. I’m sure most people were quite happy to not have to endure any more cuts, but at the end of the day we are still left with a deficit of nearly $1.6 Billion, and no clear plan of how our government expects to deal with it. We were told that the premier finally has a vision, and that he is even going to tell us about it. They just won’t tell us when, although I fully expect it will be at the party AGM next weekend In Gander.

At this point in the game, I am not sure if our premier could gain back the trust of the people if he walked down over Long’s Hill with two burning tablets with a plan written by the big man himself. The repeated government gaffes and communication breakdowns have brought things to the point that even when this government does or says something good, it is greeted with cynicism and negativity. With this government’s entire first year being comprised of deception, backtracking, and continuously changing their own narrative on the fly, is it any wonder that approval ratings are the lowest in the country?

I often write negatively about this government, but so far they have not given me much of anything positive to write about. I want them to do better, because when they do better, we all do better. I want them to be able to create effective programs and do a better job of managing government spending. I want to believe that they have a plan in place to guide our province through this rough patch and back into prosperity. I am not an anti-liberal any more than I am an anti-pc or anti-ndp. I could care less about partisan politics. What I care about is results. If this government has a plan, I want to hear it. I think we have all endured enough buzz-words and slogans. The people are desperate for real change.

All the people of the province really want is for this government to engage us on our concerns, and tell us their plan for the future. We were promised that under their watch things would be done differently, but so far it has just business as usual. Unfortunately, they seem to think that governing is the same as an running an election campaign where you must keep your cards close to your chest. Nobody disagrees that this government came into power in a tough spot, but they have been quick to find every opportunity to dig that hole deeper and use up all their political capital on deception, reactionary policy making, and bad communication. Nobody knows what this government stands for, and they have been trying their hardest to keep us all in the dark. Sooner or later someone is going to have to figure out how to communicate with people. If not, it’s going to be a long few years until 2019. Cathy said the premier has a vision, I hope it starts with learning how to talk to the people.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Waiting Game

The Waiting Game
By: Ryan Young

It has been a long night and I am still trying to process the events of the last 24 hours. After a marathon meeting between government and aboriginal leaders, and an accompanying protest on the steps of Confederation Building, an agreement has been reached on the methylmercury issue at Muskrat Falls.

Confederation Building was on lockdown for more than 12 hours. Media were left not-so-patiently waiting inside for word, with not much to do but tweet and listen to the jovial atmosphere of the protesters and land protectors singing and dancing outside on the front steps. The numbers outside fluctuated between 50 and 100 for most of the day and night, despite the cold. They were all waiting for word on how the government would deal with the situation at Muskrat Falls.

In a statement released to media just before 2am, the leaders have agreed to review the documentation provided by Nalcor that supports the need for immediate initial impoundment of the reservoir over the next few days. If they are satisfied that the reasons provided by Nalcor are legitimate, water levels will be raised to minimum acceptable levels.

In addition, the statement says that Nalcor will release the dam in the spring when environmental hazards are no longer an issue, and allow the river to return to its natural flow which will facilitate the opportunity for additional mitigation procedures that MAY include clearing trees, vegetation, and/or soil from the reservoir.

All parties also agreed to establish an Independent Expert Advisory Committee that will include representatives from all levels of government, as well as all Labrador indigenous governments and councils. This committee will be mandated to seek an independent, evidence-based approach that will determine and recommend options for mitigating human health concerns related to methylmercury.

At this point, there are still many unanswered questions, and I expect that the government will be speaking out over the next few days to try to clarify what the agreement means. Initial reactions from protesters and land protectors were not all positive, but most are waiting for more clarification. The hunger strikers in Ottawa seemed to be initially pleased with the agreement, with a picture on twitter showing them with arms raised, with the caption “we won.” I am sure reaction will continue to be mixed in the days to come as government-speak gets translated into layman English and we start to understand what it all means.

I am not sure if this will convince land protectors on-site at Muskrat Falls to stop their peaceful protest and go home, but I expect that many are waiting on their lead before passing judgement on the agreement. With a court order forcing the departure of The Independent journalist, Justin Brake, from the camp on Tuesday, there has been very little word getting out to the public on what is happening inside the camp. Most likely phones will be ringing through the night as people on all sides try to figure things out.

Some of the questions already being asked are; “How high are the minimum acceptable levels for flooding?” Will methylmercury levels spike immediately after impoundment as suggested by Harvard?” Will the cold weather impact methylmercury production?” “Will the release of the dam in the spring cause an immediate spike in methylmercury in Lake Melville?” “What about the North Spur?” These are all legitimate questions and they must be answered along with many more before people are willing to accept this agreement and stand down.

In the last week, we have witnessed Muskrat Falls go from a local issue to a national and international issue. People in high places are paying attention, and every statement and decision is being examined under a microscope. People are skeptical of trusting the government and/or Nalcor, and neither one of them has given the people much reason to alleviate that skepticism.  The next day or two will be key for the government in getting its message and its evidence out to the public both quickly and clearly. The people have made it quite clear that they will not stand for back-door politics and the premier and his ministers will need to be very public and up-front about the situation, no matter which way it goes for them with the protesters and the land protectors.

As for what will happen next, we will have to wait and see. If the land protectors are satisfied that the agreement is a fair compromise and leave the work-site at Muskrat Falls things will settle down a bit for the time being with energies likely being focused on holding the local and provincial governments to task and continuing to discuss the safety of the north spur. If they are not satisfied, the government will have to decide on using police to forcefully remove them and protests will likely escalate in Labrador, on the island, and across the country. It will be a tense few days ahead, but all we can do now is watch and wait and see how the situation unfolds.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Starving for Justice

Starving for Justice

By: Ryan Young

Inuk artist Billy Gauthier is on a hunger strike to stop the flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir. His last meal was last Thursday evening, October 13th. It was salmon from Lake Melville. Gauthier, 38 is well known for his carving work. His pieces are a mesmerizing blend of culture and nature, and Billy’s talent is showcased in the fine details of his carvings. Billy is a son, a brother and a father, with a daughter he loves dearly. Yet Billy is willing to risk his life in order to make sure that his people and his culture are not put at risk by the Muskrat Falls project. That kind of commitment is hard to understand for many people, but when you consider Billy’s alternatives, his choice does not seem as drastic.

Billy Gauthier - "Windswept Inuk"

Billy Gauthier - "Song from the Spirit World"

You can see more of Billy's work here:

Billy is currently among the land protectors at the Muskrat Falls site. Yesterday he watched 9 of his friends and family members dragged away and charged by the RCMP for ignoring a court injunction that was signed by Gilbert Bennett of Nalcor on Sunday October 16. In Happy Valley-Goose Bay another group shut down the offices of the premier and Perry Trimper for the day, demanding that the reservoir is cleared. Not long after, President of the Nunatukavut Government, Todd Russell, held a press conference to announce that they would support all actions, including the blocking of Transformers from entering any ports on the Labrador coast. When given a copy of the court injunction, Russell promptly tore it up and pledged that he was committed to the fight to make muskrat right.

On the other end of the province, in St. John’s, yet another group marched on Confederation Building to demand that the voices of Labrador be heard. A small group held a peaceful sit-in in the lobby of the legislature and demanded that someone speak to them about there concerns. For nearly 8 hours they occupied the lobby, despite being prevented from going to the bathroom by security. Shortly after the occupation began the building went into lockdown mode with only staff and visitors on official business were permitted entry to the building. Even the media were barred from entering. Only VOCM’s David Maher was inside the building prior to the lockdown and he was inside for the duration. The group was later served with a court injunction but they left without incident just after 4:00pm when it became apparent that nobody was willing to speak to them. For more details, follow David Maher on Twitter @DavidMaherNL.

With the action ramping up all across the province, Yvonne Jones announced that federal minister Dominic Leblanc had been asked to review the environmental permits issues to the Government of Newfoundland and Nalcor as part of the federal loan guarantee for the project. We are not sure exactly what it means, but some on social media have speculated that the feds could possibly make the loan guarantee contingent on the clearing of the reservoir. Now of course at this point this is all just speculation, and it does not jive with recent statements from Perry Trimper and Siobhan Coady. The premier, as usual, is silent.

With Nalcor already beginning to seep water in, we have gone well beyond the 11th hour.
All across Labrador and the island, people are standing up to say that they will not stand for the willful poisoning of our people and the destruction of their lands and culture. Support is rolling in from all corners for Billy and the rest of the land protectors. Despite the setbacks and the arrests, people in Labrador are still hopeful that the feds will step in and residents from all over have been showing their support for Billy and to make muskrat right. Billy’s struggle is seen as an inspiration to many, and support for his cause has been coming in from all over the world. He is making so many people proud of him, but we must not forget the great sacrifice he is making for us.

During an emotional interview with Paddy Daly on VOCM yesterday, Billy said that his daughter asked him if he was scared? His answer blew my mind. “He said yes, but that’s what bravery is. When you know something is right and you still do it anyway, no matter how scared you are.” Those are certainly very true words and the commitment in Billy’s voice is inspirational, while being heartbreaking at the same time. Billy Gauthier has suddenly become a symbol for everything that is wrong in Labrador and a celebration of everything that is right with it. After living away, Billy returned to Labrador so that he could embrace his culture and his native land to inspire his art and provide him with a living. To take that away from him is to take away his heart, his soul.

No matter what your political stripe or no matter how informed you are of the realities of the Muskrat Falls project, it is impossible to listen to Billy speak without getting a little wet-eyed. His passion is undeniable and he is willing to give his life to save the traditional way of life for others. We must all stand in solidarity with Billy now and demand that our elected leaders change their minds and commit to #makemuskratright.

Mother and Child at HVGB protest

To listen to Billy's VOCM call with Paddy Daly click here:

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Getting Personal

Getting Personal

By: Ryan Young

I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that fish harvesters in this province have a number of issues that they would like to see addressed by the FFAW. Many will tell you they have been fighting for years to get attention from their union. If social media and the open line shows are any indication, a very large portion of these harvesters feel ready for a change. With the upstart FISH-NL group working towards its first convention later this month, while gathering up members willing to sign their new union cards, it has been a very interesting couple of months to say the least.

We have heard from many harvesters and many members within the FFAW since this whole story began, but despite the continued pushback from the union against Ryan Cleary, leader of the FISH-NL movement, the union side has not really had much to say about the issues that are concerning the fishers. The strategy at the FFAW seems to be kill the head and hope that the body will fall. This is why they have spent so much time questioning Mr. Cleary’s motives when they should have been out meeting with harvesters and asking how they can do better to represent them. I was told by one long time fisherman who had no real interest in the union debate in the beginning, that his loyalties shifted to FISH-NL when he repeatedly heard the FFAW making personal attacks instead of addressing the issues that were being brought forth. I would be willing to bet that there are many harvesters that share this same view and it would be wise for the FFAW to be mindful of what they are saying.

To make matters even stranger, Canadian Labour Congress President, Hassan Youseff wrote Cleary a letter last week, accusing him of trying to “raid” the FFAW and making connections to Cleary’s political past. It was strange when Mr. Youseff was asked about this on a VOCM call in show, he said that he had no comment about Cleary’s past political involvement. If he had no comment, then why did he specifically reference it in the letter? It is no secret that Ryan Cleary is a polarizing figure. Most people either like him or they don’t, but I really don’t see the value in Youseff’s letter or his comments. Hassan Youseff’s job is to protect the best interest of his members. There is obviously a large contingent of harvesters that feel that the FFAW is not working in their interests and again, instead of addressing these concerns, the CLC President chose instead to throw personal mud and question Cleary’s motives and integrity. Is this the way a person in Mr. Youseff’s position should act? I don’t know, but I do know that it has strengthened the resolve of those on the FISH-NL side. The really tricky part about all of this is that if FISH-NL is successful they will likely be making an application to join the CLC. How are these workers supposed to feel represented by the CLC when they are feeling betrayed by them before their new union is even off the ground?

I have heard Mr. Cleary say several times that one of the things that he teaches his children is that in an argument, if you get personal, you lose. In this case I think that the analogy is very apt. By choosing to go after Cleary’s character with personal attacks instead of addressing the issues of the harvesters, the FFAW and CLC are not winning over many fans that make a living in a fishing boat. The only chance the FFAW had to keep their support strong was to show their members some real openness and transparency and to offer to discuss the issues and make some changes. Instead they have decided to take the low road by going after Cleary and I fully expect that this approach will ultimately be thing that pushes FISH-NL over the top.

At this point the FISH-NL movement has grown too large to be silenced by silencing one person. Even if the FFAW were having success in their campaign against Cleary, (which they are not!) it wouldn’t matter. Too many harvesters have gotten behind the idea that they don’t have to be screwed over by their union any longer and the momentum has grown large enough to keep the movement going even if Cleary were no longer in the picture. Some made a big deal the other day about Cleary saying that if the FFAW would agree to a complete third party audit that he would walk away from FISH-NL. Yes, on the surface it may sound bad, but Cleary knows that the union will never agree to such an audit so he knows that in the he will come out looking good while the union looks even more secretive and elitist. It’s a good move because even if by some stroke of divine intervention, the FFAW did agree to an independent audit, the fish harvesters would still be getting what they wanted all along which is real openness and transparency from their union.

It will be interesting to watch the lead up to the inaugural FISH-NL Convention on October 27th, and the card signing drive that is expected to run through to December. Will the union see the errors in their ways and try to make things right with harvesters, or will they continue down the road of personal attacks and continued deniability? Many feel that we are on the verge of a historic shift in representation for fish harvesters in this province, but for now all we can do is wait and watch. Stay tuned!

Friday, 7 October 2016

The Price of Progress

The Price of Progress

By: Ryan Young

The price of progress. That’s what we often hear when we talk about projects like Muskrat Falls. The destruction of ancient ecosystems and ancestral lands can always be written off as the progress of man. The desire to build and to achieve bigger and better, and to quench our insatiable thirst for power has always outweighed our desire to protect and to preserve and to use our technology to live in harmony with the land instead of against it.

But I ask you to consider this phrase “the price of progress” very closely. When it comes to Muskrat Falls where is the progress, and how great is the price? We must ask ourselves if the poisoning of our own people for a dam we can’t afford for power we don’t need and can’t sell really qualifies as progress.

Everyone in the province except the most partisan Liberals and Conservatives have accepted the fact that there will never be a profit turned from Muskrat Falls…well, not for the province anyway. Despite assurances from the last five premiers, from Danny to Dwight, that have tried to sell us on the income that will come back from the Muskrat Falls project, it has become quite clear that there is no market for expensive Muskrat power. The billions in cost overruns will be recouped by higher taxes and skyrocketing electricity rates paid by the people of the province and we all know it. So why does our government still try to sell us on this myth? They really must think we are that dumb.

Sadly, the worst price to be paid for this project has no real monetary value. How do you put a price on human life and health? Environment Minister Perry Trimper promises compensation for those affected by methylmercury poisoning, but who determines what a life is worth, or the monetary value of a culture that spans millennia? How do we determine the value of life and property lost if the North Spur does not hold? These are questions that I would not want on my own conscience, but sooner rather than later someone will have to answer them.

So I ask a favor of all of my loyal readers and all of the great people of Newfoundland and Labrador. If you are unable to stand with us today, either in Labrador or St. John’s, please take a moment to write the premier and tell him that you do not support poisoning our own citizens. Tell him that you do not trust Nalcor’s assessment of the North Spur. And most of all, tell him that we refuse to be a province divided, and that you demand action to #makemuskratright

You can email the premier at:

For more information on Today’s protests visit:

Thank You,

The Rogue Bayman