Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Time to rethink our relationship with Canada

An edited version of the following letter was published in today’s Telegram



Dear editor,

With a loss of about $50 billion in hydro returns, Newfoundland and Labrador’s sacrifice for “preserving Canadian unity” has been an economic anchor around the province’s neck, and our own union with Canada has cost us billions more as a result of a federally mismanaged fishery that holds us down like a bag of rocks.

Between the anchor and the rocks, this place is doomed.

The time is now, before bankruptcy finally does us in, to reset our economic relationship with Canada, or, in event of a failure to negotiate a new deal, to seriously consider leaving the federation. To be clear, I am not a separatist, but separation, as with all options, must be considered as a means to finally float our ship of state.  

Former Premier and Chief Justice of the Newfoundland Supreme Court, Clyde Wells, told the CBC recently that one of the reasons this province is once again knocking on Ottawa’s door for financial help is that we don’t collect any revenue from one of our major natural resources — Labrador hydro.

When Newfoundland wanted to build a power line across Quebec to transmit Upper Churchill hydro to markets in Ontario or New York, Quebec said not a chance, and the federal government refused to intervene. We ended up selling Labrador power to Quebec at a fixed, 1960’s rate that’s “barely distinguishable from being free” until 2041. 

When Saskatchewan and Manitoba tried a similar move — to buy Alberta oil to sell to Ontario — Ottawa stepped in, and declared a pipeline through Saskatchewan and Manitoba to be in the national interest.

That’s two-tier Confederation, certainly not what Newfoundland signed on for in 1949. 

As Wells pointed out, the price of Canadian unity should be paid by the nation — not the country’s poorest province — which, he estimated, has lost about $1 billion a year from the Upper Churchill contract. Considering first power was delivered in ’71, that adds up to a loss of roughly $50 billion (and counting) to Newfoundland and Labrador, the difference between have and have-not status for generations. 

As it happens, the province’s total debt (including Muskrat Falls) is about half that amount. As for the province detouring Muskrat Falls power around Quebec (the much more expensive Atlantic route), that decision also resulted from the same economic anchor around our neck. 

The late John Crosbie described the absence of a fair Canadian energy policy as the“greatest failure” of the Confederation between Newfoundland and Canada, although I would still go with Ottawa’s (mis)management of the fisheries for top spot. Look no further than northern cod, which still awaits a rebuilding plan 28 years after the rebuilding was to begin.

“Who hears the fishes when they cry?” Crosbie once asked. 

The same ears that ignored the elephant trumpeting in the Upper Churchill powerhouse.
Cabot Martin, a one-time columnist and Brian Peckford advisor, once wrote some survival notes for Newfoundlander, including an estimate that a well-managed northern cod stock could generate $400 million a year for the provincial economy. 

That’s another fortune we’ve lost out on over almost 30 years of little fishing, and keeping in mind that northern cod is just one mismanaged stock. There are many more. We’re also slowly losing access to adjacent fish stocks to other provinces and countries. 

Wells was damn right to advise the next premier to be up front and honest with the electorate — not to sugarcoat anything, and to have a logical plan that treats everyone fairly. But to do that our next leader(s) must also publicly face the underlying problems that hold us back in Confederation.

Are Newfoundlanders and Labradorians warm to the idea of separation? For the vast majority I would say absolutely not. What would our economy do without Canada’s social safety net, and programs like EI?

At the same time, what will it realistically take to reset our relationship with Canada, and give Newfoundland and Labrador the ability to stand on her own?

To start, a federal acknowledgement of the devastating price we’ve paid for Canadian unity, and the opportunity to right the wrong with a redress of Muskrat Falls. The province must also take control of her fisheries.

Anything less would amount to a band-aid on a broken hull. 

Ryan Cleary,
St. John’s

Sunday, March 29, 2020

A TASTE OF THE OLD NEWFOUNDLAND SEAL HUNT

The Greatest Hunt in the World

Captain Abram Kean was the most successful seal hunter in Newfoundland history.

In 1922, American writer and explorer George Allan England traveled with Kean aboard his sealing ship, the Terra Nova, publishing a book of his account two years later.

Vikings of the Ice (the title was later changed to The Greatest Hunt in the World) is the only eye-witness account ever written of the daily life aboard a wooden-wall, or sealing vessel.

On signing on
“The hardships some of these men suffer even before they reach St. John’s and ‘sign on’ would kill the average American. For days before the sailing of the fleet, hundreds of them pile into St. John’s. Some walk all the way from home and some travel on the partly snowed-in, irregular streak of rust that Newfoundland calls a railroad. Many of them walk forty or fifty miles to reach even this rust, braving blizzards that scourge and flay. They carry their pitiably meager equipment in ditty bags. A lot of them, in the spring of 1922, got marooned at a place called Gambo, on the railroad. They had to sleep in cold empty cars there for two or three nights, till an engine could get through and pick them up — second-class cars; and if you have ever seen a second-class Newfoundland car, you know the worst. But none quit and none died. They came along eventually and all ‘signed on,’ and thought themselves lucky to get the chance.”
On Kean
“The Cap’n looked a splendid type of seaman and a famous ice master: ruddy, hearty, hale with shrewd blue eyes, a grizzle of snowy beard, a bluff manner, the vigour of a man of fifty, for all his seventy years, and a full half-century of seal killing to his credit."
“The Admiral of the Fleet,” they call him in Newfoundland. And well he deserves the title, for he has come in as ‘high-liner’ more often than any other captain, and knows the ice fields as other men know their palms. Many decades he has commanded ships plying into the Far North, “down the Labrador,” and has never lost a passenger. A skipper of the Royal Naval Reserve, a former member of the House of Assembly, a writer and lecturer, he understands more about seals and sealing than any other man alive.”
On the Terra Nova
“As far as being a slave ship is concerned, this one looks the part. The Australian convict ship Success is luxurious by contrast. This veteran of the ice is dark, dingy, coal-dusty, and dirtier than anything I have ever seen; with snowy decks, rusty old hand pumps; a stuffy and filthy cabin, extremely cold; tiny hard bunks, a dwarf stove, a table covered with smeared oilcloth; everything inexpressibly dreary and repellent.”
On the seal diet
“Anybody who knows the voracity of a seal can imagine what a million or two of them will do to our fish supply. Levi G. Chafe, the world’s greatest sealing authority, estimates that the seals dispose of three million codfish a day, to say nothing of other kinds.”
The seal birthday
“Feb. 28th is called 'the seal’s birthday,' and the accuracy with which practically all the young harps are born within a day or two of that date is one of the most amazing phenomena of nature.”
On the sealers
“Some of the men wore jackets of old bags, with printing still visible. Many were ragged and extensively bepatched. Poverty! Lord, what poverty! All was rough, dark, dirty —incredibly dirty, gorgeously and grotesquely dirty. And this at the beginning of the trip. Later, when the men had really “grased deyselfs to de helbows in de fat,” and when everything had become tainted with grease and blood, and the sculps were stowed at the aft end of the ’tweendecks and many others were dragged through it to be flung below, forward, conditions there beggared description. Oh dignity of Labour!”
On the pay
"If a hunter makes $50 or $60 dollars, he's doing well. That comes to $10 to $12 dollars a week, and board . . . for hardships, perils, and toil beyond anything we know here at home. I have never known a country where employers enjoyed such a sinecure as in Newfoundland. Labour, there, has hardly begun to dream that it has any rights. And the game of exploitation goes merrily on."
George Allan England died on June 26, 1930, in Concord, New Hampshire. His New York Times obituary compared Vikings of the Ice to Kipling's Captains Courageous.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The first time John Crosbie went silent

HEADLINESnip, snip



By Ryan Cleary
The Fighting Newfoundlander
Published in The Independent newspaper, 
Jan. 25, 2008 

I already miss John Crosbie, and he hasn’t even had his “knockers” removed yet.

That’s his word, not mine. I can’t imagine Crosbie without the sizeable knockers he walks around with. 

A mortal Newfoundlander would have to use a wheelbarrow. 

I can tell you this: he wouldn’t have had much of a career without his knockers. 

He definitely wouldn’t have been able to pour Sheila Copps that shot of tequila before he asked her to lay own and love him again.

But then the problem with feminists is that they have no sense of humour. (Crosbie’s words again, not mine). 

They don’t know when to just “quiet down, baby.”

I come today not to bury Crosbie, but to indirectly praise him, and give “the old curmudgeon,” which is what he called his one-time column in the pages of this newspaper, a couple of last knocks for good measure. 

Crosbie is of that rare Newfoundland breed of politician who tells it like it is, who tells it without script, who opens his mouth, even after thinking, and still manages to ram both feet in good and stogger tight. 

Crosbie is to be sworn in as the province’s next lieutenant-governor on Feb. 4th during a ceremony at the House of Assembly, a rather formal setting for such a bloody procedure. 

Crosbie will no doubt take it like a man, silent and suffering, as long as the sergeant-at-arms lets him borrow the golden mace to clench down on. 

Imagine the bite marks from a Great White Crosbie.

God knows what will come out of his mouth before its sewn tight with regal stitching. 
How’s this for off-the-wall: “Eagles may fly but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines,” Crosbie told a recent gathering of political science students at Memorial University, “and I don’t know what I’ll be sucked into.”

That’s easy enough — Government House, the ultimate political pasture, the grandest retirement home in the land. 

BELLS AND WHISTLES 
As the Queen’s representative in Newfoundland and Labrador, Crosbie and wife Jane will take up residence on Military Road in Town, where they will be treated to all the bells and whistles that go with the post — private secretary, a gardener, chauffeur and cook.

All Crosbie will have to do is hand in his knockers at the door, and serve as the model of political correctness for the length of his five-year term.

Crosbie probably hopes that his relationship with Danny will be similar to that of former British prime minister Tony Blair and the Queen herself. 

The two used to consult on a regular basis on government business of the day. 

I wonder if Danny knows how to curtsy? 

At the very least the premier will have to learn to unclench his fist long enough to dangle his pinky from a dainty teacup.

“He’s a terror,” Crosbie says of Danny. “He’s got us all terrified.”

Not Crosbie, of course, who has Jane to hold his hand when times get tough.

Crosbie and I got into a wee scrap at the aforementioned conference. He went off his head when I said the Newfoundland fisheries were Confederation’s greatest failure. 

He pointed to the fish-aid package that the Mulroney government eventually approved as an example of Canada’s extreme generosity towards us. 

No doubt the money was good, I told him, but the cash created a passiveness in our people.

We should have went off our heads when the Grand Banks were emptied, but there was bread and butter on the table and moose in the freezer. 

What else is there to want and wish for?

Crosbie dared to defend Stephen Harper. 

“He hasn’t been able to carry out his promises because they were too damn hard to carry out.”

Crosbie still has the spark, but it’s flickering. 

Who will be left to carry the torch?
It’s always good to have an old political warhorse to call on, to put the younger politicians in their place, to speak their piece with so much more attitude than agenda. 

Brian Peckford criticized Danny not so long ago for leaving the fishery behind, and the premier was quick to put Peckford in his British Columbia place. 

Roger Grimes is one of the few retired politicians willing to speak freely, only the people aren’t so willing to listen.

They listen to Crosbie. 

The leaders of today, Danny excluded, aren’t as colourful as they once were. 

Crosbie cut his teeth on Joey Smallwood’s leg bone. 

No one bares their teeth at Danny, not yet they don’t. 

Crosbie dared to run for prime minister when he didn’t speak a word of French. 

His Chinese was probably better. 

Some say that an English-only speaking leader will never serve as PM, but the same people also said a Townie lawyer would never be premier. 

Crosbie dared to dream.

The three Conservative seats on the island’s east coast are said to be up for grabs, but the Liberal candidates who have stepped forward are uninspiring. 

Where is the voice of passion? 

Who are the leaders of tomorrow?

They aren’t working as editorial writers for The Telegram, I can tell you that. 

They’ll tell you on any given Saturday to stop moaning, that things aren’t so bad, that we’re survivors, and that’s enough. 

Such men never had knockers to begin with.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The first time John Crosbie went quiet



John Crosbie passed away a week ago (Jan. 10th), but it wasn’t the first time his voice was silenced. Twelve years ago, in January 2008, Crosbie was appointed Lieutenant Governor, the Queen’s representative in Newfoundland and Labrador, and had to refrain from public commentary. In his words, Crosbie had to leave his “knockers” at the Government House door. At the time, I was editor-in-chief of The Independent newspaper, and published the following column:

HEADLINE: Snip, snip 

By Ryan Cleary
The Fighting Newfoundlander
Jan. 25, 2008 

I already miss John Crosbie, and he hasn’t even had his “knockers” removed yet.

That’s his word, not mine. I can’t imagine Crosbie without the sizeable knockers he walks around with. 

A mortal Newfoundlander would have to use a wheelbarrow. 

I can tell you this: he wouldn’t have had much of a career without his knockers. 

He definitely wouldn’t have been able to pour Sheila Copps that shot of tequila before he asked her to lay own and love him again.

But then the problem with feminists is that they have no sense of humour. (Crosbie’s words again, not mine). 

They don’t know when to just “quiet down, baby.”

I come today not to bury Crosbie, but to indirectly praise him, and give “the old curmudgeon,” which is what he called his one-time column in the pages of this newspaper, a couple of last knocks for good measure. 

Crosbie is of that rare Newfoundland breed of politician who tells it like it is, who tells it without script, who opens his mouth, even after thinking, and still manages to ram both feet in good and stogger tight. 

Crosbie is to be sworn in as the province’s next lieutenant-governor on Feb. 4th during a ceremony at the House of Assembly, a rather formal setting for such a bloody procedure. 

Crosbie will no doubt take it like a man, silent and suffering, as long as the sergeant-at-arms lets him borrow the golden mace to clench down on. 

Imagine the bite marks from a Great White Crosbie.

God knows what will come out of his mouth before its sewn tight with regal stitching. 
How’s this for off-the-wall: “Eagles may fly but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines,” Crosbie told a recent gathering of political science students at Memorial University, “and I don’t know what I’ll be sucked into.”

That’s easy enough — Government House, the ultimate political pasture, the grandest retirement home in the land. 

BELLS AND WHISTLES 
As the Queen’s representative in Newfoundland and Labrador, Crosbie and wife Jane will take up residence on Military Road in Town, where they will be treated to all the bells and whistles that go with the post — private secretary, a gardener, chauffeur and cook.

All Crosbie will have to do is hand in his knockers at the door, and serve as the model of political correctness for the length of his five-year term.

Crosbie probably hopes that his relationship with Danny will be similar to that of former British prime minister Tony Blair and the Queen herself. 

The two used to consult on a regular basis on government business of the day. 

I wonder if Danny knows how to curtsy? 

At the very least the premier will have to learn to unclench his fist long enough to dangle his pinky from a dainty teacup.

“He’s a terror,” Crosbie says of Danny. “He’s got us all terrified.”

Not Crosbie, of course, who has Jane to hold his hand when times get tough.

Crosbie and I got into a wee scrap at the aforementioned conference. He went off his head when I said the Newfoundland fisheries were Confederation’s greatest failure. 

He pointed to the fish-aid package that the Mulroney government eventually approved as an example of Canada’s extreme generosity towards us. 

No doubt the money was good, I told him, but the cash created a passiveness in our people.

We should have went off our heads when the Grand Banks were emptied, but there was bread and butter on the table and moose in the freezer. 

What else is there to want and wish for?

Crosbie dared to defend Stephen Harper. 

“He hasn’t been able to carry out his promises because they were too damn hard to carry out.”

Crosbie still has the spark, but it’s flickering. 

Who will be left to carry the torch?
It’s always good to have an old political warhorse to call on, to put the younger politicians in their place, to speak their piece with so much more attitude than agenda. 

Brian Peckford criticized Danny not so long ago for leaving the fishery behind, and the premier was quick to put Peckford in his British Columbia place. 

Roger Grimes is one of the few retired politicians willing to speak freely, only the people aren’t so willing to listen.

They listen to Crosbie. 

The leaders of today, Danny excluded, aren’t as colourful as they once were. 

Crosbie cut his teeth on Joey Smallwood’s leg bone. 

No one bares their teeth at Danny, not yet they don’t. 

Crosbie dared to run for prime minister when he didn’t speak a word of French. 

His Chinese was probably better. 

Some say that an English-only speaking leader will never serve as PM, but the same people also said a Townie lawyer would never be premier. 

Crosbie dared to dream.

The three Conservative seats on the island’s east coast are said to be up for grabs, but the Liberal candidates who have stepped forward are uninspiring. 

Where is the voice of passion? 

Who are the leaders of tomorrow?

They aren’t working as editorial writers for The Telegram, I can tell you that. 

They’ll tell you on any given Saturday to stop moaning, that things aren’t so bad, that we’re survivors, and that’s enough. 

Such men never had knockers to begin with.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Surviving a social media avalanche: 'The online audience (especially Twitter) can be lightning quick to judge, instantaneous to condemn, and merciless in sentencing'

I posted the following to Facebook on Sunday, Jan. 28th, in response to a controversial post two days previous. 

Good day NL, all ships at sea, and Southern Shore fisherman Keith Hawkins, who’s been brutalized on social media in recent days, a pounding he didn’t expect nor deserve. 

I have apologized to Keith personally — what happened is my fault — an apology he’s been good enough to accept, but it’s important to provide clarity on why I’m sorry.
•••
This past Thursday morning (Jan. 25th), officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) held a meeting in Ferryland for local inshore harvesters. 

It was the 16th in a series of 20 meetings DFO has organized around the province to hear directly from harvesters, which hasn’t happened in a generation.

Indeed, during the Ferryland meeting an older fisherman made it a point to say he’s been fishing since 1973 (45 years), and it was the first time DFO has held direct, face-to-face consultation. 

The feds have left that to the FFAW-Unifor, but many harvesters have complained the union no longer speaks for them. 

DFO was more or less shamed into holding consultations.

More than 50 harvesters showed up in Ferryland (one of the better turnouts), including Keith, who I knew would have much to say. 

He spoke first, with purpose and passion.
•••
As President of FISH-NL, I had met with Keith last year about the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board (PFHCB), an arm of the FFAW/Unifor that acts as gatekeeper into the NL fishery. 

Keith has had a problem with the certification board from the get-go, and the fact it wasn’t voted into being by harvesters, so much as quietly thrust upon them. 

The fact is you've got to practically starve yourself for five years to become a struggling fisherman/woman. 

To qualify for a core enterprise, a harvester must first work for five years as a full-time crewman (making $10,000-15,000 a year in the small-boat fleet), and if you hold a full-time job outside the fishery you’re immediately disqualified. 

Of all the complaints I deal with, the PFHCB — or the difficulty in becoming a harvester — tops the list. 

I tell people straight up there’s nothing I can do for them.

Earlier this month I referred one young man to the CBC’s Fisheries Broadcast, which aired his story. 
•••
The PFHCB bills itself as “independent and arm’s length,” but the reality is the certification board is a part of the FFAW-Unifor — most of the board of directors are union executive. 

In fact, the union and the PFHCB jointly own the Richard Cashin building they’re both housed in, which I pointed out at the Ferryland meeting after the DFO chair spoke about “conspiracy theories.”
•••
Keith said most harvesters are closer to retirement than starting out, and most crews are retirees who fish to supplement their pensions. 

“I feel like a Jew at a Nazi convention,” Keith said, going on to say the PFHCB was “set up to eliminate us,” and should be scrapped.

After the meeting, I wrote an overview of what was said/the sentiments expressed that I posted on Facebook, as I’ve done with the other meetings, so that harvesters know what’s being said on all coasts.

Only I got the quote wrong. 

I wrote it down correctly in my notebook, but made a mistake when I typed it out for the Facebook post.

“I feel like a Jew at a Nazi concentration camp,” I wrote. 

Again — my mistake. 
•••
The complaints began soon after the quote was posted, a backlash that led FISH-NL to remove it. 

The next morning I spoke on VOCM’s Open Line, with follow-up interviews on NTV and CBC. 

I told the media that nothing is comparable to the Holocaust, and the murder of 6 million people.

Nothing. 

That’s not what Keith meant, and that’s not what I (or anyone else at the Ferryland meeting, as far as I could see) took him to mean.

As a former journalist, I should have foreseen a backlash, but didn’t. 

As an MP, I’ve been to Israel’s Holocaust museum, and stood at the top of Masada and felt its meaning to the Jewish people.

Keith, as he would say in a later interview, toured Poland’s Auschwitz concentration camp a few years ago. 

We both understood the two are not comparable. 

The point of his overall comments remains the core message: Keith, and many harvesters like him, believe there is an agenda to “eliminate” NL’s inshore fishery, and much of rural NL with it.

Keith was talking about cultural genocide, not a literal one.

I, and others, thought that was obvious.
•••
Personally, I have been at the brutal end of a social media backlash, and I can say with authority it’s not only crushing on you personally, but your partner/children/parents/family/friends/community.

The Twitter/Facebook messages are there for all to see. 

I have not read most of them. I knew from past experience to disconnect once the avalanche began, to protect myself from the personal blows. 

Keith, a fisherman for all his life who only recently learned his way around a computer/Facebook so he could learn what was happening in the fishery, felt the full brutal force of the social media pile up.

The online audience (especially Twitter) can be lightning quick to judge, instantaneous to condemn, and merciless in sentencing. 

I feel horrible that Keith had to experience that though my error. 

For that reason I cannot apologize enough. 
•••
FISH-NL and its members believe the inshore fishery and our fishing culture are under threat, and we’re doing our best to point it out and find solutions. 

Onwards and upwards.