Friday, August 13, 2010

Quebec can't blackmail Canada

VOCM Open Line intro, Aug. 13th, 2010


Good morning Newfoundland and Labrador and all the ships at sea.


My name is Ryan Cleary and I’m filling in for Randy Simms as host of VOCM Open Line.


Happy Friday.


Happy free-for-all Friday.


In the news …


I began Thursday’s show with politics.


Senate reform, as a way to put our small province on an equal political footing with larger provinces like Ontario and Quebec.


Because right now, as it stands, we don’t have equal political footing.


And if you want to argue that point, please call in.


I implore you.


What do you know, today’s show also begins with politics.


The politics of Quebec.


First, Quebec had a problem with Newfoundland and Labrador moving hydro from the future Lower Churchill project to U.S. markets on Quebec’s transmission system.


That was a few months ago.


Now Quebec has a problem with a subsea power line from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.


A power line that could eventually carry Lower Churchill power.


So Quebec blocks us from using its transmission lines.


And now tries to block us from the only other way to get Lower Churchill power to market?


Sounds like Quebec wants to own us.


Sorry, my bad.


I meant Labrador, sounds like Quebec wants to own Labrador.


Not the first time I’ve heard that story line.


I’m not sure Quebec sees any money in poor old Newfoundland.


It definitely looks like Quebec wants its way with Lower Churchill power.


Or there will be no Lower Churchill project.


Kind of like the Upper Churchill project — and we all know how that worked out.


The big question, of course, is what, if anything, Ottawa’s prepared to do about it.


I’ll come back to that.


As expected, Danny Williams was fit to be tied Thursday.


The latest development began in June when Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia applied to the feds for infrastructure funding.


They want the money is to help pay for the cost of landing a power line in Nova Scotia from Newfoundland.


A power line that would eventually carry Lower Churchill power.


Danny Williams told reporters he’s learned that Quebec filed a written complaint with Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the infrastructure application.


The letter was signed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest, and Danny Williams got a copy of it from a source.


I wonder who that was?


Quebec apparently sees any federal money as a subsidy that would compete with its own hydro business.


Quebec also argues that it had to pay to build its own transmission lines — with no help from the Government of Canada.


Quebec doesn’t want any other provinces getting special treatment.


Ironic, isn't it.


Williams accused Quebec of predatory competitive practices.


And “unmitigated gall.”


Nova Scotia Energy Minister Bill Estabrooks said the premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, should “mind his own business.”


Danny Williams said Canadians are finally wising up to the fact that Quebec can’t “blackmail” Canada because it has a certain number of seats.


He also accused Quebec of deliberately trying to thwart the energy plans of at least two other provinces.


The big question, of course, is how the Stephen Harper government will react?


What do you know, the prime minister’s office declined comment Thursday.


First question of the morning: When the feds do bother to comment who do you think they will they side with on this one.


Quebec, or Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia?


Danny Williams says Quebec’s sphere of influence is waning.


Do you agree?


Before I forget, I also heard the thought expressed Thursday that this latest dust up with Quebec has been manufactured because it’s polling season in Newfoundland and Labrador.


And there’s nothing like a good fight to boost Danny Williams in the ratings.


Maybe all this is just a manufactured crisis to make Danny Williams even more popular?


As if that’s possible.


I can tell you this, our problems with Quebec are real.

•••

Much of the blame for the Upper Churchill contract — what’s been described as the biggest of all Newfoundland giveaways — is pointed at the federal government.


During negotiations, Newfoundland asked for a power corridor through Quebec in order to transmit power.


Quebec refused, and Ottawa refused to intervene.


That’s just one of the ways that we were screwed.


There are many.


Here’s a quote try and guess who said it.


“The situation arose from one of the major weaknesses of the Canadian federal system and the greatest failure of the Confederation between Newfoundland and Canada … to initiate a fair energy policy.”


Who said that?


Why none other than former Tory MP and current Lieutenant-Governor John Crosbie, in a 2003 speech.


The greatest failure of Confederation is the failure to initiate a fair energy policy.


What are the chances that we’ll get one any time soon?


As for the greatest failure of Confederation, I would have said that’s a toss up between a fair energy policy nd the fishery.

•••

I hear the caplin fishery hasn’t been so good this year.


The 2010 caplin quota is almost 42,000 tonnes, but to date only about 24,000 tonnes, or 58 per cent of the quota, has been taken.


Does that mean the caplin stock is in trouble?


The short answer is, who knows?


Keep in mind that caplin is critical to groundfish recovery.


No caplin, no hope.


There’s also news that the last full scientific assessment of caplin was carried out by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans was in 2001.


Nine years ago.


Since then, two of DFO’s top caplin scientists have retired — and weren’t replaced.


Yet we have a 42,000-tonne caplin quota.


And DFO apparently doesn’t have a clue how much caplin is in the water.


If that caplin quota isn’t based on science, what’s it based on?


A good guess?


Scratch that, not a good guess, just a guess.


DFO doesn’t make good guesses.


There have been calls in recent months for an inquiry into the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery.


Three’s an inquiry on the go right now as I speak into the disappearance of salmon on British Columbia’s Fraser River.


It seems to me a few of our fish species have also disappeared.


It’s been suggested that the feds should call a parallel inquiry into our fishery.


Two inquiries ongoing at the same time — together, but separate.


A thorough review of fish management and fish science.


Who holds the rights to quotes? Who’s fishes the quotas? Who owns the fishing boats. Who owns the fishing companies?


It would seen to me the answers to such questions are critical to moving forward.


If we’re going to have a future we’ve got to start planning it now.


Ignoring the fishery doesn’t make it go away.


It just makes it sadder, and sadder.

•••

Now let’s talk gasoline and the price at the pumps.


I saw on Here and Now last night that Canadian Tire had a big sale on gasoline at its pumps in Mount Pearl Thursday.


Five cents off a litre.


Wicked, you don’t see that every day.


Why is that, do you think?


The public utilities board only limits the maximum price of gasoline.


Gas stations can charge less than the maximum price.


As the reporter put it on Here and Now last night, they could give the gas away if they wanted.


Although that never happens.


Except in Mount Pearl on Thursday.


I hear it’s also going to be 5 cents off a litre at Canadian Tire’s stations in St. John’s today.


Big-box store Costco made an application to St. John’s City council a few weeks ago to open a gas station at its store in Town.


Word is Costco may cut prices by as much as six cents a litre.


I still don’t get why all companies have been charging the same price for gasoline.


You rarely ever see deals.


Why is that?


I’ve talked to George Murphy of the Consumer’s Group for Fair Gas Prices about this before.


George, if you want to call in this morning, you’re more than welcome.


Why do all gas stations charge the same for a litre of gas?

•••

I received an e-mail this morning about the flooding in Paraside.


It sums the problem up nicely.


Here’s the e-mail:

“Just a brief note on the flooding of some homes here in Paradise earlier this week.


Crews were working on some pipes and, due to a pressure surge, some homes had extensive water damage.

While some councilors did look into it, they told the affected homeowners to contact their insurance company since the town was not responsible for damages.

How is this possible?


The crews caused the flooding yet the town takes no responsibility. Perhaps the mayor or a council member can explain why this is the case.”

That e-mail’s from Mike Wareham in Paradise.


Good questions, Mike.

•••

Ann Marie Shirran.


Are you familiar with that name?


If you’re not, you should be.


She’s been all over the news for weeks.


Ann Marie Shirran, formerly Baggs, is the 32-year-old lady who hasn’t been seen for almost a month.


She was last seen July 18 at her home in Kilbride.


Since then, there have been a few reports of sighting in the west coast area (Shirran is originally from Steady Brook), but nothing confirmed.


The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were out Thursday in the Blackhead Road area, about 9 kilometres from Kilbride.


The Constabulary’s mounted unit was out, as was the RNC’s marine unit.


There were even cadaver dogs scouring the woods.


Cadavor dogs are specially trained to detect decomposing human remains.


So what does that tell you?


I take it as the police suspect something bad may have happened.


Let me ask you this: Do neighbours in the Kilbride area, in the St. John’s area, have reason to be concerned?

•••

I see there’s still no resolution in the ambulance dispute in Port aux Basques.


In fact, it’s taken some interesting twists.


The new ambulance operator started advertising this week for paramedics and emergency medical responders in the local papers.


The new owner, Steve Carey, told the Western Star the ads are designed to augment staff.


In other words, to bring in additional staff.


The 11 ambulance workers say they were fired; the new owner of the MacKenzie Ambulance Service says the workers quit.


The workers aren’t happy with a new work schedule.


They used to work seven days on, seven days off.


But a new schedule would have them working four out of every five weekends.


At the same time, the lawyer for the 11 ambulance workers says the dispute is all about money.


I asked Thursday whether the problems in Port aux Basques could be just the tip of the iceberg?


And that there are problems with ambulance services around the province?


I didn’t get any calls on it.


Meaning now’s your chance.

•••

I did get a lot of calls Thursday about the closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf.


Education Minister Darin King was on Thursday, so was the principal of the school for the deaf, as well as parents.


I know people still have concerns about the closure.


People are worried, too, that the supporters aren’t there for deaf and hard-of-hearing people once they’re finished with school and enter the workforce.

•••

I hear from VOCM News that truckers are holding off on a protest of Marine Atlantic services.


They want to give it some time to see if the feds will make changes.


Chris Howlett, one of the spokesmen for the truckers, says it’s a wait-and-see game.


Question is, how long can they afford to wait?

•••

This is free-for-all Friday.


You can talk about Marine Atlantic or moose or Quebec or the weather outside.


Which is supposed to be wicked this weekend, by the way.


There’s no better place to be on a lovely day — any day, in book — than right here where we’re too in Newfoundland and Labraodor.


The Lines are open.


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