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Wednesday 25 January 2012

It's not about History or Culture

It's about business and common sense. The seal hunt that is. No need to wonder what my stance is go here and read for yourself. I wrote that original piece in 2006 and not much has really changed except that each year the market for seal products, mostly pelts, seems to be declining.

That's where CBC's Fisheries Broadcast host John Furlong steps in (here) and begins to question where that industry is headed and if we should be taking a hard look at directing the industry or putting it down, instead of just letting it die a slow death. The article prompted some discussion but nothing too crazy until NDP Ryan Cleary recently stuck his head out of the parliament window and mused aloud about the end of the hunt.

Cleary has been seen a an ardent defender of the fishing industry in NL since before he ever became elected as an MP. And you would find many who agree with his passionate take on the issue in general. Which is why his recent comments on the seal hunt have confused many and angered some. It started with these comments as listed in this CBC story. In the piece Cleary is quoted as saying:
"Part of our history is also whaling, for example, and the day came when the whaling industry stopped," said Cleary, the MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl. "Now, is that day coming with the seal hunt? It just may be."

I could be mistaken but that sounds very much like he is saying that we should look at stopping the seal hunt. Those comments have seen Cleary in the middle of a bit of a firestorm of comments on the hunt and apparently he has found some supporters that he'd rather not have. A shortlist of the usual animal welfare nuts have noted Cleary's comments as proof that this once ardent defender of the bloody seal hunt has changed his tune. Cleary has since posted the press release he wrote to his blog "Fisherman's Road" over here. In the release he states:
"Let me re-iterate, I am not proposing to ban the commercial seal hunt in any way."
I think Cleary may now realize that he misspoke and is trying to do a little backpedaling. Fair enough, it happens. But it has just provided more ammunition for the crazies and may be one more nail in the coffin for part of an industry that Cleary certainly supports.

Here are some basic facts of the hunt as it currently exists:

  • Existing markets are disappearing. 
  • Animal rights groups are good at convincing rich people of things that aren't really true.
  • Seals eat a whole lot of other fish.
  • People of NL don't make very much $ from the hunt.  
  • Government of Canada is resistant to investing much $ into the industry. Markets, marketing, diversification, etc. 

Some people defend the seal hunt on the basis of tradition, history and culture. That argument doesn't belong in this conversation. If something is wrong then it's wrong, no matter how long of a tradition it is. But sealing is not wrong, it's not inhumane, it's not many of the things that the animal welfare groups claim, but it is dying none the less. The animal groups are winning because they are hitting the areas that impact the industry where it has trouble fighting back and it impacts the business rationale for the industry. Without markets it won't make money and it will eventually end. Unfortunately that means more seals to eat more fish, further preventing the recovery of fish stocks.

The seal hunt can be a viable industry but it will need a plan, new markets, and new products. Ryan Cleary knows this and he knows he misspoke. I think he supports the industry just as he always has and he'll have to weather this storm and convince the Government of Canada to get it's act together and figure out the best path forward for the sealing industry. At least I hope he misspoke.

If these things continue, the industry will not need to be ended, it will die on it's own without anyone's help. As a result our other fisheries will suffer.

Monday 23 January 2012

2nd Place for the Win!

Welcome to the Best Political/Commentary Blog in NL!

It's always nice to win, but it's certainly sad to see one less voice on the old interweb driving public debate. So while I'm glad to say that I am now the winner of the best Political/Commentary Blog over at the NL Blog Roll, it is unfortunate that it has come at the disappearance of The Fighting Newfoundlander blog, formerly written by Shannon Reardon.

As outlined by Geoff Meeker on his blog here, Shannon has recently taken a position with the Official Opposition as a Communications Specialist and as a result her blog has not only gone silent, it has gone missing. Geoff questions the need for her previous posts to be removed and I agree that it seems a little extreme. Shannon was never one to shy away from letting her opinion be know and I and many others respected her for that. But now those thoughts are lost to us. And for those of us who may have linked to her previous posts from time to time we have some dead links to fix!

When I found out I was nominated back in September I posted this short piece noting that I was in fine company with my fellow nominees. I stand by that assessment and I still feel that Ed Hollett writes the finest local political blog at the Sir Robert Bond Papers

I will miss reading Shannon's musings but I'm glad to say that there are a raft of local folks who take the time to share their thoughts with us all. As a final note I will share with you some of those who are on my regular reading list:

Of course all of these and many more are accessible via Eli Harris over at the NL Blog Roll. 

Thursday 19 January 2012

The Muskrat Farce Continues...

Well things are finally heating up in the public arena about the Muskrat Falls project. It's about bloody time. Some folks, bloggers mostly, have been beating this drum for quite a while now with very few people actually paying attention, media included.

For example there was this video I posted in July of last year. You should find some of my commentary is very much inline with much of the current criticism of the project. It might be a little long but it certainly isn't burning up the YouTube charts! lol

Thank goodness there are more voices that are adding their weight to the argument in recent months. One such person is Dr. Wade Locke who gave a presentation hosted by MUN's Harris Centre that you can watch here. Locke had previously avoided commenting on Muskrat Falls because he said he had completed some initial work on the economic benefits from a workforce perspective. He seems to have changed his mind on speaking out, because the point of his presentation was to announce his support of the mega-project.

Of course Locke isn't the first MUN Economics Prof to get involved in the conversation. James Feehan also let his views be know via the C.D. Howe Institute in this paper. Feehan is much more skeptical about the rational for the project. In Lockes presentation he takes a couple of shots at Feehan and Feehan responds with a couple of pointed questions.

So where does it leave us if two economy "experts" seem to disagree on the basics of the $6.2 billion project. Well if you head over to the Telegram and read this little number from James McLeod you might start questioning exactly what the point of Locke's presentation actually was.

Taken from the article:
"Locke was comparing the Muskrat Falls project to an isolated island alternative, and he found Muskrat Falls is $2.2 billion cheaper than the second-best option.
But that cost difference doesn’t include the cost of transmitting power to the island.
When asked by The Telegram, “If that doesn’t include transmission, is that a fair comparison?”
Locke answered, “Probably not. You’d want to include transmission as well.”
The issue was raised during Tuesday night’s presentation by fellow economics professor James Feehan. "
So then what the hell was Locke doing comparing apples to oranges and not saying anything about it? Was he attempting to mislead people by not including all the pertinent information? One of my criticisms of the numbers provided by NALCOR has always been that we are expected to trust them blindly without ever seeing how they were calculated or where they came from. We're big boys and girls and some of us would very much like to see the evidence behind the show before we commit to a project that will saddle us with debt and double our electrical rates.

And as one final note remember that all of this is a result of your faithful Government who has made this decision on your behalf and without your input. The following video is concerning the current sate of Federal democracy but the sad part is that it's so much worse here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Keep asking questions, and may the farce be with you!

Monday 16 January 2012

Change is the only Constant

No matter what the sector, topic or issue change is truly the only constant. We often try hard to hold on to the past but it is like trying to close your hands tighter to hold onto water, it just doesn't work. As a province we hold our past and our traditions to very high esteem, as we should. Unfortunately that leaves us even less likely to accept or embrace change and the evidence of this can be found in most every sector of the economy, and it is especially true of the fishery.

The problem is often compounded by the fact that we are so afraid of change that we run from it. This leaves us in such a precarious position. There is an old saying that if you don't manage change then it will manage you, and this is the reality that we have been living with for many decades here in NL.

Our history is vivid and so very dear to us, but it is ripe with examples of change being fought against as opposed to planned for. It is a difficult thing to do but strategically planning a route through oncoming change is the best way to hold on to those things we care for while still being able to adapt to new situations.

While the fishery is a great example of this unwillingness to change it is only one example. You could easily look to forestry, pulp and paper, mining, and even the shape and operation of our government as glaring examples of how afraid we are of trying something different. Our current Provincial government structure is woefully inadequate yet there is very little desire for change. We have changed as a province yet our government has remained stagnant in it's shape, function and operation. There have been some changes but that have been slow, poorly managed and developed and only come when there were absolutely no remaining alternatives. we have been dragged into the 21st Century kicking and screaming.

We need to look forward, determine what we want our future to be and build the province, the economy and the government we want to have in years to come. It isn't always an easy thing to do but it is certainly better then the alternative of always responding and reacting instead of planning and being proactive.

We have the ability to set our own course, to manage our own destiny but we have to have the courage to grasp it and the integrity to be flexible enough to recognize what goals and ideals are core to who we are and keep those in the forefront of everything we do. It is the only way to avoid living in the past.