Tag Archives: Newfoundland

Muskrat Falls hydroelectric – Who buried the risk assessment report?

Muskrat Falls, Labrador. Site of a proposed hydro electric project by the governments of Newfoundland and Quebec. This is downriver from the Churchill Falls Hydro project in Labrador. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017 DCS Files

Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River, Labrador in 2006 before construction of an ill-conceived hydro-electric project by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.  Photo by Greg Locke ©2017

ROGER BILL
November 25, 2017

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland — The man in charge of finishing the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project on the Churchill River in remote central Labrador calls the venture a “boondoggle”. The Newfoundland and Labrador government has established a commission of inquiry to determine why the project is wildly over budget and years behind schedule. A good place for the Commissioner, Judge Richard D. LeBlanc, to start is to find out who buried the warning that there was a “very high risk” of a multi-billion dollar cost overrun barely four months after the massive project was green-lighted in December, 2012.

 

The warning came in the form of a risk assessment undertaken by SNC-Lavalin, the engineering company retained by the Nalcor Energy, the provincial government agency managing the project. SNC-Lavalin officials, who were responsible for construction management and procurement on the project, conducted the risk assessment when initial prices for some major construction elements came in well above the original estimates in the $6.2 billion December, 2012 budget. The experts at SNC-Lavalin warned their Newfoundland client the project could go over-budget by an additional $2.4 billion. The warning was buried for four years.

 

Some critics of the Muskrat Falls project argue that warnings were ignored long before 2013but when the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment finally surfaced in June of this year it was too much to ignore and according to Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier Dwight Ball too late to put the brakes on the project

 

 According to Nalcor Energy’s CEO, Stan Marshall, the Province is now staring at a total cost of $12+ billion to bring the megaproject in two years behind schedule and the Province wants Judge LeBlanc to inquire into “any risk assessments, financial or otherwise” and whether “Nalcor took possession of the reports” and “made the government aware of the reports and assessments”

 

Judge LeBlanc will find that, yes, there was a risk assessment done by SNC-Lavalin in April, 2013 and maybe Nalcor Energy took possession of it or maybe not, and according to the provincial Minister of Natural Resources in April, 2013, no, the provincial government was not made aware of the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment.

 

Ed Martin, former president and CEO of Nalcor Energy. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017

Ed Martin, former president and CEO of Nalcor Energy. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017

What is a matter of public record is the following: Ed Martin, Nalcor Energy’s CEO, parted company with the provincial government in 2016. Whether he was dismissed or resigned is still a bit of a puzzle, but he was succeeded by Stan Marshall, a very successful executive with the private energy company, Fortis Inc. Stan Marshall says he heard about the 2013 SNC-Lavalin risk assessment from a former SNC-Lavalin engineer, but could not find a copy of it in Nalcor Energy’s files. Finally, Stan Marshall says he asked SNC-Lavalin for a copy of the risk assessment, received it, gave it to the provincial government, and it was released by the Premier and Minister of Natural Resources on June 23, 2017 (External Link to CBC story)

 

A spokesperson for SNC-Lavalin told The Telegram newspaper and www.allnewfoundlandlabrador.com that they “attempted” to hand over the risk assessment to Nalcor. Ed Martin, the former Nalcor CEO told the media the risk assessment was never “presented” to him. Premier Dwight Ball told the media that he had been advised that the risk assessment results were presented by SNC-Lavalin at a meeting attended by Nalcor officials including Ed Martin. Obviously, either Premier Dwight Ball has been poorly advised or Ed Martin is not telling the truth or the word “presented” has a very narrow and specific meaning in the world of engineers and consultants that outsiders fail to understand.

 

The expression “attempted to hand it over” makes one wonder if an official of SNC-Lavalin held the nine-page risk assessment document in their hand and reached out to give it to a Nalcor Energy official who refused to accept it. Or, maybe there was a meeting where the SNC-Lavalin, motivated by what is described in the risk assessment as a sense of “urgency” to convey their findings verbally briefed Nalcor Energy officials on the results of the risk assessment, but did not have the report in hand. When engineers are under oath and lawyers from Judge LeBlanc rather than journalists are asking questions about who told who what and who gave what to who then the people who will ultimately pay for the “boondoggle” will know who buried what.

 

What does not take any clarifying are the words of Tom Marshall, the provincial Minister of Natural Resources in 2013. When the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment surfaced in June, 2017. I asked Tom Marshall if he saw the risk assessment in 2013. He said, “I never saw that report.” Asked if he had been advised of the risk assessment findings Mr. Marshall said, “No.” Did he think Ed Martin, the Nalcor CEO who he met with regularly at the time, held back the risk assessment’s findings Mr. Marshall said, “That would be terrible. I can’t fathom if that is the case.” Would it have made a difference if he had known? “It would have rung all kinds of alarm bells”

 

Eleven months after the SNC-Lavalin risk assessment warning Tom Marshall’s successor as Minister of Natural Resources, Derrick Dalley addressed the House of Assembly to reassure members that the government’s oversight of the Muskrat Falls project was “robust.” Mr. Dalley said, “senior staff with the Department of Natural Resources and Finance have met regularly with Nalcor’s CEO and their staff. As well, the provincial cabinet has had regular meetings and ongoing reports from the CEO of Nalcor”

 

For those who gamble on political affairs the question Mr. Dalley’s assurances in 2014 raise is this; what are the odds that Judge LeBlanc will hear testimony from one single senior staff or cabinet member who met regularly with the CEO of Nalcor who will recall hearing the words, “SNC-Lavalin risk assessment” or “serious concerns” or “very high risk of cost overruns” in any of those meetings?

 

Two days later the Minister again sought to reassure the members of the House of Assembly that there was no very high risk of cost overruns, “Nobody is putting my signature on a paper that costs my children $6 billion and $7 billion into the future. I can tell you the work is done. The oversight is there” he said.

 

When the Muskrat Falls Inquiry releases its schedule of witnesses make a note of the date of Mr. Dalley’s appearance.

 

Copyright Roger Bill 2017

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation.

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Newfoundland’s fourth offshore oil project set to sail

The Hebron offshore oil production platform awaits tow out to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Photo by Greg Locke © 2017 -www.greglocke.com

The Hebron offshore oil production platform in Trinity Bay awaiting tow out to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.  Photo by Greg Locke © 2017 .

by Greg Locke
May 27, 2017

St. John’s, Newfoundland — While Canada’s oil sands projects and the North America fracking companies are under scrutiny and financial distress, Newfoundland prepares to bring its fourth major offshore oil project online.

The Hebron oil field is located on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, about 350km south of St. John’s. It’s near three other oil producing fields at Hibernia, White Rose and Terra Nova. The tow-out comes 20 years to the week that the Hibernia production platform, an engineering marvel of its time, was launched out of the same yard to kick off Newfoundland’s oil boom. At the time, Hibernia was considering a boondoggle, and required federal government assistance to complete. In the twenty years since the government of Canada has earned billions from its 8 percent equity stake, and it continues to be a cash cow for partner oil companies.

The Hebron field was discovered in the 1980s with the exploration drilling of the Ben Nevis well, I-45, by Chevron. It will be operated by a consortium (Chevron, Statoil, Suncor, Nalcor), and led by ExxonMobil. It holds an estimated 700 billion barrels of oil, but like the three other projects, it will most likely yield much more once production begins and advanced drilling techniques are used to explore the reservoir further.

The Newfoundland government has an ownership stake through its energy crown corporation NALCOR, and expects to make $10 billion over the life of the project for the province. The rig cost an estimated $14 billion to construct. It is capable of pumping 150,000 barrels per day. First oil is expected by the end of 2017.

Even with the $14 billion price tag, and billions more to operate over its expected thirty year lifespan, the return on investment and rewards for the oil companies and governments in revenue, royalties, taxes and jobs are significant. After the collapse of the inshore fishing industry, forestry and mining industries in the province, and income from oil, kept the Newfoundland government afloat in recent years.

With this project completed local politicians, business and trade unions are asking, whats next? They’re looking to positive exploration results at sites in the Flemish Pass, 400km east of St John’s, by Norwegian oil company Statoil. It is remote, in deep water, in the harsh environment of the North Atlantic ocean with all the increased costs to operate. The question becomes, at what point does it stop being financially viable to build multi-billion dollar concrete and steel islands to recover oil from the earth? For the moment, it’s apparently much cheaper and has less environment impact than the Alberta oil sands projects in western Canada.

Newfoundland’s offshore oil history.

Hibernia: Exploration drilling began in the 1960s in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the north west Atlantic off the east coast of Canada. The drilling of well Hibernia P-51 in 1979 confirmed that there was viable oil reserves deep under the ocean. It would be nearly 20 more years for the deals to be made that would see the construction of a massive concrete production platform and the oil and money to flow as the first offshore oil production project in Canada.  The Hibernia offshore oil field is owned jointly by ExxonMobil Canada, Chevron Canada Resources, Suncor, Canada Hibernia Holding Corporation, Murphy Oil and StatoilHydro Canada Ltd.

 

Terra Nova: The Terra Nova oil field (left) was discovered and developed by Canada’s state owned oil company, Petro Canada. Discovered in 1984, the oil field was the second to be developed on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Production from the field began in 2002. Petro Canada was later privatized and purchased by Suncor Energy. Terra Nova utilizes a floating production platform instead of the concrete gravity based structure of Hibernia or Hebron. Partners in the project are Suncor, ExxonMobil, Statoil, Husky Energy, Murphy Oil, Mosbacher and Chevron.

 

White Rose:  White Rose (left) was the third offshore oil field to be developed offshore Newfoundland. Discovered in 1984 and developed by Husky Energy it is the smallest of the four producing fields with Husky as the major share holder and Suncor Energy with a 27 percent stake. It also uses a floating production platform named the Sea Rose.

Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose have all produced more oil than originally projected and have all more than recovered their development and exploration cost which make them very cost effective and profitable to operate and expand for their owners. Due to advanced drilling  and subsea engineering technologies, all are undergoing expansion projects to further extend the lives of their respective projects well past their original life expectancy. Hebron is starting out with projections even larger than the three previous projects and with a 30 year life expectancy. Hibernia was only expected to be producing for 25 years but is still going strong and expanding into the new Hibernia South oil field without needing an additional production rig.

Newfoundland’s offshore oil fields.

I have been covering the offshore oil industry as a journalist and photographer since the early freewheeling and heady exploration days of the late 1970s. It’s been a fascinating and great learning experience to see an entire industry evolve, develop and mature in the political and economic microcosm that is Newfoundland. But like so much in the oil and energy industries the future is not that clear.

© 2017 Greg Locke. All rights reserved.

 

 

Also see Newfoundland’s Offshore Account by Greg Locke

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Ron Hynes: the man of 1000 songs departs for Cryer’s Paradise

Ron Hynes photographed by Greg Locke

Newfoundland singer – songwriter, Ron Hynes, dies at age 64. Photo by Greg Locke © 2015

GREG LOCKE
St John’s, Newfoundland, November, 2015

Newfoundland singer-songwriter and musical legend, Ron Hynes, died Nov. 19. He was 64. In an ironic coincidence there was a power failure in downtown St John’s around the same time. Across the bar I heard someone say, “I guess Ron turned the lights out when he left.”

Hynes’ music and writing marks a generation that began with Newfoundland’s cultural renaissance in the 1970s. It saw the rise of The Mummer’s Troup, Figgy Duff, Wonderful Grand Band, CODCO, Breakwater Books, Newfoundland Independent Film Co-op and visual artists such as Christopher Pratt, David Blackwood, Gerald Squires and Reginald Shepherd … and so many more.

Collectively, their art is the iconography of Newfoundland and, for the current generation, the touch stones and inspiration for the wealth of Newfoundland musicians, writers and visual artists that followed them. There are far too many to mention, but you see and hear them on Canada’s national TV, radio and in the print media almost daily, and some have international acclaim.

Little of Hynes’s work was the happy, cheery folk tunes most people think of when someone mentions Newfoundland music. His was the music of a story teller: tales of the realities of people’s lives; of the odd melancholy; of hard-won culture and existence in wind-blown sea spray, face up to the North Atlantic ocean.

Ron Hynes was known as The Man of a Thousand Songs, the title of one of his more well-known works. And as a songwriter Hynes was on par with the likes of John Prine, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt.

His most famous song, Sonny’s Dream, has been recorded by scores of musicians in dozens of countries. It is such a universal story that in many places it has entered into the local cultural canon as a traditional song. Many a Newfoundlander tells of being in pubs in Ireland, and getting into arguments when the song is played (and every pub musician plays it). They will say it’s a Newfoundland song. “No, no, it’s a traditional Irish song,” they are told. This is Mary Black’s fault. She had an enormous hit with it in Ireland.

Hynes’ life was not easy. There were bad deals with record companies (see his song, Record Man), the yoke of addictions, eventually a long struggle with cancer. But he wrote and sang right up to the end. He was working on a new album when he died.

“The body of work that he has left with us is such an enormous treasure for our province and for our people because it is us, it’s our stories and our songs,” said Alan Doyle, of the band Great Big Sea, in an interview. “We had somebody who could record our history in songs that he could sing at a concert and it’s just a beautiful testament.”

Ron Hynes outside The Rose & Thistle on Water St in St. John's, Newfoundland Photo by Greg Locke © 2015

Ron Hynes outside The Rose & Thistle on Water St in St. John’s, Newfoundland Photo by Greg Locke © 2015

In 2006 I was assigned to photograph Ron Hynes for a magazine story. It would turn into a week long adventure through his world. Calling, connecting, missing, chasing him around the bars and coffee shops of downtown St. John’s. I went with him to shows, for lunch. We talked about the hard life of the artists in Newfoundland. I finally nailed him down to a formal photo shoot at the LSPU Hall. The one-time union hall became Newfoundland arts landmark, where so many of Newfoundland’s musicians, actors, performers and playwrights sprung forth, and where Hynes premiered Sonny’s Dream in a concert in 1977.

In that magazine article for Saltscapes, author Philip Lee wrote, “Ron will keep going so long as his favourite song is the one he’s about to write, so long as he feels there is another great one just around the corner. Every day that he is home he reads the words of playwright Samuel Beckett that he has tacked on his wall: Perhaps my best years are behind me. But I wouldn’t quit. Not with the fire in me now.

“I’ve never been able to escape Newfoundland,” Hynes told Lee, “The decision to stay there has coloured my work forever more.”

On Friday Nov. 20 there was a single candle lit by a statue of Hynes at the foot of George Street, the St John’s bar and entertainment district, where Hynes and his fellow musicians plied their trade for years. By any measure, it’s A Cryer’s Paradise.

Copyright Greg Locke 2015

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Links and recommendations:

Do read Philip Lee’s story, Man of a Thousand Songs about Hynes in Saltscapes magazine. It’s the best profile piece I seen to date about Ron Hynes.

Newfoundland’s Cultural Renaissance. …a history of art and culture revival.
Ron Hynes, personal website.

LSPU Hall (after the Longshoremen’s Protective Union)

Recommended videos: Watch Sonny’s Dream, below, and also:  Cryers ParadiseMan of a Thousand Songs, and Record Man.

 

Photographer and journalist Greg LockeGreg Locke is a founder and the managing partner, visual, of Facts and Opinions. He built the Facts and Opinions website, produces F&O’s photo essays  and occasionally writes for our reports, magazine pieces, and blogs.

Greg Locke has been a professional photographer, media producer and journalist for more than twenty-five years. Locke has covered politics, economics, energy issues, international development and civil conflicts in more than 30 countries, including the fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1980′s, civil wars in the Balkans and the conflicts of central and east Africa in the 1990′s. He has published three books and has been a regular contributor to Canadian Business, Canadian Geographic, Time, Businessweek, Macleans and Forbes magazines.

For more about Locke’s work you can visit his website at www.greglocke.com

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Marg!, Princess Warrior joins the fray

Newfoundland writer, actress and comedian, Mary Walsh, finally chimed in on the Canadian election with her character, Marg! Princess Warrior, this week with her Marg Brings Change campaign. Made famous on This Hour has 22 Minutes, Marg has been smiting politicians with her foam sword for many years and her love for Stephen Harper is legendary.

“Don’t waste time turning in your neighbours on the barbaric Harper hotline; send some real ‘cents’ to Ottawa instead,” advises Princess Warrior Marg Delahunty.

“Prime Minister Harper didn’t want to save Syrian refugees, our right to privacy or democracy, but he did want to save the penny. Unfortunately, like the cent, Harper will take a while to get out of our system so let’s send a load of cents to Ottawa now — and on October 19.”

Joining the ever-increasing crowd of prominent Canadian musicians, writers, artists, scientists, social activists, unions, environmentalists and the millions of Canadians who want change this election, Marg urges Canadians to help her bring change to Harper.

“I’ll give Mr. Harper our two cents,” Marg promises Canadians. In a campaign launched today entitled, Marg Brings Change, the Princess Warrior has created a video calling for Canadians to click on the virtual cent on her website www.margbringschange.ca ; she vows to match every click and every share with a real cent. Later this month Marg will personally deliver everybody’s two cents to Mr. Harper.**

“And vote!” the Princess Warrior commands. “Vote anything but Conservative! Don’t make me come back and smite you!”

**All money will go to aiding Syrian refugees in Canada.

Watch the Video, Click the cent, Share widely and Help Marg bring your two cents to Ottawa!

Visit www.margbringschange.ca

or the Facebook page: Marg Brings Change
https://www.facebook.com/Marg-Brings-Change-1474903259506286/timeline/

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Facts, and Opinions, this week

Howard Morry, left, brings his sheep in from the community pastures on the islands off Tors Cove, Newfoundland. Like generations of farmers and fisherman have been doing for hundreds of years. Life goes on in rural Newfoundland and the old ways are still practiced despite the loss of its historic economy and 50,000 people. See Greg Locke’s photo essay on his recent travels through Newfoundland and finding what he thought was lost.

F&O starts our week in easternmost Canada, with Greg Locke’s photo-essay about the resilience (and beauty) of rural Newfoundland. We focus onPope Francis’s visit to the Americas; relish the news about Africa’s bright spot of Ivory Coast; puzzle at a seemingly-crazy notion that orange juice could replace petroleum; and heed Tom Regan’s warning about a future of massive migration. Read about Corbynomics by its creator, and discover how in Alabama the womb is increasingly a crime scene. And then, take a leisurely stroll in the Arts, with Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter on Elizabeth Taylor; the relationship between The Martian movie and Robinson Crusoe; and a tale about the Man Booker awards.

Note to readers: Please excuse some disarray. F&O is almost sorted from our major move; we’ll get the mess cleared away soon. Emailed access codes will be emailed to paid subscribers this weekend. Thank you for your support — and patience.

Dorothy's last meeting with Mother Teresa, in Dorothy's room at Maryhouse in Manhattan. Eileen Egan is on the left. The photo was taken in 1979, the year before Dorothy's death, by Bill Barrett. (Marquette University Archives via Jim Forest, Flickr)

Dorothy Day’s last meeting with Mother Teresa, 1979.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Pope to Canonize Friar Serra: a halo stained with blood?

Faith and tradition in Cuba. Report and Photo-essay

Watch Pope Francis’s address to the US Congress:

A reflection is seen in the window of a Woodin clothing store at the newly expanded Cap Sud mall in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 14, 2015. From Abidjan’s packed airport arrivals hall to the buildings mushrooming across the capital, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from a 2011 civil war. Buyers of luxury apartments include Ivorians living overseas, while promoters from Morocco, Turkey and China are attracted by tax breaks. Elections - the source of national unrest four years ago - are due in a month but there is no let-up in investment given expectations of an easy victory for incumbent Alassane Ouattara. The government predicts 9.6 percent growth this year, making the former French colony the standout performer on a continent hammered by a slump in commodity prices, capital outflows and tumbling currencies. REUTERS/Joe PenneyPICTURE 22 OF 33 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "IVORY COAST IS BOOMING". SEARCH "BOOMING PENNEY" FOR ALL IMAGES

Africa’s Bright Spot: Ivory Coast is booming. A  photo essay

From Abidjan airport’s packed arrivals hall to the hotels and plush villas mushrooming across the city, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from years of turmoil and civil war.

When the Womb is a Crime Scene. By Nina Martin

Women in Alabama are running afoul of the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the United States’ toughest criminal law on prenatal drug use. Passed in 2006 as methamphetamine ravaged Alabama communities, the law targeted parents who turned their kitchens and garages into home-based drug labs, putting their children at peril. A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm.

 

Crisis just beginning of massive migrations. By Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.

Can orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics? By Marc Hutchby

New research indicates orange juice could have potential far beyond the breakfast table. The chemicals in orange peel could be used as new building blocks in products ranging from plastics to paracetamol – helping to break our reliance on crude oil.

Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party greets supporters after speaking in a pub in London, Britain September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

REUTERS/Neil Hall

Jeremy Corbyn and the economics of the real world. By Richard Murphy

As the creator of what has come to be known as Corbynomics, I argue that my policies are at the core of tackling the austerity narrative.

ICYMI: JEREMY CORBYN: British Labour’s New Leader

Art Following Life: Elizabeth Taylor, a Brief Encounter by Brian Brennan (*subscription)

My very brief encounter with Elizabeth Taylor occurred late on a Saturday afternoon in May 1983 on a busy street in midtown Manhattan. A mounted New York City policeman was barking orders to the small crowd of about 30 waiting outside the stage door of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street: “Everybody keep to the sidewalk and stay behind the barricades!” Why all the fuss?

Booker shortlist: bastion against death of the novel. By Stacy Gillis

The 2015 year’s Man Booker shortlist features two Britons, two Americans, one Jamaican and a Nigerian (four men and two women) and has been applauded for its diversity.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Martian — and Robinson Crusoe, Matt Damon and Viola Davis. By Victoria Anderson

In The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left stranded on Mars. Alone, presumed dead, he must work out a way to survive. If this storyline sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is.

In Case You Missed It:

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story, or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year. We’d be grateful if you’d help us spread the word.

 

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Life goes on in rural Newfoundland

FAO-Morreys-sheep-TorsCove-1810

Bringing the sheep back from the summer community pastures on the island at Tors Cove on Newfoundland’s Southern Shore. A practice that has been going on for more than 200 years. Photo by Greg Locke © 2015

 

GREG LOCKE
September, 2015

Bay de Verde, Conception Bay, Newfoundland– Travelling around Newfoundland this summer I began seeing signs of life, culture and a society I thought were lost forever.

The cod moratorium was thought to be the death of rural Newfoundland. The outports are estimated to have been emptied of more than 50,000 people. Boats, houses, property …entire villages, abandoned. Newfoundland and Labrador’s historic cod fisheries attracted local and international fishing fleets for almost five centuries before the Canadian government shut the industry down indefinitely in July, 1992. By then, once-plentiful fish stocks had dwindled to near extinction, and officials feared they would disappear entirely if the fishery remained open. The moratorium put about 30,000 people in the province out of work, and ended a way of life that had endured for generations in many outport communities.

Except … it didn’t.

On the wharfs and in the twine lofts people are living their lives and following the old ways. In Tors Cove, just a 30 minute drive south of the capital, St. John’s,  Howard Morry was bringing his sheep back from the islands where they spent the summer grazing safe from dogs and coyotes. …the way it’s been done for generations.

FAO-WWF_GSL-9742

Community party in a fisherman’s twine loft Bay de Verde, Conception Bay, Newfoundland. Photo by Greg Locke © 2015

In Bay de Verde, fish were caught and parties and feasts went late into the evening. Just like the days in 1990 and 1991 when I spent all my spare time travelling the island documenting a fast disappearing culture. The sun sinks into the ocean, the moon lights the cove and the winding pathways through the village as people gather around the music and laughter from the sheds where coolers full of beer rattle with ice and deep fryers and barbecues sizzle with lobsters, crab and cod fish.

Before you continue: please know that reader-supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We are on an honour system and survive only because readers like you pay at least 27 cents per story.  Contribute below, or find details here. Thanks for your interest and support.

Old historic houses, shops and fishing buildings are being restored in once booming places like Bonavista, Fogo Island and Elliston. Towns like Eastport and Glovertown are awash in new construction and service industries.

Newfoundland has been discovered by well-heeled and adventure tourists. They paddle in expensive kayaks alongside local fishermen in the new trendy hot spots.

Sure there is gentrification in the remote bays and coves, but the old ways remain. The new comers learn how to survive from the old timers and the few young Newfoundland people who were not meant to live in the cities of western Canada.

What happens when a government abandons its people? Do they disappear? What happens when the contract, trusts and social bonds between politicians, bureaucrats, scientists and the community its suppose to serve is broken?

In the years leading up to the destruction of the cod stocks, fishermen were warning the politicians and scientists that the fish stocks were disappearing, catches abnormal and erratic. These were not the fishermen with large offshore trawlers — the high-tech fishing factories — but small-boat fishermen living in the villages who fished close to shore, immersed in fish habitat and habits.

Officialdom turned a deaf ear. The message was that stupid uneducated fishermen don’t know anything. They lack biology degrees. They are ignorant of the machinery of politics.

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Fishermen from Bay de Verde, Newfoundland catching their small allocation of cod fish in Conception bay. Photo by Greg Locke © 2015

More than 25 years later, Newfoundland rural culture survives in small, wise, pockets. They have learned a lot about the politics of Canada’s federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. More than they would care to, probably. The small-boat fishermen were proved right about the cod stocks.

In recent years those few still fishing are telling the politicians and scientists that cod catches are up, that the fish are the largest seen in more than 30 years.

They want to a return of a small, specialized, sustainable cod fishery for inshore fishermen and fishing communities. They are backed with science and expertise in sustainable fishing from groups as diverse as the fishermen’s union, World Wildlife Fund and independent biology and social scientists. All are working together on plans for that commercially viable, sustainable, community based fishery which the government doesn’t want to hear about it because its model is a fishing industry for a small number of large multinational food companies.

And DFO scientists, bureaucrats and politicians are still not listening.

It’s no surprise that all trust and respect has broken down between Newfoundland’s people, and the government, and scientists. And as the government, politicians and industrial fishing companies continue to abandon rural Newfoundland, it’s nice to see that the old ways are still remembered.

Life will carry on, regardless of the destruction wrought by the interlopers.

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 Copyright Greg Locke 2015

 

Photographer and journalist Greg LockeGreg Locke is a founder and the managing partner, visual, of Facts and Opinions. He built the Facts and Opinions website, produces F&O’s photo essays, reports for Dispatches, writes and photographs Think magazine pieces, and contributes to the blogs.

Greg Locke has been a professional photographer, media producer and journalist for more than twenty-five years. Locke has covered politics, economics, energy issues, international development and civil conflicts in more than 30 countries including the fall of communism in eastern Europe in 1980′s, civil wars in the Balkans and the conflicts of central and east Africa in the 1990′s. He has published three books and has been a regular contributor to Canadian Business, Canadian Geographic, Time, Businessweek, Macleans and Forbes magazines.

For more about Locke’s work you can visit his website at www.greglocke.com

Related:

Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery, by Greg Locke

It’s a cold foggy day in the fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Just 20 kilometers south from downtown St. John’s, it feels much further. There is not much activity or many people out and around the few remaining wharfs and twine lofts that once were buzzing hives of fishing activity ringing the harbour. Today, there are just a few frozen tourists looking to make photos of a Newfoundland that doesn’t exist anymore.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story, or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year — and by spreading the word.

 

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Artists call for ban on fracking near national park

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Gros Morne National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bonne Bay, Newfoundland, Canada. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

Thirty two well known artists sent an open letter to Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper, and  Newfoundland & Labrador Premier Paul Davis, calling on them to establish a permanent buffer zone free of industrial activity around Gros Morn National Park  and UNESCO World Heritage Site on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland.

The area has been the target of many unsuccessful oil exploration attempt over the past two decades. In 2012 a number of companies proposed to conduct hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) drilling right up to the park’s boundaries. Last summer, UNESCO called on Canada to do more to protect the site. There was much public opposition, and in 2013 the proposals failed. There is currently a moratorium on fracking while the provincial government reviews a commissioned industry study.

The artists include musician Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta, authors Lawrence Hill, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummy and Joseph Boyden, astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar, painter Mary Pratt, and actor Greg Malone, who said, “If we can’t protect the most brilliant places in our province and in our country, what are we doing?”

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A whale for the taking

 Photo by Greg Locke - www.greglocke.com COPYRIGHT 2014

A team from the Royal Ontario Museum begin dissecting a blue whale on the beach at Woody Point, Newfoundland. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014 …click to enlarge.

Anybody want a dead whale?

After a rough winter in the waters around Newfoundland on Canada’s east coast a number of dead whales, including a number of endangered North Atlantic blue whales, washed up on the beaches of many small fishing villages. The question became how to dispose of a 100 tonne, 25 metre, rotting carcases that threatened the health of the people in the communities and dampened the pending tourist season. One town went as far as to offer it up on eBay. Its a story of something no one was going to touch …until someone wanted it. Then the stink began.

Part 1, by Greg Locke, looks at the smelly dilemma on the beach of a Newfoundland village.
Part 2, by Deborah Jones, examines the ramifications of the mystery deaths of the endangered North Atlantic Blue Whales.

*Subscription or a $1 site day pass  required to read A Whale For The Taking.

*Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O serves and is entirely funded by reader payments. We do not carry advertising or solicit donations from non-journalism foundations or causes.

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Sound Art

Every two years since 1983 Sound Symposium has been happening in Newfoundland, Canada at the edge of the North Atlantic. Founded by classical musician and percussionist, Don Wherry, the event grew from a bunch of avant garde musician friends to a ten day international festival of new music, performing and sound art with everything from classical and jazz musicians experimenting with new sound, dance and theatre to audio engineers and sculptures creating audio art installations in the wild coastal environment. The soundscapes created have become the hallmark of Sound Symposium which happens once again in July of 2014.

This video is from a 2012 Sound Symposium event organized by Gayle Young, a sound artist and founder of Music Works magazine. She led a group of musicians to remote  Doctor’s Cove, Newfoundland, 100km south of St. John’s to find resonant rocks and build lithophones.

 

SoundSymposium 2012 – Doctor’s Cove, Newfoundland from Stray Light Media, Inc. on Vimeo.

Found music improv with beach rocks in Doctor’s Cove, Newfoundland for Sound Symposium 2012, an international ten day festival of new music and performing art held every two years in Canada’s most eastern province. © 2012 Greg Locke for Stray Light Media, Inc. – www.straylight.ca

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Newfoundland and Labrador premier resigns

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Kathy Dunderdale hugs her finance minister and interime leader, Tom Marshall, after announcing her resignation in St. John's, Newfoundland today, Jan 22, 2014. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Kathy Dunderdale hugs her finance minister and interim leader, Tom Marshall, after announcing her resignation in St. John’s, Newfoundland today. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

By Greg Locke

Only three years after becoming Premier and two years since a decisive election victory, Kathy Dunderdale is stepping down as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s most eastern province.

First elected to the province’s legislature in 2003, Dunderdale came to power in November 2010 when Danny Williams’, one of the most popular premiers in Canadian history, stepped down and appointed her as Premier and leader of the province’s Progressive Conservative Party. As leader she won a significant majority in October 2011 over long-time rivals, the Liberal Party, and the up-and-coming, left-of-centre New Democratic Party. This secured her party’s third major election win.

Since then she’s had a fast ride downhill ride. Two years of polling numbers show a trending descent to a current all-time low of 20 percent approval ratings, down from the ludicrous 80 percent  afforded her predecessor, Danny Williams. Polls suggest her personal popularity is worse:  Dunderdale has been named the least-liked current Canadian premier. This is remarkable considering that Newfoundland and Labrador has one of Canada’s few hot economies, with big revenues coming from the oil and mining industries and their major projects in Labrador and offshore oil on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the north Atlantic ocean.

But while politicians, operatives and pundits are all reading the Red Rose tea leaves for the signs, the reality is her manner and tone simply didn’t catch on with the public. Some in the business of politics are saying she just had a communications problem, but the problem is a lot deeper than they are able to think. Communications is just the harbinger of a greater ill.

Despite having record GDP numbers, that “booming economy” is not translating into jobs.  The offshore oil industry does not generate many jobs and what goes into government coffers bypasses the local economy on the streets. With the province still recording very high unemployment numbers (officially at 11.1 per cent last month, which misses those who already left or are no longer seeking work), that many are still forced to migrate, mostly to the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, is a sore point with the voting population. (See Mexicans With Sweaters – subscriber access).

As the government and business organizations trumpeted the booming economy and the province’s elevation to the coveted Canadian status of a “Have Province,” the citizenry received a mixed and hypocritical message, as the conservative government continued to cut funding for education, health care and the public service.

The final straw in the public’s view seemed to be a recent massive province-wide power blackout and weeks of rolling black-outs that left some 400, 000 people without electricity at one point, not because of extreme weather, but due to poor equipment maintenance planning by Nalcor, a provincial crown energy company. Dunderdale’s seeming  lack of concern, compassion or leadership on this issue turned off a lot of people including members of her own party caucus who, facing a general election in less than two years, seemed to be in tune with the public in thinking it was time for a change.

Dunderdale opted to depart before a palace coup.

Another one bites the dust.

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