31 March 2009

Confederation 60: Federalism and the Newfoundlanders

The 60th anniversary of Confederation in 1949 is gaining a fair bit of attention but not nearly as much as it should.

The noisy minority

The one feature of the reporting and commentary seems to be the list of grievances, complaints and problems.  Now to be sure, this comes from a relatively small group of people to be found largely in St. John’s. They are the progeny of the crowd who, for their own reasons, have never gotten over losing the two referenda in 1948 that led to Confederation.

For the past 60 years this relatively small band has thrived on the belief that the whole thing was a plot and that all the ills of Newfoundland and Labrador can be placed squarely at the feet of “Canadians” and Confederation. They have thrived on the belief but not on the fact of the matters, and that is definitely not from lack of trying. 

There are three other reasons why they are such a small number, however, than the fact that they haven’t turned up evidence to back their claims.  There is a reason why the majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians do not give any support to their pseudo-separatist cause.

First, theirs is a negative message.  Not only does it claim this place is a mess, a claim that is hard to sustain for any length of time, it places blame for the mess squarely at the feet of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for being too stunned – in the local meaning of the word – to look after their own affairs.

You’ll find no less an authority than Mary Walsh delivering just such a judgement in Hard rock and water, a fantasy film a few years ago that compared Newfoundland and Iceland. Most of the crowd that flocked to the showings of the film in St. John’s likely didn’t hear that part but it’s there if you listen. This is not to say Walsh is one of that small band, but her judgment is the logical conclusion one must come to from listening to the litany of grievances.

You’ll see the same thing in comments by the current Premier delivered in jest admittedly to a crowd of writers for Macleans back in 2004. The transcript is online, but here’s a synopsis from that first link along with the facetious view of the whole interview:

Understand that the editor’s question came after the Premier volunteered the opinion that the House of Assembly was “unproductive” and joked that if he had his way he would probably never call it in session. D’oh! That question came after the Macleans crowd asked the Premier why the provincial deficit was so big. His response was mismanagement over the past 10 years. There was a lengthy bit about the Stunnel; two sentences on the fishery. D’oh! The last question had the Premier calling for a seal cull. D’oh! The Premier made some misstatements of fact, for good measure (D’oh!) and a couple of big ideas got a handful of words, without explanation. D’oh! Take the whole interview and you have a bunch of poor, laughing drunks, complaining about having no money, who apparently can’t manage their own affairs, and yet who want to build grandiose megaprojects and kill seals.

There is a corollary to this that is worth mentioning in passing.  The story they tell is of a hard-done-by crowd victimised by the outside world and constantly needing a hand-out. it’s a cliche, of course, and one that they rightly find insulting but it is the essence of the story they tell.

Secondly, their message is almost invariably nothing more than a photocopy of something from somewhere else.  Masters of our own house, the constant airing of grievances, the list of demands, and the idea of getting into Confederation are all ideas advanced by the nationalist/separatist movement in Quebec. They are nothing more than a variation on the hand-me-down political ideas of copying the Irish or Icelandic models.  They don’t resonate with people who have a substantively different understanding of the world than Quebeckers, Icelanders or the Irish.

Thirdly, and flowing from that, their message has no vision for the future, no substantive way of correcting the pattern of behaviour they claim is responsible for the mess.  They do not speak to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador about their future in a way that people can actually relate to.

The time before Confederation is within the memory of people living today.  Even those of us first generation Canadians can recall how far we have come since the 1960s but except for those inculcated with what John Crosbie once called townie bullshit talk, our experience of the world is not driven by innate insecurity and feelings of inadequacy, individually or collectively.

And what’s more, the second generation Canadians now in adulthood do not recall the days of self-imposed insecurity.  Theirs is a world where it is perfectly natural for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to be judged on their own individual merits. They are able to go anywhere in the world and succeed and, with few exceptions, they do.  Theirs is a world much larger than what can be seen from the nearest headland.  The revolution between the ears of the people of this place happened a long while ago.

The rolling of thunder

Confederation came quietly in 1949 but the reverberations from it continue to shake Newfoundland and Labrador.

The most obvious change after April 1, 1949 that most people saw was a change in their individual financial standing.  Not only did Canadian social welfare programs start to flow, but prices dropped throughout the former country as protectionist tariffs disappeared. Traveling to Canada no longer required a passport and leaving Newfoundland to work on the mainland no longer meant traveling to a foreign land. The walls that had once served to hold Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in came down immediately.

With Confederation, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians found a financial prosperity they had not known before but they also found a financial security. Economic problems in a town or industry no longer had to mean local disaster and the permanent departure of local residents.

Before Confederation, a community like Stephenville would have assuredly faced disaster. The provincial government, as it turned out, did not need to lift a finger and indeed its meagre efforts to respond to the closure did not spell doom for the community.  Residents who used to work at the paper mill found work easily elsewhere in Canada and could continue to live in their homes. It may not be ideal and indeed we may take it for granted but the experience in Stephenville in 2005 stands in stark contrast to the experience of communities in Newfoundland in the century and more beforehand.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government also benefitted as well from the strategic financial depth provided by Confederation.  Government had the room to explore and to make mistakes in economic development – like the chocolate factories and rubber boot plants and cucumber hothouses – without the fear such mistakes would translate almost instantly into suffering for ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. 

Confederation gave the provincial government a wealth of cash in addition to its own modest surplus from the Commission.  Schools, roads and hospitals came as a direct consequence.

The most profound change that came with Confederation, though, was the restoration throughout Newfoundland and Labrador of responsible government. That one change gave individuals in the province – Labradorians for the first time ever – the direct responsibility to elect the people who would represent them not only in the provincial legislature but in the national parliament as well.  No longer confined to dealing with only local affairs or with issues directly related to Newfoundland and Labrador, the people of the province could have a hand in shaping the policies of a country with much wider influence globally and much wider responsibilities than they had known before.

The path ahead

Newfoundland and Labrador today enjoys a measure of individual and collective prosperity earlier generations could only dream of. All is not perfect, but it is immeasurably better than it might have been.

It is immeasurably better because we have – individually and collectively – been able to apply ourselves to making it better.  We have made mistakes and learned from them and we have also enjoyed great success.  The current prosperity comes entirely from policies followed by successive governments in the 1980s and 1990s that are denigrated as give-aways only by the ignorant or the self-interested.

The broader foundation of economic success grew out of policies which took advantage of the move toward a global economy and free trade. The 1992 Strategic Economic Plan, which remains in place to a great extent, grew out of the ideas of two projects of public consultation, one in the 1980s and the other to develop the plan itself.  These were meaningful consultations in which many people had a direct impact on what the final documents said.

As we mark this anniversary it is worth considering the three fundamental changes needed to implement the 1992 SEP.  Those three changes are important because they are fundamentally related to the changes that began in 1949:

  • A change within people. There is a need for a renewed sense of pride, self-reliance and entrepreneurship. We must be outward-looking, enterprising and innovative, and to help bring about this change in attitude we will have to be better educated. During the consultation process, most people agreed that education is essential to our economic development.
  • A change within governments. Governments (both politicians and the bureaucracy) must focus on long-term economic development and planning, while still responding to short-term problems and needs. Government programs and services must place a greater emphasis on the quality of the services provided and on the client. Changes in education, taxation and income security systems are also considered critical to our economic development.
  • A change in relationships. To facilitate the necessary changes in the economy, new partnerships must be formed among governments, business, labour, academia and community groups. In particular, better co-ordination between the federal and provincial governments in the delivery of business and economic development programs is needed to eliminate duplication and to prevent confusion for those who use them.

As we mark this 60th anniversary of Confederation, it is worth considering the extent to which current government policies fail to continue those changes.  It is worth noting that in the endless wars with outsiders, there has been a steady rebuilding of the walls and barriers we have worked so hard to tear down.  We worked to tear them down because they served only to restrict us.

It is worth noting that genuine pride, innovation and self-reliance can be stifled by a late-night telephone call and by the relentless personal attacks that come from merely dissenting from official views. By choking off healthy debate about public policy issues within Newfoundland and Labrador, by strangling any alternative views we serve only to return this place to self-defeating isolation.

Confederation gave Newfoundlanders and Labradorians the tools and opportunities to make for themselves a better place in the world. In 1949, we became once more masters of our own destiny and masters of our own house.

On this 60th anniversary of Confederation, we must be mindful of how far we have come and at the same time, be aware that if we are to continue to grow and prosper we must safeguard the foundation on which our current prosperity is built.


Confederation 60: Statement by the Leader of the Opposition

Even as we sit here today, the bells of Parliament Hill in Ottawa are chiming the Ode to Newfoundland over the National Capital Region in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Confederation of this Province with the nation of Canada.

In the 500-plus years of our history as a people, Confederation represents one of the greatest milestones that we have achieved in our Province, a union fostered by former Premier Joseph R. Smallwood, a founding father of Confederation who championed the cause as one of the greatest orators this country has ever seen or heard.

Since Confederation, we have seen greater prosperity for the people of our Province than ever before. I do not need to go through the entire list. They are already familiar to us: social supports for families and individuals, such as the baby bonus; income support and old age pension benefits; institutions of higher learning across the Province, such as Memorial University, trades colleges, and the Marine Institute; economic opportunities for our people, both here at home and across Canada as we industrialize through the development of hydro resources and iron ore mining, and further development of the pulp and paper industry; transportation links within our own Province, through the completion of the Trans-Canada Highway on the Island portion.

These improvements to our lives are very obvious to those who recall life in Newfoundland and Labrador before Confederation. But, Mr. Speaker, Confederation was not all about our wallets and what we can get out of it for ourselves. Confederation was also about what we brought to Canada: a proud people ready to contribute and to take our place within the larger Canadian federation.

In sixty short years, there is no doubt that this Province has left a mark on Canada, just as Canada has left a mark on Newfoundland and Labrador, and we can never forget the brave people of this Province who have fought and died fighting for freedom under the flag of Canada, just as their forefathers fought for freedom under the Union Jack.

My district in Labrador has particular attachment to Confederation, and voted overwhelmingly in its favour. Those referendums were the first time that the people of Labrador were permitted the right to vote during more than a century of Responsible Government in Newfoundland. For the first time, the people of Labrador felt that their opinions were valued, that they felt included which is why today they have a strong attachment and pride in our union with Canada.

Confederation is like a marriage: no doubt there are occasional spats and fights, we might take each other for granted from time to time and we have periods of not speaking to each other. But, just like a marriage, the relationship is based on lasting mutual respect for each others positions.

On this sixtieth anniversary, as the bells of Ottawa ring, I think all the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the people of Canada, should take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a nation with publicly funded social programs, a country known the world over for champion freedoms and equality for all peoples and a country that promotes peace around the world.


Confederation 60: Todd Russell’s statement in the Commons

Mr. Speaker, 60 years ago today just before midnight, Canada gained its tenth province and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador became Canadian citizens.

Today is the anniversary of our Confederation with Canada. The past six decades have brought great change. There have been ups and downs. But on balance, we are richer for being part of Canada and Canada is richer for our presence.

In my riding of Labrador the decision was clear. Voting in 1948 for only the third time in our history, my ancestors achieved a long- held dream. With 80% support, we chose Canada, and we still do.

March 31, 1949, gave new meaning to our country's motto: A mari usque ad mare, “From Sea to Sea”.

When the day breaks over Canada, it breaks a little earlier than it did on July 1, 1867, and we are all better because of it.

On this date we became part of this great country, this united country, the best country in the world.

On this date, Canada became complete.

Vive le Canada!


Confederation irksome: CP coverage

From pseudo-separatist actor Greg Malone as told to Canadian Press:

"It's [Confederation’s] a total failure," Malone says.

"I think we need to be prepared to separate as much as Quebec is. I think we need to be that strong ourselves."

On the basis of what Greg evidently knows about Quebec, that would mean Confederation has been an overwhelming success for Newfoundland and Labrador.

And here’s another thing:  if he hadn’t already achieved some notoriety as a comedian would anybody be giving him the time of day, least of all Canadian Press?

For the fact checker:

Like Canada, the Dominion of Newfoundland had functioned much like its own country, with its own currency and passports. But tough economic times in 1934 forced the Newfoundland government to let a British-appointed commission oversee the region until the economy improved.

“Much like” suggests that Newfoundland really wasn’t “its own country”.  Before February 1934, Newfoundland was a Dominion like the others.

The tough economic times didn’t bring about the collapse of self-government in 1934.  Bankruptcy brought on by a decade and more of political mismanagement led to the surrender of self-government.


Confederation 60: old stuff

1.  An old nottawa post that still rings true.

2.  “This day in history”, from Bond Papers, July 2008:

This was a truly democratic exercise in self-determination in which the fate of the country was placed, not in the hands of a few, but in the hands of the many. The issues were debated and widely discussed. The choices were clear and there were few restrictions on the campaigns. As it turned out, the first referendum showed an over-whelming preference for self-government.

The second referendum decided the form. In the event, voters settled for self-government through Confederation. It has been self-government, that is, government in which the people are responsible for controlling their own affairs, ever since. There are some who find that truth a tad inconvenient, but it remains a fact.

Responsible government returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949 by popular vote. You don't need to argue about what happened after 1949 to celebrate what happened beforehand, culminating in the 1948 referenda.

Too bad Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don't know more about the events.

Even worse that Canadians elsewhere in the country know even less.


The Annual Caribou Media Frenzy

The rival to March Madness and the seal hunt.

Submitted for your consideration, these extracts from the archives of the natural resources department:

2004: Minister disappointed in Innu response, and an update from an earlier statement.

2006:  Ministerial statement

2007:  Slaughter threatens Labrador caribou herd (also available en francais, no less)

2008:  Increased enforcement is apparently now protecting the herds.

This year  the annual caribou slaughter release is in March. Increased enforcement suddenly isn’t working quite as well as before.

At what point will the provincial government try and deal with this issue before the hunter’s hit the bush?

Just a thought.


Jerome and his Amazing Technicolour Dream World

For the first time in four years, provincial government oil price projections aren’t lowballed

They did manage to lowball production levels but not by much.

There’s no secret stash of cash – like last year’s Equalization for the “have” province – that can emerge to make all the boo-boos go away.  This year is the current administration’s real budget.

And to make it worse, you have to wonder about their math skills.

Oil at US$70 a barrel, and with the Canadian dollar where it is would generate another $600 million in oil revenue above current estimates.

Just to put it in context, oil has spent the past three months at around US$45. The deficit is $750 on an accrual basis, $1.3 billion on a cash basis.

Jerome says that $600 million more would produce a surplus.


Confederation 60: thunder

The accomplished fact of union shook the Newfoundland firmament like a clap of thunder.  From the very first morning that Newfoundlanders became Canadians it could be predicted with increasing certainty that the political weather of the new province was in for a seismic change and that government – the decisive barometer – would now, under the new dispensation, have to be reckoned with in matters great and small, filling more and more of the horizon of everyone, likewise great and small.

Herbert Pottle, Dawn without light, (St. John’s: Breakwater, 1979) p. 13

Whether or not government filled the political horizon as Herb Pottle predicted, Confederation did shake the people and society of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The reverberations are still being felt.


28 March 2009

March madness

freenewfoundlandlabrador promoting the seal hunt (along with a raft of tired myths, fantasies and fables).

freenewfoundlandANDlabrador not.


So there really isn’t anything there at Free Newfoundland and Labrador but it’s a space occupied by Rebecca Aldworth, anti-seal hunt activist.

The word “and’ apparently makes all the difference.  Wonder if Myles and the anony-boys will be waging a jihad on Becca to try and get their name?


But didn’t he approve the budget decisions in cabinet?

Some things make you wonder if cabinet actually functions like cabinet is supposed to function.

Former finance minister – and current justice minister – Tom Marshall is pleased that the government he is part of is putting cash into his district.

Either he is playing a huge joke on his constituents or he genuinely had no idea what was in the budget until he heard the speech or voice of the cabinet minister shagged up yet another story.

Either way it isn’t good.


Red flags in front of the bull

The Telegram Saturday edition with huge attention paid to the 60th anniversary of Confederation.

1.  Before and after, the front pager which, in the online version includes links to George Baker’s 1970s era vinyl of some bits of the National Convention debates.  Not quite Jim Kirk does Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds but still worth the listen.

2.  A couple of retired reporters talk about covering the National Convention.

3.  A series of columns:

The editorial is worth checking out as well, not for the editorial itself but for the series of pseudonymous comments from someone or several people all of which repeat the same myths Wangersky mentions in his column.  perhaps some people hadn’t read that far when they made comments.


27 March 2009

Cougar S-92 timeline: TSB

The Transportation Safety Board released a time line for Cougar’s CHI91, the Sikorsky S-92 that crashed two weeks ago. Compare it to one published online at the time of the incident.  The TSB timeline is given in ZULU while the flightaware.com tracklog is converted from ZULU to Eastern Daylight.  Local time for the incident is ZULU – 3.5.

One of the questions the timeline raises is the search and rescue helicopter response time.  Not the Cormorant’s from 103 Squadron in Gander, mind you but Cougar’s own SAR helo.

If we take CHI91’s MAYDAY as minute zero, the figures get interesting.

Cougar should have an operations base monitoring the flight and its radio communications.  There would likely also be a  channel available so that the pilots can speak directly to the company’s maintenance and senior pilot team. 

With that said, Cougar Base at St. John’s airport should have been aware of the emergency no later than M+0, the same time that Gander received the MAYDAY.

The aircraft ditches at M+11.

At M+11 Cougar base advises that they will launch Cougar 61, the SAR helicopter.  The company had been operating as back-up to 103 and knew at that time that the air force SAR response was an additional one hour flying time away.

Cougar 61 does not launch until M+43.

Cougar 61 arrives on scene 18 minutes later. An aircraft 18 minutes flying time away takes 43 minutes to get airborne and that’s in a situation where the aircraft ought to have been ready as a matter of normal procedure and the despatchers knew from the outset that there was a potentially catastrophic problem with the aircraft.

We can say they knew it was potentially catastrophic because they know the importance of the main gearbox oil pressure to continued flight.  Heck, they would have known about the Broome incident that had led to the January Sikorsky directive.

This is one of many questions that the TSB investigation will undoubtedly address with typical thoroughness.

Nothing released by TSB on Thursday raised any issues with personal locator beacons or immersion suits.


26 March 2009

TSB concludes field phase, releases more crash details

Two weeks after the loss of CHI91 and 17 of the 18 souls on board, the Transportation Safety Board concluded the field phase of its investigation today by releasing some details of the crash.

Among the highlights:

  • The cause of the gearbox oil pressure loss has been determined to be an in-flight  break of a stud in the gearbox filter assembly as previously released.
  • The aircraft descended rapidly from 800 feet above sea level (ASL) in under a minute owing to an as-yet undetermined event. Estimated rate of descent is given as 1,000 feet per minute.
  • The aircraft struck the water upright (belly first) in a tail down attitude.  This is different from earlier reports that the aircraft may have struck nose first.  That conclusion was apparently based on an initial assessment of the fuselage, as recovered.  The new interpretation is based on an examination of the entire wreck plus flight data. Some comment the day the main portion of the aircraft was brought ashore suggested that the tail rotor assembly (rotor plus vertical fin) had broken from the tail boom.  The boom was broken from the main fuselage.
  • Two of the three flotation devices in the aircraft were recovered undeployed.  The only one to deploy appears to have been under the starboard pilot station (co-pilot position?).  The right forward floatation bag can be seen in a TSB photo of some of the wreckage released earlier this week.
  • The timeline is very similar to the one previously posted here. The MAYDAY call came at approximately 5500 ASL which is at about 0817 hours Eastern Daylight Time in the flightaware.com tracklog.
  • The aircraft experienced an unexplained loss of power while at 800 ASL.  This resulted in a lack of flight data from the aircraft’s onboard recorders.  The last two to three minutes of the flight have been reconstructed using other data, including  onshore radar records.
  • The pilot did indicate his intention to ditch from 800 ASL.
  • Force on the aircraft at impact is estimated at 20g.

More to follow.


You can’t see if the tin foil covers your eyes

For those who don’t know,  the federal government has been working since about 2004 to extend Canada’s jurisdiction to cover the entire continental shelf, including the bits beyond the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

News that France is trying to lay claim to bits of the shelf outside the Canadian 200 mile exclusive economic zone will come as no surprise.

The seabed involved is a potentially lucrative bit of real estate.  The French will try to press a claim based on St. Pierre but it will be tough to see how they could possibly make it fly, at least if you take a look at the current state of international law.

Now none of that will stop some locals who have an interest in fomenting unrest and fostering ignorance from claiming all sorts of vile things.  That’s what they do and then claim that their inventions are “truth”.

In any event, those links will take you to some facts that – as always – tell a completely different story than the one you’ll hear pumped out of a certain small but vocal minority.


More pork posts

The only thing that really comes out of a pledge to have the provincial government try to take on some sort of international role is more plum pork patronage appointments.


A tin foil hat donnybrook in the making

1.  Canada is working on a claim to the nose and tail of the Grand Banks under the law of the Sea Convention.

2.  France – using St. Pierre as the basis – want the same ocean territory under Law of the Sea.

3.  The nose and tail of Grand Banks are very important to Newfoundland and Labrador fishing interests, harvesters and processors alike.

4.  But Canada apparently doesn’t look after poor little Newfoundland and Labrador.  The tough little province that parts it’s hair down the middle must go out and fight with everyone for every scrap it gets.

Well, at least that’s the story some people keep pushing.

5.  And we we heard that the same day that the federal government started the racket with France over the nose and tail of the Grand Banks.

There was a run on tin foil at Sobeys last night in some parts of St. John’s as the faithful put on their battle armour for the fight of their lives.

They just have one problem.

Do they attack France for going after our fish or do they go after Ottawa for not fighting for Newfoundland and Labrador?


25 March 2009

Nothing could be further from the truth: Abitibi expropriation version

Natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale answered a question yesterday on the offer the provincial government made for Star Lake.

Here’s her answer:

Mr. Speaker, some time ago Abitibi Bowater informed the Province that it was considering selling its Star Lake asset and invited the Province to make a bid. The Province through Nalcor did that, Mr. Speaker, and the bid was not accepted, in part due to an agreement they have with their shareholder on Star Lake who has the right of first refusal. It was certainly clear to us that Abitibi really was not interested in selling that asset to the Province. We made a fair bid, it was not accepted and we have moved on. It was not a matter of any great consequence, Mr. Speaker, and we were not trying to hide anything from anybody in terms of our discussions around the expropriation. It was completely new discussion at that point in time.

As a rule, when someone volunteers something that is not directly related to the question – especially if it is a denial -  then you can safely assume this is a sensitive issue.  Yu might even believe that the denial isn’t the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

You could even believe that, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth than the denial.

That’s why this bit of Dunderdale’s comments sand out.  They don’t fit.  They are unnecessary and they are a denial of something that hasn’t been said, at least in the House.

… have moved on. It was not a matter of any great consequence, Mr. Speaker, and we were not trying to hide anything from anybody in terms of our discussions around the expropriation. It was completely new discussion at that point in time.

Odd are that the expropriation had a whole big bunch to do with that experience. So big a bunch and such a gigantic portion that until February, Dunderdale and her boss hadn’t said boo about the whole affair. The rest of us learned of it about February 20.

And of course, the fact is that Dunderdale’s department was and is trying to hide everything about the expropriation. Bond Papers readers already know that.

In fact until yesterday, the department wouldn’t even confirm the expropriation process.  Even then it only got a one liner in a news release that also looks suspicious, suspiciously like an attempt to appear to be doing something in the midst of a local political crisis.

Yesterday, was also the first time Dunderdale gave any accounting whatsoever of her secret mission to Ottawa, an issue we pointed out when it happened, over a month ago.


His master’s voice

The Speaker of the House of Assembly is supposed to be a pretty powerful figure.  He certainly isn’t supposed to take direction from any one member of the legislature.

That’s what makes Roger Fitzgerald’s response to Danny Williams very odd.  Fitzgerald could have easily – and should have easily – taken the initiative on sending condolences on behalf of members rather than wait to have the suggestion made by someone.  Instead, this is what happened:

MR. SPEAKER: Further tabling of documents?

Notices of motion.

The hon. the Premier.

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, if you deem it appropriate, perhaps it would be in order for letters of condolences be sent out on behalf of all members to the families of the crew and the passengers of Flight 491 on behalf of all members of the House of Assembly under your signature, if that is appropriate.

MR. SPEAKER: It is certainly appropriate and the Speaker will take your suggestion under advisement and do as you directed.

Long after they’d finished the condolences and minute of silence, up pops the Prem with this comment.

Then Roger says he will “do as you directed”.

Do as directed?

Maybe we can understand now why Roger sided with the Provincial Conservatives in shafting the Liberals on caucus funding.  He was just following orders.

So what other orders is the supposedly impartial Fitzgerald taking from the 8th?


Sound fiscal mismanagement


From nottawa, the first perspective on the provincial budget which is scheduled to to be presented on Thursday.

net expenditures dannystan Take a look at the chart of capital and current account spending. 

Since when is increasing spending by 18% in a recession “sound fiscal management”?

Well, it isn’t.

The only people who would use those terms to describe the provincial government spending habits over the past four years are people who have never actually looked at what is going on.

Either that or they are sitting on the government benches or work for people sitting on the government benches.




We live in a fiscal house of cards” (March 2008)

What goes up must come down” (March 2008)

Before you click to another page because this is all old hat, consider that in 2003, oil was around US$25 per barrel.  The only people who predicted that within five years oil would hit US$100 a barrel within five years were either in an insane asylum, considered candidates for a straightjacket or part of a very small group of oil pundits who had been faithfully predicting hundred dollar a barrel since the 1970s.  Eventually they had to be right, just like a psychic.

Ask around today and you'd have a hard time finding anyone who will tell you that we will see oil below US$50 a barrel in the near future either.

Odds are better, though, that oil will drop to US$50 and lower within the next decade.

Okay so it happened a little sooner than predicted.

24 March 2009

TSB releases S-92 photos

The Transportation Safety Board today released four pictures of the S-92 wreckage.

Transportation Safety Board s-92 Ph4

The photo at left depicts the upper deck of the fuselage.  TSB describes this as being from the right side of the aircraft.

The engine exhaust port can be seen just above the centre of the yellow bar of the storage basket. 

The two long bands that meet in a “v” shape appear to be two of the helicopters four blades.

The portion underneath what appears to be an orange tarpauline (obscuring the aircraft registration number)  at the lower right of the picture appears to be part of the lower right fuselage, turned upside down and backwards.  The opening facing the camera would be part of the lower front window.

The orange tarp may actually be one of the aircraft’s flotation bladders.  One is located under each side of the cockpit area.


Encounters with reality

From the 1998 special Confederation anniversary edition of the Journal of Newfoundland and Labrador Studies, some food for thought for the more ardent of the anti-Confederates out there:

1.  For the “whole thing was rigged” faction:  “Confederation, conspiracy and choice: a discussion” by Memorial University historian Jeff Webb.

2.  For the “Canada killed the cod” crowd: “The background to change in the Newfoundland cod fishery at the time of Confederation” by Miriam Wright.  Wright is also the author of a significant book on the industrialization of the fishery. 


Sikorsky starts fix on gearbox problem

Via David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen;

STRATFORD, Conn., March 23, 2009 – Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announced today that the majority of the worldwide S-92 helicopter fleet already has complied with the company’s notice to retrofit the aircraft’s gearbox oil bowl with steel mounting studs. The company expects to have close to 100 percent compliance by the end of this week. Sikorsky is a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp.

The company contacted all S-92 helicopter operators on March 20 after broken titanium studs were found during a helicopter crash investigation in Canada. The investigation is continuing, and no determination has been made that the broken studs contributed to the accident or if they resulted from it.  Sikorsky immediately notified the operators as a safety precaution, and the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue an Airworthiness Directive instructing the retrofit.


23 March 2009

Compensation talks? We dun need no stinkin’ compensation talks

Apparently compensation talks between the provincial government and AbitibiBowater have broken off.

When they broke off no one knows since natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale didn’t say and apparently no one asked. Talk about freedom from information.

But were they ever on in the first place?

According to AbitibiBowater chairman David Paterson, the only “talks” involved Abitibi and the provincial government’s energy company, NALCO.

Still, he said, the process is very one-sided. "[It] basically consists of Newfoundland telling us what they are going to do and we have to comply."

He said the expropriation legislation does not give the company any right to a judicial hearing. As a result, the determination of value "is at their whim."

Read the comments on the CBC story linked above though and you’ll see a bunch of people who don’t appear to have thought all this through.  Telling Abitibi to take nothing doesn’t real solve anything, especially if the company winds up in bankruptcy protection or  - worst of all – goes under entirely.  There are a bunch of pensioners in Newfoundland and Labrador with a financial interest in this. Then there are the loggers who have been looking for some sort of severance package even though their union contract didn’t provide anything of the sort.

These sorts of details make the last sentence of the CBC story a bit odd:

While AbitibiBowater has no legal obligation to pay any severance at all, the government has been pressuring the company to pay it anyway as it did when it closed its mill in Stephenville.

Since the company doesn’t have any interest left in the province and the provincial government seized all the company’s assets, exactly what sort of leverage the provincial government might have over AbitibiBowater is a bit hard to see. maybe the only people who will wind up with “nuddin” - to quote one person who commented on the CBC story – will be the mill’s former workers.

Environmental trade-offs update:  Just for those who haven’t been following along closely, the provincial government had intended from the outset to bargain based on a trade off between the environmental clean-up at the mill site and the hydro assets.  The Telegram version of the story makes reference to this without giving that bit of background:

She also said the discussions included severance packages for loggers and the companies environmental liability of its operation.

Basically, the idea is that the money paid by the provincial government would be reduced by any amounts forked over for clean-up and severance.  Now aside from the fact the provincial government has no leverage over AbitibiBowater on the severance, it surely must strike someone as odd the provincial government would tie these things together in this way.

After all, the company is liable for the clean-up any way.  They could also be pressed on a moral obligation to provide some severance package to loggers even if their union hadn’t been able to secure that benefit.

But linking those payments to compensation basically seems to make the provincial government out as the source of the cash.  The company won’t be paying any money for clean-up or severance under this scheme.  The cash will come out of public funds.

And if the company goes bankrupt, as some seem to wish for, the provincial government will essentially be left holding the entire bag.

So what exactly was this expropriation all about, again?


Spinning him into his grave

or the dangers of google?

Jim Halley was a well respected local lawyer and a relentless anti-Confederate. Why CBC describes him as an “anti-Confederation advocate” is a mystery;  it seems such an awkward construction.

At least as far as that goes, Halley never got over the loss in 1949.

You don’t have to agree with him to respect him and with his death this past week at age 87, to offer condolences to his loved ones grieving his loss.

But voice of the cabinet minister, a radio station that ought to know better, did Jim Halley a tremendous disservice this week.  In their obit piece they gave him credit for something he didn’t do and for something he’d never have claimed anyway since he was adamantly opposed to Confederation (or at least the way it was negotiated) in the first place:

A former lawyer involved in negotiating the deal to get Newfoundland into Canada in 1949 has passed away.

Involved in negotiating the deal?  If anyone has some detail that will corroborate that one, we’d happily receive it.  If anything, Halley’s involvement was in trying to un-negotiate the deal.

Maybe the scribes over at the Great Oracle of the Valley got the line from a 2003 CBC web story [note the date] on the supposed rise of anti-Confederate sentiment in Newfoundland.

James Halley, one of the lawyers involved in negotiating the deal to get Newfoundland into Canada in 1949, says the province got a raw deal, especially in regard to the fisheries.

"Newfoundland has a growing cancer in its system," he said. "The root of our trouble is centred in the relationship between the two countries, between Newfoundland as a country and Canada."

Rest in peace, Mr. Halley. 


Suncor and Petro-Canada to merge

From the Globe and Mail:

"This merger creates a made-in-Canada energy leader with the assets, cost structure and financial strength to compete globally," said Rick George, Suncor's current chief executive and prospective head of the joint venture.

The deal would create a new champion in the Canadian oil patch and unite two of the biggest players in the oil sands of northern Alberta, provided that the companies can stickhandle their way around federal legislation that was once thought to make Petro-Canada immune to a takeover. Under the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act, no person or company can own or control more than 20 per cent of the company's voting shares and the head office must remain in Calgary.


Lemme get this straight

Greg Malone, actor, is working on a new book which is supposed to prove the Great Townie Anti-Confederate Fairytale once and for all, i,.e. that Confederation was a Great Conspiracy between Canada and Britain, part of which involved hoodwinking the poor dumb newfs

Wouldn’t this be classified as a re-make?


22 March 2009

Air Labrador to lay off 100

The local airline will be discontinuing its Dash 8 service, according to CBC.

[Air Labrador Vice-President Philip] Earle insists the loss of the Bombardier Dash 8 twin-engined turboprop service is not a sign that Air Labrador is going out of business.

"I think it's important to point out we're certainly not going out of business. We're shutting down a particular part of our business as it is right now," Earle said.

Some of the laid-off workers will be transferred to other parts of the company, but Earle couldn't say how many.


Brit SAR S-92s grounded for repair

Britain’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency grounded four S-92s over the weekend used for search and rescue in order to replace bolts in the main gearbox filter housing, according to cnn.com.

The MCGA currently operates four S-92s under contract from Canadian Helicopters (CHC).



Whose side will they be on in an Abitibi bankruptcy?

The provincial government may find itself in a fight with AbitibiBowater pensioners in the province very shortly, as a direct result of the expropriation bill forced through the legislature last December.

If the paper company is unable to come to an arrangement with the creditors, it will likely have to file for bankruptcy protection.

One of the biggest creditors looking for cash will be AbitibiBowater retirees, including people who are retiring at the end of the month or who already have retired from the paper mills at Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor. There’ll also be a bunch looking for severance but that’s another matter.

That’s where the expropriation comes in.

The provincial government expropriated the company’s most lucrative assets – the hydro bits – in anticipation the company might go bankrupt.  Rather than let the trustees sell off the assets, the provincial government probably figured they could get the whole thing for nothing.  If the company sued, the thing will take years in court anyway.   In the meantime, the company is faced with the huge cost of the environmental clean-up at the mill.

The government gets the sweet bits and the company gets the bile. The people back the government.  Everybody is happy.

Well, not exactly.

There are those Abitibi pensioners.

They’ll be one of the Abitibi creditors looking to the trustee to sort out the company financial state and secure them some cash.

In the event the company files for bankruptcy protection, you can guarantee that the trustees will come looking for every nickel they can find. If the expropriation lawsuit was doubtful before, under a bankruptcy scenario, you can guarantee that all those creditors will want their cash.

Creditors that include the pensioners.

People from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Suing their own provincial government for their own money.


So which side will the provincial government be on:

The pensioners…

or its own?


20 March 2009

S-92 crash investigation finds broken stud in gearbox assembly

The Transportation Safety Board team investigating the crash of a Sikorsky S-92 found a broken titanium bolt in the aircraft’s main gearbox filter bowl assembly.  (link includes picture of filter assembly)

The broken bolt would reportedly cause oil to leak from the gearbox.

In January 2009, Sikorsky alerted all operators of S-92s to the need to replace the titanium bolts with steel ones within 12 months or 1250 flying hours, whichever came first.

The crashed S-92 had not undergone that bolt replacement.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue an emergency airworthiness directive for the type, effectively grounding all S-92s worldwide until the the titanium bolts are replaced with steel ones.

Just a second, there update:  A spokesperson for the FAA said the agency hasn’t decided when, how and what type of directive it may issue. The bolt may have broken during the crash or during the recovery operation.


No safety issue with helicopter transport suits: offshore regulator

The text of a news release issued today by the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board:

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) says it does not believe there is a safety issue with the suits currently in use for transporting offshore workers. There have been issues around comfort and convenience, but no safety issues have been identified. If a safety issue arises, it will be assessed and appropriate action taken.

The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) introduced the current Standard for these suits in 1999, replacing a previous Standard issued in 1989. The suits currently used in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area are certified by Transport Canada as being in compliance with this Standard.

The CGSB has in place a committee to provide advice and input into this Standard. The C-NLOPB is represented on this committee, along with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NSOPB), the National Energy Board (NEB), the Government of Canada, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Marine Institute, the oil and gas industry, the fishing industry and suit supplier representatives. In all, there are 28 members on the CGSB committee. Several of the committee members have identified concerns with the technical content of the current Standard, but importantly, no safety issues have been identified with the suits.

Committee members are currently in the process of developing a project agreement with the CGSB for the revision of the Standard during the 2009-10 fiscal year. The C-NLOPB has had discussions with both governments and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) on this issue. Consequently, we all agreed to contribute financially to the cost of developing a revised Standard, which would seek to address any concerns in the current Standard, and are in the process of conveying this message to the CGSB.

In response to the current helicopter tragedy, we have asked the Transportation Safety Board, the RCMP and the Medical Examiner’s office to advise us if their investigations reveal any evidence that the suits worn by the helicopter passengers, in any way, contributed to the injuries or fatalities that occurred as a result of the accident.

In addition, the C-NLOPB has asked CAPP to provide us with a list of any issues their offshore workers have raised concerning the current suits, and details on actions taken to address any such issues.

The C-NLOPB, the Provincial Government, the Federal Government, other regulatory agencies and the industry are committed to working with the Canadian General Standards Board to remedy any concerns with the Standard. For more information about the Standard, contact the CGSB or Transport Canada.

Looks like everything in yesterday’s provincial government scrum was already well underway. 

Of course, the provincial government would have known that before calling reporters together. After all, it’s not like the provincial government isn’t directly involved in these issues. Makes you wonder why the Premier volunteered not one but twice that they weren’t.


“We don’t have a regulatory role”

The provincial government has no regulatory role in the offshore?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The provincial government has no other role in the crash of a helicopter travelling to the White Rose oil field?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Conflict of interest is just the start of it.

Oil company update:  When the de facto head of the provincial government’s oil company calls for a review of offshore survival suits, the guy who speaks for the association of oil companies operating in the province agrees that it’s a good idea.

Already underway update:  Turns out that the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers was already working with the federal standards agency on the review of survival suit regulations. In an interview with CBC Radio on Friday, CAPP spokesperson Paul Barnes said they’d expressed their support for the review when they got a letter from the standards agency on February 24.

Now that news make you wonder why the Premier would call for a review that was already underway.

And why would he leave the impression there were concerns when the review appears to have been started as part of the regular review and update process?

Did anyone think to ask those questions yesterday?  Like when the Premier said that someone made him aware of the issue.

Who made you aware? seemed like a fairly obvious, logical sensible question.



19 March 2009

S-92 nosed in

Lead Transportation Safety Board investigator Mike Cunningham told news media today that a preliminary review of evidence collected of the Cougar S-92 crash suggests the aircraft experienced a major problem at about 800 feet above sea level.

"There was something that happened very suddenly and abruptly after the aircraft got down to 800 feet and levelled out," Cunningham said. "After that the helicopter went into the water and it was a fairly significant rate of descent, which resulted in a pretty bad impact with the water. That's why we have the extent of damage to the wreckage that we have."

This is generally consistent with information available to date, including a log of indicated air speed and altitude for the flight.

Cunningham is quoted in other news media (link above to CBC) as saying it appears the aircraft struck the water nose first.  This is based on an assessment of the damage to the recovered portions of the aircraft.  The cockpit portion is reportedly heavily damaged. There is also a suggestion from some of the comments that while the main portion of the fuselage is in one piece, it is damaged considerably as well.  This may have hindered the passengers from escaping. 

These comments today – which are based on a preliminary examination of evidence – suggest strongly that the aircraft inverted immediately on or very quickly after impact.  This would explain a number of details including the apparent absence of signals from personal electronic locator beacons worn by each of the 18 souls on the aircraft. The locators do not work underwater.

In an initial news conference (either the first or second) the search and rescue spokesperson reported that aircraft on the scene had reported beacons from the aircraft itself (it is equipped with three) and from the two bodies of two people observed in the water by the first aircraft on the scene.

Both were recovered by the first search and rescue helicopter on the scene.  The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board mandates that offshore operators (oil companies) keep one helicopter within 30 minutes of St. John’s to provide search and rescue coverage.  Contrary to some media reports, this meets the recommendation of the Ocean Ranger Royal commission.

The cost of the helicopter operations  - including the search and rescue service provided to meet the Ocean Ranger commission recommendations - is borne entirely by the oil companies operating offshore, including the provincial government’s oil company which has an interest in White Rose and which will have an interest in Hebron, once it is built.  Canadian Press reported last week that the operators have tried to shift the search and rescue cost entirely to the federal government.

Misinformation on both safety and search and rescue issues has fuelled a frenzy of media speculation and political opportunism (two links) since the crash last week.

This misinformation persists despite information from many sources, including some apparently knowledgeable comments on CBC’s website that the current issue immersion suit was developed and improved in part from testing offshore Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.


Helicopter recovered, move to hangar for investigation

675A0062(2)The Transportation Safety Board investigation has recovered CHI91 from the ocean floor. 

The Telegram front page on Thursday included additional photographs of the Atlantic Osprey.












675A0083The team moved the large case contained the parts through St. John’s last night from the coast guard’s port facilities to a  hangar at St. John’s airport.

They moved the crate late at night (after midnight) to avoid heavy traffic.

18 March 2009

Council shows some sense, temporarily

St. John’s city council deferred further discussion of the search and rescue issue until a later time.

Following the council meeting, Coun. Keith Coombs said a delay would help in a couple of ways.

"The period of mourning will be two weeks older, but also will give an opportunity I'm sure for him and others to see what reports come out and what the actual facts of the matter are, because obviously there's a lot of emotion tied to this," said Coombs.

Good idea, especially when the guy pushing it hardest admitted he really doesn’t know anything about the subject.

Good idea too, from a council with a history of talking about things that are way outside their mandate and then making an ass of them in the process.  The mayor built his career on things he clearly knows nothing about.  One of his pet projects has cost taxpayers $65 million and counting.

Yes, Doc O’Keefe rose to prominence on the whole provincial government’s gas price fixing scheme.

The most recent example of this tendency to get involved with stuff council shouldn’t be involved with?  The whole crowd all got taken for a ride by a guy peddling a hockey team to go in the Wells-Coombs Memorial Public Money Pit, a.k.a Mile One.

What is it about city councillors talking about anything but the stuff they get paid to look after (let alone know about)?

What is it about politics and hockey that makes for such an overwhelmingly bad mix for voters?



A pike, a scold, some vultures and a poke.

1.  Roger Pike offers some insightful comments on why the central Newfoundland community is currently in the grip of a major political crisis.

2.  The mayor and council have a plan to deal with the closure of the paper mill.  Well, not really a plan.  More like a list of things.

3.  One town councillor thinks there’s too much negativity.

She [Janice Eisenhaur] added that she wondered if the "vultures'" behaviour was for political gain, self-gain, or if just because they were chronic complainers.

The councillor says she isn't referring to the people who are looking for answers, but to those who she says make unfounded statements and publicly announce them, with no facts and figures in front of them.

Councillor Eisenhaur says council and other people are working on initiatives that will hopefully lead to more jobs and increased economic growth.

"Is it going to replace the jobs that are going to be lost in the mill? No. Will it employ some of those people? Perhaps."

Would those vultures  - people who, for political gain, self-gain or some other reason, make unfounded statements and announce them publicly - include people who claim there is a plan to offset the loss of a 1,00 jobs in the region and the town’s major private sector employer but who can’t provide any concrete details?

She did not go into detail about the initiatives she mentioned, though Mayor Rex Barnes talked about them in this past week's Exploits Regional Chamber of Commerce dinner (see related story on page one of today's Advertiser), such as cranberry farming, IT and health care.

"This are things are going to come to fruition. It's not going to happen overnight and it is going to take public and private investment, so we're going to have to wait for this to happen."

There are plans but Janice can’t say what they are other than that they involve a few of things that have already been going on and which really can’t replace the mill anyway.

Sounds pretty much like something that is unfounded and said by somebody without facts and figures in front of them. Don’t be surprised if someone wonders if Janice’s comments are for political gain, personal gain or a need to complain about the people she gets paid to listen to and work with.

God save us, from mainland reporters who spend a few hours in a local hotel in St. John’s and presume to understand this place they love to call “The Rock.”

God save us, to, from local politicians like Janice Eisenhaur.

4.  The Advertiser takes a poke at the vulture idea.


17 March 2009

Enhancing east coast search and rescue

The crash of Cougar 91, carrying passengers to two of the country’s offshore oil platforms, has prompted calls for enhanced search and rescue service.

Unfortunately those calls are hampered by misunderstanding and misinformation. 

Retired Canadian Forces colonel Michel Drapeau described a forward deployment scenario today for audiences of the noon-time CBC Radio current affairs program radio Noon.  Drapeau talked about sending aircraft to St. John’s from existing SAR assets but Drapeau appeared to believe that existing SAR service is provided entirely from Nova Scotia.

Others have been calling for the creation of a new search and rescue squadron in St. John’s. This is justified on the basis that St. John’s is closest to the oil fields, among other things.

Existing SAR Resources

The eastern coast region covers the area from southern Nova Scotia to the northernmost tip of Labrador and extends eastward into the Atlantic to at least the 200 mile limit.  That huge expanse is covered currently by three squadrons, as follows:

  • 413 Transport and Rescue Squadron, Greenwood Nova Scotia, operating four CH-149 Cormorant helicopters and one CC-130 Hercules. As the primary search and rescue squadron in Nova Scotia, the squadron maintains a response capability 24 hours a day throughout the region.  Supplemented by maritime patrol squadrons.  Secondary response (back-up0 is provided by 423 Squadron Shearwater, flying CH-124 Sea King.
  • 103 Rescue Squadron, Gander Newfoundland, operating three CH-149 Cormorant helicopters.  It is responsible for providing a 24 hour response capability throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, with fixed wing support provided, as needed, from 413 Squadron and other Squadrons at Greenwood.  103 Squadron typically flies twice the national average in actual distress missions. Back-up by Cougar helicopters flying the S-92, an aircraft scheduled to enter Canadian Forces service as the CH-148 Cyclone.
  • 444 Combat Support Squadron providing 12 hour SAR support to 413 and 103 with CH-146.

Current purchase plans

C-27J_DimensionsIn early 2008, the Department of National Defence (DND) considered buying up to three more Cormorants to supplement the fleet of 15 originally purchased in 1998 for an initial price of about $600 million.  The new aircraft would replace one lost aircraft and address availability issues in some squadrons.  A shortage of spares and other issues resulting from the introduction of a new aircraft had reduced aircraft availability.

DND is currently finalising the purchase of up to 15 fixed wing search and rescue aircraft to replace the existing fleet of sic CC-115 Buffalo. The favoured aircraft appears to be the C-27 Spartan.

As well, DND is in the process of replacing the existing fleet of Hercules with the newer “J” model.

Some new ideas

Given the large geographic area as well as the terrain and climatic conditions on the east coast, the search and rescue capability needs to come from a mix of aircraft.  That’s the solution that has worked well.

Current attention is focused on St. John’s but the real weakness is the current basing which puts all the assets in the south and central with limited capability in the north.

Enhanced capability for east coast search and rescue could come from:

  • Two additional Cormorants for 103 Squadron, based in Gander, bringing the complement from three to five.  At least one aircraft could be forward deployed to Goose Bay regularly and rotated back to gander as needed. This arrangement would also give an additional aircraft which could be forward deployed as needed to St. John’s in addition to the arrangement with Cougar. 
  • Fixed wing aircraft for 103 aircraft coming from either the C-27J or, preferably,  CC-130J purchases.  If necessary more aircraft should be purchased or leased than called for in current plans.
  • Installation of in-flight refuelling on the existing Cormorant fleet. Cormorant range is currently extended somewhat by relying on the Hibernia platform for emergency refuelling.

kc130jFor a marginal increase in planned purchases, DND could provide significant added capacity. 

The in-flight refuelling tankers would be provided by the new CC-130J aircraft that would be dedicated to the SAR role.  Currently, 413 aircraft are also used as transports. 

Having dedicated in-flight refuelers would extend the range and time on station of Cormorants. Some aircraft will still have to fly longer distances but by refuelling in-flight, they will minimise the time currently taken by landing to refuel and launching again.

At the same time, these new fixed wing aircraft would not be multi-tasked as 413 Squadron is currently.  103’s new Hercules would also be available to support 413 Squadron.

Overall, this approach would enhance capability to the north where it is currently very limited.  As well, the overall east coast where the majority of daily activity takes place would have capability for longer periods, farther out to sea than is currently available. 


Canadian Press fact check, please

 Canadian Press should know that 103 Search and Rescue Squadron in Gander has three – not two – CH-149 Cormorant helicopters.

It’s on the squadron website.


And then it was gone

A day after we posted a link to the blog on local call-in shows, the thing vanished.


S-92 track log

From flightaware.com, the track log for CHI91.

Times shown are Eastern Daylight Savings time.  To convert to local (Newfoundland and Labrador) time add one hour thirty minutes.

This data, which appears to come from Gander air traffic control centre,  must be taken as preliminary and may be inaccurate.  The Transportation Safety Board investigation will use data from several sources, including the onboard flight data recorders, to develop a complete and accurate picture of the flight.


TSB S-92 summary: the media briefings thus far

Since taking over the Cougar S-92 crash, the Transportation Safety Board has been providing more details on the incident through regular media briefings.

Over the weekend, TSB officials described some of the debris recovered initially. It included:

  • a sponson (one of the large structures on the side of the aircraft)
  • the rear cargo door
  • an interior bulkhead (likely the bulkhead separating the passenger compartment from the rear cargo area)
  • one of the emergency escape doors
  • both parts of a forward access door.  The top section latch was in the open position was in the open position;  the bottom half was latched.

The fuselage is sitting on the bottom in approximately 178 metres of water.  The tail boom has separated from the fuselage but remains near the main part of the aircraft. The fuselage is resting on one side.

gandmimagewronghelo As of Tuesday 17 Mar 09, all bodies had been recovered from the aircraft. The recovery process is indicated in the image, at left from the Globe and Mail.  The image uses a drawing of the wrong helicopter type.  It is labelled S-92 but the aircraft pictured is a PUMA.

The aircraft appears to have suffered a hard impact, significantly harder than first assumed. As a TSB official described it:

"It's been broken up somewhat," he said.

"It's cracked up quite a bit. The cockpit area in particular has been quite damaged."

However, he noted, the helicopter's cabin structure, from where the bodies are being recovered, is "somewhat together."

Unedited video of the TSB news conferences are available at cbc.ca/nl.


Science minister a creationist?

Now that would be nutty even in a nutty federal administration.

Not quite as nutty as having a cabinet minister who has nothing better to do that write letters to the editor, but still, pretty nutty.

People in Labrador, of course, won’t help but notice that all the big projects supposedly being “advanced’ by the provincial government in Labrador  - according to cabinet minister John Hickey  - depend on federal funding.

Meanwhile in related nutty news, still no word on how Hickey’s defamation suit is going.  Hickey sued the former leader of the opposition for remarks said by someone else, namely Hickey’s own party leader, Premier Danny Williams.

Maybe Hickey has federal aspirations, what with his attacks on incumbent member of parliament, Todd Russell.  Based on the standards set by the current science minister, Hickey would have a bright future in any Harper government. 

He fits right in.


Final seven recovered

The remains of all sixteen of the missing from Cougar 91 have been recovered and returned to St. John’s.

Only one person on board the flight survived.  He remains in hospital but is reportedly making a steady recovery.


16 March 2009

Do they have anything of value to contribute?

Please. Someone. Explain this:

[St. John.s city councillor Tom] Hann admitted he didn’t know enough about search and rescue to say whether or not a faster response would have made a difference to the outcome of last week’s crash.

“I can’t answer that question,” he said. “That’s an issue for the experts. But the only issue that I see is that, you know, I think it’s needed. Everybody says it is needed, but nothing has been done.”

The guy says he doesn’t know enough to anything of consequence at all and yet he makes a proposal to do something to deal with a situation about which he admits his own fundamental ignorance.

On top of that, he claims the idea of having a search and rescue unit in St. John’s is an issue best left to “experts” but at the same time, he wants to push this idea because “everybody” says it is needed.

So who are the experts he’s talking about?

Here’s a thought:  maybe Tom can get together with Scott Simms and discuss relocating the search and rescue unit in Scott’s riding to St. John’s.



Tom, don’t expect to get a job with Sikorsky sales update:  Just listening to Tom Hann on a night-time talk show doing an excellent job of demonstrating what he doesn’t know.  Tom is familiar with these subjects since  - as Tom put it  - “I’ve flown the Cormorant.”  Flown one or flown in one? 


Newsflash, Tom -  Both the Cormorant (EH-101) and the S-92 are built to fly search and rescue as well as transport and other missions. Next time you get a chance to talk to anyone federally you might ask about the new navy helicopter, the Cyclone, which is…wait for it…the S-92 in another guise.  When it comes in service, it will be providing SAR back-up for the Cormorants.

Makes you wonder where Tom stood on the cancellation of the EH-101s in 1993?  It’s a bit like listening to Scott Simms asking where the Cormorant back-up was while the entire squadron from Gander conducted a squadron full deployment exercise last week. 

The back up was provided by Cougar. Here’s some video of a Cougar SAR training mission. You’ll find a few other vids of this from different angles.

Once this is all over, Rick Burt and the people at Cougar need to take Tom and his friends up for a spin and introduce them to the superlative staff flying SAR missions for the company.

This won’t be pretty

Funny yes, but not pretty.

Is that you, Bas? is a new  blog dedicated to local talk radio callers.


And speaking of funny, not pretty…

nottawa’s observations on one local talk radio host.



15 March 2009

When tragedy becomes abuse

Not surprisingly, an e-mail showed up on Thursday ranting about what the writer – a former journalist – called “asshole questions.”

It wasn’t surprising because more than a few people have been appalled since Thursday last week at an entire line of innuendo drawn by one reporter at a news conference on the Cougar helicopter crash and then turned into a self-referential pile of garbage that evening on a VOCM call-in show.

Self-referential refers to the arrogant tendency of both the reporter and the call-in show host to talk about how hard this whole tragedy at sea has been for them. They didn’t lose anyone on the ill-fated Cougar helicopter flight nor did they know anyone personally, apparently.  Their grief came from having to cover the story.  The pair led off the Sunday evening edition with the same self-pity bull.

Then they turned to justifying their comments about search and rescue and what they seem to believe was the lack of search and rescue response “on Newfoundland ground.”  That’s the phrase the reporter in question likes to use. He used it, too, in that news conference not to establish the search and rescue response but to focus on the military search and rescue.

All that blather – as well as the call right afterwards from one of their former colleagues at the twice defunct newspaper The Independent - was a clue that the pair have been under some pressure  likely from their colleagues in the local journalist community for a string of not only what the e-mail correspondent aptly described but the commentary that flowed from the questions.

The details of this incident were known on the day of the crash. One of the details known from the outset is that a search and rescue helicopter was available at the time of the crash and responded to the scene.  According to the timeline produced in the Telegram from the rescue co-ordination centre in Halifax, the helicopter arrived on scene 72 minutes after the ditching and recovered the one survivor in the water.

One must wonder on what basis anyone would morph the simple facts as established clearly and unequivocally into some sort of line of inquiry about the CH-149s. 

The only obvious reason to do so would be if there was any indication that this had an impact on events, but that doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny. With the information presented at the third news conference on the day of the crash – the one at which the string of questions on the Cormorants started – it was pretty clear that none but the two bodies (one fatality and one survivor) identified were spotted by the very first aircraft on scene.  That PAL King Air arrived some 25 minutes after impact, more than 40 minutes before the first search and rescue helicopter  - from COUGAR search and rescue (SAR)  - arrived on the scene.

With that established – as it was from the outset - there is no legitimate reason to persist in the blatant misrepresentations that have taken place since Thursday.

Search and rescue aircraft were available immediately at the time of the crash.  The others – Cormorants belonging not to  coast guard but to the Department of National Defence – were on a training exercise. They were pulled off the exercise and despatched to the crash site.  They arrived on the scene 18 minutes after the COUGAR SAR flight. [Corrected:  original stated difference in time as 38 mins.  Cougar on scene 1110 hrs.  Cormorant on scene 1128 hrs local]

This entire thread cannot be blithely dismissed as part of the normal hard work done by responsible journalists.  Responsible journalists did their jobs on Thursday and they have done it since then on this story.  They asked hard questions but they asked relevant questions based on the information readily available. They didn’t get into the Cormorant angle, one suspects, because the unspeakable truth of this incident was evident to them all from the outset.

Responsible journalists didn’t use the questions and answers to create an entirely false impression, as it evidently has, in a group of people who have been misled in their grief.  One of those people, the mayor of a town hit hard by the tragedy, turned up on national radio repeating the false information he had received and trusted.

Even as hideous as all that is, the self-referential pair can’t be held responsible for another despicable crowd who have taken the false information – no search and rescue helicopters in Newfoundland at the time of the crash – and put it to some more demented purpose. Far too many people have taken this false information and turned it  into part of their political agenda. One of those callers turned up just now on the same call-in show spewing his particular brand of venom.  Not once did the host try and sort the fellow out.

People who know how news conferences work know how information can change in an unfolding event such as this one. They can note, for example, how some details change.  In the second newser, some locator beacons were detected initially.  In the third one, it sounds like none at all were detected.  The correct detail will emerge.

That’s not what we are looking at in the case of the thread about SAR response. The details were already clear from the outset.  Some people have misrepresented them, inexplicably and disgustingly.

This sort of misrepresentation amounts to an abuse. 

It tortures the families of the victims of the crash by suggesting a hope which is false. 

This attack – and that’s what it amounts to – tortures the men and women of the search and rescue services.  103 Search and Rescue Squadron flies twice the national average in SAR missions.  Hercules from 413 Squadron join them far out to sea.  They all train hard and fly hard and risk their lives in weather when the rest of us are huddled by a fire safe at home. They do it to save the souls whose lives are at risk in the harsh North Atlantic. When lives are lost, as in this case, they will inevitably search their souls to ensure that all that could be done was done.

This attack abuses the men and women of Cougar. The company has an exemplary safety record.  The company has such a record because every single employee is committed to safe service.  Over 48,000 accident free flying hours don’t happen without such a level of personal commitment. The company’s crews also fly search and rescue services every bit as good and every bit as dangerous as the work done by 103 and its sister squadrons.

These misrepresentations abuse the members of the public who are shocked by the tragedy and who share in the grief of those who have lost loved ones. They are misled into believing things which are not true.

In a time of tragedy, it is hard to imagine more monstrous abuses. The tortures will continue until someone decides to put an end to them. Maybe a wise editorial hand needs to rest on someone’s shoulder.

In the meantime,  all that the rest of us can do is hope that somewhere in the midst of their self-absorption, the perpetrators of the abuse can realize the harm they are doing.


Atlantic Osprey

Background information, including a photograph of the vessel and last reported position, via marinetraffic,com.

The position appears to be current and shows the vessel anchored after circling the crash site.


Partial list of crash victims released

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a partial list of names of victims of the Cougar S-92 crash. 

Raw video of the RCMP newser is available from cbc.ca/nl.

Of the 17 victims, 12 names were released.  The other five have not been released at the request of the families. There are available at cbc.ca/nl and at The Telegram website.