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Happy Thanksgiving…

I’ve spent some time today looking at old photographs of times spent with family and friends over the years. This also included travels to Europe, USA, Caribbean, Africa and many parts of Canada, especially my home on the Great Northern Peninsula. It certainly made me realize how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life.

Today is the Canadian Thanksgiving. It is a holiday to celebrate the harvest and the blessings of the past year. 

Here is a snapshot of some events in which I am thankful since last Thanksgiving:

October 2012 was a celebration of one year in office as the Member for the Straits-White Bay North. It is also the month of my birthday and of course the celebration of Halloween.

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November 2012 is a time of reflection, especially on Remembrance Day for those who fought for the freedoms we have today. I placed a wreath at the St. Anthony Legion’s War Memorial on behalf of the people in the District.

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December 2012 is filled with activity from Christmas Parades, hanging lights, decorating trees and celebrating the spirit of season. Last December, I spent many hours in the Newfoundland & Labrador legislature, as a filibuster on the Muskrat Falls enabling legislation had us going around the clock until the early hours of December 22nd. My comments of the Monopoly Bill was one of the last before the vote:

I would like to reflect, Mr. Speaker, upon an episode of The Simpsons, when monopolist C. Montgomery Burns planned to block out the sun, to have the ratepayers of Springfield pay for his monopoly power. Having to consume more, pay more and not conserve, Smithers, the longest-serving employee, jumped from his party faithful and the people of Springfield suffered and so did he. In the end it did not go well for the monopoly company, but the people did prevail.

I only hope the people of the Province are not impacted to the degree this legislation offers, that Muskrat Falls does bring the employment and long-term benefits as touted, and that it also allows and permits new opportunities for wind, small-scale hydro, and other energy options. (Hansard, December 20 http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session1/12-12-20.htm). 

Christmas was spent with my wonderful family. Good food, good drinks and good company. I thoroughly enjoyed mummering. A tradition we are keeping alive.

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January 2013 – The Great Northern Peninsula is filled with incredible beauty and an abundance of wildlife. The fjords fill the backdrop around Gros Morne National Park. I had the pleasure of seeing these caribou, as they were grazing.

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February 2013 was filled with culture, from seeing the Great Northern Peninsula’s own Megan Coles’ play “Our Eliza”, as well several hockey tournaments, Air Cadet performances, the Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador convention and trade show, coffee-house and the big announcement of Cook’s Harbour-Wild Bight-North Boat Harbour’s Let them be kids playground for summer 2013.

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March 2013 I was able to celebrate the success of community groups and the important roles they play in Community, like the Green Island Cove Lions. Also, Winterfest, carnivals, town halls and lots of community engagement happens in March. Not to mention the presence of seals.

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April 2013 brought me back to Labrador. There is a pristine and natural beauty. Everyone should take time to experience all regions of our province.

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May 2013 many graduations were held. It had me reflect that it has been 10 years since I graduated from high school with 19 other classmates. A number of people are now married, have children, new homes and wonderful careers. It is always nice to see former classmates and remember our time shared together. This September when I went to Edmonton I was able to re-connect with a few, as well I get to see others at weddings and special occasions on the Great Northern Peninsula, while some have chosen like me to live rural.

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June 2013 we celebrate the Iceberg with an annual iceberg festival. It was also a time when I saw communities come together and build an incredible playground in Cook’s Harbour. To also learn about people and their talents, such as boat building and hear about the flurry of fishing activity happening along our coast. Summer is always a busy time. We have much to be thankful, from the land and the sea.

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July 2013 After a Memorial Day wreath laying ceremony, I decided to host my family for a Canada Day shed celebration. A big bbq spread was for all to enjoy neighbours, friends and family members. We even broke out the accordion. These are the moments you’ll remember all year. It is so important to take time to celebrate with your loved ones. July continued with Come Home Year celebrations in Conche and were followed in August by Roddickton and Savage Cove.

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August 2013 I was reunited with my friends from Europe. We all first met in Prague on an exchange in 2007. I was thrilled that all five of us were able to make the sailing trip in Sardinia, Italy. We have been many places together, including Czech Republic, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Cuba, Edmonton, British Columbia, Toronto, St. John’s and the Great Northern Peninsula. I look forward to our next expedition :). 

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September 2013 Labour Day was spent with family enjoying food, games and each others company. I am so thankful we got to spend a weekend where we were all together. I also was happy to travel to Edmonton to see a very good friend of mine marry the love of her life. It was such a great weekend helping and hanging out. I don’t think I laughed so much all year. So good to see former co-workers, family and friends in a city I lived and worked.

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I’ve had some very incredible experiences throughout 2012-13 engaging people. There are high points and there are low points, I’ve made new friends and have had to say good-bye to some old ones. There are demands during special occasions and evenings that may take you away sometimes from your family and loved ones but when you can spend time together make it count. Family is the cornerstone of our lives and society.

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On Thanksgiving 2013, I’ll be spending it with my sister and extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins. May next year’s harvest, blessings and experiences be ones of which you can reflect back upon and be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving and as always, live rural…

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North 

 

Mitchelmore speaks to Interim Supply (Budget 2013)

March 14, 2013

CHAIR: I recognize the hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Before I begin, I would like to pass along condolences to the Member for Lewisporte and the Member for Cape St. Francis on their recent losses.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs in speaking to the Interim Supply bill, as well as many other ministers here, have talked about and have asked us, the New Democratic Party, for our plan. What is our plan? The minister had said the same thing.

I have to say, Mr. Chair, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and all of the other ministers are managers of their departments, they have their employees. It is their jobs to produce the plans. They have failed to be putting forward with these plans. If they want our plans, they can hand over government to the New Democratic Party, Mr. Chair, and we will produce our plans.

 

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Speaking on the Interim Supply and the money –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
CHAIR: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North, to continue.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will talk about the gross mismanagement from the Progressive Conservatives on the other side. Newfoundland and Labrador‘s per capita spending increased rapidly between 2006 and 2010. Per capita spending averaged 50 per cent higher than all other provinces in Canada in the last three years, according to APEC.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Chair, the oil royalties will come in well below –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
CHAIR: Order, please!

Again, I ask all members for their co-operation.

The hon. the Member for The Straits – White Bay North.

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I know the truth hurts sometimes, but I would appreciate if the members opposite would listen to the harsh realities of our fiscal situation. We are going to be well below budget in 2012-2013 in our oil royalties – no Atlantic Accord payments; this is going to intensify Newfoundland and Labrador to really curtail spending now because of lack of planning.

In the 2012 fiscal year, there was a $436 million reduction in oil royalties. Mineral taxes dropped $114 million. Corporate tax revenue, which was in the Budget of increasing $200 million, dropped $47 million. The only thing that actually was really, really good last year was there was a $92 million increase in personal income tax revenue. Do you know why that is? It is primarily because of a commuter economy. Where is that going to head in the future with all of the layoffs government are doing right now? We are not going to have the personal income tax; that is not going to be coming in, not at that level.

So, you have to be really careful when you are planning and doing a Budget. I ran a business, Mr. Chair. I know about making plans.

Oil prices are set to decline by 6 per cent in 2013 and net debt, Mr. Chair, well, the former Minister of Finance had talked quite a bit about net debt. I want to say for everybody out there that net debt is the short- and long-term debt minus the cash and cash equivalents.

If you are doing such a good job at managing the Province, we look at the fiscal position. The actual position for 2011-2012, every man, woman and child, net debt, dollars per capita: $15,257. Where are we forecasted this year: $17,329. Where are we going to be forecast the year after: $18,867. What about the year after: $19,497. That is being real fiscally responsible right there, taking on all that debt. Taking on more debt to build Muskrat Falls is going to increase borrowing and that is going to carry a lot of debt on a lot of carrying cost for taxation and interest there.

We talked about the members opposite talking about: we cannot build an economy on volatility, you know – and that is exactly what they are doing. That is exactly what they are doing. They are risking it and it is looking at volatility.

If we look at where we could go with this, Prince Edward Island, for example, tabled multi-year, three-year Budgets; where is this government going? We have no idea; we really do not, because they do not table any type of long-term plan.

They say they have a Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador; we do not know what is being spent from year to year and how it is being balanced. It is not out there. It is not listed. There is no timeline. What about in the Transportation and Works Department, where they have capital spending for paving roads and things like that? We have no idea from one year to the next which area of the Province is going to get paving, and if it is an absolute need, and the things like that.

The Nova Scotia government has a five-year plan. They have listed every road that is going to be getting paving and bridges. It is directly there; it is publicly available. Can the Minister of Transportation and Works stand up and say: well, we have a plan available. It is public. It is available. This government is not very transparent and not very accountable to the people who elected them.

I spoke to a constituent and they wrote and they said to me: the government really needs to look at trying to find how we can move from making our renewable resources prosper, really have to focus on those renewable resources, because we see how mining, we see how oil, which is the bulk of our economy –

AN HON. MEMBER: (Inaudible).

MR. MITCHELMORE: Muskrat Falls – I am glad you are saying that, somebody across the floor – $20 billion in revenues; well, what is the borrowing cost?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. MITCHELMORE: What are the labour costs? Look at the expenditures that it is going to take over that time.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
CHAIR: Order, please!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Material cost, inflation – all of these things are going to have an impact on what is going to be the actual return. This is all at the risk of the ratepayers of this Province.

Instead of looking at things, Mr. Chair – our renewable economy, like the fishery, as I spoke about in the first one; the Fisheries Minister is certainly managing the decline of the fishery. In 2003, when the Tories came into power, it was worth a billion dollars in seafood exports. In a decade, it is at its lowest amount: $740 million – no ideas, no plans, nothing structurally put into place.

The same thing with the forestry; it is in absolute disarray. You talk about putting in investment. You put investment in my district, in Roddickton, in a pellet plant, but you did not go far enough with that. The Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, in planning that they put forward, when they recommended funding it was outlined there; it said, it absolutely said that there is going to be problems with transportation. It is going to be problematic, but they said, no, we will loan this money anyway, with all the other funders, without having a plan to make sure that this industry is going to be sustainable, that there are going to be personal income taxes coming from the forestry, that there will be corporate income taxes coming from the forestry, and that the Department of Natural Resources is going to get royalties from the logs that are actually being cut down.

You have to really have a balanced portfolio when you go to the bank. You do not just buy stocks. You would not go and buy 100 per cent stocks in Google because Google might go down next year. You really want to have a diversified portfolio, and the Province is not really focusing on that. They put all of their eggs in that Muskrat Falls basket. They are not focusing on – they are actually working very hard to erode rural Newfoundland and Labrador by their lack of vision and their lack of investment.

I certainly challenge the Minister of IBRD to get up on his feet and actually put forward that plan, because there is none. It does not exist. It really does not. It is very painful to see that the Ministers of IBRD and Natural Resources will not get together and actually make the industry on the Northern Peninsula, the forest industry, work.

It can work for people. It can be millions and millions of dollars for the Treasury here. You are going to let it die and you are going to let those people go to Alberta and elsewhere. If we keep sending everyone away and sending our youth away, we are going to continue to have unsustainable health care, unsustainable, unprecedented spending, and there will be no way to turn around.

Muskrat Falls will not save this Province, Mr. Chair. It really will not. This will not do it. It is not fiscally responsible and we need to see better; we expect better. The people expect better from their government. They really do, and people are getting sick and tired of hearing the same old rhetoric, the same old spin, and saying we have a plan when you really do not have a plan. If you are not prepared to govern and you are not willing to do it, then you are going to have to turn the reins over to somebody else who is willing to do it.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

 

Escalating Gas Prices Continue to Leave Local Consumers Poorer, especially in Rural Regions

The Newfoundland & Labrador Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities, released the maximum Petroleum Prices on April 14, 2011. For my region, self-service gasoline reached $1.40 per litre and full-service gasoline is $1.43 per litre.

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Rural Newfoundland & Labrador has few options when it comes to the usage of gasoline, as there a limited public transportation options.

The fishing industry  is the mainstay of the rural economy on the Great Northern Peninsula. 2011 started with a positive outlook, which included significant increases to the price of crab and shrimp. However, the Federal Government announced a significant reduction to the shrimp quota.  This is an unacceptable cut that will add stress to our local rural economy. Additionally, a number of fisherpeople will continue to feel the pinch, despite rising prices for raw material product, they are also seeing significant increases for fuel. This pinch is also felt by those in working in forestry, tourism and basically all other industries. Just announced this week, Aeroplan was increasing the number of reward points required to fly certain distances. The article noted that increases in the price of fuel was a factor in their decision-making.

Local workers and commuters pay more to get to work, which will affect take home pay. Escalating gasoline prices will increase inflation, and we will in turn see higher prices on virtually all products. More has to be done to provide relief to consumers. Earlier this week, CBC News reported, “Power price hike expected”. There is currently an application put forth to the Public Utilities Board to approve a rate increase of 7% that will be passed directly on to the consumer ( http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/story/2011/04/15/hydro-power-hike-pub-415.html). We already had an increase in electricity rates and there is no end in sight, especially with a major capital cost of developing the Lower Churchill. I would only guess that electricity rates will continue to rise to assist with that development on a frequent basis. These gradual increases will be a burden to rural regions and continue to hinder our growth and development. The Energy Corporation of the Province should continue to develop smaller local projects to displace the reliance on oil, this may include harnessing wind energy, tidal energy and bio-energy, as they pursue Muskrat Falls. We appear to have lost momentum on diversifying our ability to become a renewable energy powerhouse and have opted to place all of our eggs in one hydro-electric basket.

 We continue to rely heavily on oil and pay a significant amount in taxes for a Nation and a Province that has an abundance in supply. Why are we not meeting our local needs first and selling the  excess in the global marketplace? I took the photo to the left, while at a gas station in Northern Ireland in November 2010. The price of fuel was 1.198 Great British pounds (~$1.93 per litre). This is quite high; however, like many other European countries they are not an oil-producing nation. When I visited Egypt (an oil rich nation) in 2007, my driver filled up the car at a rate of 0.75 piaster/lt, which at the time was approximately 16 cents per litre Canadian. Where is the balance?

The Provincial NDP Leader, Lorraine Michael held a recent news conference demanding the removal of the Harmonized Sales Tax on Home Heating. I agree with her stand, as it seems unfair to have to pay a tax on an essential such as warmth for your home. Live Rural Newfoundland & Labrador will be signing the petition and if you support this cause, sign the NDP Petition to Remove the HST from Home Heat by clicking here.

We are simply paying too much for gasoline and home heating fuels. As consumer’s we must reduce our reliance on these fuels and opt for alternative energy sources. Many ruralites burn wood to heat their homes and offset their energy costs. Others will begin to convert to wood pellets. Many users of oil will have no choice but to convert to other energy options, as the price is $1.10 per litre locally. When it comes to driving our vehicles in rural areas we will have to find solutions to getting to destinations, whether it is carpooling, ride sharing, telecommuting, downsizing vehicles or trying to establish more public transit options. Through this period of change and transition, we must continue to lobby government to reinvest in local community projects to enhance and diversify the local economies of the Great Northern Peninsula, as well as all regions of Rural Newfoundland & Labrador. During a period of government prosperity, greater attention in needed to spur development in economically depressed regions. Ignoring the issue will only result in greater hardships in the future.

Together there are solutions to provide a brighter future for our rural economy.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher C. Mitchelmore

Transition Towns?…the future for Rural Newfoundland

Reasonables....it's all about the name.

Kinsale, the town of just over 2,200 people is the first Transition Town in Ireland. A community-based group, supported by Kinsale town council looks to manage local resources and find sustainable solutions to the challenges of peak oil and climate change. Public meetings are held on the third Thursday of every month. They take a number of guides from an energy plan, which has led to the creation of  Transition Towns worldwide, even as far-reaching as Canada.

I first heard of Transition Towns from my friend Emanuele, at the time a member of the Emerging Leaders Committee of cCEDnet. She had spoken of Guelph, Canada as one of the transition towns that is looking at environmental and social issues, and aims to limit the dependency on oil.

We can  transition to a future beyond fossil fuels, one that is more vibrant and resilient; ultimately one that is preferable to the present. Our current Provincial Government stresses that we must wean ourselves from our over dependency on oil. These revenues may be filling the public purse in the short-term; however, we need longer term strategies. The government wishes to create Hydro-electricity from the Muskrat Falls project and displace Bunker C oil burned to create electricity from the Holyrood Generating Station. The Town of St. Anthony is exploring wind energy as a means to become more competitive to attract industry and lower energy costs.

Community Garden

Community gardens have become an initiative of transition towns. Food security has always been an issue for residents of Newfoundland & Labrador. My grandparents generation practised sustainable living, by growing their own produce and raising farm animals. We are experiencing a trend in rural regions, where more people are exploring gardening. The concept of a community garden would help address food security issues. We should produce and grow more locally.

The community-groups are accomplishing their goals by inspiring, encouraging and supporting others to  transition the community.

Rural areas are no exception. Let’s ensure that 2011 is the year you garden, grow more local and work with others to create a community garden. This is a very reasonable suggestion to ensure brighter futures for the Great Northern Peninsula.

Live Rural NL 0

Christopher Mitchelmore

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