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Turks and Caicos – The Road Less Travelled

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  • Turks and Caicos – The Road Less Travelled

    I once had political aspirations. It was the early 1980s. A federal election was brewing. At the same time a tiny chain of British islands in the Caribbean – the Turks and Caicos – had expressed interest in forming an association with Canada.

    What a great idea: Canada’s own warm, winter destination. No more currency exchange swindles or fighting with hefty American tourists in a Cancun buffet line-up; just a happy bunch of Canucks soaking up the sun in our own polite corner of tropical paradise.

    I would make political hay by running for office on this simple, single platform: promoting a union between Canada and the Turks and Caicos. It seemed a worthwhile diversion from Alberta’s traditional campaign issues: complaining about Quebec and letting the eastern bastards freeze in the dark.

    Alas, I didn’t run and my nascent political ambitions, like the election, came and went. The Turks and Caicos dream faded into the blue yonder; our Prime Minister went back to exclaiming “fuddle duddle” in Parliament and the West returned to detesting the East over trivial issues such as who was going to get Alberta’s gazillion petro dollars. And instead of milking the federal treasury I ended up in law school and eventually Red Deer where I practiced law for a quarter century before concluding that life was too short to spend behind a desk – even if it were in the corner office.

    Coral reef surrounds Providenciales

    But some people follow through on that early opportunity to chart a different course. Bruce Twa, a law school buddy, had lawyered through a few cold Alberta winters when a chance phone call offered him the prospect of practicing warm-winter law – in the Turks and Caicos. Bruce jumped at the offer. He has now been resident in the “TCIs” for over twenty-five years, transacting real estate deals on behalf of wealthy, sophisticated, discreet clients – when he’s not boating in the azure-coloured waters or snorkeling amongst parrotfish and turtles in the coral reef surrounding the islands.

    Conch Vendor

    I had promised (threatened?) to visit Bruce on numerous occasions over the years. Finally, arrangements were made. We’d see the tropical paradise Canada had snubbed and find out how my naïve 1980s political ambitions may have panned out.

    My wife Florence and I learned even before clearing customs at Providenciales airport that the TCIs still maintain a quaint “small-island” feel. Bruce and his wife Darlene had graciously offered to host us during our stay but the border guard wouldn’t allow us entry. We didn’t have Bruce’s home address. The officer shook his head many times, threatening us with expulsion, before calling in his superior.

    She looked at our paperwork, “Oh, you staying with Bruce? I just give him a call and get his house number.” She dialled and five minutes later we were standing on the curb, throwing our stuff into Bruce’s pickup.

    We had only four days in the TCIs; a wise use of time was paramount. I wanted to evaluate whether Canada had blundered or done right in spurning the wishes of this British Protectorate. A quick but thorough analysis of the culture, economy and history was in order. I’d keep a tally of the positives and negatives. We began our research in a calculated, scientific fashion: so we went for beer and seafood, stuffing ourselves with fresh conch and island brew. The conch fritters were fantastic but the local beer (Turk’s Head) was awful. Score: one/one.

    Darlene, nice. Turk’s Head, not so nice.

    In the morning Bruce offered us the use of his beater truck so we could explore the island. I was a bit nervous about driving a standard stick shift in a strange country. “Don’t worry,” said Bruce, “Provo (that’s what the locals call Providenciales) is small, you really can’t get lost”. I felt better until I turned out of his driveway onto the main highway and realized everyone was driving on the wrong side of the road. I geared down and careened into the steamy Caribbean chaos.

    Our methodical investigation continued… with lunch by the sea at Grace Bay – named by Condé Nast as one of the top beaches in the world. The fish was delectable and the beer (Presidente, imported from the Dominican Republic) palatable. The score was starting to favour the unionists.

    That afternoon Bruce abandoned his clients to take us on an insider’s tour of his small island. The TCIs are a string of Cays (“Keys”) located at the eastern end of the Bahamas chain. The capital is Grand Turk, an island 100 kilometers from Providenciales. There are numerous small Cays – mostly uninhabited – between these two major islands. Due largely to the influence of Canadian ex-pats, Provo has evolved to become both the commercial and tourism center of the TCIs.

    Bruce drove us through the high-rent district. If you are in the market for a multi-million dollar beachside home, Provo has plenty to offer. And if you change your mind and decide to sell, there is no tax payable on any gain in value. In fact there’s no tax of any kind in the TCIs: no tax on income or capital gains and no annual property tax on your house. But import duties and the cost of living are painfully high. Duty can be as much as 45% of a car’s value. And when you buy your dream home in paradise there is a one-time stamp fee payable equal to 9.75% of the purchase price. On a $1,000,000 property the fee is almost $100,000! Ouch, that’s a lot of postage.

    These punishing import duties have led to some clever avoidance strategies. For example, the Turks and Caicos has many, many churches… all exempt from duty. Thus, even the humblest pastor usually drives a shiny new SUV.

    We also toured the low-rent district, a stone’s throw from where the millionaire’s reside. The poor area, dubbed Five Cays, is where the immigrant workers – primarily Haitian – live.

    The unmaintained road into Five Cays is almost impassable. This explains the abandoned vehicles we encountered – some converted into makeshift shelters; and many of the shanty houses here are a work-in-progress.

    Home sweet home

    “We build piece-piece,” the locals explain. Bruce often does free legal work for the poor of Five Cays. He should be careful. This kind of attitude could bring an end to lawyer jokes.

    There are a number of different, confusing categories of residency in the TCIs. We arrived on a temporary (30 day) permit. Bruce and his wife are permanent residents. The Haitians rely on work permit residency.

    Then there are the “Belongers”. Only those persons born on the islands (with island ancestry) are true citizens, entitled to vote and hold office. Bruce and Darlene have been permanent residents of the TCIs for over two decades but can’t vote. They’ll never be Belongers.

    This bizarre restriction on citizenship has led indirectly to a major challenge facing the Turks and Caicos: a legacy of nepotism and corruption. One afternoon Bruce took us snorkeling. We boated past the palatial home of ex-premier Michael Misick in the Leeward neighbourhood of Provo.

    Michael Misick’s mansion

    After building his mansion Mr. Misick leased it to the government. Then he moved in – as tenant – and collected $10,000 a month in rent from government coffers. The same day we cruised by the house, Interpol apprehended Mr. Misick in Rio de Janeiro on an international arrest warrant on charges of corruption and maladministration. Michael Misick apparently lacks neither cash nor gumption.

    The tally was thickening. Would it really benefit Canada to get into bed with these types – even if the bed was a hammock swaying in a tropical breeze?

    Bonefish put up a helluva fight!

    Time was running short. To judge matters objectively I needed more first-hand data… so I went bonefishing with “Bar”, a local guide. Wow! The fight presented by these fish is absurd. If you are a fly-fisherman put this adventure on your bucket-list. One moment I was admiring a juvenile nurse shark hovering in the shallow waters beneath Bar’s flat-bottomed boat and the next the line was spinning uncontrollably outward. It was ten minutes before I had that slippery little devil in my hands.

    Motoring back to Provo we trolled past Bruce Willis’ house on Parrot Cay but the place looked deserted. Perhaps he was over at Demi Moore’s place having an ex-spouse, ex-pat spat.

     

    I owed Bar $500 for the morning’s fishing (I told you the TCIs are expensive). We agreed to meet at a bank up the road – but as we pulled in it was being robbed. “What happened?” I asked the security guard next door. “Sketchy… it happen piece-piece,” he answered cryptically. Crime is not really an issue in the TCIs but, embarrassingly, the Provo Police Station had also recently been burgled. Thieves made off with guns, ammo and drugs held for pending court cases; adding insult to injury the police force’s new uniforms ended up at a local pawnshop.

    Then there’s the “Potcakes” – Provo’s stray dogs. Packs of barking Potcakes roam the streets of this little island at night, stealing sleep from rich and poor alike. Unfortunately, the government funding for a much-needed sterilization program came unleashed amid allegations of… corruption.

    Bruce retrieves an AWOL Biana.

    Bruce’s dog Biana is a former Potcake, now fully civilized. During our boating afternoon Biana grew seasick but jumped overboard rather than vomit in her master’s vessel. Bruce cut the motor, dove in and brought his AWOL canine back aboard; then she threw up.

    The final tally? It’s difficult to say. On our last night any negative karma evaporated when I stepped onto Bruce’s deck, into the sultry Provo darkness, and smelled the air. Have you ever encountered night-blooming jasmine? The fragrance is difficult to describe but should I ever again detect its beauty floating on a tropical evening breeze, the recollection will return like scented déjà vu.

    Perhaps it’s best to let the Turks and Caicos dream drift away, unfulfilled. Like most things in life – politics included – things aren’t so simple as may first appear. Still, it sure would be nice to see the Maple Leaf fluttering over a tropical sunset.

    About the author:

    Gerry Feehan QC practised law in Red Deer for 27 years before starting his second life as a freelance travel writer and photographer. He says that, while being a lawyer is more remunerative than travel writing, it isn’t nearly as much fun. When not on the road, Gerry and his wife Florence live in Red Deer and Kimberley, BC. Todayville is proud to work with Gerry to re-publish some of his most compelling stories from his vast catalogue developed over more than a decade of travel.

    THANKS to these great partners for making this series possible.

     

     


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    Alberta

    Alberta Country Music Awards announces 2018 Finalists

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  • December 11th, 2018 (Edmonton, AB) – The Association of Country Music in Alberta (ACMA)™ is pleased to present your Final Nominees for the upcoming 2018 Alberta Country Music Awards™ presented by Stingray. 

    Winners will be announced at the 7th annual awards gala on January 27, 2019 at the Sheraton Red Deer Hotel (3310 50 Ave).

    The evening will be hosted by Albertan country singer/songwriter and CCMA-winner Aaron Goodvin

    “I am incredibly honoured to have been asked to host The ACMA’s in Red Deer this year. There is so much great Canadian country music that comes out of Alberta. I literally cannot wait to host my first ever awards show and I’m excited for it to be in my home province!” – Aaron Goodvin

    Canadian country music fans are well acquainted with Goodvin’s music after winning the2018 Canadian Country Music Award (CCMA) for “Songwriter(s) of the Year” for his platinum single “Lonely Drum”. Goodvin was also nominated for the “Single of the Year”, and “SiriusXM Rising Star Award”.

    Also a Warner/Chappell songwriter, Goodvin has landed cuts with Luke Bryan, Canaan Smith, Cole Swindell, and others. He was recently signed to Reviver Records in Nashville and fans can expect new music in 2019.

    The 2018 ACMA™ awards weekend will occur on January 26 and 27. Events include the kick-off party, conference, seminars, fan fest, and the much-anticipated awards gala. Members of the ACMA™ have the privilege of voting to select the nominees for each category. The final round of voting to select the award-winners ends December 28, 2018.

    Tickets and more information about the ACMA™ Awards Weekend are available on the ACMA Website

    Without further ado, the nominees are:

    Male Artist of the Year
    Brad Saunders
    Dan Davidson
    Drew Gregory
    Karac Hendriks
    Ryan Langlois
    Trevor Panczak

    Female Artist of the Year
    Alee
    Andrea Nixon
    Krissy Feniak
    Lauren Mayell
    Michela Sheedy

    Group/Duo of the Year
    Nice Horse
    Renegade Station
    The Dungarees
    The Orchard
    The Prairie States

    Fans Choice
    Dan Davidson
    Drew Gregory
    Hailey Benedict
    Megan Dawson
    Renegade Station
    The Prairie States

    Industry Person of the Year
    Angie Morris – Sirroma Entertainment
    Bill Borgwardt Performance Photography
    Carla Hackman – Sakamoto Entertainment
    Carly Klassen – Alberta Music
    Johnny Gasparic – MCC Recording Studio
    Sarah Scott – Golden West Radio

    Musician of the Year
    Johnny Gasparic
    Josh Ruzycki
    Lisa Dodd
    Mitch Jay
    Weston Blatz

    Album of the Year
    Along for the Ride – Renegade Station
    Good Place to Start – Drew Gregory
    Lost in the Right Direction – The Prairie States
    Songs For Georgia – Dan Davidson
    This Road is Mine – Karac Hendriks

    Song of the Year
    “Don’t Hold Back” – Written by: James Murdoch & Darren Gusnowsky
    Performed by: The Dungarees
    “Know Good” – Written by: Drew Gregory, Trinity Bradshaw, Brad Stella
    Performed by: Drew Gregory
    “Light > Dark” – Written by: Ryan Langlois & Duane Steele
    Performed by: Ryan Langlois
    “Mansplainin’” – Written by: Brandi Sidoryk, Tareya Green, Katie Biever, Jeff Dalziel
    Performed by: Nice Horse
    “Safe Harbour” – Written by: Kent Nixon, Luanne Carl, Doug Folkins
    Performed by: Renegade Station

    Single of the Year
    “Don’t Hold Back” – The Dungarees
    “Know Good” – Drew Gregory
    “Play it By Beer” – Brad Saunders
    “This Road is Mine” – Karac Hendriks
    “Who’s Gonna Love Me Tonight” – Renegade Station

    Country Venue of the Year
    Boot Scootin Boogie Dancehall
    Ranchman’s Cookhouse & Dancehall

    Talent Buyer of the Year
    Big Valley Jamboree
    Calgary Stampede
    Country Thunder
    Ranchman’s Cookhouse & Dancehall
    Sakamoto Agency

    Rising Star
    Karac Hendriks
    Lauren Mayell
    Nice Horse
    The Prairie States
    Trevor Panczak

    Radio Station of the Year
    93.1 The One Leduc
    Wild 95.3 Calgary
    Real Country 95.5 Red Deer
    96.5 CKFM Olds
    103.9 CISN FM Edmonton

    Horizon Youth
    Hailey Benedict
    Krissy Feniak
    Jonah Langlois
    Hannah Gazso
    Martina Dawn

    Entertainer of the Year
    Aaron Goodvin
    Brett Kissel
    Gord Bamford
    Lindsay Ell
    Paul Brandt

    Video of the Year
    “Don’t Hold Back” – The Dungarees
    “Know Good” – Drew Gregory
    “Let’s Go There” – Dan Davidson
    “Mansplainin'” – Nice Horse
    “Who’s Gonna Love Me Tonight” – Renegade Station


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    Alberta

    Alberta Government looking for refinery partners

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  • Premier Notley greets members of the Building Trades of Alberta while announcing a new Expression of Interest for refining in the province.

    From the Province of Alberta

    Premier seeking industry interest in oil refining

    In response to strong industry encouragement, Alberta is taking action to explore interest from the private sector in building a new oil refinery in the province.

    As part of a made-in-Alberta strategy to get more value for our energy resources, Premier Rachel Notley announced the government is issuing a Request for Expression of Interest to determine business cases for investing in a new refinery in Alberta or tied to Alberta production.

    “For decades, Albertans have been talking about getting more value for our oil here at home. So let’s stop the talk, end the decades of dreaming and start making more of the products the world needs here at home. It’s time to grab the bull by the horns and to do more refining and upgrading that adds value and creates jobs here. The future is coming and it will be made in Alberta.”

    Rachel Notley, Premier

    Building a new refinery would create good-paying, long-term jobs for Albertans. New refining capacity would also help lower the oil price differential over the long term, protecting the province from a lack of capacity to export oil, and making sure we get full value for the energy resources owned by all Albertans.

    Large industrial value-add energy investments help provide economic resilience and diversification, and create highly skilled, well-paying jobs for decades. Alberta has abundant feedstock, skilled labour and the ability to refine our resources to high-value products the world needs. There is significant international competition for these projects and for Alberta to compete, government and industry must work together. We commend the government’s focus on ensuring that the value of Alberta’s resources stays with Albertans.”

    David Chappell, chair, Resource Diversification Council

    “Building Trades of Alberta has always believed you should refine it where you mine it. By doing that, you maximize the value of our resources for the people of Alberta, while creating good jobs for skilled trades workers in our province. We thank the government for exploring new options for refining and upgrading here in Alberta.”

    Terry Parker, executive director, Building Trades of Alberta

    “The work of the Energy Diversification Advisory Committee was focused on securing Alberta’s future in a more diversified oil and gas sector. It’s good to see another action that builds on Alberta’s strengths, including a highly skilled workforce and world-class resources. This is another sign the government is focused on made-in-Alberta solutions to ensure Alberta’s energy economy is built to last.”

    Jeanette Patell & Gil McGowan, co-chairs, Energy Diversification Advisory Committee

    Projects must have a strong return on investment for Albertans. Any proposed facility will consume Alberta-produced oil feedstock and produce marketable refined products.

    The government will consider interest in new greenfield investments or an expansion of facilities at an existing brownfield site. Submissions will be accepted until Feb. 8, 2019, with the results helping inform next steps that may include issuing a Request for Proposals to construct a new refinery.

    Companies will be required to submit their engineering design and technical feasibility, project timing and execution plan, plans for sales points and transportation to market, participation of Indigenous communities, expected environmental performance, financing to complete the project, and identification and estimates of revenues to benefit Albertans.

    Expressions of Interest have been used in the past to obtain industry and public suggestions on major projects and how the government can utilize existing interest to maximize the value for Albertans.


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    december, 2018

    wed21nov - 21decAll DayAlberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum - Deck the Hall 31 Days of Giving-31 Days of giving(All Day) Event Organized By: Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and Museum

    sat15dec10:00 am- 4:00 pmParkland Garden Centre Craft and Market Sale10:00 am - 4:00 pm

    sat15dec12:00 pm- 6:00 pmArtisan Market Sale for Nuit Blanche Winter CarnivalArtisan Market12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

    sat22dec10:00 am- 4:00 pmParkland Garden Centre Craft and Market Sale10:00 am - 4:00 pm

    mon31dec - 1jandec 317:00 pmjan 1- 2:00 amBlack & White ballRed Deer\'s Party of the Year!7:00 pm - (january 1) 2:00 am

    mon31dec - 1jandec 317:00 pmjan 1- 1:00 amOne Eleven Grill New Year's Eve with Claude Godin and his Groove EnsembleCall 403.347-2111 to reserve for New Year7:00 pm - (january 1) 1:00 am

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