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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.

Here’s a great story about an amazing back country skiing experience.

 

 

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City of Red Deer

Massive fines coming for students caught vaping. City teaming up with local high schools to strictly enforce bylaw

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vaping

From The City of Red Deer, Red Deer Public Schools, Ecole La Prairie, and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools

Enforcement of smoking bylaw at Red Deer high schools to curb student vaping

The City of Red Deer, in partnership with Red Deer Public Schools, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and École La Prairie, is enforcing vaping at Red Deer high schools.

Local schools are seeing an increase in the number of students vaping – or the use of an electronic cigarette – on school property. Under The City’s Smoke-Free Bylaw, vaping is prohibited in public spaces and workplaces, and within 10 metres of playgrounds, seasonal skating rinks, skate parks, sports fields, water spray parks, or toboggan hills.

“Community peace officers will enforce the Smoke-Free Bylaw at high schools in Red Deer which prohibits all forms of smoking including the use of e-cigarettes,” said Scott Tod, Municipal Policing Services Manager. “People in public spaces including workplaces are entitled to a safe environment and vaping puts others at risk.”

“We are seeing students from all grade levels using vaping products. With all high schools in Red Deer partnering with The City of Red Deer, we hope it will continue to educate our students on the health implications of tobacco and vaping,” said Rose McQuay, Principal atÉcole Secondaire Notre Dame High School.

“Student vaping has reached epidemic proportions among Red Deer youth. Not only have ourschools seen a significant increase in students using vaping products, it now ranks as the number one reason for student suspensions,” added Darwin Roscoe, Principal at Hunting Hills High School.

“With the use of The City of Red Deer Smoke-Free Bylaw, it gives us another tool to help enforce the no vaping policy at our school. We are grateful that all high schools in Red Deer are taking the same approach,” said Jean Doyon, Director at École la Prairie.

As per the bylaw, city enforcement will issue tickets to anyone (including students) caught violating the bylaw.

Students caught vaping on school property by a bylaw officer or RCMP member will receive a ticket for violating The City’s Smoke Free Bylaw, with the following fines:

  •   $200 for the first offense
  •   $500 for the second offense
  •   Up to $2500 for the third offense

In addition to the fine, students at Red Deer Public Schools and Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will also receive suspensions from their schools.

Parents with questions are asked to contact their child’s high school administrator.

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Alberta

Premier Kenney escalates Alberta’s response to Amnesty International with a new scathing barrage

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Premier Jason Kenney

From the Province of Alberta

Amnesty International: Statement from Premier Kenney

Premier Jason Kenney has sent the following letter to Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada:

“Dear Mr. Neve,

“Before responding to your open letter, titled “Human rights concerns regarding the Government of Alberta’s “Fight Back Strategy,” I would like to offer a note of sympathy. Honestly, it can’t be easy being the long-time head of Amnesty International Canada (AI), stuck in annoyingly free and peaceful Canada, having to work yourself up into high dudgeon to denounce a democratically-elected government peacefully standing up for its citizens.

“On the other hand, your insistence that the burning human rights threat in Canada right now is – to use your description – the “establishment of an energy ‘war room’ devoted to defending the oil and gas industry in Alberta and a public inquiry into the foreign funding of groups who oppose or criticize energy developments in the province” can hardly pass unchallenged. Relentless misinformed attacks against our oil and gas industry have cost us thousands of jobs and hurt families from every region of our province. The cost in investment and jobs has been incalculable. Our government won the largest democratic mandate in Alberta history in part on a promise to stand up to those attacks. I will not apologize for keeping that promise.

“Again, I understand it must be hard for you. When you look around the world and see the rise of authoritarian governments, civil war, human trafficking, genocide, and other gross violations of human rights, it must be a tall order to find something, anything to denounce here in our gelid but placid Dominion.

“You see your colleagues in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia standing up to a government that “severely restrict[s] the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly” and “extrajudicially executed” and dismembered a prominent journalist (those are all quotes from the AI country profile).

“You see your counterparts in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela facing a regime under which “hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained” amid “reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence against demonstrators” and “the Attorney General was dismissed under irregular circumstances.” (That last part rings a bell – you might want to look into it.)

“You see your confrères in Russia fighting “further restrictions to the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” “harassment and persecution” of religious minorities, “torture,” and a regime that systematically sabotages Western democracy, while your greatest challenge is … a provincial government speaking out in defence of its economy and in defiance of an active campaign against it.

“This is a double pity. It can’t be much fun for you and, more seriously, it undermines the credibility of what was once, and still could be, an important organization. As I have written before, when I joined Amnesty International as a teenager it was to defend the rights of political dissidents like Andrei Sakharov and to oppose totalitarian regimes like those currently in charge in most major oil-producing countries. I am disappointed to see that you continue to squander the moral authority accrued in those brave campaigns on smearing the most responsible and rights respecting major oil-producer in the world.

“There was a reason I singled Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela for comparison. They – along with Iran – would be major beneficiaries of a moratorium on Canadian oil production. No one will cheer your letter harder than Vladimir Putin, the Houses of Saud and Al Thani, the caudillo Nicolás Maduro, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. OPEC’s oleo-gopolists will be chuckling from their gilded palaces at your naïveté.

“Demand for oil is not going away soon. Every credible estimate shows several more decades of strong oil demand, and the world is going to get it from somewhere. Shutting down Alberta’s oil industry means more global supply – including much of the oil imported to Canada’s east coast – will be sourced from the world’s worst human rights abusers, instead of from the most ethical and best-regulated industry in one of the freest countries in the world. The net result of the campaign to landlock Canada’s oil and gas reserves, in which (to use an old but apt term) you are playing the role of useful idiot, will be to take money out of the pockets of Alberta workers to line the silk pockets of men who commit enough human rights abuses before breakfast to keep Amnesty International busy for a year. If you are truly concerned about human rights, look at where the world’s oil will come from if we don’t export it from Canada.

“Although your letter is repetitive and scattershot in its criticisms, I will respond to your main points in turn. Not because you raise serious issues, but because your hyperbolic bill of particulars is all-too typical of critics of Alberta’s oil and gas industry. It demands a rejoinder in the interest not just of our province, but of accuracy. Ironically, your letter is a perfect illustration of just why Alberta needs a way to respond to common misconceptions – and the decade-long campaign to discredit the Canadian oil and gas industry – with facts.

“For example, you allege that our plan to correct inaccuracies about Alberta’s oil and gas industry will “have particularly serious implications for advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the province.” What out-of-touch balderdash. In fact, I received your letter while I was meeting with the leaders of northern Alberta First Nations, whose people have enjoyed prosperity precisely because of their partnerships with Alberta oilsands producers and who strongly support our government’s efforts to respond to the campaign to landlock Canadian energy.

“Shortly after I was sworn in as Premier, I hosted the first Government-First Nations gathering in years, which was attended by 46 of the 48 Alberta First Nations Chiefs. The overwhelming – I would say, unanimous – consensus was that Alberta’s First Nations want to be partners in the prosperity that flows from the responsible development of our shared natural resources. They have seen first-hand that Alberta has Canada’s highest level of Indigenous employment because of our energy sector, and especially our oilsands. And they have had enough of foreign and urban do-gooders telling them how they should steward their traditional lands – a phenomenon BC MLA and former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation, Ellis Ross, and others acidly refer to as “eco-colonialism.”

“That is why we proposed unprecedented steps to partner with First Nations in defense of our shared economic interests through the Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation (AIOC). This $1 billion commitment, backed with the full faith and credit of the Alberta government, will encourage First Nations participation in resource development. The AIOC will be a first-of-its kind policy, a creative solution to the challenges that many resource-rich but capital-poor First Nations face in owning or co-owning major oil and gas projects. We have heard from dozens of First Nations inside and outside Alberta who are eager to access this support, and the federal government has expressed an interest in becoming a financing partner.

“We have also launched a $10 million Indigenous Litigation Fund to help First Nations defend their own economic development rights in court when they are threatened by government actions like the West Coast tanker ban or the cancellation of the Northern Gateway pipeline – both decisions taken by the federal government without consultation and over the strong objection of many B.C. and Alberta First Nations.

“You may be surprised to hear that I agree that “Reconciliation with Indigenous peoples is a Legal and Moral Imperative.” I use the same language myself, calling the need to partner with our First Nations, the first custodians of our rich trove of resources, a “moral imperative.” We know that there are still too many Indigenous people in Canada who do not enjoy the prosperity that natural resources development has brought. In that spirit, I hope that you will join me in cheering the fact that there are at least four consortia of First Nations bidding for a major stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline. Projects like this represent real economic opportunity for Canada and our First Nations and are a step towards meaningful reconciliation of which we should all be proud.

“Separately, I appreciate your concern for vulnerable individuals who you worry will be harmed by government advocacy. I am pleased be able to reassure you that you fundamentally misunderstand the context and purpose of the “fight back” strategy. In fact, I am sure you’ll be relieved to know that you have it exactly backwards: our energy industry and the jobs across Alberta and Canada that depend on it are not threatened by isolated or vulnerable individuals but by well-funded family foundations like the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, whose fortune was made in part from coal mines.

“Those would be the Rockefellers whose fortune was made by the Standard Oil monopoly and the Packards of Hewlett-Packard fame, whose foundation has assets over US$7.5 billion and who recently rewarded Tzeporah Berman, a former advisor with the previous government, with a US$2 million prize for her anti-oilsands activism. When I joined Amnesty International, it was because you fought for prisoners of conscience in dictatorial regimes. Today, you are fighting on the side of foreign billionaires trying to shut down an industry on which hundreds of thousands of hard-working men and women depend. Forgive me if I express a concern of my own: that Amnesty International may have drifted somewhat from its core mission.

“As for your concerns about freedom of expression and association, those rights are not threatened by our government telling the truth about our energy industry. Our intent is to counter misinformation, exaggerations, and outdated information with facts and evidence. You acknowledge this when you say that the “narrative that has accompanied the launch of the ‘war room’ focuses on ‘uncovering the truth’ and ‘tackling misinformation.’” That’s exactly right.

“There is a great story to tell about Alberta’s oil and gas sector. It’s a story of innovation, of world-leading research and development, of decreasing emissions, of cleaner technology. Most importantly, it is the story of an industry that has been an engine of social progress for people of all education levels from across the country, including women, new Canadians, and Indigenous peoples. How you can twist this good news story into a threat to human rights confounds comprehension.

“Speaking of exaggerations, your claim that “by any measure, oilsands development in Alberta is a major source of global carbon emissions” is exactly the sort of distortion that makes this project necessary. Canada is responsible for 1.6% of global GHG emissions and the oilsands account for 8% of that, or about one tenth of one percent of global emissions. Your claim would be wildly inaccurate even if the oilsands were ten times their current size. This is not to diminish the importance of Alberta showing leadership in GHG reductions. Our government is committed to lowering emissions, including by putting a price on large emitters and funding technology that will lower emissions both here and around the world.

“The second part of that plan is particularly important. While we will reduce emissions here in Alberta, our greatest contribution to the global challenge of climate change will be come from developing and exporting new technology and our cleaner natural resources, especially natural gas, to displace the coal-fired electricity in the world’s largest and dirtiest emitters. The reduction in global emissions we can achieve by exporting our know-how and resources to the developing world dwarf any reductions the anti-oilsands campaign could ever hope to achieve. Contrary to your letter, we may not be a big part of the problem, but we are determined to be a big part of the solution.

“As for the rest of your accusations and insinuations, they only make sense if you deny that there is a well-funded campaign against Alberta’s natural resource industry and a concomitant need to rebut it. This would be the campaign that you dismiss as “vague conspiracy theories about the hidden goals of US based foundations.” I assure that if their goals are hidden it is because they have worked hard to keep them that way. One of the original strategy documents of the Tar Sands Campaign, from 2008, actually stressed that “the [Tar Sands Campaign] Coordination Centre shall remain invisible to the outside” (their emphasis). Unfortunately, the Tar Sands campaign is real and anything but vague. Under the heading “Tar Sands Campaign Strategy 2.1,” that same document lays out step-by-step, in precise detail, the “tar sands termination agenda” to “embarrass Canada” and “delegitimize” the oilsands.

“As if that weren’t enough, the North American energy industry is also being targeted by a sophisticated social media and cyber campaign funded and coordinated by Putin’s Russian government. A 2018 report from the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology concluded that “Russia exploited American social media as part of its concerted effort … to influence domestic energy policy” and specifically “targeted pipelines, fossil fuels [and] climate change.” It’s a coalition of the bleeding-hearted and the bloody-minded.

“This is the threat Alberta has faced for more than a decade. It is an existential threat to our economy backed by American billionaires and coordinated through dozens of foreign and Canadian environmental organizations and advocacy groups. Their success can be measured in tens of billions of dollars in lost investment and thousands of lost jobs. That is why in the recent election we told Albertans that “We will fight back against the foreign funded special interests who are trying to landlock our energy.” Having received an historic popular majority, we intend to keep our word.

“Albertans deserve a government that will not roll over in the face of foreign-funded special interests. Our commitment to stand up for Alberta is the furthest thing from a threat to human rights; it is a pledge to meet myth with fact and misinformation with evidence. If Amnesty International Canada really cannot see the difference, then I am sorry – the organization I joined as a teenager had a clearer sense of purpose and a better moral compass.”

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september, 2019

tue06augAll Daysun29sepHot Mess - Erin Boake featured at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery(All Day)

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