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  • The CBC u>notes the consensus that the new Ontario minimum wage will not hurt the economy, overall, but provide a mild boost.

  • The Toronto Star notes that, from 2019, analog television broadcasts will start ramping down.

  • The Toronto Star notes that high prices in Ontario's cottage country are causing the market to expand to new areas.

  • Gizmodo reports on one study suggesting that Proxima Centauri b does have the potential to support Earth-like climates.

  • Gizmodo notes one study speculating on the size of Mars' vanished oceans.

  • Quartz reports on how one community in Alaska and one community in Louisiana are facing serious pressures from climate change and from the political reaction to said.

  • CBC notes an oil platform leaving Newfoundland for the oceans.

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CBC News' Cherie Wheeler reports from western Newfoundland, where an experiment in growing canola and wine grapes in this historically non-agricultural province has yielded success.

Thanks to the success of some unconventional crops grown last summer, western Newfoundland might soon add canola and grapes to its list of agricultural products.

Working with independent farmers, the provincial Department of Fisheries, Forestry and Agrifoods experimented with the two crops that aren't traditionally grown in the province.

The hope was those first-time crops could sow the seeds for new farming industries.

While canola farming is big business in the prairies, it's unheard of in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Yes, we're a lot different from Saskatchewan, but perhaps we might have a little better conditions than Iceland or northern Norway," said Kavanagh, the province's alternative feed co-ordinator.

[. . .]

It turns out she was right. Planting 12 hectares on private farmland on the island's west coast, in Pasadena, Kanvanagh said the yield was ¾ of a metric tonne per acre — which is on par with the rest of Atlantic Canada.

[. . .]

Like canola, the idea to grow grapes in Newfoundland was germinated in another province.

"There was a huge opportunity for grapes [in Nova Scotia]," says Newfoundland and Labrador's fruit-crop development officer Karen Kennedy. "And there was no one commercially growing grapes here."

Buoyed by stories of backyard gardeners growing grapes, Kennedy planted the first experimental vines four years ago in Humber Village, a small community in Humber Valley, as well as in Brooklyn, on the Bonavista Peninsula.
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Konrad Yakabuski writes at The Globe and Mail about the underlying economic issues behind tense relations between Québec and Newfoundland, in the very low prices of Labrador-generated hydroelectricity sold to Québec.

Ottawa’s decision to extend an additional $2.9-billion loan guarantee to enable Newfoundland to proceed with its ruinous Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project looks a lot more like a bailout than the investment in clean energy infrastructure that Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr likes to call it.

Coming on top of the $5-billion federal guarantee the former Conservative government provided to Muskrat Falls, and on top of a separate $1.3-billion guarantee for an underwater transmission link from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia, the extra backstop rewards Newfoundland for its bet on a project that even the executive now in charge of it concedes is a “boondoggle.”

The guarantee will enable provincial government-owned utility Nalcor to complete construction of an 824-megawatt hydro generating station and undersea transmission line from Labrador to the island of Newfoundland that should never have seen the light of day.

Muskrat Falls is the legacy of former premier Danny Williams’s decision to snub Quebec by going it alone on a $6-billion hydro project – now projected to cost $11.4-billion and rising – that would restore provincial pride, which was still hurting after the 1969 Churchill Falls deal. Under that agreement, Hydro-Québec buys virtually all the power from the 5,400 MW Churchill Falls generating station at 0.2 cents a kilowatt hour and resells it to customers in Quebec and the United States at anywhere from 20 time to 50 times that price.

Newfoundland customers will be paying more than 100 times the Churchill Falls rate for their own electricity – about 21 cents a kw/h – once Muskrat Falls begins producing power in 2021. And that’s provided the project does not face additional delays and cost overruns, which it will considering recent undertakings by the province to address the higher methylmercury levels stemming from the project.
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This Canadian Press report in the Toronto Star is disheartening.

The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador confirms that flooding of a reservoir at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric site is underway.

Premier Dwight Ball says initial flooding will bring the river to springtime levels, similar to where “Mother Nature” raises waters during the season.

[. . .]

The Nunatsiavut Government, NunatuKavut Community Council, and the Innu Nation agreed that initial flooding is necessary but say it is possible to keep water levels at around 23 metres above sea level.

The aboriginal leaders urged the province to prioritize health concerns related to methylmercury contamination in its management of multibillion-dollar hydro project.
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CBC News' Lindsay Bird reports on the continued but--so far--fruitless search for Viking artifacts in southwestern Newfoundland's Point Rosee.

On a meadowy spit of oceanfront land in southwestern Newfoundland, a team of scientists spent part of the summer of 2016 working to both uncover history and make it, modern explorers trying to track down ancient ones.

"This is not a bad place to spend a couple weeks outside, playing in the dirt. It's special here," said Sarah Parcak, the co-director of the midsummer dig at Point Rosee, in the Codroy Valley, about 50 km north of Channel-Port-aux-Basques.

It's a spot that could easily vie for the the title of most beautiful workplace in the world, but with cliffs that tumble into the sea, the only way in is a long hike or an ATV ride not designed for the faint of heart, or stomach.

Searching for the elusive Norse presence in North America isn't for the faint of heart either.

This is Parcak's second season at Point Rosee. Last June's dig, a cold and rainy affair, turned up enough tempting clues, such as nine kilograms of bog iron that looked to have been roasted in a hearth, to lure her back.
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The Labradorian's Evan Careen reports on the impending Inuit Blanche event in St. John's. This is a fantastic idea!

This October the city of St. John’s will be playing host to a three-day celebration of Inuit art, culture and knowledge.

The 2016 Inuit Studies conference, co-hosted by Memorial University and the Nunatsiavut government, will bring researchers, storytellers, Elders, and artists together to explore the diverse and unique culture.

The conference will run concurrent to two festivals, the katingavik Inuit arts festival and iNuit Blanche, St. John’s first all-Inuit, all-night art crawl.

The katingavik festival will be a three-day celebration of Inuit film, music and visual arts. iNuit Blanche will feature more than 25 performers spread throughout downtown St. John’s.

The theme of this year’s festival is Inuit traditions, with a focus on Inuit inclusion and Inuit ways of knowing. This is the second time Memorial has hosted the conference and it has been held in in Quebec City, the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and Iqaluit, to name a few.

“(It’s held) anywhere where there’s a great deal of interest in Inuit culture,” said Dr. Tom Gordon, conference organizer. “But in those 40 years it’s never been hosted by an indigenous government. It has always been a university or research institute. For us, what we’re really proud of, is it a full on collaboration with the Nunatsiavut government.”
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Deen Beeby's CBC News article is bittersweet.

Ottawa is throwing its weight behind an effort to repatriate the remains of two Indigenous people taken from a Newfoundland gravesite in 1828 that are now at a museum in Scotland.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly has taken the unusual step of notifying the director of National Museums Scotland that Canada will make a formal demand.

The remains are Nonosabasut and his wife Demasduit, two of the last Beothuks, an Indigenous people declared extinct in 1829. Some historians have claimed the Beothuks were the victims of genocide.

[. . .]

The federal letter revives a campaign by the Newfoundland and Labrador government, and the chief of a Mi'kmaq band, to have two skulls and related burial objects returned to Canada.

"This is wonderful news," said Chief Mi'sel Joe of the Miawpukek First Nation of Conne River, N.L., that claims kinship with the Beothuks. "When they come back to Canada, I want to travel with them."
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  • The Big Picture shares photos from a Newfoundland where the cod fisheries are recovering.

  • blogTO notes the bars which will be screening the final concert of The Tragically Hip.

  • Centauri Dreams notes a paper finding that KIC 8462852 has been fading noticeably in recent years.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the detection of circumpulsar disks.

  • Language Hat looks at the International Phonetic Alphabet.

  • The Map Room Blog notes Australia's updating of its GPS maps.

  • Otto Pohl notes the 75th anniversary of the Volga German deportation.

  • Torontoist has a lovely map of High Park.

  • Window on Eurasia argues Russia is likely to heat up the war in Ukraine by posing as a peacekeeper.

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The Globe and Mail's Konrad Yakabuski writes about the huge unanticipated costs of a hydroelectric project weighing down on a depressed Newfoundland.

By his own admission, former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams entered politics in 2001 to turn his proverbially have-not province into the master of its own destiny.

For too long, Newfoundland had sat angrily by while its fishery resources were dilapidated by the federal government and the benefits of its vast hydroelectric potential, including the massive Upper Churchill generating station, accrued almost entirely to Quebec.

“After years of watching in frustration as opportunities for growth were missed, lost or mismanaged, I had enough,” Mr. Williams said in a speech this April. “From the fishery to the Upper Churchill, I was determined to change our path in the history books.”

It seemed to work out for a while. An oil boom and a deal with Ottawa on the province’s offshore resources enabled Newfoundland to move off the equalization rolls for the first time in 2007. And Mr. Williams capped off his premiership in 2010 by launching a $6.2-billion hydro project on the Lower Churchill River, free of what he called “the geographic stranglehold of Quebec.”

Newfoundlanders, it seemed, were indeed becoming masters in their own house.

Well, the oil boom has gone bust, driving the province’s public finances to the bottom of the Canadian heap, and the projected cost of the 824-megawatt Muskrat Falls hydro project now under construction on the Lower Churchill has been revised skyward to a staggering $11.4-billion. Muskrat Falls has become a millstone around the neck of an already down province.
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CBC News' Lindsay Bird and Zach Goudie described the role of Newfoundland in ushering in the era of instantaneous global communications.

Of all the ocean views that can take your breath away on the beach of Heart's Content, it's safe to say you wouldn't look twice at the rusty old cables that run across its rocks and out to sea from the small town — population 375 — perched on the shores of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula.

But 150 years ago a single cable forever changed the way the world communicated, as the first successful transatlantic subsea cable, able to send and receive telegraphed information, solidified a link between the old world and the new for the first time.

Prior to July 27, 1866, if you wanted to send a message across the ocean, it would be carried over in a ship's cargo hold. In 1865, the news of Abraham Lincoln's assassination arrived in Europe a week after that deadly shot rang out through Ford's Theatre.

But the subsea cable consigned that level of communication patience to history that July day, as a ship landed on the town's shore, bringing with it a cable that stretched all the way back to Valentia Island, Ireland. With that, the small cable station in Heart's Content became the starting point for all those 21st-century text messages now built into everyday life.

"This is where we truly began. There are some books that dub us the 'Victorian internet,'" said Tara Bishop, an interpreter at the Heart's Content Cable Museum, a small station which has gone from being a hub of communication processing to a provincial historic site, and now thrust back into the spotlight as the epicentre of the town's 150th anniversary celebrations of the event that ushered in a technological revolution.
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  • Al Jazeera looks at the rejection of political Islam by Tunisia's Ennahda party.

  • The Australian Broadcasting Corporation notes the ambition of Zambia to become a major food-exporting country.

  • Bloomberg notes the negative impact of booming immigration on the New Zealand economy, observes Ireland's efforts to attract financial jobs from London-based companies worried by Brxit, reports on the elimination of Brazil's sovereign wealth fund, and notes a lawsuit lodged by Huawei against Samsung over royalties.

  • Bloomberg View notes that Russia can at least find domestic investors, and worries about the politicization of the Israeli military.

  • CBC reports on the Syrian refugee who has become a popular barber in Newfoundland's Corner Brooks, notes the sad news of Gord Downie's cancer, and wonders what will happen to Venezuela.

  • Daily Xtra writes about the need for explicit protection of trans rights in Canadian human rights codes.

  • MacLean's notes Uber's struggles to remain in Québec.

  • National Geographic notes Brazilian efforts to protect an Amazonian tribe.

  • The National Post reports about Trudeau's taking a day off on his Japan trip to spend time with his wife there.

  • Open Democracy wonders what will become of the SNP in a changing Scotland.

  • The Toronto Star looks at payday lenders.

  • Wired examines Twitter's recent changes.

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  • The Big Picture shares photos of life around the world this month.

  • blogTO notes that a vacant lot on Sherbourne Street will become an urban farm, for a time.

  • Centauri Dreams explores the strange oceans of Titan.

  • Dangerous Minds shares some astoundingly open ads for cocaine paraphrenalia from the 1980s.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a study suggesting that it was the Chicxulub impact, not the Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions, which were extinction-triggering.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the governor of South Carolina's statement that his political opponents orchestrated the reaction to anti-trans legislation to ensure he would not get re-elected.

  • Language Hat reports on an Igbo journalist explaining why he, and many of his people, do not speak their ancestral language.

  • The Map Room Blog maps patterns of rail travel in Europe.

  • Michael Steeleworthy is critical, and rightly so, of the massive announced cutbacks to Newfoundland and Labrador's library service.

  • Torontoist notes the Toronto Hard Candy gym's cutting of its links with Madonna.

  • Transit Toronto notes the TTC is looking for volunteer ambassadors.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that population growth in Russia is concentrated in largely non-Russian regions.

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Angela Walker's CBC article "Displaced Bay de Verde workers offered support and jobs by P.E.I. Seafood Processors" caught a certain amount of attention on the web.

The P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association has reached out to the community of Bay de Verde, N.L., offering support and jobs for displaced fish plant workers.

A fire destroyed the fish plant in that community on Monday. It employed about 700 people.

Dennis King, executive director of the P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association, calls it a devastating loss to the community and to the people who relied on the fish plant for employment.

He said his heart goes out to them all and so he called the community council office, expressing his sadness about the news.

King said he also told them that there would be work for the upcoming season if some of the displaced plant employees were interested.

"Really I just let them know that we were thinking of them over here," said King. "I mean the fishing community is a pretty closely knit community throughout Atlantic Canada and I just wanted to convey the message that there would be some immediate opportunities for plant workers here in our processing facilities, if some of them were interested to go that route."


The noteworthy thing is that there is actually a labour shortages, with relatively few people willing to apply for physically demanding seasonal jobs which, as revealed by the Canadian government job bank, do not necessarily pay well. Angela Walker also described ("Campaign offers cash bonus to P.E.I. students to work in fish plants") how students are being targeted.

The P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association and Skills P.E.I. have launched a new marketing campaign — and a cash bonus — to encourage more high school and university students to work in Island seafood plants.

Students are invited to join Team Seafood.

If they take a seasonal job at a seafood plant, they will get a cash bonus at the end of the summer before they return to class.

P.E.I. Seafood Processors Association executive director Dennis King said high school students will receive a $500 bursary for their tuition and university students will receive $1,000.

"It's a payment to the student for looking toward the seafood processing facility for work," said King. "And it just really reflects the aggressive nature of the industry to try to do a better job of recruiting local workers to come to work in our seafood processing facilities.

"We feel Island-wide that this is a bit of an untapped market in terms of employees."


More on this theme later.
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The Newfoundland village of Bay de Verde had a devastating day yesterday, when the Quinlan Brothers' fish plant there was destroyed by fire. The owners are promising to rebuild, which is good.

There's hope for the future in the Newfoundland fishing community of Bay de Verde, where the company that owns a fish processing plant razed by a dramatic fire Monday says it plans to rebuild.

Officials with Quinlan Brothers, who met with town representatives Tuesday, made the announcement while touring the ruins of the plant that had employed 700 workers at the peak of the season.

Company executives Wayne Quinlan and Robin Quinlan and longtime plant manager Barry Hatch, who appeared to be visibly shaken by the tour, turned down interview requests, but said they will rebuild "bigger and better than ever."

In a statement late Tuesday afternoon, Quinlan Brothers said it will still buy seafood from harvesters.

It is working on a plan to divert the seafood to other processing plants, which should result in some work for people normally employed at the Bay de Verde facility.

"The company is working round the clock to put in place arrangements with other producers to add capacity, increase shifts, etc. that will ensure the seafood landed is processed in a timely and high-quality manner," said the statement.

"The company's staff at Bay de Verde will be co-ordinating the transition of workers together processing facilities and they will keep in touch with the workforce to inform them of these developments as they are established."


This episode brings to mind how the eastern Prince Edward Island community of a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Souris,_Prince_Edward_Island">Souris never recovered from the 1993 Usen fish plant fire. There, they did not rebuild. Without reconstruction, I cannot expect a much smaller community will do nearly as well as the larger Souris.
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Last December, I wrote a short blog post about the latest study on the Greenland climate during the Norse era, suggesting that the temperature wasn't that much warmer than now. This, as was noted at the time, had substantial implications for the conventional model of Greenland's failure, and Vinland's abortive birth.

Climate change has often been cited as key element to this story — the basic notion being that the Vikings colonized Greenland in an era dubbed the “Medieval Warm Period,” which ran roughly from 950 to 1250, but then were forced to abandon their Greenland settlements as temperatures became harsher in the “Little Ice Age,” from about 1300 to 1850.

Yet in a new study published Friday in Science Advances, researchers raise doubts about whether the so-called Medieval Warm Period was really so warm in southern Greenland or nearby Baffin Island — suggesting that the tale of the Vikings colonizing but then abandoning Greenland due to climatic changes may be too simplistic. Their evidence? New geological data on the extent of glaciers in the region at the time, finding that during the era when the Norse occupied the area, glaciers were almost as far advanced as they were during the subsequent Little Ice Age.

“This study suggests that while the Vikings may have left Iceland when it was relatively warm, they arrived in the Baffin Bay region, and it was relatively cool,” said Nicolás Young, a professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and lead author of the study, which was conducted with three colleagues from Columbia and the University at Buffalo. “So for their initial settlement, and the first few centuries when they were there, they persisted and thrived somewhat during a relatively cool climate. And so it’s sort of a stretch to say that a cool climate is what drove them out of the region, when they demonstrated that they could be somewhat successful during a cool climate.”


The new emergent consensus seems to be that Norse Greenland ended quietly, without catastrophe. There were no bloody massacres by Inuit and/or pirates, no mass graves, no radical worsening of the environment. There was just a slow chipping away of a marginal colony in a marginal environment, perhaps with a slow drain of people to nicer climes--Iceland, say, or even mainland Europe. A Markland with a hostile environment, or a Vinland with a hostile population, would have been practically as distant from Greenland as the ancestral mother country of Norway, but that country was (comparatively) densely populated, a market for goods and a source for others and significant as the ultimate homeland of the Norse. Even a Vinland emptied of people would lack critical economic incentives for migrants.

There were good reasons for the Norse disinterest in Vinland. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist's paper "The Significance of Remote Resource Regions for Norse Greenland" (PDF format) and Andrew J. Dugmore, Christian Keller, and Thomas H. McGovern's "Norse Greenland Settlement: Reflections on Climate Change, Trade, and The Contrasting Fates of Human Settlements in the North Atlantic Islands" make the very compelling arguments that the high Arctic was more economically important for the Greenlanders than Vinland: the High Arctic was the critical source of the narwhal tusks that were Greenland's main export that was a destination for regular hunting trips on an annual basis, but a more remote Vinland was a source of quality timber for shipbuilders that could be visited more rarely. (That, as Thomas W. N. Haine's "Greenland Norse Knowledge of the North Atlantic Environment" (PDF format) argues, Greenland's shortage of substantial stores of native wood was one of the factors dooming the Norse in the absence of regular trade, with Europe or with Vinland. Had this trade been here, the Greenlanders' exports to Europe remaining in vogue, the colony might well have survived.) What did remote Vinland offer the Greenlanders that was worth the trip?

All this brings us to the exciting reports of the discovery in southwestern Newfoundland of a potential Viking site, the second after world-famous L'Anse aux Meadows. That first site is located on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland, opposite Labrador. Point Rosee, as the below map from the CBC shows, is located near the southwestern corner of Newfoundland, facing the Gulf of St. Lawrence.



If the Point Rosee site is confirmed to be Viking, this has huge implications for Greenland's history and potential. There has long been speculation that the Vikings travelled beyond L'Anse aux Meadows, deeper into Newfoundland and throughout the littoral of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. There is some speculation that the Vikings visited Prince Edward Island, at least, if not the wider Maritimes. Then as now, the Maritimes offer a considerably more clement physical environment than Newfoundland. A Viking outpost at Point Rosee would be very well positioned as a base to explore the Maritimes, it being far closer to Cape Breton or the Iles-de-la-Madeleine or Prince Edward Island than L'Anse-aux-Meadows.

Why did the Greenlanders not take advantage of their knowledge of this land, more hospitable than their own sub-Arctic home? The hostility of the native populations to the interlopers was surely a factor, but I would argue that even more important was the Greenlanders' disinterest in Vinland. They knew about the territory for centuries, and indeed likely made semi-regular visits to acquire the timber resources that they needed. Beyond these visits, the Greenlanders had little interest in colonizing a territory that not only lacked the natural resources that their economy depended on, but was far too remote from their Nordic homeland and their European market for a sustainable colony to ever develop, If, perhaps, the Greenlanders had a greater surplus, perhaps they might have been able to splurge, to experiment. Such a surplus was never likely, not with their marginal sub-Arctic colony being so highly dependent on long-range trade.

Very frequently in alternate history, it's imagined that the decision of Greenlanders to not settle Vinland was chance, that if any number of factors had gone differently they might have continued the Norse migration further west across the Atlantic. The new picture that is forming, with Greenlanders apparently being aware of their Vinland and its potential for centuries, suggests otherwise. The Greenlanders did not colonize Vinland, it seems, because such a colonization was not likely and quite possibly not possible given the constraints that they faced. Much would needed to change for the Norse to ever make it to the Americas. Perhaps the Norse expansion would need to be different, not a product of anarchistic migrations but rather a product of planning by a medieval Norse monarchy, one that did command the resources that would be needed for such a distant colony as Vinland. Such an expansion, it goes without saying, would be very different from the migrations we know about.
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The Irish Times features an article by one Sinéad Ní Mheallaigh reporting on her efforts to revive the Irish language in Newfoundland, the region in North America that has a very strong Irish linguistic heritage.

Tears prick my eyes as I watch the opening scenes of TG4’s ‘1916 :Seachtar na Cásca’ with my students in Canada. I realise that these brave men who organised the Rising and fought for their country had not been just fighting for the freedom of Ireland, but for the freedom of our culture. Without them, and the formation of a Republic of Ireland, I would not be living in Newfoundland right now, teaching the Irish language to students in Memorial University, St John’s.

The Ireland-Canada University Foundation funds six teachers to go to Canada and teach Irish each year, and I was lucky to secure one of these places for this academic year.

On arriving, I found a land that has many links to Ireland. Named “Talamh an Éisc”’, or the land of the fish, by the many fisherman emigrants who graced these shores in the 18th century, Newfoundland is the only place outside of Ireland that has an indigenous Irish language name.

Many people here refer to Ireland as “the Old Country” or “back home”, despite never having set foot on Irish soil in many instances. When I first arrived I almost felt guilty because of the high pedestal on which Newfoundlanders place Ireland. By comparison, how many Irish people could give you information about Newfoundland, or even point it out on a map?

When the Irish came here 200 years ago, it was quite an isolated place. They were far away from mainland Canada, far from America, and as a result, Irish traditions remained true and strong here within isolated communities. Even elements of the accent remains profoundly Irish to this day, passed down from generation to generation.

There is a strong interest in the Irish language. Irish descendent and farmer Aloy O’Brien, who died in 2008 at the age of 93, taught himself Irish using the Búntús Cainte books and with help from his Irish-speaking grandmother. Aloy taught Irish in Memorial University for a number of years, and a group of his students still come together on Monday nights. One of his first students, Carla Furlong, invites the others to her house to speak Irish together as the “Aloy O’Brien Conradh na Gaeilge”’ group.
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At least Newfoundland has this. From the CBC:

Several industries in Newfoundland and Labrador are seeing a silver lining in the low Canadian dollar, including the province's tourism operators.

Peggy Fisher, whose family runs Fisher's Loft in Port Rexton, told CBC Radio's On the Go that according to her bookings, the 2016 tourism season is looking up.

"They are about 25 per cent ahead of what they were last year — and last year was our best year ever," she said.

"I think we are getting a lot of Americans, the dollar exchange rate is definitely in their favour. Also, the geopolitical situation in Europe is making Newfoundland a very attractive place. We're sort of the safest and least expensive place to visit in the world."

Ken Thomas, co-owner of Sea Side Suites and Bonne Bay Inn in Woody Point, said Americans have started to take notice of the low loonie.
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MacLean's carries a Canadian Press article noting the dire state of post-oil boom Newfoundland and Labrador, so bad that apparently the province may return to receiving equalization payments.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier made clear Tuesday his province’s precipitous drop from national economic leader to fiscal basket case, as his Liberal government set a grim course with its first throne speech.

“It’s terrible,” Premier Dwight Ball said.

“There’s no one even close to us when you look at other provinces,” he told reporters outside the legislature. “We’ve never seen this ever before in our history.”

Fixing the mess, and an “unprecedented” $2-billion deficit, will start with a budget in April or May, Ball said. He signalled that everything from tax hikes to job losses and spending cuts are on the table.

Ball also raised the E word — as in equalization. It was a proud day as Newfoundland and Labrador, powered by oil and mining earnings, became a “have” province for the first time in 2008. It stopped receiving equalization payments that Ball now says would come in handy. The complexities of related requirements, however, mean little help is available so far, he told reporters.

“We’re at Ottawa’s door for all the programs that are in place.”
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Chris Sorensen of MacLean's notes how the collapse in oïl prices has hit Newfoundland very hard indeed.

There was a fierce debate during the 2015 federal election campaign over whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper had actually delivered a “surprise” $1.9-billion surplus last year, or had in fact rang up a similar-sized deficit. But, as is so often the case, it was all smoke, no fire. Wrapping up the fiscal year a few billion on either side of the ledger is a rounding error in a $2-trillion economy.

By contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador is suffering from the opposite problem. The province’s finances are in shambles—the deficit has ballooned to $1.96 billion thanks to plunging oil and gas revenues, according to a recent fiscal update—and yet politicians managed to stump their way through a provincial election in November without addressing the issue head-on. And make no mistake: at seven per cent of GDP, the province’s red ink isn’t something that can be fudged away. It’s on par with Greece’s average deficit-to-GDP ratio over the past two decades. And, as some have joked on Twitter, we all know how that turned out.

The turn of events is shocking considering it was only a few years ago that Newfoundland’s oil-fueled economy was hailed as one of the country’s fastest-growing. But it is hardly a surprise. Last spring, the previous Progressive Conservative government forecasted a $1.1-billion budget shortfall based on an average oil price of US$62 a barrel. With oil now at US$36, it wasn’t difficult to do the math. And yet Liberal Premier Dwight Ball won in a landslide after his party promised more deficit spending, in part because of a plan to scrap the previous government’s two per cent sales tax increase.
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Nick Stockton's Wired article notes that, however cod stocks in Newfoundland may be faring, cod off of New England's coast are endangered by climate change.

New England. Before Tom Brady, three-way sandwiches, or trips to the packy, the region’s residents shared a cultural identity defined mostly by the cod fish. But a fishing technology boom coupled with bad management led to the fish’s collapse in the early 1990s. Cod never bounced back, and warm water could be part of the reason why.

The Gulf of Maine—cupped by Cape Cod, capped by Nova Scotia—has been getting about .03˚C warmer every year since 1982. But cod are cold water fishes, and the warmer waters mess with their biology in bad ways. It also changes the prey available to them, and exposes them to new predators. Added up, that means fewer fish. A new paper in the journal Science says these rising temperatures have contributed to cod’s dwindling numbers, and should be considered when calculating future fishing regulations.

New Englanders have harvested the sea for centuries, and up until a few decades ago cod was their biggest cash crop. In the 1960s, new technology like sonar and radar let fishermen catch more fish, as well as selectively target older, larger fish. Unfortunately, marine ecologists and fisheries managers didn’t experience a similar technological boon. Without knowing crucial ecological information—Where do cod migrate? How do cod reproduce? Just how many cod are there?—fisheries managers couldn’t write regulations that kept up with the record number of cod being pulled out of the ocean.

Around 1992, the Northwest Atlantic cod fishery crashed. Fish stocks were around 1 percent of their historic levels. Since then, despite decades of severe catch limits, cod has not come back, and nobody totally understands why.

Sea temperature is a part of that equation. “Temperature affects cod in every way you can imagine,” says Michael Fogarty, head of ecological assessment at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Cold water-adapted cod have speedier metabolisms in warm water, which means they need more food. But those meals aren’t always around. So cod are smaller, and fewer survive to reproduce.

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