06 March 2015

Federal Presents, the 2015 edition #nlpoli

November 2005.

The Harris Centre at Memorial University issued a report on the number of federal public servants working in Newfoundland and Labrador.

With a Liberal administration in Ottawa and with a provincial Conservative government that enjoyed shooting at foreign enemies,  the whole argument about federal presence was a big deal.

05 March 2015

The Offshore Ownership Fight Examined #nlpoli

Last year was the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant events not only in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador but of Canada as a whole.

The agreement between the federal and provincial governments known as the Atlantic Accord resolved a dispute over the control of oil and gas resources offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ray Blake is a historian at the University of Regina with a research interest in federal-provincial relations.  His latest article is “Politics and the Federal Principle in Canada: Newfoundland Offshore Oil Development and the Quest for Political Stability and Economic Justice.” (Canadian Historical Review, volume 96, number 1, March 2015)

Here are some extracts from the last two paragraphs:

Federalism and the Constitution were not established as simple instruments of coercion to impose a final victory between the two orders of government. They were designed to manage and mediate, not eliminate, conflict, but in the offshore dispute no compromise was achieved between successive Newfoundland premiers and the
federal government.

The Atlantic Accord represented a new approach to federalism and regional development. Peckford’s federalist dreams had come in a bilateral political agreement, not a constitutional one, and it applied
only to oil and gas, not to fisheries or electricity. … Peckford succeeded in reducing the power and influence of the national bureaucracy in one sector of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy.

Blake has written a concise account of the dispute and the resolution.  He has also captured the importance of the final agreement.  As recent as this history is,  too many people seem unaware of it.  Blake’s article will help change that.

This article is based on research for Blake’s book - Lions or Jellyfish?  Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations since 1957 – due later this year. 

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04 March 2015

The Abacus Insight #nlpoli

[Updated:  1715 hrs]

By lunch time today, you’ll have Corporate Research Associate’s latest quarterly omnibus poll.  Odds are the overall numbers on party choice for provincial politics will be in line with all the other polls we’ve seen over the last while.

What sets Abacus Data’s poll released on Tuesday is that Abacus asked a bunch of questions that give much greater insight into local public opinion than what you’ve seen from the other opinion research firms.

Before we get to that stuff, let’s look at the party choice numbers.

03 March 2015

Class Conflict #nlpoli

The former Premier.

The premier wannabe.

kent swear jar

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Obesity in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

A study published in 2014 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal projected that 71 percent of people in Newfoundland and Labrador would be overweight or obese by 2019.

Think about and then reconsider comments by a Norwegian writer working for the New York Times.

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02 March 2015

The Elephant in the Room, the Astigmatic Seer, and other horrifying budget tales #nlpoli

Has anyone noticed a small problem in all the discussions about next year’s budget?

On Point’s David Cochrane had both NAPE’s Carol Furlong and the Conservative’s pet economist Wade Locke on the show to talk about the next budget.  Carol was warning against cuts.  Locke was talking about a request by Tom Marshall last year to reform the provincial income tax system. Locke and his students – are busily working them up, in close co-operation with the provincial finance department.

Can you see the elephant in the room?

27 February 2015

Language Problems #nlpoli

“Increasing taxes is not about solving the deficit, it’s about maintaining our programs and services that we have.”

That’s what Labrador and aboriginal affairs minister Keith Russell told the handful of people who showed up for the government’s pre-budget consultation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The Conservatives are perturbed that the turnout for these sessions has been small.  Part of the problem was the tight timeline:  they only announced the dates last week and started the first session on Monday.  Another part of the problem is that everyone knows that the things are a farce. They aren’t interested in wasting their time.

People should turn out to these things, though, if only for the entertainment they offer,  not to mention the practicality of it.

26 February 2015

Nova Scotia won’t get Muskrat Falls electricity #nlpoli

As part of its deal with Nalcor,  Emera will get its electricity from Bay d’Espoir, not Muskrat Falls. 

The Business Post’s March 2015 edition reported that confirmation of the arrangement came from Emera Newfoundland and Labrador chief executive Rick Janega following a speech to the St. John’s Board of Trade on February 23. Janega took the view, though, that the company will get power from whatever source of generation was operating at the time.

As the Business Post reported, the “deal between Nalcor and Emera is not specifically to supply Nova Scotia with Muskrat Falls power, but
rather to supply the equivalent of 20 per cent of Muskrat’s generating capacity from any source.”

25 February 2015

Bond Raters and other things to wonders about #nlpoli

Cast your mind back a couple of years and you will probably remember finance minister Jerome Kennedy told us a couple of things.

One was that he expected the government would run deficits for three years, totalling about $1.6 billion.

The other was that surplus would follow after that.

Well, here we are three years later and the latest finance minister – we’ve had four in three years – is now saying we can expect to see another  five years of deficits before maybe, possibly, getting the budget into surplus in Year Six ALE. 

That’s ALE as in “after the latest estimate.”

24 February 2015

The Unsustainability Problem #nlpoli

The annual budget consultation farce started on Monday with a couple of sessions.

This year the provincial government has turned out a budget simulator that is supposed “to illustrate the tough budget choices” the provincial government is facing and “to promote a public dialogue on how we can set a sustainable fiscal course.”

The simulation can’t really do either of those things.  The information is relatively recent but the options to adjust income and spending don;t cover the full range of policy choices the government can make.  The ones it does offer are artificially limited to presented increases or decreases.  That’s a programming choice as much as anything else, but the reason for the artificial limitations is not important.  The fact is that the choices are deliberately limited.

The result is that people can’t really see what sorts of choices the provincial government might make to set a “sustainable fiscal course.” In that sense, the current “consultation” is as artificial as all the other ones the provincial government has run over the past decade or so.   People aren’t stupid.  They can handle the truth.

The politicians and bureaucrats can’t.

23 February 2015

The theory of everything #nlpoli

People are talking about the budget.

People are talking about Bill 42, the politicians’ decision to cut public representation in the House.

People are talking about the recent polls.

People are talking about the next election.

People have predictions about how this one or that one will play out.

But they are not looking at everything.

They are not looking at the whole board.

And you gotta look at the whole board, Sam.

20 February 2015

A cunning plan it ain’t #nlpoli

The whole “Paul-Davis-Decisive-Leader” thing doesn’t seem to be working for the provincial Conservatives.

The latest NTV/MQO poll puts the Liberals at 42, the Conservatives at 20 and the NDP at seven,  with 30% undecided.

In October 2014,  it was Liberals 37,  Conservatives 16,  NDP six, and undecided at 40.

In October 2013,  the Liberals were at 35, the Conservatives at 20, the NDP at 12, and the undecided at 32.

You can see the trend there of Liberal growth – up seven points -  while the Conservatives hover around 20.  The undecided is down.  Most of them won’t vote anyway.  And the New Democrats have dropped from 12 to seven.

19 February 2015

Stragedy and Polls: Chop House version #nlpoli

Public opinion polls are a really useful thing in politics.

The Liberals did a poll the weekend before the Liberals and Conservatives voted to slash public representation in the legislature.  They bought into the scheme in largest part because it looked hugely popular.

The problem with the poll results is that they didn’t tell the Liberals anything useful. You can see the same fundamental problem in the poll commissioned by NTV from MQO.

18 February 2015

St. Pierre shifting health care to Moncton, Halifax #nlpoli

Rising costs are forcing the government of St. Pierre to look at shifting health care for its residents to Moncton New Brunswick from St. John’s, according to Radio Canada.

The cost of having St. Pierrais treated by Eastern Health has risen 75% since 2010 despite a decrease in the number of people from St. Pierre and Miquelon seeking treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Costs aren’t the only issue.  Eastern Health has only two translators to help St. Pierrais admitted to Eastern Health hospitals for treatment.  On top of that, the regional health authority is also not adept at identifying bilingual staff and making them available to treat the mostly unilingual French patients from the islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland.

Radio Canada notes concerns in the local business community at the loss of St. Pierrais coming to St. John’s for treatment.  Money that would be spent in St. John’s is now going to Moncton and Halifax,  according to Stephanie Bowring, an economic development officer with the Newfoundland and Labrador Francophone Economic Development Network St. John’s. 

The francophone federation is also concerned about the potential decline of French language service at Eastern Health. 

Health minister Steve Kent told Radio Canada that the increased costs were due to inflationary pressures.  Kent said it made sense to suggest Eastern Health could provide bilingual staff when French patients seek care but doubted that it would be possible to provide bilingual care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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17 February 2015

Lighter and Lighter #nlpoli

Three separate stories over the past three days highlight changes to the local media world.

On Saturday, Telegram editor Russell Wangersky slammed the publicly funded CBC Radio for turning its morning show into the sort of light, fluffy morning program heard on commercial radio.

(Is "We're broadcasting from Tim Horton's" really that much different than that old private radio staple, "We're broadcasting live from L&M Carpeting, your best carpet buy in the tri-state area"?)

There are stupid host and guest tricks: let's make the mayor of Mount Pearl, Randy Simms, wear a party hat for that city's 60th birthday. Let's make him blow on a party horn. Let's Tweet the pictures. Let's dress someone up as a turkey and film them doing tricks.

He’s right.

But Russell is also wrong.