28 February 2006

Pot? Meet kettle

Andy Wells, arguably the rudest mayor in Canada, described the behaviour of some homeowners in St. John's this way:
"It's so ignorant. I can't think of anything more ignorant or ill-considered."
Wells is miffed because some residents of the capital city are supposedly parking their cars in such a way as to keep snow from being pushed into their driveways by council snow clearing crews.

Some simple observations:

1. The city already has an overnight parking ban. If cars are on the street during the ban, tow them and stop the bitching, Andy.

2. If the cars are on the street during the daytime, odds are good that people are trying to shovel out their driveways. Excrement occurs. Get over it.

3. Given that city council hasn't increased the size of its snowclearing fleet in the past four years despite growth in the number of streets to be ploughed, then the real problem council is having keeping the streets cleared might really be due to ...wait for it...an infrastructure shortage.

Part of the problem in clearing streets might have to do with a lack of proper planning by Wells and his amigos at the little bandito factory on Gower Street. Gee. There's a surprise. It's not like water mains didn't explode in the downtown during the last municipal election much to Wells' embarrassment. It took council a week to fix it and they really didn't get around to it until the thing was splashed across the television screens thanks to the efforts of at large candidate Simon Lono.

Oh yeah. In the "ignorant" category. Let's add Wells calling Lono "some little twit" for daring to point out that Wells' comments that everything was rosey in the city was sheer nonsense.

4. Why bandito factory? Well, Wells is fond of tossing rules to the winds as he sees fit. He's like a parody of the guys in the old Westerns who supposedly uttered the line "Badges? We dun need no stinkin' badges." That just leads us logically to...

5. The raging hypocrisy in Wells criticizing other people for taking the world on their backs to the detriment of all. Maybe Wells is really just annoyed that people are horning in on what, to now has been his exclusive territory: be ignorant and doing things that are grossly ill-considered.

6. As for the mayor's own personal familiarity with things ill-considered and ignorant, may we humbly offer the following examples:

- Trying to ram through a hefty pay raise for himself and fellow councilors that would not only fatten his current bank account and which broke the rules for setting council pay, but would also swell his pension. We'll call that one ill-considered.

- Gerrymandering the terms of reference for the consultant hired to look at the pay raise after
his little pay hike was outed by The Telegram. Let's call that ill-considered too.

- Ignorant? I have too many examples from Well's career to list here, but let's just settle for his boorish comment to a former mayor and current councilor that in a battle of wits with Wells, she was unarmed.

Wells' penchant for bullying and insulting his opponents suggests the opposite, of course.

But that's another post.

Wait times guarantee joins custodial management on election scrap heap

It doesn't take an advanced degree in English language interpretation to understand that health minister Tony Clement is realizing the Connie "wait times guarantee" is a bust and that the Liberal administration of Paul Martin already committed cash to deal with wait times.

As Canadian Press is reporting, the Connie in power don't plan on adding any new cash to deal with wait times.
Health is under provincial jurisdiction, and the federal government has traditionally brought provinces into national programs with new funding. But the Conservatives say they don't intend to offer new money for care guarantees.

Clement argues the money is already available under the 2004 First Ministers' Health Accord, signed by the former Liberal government. It included a fund for cutting wait times.

"From our interpretation and our perspective, based on that $41 billion extra over 10 years, there already is some money allocated."
The Connies already abandoned their commitment to move immediately to extend Canadian jurisdiction over the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks in favour of a policy that is essentially the one already being followed by the previous Liberal administration.

Stephen Harper is waffling somewhat on senate reform.

Now the fabled wait times guarantee might well be headed for the growing pile of unfulfilled Connie election promises.

Stephen Harper hasn't been in office a month yet.

Harper promises yaktion on senate elections

Proponents of senate reform will have to wait until at least the fall before any action from the Harper administration despite pledges in the Connie election platform that senators will be elected in future.

Initial reports from Alberta Premier Ralph Klein indicated there would be senate elections this fall.

The prime minister's press secretary subsequently clarified the remarks saying that the prime minister would have discussions about senate elections this fall.
"The premier didn't mean to say that there would be national elections for senators this fall," said Marisa Etmanski. "He clarified (to me) that there would be discussions this fall on Senate elections."

These discussions would be about when the elections will take place and what would be involved in the process, said Etmanski.
There is a senate vacancy in Newfoundland and Labrador that would be eligible for election under a new process.

It remains unclear whether the prime minister proposes to hold elections organized by Elections Canada, whether elections would be organized by provincial premiers or if the process for selecting senate nominees would be turned over to provincial premiers to determine.

According to Canadian Press,
There is no constitutional change required to appoint senators chosen by voters.
This isn't quite true. The senate provides for senators to be appointed by the Governor in Council according to certain set of basic criteria. Without a constitutional amendment, an senator chosen by election would still have to be approved by the Governor in Council and meet the property-holding and other requirements established in the Constitution.

27 February 2006

Night Stalker passes away

Television and motion picture actor Darren McGavin passed away on February 25, age 83.

McGavin was best known for his portrayal of Carl Kolchak, a wire service reporter chasing ghouls, ghosts and spectres in the short-lived series Kolchak: the Night Stalker.

Kolchak was the inspiration Chris Carter used for The X-Files. McGavin made two guest appearances on the X-Files as retired special agent Arthur Dales, an agent who had previously investigated X-Files.

Gordo gets confused back at 101 Colonel By

Gord O'Connor, right, the soldier cum lobbyist cum newly minted minister of national defence is obviously confused about his new job.

Responding to questions about the prospects for a new battalion of soldiers for Goose Bay - promised during the last election - O'Connor responded that in Goose Bay that he can train soldiers and deploy them from there.
"There is a vast training area related to Goose Bay. I wouldn't have any problems, either, finding a training area for this battalion, so I can train this battalion at Goose Bay, and I can deploy them out of Goose Bay." [Emphasis added]
Problem is that training soldiers is not Gordo's job any more.

Training soldiers - indeed of deciding on the force mix, basing and procurement (how many soldiers, sailors and air crew using what number of weapons and where deployed) - is the responsibility of Canada's military leadership based on the policy objectives set by the minister and the administration.

That's where Gordo started off wrongly when he supposedly authored the Conservative Party's defence "policy". He didn't actually give a policy. He didn't tell us why we have a military and to what policy ends they should be put. Rather he focused largely on the stuff that is how a defence policy is actually implemented. He gave us the stuff that chief of defence staff Rick Hillier and his senior commanders should decide.

Now the odd thing in all this is that when faced with questions about his own substantive conflict of interest in procurement, Gordo stated publicly that his role isn't to make the actual procurement choices. According to Gordo, those decisions, like which transport aircraft to buy, come from the military leadership, preferably without the sort of porkbarrelling and partisan interference we saw during both the Mulroney and Chretien administrations.

O'Connor's confusion is something discussed on the Bond Papers before. His basing commitments and the associated pledge to raise thousands of new infantry soldiers all signal a return to the very bad old days at National Defence when defence policy consisted largely of political pork decisions. In those days Canada bought equipment, based soldiers and did a whole bunch of other things based not on the cost-effectiveness of the decision but on the partisan benefit to be gained from the spending.

Gordo is pushing us back to a position not far removed from the time of Sam Hughes and the MacAdam shield shovel, left. It's an all-too-common situation in Canadian defence policy but many of us thought those days were gone.

Sam Hughes made a raft of truly horrid military policy decisions based on his unfounded belief that he knew far better than the professional military what Canadian defence forces needed. Gordo, the former soldier, seems to have similar beliefs, at least when he isn't trying to sidestep questions about his own conflicts of interest.

Fundamentally, O'Connor's comments on Goose Bay are one of the reasons why some time ago, Bond Papers offered the view that former soldiers, sailors or fliers made the most abysmal of national defence ministers.

What we seem headed toward in Canada is a bout of politically-inspired defence procurement that has little if anything to do with the proper defence of Canada. We will likely spend billions and have little to show for it of any substance in the end. At the same time we will have lost in the process the military that highly competent professional soldiers like Rick Hillier have been working to create.

In Goose Bay, though, the true cost of Gordo's old-fashioned views may well reap the most painful cost. Residents of that community may live in the hope of the cash coming from 650 soldiers that likely will never show up. For one thing, the Canadian Forces have been having difficulties meeting existing military expansion targets. O'Connor's commitments which are an order of magnitude beyond current military plans are likely to be totally unattainable.

For another thing, O'Connor may not survive long as minister. His successor may not share Gordo's penchant for goals that are unattainable and, in many respects, undesirable.

Taken in that context, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams gave residents of Labrador good advice:
"I would have to say to the residents of Goose Bay not to be too optimistic to see anything in the first 12 months, and then we'll be looking for strong signs after that," Williams said.
The only variation that could be added is simply this: don't be too optimistic to see anything coming from O'Connor's promises.

24 February 2006

The floorwalker speaks, yet again

Yesterday's appointment of former Liberal cabinet minister Chuck Furey to head Elections Newfoundland and Labrador is drawing fire from both the Liberals and the New Democrats.

As the CBC story puts it:
Despite his Liberal past, Furey has become friendly with governing Tories. He is close to Williams, and when Williams was Opposition leader, Furey even attended a Tory rally against a Liberal Lower Churchill proposal.
The government is deploying Tom Rideout, the deputy prem to defend the whole affair, since Premier Danny Williams is on Ottawa being entertained by the Prime Minister.

Rideout's quote to CBC is pretty funny, for those with long political memories:
Deputy Premier Tom Rideout brushed aside criticism from the Opposition.

"How long does it take to shed your political colours?" Rideout said.
Tom should know. It took the former Liberal only a few minutes to change his partisan coat in the early 1980s and win himself a seat in Brian Peckford's cabinet.

So how long was it, Tom?

My clock doesn't measure nano-seconds.

23 February 2006

Some good choices and an odd one

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today that Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein will be the next justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, filling the only vacancy on the court. Mr. Justice Rothstein has the necessary experience and other qualifications to take a seat on the SCC bench.

Meanwhile in Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Danny Williams announced the appointment of Alastair O'Reilly to the post of deputy minister of fisheries. O'Reilly is an acknowledged expert in the fishery with experience in both the public and private sectors.

He replaces Mike Samson who is being appointed to the new position of deputy minister (Emergency Planning), although the department isn't specified in the news release. Samson is an experienced public servant and will be filling a role long overdue to be created in the province's public service.

The provincial government began work on a province-wide emergency plan following September 11, 2001, however, it apparently is still unfinished. Questions raised by the premier about the launch of a Titan missile along a track that covered the province's offshore oil production platforms caused a temporary public flurry of concern that actually revealed significant problems in the government's ability to assess and act appropriately on public safety threats.

In the category of odd appointments comes word today as well from Danny Williams that former Liberal cabinet minister Chuck Furey will be the province's new chief electoral officer and commissioner of members' interests. In the latter capacity, Furey will be responsible for "monitoring, investigating and reporting on the compliance of Members of the House of Assembly with conflict of interest legislation."

Can anyone point to the last time in a Canadian jurisdiction when a former cabinet minister was appointed to fill the position of chief electoral officer?

Olympics close schools

Newfoundland and Labrador education minister Joan Burke announced today that schools across the province will close at lunch time on Friday so students can watch the Canadian men's curling team compete for the Olympic gold medal.

The Canadian men's curling team is from Newfoundland and Labrador.
"It's a historic moment for Newfoundland and Labrador," she said.

"[We] certainly want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to see the game. It's exciting for the young people of this province."
Workplaces will remain open.

The province's Schools Act contains no provision under which schools can be closed for this sort of event.

Apparently the provincial government feels that having a local team compete in the Olympics is something truly special. While this is obviously a source of some local pride, there is nothing especially notable about having a team compete versus the individuals from this province who have represented their country both before and after Confederation.

22 February 2006

Homage or plagiarism?

One of Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador's recent television spots apparently are very similar to a concept used by North Carolina in a print ad.

While I haven't been able to track down a copy of the print ad from the Tar Heel state, the description makes it very clear that both the visuals and the tagline are too close for comfort.

So what's the problem?

Given that the North Carolina and Newfoundland and Labrador advertising are not likely to wind up in the same market, there isn't much chance there will be some confusion as to which place is being promoted.

That's not an issue.

The only issue of potential concern here is actually one for the marketing company that developed the local stuff. If North Carolina wants to get its knickers in the proverbial twist, they might get the lawyers involved. That would likely shut down that local television spot and it might potentially involve some money being paid to the agency that came up with the concept originally.

There is such a thing as intellectual property and copyright.

That said, it isn't unusual for advertising to run similar concepts or to take an old idea and update it. There are only so many ideas and very often really good advertising is bound to attract copycat work.

Most of it is done with an eye to acknowledging the power of the original creative work. With that in mind, energy is spent to make sure there are enough differences or variations to ensure that the similar stuff is just that: similar. Similar is not the same.

The same would get you a lawsuit.

Similar is an homage. Like the babycarriage scene in The Untouchables, which is essentially an honourable repetition of a similar scene in one of Sergei Eisenstein's classic silent movies: The Battleship Potemkin.

Now sometimes creative concepts magically appear from proposals that are submitted to a client. A buddy of mine had a great tagline swiped by a company that liked his creative but wanted to toss the business of producing the campaign to someone else. He should have demanded payment but elected to politely walk away.

In this instance, the major problem seems to be a copy that is too close to the original for anyone's comfort. That's too bad. The Newfoundland and Labrador concept works and the execution is of exactly the quality we've all come to expect from Noel O'Dea's band of thinkers down by the harbour.

But hey, it isn't like the same whale picture/clip art hasn't turned up in print ads for two Atlantic provinces before.

This might wind up being a bit of a tempest in a teacup.

I'd lay money on O'Dea and his crew coming up with some better stuff down the road a ways and we can all forget that there are quilts in this province and in the United States.

Tourism minister takes idiot's position

It's fun listening to the tourism minister explain how two identical approaches from North Carolina and this province are somehow different because one is a print ad and one is television.

Listen here, in RealPlayer.

Tom Hedderson appeared on the CBC Morning Show today trying to explain why a North Carolina print ad that's been out there for a while is almost identical to the most recent provincial television spot right down to the line "Around here, not every work of art hangs on a wall."

Hedderson started out by claiming that the ads are different because one is TV and the other is print. Then he flopped around for a bit more even denying that the two things that are the same are in fact more or less the same.

His argument is idiotic.

My question is: did he come up with this himself or did one of the government comms people think it up?

If he did it alone, then there isn't much that can be done except by Danny.

If he had help, then maybe it's time to reconsider the policy of hiring comms staff with no relevant experience, despite an ad that specifies a minimum of five years experience in advising senior management.

20 February 2006

McDonald's Canada denies fries contain wheat or dairy

McDonald's Canada issued a statement on February 15, 2006 denying that its fries in Canada contain wheat or dairy or the transfats found in American fries.
Our frying oil is different, therefore trans fat levels are lower than the US, and the oil does not contain the flavouring mentioned, or any wheat or dairy derivatives.
Too bad that wasn't contained on the company's Canadian website next to the promotional bumpf.

Hunt around and you can find an "electronic press kit" website for McDonald's Canada. That site contains information on a "nutritional" packaging initiative that starts in March 2006. The information doesn't contain anything on ingredients other than for things like fat and fibre.

That site doesn't contain the fries statement either, nor was the statement carried on Canada Newswire, a news release distribution service. You will find stuff supporting the company's marketing initiatives though.

The case is still in the Homer Simpson file.

Newfoundland English

In the interests of widening the understanding of Newfoundland and Labrador, here's a link to the Dictionary of Newfoundland English online edition. The online edition is the second from 1990, the first having appeared in 1982. For those desiring to further their linguistic skills, a copy can be hand from any reputable bookseller.

As the editors put it in the introduction to the first edition:
It is the purpose of the Dictionary of Newfoundland English to present as one such index the regional lexicon of one of the oldest overseas communities of the English-speaking world: the lexicon of Newfoundland and coastal Labrador as it is displayed in the sources drawn upon in compiling the work, sources which range from sixteenth-century printed books to tape recordings of contemporary Newfoundland speakers. Rather than attempting to define a "Newfoundlandism" our guiding principles in collecting have been to look for words which appear to have entered the language in Newfoundland or to have been recorded first, or solely, in books about Newfoundland; words which are characteristically Newfoundland by having continued in use here after they died out or declined elsewhere, or by having acquired a different form or developed a different meaning, or by having a distinctly higher or more general degree of use.
The version of English spoken in Newfoundland and Labrador is the result of many influences, physical, linguistic and social/cultural. While some of the words and phrases contained in the dictionary have all but disappeared from everyday speech throughout the province, the dictionary remains a record of a living society and culture.

It has become increasingly common for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to adopt standard English or one of the several other international languages spoken by them as appropriate for the situation, and to use local dialect and speech patterns for communicating among themselves. Even when speaking standard English, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are often found being more careful and slow in their enunciation in order to be understood by those not from Newfoundland and Labrador.

In my own case, my children have been fed the odd bit of dialect as a conscious practice and my parents, just being themselves, have passed on a legacy of language already to their grandchildren. It was my ritual to sing some local folk-songs at bedtime, which the children took to quite naturally. They especially like Johnny Burke standards like Kelligrews Soiree and The Trinity Cake. That said, my children are further removed from the traditional dialects of their home than I ever was and I am farther away than my parents.

I learned much of my traditional dialect from my grandparents but sadly they passed away before either of my children could get to know them properly and gain from them the twin gifts of experience and wisdom that comes with age. That job now falls to my parents and equally to my in-laws, although they are mainlanders both. They are doing a fine job already and my children will be the richer for the diverse local and mainland heritage that is theirs .

If Newfoundland English begins to creep more and more into these postings, expect a link to the dictionary entry. Before too long many of the readers not from Newfoundland and Labrador will be become so fluent that they will understand the dialect without help.

They'll still be mainlanders, though, but only some of them will be sleeveens.

Go look that one up.

It's all in the interests of national unity.

Welcoming Lono to the Land O' Blogs

It's taken a while but local commentator/consultant/ranter Simon Lono has joined the Land O' Canadian Blogs.

Never one to go at anything in a small way, Lono is launching two...count 'em...two blogs.

Simon Lono - Here and There is a blog in the classic form, personal observations about personal things. His first post warns the world that Lono is off to Iqaluit for a month working on a contract with the Nunavut legislature. Watch for some regular posts from the truly Great White North on his adventures among the wonderful Canadians who call the Arctic home.

Meanwhile, offalnews is the guts of politics, economics and public affairs. At least that's the way Simon describes it in the masthead. For mainlanders, offal is a word you may not be familiar with, largely because it isn't that common. Offal is the waste parts of slaughtered animals and is most commonly used in Newfoundland and Labrador to describe the remainder of the fish processing business.

You won't find offal in Lono's commentaries in the sense that his observations are renderings, but you will find things that are likely to make you squirm. He's probably more likely to produce something that in local parlance would be called gutted, head on, meaning he has cleaned out the stuff you don't want and left the fillets and other useful of information for consumption.

Barry short-circuited process in Harbour Breton

It hasn't made it to the local CBC website (cbc.ca/nl), but Here and Now, the local supper hour show reported on Friday that there were at least five companies interested in taking over the Harbour Breton fish plant.

You can find the broadcast here, if you have RealPlayer.

Bill Barry did an end-run around the process by working directly with Danny Williams, and in the process secured government financial support for his mink-farming and aquaculture projects.

Elsewhere, there are reports that Barry needs a quota of 50, 000 tonnes of caplin to use in the Harbour Breton plant which will now supply fishmeal to his mink and salmon farms. The existing total caplin quota in Newfoundland and Labrador is 30, 000. Barry reportedly wants access to an offshore quota in division 3NO.

In the Telegram story reprinted below, note that provincial fish minister Tom Rideout indicates he would expect any increased caplin quota to be allocated to inshore fishermen. By implication that means not to a plant operator like Bill Barry or to deep sea fish harvesting interests.

That division covers a mass of caplin that spawn on the southeast shoal of the Grand Banks. Caplin normally spawn on beaches but this stock continues to spawn on the shoal, presumably as a left-over behaviour from a time when the shoal was actually above water.

This story grows more interesting with each day as new information comes to light.

Saturday, February 18, 2006
Caplin data scarce
BY JAMIE BAKER - The Telegram

Provincial Fisheries Minister Tom Rideout said any caplin allocations made as part of the Barry Group plan for Harbour Breton will have to be based on science -— period.

Rideout was responding to questions related to Bill Barry'’s request for what is believed to be a 50,000-tonne caplin quota as part of the Harbour Breton plan -— a quota that nearly doubles the entire inshore allocation of just over 30,000 tonnes for the whole province in 2004.

Rideout says the stocks Barry is focused on are not inshore stocks, but instead an offshore 3NO stock that, he said, hasn'’t been fished for many years.

He also insisted that any decision to grant quotas for Harbour Breton or anywhere else would not be based on politics.

"“He'’s talking about a 3NO stock - that'’s the context he'’s talking about and that'’s the context we would support — an offshore caplin allocation for him to be used in Harbour Breton,"” Rideout told The Telegram.

"“The only caveat I would put on supporting an allocation for anybody, including Bill Barry, is that it be based on good, sound, solid science. This is all driven by science.

"“There may be opportunities offshore, and it was offshore that was the word used in Barry's plan. He didn'’t mention inshore, and he didn'’t mention any zone in particular."”

Whether inshore or offshore, Opposition Liberal Leader Gerry Reid said 50,000 tonnes is an awful lot to ask.

"“It concerns me in that Barry is looking for an increase of about 140 per cent in caplin quota -— that'’s unheard of.

"“The only thing you'’ve ever seen increase that much is the price of a barrel of oil,"” Reid said. "“In talking to officials at DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans), there'’s very little scientific data collected in recent years to indicate there should be an increase in caplin quota."”

Reid is also concerned about the precedent it would set if a processor, like Barry, were granted a caplin quota.

"“I'’m not aware in the history of this province that there'Â’s been a Canadian or Newfoundland company to have ever received a caplin quota -— maybe back in the 1970s or something, but I'’m not aware there'’s ever been an over-65-foot caplin fishery in Canadian waters,"” Reid said.

"“Even if there were an increase in the caplin quota, normally, it'’s the inshore fishermen, those under 65 feet, who would get first dibs on that."”

Decisions on fish stock management are not made overnight, according to Tom Curran, the chief of resource management with DFO. Deciding whether to increase or decrease quotas on any stock, he said, requires detailed advice from stakeholders and, especially, DFO'’s science branch.

Most of the caplin science Curran said he is aware of is based largely on inshore stocks.

"“The Newfoundland fishery is based on the inshore stock - — in the bays around the island,"” he said. "“There has not been an offshore for the last 20 or 25 years that I'’m aware of."”

On Friday, a March 2003 report from the Newfoundland and Labrador all-party committee on the 2J3KL and 3Pn4RS cod fisheries surfaced.

Moratorium urged

The report showed that several members of the current government -— including Premier Danny Williams and Rideout, along with Trevor Taylor, Loyola Hearn, Bill Matthews, Norm Doyle, Roger Grimes, and others  - had signed off on a recommendation in the report to place a moratorium on the commercial caplin fishery.

That news has Reid charging the premier with having short-term memory.

"“The premier is on the record saying this Barry plan for Harbour Breton has been around for some 14 months -— if that'’s the case they put very little thought into the plan, because the premier should have remembered that the year prior to that he was part of an all-party committee that recommended there be no commercial caplin fishery because of the importance of caplin in the recovery of the cod stocks,"” Reid said.

Rideout dismissed the notion, claiming several of the people involved in that all-party committee report backed off on the caplin moratorium recommendation shortly after the report was released.

"“A number of members of the committee disassociated themselves from the Gulf part of that recommendation,"” Rideout said. "“Those members thought that recommendation, with no science to base it on, was probably a bit too onerous and should not be given as much weight as first thought."”

The most recent science on the Gulf stock, Rideout noted, suggests the numbers are strong.

Whether or not there is an increase in that region remains to be seen, but Rideout said caplin stocks offshore and in the Gulf are, essentially, unrelated in terms of granting quotas.

"“In the Gulf, if there'’s going to be an enhanced caplin quota in that area I would think it would be certified inshore fishermen who would land the quota,"” Rideout said.

"“If you'’re fishing an offshore quota in 3NO, the equipment to fish that would very likely be larger, just under 65 feet or even larger."”

Reid maintains the turmoil at Harbour Breton could have been prevented. He said had the province stopped FPI from taking its quotas when it left Harbour Breton, "“we wouldn'’t be discussing the matter today."”

And he fears desperation could lead to rash decision-making in terms of granting all-important caplin and herring quotas essential to the Barry plan for Harbour Breton.

"“The premier could solve this using the FPI Act -— he didn'’t, and now finds himself in a box,"” Reid said.

"“So, he called on his passionate friend Mr. Barry and asked him for help in Harbour Breton and when Mr. Barry heard that, he said, '‘yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus'’ and he put forward his wish list."”


McDonald's lawsuits start

It didn't take long for the first lawsuits to be filed against McDonald's for failure to disclose their fries contain dairy and wheat products that can cause adverse physical impacts on people with sensitivity to those foods.

We've already posted about this story and the implications for people with celiac disease, among other things.

One of the factors in McDonald's corporate decisionmaking is likely the relative cost of changing their product or disclosing its contents accurate versus doing what they did.

If they changed their fries - as they have repeatedly claimed to do but failed to do repeatedly - there are billions of dollars of sales involved. failure to change produce lawsuits that in the past 15 years totals less than US$20 million. That's a pittance.

Ditto in this case. Even if the estimated 2.0 million American celiacs and their 300,000 Canadian counterparts all jumped into court on the same day, the total cost of any settlement would still not come close to one day's global sales of fries.

But gee, it's not like the notion of companies weighing the relative costs has ever been discussed publicly before either in fiction, or in real life.

18 February 2006

Political action needed to save fishery says expert

Check Mark Hume's piece in the Globe on the need for political action, not more science to save the world's ocean fisheries.

Hume quotes Daniel Pauly, a leading researcher on fisheries issues and director of the Fisheries Centre at the University of British Columbia.
Through analyzing global fishery statistics, he found that the peak happened in parts of the world between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s. The timing was tied to the spread of industrial fishing.

Once what he calls "peak fish" was reached, the total haul of fish globally began to shrink, despite increased fishing effort and increasingly effective technologies.


Dr. Pauly said governments must step in because the fishing industry -- with a primary interest in short-term economic gain, not long-term sustainability of fish stocks -- has not shown any ability to restrain itself.

"The industry is ready to commit suicide at any time. It's an industry that needs to be reined in for its own good."

Dr. Pauly said that illegal catches are common, and he accused most governments of catering to the interests of industry over the needs of citizens.

He said governments need to reduce excess fishing capacity and enforce sustainable fishing levels.

"Public policy must be downsizing the industry to a level that allows for sustained catch and stocks to rebound," he said.
While self-described experts, including people like Gus Etchegary, rail against "foreigners" the reality is that the fishery is in crisis globally and only strong political action that takes a long-term view can work.

Among Pauly's big ideas: stop fishing. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much of one.

Check to see how quickly people like Etchegary embrace that radical concept. There are no fish, so stop fishing. Newly appointed federal fish minister Loyola Hearn has already mused publicly about a limited commercial cod fishery on the north-east coast of Newfoundland, a stock which biomass is hovering at as little as 170, 000 metric tonnes.

In the meantime, local politicians continue to push for something called custodial management as the solution to the local problems. Well, as noted here on many occasions, custodial management is an international legal nonsense and, as many suspect, is likely really just cover for increased fish catches by Newfoundland and Labrador interests.

That looks like more of the short-term thinking Pauley criticizes, but to be sure, it reflects the short-term thinking that has gone into most public fisheries policy coming from Newfoundland and Labrador over the past half century.

It's not like other experts - genuine experts - haven't pointed to the problems in the marine ecosystem caused by continued overfishing both domestic and foreign. Ken Frank of the Bedford Institute in Halifax co-authored an article in the journal Science that proposes one possible reason why cod have not recovered in the North Atlantic in the last decade. Frank argues that the changes across five trophic levels in the ocean caused by decimation of a top-level predator, namely cod, have so altered the ecosystem that cod may not recover.

Pit that against the "Evil Spaniards and Demonic Portugese" theory or the "Blame Canada" thesis so common in public comment across Newfoundland and Labrador see which one is intrinsically more convincing.

Voyage of the Damned: Harbour Breton, Danny Williams and the coming fishery crisis

Danny Williams - who this week said he was damned no matter what he did on the Harbour Breton file - can only blame himself and perhaps his own impetuousness for the political backlash he is facing over a deal with Bill Barry to take over a Harbour Breton fish plant.

People have been raising questions about the deal since it was announced. Initially, the concerns on based on Barry's record of acquiring plants in similar circumstances and then shutting the plant town and taking the quota elsewhere. More recently, concern is being expressed since federal fish minister Loyola Hearn said he had approved no quota for Barry and wouldn't do so until he saw a detailed plan. That seemed to contradict Williams' comments when making the initial announcement.

The root of this problem goes back to Williams pledge not to let Harbour Breton close after Fishery products International announced in 2004 that the aging plant - the town's major employer - would close. Many people started looking for work elsewhere. Williams' pledge wasn't to give people an alternative, though, as much as prevent people from moving out of the community altogether.

And with those words, Williams' took an unenviable - some would say impossible task - onto his own shoulders.

It's actually besides the point to look at the problems with Williams' subsequent announcement about Bill Barry; aside from the lack of quota and Barry's record, no one should forget that at the time Williams' unleashed The Plan with Bill, the fish plant was still owned by Fishery Products International. In effect, Williams was announcing an operator who had no quota for a plant that Williams' didn't even legally control.


The real issue here is Williams' own pledge - well-intentioned, impetuous, egotistical or whatever it was - to try and put life back into a single industrial operation that was, by any reasonable estimate, well beyond the point where it needed to close. What's more, even at the point when FPI announced its Harbour Breton decision, Williams knew or ought to have known that the fishery was coming in for the sort of adjustment that makes the events of one town merely an incident in a wider story. Williams should have seen coming the need to reduce the number of fish plants across the province. Instead he fought and his fighting - despite his efforts to wriggle away - to keep an aged plant going when dozens of others across the province are likely to suffer the same fate in the near future.

None of that makes the situation in Harbour Breton today any easier, but some good may come out of it in the longer run.

Next week, Fishery Products International will unveil its plans to cope with the company's operational problems. If the Premier tackles Harbour Breton in that larger context, that is, if he sees not just the single plant but the dozens that need sorting, he might find a way out of his current frustration. He'll take plenty of criticism for appearing to reneg on his promise and likely take a hit in his popularity, but it would be the smarter thing to do.

The only real problem is that no one knows if Danny Williams can live with a monkey of that sort on his back. It just isn't obvious that Williams would be prepared to lay in a stock of bananas and make peace with the furry bugger that sits right where Danny himself plunked him - smack in the middle of the Williams shoulder-blades.

What about Liberal hacks?

The Connies will be appointing a supreme court justice from the list compiled under the Martin administration just before the last election.

So much for Connie concerns that the supreme court was dominated by Liberal hacks as the PM mused before taking the oath. Of course, he did that in the context of reassuring everyone that the Liberal hacks would keep his Connie crowd in check, but he still fingered the courts as being politically tainted.

17 February 2006

Hearn to hold breath, turn blue to fight foreign overfishing

Loyola Hearn, Connie fish minister and chronic proponent of something called custodial management is finally starting to talk about the tough action he plans to take.

Bear in mind as you go through this that Hearn not only never really defined what he thought needed to be done, but also kept shifting the sense of urgency around extending Canadian jurisdiction on the high seas out beyond the 200 mile limit.

Well, now we know that one of the actions Hearn plans to take is to close Canadian ports to foreign fishing vessels.


Like we haven't seen that schtick before.

Well, at least the schmuck writing the story in the National Post John Ivison hasn't seen it before.
Mr. Hearn has suggested one of the first steps Canada could take is to close Newfoundland's ports to the boats of transgressor nations. With increases in the cost of fuel, many boats now fish off the Grand Banks, offload a catch on the Rock and then return for another. If this ceased to become an option, it could eat into profit margins of foreign boats.
Dear. Mr. Ivison, here's what happens when ports get closed:

First, the foreigners keep fishing and draw their fuel and supplies from St. Pierre. That's the little bit of the European Union found just south of Newfoundland. There is no discernible impact on their bottom line.

Second, local businesses that handled the foreign fish landings and supply the foreigners with food and fuel start feeling a huge pinch that eats into their profit margins.

Then, the ports are re-opened in the face of the political pressure from Newfoundlanders who got shagged around by the tough-talking federal fish minister of the day.

The real import of this Post story, though, is what it tells us about Loyola Hearn and how the Connies will act on their election promise(s) on custodial management and foreign overfishing.

1. Hearn has no plan to extend Canadian jurisdiction other than what was already started by the Liberals.

2. There will be no extension of control outside of international law, i.e. other than through the mechanism the Liberals were following.

3. The best Hearn will come up with - in the interim - is a bunch of tired, old stunts that are like Tobin's Turbot War: full of sound a fury and signifying nothing. We'll close our ports...for a while. We'll send diplomatic letters of protest. We'll hand out more citations and Hearn will trumpet them of proof of his toughness.

And other than that, nothing will happen until the Canadian claim under s. 76 of the Law of the Sea convention, initiated by the Liberals is finally accepted...sometime around 2011.

It's not like I didn't warn about this before January 23.

More problems to come for Williams

The downside for Danny Williams is that he is likely to have more episodes like the one recently where he said one thing about the feds, Loyola Hearn said something different and Danny was left backtracking and pleading with people to trust him.

There are two problems for Danny.

The first one is that, to his credit, Loyola Hearn is a sharp tactical politician. Hearn deflected Danny's amateurish bit of monkey tossing with a flick of his political wrist. Therefore Danny won't be able to handle Hearn as easily as he did John Efford, who it should be said, seemed unable to do anything but stick his neck in every noose Williams fashioned.

The second problem, and the bigger one, is that starting next week the Williams' crew goes from economic development mode (they were never in it any way) to economic crisis recovery and damage limitation mode. Fishery Products International will be the first installment in a major realignment of the province's fishery made necessary by a combination of economic and political factors.

There will undoubtedly be others, like Harbour Breton and Stephenville that, until now, Williams has been able to keep simmering.

Add to that some other problems with the federal government and you have a recipe for Danny Williams' worst political nightmare: a world where he can't get by on glib statements and hollow admonishments to trust.

The upside for Williams is two-fold.

First, he has plenty of cash thanks to booming oil prices. That will let him throw cash at things in the usual short-term fashion of local politicians that Williams has already shown an affinity for.

Second, he has no political opposition.

On that basis, Williams should be able to sail through the next provincial election.

What happens after that, though, is anyone's guess.

15 February 2006

Not lovin' Micky D's latest disclosure

As the parent of a child with celiac disease, news that McDonald's restaurants previously failed to disclose the presence of wheat derivatives in the oil used to cook the company french fries has an especially severe implication beyond the obvious one that a company hadn't provided complete product information to consumers.

My daughter's health is involved.

The inaccurate or misleading information provided by McDonald's until now means that my daughter has been unknowingly eating food that may have been causing her health problems. She doesn't eat enough of the fries to give her the severe reaction she had prior to being diagnosed when she was 18 months old. Still, she does eat the fries and any exposure to wheat and its derivatives can trigger a reaction.
"If they're saying there's wheat and dairy derivatives in the oil, as far as anyone with this disease is concerned there's actually wheat in it," said New York resident Jillian Williams, one of more than 2 million Americans with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten.

"They should have disclosed that all along," she said. "They should never have been calling them gluten-free."
Ms. Williams is absolutely correct.

To make matters worse, McDonald's Canada hasn't issued a news release - at least on its website - to address this disclosure. Instead, we find out from American sources, linked above, that McDonald's quietly changed the food ingredient labels on its french fries.

You can't even find detailed information on potential food allergens on the Canadian McDonald's site. You will find it on the American site.

As this story spreads, it will be interesting to see if Micky D's winds up with a public relations problem or if the story just slips off the news as quickly as it appeared.

Either way, it's going into my Homer Simpson file as an example of how a company that prides itself on connecting with its consumers, completely missed the boat on this one.

For those in peril

On the night of February 14/15 1982, the semi-submersible drill rig Ocean Ranger sank offshore Newfoundland and Labrador with a loss of 84 crew.

I worked part-time in 1982 paying my way through university. One of my fellow part-timers had a job on the Ranger, working the three-weeks-on/three-weeks-off schedule. As I recall, he as med-evaced with a bad tooth the week before the Ranger sank. His replacement, from the other crew, lost his life.

There are plenty of stories like that, of people being one or two steps removed from someone who died that night. Newfoundland and Labrador is a small place. A tragedy like the Ranger touches just about everyone and even more than two decades later, it is still hard to watch the television reports or listen to the radio clips.

So today, I'll be taking a break from the blog and offering a prayer or two for those who lost their lives 24 years ago.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea.

14 February 2006

Cheney jokes

Veep Dick Cheney's skill with a shotgun has spawned some jokes.

1. My favourite one liner so far is the one that hold that it's still safer to go hunting with Dick Cheney than it is to drive with Ted Kennedy. Yeah, I know that one has been around in a dozen versions since the incident hit the news. google "cheney hunting kennedy driving" and see what turns up.

2. For a more sophisticated approach, check nottawa's clever line on Bush and quail/Quayle.

3. The top of all, though, is The Daily Show.

Khaki Tim's in Kandahar

The men and women of Canada's forces overseas apparently are clamouring for a Tim Horton's to be set up where they are.

Like Kandahar, where a large double double means a bus filled with am extra helping of nitrogen fertilizer and some 15 year old doofus anxious to get to Paradise and his virgin quota.

Unfortunately Tim's just isn't overly interested in expanding outside Canada and the United States. [Memo to Tim's headshed: Don't put the newbie out there to freelance your media lines. The kid in the story above obviously has his PR head up his PR arse.]

Well, maybe they are interested, as this story attests.

But hey, this just reminds me of my pet project: a deployable Timmies.

I've been working on the concept for about 10 years. It basically involves a modular concept that will fit on the back of a group of Canadian Forces-style MLVW - basically you can get it in a Herc and you can get it anywhere the CF can go. If you wanna build a free-standing place, then it is adaptable, but either way, the Canadian Forces have to help out with the logistics.

It's doable guys.

You just have to give it a chance.

13 February 2006

Recall Harper or RSVP = roflmao

Radio call-in maven Sue has decided that after campaigning vigorously for Stephen Harper she is wrong.

She has started a group to recall the prime minister.

Nice try, Sue, but a recall option doesn't exist in Canadian politics. Even if it did as proposed by the old Reform Party only Harper's own constituents can recall their elected representative.

She calls her new group RSVP, as in Respect the Selections of the Voting Public.

There are a couple of simple observations here:

1. This is an admission Sue was wrong. That isn't news on any level.

2. Sue's mistakes are not cause for a political movement. We've been there, done that and got the t-shirts.

3. Her recall makes no sense because every member of the voting public did get their selection respected. Sue got hers respected in spades. She got the Harper government she worked for, the one she twisted logic and common sense to proselytize for.

Now she can live with her choices.

And her bogus political analysis.


Try roflmao *.

What's a political cause without its own website? Not much.

No surprise therefore that RSVP has now got the recall Harper thing set up as a blog of sorts.

You can find it here, but you may also wish to check out the Lower Churchill blog Sue started back in September but apparently hasn't updated much since.

It's attracted a few hits and the title of the first post is Day 1, which presumably was three days ago. Take note of the comments to get a sense of how people are reacting to this effort by someone who only a few short weeks ago was doing her damnedest to get Stephen Harper where he is today.

* roflmao = rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off

Hebron, the premier and getting a deal

While a great many people across the province are cheering on Danny Williams in his latest fight on behalf of this place with someone not from here, it is doubtful the proponents of the Hebron-Ben Nevis development are overly concerned about the premier's latest public claims that any development of the field will have to include a combination of two of the following:

- an oil refinery;
- better royalties for the province; and/or,
- an equity position - read direct involvement by the provincial government - in the field.

Chevron and the other oil companies involved know the premier is fond of making great claims only to accept something remarkably different at the end.

He did it with the federal government over offshore revenues. Williams' starting position was was one thing; he eventually settled for far less than he wanted at the beginning. He also hauled down Canadian flags vowing they wouldn't go up again until a meeting with the prime minister. Then he quickly started talking about putting them back up before that and under other circumstances. When a public opinion poll showed the strength of the public's negative view of his flag stunt, he simply ran the Canadian flags back up the flagpoles at government buildings.

Williams changed positions with Abitibi Consolidated, even going so far as signing a deal that had the province paying the company to keep operating and effectively making no government revenue whatsoever.

The Hebron team also knows that local public reaction never gave the premier a lick of a problem over his shifting pronouncements and positions.

Williams is very good at leaping to the barricades to protect the local Us from the foreign Them. It's an old theme in local politics here, one that stirs the blood of the natives and keeps them distracted from the substance of what's going on. In this instance, Williams is simply making the sort of public statements he likes to make to build up his store of political capital. There is no cost in this to Danny Williams, no cost that is unless he suddenly goes crazy and refuses to sign any deal at all, leaves Hebron in the ground and in the process damages the local offshore supply and service sector.

A man willing to pay a company to take away local resources may be a little crazy from some perspectives. But it is unlikely Danny Williams will go the kind of crazy that would see some political damage being caused over what amounts to the kind of political rhetoric Danny Williams has yet to stand behind. Danny Williams may talk like Brian Peckford, but he doesn't act like him all the time.

As for the specifics of this negotiation, the companies know that two of the premier's three conditions are non-starters. The premier knows it too.

The companies don't want a refinery tacked onto the Hebron project at a sizeable cost to their profits where a refinery isn't necessary to make this project work. The companies know the premier has a private sector group interested in a refinery anyway and that refinery will not depend on Hebron oil for its success.

They also know that deep down, the premier can do the math. Danny Williams understands that a refinery merely delays the point at which Hebron pays off and therefore the province gains higher revenues under the generic royalty regime. Think Terra Nova and White Rose here, not Hibernia.

On the issue of an equity position, the companies simply don't want to have a public sector corporation involved in the day-to-day decisions about running the field. They've told the premier this already. The companies are not anxious to let someone slide into the project who hasn't risked anything or paid a share of the costs to get the project this far.

In any event, an equity position would have to be purchased at fair market value and with the province assuming a share of the costs and liabilities as well as the potential profit. All things considered, the cost to Danny Williams of the equity position would likely outweigh its cash value and certainly would all but neutralise any value in royalties and local benefits. Put another way, the Hebron equity position may well make the Hibernia deal look like a lottery win by comparison. Expect it to disappear from consideration.

Both the provincial government and the oil companies have set April 1 as the deadline for a deal. If one is to be had, expect it to consist of royalties and local jobs benefits. The refinery and the equity position will likely vanish. The reasons are simple: the costs of either of these to the provincial government is simply too great. Shelving the entire project is the only outcome that potentially damages Danny Williams' political position and he has never stuck blindly to a position which ultimately costs him political capital. Danny Williams is more like Brian Tobin than Brian Peckford.

The premier will claim victory no matter what happens. Many will praise his success, as they have in the past and the last of the major offshore discoveries will move into production. No one will notice that yet again what he demanded as his bottom line and what he accepted as his final position are totally different.

No one will notice, that is, except for the companies with which Danny Williams is negotiating on our behalf.

No seat at int'l table: Harper fails on another promise

Provinces will not be getting seats at international tables, as Stephen Harper promised during the recent campaign.


That's a surprise.

Stephen Harper promised something and isn't delivering.

Week 2 of Harper-rama looks like it will be as good as Week 1.

09 February 2006

Hearn calls for hand-over of Hibernia shares

So it's an old release, but there's no indication Connie fish minister has changed his position on giving the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador the federal government's shares in the Hibernia project.

That said, let's see how long it takes Minister Hearn to make the same request of his own government he made of its predecessor: "Hearn said that he would be requesting the Prime Minister and his Government to follow through on this initiative."

The Federal Government Should Give Newfoundland and Labrador its 8.5 Percent Hibernia Share says [sic] Conservatives

MOUNT PEARL, September 21, 2004 --– St. John'’s South-Mount Pearl Member of Parliament, Loyola Hearn, and Conservative Natural Resources critic, John Duncan, say that in light of the Government of Canada'’s decision to sell its shares in Petro Canada, the time is right to transfer the Federal Government'’s 8.5 percent share in Hibernia to Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Despite the fact that Finance Minister Ralph Goodale said that there is no link between Petro Canada and the Hibernia share," said Hearn, "if Canada is willing to unload its Petro Canada shares, then it is logical the Hibernia shares should be transferred to this province. As we look at the history of the development of Hibernia and as we are conscious of this province'’s attempt to benefit more from its resources, it is not only logical but right and proper that the 8.5 percent Hibernia share held by the Federal Government should be transferred for the benefit of our Province."

"This would enhance the Prime Minister'’s commitment to assure that provinces are the prime beneficiary from their resources," added Duncan.

Hearn said that he would be requesting the Prime Minister and his Government to follow through on this initiative.

Two degrees of separation, Newfoundland and Labrador style

Following is some simple background information on the project announced today involving a new company that will explore the feasibility of establishing a 300, 000 barrel per day oil refinery, likely on the site between the existing Come By Chance refinery and the Whiffen Head transshipment facility. The Vitol-owned refinery is currently up for sale.

1. The project will be undertaken by Newfoundland and Labrador Refining, a new company comprising investors Altius Minerals and three United Kingdom investors, Dermot Desmond, Harry Dobson and Stephen Posford.

2. Altius' proposal to finance the Lower Churchill project was included by the province last year in the short list of proposals on that hydroelectric project. As reported in The Telegram, "Altius proposes creating a royalty trust that would acquire a percentage of the revenue generated from the sales of Lower Churchill electricity."

3. Dobson and Posford are major shareholders in a new oil and gas exploration company, Borders and Southern Petroleum, that is looking for oil and gas offshore the Falklands.

4. Dobson is chairman of Rambler Minerals and Mining, which created out of a company owned by Altius. In the transaction, Altius retained a 30% interest in the company and a seat on the board of directors for Brian Dalton and John Baker of Altius.

5. Last September, Altius acquired shares in Alba Mineral Resources, a company chaired by Desmond.

End fed jobs leaving Ottawa - latest Connie platform dump

Danny Williams and Andy Wells will be upset to discover that the new federal government wants to stop the practice of shipping federal jobs out of Ottawa to other parts of the country.

The tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who voted Connie because they were upset about "federal presence" must be even angrier over the words of the new treasury board boss:
Treasury Board President John Baird says one of his top priorities is to stop federal government jobs leaking out of the city to other regions.

Mr. Baird told the Citizen this week that he had "huge concerns" about the Liberal practice of relocating jobs to court favour and win votes. He promised, much to the delight of city politicians and union leaders, to try to reverse the trend and preserve jobs in the region.

"We saw during the campaign Liberal candidates promising to take jobs out. We even saw previous ministers giving thumbs up to that concept. That obviously is a significant concern for me and one that as we go through my early days and briefings, will keep eye to," he said.
Expect much skating from Hearn on this one. Ditto for Hearn's new spinner Ryan Cleary who railed against the evil Liberals and who now has to deal with a treasury board president who just nailed his colours to the masthead. Cleary will be doing a non-stop impersonation of Dorothy all the while repeating: "This doesn't look like Kansas, Toto."

Heck, all the Connies in the province will be busily muttering "There's no place like home" as they try and work around yet another gap between what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were promised in the election and what their new Connie overlords plan on delivering.

(h/t to nottawa. Fed pres always was a complete crock as an issue, but it is so much fun to point out Connie hypocrisy.)

08 February 2006

Flash: Ryan Cleary to spin for Loyola Hearn

Wait for the official announcement.

Some people should never come across to the other side of the street.

I guess that's why he mused a few weeks ago about packing up and leaving the province.

Update: As one wag put it, Cleary's been spinning for Hearn for months anyway so the only difference now will be that the taxpayers will be paying Cleary's salary.

Province shut out of second tier Harper cabinet

Hot on the heels of Norm Doyle's ouster as Connie caucus chair comes word that not a single Connie member of parliament from this province was deemed fit to be parliamentary secretary to a cabinet minister.

Take a close look at this list, ladies and gentlemen.

Notice that backbenchers from places like Ontario get to back up powerful ministers from places like Ontario in already powerful portfolios.

The back-stop for the minister of fish, by contrast comes from British Columbia.

But do we get to have the second level nat res spot, since the minister is from BC? After all, natural resources is important to us we develop oil and gas our oil and gas industry?

The parl sec is from Quebec.


As we try and move forward with major hydro-electric developments, Steve Harper decided that neither Norm nor Fabe was good enough and it was a better idea to have some guy in there more likely to represent the best interests of Hydro Quebec.

The backstop to the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency?

Some guy from Alberta.

Basically, the parliamentary secretaries list is where Harper rewarded his old buds from the Reform Party.

In the meantime, Fabian and Norm can cool their jets in the cheap seats.

And we can once again ponder why anyone pays any attention to Sue's flatulent political prognostications.

Norm Doyle fired: democracy in action

Norm Doyle, once Connie caucus chair has been punted from his job in favour of one Rahim Jaffer.

Unlike in other caucuses where the chairman is elected, in Connie-land Il Duce makes the call.

(h/t nottawa)

07 February 2006

The old school fish minister

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians heard this evening from the new federal fisheries minister, Loyola Hearn, courtesy of two interviews with local television news.

Among the words of wisdom from Hearn:

1. Moving immediately to take custodial management of the nose and tail of the Grand banks means start having meetings with officials.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are likely to find out - as predicted - that Hearn will be following the old school of politics from which he comes and which Bill Rowe, Hearn's' radio call-in show buddy, said in Hearn's defence today: it's easy to say things when you are in Opposition.

Put another way, it's about saying one thing to get elected and doing something else once in the job.

2. On the difficult job of managing fish quotas and tackling the overcapacity in the province's fish processing sector: Hearn believes in spreading the resource to benefit the most people, not employing the number of people the resource can actually sustain.

That's the same philosophy Hearn's been supporting since he first got into politics almost 25 years ago.

It's the philosophy that helped get the province's fish sector into the mess it's already in.

Lot's of people who supported Hearn are going to find out what the Bond Papers has been saying all along.

Risk and reward on the east coast oil and gas frontier

Rob Strong, one of the senior figures in the Newfoundland and Labrador oil industry told CBC Radio that the local oil patch is looking forward to increased exploration offshore Newfoundland this year.

As Strong notes, over 20 years have elapsed since the last major discovery in the Newfoundland offshore and for most of the past 15 years, exploration drilling has dropped to near zero.

Technological advances, high demand for oil and gas and the consequent high world prices for oil, coupled with political instability in some regions have led to a renewed interest in the north Atlantic's oil and gas potential.

A record $670 million was bid for Orphan Basinland plots in 2003 and the drilling program this year is further evidence that international capital is willing to look even in frontier regions. The Basin is located about 370 kilometres northeast of St. John's. The basin may hold as much as eight billion barrels of oil.

With increased exploration and development in other deep water fields, the supply of rigs that can work offshore Newfoundland is tight, as a recent public meeting on the province's upcoming energy plan was told. Nonetheless, the Erik Raude, a semi-submersible shown in the picture at right, and the Rowan Gorilla VI, a jack-up, will both be drilling exploration wells this summer.

East coast Canada is very much a frontier region in the oil and gas business, which is code for high cost and high risk. Technically challenging from an engineering perspective, a well offshore may cost as much as $100 million to drill. Improvements in seismic technology has reduced the risk of producing a duster - a dry well - but the risk remains.

The region also brings with it a political and regulatory issues that add further costs. One recent comparison showed that it may take twice as long for a proponent to get production approval offshore Newfoundland or Nova Scotia as it would in the North Sea or the Gulf of Mexico.

The regulatory issues are not insurmountable. Both the Government of Canada and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador have expressed an interest in streamlining the regulatory requirements for exploration and have taken preliminary steps to do just that. The Atlantic Canada oil and gas industry has also pressed for regulatory reform that balances the need for environmental and safety protection with the need to drill wells and bring new oil and gas fields into production.

Politically, the oil and gas industry remains a potent symbol of riches, especially in Newfoundland and Labrador, and that is reflected in the premier's rhetoric about jobs, cash and getting a bigger stake for the government in the offshore. That will be the harder hurdle to climb if the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore is to become truly globally competitive.

The provincial government and the consortium behind the Hebron/Ben Nevis development, for example, are currently negotiating local benefits and royalties but there is no guarantee the project will proceed. Premier Danny William has publicly talked of front-loading the project with added costs like construction of a local oil refinery and letting the province's hydro-electric generating company buy an equity stake in the project. As Williams told Canadian Press late last year:
The premier said as owner of the resource, Newfoundland and Labrador is seeking a financial stake in the project unless the companies agree to build a refinery in the province or hand over higher royalties.

"We'd love to take a stake," he said. "By getting a piece of the action, not only do we get a return and some of the profits from the dividends, but at the end of the day we will have assets that are worthwhile."
Both the Hebron consortium and Williams have set April 1, 2006 as the deadline for achieving an agreement on Hebron. That's slightly less than a year after the consortium reached an operating agreement among themselves for the project. Whether or not an agreement is reached with the provincial government may depend in large measure on where the economic tipping point is for developing an oil field in the already high cost offshore frontier.

Williams' other dream, of having a provincial Crown corporation operating in the offshore may depend, ultimately on the province's willingness to undertake the risks private sector companies have been taking for the past 40 years. Talks to gain an equity position on existing projects are rumoured to have run into flat-out opposition and repeated efforts to acquire the federal governments shares in the Hibernia project have similarly met with no support from either the federal Liberals or the Harper Conservatives.

Ultimately, in order to get a direct stake in developing the offshore beyond the government's political and regulatory control, Williams may have to invest in exploration licenses and doing all the grunt work of finding oil and gas in the north Atlantic. That's the tough and costly way, but there may well be no realistic alternative.

With frontier oil and gas, those who take the risks reap the rewards.

Who ya gonna listen to?

There's an old joke Rodney Dangerfield used to tell about one of his first agents, a stereotypical New York cigar-chomper with a seedy office above a delicatessen.

Rodney went to see him and the guy immediately wanted the upstart comic to change his stage name.

"What's in a name?" quipped Dangerfield. "As Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

"Who ya gonna listen to," grunted the agent, from behind a haze of cigar smoke. "Me or your friends?"

Well, there are likely a few people wondering who they should be listening to if they put any faith in Talk Show maven Sue's political analysis.

All during the campaign, from deep inside the Connie campaign bus, Sue called relentlessly to Bill and Randy and anywhere else that had a radio show with a telephone to explain how a Harper government would mean better representation in Ottawa for the areas outside Ontario and Quebec.

To anyone with a clue, her comments were nonsense from the start. A minority government would want to boost its representation in the places where it didn't have seats. In a majority, everyone gets rewarded with the inevitable result that the bulk of the cabinet spots go to the places where the most seats come from.

Like Ontario and Quebec.

Then came the Harper cabinet.

The big portfolios go to people from Ontario. (Compare that to Paul Martin's cabinet, with its key finance portfolios going to westerners.)

The government departments handing out big bucks for public contracts and capital works go to Quebeckers.

Here's the break-out by the numbers:

Ontario: 8
Quebec: 5
Alberta: 4 (including Harper)
B.C.: 4
Everywhere else: 1 each, except PEI which has no cabinet representation.

Fully 48% of the cabinet is from Ontario and Quebec, the provinces that have traditionally dominated federal cabinets. Ontarians and Quebeckers also get the key money portfolios.

Add all of the western provinces together and you get 37% of cabinet - but you have to add them together.

Atlantic Canada? We get 11% of the seats in cabinet.

So when it comes to astute political analysis, the question for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians is a simple one:

Who ya gonna listen to?

Radio call-in shows of course.

But solely for their entertainment value.

If you want to understand what is going on in the world, you'll have to go somewhere else. "Experts" that call Bill and Randy may have the name, but they don't smell anything near as sweet as the ones who really know what they are talking about.

Equalization changes: Williams and Harper/Sullivan compared

Provincial finance minister Loyola Sullivan is claiming that Stephen Harper's proposals for Equalization reform are perfect for this province but his claim suggests that he and premier Danny Williams are once more at odds over the province's finances.

Their last public conflict came in June 2004 during the offshore discussions when Sullivan backed Stephen Harper in preference to the provincial government's position, represented by Danny Williams. That's the same basic problem again, but it certainly isn't clear that Loyola Sullivan, whose love of digits borders on being a pathological condition, is correct in his math.

Given the importance of these issues to the province and in light of the coming federal-provincial negotiations on federal transfers, a frank assessment of the merits of the province's position will be necessary if the general public are to fully appreciate the issues and the implications.

The following calculations are based on the province's mid-year fiscal statement and the current Equalization fiscal capacity determinations, using 2004/05 as a typical year to demonstrate the impacts of the two proposed approaches to Equalization.

Note: These calculations are approximations based on provincial budget estimates and estimates of per capita fiscal capacity. A more detailed analysis would be needed to produce a definitive comparison.

Danny Williams' position

In his letter to the federal party leaders, Danny William proposed a simple approach to the Equalization formula that would increase provincial transfers from Ottawa and give full effect to the Equalization offsets in both the Atlantic Accord (1985) and the January 2005 offshore deal with Paul Martin.

Under the current Equalization system, Newfoundland and Labrador would cease to qualify for Equalization within the next fiscal year and therefore would be entitled to small, declining offsets. The total value of the 2005 agreement for example would likely never exceed the $2.0 billion advanced already.

In his letter to federal party leaders, Williams proposed that Equalization be based on a formula which includes all provincial sources of revenue in calculating per capita fiscal capacity based on a 10 province standard. As a result, Alberta's economic performance would produce a significant cash result for this province. Williams also proposed that debt servicing costs be considered when calculating entitlements.

The most obvious impact of the Williams approach would be to raise the national per capita fiscal capacity above the one currently resulting from the five province standard. In 2004/05, the national standard per capita capacity would have been approximately $6600 (10 prov.) versus $6200 (five prov.) Newfoundland and Labrador's per capita fiscal capacity was $4900.

This would have provided $878, 900, 000 in Equalization based on a population of 517, 000 people.

Since Newfoundland and Labrador would likely remain an Equalization receiving province over the entire 16 years of the offshore deals, the province would receive Equalization offsets for its oil royalties equal to 100% of those revenues. Oil and gas revenues in that period will exceed all other non-renewable revenues.

This would have produced an Equalization offset of approximately $234, 420, 000 in 2004/05, for a total of $1, 113, 320,000.

That does not include the province's non-renewable resource revenues which the provincial government collects and retains in full.

The Harper/Sullivan Approach

The federal Conservative proposal for Equalization would calculate provincial entitlements on a 10 province standard but without using revenues from non-renewable resources.

The most obvious impact of this approach would be to keep the national per capita fiscal standard at or below the current level established using five provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador's fiscal capacity would be reduced by the amount of natural resource revenues, which for the purpose of this example will be estimated at $248, 845, 000 or $481 per capita.

This produces an Equalization entitlement of $920,777, 000. 1

Since offshore oil and gas revenues are already offset under this model, no further transfers would flow to the province under either the 1985 or 2005 offshore agreements.


1. The major advantage of the Williams approach for the 2004/05 sample year is the impact of the offshore Equalization offset agreements. This produces revenue over and above Equalization entitlements since they compare the province's per capita capacity without offshore royalties to its entitlement under the 10 province standard that includes Alberta's natural resource revenues.

2. It should be noted that in 2004/05, mining revenue was slightly more than $14, 000, 000. Since no one has released provincial revenue figures from Voisey's Bay production there is no way, at this point, of determining the longer term impact of the Harper/Sullivan approach compared to the Williams proposal.

3. That said, as provincial offshore revenues increase, the level of additional offset from the 1985 and 2005 accords increase directly for the full 16 years of the 2005 deal. Unless mining royalties were to exceed the considerable sums coming from offshore oil and gas in the next decade, the 1985 and 2005 agreements should deliver their full potential. This should more than make up for any Equalization declines owing to growth in mining royalties under the Williams proposal.

4. Neither the Williams nor the Harper/Sullivan proposal offsets the impact of a major renewable resource revenue development such as construction of the Lower Churchill.

5. The Williams proposal offers the potential for additional revenue from adjustments related to debt servicing costs that are not contained in the Harper/Sullivan approach. These figures are not included here since they are unknown and cannot be calculated. Williams did not make any suggestions as to what weight he expected to be given to debt servicing costs in making the Equalization calculations.

6. Overall, it is incumbent on Loyola Sullivan to make public his own departments calculations of the financial impacts of both the Williams and the Harper/Sullivan models. Sullivan's public pronouncements to date have been vague, bordering on the vacuous.

His references to an "Atlantic Accord forever" smack of some communications director's idea of clever sound bites rather than a substantive appraisal based on disclosed evidence.


The following conclusions can be made:

- The Williams proposal is consistent with the general approach to Equalization taken across the country to date, in that it is formula driven and uses as many sources of revenue as possible to accurately reflect actual provincial fiscal capacity.

- The Williams approach is supported by most provincial governments and is likely to gain wider support.

- The Harper/Sullivan approach would see at least four provinces facing significant decreases in Equalization entitlements. As a result, this approach would be more difficult to implement. Changes to Equalization would require unanimous agreement of all provinces.

- The Harper/Sullivan approach is designed to reduce federal government transfers to provinces. Irrespective of the rationales offered, the primary goal of the Harper/Sullivan approach is to lower federal government transfers. Before the election, there had been some discussion that the Harper administration would address the supposed vertical fiscal imbalance by reducing federal taxation and thereby allowing the provinces to increase their own direct revenues by raising taxes.

The Harper/Sullivan Equalization changes give the federal government the ability to do exactly that by reducing federal expenditures or at least reducing the rates of increase to allow the program to function on smaller annual expenditures than might otherwise be the case..


1 [6200-(4900-481) X 517, 000]

So lemme get this straight...

In his first cabinet, Stephen Harper appointed a party insider from Quebec as minister of the chief portfolio for pork and sent the guy to the senate so that he can't be questioned in the Commons.


Given the number of things that Connies said they wouldn't do that they did on Day One in office, can we take any comfort in that little set of circumstances described above?

And in the rest of cabinet:

1. The guy from Newfoundland got fish.

2. All the big economic portfolios went to Ontarians.

3. Social policy portfolios are filled by women, predominantly.

4. The other portfolio with lots of cash - transportation, infrastructure and communities - is sort of a public works 2. That went to a Quebecker as well.

Lemme get this straight: so much has changed under Stephen Harper.

06 February 2006

So much for senate reform...

and a bunch of other things.

David Emerson crossed the floor. That's an interesting way for a Stephen Harper to start a new government given the level of criticism the Liberals drew for Belinda Stronach and for the Grewal nonsense. Given that Emerson went straight into cabinet, one must wonder about the circumstances surrounding his decision.

One thing we should be able to count on: no Liberals will be attacking Emerson for being a whore.

As for Michael Fortier, there is no small level of hypocrisy that Harper chose to appoint a party organizer to the senate in order to get him into cabinet. Again, for a party that campaigned on senate reform, the Fortier case is a good indication of how far political expediency may trump campaign promises in the new Harper administration.

As for Newfoundland and Labrador, Loyola Hearn will have to deliver on his party's supposed to commitment to move immediately to take custodial management of the offshore. That's not what we have concluded here was the Conservative commitment but a bunch of people have defended Hearn and company that custodial management is a top priority.

As for cod stocks, let's see if Hearn moves to implement a commercial cod fishery on the northeast coast, as he mused recently, or if he listens to the science and the common sense and shuts down any talk of a directed cod fishery where the stocks simply can't take the pressure.

In the resources portfolio, there's nothing to suggest the east coast will have a better hearing than it has gotten lately but given that the new minister is a British Columbian, there may be some sympathy for offshore issues. My guess is that the Williams administration is talking such a different language on oil and gas development from the national party, there may be some room for friction and a prospect the local industry may continue to take a back seat to Alberta issues.

Williams to Harper: Gimme your lunch money, dork.

VOCM's version of what Danny Williams said in the genuine Great White North isn't what Canadian press is reporting.

VOCM makes it sound like newbie prime minister Steve Harper has some power over provinces that is holding Danny back from turning Newfoundland and Labrador into some sort of "Lucky Charms"fake-Irish tabby with a 'tude.

After all, we are just magically delicious out here in the mysterious Far East.

Maybe Danny wants to give new meaning to the word "sham-Rock".

Turns out it is just Steve's cash Danny craves.
"The smart approach would be to allow the jurisdiction of the provinces and the territories to have the resources, to have the funds, to have the revenues that they need to plow back into their areas just for development," he said.
And some people thought I was wrong when I said the Prems just wanted Steve to hand over his cash, mucho pronto.

or wrong when I said there was a major Equalization battle coming between Ottawa and the provinces.


Guess it is time to explain just where PM Steve and Premier Danny disagree.