31 July 2007

Bill Rowe: townie twit

From labradore, the record is corrected once again.

Correcting Rowe's silliness - like calling the House of Assembly the House of Commons - is a full-time job.

On top of that, the fellow is still shamelessly kissing the butts of the people who sent off as Ambassador to Disneyland on the Rideau during which time he accomplished exactly zilch for the province.


An acceptable level of shag-ups

In the news reporting on reinstatement of a Gander radiologists suspended after questions were raised about his work, Central Health chief executive Karen McGrath is quoted as pointed to the absence of benchmarks for judging physician performance in conducting the evaluation.
Meanwhile, Central Health chief executive officer Karen McGrath said the authority would like provincial and federal governments to develop clear rules on how to review the competence of physicians.

"It would have been much easier for us if we had definitive information with respect to benchmarks," she said. "The reality was we had to go with the best information we had."
That's similar to her comments on the day McGrath announced the doctor would be reinstated and that, as vocm.com reported,"no significant adverse patient results have been discovered."

As cbc.ca/nl is reporting on Tuesday,
McGrath said that of a sample of about 500 tests generated by the Paton Hospital radiologist, fewer than 10 per cent were questionable. She said that is within an acceptable margin of error.
McGrath's comments are curious for several reasons.

Firstly, notice the numbers. Out of the 500 reports reviewed, less than 10% were found to have results that were "questionable."

That means that fewer than 50 of those reports weren't accurate.

But to say "questionable" - if that's the word McGrath used - is pretty vague, and it's needlessly vague.

A quick search of the Internet will reveal more than a few discussions in peer reviewed journals on error rates - often called missed observations - among radiologists.

Medically significant missed observations do occur; that is, radiologists sometimes miss things that are important to the treatment of a patient. They may do it for very good reason, like a cancerous mass obscured by body fat.

Other observations may be missed simply because they aren't medically significant. They may not be missed - in that the doctor didn't see them - they may just be not reported because in the expert opinion of the doctor reviewing the records, they aren't worth mentioning.

It's a judgement call. If it isn't medically important, then not reporting them isn't "questionable" whether McGrath used that word or a similar term.

McGrath apparently didn't make that sort of distinction. If she did, it is extremely important for someone in authority to correct the news report. If she didn't, McGrath may want to be a bit more precise in her language.

If there were no medically significant errors - that is, if no changes to treatment were required - then that simple fact should have been indicated clearly to reporters.

Secondly, each regional health authority and even each hospital can and should establish standards of acceptable medical performance. If nothing else, having those standards is a way of ensuring that people working in a hospital are actually doing the job they are supposed to be doing in keeping with best practices.

It's astonishing that McGrath would even raise the question about a supposed lack of standards. Her comment is akin to members of the House of Assembly - who set the rules for how they manage their own cash - claiming that there were no rules, when in fact there were rules, and the person complaining is the one responsible for setting the rules.

To say there were no benchmarks to use suggests that people have been winging it in Gander.

Now if, by some bizarre chance, neither McGrath nor her medical staff had the vaguest clue about how to judge a radiologist's job performance - that's the implication of her comment - then she and her officials can consult other health authorities, the provincial association representing radiologists, the national radiology association or the provincial college governing doctors and asked any or all of them for help.

If the issue that turned up her was a matter of insignificant missed observations, then McGrath and her senior administrative staff are completely within their authority to establish minimum reporting standards.

Thirdly, one can easily consider that McGrath's comment was a call for setting an acceptable number of mistakes a radiologist can commit. That isn't what she intended and the interpretation is somewhat facetious.

But if you think about it for a second, saying there are no standards to judge performance and that less than 10% is acceptable in this case, McGrath is signalling to both patients and their doctors that there is or should be an entirely arbitrary benchmark for shag-ups.

The reality is that both doctors and patients expect the standard is zero errors. Doctors work diligently to avoid any mistakes, let alone ones that will cause problems for the patient. They recognize, however, that mistakes do occur for many reasons.

The doctors, the hospital administration and ultimately the medical regulatory authorities have developed systems to minimise the chance of medically significant error, to figure out what occurred when mistakes happen and then to take appropriate action to make sure mistakes don't happen again.

Each case has to be handled on its merits and, where circumstances warrant, the provincial college of physicians and surgeons can and should be involved. It's part of a system and it's a system that generally works. That isn't the message one gets from McGrath's remarks.

The way McGrath's remarks have been reported, a patient in the province can think that the health care system is flying a bit by the seat of everyone's britches. It's not exactly a way to restore public confidence in the system generally and in a town like Gander - where likely everyone knows the name of the suspended radiologist - it's hardly a way to restore confidence in his or her abilities.

To be fair, Central Health hasn't had to carry the burden of the minister's office on this case, so overall their handling of it has been better than the experience in Eastern Health on a similar matter.

But still.

Health care is the one area where people generally don't think there is an acceptable level of shag-ups.

No one should be suggesting otherwise. More information, let alone more accurate information, would go a long way to dispelling any concerns, avoid misconceptions and restore public confidence.

And if all this is based on inaccurate reporting, then maybe Central Health should consider posting the facts - maybe in a news release - on its website.

This could have been the first one.


Clyde Wells on the economy and stuff, circa, 1994

From broadcasttherock.com, Clyde Wells' 1994 speech to the graduating class at the School of Business.

We won't imbed these clips since they are set up to start automatically once you load the page. This is a quirk Broadcast should work out.

This is part one, including a tiny piece of the introduction and here's part two of the speech.


Long, lingering death

Fishery Products International (TSX: FPIL) postponed its annual meeting from August until October.
"Negotiations between FPI and these two companies are ongoing, and there is no certainty that definitive agreements and transactions will result," the company said in a release.

FPI said the postponement will allow it and its buyers to wrap up negotiations.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government approved the sale and breakup of FPI, one of Canada’s largest seafood processors, to rivals Ocean Choice and High Liner in May.

Russ Carrigan, a spokesman for FPI, said the news release doesn’t mean a deal is any less likely than when talks started in late May.

However, he said discussions over the value of the assets are complex because of the breakup of FPI into component parts.

Telegram endorses job protection legislation

From today's Telegram.


30 July 2007

Post-secondary education blog

Dale Kirby's creatively titled blog that deals with post-secondary education.

Worth the time whether you are an educator or not.


Funny thing about daylight...

Some things shrivel up when exposed.

Is it a coincidence that when the news media and others focus on the raft of cash announcements and other campaign-related stuff coming from the provincial government, it vanishes the very next business week?


Central Health reinstates radiologist

After reviewing 500 radiology reports by a suspended radiologist, Central Regional Integrated Health Authority is reinstating the doctor.
Central Health CEO Karen McGrath says in the absence of provincial or national benchmarks, they looked over other sources of information that suggests a variance rate of clinically significant findings of between two and twenty percent. Central Health says that based on the information they have received on the matter, no significant adverse patient results have been discovered. [Emphasis added]
So how exactly does that affect another radiologist suspended in May?

If Central Health could review 500 records in the space of six weeks and determine that no action needed to be taken - beyond reinstating the doctor - it seems odd that Eastern Health will be taking until sometime in the fall to determine the future of a radiologist suspended there.


Govt' considers job protection legislation

Newfoundland and Labrador reserve soldiers, sailors and aircrew may get job protection legislation.


Albatross sighted near Cape Race

What flavour is it?

Do you get wafers with it?


27 July 2007

Carl Powell wrong? Say it ain't so

From labradore, the facts that are typically missing from calls by one Open Line regular.


The value of research

Iceland is an island almost 1,000 kilometres from its nearest potential export customer for electricity.

That's almost twice the distance of the NorNed line.

Iceland doesn't export electricity because geography, technology and economics make it impractical.

Iceland and the United Kingdom explored the idea of a transmission link in the early 1990s. It was considered a high risk, low return venture. It might come back, again.

Iceland doesn't export electricity, but it's not from a lack of desire.

It's because it is an island.


The value of an "equity" stake

In this Telegram story on White Rose royalty rates, Petro-Canada's Ron Brenneman notes that the Hebron partners would expect the province to pay full market value or a fair market price for any equity position in that project.


Well, let's get it clear.

Equity is not about ownership as people like the Premier would like to have us believe.

Rather it is about operating an oil company or, as in the case of the Canada Hibernia Holding Company, reaping the benefits and sharing the costs of the oil companies. The Government of Canada picked up an 8.5% stake in Hibernia when Gulf Canada pulled out in 1992; if they hadn't done so, the project would have folded.

Danny Williams has only once ever put any figure on the "equity" stake he wants in Hebron. Net value to the provincial treasury?

$1.5 billion over the 20 year anticipated lifespan of the project.

That's right.

$75 million bucks a year.

To put that in perspective that's actually more than the provincial government has paid on the debt each of the past two years. Put every nickel of that equity profit into paying down debt - for example - and it would take us 171 years to pay off the $12 billion we owe.

Or put it this way: the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador takes in more from gambling each year than it would make on PetroNewf and that's by Danny William's own estimate. In 2007, the province will get $92 million from the lottery and that doesn't come with any of the environmental risk from operating an oil company.

By contrast, the province's generic oil royalty regime would drop upwards of $10 billion into the provincial treasury over the same 20 year lifespan. That would pretty much pay off the debt entirely in 20 years.

20 years versus 171 years.

$75 million versus $10,000 million.

That's the difference between "equity" and what you get from real ownership of the resource, a solid royalty regime and an actual development deal.

And you don't have to just accept those figures. Compare them to what the Government Canada gets through its equity stake in just one production license at Hibernia.

There are all sorts of wild claims out there by everyone from Sue to Danny - not as much of a gap as it might first appear, come to think of it - but the fact is that the feds have pocketed a total of $678 million in net profits since 1997, when oil started to flow.

Less than $70 million a year.

If you stretch that from 1992, it's actually about $45 million a year and that's an equity stake bigger than the one Danny talked about on Hebron.

Of course, it's all moot because the Hebron talks collapsed. The companies and the provincial government are exchanging information but there are no negotiations. There is no sign of when negotiations might start again, although, Premier Danny Williams has followed his usual negotiating tactic of establishing a unilateral and entirely artificial timeline, stating he would expect talks to begin in the fall.

But the "equity" stake, even if it is feasible, will not generate as much cash as many people seem to think.


26 July 2007

Welcome aboard, Mr. Raleigh!

Serious Business: Newfoundland and Labrador Politics is a new political blog in the province.

Richard Raleigh - a pseudonym, shurely - claims a 20 year background in politics and promises "to deliver critical, hard-hitting analysis of today's serious issues that confront the province and the country as a whole."

Since Andy Wells got the first taste of Mr. Raleigh's sarcastic wit, we can only imagine what will come over the next few months.


Breaking wind news

While natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale was turning sod on a much-delayed wind power project in St. Lawrence, Ventus Energy Inc today announced the sale of that company to French-owned Suez for $124 million.

The St. Lawrence wind project has yet to be finished. Meanwhile, Ventus announced in May that it had signed a deal to export power to the United States from its operation in Prince Edward Island, via New Brunswick.

In January 2006, Ventus and the Labrador Metis Nation proposed what was touted as the largest wind energy project in Canada with a stated capacity of 1,000 megawatts available for either domestic use or export.

The Ventus proposal was reportedly entirely financed from private sources, while the St. Lawrence project will see Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro purchase power from the 27 megawatt NeWind operation, with no export potential.

Then natural resources minister Ed Byrne and his colleagues in cabinet pushed off consideration of the proposal claiming that they needed to complete the province's energy plan first. That was 18 months ago, and was a condition not applied to the St. Lawrence project for unknown reasons.

At the end of January 2006, Byrne said:
"Wind is becoming an emerging resource and our responsibility as a government is to ensure that this resource is developed in a way that maximizes benefits for the people of the province. We are not going to give away 1,000 megawatts of power until we understand what opportunities there are for this province."
Byrne went further in the House of Assembly, dismissing the obviously successful Ventus. What was obvious from Byrne's comments was that the provincial government had still not developed a taxation (royalty) regime for private sector wind companies. That is, two successive administrations - Grimes and Williams - had failed to figure out a taxation regime for export wind power despite having pursued wind power as a means of electricity generation since 2001.
No details of the power purchase agreement have been released, but the Town of St. Lawrence will only receive about $125,000 per year in taxes from the project under a special tax deal signed earlier this year. The tax payments don't begin until 2009, the anticipated year of first power generation. in the meantime, NeWind will pay the town $45, 000 in the first year and $55,000 in the second year of a two year agreement largely to support municipal recreation infrastructure.

Hydro stated the project will replace 165,000 barrels of crude currently used by the Holyrood generating plant. Estimating cost of the oil at US$50 per barrel, that would mean electricity costing approximately $8.25 million per year.


"Williams: My background is...job creation and negotiation."

From CBC television in September 2003, Danny Williams setting out his program if elected:

David Cochrane: "What are the top two policy priorities of you and your team if you form government?

Danny Williams: "I'd have to say jobs and economic development, the economy generally would be the top two...

When asked how he'd do it, Williams said: "My background is growing businesses, economic development, job creation and negotiation. The strength I think I bring to the table will be creating jobs and growing the economy. That's what I've done in the private sector."

Watch it again, likely for the first time since it was aired.


Summer of Love: Of cliches and rip-offs

Things you can expect to see or hear in Summer of Love.


  • "Quite frankly"
  • "[Insert name of organization here] receives government funding"
  • "Lower Churchill"
  • "Energy Plan"
  • "Big Oil"
  • "Energy Powerhouse"
  • "Equity"
  • "Accountability"
  • "Transparency"
  • "Danny Williams team"
  • A Tory television spot that looks suspiciously like this one.
  • Not much of the Love Shack, left, but plenty of the mobile Love Shack marketing gimmick.

Summer of Love Day 30: Carrying on business

Flanked by two Progressive Conservative candidates in Bay Roberts, Premier Danny Williams told reporters on Wednesday that what government has been doing over the past couple of weeks is just government "carrying on business."

The optics were pretty clear about what really happened.

The local Tories were in Bay Roberts for what was described as a caucus meeting, that is a meeting of elected members of the House of Assembly. But, it was really a meeting of Progressive Conservative candidates in the undeclared election campaign. Normally, unelected people, like Tory-come-lately Steve Kent, don't get to sit in a meeting of elected members of the legislature from a particular political party.

It was also fairly clear the Tories were having an election meeting since the Premier arrived in his most obvious visual campaign symbol: the Winnebago, or as it some wags have started to call it in this, the Summer of Love, the mobile Love Shack.

So what has been going on over the past few weeks? Let's look at the numbers of news releases issued by the provincial government for 2004 to 2007. For our purposes, we'll exclude offshore board routine announcements and environmental bulletins since these are routine, statutory announcements. What's left is revealing.

Total News Releases, July, By Year

2004: 93
2005: 91
2006: 76
2007: 98 (to 25 July)

The drop in 2006 can be attributed to disruption caused by the House of Assembly spending scandal which broke in late June.

Media advisories/Notices of ministers attending local festivals. July, By Year

2004: 13/1
2005: 16/0
2006: 28/0
2007: 28/5 (to 25 July)

Money announcements, July, By Year

2004: 37
2005: 22
2006: 10
2007: 37 (to 25 July)

The year of the first Williams budget, money flowed or appeared to flow. The disastrous January 5 announcement of wage freezes affected public opinion and government responded with a series of positive announcements to blunt the fall in popular support. The drop in the polls continued up to October when the Premier's war against Ottawa contributed to a dramatic upturn in voter support.

Note, however, that cash announcement in the 25 days of July 2007 already done are already at the same level of 2004 and they are double those of 2005 and almost quadruple those of 2006.


25 July 2007

SOL Day 29: The Zombies - "Who's your Daddy?"

Tom Rideout may be tripping out, not knowing what day it is but Danny Williams' mobile campaign platform rolled into Bay Roberts today to dispense some direct lovin' on the people of Conception Bay North.

Flanked by two blank-looking Tory candidates - they being unelected at this point - Williams told reporters that having ministers and members of the Tory caucus handing out cheques was just part of the business of government.

Business of government.

Accompanied by two unelected candidates in the election campaign that hasn't been called yet, but everyone knows is under way because Danny arrived in the Winnebago.


Maybe it's time to unveil the Tories campaign theme song. From the original Summer of Love, 1967, it's the Zombies with their hit "Time of the Season".

Somehow it seems to sum up the entire business.

Now all we have to do is put the appropriate name on Danny's rolling campaign palace, which, incidentally is heading to Twillingate for the annual Fish, Fun and Folk festival.


Danny Williams is the Premier, and the announcement came from the government news service but bet your bottom dollar Williams will be travelling in the Winnebago festooned with PC party logos.

You see, it is just the Summer of Love gettin' into full heat!

Who's your Daddy, indeed?


Struggling to find the next Barney moment

Did this guy ever make hay over Scott Reid's beer and popcorn gaffe?

Could be.


Hibernia to pay more

From the Wednesday Telegram, a report by Moira Baird on the Hibernia project.

Among the highlights:

- Provincial royalties will go to the 30% level sometime in 2009 or 2010 as the project pays off its development costs and the existing provincial royalty regime shifts accordingly.

- The federal government shares have netted a total of $678 million in the past decade. Dividends in 2006 were $174 million compared to $230 million the previous year. Dividends are expected to decline again in 2007.

- CHHC expects Hibernia Management and Development Corporation to submit another development application for Hibernia South in 2008.


24 July 2007

Andy Wells' Homer Simpson moment

St. John's mayor Andy Wells thinks that David Suzuki is a junk scientist.

At a regular city council meeting on Monday, Wells launched into once of his trademark tirades on the subject of pesticides.
Wells said anti-pesticide groups are fear-mongering, and that his own research shows that pesticides are safe and necessary to produce food. [Emphasis added]
Wells should read literature distributed by his own city to householders the day after his tirade. Turns out Wells had a vintage Homer moment.
What is so harmful about pesticides?

The runoff from pesticides can pollute water supplies, and can be lethal to aquatic species that inhabit these water supplies. Pesticides can also have an effect on human health. [Emphasis added] For a number of years the City of St. John's has not used cosmetic pesticides on public lands, and has encouraged staff to ensure pests are handled in a non-chemical manner. Only the province has the authority to ban or regulate the use of pesticides. The City recommends if residents must use chemical pesticides, that they use them in a way that is both safe and efficient.


SOL Day 28: An orgy of summer lovin'

Cabinet ministers trolling through districts listening to the concerns of locals, with the local Tory candidate in tow, smiling and nodding wisely.

Then, some Pitcher Plant calls a VOCM talk show to report that, for example, Percy Barrett the Liberal incumbent couldn't get roads paved in the district. But transportation minister John Hickey visited, not with his deputy minister or roads director, but the Calvin Peach, the local PC candidate and things are lookin' good for that few feet of pavement.

This election summer in Newfoundland and Labrador, love is measured in cash and kilometres of black-top. The incumbent party is lovin' everyone and anything and they'll be expecting the voters to come across in the fall.

All politics is local and in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past decade, local politics has turned back the clock to the 1920s. The ghost of Sir Richard must be lovingly thumbing his pit prop account receipt book.

All politicians agree that elections are fueled by public cash. The opposition Liberals bitch that the government has an "unfair advantage" by being able to hand out public funds. The incumbent Tories - the party elected to bring a change - defend the announcements because, among other things, what they are doing is no worse than what the Grits used to do when they were in power.

On Day 28 of the Summer of Love, there was love and announcements of love to come, most of which involved the minister of transportation and works:

1. New money for agriculture, to be announced at Roaches Line, without a awareness apparently of any political irony in the location.

2. Yet more new money for a Calgary-based company that makes software for car dealerships.

3. 40 large will be headed to the local film producers to help with their marketing. The announcement comes complete with the standard grip-and-grin suitable for the website or the local papers.

4. A progress report on $58K worth of a consultant's study into the feasibility of establishing a dairy industry in central Labrador, announced not by the agriculture minister but by the local member of the legislature.

5. Another progress report on $50 million plus to be spent building two ferries.

6. Tenders awarded for construction of a new health care centre and refurbishment of a seniors home in Grand Bank, worth almost $9.0 million. Included in the announcement is not the chief executive of the health authority but the chair of the hitherto invisible board of trustees.

7. From Day 27, a reminder from Hickey of how much has been spent across the province on road paving.

8. on Day 28, the busy Hickey pledged to hold Gord O'Connor's "feet to the fire" on Gordo's promise for federal pork for Hickey's district.

9. Even backbenchers can get into the act of dispensing public pork. Two cheques for $12,000 from Exploits Tory member of the House Clayton Forsey presented to the Bishop's Falls recreation committee, and dutifully reported by the Advertiser in mid July, complete with grip 'n' grin.

Sports programs switch into high gear as town prepares for central


In spite of difficulties with federal funding, Bishop's Falls will be a hot bed of sports again this summer.

Exploits MHA Clayton Forsey presented the town's recreation committee chair Nancy Stewart with two cheques this past weekend, which will help the community host the Central Summer Games Aug. 13-15.

Stewart said the games are a wonderful opportunity for the town to showcase its facilities, spirit of community and ability to work together, as well, put forward a healthy lifestyle.

"I think it encourages and promotes exercise and recreation within the community for the children, so that is all very positive," she said.

The games will involve teams from Springdale, Grand Falls-Windsor, Botwood and Bishop's Falls. Stewart said she expects at least 200 participants in her town for the three-day event.

She said the games are not only fun for the athletes, but it will bring the people of Bishop's Falls together as well.

"It is a way of bringing everybody out together," Stewart said. "I am hoping to recruit a number of volunteers. We want to do a really good job with this so the more people who come out and help the better job we can do."

Stewart admitted it is a challenging task to host the games. Athletes involved in the sports of volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball and ball hockey will take part in the games.

Not all of the action will take part on the courts and playing fields, however. The organizers have decided to arrange several social events around the games, including a dance, to help the athletes make lasting friendships.


In anticipation of the games, the summer sports programs in Bishop's Falls are now in full swing after some disruption due to the lack of federal government student job funding.

"We didn't received any federal funding this year," she said. "In previous years we had (up to) five positions. That is all bad enough, but imagine hosting the Central Summer Games this year and being faced with a shortage of five staff. We needed everyone we could have gotten."

She said the lack of student jobs, combined with an unfortunate printing error on the literature promoting the summer program made start-up this year very confusing.

"Posters for the summer program went out wrong," Stewart said. "They said we were offering tennis, which we are not, but it also left out the fact that we are having a volleyball program."

The sports offered by the town this season are volleyball, basketball, softball and soccer. There are currently 80 young people enrolled in the summer programs, but the recreation committee is encouraging more to join and take part in their own summer games.

The addition of soccer to the list of sports is very encouraging for the recreation committee. The town has teamed up with the Exploits Soccer Association, which is looking to expand outside the confines of Grand Falls-Windsor in an attempt to involve more young athletes in that sport.

"We have Exploits Soccer Association coming to Bishop's Falls two afternoons a week to coach the children aged ten and up," Stewart said. "People really like the idea of that. To have qualified coaching is wonderful."

Another sport being played in Bishop's Falls this summer has received huge interest from youth, but it is not a part of the town's program.

The Bishop's Falls Ball Hockey League is a pilot project and has been organized by residents Rob Canning and Mike Thomas. This league is operating at capacity and is a resounding success.

Numbers for the Bishop's Falls programs are down slightly from last year, which is something Stewart said they hope to change in the future.

"I think the lower numbers are caused by the fact that we started so late getting the programs off the ground," she said.

Stewart was thrilled to accept cheques totaling $12,000 from the provincial government this past weekend.

The first amount of $10,000 was the amount usually provided to the host community of the summer games. Another cheque in the amount of $2,000 was an additional amount secured by Forsey to assist in hiring students for the summer programs.

The MHA said the town was in dire straits when it came to the loss of student funding this summer.

"They said that without the funding from Service Canada they would not be able to proceed with the summer recreation program," he said. "The $2,000 over and above is to help them with the shortfall. It is good news, for sure."

Eleven students are now working for the Bishop's Falls for the summer. Seven are with the recreation programs and are being funded by the provincial government. Four employees at Fallsview Municipal Park are being paid solely by the town.

Picture: Bishop's Falls Recreation Committee chair Nancy Stewart accepted two cheques from Exploits MHA Clayton Forsey this past weekend. The funds totaling $12,000 will assist with the town's hosting of the Central Summer Games Aug. 13-15.


So much for due process

For those who don't know, Alex Marland is a former communications director with the Williams administration.

He is now a professor in the political science department at Memorial University.

If vocm.com is quoting him correctly, Professor Marland has a curious idea about one of the basic principles of our legal system, namely the presumption of innocence.

vocm.com attributes the following comments to the former Williams administration communications director:
However, MUN Political Science professor Dr. Alex Marland says the Liberal Party has to make some tough decisions, as to whether or not to ask Andersen to leave the party. Marland says the party can expel Andersen on the basis that they are not sure what the outcome will be, and no one is presuming guilt, but to simply clear the air. Marland says while the public may demand Andersen's resignation, the House of Assembly will probably make no decisions on the matter.
As a matter of fact, Wally Andersen has been charged. As a matter of fact, Andersen has yet to make a first appearance in court, let alone address the allegations against him.

As a matter of fact based on those comments, Dr. Marland has already convicted him.

If there is a presumption of innocence - a very different phrase than "presuming guilt", as any communications professional would know - then there is no need for the Liberal Party or the House of Assembly to take any action.

There is no air to be cleared.

There is no reason to expel Andersen "on the basis that they are not sure what the outcome will be."

So why did Professor Marland suggest otherwise?

There is, however, good reason for the chair of the political science department or the Dean of Arts to take notice of Professor Marland's questionable comments.

If Professor Marland didn't make those comments, then vocm.com needs to issue a correction.

Either way, someone has some explaining to do.


Environmental sensitivity

St. John's mayor Andy Wells, discussing a proposed pesticide ban by the city of St. John's:
"The worst thing ever done to the poor people in the world was to ban DDT," Wells said.
Consider that.

Then check the links on the CBC news story.


23 July 2007

Anderson charged

[Correction: Anderson was charged with one count each of fraud, uttering forged document and breach of trust]

Outgoing member of the House of Assembly Wally Anderson (Lib - Torngat Mountains) is facing one count of fraud, one count of uttering a forged document and one count of breach of trust by a public official.

The charges arise out of a police investigation resulting from information provided last year by Auditor General John Noseworthy.

Two reports thus far:

The Telegram.

CBC News. CBC reports that Anderson is represented by St. John's lawyer Bernard Coffey. Coffey was appointed last week as co-counsel to the Cameron inquiry into breast cancer screening at Eastern Health.


The Confederation referendum and humour

Every now and again you hear someone repeating the line that in 1948, Newfoundland (the "and Labrador" part came later) should have regained independence and only after that looked at the possibility of Confederation.

There were even a bunch of people who tried to stop Confederation through legal manoeuvres.

It's not a new argument, by any means.

In fact, it was such a common argument at the time that The Confederate even took to lampooning it in an editorial cartoon.

Nothing quite hurts in politics like having a joke made at your expense or having your position lampooned.

Just ask Tom Rideout.

Anyway, as a summer treat, here's a vintage cartoon panel from the 1948 referenda on the future of Newfoundland (and Labrador).

It plays on the idea that the real proponents of the independence first argument were Water Street merchants and their associates who had dominated politics in the country. Oddly enough this was the same crowd who surrendered independence in the country by nothing more than a resolution of the legislature in February 1934.

There are proponents of the same anti-Confederate agenda around these days.

Wonder who they might be fronting for?


Coming Soon: The Greatest Movie Ever!

He's not Spider Pig.

He's Harry Trotter!


22 July 2007

ALCOA bid off; Rio may pocket US$30 billion in asset sell-off

BHP has reportedly backed away from purchasing ALCOA. Share prices are down for the American aluminum company.

Meanwhile, Rio Tinto's plan to sell off non-core assets in ALCAN could bring the company US$30 billion according to The Australian. Analysis by Goldman Sachs JBWere said Rio could divest of the company's uranium, coal and other assets and focus on iron ore, copper and aluminum all of which are in high demand in the growing Chinese and Indian economies.
GSJBW said the potential sale of Rio's uranium, thermal coal, industrial minerals, gold and diamonds divisions and non-strategic assets in iron ore, copper and aluminum could net $US30 billion ($A34.15 billion).

The brokerage estimates Rio Tinto could receive $US8 billion ($A9.11 billion) for Pacific Coal, $US4 billion ($A4.55 billion) for Coal & Allied and $US5 billion ($A5.69 billion) for its uranium division, which includes its majority stake in Energy Resources of Australia Ltd.

Summer fiction

On the day after the last instalment in one of the most popular works of fiction in written times, comes this endorsement of one of the great works of local fiction: the rigged Confederation referendum.


It had to be rigged.

After all, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could never decide the fate of their country on their own. After all, as some of the townies told Lord Amulree, the ordinary Newfoundlander just wasn't fit for democracy.

In his own way, former CBC producer Bob Wakeham turned Telegram columnist repeats the townie nationalist fairy tale that is, after all, the only salve they can apply to their wounds from a half century and more ago.

There's no way they lost the referendum fight because they were politically inept, disorganized and that their fellow countrymen and women had brains enough to think for themselves - no matter how they voted.

Good heavens no.

Democracy? They weren't fit for it.

Why is it that it is only the local nationalists who tell Newfoundlanders how stunned they are? Sure they accuse everyone else of doing it but who was the last person who told you that Newfoundlanders always sign bad deals?

Anyway, here's Wakeham's version of conspiracy:
There’s no doubt that the Brits and the Canucks decided, without consulting the people who just happened to live here, that, by nook or by crook, the "Newfoundland problem," as described by officials in both countries, would be resolved by having Newfoundland become part of Canada; that Confederation was added to the ballot of the first referendum at the insistence of Britain (after all, how could the conspiracy to unite Newfoundland and Canada run its course if Confederation wasn’t a voting option?); and that Canada heavily funded the pro-Confederate, Smallwood side, making the process improper and decidedly unfair.
Confederation was added to the ballot after a popular outpouring of support, not by some underhanded practice. Apparently having choice is a bad thing, if one takes the logical conclusion of Wakeham's comment.

The Confederates raised money on the mainland from many sources, including ex-pats. (Confederation didn't produce outmigration) The Confederates raised cash at home as well

The anti-Confederates had plenty of potential sources of cash on the mainland and elsewhere as well. They just didn't tap into them. They were disorganized, not just badly organized.

And in the end, after all the propaganda and all the argumentation across the country for two years, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voted.

They voted.

They chose.

They exercised their fundamental democratic right.

In the case of Labradorians, for the first time ever in a Newfoundland vote.

And for some reason, Wakeham and a handful of others others just can't get over it.


21 July 2007

Brian Tobin on youtube

War stories from the Tobinator:

The state department spokesperson during that incident was Mike McCurry, who later served as Bill Clinton's press secretary.

There was an awesome video of Mike breaking into laughter as he tried to explain to the state department press corps how some mollusks are not sedentary. Mike included hand gestures. That's when it got truly silly and the normally staid and professional McCurry cracked.

Sadly, that clip hasn't made it to youtube, yet.

But... there is a transcript, which includes just a hint of the hilarity at Foggy Bottom that day:
MR. McCURRY: Back here?

Q. Yes.

MR. McCURRY: Over the weekend, I believe. Anybody know differently on that? I think that's right.

Q. Can you bring us up to date on the situation involving the two U.S. fishing vessels off of Newfoundland and their seizure by the Canadian Government?

MR. McCURRY: In Canada -- the fishing vessels. There were two vessels fishing for Icelandic scallops in international waters. The United States Government does not accept the Canadian contention that the Law of the Sea Treaty gives Canada the right to exercise management outside of the exclusive economic zone -- the EEZ -- established under the Law of the Sea Treaty for this species of mollusk.

The issue arises, is this a sedentary species or a mobile species? Our view is that this scallop -- first of all, we call this a "fishing vessel." But as you certainly know, these are mollusks that we are --

Q. Have they individual names? (Laughter) Sam and Bill--

MR. McCURRY: Being that these are mollusks, we sort of believe that -- as you probably know, mollusks can swim. They swim by rapidly clapping their fluted bi-valve shells together as they propel themselves through the water. For that reason, they are not, in our view, sedentary.

Q. Have you gone on the record on any of this? Is this a serious concern?

MR. McCURRY: It's a very serious issue. Under Secretary Tim Wirth took the occasion of a visit here to the Department by a Canadian diplomat yesterday to express some very strong concerns we had about it -- what is a serious issue of the seizing of two mollusk vessels -- mollusk fishing vessels.

Q. (Inaudible)

MR. McCURRY: We could. We would be happy to arrange -- in any event, our hope is that the protest -- we had raised the issue and had been in dialogue with the Government of Canada about this prior to this incident, and we're hoping that we would find a way that we could resolve the issue diplomatically before Canada would resort to this type of action which, of course, we consider unwarranted. We do demand that they release both the vessels and the fishermen without any fine or penalty.

Q. The Canadian Embassy said today that the Ambassador is willing to drop everything and come over here at a moment's notice to discuss this if he's invited. Is he going to be invited?

MR. McCURRY: I do know that we will want to work very quickly with the Government of Canada to resolve this issue. We believe it can be resolved through dialogue and not through provocative action by one side or the other.


20 July 2007

De Trenton a Bagotville?

During the last federal election future defence minister Gordo promised battalions for everyone.

In Bagotville Quebec on Friday, he delivered a new air force wing. Not exactly a rapid reaction army battalion, as originally promised but something new.

The official National Defence news release makes it sound like a bit of an odd creature comprising air force personnel that would deploy in a humanitarian crisis. Even the defence minister's speaking notes are vague on the nature of the new organization, which he termed an air expeditionary wing. It will apparently consist of aircraft of an unspecified type along with army personnel, mostly medical and logistics from the sound of it. O'Connor said that Canada's allies are creating this type of organization.

Well, sort of, Gordo.

The American air force uses air expeditionary wings but primarily as collections of air force squadrons to support joint military operations. They aren't self-contained entities with attached soldiers and sailors. They also aren't necessarily permanent organizations. They are pulled together for the mission.

What this Canadian air wing sounds like is a headquarters apparatus that will have aircraft attached to it for mission purposes, while the aircraft will be located somewhere else. The Canadian Forces have been down that road before.

But what about the "battalion" promised to Trenton? Check this story from the Belleville Intelligencer, dated in late June:
"We're trying to acquire land at this moment," he said. "We have to wait and see whether we're successful in acquiring the land.

"I want to resolve the land issue first. If and when we acquire that land, then we can announce what we're proposing to do."

One rumour circulating locally reports the government may move the airborne project to CFB Bagotville, Que., should the Trenton deal fail. When asked for comment on the rumour, O'Connor expressed confidence in the land talks.
Did the Trenton land deal fail that quickly?

Meanwhile, the people in Goose Bay are wondering when Gordo will be heading to their town to deliver on his election pork promises.


Scotia confirms predicted economic slowdown

Scotia Economics' latest forecast for Newfoundland and Labrador confirms the predictions thus far that the province's economy will drop to the bottom of the pile for growth in 2008, after leading the country in 2007.

Here's the section, for the record:
Newfoundland & Labrador will lead the Atlantic provinces in overall growth this year with a 4.8% advance before dropping to 1.2% in 2008. The province will benefit from mining and oil & gas extraction this year, given the resolution of earlier labour and production issues. An expansion at the White Rose oil field late last year is providing an additional output boost. Oil and gas production is expected to level off in 2008, as production peaks at the Hibernia and Terra Nova fields. Following labour issues last year and given strong pricing, nickel production should increase this year. Production started up at the Duck Pond mine earlier this year, providing a boost in output for copper and nickel. Exploration activity for uranium, iron ore and oil and gas remains vibrant.

Newfoundland & Labrador’s seafood processing industry is finding it difficult to replace older workers, given relatively low wages and competition amongst Atlantic Canada’s fisheries for the small pool of available workers. Shrimp and crab production are expected to remain the same as last year, although a modest increase in the E.U.’s import tonnage cap for cooked and peeled cold-water shrimp should be of some benefit. Newsprint mills continue to push through cost-cutting initiatives, although further shutdowns could be required.

Private investment should decline this year and next as no major projects are on the horizon. Potential projects, including the Lower Churchill dam, a second refinery at Placentia Bay and development of the Hebron and Hibernia South oil fields remain on hold. The services sector could see stronger tourism activity this year due to an increase in convention and cruise bookings, although Canadian dollar strength continues to pose a threat. Household incomes and retail sales will get a boost from tax cuts passed in the last provincial budget, although a diminishing population and net westward outflow of workers could limit the impact.

19 July 2007

SOL Day 23: Announcing another announcement previously announced

Like every other news outlet in the province, CBC is reporting that federal fish minister Loyola Hearn released management plans for two marine protected areas in Newfoundland and Labrador.


The official fisheries and oceans news release includes this odd comment:
"As we move closer to these two new Marine Protected Areas, it shows what can be done for the environment when everyone works together," says Minister Hearn. "This is another example of how Canada’s New Government is taking real action to protect our precious marine environment."
It's odd because there's no way of knowing what Hearn means by "move closer to these two new Marine Protected Areas."

These MPAs aren't new. They received official MPA designation in 2005, but the actual work at Eastport, for example, began in 1997 with the establishment of a joint management project involving a local fishermen's committee and the fisheries department. Eastport remains a model for co-operative management of fisheries resources. Ditto Gilbert Bay where that MPA is protecting a subspecies of North Atlantic cod. Another project at Leading Tickles is struggling along but it hasn't achieved the same success as the other two.

Hearn might mean "moving closer" in the sense that he went to Eastport to make the announcement but other than that the phrase is a head scratcher. The management plan is good news but the MPAs have worked with some sort of management plan from the outset.

In the Summer of Love, there is obviously no reason not to announce an announcement of a previously announced announcement.


Hillier not looking at political career

All that speculation about Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier looking at a future political career?

Turns out the idea Hillier would head to Newfoundland and Labrador to try his hand at the premier's job was just the usual bumpf from north of the Queensway.

Turns out the word from the horse's mouth makes it clear the other stuff was from the equine's other end. And that pretty much describes the sort of foolishness typically found at the small local blog Web Talk.


18 July 2007

SOL Day 22: Cash and Pictures and some Hickey-ups with facts

On this, the 22nd day of the Summer of Love campaign, the provincial government issued no fewer than six cash announcements.

The biggie was Premier Danny Williams and finance minister Tom Marshall handing out cheques in their own districts to support the 2008 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games and an ironman competition. The cheques came complete with grip-and-grin photos distributed by the provincial government information service.

Also announced:

- Funding for the Baccalieu Trail tourism industry;

- $575,000 in funding for medical student bursaries;

- Tender award for construction of a new courthouse in Corner Brook; and,

- Another announcement on the Nicholsville bridge in Deer Lake in which transportation minister John Hickey shows a Rideout-esque propensity for saying things that are not backupable. Would that make them Hickey-ups?

In the release Hickey claims that "[t]he Williams Government assured the people of the Nicholsville area from day one that we would replace their bridge in a timely fashion and we have delivered."

What Hickey actually said on Day One - October 30, 2006 - was that the bridge was closed.

What Hickey actually said on Day Two was this:
If we look at the whole Humber Valley district here, there are a number of bridges … that need work," Hickey told CBC News.

"Many of those locations only have one bridge in and out of the community or location, so it will be something we'll be putting on our list of priorities for review when budget time comes."
What the provincial government actually said on Day 19 was that they were working on some solution but that they would look at all the choices before deciding:
"Government’s primary concern regarding the Nicholsville Bridge was the safety of the general public. We addressed that by closing the bridge," said Minister Hickey.

"We are aware of the anxiety of residents regarding the future of the link and we began reviewing our options immediately after we made the decision to close the bridge. However, we want to ensure due diligence before making any pronouncements."
Hickey didn't announce funding for the bridge formally until May 11, 2007; that would be Day 195 or thereabouts.

What a Hickey-up that release was.


Hebron talks going somewhere. Or nowhere. Maybe. Sort of.

A vice president of Chevron, the lead partner on the Hebron project, was in St. John's this week for meetings on an unspecified topic, as CBC reported.

Premier Danny Williams is downplaying the significance of the visit.

Sort of.

Williams seemed to be playing coy with reporters in Corner Brook on Wednesday saying only that James Bates "...could be in [town] for some interaction with some officials...".

The logical deduction from that comment is that Bates also might not be in town for talks with government officials.

Williams also said that while "at this particular point" he would not say negotiations were back on - obviously they aren't - he said that "[i]f there's going to be negotiations on the project, I would estimate that it would be sooner rather than later."

Williams also said the talks are exactly where they were when they broke off and that the provincial government's position is exactly where it was at that time.

Given the Premier's extensive use of conditional language - "could", "if", "would" - no one should be at all optimistic that talks actually will begin at all, let alone by the fall.

Maybe there's a clue in Bates' background and other appointments. Bates is general manager, asset development with Chevron Canada. He previously held an appointment with Chevron Nigeria. But, as the link indicates Bates also sits on the board of the Centre for Cold Ocean research and Development at Memorial University. Bates may well have been in St. John's in connection with that responsibility.

That would certainly explain the Premier's use of conditional language, since saying definitely that Bates was here for an exchange of information could have easily been acknowledged with the proviso that there are no negotiations. The Premier's vague response suggests that he was merely trying to keep alive the prospect formal negotiations might resume in the fall.

Straight answers like yes or no - something the Premier definitely didn't give in this instance - are usually a sign of credibility. Vagueness suggests something else.


It's not easy being green or accountable

Note: Then environment minister Tom Osborne announced a consultation into new pesticide regulations in February 2004 to replace pesticide regs introduced the year before. In September 2005, he announced the new regs would be implemented shortly thereafter. They were introduced in April 2007.

Environment minister Clyde Jackman is in the hot seat these days and it isn't from the swelteringly humid weather.

Jackman is facing increasing public criticism for his decision to reduce the demands on the law care industry to notify people living adjacent to a property where the companies will be applying pesticides and herbicides.

Until very recently, companies were required to give written notice to neighbours within a 50 metre radius of the property being sprayed. Jackman quietly reduced the distance to a mere 15 metres. When we say quietly, we mean he changed the requirements in the regulations without any notice to the public.

There are a couple of things to notice about this.

Firstly, there is no requirement in the Environmental Protection Act that the minister notify the public to changes made to terms and conditions of a license for pesticides.

The Act allows the cabinet to make regulations and those regulations, such as the amendments gazetted on April 20, 2007, empower the environment minister to set terms and conditions of a license to hold and apply pesticides.

So when Jackman says he merely changed the terms and conditions of license [revised, added aside] - and that he did not legally need to notify people - he is correct. That's what the law provides and that's what he did. However, in using this argument that conditions are somehow not regulations, Jackman is engaging in the same game of petty semantics as Tom Rideout recently did on the Green accountability bill.

The terms and conditions are an integral part of the regulation and as it occurs,* Jackman's power as minister to set and enforce any terms and conditions result from regulatory power conferred on him ultimately by public statute. They are not merely internal administrative rules on what type of pen to use or what colour paper a form shall be printed in. The terms and conditions are integral to the license itself.

Secondly, though, and flowing from that, Jackman's actions are an all too common feature of government in Newfoundland and Labrador. Increasingly, substantive powers are delegated from the legislature to the cabinet - such as the break-up of Fishery Products International - and mandatory public disclosure as would be required legislative change is eliminated entirely.

In the case of making regulations, it is normal to give cabinet the power to establish regulations. It would extremely cumbersome to bring a bill to the legislature each time some part of the myriad regulations governing life in the province had to be changed.

However, the regulations gazetted on April 20 simply repeat the delegated authority established when the new regulations were introduced in 2003 and give authority to the minister in as broad a set of terms as possible.

Nowhere is public disclosure established beyond the historic requirement that any legislative measures take effect once published in the Gazette. How many people are aware the Gazette exists, let alone how many read it? To make that the standard of public disclosure - of accountability and transparency - in the 21st century is to sanction the passage of the Green bill in a manner the Green commission report expressly condemned.

That's really the root of the current problem: a lack of public disclosure.

Province may not have made pesticide reg changes as claimed in '05

It is important to note here that pesticide and herbicide spraying are well know issues of public health and environmental concern. They are so well known that Jackman's predecessor issued a news release in February 2004 on a public consultation on the proposed pesticide regulations. The consultation included a discussion paper outlining the issues and a consultation period of 60 days.

As it turned out, the whole business was so involved that it took 18 months to produce a news release that the amended regulations would be introduced. It is interesting to note however that there is no evidence on the provincial government website that any amendments were made to the pesticide regulations until the changes made in April 2007.

Jackman's predecessor - today the justice minister - was eloquent in his statement at the time:
"One of government’s main goals is to reduce and, ultimately, eliminate the unnecessary use of pesticides, as the public must be reminded that there are alternatives to addressing lawn problems besides using pesticides like proper lawn installation and maintenance. Actions such as banning the sale of fertilizer/herbicide blend products from domestic markets and mandatory certification and training for vendors of domestic class pesticides, which will also help educate consumers to make wise decisions on pesticide use, will indeed play an important role in helping us achieve our goal."
Calls were made by several groups, including the Canadian Cancer Society, for a ban on the use of pesticides and herbicides for cosmetic use since the products involved have possible or probable carcinogenic effects. While the government did not enact the ban, its intention to apply tighter controls and eventually promoting alternatives to pesticide use was plainly evident.

Source: Statistics Canada

There was good reason to restrict pesticide application in the province. As recent information from Statistics Canada shows, pesticide use in Newfoundland and Labrador doubled from 1994 to 2005/2006. The proposed 2005 regulations may have reduced use somewhat in the province, but further loosening of the restrictions on notification make it effectively much easier to use pesticides and that is essentially contrary to the policy goal of this administration when it introduced the new regulations less than two years ago.

Being fully aware of the likelihood of public controversy resulting from any changes to the pesticide regulations, it is astonishing that Jackman failed to make any mention of the changes introduced in April and any other decisions he made as a consequence of the new powers.

Perhaps he was afraid of embarrassment since it appears the 2005 announcement was never implemented. However, the minor embarrassment for such an admission might pale if the new regulations actually improved public protection.

As it stands, the reduced notification period does not appear to do that, at least as measured by government's stated intention in 2005. As well, the intention in 2005 of applying restrictions to use around public spaces - absent from the 2003 version of the regulations - appear to be toothless in the final version. Under the April 2007 regulations (s. 8.1), pesticides not listed as exempted or as being a reduced risk may still be applied at or near senior citizens homes, hospitals, personal care homes, licensed day care centres, parks and other open spaces and near schools either where the building will be unoccupied for at least 48 hours after the application or with a special exemption as granted by the minister.

The provincial environment minister is under fire from concerned citizens and some advocacy groups for failing to disclose changes to regulations. Maybe he felt it might be embarrassing if the changes promised in 2005 had not been implemented. Well he should be in a government which claims to be accountability and transparent as often as another government says it is "new".

But, as it turned out, Jackman is in a controversy all the same and his tortured explanations of the past few days are not helping matters.

In the days ahead, he may well come to appreciate why it would have been better that he had simply made the announcement in April in the first place.


* This marks a change. In the original version the phrase read "as a matter of law". in the absence of a legal opinion on the point, the author is not able to make such an authoritative pronouncement. The amended version more accurately reflects the situation without implicitly carrying any legal interpretation.

16 July 2007

Advocating give-aways

Simon Lono at Offal News has been doing a bang-up job of exposing the misinformation being spread by some people in the province on everything from fisheries to hydro-electric projects and development of aluminum smelters.

Well, one of the little pieces of information the economic myth-mongers won't acknowledge is the massive subsidies necessary to put heavy industrial projects in places like Iceland.

Iceland Review
reported in early July that Century Aluminum Iceland will pay a mere three cents per kilowatt hour for power (US$0.03 per kw/h) from Reykjavik Energy Company for 40% of the power demand on its new smelter. The remaining power will come from another Icelandic company.

According to Iceland Review, farmers in the tiny country pay upwards of six cents per kilowatt hour for electricity.


Chaos in Control

There are times when deputy premier Tom Rideout seems to be channeling the late Don Adams in Adams' most famous role, that of Maxwell Smart, left.

One of those times has been the series of media interviews Rideout, right, has done trying to explain why the Green accountability bill is not actually in place today, despite the fairly obvious way in which Rideout and his colleagues attempted to suggest it was when the bill was passed - extremely quickly - on June 14.

"Zany" and "madcap" are fine words to describe comedy, but it has been entirely bizarre to have Rideout engage in the sort of semantic gymnastics that would make Buck Henry and Mel Brooks envious.

Consider Rideout's efforts to explain that while today might well have been June 14 when the bill was passed, tomorrow did not actually mean June 15. Rather it meant some date four months hence.
Since Green didn't say the act comes into effect today, we, in consultation with him, said what can come into effect today comes into effect today, what needs time to come into effect tomorrow comes into effect tomorrow, and tomorrow is Oct. 9, 2007.
The latest instalment in Rideout's apparent audition tape for the forthcoming Get Smart movie came in the Telegram's July 14 edition in which Rideout took exception to having it pointed out that a week before he acknowledged that the accountability provisions of the Green bill would not take effect until October 9th, Rideout had said they were in place now.

In a letter to the editor, Rideout accused the Telegram's Rob Antle of engaging in petty semantics and then explained that now was in fact not now but then, and when then arrived, Rideout's statement would be accurate, retroactively in the future. The whole thing has been eerily reminiscent of Max Smart attempting to explain that Antonio Carlos Carioca, also known as "The Lover" was in fact "The Blaster" and that Carioca's boat was named El Amador, which is Spanish for "The Lover".

The problem for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in all this, though is not that Rideout, right, and his fellow members of the legislature have demonstrated remarkable unaccountability in dealing with a bill on accountability, using their own version of the Cone of Silence.

Nor is the problem that Rideout apparently cannot tell time.

Rather the problem is that, to paraphrase a former English teacher, chaotic use of language suggests a chaotic thought process.

For those who aren't familiar with the local cabinet, let us recall that Rideout is the minister of fisheries. He is the province's attorney general and as such is the chief legal advisor to cabinet. He is also the government house leader and, as such, is responsible for piloting the government's legislative agenda through the House of Assembly. Rideout is also the deputy premier and, as such is, in a manner akin to Dan Quayle, a mere heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the land, an office he one occupied.

Of all the people the Premier might have chosen for those extremely important jobs, he chose Tom Rideout.

The problem for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in all the Green mess might well be that chaos is in control.


15 July 2007

BHP Billiton considering US$50 billion bid for ALCOA

In the wake of Rio Tinto's successful bid of US$38 billion for ALCAN, mining giant BHP Billiton is reportedly considering making a US$50 billion bid for ALCOA.
BHP Billiton is already heavily involved with Alcoa through marketing arrangements in the US and its 39.25 per cent stake in Alcoa of Australia, which operates the Portland and Point Henry aluminium smelters in Victoria that provide about 30 per cent of Australia's aluminium production, and the Kwinana, Pinajara and Wagerup alumina refineries in Western Australia.
Meanwhile Rio Tinto is reportedly looking at options to cope with ALCAN's debt.
"We will be looking at the full range of Rio Tinto businesses in the new, larger Rio Tinto," he told ABC television.

He did not specifiy which parts of the business could be sold but said there could be some that "don't quite fit" or would be more valuable in the hands of another company.

"We might find buyers that are willing to pay more for them than we would necessarily see ascribed in our valuations or in our balance sheet," he said.

Analysts have said that Rio could offload its aluminium smelters or Alcan's engineered products division.

13 July 2007

Kruger closes CB paper machine, other companies may follow suit

Kruger Inc. announced late on Friday that it was shutting down a newsprint making machine at the company's Corner Brook mill effective July 22.

The company blamed the rising Canadian dollar for the unexpected shut-down.

Other factors also likely played a role, namely surplus capacity in the North American market coupled with surplus production capacity.

Editor & Publisher reported on July 5 that North American newsprint demand fell year over year by slightly over 8% in May and was down 11% in the first five months of 2007. The online edition of the newspaper industry journal also reported:
Further closures by Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. or Bowater Inc. are not likely to come until after the two companies merge, which is slated for late July. Mid-sized companies also are expected to indicate plans to close high-cost machines this year, noted Dillon.

Recently, some producers announced closures. Catalyst Paper Corp. indicated last month that it would indefinitely idle its 134,000 tonnes/year No. 4 newsprint machine at Port Alberni, B.C., by Sept. 1. More recently, a June fire at Abitibi-Consolidated Inc.’s Grand Falls, Nfld., newsprint mill resulted in a decision to shut the mill down for three weeks for repairs. Meanwhile, Kruger Inc. reportedly announced downtime at several mills.

Docs finger short time span in review foul up

Dr. Joe Tumilty, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, said on Thursday that errors in the review of radiology reports from the Burin hospital can be traced to the speed in which the review was conducted.

In late May, health minister Ross Wiseman ordered the review completed in 10 days, while Eastern Health had indicated (likely as Wiseman had been briefed as well) only two days earlier that Eastern Health would need four to six weeks to complete the assessment of records on what was estimated at the time to be 3,500 patients.

Tumilty comments echo ones he made in late May that the review "must balance timeliness with quality control."

Tumility's comments Thursday came in the wake of revelations that an administrative error led to the omission of as many as 1,000 reports from the initial review. Tumilty did not comment on whether or not the review to date had actually balanced timeliness with quality control.


12 July 2007

The Darwin Awards of Crisis Communications

Health minister Ross Wiseman and how not to handle a crisis, a detailed commentary at Persuasion Business.


11 July 2007

Burin radiology timelines

The tick tock:

February 2007: Concerns raised within Eastern Health of reports by a radiologist at Burin hospital. Eastern Health initiates preliminary review of sample of records [Source: News media coverage//Hansard]

May 10: Unidentified officials in Department of Health and Community Services advised of issue by EA officials. [Source: Hansard, Question Period, Answer by Ross Wiseman, May 23]

May 18: Wiseman briefed by department officials on Burin radiologist issue. [Source: Hansard, May 22, May 23]

May 22: Eastern Health announces suspension of radiologist at Burin and a review of 6,000 patient records involving 3,500 patients.

Announcement made immediately before news conference announcing public inquiry into breast cancer testing.

EA chief executive George Tilley states it will take four to five weeks to complete the review, initially stating it would take "several" weeks.

May 24: Minister of Health and Community Services Ross Wiseman publicly orders completion within 10 days. [ Source: media coverage//Timescale - Hansard, May 24]

May 29: End of Week 1 from date of announcement.

Jun 05: End of Week 2.

Jun 08: (Two weeks after announcement) EA announces review of 4,600 records completed. Review did not include an unspecified number of bone density scans that would be completed at an unspecified later date.

Jun 12: End of Week 3

Jun 19: End of Week 4

Jun 22: Through his lawyer, suspended radiologist expresses confidence in his own abilities despite media reports.

Jun 26: End of Week 5

Jul 03: End of Week 6

Jul 05: Wiseman meets with Tilley, accuses Tilley of mismanaging Burin radiologist case. [Source: Wiseman news media briefing, July 11, media debrief by CBC Radio.]

Jul 09: Tilley tenders resignation. EA announces resignation, which came as a "surprise".

Asked about government involvement in Tilley's departure, Wiseman ducks the question, stating that the matter is between EA and Tilley:
"Keep in mind Mr. Tilley is an employee of Eastern Health, and the board chair [announced] the board has accepted his resignation, and those issues in and around that employment relationship are better directed to Mr. Tilley himself," Wiseman told CBC News.

Wiseman described the departure "as a personal decision that Mr. Tilley came to an understanding with his board as to what his future was going to be." [Emphasis added]
Jul 10: End of Week 7

Jul 11
: EA announces 1,000 - 1,100 reports from review unread due to apparent discrepancy in list of patients and reports. Acting EA CEO says list reconciled manually based on scheduling and billing records.

Jul 11: Wiseman admits meeting with Tilley on 5 July and accusing Tilley of mismanaging radiologist issue. [Source: CBC Radio news debrief] vocm.com attributes comment toWiseman that "Eastern Health of Eastern Health did not advise government they needed more time." Wiseman apparently made no reference to his insistence that 10 days was sufficient to read 6,000 radiology reports.