30 November 2007

The only principle is cash

What I said before and I said going in, this is about principles, but it's also about money as well. At the end of the day, the promise and the principle converts to cash for the bottom line for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Premier Danny Williams revealing the core of his political philosophy, November 30, 2007.

It's never really about principle with the current provincial administration.

It's always about money, specifically the "compensation" that can be received for some injury real or invented.

The best example of this approach is the 2005 federal transfer of $2.0 billion to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. As Danny Williams said in a scrum at the time, the major issue under discussion at the final, January meeting was the amount of the cash advance.

The principles supposedly underlying the original position taken by the Premier were abandoned in the final deal. As a result, the deal is worth a total of $2.0 billion and will never be worth any more than that.

It is no accident that the Premier used the word "compensation" frequently during his post-meeting scrum and also spoke of specific amounts of cash. One figure he cited several times was $10 billion.

This is an entirely artificial number, incidentally, based not on principles but an estimate prepared by university economist Wade Locke. He used certain assumptions which may prove to be accurate or which may, as in the case of the 2005 federal transfer payment, prove to fall well short of the actual values. This does not denigrate Locke's analysis but rather, people should consider that Williams is not talking principles; he isn't talking about the rules under which a system may operate.

Rather he is looking solely at an amount of cash, despite the fact that in actual performance a properly constructed Equalization regime, like a properly constructed offshore royalty regime could produce more revenue for the provincial treasury in actual performance than a single set of projections, based on certain assumptions, might suggest.

To give some idea of the extent to which Williams is focused entirely on cash, as opposed to principles, consider this response to a reporter's question during the Friday scrum:

At the end of the day, this translate down to the 10, $11 billion gap that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would have received if he fulfilled his promise up to 2020. If you take 2006 when it was there 14 years and you divide that in to $10 billion, you get about $700 million a year. That's the magnitude of the commitment. If the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was able to receive similar compensation in some form or another whether through that formula or something else, then we as a people have gotten that monetary benefit. If we disagree on certain principles, then we disagree, and we can't reach agreement, there's nothing we can do about it.

The entire issue is framed in the context of very specific amounts of money. It is most emphatically not based any principles, such as those underlying, for example, an equitable Equalization system or of the fiscal relationship between the federal government and the provinces.

This fixation on specific amounts of money may reflect the current administration's collective difficulty in appreciating the value of the 1985 Atlantic Accord and the principles it contains versus the entirely limited specific amount of cash attained in January 2005. The administration allowed the 1985 Accord to be amended unilaterally by the current federal administration and did not raise a single whimper about the violation of the terms of the 1985 memorandum of understanding. Instead, they focused on the cash irrespective of the dangerous precedent set by the amendment.

The most obvious weakness in this approach is that it gives the federal government an easy target to achieve. Since the provincial administration is concerned only with cash and given that there is a record of Williams settling for much less than originally sought - despite the bluster - Stephen Harper needs only to consider how small an amount he can get Williams to agree to. Williams has said yes to much less before and he is likely to do so again.

if Stephen Harper came to St. John's looking to get rid of the minor annoyance of Danny Williams' personal vendetta, he may just succeed. It certainly won't cost the Government of Canada anything close to $10 billion spread over 20 years to do it.

As Williams said:

What better place to put some green infrastructure in transporting some of that Lower Churchill power to the island of Newfoundland and Labrador in order to replace Seal Cove, Holyrood, generation.

The current estimated cost of that project?

$2.0 billion.


What will the meeting bring?

The meeting between Danny Williams and Stephen Harper later on Friday afternoon?

One of the possibilities is a rapprochement between the supposedly warring leaders.

The former, safely back in power with an overwhelming majority, may just signal peace is at hand. He's been known to do it before.

Tons of bluster and anger, followed by a sudden bout of kissing and hugging with the former "enemy".

That all might lead to some interesting developments in federal politics. Since the last cabinet appointments, the locals have been speculating wildly about the prospect that Tom Osborne and Jack Byrne - both turfed from the Williams cabinet - would actually be trying for a spot on the Stephen Harper team alongside their old friend Fabian Manning.

Osborne, you may recall, is the candidate whose political signage touts his - ummm - shall we say performance.

The story made the Globe this damp Friday, as Harper arrives in the province for a couple of days of politicking. You can find a link to the Globe article and some added comments over at nottawa.

One aspect of the story not covered by local media has been the prospect that some members of the provincial Tory caucus are getting somewhat frustrated with the ongoing feud and would like to see it settled. Human resources minister Shawn Skinner hinted as much, at least until he was reined in by his boss.

As Mark suggests at nottawa, though, perhaps someone ought to simply poke a microphone in the general direction of Osborne, Byrne and even Elizabeth Marshall to ask what they plan to do with themselves when the next federal election is called. The responses might well give some clues as to what will evolve out of the Danny and Steve meeting.


29 November 2007

Poll goosing: the VOCM online version

Submitted for your consideration:

Geoff Meeker's comments on anomalies in the vocm.com Question of the Day plus the two posts - here and here - from labradore that sparked Meeker's interest.


Steve and Danny meeting: more stuff

Well, you read it here already, but the rest of the world has picked up the harper and Danny Williams meeting story.

The Premier issued a short statement today confirming the meeting, although it will happen friday and not on Saturday as Bond heard it originally. "Premier Williams said his office confirmed the meeting two days ago," according to the statement.

Hmmm. No wonder the premier they were so testy about Brian Peckford's comments and had his plants suggesing some collusion between Peckford and the Prime Minister's Office. The 8th Floor blackberry drums knew about the Harper meeting before the rest of us did and likely assumed - in a paranoid way - that the two unlinked things were linked.

The Globe notes that provincial Tories have been trying to find ways to mend fences already, something that likely was at the heart of Shawn Skinner's recent comments. That is, before Danny yanked Skinner's chain and made the guy "apologize" and then publicly declare his commitment to the ABC nonsense.

28 November 2007

Harper to visit, meet Williams

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be visiting Newfoundland and Labrador this weekend.

Jungle drums say the PM will be in Cupids, possibly to announce some federal cash for the historic site there.

Some of the drums say that Harper will meet with Danny Williams sometime during the trip - maybe on Saturday - to see if the two can patch things up.

How exactly will the Eighth Floor blackberries pound out that one, especially if Harper doesn't roll over on every issue?

Will they recite the list of broken promises?

They certainly can't claim the PMO didn't call first.

Almost immediate update:  So here's the thing.  With Rodney already absorbed into the collective and Lorne Calvert defeated at the polls, Danny and Steve making up is the next logical step.

Can Danny really go it alone against Harper?

Will he?


"Shut up and go away": Williams

in further evidence of his commitment to free speech and diversity of opinion, Premier Danny Williams told reporters on Tuesday that he wished his predecessors would "shut up and go away" rather than offer comment on the province's political and economic situation.

Williams even went so far as to claim that he doesn't comment on the actions of previous administrations.

This is the guy who ran an entire election and then a four-year administration on the premise of a complete rejection of every policy of every one of his predecessors: "no more give-aways." 

Danny Williams has made a political career of running down his predecessors. There's no reason to believe he'll stop any time soon.

Williams' display of disrespect for his predecessors collectively is bad enough.

What Williams and his ministers - and at least one of their favourite plants - have been saying about Brian Peckford in particular is loathsome beyond measure. After all, Williams and his cronies deliberately named their little deal with Ottawa after Peckford's agreement. 

All the better to confuse people, no doubt, as to what the current administration has really accomplished compared to the predecessors Williams routinely insults.


Justifying a junket

Danny Williams is happy with his recent trip to Brazil.

The Premier spent a week in the South American country where, besides checking out some mining operations in the country, the feisty fellow got some assurances that the owners of the Voisey's Bay project would be honouring their legal commitments.

"He [CVRD CEO Roger Agnelli] gave me his personal undertaking that they would live up to their commitments, and he said that on a couple of occasions during the course of our meeting," Williams said. "So I take him at his word."

There has never been any doubt they would, but it is nice to know that Danny Williams was willing to take a taxpayer-funded trip to the belly of the foreign beast to get that confirmation.

Williams also pitched the idea of CVRD building an aluminum smelter in Labrador as well.

No report on any commitment on that though, or anything beyond Williams just floating out the idea that has been kicked around by everyone from Joe Smallwood to Talk Show Sue.




One of the things lost amid the House of Assembly spending scandal are the mistakes made by Auditor General John Noseworthy and his band of snoops.

Not putting commas in the wrong place things but 2 + 2 = 5 kinda screw-ups.

We're talking stuff like saying there were no more double-billing cases except for the two named and the one he inexplicably named and then dropped only to find out later that there were literally dozens of legislators with double-billing histories.

Like saying someone billed flowers to family members without actually checking to see if the Aunt Myrtle was actually just an elderly lady in the community and the flowers were sent to her following the local custom in many parts of Newfoundland of calling any elderly person "uncle" or "aunt".

Or like grossly low-balling the total amount of overspending in the allowances account so that the total uncovered by Noseworthy's audits is less than half the real amount , as revealed by Chief Justice Derek Green's investigation.

or waving around a bunch of invoices with the members' name on it and then having to admit that well, d'uh, like the cross between Horatio and Sheila (self-righteousness + exemplary math skills) hadn't bothered to rule out the possibility of forgery before accusing several members of wrongdoing.

All of which leads us to the Noseworthiness of The Telegram's serial attack on former member of the House of Assembly Oliver Langdon.

The root of the whole thing is one of the Auditor General's little bits of commentary, something about bills submitted to a point in the middle of the ocean.  Looks good on paper.  Highly quotable.

But is it correct?

Did anyone wonder if Noseworthy hadn't actually cocked up - yet again - and not conducted even a cursory investigation into the issue?  Apparently not.  You see, one clue to the idea that maybe these guys are way off course in the hunt for people diddling the taxpayer is the amount.  Langdon is accused by the Telegram of possibly, theoretically, like maybe dude, pocketing the princely sum of $16,000 extra on his allowances.

That's right.  A guy who sat a total of 18 years or so in the House of Assembly walked away at the end of it - and only if the Telly didn't frig up in their speculation - by less than a thousand bucks a year.

Remember the spit hurled at Percy Barrett, the supposed Fifth Man in the scandal when he was named by the Grand Inquisitor?  His numbers were small too, relative to the amount of cash flowing through his accounts.  Turns out the G.I. dinged Barrett for a bunch of things.  Like H.S.T which was really just part of a disagreement over how to apply the tax that the legislature doesn't pay against the books.  Not really fair, was it, since neither Barrett nor any other individual member actually set the policy?

But Noseworthy did it anyway.

And when you get The Torquemada de Torbay on the phone - if you can get him to even speak to a reporter again on the subject - someone might want to ask Noseworthy how much of Barrett's supposed overspending consisted of claims that Horatio's lab crew could have spotted as dubious even without running a check for possible forgery.

Just ask.

And then ask Barrett.

Had Noseworthy or The Telegram investigated they would have found a couple of things. 

First, Oliver Langdon was well known to travel to his district, doing his job, so frequently it was embarrassing to his colleagues.  The guy burned out a car a year, racking up mileage annually that most of us wouldn't see if four or five years of hard-core driving.

100,000 km a year?  No sweat.

Tires? Brakes? 

Langdon likely put mechanics' kids through medical school.

Second, Langdon's district is an odd one as island districts go.  To get to the western end of it, one must travel out towards Grand Falls before heading south along the highway; to get to the eastern end, one heads down the road to the Burin peninsula.

In other words, if Langdon had attended a dinner in eastern end of the district one night and an event in the west another night, the guy would actually go outside the district and travel through Goobies and out to Grand Falls before reaching his destination. Not exactly like driving around the Bay of Islands, for argument sake, but a good explanation of why Langdon racked up such high mileage.

That gets to be really important here when one considers that members of the House had two different mileage rates to bill:  one for travel between St. John's and the district and then another for travel within the district. In the not so hypothetical example above, one can see a real dilemma as to how to account for the mileage between the Burin peninsula and central Newfoundland.  It isn't travel to the district from St. John's, since St. John's couldn't be legitimately listed as the departure point. 

It isn't really travel inside the district partly since the mileage involved is horrendous compared to the crow-flying distance.  And it isn't travel within the district when much of the route is actually outside the district, in the first place.  On top of that, the bulk of the travel mileage is highway mileage, the kind that normally nets the higher rate.  So if you billed it out that way, the member would actually be taking a substantive hit in the bottom line, especially considering that this is not a once-in-a-while occurrence.

Then there's the mounds of paperwork and time consumed tracking travel and applying the rates.  It doesn't sound like much but when the guy is racking up the kind of mileage Langdon racked up, the paperwork starts to mount.

Not surprising therefore, that the people in the legislature worked out a simple way of averaging out a complex case. Strip away the Telegram's speculation in this case and one can easily see the fictitious midpoint as nothing more than a way of avoiding the intricacies of a reimbursement scheme that really didn't work well for a particular case.

The arrangement made it easier to fill out the claims and to get reimbursed.  While there might have been a loss on some claims and a gain on others, over time the thing averaged out.  It may not be perfect but it is practical.

And, while, theoretically Langdon may have pocketed a bit of extra cash, odds are pretty good he didn't. you see, the 16 large the telly is talking about is their entirely supposed, theoretical, possible extra cash based on a very simplistic calculation.  in making the allegations against Langdon, the Telly falls into the trap of Noseworthiness. 

That is, the Telegram makes claims without checking them out first.

The difference, counting the 262 trips he claimed at 1,800 km, is 65,000 km - and at the lowest mileage rate he could claim, it amounted to more than $16,000, tax-free, paid out for travel that could at best be described as "theoretical."

The travel isn't theoretical. The Telegram's story and editorial are.  They didn't check. And they certainly didn't check the travel before and after the averaging scheme was put in place to see if the whole thing actually does work out. The level of detail in either the story or the editorial doesn't back up the suppositions made about Langdon's claims.

The Telegram editorialists are accusing Langdon of committing fraud, of claiming for travel he didn't take.  It's a criminal offence, regardless of how much money is involved. Yet, there isn't a shred of evidence to substantiate the claim made by the Telegram.

Landgon should hire a good lawyer and sue. He'd likely win a tidy sum, considerably more than the amount the telly is accusing him of pocketing.  If Noseworthy doesn't hold some form of parliamentary immunity, there are people who should be suing his sorry-assed accounting as well for the same thing.

What the Telegram has done here is as bad as claiming that members of the opposition are getting double and triple extra pay only to find out that - had the newspaper bothered to check the facts - the whole story was bogus. In the meantime, examples of far more dubious spending in the legislature go, thus far, entirely unexplored.

A double standard?


But it certainly is a story that has plenty of Noseworthiness.

It smells.


27 November 2007

Peg dollar below US greenback: NL finance minister

Newfoundland and Labrador finance minister Tom Marshall thinks it would be a good idea not only to tie the value of the Canadian dollar to the American dollar but to set the loonie's value below the American greenback.

He told a province-wide radio talk show audience on Monday that because the province is dependent on resource exports, the Canadian dollar should be permanently valued below its American counterpart.

Yes it, yes, you know, I mean I would certainly [support] a dollar that is fixed or pegged in relation to the US dollar to try to keep our dollar lower than the US dollar because of the fact that we are an economy that relies heavily on our exports. But that's something that, you know, that the Cabinet would have to deal with all together. I'm expressing my own view here.


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Murrow rolling in grave

Edward R. Murrow, the venerated American newsman, is likely rolling in his grave at the treatment afforded former premier Brian Peckford by VOCM news over the past couple of days.

First, VOCM reported Peckford's comments based not on what Peckford said but on what two cabinet ministers falsely accused Peckford of saying.

Second - and following hot on the heels of the first - VOCM is now running a story saying that Peckford is clarifying his comments.

He didn't.

Peckford repeated them.

They don't call VOCM voice of the cabinet minister for nothing.

In the meantime, the radio and television news directors should consider putting an asterisk next to VOCM if they keep up this shoddy reporting of political stories.


26 November 2007

Skinner-ma-rinky-dink opinions from two cabinet ministers not worth heeding

Brian Peckford irritates some cabinet ministers.

"I really think that we've really dropped the ball on the whole fishery issue in Newfoundland. I really, really do," he said in a recent interview.

"I think we have not, as a province, argued relentlessly and weekly pursued a fisheries strategy which would allow us to have ... an Atlantic Accord on the fishery.

"Because what we did on the Atlantic Accord was we put the jurisdiction away, even though we lost in court. We got it back through the back door."

Peckford's crime is voicing an opinion, according to finance minister Tom Marshall and Kevin O'Brien, the fellow heading up the oxymoronicaly-named department of government services. The two ministers called VOCM's morning talk show to express their disapproval of the fellow who, as both took pains to note, doesn't live here any more.

Said Marshall: "Well that's exactly, and, you know, to live out there [in British Columbia] and then come in here and tell us we're doing it all wrong is a bit much."

Oh deary.

A bit much for a fellow who served as premier through a very difficult decade to dare offer an observation not merely on the performance of one administration but of the lot of us and the crowds we've elected.

Go read Peckford's comments, linked above, and then read Marshall's observations, transcribed in their entirety below.

"We seem to have one mindset when it relates to the offshore and a ... less-than-stringent approach to all the other areas - even those that are under our jurisdiction."

Peckford is hardly telling tales from school. One need hardly look very hard to see this double-standard applied. No subsidies for the oil industry - supposedly - and a heaping of something called 'equity' for the provincial government. By contrast, the forest industry gets at least $30 million in subsidies of one kind or another and when a mill closes and another shuts down a machine, the whole affair warrants scarcely a whimper from the most combative premier since...well...Brian Peckford, compared to the unholy tirade unleashed on oil companies.

Over in the fishery, meanwhile, the current provincial government enthusiastically facilitates the destruction of the only vertically integrated, internationally competitive company in the lot. Somewhere in there, the bits and pieces are sold off to a consortium that includes Icelanders, another lot is sold back to the Brits and the Nova Scotians walk off with the marketing arm and brands it took years to build.

All of these are resources, as most scarcely need reminding and yet oil is treated as some sort of sacred possession by the current administration. The fishery and forestry? Not really quite as sacred.

For his part, Tom Marshall tried to argue against Peckford on other matters. Marshall failed, of course, since most of what he said was utter nonsense. Like the bit about offshore revenues, the stuff which apparently the provincial government wasn't as fixated on as Peckford suggested:

You know, I really don't know. I mean there was, there's been two stories here. One came out of the, one was in The Telegram, I think, on the weekend. It talked about, you know, the Atlantic Accord and how everything is flowed out of the Atlantic Accord. And the Atlantic Accord that was negotiated back then was certainly an important document. I mean it did, it did share the management. Even though the federal government was determined by the courts to have jurisdiction over offshore oil and gas, it said that Newfoundland would be, Newfoundland and Labrador would be the principal beneficiary. But it wasn't working. It wasn't working as it was. We weren't seeing the benefits because we were losing them under the equalization formula. Whatever we were getting on the oil and gas we were losing under the equalization formula. So what Premier Williams did in '05 in the Atlantic Accord in '05, I mean that was the key document that made the difference because what he accomplished was that for every dollar we were losing on the oil and gas we got an offset payment from the Department of Natural Resources in Ottawa. We got this offset payment that made us whole. And as a result of what Premier Williams did in '05, the Atlantic Accord '05, you know, this year we're showing 305 million, which is allowing us to forecast a surplus of 261 billion, I'm sorry, 261 million and to p ay down some debt and that's what's made the difference. I mean Premier Williams has made the real difference here because we weren't getting rich before under the first part of the Atlantic Accord, but that's not to say that it wasn't, you know, a great document.

Under the 1985 Atlantic Accord, Tom Marshall and his colleagues get to set provincial government revenues from the offshore and collect every nickel of them. They keep every nickel of them as well. $16 billion worth of nickels from Hebron alone, as Marshall's colleague has claimed, and not a single one of those nickels, nor the pennies either, has ever been taken by any other government.

Not a one.

Anyone who claims otherwise is telling fibs.

The 2005 deal delivered the princely sum of $2.0 billion in a cash advance. The deal expires when the province ceases to qualify for Equalization and, as regular readers of Bond Papers will know, the advance will not be drawn down completely when the deal expires.

The entire basis of the provincial government's current fumbling in the oil industry comes from powers contained not in the 2005 deal but in the 1985 Atlantic Accord. When the 2005 deal is a moldering memory, the 1985 agreement will continue to deliver, as it has delivered since it was signed.

All that Brian Peckford has done in a series of interviews with local media is offer his views - based on experience - on issues related to resource management. He has a right to speak his mind and only the most churlish of churls would question his inherent right in a democracy to speak.

But Peckford is no ordinary voice. His voice drips of the experience of hard knocks and whether or not one supported him at the time or agrees with him now, he has every right to speak his mind. he earned the right and he should be heeded. One must not slavishly accept his every syllable, as some - like Marshall and O'Brien - must do for their master, but there are other legitimate perspectives than the one currently typed out as talking points from the Eighth Floor's blackberries.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that Marshall and O'Brien are hurling missiles at Peckford merely for speaking out or merely at their master's behest. What Peckford has hit on, with respect to the fishery, for example, is a deep-seated problem within local politics. While politicians have known for some time what must be done in the fishery, it is very difficult to get them to act. There is no stomach in the current administration as there has been no stomach in many administrations for taking the necessary measures to turn the fishery into an economically and environmentally sustainable part of the local economy.

It hurts to have that pointed out, apparently.

Otherwise Marshall and O'Brien would not have received their blackberry marching orders and thus ordered, skinnered themselves on to the open line shows to offer a rinky dink attack on a fellow most Progressive Conservatives in the province should be venerating. [Perhaps they do and that bothers some of the current crowd, too. But that is another story.]

Every thinking person in the province would do well to consider Peckford's advice.

It is the voice of experience and, as we should all know by now, experience counts.

Talking points thumbed out of someone's blackberry - likely from a junket to Rio - don't.


RANDY SIMMS: We are going to go now and say a very good morning here to the Finance Minister and Chairmen, President of the Treasury Board, Tom Marshall. Good morning.

TOM MARSHALL: Good morning Randy.

RANDY SIMMS: How are you doing?

TOM MARSHALL: I'm not too bad. I'm here in Corner Brook and I was just reading The Western Star today and I say former Premier's, Brian Peckford's remarks.

RANDY SIMMS: And your hair stood on end.

TOM MARSHALL: Well, what's left of it did. The, you know, the comment I read, I mean it's mainly about the fishery and I'll leave my colleague, Tom Rideout, and those with more, know more about the fisheries that I certainly do to comment on that aspect of it, but my difficulty is with the comments that, where Peckford said it's a mistake for the province to focus its efforts on the blossoming offshore oil and gas industry at the expense of everything else. And he goes on to say that we, I don't know who he's referring to as we, seem to have a one mindset when it relates to the offshore and a less astringent approach to all the other areas, even those that are under our own jurisdiction. Now, Randy, you know, every time I've been on your show and your colleagues' shows, and I've been going around the province given these, you know, talking about the budget and the main point, you know, the one thing that we're doing as a government is clearly set out in the budget and it's set out in the speech from the throne, and that's a recognition that the non-renewable resources are going to be gone day, that they're finite. One day they're going to be gone and that we've got to take advantage of this window of opportunity to transition our economy into a more diversified economy that, you know, that relies on our renewable resources. The whole energy plan talks about, you know, taking advantage of the non- renewable energy resources we have now to make sure that we have renewable energy resources for the future. And for someone to come in and say that we're only focused on the offshore, clearly has no understanding of what this government has been doing and what the very essence of this government is.

RANDY SIMMS: But, really, there is an impression out there, Minister. You know, as I said to your colleague, Mr. O'Brien, earlier today, there is an impression out there, right or wrong, and it could be equally wrong as it is right, that this government does not focus, I'm going to call it, on the older more stayed industrial realities in the province. We seem to be caught up in the sexiness of oil and gas. Now, and that impression, I think, is out there in the market, isn't it?

TOM MARSHALL: Well, you know, if you're going to say that, I mean I don't know what, you know, what the media focuses on. You know, they don't focus on everything that government does, but I mean the whole reality of our budget and our speeches from the throne and the, you know, the thrust of what this government is doing is recognizing that, look, we've only got a window here and we have to diversify our economy because those non-renewable resources are going to be gone. So we've talked about, number one, we got to pay down the debt. Now previous governments left, you know, the people of this province today saddled with a massive debt of over, almost, just under $12 billion. So we have to take advantage of the surpluses that we have to try to address that while we can. We're also lowering taxes to try to make the province more competitive. I mean to attract investment, to attract people that are going to create jobs, you have to have a competitive tax structure and we did that in the last budget. We're also focusing on not only investments in our traditional industries like the forestry, and we pumped a lot of money into forestry, you know that, there's over $30 million went to aid the forestry industry in this province, investments in aquaculture on the south coast, but we're also focusing on the knowledge economy. We're making major investments now in research and development.

RANDY SIMMS: Ok, so why do you think with all of this going on and he being aware of this as, he being Brian Peckford , being as aware of this as anybody, why would Brian Peckford at this point in his life and the life of this province and government want to come out and be this critical?

TOM MARSHALL: That you'll, I have no idea. You'll have to ask him that.

RANDY SIMMS: Well speculate. Why do you think?

TOM MARSHALL: You know, I really don't know. I mean there was, there's been two stories here. One came out of the, one was in The Telegram, I think, on the weekend. It talked about, you know, the Atlantic Accord and how everything is flowed out of the Atlantic Accord. And the Atlantic Accord that was negotiated back then was certainly an important document. I mean it did, it did share the management. Even though the federal government was determined by the courts to have jurisdiction over offshore oil and gas, it said that Newfoundland would be, Newfoundland and Labrador would be the principal beneficiary. But it wasn't working. It wasn't working as it was. We weren't seeing the benefits because we were losing them under the equalization formula. Whatever we were getting on the oil and gas we were losing under the equalization formula. So what Premier Williams did in '05 in the Atlantic Accord in '05, I mean that was the key document that made the difference because what he accomplished was that for every dollar we were losing on the oil and gas we got an offset payment from the Department of Natural Resources in Ottawa. We got this offset payment that made us whole. And as a result of what Premier Williams did in '05, the Atlantic Accord '05, you know, this year we're showing 305 million, which is allowing us to forecast a surplus of 261 billion, I'm sorry, 261 million and to p ay down some debt and that's what's made the difference. I mean Premier Williams has made the real difference here because we weren't getting rich before under the first part of the Atlantic Accord, but that's not to say that it wasn't, you know, a great document.

RANDY SIMMS: What, it's the basis on which everything else flowed, but, you know, is it, I'm going to speculate a little bit here, is it possible that Brian Peckford is throwing a little criticism at the provincial government because of his recent appointment by the feds?

TOM MARSHALL: Look, it could be, but Newfoundland and Labrador is making tremendous headway under the Newfoundland government and to say we're only focused on oil and gas, well now that it's not going to be there forever and that's why we're doing the things that we're doing under the Premier's leadership.

RANDY SIMMS: But you. . .

TOM MARSHALL: And for him to say that we're focusing exclusively on oil and gas would be the same as saying that when he was office he focused exclusively on growing cucumbers, and we all know that's not true. But it's an asinine comment to make and he has to be held to account for it.

RANDY SIMMS: And so, obviously, you're critical of it. I guess all members of the government are critical of it because, like I said, I heard from your colleague, Kevin O'Brien, already this morning on this matter. You know, but again, as I say to you, and I think it's, you know, it might be an unfair comment, I accept, but, nonetheless, there's truth in the feeling, in the statement that there's a feeling in the community at large that this is a government preoccupied with oil and gas and not spending enough time and effort on traditional industries like fishery. I think that that's a feeling in the community. It might be totally unfair though, Minister, I accept that it might be an unfair feeling.

TOM MARSHALL: I strongly. . .

RANDY SIMMS: And I know you're going to argue that point.

TOM MARSHALL: I would strongly disagree with that.

RANDY SIMMS: Yeah, but I don't know whether Peckford, you know, who is Peckford sitting in Vancouver these days to tell us one way or the other what it is?

TOM MARSHALL: Well that's exactly, and, you know, to live out there and then come in here and tell us we're doing it all wrong is a bit much. And now in fairness to him, you know, I mean sometimes there's a quote in the paper and maybe that's not what he said, but based on what he said as quoted I talk umbrage of the comment and I think he's wrong. And, you know, not focusing on the fishery, I mean I come from a district where the fishery is not a major industry, as you know, and , you know, I can tell you that from the time that I spend at the Cabinet table, I mean fishery dominates the discussion at our Cabinet table and there's no doubt or question about that. The forestry is taking up a lot of our time.

RANDY SIMMS: Well, you know. . .

TOM MARSHALL: But also more importantly, which we're focusing new areas, we're trying to take advantage of, you know, research and development and things we did in aquaculture on the south coast, you know, things that we're doing here in Corner Brook with the Centre of Environmental Excellence, with the new position, I mean open up the paper and you see the new positions going here into Corner Brook in R & D under the, you know, Institute of Biodiversity and the Centre of Environmental Excellence. There's about five or six new positions here and these are jobs based on the knowledge economy, not based on the old natural resource economy.

RANDY SIMMS: Ok, let me ask you this while I got you. All right, I know that there's a financial report coming down, what, at the end of this week?

TOM MARSHALL: Well it, you know, the Premier will be back and the report, I'll discuss it with my Cabinet colleagues and then they'll, will determine whether it's going to, when we come out publicly and announce it. RANDY SIMMS: I understood that it was going to happen this week.

TOM MARSHALL: Well, you know, I've learned in government that when I'm told it's going to happen on a certain day I don't believe it until I'm out there actually saying, ok.

RANDY SIMMS: Ok, 261 million, you're low balling it, aren't you?

TOM MARSHALL: Well I certainly didn't low ball it. I, you know, I said, you know, you always hear the criticism of governments because they go out with these low numbers and then when the numbers actually come out they say, oh, look, we did so much better. I didn't want to do that. I want to try to be as accurate as we can. But it's extremely difficult, of course, because, you know, the oil prices jump all over the place and I mean who would have thought that oil prices have gone, would go to where they've gone today. You know, we rely on Pure Energy Corporation out of New York. They're very highly regarded and very respected and they told us the average would be, you know, when we were doing our budget, they told us the average price for the year would be about $58.60. Now we get quarterly updates for them. We also get two custom reports a year from them and, of course, their suggestions are going up, but at the time we did the budget that's what they told us. Also, production numbers we don't control and also who knew that that dollar was going to go the way it is because every time the dollar goes up a cent our revenues are negatively impacted. But it certainly doesn't offset the benefits because of the higher oil prices.

RANDY SIMMS: You, as Minister of Finance, do you want to see, and I know the central bank is looking at taking a run at the dollar to try and bring it down to a more reasonable level, which would mean a drop in interests rates, are you taking a look at that? Are you chairing them on and do you want to see that happen?

TOM MARSHALL: Well, you know, quite frankly, I mean monetary policy is left to the Bank of Canada and, you know, they don't consult with me. They're an independent organization that determines monetary policy.

RANDY SIMMS: I know, but on the outside looking in thinking that every, that every penny, that every buck is another, you know, few million.

TO M MARSHALL: Yeah, but it works the other way. . .

RANDY SIMMS: It works the other way for us as well, every penny up costs. . .

TOM MARSHALL: Yeah, but I mean I do have major concern for the manufacturing sector, you know, especially the forestry sector here in this province. I mean in Ontario they've lost, what, 150,000 jobs.

RANDY SIMMS: I guess that's where I'm trying to go, Minister. I'm trying to get inside your head here a little bit to say, you know, all of this issue about fisheries and about forestry and about all of these other concentrations, the reality of it is we need a lower dollar to do that and that's going to have to some degree, is it not, at the expense of oil and gas revenues?

TOM MARSHALL: Yes it, yes, you know, I mean I would certainly a dollar that is fixed or pegged in relation to the US dollar to try to keep our dollar lower than the US dollar because of the fact that we are an economy that relies heavily on our exports. But that's something that, you know, that the Cabinet would have to deal with all together. I'm expressing my own view here.

RANDY SIMMS: Sure, sure, absolutely, absolutely. Well, Minister, thank you for this, this morning.

TOM MARSHALL: Randy, thank you. Good talking to you.

RANDY SIMMS: Good to talk with you again, as always.

TOM MARSHALL: Thank you. Bye.

RANDY SIMMS: Take care. Bye, bye. Minister Tom Marshall; he's Minister of Finance, he's President of Treasury Board and he's not that happy with former Premier Brian Peckford over his comments on the weekend and in the paper today.

25 November 2007

Security breach at public health lab

Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are investigating a security breach involving the province's

Public Health Laboratory.

On Friday, justice minister Jerome Kennedy and health minister Ross Wiseman told reporters that an unnamed consultant working with the lab received a call from an individual claiming to be a security specialist. The caller said he had patient information that was on a computer at the lab consultant's home. As cbc.ca/nl reported:

The data, including lab test results for infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis along with patient names and health numbers, was stored on a government desktop computer, said Health Minister Ross Wiseman.

The computer was unplugged and taken to the home of a consultant working for the Provincial Public Health Laboratory, something Wiseman said should never have happened.

The lab's website describes its functions more broadly;

The Public Health Laboratory(PHL) provides routine, specialized and reference laboratory services in clinical and public health microbiology to all hospitals, clinics and other health related agencies in the province. These services are offered only through authorized health care professionals.

Bacteriological water quality testing service is provided to private individuals, communities, municipalities, private and public agencies, etc.

With a mandate, role, and functions at the provincial level, the PHL has been able to keep up with technological developments and maintain the state-of-the-art microbiological laboratory services, procedures and facilities.

The PHL has also been active in undertaking a wide variety of research and special projects in medical microbiology and infectious diseases epidemiology and initiatives in relation to existing and emerging public health issues. The PHL publishes periodically articles and abstracts pertaining to the above.

While the lab consultant appears to have been fired, there is no indication of other action.  The incident would appear to involve a breakdown of security practices at the lab that allowed a computer to be removed from the lab in the first place, let alone how it could be operated from an unsecured Internet connection. The incident calls into question both the security policies and procedures as well as way in which highly sensitive data is stored. A consultant needing to work from home could easily have been given external access to data through secure log-in procedures, including frequently changed passwords and data encryption.

Kennedy told reporters on Friday that "We don't now the extent of the breach, we just know a breach has occurred."  However,

Kennedy claimed the incident appears to "be an isolated situation," and that no files were lost from the province's wider computer network.

There is no explanation for Kennedy's assurance given that he had acknowledged not knowing the extent of the security breach. Other security-related information may have also been stored on the computer used by the consultant.

Curiously, a unnamed private security consultant is being retained by the province to investigate the incident alongside the provincial police force.  There is no indication the provincial officials considered using other police sources, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or data security and computer security experts with the Communications Security Establishment. Both federal agencies routinely secure information at least as sensitive as the patient information compromised by the security failure revealed on Friday.

This local security failure comes in the wake of news that security of 25 million records in the United Kingdom was compromised by the theft of compact disks containing unencrypted data. technology security consultants describe  government security for many types of data as being extremely lax.


21 November 2007

A breath of fresh air

December 4-5,2007.


The Canadian Institute's conference on social media.

For those outside Toronto, it would be a pricey affair, since the conference registration is nearly $2,000 not counting HST, travel and all the assorted things that go with it.

But take a look at the agenda and speakers and you'll likely agree it is a leading edge session for public relations professionals and well worth the energy and expense involved in getting there.

Here are descriptions of just two sessions:

Targeting Bloggers as Influential Media to Get Your Story Out

Susan Bloch-Nevitte, Executive Director, Public Affairs
Art Gallery of Ontario

Antonietta Mirabelli
Manager, Communications
Art Gallery of Ontario

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) last year launched a blogger outreach campaign to start a conversation with the public about the Frank Gehry: Art + Architecture exhibition. The alternative media coverage generated by blogs resulted in a very positive impact on the exhibition’s promotion. For the first time in the AGO’s history, the Web became a critical vehicle in building awareness, influencing public opinion and driving attendance. Learn how social media are a key component of the AGO’s communication and
marketing channels and how the AGO plans to optimize this network of bloggers going forward.

• Determine if you should be aiming your story to make the front page of the Globe and Mail or Google

• Find out how to research bloggers and determine who should be on your media list

• Learn how to build relationships with this targeted group

• Capitalize on the additional coverage of blogging that traditional media do not provide

• Benefit from the ability of media bloggers to cover events and product launches within minutes

• Understand the power shift from traditional media to networked blogger media

Fifteen Megs of Fame: How to Manage Your Brand in an Era of Consumer Control
Michael Seaton
Director, Digital Marketing

Brands are now and forever outside ivory tower control –and there is no turning back. As social media, consumer generated content and digital distribution gain in popularity, everyone can readily achieve their ‘Fifteen Megs of Fame.’ But how can you achieve that? How do you manage your brand in today’s digital world where consumers are creators? Hear how one of Canada’s top banks developed a long-term
digital strategy that consumers have embraced and learn the tips and tricks that will help you develop your own strategy, whether you’re in the financial industry or not.

Radical stuff?  Not at all, at least in many parts of the world.  There's also an interest sidebar to the growth in social media that might surprise many in the PR business and even those outside.  Just as the advent of e-mail brought a renewed emphasis on writing skills, so too has social media brought to the fore once again the basic principles of effective public relations.

Like pitching a story, one of the components of media relations. This issue gets batted around on any number of public relations blogs out there and it all seems to come back to the simple principles that should be guiding relations with conventional media. What the PR blogs seem to have turned up is a lot of bad practices that are likely being applied to other media with equally disastrous results.

The difference between blogs and conventional media is that bloggers might be inclined to express their opinion openly on the blog about the fumbled approach. Notice the conditional word:  "might". Responsible bloggers, i.e. the ones with the target audience a PR professional or a marketer might want to reach, would be no more likely to have a free poke at a clumsy pitcher than a print or electronic media editor.

In this little corner of the new media, the experience has been, well, there is no experience. No phone calls, no pitches of any kind.  One lone news release that was forwarded after the date it was issued. Now that seems to conform to the general pattern in Newfoundland and Labrador in which social media have been completely ignored by both PR practitioners and marketers as possible tools in their own arsenal or as possible media to reach core audiences.

If you can forgive a little shameless self-promotion, look at it this way: Bond Papers averages 18,000 page loads and 11,500 readers. The daily readers include government officials, financial analysts, lawyers, people in the energy industry, educators and basically a core group of relatively affluent and influential people both within Newfoundland and Labrador and across Canada. 

Reporters and editors read Bond Papers, too. Anyone who reads Bond regularly will know that posts here will turn up in conventional media fairly regularly. Part of the attraction for some people is being slightly ahead of the curve on some items, but that's another issue. Basically, after nearly three years, Bond Papers is a medium that reaches audiences individually and collectively, that would normally attract some attention from PR people or marketers. 

Bond Papers isn't a blog focusing on mothers - as in one post linked above - nor is it focused on a technical issue like the latest digital cameras. It's easy to see a connection between the blog and the marketing possibilities in those cases. But still, it would take no more energy to research those blogs than to find out about Bond or any other blog in the province to see if there is a possible fit. 

This post came, inadvertently, out of a conversation between your humble e-scribbler and an old hand at the PR game who has  forgotten more about PR than most of us will ever know;  that's not a cliche in this case. This guy likely inspired that remark in the first place. The local Leo was excited about the conference and passed the brochure along since he reads Bond Papers regularly. He keeps abreast of issues in the business even though he's been retired for a while and it seemed a good time to remind him that so much of what PR people do today is exactly what he has been doing his entire career.

The new media wind up reinforcing the basic lessons of the past, with a new twist for a new age. The new media wound up breathing some fresh air into some skills some people have forgotten.

And at the same time, it led your e-scribbler to wonder once again about the difference between the local market and those elsewhere.

Maybe there's something to the observation that the only obvious reference made to new media at a recent local conference was made in a keynote speech by the guy who publishes the province's largest circulation daily newspaper.


Leaving out crucial facts damages cred and rep

One of the things that undermines any marketing or public relations effort is the gap between claim or statement on the one hand and fact on the other.

It's called a credibility gap and when it comes to the provincial government's triffids brand cum "brand signature", the credibility gap keeps opening wider.  The business ministry issued a "news" release on Wednesday claiming that "[t]he brand signature of Newfoundland and Labrador is fast gaining international recognition."

The basis for the claim is that the "animated television spot featuring the brand logo captured a prestigious Silver London International Statue in television at the world-renowned London International Advertising Awards November 12 and also earned a finalist award in the animation category."


Bravo to the creative crew at Target Marketing.

But the rest of the release is just puffery, rehashing the entire brand signature/brand logo mythology that's been spewing from every government orifice since the $1.1 million plus farce was unveiled last year.

The London International Awards recognize excellence in various aspects of advertising and design. It's a big deal for any company to be a finalist, let alone win a silver or gold award as the best in the category. The creativity involved in the project had to stand up against some stiff competition and to be sure, anyone familiar with target's projects over the years will recognize that the pitcher plant logo thingy is by no means even close to the best work the company has done.

But at no point did the logo receive international recognition of the type the provincial government claimed.

Check it out for yourself.

Target won an award for a specific aspect of a specific component of the project.

That's nowhere the same as saying the "brand signature... is fast gaining international recognition,"  since that implies the logo itself won recognition.

The video created for the launch - the one with the wailing banshee voice - garnered an award in the Television/Cinema category for original music with lyrics.

That's it.

It also finished as a finalist in the cel animation section of the same category.

Congratulations, Target.

And a giant raspberry to a release from a government department that first of all isn't "news" of any sort, and second of all, tries to claim credit that properly belongs to the creative talent at Target. A new minister and a few other changes and the department responsible still hasn't learned from the mistakes of the launch.


20 November 2007

A good start, the City Hall version

The City of St. John's is short on its budget for next year.

$6.0 million short.

So councilors are considering axing funding for community groups and skimping on New Year's celebrations.

Here's a simpler idea that would save at least $3.0 million a year:

Sell the Mile One sinkhole.


Wow, Peter Whittle

Liz couldn't have scripted a better comment for CBC's Morning Show talk back line.


16 November 2007

The old fat poll goose

18 happy-happy joy-joy news releases from the provincial government on Thursday, triple the number issued each of the previous two days.

Among the "news":

1.  An announcement that the province has finally completed a set of guidelines for health care on how to respond to a pandemic.  No, it actually says more than "Treat it."

Among the floaters and other fairly obvious revelations from this bit of "news" is this gem is this quote from Faith Stratton: "These guidelines will prove tremendously valuable for our regional medical officers of health and front-line health care managers".  The province's chief medical office is right. The guidelines will be useful.


The real proof of the pudding of pandemic preparedness comes not in having lovely lists of things to do and how to do them.  It comes from having people in place to perform with the bits and pieces of equipment they need.

Any chance they can have a newser on that substantive issue?

2.  A raft of ACOA and province joint announcements.  Those look suspiciously like the feds trying to continue the campaign they started last week to actually take credit for stuff they do.  Then again, it is poll goosing time and maybe ACOA has a few questions in Don Mills' quarterly.

We know the provincial government does.

That's why they goose the polls.

And why Don Mills loves to talk up the stunning success of his client.


15 November 2007

Military oil demand

From National Public Radio, an interesting article on oil consumption by the United States armed forces.

Note the reference to a Hercules being able to fly from the US to St. John's. It's no accident they chose that as a reference point.

St. John's is a favourite military refueling stop on the way across the Atlantic.


14 November 2007

Hibernia at 10

The Hibernia offshore oil field produced its first oil 10 years ago this week.

The project - regarded as a gamble at the time - was never expected to achieve payout owing to its high cost and the low price of oil.  However, it will hit that milestone within the next four years.

With almost double the amount of recoverable oil first estimated to be in the field, the provincial treasury's share of the revenues will jump dramatically just as it did on the lower-cost Terra Nova project and as it will at the White Rose field. That high revenue will continue for the better part of a decade - unless even more oil is found.

It is easy to forget history, even recent history, just as the past four years of super-heated political rhetoric have shown.  Politicians, academics and journalists have all displayed an appalling ignorance of Hibernia and the rest of the offshore. Information is deliberately distorted, such as in the provincial figures cited by Canadian press in the link above. Those figures deliberately omit projected revenues flowing after payout.

Far from being the give-away some have simplistically claimed, Hibernia was a gamble by the provincial and federal governments and the oil companies on the first project in what has proven to be a solid and lucrative oil industry. Had the provincial and federal governments not provided a variety of financial breaks through taxation changes and federal loan guarantees, it is doubtful the project would have ever been started in the economic climate at the time. When oil plummeted to US$8.00 a barrel in 1992, Gulf Canada pulled out of the project.  Some of the Gulf shares were taken up by other operators but ultimately it was the federal investment and an 8.5% share that kept the project alive.

The gamble paid off for the operators and for the provincial and federal governments. The gamble is paying off each day with the millions in revenues flowing into provincial coffers from the three existing offshore projects.  When Hebron starts flowing the lion's share of the revenues from that project - royalties as well as other provincial revenues - will come from the government's generic royalty regime. 

clyde-wellsThat regime evolved from the Hibernia model negotiated first under Brian Peckford and concluded under the Clyde Wells [photo: left] administration. rideout toqueWells' Liberals defeated the Progressive Conservatives under Tom Rideout [Photo: right]. Hibernia had been an issue in the election .

Seventeen years after the Hibernia deal was signed, it's interesting to go back to media reports at the time, like one from CBC television. There was optimism and there were words of caution from economist Wade Locke. Wells himself uttered both, as well, although he was criticised at the time for cautioning people that offshore oil would not produce the thousands of jobs some expected to be available in place of other industries like the fishery.

On the 10th anniversary of Hibernia first oil, it's worthwhile to consider how far the province has come economically as a direct result of decisions taken almost two decades ago. It's also worthwhile to consider how far we have regressed in other terms.


All in favour of extras?

Some Honourable members:  Aye!

No surprise the miniscule and ineffective Liberal Party caucus in the House of Assembly likes the idea of Yvonne Jones as leader.

As Leader of the Official Opposition, Jones herself will collect $52,297 on top of her salary as a member of the House.

Opposition House Leader Kelvin Parsons will collect an extra $26,246 for taking that job and Roland Butler, the deputy house leader (in a caucus of three mind you) will earn $17,919.

Since the chair of the public accounts committee is an opposition member, someone is entitled to another 413,123 for that job.

And if by some bizarre amount of rationalization, the Liberals appoint a party whip and caucus chair, each of those positions comes with $13,123 in extra pay.

That is, unless the House management committee steps in and changes are introduced to the Green integrity legislation.

Contrary minded?

[dead silence]



You read it here yesterday.

It was cemented at a hastily called party executive meeting Monday night.


Sell the pig

Mile One could be profitable.

It can't be profitable in the hands of St. John's City Council.

This year's deficit will be over $2.0 million.  That's a $600,000 shortfall plus the increased operating subsidy from Council.

There's only one sensible solution:  sell Mile One stadium.


13 November 2007

Reid to go; Jones to lead party?

Gerry Reid will announce he is leaving politics today.  That's the most likely announcement he'll make.

In the meantime, the Yvonne Jones will take the job as leader of the party.

She'll also be a candidate for the leadership at the next annual general meeting in October, 2008, but for the time being Jones will claim she's just thinking about it.

Then, like party president Danny Dumaresque is already reportedly doing, Jones will quietly assemble her team and her supporters. It gives the party insiders an unfair advantage over all other comers.  Heavens knows the party doesn't need either Jones or Dumaresque at the helm, let alone after letting them have the chance to rig the process in order to get the job.

Here's the thing:

Dumaresque should already be punted as party president.  The fact he's considering a run at the leader's job is just one more excuse beyond the dozens of reasons why he shouldn't be party president. He won't resign. So put the question to him about the leadership.  If Dumaresque cannot categorically state he won't run, it's up to the party executive to fire him. On the spot.  No questions asked.

Ditto Jones. 

Either she commits to stay out of the leadership race or she doesn't take the leaders job.

The Old Hand Shuffle is one of the things that got the party into this mess in the first place. More of the same will only guarantee the political hole Jones and her friends are in will get deeper.


12 November 2007

Getting our fair share, the Nevisian view

From a 2006 commentary in The Leeward Times, St. Kitts and Nevis, the following observations about a development by Newfound Group in the tiny Caribbean nation.

The election mentioned in the paragraph did take place and resulted in a new administration. The local government and the developers entered into a new agreement which reduced Newfound's tax holiday from 30 years to 20 years, returned some 172 acres of land to the local government and reportedly included a commitment by Newfound to establish a trades school specializing in tourism-related courses.

We now hear that the government has entered into an agreement to sell some 600 acres of Nevis’ best land to Newfound Group Ltd. The plan of Newfound Group, according to Newfound at the ceremony held in their honour on September 18, 2005, is to have a 150-room hotel and some 400 villas on not less than one acre of land. These villas will be for US1Mmillion. Why did government not do the reverse and make them have 400 hotel rooms and 150 villas? Hotel rooms generate more employment and revenue than villas. In St. Kitts the Newfound Group is building a hotel on 40 acres of land, which would have more hotel rooms than in Nevis where they will have 600 acres. Imagine in St. Kitts they got 540 acres less yet they are building more hotel rooms. It is obvious that the St. Kitts Government is way smarter than the Nevis Government. Why did Government allow these people to buy so much of public land? Couldn’t they only sell them 300 acres and leave the other 300 for another potential hotel development? Why is it that the Government made this deal without any public consultation? Is this deal truly in the best interests of the people of Nevis? Minister Guishard, at the same ceremony on September 18, 2005 boldly proclaimed that there is now NO MORE BEACHFRONT PROPERTY IN NEVIS LEFT FOR HOTEL DEVELOPMENT on the best side of Nevis, i.e., the Caribbean Sea. Is this what we really want? Why have we put all our eggs in one basket? Does the government realise that by selling villas for US$1M they are creating a Nevis that will be on sale to the VERY RICH and VERY FAMOUS as NO Nevisian can afford to buy any of those villas? Nevis is 36 square miles. Does the Government realise that it has sold more than one square mile of the 36 that Nevis has to some foreign developers for them to turn the island into a place almost exclusively for foreigners? Why is it that the Government was in so much of a rush to enter into an agreement with these people? Is it because an election is looming that they hurriedly decided to sign the deal so that they could say that after 14 years they have finally brought some sort of meaningful foreign investment?

It must be interesting for Newfound's Newfoundland officials to be on the receiving end of this sort of criticism or commentary.

Will this story ever be covered by The Independent?


11 November 2007

Newfound NV unable to secure US$21 million loan

Newfound NV announced on November 8 that it has been unable to secure US$21 million in working capital for the company's Newfoundland operation at Humber Valley.

Newfound will now attempt to raise five million pounds sterling through a new issue of shares to existing directors "at a significant discount to market price".

Newfound reported in late September that it was "in the process of finalising" the financing for it's Humber Valley Resort. The company also reported a pretax US$7.4 million loss in the first half of 2007 compared to a US$1.8 million profit the previous year. Newfound's current trading information may be found at several spots including google financial reports.

None of these news releases is contained in the publicly accessible "press room" portion of the company website. They may be located in the "investor relations" section, however, a prominent legal warning requires a viewer to confirm that they do not reside in one of several jurisdictions - including Canada - before proceeding to other pages. Oddly, the warning page is posted through flash animation and cannot be copied. Likewise, the navigation links blocked the page path and thereby preventing posting a link to even the page containing the warning.

According to Thomson Financial, Newfound's September 26 statement indicated the company was also seeking financing of US$30 million for its St. Kitts and Nevis development. In May 2006, Newfound purchased land in St. Kitts and Nevis for the development of a resort to include a 150-room hotel, 400 "upscale" villas and an 18-hole golf course. Reported cost was US$21 million.

white-amoryIn the photo at right, Newfound corporate vice president and attorney Derrick White is shown presenting a cheque for US$10 million to Premier Vance Amory as part of the land purchase.

Two years ago, St. Kitts and Nevis prime minister Dr. Denzil Douglas told carribeannetnews.com:

“Even in Frigate Bay, which is now virtually built out, the Newfound Group out of Canada, in conjunction with National Bank, TDC and Rams, is pursuing a major hotel and condominium project; and the Frigate Bay Development Corporation is in the process of constructing a very impressive villa and commercial development project that will significantly enhance the tourism-related amenities in Potato Bay and the surrounding areas,” said Prime Minister Douglas. [Emphasis added]

The project was renegotiated earlier this year:

According to Parry, the initial agreement between the Developers and the former CCM Administration was renegotiated to reflect a reduction of 10 years tax holiday from the initial 30 year period under the old contract to 20 in line with the regular arrangements of that nature here.

The new agreement also reflected the recovery of over 172 acres of land in addition to the historical sights (which had not been mentioned in the previous proposal), for the people of Nevis in exchange for a reduction of the purchase price from $21 million to $19 million.

“What this means is that as the value of these lands increase and improves in value and there are capital gains, we (Nevis) would benefit to the point where we will end up having millions of dollars for the continuing development of Nevis.

“I wish to make this point as well, we (Nevisians) were told that the cost of the lands was $10 million but when you are building, the cost of the loan to cover the 10 million you are really paying $18 million and we would have only benefited to the tune of $3million. So now we are talking about millions of dollars because of this deal that the Nevis Island Government will have for future development of the island,” he said.

The project is now reported to commence construction in 2008, but had been originally touted as beginning in January 2006 with estimated completion in March 2007.

[h/t to Gary Kelly and crazyaboutnewfoundland.com]


Top o' the Pile: Gary Kelly

One of the better blogs around is written by Gary Kelly; Gary offers sharp writing on diverse topics backed by research and accompanied by links.

Regular Bond Papers readers will recognized the links labeled Top o' the Pile.  That's where Gary belongs and that's where he is now.

In a post last week, Gary discussed an issue that arose over his use of a photograph from the Western Star. The Corner Brook daily took exception to Gary's uncredited use of one of their images, which Gary freely acknowledges was the case.  He also linked to the original story, so, as Gary notes, he wasn't stealing their bandwidth. Gary took down the photo.

While I technically understand the position of the Western Star in asking me to take the photo down, I have to question the we vs. us mentality.

You know what really must frighten the Western Star? I took the photo down four minutes after receiving their email. How long would it take them to do that? How long does it take to print a retraction?

You know what else must frighten the Western Star? If you do a Google search for Corner Brook City Hall - this blog comes up third on the list. I have no fixed costs compared to the local newspaper. That could be the subject of an entire blog all by itself.

Honestly, Gary might find that not to be the issue so much as the uncredited use of the Star's intellectual property. Gary cites some statistics on blog traffic and the value of blog links. He might be right but there might be a way of coming to an agreement with the Star's editorial board that would work for both sides.

Using photographs is an issue that all bloggers come across at some point. Over the past two and a half years, Bond has has taken to giving a photo credit unless the photo comes from the anonymous pile of stuff that is just untraceable.  Yes, as some have noted, Bond has used commercial shots, like say the Simpsons, but more often than not, photos come from Canadian Press, the CBC or the Telegram.

CP-HaywardMost Bond posts these days are composed on Windows Live Writer and that piece of software has been a godsend.  The picture handling feature allows for watermarks to be included and that's where the credit goes, as in this shot by Jonathan Hayward of Canadian Press. Adding credit in this way doesn't detract from the image and it makes damned sure everyone knows where it came from. 

rideout toqueIn one of the most popular photos at Bond - voted by reader calls and e-mails - the origin of the shot is actually contained in the lower right on the original.  Yep.  It's from the Mother Corp, so there's no additional credit listed.

CBC has a fairly extensive policy on the use of its online materials and, as with the Star in all likelihood, the Corp will defend its copyright. Any time any copyright holder has exerted his or her rights, Bond has responded accordingly. In some cases, pictures have been removed.  In others, the copyright holder has given express permission based on certain conditions being met. It isn't always a matter of money changing hands - sometimes it is sufficient that credit be given to the creator of the intellectual property.

Blog writers should understand that simple concept since they generate intellectual property of their own. While it's done for free and made readily available through the Internet, people shouldn't be claiming ideas, words or phrases contained on blogs without some measure of credit.

More often than not, Bond has been able to operate successfully using photographs and other images based on the understanding that this is not a competitor of the originator.  In other words, a blog like Bond Papers isn't a news outlet like the CBC or the Telly and it isn't a commercial enterprise.

Maybe that makes a difference.

Maybe the Star will take a different view.  It might only take an e-mail from Gary back to the managing editor proposing a straightforward arrangement.  If Gary can demonstrate through his traffic statistics the value of his links, then the Star might relent. Editors and producers aren't usually stunned. In fact, Gary will likely find that most of them are interested in working out a problem to the benefit of all concerned.  After all, rather than competing with news organizations, blogs can add to the mix of opinion and commentary and sometimes serve as leads to stories. The whole thing can work for all concerned.  it just has to start with an appreciation by one for the other.



From Oh!, What a lovely war, a poignant commentary that combines a popular soldier's ditty from the Great War with one of the best known lines of poetry from the same war.


1. Attack, Siegfried Sassoon

At dawn the ridge emerges massed and dun
In the wild purple of the glow'ring sun,
Smouldering through spouts of drifting smoke that shroud
The menacing scarred slope; and, one by one,
Tanks creep and topple forward to the wire.
The barrage roars and lifts. Then, clumsily bowed
With bombs and guns and shovels and battle-gear,
Men jostle and climb to meet the bristling fire.
Lines of grey, muttering faces, masked with fear,
They leave their trenches, going over the top,
While time ticks blank and busy on their wrists,
And hope, with furtive eyes and grappling fists,
Flounders in mud. O Jesus, make it stop!

2.  Escape, Robert Graves

(August 6, 1916.—Officer previously reported died of
wounds, now reported wounded: Graves, Captain R.,
Royal Welch Fusiliers.)

... But I was dead, an hour or more.
I woke when I'd already passed the door
That Cerberus guards, and half-way down the road
To Lethe, as an old Greek signpost showed.
Above me, on my stretcher swinging by,
I saw new stars in the subterrene sky:
A Cross, a Rose in bloom, a Cage with bars,
And a barbed Arrow feathered in fine stars.
I felt the vapours of forgetfulness
Float in my nostrils. Oh, may Heaven bless
Dear Lady Proserpine, who saw me wake,
And, stooping over me, for Henna's sake
Cleared my poor buzzing head and sent me back
Breathless, with leaping heart along the track.
After me roared and clattered angry hosts
Of demons, heroes, and policeman-ghosts.
"Life! life! I can't be dead! I won't be dead!
Damned if I'll die for any one!" I said....
Cerberus stands and grins above me now,
Wearing three heads—lion, and lynx, and sow.
"Quick, a revolver! But my Webley's gone,
Stolen!... No bombs ... no knife....
The crowd swarms on,
Bellows, hurls stones.... Not even a honeyed sop ...
Nothing.... Good Cerberus!... Good dog!... but stop!
Stay!... A great luminous thought ... I do believe
There's still some morphia that I bought on leave."
Then swiftly Cerberus' wide mouths I cram
With army biscuit smeared with ration jam;

And sleep lurks in the luscious plum and apple.
He crunches, swallows, stiffens, seems to grapple
With the all-powerful poppy ... then a snore,
A crash; the beast blocks up the corridor
With monstrous hairy carcase, red and dun—
Too late! for I've sped through.
O Life! O Sun!

3. Infantry, near Nijmegan, Holland, Alex Colville (Canadian War Museum collection)


4. Military mom at home

10 November 2007

Suddenly uncocky

Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't seem quite as smug this Saturday as say he has on any day over the past two weeks.

CP-HaywardThere's a new affidavit in the old Mulroney-Airbus scandal and this time it mentions Harper. There's a letter to harper from Karlheinz Schrieber, the man at the centre of the allegations.

All this has the prime Minister appointing an independent review of the allegations, essentially something far short of the public inquiry needed but still far from Harper's insistence that it would be dangerous to investigate allegations involving a former administration or prime minister.

Volte-face, the Globe calls it pretentiously.

Most of us would say about-face, or if you are from Newfoundland and Labrador, you'd know the political flip-flops all too well from watching Harper's provincialist doppelganger.

Such is its magnitude that even the National Post couldn't ignore the change-in-direction story, although the coverage has a noticeably different tone to the Globe work.

Catch video of the Prime Minister's news conference at ctv.ca.

Note one really interesting thing toward the end of harper's remarks in English:  Harper says that Mulroney never spoke to him "on behalf of" Schreiber nor presented documents from Schreiber.  he didn't deny in his own statement that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had never discussed the Schreiber allegations and the entire affair with the current prime minister.

In a carefully crafted statement that said the same thing in French as in English, those particularly carefully chosen words might turn out to the the pivot on which the whole affair turns.

Expect the federal Conservatives to back off their election provocation pretty quickly.


09 November 2007

A national gallery belongs in the national capital

Canada's toddler government wants to ship the National Portrait Gallery to a permanent home in one of nine cities across Canada.

These cities have a relatively large population, which will provide an important local visitor base; are easily accessible with effective transportation networks; and have the potential to attract both domestic and international visitorship.

Ottawa meets all those requirements and it has one other significant advantage:  it's the freakin' capital of Canada, where most human beings around the world and certainly most Canadians would expect to find a national asset like the portrait gallery located.

As it is Canadians have in front of them a fine start to one of the usual rows that occur when the national government is reduced to yet another source of pork to be argued over by parochial/provincialist interests.

Quebec nationalists will make a pitch and will likely get it since two of the sites chosen are in Quebec.  It won't hurt that the anal retentive first minister's office needs seats in Quebec and is currently hurting politically in that province.

Newfoundland nationalists, led by Danny Williams and his own afternoon VOCM radio version of Lord Ha Ha, will see the exclusion of Newfoundland from the list of potential cities as yet further evidence of the failures of Confederation. 

Don't be surprised if there's a pitch made to have the gallery located in Corner Brook or a sudden provincial government initiative  - introduced as having been under consideration for many months - to create a national portrait gallery "of our own" on a "got-it-alone basis. "

That will definitely be located in Corner Brook, unless AbitibiBowater decides to shut the Grand Falls mill.


08 November 2007

Excited about excrement

The penchant for pushing "good news" in this the last polling period for government's official pollster has reached new highs.

or is it lows?

Depths, anyone?

Approval of a new sewerage lift system for the community of Heart's Delight-Islington warranted a news release from the municipal affairs department in among the veritable core dump of "news" from the government's division of poll goosing. 

While this is no doubt of great interest to the people of the lovely Trinity Bay community, it hardly seems necessary to make such a large issue of this that it involves not only flatulent comments by the minister responsible for scheisse-shifting set-ups but flowery verbiage from his cabinet colleague and the member for the area.

Said "news" included comments by municipal affairs minister Dave Denine linking "strong, sustainable rural and regional economies" with things like the installation of a new merde-motivation machine. One can imagine the endless promotional possibilities the business department can make of this development.

Local member Charlene Johnson praised her colleague for approving the project and added that the new excreta elevator will ensure "maximize safe and reliable service for the residents of Heart’s Delight-Islington...".

Reliable turd trucking is certainly something we would all wish for the lovely people of Heart's Delight-Islington.

And, in most circumstances, few would argue against ensuring that drek-disposal was maximized.

But safe?

It makes one wonder what lurks in the 'loos in Johnson's neck of the woods and whence comes the toilet-borne terrors.

It seems especially ill-chosen a word considering that the provincial government's communications division's evacuations  - like this one  - lay about stinking up the joint, in seemingly increasing numbers.