31 March 2010

The Fragile Economy: staying the course

“Obviously, I don't like to run deficits, but if I've got to fight a recession ... if we've got to get the economy booming again, then I'm not afraid to spend money and we're not afraid to lower taxes to stimulate the economy - that's good public policy.”

Finance minister Tom Marshall often speaks about one thing and does another.  He’s famous for trotting out a debt clock during one budget consultation farce only to deliver a budget that did nothing to reduce debt.

This year Marshall has been trying to pass off deficit spending as if it was something new for this administration.  It isn’t. They’ve run cash deficits in all but two years since 2004.  If their current forecast holds, they will be adding a considerable amount of debt for the foreseeable future.

Adding debt is just staying the course for the Williams administration.

Premier Danny Williams himself has dismissed balanced budgets as meaningless. Marshall explicitly rejected any action like balanced budget legislation or having a debt reduction policy.

Marshall’s predecessor as finance minister - Loyola Sullivan  - talked about balancing the books on a cash basis – he only did it once – and possibly not balancing the accrual books for a number of years.  That was back in the early days of the administration when it looked like they were actually going to deal with some of the provincial government’s financial woes. But even for all that notice debt got within the first couple of years after Williams and the Tories took office,  they were willing to rack up additional public debt.

Since we are discussing debt, let’s dispose of one of the finance minister’s more laughable claims from budget day:

“But we have cash to pay for that deficit. We will not increase our borrowing. Our debt will go up, but we don't have to borrow for that.”

On the face of it people may well wonder how you can increase public debt while not borrowing money.

The answer is pretty simple and it goes to the heart of the public debt charade Marshall and his colleagues have been foisting for the past few years.

Marshall covered the half billion shortfall in 2009 from temporary investments – extra cash – the provincial government had on hand.  He didn’t have to go to the banks and negotiate a loan but he sure as heck borrowed the money:  he borrowed it from taxpayers.

As for the debt, what he is referring to is net debt.  Now for those who may not know, net debt is a calculation of what is owed compared to assets – cash, property and so on – that could theoretically be sold off to pay down the money that is owed.

Those temporary investments that the provincial government racked up over the past couple of years helped to make it look like the public debt had been paid down. That’s because they are exactly the sort of assets that would have bee used to figure out the net debt:  liabilities less assets.

So when Tom took the cash and spent it, the net debt could only go back up.  The net debt will go up again next year and the year after and any other year Tom winds up having to cover off over-spending.

Just remember, though, that the total liabilities haven’t changed much in the past few years. You can see that from a post last December on net debt and liabilities and in another post on net borrowings.

This is not a subject the Fan Clubbers like to talk about but it is real. it also just happens to be one of the major financial problems facing the province that isn’t being addressed by the current administration.

Just to give you a sense of how much the past two budgets have followed what we could call the Williams administration debt addition policy, take a look at just the current account spending since 2003.  That’s the money that pays the heat and light and delivers the services and salaries every day of every year. 

And just to really keep it in perspective think of it this way.  You can have a great net debt because you have a nice house, an expensive car and some jewels that could possibly be sold off if the bank called all your loans. 

But since the house and the jewels don’t generate any cash each year they don’t help you pay the bills today.  If you can’t afford food without whipping out the credit card you could be in a situation of being cash poor. Lots of nouveau riche business types are leveraged to the max.  They drive flashy cars but they don’t really have a copper to their name. So without considering the cash deficit, the net debt could be a very misleading figure.

Anyway, take a gander at this table.  It shows the percentage increase in current account spending every year from 2003 to the current budget.

Fiscal Year

Percent increase from previous year













2010 (forecast)


That’s right.

Except for that first year, there’s never been a time when current account spending didn’t go up by at least twice the national rate of inflation.  In some years spending shot up three and four times the rate of inflation.

This sort of spending is unsustainable.

This sort of financial state – all that spending coupled with all that untended debt – is unsustainable.

There are other consequences to the Williams administration economic policy, consequences that will become more obvious as this new series – The Fragile Economy – rolls out in the days ahead.


Jobs that depend on tax money: stump of forest industry edition

So the provincial government is pumping taxpayer cash to keep a paper mill in Corner Brook alive.

Gee, like that hasn’t been done before.



And that’s just the stuff we know about.


30 March 2010

NL economy “fragile”: Williams’ finance minister

“When there is uncertainty, when the economy is fragile, government steps into the breach.”

That’s the way finance minister Tom Marshall explained the reason behind the Williams administration’s plan for three more years of deficit spending including a projected deficit in 2010 of nearly $1.0 billion on a cash basis.

Marshall made the remarks in an interview with CBC’s Debbie Cooper Monday evening.

In his budget speech Monday, Marshall forecast accrual deficits of between $156 and $194 million to follow the accrual deficit of $294 million in 2009.  Marshall gave no forecast of when he expected the provincial government to balance the books again or return to surplus.

In the past, Marshall has explicitly rejected the idea of balanced budget legislation.  Earlier in March, Danny Williams dismissed balanced budgets saying that delivering “balanced budgets is just achieving a number.”

During the interview Marshall referred to the deficit for the year just ended as being half a billion dollars,  after a string of surpluses which he said totalled almost four billion.

But that’s an odd mixture of numbers. Since 2007, the provincial government has kept two sets of books, delivering the finance minister’s budget speech on an accrual basis and delivering the Estimates on a cash basis. Marshall and one-time finance minister Jerome Kennedy typically have referred only to the accrual numbers.

They never mention the cash numbers since they show deficits in all but two years since 2003. And last year’s deficit of $494 million was on a cash basis.  That’s the half billion Marshall mentioned.

But on a cash basis, the Williams administration only produced a cash surplus  - the same figures Marshall used - in two years since taking office in 2003.  In every other year, the Williams administration had to borrow to make ends meet.

Marshall’s 2010 budget forecast that trend to continue.

clip_image004_thumb[4] The green lines in the chart represent deficits.  In Fiscal Year 2006, the shortfall was $707 million, followed by $88 million in 2007.  There was a cash surplus in 2008 of roughly $820 million.

Marshall delivered a $494 million deficit in 2009 and forecasts a cash shortfall of $949 billion in 2010.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that if Marshall is only half right in his deficit forecasts for the next three years, the Williams administration will add $1.5 billion to the province’s debt load over the next three years.

Even the deficit forecast for 2010 of $959 million is based on oil averaging US$83 over the next 12 months.  If oil were to average US$70 a barrel -  as it did in 2009 -  the deficit would balloon by another $500 million.  In other words, oil royalties would be only $1.6 billion compared to the $2.1 billion forecast.

And if all other projections held, the 2010 deficit would be more like $1.4 billion in a single year rather than what Marshall forecast on Monday.

None of that includes any debt incurred by the province’s energy company to pay for construction costs on its share of oil projects or the Lower Churchill. Both would show up on the provincial government’s books since NALCOR energy and its subsidiaries are owned wholely by the provincial government. At the same time, the province’s oil and gas company isn’t required to pay any royalties to the provincial treasury like other oil companies.  Instead, NALCOR will pocket the cash, pay off debt or use it to fund other projects which also likely won’t generate any money for the provincial treasury.

The apparent surpluses Marshall claimed during his interview were actually paper transactions resulting from the accounting practice of distributing the one time advance cash transfer payment from Ottawa in 2005 over the fiscal years in which the money was actually earned.  In 2008, an apparent surplus of almost $2.5 billion on an accrual basis produced an actual cash surplus of only $820 million.

The one-time transfer was used to reduce unfunded pension liabilities.

No other money was received under the 2005 deal before it expired in 2009.  The provincial government will receive one last cash download as a result of the 2005 agreement but that amount is based on the 1985 Atlantic Accord.

Approximately $1.8 billion in temporary investments apparently held by the provincial government would not be enough to cover the likely cash deficits over the next three years, based on current budget projections. 

There is no explanation for Marshall’s claim during the CBC interview that the provincial government had the cash to cover the anticipated shortfalls.


29 March 2010

No bubbles in sight: GDP dropped 26% in ‘09

The value of goods and services produced in Newfoundland and Labrador dropped 26% in 2009 compared to 2008.  Those figures are in an appendix to the finance minister’s budget speech delivered on Monday.

GDP in 2009 hit $22 billion compared to $31 billion in 2008. That’s only slightly above the GDP in 2005.   The single year drop erased the gains of 2006 and 2007 which together saw an increase in GDP of 27.9%.

Real GDP declined 8.9%.

In 2008, Premier Danny Williams claimed the province would be protected from the global recession by some unknown means.  He and finance minister Tom Marshall continue to claim the recession did not affect Newfoundland and Labrador as severely as it did other places.

Average annual employment in the province during 2009 remained below employment levels in 2006 and the current forecast is for negligible growth (one half of one percent) in the coming year.  Meanwhile the labour force remains swollen with returning migrants thrown out of work in other parts of the country by the recession. 

Wages and salaries in the province are higher, driven primarily by increases in the public sector.

Sales of manufactured goods (shipment value) were down 33% in 2009. Housing starts fell 6%.

Oil production hit 97 million barrels in 2009, compared to 125 million in 2008.  That’s basically the forecast production from Budget 2009.  Interestingly, the December financial update had forecast an increase in oil production to 101 million barrels.  Oil production is forecast to drop again – to 86 million barrels – in 2010.

Newsprint shipments in 2009 were down by 49% from 2008 and 66% from 2005.  The value of fish landings was down 19% in 2009, wiping out gains in the preceding two fiscal years.


“…Jobs that pay taxes, not depend on taxes…”

From the 1996 provincial election campaign, here are the provincial Conservative commitments on managing the provincial government’s finances.

Lynn Verge must be cringing at what Tom and the boys are doing especially with that bit about using policy to create private sector jobs instead of creating jobs that depend entirely on tax money

Mandatory sunset clauses turned up again in 2003 but there’s no sign the current crowd are going to give it another thought.

Balanced budgets have never been a goal of the current administration. In fact, the finance minister and the premier have explicitly rejected the idea.  When they had money they spent it and now that they don’t have money they are spending too.


A PC Government will:

  • balance the budget over four years, through a combination of measures to stimulate economic growth and re-order spending priorities. Deficits designed to protect funding for essential services in the lean years will be offset with planned surpluses in the growth years.
  • fix the rate of growth in borrowing below the rate of real growth in GDP, thus bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio.
  • use tax policy to stimulate private sector job creation - jobs that pay taxes, not depend on taxes.
  • re-establish an Expenditure Review Committee to identify areas of inefficiency in government and take early and decisive action to eliminate inefficiencies.
  • set priorities for program delivery and reduce spending on expendable and low-priority programs. 
  • streamline and consolidate regulations to eliminate duplication and reduce the number of regulations and regulatory bodies.
  • put emphasis on patient care and high-quality education while seeking efficiencies.
  • impose mandatory sunset clauses on spending programs and regulations.
  • appoint a Public Service Pensions Task Force within 60 days to investigate ways to address existing liabilities while honouring our commitments.
  • reform the MHA pension plan to bring it more in line with those of public employees.
  • cut the number of seats in the House of Assembly to 40.


Burdening our children with increased debt: fish centre costs escalate wildly

An aquaculture centre that was supposed to have opened in 2009 for a cost of $4.2 million will now cost $8.8 million and construction isn’t set to start until later this spring.

Cost of the project shot up 22% in 2009 alone on a project that even then was already 71% over budget. Former fisheries minister Tom Rideout announced the project in 2007 as part of government’s pre-election vote buying orgy of public spending.

The provincial economy shrank by 26% in 2009.


Bob Fowler’s speech

The video link.


Budget 2010: prep work

Some things to watch for in Budget 2010:

1.  Deficit 2009.  Check to see how big the accrual deficit is, but expect that to be pretty much zeroed out.  The pension plan should have recovered its paper losses and with revenues being higher than the deliberately lowballed forecast, some people might be fooled into believing things are healthier than they are.

Just remember that as he headed out the door Paul Oram described provincial government spending as unsustainable.  The finance minister said the same thing.  Odds are government will try and make things look smurferrific by pointing to the accrual numbers but don’t be fooled.

Check the cash deficit in a document titled the Estimates.  That will give you a picture of what the actual cash flows looked like in 2009. Budget 2009 forecast a cash shortfall of $1.3 billion.  The cash statements will give you a good sense of whether the the provincial government will have a significant financial problem in the medium- to long-term.

Your humble e-scribbler would expect a cash shortfall of something on the order of $800 million. 

That would make it the largest cash deficit in Newfoundland and Labrador since …well…ever and certainly since 2004.

In previous years, oil revenues erased just about every one of the projected cash deficits.  This year expect something closer to what they forecast a year ago on a cash basis.

That’s because…

2.  Oil revenues should be down.  The only question is by how much.

The finance department’s Decemberish estimate was for a drop of 30% which would bring in royalties of about $1.7 billion. The March 2009 prediction was for revenues to be half of what they were in 2008.

As it turned out, that was a pretty good estimate.  In the first half of the fiscal year royalties were down by almost 60% from where they were in 2008.  That was actually about 15% below the forecast in March 2009.  The year actually started off worse than the low-balled finance department estimate.

The December financial update claimed there’d be a jump in revenue from forecast but oil production figures – one of the revenue factors – stayed persistently below the volumes needed to help generate the cash.

Again, check the revenue figures in the Estimates. And don’t forget your humble e-scribbler had to get information from the feds because provincial finance basically refused to release any information. In itself that’s a reason to put a question mark over what’s coming.

Your old e-scribbler wouldn’t be surprised to see oil royalties of about $1.5 billion for 2009, give or take a couple of hundred million.  Just remember what finance minister Tom Marshall said during debate on the interim supply bill last week:

While production, natural production will come back when Hebron comes on, but it is never going to come back to what production was two years ago; unless, of course, we discover additional fields, such as in the other basins where they are continuing to explore…[Bold added]

Production is one factor in determining royalties.  Price and percentage are the other two.  Since we know the percentage and the price is unlikely to zoom back up to the stratosphere of mid-2008, we can reasonably expect the provincial government will have less money in the future than it has had in the past couple of years.

There are not new ideas.  Regular readers have seen them discussed before.

And that pretty much jives with something else…

3.  Other revenues were down in 2009, too:  Marshall put some numbers on the table in January and February during a series of speeches across the province.

  • Personal income tax revenue for 2009 should come in somewhere around $800 million. That’s above forecast but remember that they lowballed the figures.
  • Sales tax should be about $600 million.  That’s way off the forecast of $728 million.
  • Mineral tax and royalties should be somewhere around $184 million.  Again that’s a wee bit above the forecast of $171.6 million

4.  Check the deficit forecast (cash) for 2010 and beyond it.  Revenues aren’t going to climb so the provincial government needs to lay out a plan on how to bring the books back into balance.  Deficit budgetting is what got us into a financial mess over the course of decades.  if the current administration doesn’t have a plan to balance the books sooner rather than later than we’d all better start wondering.

Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge pointed out over the weekend that Canadians can expect health care costs to outstrip revenue growth by about 1.5% in the decade ahead. That’s just one aspect of the demographic challenge our province is facing but it is a very significant one.  The problem can’t be made to disappear with magical thinking or the cavalier dismissal that balanced budgets are just numbers on a page.

Interim Supply 2004-2010

5.  We’ve been living in a fiscal house of cards and the house is collapsing. Take a look at the growth in interim supply spending since 2004, shown above in thousands of millions of dollars.   In six years, the interim supply spending has pretty much doubled;  it’s gone from 1.2 billion to 2.3 billion.

In four of the past six years, the leaps have been double-digits;  from 10.2% in 2007 to 17.5% in 2009.  This year it is seven percent above the year before.  The average increase in spending is 10.8%.  At that rate, the provincial budget in 2014 would be about $10.5 billion.

Just remember, though, that as Tom Marshall noted, oil production won’t be what it has been for the past two years.  Oil prices won’t be skyrocketing either and as such, provincial government revenues won’t be growing at the rate of 11% per year or better.

If provincial government spending continues to grow as it has since 2004, it won’t be very long before this province is in the same state it was during the late 1980s.



28 March 2010


If the supporters of the administration believe that something has been done for entirely partisan reasons (let alone that such partisan decisions are justified), then it seems rather …pointless…ermmm…silly…to argue that a decision taken wholely, solely and totally by politicians was somehow not a political decision.

It would seem to be a penetrating insight into the friggin’ obvious.



Dipper Dale’s Dead.


Well, at least his online presence Tickling Bight has gone the way of Brigadoon, back into the mists of the Internet moors.


He’s hydroqueened for the second time in about a month.

No explanation.

Just poof and the blindly partisan  - and sometimes downright bizarre - rantings are gone.

Now maybe like Sue  - or the fictitious Scottish village Brigadoon -  the whole thing will pop back, just like the last time your humble e-scribbler noted it had up and run off without so much as a tip of the hat or a goodbye.

She’s gone, b’ys, she’s gone Update:  It’s been a week.  Looks like Dale the Dipper’s propaganda space is gone for good. [31 March 2010]


Wanted: adults

Former Bank of Canada David Dodge laid it out in stark terms for anyone who wants to listen.

“It” is the challenge facing all Canadians of continuing to provide public services like health care in the face of shifts in the workforce among other things.

But the hard choices for any prime minister go beyond energy. Former Bank of Canada governor David Dodge spelled it out in bleak terms, saying Canadians need to have the courage to engage in an "adult conversation" about what governments can afford at a time of a shrinking workforce, ageing population and slowing economy.

"We kind of are wishing the problem away by assuming that we can curtail expenditures without curtailing the real services that governments are providing to you and me as citizens," he said after addressing 250 convention attendees.

Adult conversation has been missing from what public discussion there has been of major issues in this province for the past seven years.  Around these parts, the challenge of having a substantive discussion is greater given the prevalence of magical thinking throughout society.  Magical thinking in this case would be any suggestion that there are no problems at all or that they will be easily solved.

Let’s see if there is continued magical thinking in Monday’s budget.  Bet the farm on a “yes” and you won’t make much:  everyone who has been paying attention is expecting just that.

They likely won’t be disappointed.


26 March 2010

From the safety of the ivory tower

Some professors at the University of Regina don’t like a scholarship for the children of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

They argue it “glorifies imperialism” and:

“It conflates heroism with the death of individuals who are in the military service and we think that the death of individuals is always a tragic matter, but we think that heroism is something different,”

Lots of people conflate lots of things but in this case one is tempted to suggest that the learned ones at Regina U have conflated their thoughts with anything approaching reason.

But in light of these thoughts offered from the prairies, one wonders what the view is at the administrative level at a university that is part of the scholarship program, a university built as a lasting memorial to men who gave their lives in military and naval service.

Noreen Golfman, Memorial University’s managerially-challenged grad studies dean, wrote a piece for the now defunct Independent back in  January 2007 in which she vented her frustration over the prevalence of images from the war in Afghanistan during the holiday season:

Every time you opened a newspaper or listened to the news, especially on the CBC, you were compelled to reach for the box of tissues. If it wasn’t a story about some poor sod’s legs being blown off then it was an extended interview with some dead soldier’s parents. Indulging in another bite of dark chocolate was meant to be more painful this year. Here, have a plate of guilt with your second helping, my dear, and pass the self-reproach.

Golfman also lamented the lack of protest in her typically insightful way:

What in the world is going on? Where are the protest songs of yesteryear? I guess, when General Rick “MUN graduate” Hillier invites you to come along and share the joy ride you have to join up faster than you can say “Bob Hope is dead.” Reading Mercer’s widely circulated piece on the joys of serving gravy to the grateful Canadian boys was almost as painful as watching Peter MacKay flirt with Condoleezza “Condee” Rice.

One wonders if then Professor Golfman, now Dean Golfman, still holds the same miserable opinion of the men and women who served in Afghanistan.  Some of them might be graduates of Memorial or, mercy sakes, might even be graduate students there.

Does she share the  views of academics at Regina? Did she offer her opinion of the Project Hero scholarship before memorial endorsed it?

Perhaps she might be moved to offer a comment if she has the time, that is, coping with the financial mess in the grad studies school.


Related:  Rick Mercer’s answer to Golfman.

25 March 2010

Jacks and the Auditor General

What is it about Dipper leaders named Jack and their problems with having the Auditor General check over their expense claims?

Here’s Jack Layton using a worn out excuse that hasn’t been tried since well before the spending scandals in legislatures in St. John’s, Halifax and among Jack’s political brethren in Westminister:

"Well, those are already audited, so I don’t know why wasting money on a second audit of something that has already been audited would make sense," he said.

Yep and there were audits in the House of Assembly too during the peak of the spending scandal.  Layton should ask his defence critic Jack Harris who, as it turns out, is the former leader of the New Democrats in Newfoundland and Labrador. Here’s what he had to say in voting for a government bill that proved to be a key foundation stone for the spending scandal:

Similarly, we have a new provision which requires an annual audit of the accounts of the House of Assembly which I think is appropriate; that there be accountability through an annual audit.

That proved to be so incredibly effective, as a subsequent review by an Auditor General revealed. Heck, Jack Harris’ old bench mate wound up going to jail for his part in the whole business.

The days of the kind of unaccountable political privilege the two Jacks  and the rest of the Ottawa Dippers are clinging to is long over.

A little sunshine in dark corners goes a long way to killing off any untoward activity that is taking place, the glare of public scrutiny also helps to keep it from taking root.

Imagine what might have been prevented if political donations were scrutinised more closely.


Shawn the Bullet Dodger

labradore makes a couple of very interesting points about Danny Williams and the failed New Brunswick Power deal, what with a major story that remains unreported in the mainstream a full six months after it broke.

Frankly it’s hard to know what’s more interesting here:  Shawn’s failure, Danny’s intervention or the reason why the mainstream media continues to ignore a gigantic energy story in Newfoundland and Labrador that is directly related to the first two.


Related: “Five years of secret talks…”

24 March 2010

Graham abandons NB power deal

The deal to sell New Brunswick Power to Hydro Quebec is dead.

Both sides are pointing to risks and problems that turned up apparently by surprise.

New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham said:

"However, over the past several weeks as we worked to take that agreement and turn it into a full legal document, Hydro-Québec has asked for changes to the agreement that would have unacceptably taken away some of the value and increased some of the risks for New Brunswickers."

And CBC reported:

Quebec Premier Jean Charest told reporters on Wednesday his province pulled out after its power utility found unanticipated risks and costs related to matters like dam security and water levels.

After due diligence was done, he said Hydro-Québec decided that "we were beyond what was acceptable."

It will be interesting to see what happens if the Tories win the next provincial election and have to cope with the NB Power debt pig.  So far their only bright ideas have been to oppose someone else’s bright idea.

Stat Porn – all outlinks are local

On any given day, people who read Bond Papers also like to read:

  1. John Gushue’s  dot dot dot.
  2. Geoff Meeker’s Meeker on media
  3. Ryan Snodden’s weather blog
  4. Russell Wangersky
  5. Bob Wakeham

All the number of visits to the other regular links around these parts  - over there on the left - fall off dramatically after those.

Well at least that’s what Statcounter tells us.


U of O is ‘bush league’

That’s according to Ann Coulter and  - as painful as this is to acknowledge – she might actually be right.

Well, given that a couple of hundreds morons can create enough of a ruckus to deny free speech on a university campus.

Then again this is Canada where it isn’t unusual to see that kind of thuggery at universities, let alone discover some schmuck like Francois Houle in a position of responsibility.

Anyone been to Sir George Nutbar  - d.b.a. Concordia University - lately for a stimulating, civilised intellectual exchange on the Middle East?


Kremlinology 19: Ass-kissing has its rewards

Wade Verge is apparently back in Hisself’s good graces.

One clue was Wade’s prominent place moving the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne during which Wade dutifully kissed The Boss’ hindmost regions with an enthusiasm not seen in the House of Assembly since the glory days of a former ambassador to Hy’s.

But the real clue to Wade’s new status is his meteoric shift of seats.  The fellow has gone from being right next to the door to sitting right up by the Speaker.  More importantly, Wade is now just inches away from Hisself, hisself.

It isn’t the treasury bench, but it’s a place of some prominence.

As proximity to The Old Man goes, Wade is way closer than the much beloved Diane Whelan. Wade is even closer than O’Brien The Embalmer. By the by, Kevin may not know where St. Anthony is, but he damn well knows where his meal ticket comes from.

Wade is in an august spot. The last ass to warm the particular bit of sealskin where Wade is now ensconced was none other than Senator Beth Marshall, as she now is.

wade1Now for those who missed it, Beth may have had a bit of a disagreement with Hisself, but she remained a completely loyal foot-soldier right up to the time she was promoted to glory by their mutual friend, Steve.  When it came time to implement the Green report, Beth got the job.  If she was on the outs with The Old Man she’d never have gotten that job.

But anyway, whatever Wade did, he did it right.

You can tell by just how pretty he is sitting now compared to where he was perched just three months ago.


23 March 2010

Coulter finds Canuck suckers

Ann Coulter at Western in a handful of words:

1.  Francois Houle is a schmuck.  If you can’t understand why, then read this guy.

2.  Coulter is playing this exactly as she would, if anyone knew anything about Coulter’s schtick.

Which is why Houle is a schmuck, in case you didn’t figure it out yet.

3.  Meanwhile, for those of you old enough to remember the Lampoon and who can appreciate NSFW writing in the old style, try this and this.

You’ll laugh harder than Coulter is at Houle and all the other Canuck schmucks who fell for same lame game…

yet again.



I am Legend

This is a throne speech from someone who doesn’t plan on doing very much more in politics.

There is no greater legacy My Government is building for our province’s children than the renewed sense of pride and confidence that they, as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, are feeling as we become masters of our own destiny. In classrooms and homes across our province, a new attitude is taking hold, full of hope in the dream of a wonderful future for young people right here at home. This year’s plan of action builds with confidence on the extraordinary progress Newfoundland and Labrador has achieved since 2003.

That’s pretty much the tone of the whole thing: “Everything I set out to do is now done.  Everything and everyone is ready for a better tomorrow.”

The only thing missing was the talk of new hands taking the helm.

We already have that, by the way, in the 2005 throne speech in which Danny Williams plagiarized John Kennedy’s inaugural address to come up with his own version:

"The time has come for new heroes to step forward: men, women, and young people who can build their community, grow our economy, foster cooperation, and inspire the confidence we need to pursue our dreams together."

In the context of the speech though, Williams didn’t have the same idea Kennedy’s speechwriter used.  Kennedy was running on the theme that he embodied the new generation of leaders.  In Williams’ case, he was – apparently – talking about others coming forward to replace him.  That sounds odd, but then again, this is an administration that started out with the sort of foolish ideas – grandiose, overhyped megaprojects – that usually come from parties that are entirely clapped out.

In any event,  the new session of the latest Williams’ legislature may prove to be his last and one of the lightest in the history of the province. Then again, this guy has been The –est Premier.


22 March 2010

Personality Cult

Take a gander at a Canadian Press story about the personality cult surrounding the Premier and you’ll notice some rather curious things.

Of course there are the cultists themselves who display the characteristic worship of the Premier, the propagation of the usual myths and the patronising and paternalistic way these people look at politics.  To wit:

“Blair”:…The one thing I can say for certain is that he has accomplised  [sic]the most possible for this province, and I see no leader that could possibly shake my belief in him and his ability to run our great Province.

“C”:…I can finally say that there is a premier that I am proud of.  I can honestly say that when I am represented by MY premier I'm not cringing in anticipation of his comments like so many in the past.

“Seriously”:…Danny Williams is successful because he doesn't need the office. He can make decisions that have better long term outcomes because he doesn't need the office.

By far the best example of the personality cultist view came from someone who signed with a pseudonym “Joe Blow”:

But Danny already has everything he wants when it comes to money. Now what he wants is a better future for his people, and he is succeeding in this.

[Lorraine] Michael wonders how long the Cult of Danny can endure?

Here is your answer.

Death will be the only thing that stops this man from ensuring that our province thrives.

“Now what he wants is a better future for his people, and he is succeeding in this.”  There can be no clearer statement of that view which reduces individuals in Newfoundland and Labrador to the status of children fit for nothing better than to be looked after.

Such is the essence of personality cults.

It’s also worth noting this comment:

"If anybody thinks democracy is healthy in this province just look at the voter turnout the other day," said Michael Temelini, a political scientist at Memorial University.

"As popular as (Williams) may be, we should be paying as much attention to the House of Assembly and its important role in upholding our democratic system. People should stop paying so much attention to the executive branch. But that's what happens when you get one party in power.

"What's going on in Newfoundland is people are just going to wait until Danny Williams retires. Now that's a problem."

There is nothing evident today that was not also evident five or six years ago but that’s really another issue.  The thing to note is that Temelini – once a very public Dan-o-phile – is now a solid critic of where the province is under Williams’ leadership.

Temelini isn’t alone in this.  There are a number of public commentators who have gone from praising the Premier to be concerned for the state of public life in the province.  Then there are the comments coming from all corners of the province that express some frustration with things in Newfoundland and Labrador after seven years of Danny.  Increasingly the grumbling is coming from within the Tory party, especially among the old townie establishment part of the Blue Machine.  it’s all still very much quiet grumbling of the sort where people are a bit self-conscious that word might spread back to Hisself and Hisself’s hangers-on. But five years ago, no one would have dreamed of even thinking of being disgruntled let alone expressing it.

Moods are shifting.

Still, some people quoted in the article seem to recognise  - albeit vaguely – that there is an issue even if they quite obviously don’t know what to do about it.

"Why do people put so much hope in one person?" wonders Lorraine Michael, the sole New Democrat in a Gang of Five opposition that includes four Liberals.

"We do have a personality cult mentality here in Newfoundland and Labrador and a lot of it is based on his personality."

That last bit is by no means clear.  The worship of an individual in the fashion seen in this province over the past few years speaks to a much deeper cultural issue  - a cultural disorder – rather than something as simple as “he is a sweet guy” or “he is a bully” or “he is very charismatic.” take your pick:  those are all descriptions of a personality but they don’t explain the bootlicking toadying of so many out there.

Nor does it explain the unwillingness of Michael and the four Liberal opposition members to resist being steamrolled by Mr. Popularity.  Just because someone is popular, even if he or she is actually that popular, doe snot make them correct in decisions. Rolling over on something like the expropriation bill, for example, simply shouldn’t happen in a healthy democracy.

Still, recognising there is a problem is the first step in finding a solution.



As labradore notes, while a throne is speech is supposed to be about laying out the new legislation for the upcoming session, the one delivered today was surprisingly thin in that respect.

Not to worry. 

There is plenty of old legislation that isn’t in force and unkept promises dating back to 2003 to keep any half decent administration busier than a one-armed paper hanger.


PUB quietly imposes water management deal

The public utilities board imposed a water management agreement on NALCOR and Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation on March 9, 2010. The reasons for the decision were filed separately ,

The PUB didn’t issue a news release when it issued the order, nor did it issue any sort of media advisory or news release on the half day of hearings it held into the application.



More like maquette.

or to be even more accurate a mockette. 

Not even enough of a mockery to be a fully qualified one to handle the name on its own.

More like mockery-light.

Mockery of a political party, mockery of democracy and mockery of a genuine separatist party. 

Gilles Duceppe and the Bloc:  political irrelevant. 

But damn fine comedians.


21 March 2010

The Money Program

Within the past 12 months, federal and provincial government sources have poured $2.0 million into a building expansion at Dynamic Air Shelters and to unspecified research projects the company is running.

The most recent injection – this time from the provincial government – came last week.

That brings the total amount of public cash in this private company to slightly less than $ 3.5 million in the four years since the company relocated from Calgary to Grand Bank. That doesn’t count what the company received as a result of EDGE status.




Amount (Cdn$)


19 Mar 10

12,000 square foot building expansion plus new equipment


INTRD - unspecified

17 Jun 09



NRCC - contribution

17 Jun 09



NRCC - contribution

12 Jun 09



NRCC - contribution

19 May 09



NRCC - contribution

16 Apr 09

Building expansion plus new equipment


ACOA – interest free loan, Business Development Program



Grand Bank Development Corporation loan

06 Nov 08

6,000 square foot expansion plus 30 + jobs



Oil and Gas Manufacturing Services Export Fund

27 Jun 08

Salary subsidy – hire and train 18 employees


INTRD - unspecified

01 May 07

Loan – unspecified purpose



20 Dec 06

Prod. “efficiencies” and employee trg



26 Jun 06

Construct oil industry shelters


ACOA – “provisionally repayable contr”

12 Jun 06

Hire marketing manager


ACOA - contribution








$ 3,499,926



20 March 2010

Le declin de l’empire

Eyes firmly fixed on the past, as if obsessed,  instead of looking toward the future.

Tell-tale sign on top of all the other tell-tale signs - Churchill hydro etc - of unhealthy obsession with the past.
In eight years time, they may find that many of the changes they hoped for like massive new industries will still be little more than the fodder for someone else’s rhetoric.
Finishing other people’s ideas, if you can finish them at all, is not like having ideas – and real accomplishments  - of your own.

19 March 2010

Jesse James and the stripper

Arguably the stupidest ar**hole in the world.

There simply isn’t any other word for him.


Old Harry: Gulf prospect bigger than Hibernia

Old Harry is an oil and natural gas deposit in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that could be twice the size of Hibernia. As it is the current estimated size is about the same as the current proven, probable and possible oil at Hibernia.
The field is back in the news because one of the companies involved – Corridor Resources – is planning to do some exploration work on the portion of the field that is within the Newfoundland Offshore Area. Corridor has licenses for the field from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
There are two major problems.  Firstly, the border in the Gulf has not been defined clearly enough in that area.  Secondly, and more importantly, nothing is likely to happen on the Quebec side of the border unless and until Quebec City and Ottawa resolve a royalty/jurisdiction dispute.
The Quebec government is looking for a deal:
"This represents a good opportunity and lot of money for Quebec, especially at a time where we are trying to limit our dependence on oil imports," said Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau. "We want to settle this issue for good. Quebec has been very patient and we're taking a firmer line today. We've been waiting for 12 years and now we want to reach a deal."
And there’s a unanimous resolution in the Assemblee Nationale to back it up.
All things considered, oil and gas development in Newfoundland and Labrador is likely to shift to the western portion of the province sooner rather than later. 
h/t to labradore.

18 March 2010


Near Port aux Choix on the Great Northern Peninsula.

The pictures turned up in ye olde in-box on Thursday evening.


Okay, so it’s more like very near Port aux Choix.


Ice conditions at sea are obviously so bad, the animals are whelping on whatever patch of ice they can find, even if it is well up the beach (and across a road). From pictures circulating in the mainstream media, there is no ice at sea in some areas where it would normally be choked off with the white stuff.



Good one there, Wente

Margaret Wente argues that bloggers are mostly male and demonstrates in the process that her argument [as to why that is so] is wrong.

[Sarah and I believe the urge to blog is closely related to the sex-linked compulsion known as male answer syndrome. MAS is the reason why guys shoot up their hands first in math class. MAS also explains why men are so quick to have opinions on subjects they know little or nothing about.]

Clearly, basing your column on an inherently fragile, sexist stereotype demonstrates that blogs aren’t the only place for instant, ill-founded opinions.  Moreover,  the time it takes to produce a column versus a blog post doesn’t -  in and of itself  - improve the quality of the thought behind the column.

Not many women are interested enough in spitting out an opinion on current events every 20 minutes.

Maybe not, Peg, but apparently at least one is interested in taking longer to get to the same place.

But don’t worry, plenty of bloggers wind up generating exactly this kind of writing:  an argument that defeats itself.

At least Peg doesn’t have to write her own sock puppet comments.


[] denotes additions to clarify the point for people who don’t go off and read Wente’s column.

Wente Sorted Updated:  Apparently the considerable number of women who write blogs decided Peg was full of shit, too and decided to tell her in so many far more elegant words [original links from the Globe version are live]:

"When influential women are ignorant to the numerous women's voices on the Internet, when the voices of many women are dismissed as endearing, cute and girly, and when the voices of those women who are most oppressed are ignored altogether, that gender gap is perpetuated. Thank you, Margaret, for proving your own point about how hard it is to change the conversation."

Changing the conversation is very hard to do.

So the Globe has decided to have an online chat between Peg and women bloggers.  Get the popcorn.  This should be funny.





17 March 2010

Never let it be said: House of Assembly version

Never let it be said that your humble e-scribbler didn’t help out the governing party as it struggles to figure things out a mere seven years into its time in office.

Tuesday’s post on on the opening of the House of Assembly noted that there was a major bit of business missing from the news release issued at 11:00 AM, namely proroguing, or officially closing, the old session.


At 4:20 PM on Wednesday – odd time for something supposedly routine, dontchathink? -  yet a second media advisory emerges giving “details” of the proceedings on March 22. Turns out the House will meet at 10:00 to prorogue the old session.  Then His Honour will show up at 2:00 PM to deliver the speech from the throne.

24 hours and 20 minutes after the BP post points out the missing bits, basic information that ought to have been known and released in the first place miraculously appears.

Shades of the ABC website.

Ya gotta wonder sometimes. 


Births and Deaths

With a tip of the bowler to David Campbell, here’s a table showing the ratio of live births to deaths, by province, for the selected years, courtesy of of the good folks at the Dominion statistics bureau, currently d.b.a. Statistics Canada.


































Campbell explains the figures this way:  for every death that occurred in a province in the given year, there was the number of births shown in the table. So in Alberta, for example, for every death, there were more than two births.

Most provinces have been stable.

In Atlantic Canada the figures have been going down and in Newfoundland and Labrador the decline was the worst of all. We don’t have enough babies to replace our deaths on a one for one basis.

The reason is simple:  young people of child-bearing age leave for somewhere else. This has not changed at all, despite the claims that the number of live births the past couple of years has gone up. People are still croaking at at least the same rough rate. And once the economy everywhere else settles down and starts to grow the normal patterns will resume.  The folks who have come home to seek shelter during the storm will venture out once more to foreign lands, to return  - if at all – once they have retired.

There are a couple of observations on this.  First, it is a reminder that the demographic issue is still with us and needs to be addressed.

Second, as far as the number of workers goes, this is not really much of an issue. if there was economic activity here, people would be staying.  And if they didn’t stay others would come here to replace them.

But that isn’t happening.

This is where you notice the general lack of growth locally and recall the number of projects that were supposed to happen but that died.

And then you realise the number of times cabinet ministers talked about slowing down development or – in the case of Hebron – letting work go because we could never do it all here anyway. 

Sure we could;  as in Alberta, we’d open the doors to people willing to come and do the work.  But that didn’t happen.

Just think about that for a second.

We actually had people talking about foregoing development or slowing the pace of development in order to avoid something. That “something” wasn’t overheating the economy or crime, housing crises or anything of the sort.


There must have been some other reason why people thought letting opportunity slip by would be a good idea.


Court docket now online

Word-for-word, the release issued by Provincial Court:

Effective March 3, 2010, the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador began providing improved public access and greater transparency by posting its daily Adult Criminal Docket online. The dockets are found online at http://www.court.nl.ca/provincial/adult/dockets.htm

The public and media now have the capability to go online and access, at their convenience, the daily Adult Criminal Docket for any Provincial Court location in the Province.

By providing this service the Court eliminates the need for the public, and particularly the media, on a daily basis to call or visit a court centre in order to confirm that a particular matter is scheduled for the following day. This access not only benefits the public and media, but improves the efficiency of the court by reducing phone calls and visits to the Court Registries.

The Small Claims Docket will also be available online in a few short weeks. As regards Youth and Family cases, there is specific legislation that prohibits the information contained in these dockets from being published.

Chief Judge Mark Pike said, “I am pleased that our Court Services Director has taken this innovative step to improve the efficiency of the Court’s daily operation and to make it more convenient for the thousands of people who have contact with us every year”.

Prominent St. John’s criminal lawyer, Randolph J. Piercey Q.C. stated “For many years lawyers, witnesses and those accused of crimes were required to crowd around a printed listing of the schedule posted outside the court door every morning. This was cumbersome and confusing. By having the docket posted and accessible online, all parties can confirm their schedules in advance.”

Pamela Goulding QC, Director of Public Prosecutions said “All too frequently, people went to the wrong courtroom or were mistaken about when their case was scheduled to proceed. Those who work in the courts such as police officers, lawyers and media personnel upon whom the public relies for information about what’s happening in our courts every day, were especially affected. Now, anyone with internet access can check the docket at their convenience. This will make it a lot easier for everyone. It just makes sense”.

The Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador is the first Provincial Court in Canada to offer online daily Adult Criminal Dockets. The open court principle can be significantly enhanced through the appropriate use of existing information technologies.

“Innovative step”?

Just goes to show how far things have to come where something as patently obvious as posting a docket online is innovative.  Still it’s a good first step.

Of course, this isn’t the first court in the province to do this.  Trials Division of the Supreme Court has had its docket online for the better part of a year or more.


Williams to continue unsustainable spending

In his first public statement since coming back to the province after heart surgery, Premier Danny Williams confirmed the provincial government will continue spending public money at a level his finance minister has described as unsustainable.

According to Williams, a balanced budget is no longer a target for his administration.

Williams said it was important to keep “momentum” going in the province. 

  1. We are in a pre-election - if not a pre-leadership -  period in which any sound fiscal management goes out the window.
  2. Williams correctly identifies provincial government spending as the source of economic activity on the northeast Avalon.  As BP readers know, oil hasn’t been driving things in the metro area, contrary to public belief.


Big show; big deal

Okay so it’s not like anyone doubted the outcome but take a look at the turnout.

Out of 10,189 eligible voters, only 33% of them showed up to vote.

The newly elected member of the House of Assembly got the approval of a mere 27% of the electorate in the district.

Forget the tiny opposition party votes.  They were never expected to do anything anyway. 

But look at the Tory numbers and think about it:

A party that is supposedly worshipped by the entire province – except for a couple of skeets and ne’er do wells – could only motivate 27% of voters in a riding to cast their ballot.

That’s it.

2,737 out of 10,189.

That’s about half (55%) of the vote Beth Marshall pulled in 2007.  And even that was with a smaller number of eligible voters and in one of the historically worst turn-outs (60%) for a post-Confederation general election.

This one was even worse than that and in a situation where there was virtually no opposition campaign and the Tories could pile on the cash and the bodies as they always do for these shows.

Of course, none of that will be discussed during the inevitable – and entirely routine – post-game show on Wednesday.

But while the rest of the world just drones on, take a minute and just think about everything that’s happened since last September.  Then add this rather dismal performance.


16 March 2010

House to open two weeks late

Surprisingly this didn’t get announced yesterday – on a government holiday – along with the news Hisself had returned to work.

The House of Assembly will open with a Throne speech next Monday, March 22.  That’s two weeks late.

If past speeches are any guide, this one will be a truly mind-numbingly hideous piece of verbal diarrhoea.

No mention of what happened to the old session which was adjourned before Christmas but not ended.  Normally the House would meet and conclude the old session.  Maybe the word normally used for that – prorogue – is not in fashion among Conservatives any more.

Anyway, the finance minister will deliver a new budget a week after that, Monday March 29.


Loonie on the way up

The Canadian dollar is at a level it hasn’t hit since just before the giant meltdown of the economy in the middle of 2008.

And this is supposedly a good thing.

How exactly is unclear since the United States economy is still in the crapper and the Canadian economy is still full of government cash.

Productivity is up, for sure, and that’s good.  But…

While the recent pickup in productivity is welcome, “the question of sustainability still remains front as centre as firms continue to increase hours worked along with overall employment,” said Bank of Nova Scotia economists.

That’s really the warning that has to go with any Pollyanna projections:  we can’t be absolutely sure this is real.

Sales of manufactured products was down 11% in this province in January from December.  But the January 2010 numbers were about the same as the numbers in January 2009.  And that’s the opposite of what was happening nationally.

Oil production is still running about 17% below last year.  January production was about 8.7 million barrels compared to 10.5 million barrels in January 2009. That’s consistent with what you’ve been seeing reported in this corner since last fall.



Quiet: Genius at Work

Those people who worked diligently to smash FPI into tiny bits can see how much their handiwork is benefitting people who don’t live in Newfoundland and Labrador:

Around the world, he could see two models of integrated seafood companies that were able to grow: They focused on being very efficient at primary production, or they specialized in value-added processing, sales and marketing.

High Liner took the second tack and Mr. Demone eventually got out of the fishing fleet business, which had been his company's, and his family's, historical foundation.

The company got another boost recently by picking up assets in the selloff of FPI Ltd., a troubled seafood company based in St. John's. That brought a strong food service business in the United States, as well as production capacity in Newfoundland and Labrador. Recent results reflect the first synergies from that purchase, Mr. Demone says.

Meanwhile in Newfoundland and Labrador, the geniuses who brought you the original fiasco are still at work offering the same old solutions to the same old problems.



Satisfaction with Williams gov drops 13 points

What’s the difference between approval and satisfaction?

Well, quite a lot according to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians surveyed during February by two polling firms.

A Corporate Research Associates poll conducted between February 9 and February 25 showed public satisfaction with the Danny Williams administration at a record 93% percent.

But a new survey by Angus Reid conducted during the same time period (February 16 to 23) showed that only 80% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians approved of Danny Williams’ performance as Premier.

The Angus Reid poll has a lower margin of error at 3.9% 19 times out of 20 compared with CRA’s 4.9%. in addition to a news release, Angus Reid also released a description of the polling methodology and details on the poll itself.  CRA does not release that information.

What this really shows, though, is the gigantic discrepancy between CRA and other pollsters in their results.  The problem with CRA polls is highlighted by the difference in results between AR and CRA for Nova Scotia.  The Angus Reid poll also highlights a huge discrepancy between the AR poll and CRA’s results on a similar question in Nova Scotia. 

According to CRA:

Satisfaction with the NDP government declined even more significantly, with one-half of residents satisfied with the overall performance of the government (49%, down from 63% three months ago).

But according Angus Reid, the Nova Scotia government led by New Democrat Darrell Dexter has only 23% approval down from 49% in November 2009.

Bond papers has contended for some time that CRA polls are wildly inaccurate measures of public opinion.



Firds of a bleather: uncommunication edition

What government departments or agencies in Newfoundland and Labrador have a policy like the one at Environment Canada forbidding interviews unless they’ve been cleared by the strategic uncommunications folks first?


15 March 2010

Danny is still in Florida

Nowhere in the official news release is there any mention that Danny Williams is back in Newfoundland and Labrador.

CBC didn’t report that he was back in the province either, merely that he was back at work.

Ditto the Telegram and Voice Of the Cabinet Minister.

And if you listen all the way to the end of an interview with health minister Jerome Kennedy from the Morning Show on Monday you can get pretty much the same idea. Kennedy acknowledges that Williams has been recovering and “will be back to work shortly.”  He quickly corrects himself to say Williams has already returned to work.

In fact, given that Monday was a provincial government holiday, a news release saying that Williams is back at work looks highly suspicious.  The timing of the release suggests it was triggered by Kennedy’s comments on the Morning Show.

But that doesn’t mean he is actually in the province. 

Williams has been working – apparently – throughout most of his recuperation period. It’s highly unlikely that a man described by his own deputy as a workaholic could actually do anything but try and run the province from his sick bed in Florida.

There’s no word on when Williams will actually return to the province.


Great Minds Update:  As WJM notes, Hisself has been doing official work things before the news release announcing he is on the job once more.  That pretty much clinches the conclusion that the “news” today was more a reaction to Jerome!’s comment than any actual change in Hisself’s health status.

What-no-facebook-status? Update:  Turns out Hisself is actually back and the release was cover for his campaign foray into Topsail district.  Still, he could just have easily issued the release in February when he went to Vancouver – what was that, a lark? - and said he’d be working from the Southern premier’s office in Sarasota until the snow final disappeared.

Elements of Style: Notebook…and pen

Keep your Blackberry.

Thanks for the Palm, but no thanks.

Ditto the iPhone, iPod and even the iPad when it arrives.  They have their uses, sure enough.

For some purposes, only a notebook will do.

Not a computer, mind you.

A notebook.

piccadilly-mole-sideview2A book in which one writes notes.

There is the Moleskine - left, on the bottom - or a version by Piccadilly, left, on the top that is far less expensive and every bit as good.

Black cover, elastic to keep it closed, a few hundred pages of blank paper, either ruled or plain, to suit the purpose. 

146Something durable enough to carry around the corner or around the world.

And to write in the notebook, there is nothing that compares to a fountain pen.

A Mont Blanc, if you are so inclined, in this case a Meisterstuck 146.  

Writing need not be without its pleasures.


Oveur and Out

Actor Peter Graves, whose career ranged from Stalag 17 to Airplane!, died of an apparent heart attack on the week.  Graves was age 83.

Graves was perhaps best known as the spymaster in the 1960s television series Mission: Impossible

Known for his serious roles, Graves lampooned them all successfully in Airplane!, a send-up of airplane disaster movies.  Graves played Victor Oveur, the pilot of a doomed airliner.


Inherent weakness: a public sector-driven recovery

Newfoundland and Labrador showed weak job growth in February with an increase of a mere two tenths of one percent compared to January 2010 and 1.5% compared to February 2009.

Nationally, the job growth in February was driven almost entirely by the public sector.

That matches rather nicely with the experience in Newfoundland and Labrador where private sector job creation has been trailing off for a couple of years. As usual you can find great details on this at labradore: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six.

Here’s a chart – h/t  labradore – that should help you get a clear picture of what has been going on.

Three things to take away from this:

1.  What you just saw is absolutely, categorically NOT what you are hearing from the mainstream media, political circles and people in the local business community.  But it is real. The happy-crappy-talk coming from places like the Board of Trade demonstrates the extent to which the Board has its head up its collective backside or can’t understand simple numbers.

2.  The corollary to the private sector jobs-slide is that the jobs growth that has taken place – akin to the boom on the northeast Avalon – has been fuelled almost entirely by the public sector.  Since public sector spending is – as regular SRBP readers have known for years – unsustainable the whole thing is built on very shaky foundations.

It can’t last.


3.  Stand by for some serious adjustments.  The reckoning may not come in the next few months but it will have to come.

Of course, you will hear nothing but happy-crappy-talk from politicians who are looking to get re-elected in two years.  The pre-election campaign has already started.  What’s more, in a worst case scenario, some of those politicians may be looking to become Premier in a Tory leadership fight before then. Either way, there’s little hope that any political party in the province will be able to come to grips with the real economic issues and start taking action to set the right course for the future.

To steal the words of the Lucides:

Those who deny there is any danger are blinded by the climate of prosperity that has prevailed in … recent years. … That’s the peculiarity of the current situation: the danger does not appear imminent but rather as a long slow decline. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be any risk. But once it begins, the downward slide will be inexorable.


14 March 2010

Saint-Saens – Symphony No. 3

Sunday morning listening pleasure: