31 October 2010

Moms say the darnedest things

The big front page story on the Telegram this Hallowe’en weekend is a story about the chow served to the guests at the Lakeside Hilton, the century old and then some prison that is the centrepiece of the provincial government’s correctional system.

Her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

The piece is called “Dining in at HMP”. The front end of it is a summary of a piece in the Toronto Star that compared local prison fare with that of the jails operated in the Greater Toronto Area.  The rest of it is a summary of the menus served at the Pen  garnished with quotes as fluffy as the mashed spuds that sit on the inmates’ plates next to the roast beef au jus or fresh Atlantic salmon.

The story is not front page fare by any means and it is only marginally less front page-y than the piece underneath.  That one comprises reminiscences by former managing editor Bill Callahan of the time he was a provincial cabinet minister back in the days when the last personality cult seized the good people of the province in its steely grip.  Incidentally that was long before anyone taped keys on walls at newsrooms, but that is to digress. Perhaps it is time for the powers that be over at the Telly to start re0running old Ray Guy columns from around the same time.  If the Mother Corp can recycle Chez Helene or Quentin Jurgens MP surely there is value in 45 year-old humour that is still relevant and savagely funny today.

Anyway, your humble e-scribbler’s mother inadvertently captured the gravitas of the Telegram’s front page Saturday evening with a dinner table comment she meant in all earnestness.

I saw that headline, she said, pointing to the paper over on a table in the living room.  “Dining in at HMP”, she read.  I thought that was going to be another Karl Wells food review.

At that, the family took a break from dinner to clean the shepherd’s pie off the walls.

Spit-takes can be messy.

- srbp -

30 October 2010

Hansard editor pens unique parliamentary novel

 

The blurb for this novel by the former editor of Hansard at the House of Assembly says it all:

verbatim

Verbatim: a novel is a hilarious and scathing exposé of parliamentary practice in an unnamed Atlantic
province. Dirty tricks, vicious insults, and inept parliamentary procedures are some of the methods members use to best represent their constituents.

Infighting about petty matters within the staff of the legislature is captured by Hansard, its recording division, complete with typos unique to each correspondent. But when the bureaucrats begin to emulate their political masters, the parliamentary system’s supposed dignity is further stripped away.

Jeff Bursey reveals how chaotic and mean-spirited the rules behind the game of politics are, and how political virtue corrupts everyone. Verbatim is an inventive and blackly humorous work that speaks to the broken parliamentary practices found across the country.

About the author:

“Jeff Bursey has worked for Hansard in Atlantic Canada for seventeen years, first as
a transcriber, and then as an editor. Born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and currently
living in Charlottetown, PEI, Jeff has only ever lived on islands.”

What others are saying:

“Jeff Bursey has written a clever, highly innovative and highly readable novel about Newfoundland, specifically modern Newfoundland politics. The satire is sharp, sometimes hilarious, the language perfectly suited to the subject.“-- Wayne Johnston, author of The Colony of Unrequited Dreams.

Bursey’s work also enjoyed a very favourable review in the Winnipeg Free Press.

- srbp -

New book by city councilor Frank Galgay

Layout 1

St. John’s city council Frank Galgay has a new book out this fall, just in time for the holiday season.

Here’s a chunk of the blurb from the Flanker Press website:

“The glory days of sailormen come alive in the pages of Rocks Ahead! as Galgay revisits the old northern channels where seafarers defied death at every turn.  These past few centuries, many have perished in the bitter Atlantic waters, while others have found hope among the ruins. The 30 stories within these pages span the years between 1704 and 1944. They recapture some of the most awesome and terrifying voyages any captain has ever seen, including the heroic rescue of the crew of the Merry Widow, the oil spill off Mistaken Point from the SS Rotterdam, the SS Grampian’s fatal collision with an iceberg, and many more exciting tales of doom and deliverance.”

Rocks ahead is in bookstores now or by mail from Flanker Press.

- srbp -

The Rally for Sanity and/or Fear

From Forbes online comes the story of how the Rally for Sanity and/or Fear started:

“Right after I made the post, some other reddit [sic] guys created the Colbert Rally web site,” Laughlin told me in an interview. “That inspired all of the Facebook groups.”Although growing on the web at a fast pace, the idea existed in its infancy across multiple fan pages across Facebook as support for Laughlin’s conception of a rally, but no immediate plans to make it happen. “Colbert’s staff was on a week-long break when the post first went crazy. Me and other Reddit users were brainstorming ways to get the show’s attention.”

After some Googling around, Laughlin discovered that Colbert sat on the board of directors for online charity DonorsChoose.org, where donations can be made to one of multiple charitable projects chosen by the donor (hence the name). “We thought that if we could get a bunch of Reddit users to do a big charity bomb,” having thousands of users donate money simultaneously while others publicized the cause behind the mass donations, “we could get his attention.”  attn.  [sic] In the first 48 hours, over $200,000 in donations were made.

- srbp -

Best Traffic, October 25 to October 29

  1. Williams announces political exit plan
  2. Best Political Blog in Canada.  Right Here!
  3. Lower Churchill:  What Danny actually said (with translation)
  4. Cleary quits as federal NDP candidate
  5. Knuckle-dragging council pissed off at hard-working recyclers
  6. NALCOR:  the power of nostalgia (Part 2)
  7. Emera silent on Lower Churchill talks
  8. Court docket now online and Five years of secret talks on Lower Churchill:  the Dunderdale audio [tie]
  9. NALCOR:  the power of nostalgia
  10. Insider baseball and Kremlinology 27:  Going negative early has its risks [tie]

This is the week of big news.

Danny talked up the Lower Churchill and the possibility of a deal.  That could be the signal he is ready to take a walk. A whole bunch of Lower Churchill stories crowded into the Top 10 this week, including the story the conventional media refuse to report (tied at Number 8).

Sir Robert Bond Papers took first spot in the Canadian Blog Awards for Best Political Blog for 2010.

Ryan Cleary, long touted as the NDP dream candidate to win a second federal riding in the province decided he would pack it in and go back to writing.  Some are speculating the Indy may be coming back.  The website’s had the login screen for months and the Indy is still deader than Cleary’s political hopes.

Besides, Atlantic Business Magazine is looking for an investigative type and Cleary just finished writing a few puff pieces for them.  Maybe that’s the fit.  ABM already picked up the best scribbler at the old Indy:  Stephanie Porter so the Indy’s second death already produced the best benefit it could for ABM and its able crew.

This is the week that Bond Papers traffic took a massive leap.  On top of that, weekend traffic has been matching weekday traffic for the past three weeks or so. 

That’s very odd.

Normally, weekend traffic drops to a low as 50% of the average weekday load regardless of whether there’s new material or not.

Maybe people sense that this is going to be a hot fall for news.

- srbp -

Update: Added a couple of missing words, put in caps where they belonged,, added some italics where that belonged and added a new para [Starts with “Besides…”]

ba1

29 October 2010

Book launch for first-time local author

jill's book launch

Jill Sooley grew up in Mt. Pearl, NL. She enjoyed a successful career in public relations first with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, and later, at a boutique public relations firm in midtown Manhattan. She currently resides in Long Island with her husband and children. The Widows of Paradise Bay is her first novel.

- srbp -

Kremlinology 27: Going negative early has its risks

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can be forgiven this week if they thought they’d entered the savage world of American politics complete with its intense and highly orchestrated personal attacks.

While the 2011 provincial election campaign has been underway since last spring, the provincial Conservatives went negative this week with a pre-emptive attack on the Liberal party.  The pretext for the attack was the opposition office’s new communications director, Craig Westcott.

Conservative leader Danny Williams was characteristically blunt in justifying both the attack itself and the violation of the province’s privacy laws by the release of an e-mail Westcott wrote to the Premier’s office in February 2009.

I did feel it was important that the people of the province know who they’re dealing with and what they’re dealing with when this man is now an integral part of the official opposition in this province.

The task of leading the attack went to Kevin O’Brien, recently promoted from a low-level portfolio to the slightly more demanding job of municipal affairs. O’Brien noted the idea as well of letting people know what  - supposedly - they could expect from the Liberals:

It's sad really to see the Opposition take that path because what I see is a fellow that can't even contain himself with regard to expressing that hatred."

These statements stand out because they characterise something that had not occurred.  Both Williams and O’Brien drew attention to what they considered Westcott’s personal “hatred” for the Premier. 

Westcott has been characteristically blunt in his criticism of Williams, but his comments have been typically not as personal as Williams presents them.  And sure, Westcott made plain  - before he started the job – that he was concerned about Williams’ impact on politics and the potential the Williams’ Conservatives could win all 48 seats in the provincial legislature.  But at the point O’Brien mentioned the e-mail, the opposition itself hadn’t gone anywhere near negative.

Interestingly, Westcott described Williams accurately in 2007:

it's impossible to avoid being negative about a leader who is so negative himself, especially about his critics and some of the people who try to do business in this province.

And Williams and his crowd took great offense at anything and everything Westcott said.  For his part, Westcott released a raft of e-mails with Williams’ communications director at a time when Westcott published a local newspaper and couldn’t get an interview with Williams. Westcott ran for the federal Conservatives in 2008, largely as a personal gesture in reaction to Williams’ anti-Harper crusade.  One of the consequences is that CBC stopped using him as a commentator after the election.

That isn’t just background for the most recent shots in an ongoing personal feud,  nor does it suggest that both sides are equally guilty of anything. Westcott started his new job on Monday morning.  On Wednesday, the Conservatives launched the assault. Until then, there was nothing other than the known animosity between Westcott and Williams. The point to note is that the Conservatives characterised what Westcott and the Liberals would do in the future. 

But that prediction – and all the negative implications – are entirely a fiction created by Williams’ Conservatives.

Going negative isn’t something new for Williams.  He likes the ploy and has used it on everyone from Stephen Harper to a previously unknown lawyer named Mark Griffin.  Around the same time Westcott sent the now infamous – and previously private – e-mail, Williams labelled Griffin a traitor.  Williams also started a lengthy battle with the Globe and Mail over a column that speculated about Williams’ possible motives in expropriating assets from three private companies in central Newfoundland.

Nor is it the first time Williams has tried to put words into someone else’s mouth.  in the most famous episode cabinet minister John Hickey sued then opposition leader Roger Grimes for defamation.  The case quietly disappeared because Hickey sued Grimes not for what Grimes said but for what Williams attributed to Grimes.

The provincial Conservatives are a tough and effective political organization.  They bring message discipline and zeal to the table. On top of that they have an army of enthusiastic sock puppets who will fill any Internet space and radio talk show with pre-programmed lines. Going nasty and negative is second nature to them.

The curious thing about the episode is that Williams could easily have waited until the first lump of mud came hurling his way. 

But he didn’t.

He sent O’Brien out as his crap flinger, first.

Taking the first shot, going negative in this way, this early in a campaign would be a risky venture in any case in Newfoundland and Labrador. Most voters aren’t engaged in politics and the overwhelming majority aren’t thinking about the election yet.  Local politics is anything but the highly competitive, ideologically-divided wasteland of the United States. People don’t like taking the battle-axe to the heads of their neighbours and friends. 

Politics can be competitive, but heavily negative campaigning doesn’t bring any great benefits.  Going negative early carries a risk of alienating people from the Conservatives and from politics generally. And it’s not like Williams has a surplus of voter support he can afford to tick off with negative campaigning.  He won in 2003 and again in 2007 with about the same number of votes, about the same share of total eligible vote.  That’s because Williams’ voters consist of a core of traditional Conservative supporters plus a group of voters who have voted for other parties, usually Liberal, in the past.  

For someone with Williams’ reputation, however, there is the added danger that yet more relentless negativity will affect his own support. Voters may not be able to stomach a full year of his highly concentrated political bile on top of the seven years they’ve already witnessed. Even Conservatives have been known to revolt against Williams’ diktats.  In 2008, Conservatives in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl voted heavily for the New Democratic Party, despite the fact that four prominent cabinet ministers campaigned for the Liberal. In other ridings, they just stayed home in response to Williams’ personal anti-Harper crusade.

There are signs that voters, generally, in some parts of the province are discontented if not slightly cranky. Williams’ Conservatives have already started trying to mollify concerns over some issues. Public money is flowing freely in announcements about spending for new outdoor basketball courts or cassettes for x-ray machines.  A news conference heralding a new case of DVDs or a packet of screws can’t be far behind. 

The provincial Conservatives have also telegraphed that they are worried about voter attitudes toward the party, generally. Maybe it wouldn’t take much to see the sort of rejection of the Conservatives that happened in the Straits and White Bay North spread to other districts along the northeast coast and other parts of central and western Newfoundland and into Labrador.

In a sense, going negative early suggests the Conservatives are particularly sensitive about any prospect that a resurgent Liberal Party might be able to capitalise on voter discontent. It reinforces the idea that Williams’ personal smear of Marystown mayor Sam Synyard had more to do with a fear of political rivals than anything else.

In the insider baseball world of political reporting in this province, this week’s drama about an e-mail and a communications director may looks like one thing to some people.  But if you look more closely, another picture may appear.

No matter what, the next 12 months could bring some of the most interesting political developments in years.

- srbp -

Outside the Overpass Update:  The Overpass is to Newfoundland and Labrador politics as the beltway is to American federal politics.  In that light, consider this e-mail from the province’s other daily that puts the week’s game of insider baseball in perspective:  “Get back to work”.

Going negative this early has its risks.

28 October 2010

Cleary quits as federal NDP candidate

Ryan Cleary won’t be carrying the New Democratic Party banner in the next federal election.

Cleary ran for the party in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl in 2008, lost, took up a job as a talk show host, quit that gig supposedly because he wanted to spend more time with his family and then sought the Dipper nod in the same riding almost immediately afterward.

Perhaps he expected a quick election call.

Cleary posted a note on his blog:

I wish to advise the constituents of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl that, effective Oct. 27th, I resigned as NDP candidate for the federal riding, and as a member of the party — severing all affiliation. I’ve written several articles in recent months for publication and hope to write more, which creates a professional conflict. You cannot be a politician and a journalist — it’s one or the other. I’ve chosen to return to journalism, my profession of almost 20 years. I would like to say a sincere thank you to the people who have supported me politically. It’s been a humbling and eye-opening experience, and my passion and drive will continue to be directed towards the betterment of Newfoundland and Labrador.

No word yet on a possible replacement for Cleary.

Several recent converts might make good candidates.

- srbp -

St. John’s Planning – town hall meeting, October 30

Print

- srbp -

Contrasts 2: Quitters

When it was someone else in the Premier’s Office:

[Williams] also said the agreement in principle [on the Lower Churchill] fails to address the Upper Churchill deal.

"The Upper Churchill power project must be the most lopsided agreement ever signed in the history of Canada," Williams said.

While prominent Newfoundlanders have urged that any Lower Churchill deal address the Upper Churchill, Williams said Grimes views them as separate entities.

"I don't accept Premier Roger Grimes's position," Williams said.

"It's something you would expect to hear from quitters and we are not quitters."

And once the Old Man got the job:

The Premier has gone to Quebec, and gone to Premier Charest, and, y’know, we’ve had Nalcor visit, y’know, Hydro-Quebec, I’ve been meeting with ministers and so on, and we say to them, OK, y’know, we’ll set the Upper Churchill to one side. But, y’know, let’s sit down and have a talk about this Lower Churchill piece.

- srbp -

Contrasts

There is the series on NTV’s evening news this week featuring Yvonne Jones. The Liberal Party leader is fighting breast cancer. She allowed NTV to follow her through part of that experience.

This is not something most of us would do, under any circumstances.  Jones did, however,  and in the act of openness has given people a chance to see an aspect of her that is quite different from the clips on the evening news or the sterile quote in the paper.

The segment on Wednesday night featured a group of women, some of them breast cancer survivors themselves.  They came to support Jones as she shaved her head before starting chemotherapy. Even if you did not know any of the women, you could not help but be moved to the brink of tears.

There was a prayer chain made up of sheets of paper containing messages for Yvonne.

Jones held up a blanket knit by a group of women at a church and told about it and where it came from.

There was a picture of her cheerleaders.

Here was a woman taking the first step along a very difficult journey.  Difficult is not even the right word for it.  Truth be told, unless you have faced such a thing as cancer, it’s hard to know what word is right.

Other words come to mind, though, from watching the segment. Red faces.  Cracking voices. Trepidation.  Hugs.  Prayers. Fear.  But at the same time compassion, optimism, and laughter that seemed to make all those other things  - if not disappear  - then seem not quite so enormous.

An experience that can only be singularly personal transformed in all its dimensions through camaraderie.

Some people lead by saying: “Follow me!”

Others say: “let us go this way together.”

Life is full of contrasts.

- srbp -

Insider baseball

What is interesting to people on the inside is often of no interest to people outside.

That idea, in a great many more eloquent words and with a bunch of other ideas, may be found in this 1988 article by Joan Didion.

Some people will get this.

Most will not.

- srbp -

27 October 2010

No House sitting until December

The House of Assembly won’t be sitting until December and, as a result, it likely won’t sit much more than a dozen days.

No word on why the House is being delayed so long. 

Maybe the Premier’s Office is a wee bit preoccupied replacing all the carpets chewed up since last week.

- srbp -

Best Political Blog in Canada! Right here!

The votes are in.

The tally is done.

And Sir Robert Bond Papers is the Best Political Blog in Canada for 2010!

ba1

Thanks to all those who clicked their fingers to the point of osteo to make this possible.

Imagine what could have happened if the Premier’s Own Clicking Team decided to get behind this blog and vote their little hearts out as they do over at VO massaging Question of the Day results.

All jokes to one side, this is something that will proudly go on the masthead.  In the five and a half years or so since BP started, there are times when it has been an effort to keep going.  What does keep one typing away is know that there is an audience out there  - consistently bigger than some local independent newspapers enjoy or enjoyed - that finds something of value in these e-scribbles. This award reflects their continued support and interest and for that, they have one humble e-scribbler’s eternal gratitude.

Now it’s back to the daily job of ensuring SRBP is deserving of that recognition.

- srbp -

Lower Churchill: what Danny actually said (with translation)

From the text of Danny Williams’ speech to the provincial Conservative convention:

And of course, also looming large on the horizon right now is the development of the Lower Churchill project.

Right now, we are in discussions with Emera Energy and the folks in Nova Scotia who are anxious to be our partners as we move forward.

Imagine how exciting a day it would be if we could see that power avoid Quebec altogether and use the power ourselves or send it our neighbours in the Maritime Provinces and New England states. And it could happen my friends - just wait and see!

[BP:  How nice of Danny to tell you how other people are feeling.  He’s done this before and it turned out to be complete nonsense.  The most important words here are the verbs:  “would” and “could happen”.   It could happen but then again it could not.  And yes it would be exciting, if it happened.  Then again it wouldn’t be exciting if it didn’t.]

With this potential new and mutually beneficial partnership with Emera Energy which builds upon our existing partnership with them on our recall power from the Upper Churchill, we are embarking upon an exciting journey that has never before been seriously contemplated and pursued by those seeking to develop the Lower Churchill.

[BP:  There’s that conditional language again:  “potential”.   Of course, the idea of selling power to the Maritimes is as old as the Lower Churchill itself.  Most of what Williams seems to be doing here is thinking inside the box of what happened when he worked at the House of Assembly in the 1970s. It was very seriously contemplated back then, but abandoned.  Incidentally, remember about the claims that turned out to be total crap?  Well, there’s another one

We are saying "thank you Quebec, but we simply do not need you to develop this project". We are going to bring that clean, green power down from Labrador to the island and then sending power across to Nova Scotia.

[BP:  Funny but that just rings hollow in light of the news  - still unreported by any conventional news media - that Williams spent five frackin’ years trying to convince Hydro-Quebec to take an equity stake in the Lower Churchill, with redress for the 1969 contract put “to one side.”  It’s hard to get beyond the idea Williams is just talking this up to soothe his jangled nerves over last year’s series of Churchill Falls embarrassments or to replay Joe Smallwood’s 1964 strategy.]

Ultimately, some of the power could also end up going into New Brunswick or the hungry United States market as Emera has assets in Maine as well.

[BP:  Hungry?  Interesting choice of words given that the province’s energy corporation hasn’t been able to interest a single one of the hungry mouths to buy a morsel of the Lower Churchill food.  Now Hydro-Quebec on the other hand…]

How about that folks? Our power developed and managed by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and sold to market for the first time in history without having to beg Quebec for a piece of the pie!

[BP translation:  And if they’d accepted the secret deal without redress, I’d be standing here kissing French ass.]

This partnership with Emera would be based on another previously untested development option, and that is a phased development of the project. As you know the Lower Churchill River system is comprised of Muskrat Falls with 824 megawatts of power and Gull Island with 2250 megawatts.

[BP:  There’s that conditional language again:  “would”.  One of the reasons why people didn’t think of phasing with the small dam first is that the first dam can’t really generate the cash to pay for the huge transmission infrastructure and make cash at the same time.]

Our discussions with Emera and Nova Scotia would result in a partnership that would see us proceed with the development of Muskrat Falls first. The power from Muskrat would be used to help us displace expensive, dirty power from Holyrood which in itself justifies the project, and then the remainder would be sold to our partners in Nova Scotia and beyond.

[BP:  Displace isn’t the same as shut down entirely, is it?  That’s good because there is no plan to close Holyrood.  And as such it doesn’t justify the multi-billion project in itself.   It sure doesn’t justify the project when you have plenty of juice on the island to meet anticipated need without spending all that cash we don’t have.]

By using the Lower Churchill power here in the province, we will be able to provide stable rates for generations to come and an appropriate return to the treasury.

[BP:  Ratepayers will enjoy stable rates anyway, without the Lower Churchill.  If Williams builds his legacy project taxpayers will likely be saddled with prices that are much higher than the need to be.  The environmental assessment panel already told NALCOR that their submissions don’t justify building the Lower Churchill using exactly the same rationale Williams just used.  he knows that yet he is sticking to the same old – disproven – line.  makes you wonder what he is really up to.]

We would share the transmission with willing partners, unlike those in Quebec.

[BP translation:  Yeah and I’d be kissing their asses if only they’d have let me.  And thank heavens nobody remembers April 2009 when I cut a deal with Hydro-Quebec. ]

The larger Gull Island development would be a separate phase to follow, and would provide opportunities to attract industry to Labrador, should commercial partners be prepared to provide appropriate economic benefits.

[BP translation:  We could use the power for any company that would be foolish enough to come here knowing I’d expropriate their asses back to the stone-age just because  I woke up one morning without enough wood to finish the job. And frig AbitibiBowater too while we’re at it.]

Needless to say, there are still details to be worked out before and if a final agreement falls into place. But we are extremely excited about the prospects of developing this project in a way that brings real and meaningful benefits to the people of the province, to our partners and to our customers.

[BP translation:  That’s about all we have to get excited these days – the idea that something might possibly happen at some point down the road.  Anyone got any other conditional language?  I’ve used all mine up]

Of course, it is never over til it is over but we are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to announce something sooner rather than later.

I am hopeful that with your support we can finally see this project get off the ground.

[BP translation:  If by something “we” mean just enough to let me get the frig out of here permanently.  Put a few bucks in the retirement coffers when we have the going away party.  In the meantime, keep the Citation turning and burning, boys.  We’ll be wheels up before you know it.]

- srbp -

26 October 2010

Knuckle-dragging council pissed off at hard-working recyclers

Put aluminum cans and other recyclable beverage containers on your front doorstep in some parts of St. John’s and they’ll be gone before morning.

The aluminum fairies are busy.

Think of it as a form of curb side recycling.  These hard-working men and women have been trekking the streets since the provincial government introduced the beverage-deposit system to encourage recycling. Why they do it is of no concern.  The fact is that they have helped to cut down on the amount of garbage in our city.

And they’ve been doing it for years.

Rain, sleet or snow.

The same years that the knuckle-draggers at city council resisted running a curb side recycling program altogether.  Sure they had money for other stuff:  Wells-Coombs memorial money pit.  Cruise ship junkets.  Council was willing to spend other people’s money  - yours and mine, that is - on anything, by the bagful.

But something like recycling that is fundamentally part of what the city should be doing. anyway?  Too expensive, supposedly.

And so it fell to the people some affectionately call aluminum fairies to do what the crowd downtown would not bother to do.

Now some people are complaining about the aluminum fairies.  And some other people are trying to figure out ways to stop the aluminum fairies from plying their chosen trade. Plenty of crap-talk has been tossed around as well, likening the people who beverage containers to gulls or suggesting they are all people on social assistance. Hardly socially progressive talk, one would think, but definitely indicative of the bigoted attitudes held by some people in this town.

The only obvious reason is that the knuckle-draggers at city council have been counting on people tossing out beverage containers so that the city could pick up some spare change.  But that would just cut into the legitimate business of a whole bunch of people who are not – as city council clearly is – a bunch of johnnies-and-janes-come-lately to being environmentally responsible citizens of an otherwise stinky planet ee-arth. 

They may be grubby compared to the tonier lot at Tammany at Gower but at least the aluminum fairies work hard for their nickels.  And it would be exceedingly bad form for the crowd on council to do anything but change the recycling program they’ve started up to allow the aluminum fairies to do their business unhindered.

Chuck the stupid blue bags, for starters. Next time Doc O’Keefe can spare a moment from gallivanting around with cruise ship folk or hobnobbing at the local Connie convention, he might try hitting up his Conservative confreres for a few bob to supply the good folks of St. John’s with blue boxes. 

The colour should be appealing to their Connie sensibilities, for starters, so they should look favourably on the idea. And as for the cash, the provincial Conservatives have bags of it, thanks to the beverage recycling program. Blue boxes are also a damn-sight better than the blue bags, as well, since they make it easier for residents to put all their recycling in one container.

With a blue box at the curb, the fairies won’t have to make a mess to get at the stuff they are interested in.

But fines or tickets? 

Forget about it. 

There’s not a city councilor in St. John’s fit to look on one of those people shoving a shopping cart full of cans and tetra packs around our streets let alone shag with their work.

- srbp -

NALCOR: the power of nostalgia (Part 2)

From Jason Churchill’s paper on Labrador hydroelectric development for the Blame Canada commission, a few paragraphs on Lower Churchill development (numbers are for footnotes in original):
The story of the attempted development of the Lower Churchill River begins in September 1972 when BRINCO, using the Upper Churchill model, made a formal offer to the Moores’ government to develop the Gull Island and Muskrat Island sites. The Moores’ administration refused to accept the idea of being tied into a long-term contract with Hydro-Quebec. In 1974, after two years of failed negotiations, Moores decided to nationalise the CFL Co. portion of BRINCO. (45)  Nationalisation was presented as a matter of principle; government needed control over resources in order to mould the province’s future. At a cost of $160 million, nationalisation of BRINCO was an expensive exercise in political philosophy. The key argument underlying the move was that the public interest of the province could differ from the private interest of the company. However, Section 9(5) of the 1953 BRINCO legislation prevented the export of any power without the explicit consent of the government.(46)
A former Conservative member of the Moores’ administration, the Honourable William Marshall, considered the initiative to have been a great mistake as it “compounded the mistake” of the 1969 power contract. While costing an enormous amount of money, it did not improve the province’s bargaining position. Marshall stated that the only thing accomplished was provincial money being used to buy out private shareholders. Each year, the province continued to pay the interest on the money borrowed to finance the deal while the Lower Churchill remained undeveloped.(47) The measure failed because Newfoundland and Labrador’s core problem of access to markets without terms being dictated by Quebec remained unchanged. 
By the mid-1970s, negotiations had become increasingly complex due to inflationary pressures, the energy crisis and the overt inequities of the 1969 Churchill Falls Contract. In February 1975, after lengthy negotiations, the federal government committed to provide $425 million towards a $1.842 billion Gull Island project. While issues related to electrical transmission were not secured, the federal government was illustrating a strong willingness to provide financial assistance to Newfoundland and Labrador. However, by August 1975, inflationary pressures had forced the cost of the project up to  approximately $2.318 billion. As a result, the Newfoundland and Labrador government had to order a complete re-examination of the project and associated costs. (48)
- srbp -

25 October 2010

Emera silent on Lower Churchill talks

From Canadian Press:

HALIFAX - Halifax-based energy company Emera Inc., is declining comment on whether a deal is imminent with Newfoundland's Nalcor Energy on the proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador.

Emera spokeswoman Sasha Irving will only say that talks are ongoing with both Newfoundland and New Brunswick on an energy link.

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NALCOR: the power of nostalgia

Via labradore comes a copy of the 1978 ad used to push the idea of selling Lower Churchill power to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Next up:  NALCOR invests in a pet rock factory.

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24 October 2010

Williams announces political exit plan

Danny Williams always said that building the Lower Churchill was the only thing he wanted to do before leaving politics. He took a huge step down that road in 2006 when he rejected other options in favour of the supposed go-it-alone strategy.

With no markets and no money for the project, and with setback after setback in the environmental and land claims fronts, the odds were slim he could achieve that dream.

Slim odds, that is, until this weekend. Williams told provincial Conservatives he is trying to lure Nova Scotia and Emera  into a deal to build a greatly scaled down version of the project.  That confirms he is trying to cut a deal so he can leave politics.

The Telegram reports that:

The agreement would develop the smaller of the two parts of the project — Muskrat Falls — first and work towards the larger part — Gull Island — later on.

If the deal comes to fruition, Lower Churchill power would travel from Labrador to the Island part of the province first, to eliminate the Holyrood generating station.

There are more than a few problems with that proposal as the Innu Nation pointed out in a recent submission to the environmental review:

  • the capital cost of Gull Island includes the costs of the 230/735 kV switchyard (est. $130M), communications infrastructure (est. $70M) and other costs associated with construction of the first of the two projects – these costs would need to be borne by Muskrat Falls if it is constructed first;
  • cost savings, such as reuse of the construction bridge and construction camps, and staged mobilization from Gull Island will no longer be available to Muskrat Falls and must be added to its capital cost (est. $50M total);
  • construction costs at Muskrat Falls could potentially increase for other reasons as a result of Gull Island not being in place during construction, including costs for larger diversion facilities and cofferdams (est. to be determined);
  • based on the information in Table 23 of the Supplemental Report, the capital cost of Muskrat Falls is $2682/kW compared to $1902/kW for Gull Island meaning that it has a lower rate of return and will generate less cash flow; adding an estimated $250M to the capital cost of Muskrat Falls results in an estimated capital cost of $2985/kW.

On top of that, the residents of eastern Newfoundland would wind up bearing most of the costs for power they actually don’t need.  There is no plan to shut down Holyrood, as NALCOR has already acknowledged publicly, so the power isn’t needed to displace the diesel generators at that plant. Still, taxpayers would left paying for it.

And even if NALCOR did shut down the Holyrood diesels, the 2008 seizure of hydro-electric assets owned by three private sector companies coupled with the shutdown of the Abitibi mill at Grand Falls meant that NALCOR has more than enough generation to meet existing and forecast demand already. They just don’t need the juice.

It gets better. Weak electricity prices coupled with the front-end loading of capital on on Muskrat Falls would likely mean power sent to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the United States could only sell at heavily discounted prices. Even Muskrat Falls power at a break even price would likely be too expensive for the markets to bear.   That’s an old and fundamental problem with trying to sell Labrador power so far away from Labrador.

No problem for NALCOR, these days. Thanks to changes made to the Electrical Power Control Act in 2006, the Hydro Corporation Act, the Public Utilities Act,  and government policy, NALCOR wouldn’t suffer any losses. The company can export all the discounted power it wants  knowing that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador will wind up paying for it.

As for a federal loan guarantee mentioned in the Telegram story, the Premier can look forward to a truly sweet deal. In 2006, federal Conservative party leader told Premier Williams that a federal Conservative government would consider joining in the project in the same fashion as Hibernia.  That would mean only one thing:  an equity stake. What a massive climb down that would be to go from attacking Stephen Harper as a kitten-eating alien to welcoming him in on the Williams Legacy Project.

None of that would actually matter if Williams was planning to stay in Florida permanently before the next election, though.  He need only announce a memorandum of understanding with Nova Scotia and Emera to give him the excuse he’d need to go wheels up on the private jet. His successor would get the job of negotiating a deal.  And if the whole thing fell apart, Williams could just point to his successor and shrug.

If Williams is close to any sort of announcement on the Lower Churchill it can only be part of a plan for him to exeunt stage right, tout de suite

Well, that or this is just another part of Williams’ revival of the 1964 ploy conveniently timed for polling month. That could be another version of something BP noted in another post:

Interestingly enough, the rumour started to sputter a couple of weeks ago with talk of an impending Lower Churchill announcement in November.  Those of us who’ve been following the latest saga of the Lower Churchill didn’t see anything obvious on the horizon.  The environmental assessment process is bogged down with  significant problems. There are no markets and no money and the provincial government itself can’t afford to backstop the $14 billion project all by its lonesome.

Anyone who seriously thinks this is exactly what the Premier announced is in for a rude shock.

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Almost immediate update:  Added reference to rumour about polling month from earlier post.

23 October 2010

Will Danny expropriate?

Talks between Vale and its Voisey’s Bay union broke down again on Saturday.

This is after Premier Danny Williams tried to be “the voice of reason” on Friday.

Will Danny expropriate? 

Well, he’s undoubtedly desperate to find a foreign demon to distract attention coming into an election year. It wouldn’t be too hard for Williams to cast Vale as another foreign multi-national attempting to use local resources without properly compensating the resource owners. He could even posture as a great defender of unions.

The mine has a huge market value and – unlike Grand Falls-Windsor – the provincial government would have an easy time unloading the mill or operating it profitably as a Crown corporation.  Heck, revenue from the mine could pay for the Lower Churchill.

And, also unlike the old AbitibiBowater properties, there are no stinking environmental messes to expropriate by accident.  There may be environmental problems but nothing that should hold up the expropriation or even cause the province’s New Democrats to lose a wink of sleep.

Much would depend on whether or not Vale had a legal angle under NAFTA.  If the company can’t find a way to sue, then stripping the company of its mine and the smelter project at Long Harbour is a pretty simple affair for a government with such a commanding presence in the House.

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Quoteworthy

“Blogging’s like sex cos: to do it well u need to do it frequently, really enjoy it and take careful note of feedback.”

Tweet by Paul Waugh, deputy political editor at the London Evening Standard, quoted in a post at Left Foot Forward.

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Gordon Pinsent reads Bieber

In case you haven’t seen this yet…

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Plain English: he’s a bully

As the province’s Reform-based Conservative Party gathers in St. John’s for its annual rally, the editor of the province’s major daily assesses its leader in the plainest English yet used in the conventional media:

So, are you fighting for the little guy when you deliberately use your power and position to insult and belittle any opponent, or are you just another bully?

How long is this going to go on, and who else is the premier going to tag as a traitor or a nothing or a zero?

Here’s my opinion — this kind of behaviour is petty and childish and an abuse of power.

He’s more than willing to sit as judge and jury over the rights of ordinary citizens to speak their minds. Let’s hope he’s not looking for the third part of that triad.

It’s now only a matter of time before the pitchfork and torch mob take to the Internet and elsewhere to denounce this kind of penetrating insight into the obvious. 

That’s not to diminish in any way Russell Wangersky’s comments.  He’s right on every point of the editorial.  What Wangersky said long ago became obvious to a great many people in the province.

It’s just to say that seven years in, Danny Williams can count on unquestioning support and public defences of him from all quarters in the province, including  - scarily enough - some newsrooms. 

Whenever their god is challenged, they’ll set fire to the heretic in a moment.

And right now, Wangersky just nailed his theses to their front door.

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Related: The video that has turned out to be a minor Internet success.

 

Outrage

Unromantic Traffic, October 18-25

  1. No Dawn gives another Lower Churchill setback
  2. The rent is too damn high
  3. Court docket now online
  4. Priorities
  5. Guaranteed Annual Income
  6. Bond Papers needs your vote
  7. Tom Rideout meets the Bride of Frankenstein
  8. More Showboat!
  9. New Dawn without Light
  10. Showboat!

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22 October 2010

D’oh! Dipper leader skewered by Johnson

It’s a pretty rare day when the likes of Charlene Johnson can score a major political blow but land one the provincial environment minister did on Friday, square between the eyes of the province’s New Democratic Party leader.

Seems Lorraine Michael served on an environmental panel in 1999 that approved use of a natural pond as a storage for tailings from Voisey’s Bay. Now Michael and her federal Dipper counterparts are lambasting the provincial Conservatives for doing the same thing at Vale’s smelter project in Long Harbour but made no reference to her own views of another project barely more than a decade ago.

There’s nothing like hypocrisy to damage the political cred. Johnson’s release must have sent the Dipper opposition office into a major tailspin trying to figure out how to unfrack themselves from this simple but devastating gaffe.

Then again that’s the sort of thing that happens when you do one thing and say another. Next thing you know, the New Democrats will try and erase many of the ideologically progressive ideas from the party constitution or push regressive tax reform all in an effort to appear more like Conservatives.

Oops.

Too late.

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Williams tries inadvertent humour to help end Voisey’s Bay strike

When the threat of an industrial inquiry didn’t send the two sides scurrying back to the negotiating table, Danny Williams called the union and Vale Inco to his office on Friday in another effort to settle the 15 month old strike.

Industrial inquiries typically don’t work in labour disputes of this type that must be settled ultimately by an agreement.

Williams – who has been known to storm out of negotiations and engage in petty, vicious, personal attacks during negotiations or other disputes – claimed straight-facedly that he wanted “to try to be the voice of reason” with the two sides.

The provincial government has seen its mineral royalties plummet during the strike.

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21 October 2010

Priorities

With a chance to pose a question to the Prime Minister about troubles in search and rescue, CBC opted to ask Stephen Harper about his relationship with Danny Williams instead.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the acing Opposition leader about why his office had hired an experienced journalist  - known not to swallow the Premier’s crap as if it were candy -  to serve as communications director for the Opposition Office, a CBC radio host wanted to know how that might affect the Opposition’s relationship with Danny Williams.   

Nice to know the Mother Corp has its news priorities in order.

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The rent is too damn high

Politicians should know how to communicate their ideas simply, consistently and repeatedly.  Repetition is one of the ways you can ensure a message gets through and that it sticks.

Take as a fine example of these simple axioms none better than Jimmy McMillan, candidate for governor of New York.  Say what you will about McMillan’s political party, these edited clips of a recent candidate’s debate demonstrate how effect he is as a communicator. 

Get the message?

If you listen to any other bits of the debate, you’ll quickly realise the extent to which McMillan is a fringe candidate.  But when it comes to simply and effectively communicating his party’s key message, this guy is way out in front of the pack.

These clips running on the nightly news as part of a straightforward report would likely win the guy a ton of votes. If you don’t think it’s possible, just look at local politics since 2003.

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Non-residential commercial investment Q3 2010

From Statistics Canada, the latest numbers of investment in non-residential building construction:

nonresident construction q3 2010

Total construction is up 22.6% from the second quarter and 17% year over year (Q3 2009 to Q3 2010).  Institutional is up almost 30% year over year reflecting the government’s capital spending. Commercial is up 27% from the previous quarter but only 3% year over year.

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20 October 2010

More Showboat!

Another possible 2011 campaign song for the province’s reform-based Conservative Party:

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Guaranteed Annual Income

The Globe and Mail version by Kevin Milligan.

From the 1992 Strategic Economic Plan, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s idea for income support reform as a means of promoting fundamental economic and social transformation:

The unemployment insurance system was originally intended to provide temporary income to people seeking alternative employment who had lost their regular jobs in the work force. The system was not designed to provide basic income support, or as supplemental income for short-term, seasonal jobs. The present downturn in the economy has pointed to weaknesses in this system which must be addressed and corrected.

Strategy Statement. The Province will work with the Federal Government to ensure that the inevitable changes to the current income security system are designed so that basic income support is provided to every household, and that weaknesses in the present system are corrected to encourage the economic growth that is needed to reduce dependency on income security itself.

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Bond Papers needs your vote

The Sir Robert Bond Papers is in the run-off for Best Blog in Canada and Best Political Blog in Canada as part of the annual Canadian Blog Awards.

Your humble e-scribbler is humbly asking for your support.

The second  - and final - round of voting lasts until October 26.  You can vote once a day until then and can always get as many of your friends to vote as possible from their computers.  Vote early and vote often is not a joke in this case.

For convenience, there are links to both polls on the right hand side there.  it might be tough to pull out a win in the Best Blog category but there is a shot at best Political Blog.  The competition is pretty stiff in both categories but hopefully you’ll agree that, almost six years after the first post,  BP is one of the best political blogs in Canada.

Thanks to all those who voted in the first round and now it’s on to the run-offs. With your continued support Bond Papers will go far.

Click the pictures to vote for Bond Papers

2010 blog awards badgeBest Blog in Canada

2010 blog awards badge

Best Political Blog in Canada

 

Tom Rideout meets the Bride of Frankenstein

Anyone who wants to understand the reason why the fishery in this province remains an economic and social disaster need look no further than recent comments by the former Premier and former fisheries minister who had not one but two kicks at the portfolio.

Tom Rideout spoke to a young audience in Corner Brook the other day. As the Western Star reports it, Rideout gave only two options for the future:

One option is to let the private sector take over the industry — whereby non-profitable plants will eventually close and licences will lapse, solving the problem of over-processing capacity.

“It will be messy, but it will solve the problem,” he said.

However, as the past has shown, he said, whenever a processor closes a plant, often another group will claim they are able to do it better.

“The communities get together, their political leadership get together, they demand the licence be transferred, the new operator limps on from one crisis to another, and the communities continue to what I would call a slow march to their own death,” he said.

The second option is for government to buy out processors in geographically defined regions of the province. He said there are many employment opportunities on the Avalon Peninsula, that the plants in these areas can be be more easily closed and these areas could survive.

By his own version, Rideout served as fisheries minister in the 1980s –at a time of supposed boom – and then served in the same job about 20 years later, at a time when things were much worse.  Rideout’s version of that in-between time [CBC audio link] is, to put it generously, a bit self-serving.  For the moment, however, let us stick with Rideout’s version of events in the 1980s and then the later bit within the past few years.

During Tom Rideout’s tenure as fisheries minister in the 1980s, the fishery was in the early stages of a decline that led, ultimately to the 1992 cod fish collapse.  The policies at both the provincial and federal level encouraged people to fish anything and everything that could be caught.  The boom, as Rideout sees it, was entirely a time of artificial plenty brought about by policies that contributed significantly to the 1992 collapse. Things looked good but anyone who wanted to see could tell things were bad.

If we did not know this from other comments, as we do, we know that the fishery was in a very difficult state because Rideout tells us that in his interview with CBC.  Someone else can ask why it is that Rideout at one time claims things were great when he was minister and at the same time acknowledges the arse was pretty much out of ‘er at the same time. 

Suffice it to say that Rideout’s appreciation of his original tenure, therefore is superficial, at best.  He apparently has no grasp of what happened in the 1980s. he has some understanding of the basic  problem – too many people, too few fish – and the political dynamic that helped to create it in the 1980s when he was minister.  This is the same dynamic that took hold once again in the late 1990s when another fisheries minister did what Rideout and his cabinet colleagues did in the 1980s.

That is, they operated under the assumption that the provincial government must interfere in the fishery to a degree it does not do in other sectors of the economy.  You can see this in the way Rideout describes the two options, quoted above. In both, it is the provincial government that manages the fishery as it does now by controlling the issuance of licenses.

What Rideout describes as “letting the private sector take over” is, of course nothing of the sort. He is basically describing the situation that exists today.  That’s how he can then describe this part of the scenario:

“The communities get together, their political leadership get together, they demand the licence be transferred, the new operator limps on from one crisis to another, and the communities continue to what I would call a slow march to their own death…”.

If the fishery were left to run as a business, there would be no licenses to transfer based on political criteria.    A company could apply for a license to operate business and, so long as it met the same business regulations as all others, it would open. Licenses would be issued only on the basis of operating a business, not on the location of the plant, the type of fish or anything of the sort.  These are all artificial restrictions on business that reflect the very situation in the time Rideout was first the fisheries minister that created the political morass that continues today.

As long as the plant could make money it would stay open.  If it could not make money, then it would close.  Period.  Rideout is apparently concerned about workers.  Well, undoubtedly some bright people could figure out how to deal with that just as bright people in other industries do now.

That is what would happen if the fishery were run as any other type of industry.  And incidentally, the fishery department would comprise a few officials in another department of food related industry or something of the sort.  A small fishery department would be nothing but a reflection that government finally got out of the Frankenstein experiment in social engineering Rideout  - and a great many others - helped run.

Rideout’s second scenario is nothing more than a dolled up version of the first, but with a much greater financial burden for ordinary taxpayers in the province.

In short, whatever Tom Rideout told that young and impressionable audience in Corner Brook a couple of days ago, he showed them how persistent is the thinking that created the mess in the fishery and that continues to torture the men and women of the province today with the same blinkered thinking.

Rideout is right about one thing though, aside from his admission that like the rest of us he has made mistakes.  Rideout is right that nothing of any consequence will happen as long as we are in this pre-election period.  We can add to it the pre-leadership period and then right after that, the next pre-election period. That is always what happens as long as politicians of a certain type want to play God in the fishery.

Until politicians decide to get themselves out of the fishing industry altogether, the people involved in the industry are doomed to live daily in reruns of the same social slasher film.

Update:  Here’s the CBC online version of Rideout’s comments.

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Related:

19 October 2010

Fair to middling on entrepreneurial qualities

Only 3.8% of the St. John’s businesses that responded to a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business felt that government had a good awareness of small business.

Almost 60%  of respondents expressed concern about the burden of government paperwork on their business.

67.1% felt the state of business was good but only 24% expected to hire new full-time works within the next three to four months. 55.3% felt that their business would be “better” or “somewhat better” over the next 12 months.

From the CFIB news release:

There is no single best way to measure the entrepreneurship quotient of cities, so CFIB combines a range of approaches to arrive at an overall score. It may seem obvious, but the surest signs of an entrepreneurial hot spot are the presence of a high concentration of entrepreneurs and a high business start-up rate. It is also important that business owners have high levels of optimism and success in their operations. Good public policy is also critical, so we look at the presence of supportive local government tax and regulatory policies.

St. John’s placed 36th out of 100 cities studied by CFIB.

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Showboat!

A possible 2011 campaign song for the province’s Reform-based Conservative Party:

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Tom Rideout: the audio version

The former Premier who left Danny Williams’ cabinet in a huff and under fire from the Old Man himself had a chat with some students at Memorial University’s Corner Brook campus (formerly Grenfell College),

He apparently had a few choice observations, as CBC lifted out for the morning  newscast on Tuesday.  For example, Rideout warned that not much will happen on the fishery  - even though it needs to be done – simply because there’s an election on the way.  Rideout also said something along the lines that the current - or any administration for that matter - administration shouldn’t get a sweep of the House after the next election because that wouldn’t be good for the province.

For the record, here’s a link to podcast of Tom’s interview with CBC radio’s western Morning Show Monday morning: 

http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/nlwcmornshow_20101018_39763.mp3

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No Dawn gives another Lower Churchill setback

The New Dawn agreement is dead.

Again.

The provincial government announced the land claims deal in 2008, touting it as  crucial to development of the Lower Churchill.  The whole thing was supposed to go to a vote in January 2009 but the Innu leadership quietly shelved those plans. Despite comments from the Innu leadership in mid-2009 that some substantive issues remained to be negotiated, the deal was still off the rails a year after it was signed.

Now Labradorian columnist Michael Johansen tells the world that the Premier recently met with the new Innu leadership and got some bad news. The premier apparently wanted to get the whole thing signed by November.  According to Johansen, Grand Chief Joseph Riche explained that the deadline wouldn’t fly.

The new grand chief is Joseph Riche. He also trained in the law, like Williams, but they might not have much else in common. They don’t seem to share the same enthusiasm for damming big rivers, or for passing the New Dawn. As a consequence, Williams is learning that the issue won’t be settled one way or another before spring — and no guarantees.

So, until possibly April or May, the premier must wait, sitting in the morning twilight for his New Dawn, hoping it doesn’t all go black.

Interestingly enough, the rumour started to sputter a couple of weeks ago with talk of an impending Lower Churchill announcement in November.  Those of us who’ve been following the latest saga of the Lower Churchill didn’t see anything obvious on the horizon.  The environmental assessment process is bogged down with  significant problems. There are no markets and no money and the provincial government itself can’t afford to backstop the $14 billion project all by its lonesome.

The Innu Nation gambit seems to fit the rumour mill scenario, but, as Johansen notes, even that angle is now gone.

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18 October 2010

Whither provincially-funded search and rescue?

Not so very long ago a bunch of provincial politicians rushed forward to insist that the federal government ought to do more to help people in peril on the oceans offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ignore for the moment that what most of them really wanted was more federal jobs in the east-end of Newfoundland.

Just notice that not a single one of those same politicians – federal or provincial – will dare step forward to endorse an idea that cropped up this past weekend in Labrador.  Well, they won’t step forward as long as the scheme has to come from the provincial government’s coffers.

A fellow travelling the highway in the sparsely populated region of the province found himself in a nasty truck accident. It took police an hour and a half to make the trip by road and when they arrived, the police car didn’t include any sort of rescue equipment to help get the guy out of the twisted remains of his truck.

His idea is pretty simple:

"If they [the provincial government] had emergency services at those [highway maintenance] depots then they would have been there more quickly and they would have had the proper equipment to push my seat out of the way."

Now if someone could find a way to beg Ottawa for the money….

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17 October 2010

The party bus drinking thing explained

When it comes to absolutely idiotic, nothing quite matches the operators of a local party bus.

No, it’s not idiotic that people apparently want to drive around St. John’s on its absolutely pathetic streets and drink alcohol in a confined space, although the thought of that never quite seemed to make sense to your humble e-scribbler.  Let’s not discuss, for the moment, the fact that one of these tarted up school buses has a zip line in it.

That’s actually another issue of potential idiocy.

No, the idiocy is the claim by the operator of one of these buses that he will continue to serve alcohol or allow alcohol but will work to ensure the people on the bus are over 19 years of age.  Police pulled over one of the buses recently and ticketed the driver under the Liquor Control Act.

This guy needs a brain, a lawyer or a lawyer with a brain.

This isn’t an issue of the legal drinking age in the province.

It has to do with the black and white words of the law:

80. (1) A person shall not drive or have the care or control of a motor vehicle as defined in the Highway Traffic Act, whether it is in motion or not, while there is contained in it, alcoholic liquor, except

(a) alcoholic liquor in a bottle or package that is unopened and the seal unbroken; or

(b) alcoholic liquor in a bottle or package that is packed with personal effects in baggage that is fastened closed or that is not otherwise readily available to a person in the vehicle.

(2) Where a person is convicted of an offence under subsection (1), the court may order that person to pay a minimum fine of $250 and a maximum fine of $500 or, in default, to imprisonment for a minimum term of 2 days and a maximum term of 7 days.

People have been done for drinking in a van parked by a picket line and used as a shelter during a labour dispute. You cannot have open liquor containers in a vehicle.

Period.

If the people operating party buses want people to be able to tipple in the vehicles, they’ll need to get a change in the law. promising to restrict drinking to people over the legal drinking age is foolish.

 

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16 October 2010

Damning with faint praise

It’s an easy and quick read, if that’s part of your criteria for literary entertainment, although there’s nothing particularly revealing about the battle over the Atlantic Accord.

Rowe did not play a major, consequential role in the Accord talks, and remained, for the most part, on the periphery.

The Telegram’s Bob Wakeham recommends Bill Rowe’s light-weight, gossipy book about his very brief tenure as the Premier’s personal representative to Hy’s.

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Related:

Traffics Stoppers, October 11-15

  1. Campaign Sign, Two
  2. The weight of office
  3. Campaign Sign: Outrage
  4. When the rubber meets the paper mill
  5. Air Canada, the Maple Leafs and Sucking
  6. Pudding proved
  7. Pudding is for afters
  8. Court docket now online
  9. When the status quo is not an option:  Newfoundland and Labrador version
  10. Campaign Sign and What’s Happening?!! (tie)

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15 October 2010

FCKH8

And the full-on version, here.

 

 

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Campaign sign: Outrage

Prediction:  This will go viral:

Prediction:  This scares the shit out of the provincial Reform-based Conservative Party in the province already campaigning hard for re-election.

Prediction:  The socks will wear themselves out attacking it as viciously as they attacked CBC over Danny’s heart surgery. (That goes hand in hand with the second prediction)

 

(h/t labradore)

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Kremlinology 26: Magma Displacement

In the Hunt for Red October, a computer used by an American hunter-killer submarine to identify noises in the ocean mistakes a new type of Soviet propeller noise as a type of earthquake.

Magma displacement.

In politics, it is easy to hear a noise and think it is one thing when the cause is something else.

Take – for example – Danny Williams’ most recent petty, venomous attack on Sam Synyard, the mayor of Marystown.

Some people may think this is just Danny waging the sort of scurrilous personal attack that is his political stock-in-trade, his default setting.  And as sure as Danny Williams had nothing to do with recent oil windfalls in the provincial treasury, so too has he shown a marked preference for the political version of the hockey player’s cheap hit in the corner, the spear.

A few things about this most recent Williams smear point to another cause that produced the usual cross check. 

First, Williams noted in his remark after the cabinet shuffle that Sam Synyard complained during the early days of the Igor clean-up – according to Williams anyway -  that the provincial government had not done enough after another hurricane. That isn’t the way Synyard came across back in September. It’s also very strange that Williams had plenty of opportunity at the time to smack Synyard but didn’t. Why he brought the whole thing up three weeks later seems odd.

Second, Williams and Synyard are actually on the same wavelength.  As the Premier readily noted, the provincial government is ready to pour cash into yet another private sector company.

Third, you’ll find that not only did the Premier revisit the whole Synyard affair for a second day, Premier wannabe Darin King and his fellow cabinet minister Clyde Jackman, chimed in add their voices to the din.

These members of a Reform-based Conservative Party seem a tad sensitive. Just like the political sensitivity displayed during the Igor response.  Bridge news conferences when the news story was really somewhere else.  Cabinet ministers jumping on any signs of discontent.

And then on CBC on Thursday evening, more stories of discontent on the Burin Peninsula with the slowness of provincial financial aid for people devastated by Igor.

There’s only one more detail you need to add to get the whole picture.  Danny called Sam a Liberal.

There is the key to the whole thing. People on the Burin Peninsula aren’t happy with Danny Williams, Darin King and Clyde Jackman.  There are lots of unhappy people out there after a series of natural disasters since 2003.  That’s one of the reasons why the very first thing the provincial emergency response people made sure to tell everyone after Igor was to get their claims filed early.

You can really tell the political sensitivity because the filing claims is the thing Danny highlighted for people on the day of the storm.  He really played up the cash.  And then the day after the storm,  Danny and his merry band hopped helicopters to tour the Burin Peninsula.  That’s how they showed their concern. Even though the Bonavista Peninsula took a demonstrably harder hit, Danny showed up on the Burin. The fact that this political showboating only pissed people off more was just a bonus.

What evidently scares Danny, Clyde and Darin politically shitless is that any politician might do as Danny is wont to do and take political advantage of all that discontent.  They know, or at least they think, that this is the sort of issue that could motivate voters and turn around a couple of seats in the next election.  It only needs a politician smart enough to hit the sore point. 

Attacking Sam Synyard personally is Danny’s way of trying to drive a potentially dangerous political rival off a potentially devastating issue for the for the Conservatives. It’s that simple.

Unless you connect all the dots, though, you’d only see more of the same superficial Danny-noise.

But if you know what to look for, you’ll see the magma displacement that is causing trembling in the political earth in some places.  This is not unusual rumbling, mind you, but in the imaginary world created by Danny Williams – the world where all is perfect and he alone is master – any sign of problems, any opening for an opponent is like a hurricane, earthquake and tidal wave rolled into one.

Oh yes.  Some places, plural.

It’s not just the Burin or even the Great Northern.  Labrador West, sections of the northeast coast.  They are all places where the locals are unhappy with the current administration. To the Conservatives they are threats to life and limb.

And to the other parties they are potential opportunities.  That’s what has Danny, Clyde and Darin and all their friends so jumpy.

- srbp -