31 December 2010

Connie Leadership 2011: Fear and Loathing in the Caucus Room

Most people now realise that Kathy Dunderdale is staying on as leader and Premier a result of some secret backroom deal within the Conservative Party.

As nottawa notes, the Connies are giving potential rivals a mere 11 days to come forward.  That compares to the couple of months Yvonne Jones’ potential rivals had.  In other words, the Conservatives will go through a complete charade including what they are calling a leadership convention.

Despite this rather obvious political fraud, the people of the province know that they have a new premier thanks to a secret deal – not even a vote – cut by unnamed people in dark rooms.  It is like the good old 1920s all over again when administrations came and went over-night based on shifting alliances and unspoken promises.

And the people of the province can sleep soundly knowing their fate and that fate of the public treasury is determined by shadowy figures and endorsed by the Connie caucus.

Well, virtually all, according to the semi-official news agency VOCM – voice of the cabinet minister.

That word “virtually” suggests that some members objected or at the very least didn’t display the requisite enthusiasm.

Now there may well be nothing to that beyond an inexperienced reporter’s careless use of words.  But then again, there might be a bit more to it.  Politicians are, by nature, an ambitious lot.  Some of them have been forced to curb their tongues for upwards of seven years.  Their personal ambitions took a back seat to the Old Man’s interests and his iron grip on the caucus and the Confederation Building. Now they are told to sit on their ambitions yet again for another period of time.

Some other members of the Conservative caucus may well be uncomfortable with the decidedly anti-democratic way that Kathy Dunderdale is getting the job.  Some may recall the anointed Connie kingpin Danny Williams’ attacks on Roger Grimes over a far more democratic selection in the Liberal Party in 2001.  Hypocrisy never bothered Williams like it does others, but that is another story.

That lack of unanimity may well explain why Dunderdale held such a low-key announcement of her candidacy:  a scrum, attended by none save a single aide and the local media. it had the air of being a lash-up job.

That lack of unanimity, of course, is what this backroom deal is really all about.  Conservatives in St. John’s are clearly afraid that a leadership fight over the next two or three months will make for a Conservative of repeat of what they characterise as the divisive 2001 Liberal contest.

There are divisions within the Conservative Party.  Those divisions must be deep.  They must be deep enough to put the fear of God into the back-room boys.

Were it otherwise, the Conservatives would have a contest as they did  - successfully - in 1979 and 1989.  Instead they are afraid and loathe to tempt fate.

And for the record, the Liberal campaign in 2001 was divisive.  All leadership fights are.

John Efford and his team built part of Efford’s support on discontent over the way Brian Tobin and his close associates supposedly ran the entire party from St. John’s.  The party rank and file were passed over, according to some, in favour of those chosen by the old leader and his cronies.  Whether it is true or not is another matter, but there certainly were Liberals who felt abused.

And yes while Roger Grimes initially had some strong words about John Efford’s man Danny Dumaresque, wounds healed up before the 2003 campaign.  Grimes made a couple of appointments and everyone got on with business.

That’s what happens in politics. People have different opinions.  Leaders get paid to deal with those differences openly and cleanly, if possible, but certainly in a way that doesn’t let grievances fester.  Successful leaders are the ones who can bring a party together after a fight.  If a leader cannot unite his or her party then he or she is really not up to the job of being premier.

It is a simple and irrefutable train of logic.

By cutting a back-room deal, though, the province’s Conservatives have wound up in a very odd, and very troubling spot. 

Yes they’ve taken an anti-democratic approach. That is obvious. But then again their entire administration since 2003 is built on some of the oldest, most backward, and most pernicious political traditions of the province. It isn’t surprising they’d lurch back to the 1920s for inspiration when times got a bit tough.

More importantly, they sought to avoid what they perceived as a Liberal mistake and in the process have blundered into a much bigger one.  They have a caucus that is not united. That is never good.

To compound that, they now have a leader who is – at the very best – a caretaker until after the next general election.  Dunderdale was due to retire:  they all know that.  She is at the end of her political career. 

After October 2011, Dunderdale is gone.  It is only a question of how long she will hang on and then the Conservatives will be back in the same boat again.

In the meantime, Dunderdale has no plans and no ideas.  She is merely holding things together for an unknown period of time.

Kathy Dunderdale is a leader with no plans and – even worse - with no real political authority.

Kathy Dunderdale has her job because other people agreed to let her have it. It is not as though they were given a chance and decided not to run of their own accord.  They were persuaded not to run and that is a very different thing.

In a tough spot, Kathy Dunderdale cannot pull a Danny and lay down any laws to anyone. She cannot even build a consensus based on her own political constituency of supporters. Nor can she truthfully build a consensus based on her savvy.  She has blundered too badly in public too often for that to have any real effect for her cabinet mates. People who thought Roger grimes came out of his leadership beholden to every one of his caucus can now look on Kathy Dunderdale put in exactly the same spot, or a worse one.

Kathy Dunderdale will also have a tough time disciplining those who step out of line. Since she serves at the pleasure of her caucus she can also be dismissed by them as easily.

How much will it take to crack the veneer covering the Conservative Party?

Time will tell.

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Another fundamental shift

Rob Antle is leaving the Telegram to take up a new job with Atlantic Business Magazine.

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The Year-end Traffic Wrap Up 2010

Here are the top Bond Papers posts for 2010 as determined by readers. 

If you clicked these pages and read them specifically, here’s what you helped push to the top of the pile.

  1. Court docket now online! (Do lawyers know how to bookmark stuff?)
  2. Five years of secret talks on Lower Churchill:  the Dunderdale audio (The conventional media ignored it, but people found it anyway)
  3. General and master corporal face charges over relationship (Betcha forgot this one!)
  4. Williams to head Rogers sports empire? (Apparently, he isn’t but lots of people think it’s an interesting idea)
  5. Connie Leadership 2011 (this is the first of the series of updates – you can find a bunch more here)
  6. Conservatives to give back seized hydro assets  (A short session but another December reminder of just how badly the Conservatives shagged the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with this little fiasco)
  7. Williams abrupt departure “shocking”: Dunderdale  (Shocked is one word to describe provincial Conservatives’ reaction.  Sh*t-baked was another)
  8. Williams’ disgraceful Christmas cards (The guy writes his own political obit!)
  9. Bell 206 Crash:  photo interpretation (There are many sides to srbp readers)
  10. The World the Old Man Lives In:  larger picture  (If this one had been on tee shirts and mugs, your humble e-scribbler could have bought a condo in Florida right next to the Old Man’s place.)

 

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30 December 2010

Kathy Dunderdale: The New Paternalism

Dunderdale has sought to continue key points of the Williams government, including development of the Lower Churchill megaproject, but she has already shown a different approach on labour relations.

She ordered ministers to settle a 13-month strike involving a small group of support workers on the Burin Peninsula, and later asked ministers to end a nearly two-year negotiation with physicians that concluded last week with ratification of a new pay package.

That’s the way cbc.ca/nl described Kathy Dunderdale on a story Wednesday that did everything but explain that the Conservative caucus met on Wednesday to endorse the deal that had already been cooked up in order to avoid a leadership contest.

Note that last paragraph, though.  It shows how readily conventional news media are already absorbing the new Conservative Party political narrative about the kind of leader Kathy Dunderdale will be.

It’s right in line with a comment by Conservative parliamentary assistant Steve Kent, as reported by VOCM:

Kent describes Dunderdale as a compassionate, thoughtful, and principle-centered leader.

The new premier may well be all those wonderful things but the point to notice here is that in the construction of the whole idea Dunderdale personally directed that ministers clear up not one but two embarrassing situations.  She has the positive qualities.  She personally bestowed benefits.

Incidentally, this is exactly how Dunderdale described her role at the news conference in which she announced the deal with doctors.  There’s no accident to this:  lines like that are worked out in advance and comments don’t wind up on the page in some sort of arbitrary fashion.  They are selected to convey very particular ideas.

Dunderdale’s prepared statement describes opening the lines of communication with doctors as “my first priority…”. According to Dunderdale’s prepared remarks, the two ministers directly involved in the negotiations merely played a role.

This is essentially the same construction used by Danny Williams:  he did things or directed them, especially when they were beneficially. Ministers took orders in a clearly subordinate role.

You can see the same sort of construction in the way his most ardent supporters describe Williams:  he personally bestowed pride, courage and so forth on the poor benighted people of Newfoundland (and Labrador). Take as an example this comment on a post by Nalcor lobbyist Tim Powers over at the Globe and Mail:

2:12 PM on November 27, 2010

I know we have to believe there are strong leaders out there who will step forward and continue the work of Danny Williams. Quite frankly, with the news of his departure, I felt somewhat orphaned, a sense of being left alone surrounded by those who will, again, try and rob us of what we have achieved. …

Williams is a father figure, in the classic paternalist sense.  His departure orphaned his children.

What this political line ignores, of course, is the role that Kathy Dunderdale played in the Williams administration,  She was Williams’ hand-picked Number Two and his hand-picked successor. Like Tom Rideout before her, she represented a direct link to the older Conservative Party and its supporters who predated Williams.

Had she felt strongly about the doctor’s dispute or about the Burin situation she was in a position to change the government’s position. She didn’t. She supported it consistently. Similarly, both Tom Marshall and Jerome Kennedy held ministerial portfolios that gave them both legal and political power to resolve the matters long before the government finally settled both. The truth is that cabinet changed its approach to these two issues for reasons other than the arrival of a new leader who is compassionate.

In other words, the reality of how political decisions get made is considerably more complicated.  It’s also not something politicians really want people to know about, let alone discuss.

Instead, politicians fall back on time-worn attitudes to politics that people quite readily accept without even realising what the words actually mean.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is no change from the resurgence of paternalism in Newfoundland and Labrador politics.

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2010: The year in review

For the year-end post, you’ll have to wait until Friday to find out what the readers picked as their favourite stories of 2010.

For today, here’s another view.  Your humble e-scribbler has picked one Bond Papers post or topic from each month as a reminder of the year’s events.  I f you take the time to wander back through the archives, you’ll find all sorts of things from the UFO story that ran among last winter to a couple of posts on education.  There are also posts on the fishery that got some public attention – h/t to CBC’s Fisheries Broadcast.

So much more happened in the province than people seem to remember and the stuff they do remember is often not the most important things.

In any event, here’s the Year in Review:

January:  Spending scandal:  when “facts” aren’t true

February:  Three on one topic:  Deep Throat, Deep T’roat and Deep Throats

March:  The Fragile Economy:  staying the course

April:  Jon Lien:  mensch

May: The search for meaning challenge – yet more unfounded news media claims. 

June:  Roger Fitzgerald’s bias – the House of Assembly is at the point where partisan bias openly displayed by the Speaker is now commonplace.

July:  Calamity Kathy’s story doesn’t add up.  The local media are already praising her political genius.  Here’s another example of how short their memories are or how low are their standards.

August:  Good to the last fish

September:  The politicisation of public emergencies

October:  Breasts:  they’re not just for gawking at

November:  Reversing the entrepreneurial drive

December:  How to win without news media – Part 2

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29 December 2010

Is Gerry Byrne completely nuts or what?

Byrne says to saddle his constituents with massive debt and increased electricity prices.

That’s not exactly how Gerry Byrne might want to say it but that is exactly what the federal politician is looking to do.

The member of parliament for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte wants the federal government to backstop Danny’s Get Outta Dodge legacy plan.  Danny wants exactly the same thing and, to be frank, that’s one of the few ways this pig of a deal will fly.

The other way is for Byrne’s constituents to pay for it with a guarantee of doubling their electricity rates – or worse – for electricity they could get more cheaply using other ideas.

Now why, in a likely election year, would a federal politician want to shaft his his constituents twice over with double their electricity rates and increasing their public debt by $4.0 billion or more?

Has he gone completely insane?

Totally bonkers?

Been spiking the eggnog with oxy?

Heavens knows, but Byrne is obviously getting very, very bad political advice from someone who clearly hasn’t thought this through and who most definitely doesn’t have Gerry’s political best interests at heart.

And rest assured, gentle readers, that whatever imp perched on Gerry’s shoulder, he certainly doesn’t give a toss for Gerry’s supporters. So how did this ludicrous thought get inside Gerry’s skull?  There’s a question begging for an answer.

Someone ought to get the miserable idea out damn quickly though before it festers any further and we ordinary mortals get screwed.

From VOCM, in case they disappear the story:
Liberal MP is encouraging the federal government to step in with support for the Muskrat Falls hydro development. Ottawa has been asked to help finance the subsea link across the Cabot Strait, as well as for a federal loan guarantee. Gerry Byrne says the latter wouldn't cost anything and says the federal government should recognize that when it comes to climate change the development of the Lower Churchill is vital. Byrne says the Lower Churchill is an absolute essential plank in the overall Canadian climate change strategy and for that reason there should be no hesitation in participating.
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The Top Stories of 2010

So it’s time for the obligatory top stories posts. 

Danny quits?  Been there, done that, shoulda printed tee shirts in 2006 when he announced it.

The big story coming out of Williams’ hasty departure is the evident panic within the Conservative Party.  Ordinary Conservatives were obviously expecting Williams to carry on.  His abrupt exit left them decidedly uneasy. For its part, the party leadership seemed to be caught flat-footed and despite initial claims there would be a leadership contest early in the New Year, someone started to work behind the scenes to engineer a deal to keep Danny Williams’ hand-picked successor in place through to 2012.

But the deal as it is currently shaping up is a stop-gap, at best.

Dunderdale was planning to retire from politics. Like Tom Marshall – another supposed successor – Dunderdale is getting toward the end of her political career.  She isn’t likely to be the one to lead the party through two general elections. So sometime between 2011 and 2015, the provincial Conservatives would be back in the leader-finding business again.

If Dunderdale packs it in before October 2014, the province will be plunged into an election thanks to Danny Williams’ Elections Act fiddling in 2004.  If she hangs on for four years, the party will still have to spend the early part of 2015 running some sort of leadership contest.

And in the meantime – the second biggest story to flow from Williams’ escape -the policy doldrums that have beset the Tory party since 2006ish will continue.  Odds will remain decidedly against the provincial government launching any significant new programs unless it involves spending bags of money, that is. There’s also no chance the provincial government will reform its fiscal policy to cope with a massive public sector gross debt.

In the worst case scenario – the third biggest potential story to come out of Williams’ departure -  the Conservatives will forge ahead with Danny Williams’ Get-Outta-Dodge legacy plan and move the province into an even more precarious financial position.  Remember when the public sector debt and  and the size of the economy were the same number?  You will.

The there’s the fourth biggest story to come out of Williams’ departure:  who will replace him.  Bottom line is that we still don’t know.  Likely we won’t know for upwards of four years.

Ready for a fifth story tied to Williams’ surprise retirement?  Hurricane Igor.  Absolutely.  A huge story that affected thousands.  Revealed some serious problems inside the province’s emergency response organization.  And let’s not forget that natural disasters seem to be tied to the political future of certain types of political leaders.

Danny Williams’ political exit may wind up being the most commonly selected top political story for 20120 in Newfoundland and Labrador.  But it’s all the other bits related to his retirement that dwarf the event itself.

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28 December 2010

Counting your chickens

There’s something very odd about the way the provincial government and its agencies make huge announcements about not much.

Like say just before Christmas when Nalcor announced that it had signed a letter of intent with SNC-Lavalin to oversee construction of a generating plant and overland transmission lines if the Muskrat Falls deal goes ahead.

Big deal, right?

Well, maybe not. Here’s a line from the Montreal Gazette:

Leslie Quinton, SNC-Lavalin's vice-president of global communications, said: "We don't usually comment on letters-of-intent signings, but in this case we can say it's very good news for our Newfoundland office."

It will be even better news if the project goes ahead.  you see an experienced company like SNC-Lavalin usually doesn’t count its chickens before they are hatched.

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Media trends: the technical term is “suckass”

In a normal place, news media would not use this sort of commentary from a politician about his own caucus, well not unless it was to ridicule the comment and the politician who issued the statement.

Then again, they don’t call this particular media outlet voice of the cabinet minister for nothing:

Terra Nova MHA Sandy Collins says he's extremely pleased to see such a smooth transition of power after Danny Williams announced he was stepping down earlier this month. Collins says it could have been a difficult time for the party and government, but it went smoothly much to the credit of Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Hey Gerry!

Ed Murrow called.

He said he wants his awards back.

Either that or put a disclaimer that any resemblance between this sort of shite and journalism is purely coincidental.

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27 December 2010

For the love of three oranges…

Via the Globe and Mail, a tale of one man and his Christmas orange tradition.

Not the colour.

The fruit.

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Pop Drop 2010 continues

Newfoundland and Labrador’s population dropped again in the third quarter of 2010, according to the latest estimates from Statistics Canada.

International migration is up, but wasn’t enough to pull things into the growth category.

population 1 Q3

Could it mean that the recession is over?

Well, at least it could be over to the extent that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are feeling comfortable enough to venture off  - again - to Alberta or Ontario or wherever it is they will go to find work. The growth in population from the second quarter of 2007 onward is attributable to the North American recession.  As in previous recessions, outmigration from the province halted and more ex-pats started flowing back in as the economy slowed down.

That pattern started to change a the middle of 2009.

For those like finance minister Tom Marshall and his colleagues in the provincial cabinet - who tried to imagine this was due to the attractiveness of local economic opportunities -  these figures are bad news.  They confirm that their interpretation is wrong. If their view was correct, the population ought to be growing at a much greater rate than it has been for the past year or so.  Locals would be finding work and staying while more people would come from outside to take up the extra jobs created by a booming economy that somehow managed to escape the ravages of the worst recessions since the 1930s.

Short answer:  it didn’t.  And to go with that there are still some major economic problems in the province that the politicians aren’t talking about.  Let’s see if they start talking about them in 2011.

As a last point, as you can see from this second chart, the population of the province has dropped more often each quarter than it has grown over the past five years.  And if you were to extend that back to 2003, you’d see the downward trend continues.  In fact, the trend goes back before 2003.

population 2 Q3

So much for the government’s pronatalist policy.

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The politics of history - editorial version

The history of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador is very much the history of patronage.

The practice is accurately described in this Western Star editorial titled “Independence” (04 September 1956):

If an electorate thinks that the prime purpose of democracy in action is to provide patronage for their particular constituency and the politician gets the feeling that in order to curry votes he has to descend to the level of the electorate, then it is understandable at least why he follows the path of least resistance, expresses no disagreement whatsoever with the party in power, thereby hoping to be able to wheedle from the government patronage and public funds for his constituency where votes will reward him by returning him to office again.

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Related:  “The politics of history

24 December 2010

Delacourt and the political rumour mill

From Susan Delacourt at The Toronto Star comes a column taking issue with two of her colleagues at other publications who have taken, it seems, to writing about a rumour as if it were true.

Delacourt quite rightly chastises her colleagues and truthfully her metaphorical pen has an edge to it that ought to cause corporeal real wounds it is so skilfully wielded.

Journalism involves investigating tips or questions, determining their accuracy, and telling the public the facts.  The difference between Misters Spector and Cohen is that they seem to have taken a little shortcut there, or worse, done it backwards. They've reported the rumour and asked other people  to investigate. I would hope that Mr. Cohen is not teaching young would-be journalists to do the same. Apart from being supremely unfair, it's also just plain lazy.

Over the past few weeks, the local political world has been beset by all manner of story.  Your humble e-scribbler tossed up two separate ones so that readers could be aware they are out there.  Neither was presented as fact.

One of them merely added a bit of colour to what had existed as whisperings but that was quite clearly becoming fairly obvious true:  within the Conservative party someone  - alone or in concert with others – had resolved to avoid a leadership contest over the next couple of months and instead have Kathy Dunderdale carry on as leader of the party and, by default as premier, until sometime after the 2011 general election.

The other, as David Cochrane reliably tweeted, is one that he tells us all he’d checked into it a couple of weeks ago and received a denial from Danny Williams’ publicist. 

That one is important, though, not for the substance of it but for the fact that it existed in the first place. Danny Williams’ left abruptly and without apparent cause or explanation.  As a result, a great many people are wondering why Williams left as quickly as he did.  A great many of those are Conservatives who have been left very unsettled by his departure. 

And if nothing else, the rather speedy exit he made created the climate in which the party is now engineering a little story to avoid a leadership contest of any kind at least until after October 2011.  People are searching for an explanation.  The Maple Leafs’ rumour seems as good as any of the others that are flying around the entire province but which are more obviously preposterous.

In a sense, that’s the same sort of discussion Susan Delacourt offers after slapping her two colleagues.  She recounts the story of the rumour story itself.  That’s actually quite useful since by telling the whole tale, Susan has helped inoculate people against this sort of foolishness in the future. 

Nothing kills corruption like daylight.

Good on Susan for spreading a little daylight on this nasty infection.

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Krampus!

Think of him as the anti-Claus or the Counter-Nicholas.

In many parts of central Europe, Saint Nicholas may bring presents to the good boys and girls but Krampus is the one who deals with the naughty children.  Some versions have him coming around at the same time as Nicholas.  Others have him coming around a few weeks beforehand.

As you can see from this video, the tradition continues and attracts quite a large crowd as various interpretations of Krampus roam the streets.

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23 December 2010

Connie Leadership 2011: Fairity got the call too!

Kevin O’Brien told VOCM is isn’t interested in replacing Danny Williams.

Did anyone else have him in the race except your humble e-scribbler?

Sheesh. 

No one wants to be Ernie Eves.

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Marshall wants Dunderdale for Premier

Of course he does.

The fix is already in.

“This is not the leadership you are looking for” Update:  As the Telegram reminds us all, Tom Marshall pledged to take time over Christmas to think about the leadership.  Christmas must have come and gone while no one was looking.

It’s almost as if someone called him up and told him the right decision to make.

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The horrors of democracy

From a recent Telegram editorial:
Those same Republicans are now saying these heroes, many of whom suffer from chronic respiratory diseases, must stand aside until the country’s fattest fat cats get to keep their three per cent tax holiday. 

One could hardly imagine any greater depth of moral bankruptcy.
And from the news:
The US Senate on Wednesday approved a long-awaited multi-billion-dollar health package for emergency responders to the terrorist attacks of Sep 11, 2001.

The legislation was to be passed later Wednesday by the House of Representatives and sent to President Barack Obama's desk for signature. The approval by both chambers of Congress would come on the last day before lawmakers head home for a holiday recess.
Moral bankruptcy indeed.

Democracy is a messy business but as this bill demonstrates, in a healthy democracy parties can reconcile their contending points of view in a compromise that works for all.  In the end, the health care bill passed the Senate unanimously.

The Congress also passed a bill repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that discriminates against homosexuals serving in the American military. And those are just some of the measures passed as the members head off to a Christmas break.  The legislators will be back in January, incidentally, hard at work passing laws and keeping the current administration accountable to the people whose money the government spends.

All that noise  that hurt the ears of the Telegram editorial board is, in fact, an essential feature of any democracy worthy of the name.  It is, to be sure, a very necessary and very natural expression of a thriving society where people can argue about ideas,  have strong disagreements and then find a middle ground that allows everyone to move forward.

Compare to the current goings on in Newfoundland and Labrador.  The legislature sits for a handful of days a year.  When it does sit, as in the eight day wonder just completed, the members spoke about a handful of pathetic bills that did little more than change the punctuation is some straight-forward bills.  They spoke about those bills – debate is hardly the word for it - they did so with some of the most incoherent speeches delivered in this or any other legislature on the planet.

At the same time, the governing Conservatives are busily working to avoid having any sort of open political competition within their own party for the Premier’s job recently vacated in an unseemly haste by Danny Williams.   These denizens of the proverbial smoke-filled rooms and politicians like Jerome Kennedy and Darin King are afraid. 

They are afraid not only of debate, perhaps, but of their own inability, ultimately, to bring people together.

They seem to be genuinely distrustful of politics itself.  After all, debate and reconciliation, are core features of politics in a democratic society.

Seriously.

The problem in 2001 that Tories are pointing to was not that the Liberal leadership produced differences of opinion.  Those differences exist as a matter of course in every group of human beings. The political problem for Liberals came from the fact that Roger Grimes hard trouble bringing people together on his own team in a common cause.

The Conservative effort to deliver a leader without an open competition will do nothing except point out that the Conservatives not only lack a suitable replacement for Danny Williams, they are desperate to risk their hold on power.  What’s more, if Jerome or Darin or Kathy know that they lack the leadership skills to reconcile the factions within their own party.  Otherwise they wouldn’t stand for a back-room fix.

And in the process, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should be highly suspicious of whomever the back-rooms boys settle on to run the Conservative Party.  After all, how can the people of Newfoundland and Labrador trust them to bring people together in much larger causes than who gets to head the Tory tribe?

Politics is supposed to be adversarial and the more open the differences the easier it is for people to consider the various aspects of difficult ideas.  Consider what might have happened, for example, had the legislature done what it is supposed to do and forced the cabinet to explain and fully justify something like the Abitibi expropriation.

The job of holding government accountable is not just for the opposition. Government members have a role to play as members of the House.

Newspapers and other media also have a role to play in a healthy democracy.  Usually, the role is to question and to criticise those in power.  Yet instead of showing any enthusiasm for democracy, the Telegram editorial board is slipping into the same anti-democratic way of thinking it offered in March and April 1931.  At that time, the country supposedly needed a break from democracy and the Telegram was all in favour of it.

Simply put:  just as one could not be a democrat and support the imposition of an unelected government in 1931, one cannot support democracy and hold out the recent session of the legislature as anything other than the embarrassment that it is.
 
If, as the Telegram editorial board contends,  the most recent session of the United States Congress is a sign of moral bankruptcy and if  the House of Assembly is a repository of nobility and virtue by comparison, then let us all hope the province is very soon beset by every form of political debauchery the human mind can imagine.

There is, after all, something much more horrible than democracy.

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Of Death Eaters and Horcruxes

From deep inside the Conservative bunker this past couple of weeks have come one consistent set of stories.

Someone doesn’t want to have a leadership contest.  Whether it is the pressures of time on the party or fear of opening up internal divisions that just won’t heal, Conservative back-room boys have been trying to engineer a coronation.

Until Wednesday, those were just stories.

Then events started to unfold.

A couple of weeks ago, Darin King said he would take the time over Christmas to discuss his political future with family and friends.  Christmas must have come early. 

"My children are not that old — my son's in grade 11, my daughter's in grade 7 — my wife is a full time professional and I'm sure people would appreciate, its very taxing on the family, just time alone that you're away from home," said King.

"To consider taking on another challenge such as this at this point and time for me, it was our conclusion, that it's not in the best interest for us collectively as a family." [via CBC]

Reporters heard about King’s media scrum from a strange source:  Jerome Kennedy.  After announcing he was bowing out of the race because he had two teenage children, Kennedy told reporters that King would be along later with an announcement of his won.

And to confirm that the fix was in, both endorsed Kathy Dunderdale as the leader of the province’s Conservatives.  By default, she gets to remain as Premier.

Now a young family or other unspecified family pressures are usually a genuine explanation of why someone leaves cabinet or even leaves politics altogether. But these aren’t young families.  Both men have teenage children and they got into politics when their children were much younger – that’s the time when a young and needy family would be the reason for someone to stay out of politics.

Wednesday’s announcement by Kennedy and King sounds like  someone who quits a job to spend more time with the kids and then goes after another job that would have him spend less time with the family.  As a story, it just doesn’t hang together.

The stories about a back-room deal only grew stronger as time went by.  If the latest whisperings are true, the back-room manoeuvres involved none other than Danny Williams Hisself.  Williams was the only one who could contain the ambitions of so many for so long.  And as it seems now Williams may have been the one who could convince the ambitious to bide their time a while longer.

There’s no question, though, that someone is working behind the scenes to manoeuvre everyone into a certain position. There might be a few more minor shoes to drop – maybe some staff changes in Kathy’s suite -  but Darin King and Jerome Kennedy made it clear on Wednesday that the fix is in:  it will be Premier Dunderdale leading the Conservatives into the election, whenever it comes.

How long the fix lasts, though, is another question.

Oh…

Just coincidentally, you might have noticed some changes to the government online phone directory lately.  Right at the end of the listings for the Premier’s Office is an interesting entry:

teelephone

Danny Williams is still listed in the office.  He holds the position of “Premier Dunderdale”.

Makes you wonder.

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Update:  Corrected time references.

22 December 2010

Williams to head Rogers sports empire?

Is that why he left office so suddenly?
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Tweet-date:  From a tweet by CBC's David Cochrane (@CochraneCBCNL) earlier on Thursday:
@edhollett raises the persistent Williams to Rogers rumour on his blog. I called DW's people on this two weeks ago. They say "Not true." 



Introducing Premier Dunderdale… along with a primer on the new Premier

Jerome! won’t be running.

And he dropped the hint that Darin, King of Uncommunication is also out of the race to be Premier.

Does any Conservative want to be Premier?

Kathy Dunderdale is only reconsidering her original pledge because people are encouraging her to do so.  It’s not like she – or any other Conservatives for that matter – apparently have the requisite combination of ambition plus ideas to go after what used to be looked on as the most important political job in the province.

This sorry state speaks volumes for the utter devastation Danny Williams wreaked on the Conservative Party, let alone the political system in the province generally.

No one wants the job.

Either that or there is a move afoot within Tory circles to engineer an outcome without running the risk of a divisive leadership campaign.  Even that doesn’t say very much for the current state of the Conservative Party or its pool of  - ersatz? -  leaders.

Undoubtedly, there’ll be more to follow.  in the meantime, amuse yourselves with these oldies but goodies:

A Kathy Dunderdale Primer

A sample of posts on Kathy Dunderdale from the Sir Robert Bond Papers:

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Muskrat Falls: Internal contradictions 2

A $6.2 billion megaproject is green partly because it is supposed to displace 500 megawatts of electricity generated at Holyrood by burning Bunker C oil. 

But now this green project will also open the chance for Nalcor to build a new thermal generating plant as well, this time burning natural gas. This is a new opportunity, supposedly.

Bonus contradiction:  “Displace” is the word Nalcor uses to bridge the contradiction between what the politicians will tell you about the Holyrood generators and what Nalcor tells the public utilities board.

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Internal contradictions: the editorialist version

Compared to his glorious accomplishments, already praised by the Telegram’s editorialists, their concerns about a few file folders are mere trifling.

Things are slowly returning to the “normal” state of editorial sucking and blowing at different times on the same subject

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21 December 2010

Six White Boomers

Merry Christmas, sis…

 

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Montblanc–the art of writing

 

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Potholes and Compensation

If you want to spend a few minutes in that altered state of consciousness called being a cabinet minister, take a listen to an interview transportation minister Tom Hedderson did back in October with CBC Radio’s West Coast Morning Show.

The interview is about damage claims people are filing after using sections of the Trans-Labrador Highway.  Seems that they’ve been hitting potholes and are looking to have repairs paid for by the provincial government due to supposed inadequate maintenance and signage.

In the course of the interview, Hedderson acknowledges that increased traffic has caused increased wear and tear on the gravel road – yes it is a highway that has no pavement – but he insists that his department is doing everything it can to keep the road up to snuff.  He also acknowledges that the road surface will deteriorate after a heavy rain.

So yes, there have been claims for damages but the department won’t be paying anything because – by its own decision – everything they are doing is adequate.

To sum up: 

1.  There are potholes.

2.  There is no compensation.

There is no compensation because the same people responsible for maintaining the road are the same people who make the decision about whether or not they will pay. Hedderson just rubber stamps the decision by officials.

There’s even a Pythonesque moment right at the start where the interviewer asks Hedderson if they have in fact paid any claims to anyone at all.  No, says Hedderson.  Cheese vendor Michael Palin couldn’t have done any better.

Later on, Bernice Hillier asks Hedderson about “legitimate” claims since, apparently Hedderson had said earlier in the year the department would pay for legitimate complaints. “Legitimate” claims get paid, it seems.

Hedderson’s definition of a “legitimate” claim is basically one they’ve paid.

And since they haven’t paid any claims… draw your own conclusion.

That interview aired on October 28.

On October 26, Hedderson issued a news release announcing changes to the Labrador coastal boat service because of improvements in the road network.

"Now that there is a highway link connecting the communities currently served by this run, the time has come to discontinue the passenger and freight service between Lewisporte, Cartwright and Happy Valley-Goose Bay," said the Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Transportation and Works. "This is a natural step in light of the approximately $275 million investment in Phases II and III of the TLH and is consistent with the delivery and maintenance of transportation infrastructure and services in other communities that are accessible by road.”

Wonderful stuff.  People can drive around now on this highway.  In fact, more people are using it and will use it in the future.

But they shouldn’t expect that government will compensate them for damage resulting from using the roads.

That is, unless they use “more legal type means”.

That would be Hedderson-speak for getting a lawyer and filing a damage suit in Provincial Court. Given the laughable way Hedderson handles complaints to his office, that might be a good idea.  Hire a lawyer who will fight bureaucrats and their self-serving, circular logic.

Anyone ever heard of a lawyer like that?

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20 December 2010

The triumph of provincialism

In what would otherwise be highly risible, the Globe’s Jeff Simpson laments the triumph of parochial interests in Canada politics while using as an example a provincial politician whom he apparently admires yet who epitomised the attitude Jeff apparently finds so troubling.

Two things on this for now:

1.  Don’t worry: Jeff knows what risible means.

2.  This is yet further evidence of why people in Newfoundland and Labrador should pay no heed to things that appear in the Globe and Mail

It is just a newspaper.

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Dunderdale flip flops on future

She’s not running.

She’s running.

She’s not running.

And 24 hours after the last version of the story, Kathy Dunderdale is a model of decisiveness as she confirms she is now thinking about running to replace Danny Williams as Tory leader on a permanent basis.

She’s currently a caretaker leader and premier, as she previous told reporters she had “committed” to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

But give it a few days and an apparent tizzy inside her party and things are starting to look differently.  Here’s how CBC described it:

"I opened the door a crack on it last week only because I've been under so much pressure to do so from within the caucus and from across the province generally," Dunderdale said at Government House, where she watched the swearing-in ceremony for David Brazil, who won the Conception Bay East-Bell Island byelection on Dec. 2.

"It's been quite overwhelming and it's very nice. But, I got to tell you, I still haven't had a lot of time to think about it but nothing has changed at this point in time."

 

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Williams’ abrupt departure “shocking”: Dunderdale

From the Friday Telegram;
“The premier leaving was shocking to me,” said [Premier Kathy] Dunderdale. “My first thought was how are we going to do as a government, as a caucus.” [Telegram editorial insertion removed from quote]
That pretty much says it like it is:  Williams’s departure was unexpected.

In her former role as Williams’ deputy premier, Dunderdale ought to have been intimately aware of any major  developments such as Williams’ departure. She likely wouldn’t have been alone. 

And given that Williams had talked on several occasions about when he might leave politics, the party should have been prepared.

Apparently, they weren’t and the result is that the party is scrambling.

You can tell that the party leadership is confused and scrambling by two factors:

First, there are no declared contenders, let alone leading ones.  The one heir apparent – Jerome Kennedy – is reportedly dropping out and may well leave politics altogether. Other than that, no names have bobbed to the surface two weeks after Danny Williams left office and three weeks after he announced his departure.

Second,  the party hasn’t announced a process by which the party will select a new leader.

What’s been happening for the past week is a great deal of speculation about all sorts of prospective candidates, but none it involves serious contenders.

So empty is the field of people even taking a gawk that news media have reported that Kathy Dunderdale is not running, running and then not running again for the leadership all within a 24 hour period. 

CBC ran a story on Thursday that featured Dunderdale saying she would not be running. The Telegram story linked above put it this way: “But Dunderdale said she may rethink that decision because of the support she’s getting to stay on.”  The title of the story is “Dunderdale may reconsider running for premier full-time,”  as if she was working part-time now.  A day later, VOCM ran this story:
Dunderdale still not considering running for leadership 
The Premier says she's not reconsidering a bid at the leadership of the Progressive-Conservative Party, despite her success in the last two weeks in ending some long-standing disputes. Kathy Dunderdale says she's focused on governance, not a leadership race.
Dunderdale says it hasn't been part of her consideration in terms of anything she's done in the last two weeks. She says she hasn't thought about it or changed her mind, but she says it's a business where you can never say never.
While Dunderdale is obviously not interested in taking the Premier’s job beyond the caretaker role she’s already accepted, take a look at the rest of her comment to the Telly:
There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on me to reconsider…
NTV’s Michael Connors reported on Friday that there is apparently concern in the Conservative caucus that they not have a divisive leadership along the lines of the Liberal one in 2001.  That comment has been floating around the legislature for the past few days.

Taken together with the absence of any declared candidates, Connors’ report suggests that some party insiders may be trying to engineer someone into the job without a leadership race at all. Bear in mind that the party hasn’t decided on a process – convention or telephone voting – let alone even opened nominations yet.

It’s not like time is on their side what with by-election (s), budgets and then a fixed date for the next general election.

Seems that’s another Christmas present Danny Williams left to the provincial Conservatives right alongside the current leadership scramble and the Muskrat Falls bomb.

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18 December 2010

Be happy in your work!

The Telegram editorial board stands resolutely in favour of political indolence.

So, when you think glumly about the lameness of local politics, and about how a poorly challenged majority seems to be coasting along on autopilot — just imagine how much worse it could be.

And be thankful.

Seldom does one see an editorial board in a supposedly health democracy lauding ignorance and apathy with such unbridled enthusiasm.

For those who don’t follow the link, incidentally, the Telly was not comparing the state of affairs in Newfoundland and Labrador with North Korea or, for that matter, any other autocracy, petty despotism or kingdom on the planet.

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The Traffic for December 13 to 17, 2010

Be amazed.
Be very amazed.
  1. Connie Leadership 2011 – Mid-December Night’s Ruminations
  2. The return to “normal”
  3. How to win without news media – Part 2
  4. Of pipelines and such
  5. Game changer:  Watton eyeing run in Humber West and Tire burning decision on back burner
  6. Conservatives to give back seized hydro assets
  7. All your base are belong to us
  8. Dunderdale confirms Bond story on Fortis and Enel
  9. Shawn Through the Looking Glass and Williams’ disgraceful Christmas card (tie)
  10. Irish Wanking Bankers
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17 December 2010

Jerome!’s out – Connie Leadership 2011

CBC has confirmed the rumours swirling around for a couple of days.  Jerome! Kennedy – presumptive front-runner to replace Danny Williams – won’t be running for the job.

CBC is also reporting that he’ll announce his intentions publicly next week. Don’t be surprised if Jerome! also indicates he won’t be seeking re-election next fall.  Williams got Kennedy into politics and Kennedy has enjoyed his leading role in cabinet because of his close personal relations to Williams.

Interestingly, Jerome! was one of the two cabinet ministers who hung around with Danny after Danny told cabinet he was quitting.  The other was Tom Marshall.

Marshall is also reportedly considering a run for the job.  As CBC notes, no one is officially in the race. The closest anyone has come is education minister Darin King. Some have suggested Kathy Dunderdale should stay on.

So far no one has asked Joan Burke if she’s interested in the job.  She’s been reputed to have a team in place and some cash in the bank. 

If the Conservatives settle on either Dunderdale or Marshall, the party would be appointing a caretaker who might stay only long enough to see the party through the next election.

Since 1949, incumbent political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador have had no shortage of potential rivals for the top job from the moment it became vacant. This is the first time in 61 years that a party has had apparent difficulty attracting candidates.

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A political blade edged with the sharpest sarcasm

A line from a resolutely partisan source within the past 24 hours, noting that in the two weeks since Danny Williams high-tailed it, the provincial Conservatives have managed to settled two nagging public sector labour disputes:

Imagine how much they could have done if Danny left seven years ago.

Williams resigned on December 3 after seven years as Premier.

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Game changer: Watton eyeing run in Humber West

Mark Watton, whose experience includes a stint as a senior advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office and chief of staff to cabinet minister Ken Dryden, is thinking of seeking the Liberal nomination in Humber West.

There’s a story in the Friday Western Star.

Now a lawyer who has been working out of Toronto since 2008, the 36-year-old is seriously thinking about throwing his hat in the ring as a Liberal candidate for the byelection to replace former premier Danny Williams in Humber West.

He will be returning home to Corner Brook for the Christmas break in the coming days and will use that time to do more thinking before making a decision.

Regular readers of this corner will also know Watton as the author of nottawa, a political blog he’s maintained for the past few years or so.

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Aussies buy Labrador uranium miner

Australian miner Paladin Energy Ltd (TSX:PDN)(ASX:PDN) announced Friday that it has concluded a definitive agreement for the purchase of the uranium assets of Aurora Energy Resources Inc.. Aurora was a wholly owned subsidiary of Fronteer Gold (TSX:FRG)(NYSE Amex:FRG).

Aurora Energy holds title to significant uranium assets within the highly prospective Central Mineral Belt in Labrador, including the Michelin deposit as well as the Jacques Lake, Rainbow, Nash, Inda and Gear deposits and has secured the most prospective ground within the CMB.

Paladin will pay Fronteer Cdn$260.87 million for Aurora through the issuance of new shares in Paladin.

According to a news release, “Paladin considers the CMB to be one of the few remaining, underexplored uranium districts globally and this acquisition not only provides Paladin with a noteworthy mid-term development asset but also offers an excellent opportunity for both significant new discoveries and expansions of the existing deposits. This highly strategic transaction fulfils Paladin's long held ambition to expand its footprint into Canada, a leading country in uranium mining, both in terms of resources and its stable political and business environment, providing the Company with an important new platform from which to plan its continued growth.”

Paladin plans to continue further testing and exploration to define the size of the assets it now holds. John Borshoff, managing director and CEO of Paladin said that the company intends “to advance these assets and will commit to regional target identification and testing upon resolution of the current uranium mining moratorium, which was put in place by the Nunatsiavut Government to provide the necessary time to complete a Land Use Plan and Environmental Protection legislation, both on track for completion by March 2011. The goal will be to advance towards a definitive economic study and district development plan once a sufficient resource base has been defined thus benefiting Paladin shareholders, our customers and the stakeholders of Nunatsiavut and Newfoundland and Labrador.”

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Muskrat Falls: Internal contradictions

Nalcor headman Ed Martin is supposed to be selling the Muskrat falls plan for the Conservatives to help their re-election bid.

He is talking up the economic wonderments of a power line from the island of Newfoundland into Nova Scotia.

One of the things such a line makes feasible, Martin claims, is a thermal plant to turn natural gas into electricity.  Natural gas is currently so cheap that American generators are selling electricity from their gas plants in the United States to New Brunswick.

But, as the Telegram reports,

Martin said converting natural gas to electricity would also require a small gas turbine plant and a lot of study.

“Our focus right now, no question, is the Lower Churchill … and that’s going to be a five- to six-year construction project.

“We’d have to see if gas was there, we’d have to run the economics, it would be sometime after that. But, once again, five or six years is not that long a time.”

“There” is onshore at Parsons Pond.  But there is also gas offshore Newfoundland and Labrador so it is not like there is a shortage of available gas nor is the idea of using the gas to fire a generator such a novel idea.

However, note that Martin says that gas generation is something to be studied down the road a ways, once the Lower Churchill is done. “We’d have to run the economics, it would be sometime after” Muskrat is up and running.

Gas-to-electricity generation is not green but it is a lot less environmentally damaging than burning diesel at a plant like the now infamous one at Holyrood.  Don’t forget that the main use for the power at Muskrat Falls is to replace the evil generators at Holyrood.

So with all that firmly in front of your eyes, note that Kathy Dunderdale keeps insisting that all the alternatives to Muskrat falls have already been studied and that the Falls option is the cheapest. As she said on the last day of a very short session of the legislature:

“Mr. Speaker, they are going to have to pay a lot less for Muskrat Falls power than for any other alternative that is available to the people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker…”

“We have considered all of the options available to us…”

So if Ed Martin hasn’t already studied the cost of generating electricity from natural gas – by his own admission, no less – then how can Kathy Dunderdale say that Ed Martin has already studied replacing Holyrood with gas generation and found that such a plan would cost more than $6.5 billion?

Well, she can’t. 

Not unless Ed Martin is fibbing.

And if Ed isn’t fibbing then that means that Kathy Dunderdale is fibbing or doesn’t understand her briefings.

Now there’s a shocker.

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16 December 2010

Dunderdale blunders on term sheet power sale provisions

Kathy Dunderdale obviously needs a briefing on her old boss’ retirement plan.
In the House of Assembly on Tuesday, Dunderdale said:
Mr. Speaker, while it is true that Emera will own the Maritime Link for thirty-five years, they will only have the ability to wheel one terawatt of power across that link.   Mr. Speaker, all rights above the one terawatt lie with Nalcor.
Unfortunately, for Dunderdale that isn’t what the term sheet says. Under Term 7 (d), Emera can buy additional power for sale in Nova Scotia, and under 7(e), Emera can step in between Nalcor and a power sale to a third party:
image
The company can buy that additional power and run it down the line or build new lines to carry it either with Nalcor as a partner or on its own.

If that weren’t good enough for you, there’s nothing in the term sheet that says Emera cannot buy power in addition to the Nova Scotia Block for its customers in the United States or anywhere else in the Maritimes. After all, Nalcor would be foolish to turn down the prospect of selling power to help pay off its massive debt burden, should it wind up up building Muskrat Falls along the lines in the term sheet.

So if Dunderdale can get such an obvious point completely wrong, it makes you wonder what else she doesn’t understand about this proposal.
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Irish Wanking Banker

Here’s a link to the Telegram story about the youtube sensation.

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Holiday Greetings 2010 from Afghanistan



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15 December 2010

Connie Leadership 2011–Mid-December Night’s Ruminations

1.  Rick Hillier:  The number of people still pushing this is getting pretty funny.  Hillier already gave a pretty clear “no” in two different CBC interviews before Don Martin got him at CTV.  Aside from being somewhat coy and flirting a bit, Hillier didn’t give any sign that he is seriously considering it and – here’s the kicker – there’s no sign anyone is organizing on his behalf.

2.  Be careful what you wish for:   Rick Hillier is the potential political nuke capable of vapourising everything around him. If he really wanted to be premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, he’d actually be better off running for another party and starting with a completely clean slate.  If he did want to run, Hillier would be better off starting his own party so he could pick and chose his candidates and build a team entirely of his own choosing. 

Would he really want Danny Williams’ cast-offs?

3.  Saviour Syndrome:  Some people still have their heads firmly rooted in the idea of a saviour so it isn’t surprising that they are casting around for someone to take away their considerable anxiety.  Rick fits that bill and that’s the only bill he seems to fit.

Anxiety. 

Nervousness.

More than a few provincial Conservatives are likely suffering a bit of extra flatulence this holiday season as they think of facing the future without their magic political bullet long gone.

4.  Fabian Manning:  The senator is reportedly making calls checking on his support among his former colleagues.  He still seems like a really long shot.

5.  Steve Kent:  The supremely shitty public reaction the Draft Steve idea got may well have told him that, unlike Frank Moores, now is definitely not the time.

6.  A deal to avoid a fight:  Privately some people are talking about the prospect of an orchestrated coronation in order to avoid a bloodbath on the convention floor.  Interesting idea but the sort of negotiation that would have to go on to deliver a coronation still leave the chances of a bloodbath – or just a lot of bad blood – even if there is no sign of it in public without luminol and an ALS.

7.  Jerome!:  Considered the heir-apparent to Danny’s throne, Jerome Kennedy seems to be the de facto front-runner even without declaring.  Two things might be interesting to chat about over the holidays:  First, think what would it mean if Jerome! actually did apologise publicly to the doctor he used as a public political punching bag?  Hint:  it is exactly the kind of statesman-like act that people expect of a Premier worthy of the name.  

Second, if not Jerome!, then who? 

8.  Inception:  Pretend for a moment you are a Conservative back-room boy.  Take out your calendar.  Fit in a leadership convention, a provincial budget, a federal election, and up to three by-elections between now and June.  Minimise the overlap. 

Now take out your token and see if it spins irregularly on the table.

 

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Shawn through the Looking Glass

Shawn Skinner is the latest Conservative cabinet minister to find himself swept through into the looking glass world of the province’s natural resources ministry.

This is the bizarro world, you may recall, where the complete cock-up by the provincial government – expropriating an environmental mess – turned magically into a world where AbitibiBowater appeared to abandon its responsibilities and the provincial government rode in to save the day.

There is the truth.

And then there is a natural resources news release and never the twain shall meet, so it seems.

Or to paraphrase a famous old, former politician:  nothing could be further from the truth.

On Tuesday, the newly minted minister issued a news release to tell the people of the province that a draft bill in front of the legislature is about denying compensation to AbitibiBowater for the expropriation in 2008.

The action we are taking through these amendments will ensure that Abitibi-Consolidated will receive no compensation from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And so in this looking glass world, Skinner tells us, a thing is not what it is;  it is what it ain’t.

Abitibi is already compensated to the tune of  $130 million federal tax dollars for the clusterfrack called the expropriation.  They do not need any further compensation, since they already have it.  Thus, in Skinner’s construction, the bill is not about what it is, but what it is most definitely not about.

Don’t worry if your head is spinning at this point.  Skinner’s is too.

His noggin must be twirling since Skinner then describes Fortis, Enel and a raft of other companies whose property was expressly seized and whose legal rights were brutally extinguished to have been mere “bystanders” to the whole affair. 

Once again, there is the truth of what the bill expresses says  - take Schedule E as the bit we are talking about - and there is what Skinner says. Those two things can only exist in the world inhabited by the average Dannystanni cabinet minister.  Here is Schedule E:

1.  The "Acknowledgement and Consent Agreement (Water Use Authorization)" dated 24 April 1997 between the Star Lake Hydro Partnership, the Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada ; and the Crown, and all amendments including the Supplementary Acknowledgement - Crown Water Use Authorization dated 9 May 2001 and assignments of them.

2.  The "Acknowledgement and Consent Agreement (Crown Water Power Licence)" dated 24 April 1997 between the Star Lake Hydro Partnership, the Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada ; and the Crown, and all amendments including the Supplementary Acknowledgement - Crown Water Power License dated 9 May 2001 and assignments of it.

3.  The "Hydro Consent and Acknowledgement Agreement" dated 31 July 2002 between the Exploits River Hydro Partnership, Clarica Life Insurance Company, and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and assignments of it.

4.  The "Agreement for the Purchase and Sale of Power and Energy" dated 18 September 2001 between Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and all amendments, including the Assignment dated 31 July 2002 between Exploits River Hydro Partnership, Abitibi-Consolidated Inc. and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and assignments of them.

5.  The "Restated Agreement for Non-Utility Generated Power and Energy" dated 24 April 1997 between Abitibi-Price Inc. and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and all amendments, including the Assignment dated 24 April 1997 between the Star Lake Hydro Partnership, Abitibi-Price Inc. and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and assignments of them.

6.  The "Acknowledgement and Consent Agreement" dated 25 April 1997 between the Star Lake Hydro Partnership, the Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada ; and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and all amendments and assignments of it.

7.  The "Acknowledgement - Power Purchase Agreement" dated 24 April 1997 between the Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada, in its own right and as agents for the Canada Life Assurance Company, the Maritime Life Assurance Company, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, the Standard Life Assurance Company and Industrial-Alliance Life Insurance Company, the Star Lake Hydro Partnership; and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and all amendments and assignments of it.

So let us have no more of this nonsense, shall we?

Instead, let us talk of what this bill is.

It is a step toward settling the outstanding claims for companies who have a legitimate right to compensation for the brutal and unnecessary seizure of their property and for the cancellation of their rights gained by entering into good faith agreements with the provincial government and its Crown corporation Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

Fortis defaulted on a loan.  The provincial government has now assumed the payment of that bill.  Sunlife, Manulife and the others can likely produce comparable evidence of injury.

Neither politicians nor the media have bothered to talk about these companies.  The politicians did not speak of them because it was uncomfortable to talk about the facts of the expropriation. You can tell how uncomfortable it is since politicians never seem to want to talk about the facts of the matter. This release is confirmation of that, if nothing else.

As for the media, it remains a mystery as to what they report and what they don’t but that is another story entirely.

And let us not forget that the bondholders who suffered demonstrable financial loss as a result of the brutal and unnecessary seizure are also the sorts of people one would like to invest in a new hydro-electric project in the province.  They are much like the people who invested in another hydro-electric project oh so many years ago and who had to go to court to protect their investment from government’s ill-considered legal measures.

This bill is about calming them down as well, a point that is likely too close to what is really going on for any provincial cabinet minister to admit.  It is about trying to repair the considerable damage done to the province’s reputation as a result of the brutal and entirely unnecessary seizure bill. What actually happens, what compensation the government does wind up paying for the brutal and unnecessary expropriation will be the real test of whether or not the wounds to the province’s investment climate have started to heal.

As for the unnecessary expropriation bill itself, it would have been unnecessary only if one accepts the the claims made about it at the time.

But that too is another story for another day.

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Of pipelines and such

1.  Chevron and its Caspian pipeline partners are going to drop $5.4 billion to double the capacity of a pipeline bringing crude out of its Caspian Sea production operation. The line will be able to move 1.4 million barrels of oil per day when the project is finished.

2.  The federal government will drop as much as $18 million into a $24 million natural gas pipeline project between Vallee Jonction and Thetford Mines Quebec.

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14 December 2010

Tire burning decision on back burner

Environment minister Charlene Johnson is delaying a decision to permit Corner Brook Pulp and Paper to burn used car and truck tires as a fuel supplement at the company’s Corner Brook paper-making plant.

cbc.ca/nl reports that Johnson will now issue a decision on January 15 because the department received more public submissions than it expected. Johnson was originally supposed to make a decision by December 12.

While some initial reporters suggested there was considerable support for the proposal, protests, a Facebook group and other complaints grew as awareness of the proposal increased.

The Western Star reported in November that Johnson’s department reviewed the tire burning proposal last spring and recommended approving it.

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All your base are belong to us

And not just first base but the fencing and other improvements at a softball pitch.

In a world where money talks, does this sort of thing render some people mute?

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The return to “normal”

If you are looking for a good read, take a wander over to cbc.ca/nl and soak up Andrew Button’s observations on a recent visit to the House of Assembly

But, if the days I spent observing the house are any indication, the peanut gallery has more representation than anyone else in our province's legislature. With the non-stop heckling that goes on there, the house of assembly evokes the detention hall more than the hallowed offices of the Queen's own chamber.

Button is right. 

But that’s not what’s worth noting here.

Rather, pay attention to the fact the piece appeared.  The producers and editors at the Ceeb may have had this underway before Danny Williams hightailed it out of here but your humble e-scribbler is willing to bet there’ll be more of these sorts of pieces in the weeks and months ahead.

You see, the House of Assembly didn’t turn into a drool academy in the past couple of days.  Members of the House have been displaying this sort of behaviour for years.  Arguably, things have gotten notably worse in the past decade, as older hands retired and a new crowd took over.

The taunts are audible from the gallery, as Button noticed, even if the official record didn’t contain it. Some of the stuff hurled back and forth has been quite personal and quite savage.  And the bias of the Speaker in dealing with this sort of behaviour is simply unavoidable.

Yet,for some reason, the number of times this issue turned up in local media in the past seven years is one you can count on the fingers of one severely mangled hand.  it’s not like reporters didn’t see and hear the behaviour

Odd is that, especially considering it is a reflection – as much as anything else – of what Chief Justice Green referred to several times in his report on the House of Assembly spending scandal.  It’s called the “tone at the top.”  That new crowd that started flooding the chamber after 2003 learned their attitude toward the legislature and the people in it from their boss. And not surprisingly, the attitude turned out to be a bad one.

It isn’t odd if you connect it up with another piece of information.  According to at least one editor, Danny Williams and his crew used to mention that infamous Craig Westcott e-mail to reporters and editors whenever the opportunity arose over the 20 months between the date Westcott sent the e-mail and when he made it public via Kevin O’Brien.

Blatant breach of the province’s privacy laws.  An effort to attack a reporter’s credibility.  A sign of the intensely personal way Williams used to take everything.  Any of those reasons might have been cause for someone to have reported the fact Williams’ office was talking up the e-mail.

Even just mention the episode, in passing.

But they didn’t.

Not once.

For those who like to remember those days, think of what happened as being a bit like Brian Tobin’s time.  Tobin learned that he could place a decent story on both television newscasts if he fed it to the Telegram for their front page first. 

And coincidentally, the Telegram seemed to lay off the sort of investigative reporting on things like travel expenses that they used to produce regularly.  With a strong leader, it seems some people think it makes more sense to try and be part of the choir.

And then Brian left the province. 

Poof. 

The Telly does a series on how the provincial government did such a piss-poor job of handling access to information requests.  Over in another corner, it took a national CBC program to reveal that Brian Tobin was on track in 2000 to be the highest spending premier in the country. The sort of stuff that normally would have appeared in local media didn’t; well, didn’t appear not until Brian headed back to Ottawa.

Then, as if by magic, all sorts of stuff started to pour out of every media orifice in the province.  Things might be different these days from the immediate aftermath of Tobin’s time, but events of the past few days suggest that old habits are hard to break.

Things seem to be returning to normal, whatever normal is around these parts.

- srbp -