31 March 2011

Torque Wars: Media, politicians and the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee

Some people will tell you there the federal and provincial governments have a deal for a federal loan guarantee on Muskrat Falls.  The provincial government has already met three criteria set by the federal government and Stephen Harper confirmed that in a speech in St. John’s.

That’s what you could take out of some stories from different media outlets coming out of Harper’s campaign stop in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bear in mind though that the loan guarantee story took a couple of turns within the past 24 hours even for one single news outlet. 

On Wednesday, CBC reported the deal was done:

Multiple sources tell CBC News, though, that the federal and provincial governments have reached a deal on the terms of a loan guarantee.

Multiple sources.

Multiple unidentified sources.

Not even a hint if they were highly placed in both the federal and provincial governments.

Sometimes that happens.  You don’t even give the slightest clue as to the authenticity of the sources on which the story is based. Put it down to a judgment call.  Doesn’t mean that the comments are right or wrong, but it could put a question mark over the accuracy of the information.

On Thursday afternoon, CBC reported Stephen Harper’s comments during a campaign stop in Nova Scotia:

“The details still have to be worked out," said Harper speaking in Halifax Thursday morning. "There is a lot of discussion still to come, but it is obviously an important project."

Then there was Harper’s speech in St. John’s, impeccably timed to coincide with super hour newscasts. and obligingly carried live by the province’s electronic news media.  It was like Brian Tobin’s 1999 provincial election campaign launch but this time everyone gifted a political campaign with the kind of airtime they could never afford to buy.

The Conservatives issued a news release headlined “Harper endorses Lower Churchill Project”:

Prime Minister Harper noted that, with these criteria in mind, his Government will provide a loan guarantee or other financial support for the Lower Churchill hydro-electric project.  The project will provide Atlantic Canada with a major new source of clean energy.  Support for clean energy projects will be based on the principles of respect and equitable treatment for all regions of the country.

The criteria are:

  • National or regional significance.
  • Economic and financial feasibility and merit.
  • Significantly reduces carbon emissions.

The backgrounder with the news release included this comment:

A re-elected Conservative Government will provide a loan guarantee or other financial support to the Lower Churchill hydro-electric project on the basis of these criteria.

Not everyone accepted the deal is done, though. The Toronto Star reported that

Harper said the federal government has been discussing the Lower Churchill project for “some time” but suggested more negotiations were needed to cement Ottawa’s backing.

“There’s a lot of discussion yet to go but I think the opportunities of the project for this country are evident,” he said.

CTV said that Harper remained “vague” about details:

However, when it comes to federal funding for the project, Harper remained vague.

"In terms of specifics, those things still have to be discussed," he said.

Even CBC couldn’t agree on what happened within its own story on the speech.  A cutline for a photo illustration said:  “Stephen Harper says his government will provide a loan guarantee to the Lower Churchill project, if it meets three criteria.” The body of the story said Harper had already committed to the guarantee.


For all the stories that have run talking about a loan guarantee,  you have to note the appearance of something new in the actual Harper statement:  “equivalent financial support.”  

Conservative briefers travelling with Harper reportedly told reporters that the loan guarantee would have “zero” cost. If it really had no cost then it would be hard to imagine why the federal government would want to provide a cash injection. 

The Toronto Sun referred to unnamed party officials who said that the federal government would “co-sign” any loans with the provincial government.  What isn’t clear at this point is how much of the project would be financed with loans and how much would be funded through bond issues or equity stakes with other investors.

What’s really in behind these media reports is a torque war among the politicians involved. 

For Kathy Dunderdale, Muskrat Falls is the key to her election campaign in October. She’s working hard to distinguish herself from Danny Williams. Delivering a loan guarantee for Williams’ retirement project with a prime minister Williams could never deal with would be exactly what she wants.

No one should be surprised to find out that Dunderdale’s people have been pushing hard to convince reporters that the thing is really in the bag.  After all, this wouldn’t be the first time in the last seven or eight years that the provincial government claimed they had something, like a loan guarantee from Harper in 2006, that local reporters dutifully reported only to have the thing disappear into nothingness.

For Harper, it’s a matter of picking up seats in Newfoundland and Labrador while at the same time not creating a political meltdown in Quebec or other provinces.  He will also have to be very sensitive to the financial implications of committing the federal government to billions of dollars of new public debt.  After all, that is what loan guarantees really mean.

They don’t come with “zero cost”.  Until the debts are paid off, they show up on the federal books as liabilities. The federal government can negotiate a fee for providing the guarantee but that can’t be high enough to basically wipe out the advantage to the provincial government of having the guarantee in the first place.

No one should be surprised that Harper’s people are trying to make this look like Harper is willing to support the project while at the same time giving him plenty of language he can use later on to justify it if the federal government doesn’t deliver a loan guarantee or other financial support.

Dunderdale’s crowd will have some sympathy, incidentally, from Harper’s local team.  After all, they want to grab as many seats in the province as they can.  Playing to the local expectations are one way of helping that cause.  At the same time, though, the federal Conservative organizers have to be sensitive to the larger issues.

As for the debts showing up on balance sheets, the same thing will happen for the provincial government as a result of any debt Nalcor takes on to build the Muskrat Falls project.

And when it comes to one of the key Harper criteria – economic and financial feasibility and merit – that could be one of the points on which the whole thing will hinge.

But is there a done deal?

Absolutely not.

If there was, Stephen Harper wouldn’t be saying otherwise.

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Related:  “Undisclosed risk:  financing the Lower Churchill

No federal dough but big media “D’oh!”on Muskrat Falls

Multiple sources tell CBC News, though, that the federal and provincial governments have reached a deal on the terms of a loan guarantee.

That’s a line from a CBC story on Wednesday with a headline and a lede that said much the same thing.

There is a deal.

We don’t know if Stephen Harper will announce it on Thursday during his visit but, there is a deal.

Reality turns out to be more than a wee bit different. 

There is no deal at all.

Instead, Stephen Harper told reporters in Halifax on Thursday that Muskrat Falls is an important project.


"The details still have to be worked out," said Harper speaking in Halifax Thursday morning. "There is a lot of discussion still to come, but it is obviously an important project."

Could be a loan guarantee.

Could be an equity stake.

Might be nothing at all.

It seems that some local media outlets fell for the heavy torque coming from the provincial Conservative administration of Kathy Dunderdale.  She’s been grinning like a Cheshire cat since last week leaving all sorts of nudge-nudge hints that something was coming.

You can see the whole thing in this section of a post at CBC’s politics blog that talked up the big changes on the provincial political scene since Danny Williams left office in an unseemly haste just before Christmas:

All of this is leading to speculation of something big from Harper's first campaign stop in Newfoundland and Labrador, expected later this week.

How big? Maybe as big as $6.2 billion. That's the estimated cost of the Muskrat Falls hydro development that would reshape the energy map of Eastern Canada. It's a joint venture between Newfoundland and Labrador's public energy company Nalcor and Nova Scotia-based Emera.

Wednesday afternoon CBC News confirmed that Premier Dunderdale and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper have reached an agreement on a loan guarantee to help with the province's financing for the project.

Dunderdale met with Harper's chief of staff Nigel Wright two weeks ago in St. John's.

The sudden rush to elect federal Tories had provincial insiders assuming the deal was done.

Sure there’s the mention of speculation but right there in the middle is the line  “CBC news confirmed that”  Dunderdale and Harper had an agreement.

Oh to be a fly on a few walls in this end of the country Thursday afternoon.

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Don’t step in the media spin: 2011 election version

Check the conventional media and you’ll see plenty of unfounded media torquing of what is really nothing other than a return to normal in Newfoundland and Labrador after Danny Williams one-time effort to suppress federal Conservative votes.

Take, for example, this breathless line from a posting on CBC’s politics blog with a title that talks about a “political sea change” (give us all a frickin’ break):

The big question now is whether Newfoundland and Labrador voters will embrace Harper's party once more. The provincial Tories may be on board, but the real test is the voters who abandoned the Conservatives two years ago.

Anyone who has looked seriously at Williams’ family feud in 2008 will see  - in a heartbeat – that his ABC campaign was really just focused on his own Blue-type voters.  Your humble e-scribbler has been making that point since 2008.  You’ll find a generally similar analysis from Memorial University political scientist Alex Marland in the Thursday Telegram.

The 2008 general election did not involve  - on any level at all  - a general rejection by voters in Newfoundland and Labrador in the way that last sentence from the CBC blog post suggests.

Nor did Danny Williams actually shift local voting behaviour outside of the Blue people who suppressed.  As Marland puts it, Williams’ effort would have been much more impressive if he had turned seven seats blue.  All he really did is feed general suspicions about the Conservatives and Stephen Harper.

And that’s what makes that other comment – about embracing “Harper’s party once more”  - nothing other than complete, unadulterated bullshit.

To go step further, voters in Newfoundland and Labrador have really never embraced the federal Conservatives in the current for progressive variant.  The Tories picked up three seats in 1997 compared to their usual two but that was tied to problems with the provincial government government.  Brian Mulroney did exceptionally well in this province in the 1980s but three of seven seems to be about the best the Tories have done in Newfoundland and Labrador since 1949.

The one exception is 1968.  Normally safe red seats went blue en masse as the country as a whole bathed in the gushing hot springs of Trudeaumania.

But there again, the federal vote was actually nothing more than a reflection of the brooding rebellion against Joe Smallwood.

As for the speculation about what Stephen Harper may announce on his campaign stop in St. John’s on Thursday, that’s actually nothing more than what one might expect from a bunch of provincial and federal Conservatives who are campaigning very hard for their usual, mutual benefit.

There is nothing odd or bizarre about it.  There is no shift in the political plate tectonics, no orgasmic outpourings for Steve nor any sign of an impending tsunami of pent-up anything that would clear the landscape of politics within the province.

All that is happening is that voting patterns are returning to normal.  The fact the Tories have lined up a raft of former provincial cabinet ministers plus a couple of others is really nothing other than a sign that Danny Williams no longer sits stuffed link a bung in the cask of political ambition among people who run with the Conservative Party in Newfoundland and Labrador.

And any pledges Stephen Harper makes in the province on his campaign swing?

It will just put him in line with the other party leaders all of whom have already made the same commitment to a loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls.

That project is no closer to reality, though.  The decision to double provincial electricity rates  - guaranteed- for local ratepayers, saddle them with a 50% increase in gross public debt  and ship power outside the province at taxpayer-funded discounts rests solely on the shoulders of provincial Conservatives.

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Conservative tiff-any candidates

Take a look at the list of Conservative candidates in Newfoundland and Labrador, including a couple who haven’t formally declared yet but whose names are out there:

  • Jerry Byrne
  • John Ottenheimer
  • Peter Penashue
  • Fabian Manning
  • Loyola Sullivan
  • Tom Rideout
  • Trevor Taylor

Okay, so drop off the first two and it might be easier.

No, it isn’t that they are all former provincial Conservative cabinet ministers.

That’s too easy.

Try again.

Give up?

They all pissed Danny off and/or left cabinet under strange, strained or unexplained circumstances.

2005: Danny orchestrated Fabian Manning’s political lynching in domestic politics right down to  - reportedly - having one of his staffers sit in on the caucus meeting in which the rest of them showed their loyalty to the Capo by figuratively shooting their friend between the eyes. Kinda hard to hide that rift.

2006:  Loyola Sullivan quit cabinet and politics suddenly in December 2006. A few days after he flipped Danny the finger, Loyola wound up telling CBC that there as no rift between him and Danny.

2008:  Peter Penashue never showed enough “respect” as far as Danny was concerned:

Williams said he doesn't like ultimatums, especially when they are tied to multibillion-dollar developments, and are made on the airwaves instead of at the bargaining table.

"Peter Penashue and his group should treat us with respect, as we treat them with respect," he said.

2008:  Former Premier Tom Rideout bailed on provincial politics in a pretty obvious tiff with Danny Williams.  Supposedly the two fell out over road paving. A few people thought the road paving thing was a pretext for something bigger.

2009:  Trevor Taylor, former federal New Democratic Party candidate, joined Danny Williams’ Conservative crew in 2001.  He left politics suddenly in September 2009, citing “personal reasons.”

Bonus if you can identify two more tiffs related to these candidates and Danny.

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30 March 2011

Connie candidate’s mother opposes Labrador hydro project

If media reports hold up, Conservative leader Stephen harper will be in St. John’s on Thursday to announce his party will give the provincial government a loan guarantee to dam a river in Labrador, double provincial electricity rates and increase the provincial public debt by something up to 50% from what it is right now.

Now that is all bad enough.

But to make matters worse, Harper’s Labrador candidate has a problem within his own community.

Peter Penashue’s mother opposes the project.

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ABC Comedy Central: The Skinner File

From the annals of the Anything But Conservative Campaign there’s this little bit of independence displayed by current natural resources minister Shawn Skinner back in 2008.

Danny bitch-slapped him into submission PDQ for this one:

Not for me, it isn't. My boss can vote for who he wishes. He can mark his 'X' where he wishes to mark it. From my perspective, I have a job to do. I'm elected by the people of St. John's Centre. I'm in cabinet representing the people of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and I have a job to do. And I'm going to do that to the best of my ability.

If and when there is a federal election, we all as individual citizens can make up our own minds what we want to do. I'm here today as a provincial minister and I'm carrying out my duties as a provincial minister.

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The Speaker’s partisan bias

No one who has watched Speaker of the House of Assembly Roger Fitzgerald can doubt he has already displayed his partisan bias repeatedly.

Was anyone surprised to see him turn up at a partisan rally cheering on his political friends?


Is anyone surprised?

Those that are simply aren’t paying attention.

It is hard to imagine such a naked display of contempt for parliament and its proud traditions as the one Roger Fitzgerald displayed on Tuesday.  Odds are, as well, that the Conservative will show up for his party’s leadership coronation this weekend.

What’s more reprehensible than Fitzgerald’s blatant disregard for his office is his arrogant dismissal of criticism.  Fitzgerald knows full well that his partisan friends will defeat any motion to censure him for his wrong behaviour.


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The New Dave Denine

His name is Harry Harding.

Kathy Dunderdale made him a cabinet minister.

Minister of Government Services is his official title.  Minister of permits and licenses is how he is sometimes known.  It is not an especially demanding portfolio.

On Tuesday, Harry wound up caught like a deer in the headlights.

The opposition leader asked him a simple question about his departmental responsibilities.

She did it during Question Period.

She asked about a major issue within his department:

Mr. Speaker, the Workers’ Compensation Commission has completed an audit on the Department of Government Services’ compliance with their own health and safety legislation. Shockingly, Mr. Speaker, what that audit found is that the Department of Government Services and the Department of Human Resources are only compliant with 50 per cent of their own rules.

I ask the Minister of Government Services today: Why is your department only following 50 per cent of your own rules, and is that the level of compliance that is expected or acceptable to you?

Harry had an answer. 

Here it is, in its entirety:

Certainly, our department welcomes any comments and recommendations by the Auditor General. Our department has fulfilled most of these recommendations throughout the years.

With respect to the question that she has asked today, I would like to check further with my officials and bring back an answer for her tomorrow.

Thank very much, Mr. Speaker.

Auditor general?

Okay.  So he was thinking on his feet.  Maybe it was a slip of the tongue.

Check further with officials and get back to her.


Then it got better.  Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones went further:

Mr. Speaker, not only is the department failing to meet their own rules, we have also learned on Thursday that they are getting rid of three co-ordinators who are responsible for safety within the social sector. They include HRLE, Government Services, Health and Community Services, Municipal Affairs, Education, Labour Relations, Government Purchasing Agency, Fire and Emergency Services.  So, Minister, maybe you will know the answer to this question [:]

Given that your department is clearly not compliant with your own rules, how do you justify getting rid of staff who are working on bringing up the level of compliance in your particular department?

Harry didn’t know anything about it.

So he went back to the line that he would check into it and get back to Jones on Wednesday.

Maybe Jones is wrong.

That’s a favourite line of the government benches.

They might be right this time.  But if Harding was on top of his department he’d have been able to bat that one out of the park easily.

Obviously he just didn’t know.

So he had to check.

And incidentally, that idea that the Opposition  has its facts wrong is a shop-worn one the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight like to use. 

They have used it even  when - as in the Abitibi expropriation – the opposition has all the facts right and the government is caught flatfooted day after embarrassing day.

This one is looking interesting.

It could be that cabinet now has a brand new Dave Denine to go along with the one they already have.

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29 March 2011

The Lost Chord

The Telegram’s Russell Wangersky writes about his dream of composing that one perfect sentence.

It is the writer’s dream:

I want to write that one single, clear clean note, but I want to write it in words: is that too much to ask for?

Just once. Just to write it once. And rest.

I mean, if it was music you would know instinctively exactly what I’m talking about.

You’d recognize it the moment you heard it; would recognize it the moment it curled threads into your ears. The way it fit and filled and hung there, complete.

If it was music.


I have sought, but I seek it vainly,
That one lost chord divine,
Which came from the soul of the organ,
And entered into mine.

It may be that death's bright angel
Will speak in that chord again,
It may be that only in Heav'n
I shall hear that grand Amen.

Those are the last two stanzas of a poem written in 1853.  An organist played one perfect chord that “quieted pain and sorrow” and “linked all perplexed meanings into one perfect peace.”

And although he tried many times to find it again, the organist could never again find the chord.

Sir Arthur Sullivan set it to music in 1877.:

Writers, musicians and other artists likely all share a very similar dream. Perhaps it is one expression of the fire of creativity that burns inside them.

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Don Mills: Pollster PIFO Genius

Regular readers just consider this for a second.

CBC called Don Mills, the provincial government’s official pollster, and asked him about this rift thing inside the provincial Conservative Party.

Here’s what he said:

"It just raises a question about, you know, whether or not the new premier may in fact be the best choice - having been appointed basically as the heir apparent to Mr. Williams," said Mills.

"You know tongues will be wagging in the province for sure over this issue," said Mills. "People will want to know what the basis of the dispute is and now that it's out there in the public, it's very difficult to stop it from becoming worse."

Penetrating insight into the friggin’ obvious, or what?



You don’t need to say it.

Even a blind squirrel is right twice a day.

But come on…this guy could be the province’s natural resources minister he is so far behind the curve.

BTW, anyone heard Tony (Secret Tweeter) Ducey  on this topic yet?

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All good Tories flocking together…again

Some people seem to think that having a bunch of provincial and federal Conservatives all gathered together trading sloppy kisses is news.

How short some memories are.

In 2004, the provincial Conservatives sort of helped their federal cousins out.  They sort of helped them because – while there was no instruction to stay away – the provincial guys were trying to court the Liberals to get a couple of billion in cash.  They weren’t interested in causing waves at a time when federal Conservatives couldn’t form government.

In 2006, things were different.  Every provincial Conservative and their dog worked hard for their federal cousins.

How hard?

Well, some of you may recall a series of print ads showing provincial cabinet and caucus member gathered with some of their buddies.  Apologies for the poor quality scans.

Here’s the way your humble e-scribbler put it in the original post back in 2008:

“The guy seated on the far right of the picture is Loyola Sullivan, the finance minister at the time.  He quit federal politics not long after this picture only to take up a job with the federal Conservatives.

The guy behind him is former speaker Harvey Hodder.  He retired before the 2007 provincial election.

Immediately to Loyola Hearn's right is Sheila Osborne, part of the Osborne-Ridgley political machine.

The guy standing right behind Loyola Hearn - with that great big grin on his face - is Bob Ridgley, brother of Sheila. You will recall him as the Conservative who supported Belinda Stronach for leader even though, by his own words, he thought she was "shallow as a saucer".

Bob is now Danny Williams' parliamentary assistant.

The other two guys are - left to right - Shawn Skinner and Dave Denine. Skinner is the provincial human resources cabinet minister and Denine is looking after municipal affairs.

You'll recall Skinner was taken to the woodshed by Danny Williams for going off the ABC message track.  He was made to apologize publicly for his transgression.

Denine's had a few problems of his own, but never for doing something that went against orders from the top.

Interesting picture that, if only because it makes you wonder when they line up behind a candidate if they really do it out of personal choice or if they have been directed by some authority or other.

Makes you wonder that if they lend you support do they expect a quid pro quo, a back scratch in return.


Prophetic, no?

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Kremlinology 33: Trouble at t’mill

One of the cross beams has gone out of skew on the treadle.

Note that in CBC’s Monday night report on the rift within the provincial Conservative Party some people walked away from the CBC reporter like she hadn’t washed in a month.

Others cheerfully denied there were any problems.

Among the walkers: Jerome! and Darin, King of Uncommunication.  No sign of Fairity O’Brien but odds are he’d be in the silent camp as well.

Among the smilers:  Terry French and Shawn Skinner. The latter was stretching his own credibility to the breaking point after the whole Elizabeth Matthews fiasco, but that’s another story.

One suspects that the smilers would also include the gang that NTV’s Michael Connors reported at the Fabian Manning campaign launch Monday evening:


Seems like da byes want to make it easy for the rest of us tell which player belongs in what camp.

People will want to watch any broadcast of the Dunderdale coronation this weekend just to see who is where, doing what.

For those who picked up the pop culture reference at the beginning, here’s the original Python sketch of the Spanish Inquisition.  Note the striking resemblance Graham Chapman bears to Jerome! before the latter lost his ’stache.


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15 minutes to write a good blog post

One of the wonderful things about modern communication tools is that you can find a wonderful link early on an otherwise dreary Monday morning.

That’s what happened yesterday.

How to write a blog post in 5 steps and 15 minutes” is a handy guide to doing exactly as the title states.  If you do not write blog posts, this guide still has useful information.  It is well worth the few minutes it will take you to read the post from start to finish.

Be warned:  this is a guide to writing the post.

Research is the bit that takes longer and it is research and preparation that will set your post apart from the millions of others people might read on any particular day..  The tweet that carried the link to this post said that you can write in 15 minutes if you know what you are talking about.

That’s the key point.

You have to know the subject before you start writing. 

All too often writers sit down and bang away at the keyboard or – as the old folks recall – stare at the blank sheet of paper.  Worse for the reader, they start clacking away like someone possessed.  The result can be something that is the mental equivalent of the world’s supply of yarn piled up randomly in a single spot:  it does come to an end but only after going around and over and back again.

If you take the time to organize your thoughts and gather some facts or other information to support your argument, the actual writing can be pretty short.

One link inside the “15 minutes” post you should follow is this one to a list of the 18 types of posts that get the most reader attention.  Both the writing post and the list post are an example of one or more of the types.  See if you can figure out which ones they are.

Here’s an extra tip:  carry a notebook. Almost 18 months ago, your humble e-scribbler stopped collecting notes on scraps of paper and started writing things down in a notebook. 

penbookinkIt’s a Piccadilly, very similar to the Moleskine but far less expensive.  The cover on the spine is cracked and the whole thing is now lashed together with some stylish shiny black duct tape.  That just adds to its character.

For writing, there’s a Parker IM fountain pen:  inexpensive at about $30 and hardy enough to take being dropped or stuffed into a briefcase or rucksack.  With a bottle of ink, you are always ready no matter where you are and no matter what you are doing when an idea strikes.  Pencils, ballpoints or rollerball pens would do just as nicely.

What you write with and where you write isn’t as important as the fact you take notes, jot down ideas, and do whatever it will take to go back to the notebook later and craft a post based on your jottings.

Now if only writing a tweet quickly so that it didn’t get misunderstood was half as easy…

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28 March 2011

Trolling for Dollars

Susan Delacourt’s got a screen cap of an ad that appeared on Craigslist looking for people to post Conservative talking points on social media and other Internet spaces.

While the federal Tories seem to have a great deal in common with their provincial cousins – Danny Williams’ laughable claims to the contrary notwithstanding – seems that Dan-o never had to pay people to troll for him.

Did he?

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If a rocket didn’t carry people into space any more…

For those of a certain age, the American space program and the race to the moon remains one of our most cherished childhood memories.

For other people of a certain age, though, that is all ancient history.

They can easily remind you that a human being first set foot on the moon 42 years ago this summer.  He flew along with two comrades in a cramped spaceship that couldn’t be used again after the flight.

Thirty years ago, Americans started using a re-usable space plane to go into orbit and bring back not just three men, but a half dozen men and women on every flight.

2011 will mark the end of the American manned space program, at least as far as launches from the United States go. The shuttle program will end this summer. The planned return to the moon and eventual Mars missions are scrapped.  Anyone, Americans included, headed to the International Space Station will have to fly on Russian rockets.

When a rocket from the United States doesn’t carry anyone into space any more, will anyone notice?

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Further reading:

Bond Papers readers know more than provincial energy minister

Both the federal and Quebec provincial governments may have released the text of their agreement on underwater resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence last week but Newfoundland and Labrador natural resources minister Shawn Skinner didn’t even see a copy until today – March 28.

As he told the provincial legislature during Question Period:

…It just came into our possession over the weekend is my understanding. I actually saw a copy of it this morning myself. I have not had an opportunity to review [it]…

Anyone with access to the Internet could have had a copy of the deal the day the federal and Quebec governments released it.

That’s where your humble e-scribbler found it last Thursday for a post that appeared on Friday.  That post included this assessment:

What’s most interesting about the Laurentide Accord, though is the fact that it is modelled, generally, on the Atlantic Accord (1985) between Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government or the similar Nova Scotia offshore accord.

As Skinner told the House, his officials did manage to figure out this much since they clapped eyes on the agreement over the weekend:

What I am told by officials at this point, where they have done a cursory review, is that it is very similar to the accords that have been done with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia. The agreement is very similar…

Tomorrow, Skinner will likely be telling everyone that Quebec doesn’t get Equalization offsets, that provincial spending is unsustainable and Elvis has left the building.

Or at least that’s what he understands from briefings provided by his officials.


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Election Eleven: NL seats at the start

Here’s the way things are shaping up in the seven Newfoundland and Labrador ridings at the start of Election ‘11:

  1. St. John’s East:  Held by New Democrat Jack Harris at dissolution.  Harris will face Conservative Jerry Byrne and Liberal John Allan. 
  2. St. John’s South-Mount Pearl:  Held by Liberal Siobhan Coady at dissolution.  She’ll face challenges from former provincial Conservative cabinet minister Loyola Sullivan and New Democrat Ryan Cleary.
  3. Avalon:  Held by Liberal Scott Andrews at dissolution.  Andrews beat Fabian Manning in 2008 and Manning will quit his senate seat on Monday to take another run at a seat in the Commons.  Big question here is the potential rift internally within the Conservative camp.  Provincial Conservatives including health minister Jerome! Kennedy worked hard to destroy Manning the last time out.  Only time will tell if they can pry the hatchets out of each other’s skulls and bury them deep enough in the ground to elect Manning. 
  4. Random-Burin-St.George’s:  Liberal Judy Foote.  Conservative Herb Davis, an ex-pat who ran against Foote last time, is the most most likely challenger again.  No word on the NDP possibilities.
  5. Bonavista-Gander-Grand Falls:  Scott Simms is the Liberal seeking re-election.  No word yet on NDP or Conservative challengers
  6. Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte:  Gerry Byrne’s held the seat for the Liberals since Brian Tobin vacated it in the mid-1990s. Nil thus far on NDP or Conservative challengers.
  7. Labrador:  Todd  Russell, the Liberal stalwart will face off against Peter Penashue for the Conservatives.  No word on a NDP candidate.

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27 March 2011

Williams knifes successor

The rift between Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale goes way beyond just a minor tiff.

Williams turned up at a book launch a couple of days after leaving the promise on a vacation.  Williams told reporters who showed up that Dunderdale and her crew are so concerned at distancing themselves from Williams that they won’t even let him have cabinet ministers’ cell phone numbers.

CBC quoted Williams:

"I think it's very clear that the premier and her staff have felt that it's appropriate to distance themself from me," he told reporters Sunday at an event to launch a photo book of his often combative life in politics.

"And if that's the case, so be it. That's her right as premier of the province," he said.

A couple of things stand out about this last twist in the tale.

First, it would be hard for Dunderdale’s staff  to control who has cell phone numbers. Certainly, her office could monitor calling patterns on government phones via the cell phone provider but there’s nothing to give the office control over private cell numbers.

Second, there’s the question of why Williams would want to have all the cabinet numbers.  Evidently he is interested in influencing cabinet deliberations.  In that context his comment about “her right” seems to be a little less than sincere.

Third, the fact Williams is openly discussing the rift is an obvious tactic to put Dunderdale under even greater pressure.  He knows that she holds office purely by someone else’s good will.  Dunderdale knows it and lots of others do, as well.  More than a few people will have noticed Kevin “Fairity” O’Brien in the CBC video of Williams at the airport a few days ago. 

Kevin’s a proud member of the Dan-Club for Men. Jerome’s another.  Ditto Tom Marshall.  While Kevin may not have much clout, Tom and Jerome do. 

Some Conservative loyalists, especially those who still believe in Williams’ invincibility and his infallibility, won’t take too kindly to Dunderdale now that Williams has criticised her. 

Fourth, you now have to wonder why he’s undermining his hand-picked successor so readily.  Williams told reporters the rift has nothing to do with Elizabeth Matthews and the botched offshore board appointment.


So if that isn’t it, what does Williams want so badly that he is willing to openly attack her less than a week before she formally takes over as Tory party leader?

Don’t guess relations with the federal Conservatives.  Those were already on the mend long before now. 

Something else is going on.

The challenge now is to figure out what Danny is playing at.

One thing is for sure, Kathy Dunderdale has an even bigger political problem inside her own administration than anyone thought, even as recently as Thursday last week.

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26 March 2011

Harper and coalitions

Without hypocrisy, some political leaders wouldn’t have anything to stand for.

Last night, a post from 2008  - “Taking power without an election” - suddenly found renewed popularity.

Given Stephen Harper’s condemnation of coalitions after he dropped by the Governor General’s place on Saturday, it becomes all the more hysterically funny to recall that in 2004, Steve thought coalitions were the cat’s ass.  They were just the answer the GG should give if the prime minister came a-calling looking for an election writ.

Coalition governments are bad.

Unless Steve is heading one.

Then they are good.

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Traffic without any shocks, March 21 to 25

Your humble e-scribbler keeps scribbling and you, faithful readers, keep on reading.

Here’s what you were reading this past week.  There’s a pattern to it, but see if you can spot the surprising element to what’s been hot all week and the not so surprising element to what hasn’t been hot.

  1. Believing things that aren’t true
  2. Hell hath no fury…
  3. Feds, Quebec announce joint deal on offshore resources
  4. Muskrat Falls power may never go to new England: Nalcor
  5. No Equalization offsets for Quebec
  6. Lies, damn lies and throne speeches
  7. Selling cheap power to Quebec
  8. Cleary to unquit for NDP again
  9. Dunderdale’s leadership woes deepen
  10. Orchestra Pit Theory of Political News Coverage

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25 March 2011

Show him your love…this Sunday buy a book

What with all the fuss this week about Danny friggin’ off on a plane rather than show up for a love in with his Fan Club, your humble e-scribbler got a Dunderdaleish shock when this e-mail showed up in ye olde in-box:




What better way to show how much you love him – compared to those ungrateful Tories – than to show up and plunk down some hard cash so you can have his big mug on your coffee table.

Dunno if Danny has a piece of this book action or if he’s just helping the boys out with the marketing.

Heck, it isn’t clear to anyone if the Old Man is even gonna show up for that matter.  After all, this ad may well have been drawn up before he took his latest trademark hissy-fit. What an ironic turn of events as nothing shows Danny’s nature and style than the contemptuous “pffft” he threw at his former party-mates last week.

Even if he isn’t gonna be there, show up and chat with Paul Daly and award-winning writer Russell Wangersky.  You might even want to buy the book.

And if you are so inclined, pick up Bill Rowe’s tome as well.  Tons of copies of the thing are destined for the remainder bins if you don’t.

Better idea:  bundle them up and send them off to the Tokyo electric company.  They could use the fodder to help bury that troublesome reactor.



Russell and Paul signing their books at Chapters.

Support two local artists.

See you there!

- srbp -

No Equalization offsets for Quebec

The new offshore resource agreement between the federal government and Quebec is a significant step toward developing oil and natural gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

As with the similar situation between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, another major step will be settling the interprovincial water boundary between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.

What’s most interesting about the Laurentide Accord, though is the fact that it is modelled, generally, on the Atlantic Accord (1985) between Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government or the similar Nova Scotia offshore accord.

The Quebec agreement doesn’t include a specific joint management board.  Instead, it describes a transitional period in which major decisions will be shared between the two governments. 

That period of equal management might actually last a long time. Section 4.1 of the agreement commits the governments to table legislation on joint management.  But that must happen only two years after someone finds a commercially viable discovery. In the meantime, everything will be run by a both governments equally.

That’s a pretty sharp contrast to Newfoundland and Labrador where the provincial government has significant control over offshore resources.

There’s also a sharp contrast on revenue sharing.  While both the Atlantic and Laurentide Accords give the provincial governments 100% of revenues from offshore resource development, Quebec won’t be getting any extra payments to offset drops in Equalization. in both Atlantic provinces, the provincial government set and collected all offshore revenues and in addition got 12 to 13 years of federal transfers to replace declines in Equalization.

If Quebec winds up with huge oil and gas money flowing in, you can watch its Equalization entitlements drop like the proverbial stone. That’s big news for the federal government. Quebec collects more in Equalization transfer from Ottawa than all the other provinces combined. Cut that out entirely or even cut it down significantly and the federal government will wind up with billions of extra cash in very short order.

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24 March 2011

Dunderdale’s leadership woes deepen

Bad enough that Danny Williams is pissed at Kathy Dunderdale.

It’s worse now that everyone knows it.

Things took a slightly worse turn Thursday when Dunderdale faced a scrum of reporters all interested in this problem she’s having with her patron. She tried to put a brave face on it, right down to expressing her shock that he had decided to jet off to somewhere else rather than attend.

The story’s even turned up in the Globe and Mail

That would be another downside to the whole thing, incidentally.

But that’s not the end of it.

Dunderdale felt compelled to assure the universe that Danny Williams – the fellow who frigged off last December in a manner Dunderdale herself said was shocking – could rest assured that he had “the full support and loyalty of caucus, cabinet and the party.”

What party leader of any consequence would pledge her unflinching fealty to the guy who used to have her job?

Next thing you know she’ll admit she really is taking orders from him and that he is now able to fulfill a promise he made long ago:  to be premier but not take a salary from the government for doing the job.

Kathy Dunderdale has serious political problems that her Stacy and Clinton make-over won’t fix.

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Feds, Quebec announce joint deal on offshore resources

Natural Resources Canada news release:

“The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Natural Resources, and Nathalie Normandeau, Quebec Deputy Premier, Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife and Minister responsible for the Northern Plan, today announced that the Governments of Canada and Quebec have reached an important accord on the development of oil and gas resources in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"This is an important day that is the result of a great deal of hard work," said Minister Paradis. "Under a co-management framework, Quebec will derive significant financial benefits from resource-related activities. This accord is a concrete example of the two Governments collaborating to create jobs, energy security and economic opportunity in resource communities in the regions of Quebec and Canada. The Government of Canada will continue to work with Quebec to ensure the responsible and sustainable development of our natural resources."

"This is an historic day for Quebec. After more than 12 years — and thanks to the tremendous work of our two governments — we are very proud to announce that the Province of Quebec has an agreement that will give us 100 percent of the revenues from the development of our oil and gas in the Gulf. It's truly a great day for Quebec," said Minister Normandeau.

The Quebec government is undertaking a strategic environmental evaluation before allowing the development of oil and gas in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The results of this evaluation will be known in 2012.

Since 2006, the Governments of Canada and Quebec have achieved several milestone collaborations. The accord is a key element in the continuation of that work.

The accord will be implemented by means of mirror legislation that will be tabled by the federal and provincial governments before the Parliament of Canada and the National Assembly of Quebec. The accord will be implemented in steps, and rigorous environmental assessments will be conducted before any oil and gas development begins.”

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Hell hath no fury …

Like the Old Man when he’s pissed off.

Reporters caught up to former Premier Danny Williams at St. John’s airport on Wednesday.  Not surprisingly they asked him about a report this week he won’t be attending a tribute dinner the party planned to throw for him during its leadership convention.

You’ll find the CBC version at about the 10:00 mark in the Here and Now broadcast.

Now usually, the Old Man would insist that nothing could be further from the truth whenever he wanted to deny something, even when the story was accurate.

In this case, there answer is conspicuously different. Glenn Deir asks Danny about the suggestion that there is some kind of rift between him and his successor.

“Not interested in getting into that”.

“No Comment”.

And reference to a tribute that will happen at some point in the undetermined future.

Put that together with the smirk on his face and you can pretty much guess that the Old Man is mightily fried with Kathy Dunderdale about something.  One version has it that Danny didn’t think Dunderdale and her crew had done enough to defend his former communications director in the controversy over her appointment to the offshore regulatory board.

If that’s the case, then Kath may well have some serious political cracks inside her caucus.  She doesn’t hold her current position by virtue of anything other than someone else’s good graces.  More than a few members of her caucus would likely take the view  - if pushed - that they owe their seats to the Old Man not to Kathy.

She’s gotta be feeling a little uneasy. There’s an implication to his tone, his smirk and reference that reporters should ask Dunderdale about their relationship.

If nothing else, his decision to jet off to Florida or wherever he’s gone instead of handing the reins formally to Dunderdale robs her of any symbolic continuity, any trace of his legacy. Instead, there will be some kind of tribute to Danny – with the focus solely on him, obviously – at some time in the future.

Imagine trying to get yourself sorted out for an election campaign while your predecessor and his pals are pissed off at you behind the scenes.  On top of everything else she’s facing, Kathy probably never expected she’d have to face Danny chucking hand grenades at her.

This is going to be one interesting political year and it’s a long way from over.

- srbp -

23 March 2011

Believing things that aren’t true

Cynthia Downey, ace provincial Conservative cheerleader, declares her unflinching support for the plan to double electricity rates in the province in a recent letter to the Telegram:

I, for one, am glad to have a government with a good plan for developing the hydroelectric power and making it profitable for us by selling it in the northeastern U.S.

Unfortunately for Cynth, that’s not true.

Nalcor vice president Derrick Sturge said recently that Muskrat falls power may never go to the United States.  Nalcor isn’t counting on the United States market.

There’s good reason, too.  Right now the Americans can pump out so much cheap electricity that they are selling it into New Brunswick.  And that’s pretty much the forecast for the near future, at least out to the time Muskrat Falls will start pumping.

It doesn’t get any better, at least for Cynthia Downey.

She recites reason after reason for backing the deal but every one of her reasons is as wrong as that one about selling power to the United States.

She even trots out the old chestnut about shutting down Holyrood.

You’d think that a person who’d already been sucked in by a load of malarkey once before would learn to spot it again.

- srbp -

Clean drinking water is a sign of progress

You know it is a good thing when two departments can join forces to issue a single news release praising a decade of clean drinking water training courses for municipal employees.

For those who have been hearing clean drinking water in the news lately, just recall a post on significant digits your humble e-scribbler wrote in December 2009.  Not much has changed in the past year and a bit.

Bravo for the workshop people.

Good on them for working hard to make things better.

But someone needs to hold feet to some fire to get action in a “have” province where something like 30% of communities operate routinely under boil water orders.

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Lies, damn lies and throne speeches

One of the glorious piles of foolishness you will see again in Monday’s provincial throne speech is the idea that no provincial or federal government before this current provincial one paid any attention to public sector capital spending.

For too many years, for want of proper infrastructure, our province languished while other regions of the country prospered.

It’s foolishness because every government delivered capital spending, even in the leanest of times.

Take a look at this table.  It shows public sector capital spending in the province from 1991 to 2011.  That’s federal and provincial spending combined and it includes construction as well as equipment.  The figures are compiled by the Statistics division of the provincial finance department using Statistics Canada figures.


The section marked Red I basically reflects provincial spending during the early 1990s recession combined with what appears to be any federal money that went into Hibernia.  That would account for the peak in 1995 and the drop off in the last year of the project before the GBS tow-out and first oil in 1997.

Blue II represents the combined federal and provincial Conservatives’ “stimulus” spending.

Red III  is a bit of an anomaly but since it covers both a federal and provincial election period, odds are good that there is a connection.  Anyone who can offer a reasonable explanation is welcome to chime in on that one.

What’s curious is that the first three years of the current provincial Conservative administration is roughly the same as that Red II period in terms of total capital spending.  It’s not because the provincial government was flat broke;  it wasn’t.

To the contrary, the provincial government had cash and announced a fair dollop of spending in the run-up to the 2007 election.  What seems to be reflected in this diagram is that a great deal of the capital works announced by the provincial Tories around the 2007 election just didn’t happen until two to four years later.

It’s one of those curious things but the current crowd what is ruling over us seem to have a chronic problem delivering their capital works projects.  They can announce them alright, but finishing the delivery seems to be a problem.


And there is no coincidence that capex is peaking in 2011, a definite provincial and likely federal election year.

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22 March 2011

Fried Clyde dumps Danny’s fish policy

Remember earlier in the month when fisheries minister Clyde Jackman abandoned the fisheries reform process?

Let’s just take a jump back to something that stood out from his newser at the time:

What Jackman did mention one too many times for comfort was the idea that some people think time will take care of the whole thing.  In other words, in an industry dominated by people rapidly approaching retirement, most of the people who would be “restructured” will simply leave the industry on their own if nothing else happens. He also talked about signs that prices might be climbing again soon, perhaps another clue as to what some in the provincial government might be hoping for.

No surprise, then, that Jackman is on the front page of the Telegram on Tuesday with this to say:

“…how can I justify, going forward looking for $190 million dollars, to justify a 30 per cent reduction (in harvesting), when the report clearly says that if you leave it alone it will restructure to an even greater degree than the ask that the FFAW put forward?”

How indeed, except that there is a difference in sheer human cost between an organized series of cuts and the wholesale slaughter that may well leave nothing much in the fishery to restructure when it is all over. You can see the same thread running through the front end of the letter Jackman sent to the processors and the union representing fish-plant workers and fishermen, now called “harvesters” in polite circles.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Jackman’s letter is that he winds up abandoning the position he and his colleagues championed for seven years. Gone is taxpayer-funded bailouts and buyouts.  In two successive federal elections, Jackman and his colleagues tried to get commitment after federal commitment to doing just that.

What’s even more bizarre  - some might say disingenuous - about the Dunderdale’s government’s supposed concern for public spending is that it doesn’t apply to things like Muskrat Falls. 

It’s also a bizarre strategy to take in an election year especially when there are so many rural seats the Tories currently hold but where their grip might be weakening a bit.

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Selling cheap power to Quebec

The always reliable labradore has unearthed some fascinating information about a power deal between Nalcor and Hydro-Quebec.

Bottom line:

  • Nalcor took forever to publicly announce the deal, and
  • They are selling power into Quebec for about 20%
  • of what Labrador and Newfoundland customers are paying.

Not bad, eh?

They even get a volume discount, something that will not be available to the residential consumers who will be bearing the full cost of Muskrat Falls in the future just so Nalcor can sell more cheap power to customers outside the province.

That’s the only way the “economics” of the current proposal make any sense to the people behind the scheme.

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Dunderdale government to cure arthritis

From the Throne Speech:

As My Government follows through in implementing its provincial wellness plan and its healthy aging strategy, it is also turning its attention to chronic diseases. Arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease – unlike many acute illnesses that can be treated and cured – are chronic conditions which can remain with people for the rest of their lives. My Government will move forward this year to release a new Chronic Disease Management Strategy which will include a comprehensive and collaborative approach to chronic disease prevention and management throughout the province.

Chronic disease prevention.

Arthritis listed first.

As someone with arthritis, your humble e-scribbler is not going to hang around waiting for them to deliver on that one.  Hint: no one knows what causes arthritis. But if they can improve the pathetic arthritis support delivered via Eastern Health’s bureaucratic monstrosity, then more power to ‘em.

Gotta say too, now that Hisself isn’t writing the speeches any more, they are much better. One more mangled Kennedy quote and people were going to start flinging themselves under busses voluntarily.

But this speech has some decent writing including nice turns of phrase and some great structuring.

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21 March 2011

New Dawn up for vote yet again

Apparently, the Matshishkapeu Accord will be back for the Innu people of Labrador to vote on.

This must be the final, final, final version of the final agreement announced two and a half years ago as being the final agreement.

Note, though, that all the feds have announced on Monday was a financial deal.  The rest of the land claim is still up in the air.

Just sayin’, in case anyone figured this was a done deal.

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Muskrat Falls power may never go to New England: Nalcor

From Nalcor vice president Derrick Sturge:

"Whether all of the energy ever flows to the New England market - who knows? A significant portion of that (40 per cent) may never hit New England. It may end up in Prince Edward Island or New Brunswick. But the key is that there is the option to flow to the (New England) market."

And then he said the thing is going up with or without a federal loan guarantee.

Newfoundlanders should keep an eye on their wallets with this guy Sturge and his buddies around.

They have no markets for the power outside the province.

That’s why Sturge uses all the conditional language like “may”.  It may go there;  then again, it may not.

Count on the “not’ given that the front end of the story makes it plain that Nalcor and Emera couldn’t actually settle on a price.  Muskrat Falls power was just too expensive.

So in exchange for Emera partnering on a line to Nova Scotia they’ll get free power for 35 years.

Talk about the price is right.

Free is always the right price, except if you are Nalcor customers in this province.  For you guys, Nalcor will be jacking up Newfoundland electricity rates and adding another five billion or so to the public debt.

And for what?

Well, since Nalcor’s own figures show there is no demand on the island that couldn’t be met other ways besides Muskrat, the answer to that question remains as much a mystery as why Kathy Dunderdale threw Shawn Skinner under a political bus last week with the Matthews’ debacle.

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20 March 2011

Libya 1986 - OP El Dorado Canyon

This is a short video recounting the American air strike against Libya in 1986. 

The video mentions SA-3 Goa and SA-5 Gammon anti-aircraft missiles.  Together with the much older SA-2 Guideline, they still formed the backbone of Libyan air defence.

Well, that is until the past 48 hours.

Taking out Libyan air defences was the first phase of coalition military action against Muammar Gaddafi’s forces.  Aircraft and cruise missiles reportedly struck anti-aircraft missile sites and airfields.

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18 March 2011

Cleary to unquit for NDP again?

Ryan Cleary, former newspaper editor, former talk show host and former NDP candidate is considering another run at federal politics six months, after he packed it in as the New Democratic Party candidate in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

Cleary carried the orange banner in the 2008 federal election, lost that one, then took up a job hosting a late night talk show.  Although the gab-fest was well suited to his talkative style, Cleary quit that gig to spend more time with his family and then sought the NDP nomination again.

Last October he gave that up to go back to journalism and now he is apparently considering an offer from the NDP to run again for them in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

Talk about on-again, off-again.

A campaign involving Cleary, Liberal incumbent Siobhan Coady and reputed Tory heavyweight Loyola Sullivan could turn out to be an interesting race.  Cleary has the potential to split up the nationalist Conservative vote especially among local Conservatives who are still can’t get beyond the whole demon Harper thing. 

In 2008, Danny Williams’ gang tried to drive the Tories to Coady.  Four prominent members of his caucus, including Kathy Dunderdale and Paul Oram, went door-to-door for Coady.  It didn’t work.  The local Blue Crew that did turn out opted for Cleary, instead.

Cleary also might not be able to count on quit so much spill-over help from Jack Harris in St. John’s East.  The darling of the East End will be in a tighter race of his own against Jerry Byrne. 

As a result, Jack might not be able to give any serious help to the fellow some will soon be affectionately referring to as Yo-Yo Maw.

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The disease spreads

Scott Reid’s dissection of national politics could equally be a commentary on politics in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2003.

Here’s a taste:

We can begin with a Parliamentary Press Gallery that, increasingly, is dazzled by political tactics, bored by substance and disinterested in the awkward obligation of challenging authority. With too few exceptions — and one fewer with the sad passing of the Star's Jim Travers — reporters seem more interested in sounding like in-the-know party strategists than detached observers.

It is they, in particular, who tell us repeatedly that "no one cares." And all too frequently, there is little, if any, suggestion that part of the media's function is to serve as a check on abuse of authority. Put another way, if Woodward and Bernstein had followed the same method we sometimes witness in Ottawa, they would surely have shrugged off Deep Throat, explaining that no one cares about such a technical, complicated story and that, in any event, Nixon's triumph over McGovern rendered the matter moot.

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Provincial government wakes up on EU trade

Almost two years after your humble e-scribbler pointed out the blatant stupidity of the provincial government’s decision to boycott free trade talks, the provincial government is now sorting itself out.

The provincial government trade gang will switch from observers to participants at the upcoming trade talks between Canada and the European Union in April.

The old policy  - supported unquestioningly by the same people who have now turned 180 degrees – was stupid because it jeopardized the existing and future economic interests of the province and left local industry to being left out of a new lucrative market.

What’s worse, the old, stupid policy threatened to increase the dependence of the local economy on  on the American market. As a result, the provincial economy would become even more fragile than it had already grown as a result of seven years of backward economic policy by the provincial government.

It may have taken two years but the current crowd have finally figured it out.

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17 March 2011

Inadvertent media humour

hung jury

- srbp -

Kelly wins in Corner Brook

Gary Kelly won the by-election for Corner Brook City council polling 987 votes.  He topped a field of five candidates.

He ran a campaign with a significant presence in the social media and took to the streets of Corner Brook with his sign in hand, greeting pedestrians and waving to motorists. His effort was often the talk of the city throughout the campaign, and Wednesday evening the results proved its worth.

Expect to hear more about this guy in the future.

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Anyone seen John Hickey?

Our man in Menihek.

The Pavement Putin of the Permafrost.

Currently the Labrador affairs minister and reputedly wannabe Conservative candidate in the next federal election.

Well, he may not be seen anywhere other than the A&W in Goose Bay for breakfast but certainly no one has heard from him on a CBC story that the Department of National Defence isn’t interested in spending any more cash on sustaining the infrastructure at Goose Bay beyond what they need.

Funny that Hickey is so silent.  In 2006, for example he was adamant that the fine people of Goose Bay could count on the promises of his political pals in Ottawa.  Here’s what he said in the House of Assembly in April 2006:

Although there was some fearmongering [sic] going around the community and there were some moments there last week when people were not really sure, I want to commend the new Minister of National Defence, Minster Gordon O’Connor, for coming out publicly on Monday morning and reconfirming the commitment that he made to the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, that he made recently to Premier Williams in Ottawa, and the commitment that Prime Minister Harper made to our Province in a letter that he wrote to the Premier during the election. The commitment is there, Mr. Speaker, it is solid, 650 troops on the ground. We are going to see an army base there with  an extra 100 support troops for a UAV squadron. This is fantastic news, Mr. Speaker, for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and for the
District of Lake Melville.

Fantastic news of the glories to be delivered onto the fine people of the Big Land by John’s Big Friends.

Anything to the contrary was fear-mongering.

Five years later?

Fantastical nothingness.

In fact, the likelihood of the federal Conservatives delivering even the promise to promise something vaguely like they’ve been promising is so remote at this point that some of the local movers and shakers in Labrador are thinking about trying to press the federal Conservatives for the loan guarantee on Muskrat in lieu of the numerous lavish and thus far unfulfilled pledges to bring riches to Goose Bay via National Defence.

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Pushback in New England on hydro lines

Environmental concerns are causing problems for a proposed electricity transmission line that could help carry Labrador electricity into the United States.

The Northern Pass project will carry electricity from Quebec into New Hampshire and on to the rest of New England.

Some local residents in New Hampshire are concerned that the proposed route will damage the state’s tourism industry. 

John Harrington is a retired newspaper publisher.  He told North Country Public Radio:

“What’s being threatened is the only thing we really have left, which is tourism. All for the convenience of people far to the south. And we’re going to wind up with this huge scar right down through the narrowest and most fragile part of New Hampshire.”

Then there’s the question of whether or not big hydro is actually green. Only Vermont currently accepts hydroelectricity from large dams as renewable and green and therefore eligible to count in state-mandated energy calculations.  Most New England states require that a percentage of electricity in the state come from renewable, green energy sources.  Both the American federal and some state governments also give cash incentives to renewable energy projects.

In some states, debate is already raging about the implications of renewable energy policies.  In last fall’s gubernatorial campaign, incumbent Deval Patrick’s Republican challenger included support for big hydro as part of his campaign platform. 

In Connecticut, Northeast utilities senior vice-president James Robb told a conference last November that without big hydro, “ it will be very challenging to meet those goals” of increasing the use of renewable energy sources to 25% of generation by 2025.  Robb said that there are projects but many are uneconomical.

Still, the big hydro projects don’t meet existing guidelines.

The main concern regarding hydro is that the flooding resulting from dams causes leaves and other foliage to decompose, emitting methane, one of the worst greenhouse gases. The Canadian officials [at the November conference]  argued that the water in their provinces is so cold that the leaves don’t decompose.

“I’m struggling here in New England with how New England is going to meet its renewable requirements. Without Quebec and Newfoundland & Labrador, you will struggle to hit that,” said Ed Martin, president and CEO of Nalcor Energy, which is based in the hydro- and wind-rich Newfoundland & Labrador. “Hydro is part of the mix that has to happen if you are going to meet the goals in New England.”

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16 March 2011

Operation Ridiculous

Usually when one is in a hole, it is a good idea to stop digging.

There may be exceptions to this rule,  but for most occasions,  when you can no longer see over the edge of the hole even on your tippee toes, best thing to do is lay the shovel down and start figuring out how to get out of the self-inflicted predicament.

If your friends are in a hole, then you can offer them a hand up out of the hole.  Under no circumstances, though, should you start shovelling dirt in on top of them.  Jumping in with them may be noble but it is never sensible and if you are in the hole, it is never wise to start pulling the shite back in around your own feet.

Evidently, someone forgot to explain this subtle bit of mystical political knowledge to Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Instead,  Premier (pro tempore) Dunderdale got hold of the Danny and Liz playbook, a portion of which Liz decided to continue this week in her ongoing campaign to destroy whatever shreds of her own dignity she might have left.

Remember that claim about not knowing about the appointment?  Well, kiss that nose-puller goodbye when the evidence is unveiled.  Elizabeth Matthews told the Telegram that in fact she had a copy of the order in council the Liberals released on Tuesday.

The she tried to turn the whole thing into a process story:

The job of vice-chair of the CNLOPB requires approval from the federal government and Matthews said she was not “informed in any official capacity” that she had been named to the board.

So she knew, but not officially and therefore she didn’t know.

Or did she?

Liz Matthews may well turn out to be the political progeny not of Danny Williams but of Tom “TimeLord” Rideout.  Liz knew but didn’t know.  Back in 2007, Tom wanted to explain that the Green report recommendations on allowances would come into effect tomorrow but in his world, tomorrow meant six months in the future, not the day after this one.

How in the name of heavens can anyone not wilfully and pathologically blinded by Danny-envy be surprised that the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight, the crowd that brought you a low rent version of Doctor Who  - Rideout, Hedderson and Marshall editions - and the Abitibi expropriation blunder couldn’t even handle a simple appointment to a board whether out of unfettered lust for patronage or a secret John-Turnerish promise to Danny?


Who is shocked by this?

Didn’t think so.

Unable to hide from the media any longer, the person who actually made the Elizabeth Matthews nomination made a few comments today.  The result was, well, let’s just say that when she frigs up Kathy Dunderdale does not settle for half measures. She laid her shovel down alrightee and then dragged in a backhoe just to really bury herself.

Before going any further, let us remember that the core point Dunderdale could have used was simple:  appointment’s not done yet.  We’ll let you know when and if it is made. That is the same line Matthews could have used and it is the one Shawn Skinner could have tried. 

There might have been a bit of a stink about patronage or potential pork-barrelling but it wouldn’t have been half as bad as day after day of the appointee and a senior minister saying things that they both ought to have known were bullshit and that could be shown to be bullshit fairly easily.

Think of it this way:  they did not impeach Clinton for a quickie in the closet with a young woman a fraction of his age.  They got him for insisting that he had not had sex with that woman and then engaging in some amateur lawyer bullshit about the definition of “is” in order to perpetuate the patently ridiculous denials.

So take a gander at the raw footage of Dunderdale talking to reporters. 

Making it up as she goes along 

Dunderdale claims there is a regulation requiring first a board appointment and then the second stage of a vice-chair nomination.  She then claims that a letter conveys the official appointment.

Dunderdale knows or ought to know this is preposterous.  There is no regulation governing the appointment.  The Atlantic Accord implementation acts simply state that the nominee for vice chair needs the support of both the federal and provincial governments.  If both governments agree on the nomination, a board appointment can follow in due course.  Both governments can even agree whether it will be a federal, provincial or joint appointment.

Take a look at the order in council.  It is clear that Matthews is appointed with effect from January 1 and that – in addition – cabinet put Matthews forward as a nominee for vice-chair subject to federal agreement.  There’s even a reference to negotiating the salary for the vice chair’s job.

Simply put, Dunderdale is wrong.  You have to be on the board if you are vice chair but you don’t have to be on the board before becoming vice chair.

Let’s go one step beyond.  If, as Dunderdale claims, she never intended Matthews to sit on the board in any capacity other than as vice-chair, the order in council would have been written to say that.  More likely, it would have followed the agreement and approved the appointment and salary as already agreed.

Dunderdale defends her nomination of Matthews because she believes the former Williams communications aide is a “strategic thinker” who is articulate.  Clearly the events of the past couple of days speak to the contrary impression.  Articulate strategic thinkers don’t usually default to easily disprovable crap as the first thought.

Dunderdale claims that the process is not secret, that it has to be straightforward and done in public.  The events as they unfolded and Dunderdale’s own account of how things were supposed to happen make her claims about welcoming debate patently false.

Had things unfolded as Dunderdale intended, no one would have learned of the appointment until after it was copper-fastened, to use a hideous Dunderism.  Michael Connors of NTV (or so it sounded like) made the point in a question that an appointment to the board announced in December would have sparked controversy.  Indeed, it would have.

As for welcoming the chance to defend Matthews, it is almost laughable that both Matthews and Dunderdale talked about their willingness to defend the appointment only after Matthews quit the process and therefore made such a defence unnecessary. 

People who genuinely believe they can win don’t quit.  It’s that simple.  Everything else is nonsense.

As for what really happened, the full story may never emerge.  It is possible, for example, that Dunderdale – like her patron and water rights – got caught in a rather amateurish effort to engineer something for Matthews.  Heck, maybe the same legal geniuses behind that fiasco and the expropriation cooked up this scheme with their less-than-perfect knowledge of the law and procedure.

Faced with a federal twin vice-chair who might well have wound up as the official replacement for Ruelokke, any other schemes about changing the board using Matthews may well have been scuttled.

Then again, the simple fact that Matthews blew her own feet off with her patently false claims on Friday, coupled with industry and political pushback made the appointment too stinky to survive the very debate Dunderdale supposedly welcomed. Dunderdale and Matthews can talk all the brave talk they want:  fact is they lost.

The whole Matthews mess is almost too embarrassingly ridiculous to believe. Had it not unfolded in front of our eyes, anyone could reasonably reject it as too incredible to be true.

[But the fact is] you just cannot make this stuff up.

All we can do is wait to see what Dunderdale does next.

[Updated:  corrected typos;  subhead clarified;  words added in square brackets to clarify sentence.]

- srbp -