31 May 2011

Monday? Back to “No!”

Kathy Dunderdale told reporters on Monday that she was clear in her answers before.

That explains why she was back again for a third day trying to find her position on cash for jock straps.

To recap, the provincial sports minister said on the first day he was open to considering a proposal.  day Two, Kath had him unequivocally reject it.

Kath then said she and her minister had only looked at a preliminary proposal with no details and so they rejected it.  If, however, the jock straps would send along more paperwork, she’d have another look at it. 

In case you’ve lost sight of the government’s position in there it has been yes, no, and yes, and each of them equally firm, final and unequivocal.

So there you have it.

Well, that’s the end of it until something else happens and Kathy changes her mind yet again.

Let’s not forget, by the way, that this is the same Kathy Dunderdale who had some difficulty telling people what happened back in 2006 with Joan Cleary and the public tender act violations.  Dunderdale claimed the Act wasn’t involved when – as she later admitted – it was.

And, if you think this story is over, just note that in his Tuesday afternoon scrum on the whole project, Danny Williams did two things worth noting.

First, he admitted he is behind this project, putting his own money into the venture. A couple of days ago he was holding himself out as just a facilitator.

Second, Williams notes that he’s the guy who got Kathy her job. That’s a none-too-subtle hint.  Someone said once Danny Williams will be enemies with everyone at some point.  Looks like it Kathy’s turn.

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If this is Friday, it must be yes…

Or is it no?

First, they were going to give Danny his cash for his hockey team.

Then 24 hours later they decided  - emphatically and unequivocally – that the new answer was “no” because the government did not fund that sort of thing.

But now with Danny nipping at their heels and few of his loyal toadies croaking away, Kathy Dunderdale is now telling Danny that if he submits another request they’ll have another look at the idea and maybe give the multi-millionaire and his buddies a few hundred thousands taxpayer dollars every year to help them rent some jock straps or something.

Perhaps Kathy was persuaded to shift her position – yet again - by Danny’s earnest reminder of how much money had had given to this and that and the benefits he’d delivered to the other:

"...I've given my heart and soul to the city and the province," said Williams. "I've given to the PC party, to my colleagues in the cabinet and the caucus, including Kathy Dunderdale but this will not affect my zeal or drive to do things for this province."

All principle converts to cash, indeed.

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Reductio ad argentum: senatorial elections version

With the Conservatives who have been running the province since 2003, everything reduces to cash

For them, the only principle is cash.

Not surprisingly, when it comes to the idea of electing senators to represent the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in the national parliament, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said this:

Mr. Speaker, there are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. For example, who is going to fund it? Who is going to pay for it? Mr. Speaker, when we get the answers to those questions, then we will say whether or not we are in favour of elected senators.

Yes, whether or not Kathy supports democracy comes down to how much it might cost.

Come to think of the past seven or so years, this does explain a lot.

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30 May 2011

Fortis buys Vermont power utility

Fortis Inc. (FTS-T) announced Monday it will buy Central Vermont Public Service Corporation. CVPS serves 160,000 customers throughout the state.

This is the first American purchase for Fortis, a company that owns electricity generation and distribution services in Canada and Belize.

The reported price tag for the purchase in US$700 million including $230 million of debt.

Here’s a quote from Fortis chief executive Stan Marshall, taken from the abysmally written Fortis news release:

“The acquisition of CVPS represents the initial entry by Fortis into the U.S. regulated electric utility marketplace and establishes a foundation for Fortis to grow our utility business in the United States,” says Stan Marshall, President and Chief Executive Officer, Fortis Inc.  

“CVPS is a well-run utility whose operations are very similar to those of our Canadian regulated  utilities, allowing us to use our collective competencies to further enhance service to customers and returns to our shareholders,” explains Marshall.  
 
Based on financial information as at March 31, 2011, following the Acquisition, the total assets  of Fortis will increase by approximately 7% to approximately $13.9 billion.  The Corporation’s  regulated electric and gas utility operations  will account for approximately 55% and 37%, respectively, of the total assets of Fortis.  Regulated utility assets in Canada and the United States will account for approximately 85% of the total assets of Fortis.

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Muskrat Fails #nlpoli #cdnpoli

A new website tackles the disaster that is Muskrat Flls proposed by Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

Amazing what you can do, if you want to.

Predictable Update:  In the CBC story on this Liberal initiative, take a look at the comments.  Spot how many are not Tory plants of the usual kind trotting out the same old tired lines over and over.

 

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Other campaign music: Brian Tobin

Popular music is something of a fixture in political campaigns, both fictional and real.

“You are my sunshine” and “Man of constant sorrow” turn up in O brother, where art thou? during a Pappy O’Daniel’s campaign.  Franklyn Roosevelt used “Happy days are here again.”  Harry Truman naturally liked “I’m just wild about Harry.”

Closer to home, there was a tiny bit of comment about the use of popular music by local campaigns.  Kathy Dunderdale entered her coronation to a song by Alecia Moore – Pink – that featured the lyrics:

I got lot of style, check my gold diamond rings
I can go for miles if you know what I mean

and

I'll be burnin' rubber, you'll be kissin' my ass
Pull up to the bumper, get out of the car
License plate says Stunner #1 Superstar

This past weekend, the Liberal organizers decided to use Trooper’s “Raise a little hell” as the music for Yvonne Jones’ walk-in music.

So that got your humble e-scribbler to a thinkin’ back to other songs that might have been used by political campaigns.

What better place to start than with a song that seemed to sum up former Premier Brian Tobin’s tenure but that was, of course, never used?  The Tobinator never seemed to settle into the province.  From the day he came back in early 1996, his attention always seemed to be replacing Jean Chretien down the road a piece. Tobin freaked out at anyone who suggested things weren’t great during his reign. it seemed that he wanted desperately to have a successful term as Premier to use as a notch on the old resume if he ever tried to move into 24 Sussex.

And when Tobin kept his federal leadership fund-raising going and called a second general election only a couple of years, it seemed like he never let the family unpack the moving boxes.  You know.  Because he could never be sure just when he’d have to leave suddenly and go back to where his heart really lay.

Which is of course what he did in October 2000.  Only Danny Williams – Brian seems like a test drive for Williams’ style in hindsight - left office in a more unseemly haste.

All of that is why it seemed Tobin should have used another Trooper song as his theme:  after all he was here for a good time, not a long time.

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Your world. Your choice. Your future.

Memorial University granted an honorary degree on Friday to Edsel Bonnell.

As the official news release put it:

“In essence a man with two careers, Mr. Bonnell has excelled at both.

Fifty years ago, Edsel Bonnell was the first person in Newfoundland to become a professional public relations consultant, winning numerous national awards, becoming in 2002 an honorary fellow of the Canadian Public Relations Society and, in 2005, a life member of the same organization.

From 1989-96 he took these skills into government where he served as chief of staff and senior policy advisor to Premier Clyde Wells, chairing both the Economic and the Social Strategic Planning Groups.

In musical circles he is best known for his role as founder and leader of the Gower Youth Band. This began in 1973 with the support of Gower Street United Church but it was intended to be — and has remained — non-denominational.

Educated at Memorial University, Mr. Bonnell has been recognized for his community service work in being named St. John's Citizen of the Year (1984), a Member of the Order of Canada (2001) and was inducted into the Hall of Honour at the St. John's Kiwanis Music Festival (2004).”

Edsel got the rare honour of a standing ovation from the graduates and their guests on Friday.

The reason is his address. 

At turns entertaining, frank and provocative, it was fundamentally a message of hope and a wellspring of optimism.

The speech was essentially what Edsel is.

In Edsel’s honour and to give you all a fine start to your week, here is Edsel’s convocation address, in its entirety.  It is exactly as he wrote it except in a couple of places where the paragraphing is changed to ease online reading.

 

Address to Convocation

May 27, 2011

Dr. Edsel J. Bonnell

The thing you often notice about people who receive honours and accolades, whether in Hollywood or Holyrood, is their apparent discomfort. The comments you hear are “I don’t really deserve this”, and “there are so many others who deserve this more than I do.” Every now and then, of course, you get a more pragmatic approach, like when Jack Benny said in an acceptance speech: “I don’t deserve this award. But I have arthritis and I don’t deserve that, either!”

When somebody wins an Olympic medal or writes a best-selling book or is elected to a high office, he or she has attained a definable goal for all to see, and deserves whatever praise is due. But when you’re engaged in community service and you are honoured for it, you cannot help but think about the people who have influenced you or who work with you, and all the unsung heroes you have met who have given lifetimes of service without recognition of any kind. So, discomfort seen year after year on occasions such as this is not false modesty, but more likely a reality check of one’s own limitations, and an uneasy feeling about being honoured for doing something that makes one feel so good while doing it!

In my own case, I am very aware of people and organizations who share this honour with me today, and I sincerely thank the Senate on their behalf as well as my own. They are legion, from my parents and wonderful “big sister” who set shining examples in their own remarkable achievements, through teachers (especially a music teacher who instilled in students the passion that is music), co-workers and treasured friends, to our sons and their life-partners, and grandchildren, all of whom inspire and instruct me daily.

The announcement from Memorial referred to my work in two “careers”. The one which enabled us to buy groceries every week was public relations, and I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to my colleagues for more than half a century in the Canadian Public Relations Society who worked with dedication to create and maintain a dynamic profession with a strict code of ethics, a robust five-year accreditation process, and respected post-secondary education programs In Canada.

My other “career” has been involved with music, specifically the Gower Band Program, embodied in the enriching musical and collegial experience of the intergenerational Gower Community Band. I share this honour today with the people of Gower Street United Church who caught the vision 38 years (and more than 900 performances!) ago of establishing a non-denominational community band program which would provide music education and instruments, scholarship support, and opportunities for community service to anyone with a commitment to the love of music and the joy of service --- a truly remarkable gift to community by a church and its supporters and benefactors; and of course the more than 400 musicians who have participated in this program over the years and who continue to touch countless lives with music and community service at home and abroad.

And then, most importantly, there’s my wife Anthea, who has been my life-force for 55 years through both of my “careers”, and without whose hard work and tireless dedication so much of the foregoing would never have happened.

So I don‘t stand here alone. If all the people who have influenced me, given me opportunities, and worked with me could be here, there would be no room for anyone else in this hall. And I am not unique in this respect, because all graduates here today had many people walking across this stage with them in spirit, and I know they acknowledge the support, and often the sacrifice, of parents, family members, and friends in achieving their goals. Truly, “no one is an island, no one stands alone”; we are indeed all “part of the main”.

As an unabashedly proud parent myself, I can assure the Graduates that your parents share your joy and your pride on this special day. But they, like me, come from different generations. Many parents may be from the so-called “Generation X”; others may qualify for what is now known as “Zoomers”. The question is: What kind of world have we of previous generations given to these graduates here today? And the answer is intimidating. It has prompted me to suggest that we are not following “Generation X” with “Generation Y”, but rather with “GENERATION EXPONENTIAL”!

Last month a man died in the southern United States at the remarkable age of 114. He was thought to be the oldest man in the world at the time, having lived in three centuries. Just think for a moment what his life-span witnessed:

We went from “horseless carriages” to space vehicles that send us pictures and information about new planets in the universe beyond our own solar system; from bolt-action rifles and bayonets to nuclear weapons which can destroy life on earth as we know it; from the three little clicks for the Morse code letter “S” that Marconi heard on Signal Hill to Skype; and from silent movies to “tweets” from around the world on the wondrous machines that we now carry around in our pockets.... all in the span of one man’s life.

It was unprecedented. No other human life-time in the history of the world has ever experienced so much change, so much challenge, and so much stress as the past century or so. But the more startling reality is that the speed of all this change has been, and is, exponential. It has grown faster and faster each decade, and indeed each year, until now it is almost incomprehensible. It’s easy to forget that until 30 years ago, there were no personal computers; and five years ago many of us still thought that Blackberries were edible. The old discussion about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin has gone out the window (no pun intended!) because now they can put the contents of the U.S. Library of Congress on the head of a pin. All the wisdom of the world is available to any child who can access a computer. The whole process of education may soon become unrecognizable to those in my generation.

Science fiction has become reality. It is no longer considered futuristic to talk about the age of Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity, when machine intelligence merges with or exceeds human intelligence. Earlier this year, IBM’s “Watson” defeated two brilliant Jeopardy champions. That was truly history in the making!

The questions that arise, of course, are critical. Can we use our technology so as not to be abused by it? Can we master it so as not to be mastered by it? Can we lead so as not to be led?

This is the legacy we have given to you in your “Generation Exponential”.

Scary?

Sure.

Challenging?

Of course.

Exciting?

You bet!

For centuries, generations have talked about passing the torch from one to another with the usual proverb that the new breeds hold in their hands the keys to the future and the fate of the world. Now, however, it has a more urgent ring to it. Graduates, your generation can literally kill or cure the world; you have the tools to do either one, and the choice is yours. And in the case of most graduates here today, you are called not only to use the tools wisely, but to teach coming generations to do the same. It is an awesome but heroic undertaking.

We are already well into the Communications Revolution. It is changing the world order as we speak. Events in Egypt this year have shown dramatically what could be accomplished by people communicating electronically as an alternative to armed rebellion. Throughout history, tyranny has thrived on secrecy and ignorance and fear. But these curses are being eradicated by the little I-phones and other machines we hold in the palms of our hands, where the people of the world can talk as friends instead of fearing each other as enemies. They find that there is more to unite us than to divide us, if we can only respect each other`s way of life.

For those of us in the communications field, it is a dream come true. But dreams can also be nightmares, and progress has brought with it invasion of privacy, hackers, scams, spam, terrorism, slanderous blogs, and a variety of e-crimes unknown in previous history.

As we work and live in constant communication through social media, we diminish our physical human contact. We text a lot, but actually talk very little. We see on Skype, but don’t feel the touch of a hand. Business and professional life is filled with virtual meetings, webinars, and the like, and traditional gathering places such as churches and service clubs and youth organizations may be required to create virtual entities with interactive e-worship services and web-meetings and surrogate activities in order to carry out their missions. Volunteerism is in numerical decline, with fewer people doing more than their share. This new generation will be challenged to preserve the critical element of Community, not as an option, but as an imperative, if we are to maintain our humanity.

In this commitment to community, every individual has a responsibility. No one can move a mountain, but anyone can move a stone. And when enough people move enough stones together, the mountain will be moved. When we live in community, we experience the joy of fellowship and the peace of common purpose. When we engage in service, we share love with others and see the light of understanding. And when we combine the two -- Community Service – we become participants in the hope of the world.

In 2008, Lanier Phillips stood where I am standing now and captivated the Convocation with his eloquent tribute to the people of this Province. Dr. Phillips was the only African American among the 46 survivors of the tragic sinking of the USS Truxton off St. Lawrence during World War II. He had no idea where they had run ashore, and he had suffered so much abuse, hatred, and racism in his young life that he lay down to die on the beach thinking that he would probably be lynched because of the color of his skin. Instead, a kindly voice spoke and strong arms got him to his feet and then up over the cliffs of Chambers Cove. He found love from the good people of St. Lawrence. And even though the abuse and hatred continued in his naval service throughout the war and back home in the United States, he kept the St. Lawrence experience in his heart as a beacon of love and humanity and tolerance, and vowed that he would spend his life telling people all over the world that there is a place where respect and justice and love can heal the wounds of the soul.

Graduates, you are in that place, and you are of that place, whether you were born here or chose to come here. You are in Canada, a bastion of freedom, democracy, and human rights; where we are so modest that we feel a little embarrassed by saying that it`s the best place in the world to live… but it is! Where citizenship and social justice are treasured. Where we don`t make war, but we keep peace in the world, often at a dear price of brave young lives who win respect for Canada’s red maple leaf in every part of the world.

And within this great nation, you are in this province of Newfoundland and Labrador with its noble heritage, its generosity of spirit, its sense of community, its incredible wealth of talent and human resources vastly disproportionate to the size of its population, and its fierce dedication to fair play and justice. You are in this awesome place of courage and courtesy, survival and success, wit and wisdom through half a millennium of continuous settlement.

But you are also in and of this great university, a university which cares about community and shares with community, to which I can attest from the musical community’s symbiotic relationship with our remarkable School of Music for more than three decades. Today you have become alumni of Memorial, the latest generation of a proud tradition of academic excellence which has sent its graduates to teach others, to provide leadership, and to serve humanity around the world as well as here at home.

That`s why I know that you all have what it takes to tackle the challenges that will flow exponentially around you in the coming months and years. You have already achieved much, and you will achieve much more. You are from the best of stock, nationally, provincially, and academically, and it is both a profound honor and a humbling experience for me to be included in your ceremony today.

So by all means, celebrate today with family and friends. You deserve it.

And then, follow Memorial’s time-honored motto: “Launch forth into the deep”.

Use the knowledge and tools which are at your disposal, turn your challenges into opportunities, and save the world.

Because the world is truly yours, with all the blunders and blessings that you inherit.

Your world. Your choice. Your future.

Enjoy the voyage!

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29 May 2011

Dundernomics 101: the peril of Marshallism

A modest change in circumstances has made a dramatic change in the provincial government’s 2011 budget and a bigger change for 2012.

A decision by Terra Nova oil field owners to defer major renovations on the floating production platform means that the provincial government is now forecasting a surplus almost four times what they had before.

That’s right.

The extra production will boost the anticipated forecast from about $59 million to $250 million. Finance minister Tom Marshall dropped that little gem on a board of trade audience a couple of weeks ago.

But wait;  there’s more.

Next year Marshall expects a deficit of almost double the forecast.

Surplus of $200 million will before a deficit of almost $500 million.

And Marshall says that will be applied to the net debt.

First of all let’s dispose of the completely slimy, disingenuous claim about applying any surplus to the net debt.

Net debt is not real debt.  It is merely a paper transaction that represents total liabilities less any assets.  A cash surplus gets counted as an asset, but as Marshall well knows it does absolutely nothing to reduce what the people of the provincial actually owe.

You bet that if Tom really posts a small surplus, he’ll be setting that money aside either to help keep the deficit in 2012 from ballooning or to fund cost over-runs on any of the mega-projects he and his mates have locked taxpayers into

So when the finance minister has to rely on deception you know the rest of it is bad as well.

What you have here is basically further evidence that the provincial government has put the public treasury in a dangerous state.

Take that forecast deficit for 2012 that is now set for $500 million.

That’s based on a rather optimistic forecast for oil prices.

Drop the price of oil and you can make it a much bigger number.

And we are not talking dropping oil by half its current price.  We are talking dropping it by 20%.

or even 10%.

That half a billion will quickly become $750 million or a billion.

At least.

And if the price of oil drops in 2011, there won’t be an extra $200 million to help pay for it.

As easily as the surplus grew this year, the deficit could grow next year.  Tiny changes in the local economy produce wildly different outcomes. This is not something a finance minister – as responsible finance minister – would brush off as cavalierly as Tom Marshall does. 

A responsible finance minister would adjust spending to take account of these changes in revenues.

He or she would have a policy that said he will spend such and such a percentage of non-renewable revenues on this, another amount on the other other.  So much would go into the bank and so much would pay down debt.  Annual spending would rise by a predictable rate that was something around the rate of inflation.

As a result, people could know within reason what the world would look like five years out, regardless of whether oil prices went up or down.  In the times of phenomenal prices, they would sit comfortably knowing that the public debt was vanishing – for real  - or that they had a nest egg of public spending for roads and schools guaranteed to happen regardless of anything.

That sort of predictability is the kind of environment that promotes prosperity.

That sort of sound fiscal management attracts private investment from all over the world.

That sort of behaviour – safeguarding the public trust – helps build a sound economy.

How far is Newfoundland and Labrador away from that after a decade of  Marshallism?

The big story in Newfoundland and Labrador on the last weekend in May is a racket between Marshall’s old boss and his new boss over whether the new boss should give the old boss’ latest hockey venture a half million tax dollars.

They are fighting over whether a bunch of sweaty jock-straps are worth a permanent subsidy of a half million because it is an economic investment.

And to make it worse, we are not talking about a full-on professional franchise mind you, like they are in Winnipeg.

We are talking about the farm team.

Face it.

The big news story in this province six months before the next election is a demand from a multi-millionaire to hand over a half million bucks so he can play at being a hockey mogul.

Doesn’t seem quite so impressive when you put it that way.

Does it?

But that’s a more honest and accurate version than talking about applying a surplus to the net debt.

Think about it.

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28 May 2011

Tiny Tories love their leader: Danny Williams

He bailed in an unseemly haste before Christmas last year but the province’s young Conservatives are still wildly in love with the Old Man.

tempypclogo

Yes, it is a hideous picture, hideously stretched but if you look hard enough you can see that the banner of the Young Progressive Conservatives’ website features Hisself right there in the centre.

Centre of their picture.

Centre of their universe.

The front page includes this line:

Newfoundland and Labrador under the leadership of Danny Williams has seen great benefits but this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Each member of the provincial Tiny Tory executive gets a page to himself or herself.  Part of the template is a section on why they support the PC Party and Danny Williams.

mcmeekin

They all have their reasons. 

These days past president Chantalle Hull works in Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s office as a receptionist but on the YPC website here’s what she thinks:

I not only support Danny Williams because he is leader of the PC Party, but also because I believe that he has the interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador at heart.

Not everyone is as certain.

One director at large exists only as a picture. 

Everything else is blank.

blank

Now to be fair to the young Conservatives this site was laid out in 2009 and evidently hasn’t been updated since.

But still.

After last fall and a massive party make-over, you’d think all these young enthusiasts for Dannyism would be able to spare a couple of minutes from their non-stop tweeting to pull their website up to date.

You’d think they’d be super anxious to get behind the Dunderdale2011 Party as the key to securing their current paycheques even if they cannot summon up the same lemming-like yearning for Danny’s successor that they once had for the Old Man’s derriere.

Maybe they’ve just been too busy.

Let’s hope that’s it because if Kath got any sense that her young Dunderbunnies weren’t full of Dunder-love there’s no telling what she might do.

After all, look at how she treats Danny these days.

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Traffic by the numbers for May 23 to 27, 2011

Danny Williams says that the provincial government would see a $10 million return on its $500,000 subsidy…that is, if they spent.

If they could make $10 million by spending a half million, it would be a no brainer.

But they won’t.

Heck, if the numbers looked like that, multi-millionaire Williams would be spending his pocket change and fighting to keep others out of it.

So logically we know Danny’s claim is a massive pile of shite.

Even if the Angry Old Man’s numbers don’t add up, folks – and they never, ever do - you can bet these are the top 10 stories at Bond Papers for last week:

  1. Meet your newest frankenparty:  the Bloc NDP
  2. What am I supporting today?  asks Abbass
  3. In which Dunderdale blunders…again
  4. Dunderdale using rigged deck against public on Muskrat Falls
  5. Tit rejects suck:  no taxpayer cash for hockey franchise after all
  6. Dundernomics 101:  how to lose money
  7. A tourist in her own land
  8. Show us the tit and we’ll such:  AHL franchise edition
  9. Dunderdale and her desperation
  10. Dunderdale in action:  one Homer moment after another

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27 May 2011

More give-aways, sez Williams

Talk about pissy.

Danny is not happy over the provincial government’s refusal to fund his latest pet hockey project.

The multi-millionaire thinks taxpayers should give public cash for free to his little project because “the numbers add up”. That’s not surprising since the multi-millionaire businessman made public subsidies for business a key part of his “no more giveaways” policy while he was Premier.

Of course, if the numbers actually added up, Williams’ proposal would not a single copper of public money of the kind he apparently now wants and previously championed.

Here’s how the Telegram quotes Williams:

“I’m a hockey fan and I believe in this, and I’m a business person and I believe in driving the economy,” he said. “But you know, different premiers have different agendas, and that’s all I can say. It’s not fair for me to second-guess her on that basis, if her decision was based on a good, proper due diligence. But my understanding is that it was less than 24 hours before this was turned around."

Funny thing for Danny to point out at the end, don’t you think?  After all, your humble e-scribbler noted exactly the same unseemly haste on the Hill to distance themselves for Williams’ little “ask”.

The Dunderbunnies may have gotten to the right answer – no public cash for rich private sector corporations and individuals – but they certainly got there with 24 hours of getting the cash ready for a hasty hand-over.

And not surprisingly, Danny is pissed off and letting everyone know it’s personal.

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26 May 2011

Tit rejects suck: no taxpayer cash for hockey franchise after all

On Day One, sports minister Terry French was laughing and chuckling as he talked about the possibility he’d be forking over cash to help his former boss bring a hockey franchise to Mile One stadium.

French knew a fair bit about the request but – as this quote from CBC shows – he didn’t have anything concrete:

I haven’t seen what they are looking for yet. I know they’re obviously looking for something. They tell me they will need the province involved in some way, shape or form

You can find much more on the story, including quotes from Danny Williams in the Telegram coverage:

“People want hockey here in the province, and basically I was involved in it before, so you know the people have asked me to get involved to see if we can bring a team here,” Williams said.

“If, in fact, the city and the province want the team then, you know, I can get it for them. But if they don’t want it, then it’s not going to happen, “ Williams said.

He said a travel subsidy from the provincial government — in the range of $500,000 annually — could potentially be a deal breaker.

By Day Two, French looked a lot less smiley.  Based on no more concrete information than he’d had the day before, the new answer to the hockey subsidy was “no”:

"We decided that we wouldn't go down that road," said French outside the house of assembly in St. John's.

"[We decided] that committing money to a professional hockey team was not the right place to be. We had said no to people previously so the decision was easy."

Williams is reportedly “deeply disappointed”.

So what happened?  That’s a damn good question.

Both opposition parties rejected the idea flatly from the start, noting that the provincial government had turned down health-related requests claiming they didn’t have the cash. Public opinion hadn’t firmly settled on the issue  - as a CBC streeter suggests – but if any national trends are a good judge people aren’t too keen on giving cash to professional sports teams.  The Tories own polling shows that health care is a major issue for the public so perhaps that connection by the opposition was enough to frighten them off the subsidy idea.

The dramatic flip-flop suggests the provincial Tories are extremely jittery in an election year.

Now politically, there is usually no problem with flip-flopping on issues so long as you flip or flop in the same direction as the electorate.

The problem comes when flipping and flopping becomes a habit or when you say one thing one minute and something else the next.

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25 May 2011

What am I supporting today? asks Abbass

Happy Valley-Goose Bay mayor Leo Abbass thinks it is just smurfy that his provincial Conservative friends won’t be spending money on a new prison in central Newfoundland.

According to voice of the cabinet minister:

Happy Valley-Goose Bay's Leo Abbass … is in favour of using the money for programs, services and housing, rather than for building another prison.

Abbass’ commitment to social programs would explain why he supported the federal Conservatives in the recent federal election and their agenda of building more prisons.

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In which Dunderdale blunders… again

Premier Kathy Dunderdale – the one who likes to accuse opposition leader Yvonne Jones of not knowing what she is talking about  - does a good job of setting the record straight.

Well.

Seems that when she referred to the Menihek power station in Labrador as something that was owned by Quebec and bought by Nalcor for a dollar?

Not exactly.

Seems the plant was owned by a company operated in Labrador, namely Iron Ore Company of Canada. 

And as labradore notes, the real issue here – aside from further evidence of the Premier’s fundamental incompetence – is why Kathy Dunderdale and her colleagues kept the deal secret for five years or more.

When was she planning to tell the people of Newfoundland and Labrador about it?

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Dundernomics 101: how to lose money

In the House of Assembly on Tuesday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale displayed her keen insight into the intricacies of public finance and economics:

We are in the open market and in the spot market and sometimes we sell high and sometimes we sell low. What we need to ensure, Mr. Speaker, is that on average we are doing as well or better than we were selling the power to Hydro-Québec, which has always been their plan.

Ummm.

Yeah.

Well, no.

Not unless you are a complete moron, of course.

There’s just no polite way to say it.

The important thing is to make sure the price you get for the power is averaging more than the cost of producing the power in the first place. 

If the power costs a dollar to make and you are selling in any market – the spot market or to Hydro-Quebec  - for less than a dollar you are losing money.

Losing money is a bad thing at the best of times.  If you are talking about losing billions and billions and billions of oil dollars that belong not to you but to the poor benighted people of Flower Hill and Flower’s Cove then it is something way out beyond the baddest sort of bad that there is. 

And if you are talking that sort of complete shite with the legacy of Sprung and Churchill Falls and all the other bad ideas borne of the same sorts of fundamental ignorance you just displayed, then you should not be allowed to balance your own personal cheque-book let alone run the province. 

It is that frickin’ simple.

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24 May 2011

Show us the tit and we’ll suck it: AHL franchise edition

Tourism, culture and recreation minister Terry French told the House of Assembly on Tuesday that he expects to receive a request from the municipal corporation that runs Mile One stadium for cash to help lure an American Hockey League franchise to the city. Check the CBC online story here.

Former Premier Danny Williams – a multi-millionaire  - is reportedly part of a group that wants to bring the Manitoba Moose from its current home in Winnipeg to St. John’s. Update:  While CBC says Williams is keeping a low profile, the Telegram seems to be getting access to him.

French said he learned of the request from St. John’s city councilor Dan Breen. Interestingly enough Breen didn’t make any reference to looking for provincial tax cash when he spoke with CBC Radio’s St. John’s Morning Show.  In fact, Breen likely left the impression with listeners that the city wouldn’t be backing a franchise if it involved taxpayer cash.

"We want to have an anchor tenant," Breen said."We want to do it within the subsidy, and we're committed to doing it within the subsidy that we're offering to St. John's Sports and Entertainment at the current time."

The city gives Mile One Stadium a $1.25 million annual operating subsidy in addition to other financial support. 

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A tourist in her own land

Lisa Moore writes fiction for a living.

For some inexplicable reason, someone thinks this qualifies her to write some special appreciations of  the world as it actually is, offered up as anything but fiction.

Like her 2005 documentary that compared Iceland and Newfoundland in Hard Rock and Water.  She based the piece on the simple – and simply preposterous – construction “Iceland = independent = prosperous/Newfoundland = not independent = not prosperous”. 

The whole idea was ludicrous well before events within three years of her documentary proved Moore’s thesis spectacularly wrong but that did not stop her from scaring up a few bucks to make the thing.  Nor did it stop the Duckworth cognoscenti from flocking to see it and talk about its deep insights at the pubs and coffee shops they usually habituate.

Moore is back again six years later, assessing this thing she calls Newfoundland, in an article featured on the cover of the May 2011 issue of The Walrus.  You can also find it on line:  “Notes from Newfoundland”.

Write what you know, they say.

So not surprisingly, Moore starts with the fiction early on.

Like the second paragraph:  “Everywhere you go these days, people are talking about Danny Williams’ abrupt departure from the office of premier and what it means for the province.”

For maybe like a couple of weeks last fall, people talked about Danny. Outside the handful of fan clubbers who always thought Danny’s arse, Newfoundland’s soul and the best place for their lips were the same thing, people wondered why he ran off so suddenly.

Once they got beyond that bit of gossip, they had other things to worry about out.  Like Canadian Idol or Dancing with the Stars or hockey.

But what Williams’ departure meant for the province?

Puhleese. 

By the time the Old Man finally frigged off permanently from the political landscape more than a few people were relieved.  Political spec, such as it was, quickly turned not to deeply philosophical notions but to who would wind up running the show.  By December Williams was headed for the same abyss that swallows all former demigods and demagogues once called Premier.

One sentence of fiction is hardly enough so Moore quickly adds another:

A certain kind of economic growth has followed the thriving oil industry, and the signing of an agreement for hydroelectric development of the Lower Churchill River, a drawn-out negotiation that ended with a profitable arrangement for Newfoundland, unlike with the much-lamented Upper Churchill, given away for a song by Joey Smallwood in the late 1960s.

An agreement not even unveiled in its draft form, let alone final form and already Moore has blessed it as perfection. Long, drawn-out negotiation?  18 months, much of it trying desperately to find how much to give Emera to make it sign on seems hardly protracted as these sorts of things go.  But then again odds are Moore had no idea when she wrote those words what negotiation she meant.

Such matters are trifling.  Silly parsing, some might call it, that interferes with understanding the simple narrative.

Let us not forget Moore’s comparison to the “Upper Churchill.”

Not the real Churchill Falls but the fictional account that forms the basis of the popular political myth to which all local political commenters genuflect the way the superstitiously religious types cross off the crows.

The oil industry growth is something Moore describes fairly well and accurately:

The oil boom has changed circumstances dramatically, bringing an unprecedented spike in property values. Expats in places like Fort McMurray, who found themselves priced out of the Alberta housing market five to ten years ago, are now buying retirement homes back in Newfoundland. Meanwhile, rent in downtown St. John’s has soared, making it difficult for single parents, students, and other low-income tenants to find adequate housing.

But as you read Moore’s article you realise very quickly that she has no sense that the economic boom she describes is very much focused to a small portion of the province. That fits neatly, though, since Moore is offering a very narrow perspective.  She makes the fundamental mistake of assuming that what she sees in her limited circle is the whole. Beyond the overpass, the limit of Moore’s perception figuratively and literally, “the fog obliterates the stunted trees, the ponds, and the giant, lichen-mottled boulders of the barrens…” and just about anything else. And so Moore simply assumes that all the fog-bound are the same as those who surround her.

They are all Newfoundlanders, so therefore they must all be the same. Yes, and all trout do live in trees.

Moore quotes a few people, some immigrants and some ex-pats come back from away, on their impressions of the place these days.  But her view of anything else, anything out beyond the legendary limit of the townie imagination, seems to come solely from her husband, sociologist Steve Crocker. 

Her approach creates some unintentionally humorous results.

Moore criticises the tourism commercials developed during Williams’ tenure for their artificial portrayal of the province:  “It’s a branded Newfoundland and Labrador, quaint and pleasantly out of sync” presumably with reality as Moore perceives it.

Moore then contrasts this with what she presents as a “revival” of mummering.

She quotes a local folklorist on the subject:

“Tradition is always in a state of evolution,” Jarvis said. “Intangible cultural heritage is constantly being reinvented in small communities, giving an old tradition like mummering new meaning and new life.”

But the mummers Moore describes aren’t in small communities.  They are part of an appropriation of a rural tradition by urbanites like Moore and her circle. The townies take stuff they read in books and use bits of this and fragments of that to replicate what they imagine mummering used to be. The imbue their creations with meaning, interpretation and a backstory.

But it is not real.

The whole thing is invention.

It is the same phenomenon as we have seen in other parts of the word where a society moves from a predominantly rural basis to one that is more industrial, professional and urban.  Local elites create a cultural Jurassic Park to live in.  The end result is not a dinosaur or even a dinosaur that has gone the constant reinvention Jarvis mentioned but an imagined thing.

The people who used to go from house to house dressed up to hide their identities and engaging in a bit of fun at Christmas now head to Florida or gather around the wide-screen television.  The jannies no longer serve a purpose and so they are gone just as surely as thrummed mittens or dories. 

In the world of fog out beyond the overpass, there is no resurgence of interest in mummering. Few people in few communities have carried on the old ways and fewer still have taken it up.  They do not observe their culture as Moore, her husband and others do.  They live it.  They do not fret over their identity.  That is something for the small community of pseudo-intellectuals in Sin Jawns that Moore relies on for her source material.

In the world where mummering once thrived, what mummering means has already been settled.

Ultimately, what Lisa Moore presents to Walrus readers is a classic townie caricature of what Newfoundland is.  She gives an early 21st century make-over to the old condescending fairy tale that “enjoyed a brief but fiery resurgence in the 1970s” and that now gets brushed off again in a new guise:

Newfoundlanders were born knowing how to build a boat, or fillet a fish with a few economical flicks of the wrist, dance the goat, play the fiddle, or produce a recitation.

Moores reduces the entire place, its people and their cultures – has she not heard of Labrador at all for example? – to a single word:  quaint.  She renders them as over-coloured and ultimately as sterile as the tourism ads she finds so off-putting. She reduces her imaginary characters to little more than cliché. She gives them a genocidal disaster – the cod moratorium  - and invests it with the power of apocalyptical comets to obliterate all cultural life worthy of the name.  

Her source for the stuff beyond the overpass is no more insightful.  Danny Williams and his use of Newfoundland nationalism supposedly counts for much.  Williams supposedly turned nationalism into what Crocker refers to as mainstream political discourse.  But unlike the 1980s when Brian Peckford too relied on nationalist rhetoric, Williams supposedly “measured progress in financial terms”.  That parallels the difference between Williams and Peckford, the former who was considered a “man of the people” but who was “remote.” For some inexplicable reason, Crocker thinks that Peckford’s use of nationalism was “oppositional” while Williams’ was not.  What those terms mean is anyone’s guess but they certainly sound impressive.

Moore and Crocker are right in that Williams was never a man of the ordinary people, despite the mythology created around him.  What Moore and Crocker miss, though, is something far more substantial. 

Williams’ nationalism is very much the xenophobic, angry nationalism that appealed strongly to the people who see the land beyond the overpass as fog-shrouded and its people as quaint.  His diatribes against Quebec and Quebeckers toward the end of his tenure are just another version of the anti-Canadian, anti-Confederate rhetoric that he started his political career with or the anti-corporation language he used on Abitibi or the oil companies.

Contrast the sort of polemic that typified Danny Williams’ nationalism with the story of Lanier Phillips, the African-American sailor rescued along with his shipmates when their small convoy foundered on the Burin peninsula in the early years of the Second World War.

Phillips’ story is already a key feature of local nationalist lore. Predictably, Moore trots it outs as evidence of what this place and its people are all about: a welcoming nature, easygoing and open to outsiders. Arguably it is, and in that one section Moore hits on one enduring characteristic of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.  She also hits on another characteristic -  the adventurous, practical sense of getting on with things  - typified by her researcher and her baker.

But that is purely by accident.  

No one who genuinely appreciates this place and its people could conflate the world of fog – where Phillips literally came ashore – with the land of fear and insecurity of Williams’ era nationalism. The people who head out into the world, head high, as they have done for centuries and who meet all comers with confidence are not the same ones who see conspiracy and perfidy in every foreign accent.  The people who believe that “we are a dying race” are not the people who looked on a black man and saw nothing but a human being in distress.

No one could confuse the imagined world Moore creates with the place in which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians actually live.  Anyone who reads Lisa Moore’s article seeking insight into the whole of this province will be sorely disappointed. 

But if they want to understand one small bit of it, then there can be no better source than to read the accidental insights of a tourist in her own land.

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23 May 2011

Meet your newest frankenparty: the Bloc NDP

An assessment in the Globe and Mail of the political parties and their voter profiles concluded that:

the NDP constituency has gone from being overwhelmingly English speaking and more diverse than the national average to mostly French-speaking and less multicultural.

Sounds like calling it the Bloc NDP would be a good name for Canada’s newest frankenparty.

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Dunderdale using rigged deck against public on Muskrat Falls

Whenever anyone moans about the 1969 power contract with Hydro-Quebec they can thank the last four Premiers of Newfoundland and Labrador – from Beaton Tulk to Kathy Dunderdale – for guaranteeing Hydro-Quebec’s unaltered command of Churchill Falls power.

In order to hide her own financially disastrous Muskrat Falls megaproject from public scrutiny, Kathy Dunderdale is using a cabinet order issued in December 2000 when Beaton Tulk was the placeholder Premier between Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes.

Take a look at the order – Regulation 92/00:

3. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro is exempt from the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 and the Public Utilities Act for all aspects of its activities pertaining to the Labrador Hydro Project as defined in section 2.

But how is the Labrador Hydro Project defined?

That’s where you get to see the gigantic mess that Tulk started and the rest have continued.

The exemption order doesn’t just apply to the Lower Churchill and all the transmission facilities associated with it, as most people assume.

Nope.

Here’s the very first thing included in the definition of  the “Labrador Hydro Project”:

… generation and related facilities at Churchill Falls , Labrador

In one clump of eight words, cabinet destroyed any power the Public Utilities Board had under the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 to manage electricity in the province to make sure that ordinary citizens get the cheapest possible electricity. 

Under the EPCA, 1994,  the PUB was supposed to be able to review electricity generation in the province to make sure consumers don’t get wallet-raped in order to have heat and light to their homes.  Newfoundland Power or Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro could ask the PUB to review demand and supply in the province.

As then-Premier Clyde Wells put it in 1994:

[The Electrical Power Control Act]  authorizes the Public Utilities Board to redirect any power - any power, no exceptions - to meet the needs of the people of this Province. Not expropriating anything from anybody. It is to manage the power that is generated in this Province in such a manner as to first and foremost meet the needs of the people of this Province. It makes no specific reference to Upper Churchill. It makes no specific reference to power companies. It makes no specific reference to any individual generator of power.

But with Churchill Falls exempt from the Act, those sections of the Act that would protect consumers are useless.

Kathy Dunderdale can get on open line and talk all she wants about legal opinions that warn against using powers under section 92a of the Constitution Act, 1982.  Truth is there is no risk:  there are no powers since she and her current cabinet colleagues decided to to uphold the December 2000 exemption.

Tulk and his cabinet may have signed them away, but every cabinet since then has endorsed them.  Kathy Dunderdale and her cabinet are actually proud of their decision.

It gets better, though.

In the fall of 2000, the provincial government issued a series of orders that exempted every major hydro-electric project on the island portion of the province from the EPCA.  Those exemptions still exist even though several of the projects are now owned entirely by Nalcor as a result of the 2008 expropriation bill.

What that means for consumers is that Nalcor alone can decide what it wants to do with those sites. Even if there was plenty of electricity available for Nalcor to meet provincial needs at the lowest possible cost without building Muskrat Falls, there is no way the Public Utilities Board could force Nalcor to halt the megaproject and do the sensible thing.

Once a line to Nova Scotia flows through, Nalcor can ship discount power out of the province from its island generating sites and force local consumers to use super-expensive Muskrat falls power all thanks to decisions dating from the fall of 200 and endorsed by every administration since.

So the next time Kathy Dunderdale talks about independent reviews or asking the PUB to do anything, just remember:  legally, the regulatory deck is stacked against consumers.  The whole thing is a giant set-up to favour Nalcor and its corporate partner Emera.  Beaton Tulk may have started it, but Kathy Dunderdale and the current cabinet have made it their own.

Just in case you think Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t like Hydro-Quebec, just remember that she and her predecessor spent five years trying to get HQ to take an ownership stake in the Lower Churchill. 

And she never said boo to anyone until long after her secret efforts failed.

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20 May 2011

Shocker: Marois wrong on Penashue

Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois thinks federal intergovernmental affairs minister Peter Penashue can’t be fair to Quebec.

Marois thinks Penashue is in conflict because of Old Harry and Muskrat Falls.

“We will not accept giving advantages to Newfoundland to compete with Quebec and our hydroelectricity,” Marois said, noting Hydro-Québec has never received financial support from Ottawa.

“Mr. Penashue is from Newfoundland,” Marois said. “One of the first questions is the Lower Churchill. We hope the prime minister will realize there is a conflict.”

Pauline needs better advisors.

Peter Penashue is not from Newfoundland.  He is from Labrador. 

There is a big difference.  For one thing, Peter is not tied to the sort of misery-guts rhetoric that Danny Williams used to trot out every once in a while when he felt a bit more dyspeptic than usual.  Nor is Peter likely believe the sort of tin-foil hat foolish about boundaries and such that some other like to get on with.

Peter is not beholden to Kathy Dunderdale and the rest of her Dunderbunnies for anything.  He’s crossed them before and he will do it again if need be.

Peter has other interests and other issues.

And as federal intergovernmental affairs minister, Peter answers to a completely different set of political interests than the crowd in St. John’s anyway.  Kathy Dunderdale has exactly zero cred with the current federal government. 

She can suck up to the Prime Minister all she wants.  The sorry fact is that her political impotence has been noted.

So if Pauline Marois had any clue at all, she’d have laid off the cheap and easy comments aimed at a federal cabinet minister who has some connection to political forces in her own province that she might want to connect to herself as the next provincial election draws nigh in Quebec.

And all of that is before we even to get to dealing with her comment, according to the Gazette, that “Penashue will also be involved in deciding the disputed boundary between Quebec and Newfoundland.”

Simple answer:  he won’t.

So maybe Pauline needs to get some better advisors, people who actually have a frickin’ clue about what is going on outside VDQ.

Peter Penashue is actually someone the Government of Quebec can deal with sensibly and without all the Sasquatch Hunter crap she thinks Penashue represents.

Just sayin’.

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Dunderdale in action: One Homer moment after another

Danny Williams used to talked in Sarah Palin-like terms about all the reading he did.  He could never say what it was he was reading but apparently he felt the need to let us know that – lawyer and Rhodes scholar that he was – reading was something he had down.

Kathy Dunderdale likes to make fun of Yvonne Jones for supposedly making mistakes.

Now in Danny’s case you could forgive him the odd failing  - and it is odd as in bizarro - like an insecurity about literacy.

But Kathy Dunderdale just lampoons herself time after time after time.

Take this exchange in the House of Assembly on Thursday.

When asked about her plans for appointing former Nalcor board chairman John Ottenheimer to his old job or maybe a new one, Dunderdale couldn’t resist trying to sound condescending:

Mr. Speaker, sometimes you have to be like Theseus with his ball of wool in the maze to follow the logic of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not know how you can reappoint somebody to a new position. Anyway, I think I got the gist of what she is asking, Mr. Speaker.

Dunderdale then offered that she would have no “compunction” about giving John another job seeing as he is such a great fellow.

And incidentally, John Ottenheimer is a gentleman of  great ability.

So it is odd that she would have any compunction at all.  Look up the word.  There’s no shame in doing so.  Your humble e-scribbler had to double check the meaning. 

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines it as a “pricking of conscience.”  Miriam-Webster gives a similar set of meanings but one that makes it clear the word is tied to an awareness of guilt at having done something inappropriate.  While Dunderdale said she would have no compunction  -  that is no sense of guilt - it is not exactly a common word.  Nor is it a clear way of saying what she seems to have meant in referring to Ottenheimer.

What she meant to say is that she would not hesitate.  She would gladly reappoint him again because he is so eminently qualified.

What she did was use a 50 cent word, apparently to try and sound smart, and in the process did what is essentially a case of damning with faint praise.

D’oh!

Then Kath used the word again.

In another comment, she said that opposition leader Yvonne Jones had no compunction about making a statement of fact that is factual.  Dunderdale was trying to accuse Jones of something else but, as tends to happen when Kath puts on airs, she tripped up in her own twists and turns of logic and her continual miss-statements of fact.

In this case, Dunderdale had a classic Homer Simpson moment by claiming that the Holyrood generating plant produced 37% of the province’s electricity in 2009.  The actual figure was 17.8%.

 D’oh!

That wasn’t Dunderdale’s only string of head-slappers.

Jones made a crack that Dunderdale liked to pattern herself after the federal Conservative leader, a man who is notoriously unpopular among people in this province including provincial Conservatives. 

Dunderdale replied:

Well, Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that I thank the Leader of the Opposition for saying that I follow in the steps of Mr. Harper and what happens to Mr. Harper happens to me, because I guess we are on path for a majority government in October.

D’oh!

But wait.

There’s more.

Jones asked why Dunderdale was going to block the Public Utilities Board from reviewing the Muskrat Falls project.

We are not, says Dunderdale, a few days after her natural resources minister confirmed she was.

That blocking was done in December 2000.

Dunderdale is bringing the PUB back in, according to the Premier’s tortured logic, even though Dunderdale herself has already said the PUB would not have the ability to review the Muskrat Falls proposal as they should under the Electrical Power Control Act because since she had decided not to amend, rescind or otherwise change that exemption issued in 2000.

In the tangled maze that is a Kathy Dunderdale argument, no ball of string could help anyone find their way through its twists and turns.  The only thing one can do is tumble around and be amazed that at the enormous pile of bull that sits at the centre of it.

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19 May 2011

Dunderdale opts for mid-level bureaucrat as CEO

Not so long ago the province’s chief electoral officer was a career public servant usually of deputy minister rank.

Then Danny Williams decided he preferred partisans in what is supposed to be a non-partisan job.

With the unfortunate death of former Conservative Party president Paul Reynolds,  Premier Kathy Dunderdale had a vacancy to fill.

Her choice?

The current assistant chief electoral officer and director of election finance at the provincial elections office.

No sign of any change to current sorry state of the electoral office, but all the same, let’s wish Victor Powers well in his new job.

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Long awaited report still under wraps

The Danny Williams administration hired former Supreme Court Justice Bill Marshall to do a couple of reviews for them.

In 2005, they asked Marshall to review inland fisheries enforcement.

In 2008, the opposition asked about the report in the legislature.

They didn’t get much of an answer three years after Marshall started his work.

On Tuesday, justice minister Felix Collins got another question in the House of Assembly on the missing report.  Here’s what he said:

we received the report from Justice Marshall some time in late fall 2010. I am not sure of the exact date. In November or December, I think it was. I would have to check my notes on that.

Five years later.

Must be quite the tome.

But wait;  it gets better.

Collins explained that “because of the merger of wildlife and inland fish at this point in time and the transition that is going, we are still considering the report in that context.”

In other words, because the situation Marshall was supposed to report on five years ago doesn’t exist any more, we may have to think about this all again.

And for good measure, Collins tossed in this gem: 

We will release the report or the information from the report in a timely fashion.

This administration came to office in 2003 with a pledge to release reports within 30 days.

It took Bill Marshall five years to submit the report.

Collins has had it for more than five months.

And he still can only say he might just release some information from the out-of-date report at some unspecified time in the future.

Yes, friends, this is what Collins and his boss think counts as open, transparent and accountable.

Oh yeah, update:  There’s no word on whether Marshall finished the report into the prosecution service. That one’s been underway since June 2006.

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Dunderdale and her desperation

Kathy Dunderdale is trying desperately to hide  details of her Muskrat Falls megaproject from public scrutiny.

You can also tell she is trying desperately not to look like she is desperately trying to hide details of the project from public scrutiny.

You can tell she is desperate because as soon as word leaked out that she was trying to keep the Public Utilities Board from examining whether or not her pet project is the cheapest way to meet the province’s energy needs – Dunderdale’s major claim on the project – Dunderdale quickly claimed she would let the PUB pronounce on its cheapness even though she had already decided they would not have the time they ought to have – by law – to do their jobs.

And then in her desperation, Kathy Dunderdale drops this sort of foolishness onto the public record:

We have been open, we have been transparent, we have been accountable — something they knew nothing about when they were trying to develop the Lower Churchill…

To quote a famous politician Kathy might know:  nothing could be further from the truth.

Kathy Dunderdale and that famous politician spent five years trying – secretly – to lure Hydro-Quebec into taking an ownership stake in the Lower Churchill.

Five years.

Totally secret talks.

Dunderdale participated in both the secret talks and in hiding the talks from the public.

Some people know because Kathy Dunderdale spilled the beans, much to the chagrin of that famous politician, during an appearance on a local radio talk show long after it became plain that Hydro-Quebec just wasn’t interested in Kathy and her friend and what they had to offer.

The rest don’t know because none of the province’s conventional media reported Dunderdale’s stunning admission 18 months ago or at any time since.

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18 May 2011

Dundernomics 101

All Dunderbunny Speaker Roger Fitzgerald has done is ensure the word “dundernomics” gains wide circulation.

Here’s what it is all about:  via The Independent.

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Speaker Dunderbunny shows his bias again

Roger Fitzgerald is undoubtedly one of the most incompetent Speakers ever to hold office in the House of Assembly.

He is also one of the blatantly biased Speakers to hold the chair.

That’s saying something given his chief rival for the ignominious historical achievement is his predecessor, the pompous, biased and incompetent Speaker Harvey Hodder.

As if his bias an incompetence weren’t enough, Fitzgerald displayed naked contempt for parliamentary practice recently by turning up at not one but two partisan events. 

He showed up at a Conservative nominating meeting during the recent federal election.  Not content with that bit of churlishness, anyone attending the recent provincial Conservative coronation for Kathy Dunderdale could see Fitzgerald hanging out with his buds.

Fitzgerald proved his bias and incompetence again on Tuesday with an unprompted ruling that a word was unparliamentary.

Here’s the way Hansard recorded his intervention during a session when his patron, the Premier, got increasingly hot under the collar over questions about why she is trying to hide aspects of the Muskrat falls deal from public scrutiny:

There has been language used in the last two days in Question Period by the hon. the Leader of the Opposition which is clearly unparliamentary when she references a certain type of economics and references a member’s name describing that process.

I ask the hon. member, that in the future if she would be kind enough not to be using unparliamentary language and reference her questions in a different way.

The word Roger didn’t like was “dundernomics.”

Opposition leader Yvonne Jones used it exactly once during question Period on Tuesday.

The facts are recorded in Hansard and as such, it is an unquestionably accurate rendering of the proceedings. The House of Assembly, like all Westminster style parliaments, has judged it so.

To be fair to the Speaker, there is no defined list if what words one can or cannot use in the House. Parliamentary practice in Canada, though, holds that unparliamentary language means the:

use of offensive, provocative or threatening language in the House is strictly forbidden. Personal attacks, insults and obscene language or words are not in order.

Dundernomics is not obviously in any of those categories.

The word – used just once, you will recall – did not disrupt proceedings or increase the heated temperatures in the chamber, the sort of result one might expect to bring a Speaker’s intervention.

And Fitzgerald certainly couldn’t object – as he apparently did – because the word uses the name of a member of the House.  As others have pointed out, Fitzgerald stayed rooted in his spot for years as Tory after Tory after Tory violated the century old (at least) parliamentary tradition to mention a certain member by name and to praise every portion of his anatomy as if he embodied the second coming of the Divine One.

Fitzgerald’s continued presence in the chair is an insult each day to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.  His performance is an ongoing display of contempt for parliamentary democracy.

 

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Dunderdale flips and flops: Muskrat Exemption Errata

Simple subject.

Mondo inaccuracies.

Ginormous confusion

Tuesday was not a good day for anyone trying to figure out what the provincial government is doing with Muskrat Falls.

First of all, let’s go with the basic stuff. 

CBC reported on Monday that the provincial government will use a 1999 amendment to two laws in order to exempt the Muskrat Falls project from scrutiny by the Public Utilities Board.  Specifically, the PUB won’t be able to look at Muskrat Falls and determine if it is the lowest cost project as provided in the Electrical Power Control Act (1994). CBC’s report included confirmation of the exemption from the province’s natural resources minister, Shawn Skinner.

That part is pretty clear.

CBC’s report on Monday and Tuesday night made a couple of references to changes to legislation tied to the Lower Churchill project. Take this one from the online story as an example:

The exemption actually dates back to 1999, when Brian Tobin's Liberal government passed legislation exempting any Lower Churchill project from PUB oversight.

*Insert nasty horn sound effect*

It is hard to imagine being more obviously wrong.

As your humble e-scribbler recounted in another post, the change Kathy Dunderdale and crew are relying on happened in December 1999.  Tobin’s project was pretty much dead by that point although the politicians still talked about it like the corpse could move.

Then-energy minister Roger Grimes made it clear the changes to the Public Utilities Act and the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 were intended to cover other projects  - not the Lower Churchill at all - that might have to come along to fill a gap if the line from the Lower Churchill to the island didn’t happen before the island needed extra power.

That ties to Kathy Dunderdale’s claim in the House of Assembly:

It was their government that exempted the Lower Churchill proposed project of Premier Grimes and at least two of the people opposite to have an exemption from regulatory review.

She’s talking about an order-in-council, apparently:  a cabinet decision.

But then Dunderdale claimed that previous Liberal administrations had exempted every hydro project since 1995.

Minor problem:  the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 didn’t allow for any exemptions at all.  In fact, the 1994 legislation set the provincial energy policy and gave the PUB the power to make sure that, among other things, their decisions “would result in power being delivered to consumers in the province at the lowest possible cost consistent with reliable service…”.

The PUB got the power to reject a project, order producers to build the lower cost project or even reallocate power from existing projects like Churchill Falls to meet provincial needs.

Exemptions don’t fit with that commitment to protect consumers and to exercise proper control over provincial resources in the public interest.

You can tell Dunderdale was mightily confused on this whole matter because a few minutes after she made the claim about exemptions when exemptions didn’t exist, she said that:

“Mr. Speaker, not only in 1999 did they bring in the legislation allowing for an exemption; in 2000, they produced an Order-in-Council that exempted the Lower Churchill from review by the PUB, Mr. Speaker.”

1995 or 1999? 

Which is it?

Then there’s this contradiction from Skinner’s confirmation that the PUB will not be looking at this project to determine if it is the lowest-cost option:

We have engaged the PUB to review and to determine whether that is the case as well and make that information available to the people of the Province, Mr. Speaker.

So apparently the PUB will review the project but it also won’t review it.

Huh?

Let’s see if more accurate information surfaces in the next few days.

- srbp -

 

 

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17 May 2011

Dunderdale to hide important Muskrat details from scrutiny/oversight #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale may like to tell people her Muskrat Falls project is the lowest cost option to supply the province with electricity but she is planning to use  changes to the Electrical Power Control Act and the Public Utilities Act made in 1999 to hide important details of the Muskrat Falls deal from public scrutiny.

Under the 1994 Electrical Power Control Act, the Public Utilities Board had a mandate to ensure that power generation came from the lowest cost option available to whatever company was proposing a new power source. 

As well, the PUB itself could direct a power company to supply energy destined for export to meet provincial needs.  That included recalling power from Churchill Falls beyond the power covered by the 1969 contract with Hydro-Quebec.

In 1999, Brian Tobin’s administration amended the two acts in 1999 to cover a situation in which the provincial might have to find additional electricity to meet anticipated demand on the island but didn’t have an a transmission line rom the Lower Churchill project to the island. 

Then energy minister Roger Grimes explained the entire situation in debate on the amendments in the fall 1999 sitting of the House of Assembly.

The [ 1994] legislation absolutely required that the only way Hydro or anybody else could consider bringing on new sources of electricity was to go to the PUB and prove that it was the least cost power, the lowest cost. That is the only thing allowed to be considered under the present legislation.

He then added:

…there will be circumstances where we will need electric energy - it will have to be generated because we do not have it available at the present time - sometime in the next decade or longer, while we are waiting for an in-feed from Labrador. If the only way you can bring it on is to go through a proposal where it has to be lowest cost, then there may be circumstances whereby a development that needs to occur because it is in the best interest of the Province, either for continued social development or continued economic development, that we need to be able to consider something, even though it might be marginally a little higher in cost than some other options that could occur that would not fulfill the immediate need but would provide energy to the grid but not necessarily fulfil an immediate need.

Of course, the situation changed dramatically in the dozen years since Grimes shepherded the amendments through the legislature. 

Despite that, however, the Dunderdale administration will be using the exemptions to make sure the Public Utilities Board doesn’t examine the project to see if it really is the lowest cost alternative. CBC’s David Cochrane reported the exemption story on Monday night but later tweeted this correction/clarification:

On Muskrat: exemption doesn't apply to PUB rate setting process. It applies to PUB cost benefit analysis. Means no public hearings. 1/2

Govt says it will consult PUB on project. But its oversight function will likely be restricted from its normal reach 2/2.

- srbp -

Great Gambols with Public Money Update:  Having broken the exemption story on Monday, David Cochrane added some important details on the St. John’s Morning Show on Tuesday.

The biggest new point:  government is rationalising the exemption by claiming the projection is outside the mandate of the PUB.  The board is supposed to set electricity prices and regulate the industry, according to the debriefed account of government’s line. This project is about economic development and the poor old PUB shouldn’t be bothering with those things.

That’s bullshite, of course.  The board is supposed to be regulating the industry to make sure consumers are getting the lowest cost power.  By exempting Muskrat from scrutiny,  Kathy Dunderdale and her cabinet are specifically and deliberately keeping the PUB from doing its job of protecting consumers.

More importantly, the exemption rationale confirms that Muskrat Falls is definitely not the most economical way to bring new power to the island. 

Now the project is being sold as “economic development”.  Using the Sprung Greenhouse rationalisation, that’s government code for a project that makes no economic sense whatsoever.   Every provincial government in this province that wanted to build something that turned into a financial disaster insisted that the thing was about economic development and therefore worth all the spending, cost over-runs etc.

Taxpayers can get ready for a disaster of historic proportions.  All the signs are there.

16 May 2011

Talk radio on agenda for national political science association

Memorial University political science professors Matthew Kerby and Alex Marland are looking at politics in the province and talk radio again.

This time they are delivering a paper at the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association being held at the University of Waterloo this week.

Here’s the short version of their presentation titled “Government Behaviour and Talk Radio in Newfoundland and Labrador”:

Existing qualitative research on the relationship between talk radio and executive behaviour in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador highlights a number of key themes which set the province apart from its contemporaries. These themes include the following: line-stacking, the manipulation of scientific opinion polls and a strong sensitivity as far as purchased scientific opinion polls is concerned. This current research builds on previous efforts by conducting a first round of quantitative analysis on freshly collected data. Specifically, we examine provincial politicians' talk radio presence with respect to frequency, discourse content and opinion poll timing for the period 2003-2010. We also report on how the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador compares to other Canadian provinces as it relates to spending on public opinion data and collection. Our results shed further light on government behaviour in an often-neglected provincial case.

- srbp -

No Dunderdale in Tory battle of Kilbride

Incumbent member of the House of Assembly John Dinn is facing at least one challenger for the Tory nomination for this fall’s general election.

Maryann Fleming dropped a small handbill in doors throughout the district late last week.  She’s touting her community leadership “passionate” advocacy” and the fact she has been “a power motivating force for change.” The link is to Fleming’s website. She’s also got a blog.

John Dinn should be safe, but the fact there is a challenge gives some weight to rumblings that Tories in the Goulds portion of the district are unhappy with his low profile approach.

Dinn dropped a householder as well last week.  It plays up all the pork he’s supposedly brought to the district.

Two things stand out.  First, neither of these candidates mentions current Premier Kathy Dunderdale anywhere in their literature.

Second,  Dinn’s focus is almost exclusively on things that are most definitely not the responsibility of the provincial government. Sidewalks, community centres, water and sewer services?  If you didn’t know better, you’d swear that Dinn was just another city councilor looking for re-election.

Don’t forget that the Kilbride district Tory association is violating the party constitution by opening nominations to any eligible voter in the district.  They could also be breaking the provincial electoral laws if they are using voters lists prepared by the provincial electoral office to run the party nomination.  Someone should check that out to make sure everything is square.

The nomination is this Tuesday at three locations designed to favour the Goulds and Southlands portions of the district. 

- srbp -

13 May 2011

Offshore board opens bids on three parcels

From CNLOPB:

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board
(C-NLOPB) announced [on May 12] the details of the 2011 Calls for Bids in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area. Calls for Bids NL11-01 (Area “B” Western Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Region), NL11-02(Area “C” Flemish Pass/North Central Ridge) and NL11-03 (Area “C” Labrador Offshore Region) will consist of eight parcels, which comprise 1,599,295 hectares.

Interested parties will have until 4:00 p.m. on November 15, 2011 to submit sealed bids for parcels offered in Calls for Bids NL11-01, NL11-02 and NL11-03. The sole criterion for selecting winning bids will be the total amount of money the bidder commits to spend on exploration of the respective parcel during Period I (the first period of a nine-year licence). The minimum bid for each parcel offered in Area “C” is $1,000,000 and for Area “B”, $100,000.

- srbp -