18 March 2019

Banning plastic bags and public policy in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Effective public policy must be based on a clear understanding of the problem and its relation to other issues, as well as public needs and behaviour.
"...almost 50% of all wind borne litter escaping from landfills in Newfoundland and Labrador is plastic, much of it single-use plastic bags....

There's the problem, defined neatly.

The quote is from Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador's campaign against plastic shopping bags.

Put the quote in a search engine on the Internet and you will turn up all sorts of places, including news stories, that use that phrase or a slight variation on it in coverage of the popular campaign to ban plastic bags from the province.  Here's an example from The Telegram in 2017 and another a couple of days later that went province-wide.

One small question:  what's the source for the statistic?

04 March 2019

Unformation #nlpoli


"Deep Dive" is the name that Saltwire gives to its new series that is supposed to give readers supposed to give readers more information on specific topics that are of concern across the Atlantic Canada.  

The series gives Saltwire a way to produce unique content using all its resources in Atlantic Canada, thereby lowering the burden on any one newsroom.  Saltwire hopes the Deep Dives will generate new income for the chain. In future, Deep Dives will be accessible only to subscribers.  The rest of us will be blocked by a paywall.  

It's a business model that has worked successfully at major newspapers, which have either halted declining revenue from subscriptions using paywalls or seen revenue growth to offset the losses from the old cash-cow advertising.

It might work.  The real question is whether Saltwire will produce the content that will make readers dig into their pockets.

So that makes you wonder how deep is the deep dive?

18 February 2019

Seven Days of Books in One #nlpoli

The seven books from my part of the book challenge, with each described by the respective publisher's blurb:

1.  The myth of the strong leader by Archie Brown.


Archie Brown challenges the widespread belief that 'strong leaders', dominant individual wielders of power, are the most successful and admirable.

Within authoritarian regimes, a collective leadership is a lesser evil compared with a personal dictatorship. Within democracies, although ‘strong leaders’ are seldom as strong or independent as they purport to be, the idea that just one person is entitled to take the big decisions is harmful and should be resisted.

Examining Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair amongst many others, this landmark study pinpoints different types and qualities of leadership. Overturning the popular notion of the strong leader, it makes us rethink preconceptions about what it means to lead."

11 February 2019

The Politics of Beige #nlpoli

The trend is impossible to miss.

Utterly undeniable.

Since early 2016,  through poll after poll,  voters in Newfoundland and Labrador have chosen "None of the Above"  when asked what party they would vote for in an upcoming election.

Support for the New Democrats has been shrinking steadily like an orange left in the sun.

And the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives, the only parties actually capable of presenting an alternative government to voters in an election have been ranging consistently between 20 and 30 percent.

There's no sign of that trend changing. 

07 February 2019

Napalm sticks... #nlpoli

The latest poll from MQO is being reported as a statistical tie by NTV , while CBC says it shows a "neck and neck" race between the PCs and Liberals.

That's not really the story of the polls, though and what they might mean.

Here's the pretty chart showing every party choice poll result since 2015 (except for Mainstreet*).

Now here's what it shows.

04 February 2019

The Turmoil and Topsy Turvy #nlpoli

With so much changing in any office,  what has "always" been done really only goes back to the time of the last person who came in the door.
In Newfoundland and Labrador,  the provincial government has been censoring laws since 2012.

That's sounds absolutely insane to anyone in the province and outside, but that is undeniably the case.

Orders-in-Council are a type of law.  They are the decisions of the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council under powers granted by specific laws or from something called the Royal prerogative.  They are public documents and in every Westminster-style government they are published regularly, without any form of redaction or censoring.

Except in Newfoundland Labrador.

Even in Newfoundland and Labrador, the idea of secret laws in a democracy would be downright sinister if it wasn't for the comical way the whole nonsense started and the reason it carries on.

28 January 2019

Turmoil, unusual #nlpoli

A petro-state with political instability is a pretty weird idea 
but then again we *are* talking Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Government in Newfoundland and Labrador brings in money revenue per person living in the province than any other government in Canada except Alberta.  It's been like that since 2009.

In fact, for a couple of years before 2009, the provincial government posted record cash surpluses based solely on the world price for oil.

At the same time,  though, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have seen an unprecedented period of change in the most senior positions in their provincial government.  Political and public service jobs have changed hands at an unprecedented rate.

19 January 2019

The Spring Election - when and why #nlpoli

There's likely going to be an election before Victoria Day.

If - by some miracle - the Liberals manage to win the Topsail-Paradise by-election next week you could be at the polls before the beer turns green for a day.

If you haven't heard that,  don't say now that you haven't been warned.

03 January 2019

Mitigating Muskrat Falls: Ron, Harry, and Hermione are still baffled #nlpoli


Mitigating the impacts Muskrat Falls will have on taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador remains the single biggest unanswered question in the province nine years after the project started and the politicians first started talking about how they might do it.

To mark the 14th anniversary of The Sir Robert Bond Papers,  here's the tale from 2010 to now.

Most people in Newfoundland and Labrador finally noticed the impact Muskrat Falls would have on electricity prices when Nalcor chief executive Stan Marshall confirmed that Muskrat Falls would double electricity prices in the province once it was finished in 2021. 

That was the middle of 2017.

The word “mitigates” - to make less severe or painful - became popular overnight.  Since Marshall’s comments, just about all that anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador has fretted about is how the government will make electricity prices not double because of Muskrat Falls.

But here’s the thing:  Muskrat Falls was always supposed to double your electricity prices. Right from the start – November 2010 – the provincial government talked about electricity prices of between 14 and 16 cents wholesale, which would have made the retail cost in this province about double what it was at the time.  No worries, people like Kathy Dunderdale said.  Oil prices will be so high and electricity prices will be so high by 2017, anyway, that you will never notice Muskrat Falls except that it will stop prices from climbing higher.

28 December 2018

The ins and outs of Equalization #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Each year,  Canadian media conduct year-end interviews with politicians and every year the interviews are nothing but space fillers.

This year's version with Premier Dwight Ball  - for NTV (broadcast but not posted yet)  and the Telegram, thus far - are no exception. They asked the same questions,  got the same replies, and anyone that actually watched or read them got the political-turkey sleepies.

The only spark of life came on NTV when Lynn Burry uncharacteristically lost her composure over Equalization and the amount of money Quebec gets.  Burry got so riled up that she actually interrupted Ball just as he started to wander through an answer.

Burry is like a lot of people, especially in the provincial petro-states across Canada,  who decided to get angry at "Quebec" for something that happens every year:  the Quebec provincial government collects the lion's share of federal Equalization transfers.  Provincial governments in Alberta,  Saskatchewan , and Newfoundland and Labrador are all in financial trouble and some of the locals, especially politicians in power, complain about what is happening in another province.

The problem with Burry's question - as with the entire Equalization outrage is that it just nonsense.  So let's just apply a little insight into the whole business and sort things out.

17 December 2018

A spring election now seems more likely #nlpoli

Here's the local poll tracker, now that the final party choice poll of the year is in.  (CRA Q4 Omnibus)

It's every party choice poll by any firm (less a couple of outliers)  all converted, where necessary, to show the results as a share of all choice.

Undecideds are a valid option in the SRBP world.

You can see that the Liberals are still roughly where they were in the middle of the year:  hovering just under 30%.  In this latest poll they are about seven points ahead of the Progressive Conservatives, which is to say they are really not in a very comfortable spot.   They are a minor swing away from being in a bad spot.

The PCs, meanwhile, have been on a slide since the first of the year and they just rebounded slightly.  But given that the rebound is less than the margin of error for all these polls,  they really haven't to any amount worth speaking of.
The NDP are a dismal, distant, and decidedly irrelevant third.

06 November 2018

The MQO poll and Party Choice #nlpoli

MQO's quarterly omnibus poll shows some curious changes in public opinion about provincial political parties.  The province-wide numbers are not curious:  the changes in a couple of the regions are.

Let's take a look first at the provincial numbers.  As usual, SRBP presents the results as a share of all responses, including the refused/undecided/no answer folks.  That's why the numbers here are different from the ones used by MQO in its own release and reported by local news media.  Go to the end of the post for a brief discussion about the way the data is presented.

MQO kindly provided the data tables for this analysis free of charge.  The data collection methodology is theirs.  Interpretation of the data here is solely SRBP.  There is no business or other relationship between SRBP  and MQO to create a conflict of interest.

Contrary to media reports, support overall in the province for the governing Liberals didn't change in the last two quarters of 2018.  The Liberals had the support of 29 percent of respondents in Q3 and 28 percent in Q4.  Support for the Progressive Conservatives declined by four points - 25 to 21 - while support for the NDP went from 11 percent to nine percent.  The number of respondent who refused to answer,  were undecided, or planned not to vote grew by five points (from 36 to 41 percent of responses).

24 September 2018

The Windsor Lake By-Election and polling #nlpoli

Market research firm MQO released a poll on September 10 about the Windsor Lake by-election.

They'd surveyed 300 people about how they would likely vote and about who they thought would make the best Premier from among the provincial party leaders.

On their choice among the candidates, MQO reported that 41% of decided and leaning voters favoured Paul Antle,  37% favoured Ches Crosbie, and 22% favoured Kerri Claire Neil.

The result on September 20 saw Crosbie win with 43% of votes cast.  Antle got 38% and Neil garnered 19% of votes.

Pretty much the opposite of what MQO said.

So MQO got it wrong,  some will say.

Others will think that Antle's campaign collapsed and Crosbie surged ahead based on whatever factors they might like to pick.

Well, there are a few problems with either of those scenarios.

18 August 2018

The PUB, Exemptions, and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli #cdnpoli


Here’s some background on the issue of Muskrat Falls and Public Utilities Board exemptions. 

At the end you should know what an exemption is all about, how the exemptions – there are more than one – came about – and what that means for now and in the future as far as electricity rates go.  We’ll deal with mitigation in another brief post next week.

The information here is based on material in the public record plus additional research and information accumulated over 30 years working on public policy issues in the province. That includes the 15 years of SRBP, much of which wound up being about the Lower Churchill project.

Let’s start with what an exemption is.