30 November 2005

A new political blogger

Well-informed, pithy and at times, hysterically funny.

Welcome to the blog world, Mark Watton.

SES Research - the pollster to watch

Building on the success of analysis for the Canadian parliamentary channel CPAC, pollster SES Research is launching a new nightly tracking survey during this election.

To keep abreast of the latest, accurate numbers, tune in or go to the the SES website.

Rolling in the aisles

That's what voters in Newfoundland and Labrador will be doing when they read the story from the Globe and Mail that the federal Conservatives have targeted the riding of Avalon as a seat they can win in the upcoming election.

Minor problem: the Conservatives don't have a candidate there yet - despite obvious signs that john Efford wasn't running again. Last time things were so desperate that even John Crosbie mused about coming back to elected politics. That is, he mused about it until his wife, Jane, got wind of the windy former minister's bluster. Crosbie quickly pulled his horns in and went back to writing bitter tripe for a mainland newspaper chain that also boasts the wit if not the wisdom of bitter former cabinet minister Sheila Copps.

Popular local member of the House of Assembly Fabian Manning is being courted by the federal Conservatives. Outside the legislature the other day Manning gave a dozen solid reasons why he wouldn't seek the nomination. Then, Manning said he was still 50/50 and thinking about it. Unless Harper makes Fabe an offer he can't refuse, count on Manning staying put.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives held onto their two seats in Newfoundland and Labrador by a mere five percent last time out. Incumbents Loyola Hearn and Norm Doyle took a drubbing after the election for their stance on the offshore revenue deal. They voted for it before they voted against it and that tested the tolerance of even some staunch Tories.

Such was the din of disapproval that Hearn mused about going off fishing rather than run again. Doyle blamed "Liberal spin doctors" in St. John's for his problems. Try as I might, I couldn't get Norm to blame me personally.

If nothing else, the Globe piece represents putting a brave face on things. Go back to the polls and check the seat counters. Every scenario based on current numbers show the Conservatives losing seats in this election. Even in the Globe story, the Connie insiders admit that they expect to lose seats in the West to New Democrats.

They may lose seats in other places too, just like it is possible the Conservatives will pick up a bunch. If it nets out to fewer seats on The Day, then this election may well have been for naught.

Election notes on a slow second day

Grewal is out. Geez, what a surprise.

Harper plans to campaign on cleaning up government, getting tough on crime and lowering taxes.

When you look at those three items (oh yeah and he mentioned Gomery but not by name), consider the poll by the Strategic Counsel and the issues that are important to Canadians. Corruption is the second largest issue for Canadians, but only 13% of Canadians. taxes are a concern for 5% of those polled. That's it. 5%. 'Tough on crime" or anything like it doesn't register.

Now in the past, some Connie bloggers have taken to bashing Allan Gregg over the head for being a sell-out. That is, they bash him when his polls give them numbers they don't like. I just note that the correlations or in some cases lack of correlations are interesting.

For my part, I am not sure that any of these points are vote tippers - that is, I am not sure which ones are the basis on which people will tip their vote one way or another.

Then over at CTV, you can find this comment from the Conservative leader on re-opening the equal marriage debate. Note the comment that Harper brought the issue up after his staff cut off the question period. It's a safe issue for Harper: Connies love it and he doesn't lose any votes by sticking with it. By contrast, shifting his position would mean that he'd actually lose the hard-core right wing, on which the whole right movement is built. Heck, he'd even have nominated candidates walking away from him if he stood up for equal marriage.

While I may disagree with his his stand, Harper's political posture is smart politics for him.

Meanwhile, the Globe is putting a dark cast on the story, highlighting the problems with re-opening a contentious issue from the last election. The National Lampoon is telling it as a great move forward, by protecting gay couples who are already married, even if parliament at some undefined point decides to repeal the equal marriage bill.

29 November 2005

Rain Man needs some help deciding

Loyola Sullivan, known to some as the Rain Man for his ability to rattle off figures like ""about a hundred million dollars. uh huh. a hundred million dollars" without really saying anything, got some big help today from auditor general John Noseworthy.

The AG made some really obvious but sensible suggestions about the uses to which the offshore revenue windfall could be put. They are obvious to anyone except, maybe, the Rain Man.

Noseworthy noted that as it currently sits in the bank, the offshore cash is earning interest at a rate of about $60 million annually. Putting that cash toward the unfunded pension liabilities would produce an additional $90 million (or a total of $150 million per year) than can be directed to program spending or used to pay down the long-term debt.

In a media scrum outside the legislature, a grinning Sullivan said he has made recommendations to cabinet on how to dispose of "surplus cash" the government may have on hand. Truthfully, it is hard to know what Sullivan has to grin about.

First of all, he should have developed a plan for debt and deficit reduction - and announced it - long before now.

Second, his talk of "surplus cash" makes a mockery of his own announcement within the past few weeks that he had eliminated the current deficit and produce a surplus - overall - of less than $2.0 million. Sullivan's previous statement made it appear as though the cash surplus this year of well over $300 million by year end - had already been allocated and spent.

His comments today confirm the point made on the Bond Papers that in fact, Sullivan had erroneously hinted that he had no surplus on a cash basis. Face it, if there was no surplus cash - or very little - then there'd be no need for a cabinet paper.

Third, there is every sign that other cabinet ministers including the Premier have covetous eyes on the offshore cash. And that is the truly alarming prospect, as noted ">here previously. We will have considerable pressure to spend our future coming from within the provincial government. It might be too late for Loyola Sullivan to take good advice and do what is in the long term best interest of the province.

His fascination with numbers and decimal points seems to have overshadowed his ability to develop a sound plan and get on with the real job of a cabinet minister - making decisions.

The rain Man got some free advice today.

He should take advice from John Noseworthy and get on with the job of being finance minister...

rather than patting himself on the back when it suits his purpose and trotting out large numbers to frighten people when that suits his purpose.

Then Sullivan would have something to grin about.

And so would the rest of us.

28 November 2005

Election madness

Without a shred of evidence other than a vague "suspicion", Conservative member of parliament Jason Kenney is calling for an investigation of supposed insider trading that preceded last week's announcement by the federal government on income tax policy.

Kenney has no evidence of anything.

He admits that.

Just to make sure there is absolutely no doubt about it, let's repeat that:

Kenney has absolutely no evidence of anything wrong here.

and he admits he has no evidence.

Yet he makes a claim that, at its heart, suggests criminal activity on part of officials in Ralph Goodale's office.

The New Democrats are chiming in with the same call.

And the same absence of evidence.

As Canadian Press notes, there was a great deal of speculation in advance of the announcement, which took place after trading closed for the day.

However, speculation is what the stock market is all about. Changes in trading patterns don't necessarily mean anyone is up to anything criminal.

Meanwhile, both the police forces and the securities regulatory bodies in the country spend a lot of time keeping an eye out for just the sort of illegal activity Kenney is talking about. If they had any suspicions then, rest assured, they'd be all over this little situation.

As it is, all we have is taste of the utter insanity of the forthcoming election campaign.

People will be claiming all sorts of things without any evidence.

Sadly, we can likely also expect yet more of the "Libranos" and "Liberals = organized crime" crap that has been streaming from the Conservative benches for months.

Go back a few days and check the latest poll results, as well as the likely results, and you'll understand why the Conservative messaging is taking on an increasingly shrill tone. Compare it to the New Democrats' comments.

With the exception of the "Hey, I am implying criminal action but denying I am implying criminal action" stuff, the Dippers have been decidedly less shrill than their Connie partners.

The blame game, a lame game

Flip over to RGL and you'll see a lengthy commentary that backs Loyola Hearn's contention that the federal government, i.e. the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), is solely responsible for the collapse of the cod stocks and their failure to recover.

What Liam misses, or choses to ignore, is that the latest report from the Commons fisheries committee makes it clear that there is enough blame to go around for everyone in the fishery. It is misleading to adopt a narrow approach to the definition of "management" such that it ignores the political, social and economic context in which governments make decisions. That is, if we take a narrow approach, as Liam and Loyola do, then we are apt to repeat the same errors made in the past.

Liam may find it painful that the report actually does not support his own pet views. However, he cannot blame me for this by asserting that the fisheries committee's own conclusions, as quoted here already, are actually mine. The words I used are the words the committee used.

There is no small irony here that when DFO - actually politicians - make(s) bad decisions, as occurred in the 1980s and 1990s in response to political pressure, the federal government is pilloried. One example is the recreational fishery and limited commercial fishery that began in 1998. Then, when it makes good decisions - such as resisting the calls for a wider recreational fishery and wider commercial fishery, despite evidence that the fish stocks could not sustain the new fisheries - DFO is once again attacked for not responding to political pressure.

What the latest report also contains are some concrete proposals that would change the overall management system, which the committee calls dysfunctional. In other words, they identify the problem and propose a way to fix it or at least start to fix it. One such suggestion is the use of local fishermen's committees to work with DFO on setting quotas for certain species and in certain locales.

The success of this approach was noted in several previous posts. As usual, people seem to ignore good ideas in favour of playing the blame game.

And ultimately, the blame game is a fool's errand. Focusing on blame alone provides no guide to future action. Often, the solutions proposed merely repeat past errors or do nothing to make the substantive changes in fisheries management which the Commons committee clearly thinks are necessary.

This brings us back to the original post and comments by Loyola Hearn. The member for St. John's South-Mount Pearl may wish to blame the federal government for the cod collapse. If he does, then he should make it plain those are his conclusions. If he doesn't agree with the report, then he has the responsibility to table a dissenting opinion - supported by evidence.

The problem comes when Hearn tables a report that doesn't support his conclusions and makes comments to the media that are, at best, misleading. Then he is doing a disservice to everyone involved in the report and in the fishery.

And that was the point of the previous post.

It is a point that gets conveniently ignored by some, along with the mountains of clear evidence that demonstrate Hearn's ideas are not based on fact.

26 November 2005

The political fish

It is hard to know if VOCM got it wrong or if Loyola Hearn actually blamed federal mismanagement for the continued poor state of cod stocks offshore Newfoundland.

Hearn is a member of the the House of Commons standing committee that just released a report on the cod stocks.

VOCM reports that Hearn "says the destruction of the Northern Cod is a direct result of federal mismanagement". VOCM also reports that Hearn is calling on the federal government to implement the recommendations contained in the report linked above.

Check The Telegram for Saturday, November 26, 2005 and there is another quote by Hearn, the guy who tabled the committee report in the Commons: "the destruction of the northern cod and its lack of recovery is a direct result of federal mismanagement."

The odd thing is that Hearn is not quoting the report when he blames the federal government for the lack of cod. Here's what the report actually says in black and white:

...Overfishing has been clearly identified as the major factor in the decline of cod and other groundfish stocks, but not as the only factor. According to a number of past reports, a combination of factors was responsible, and fishermen, processors, scientists, fisheries managers and politicians all made mistakes. As stated by the Fisheries Resource Conservation Council (FRCC) in its 1997 report, "The fishery crisis cannot be related to a single cause or blamed on a single group: it is the failure of our whole fisheries system."

In part, as a result of the "failure of our whole fisheries system," the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans agreed on 8 February 2005 to undertake a study of the northern cod including the events leading to the collapse of the fishery and the failure of the stock to re-establish itself since the moratorium....[Page 2]

It really doesn't get any clearer than that. The cod stocks collapsed as a result of the entire fisheries system including both federal and provincial governments, politicians, processors, and fishermen.

If mismanagement was the cause, as the quote above notes and as the subsequent pages of the report document, the "mismanagement" extended to every sector of the industry.

Only Loyola Hearn can tell us why he misrepresented in such a blatant way the findings of a committee whose report he was tabling in parliament. It is tempting, and indeed, easiest, to simply put Hearn's comments down to the sort of old-fashioned "tell em anything" politics that we have heard from him so many times in the past.

Hearn has repeatedly demonstrated his love affair with misrepresentation. During the offshore revenue discussions over the past two years, for example, Hearn got so many basic facts wrong about oil and gas one would have a hard time believing he had been a provincial cabinet minister at the time the real Atlantic Accord was signed and passed by the legislature.

This is by no means a minor issue. The conclusions of a parliamentary committee should hold weight - indeed Hearn's words have been reported because the committee is taken generally as an important group, one with views that should be heeded.

The committee's report contains a great deal of valuable information and a solid set of recommendations. The report proposes a limited commercial fishery be re-opened where such a fishery can be supported by the populations. It calls for increased scientific research, a call that was seemingly heeded by an announcement by the federal fisheries minister of increased scientific research funding.

The report also contains recommendation for even stronger action against domestic overfishing:


That the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans commit to amending the Fisheries Act to deal with license violations using administrative sanctions subject to appeal through arm'’s-length tribunals;

That, in the interim, the Attorney General of Canada instruct federal prosecutors involved in Fisheries Actlicenseee violation cases to bring to the attention of the court, prior to sentencing, the total cost to the Canadian taxpayer of investigating and prosecuting the offence, and to push for the maximum penalty under the law at sentencing; and

That any financial proceeds forfeited as a result of a conviction for license violations be used to support an enhanced dockside monitoring or some other equally important program.

This is a truly remarkable statement, given Hearn's claim that it was the federal government that bears responsibility for the death of the commercial cod fishery. The committee advocated stronger punishment for poaching and other forms of illegal fishing because witnesses who appeared before it and other evidence accumulated during its deliberations pointed precisely to domestic overfishing as a contributing factor in the decimation of the northern codstocks.

Yet the value in the committee's report does not end there. It's next recommendation is that the federal government create regional harvesting or conservation councils to give fishermen greater input into management decisions. The federal politicians - perhaps with the exception of Hearn - have clearly seen the benefit from similar committees at places like the Eastport peninsula.

This is a little known project but it has proven enormously successful. Local fisheries committees advise the federal fisheries minister on fish quotas. Their advice which combines the best scientific information plus the fishermen's own observations have led to dramatic improvements in the health of stocks such as lobster and have led to a dramatic decline - a near elimination - of poaching and other similar crimes.

This is the sort of progressive management approach that the Department of Fisheries and oceans has been quietly implementing. But few know of it when the news sadly is consumed by the rantings of men who once held positions of great political and industrial influence, but who offer little in the way of meaningful input. The only thing the have managed to do is distract people from both the real issues and the facts of the matter at hand.

All this leads back to Hearn and his false statements.

One of the strongest parts of the fisheries committee report is the comparison between what happened in Canada and what happened elsewhere in the face of problems in the cod fishery. In Canada, politicians seemed unable to ignore the pleadings of the fishing industry that quotas be maintaiend at levels the stocks could not support. They played political games with fish instead of acting responsibly. Our collective reward is the decimation of a fish stock that once fed generations throughout the North Atlantic world.

What we see in Hearn's blatant misrepresentation is truly yet more of the same political pandering to a small interest group against the facts, against the best advice. Ignored are the genuinely positive moves on enforcement of rules and on progressive management. Trotted out, instead, are the hoary myths, just in time for another election.

Having read both the Commons committee report and news coverage over the past two days, one can only agree with Telegram columnist and long-time fisheries reporter Joe Walsh. It is time to get cod out of the pork barrel.

Rather than focusing solely on the current federal government as he did, Walsh should have tossed Loyola Hearn into the mix. Hearn's interventions on fisheries issues since he went to Ottawa have been long on the pork and short - extremely short - on anything approaching a new idea that can be backed by facts.

The fisheries committee report spends a good deal of time documenting the mistakes of the 1980s.

Loyola Hearn should know about them. He sat in a provincial cabinet at the time.

One would have hoped he had learned from mistakes of the past.

All that comes to mind is another mangled phrase by Hearn's former cabinet mate and premier Tom Rideout. It had something to do with small, malodourous creatures that could not change their spots.

Strong language, to be sure, but seemingly appropriate on so many levels.

25 November 2005

Find. Fix. Fire.

There's a reason why in both politics and the army they call it a campaign.

Winning requires strategy, logistics, co-ordination and flexibility.

There is only one winner.

Everyone else is a loser.

No one wants to be the loser.

The basic approach in a campaign consists of three words: find, fix and fire.

Find: This consists of finding your voters and those who will vote for The Other Guy. Opinion polling helps figure out the rough percentages and what issues and attitudes are motivating voters. A good voter identification program - polling by door-knocking or telephone refines the overall picture on a voting poll by voting poll basis.

You also want to find any swingers or wafflers. Those are the voters who either haven't committed yet, are leaning one way or the other (you need to find that out as well) and those who are in the other camp but who might be persuaded to switch sides.

Fix: Fix in this context means to hold your own voters in place. Political advertising and other communications are designed to reinforce your own supporters and get them worked up enough to want to go to the polls.

Fix, in this context, also involves efforts to dislodge TOG's voters. Plenty of people talk about negative campaigning and attack ads and while they are usually denounced, a properly conceived and executed attack phase of the campaign has proven extremely effective time and again, for party after party in doing one thing - suppressing the TOG's supporters.

Political communications in the fix portion of a campaign are also aimed to some extent at the swingers. The basic goal is to suppress the other guy's leaners, firm up the ones leaning to you, steal some of his weak ones and attract more of the undecideds.

Fire: Having found and fixed 'em, the last thing to do is to fire your voters into the polling booth on voting day.

This is where the voter identification campaign really pays off. Voting day is the most hectic day of the campaign: workers call identified party supporters and encourage them to vote. Drivers are dispatched to give people a free lift to the nearest polling station.

Scrutineers at the polling stations cross off voters as they come and send their data back to headquarters so identified supporters are crossed off the lists.

Energy then focuses in the last hours and minutes of the day to getting every last identified voter to a polling booth. Dragging, as it is commonly called, is about literally dragging anyone who hasn't voted to the polls.

There's an old saying that amateurs talk strategy and tactics while professionals talk logistics.

Well, in politics, the logistics are all about the voter identification program and the entire operation devoted to getting your supporters into a booth where they can mark an "x" for the right candidate.

Without it, you don't stand a hope in hell of winning.

But, in politics as in a military campaign, dominating the opinion environment through political communications makes the job of finding, fixing and firing that much easier. Increasingly, successful campaigns rely on solid comms support coupled with the log work for success

Political communications - the news releases, events, householders, buttons, signs and a website - play a key role. Screw that up and you can kiss the votes good bye. The best voter ID project in history won't save you.

Flood a newsroom with bullshit releases and you'll likely alienate reporters you need in order to get your messages on important issues carried to voters. Feed them pap or duck them and they'll faithfully report your failings to everyone who listens, watches or reads their stuff.

Ask municipal candidates in the recent St. John's election about that sort of stuff.

Issue a news release that calls your opponent a child molester's best friend - without solid evidence - then back the mistake to the hilt and you can cost yourself the campaign and with it victory.

Ask Stephen Harper about that one.

One of the telling features in the upcoming campaign will be political communications and, unlike voter ID programs, it is the one that is most visible.

So when the writ drops next week -*sigh* - pay close attention to the stuff in your mailbox, and on your television, radio, in the newspapers, or on the Internet. You'll be able to tell a lot about the strategies being employed simply through careful observation.

And among the commentators cropping up on the news, you'll also be able to spot the amateurs and the professionals.

The five percent solution

Wander over to Responsible Government League and Liam has done everyone the favour of linking to a few sites about election predictions.

The Hill and Knowlton one is interesting. Who knows the algorithm they are using but if you make shifts in the vote, you can get a prediction of seat counts nationally and by province?

Muck around with it a bit. Plug in the most recent polling results from Decima for a January/February election. It produces a large increase in new Democrat seats at the expense of the Liberals and the Conservatives.


Swing five percent of the New Democrat vote to the Liberals and you get a Liberal majority government of 166 seats, a rump New Democrat caucus at nine and 79 Conservatives.

Swing five the other way and the national seat count comes up with 104 Liberals, 101 Conservatives and 42 New Democrats.

What does it take to produce a Conservative minority? Swing a total of 10 percent of the vote from Liberals to New Democrats. That still only gives the Conservatives 111 seats.

I flipped Liberals and New Democrats since their vote migration seems to be much more likely than a swing between Conservatives and Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats and any other similar conversion.

Drop down on the local scene and you get something rather curious. Current polling shows that the situation is actually pretty stable around these parts. In your own calculations, remember that the margin of error on national polls has the Atlantic margin of error heading for more than six or seven percent. That's way, way too much.

But basically, swing a few percentages one way or the other (Liberal and New Democrat) and it gets curious indeed.

A swing of just five percentage points in the vote from Dippers to Grits and poof: the two St. John's seats change hands.

Swing it the other way and the Connies would add Bonavista-Exploits to their pile. At least that's the seat that Hill and Knowlton peg for the changeover.

It's all good fun and speculation but here's the upshot of it all:

All the political parties have some method of statistically allocating seats based on poll results. What they are using is a slightly more sophisticated version of the H and K thingy, but it doesn't have to get really any better than having really good local numbers to plug in.

Even using the H and K predictor across the most likely scenarios it is one heckuva job for the Conservatives to pull off a majority government. It's even kinda tough to
give them a minority government of any comfortable shape or size.

The big winners are the New Democrats. Across most scenarios, including the most recent poll results, the Dippers come off with a big increase in their seat count.

That leaves you wondering why Stevie Harper is so hot for an election.

It makes it plain why Jack Layton wants to go sooner rather than later.

This sort of device will give you a better sense of where the battleground will be. On the ground, expect that Ontario is going to get a lot of attention. The media gaze might spread to some places on the prairies or into British Columbia hunting for swing seats.

As far as messages and strategy go, expect to see a lot of emphasis on a battle between the New Democrats and the Liberals. The Dippers have the magic five percent Liberals need to pull off a majority nationally.

In a perverse way, it's also what Conservatives need to gain power, barring a radical redesign of the party. Even Ralph Klein doesn't think that is likely. Harper is at his peak, give or take a couple of points. He just needs to reinforce his own side and get them to the polls, which should be an easy job since they are among the most motivated of voters.

But Steve Harper needs Jack Layton in order to put the Alberta boy in new digs at Sussex Drive.

Such is the odd nature of politics.

On a local level, take a close look at the messaging and strategy employed by the local Liberal campaigns. If they fall into the trap of fighting on Conservative territory or pushing Conservative issues - like the federal job presence thing - the best that they can hope for is a repeat of the same seat distribution.

They won't pick up swing-Connies with that line: those guys don't exist for one thing. As for former Progressive Conservative voters disaffected by Harper and Company, they might respond a bit to negative messaging but their Tory leanings will likely make them a hard sell on voting Liberal. They might stay home and not vote, but odds are they'd do that anyway.

But... if the local Libs focus on other issues and work hard at attracting some swing-Democrats - the people who exist and who can easily float from the NDP to the left of the Liberal Party - the rewards could be big.

It only takes a swing of five percent of New Democrat voters to the Liberal ranks, one way or another, to land Siobhan Coady and Paul Antle in Ottawa.

Think about it.

and watch closely.


Sincere condolences to the family of Private Braun Scott Woodfield, killed in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan this week.

Also injured in the incident were four other soldiers, who are reportedly recovering.

The soldiers, all members of 2 Royal Canadian Regiment, Gagetown, New Brunswick, were riding in a LAV-III at the time of the roll-over accident. The LAV-III is similar to the one pictured.

And Gerry and Scott wonder why they aren't in cabinet?

This little piece of news from yesterday is an example of the kind of politics no one wants or needs from any political party.

Member of parliament Gerry Byrne actually issued a news release yesterday to slag the chairman of the provincial caucus in Ottawa and the federal government for making an announcement on municipal infrastructure in St. John's, instead of some other place, like Stephenville.

Byrne isn't criticising the program. He's criticising the decision of where to announce it.

And that relatively minor point is enough to get a politician to issue an angry news release?

It isn't enough that people want to fight with Ottawa. Nope, now we have to fight over where to announce a program that will pour much needed federal cash into water and sewer work in every community in the province, including St. John's.

Surely, there is something just a tad more important to talk about Gerry than this kind of trivia.

When Gerry was the minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Gerry's news release were written so that they looked like they were coming in the community involved. Truth is they came from the ACOA office in St. John's. Did that change the impact of the money one way or the other, Gerry?

Then to cap it all, Scott Simms - the caucus chair under attack - simply pawns the thing off on the federal minister.

Way to go, boys.

Way to go.

24 November 2005

Gee, how interesting

Just took a second a skimmed some postings to electionpredictions.org on the 2004 outing, specifically for St. John's South-Mount Pearl.

I threw something up there at one point during the campaign. Read my comments with the benefit of hindsight and you can make a judgement about whether I was on or off-base. I predicted a Liberal win (giddy optimism) or that it was too close to call. Certainly I documented all the problems in the Hearn camp that, oddly enough, turned out to be...true.

Scroll down a little further and see the prognostications of one Liam O'Brien. Hearn was rock solid and safe, according to Liam.

He won by a mere 1500 votes or so.

As always, I'll let you be the judge.

Just notice one thing - Conservative supporters are extremely adept at using the Internet and comments sections like the ones at EP.org just like people use open line shows or greenhouses: they pack 'em with plants. It's all part of the game, but any day now you can tune out VOCM. It will just be full of the faithful of all political parties jamming the lines for their candidates.

It never ceases to amaze me...

the volume of copy that can be generated in response to a simple comment.

Flip to the Responsible Government League and enjoy the feast.

Of course, the volume of the reply, either in number of words or the intensity of voice with which they should be read, does not render them any more credible than anything else.

Heads and bodies

In a small exercise in news reading, try this gem from the Globe and Mail.

Read the whole thing and then consider a simple question: Does the headline match the whole piece?

The short answer is no. The headline grabs attention but it is also misleading. The subhead just reinforces the misinformation.

All I can say is this: don't believe everything you read. Or believe it. It's up to you. But it could be accurate and it could be misinformation.

Meanwhile in the Land O'Spin that used to be Responsible Government League, any pretension that RGL is an unbiased, fair and balanced place to find reliable information definitely went out the window this week.

Take a gander at the piece on giving Paul Martin the boot, in which the PM is called a variety of names. My favourite part, of course, is where former reporter O'Brien practices "spin". [He is always quick to accuse others of doing it.]

Follow the link to the Prime Minister's speech and you'll see he merely referred to a military pay raise. Liam claims the PM was talking about soldiers not getting paid at all. Wow, my widdle tin top couldn't spin like that.

Of course, that's just the latest spintastic uttering from RGL. A little while ago he was telling us that a poll which - like all other polls - had the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives was actually a statistical tie between the Grits and the Connies.

Utter tripe, but RGL peddled it anyway.

And the RGL site seems to be descending rapidly into nothing more than name calling, for example calling the PM a "sick sob". The other day John Efford was called a sell-out.

Ah well, at least we know that RGL is written by an unbiased, non-partisan, fair and impartial writer who accurately conveys facts solely for the purpose of informing his readers such that they can form their own opinions.

Yeah right. I am just waiting for the latest Connie flash animation to pop up on a site that, sadly, is falling back into being a place where logic routinely takes flight if not Really Great Leaps.

22 November 2005

Bond makes parliament. Not.

Cue the music.


Robert Bond.

Agent 006.9

License to annoy.

The Blocheads brought up alleged Central Intelligence Agency flights through Newfoundland.

This has been covered already on the Bond Papers with a bit more detail than offered by Canadian Press.

Here's a story that ran in Saturday's La Presse, in which Anne Maclellan claims there's no reason to believe the aircraft under contract to the CIA transitted Canada carrying any detainees.

La Presse and others have shagged up the story by focusing on the Cessnas.

I have the records, Anne, for more interesting aircraft that definitely flew through St. John's. There may not have been detainees on them - we really don't know for sure and never will - but there's no doubt that airplanes identified by many sources as being under contract to the CIA have routinely used Canadian airports on their way to and from Europe. The most recent flight was last week.

A sensible purchase or more of the same old pork barrel?

With the announcement of the new transport aircraft purchase today comes a bit of grousing about the process.

The air force needs aircraft in operation within three years.

Suppliers have 30 days to register and qualify.

This gives a leg up to Lockheed and its C-130J. The logic is compelling: proven airframe. Bags of spares and other operators with whom we work already.

Advocates of the Airbus Industries A400M can check here to confirm that the aircraft hasn't even flown yet. First flight is expected in 2008 and first deliveries in 2009. Add a few years to that time scale owing to inevitable development delays.

The only way Airbus can meet the tender specs would be to provide Canada with a substitute airframe - like maybe Hercs - in the interim 'til their bird gets off the ground. Personally, I'd view this as a potentially competitive bid only if there are guarantees that indemnify Canada against any potential cock-ups and cost over-runs on a completely unproven commodity.

There's also the Antonov An-70, which flew in 1994. I have a soft spot for Russian aircraft but from a practical standpoint, this is a non-starter.

Predictably the Opposition slagged today's announcement for political reasons.

Let's hope no one says anything as monumentally stupid as Jean Chretien's attacks on the EH-101 before the 1993 election. Crouton was wrong, wrong, wrong, except for the political mileage he got out it. But the result of his decision was millions of dollars in needless added costs and final procurement of an adequate but smaller number of helicopters.

Before any Connies get a smug smirk on their faces, just remember the LSVW, the Griffon, the naval presence in Quebec program, maple syrup and a few other choice procurement cock-ups that cost Canadians billions in cash doled out as political pork.

Flip back to the Canadian Press story linked above and you'll see Conservative defence critic Gordo O'Connor complaining that the specs are written to preclude competition. He needs to take a hard look at the A400 program - there's no reason to shag around waiting for that aircraft to prove it can fly. Maybe it can get in on another procurement after the Hercs are ready to retire.

The only thing of substance Gordo said today was that his government would further delay buying these long-overdue aircraft.

Well, that and the bit where he stated the obvious: we aren't going to buy Boeing C-17s. Gordo, they are too big and the operating costs are too great for Canada. Very few of our allies fly anything that big - for just those reasons. C-17s would be nice if we could afford them, but we can't. And they aren't vital.

Both O'Connor and the defence critic sounded like they were more concerned about local, short-term job creation - i.e. pork - than in off-the-shelf, efficient procurement of the equipment actually needed by the Canadian Forces.

They just didn't promise to cancel the procurement.


The anticipated J Herc buy makes sense in every respect.

Let's hope it doesn't fall victim to crass politicking.


The old hit counter tells me that the most popular searches used to find the Bond Papers over the past few days have been registration numbers and companies linked to the story about Central Intelligence Agency aircraft.

Normally, the most common search terms are "bond papers", "sir robert bond" and "ed hollett". I figured I'd be picking up some Harry Potter hits this weekend bu so far not a one.

For some reason, Sir Robert's spook plane post was enough to get into google's top 20 hits for certain search terms.

Those hits, in turn, led me back to several google searches of my own that confirm that most of the key aircraft listed in the news stories have indeed passed through St. John's on their way to places like Afghanistan. Dates and places all listed with detail and seeming accuracy.

Those searches also confirm that there are a bunch of Roy Croppers out there who carry the fine English tradition of trainspotting for aircraft at various places around Europe.

Good job lads!

Perhaps you can find gainful employment sequencing DNA.

Connies to target Santa; Dippers to support motion on "old, straight white guy"

Left: Stephen Harper's discomfort with people dressed in red clothes handing out presents started early.

Ottawa - Myron T. Grinchberg (C Angryville-Bitter Creek) said today that as part of opposition plans to force a Christmas election, his party will be introducing a bill in the House of Commons to force Elections Canada to include all Christmas celebrations and advertising as Liberal Party of Canada election expenses.

"Well, Santa is obviously a Liberal," said Grinchberg, the critic for Sucking the Fun Out of Anything. "He dresses in red and hands out goodies to everyone. There is no way that the Liberal Party of Canada should be able to get that kind of support for their corrupt regime, from a guy who is obviously a secret agent for Liberals."

Grinchberg said the very notion of handing out gifts for free confirms Santa's political leanings. He said Santa is just another shameless attempt by Liberals to buy the upcoming election using good will, happy thoughts and a raft of public money.

"Who the heck pays for all that stuff he drops from the sleigh? There's no way Santa can run his operation without massive government handouts." Grinchberg said a new Conservative government under Stephen Harper will widen the powers of the Gomery inquiry to find out what federal money was shunted to Santa by Grit insiders. 'This whole thing makes sponsorship look like really small potatoes."

"Besides, Santa is just an anagram of Satan," said Grinchberg, noting that this confirms that all Liberals are agents of the devil.

A spokesperson for the New Democrats said she expected her party to support the motion. "Santa doesn't reflect the cultural diversity of our country. Besides that the whole myth just teaches our children that the only good things come from straight, old white guys."

The spokesperson, who commented only on condition of anonymity, said federal New Democrats are concerned that Mrs. Claus is kept hidden in the background, perpetuating the sexism of Canadian culture. She said there is also a problem with an entire operation built on the backs of the physically disadvantaged or disabled.

"Obviously, Santa couldn't do what he does without the support of his family and the thousands of underpaid short people he employs in near-slavery. They deserve full recognition and a fair wage." The Dipper spokesperson said it is likely Santa set up his factory in territory once controlled by the federal government to escape provincial labour legislation."

Calls to the Bloc were not returned, but a party insider confirmed that the Bloc is looking at including the North Pole as part of an independent Quebec. He said the new Parti Quebecois leader finds the white powdery substance of the Arctic strangely compelling and his views will strongly influence the Bloc members of the federal parliament.

21 November 2005

Coyne to face Layton

While she was a rumoured candidate last time around, it looks like Deborah Coyne will tackle Dipper boss Jack Layton in the upcoming election.

I worked with Deborah eons ago. She is fluently bi-lingual, tough, knowledgeable and articulate. She's a veteran campaigner and Layton should have quite the fight on his hands.

Oh yeah.

And she is yet another one to hammer at the separatists, no matter where they are.

Stevie Harper and the tin cup of firewater

Seems that Official Opposition leader Steve Harper is still careening toward an election sooner rather than later.

The most amazing thing about this drive to an election is that the polls are consistently running against all Opposition parties, except for the Bloc Quebec. In 1979, the last time a minority government fell on a confidence motion, public opinion ran squarely against the government and in favour of the Opposition Liberals.

A major battleground will be the swing seats in central and western Ontario. Most polls show that minor changes in the popular vote can produce enough switching in these seats to create a Conservative minority government.

Meanwhile, in the far east, it seems that the Conservatives have identified St. John's South-Mount Pearl as a potential swing seat. For those who don't know, the Connies already hold that seat, but expect that the incumbent will have a tough time hanging on to his seat against a strong competitor.

In the face of that likely tough fight, expect incumbent Loyola Hearn to either switch seats to Avalon - vacated by John Efford whom Hearn could never hope to have beaten and where Hearn actually lives - or to pack it in altogether and take his federal and provincial political pensions with him.

While he sits as a member of parliament in Ottawa, double-dipping Hearn continues to collect a provincial pension from his days as a Tory cabinet minister in the 1980s and opposition member in the early 1990s. His colleague, Norm Doyle, donates his provincial pension to local charities while he collects a salary as a federal member of parliament.

Herc buy back on track

Canadian Press is reporting that of the recently rumoured $12.1 billion worth of defence procurements on the table, the $4.6 billion transport purchase will go ahead.

The purchase is based on urgent need for new aircraft to replace the fleet of C-130E models, some of which have been in service since the early 1960s.

20 November 2005

Even spies contract out

A Canadian Press story in the Sunday Telegram reports that two aircraft with alleged links to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have passed through St. John's on their way to Iceland and points beyond.

The aircraft, registration numbers N-168D and N-196D, are owned by North Carolina-based Devon Holding and Leasing. The two CN-235, like the ones illustrated here are Spanish-built turboprop light transports. Devon's livery is illustrated here, in this photograph taken at Kabul, Afghanistan earlier this year of another Devon CN-235, registration number N-187D.

The links between Devon and CIA are reported widely on the Internet and were recently reported by The New York Times. Sweden is investigation claims that other aircraft, such as N-168BF owned by Wells Fargo Bank and N-50BH, a Gulfstream III currently registered to Crystal Jet Aviation, have used Swedish airports. Given the flight paths for these aircraft, it is likely they landed at St. John's, Gander, Stephenville or Goose Bay on their way to and from other airports in North America.

A google search reveals this link for N-50BH, but reports the operator as Richmor Aviation of Schnectady, New York. Richmor's website no longer lists 50BH as being part of its fleet; this story from late last week quotes Richmor representatives as saying the aircraft was operated on a private charter.

While the aircraft and registration numbers above are correct, sometimes Internet sites get the wrong. This one, for example reports N-168D as being a Boeing 737 - it isn't.

Likewise, it shows a Boeing 737 with N-313P registration. Unfortunately N-313P is registered as a single engined aircraft.

A complete list of registration numbers being investigated by an Icelandic newspaper can be found here.

They are:

N1016M, Cessna 208;
N1018H, Cessna TR 182;
N120JM, Fairchild 227;
N1210Z, Cessna 441;
N157A, Beech 200C;
N162EM, showing as an unused number in Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) records;
N168BF, Raytheon Hawker 800 XP;
N169KT, Boeing 727-269;
N173S, Beech 300;
N1HC, Gulfstream GV-SP
N204FN, showing as unassigned by FAA;
N212AZ, ATR-42;
N212CP, Cessna 208;
N2138T, currently reserved, and previously assigned to a currently deregistered CH-47;
N2189M, Lockheed 382 (Hercules);
N219D, CN-235;
N221SG, Learjet 35A;
N229AL, showing as not assigned;
N229WJ, Learjet 25D;
N312ME, Beech 200C;
N315CR, ATR-42;
N33NJ, Learjet 35A;
N35NK, Learjet 35A;
N368CE, Boeing 737;
N381AA, Douglas DC-7;
N393DF, unassigned;
N4009L, Beech 300C;
N403VP, Cessna 208;
N4042J, Beech 200;
N418MN, Learjet 45;
N42HN, Learjet 35A;
N4456A, Beech 200C;
N4489A, Beech 200C;
N4557C, Lockheed 382 (Hercules);
N470JF, ATR-42;
N475LC, Gulfstream IV;
N478GS, Gulfstream IV;
N505LL, DeHavilland DHC-8 300 series;
N5117H, unassigned;
N5139A, Beech 200.

For those who follow these things CIA's use of civilian contractors is nothing new. Air America operated for decades in southeast Asia, being replaced more recently by companies like Southern Air Transport.

One of SAT's Hercs even made into a shot in the movie, The Presidio. Check out the flightline in one scene as Mark Harmon and Sean Connery are investigating the murders. smack in the middle of a bunch of military Hercs is one with the unmistakable SAT livery.

17 November 2005

Only one day to go...or so

With my son bouncing around the house wielding a wand and both he and my daughter wearing their new Hogwarts scarves all day, every day, you can guess that it is less than 24 hours to the premiere of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

They'll likely be digging out the robes they wore a few Hallowe'ens ago for the movie. The scarves are new, with son wearing a Slytherin one (his choice) and daughter wearing a Gryffindor one for her namesake actress' house.

We already have the computer game and the entire clan has been busily playing away. Not so long ago, before my daughter could truly work her way around the keyboard, her mother would be tormented endlessly to play any of the previous Harry Potter games for hours on end.

She did so willingly though because she is perhaps more of a Potter fan that the children.

If that's possible.

Now I must go and watch my hit counter ascend with all the speed of a Golden Snitch.

Will Charlie Sheen be applying?

This story from CNN covers Heidi Fleiss' latest business venture.

Charlie Sheen was a client of her old business, according to some stories. Perhaps he can be an employee or business partner this time around.

Curiously, CNN describes the patrons of Fleiss' former business as being "wealthy actors and clients". As if the actors - like Sheen - were not availing themselves of the charms of the young women Fleiss provided to keep the gentlemen company.

On the other hand, one of my favourite actors, Tom Sizemore, will not be applying. It was a messy story that included accusations that Fleiss doctored photos purporting to show bruises inflicted by Sizemore during their relationship.

Read the whole interview, though, and you can get a sense of a guy with a lot off what people euphemistically call "issues".

Still doesn't stop him from being a good actor.

Scroll down the right hand side of the blog and there's a link to Black Hawk Down - a Sizemore flick and one I categorize as being anti-war.

A fine movie.

Experience counts...for precious little [updated]

The appointment of failed Tory candidate Joan Cleary to head the Bull Arm Corporation makes the second selection by the Premier of a person who is demonstrably unqualified or a person whose qualifications for the job are less than obvious.

Andy Wells' nomination to chair the province's offshore regulatory board was the first one. Wells has no relevant experience - at all. The excuse given for his nomination, namely the need to get greater benefits for this province from offshore oil, was patent nonsense. The offshore board has nothing to do with securing benefits for the province, for one thing. For another, the Premier has made it abundantly clear that he (and maybe PetroNewf) will be bringing home the offshore goodies to spread around. Wells would have nothing to do in securing benefits, the very reason given for his nomination.

Bull Arm is an industrial site, left over from construction of the Hibernia gravity-based structure. The president of the corporation would normally have extensive experience in managing major construction projects or in negotiating them. We'd expect to find someone appointed with a list of contacts in decision-making centres around the globe who could actually pull contracts out of their blackberry or Palmpilot.

One might be looking for someone with a background similar to that of PetroNewf's boss, Ed Martin.

In the worst case, one might expect someone with a sales background or a track record in real estate.

Joan Cleary is a registered nurse. Her oil and gas "experience" consists - entirely - of working at Bull Arm during some construction related to the Terra Nova production hull and on construction of oil tanks for the Whiffen Head oil storage facility. She was senior health consultant.

To really drive this point home, compare the official news release with Cleary's candidate bio. Then compare those two with the biographical note that accompanied the announcement of her appointment as chair of the workers' compensation board.

In 2004, Cleary was responsible at Bull Arm for "case management of all work-related injuries and liaison with medical facilities, WHSCC and on-site management." In other words, she was the on-site medical officer.

In 2005, Cleary is miraculously transformed into someone who "[w]as a senior health specialist for three years during the construction of the Terra Nova FPSO, a position that provided her with first-hand knowledge of the physical construction of the site to enable rapid emergency response." In other words, working there, she got to know where all the paths went and where all the key buildings were.

The latest version obscures Cleary's background with vague words. The Premier praises her commitment to the growth of the province economically, as revealed through her involvement in the community. According to the Premier, Cleary gets the job because, among other things, she is the mayor of a community near Bull Arm, is a Lionette and once ran a Brownie troop. As praiseworthy and noble as those things are, they don't make her qualified to run a heavy construction enterprise.

In other words, there is not a single thing in Joan Cleary's background that suggests she has any experience relevant to the position she now occupies. No doubt she is a fine person and very capable in her profession and in her elected position as mayor of Come By Chance. But that doesn't mean she can be expected to pull millions of dollars in business to Bull Arm.

If the position actually requires no relevant experience - that is if someone else will handle the marketing and management of the site - then one must question why the high-priced senior management positions at Bull Arm Corporation exist in the first place.

Only two years ago, the Tories were railing against the appointment of then-Premier Roger Grimes' communications director to the position as vice-president at Bull Arm. They were right to do so. In the current situation, anyone would be equally right to question not only the Cleary appointment but even the value of the position itself. After all, as with the Wells nomination, the significant chunk of offshore work likely to come Bull Arm's way will be wrangled by none other than Premier Danny Williams himself.

And here's a point not anticipated by the talking points drafted in the Premier's Office and liberally sprinkled around to the organized team of Open Line callers Premier Williams and his crew maintains:

Given that the Premier is taking the hydro corporation and turning it into an oil and gas company, it is only logical that an under-used asset of the government - Bull Arm - be turned over to people with exactly the kind of experience Bull Arm needs. The site at Bull Arm is exactly the kind of asset that a company like PetroNewf could use as the centrepiece of its offshore fabrication work.

It is a match made in someone's heaven, especially when one considers that in the process taxpayers would save the hundreds of millions of dollars in senior management positions occupied by a Joan Cleary or a Carl Cooper.

In other words, even if Joan Cleary was somehow qualified to head Bull Arm, government actually has no need of the position in the first place. One little tidbit of information people have forgotten is that the position of president has lain functionally vacant since 2001. Cooper was appointed as a vice-president.

If Bull Arm could survive without a president for all this time, surely it could survive just a wee bit longer.

Better still, by handing Bull Arm to PetroNewf, Premier Danny Williams could have saved the taxpayers hundreds of thousands in needless salaries while also strengthening his own pet Crown corporation.

Joan Cleary's appointment leaves many people scratching their heads but hopefully not the same spots scratched raw in the wake of the Wells nomination. There is a reason for this Cleary thing. Not the ones being foisted by the government's orchestrated "Praise Joan on Open Line" campaign; there is a real reason. Maybe we'll find out in due course.

Let's just hope it has nothing to do with counteracting criticism of the Premier about his supposedly bad attitude toward women. For one thing, the criticisms were wrong. For another thing, the appointment of an unqualified woman to a position where she will do little, if anything, merely points to the most cynical form of tokenism.

Rather than quieting the few voices slagging him on women's issues, the Premier would be doing nothing more than giving his critics something of substance to hurl back at him.

[Update: This story by CBC shows how little the Premier can actually say in so many words. The Premier's own comments mirror the ones being used by the organized Open Line callers, but here are a few observations.

1. It is a PIFO - a penetrating insight into the friggin obvious - for the premier to say he appointed her because he thought she was best qualified. D'uhhhhh. Like anyone would expect him to admit he completely cocked the whole thing up.

2. When the Premier gets to Cleary's qualifications, he cites

a. his experience with her on the campaign trail;
b. her experience in local government; and,
c her experience in regional economic development.

Simply put, the first one just means that the Prem actually knows her, as in he met her a few times. There's no sign Joan and Danny are as tight as some other people or that she is a member of his posse, that Cleary is a Danny Boy like, say, Dean MacDonald.

The second one applies literally to thousands of people in the province (including Andy Wells) and the last one likewise applies to literally thousands. I'd venture that the Premier knows a couple of hundred people who match all three criteria.

So why does Joan make a better candidate?

Well, that's the part of the little piece that goes begging in the government's version. Don't expect it to be tackled too soon, since a discussion of what the Bull Arm boss does or doesn't do will expose the patent silliness of the reasons given thus far to back up a dubious decision.

And we haven't even taken on the fact that the Premier once described as being an excellent judge of people - has made two, count 'em two - decisions to propose or appoint completely unqualified people to key positions.

16 November 2005

Sometimes, it's a good idea to...

stop digging.

Had John Efford been more visible while he was working here in the province he might not have so much crap to deal with now. As it is, a local story has now taken national proportions and the criticisms are sharp and seemingly, well founded.

Once the crap started, if he aimed his criticism in the right direction and defended himself with something better than "Stop pickin' on the sick 'un" he'd be in better shape.

After all, this parliament has seen three guys with terminal cancer carry on their business at some level, even if they weren't cabinet ministers. If they were in cabinet, one doubts that they would be still collecting cabinet pay without any cabinet responsibilities. Regional minister isn't a recognized cabinet position; it's just a responsibility. Had the Prime Minister appointed Efford a minister without portfolio or shifted Efford to a less-stressful position, the criticisms of Efford's invisibility wouldn't have so much weight behind them.

As it is, Efford may find his time as a cabinet minister limited.

If that happens, he can only blame himself.

Something tells me he'll blame someone else - like the news media.

The hole will only get deeper.

National CBC off base on Fallujah

This report from the CBC website is off base on a couple of points.

1. White phosphorus is not a chemical weapon, nor is any form of incendiary including napalm. There this statement is incorrect: "Venable's comments could expose the United States to allegations that it has been using chemical weapons in Iraq." Well, let's look carefully at the wording: the comments could expose the United States government to renewed allegations - that's true - but the accusations would be, in a word, wrong.

Don't believe me just because I said so. Check the website for the countries that are party to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Chemical weapons are things like phosgene, chlorene, and sarin.

I once had a prof at Memorial University argue that all explosives were technically chemical weapons because they depended on a chemical reaction for their effect. Heck, everything is made of chemicals, me and you included. How wide do we want to draw a definition until it gets to be unweildy to have any practical use for serious and effective arms control?

And hey, the mighty British Broadcasting Corporation actually changed the title of the original story on which the Ceeb based its piece. Anti-war websites reported the change extensively.

2. The admission that white phosphorus, also known as willy peter, willy pete and WP, is really nothing new. Pictures of it have been around for a while and the Americans have never denied using it.

Where the accusations have gone way wide of fact is in claiming that the United States and coalition military forces have used some sort of "mystery" weapons or have engaged in a deliberate plan to shoot innocent, unarmed civilians. The Italian TV doc is a second-rate piece of propaganda which deliberately misrepresents entire sections of interviews.

There is NO evidence that civilians have been used to attack civilians which would be a violation of of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, even though the United States has not signed the particular provisions related to incendiaries like napalm.

Make no mistake: the military operations in Iraq are violent and people get killed in lots of nasty, horrid ways.

Here's a BBC report that realistically describes white phosphorus.

Here's the Beeb's original story on the Italian p.o.s. report already discussed on the Bond Papers.

As for the reference to "shake and bake", here's where the term first appeared, according to a number of websites.

It refers to the practice of using WP to terrify insurgents who were in trenches or firing holes so that they would leave their cover. Once in the open, they would be killed with convention high explosive. Get past the raft of jargon and you'll tons of information about artillery operations by the Americans.

Again, just 'cause some reporters don't see certain information doesn't mean it has been a secret until they "discovered" it.

Osborne hunts pesticides - should read Bond Papers

Almost a month ago, the Bond Papers posted some information that would help Tom Osborne in his great hunt to find Herbicide Orange in the province.

Bear in mind Osborne is the guy who accused Opposition critic Percy Barrett of fear-mongering back in October when Barrett asked about use of Agent Orange in the province.

If the CBC Radio voice clip of Osborne from this morning is correct, the guy needs better info - he claims Herbicide Orange wasn't used in this province. He pointed out that it wasn't available commercially - as we told you the night the story appeared back in October - but Osborne left the implication the stuff was never used here.

One of our local TV news shows has footage - check NTV. The original post said CBC but come to think of it, NTV is more likely to have stock footage from the 1950s.

And Bond Papers has a list of military sites where Orange, White and a whole bunch of other similar stuff was likely used, even if in limited applications.

15 November 2005

Sullivan's pockets swell

White Rose achieved first oil on Saturday November 12, 2005, bringing online production from the province's third oil field.

It is unclear if the provincial government factored in White Rose oil, in their recent economic update. If they didn't, then add White Rose's 100, 000 barrel a day production to finance minister Loyola Sullivan's swollen pockets.

Owing to the streamlined costs of bringing the project online, Terra Nova will achieve payout this year, adding to the provincial government's increased revenues. Once costs are paid, provincial royalties move to a higher rate under the royalty agreement with the Terra Nova operators.

A similar approach to White Rose, coupled with high oil prices, may see that project convert to Tier 2 royalties by 2008/09.

Pavlov works

Responsible Government League.

Strategy by Lewis Tulley

It took a little while, but watching some Newsworld coverage of the federal mini-budget, I had a revelation about the whole "It's my election, but I don't want the credit for calling it" thing going on in Ottawa.

Lack of sleep and a couple of Timmies on an empty stomach might be the recipe for becoming a political guru in Canada.

1. Opposition (all three parties) had pegged hopes on Gomery 1 - the report that actually assessed what happened during the sponsorship crime spree. They figured a big bad report would make it easy to attack the liberals. Best case: they bring down the government right away and are rewarded by outraged Canadians. Worst case: they hammer away until Gomery the Second, Martin drops the writ and they reap the rewards.

2. In reality, Gomery is a big fizzle for the Opp guys. Hence, Plan Z - the complex, multi-step thingy that is tactics masquerading as strategy.

3. Push an election before Gomery 2, which, after all, only fits into the PM's timelines and will likely now boost Liberal re-election chances.

4. Drop the government in such a way that you don't get blamed for it. Polls show that responsibility for bringing the election no one wants at a time they really don't want it will earn a drop in the polls.

5. In response to this post, RGL will:

a. completely miss the point (The SM-62 Snark of political blogging - one test missile launched north, from the United States, actually ended up in Brazil. Honest to God, that is true...about the missile) ;

b. claim I am yet again defending Satan Paul Martin despite evidence that he is corrupt and leads a corrupt party of the filth of humanity that Gomery proves is just totally corrupt (of course, I am not and Gomery didn't, but why let facts prevent the pre-planned but not reflexive anti-Satan Martin attack Liam has been brewing since his last pre-planned but apparently spontaneous expression of disdain for the PM);

c. accuse me of being a reflexively - partisan untermenschen that should be flayed alive and then put in jail or better still a concentration camp and worked to death and their bodies burned to ash and scattered in a Toronto landfill Liberal who cannot admit his biases (veracity is not a hallmark of wild accusations anyway, but the crossed out bits are sorta funny);

d. point to the fact this blog does not have a comments section as therefore being proof your humble e-scribbler is somehow anti-democratic, cowardly and few other things slightly nastier than having voted Liberal less often than RGL has voted for any party to the right of my typical choice. (This line is actually testimony to your being totally predictable, Liam);

e. launch into a recitation of the endless ways in which all whores Liberals (all of them, starting with someone more evil than Satan whose name escapes me at the moment Paul Martin) are responsible for every dang-blasted thing that it is truly repulsive on the planet and should actually welcome the coming public slaughter as a way of atoning for their evident misdeeds (that's a variation on the Gomery-as-Protocols of the Elders of Zion argument from Connie Talking Point KN005-SRH-MMD-KL);

Bonus points if you can figure out what the letters in the serial number stand for.

f. receive in his own comments section:

- two spam messages from someone praising the great [insert computer generated word here] of his post and then giving a link to some offshore porn site,

- another series of e-mails from his fellow members of Blogging Tories(who are merely friends and associates, not RGL's political soul-mates) praising his incisive comments, linking to their comments which use suspiciously similar words and phrases as RGL's "insights", and suggesting they all pray together for the coming Lib-ocalypse (copyright pending), to which Liam will reply with posts of his own as longer or longer than the original one which also use curiously common phrases that appear to be a secret code of some kind, and,

- a string of notes in which Liam and the commentor engage in a series of inside jokes that should have been exchanged in e-mails;

g. not see any humour at all in the last series of comments or fail to appreciate they are offered in good-humour and with tongue firmly in cheek.

Come to think of it, given the intricate nature of the tactical two-step currently going on in Ottawa, it might just be that this time around, the Keymaster has actually found the Gatekeeper.

Then you can get really depressed. After all, if you scroll back through this post, the entire "strategy" here is summed up in a couple of lines. The best part of the post is the stuff parodying RGL.


14 November 2005

Then there's the latest... [updated]

from the non-partisan, unbiased, scrupulously fair and by no means possibly conceivably a

Reflexive Grit Loather.

A blog that comes with a comments section, further evidence of its commitment to open-mindendness and freedom.

RGL's latest offering is a commentary on a days-old wire story from who - Canadian Press? - that suddenly morphs into clippings from a Conservative Party anti-Paul Martin website.

Tell the truth, Liam. You weren't in Buchans this weekend.

You were drafting questions soundbites for the Connies on the Commons finance committee to use on Ralph Goodale.

[Update: Liam O'Brien advises that he took the anti-Martin quotes from Warren Kinsella.


It may not be a Conservative Party site but it is anti-Martin. I got it half right on the origin, but the end result is the same.

The story Liam commented on may have appeared on Monday, but odds are good, knowing the Telly, that the story was filed over the weekend sometime.

Again though, while that may have given me some minor chuckles as I posted it, the point was that of all the things going on, Liam O'Brien elected to post yet another tirade about Paul Martin.

Fair enough. It's his blog.


At what point did I express any concern about attacking the PM, other than noting here that there were better things to talk about. My noting that someone's comments are anti-Martin doesn't make me, by reflex or logic pro-Martin. This isn't just some point of sophistry; it goes a long way to explaining how things get twisted - sometimes needlessly - by misunderstanding.

I swear I am going to have to start writing: "This is in good humour!" on some of my posts.

A Monday morning chuckle

Click here to find a neat little comment on an editorial seen in one local newspaper.

Since I stopped blogging about the paper, it seems no one else is either.


Except for the guy who adores the Big Land.

12 November 2005

Chinooks, Hercs and some Italian bird

As the Globe and Mail reports, the federal cabinet will decide this Monday on a proposal from National Defence to spend $12 billion to purchase new helicopters and aircraft for the Canadian Forces.

Comparisons of the purchase to the sponsorship scandal, attributed to unnamed defence industry spokespersons amount to little more than an effort to derail a process that wouldn't include their particular aircraft.

As reported here earlier, the purchase includes Chinooks and new versions of the C-130 Hercules.

A new Italian turboprop is favoured to replace the Buffalo as a search and rescue aircraft.

An unnamed industry insider singled out chief of defence staff General Rick Hillier for criticism, alleging the hurried purchase is driven by Hillier's charismatic personality and forceful manner.

Add the Bond Papers to the defence commentators who consider this sort of comment little more than cheap shots.

Hillier has experience and is exercising sound judgment. The equipment recommended not just by Hillier but by the professional military and air staffs can do the job and can be acquired off-the-shelf at a decent price.

The same cannot be said of past purchases such as the LSVW, more commonly known as the p.o.s. or the Griffons. These politically-inspired purchases stand as examples of buying military equipment based on where the industrial (and vote) benefits go as opposed to getting and aircraft or vehicle that can do the job required. Anyone who wishes to question my assessment can instead head off to the Auditor General and find out what the AG said.

People in the defence industry shouldn't fling about sponsorship-like accusations given the defence procurement record in this country.

[This post also available from Politics Canada.]

11 November 2005

Debt of Honour

A flash animation honouring the 863 Commonwealth soldiers who died on the last day of the Great War.

Newfoundland gunners in England, 1942

Newfoundland soldiers formed two regiments of Royal Artillery during the Second World War.

57 Heavy Regiment was re-organised as 166 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery and served in Africa and Italy. It used the 25-pounder field gun.

59 Heavy Regiment remained in England, landing in Normandy in July 1944. The regiment fought through France, Holland and finished the war in north western Germany. Initially trained on 6 inch howitzers, as shown below, the regiment later converted to 7.2 inch howitzers for the liberation of Europe.

The following photographs are from the Imperial War Museum collection. Copies of these and other photographs may be ordered from the Museum.

"Gunner Robert Rideout, a lumberman from Hermitage Bay, loads a practice shell into the breech during a trial run-through of a Newfoundland heavy artillery battery, somewhere in England. The shell weighs 100lbs. 1942."

ARTILLERY TRAINING, 1942: Ramming the shell home in a six inch artillery gun are (left-to right) Gunners Bill Clancey (from St John's), Robert Rideout (Hermitage Bay), Arthur Bailey (Trinity Bay) and Sam Bayford (Buchans). They are taking part in a training exercise, somewhere in England.

MIA and things to consider

Unveiling the National War Memorial, St. John's, Newfoundland, July 1, 1924
(PANL A-11-171)

Missing from the National War Memorial in St. John's again this year - Danny Williams.

Brian Tobin managed to attend at least one by my count before he scarpered back to the mainland. Grimes had an abysmal record of attendance as well.

By my count, he is 0 for 3 at the provincial ceremony in St. John's. He might have done the first one in 2003, but I can tell you he hasn't been there the past two years.

While we are on the subject, maybe it's time the Royal Canadian Legion consider changing the format so that the ceremony at that National War Memorial is actually something other than the City of St. John's one.

Here's some suggestions that change the way the ceremony runs. Some of it would just save time. Some of it would properly add groups or organizations that don't lay wreaths that should.

1. Drop the City rep. or have a wreath instead from the Federation of Municipalities.

2. Group all the veteran's associations (unit and branch associations) in a single, mass wreath-laying spot right after the Royal Canadian Legion - Provincial Command only.

3. Drop Dominion Command, which can lay a wreath at the other national memorial in Ottawa.

4. Invite the diplomatic representatives, especially those of allied countries. They may only be honorary consuls in some cases, but they still count.

5. Assorted service and fraternal groups can all go together at one time.

6. Organize the wreath layers on the monument so that we get a better flow of people. For years the whole wreath throng has been a gaggle that has to step over each other. It looks terrible; it is hard to go through; and it looks hideously unprofessional.

7. Given the limited space, move the band and the Singing Legionaires to areas on the sidewalk behind the monument. They can still see. They'll still be heard and the space on the monument plateau will be better able to handle the crowds. The public that gather there can move down to the sides or the bottom where the view is better anyway.

Compared to the modern site layout, the original layout of the National War Memorial allowed for more space and better reflected the importance of the site cenotaph. Years of neglect and compromise have taken their toll.

8. If that isn't feasible, then dip into the Ottawa cash and expand the upper plateau. While we are at it, let's rebuild the sidewalks behind the monument on Duckworth so that it isn't a walking hazard. [Personally, I'd make a pitch to have the memorial site transferred to the National Capital Commission to maintain along with the other national memorial, but hey I am funny that way.]

9. Regroup the military together into one proper series. It seems bizarre that the reserve units of the Canadian Forces (many of whose members are veterans) come behind civilian groups in the order of laying wreaths.

10. As a last thought, while the Royal Newfoundland regiment is headed to Beaumont Hamel next year for the 90th anniversary of that battle, why not also send a contingent to Ottawa for the National Remembrance Day services and parade? That would be a fitting tribute to a great event in Newfoundland history and also serve as a way of making the rest of the country aware of the significance of July 1st.

Bruce Winsor's not-so-forgotten war

Despite his insistence that age is catching up with him, Bruce Winsor still carries himself with the bearing of the young man who served in Korea from 1951 to 1952. He is older, to be sure, as are all veterans of the Korean Conflict, but events of a half century ago return with force when Winsor recounts events of over a half century ago.

The son of Salvation Army officers, Bruce Winsor was born November 1926 in Garnish, Newfoundland. For Winsor, being in the army seemed to offer opportunities never dreamed of in Newfoundland. Tommy Ricketts, a boyhood hero, was a distant cousin and while living on Pilley'’s Island, Winsor got to know one of the few Newfoundland veterans of the Boer War. Their stories were fascinating. "“It always seemed important to think bigger,"” Winsor would say later, "about life in general and about the world outside Newfoundland."

In Burin, during the Second World War, the teenaged Winsor tried to volunteer for the army, lying about his age. When the Newfoundland Ranger who handled his enlistment dropped by his house the night before he was scheduled to leave, Winsor'’s parents told the sergeant their son was too young to enlist. There were no repercussions, but the young Winsor decided that at the next opportunity, he would volunteer to become a soldier.

Winsor worked at Argentia when North Korea invaded the south in June 1950. The Canadian government decided to call for volunteers to make up a special army brigade as part of the United Nations force. In August 1950, he made his way to the Canadian Army recruiting centre at Buckmaster'’s Circle in St. John'’s. After completing the medical, personality and other tests, Winsor was enrolled and sent to Camp Shilo, Manitoba for basic training as a driver/radio operator in the artillery.

"There was very little attention to the spit and polish," Winsor recalled. The focus was on getting people ready to go. His memories of basic training are positive, noting that he took whatever came his way from instructors with energy - "“When you want something bad enough, you can do anything."

His batch of volunteers flew from Argentia on an American aircraft to Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, then on to Montreal before boarding a train for Manitoba. Winsor recalled with a chuckle that his first flight ever was in a converted bomber with passengers sitting along benches much like in a truck. "“The last thing they did before we got on the plane was give us parachutes,"” he said.

Many of the men he served with were veterans of the Second World War or soldiers from the regular force. Throughout his service, Winsor and the other volunteers from Newfoundland and Labrador were mixed in among other Canadians from across the country. (Left: Gunners of Dog Battery, 2 Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, in action in Korea, 1953)

Winsor and his comrades in Fox Troop, Fox Battery, 2 Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery supported the famous Royal 22nd Regiment throughout his time in Korea. "“None of us spoke French," he said, adding quickly that it didn'’t matter where anyone came from in the country. "“We were all there to do a job."”

"“I had a camera with me the whole time, and took a lot of pictures," Winsor recalled. His comrades jokingly called him Bill Boss, after a well-known photographer of the time. He has no no pictures, though, of the train wreck at Canoe River, British Columbia on 21 November 1950 that killed 17 of his mates, including five from Newfoundland and Labrador. Another 42 were injured. The memories, though, are still vivid. "“Everything in the Army was done alphabetically, so the train cars were loaded from front to back beginning with Dog battery. We were in the back so we felt an awful jolt. The company clerk and his typewriter were tossed around the car."”

The troop train had collided with a civilian passenger train, sending the lead cars of the troop train down a cliff. Four of the killed were never recovered. Winsor could only rely on his Boy Scout First Aid training to help treat the injured. "“Some were horrible"”, he recalled. In the collision, steam from the troop train engine had showered the lead cars, leaving some of the soldiers with severe burns.

25 Canadian Infantry Brigade and Gunner Bruce Winsor arrived in Korea in May 1951.

"“The first thing I remember is the smell,"” Winsor said of arriving off the South Korean port of Pusan. The city was full of refugees that had fled there after the North Korean attack and with a lack of proper sanitation, the stench carried well out to sea. People lived in cardboard shacks, metal culverts and whatever other shelter they could find. Food was scarce and the soldiers considered themselves very lucky to have rations. Winsor'’s second memory though brought a wry smile back to his face: "“The U.S. Army band on the dock played '‘If I knew you were coming, I'’d have baked a cake'’ as we came ashore."”

On the move to the front, burned out tanks along the roadside were a hint of the bitter fighting that had taken place and what lay ahead. Winsor'’s job as a driver/radio operator put him at the front with the infantry, as part of the artillery observation post. "“We had to be right with the infantry so we could support them. “The guns were set a bit farther back but for us, we had to see where the shot was falling on the enemy and make any corrections."”

On his very first action, a night patrol forward of the Canadian lines, Winsor got a taste of the risks he faced. Coming to the top of a ridge with the rest of the patrol, he heard the whiz of a bullet go past his head. The patrol took cover almost instinctively. "“There was a little depression in the ground and I got right down there. When you are under fire, even a tank or jeep track looks like a good place to keep from getting hit."

Looking around, the patrol spotted a lone Korean soldier, who foolishly had given himself away by firing. The infantry soldiers on the patrol captured him and brought him back to Canadian lines.

Later on, another incident proved a reminder of danger that still lingers. Not used to being at the front, a new observation team had driven almost all the way forward to where Winsor'’s group was located. The new arrivals had been spotted by North Koreans who shelled them heavily.

The padre'’s batman - his personal aide - was a metre away from Winsor when he was struck by a large fragment that tore a gapping wound in the man'’s head. With the barrage over, the padre cradled the man in his arms, but there was no helping him. A half century has not erased the incident from Winsor'’s memory. "“You realize that could have been me,"” he said, his voice trailing off and his gaze passing to the window for several moments of silence.

Their service done, the first special force contingents returned to Canada in 1952. Winsor left the Army and operated a photography shop at Argentia, before eventually coming to St. John'’s to work for the Department of Education. He married and raised a family. Each year, he paraded on July 1st and November 11 with his comrades, but for the past two years, poor health has kept him from marching. "“I still go. I drive down to the monument."” He'’d like to go back to Korea, too, something too few of his comrades from Newfoundland and Labrador have been able to do either.

In all, more than 26, 000 Canadians served in Korea between 1950 and 1953. More than 1, 500 were casualties with 516 killed.

Bruce Winsor would do it all again if he had the chance. His time in Korea showed him a rich experience of life, something he says he has taken with him ever since. These days, though he can look back on those days with a simple lesson learned:

"“I appreciate life more."”


Note: This is a revised version of a piece that originally appeared in the Remembrance Day 2003 edition of The Independent. What originally was supposed to be an hour-long interview turned into an afternoon of reminiscences of both good times and some incidents best forgotten.

Bruce Winsor returned to Korea this past summer, but fell and broke his hip during the trip. He currently lives at the Caribou Pavillion, St. John's and continues to recover from the injury and subsequent surgery.