30 September 2007

A few questions that likely won't get answered

Political party election platforms have become less about a firm set of commitments as about a set of general ideas that might be implemented, depending on what happens.  In some cases, they are just window dressing.

Working from the premise that platforms actually mean something, there are a few interesting bits of the progressive Conservative platform that are worth pondering:

1.  If the commitment is based on a false premise do you still mean it? 

demand that the Government of Canada situate more federal offices and jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador, which has fewer per capita than any other province

Newfoundland and Labrador actually has more jobs per capita than all but three provinces.

2. And what about the National War Memorial between Water and Duckworth Streets?

work with the Royal Canadian Legion and military families to establish an appropriate memorial in Newfoundland and Labrador to honour our soldiers who have served and sacrificed their lives in the Afghanistan mission

3. So are you saying the provincial government doesn't manage our collective wealth now?

put in place a plan to enable Newfoundland and Labrador to develop the capacity to manage our own wealth within a decade, in coordination with Memorial University, College of the North Atlantic and the Newfoundland and Labrador investment management community

Just what the heck does this mean? 

4.  So what happened to a debt reduction strategy, in light of four years of debt growth?

further develop our debt management strategy to continue to eliminate the debt and refinance existing debt with competitive rates

5.  But is there an amalgamation strategy?

maintain the commitment that there will be no forced amalgamation of municipalities but continue to work with municipalities on initiatives to share services regionally


More fun with signs

Yes, there's been plenty of fun with campaign signs.

Some people have been tearing them down.  That's the sport in Mount Pearl. Others have been pointing out the missing bits on some, like Beth Marshall's lack of a Team Danny mention. Turns out those were recycled signs from the last campaign, just like the Tom Osborne "member" ones.

Well, here's brand spanking new sign, complete with the strong, proud, determined graphic that is missing any reference to Team Danny as well.

DCFC0032.JPG                   Of course, it would be hard to get it in there, what with all the references to the glorious things John Hickey has done for Lake Melville in just four short years.

But surely, they could have found a spot to poke in the graphic showing that  Hickey is a proud member of the Danny Williams Team.

On another level entirely though look at it this way:

Hickey is focusing on the cash flowing to his district,  in the fine old tradition of local politics in this province.


Hilary and Janice and Danny

Hilary Clinton wants to give every child born in America $5,000.

Danny Williams thinks this is proof he is on the right track with his $1,000 bootie call.

She isn't and therefore, he isn't.

The $5,000 Hilary is talking about is actually part of a larger Democratic Party initiative aimed at health care reform and promoting education.

It is not intended - as the Bootie Call clearly is - as an incentive to parents to crank out more offspring.

The Democratic Party initiative very clearly establishes that the money will be placed in a trust and will be accessible for two specific purposes:  college tuition or buying a first home.

It is not intended - as the Bootie Call clearly is - as an incentive to parents to crank out more children.

How bad an idea is the Bootie call?  Well, consider that most men and women in the province have already dismissed the idea based on two simple premises:

1.  It doesn't even begin to cover the costs of raising a child, including education costs; and,

2.  Everywhere it has been tried it has turned out to be hugely expensive and at the same time hugely  ineffective in increasing the birth rate.

The Bootie Call is such a bad idea that even columnist Janice Wells had to morph the whole thing into a discussion of the virtues of cloth diapers before she could make it into something vaguely workable.

This is no mean feat.  Wells is a former Tory candidate and has been known to monger a few nationalist myths in her time of public comment especially since Williams was sworn in as Premier.  For her to cast some doubts on the idea is pretty significant, even if she has to go through a few tortures to salvage the concept.

All of this leads inevitably back to the starting point of the Bootie Call discussion and the admission Danny Williams made the day he announced the concept:  it hasn`t been thought through.  That`s painfully evident and it grows more painfully obvious when Williams himself and his supporters - like Janice Wells - have to invent reasons to give it some consideration.

If Danny and Janice really want to do something for our future generations, maybe they wouldn`t be trying to come up with lame ex post facto rationalizations for someone`s brain farts.

They`d be doing the planning Williams likes to talk about in his campaign ads. Then they`d turn the plans into action to deal with things like the growing debt load our children will face, a debt load that is likely to made worse by the inevitably burgeoning cost of the Bootie Call.


29 September 2007

The Open Cheque-book Government

Danny Williams recently accused Gerry Reid of planning an open cheque-book government.

For the record, here is the public sector debt since 2003, as contained in the provincial estimates for 2007.

Table 1: Public Sector Debt FY 2003 - FY 2007(f)

Source: Dept of Finance, Budget 2007, millions of CDN$

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007f
Direct 6692.7 6581.5 7244.0 7069.5 7306.5
Crown 2404.1 2885.8 2657.4 2660.4 2666.9
Total* 8007.1 8345.2 8644.4 8355.6 8496.4
* Total is Direct and Crown debt, less sinking funds

Since 2003, the total public debt has increased by $489.3 million. Direct debt increased by $612.9 million. This continued the trend for the previous four years.

In the same time, the provincial governments net expenditure (capital and current) rose by 35% ($1.307 billion) from $3.674 billion to $4.981 billion.

Gross expenditure (capital and current) rose 30% from $4.261 billion in FY 2003 to $5.560 billion in FY 2007.

This is significantly beyond the annual rate of inflation for the province, which averaged 2.275% between 2003 and 2006.

At a speaking engagement in Corner Brook:
Williams ridiculed Reid’s business sense, comparing his understanding of the oil industry to the popular U.S. TV show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“This is not Jed Clampett, Gerry. This is big business.”
Funny thing about that attempted slur is that Jed Clampett was actually a wily, sensible and conservative gentleman.


What did Frank Moores call it?

From the front page of the Saturday Telegram, not available online but brought to you courtesy of the 10,000 monkeys that are kept chained to their IBM Selectrics banging away at transcribing stuff, a tale of the continued practice of having government members of the legislature handing out cheques for public money.

According to the Auditor General's report, Sheila Osborne was in the Top Ten public money givers, as a percentage of allowance. Osborne came in at eighth place, with 26% of her allowance as gifts. Osborne's son Tom - the province's justice minister - came in ahead of his mom, in sixth place. Tom's uncle, Bob Ridgley - Sheila's brother - came in fourth, handing out more than 38% of his constituency allowance as gifts.

As reported here earlier, the Tories have managed to find a way of doling out public money even though Chief Justice Green condemned the practice in no uncertain terms.

Tory MHAs delivering cheques for government

Handover of money appears to conflict with Green Report

Rob Antle; Terry Roberts

Two Tory MHAs recently delivered cheques to good causes on behalf of the government, months after the release of the Green Report recommended against the practice.

Chief Justice Derek Green concluded that MHAs "should be prohibited from making donations and other gratuitous payments to or on behalf of individuals, charities, community groups or agencies using their constituency allowance or other public money."

Those provisions of the Green Report were quietly delayed by the legislature until after the Oct. 9 election, although the governing Conservatives pledged to immediately abide by Green's recommendations.

In early September, St. John's West MHA Sheila Osborne personally delivered two $500 cheques to the principal of St. Matthew's elementary school in Cowan Heights.

She said the cheques came from two provincial government departments - Education, and Tourism, Culture and Recreation.

Osborne said the first $500 cheque came from a recreational grant program she has accessed in the past.

Tourism, Culture and Recreation officials confirmed the program is available to every district in the province, and seeks the input of local MHAs to prioritize spending.

Osborne said the second $500 cheque came about through the initiative of the school principal, who asked the Department of Education for some cash to help fund St. Matthew's "healthy living" campaign.

But instead of sending the money to the school, education officials sent it to Osborne, the MHA said.

The cheques came in around mid-July. She delivered them to the principal in early September, after classes had resumed for the year.

Asked whether that's allowed under the Green Report's recommendations, Osborne said, "Gosh, I don't know. It came over to my office for me to bring up, and I just brought it up and passed it in. There was no fanfare or anything."

She said she had "no idea" why the department would send her the cheque, instead of forwarding it directly to the school.

Education Minister Joan Burke said late Friday it's not unusual for the department to send such grants to schools through the MHA, when the member has been involved in the process.

Earlier this summer, Tory Exploits MHA Clayton Forsey turned over a $500 cheque to a Bay D'Espoir cancer benefit concert on behalf of the provincial Health Department.

Bay D'Espoir is in the district of Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, represented by a Liberal.

Questioned about the matter last month by The Telegram, Forsey said he was asked to make the donation on behalf of Health Minister Ross Wiseman. But unlike Osborne, Forsey made the donation at a public event.

The Coaster, the community newspaper serving the Coast of Bays region, initially reported Forsey made the donation on behalf of Premier Danny Williams. A week later, the paper ran a correction. Forsey acknowledged he requested the clarification.

At the time, a Health official said it's not unusual for the department to make donations to such causes, and said it's also common for the minister or a government MHA to pass over the money.


The past in our present

One of the great services done by John Gushue in this election is the CBC election website and its connection to resources on past elections.

crosbie Take, for example, a 16 minute national CBC documentary on the 1971 election, the one that marked the beginning of the end of the Smallwood reign.

You'll see a style of campaigning long gone, in which politicians like Joey Smallwood [note the preference for the diminutive of his first name], Frank Moores and John Crosbie delivered political speeches to large crowds without benefit of notes. They spoke extemporaneously and eloquently, an ability lacking in far too many politicians - let alone party leaders - these days.

walshYou'll see a very young Jim Walsh, the New Democratic Party candidate in Humber West.

You'll see an incumbent premier dismiss Labrador issues as nothing more than crass opportunism on the part of Labrador Party leader Tom Burgess. You'll see Burgess - eloquent and extemporaneous - telling an audience in Labrador West that the mines in that part of the province had contributed 25% of the provincial government's revenues. The part not aired included telling the audeince that not much of that wealth had been returned to Labrador.

mooresYou'll hear Frank Moores talking about government party candidates handing out cheques from government funds in their districts - Moores calls it a slush fund - and the orgy of road paving. Moores attributes it to a lack of planning and a mere desire of the party to be re-elected.

How times change.


No Viagra needed

At last a picture of the infamous sign identified by the grammar police.

member 2

28 September 2007

The other campaign

One of the things to watch in this provincial election has been the media campaign, from the Tories low-key one to the Liberals' barely existent one. The new Democrats are somewhere in between, if that's possible.

There are the party websites, all of which represent the very best of Web 1.0 in a Web 2.0 world.

Even the Tory site, which is by far the best of the three party sites, is missing the sort of things that have become commonplace in political campaigns. Stuff like syndication feeds to allow people easily to access information from news releases. There's no campaign blog and even the whole layout is not designed to include people and invite them to participate. Rather, the party websites are simply devices for sending messages, not receiving them.

None of the political parties are using new media at all. No podcasting, let alone vidcasting.

There'll be more on this over weekend at Bond and Persuasion Business.

For now, let's turn attention to the unofficial contributions to the campaign, the stuff being put out by ordinary people.

There are bulletin boards on the Internet. There's good old nf.general, the newsgroup that seems to be decidedly uninterested in the campaign.

And there's youtube. Undisputed King or Queen of the genre in I.P.Freely. Sheer volume of output alone this year has dwarfed anything put out by the candidates. One of the original vids has had nearly 10,000 views since it emerged during the winter by-elections. A more recent vid on the campaign in Central Labrador has pulled almost 1,000 views in less than a week. [Hint for the professors out there: broadband access has nothing to do with it anymore than broadcasting does.]

Then there's one that cropped up in the Bond e-mail just this evening. It picks up on the raging political battle in Labrador and on something that the Tory campaign missed. Your humble e-scribbler, unrepentant townie that he is - the title townie bastard is already claimed - missed it completely as well.

In one of the streeters on the Tory website, at least two of the people refer to fighting for "Newfoundland". The first guy seems to be standing in front of the library at Memorial. There's an abrupt edit at the end of the word "Newfoundland' in the original, but that may mean nothing at all.

The second one is impossible to situate, but the phrase "Newfoundland" is unmistakable, as opposed to "Newfoundland and Labrador" or "NewfoundlandLabrador" as the province has become over at Voice of the Cabinet Minister.

The name of the province is a sensitive issue in Labrador.

Very sensitive.

Just how sensitive?

Well, the answer to that is in the intensity of the battles raging in the seats in Labrador, including the one held by cabinet minister John Hickey. He's the guy under attack in the 1,000-views video.

Campaign Notes: End of Week 2

1. Contrast in travel. From the Friday Telegram.

In an out-of-the-way hangar at St. John's airport, a handful of journalists are sitting comfortably in overstuffed leather chairs, gazing into their laptops or staring wide-eyed at the day's travel itinerary.
There's coffee, tea and an assortment of breakfast snacks.

And judging by the decor, this place is accustomed to well-heeled visitors.

Parked less than 10 metres away is a sleek private jet valued at about $2 million. Its two pilots wait patiently for their VIP passenger - Premier Danny Williams - and his entourage.

Then there's the Liberal bus-bound travel and the NDP's minivan.

2. Heard that one before, sorta. From Danny Williams in Marystown:

"My goal is to get the husbands and the fathers and the sons and the daughters and the mothers who have gone away to work, gone away to Alberta, gone across this country and get 'em back home," Williams told the crowd.

When Clyde Wells uttered the famous "every mother's son" line in Cox's Cove in 1989, he was talking about creating an economy and society where people could make a choice to live in Newfoundland and Labrador or pursue their own goals wherever they wanted. There's a big difference between individual choice and getting people back just because it fits some other imperative. Like say the demeaning "homing pigeon" nonsense Danny Williams likes to spout.

3. The Ghosts of Peckford. Interesting to see Peckford-era cabinet ministers Glenn Tobin (Social Services, Government Services) and Bob Aylward (Rural, Agricultural and Northern Development, Forest Resources and finally Municipal Affairs) advancing for Danny Williams at a rally in Marystown.

old handsTobin represented Burin-Placentia West from 1982 to 1996. He's currently the chair of the provincial government's liquor corporation.

Aylward represented the district of Kilbride from 1979 to 1993. Most recently he was vice-chair of the electoral boundaries commission.

Eons ago, Tobin was interviewed in a television report on the provincial government's make-work schemes. These would let people work on provincially funded projects long enough to qualify for federal unemployment insurance benefits. The whole policy was known as Lotto 10-42, a play on a popular gambling game combined with the formula that 10 weeks of make-work earned 42 weeks of federal benefits. The interview lurks in the archives at CBC most likely, but the one part that stuck with your humble e-scribbler all these years was pretty simple: Tobin denied there was such a policy. But if there was, he said, it wouldn't matter since oil would be flowing shortly and all would be fine.

4. Curiouser and curiouser. labradore, noticed something very interesting from Danny Williams speech in Corner Brook this week. The Tory campaign song was apparently written in 2004, or as Williams described it, just after the offshore deal victory. Problem: the deal came in 2005. Maybe there was a reason why Danny Williams didn't want to release poll results from his first 18 months in office. Makes you wonder what was in the polls, though, since they were eventually released to the Telegram but the Telly did nothing with them. Maybe the Telly missed something, aside from the research on adopting the green, white and pink native flag as the new provincial emblem. Maybe there was something curious in there after all, like discovering how much of a disaster the flag flap was, as revealed by the Premier's own polling.

5. You'll get the files, manana. The Indy is reporting this weekend that Diane Whelan promised to release details of her constituency allowance spending, particularly the donations. You may recall that, of the 115 legislators subjected to a review by the Auditor General, Whelan handed out the largest percentage of her allowance as cash gifts. The day after saying she'd cough up the details, Whelan told the Indy she'd dig the information out. But we'd have to wait until after the election to see where the money went. The story might be online next week.


27 September 2007

First poll results

NTV/Telelink released the first public opinion poll of the provincial election campaign on Thursday.

The poll of 1583 residents across Newfoundland and Labrador showed some interesting results. Almost half those surveyed (48.7%) gave no answer to the question on which party they would vote for. Of that number, 30.4% were undecided, 14.1% refused to answer and only 4.2% indicated they would not vote.

As reported by NTV, 40.3% intended to vote Progressive Conservative, 7.3% were voting Liberal and 3.6% were voting NDP. Telelink then calculated the responses removing all non-answers and then compares the result to the method used by Corporate Research Associates.

However, this is an odd way of assessing the result. Those who supplied no answer or who indicated they were undecided were not apparently asked follow-up questions to determine any leanings, including whether they might belong in the "will not vote" category. Only 4.2% indicated they would not vote. Therefore, only those who indicated they would not vote should be excluded.

Those adjusted results would be:

n = 1517


















The truly interesting thing about these results is that they potentially show the actual popularity of the current administration versus the poll results using the method of eliminating most of the undecided or no answers.

If you look at the undecideds and those who refused to answer the question, there are actually more people in that pile (46.8%) than are actually openly committed to a governing party that is purported at unprecedented levels of popularity in others polls.

Think about that.

People refuse to answer questions or indicate they are undecided for many reasons. Some have to do with possible perception of the responses, were they to become known. Even though a survey like this one is conducted by telephone, in a small community there may be a concern that confidential information - like voting intentions - will become widely known. A voting intention that goes against the local norm or the perceived local norm mightr be withheld for fear of social repercussions.

But without getting into a range of hypothetical situations, just consider that in a province where the current Premier is supposedly overwhelmingly popular, the undecideds were only 10% less than the decideds giving their voting choice as Progressive Conservative.

Some pollsters and others will use a simple method and allocate the undecideds and refusals in the same way as the decideds. Unfortunately, the statistical arguments used in favour of this approach don't conform with actual experience. In 1999, for example, a poll similar to this one reported undecideds of 30% just before the debate. no more public polls were released but the final tally on voting day suggested that the undecideds broke disproportionately in favour of the opposition Progressive Conservatives under Ed Byrne.

Aside from that, there are a variety of things we don't know about this poll - they aren't reported - that might also affect interpretation of the results. These other details would include the relative percentages of males and females in the final sample, compared to the population and how those segments responded. We also can't account for the relative mix of respondents from the northeast Avalon versus other regions of the province. other demographic would also help to assess the poll results.

What we have here, though, is really just another example of why the media "horse race polls" ultimately don't give those of us outside the political parties any useful information on which to make judgments.

Added to that general reservation must be a question about the interpretation given by NTV in this story. Yes, there is strong Tory support, but the real story - the one with details that begged for better research - is in the undecideds and refuseds.

Maybe local media outlets will start doing better research designs for future elections. They cost a little more but they are so much better for informing audiences.


1. Following is the text of the NTV story, as linked above. Paragraphing has been changed for clarity.

Telelink poll shows strong Tory support, high undecided rate

September 27, 2007

The Progressive Conservatives maintain a large lead halfway through the campaign, although there is still a large undecided vote. That's according to a poll conducted by Telelink and paid for by NTV. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Telelink polled 1,583 residents across the province. Of those, slightly less than half watched Tuesday night’s leaders’ debate. Telelink asked which leader gave the best performance: 40.3% of viewers chose PC Leader Danny Williams, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael came second with 34.4 and only 4.6 chose Liberal Leader Gerry Reid. The rest had no opinion.

The margin of error for that sample was /-3.5 percentage points 19 times out of 20.

Then Telelink asked, "Did the debate influence how you will vote in the election?" 16.1said yes, while 77.8per cent said no.

Finally, Telelink asked respondents how they planned to vote on Election Day: 40.3% said Progressive Conservative, 7.3% said Liberal, and 3.6% cent said NDP.

Among the 48.7% who gave no answer, 30.4 said they were undecided, 14.1 refused to answer, and 4.2 said they will not vote. That was substantially higher than the 24% who were undecided or not voting when Telelink polled voters this time last year. The margin of error for that sample was +/-2.5 percentage points.

However, when the non-answering block is factored out of the results, the numbers are almost identical to the quarterly Corporate Research Associates polls. Among decided voters, 78.6 said they would vote PC, 14.3 would vote Liberal, and 7.1 would vote NDP. The margin of error on that sample is +/-3.4 percentage points.


2. Related on Bond:

Shaggin' polls

Poll-er magic

Polls and something called a poll

Perils of polls [We asked for the poll report, but nothing ever showed up.]

Another reason why Danny is pissed

Check the gotcha 2 answers.com entry on "Daniel Williams".


Before you even get to the string of letters after his name, heck before you even get to Danny Williams' entry, you are encouraged to read about Simon Lono first.


Would the application even be considered?

While none of the political parties have demonstrated any awareness at all of new media in their campaigns (some individuals have), the Tories have a fascinating plank in their platform section on culture:

develop and implement a strategy to support a New Media Industry to allow this province to exploit a media environment that has been transformed by advancements in digital technology and computing, especially in products such as video games, electronic kiosks and podcast

Now right off the bat, the word is podcast-ing so odds are high a few people need to figure out the terminology. Like calling people who write blogs, blog-sters. Like hipsters, no doubt, 23 Skeedoo and all.


Consider too that the gaming and electronic kiosk industry is pretty much yesterday's stuff.

They also aren't really new media, either.

But this podcasting thing is something else, and if there is money for podcasting, Bond is there. Somehow, there just doesn't seem any likelihood that the government's cash is going to fund Bond Cast, no matter how meritorious the project.

Just a feeling.


Offshore R & D funding: a simple question

Exxon and Murphy are suing the federal government over offshore regulations on research and development related to the offshore.

The new regulations were introduced in 2004 by the offshore regulatory board, which is jointly managed by the federal and provincial governments.

But here's the thing: if the current R & D regulations are considered a violation of NAFTA, shouldn't we wonder what implications that has for the newly minted Hebron deal?

Tha association representing the oil producers made a submission to the energy plan that said:
The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) recently implemented new research and development (R&D) guidelines which outline the amount of money operators have to spend on R&D over the life of their projects. It is CAPP’s position that the R&D guidelines should not prescribe amounts to be spent on R&D, as this will create a substantial cost burden to Newfoundland and Labrador operators. CAPP continues to work with operators to lobby for modifications to the new R&D requirements.
The only reference to R & D regulations in the energy plan is the one that says the offshore board makes the regulations.

And the Hebron memorandum of understanding sets a fixed amount:

Fixed R & D amount of CAD $120 million over the life of the project, provided such commitment meets the C-NLOPB’s requirements.

Now it is subject to the offshore board requirements, but if the MOU sets a fixed amount ,that amount would likely prevail in the development application approval.

And that's the question:

  • Is the fixed amount negotiated for Hebron R & D the same, higher than or lower than existing offshore requirements?*


Update (2012):  The CNLOPB amount would have been much higher than the flat amount demanded by the provincial government.

26 September 2007

Public policy by Macleans?

So when exactly did the Progressive Conservative administration start working on the master plan for population explosion?

June, maybe?

Highly unlikely, since the Macleans article linked above makes one thing plain, based on evidence:
Amazingly, the evidence suggests that the most successful policies have one thing in common: they don't try to pay women to procreate. Rather, they facilitate the careers of working mothers. They are premised on the idea that, the more value a society places on women's work inside and outside of the home, the more likely she is to want to contribute meaningfully in both spheres. In other words, take some of the load off of her shoulders and spread it around so that children become everybody's responsibility. Who would have thought that the most economically sound solution to a fertility crisis would be rooted in good old-fashioned feminism?

25 September 2007

Debate quickies

There'll be plenty of Monday morning quarterbacking, but here are some quick comments and links on the provincial party leaders' debate.

1. The CBC and Canadian Press headlines aren't doing the Tory campaign any favours. CBC has Tory leader Danny Williams pleading with voters to trust him. CP has Williams on the defensive over spending scandal. Both stories don't quite match the headlines, though.

2. If you missed the live version, you can catch the tape at cbc.ca/nl.


3. Bizarre moment of the night: Danny's false accusation aimed at Simon Lono, in the midst of a free-for-all with Gerry Reid. One thing thing to make a false statement. Another thing to take a swipe at the guy who isn't in the room to defend himself. Lono's obviously gotten up the Premier's nose. Giving Lono this kind of attention won't make him go away; in fact, among Lono's potential supporters, the Prem just boosted his street cred.

4. Best opening statement: Danny Williams. All values and on his key themes. from a guy who delivers a speech like he is being tortured, this one shone.

5. Are you now or have you ever... Lorraine Michael fell into Danny Williams' lawyer trap just like she was in discovery or being cross-examined. She scored a big point when she repeatedly picked at Danny over the House management when he was Leader Op.

6. Quote of the Night: "We want to grow the young people of our province." That is pretty much what we do with young people. Grow them. On a go forward basis.

7. Damn you, I.P Freely. The debate bingo card was only for one leader and the most common phrases were missing. If "go forward basis' and "quite frankly" were on my bingo card, I'd have hit the jackpot by 15 minutes in.

8. Torture: Danny Williams and Gerry Reid pounding away and talking over each other.

9. Earning votes: Politicians should earn them. Ask Chief Justice Green. One media commentator suggested this reference by Danny Williams might be a clue that the Tory vote is softening in some areas. Could be. but then again, the comment just fits with Danny Williams' tendency to complain about the poor quality of his opposition. Simple solution: tell Bob Ridgley to withdraw. instant improvement in the opposition (tongue planted firmly in cheek, for all those with no sense of humour)


Lesson Learned


CBC News is attributing Linda Goodyear's comments on double-billing by her Tory incumbent opponent to a typo in the Independent.

Lesson learned.

Never rely on anything printed in the Independent.

Seriously, though, there's a question here.

How does CBC know it was a typo?

The reported double-billing for Diane Whelan was $291 not the nearly $21,900 and change attributed by Goodyear, based on the Indy's report. That's a pretty odd typo.

Well, like all good journalists, they likely checked the Auditor General's report directly.

The typo seems to be about the phrase "double-billing" and the amount of inappropriate spending.

Turns out that the Indy's figure of $21,976 dollars was Diane Whelan's amount of donations made from her constituency allowance. Both the AG and Chief Justice Green called that use of the constituency allowance inappropriate.

Add to that her $291 in double-billing - and relatively small amount attributable to clerical errors - and you get $22,267. [Aded 26 Sept: The Indy didn't sum the figures; they got them wrong, putting the donations number in the double-billing category and a second figure of about $8900 in the double-billing category. Indy editor Ryan Cleary acknowledhed the mistake publicly.]

The CBC story also points out that Gerry Reid - who was at the campaign event with Goodyear - donated over $22,000.

Think about a bit more and go back to the AG's report.

Whelan dropped $21,976 in donations in just three years. That represents 49% of her constituency allowance. That puts Whalen at the top of the list of donors of public money.

Reid's $22,000 was spread over 11 years.

There were some mistakes made by both the Indy and Goodyear, but one thing Goodyear got right was obvious: voters should ask every single incumbent about his or her spending. Make up your own mind based on the answer, if you can get an answer.

And don't forget the other lesson; double check everything you read in the Indy.


24 September 2007

Money and the ethnic vote: part 2 of 3

Ineffective policy

At its simplest level, the Progressive Conservatives pronatalist policy is aimed at increasing family size within Newfoundland and Labrador. Women will receive a bonus of each child delivered or adopted.

The pronatalist policy should be rejected since it does not work and therefore is a waste of scarce public money. Experience across the globe over the past 30 years demonstrates that cash incentives do not change fertility levels to an appreciable degree. The average number of children born per couple of child bearing age remains generally the same. The policy may produce some temporary fluctuations but overall, fertility rates in major industrialized countries remain the same after pronatalist policies as before.

In jurisdictions where pronatalist policies have been tried, they tend to be very expensive. Quebec's decade long cash-bonus program cost an average of $15,000 per child but was abandoned because it was ineffective. Where policies did affect the birth rate modestly,they include measures inconsistent with a modern democracy. Franco's Spain banned birth control, for example. However, once the dictatorial methods disappeared with the move to democracy in countries such as Poland or the former German Democratic republic, birth rates moved in directions experienced in other democratic countries. Overall, the policies simply do not work.

On another level, the cash incentive policy is touted as a way of dealing with a declining population size; more people are leaving Newfoundland and Labrador either through emigration or death than are immigrating or being born.

Migration is driven primarily by economic considerations – people leave to find work or come to take advantage of opportunities. Paying a cash bonus of any size will not affect that simple motive, either for new immigrants or as a way of attracting former residents to return. Family size is driven by complex factors, centred mostly on individual choice about lifestyle. None of these factors are affected by the limited policy announced by the Progressive Conservatives and certainly none are affected by the $1000 bounty placed on a set of diapers.

Randy Simms and others have pointed out these inherent flaws in the policy as a policy aimed at addressing demographic issues facing Newfoundland and Labrador in the decades ahead. Their criticisms are well-founded. However, they have ignored other aspects of the policy which make it not merely ineffective but socially and politically regressive.

There are two aspects to the demographic problem facing Newfoundland and Labrador. One is the declining population which reduces the available workforce. This can be addressed, most effectively by increased immigration. Workers will be needed now. We have already arrived at the start of the worker crunch and this situation – fewer workers – will only increase in the years immediately in front of us, if present trends continue. A cash bonus for children - even if we imagine that it will be effective here where it has failed everywhere else - will not produce new productive members of the economy for the better part of two decades.

The second aspect of the demographic problem is the changed makeup of the population. The dependent portion of our society increases as the population increases. That is, where once there were more people employed people than children and seniors, we are already in the state of having more children and seniors than wage workers.

This has an obvious economic consequence in that each worker must produce - on average - more revenue for the treasury so that the existing public services can be maintained. Paying a bonus for having children does nothing to increase productivity or increase average wages.

Part of the flaw in the proposed policy is the emphasis on the declining population size. The adverse implications of the demographic changes taking place in Newfoundland and Labrador do not flow from the size of the population alone. In the fishery, for example, it is well established that the industry will have to change from its labour intensive production in order to remain competitive. Fewer people will be needed. it is possible to have a vibrant, viable economy with a smaller population or even one with a high rate of dependency - more non-workers than workers - than currently exists in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ignoring the evidence

That said, it is instructive to look at Danny Williams' comments to reporters:

We've had some lengthy discussions on this in caucus and at cabinet... and what we've done is we've looked at the jurisdictions across Canada, to the best of our ability, and as quickly as we could in advance of the election, government had started to do this process, but it's a very detailed process, and we want to make sure we follow through.

We're also looking at some precedent in Europe, and other modern countries, trying to encourage young families to have children. It's a clear problem, and it's an economic problem... This government is open to suggestions, and good suggestions... It's probably one of the key points in our platform, that we feel very strongly about. It's something we'd certainly like to implement as soon as possible. It hasn't been budgeted. One of the best jurisdictions and one of the most successful, of course, was Quebec. And they have found it to be one of the most successful initiatives. But I'd be remiss in [not] saying that we're still preliminary on this. [Emphasis added]

The policy was obviously hastily assembled. It is also obvious that the claim that Quebec's program was successful fly in the face of evidence. The current administration clearly appreciates that the demographic issue is an economic problem.

In the last part of this commentary, we'll look at possible explanations for the pronatal policy that defies the obvious reasons not to pursue it.


Victims in our own house

From the Monday Telegram, a letter criticising the bootie bonus:
Though Newfoundland may have had a small European settler population, the majority of which came from the West Country in England and the southwestern Irish (which I assume is Williams' favoured race), there exists in this province people of French, Scottish, Métis, and aboriginal ancestry. Do these people constitute a part of this supposed dying race?

First, how is this going to appear to the rest of country?

Québécois nationalists have been arguing the notion of "pure laine" for over 40 years. It implies that only Quebecers who are white, French-speaking, and have long-established ancestry can be considered Québécois.

Quebec historians like Lionel Groulx, who was a raving racist, argued during the 1920s and '30s that French Quebecers, as well, were a dying race and under threat from powerful outside influences. By putting our grievances as a nation in racial terms, it will be looked on with scorn and amusement by Newfoundland's critics, and will make any demand to have our destiny in our own hands illegitimate.

Second, when immigration becomes a fact of life in our province, how will this appear to the immigrant population? Will they not be considered real Newfoundlanders? Are the immigrants and refugees living there now considered Newfoundlanders?

These are heady times in our province and we find ourselves at a crossroad. We can continue with political rhetoric that existed when Britannia ruled supreme and women were seen and not heard, or we can open ourselves to the world as a proud and distinct nation.

Unfortunately, it seems we don't have the worldly leadership that this province deserves, but instead one that loves to see us as victims in our own house.

Cops as props

Think George Bush and the number of times he's used the men and women of the United States armed services as political props.

Imagine a raft of Progressive Conservative candidates standing behind their boss as he holds a partisan news conference with the latest batch of police recruits as his audience.

The only thing missing was the Premier pulling up to the newser in a police car, lights blazing and siren blaring and then The Boss taking a dive onto the hood of a "perp's" get-away vehicle.

Pure T.J. Hooker.


The old in-out, in-out

The federal Liberal Party released some added details into their allegations that the federal Conservatives tried to flout Elections Canada rules on election advertising.

The release can be found here, and there's an interesting attachment giving the ridings supposedly involved at this link.

Local angle: four of the ridings allegedly involved are in Newfoundland and Labrador


Rural neglect a tacit strategy by Liberals says Williams

Remember April 2006 and the big Hebron fiasco?

Danny Williams told local CBC news that "St. John's could take the hit" resulting from Hebron's failure since his focus was on rural Newfoundland.

Well, it's an election and that sentiment is no longer the view of the first townie to hold the Premier's chair in the better part of a century.

Apparently St. John's has been neglected, not by the Tories, mind you but by the evil Liberals.

And the venue for this little revelation? A speech in rural Newfoundland where the Premier decided also that rural Newfoundland has not been neglected by him.

Nope. It was the Liberals who neglected rural Newfoundland to drive people out.

There is obviously no limit to what a politician will say to grab a few votes.

Well, at least one politician.

As you ponder that little piece of reality, take a look at this post on outmigration from a time when local politicians didn't want to talk about it.

Since outmigration has mushroomed again under Danny Williams, would that be part of a tacit strategy as well?


St. John's has been neglected, premier says
Terry Roberts
The Telegram (St. John's, NL)
September 24, 2007, p. A7

St. Anthony - Growth in the province's economy may be most noticeable in the capital city region, but Premier Danny Williams acknowledges St. John's has been "neglected" during his government's first four years in office.

Ironically, Williams made the admission during a campaign stop in rural Newfoundland Friday night, where cabinet minister Trevor Taylor is seeking re-election in the district of The Straits-White Bay North.

"St. John's will need work," Williams said before a crowd of some 150 people at a rally in St. Anthony.

The provincial government will invest about $440 million in infrastructure this year. It's part of a $2-billion infrastructure commitment.

But only a fraction of this year's budget will be spent in the St. John's metropolitan region.

It's part of a strategy by the Progressive Conservatives to modernize roads, education, health and telecommunications in rural areas in order to stimulate economic development.

Williams also complained Friday in St. Anthony that significant spending was needed because of many years of Liberal neglect.

During the 1990s, many Liberal heavyweights - Paul Dicks, Chuck Furey, Chris Decker and Brian Tobin - represented districts on the west coast and Northern Peninsula, yet the region was ignored, Williams said.

He believes allowing the infrastructure to crumble was part of a tacit strategy by the Liberals to make life more difficult for residents "so there is no reason to live there."

While the bulk of future investments will continue to be made in rural areas, Williams said St. John's will begin to see a large piece of the pie.

"There's going to come a point in time where we need to do some things within the city as well," he said.

Williams said there's a need to expand the Health Sciences Centre. He also committed to increased investments in long-term care facilities and schools in St. John's.

Williams' comments come at a time when the Liberals continue to rail against the Tories over what they claim is an abandonment of rural Newfoundland.

Williams said that's not true.

He said areas such as Clarenville, Bay Roberts and Deer Lake are beginning to boom. The Coast of Bays region, which has fallen on hard times in recent years, is also seeing growth in aquaculture.

"There's a misperception out there that things aren't good in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, when nothing is further from the truth. And in fact the irony is that there's still things that need to be done in St. John's," he said.

Yep. He's pissed

How can you tell? 


 When other people do it, it's an attack on democracy. 

When Danny Williams uses the same sort of tactics, he is just standing up for his peeps. 

 Actually it's not really the tactics it's the fundamental challenge on Williams represented by the Labrador "revolt" Danny Williams argues that "Canada" exploits Newfoundland (and Labrador) resources and gives nothing in return. Within the province, people of Labrador make the same argument and with some justification. 

 This sort of argument flies in the face of Danny's core political belief, namely that the only legitimate political fight is the one between the "nation" he leads and the one on the mainland. Everything else must be subordinated to that since, if nothing else, it becomes the justification for his holding power. His political legitimacy derives from his supposedly superior ability to wage the supposedly only legitimate fight. 

Take a look at his campaign song. Look at the line: "stop your 'more for me please' rants" Not aimed outward, but aimed inward. "We" all must stand together behind the single leader and speak with a single voice in the Great Fight. "Cause if we don't stand together, then we don't stand a chance". Danny's cause is just and noble. 

 Every other demand within the province is illegitimate, a 'political game', a subversion of democracy simply by virtue of the way he defines it. His language is simplistic and self-serving. It's like he never learned the Golden Rule, or it's political equivalent: "What goes around comes around." 

 But subversion of democracy? 

 Well, around these parts that's the sort of term we'd reserve for a Premier who has no problem with taking away free speech in the House of Assembly.


23 September 2007

One here. One there.

Sandra Pupatello, Ontario Liberal cabinet minister seeking re-election on October 10.

Jim Bennett, Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal candidate seeking election in the October 9 general election.

Anyone know of any other husband/wife combos running in elections simultaneously in two different provinces?


From the files: Parizeau, pure laine and doing it like bunnies

Parizeau's family plan: Triple baby bonus

The Gazette
Tuesday, March 15, 1988
Page: A1
By: Jennifer Robinson

CORRECTION to original story: Child payments start at $29.64: It was incorrectly report in The Gazette March 15 that family allowance payments for the first child are $44.30, of which $32.38 is paid by Ottawa, the balance by Quebec. In fact, the allowance for a child under age 12 is $29.64, of which $20.70 is contributed by Ottawa. The federal amount rises to $28.65 for a child aged between 12 and 17, bringing the total to $37.59. As the story said, the allowances rise according to the number of children.

In the grande finale of his ideological "strip-tease" on the way to the Parti Quebecois leadership, Jacques Parizeau said last night he would more than triple family allowances and give lavish tax breaks to encourage Quebecers to make more babies.

Unveiling his family policy, the last of a series in his four-month solo run for the leadership, Parizeau said that if Quebec were sovereign he would increase family allowance payments for the first child to between $150 and $175 a month; for the second, from $175 to $200; and for the third, from $250 to $300.

Parents now receive $44.30 from Quebec and Ottawa for the first child, with the bulk, $32.38, paid by the federal government. The allowance for each additional child increases slightly (See correction above).

Parizeau is expected to be acclaimed PQ leader Saturday at a special party meeting. Nominations for the leadership close Thursday and no last-minute candidates are expected.

During his "striptease" - as Parizeau called the progressive unveiling of his policies - the former PQ finance minister has promoted Quebec sovereignty, a crackdown on minority language rights and a toughening of language laws, free trade with the United States, government-owned industry, and a minimum-income scheme.

Yesterday, the focus was on the family and Quebec's declining birth rate.

"We need a good system of parental leave, we need a good day-care system, we need an excellent system of family allowance," he told about 400 partisans who jammed a Longueuil high-school gym.

The current Quebec and Ottawa governments can't provide those things because they don't have Quebecers' interests at heart, he said.

The whole system must be improved to encourage women to have children, he said, but he gave no details except for the family allowance figures.

"We owe it to ourselves to organize our lives the way we want," he said, building up to a pitch for Quebec independence.

"Thirty years ago, Quebecers were like rabbits . . . with one of the highest birth rates," Parizeau said.

Quebec now has the second lowest birth rate in the western world, with 1.44 children per woman. Parizeau said the financial burden of raising children is partly to blame.

Parizeau said that if he were elected, his government would negotiate with Ottawa to get taxing powers to pay for tax breaks and incentives for parents.

He said Quebec's and Ottawa's deductions and child-tax-credit systems are complicated, confusing and contradictory.

Parizeau wrapped up his "striptease" in the riding of Marie-Victorin, a PQ stronghold that neighbors the riding of Taillon, formerly represented by PQ founder and past premier Rene Levesque.

Former labor minister Pierre Marois, who quit the PQ government in 1983 over a dispute with Levesque, made his return to public life last night by introducing Parizeau with a thundering pro-independence speech that criticized Premier Robert Bourassa's government for selling out the interests of Quebecers.

"We're dyed-in-the-wool (pure laine) Quebecers. We know we're able to develop our potential," Marois said.

"Sovereignty is not an end in itself. It's the beginning," he said.

Money and the ethnic vote: Part 1 of 3

[This is the first of three posts dealing with aspects of the Progressive Conservative pronatal policy and other aspects of the party platform. ]

The unasked question

Voters in the provincial general election saw a curious situation this past week.

On Tuesday, Premier Danny Williams unveiled his party’s election platform which included a policy to pay women to have more children. He used the phrase “we can’t be a dying race” when discussing the policy with reporters.
We've had some lengthy discussions on this in caucus and at cabinet... and what we've done is we've looked at the jurisdictions across Canada, to the best of our ability, and as quickly as we could in advance of the election, government had started to do this process, but it's a very detailed process, and we want to make sure we follow through. We're also looking at some precedent in Europe, and other modern countries, trying to encourage young families to have children. 
It's a clear problem, and it's an economic problem... This government is open to suggestions, and good suggestions... It's probably one of the key points in our platform, that we feel very strongly about. It's something we'd certainly like to implement as soon as possible. It hasn't been budgeted. One of the best jurisdictions and one of the most successful, of course, was Quebec. And they have found it to be one of the most successful initiatives. But I'd be remiss in [not?] saying that we're still preliminary on this.
Later in the week, a local Liberal supporter said of transportation minister John Hickey that Hickey’s lawsuit against former premier Roger Grimes was intended to show that “if you criticize my government, if you criticize my fuehrer, I will sue you.'"

In both instances, the words used are provocative and come loaded with historical meaning. Yet, while Liberal Jim Combden was rightly condemned for his apparent allusion to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, few have commented publicly on the Premier’s use of the term race in connection with his $1000 baby bonus. The contrast in reactions is is both stark and revealing.

Not a single reporter apparently questioned Danny Williams on what he meant by the term “race”, let alone ask what race was dying. One editor called it “hyperbolic rhetoric.”

A prominent local talk radio host chastised those who – like Liberal candidate Simon Lono – questioned the use of the term. In his weekly column in The Independent, Randy Simms wrote:
While some people have taken exception to the use of the word race to describe Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, it was not meant in any derogatory way. He might just as well have said the words dying breed as opposed to dying race and it would amount to the same thing. We all know what he meant, and to try and give it any other meaning is simply being unfair. I do not subscribe to the view that the premier is any kind of racist. [Emphasis added]
They are not alone in their view. A discussion thread on nf.general produced at least two comments to the effect that ‘we all know what he meant’ and that the subject needed no further discussion.

Local freelance writer Myles Higgins, himself a staunch supporter the Premier during the election, posted a commentary on his blog Web Talk, under his usual pseudonym Patriot:
Anyone who is offended by terming the majority of people here a "race" certainly needs to be educated on their culture and history.
The unasked question knows no answer

Higgins, Simms, and the others are right. We all know – or we are reasonably comfortable in believing we all know - that Danny Williams was referring to the majority of people in the province. That is, he was referring to the white, English-speaking people of English, Irish, and Scots ancestry. That is the race to which he most likely referred.

Higgins does an excellent job of examining the term "race", incidentally. While he does not get into alternate possible meanings - such as using using race as a synonym for "breed" or merely the provincial population as a whole - his post makes the case against those interpretations implicitly. We will leave to one side the possible use of "breed" as a synonym for race devoid of a negative meaning.

The most striking feature of the premier’s comments actually came from the response in the province as a whole. Few questioned it. Most, one suspects, followed the approach of the reporters noted above and never thought of it as a potential issue or, as with others, assumed a meaning.

Rationalizing a term loaded with potential meanings or embracing it wholeheartedly suggests that the comfortable members of the majority group within the province are largely blind to the implications for society as a whole.

However, neither of these is ultimately satisfactory. Not only do we not know exactly who the ‘we’ are in that statement on "race", we simply have no idea what he meant since no one asked him.

Over the next two posts, let us take a walk into that area others seem unwilling to go. I doing so we may find some answers or potential answers to unasked questions.

First, we will examine pronatalist policy as a means of addressing the province's demographic problem.

Second, we will look at the pronatalist policy in a broader context of Progressive Conservative policy since 2003.

Oldie but relevent goodie

Faberge might have a solution to the population problem.

And yes, that's a familiar face playing the newsman in this classic viral ad.

Bootie Call promotion auditions

Is this a possible theme song for the bootie call program?

It ain't so much a question of not knowing what to do.
I knowed whut's right and wrong since I been ten.
I heared a lot of stories and I reckon they are true
About how girls're put upon by men.
I know I mustn't fall into the pit,
But when I'm with a feller, I fergit!

I'm jist a girl who cain't say no,
I'm in a turrible fix I always say "come on, le's go"
Jist when I orta say nix!

When a person tries to kiss a girl,
I know she orta give his face a smack.
But as soon as someone kisses me,
I somehow, sorta, wanta kiss him back!

I'm jist a fool when lights are low
I cain't be prissy and quaint
I ain't the type that can faint
How c'n I be whut I ain't?
I cain't say no!

Whut you goin' to do when a feller gits flirty, and starts to talk purty?
Whut you goin' to do?
S'posin' 'at he says 'at yer lips're like cherries, er roses, er berries?
Whut you goin' to do?

S'posin' 'at he says 'at you're sweeter 'n cream,
And he's gotta have cream er die?
Whut you goin' to do when he talks that way,
Spit in his eye?

I'm jist a girl who cain't say no,
Cain't seem to say it at all
I hate to disserpoint a beau
When he is payin' a call!

Fer a while I ack refined and cool,
A settin on the velveteen setee
Nen I think of thet ol' golden rule,
And do fer him what he would do fer me!

I cain't resist a Romeo
In a sou'wester and that
Soon as I sit on his lap
Somethin' inside of me snaps
I cain't say no!


22 September 2007

Campaign blog

It's hard to find out all that candidates are doing on line without googling each one individually.  Facebook is popular with candidates from all parties, but you have to search them within Facebook individually.

We've already highlighted progressive Conservative candidate Steve Kent's website.

Now let's take a look at the Liberal in St. John's centre. 

bio_picLori Ann Campbell-Martino, left,  is a social and environmental activist and a former Green Party organizer. Her website is simple, clean and easy to navigate.  There are pictures and a link to a video of a conversation she had with Ron Fitzpatrick of Turnings. She's got a Facebook group and a blog of her own.

The blog is the epitome of social media applied to politics, the ultimate social activity.  It's personal  - obviously written by the candidate - and hence very engaging.

While watching my children play I decided to ask other parents and caregivers for their opinions on the $1000 baby bonus proposed by Danny Williams. Of course everyone laughs. "It would take more help than that for me to have another one!" was one woman's response. One older gentleman pushing his grandson on a baby swing explained that his daughter cannot afford to pay for daycare for her son she got now, even with a subsidy from government, because of her high student loan payments and that's why he is helping care for the child.

The whole conversation called to mind another story I heard at one door in the district about an elderly lady who receives a pension cheque of $14.00, because 'the only work she ever done was raise nine children'. It seems that historically and today there has been an overall lack of investment in services for families precisely because it is difficult to economically quantify the 'benefits' of providing support of 'future' generations-unlike oil, gas and hydroelectricity projects. But good governance should require the ability to think and act beyond the short term 'today'!

The key word here is engaging.  Campbell-Martino engages people in the district in conversation about what matters to them and that is clearly reflected in her online presence. Other candidates undoubtedly do that too, but here the evidence is seen. Using social media also allows Campbell-Martino to engage others outside the district and make them aware of the views and lives of individuals she hopes to represent in the House of Assembly.

The tools are there.  They aren't hard to use and as Lori Ann demonstrates, it is possible to do it simply, inexpensively and effectively.

it doesn't matter whether she wins or loses;  Lori Ann has already used the Internet more effectively than any other member of any political party currently represented in the House of Assembly. How many of the former members - retired or incumbents seeking re-election  - used the Internet for communicating with constituents, preferring instead to follow the Speaker's lead and lower legitimate costs in favour of maximizing the money available for donations?


From the grassroots

New technology is changing the face of public life and Newfoundland and Labrador is no exception.

Well, at least Labrador anyway.

Someone with the onscreen ID "labmetis" has produced several videos, two of which involve the Progressive Conservative land claim promise to the Metis people of Labrador. One was posted a few months ago but the newest came only within the past few days.

It's pretty aggressive stuff, in its own way. So much for recent comments by a Memorial University professor that lack of broadband access in some parts of our province would limit the impact of things like youtube during election campaigns.


You be the judge

Scowl on his face and an attitude [right, Photo: cbc.ca/nl]

Scowl on his face and an attitude [left, Photo: The Telegram]


There's no "I" in t-e-a-m either.

It's supposed to be Torngat Mountains, isn't it?

Could this be another problem with a google search?

Even google will tell you that the place of spirits and the name of the district aren't the same.


21 September 2007

Campaign Notes: end of week 1

1. Kiss Labrador good-bye, Danny. Anger over the energy plan seems to have galvanized attitudes in Labrador. The Labrador party announced on Friday that it won't be fielding candidates in the two ridings currently held by the DW Team. This will almost certainly guarantee the New Democrats will recapture Labrador West.

Meanwhile in the central district currently held by transportation minister John Hickey, it may become a contest to see if Hickey can stand three weeks of sleepless nights. looks like Chris Montague will be taking Hickey's seat; it will be interesting to watch Montague waving his "broken promise" letter from the Premier for the couple of years before DW retires.

Well, either that or Williams will spend the rest of the campaign in Labrador going door to door by dogsled, skidoo, quad and anything else he can use to get every vote possible.

Will there be any other seats where parties will not field a candidate to defeat an incumbent? Stay tuned.

2. The Fuehrer furor. Campaign 101: read the introductory speech of everybody introducing the party leader and anyone else on the speaking program. Stupid comment handled defensively thereby trebling the impact of the first goof.

3. The People's Campaign? From David Cochrane's campaign notes at cbc.ca/nl:

As I write this I'm on a Provincial Airlines Cessna Citation flying to Happy Valley Goose Bay.

0226917That would be the executive jet - left - used by DW on the first day of the campaign to get to Deer Lake. After you allow for the Premier and a couple of staffers, the rest of the plane is media. The thing only holds eight people.

Wonder how much it costs? Provincial doesn't disclose its lease rates. In the old days, campaigns would lease larger aircraft and pull everyone around in the same airborne cattle car. The per passenger charge worked out pretty well the same for everyone.

Given that the media - like say the Mother Corp - would be or should be paying their own way on the eight seater, the cost for the Premier and his staffers would be pretty light. The media types would actually be the largest number of passengers. Having news media subsidize the campaign travel budget. Interesting concept.

Bond Papers welcomes e-mails clarifying the travel/cost arrangements.

4. Another committee named after a dead racehorse. Both the Liberals and Conservatives like things called secretariats. The Libs created a rural one before they were punted from office in 2003 and the Tories in office continued that along with a bunch of other Liberal policies.

Now the Liberals are talking about a population growth secretariat. Both parties are missing the point. The issue is one of economic development. It has nothing to do with either insufficient motivation ("Would you do him for a grand?") or the lack of recent MUN graduates traveling around the province holding consultations on copulation rites and rituals and producing reports in the time it takes elephant fetuses to gestate.

So far the rural secretariat hasn't produced any more wins than the race horse has lately. It's dead and so is the idea that make-work projects for bureaucrats solve anything.

5. Another reason Danny should regret voting for Harper: Child care. It's not like some us didn't warn about the choice in child care scam either. Bonus would have been getting the feds to pay for it, versus shelling out of your own pocket.

6. The Dan Vinci Code. Do you see the "w" formed by the three figures at the centre of this scene-205tableau?

And while we're at it, is the similarity to this famous painting just a coincidence?


When free speech is compromised

The Telegram editorial today raises questions about the provincial Progressive Conservative plan to put a bounty on booties of $1000 for each new child born or adopted in the province.

The questions raised in the editorial - based on sound research - point to criticisms of the approach from other quarters, none of which are partisan. Other news media have covered the issue in somewhat the same way as the Telegram does.

The criticisms are based on experience in other jurisdictions where these pronatal policies have not worked and have proven to be very costly.

So why, pray tell, would the Telegram feel the need to preface its editorial with these words:
This is not meant to be a criticism of any party's election platform...?
An editorial is the place where a newspaper should take a critical position - if need be - and not have to apologise for it at all. An editorial should criticize the platform of any party if there is a good reason to do so. Being ineffective is as good a basis for criticism as anything else, particularly when the criticism is constructive.

Feedback, including critical comment, should be expected in return. The Telegram took issue yesterday with a Liberal who eventually wound up as a candidate in the current election voting in an open nomination process of another party, the Progressive Conservatives.

As far as Bond Papers was concerned, the editorial was off base on its facts. Frankly even after the editorial page editor commented on it, it's still hard to see what the issue actually is. The alternate point of view - expressed eloquently by the Telly's sister the Western Star - was presented in that post to demonstrate the difference of opinion on the issue.


No one questioned the right of the Telly's editorialists to make a critical comment in the first place.

Free speech demands no less.

Free speech needs no qualification.

On the front page of the Telegram today there is also an article calling attention to comments made by a Liberal supporter, who referred to the Premier as a "Fuehrer". The Telly story isn't available electronically but cbc.ca/nl picked up the same point:
Party supporter Jim Combden, speaking at a rally in the town of New-Wes-Valley, made a crack about how Progressive Conservative cabinet minister John Hickey had threatened to sue critics of his spending.

"[Hickey] said, 'I will sue you if you speak on the open line programs, if you speak on legitimate airwaves, if you criticize my government, if you criticize my fuehrer, I will sue you,'" Combden told the rally, in the Bonavista North district.
Combden's remarks were over the top and the use of any analogy to Nazi Germany is the certain death of any point. Rather than lamely try to pass the comment off as a joke, Combden ought to apologise unequivocally and immediately withdraw the remark. It was wrong.

However, let's recall that the incident to which Combden referred prompted concerns at the time about many things including libel chill; that is, that the threat of law suits would silence critics. The fear is reasonable given the abuse of defamation laws by the rich and powerful in our own society and in the developing world to silence anyone with whom they disagree.

The Premier is notoriously thin skinned. In February, at the time the Hickey suit was first raised, Danny Williams named several individuals - including your humble e-scribbler - and threatened to sue them for motives he attributed to the individuals falsely, at least speaking in reference to Bond Papers.

Let's also recall at the time that the Premier stated his belief that it would be appropriate to eliminate the right of free speech in the provincial legislature. Centuries of precedent and a hard won liberty be damned: let's take the parliamentary immunity away.

In the aftermath of the Premier's remarks and the launch of Hickey's suit against former premier Roger Grimes, many people changed their behaviour. One blog vanished for a period of time, although ostensibly for other reasons. There's no question that callers to the province's very popular talk radio shows regularly checked themselves needlessly or in some cases refrained from comments out of fear of lawsuits.

Thankfully, that chill was temporary. Nattering nabobs, as Telegram editor Russell Wangersky named them after the fashion of former American vice-president Spiro Agnew, have their valued place in any democracy worthy of the name.

However, when the province's leading daily newspaper hobbles its own opinion as it did today, free speech is compromised.

We are weaker.

We should be ashamed.

And the only determination we should have is to resist unreasonable efforts to restrain voices of dissent.