31 January 2010

Pick a position, any position

Over at nottawa, Mark draws attention to the most recent provincial government position on the federal shares in Hibernia, namely that the provincial government would be willing to pay cash for them.

This, Mark notes, is in stark contrast to the government’s original position, which he cites in a letter dated in 2008.

And indeed it is.

Like Sands Through the Hour Glass…

But in 2005, the provincial government’s letter to Santa put it differently:


The paragraph preceding that specific question puts some other colour in it.  The provincial government recognizes that the federal government had recovered its initial investment.  The provincial government expected anything beyond that to accrue to the provincial government.

But that question refers to the whole silly business of being “kept whole”.  In effect, such a phrase commits the province to ensuring the federal government recovers not only its investment but what they anticipated getting back as well.  it’s a bit of a nebulous idea but there should be no doubt about it:  If the reserves have grown  - as expected - and the potential federal return on investment has grown – as expected – the the question actually lays claim to zilch.

And as a consequence there wouldn’t be any purchase of shares.  Indeed, there would be no claim to the shares in the first place.

… so shifts the Demand of the Day

Now the rather quaint convention of meaning what you say and saying what you mean has always been no never mind for the current provincial administration.  Take for example, the varying positions on Equalization. One day the provincial government wanted 100% inclusion of natural resources revenues.  The next day, it demanded 100% exclusion.  One November, it was great to province that was not getting any Equalization.  Two months later, not getting hundreds of millions in Equalization that year and the year after was a betrayal of historic proportions.

Or for that matter the political racket that wound up with the one-time transfer of federal cash to the provincial government.  The provincial government’s initial position would have produced that single amount in one year.  Ultimately they caved and said yes to way less than they originally demanded.

Whatever position the government took before or takes now actually doesn’t really mean very much of anything at all. 

So right now there’s talk of paying cash for the shares.

What comes out the other end of the process – if anything comes out at all – may wind up looking a lot different from whatever has been said or written until now.


30 January 2010

Russia tests next-gen fighter

Russian aircraft design bureau Sukhoi tested its next generation fighter on Friday.

The aircraft – designated T-50 – flew for 47 minutes at Sukhoi’s test facility at Komsomolsk on Amur.

The T-50 is a joint Russian-Indian project.  India currently operates the latest Russian designed fighter and ground-attack jets as well as Russian-built helicopters, tanks and other military equipment.

The T-50 is similar in design to the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor which combines supersonic speed and high performance with low-observable or “stealth” capability. Ria Novosti’s defence analyst gives the aircraft’s design history in a story posted online on January 29.  Ilya Kramnik claims the design efforts for the so-called fifth generation fighter began in the 1980s and ultimately led to the Su-47.

While highly capable, the Su-47 used a forward-swept wing design which may have caused some performance and maintenance concern among the fighter’s intended users.

According to Kramnik, the current fighter comes from a 1998 request from the Russian air force for a new fighter that took advantage of the design features of the prototypes in the American next-generation fighter competition that led ultimately to the Raptor.

The T-50 in the test photographs appears to be unpainted.  It also appears to be using conventional nozzles instead of the vectoring type deployed on both the F-22 and on some other Sukhoi and MiG fighter designs which flew successfully.

In the video at left, a MiG-29 test aircraft demonstrates thrust vectoring. 

The moveable engine nozzles pivot to aim the engine thrust at up to 15 degrees from straight backwards. 

On two-engined aircraft, the nozzles may also be moved independently of one another.

This allows the aircraft to turn more tightly than a conventional aircraft.  Such a capability gives fighter pilots great advantage in dog-fighting.

In this video, a pilot demonstrates the thrust vector nozzles on a Raptor.


29 January 2010

Skywatch 2010: NTV has the proof

A viewer from Marystown sent NTV News some video footage shot on Monday evening that pretty much nails down the identification of the mysterious objects in the sky.

The mighty Ceeb can continue to ignore the obvious: there were no time-traveling missiles from France, there guys.

NTV has the truth:  a fairly good video of at least one twin-engined commercial jet – it might have been an Airbus A320  - cruising along and streaming out the contrails looking almost exactly the like the one in the photo displayed by CBC.

All that does is raise more questions about the CBC photo itself, but there can be no mistaking what was flying in the skies over Harbour Mille last Monday.  It was a flock of three aircraft – likely all commercial jets -  flying the usual route for aircraft coming from from Halifax and the eastern seaboard, potentially into St. John’s.

And for all those intrepid reporters busily scurrying around like this was a national security issue, here’s a simple and fairly obvious question.  Since even a missile would have turned up on radar, did anyone think to call those lovely folks at the Gander control tower to see what might have been flying along the south coast last Monday?



Didn’t think so.

Next time, though, people might go for the more obvious answer rather than leaping to all sorts of speculation and rumour for their answers.

After all, when you hear hoof-beats in this part of the world it is more sensible to think “horses” than an Eohippus that escaped from that mysterious experimental farm on the Bauline Line run by some fellow Hammond.


By-election spec starts early

Beth Marshall’s elevation to the Antechamber to the Kingdom of Heaven started the inevitable by-election speculation almost immediately.

One will have to be called within 60 days of Marshall vacating the seat.  Under local election laws, that means that people can start looking for special ballots today.

Odds are it will be called immediately after the Olympics are over.  The provincial government has popped for too many tickets to make everyone – the Premier included – cancel their trip to wet coast in order to stay home and fight a by-election.

The thing will be knocked off as quick as you please so the new member can sit in the spring session of the legislature.

And who might that member be?

Well, on the Conservative side, the name of failed paradise mayoral candidate Kurtis Coombs has popped up right away.  Let’s just say he has a certain Kent-like cache to him right at the moment that might appeal to party leaders of a certain style.

Beth’s constituency assistant would be a logical choice as well since the provincial Conservatives seem to be in that phase where the most likely candidates come from political staff.  But maybe not since Beth is likely to be moving her crew to the federal payroll. 

That leads very quickly back to young Mr. Coombs.

Look for that name to come up more and more in the next few days.

On the Liberal side, people will likely cycle through some of the usual names.  There won’t be too many people from the metro area who are likely to come forward.

Peter Dawe is already being courted to sub for Paul Antle in St. John’s East federally next time so take them both off your list.

Jim Walsh has a previous engagement so he won’t be staging a political comeback soon.

Ralph Wiseman?

Way outside chance, but then again, your humble e-scribbler didn’t call Beth right for the senate seat.

Those are just the early names.  More are sure to turn up as the date for the by-election call gets closer.


And the cliche gets it…

Senator Beth Marshall.

Here’s the view from January 19:

Beth Marshall would be too obvious just because all the spec puts her name up right next to the two Loyolas.  She’s at the point now where her name is on everyone’s list of nominees for everything. Watch out if the Pope drops dead tomorrow.  Local spec will have Beth in the running right behind the two Loyolas;  it’s gotten to be that much of a cliche.

An interesting choice if one that is remarkable for how cliche it really is.

Others have already pointed out that Marshall very publicly declined to join the ABC silliness. That obviously stood her in good stead for this plum.

Others, however, have also over-estimated her lack of connections to the local provincial Conservatives and how this might not help improve relations between the federal Connies and their provincial cousins.  Bear in mind she was handed the plum of over-seeing implementation of the Green report and has been a faithful party player on the House of Assembly management committee.

She’s tight enough with both the federal and provincial crews to serve as a bridge. And it’s not like she hasn’t got experience in changing her tune when it serves her partisan purpose as well.

Don’t be surprised if she goes to cabinet in short order or otherwise gets a neat job to facilitate the rapprochement. The anti-Ottawa hysteria that once was the local Connie stock-in-trade will quickly be a thing of the past.


28 January 2010

Skywatch 2010: The Truth is Out There

You just have to want to believe.

There are no little green men in flying saucers or for that matter a French ballistic missile  that miraculous appear over the south coast of Newfoundland two days before it is actually launched.

It isn’t even a toy rocket.

The thing seen over Harbour Mille and other parts of Newfoundland on Monday evening around dusk was nothing more exotic than a jet aircraft flying on a well-established route.

And actually, as reported by Canwest News Service’s Ken Meaney, there were  three objects seen within minutes of each other on a similar path.

C-141_Starlifter_contrailWhat you are seeing appears to be nothing more than the light of a setting sun reflecting off the aircraft contrail.  The sun, in this case, would have been down and to the right of the photograph creating an effect not unlike the one seen during a fine evening.  It’s the phenomenon that gave rise to the old saying “red sky at night, sailor’s delight.” 

In the photo at left, you can clearly see the contrails from a United States Air Force C-141 Starlifter.

Contrail1This is an up-close shot, but from the right angle on the ground , this aircraft would appear to be leaving a flaming wake.

In the photo at right, the contrails – made by condensation that result from particles coming from the engine – appear orange even though they are actually white.

Some corroborating evidence comes from this e-mail from an observer south of Harbour Mille describing his own experience last Monday:

Monday afternoon, … I watched several flights follow the usual course. One was identical to that shown in the picture taken from Harbour Mille, and replicated on the CBC website.

While most jets flying overhead leave a mostly white vapor trail, this one appeared to be darker in colour.  I put the binoculars on it, and satisfied myself that it was in fact an aircraft. Keeping in mind the time of day (around 5 p.m.), and the fact that it gets dark just around then, the setting sun was low in the Western sky.

At the same time, the aircraft was moving from Southwest to Northeast. The sun was casting a shadow from the vapor trail onto the aircraft, making it, and the first part of the vapor trail, appear darker in colour, because it was in shade.

After the "dark" plane passed over us, there were a couple more flights, within a few minutes of each other, as is the routine here every day around five o'clock local time. I did not see anything strange or startling about them, either.

Whatever it was, there really isn’t much chance it was a missile.  There were no launches from Cape Canaveral. Some have speculated it might be a French missile test, specifically the fourth test flight of the new M51 mer-sol ballistique strategique (MSBS) or submarine-launched ballistic missile.

The only problem with this idea is that the test flight took place two days after the sighting over Newfoundland.  Incidentally, in an earlier post on this same issue, your humble e-scribbler lost a day in the translation. The M51 test took place about 36 hours after the sighting.

Along the same lines, someone made this observation on another thread:

If you did a little research yourself, you would learn that the French fired no fewer than four M151 rockets before attempting to fire one from a nuclear submarine.

Obviously the one fired on Wednesday could not have been the one seen over the Burn Peninsula, but what about the other tests? Did they fire anything on land on Monday? That is the question that needs to be addressed.

That question is – in fact – already addressed quite handily by a little but of googlizing.  There have been a total of four test flights of the M51.  The first took place in 2006.  The second in 2007 and the third in 2008. The launch last Wednesday was the first from a submerged submarine.  The third one in the series – as the video shows – was a land-based launch from under water.  It came from a tank.

For those curious about these things, the missiles are pushed above the water by compressed air.  The solid fuel rocket motor does not ignite until the missile is clear of the water.

The fourth M51 test finished up in the Atlantic Ocean well away from shore.  By some accounts it was 2,000 kilometres off the coast of South Carolina.

To get back to the contrail explanation, this wouldn’t be the first time aircraft vapour trails left an unusual image behind.

fireball_burnett  The photo at right came from South Wales. 

While there is some disagreement over the cause of the cloud, one explanation is an unusual aircraft contrail.

If you look, you can see that this photograph was taken in the evening, around sunset.

Your humble e-scribbler did a spot in NTV First Edition this evening giving basically this same interpretation.  Undoubtedly, there will be other ideas than the ones here.  But after you discount all the ideas that have no supporting evidence – missiles, space debris, meteorites  – then what you are left with is the answer.

The truth is out there.

It isn’t always nasty plots and little green mean.

But you have to want to believe the truth.


27 January 2010

The Ghouls are back

New Democrat member of parliament Jack Harris once again shows his willingness to offer a comment based on ignorance.

Perhaps he could have the good sense to refrain from further comment rather than try to score cheap political points – yet again  - using a tragedy as his prop.

Amazing Ambulance Chasing Crap Update:  Your humble e-scribbler unfortunately just heard Jack Harris on CBC radio continuing his relentless campaign to display his own ignorance.

Sadly, Jack has obtained standing at the offshore helicopter inquiry and so will have a platform from which to spout his innuendo and political agenda in the midst of an inquiry that ought to be directed to identifying fact.

He  doesn’t want to acknowledge what has already been stated publicly repeatedly, namely that Cougar provides search and rescue service for the offshore as required by the offshore regulator.  That’s why – as he well knows – the helicopter was “reconfigured” on the day of the crash.  It had nothing to do with DND.

What’s more, the 103 Squadron aircraft were not “off station” or “away” as Jack continually stated.

There is no embarrassment within the SAR community over this, again as jack keeps trying to suggest.  There should only be embarrassment  - and huge dollop of shame shame – for people like Jack who continue to spread malicious nonsense despite having evidence that directly contradicts what he is still getting on about.

If  Jack’s appalling performance on the Cougar 491 case wasn’t bad enough, the federal Dipper defence critic then switched topics – in response to a question from the host -  critic is now chasing down the French missile bullshit and the UFO story.

The M51 flew a day AFTER the strange thing in the sky over Newfoundland.

This guy is absolutely, astoundingly ignorant.

Who does his research, ex-staffers from the Spindy?


Skywatch 2010: Not French M51

Get out the tinfoil hats.

Stories are circulating – including at voice of the cabinet minister – that the object sighted in the sky over Newfoundland on the evening of January 27th may have been related to a test launch of France’s new submarine-launched ballistic missile, the M51.

Highly unlikely.

The French test concluded at 0825 hours Greenwich Mean Time on January 27.

That would be Tuesday.

But as CBC reported, the object seen over Harbour Mille was in the sky at dusk on Monday evening.  That would be roughly 12 hours before the French missile flew.

In any event, the French test attracted considerable international attention for reasons other than the insane idea the missile reappeared magically the day after it was fired, on a different trajectory and apparently originating from an area of the world  pretty much the opposite of where it was actually fired from.


Skywatch 2010: UFO over Newfoundland

Seems like it is time for the quinquennial skywatch panic.

In 2005, it was a load of seemingly unending silliness about debris from a NASA booster rocket. That’s just one of a bunch of posts from April and May 2005, incidentally.

Now it’s this thing seen over portions of the south coast and the northeast coast.

darlene stewart UFO


It isn’t a French missile launched from St. Pierre, apparently.

And it isn’t the maiden flight of a locally produced nuclear missile.

Odds are it is a bit of space junk or a meteorite burning up as it enters the atmosphere.

But why should that get in the way of a good yarn?


Spending Scandal: when “facts” aren’t true

The agreed statements entered in some of the trials resulting from the House of Assembly spending scandal are remarkable, if for no other reason than by the incorrect information contained in them.

Take this one from the statement entered on Tuesday in the Bill Murray trial:


In simplest terms, that statement is not true.

The finance department’s Comptroller General continued invariably over the whole scandal period to maintain accurate records of the total amounts paid under the allowances budget item each year.  

The Comptroller General’s figures were reported in the provincial government’s financial statements which were – it should be noted – audited each year in the scandal period by first Elizabeth Marshall and then her successor John Noseworthy.

Even a cursory examination of the Public Accounts shows overspending well in excess of what was subsequently reported by John Noseworthy once the scandal story broke.

In fact, as documented at Bond Papers and in Chief Justice Derek Green’s inquiry report, the overspending was obvious.  The BP post from December 2006 indicated that the total overspending amounted to more than twice as much as anything Noseworthy ever indicated.

In the chart from that post (above), red indicates the overspending as reported in the public accounts.  Yellow is the figure reported by Noseworthy for a given fiscal year. It only includes money identified by Noseworthy as being made to four members of the House of Assembly.

No one – least of all Noseworthy – has explained the massive discrepancy between the available evidence and what Noseworthy reported or the consistent failure of any audit officials to make public reference to the evident overspending.



26 January 2010

Nailed it! or Seal Hunt Silliness Starts Sooner

March madness Ray Guy once called it.

In a normal year, March is the time when the animals rights crowd, a raft of C and D list celebrities and Newfoundland politicians chew up precious oxygen arguing the merits of smashing in seal skulls with clubs.

This year promises to be an abnormal year.

First, someone tosses a shaving cream pie into the mug of the Canadian fisheries minister.

Then a local politician gives a local radio audience this idea:

"I am calling on the Government of Canada to actually investigate whether or not this organization, PETA, is acting as a terrorist organization under the test that exists under Canadian law."

The Canadian Press story from which those words were taken includes this bit:

In an interview with radio station VOCM in St. John's, N.L., on Tuesday, [Gerry] Byrne said he thinks what happened should be reviewed under the legal definition of terrorism.

"When someone actually coaches or conducts criminal behaviour to impose a political agenda on each and every other citizen of Canada, that does seem to me to meet the test of a terrorist organization," said the MP from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The story wound up in Aaron Wherry’s blog at macleans.ca without much comment from Wherry.  One of his readers nailed the whole thing in two separate comments.  They are reproduced here for posterity:

There are about a million ways to respond to a pie in the face that do not require stretching our terrorism laws until they lose all meaning. Gail Shea could sue. She could seek charges under the criminal code for assault. She could ridicule PETA. She could admit they have a case and argue, sternly, that this is not the way to press that case. The reason it "might sound ridiculous" to seek to designate PETA as a terrorist organization because one of its members tossed a pie is because it is ridiculous.

The pertinent phrase here is "in an interview...with VOCM." You don't go on VOCM if you're planning to be thoughtful about NL's household gods: the fishery, the weather, resource revenues, equalization or Danny Williams. You go on VOCM to compete with every other NL politician to demagogue these issues around the block. It's a bit like the op-ed page of Le Devoir or the speaker's podium at the Petroleum Club. Local orthodoxies are there to be paid obeisance, not questioned.

That pretty much says it all.


Related:  “Who’d waste the ammo?” (2005) Warning:  not all links in that old post might still be working, much like the celebs who do the anti-fur thing each spring.

Incidentally:  For those so inclined to ponder these things, here is a succinct statement of the law in Canada:  “The non-consensual application of force by one person to another is an assault…”. The PETA stunter applied force to fish minister Gail Shea in the form of a shaving cream pie.  Shea did not consent to the application of force.


For those Connie supporters out there who are screaming blue murder over the incident and looking for charges to be laid, they are on the right track.  But then again, that would also have been the right track for Connie party lout who assaulted a reporter during the 2006 campaign.

25 January 2010

How bad is it?

You just know things are pretty tense in Corner Brook.

You can tell because the provincial government has been pouring on the happy-talk while over at the city’s major employer, the company operating the paper mill is looking for a 10% wage roll-back from employees.

The latest happy-talk is a hope-drenched a study on the oil and gas potential for the west coast.

According to the official news release, the study was commissioned based on an election commitment from 2003. 

That’s okay. 

We can wait while you go and check your calendars again.

Yes, it was indeed seven years ago.

The work on this particular report, though, was only done in 2008.  Check the dates on some of the consultation sessions;  that’s the only way to figure out the timelines for sure since most of the document has been scrubbed of dates. You can hunt around and eventually find the news release that kicked it off, from December 2007. 

That would make it a bit more than two years for this study to see the light of day.

After all that time and all that work, the recommendations are stunning: 

  • Ensure a regulatory and administrative environment to maximize investment in onshore and offshore exploration and attract industry operators and businesses to the region;
  • Ensure the protection of key natural resource areas, including Gros Morne National Park, the Humber Valley and the Bay of Islands;
  • Establish a clear environmental regime between the provincial and federal governments;
  • Continue to improve infrastructure in the region through investments in education, health-care facilities, transportation and commercial land availability;
  • Encourage the planning, regeneration and use of existing infrastructure, including that in Port aux Basques, Stephenville, Corner Brook, Deer Lake, Port Saunders and St. Anthony, to ensure it continues to support existing economic sectors;
  • Maintain and upgrade infrastructure specific to the needs of potential hydrocarbon projects, including wharves and air facilities at Corner Brook and Stephenville;
  • Facilitate the training of local residents to help them meet the demand for skills in this emerging sector;
  • Continue to invest in public education, health care, cultural and recreational opportunities to serves the needs of the region; and,
  • Continue to promote the western region as a place of opportunity for business investment and families.
  • In a nutshell:  fix the roads, spend money on things like education and health care, protect the ecologically sensitive and important bits (like Gros Morne)  and “promote” the potential in the area.

    They are about as surprising as the recommendations made by the task force that spent 18 months trying to figure out how to keep more young people from leaving the province.  Its major conclusion:  create work for them so they can find jobs and stay here.

    All standard. 

    All patently obvious.

    Nothing concrete and measurable.

    Like explaining what is meant by “[e]nsure a regulatory and administrative environment to maximize investment in onshore and offshore exploration and attract industry operators and businesses to the region.” 

    Maybe there is a tax issue here or problems with issuing permits. You won’t find anything in the report to explain what this means.

    And the stuff that appears to be specific  - like the suggestion to “twin” selected portions of the Trans-Canada between Port aux Basques and St. John’s as needed – is actually just a confirmation of what has been government policy since 1988.  Under the roads for rails agreement, the provincial government used federal cash to do exactly that.  And yes, for those who need reminding that would be from the last time the Conservatives formed the provincial government.

    So what are these study guys talking about 20 years later?

    Not a heckuva lot, apparently, given that any administration at any time can claim:

    • to have either already done that or,
    • to be doing exactly what was recommended as it carries out the existing maintenance of the existing road.

    Look in vain and you will not find a single thing in this 71 pages of pure bumpf is tied to  drilling more holes, finding oil and getting it into production.

    Things seem to be pretty tense in Corner Brook these days.  That’s just as they have been in other towns in this province since 2003 when the major employer found itself in hard financial straits.

    What’s most interesting since 2003, though, has not been the problems themselves but how the provincial government has reacted to each development.

    The oil and gas study released on Monday seems to be very much par for the course, very much a sign of the times.


    CAPP St. John’s Rally

    From the local group’s Facebook space, a few shots by organizer Lindsay Harding of the crowd of more than 200 who braved the cold.


    capp left


    capp right


    24 January 2010

    Hydro: the wet weekend round-up

    1.  A foundation of purest sandstone:  For those who are still following these things, the Telegram’s Rob Antle has a tidy little summary of the case which is the bedrock on which the provincial government’s legal challenge of the 1969 Churchill Falls power contract rests.

    Self-Check:  How many paragraphs down did you get before you realised that – in and of itself - the case has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the 1969 ruckus?

    2. More money for Quebec, yet more billable hours edition: The papers in la pas-si-belle-pour-Danny province have been filled with stories about the hearings over transmission and the promise to sue over good faith or lack thereof.

    3.  Rien could possibly be further from the verite. In a scrum the other day, Hisself could recall the pages on which appeared stories in La Presse about the whole Labrador hydro thing from one angle or another.  Helene Baril’s summary of the issue in her January 12 story is tidy and accurate.  Ditto one on the 19th of January.

    Not so another one on the 19th in which she writes:

    Quatre ans plus tard, le premier ministre Danny Williams est toujours aussi déterminé à développer le Bas-Churchill sans l'aide de personne, et surtout sans celle d'Hydro-Québec.

    Still prepared to develop the Lower Churchill without Hydro-Quebec?


    Malheureusement en anglais seulement, 

    Perhaps it’s time someone worked up:

    a.  a French translation of the Dunderdale comments and,

    b.  a French version of “Nothing could be further from the truth”.  ‘Pfft”  - another DW staple likely to be heard many times in the next few months -  already translates itself.


    23 January 2010

    Stack takes regional army command

    Brigadier-General Anthony Stack took command of the Canadian army’s regular and reserve units in Atlantic Canada in a ceremony at the Halifax Armoury on Thursday, January 21, 2010.

    Stack succeeded Brigadier-General David Neasmith.

    Chief of Land Staff Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie oversaw the ceremony. Invited guests in attendance included Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter, regional navy commander rear Admiral Paul Maddison, LFAA soldiers, and family and friends of the incoming and outgoing commanders.

    LFAA Change of Command Ceremony

    Incoming LFAA commander Brigadier-General Anthony Stack, left, shakes hands with outgoing commander Brigadier-general David Neasmith during a change of command ceremony at the Halifax Armoury, January 21, 2010. 

    In the centre is Chief of Land Staff Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie.


    “The role as Commander of Land Force Atlantic Area is a tremendously rewarding and difficult position,” said Lieutenant-General Leslie.  “As Land Force Atlantic Area’s new Commander, Brigadier-General Stack has accepted this responsibility and I know that will continue to serve his country and Atlantic Canada well in this role.”

    “It is an honour to serve and I would like to thank Brigadier-General Neasmith for his outstanding efforts as Commander. Land Force Atlantic Area is engaged in a multitude of operations around the world, and our successes speak to the immense training and readiness of our soldiers. It has been a pleasure to work with you as Deputy Commander and I look forward to serving Atlantic Canada in my new role as Commander.”

    In civilian life, Brigadier-General Stack is principal of St. Peter’s Junior High School in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.  Brigadier-General Stack will be taking a leave of absence from his civilian job in order to take up his new appointment in service of Canada.

    As Commander, Brigadier-General Stack will continue the Area’s support in the coming Olympics in Vancouver, B.C., as well as in operations abroad in Haiti and Afghanistan.  Land Force Atlantic Area is responsible for all regular and reserve army units in the four Atlantic Provinces. The Area’s current strength is approximately 7,000 regular and reserve soldiers in four regular, 32 reserve and 40 Ranger patrols across the region.


    Related:  “Nflder to command Atlantic area soldiers


    Brigadier-General Anthony Stack was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1961. At Memorial University of Newfoundland, he earned Bachelor of Education (Secondary) and Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) degrees in 1985 and obtained a Master of Education (Leadership Studies) in 2001.

    Brigadier-General Stack began his military adventure in high school with 2415 Gonzaga Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. He joined the Canadian Forces army reserve in 1978.  He completed two terms as the commanding officer of 56 Field Engineer Squadron and a term as G3 Newfoundland District responsible for operations and training for  army reserve units in the province. He has also served as a company commander and Chief Instructor at the Atlantic Area Rank and Trade School in Gagetown, New Brunswick.

    He is a graduate of the army command and staff college,  Kingston Ontario and the Joint Reserve Command and Staff Program at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario.

    In 2001, Brigadier-General Stack was the first Commanding Officer of the Land Force Atlantic Area civil military cooperation (CIMIC) unit.

    In January 2004, he deployed with OPERATION ATHENA to Afghanistan where he served as the Chief of CIMIC Operations for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.

    Upon return from theatre, he was appointed deputy commander of 37 Canadian Brigade Group in September 2004 and assumed command of the brigade in June 2006.

    In December 2009, he was promoted to his present rank and assigned the position of deputy commander, Land Force Atlantic Area.

    Brigadier-General Stack resides in St. John’s NL with his wife Wanda and son Shane. In civilian life, he is the principal of St. Peter’s Junior High School in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Brigadier-General Stack enjoys running, reading, and watching his son compete in basketball and volleyball.

    Rumpole and The Way through the Woods

    Great howls came from the clerk’s room at Number 3 Iniquity Court this morning.

    Over steaming mugs of Red Rose and a few cream crackers, the b’ys were having a laugh at the goings on over at the Provincial Court in Gander.

    It is, for those who haven’t been following such things, the story of a court which has been one judge short since December 2008.  That’s when one of the two judges flew up to the Supreme Court leaving his benchmate, one Judge Short – Bruce, by name – to handle the unending tide of misbehaviour from Suburbia in the Woods and its environs. 

    The matter should have been settled with a few appointments to the Christmas Honours List but something appears to have gone off the rails.

    A lawyer in Gander, one Juan O’Quinn, turned up in a CBC News story on Friday bemoaning the problems with getting cases heard in a timely way under the circumstances.  The CBC story is still not correct on the whole picture since it links Don Singleton to the goings on.  That, as local Rumpole followers know, is a horse of an entirely other colour.

    To return to the matter at bar, the clerks were quick to point out that O’Quinn is a former law partner of the health minister and the chairman of the Memorial University board of regents.  His talking publicly is not to be taken lightly especially when it is to complain about stuff not being done by cabinet appointment:
    "If you have a situation where you want to get access to your children and your spouse is not permitting that and you need to get in front of a court, if the court is busy then obviously that's problematic," said defence lawyer Juan O'Quinn.
    The problems in Gander are an old old story.  A year ago, the town council raised the issue with the local member of the House of Assembly for the district Gander is in.  As the Beacon put it in a story on the ongoing court problems:
    The Town of Gander received a letter dated Feb. 17, 2009, from government services minister Kevin O'Brien, MHA for Gander. In it, the minister said the interview process for the provincial court judge position was underway and the it would be filled in the not too distant future.
    O’Brien’s logic on the delay is  - characteristically - incomprehensible:
    Minister O'Brien said he is not surprised the matter has taken this long, given the amount of interest in the position and the prominence of the provincial court.
    In any event, the CBC story confirms what your humble e-scribbler had heard early, namely that Provincial Court Chief Judge Mark Pike sent a list of nominees along to the justice minister last November.  Normally that would be plenty of time to select as many qualified appointees as might be needed and to let the chosen few celebrate their good fortune over the holidays.

    Not this year, as it turned out.

    The clerks offered two versions of why not.

    In the first version, the Chief Judge had been heard talking about appointing his team and setting things on the course he had chosen for the court.   The list went from Pike to justice minister Felix Collins who dutifully passed it along to He who Must be Obeyed.

    He was not amused at all by the Chief Judge’s confusion over who actually makes the appointments and sent the list back to be re-worked.

    In the second version, the list went up with only the list of people recommended by the judicial council to fill the vacancies.  There were no other names of those interviewed, as used to be the custom, broken down into categories of highly recommended, recommended (meaning they met the requirements set out in the Act but lacked some qualities the council sought) and not recommended.

    There was not even a list of the type demanded for the mess that became l’affair Singleton, namely putting everyone into one of two categories:  Recommended -  which jumbled together in one undifferentiated mess the highly qualified and experienced as well as those who met barely met the minimums set down in law - and Not Recommended, which was all those who didn’t even meet the minimum requirements.

    The November list apparently left off some names of individuals reputedly known to the political powers to have applied.

    The list was sent back to be re-worked.

    The two versions are not incompatible, it should be noted, and regardless of the precise reasons the end result is the same:  the bench in Gander as well as three other spots remain short of judges.

    The cabinet is working its way through the woods and may eventually find someone to sit in Suburbia alongside Judge Short.

    But in the meantime,  Bruce is on his own.

    If Juan applied, he can cancel plans to lay up his shingle.

    And there should be no question in any one’s mind about who appoints judges in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Well, at least that’s what the clerks said as they drained the last drop of Carnation from the tin and got back to their work, mugs full of a fresh brew.


    22 January 2010

    Rick Astley is God’s messenger

    Apparently, the Lord moves in such mysterious ways He sometimes manages to channel himself through a one-hit wonder from the 1980s.



    1.  For those of you interested in social media trends, consider a post by Gerald Baron at Crisisblogger on the future of Twitter. Baron links to two different points of view:  one that Twitter will die, the other that it won’t.  Both offer food for thought and Baron gives his own perspective.  He thinks Twitter itself may fade but the concept will continue in other forms and through other software.

    As Baron puts it:

    What Twitter brought was the integration of various forms of instant communication including micro-blogging, text messaging, seamless distribution via web, email, text, etc. It has proven to be a highly effective means of instant communication with groups of people with whom you wish to communicate, or to audiences who have an intense desire to know what you have to say or track your every move (ala Ashton Kutcher). But, as I predicted, that functionality of exceptionally easy and fast distribution of messages to “friends” or people who connect via a network is rapidly be adopted in a variety of ways.

    2.   In the same spirit, consider this New York Times article from last August – linked here previously – that indicated twitter is actually popular among an older demographic than the under-25s most people might assume are heavily into sending messages of no more than 140 characters.

    3.   One of the reasons you’ll find Twitter feeds on the Haiti crisis linked in the right-hand nav bar is that it does give the opportunity to get some near real-time information from Haiti via reporters on the ground. There are tons of ways of getting that information, but here is just one more for you to chose among. if you look at the ones chosen, you can also see the radically different styles of the individuals writing. That adds a flavour to the coverage that doesn’t necessarily come across another way.

    4.  You of the characteristics you can also see in the feed that these individuals are also having conversations with folks who may or may not be readers/viewers. Some are offering feedback on the coverage. Others are asking questions about what is going on in Haiti. Some of this stuff wouldn’t get reported otherwise.

    5.  In the larger sense what you are seeing in near-real time feeds is a whole new form of information gathering and dissemination. Conventional news media are letting their people on the ground do much more than bang out copy and file it.  They are offering a way for the audience to become more directly connected with the news event.  In another sense, the audience is becoming connected not just to the event but to the news organization and the reporter in a way that simply wasn’t possible previously.  There are a raft of implications and there could be a whole blog/conversation devoted just to the many permutations of what this may do to the face of reporting. For now let’s just take it in as the whole thing unfolds.


    Samsung signs energy deal with Ontario

    Under a deal announced Thursday, Samsung Group of South Korea will develop 2500 megawatts of wind and solar energy in Ontario at a cost of $7.0 billion.

    Samsung will also create 16,000 manufacturing jobs in Ontario.

    Meanwhile, in Newfoundland and Labrador, the energy warehouse…


    21 January 2010

    Nfld reservist to command Atlantic area soldiers

    stack Brigadier-General Tony Stack, left,  will assume command of Land Force Atlantic Area in a  ceremony in Halifax this evening.  He replaces Brigadier-General David Neasmith.

    Stack is currently the area deputy commander.

    Land Force Atlantic Area is responsible for all army regular and reserve units in the four Atlantic provinces, with the exception of the Combat Training Centre at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.  Currently there are approximately 7,000 soldiers in Atlantic Canada serving in four regular and 23 reserve units.


    Stack’s bio:

    Brigadier-General Anthony Stack was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in 1961. At Memorial University of Newfoundland, he earned Bachelor of Education (Secondary) and Bachelor of Science (Mathematics) degrees in 1985 and obtained a Master of Education (Leadership Studies) in 2001.

    Brigadier-General Stack began his military adventure in high school with 2415 Gonzaga Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps. He joined the Canadian Forces army reserve in 1978.  He completed two terms as the commanding officer of 56 Field Engineer Squadron and a term as G3 Newfoundland District responsible for operations and training for  army reserve units in the province. He has also served as a company commander and Chief Instructor at the Atlantic Area Rank and Trade School in Gagetown, New Brunswick.

    He is a graduate of the army command and staff college,  Kingston Ontario and the Joint Reserve Command and Staff Program at the Canadian Forces College in Toronto, Ontario.

    In 2001, Brigadier-General Stack was the first Commanding Officer of the Land Force Atlantic Area civil military cooperation (CIMIC) unit.

    In January 2004, he deployed with OPERATION ATHENA to Afghanistan where he served as the Chief of CIMIC Operations for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul.

    Upon return from theatre, he was appointed deputy commander of 37 Canadian Brigade Group in September 2004 and assumed command of the brigade in June 2006.

    In December 2009, he was promoted to his present rank and assigned the position of deputy commander, Land Force Atlantic Area.

    Brigadier-General Stack resides in St. John’s NL with his wife Wanda and son Shane. In civilian life, he is the principal of St. Peter’s Junior High School in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Brigadier-General Stack enjoys running, reading, and watching his son compete in basketball and volleyball.

    Republic of Doyle: the modern way

    For those who can’t catch the show on Wednesday night when it airs, consider that CBC does actually offer viewers the opportunity to watch the show the 21st century way.

    Yes, complete episodes are available online at the CBC website.  You can get there through the Republic of Doyle page on the cbc.ca website.  Or you can bookmark the actual RoD video space on the same website.

    You can even find this trailer there, although this copy of it came via a non-cbc account at youtube. 



    Make it easy for people to promote the show using the technology its viewers are likely very familiar with.




    Leading the nation…

    in a lamentable trend.

    Via nottawa, here’s a link to Jim Travers’ excellent column on the decline of democratic institutions in Canada.

    Regular readers of these humble e-scribbles will know that the local legislature and the government which has taken complete control of it in every respect is way ahead of the crowd in eroding the function of democratic institutions.

    Everything Jim says about Ottawa applies equally in St. John’s.

    The phenomenon is not a partisan one.  The current Conservative crowds in Ottawa and St. John’s have merely taken to the whole trend started under respectively – Chretien and Tobin - with an unnatural lust.

    The root of the problem is easy to identify.

    The cure, as Jim lays it out, is the same thing:

    If war is too serious to leave to generals, then surely democracy is too important to delegate to politicians.

    We – the voters – let the politicians carry on the way they do.

    We - the voters – can change things.

    You just gotta wanna.


    Massive cost overruns, delays now normal for provincial government?

    Once upon a time, not so very long ago, you really didn’t hear very often about a provincial government construction project in Newfoundland and Labrador going for almost double the original cost estimate.

    You’d hear stuff about other places, like say one involving a nuclear power plant in New Brunswick. Or there might be one involving transportation – always a rat’s nest of problems – like say the streetcar line in Toronto or another light rail one in Ottawa.

    That was then, as they say.

    This is now, where the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador seems to have a huge problem with construction projects of all kinds.

    The latest is the health centre in western Labrador.

    Promised originally as a juicy bit of pork for the January 2007 by-election, the project seems stuck like an excavator in winter snow. Other than that, not much has happened.

    Not much except watching the cost estimates balloon like an embolism.  According to The Aurora, what was once estimated to cost about $56 million is now estimated to be in the range of $90 million.

    That number will get bigger almost certainly.  And at some point, as in Lewisporte and Flower’s Cove, there will have to be an intervention to reduce the sorts of health stuff that happens in the health care centre so that the construction costs don’t go completely off the charts.  

    The Aurora report says provincial government officials put the cost spiral down to a construction boom in briefing notes prepared for health minister Jerome Kennedy last fall.


    Theoretically, that could be the case. There’s just so much construction going on in the province right now that everything is at a premium.  Boom times and all that.  At least, so the idea goes.

    There are a couple of problems with that notion. 

    First of all, this is a recession and Newfoundland and Labrador hasn’t escaped the recession at all.  Far from it.  Even the provincial government is forecast a huge drop in the value of goods and service sin the province.  Everything is down from oil to newsprint to minerals. 

    And if you look around, like say in Alberta, you can see what happens in a recession.  Like most places in the developed world, and even in an Alberta which is still chugging along well ahead of other provinces in economic activity,  a recession in Alberta means costs are dropping. Businesses – like Total SA and Conoco  - are actually increasing their spending on oil sands development because of costs that are as much as 40% less than they were in 2008.

    That Labrador health centre is already estimated to cost 40% more than first forecast, incidentally. That’s pretty much on par with what happened to the one in Lewisporte.

    So it doesn’t really make a lot of sense – at first blush – that Newfoundland and Labrador in a recession would see costs go up while everywhere else – like Alberta – costs are dropping.

    Second, the sort of delays and cost over-runs for the Labrador west hospital is typical of the pattern of delays on provincial government construction projects – upwards of three and four years in some cases – and massive cost over-runs (40% is the half of it) people in this province have seen for the past five or six years. It didn’t just start.  And it isn’t confined to hospitals.

    On delays, we have things like a 2004 court security law that still isn’t in effect. There’s a 2006 law creating a health research ethics board that still isn’t in place.  From 2007, there’s a major piece of legal work and a centrepiece – supposedly – of the Tory big blue plan called the sustainable development act.  Three years and not so much as a peep.

    Let us not forget three years on Grenfell to deliver nothing that couldn’t have been done without all the fuss and the promises when the idea was first announced.

    Nor can we ignore the land claims deal with the Innu on the Lower Churchill that happened and then unhappened.  Now it roams the Earth periodically cropping up in some news story in which it claims to be alive.  The reality is that it is undead, trapped by internal political wrangles within the Innu community in a world between life and death.

    In the background, there is the program review, a response to a supposed budget crisis in 2004 the premier gave to Ross Reid.  No one knows what happened to it.   similar initiative – a 2006 economic program review – likewise disappeared.  The guy looking after it went back to Memorial in 2008.  What is Doug House doing these days?

    On the construction front, there are cases like the sports centre slash conference hall in St. Anthony that doubled in price before the provincial government cut the whole thing down to a size that would fit inside the ballooned budget.  Two years after it was first announced, there was much less for way more.

    We also can’t forget the aquaculture centre in St. Alban’s.  Two years later the thing is just starting to get underway  - we were originally told it would actually be finished by now - for 71% more than the original estimate.

    Ferries. Schools. Hospitals.  Roads. You name it and the thing has been announced - in some cases many, many times - the costs have skyrocketed and there’s not a sign of anything tangible.  As noted here last winter, about half the economic stimulus projects the provincial government announced consisted of projects that had been announced, some of them as long ago as 2005.

    Massive cost overruns and inordinate delays seem to be the norm in the provincial government these days.

    The interesting question is why that is so.

    We can be pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with just the normal cost of doing business. The pattern started before costs really skyrocketed and it affects things besides construction work.

    And it really doesn’t have anything to do with outdated ceremonies and rules.  One of the things Tory supporters in this province should point out is that all the time the current administration doesn’t spend in the legislature gives it more time to get things done.  These guys are much more efficient than other administrations, so the talking point would go. 

    Notice that they don’t say that sort of thing, though.  Despite having a legislature that sits about half the number of days it sat two decades ago, the usual complaint lately is about all the distractions. 

    Nor can there be any complaint about requirements to have the legislature approve things.  The Fishery Products Act amendments a couple of years ago gave cabinet the right to make decisions on its own without reference to the legislature ever again. That follows a pattern in other bills where the decision on when laws come into force is left entirely to cabinet. 

    Call it a sort of low-rent rule by decree, the idea behind this approach is that things can be done more quickly if all it takes for is a cabinet conference call and then a quick printing of The Gazette. No messy debates in public.  No question period.  Just a nice clean agreement behind closed doors.  Job done.

    Except it hasn’t seemed to work that way.

    Now this is the sort of thing we old political science types call “interesting” or “curious”.  It goes to the heart of what we love:  how government works in practice. 

    The theory is fine.  All the bumpf from the departmental bumpf factories keeps the news media full.  And some people think they can change the budget by going to a consultation session.  People who are genuinely interested in this sort of thing, though, love trying to figure out how things actually get done.

    In the case of the current provincial administration, those types have got their work cut out for them.  The current crowd should be performing much more efficiently and effectively than they actually are.  Put another way, they should be accomplishing things on par with what - as their polls show -  people think they are doing.

    So how come they aren’t?


    20 January 2010

    Goose and Gander, Quebec and Labrador

    Let’s just imagine, dear friends, what might happen if another provincial government acted like the one in this province.

    labradore does and the result would not be pretty.


    Kremlinology 15: as warm and fuzzy as your old blankie

    Last fall was rough on the provincial Conservatives.

    Back to back resignations followed by the by-election loss in the Straits and the strong Liberal vote in Terra Nova.  That’s old news to Bond Papers readers.

    Things are rough for the Conservatives in Corner Brook as well.

    Between the push-back over the Grenfell mess and the possibility that the Kruger mill may shut its doors permanently, there are plenty of reasons for provincial Conservatives to be sweating the possibility of a strong anti-Tory hum on the Humber.

    You can tell things are rough because the Premier took the time to head to Corner Brook last week for a party fundraiser – a point the conventional media neglected to point out - encouraged the Kruger unions to give the company whatever it needs to save the mill and pick a fight with people who had pissed him off:  He took a shot at Grenfell principal Holly Pike and others. 

    The local paper – The Western Starwarned him about the problems before the speech and then spanked him publicly for his attack on Pike after the speech.

    That last bit is a sure sign of how bad things are for the Tories.  What they said was nothing strong at all, but in a province where  - since 2003 - the conventional media like to serve warm milk and cookies editorially, a couple of simple declaratory sentences can come across like  a cross between the 95 Theses and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

    The real sign of the troubled times in Tory circles is the remarkable change in tone.  Suddenly ‘stachless health minister Jerome Kennedy took the trouble to call an open line show this week when it isn’t polling season and nothing is exploding.

    He talked at length about the changes he wants to bring after the budget is over.  Kennedy wants to start travelling around the province, talking to the great unwashed masses in their own native habitat. He wants to get real opinions from real people on things the government could be and should be doing.  

    We are not talking complete farce here.  Kennedy spoke in calm tones and used language about including people.  A lesson he learned in the by-elections, so Kennedy said.

    That’s right in line with another sign, namely a recent tour by several cabinet ministers of towns along the coast of Labrador.  Even Tommy Hedderson took the time to get out of St. John’s and visit real people in real towns.  Hedderson you may recall was the guy who – during the Straits by-election – talked about how wonderful it was to get back into that part of the province for the first time since 2001.  Yes, the fisheries minister hadn’t been able to visit a district with fish troubles until his Leader dragged him along to go save the Leader from political embarrassment.

    And let’s not forget the funding announcements.  Before Christmas it was the new hospital for Corner Brook which – we now learn – may well be a tertiary care centre to rival the one in Sin Jawns.  There is money for Grenfell, the bags of which was something the Premier duly noted as he pointed how some people were insufficiently grateful for his generosity.

    One of the Labrador ferries will be relocating to Corner Brook, at least for the winter at least for now.

    Now there’s Terry French heading to Corner Brook to make an announcement on funding for the provincial government’s arts centres. That’s on top of the money French already announced for the local stadium.  This was not, the finance minister would assure us, a sign that budget allocations have already been made for 2010.

    These sorts of things may be old hat everywhere else in the civilised world but in this province since 2003, they are almost unheard of.  Until now, the whole business of keeping in tune consisted of letting cabinet ministers work from an office set up wherever in the province they happened to live.  And even then, the main duty of the ministers-at-home was to keep an eye on dissent and make sure everyone stayed in line. Think hard hat and shovel and road paving in Labrador if you want a classic example of the cabinet minister without a real portfolio.

    Now undoubtedly some wag will point out that Jerome! is just angling to replace The Boss.  Shave the ‘stache, they will say and they are right.

    But that doesn’t mean that the cabinet as a whole might not also be working along with Jerome to change their collective political fortunes.  While The Boss is busy tilting at hydro towers in New Brunswick, the guys who actually will be running for re-election in 2011 might be noticing they don’t have much time to shift the whole tone and approach of the administration.

    Angry just doesn’t work all the time in politics, as any experienced politician and political scientist will tell you. People grow weary. And when the anger is directed inward, when people get smashed in the head for just having an opinion, it doesn’t take too long before people start to look for an alternative to the anger ball.

    That’s one of the big lessons from last fall, if you really are clued in about provincial politics. Things started to shift.

    And when the shift started, the local Tories seem to have decided to make a shift of their own.

    Coming on like a warm, fuzzy blankie seems to be aimed at making sure that whatever alternative people move toward, it will still be blue.

    Just a blue without all the anger in it.


    19 January 2010

    Every name in for the senator pool

    A couple of e-mails in ye olde inbox on Monday and just about every conceivable name cropped up in the great game of trying to figure out who will be the new Conservative senator from Newfoundland and Labrador.

    For the record, here’s the list:

    • Loyola Hearn

    • Loyola Sullivan

    • Liam O'Brien

    • Beth Marshall

    • Rex Barnes

    • Tim Powers

    • Merv Wiseman

    • Graham Letto

    • Rick Hillier

    • Lynn Verge

    • Tom Rideout

    • Vic Young

    • Leo Power

    Loyola_Sullivan Most of the spec seems to favour one of the Two Loyolas that’s Sullivan on the right -  but those fellows already have or had their bit of pork.

    loyola_hearn That’s former fish minister Loyola Hearn on the left, there, for those who don’t know him.

    Put them in the “Definitely Not” pile right next to Rick Hillier.

    Liam O’Brien would be a long shot.  He surely won’t take offence at the suggestion.

    Ditto Merv Wiseman, although he might take offence. Sucks to be him, then. Rex Barnes looks like he got on the list for the same reason Merv did:  someone listed former Tory candidates. Another “nope”.

    Beth Marshall would be too obvious just because all the spec puts her name up right next to the two Loyolas.  She’s at the point now where her name is on everyone’s list of nominees for everything. Watch out if the Pope drops dead tomorrow.  Local spec will have Beth in the running right behind the two Loyolas;  it’s gotten to be that much of a cliche.

    Graham Letto or someone else from Labrador would be a shot to replace Bill Rompkey when he retires within the next year or two. 

    small power Leo Power is a suggestion if someone was digging way inside the party and maybe way back into the mists of time to boot.

    He’s a former exec to John Crosbie and former principal secretary to Tom Rideout for 43 Days but has Leo got anything else to qualify him for a seat in the Antechamber to the Kingdom of Heaven before Tom Rideout?

    rideout toque And speaking of Tom, there’s just something about that appointment that wouldn’t fit the reformist theme supposedly being set by this round of appointments. Any Tories in the National Capital Region with a room to rent might find Tom a willing tenant.

    So who’s left on that list?

    Tim Powers  - he of the Globe blog and Ottawa lobbyist fame - is an interesting choice.  The guy has strong ties both provincial and federally so he could act a go-between in the Great Rapprochement between the federal Connies and the provincial cousins.

    verge - old mug shot Lynn Verge is a possibility.  She’s a former provincial Tory leader with a strong background in public life.


    Vic Young Then there’s Vic Young. Frankly it’s a bit strange to see him there.  The former public servant and business exec has kept a pretty low profile since retiring.  Well, low with the exception of the Blame Canada Commission in 2002.

    He’d be a good choice but that hasn’t stopped prime ministers – including this one – from looking right past a good choice in favour of a complete waste of time. 

    Like say Mike Duffy.

    Odds are that none of the names on that list will wind up getting the nod whenever the choice is made. The federal Conservatives have shown themselves adept at coming up with some – shall we say – unusual choices when it comes to federal appointments. 

    One that stands out in the local legal community is a judge whose appointment prompted tongue-in-cheek concern in some quarters that she might not know where the court house was.  Seems the only time she’d darkened its doors – as the local legal wags put it – was when she’d shown up to see her old man sworn in as a supreme court judge years before.

    So with all those names from the current speculation out of the way, maybe someone can come up with a novel idea.

    The comments are open.  Toss your suggestions on the table.


    18 January 2010

    Budget consultation farce: more evidence

    Normally, budget decisions wouldn’t be announced until after the provincial government budget for the upcoming fiscal year is formally presented in the legislature.

    Since 2007 – at least - that convention had gone out the window in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    The fact that cabinet ministers announce spending priorities for the coming year starting in January also proves that the entire series of meetings the finance minister calls budget consultations are pretty much a joke and a half.

    They are a complete farce, a cruel joke on the ordinary unsuspecting members of the public because – as the finance minister well knows – the decisions on spending are pretty much already made.

    If the spending decisions weren’t made already, a cabinet minister could not announce on January 18 – some three months ahead of the budget being tabled in the House of Assembly - that a program would be funded for three more fiscal years.


    NB Power deal: it’ll all be over soon

    First there was talk about reworking the deal.

    And now a cabinet minister says publicly he won’t be backing it.

    Oh yeah and the schlemeil talks about cabinet confidentiality as he blabs about what went on in a caucus meeting.

    Consider the deal to sell NB Power to be on life support, with a strong chance the provincial election will deliver the coup de grace.

    The only thing to wonder now is what the New Brunswick provincial Conservatives will do with the whole NB Power mess once they take power after the next election.


    Push back on Grenfell

    Things are not good in Corner Brook if the local daily the Western Star is making this strong a statement about the Premier’s recent  - and just the latest -  public attack on someone within the province:

    The premier’s comments are unprofessional, misleading and irresponsible. He owes the residents of Western Newfoundland and Labrador, Sir Wilfred Grenfell College and especially Holly Pike an apology.

    You’d have to be living here for the past seven years to realise just exactly how strong these words really are.

    The fact they come from the newspaper serving the Premier’s district makes them stand out even more.

    And the fact that they are in public, in print, just makes the old chin hit the old floor all the harder.

    Alex Marland take note.


    17 January 2010

    Lower Churchill, Nova Scotia and NB Power: “The sheer economics of it…”

    And it is not like people haven’t said this before:

    Premier Darrell Dexter said he’s not surprised Newfoundland and Labrador is looking for a cheaper option than an underwater cable connection to Nova Scotia for moving energy from Lower Churchill to market.

    "The sheer economics of it are undeniable in terms of a transportation corridor for that energy," the premier said after a cabinet meeting Thursday.

    Read down a wee bit further in the Chronicle-herald story and you get this:

    An SNC-Lavalin transmission system study for the Nova Scotia government estimates the cost of connecting Newfoundland and Nova Scotia at $800 million to $1.2 billion. The estimate of connecting Nova Scotia to New England is $2 billion to $3 billion.

    Yes, stringing underwater power cables from some point in Newfoundland and Labrador to Nova Scotia would cost at least $1.2 billion.  Initial cost estimates are always low on megaprojects like this. 

    But to get to that bit, you’d have to string the long from Gull Island, down to the coast of Labrador, across to the island of Newfoundland down to some point on the southwest coast of the island to get to the bit that costs at least $1.2 billion.

    The cost of that plus the line out to Soldier’s Pond near St. John’s would be $2.0 billion or more.

    You can tell the Nova Scotia option was never being seriously considered.  There isn’t any plan to do it currently under environmental review.

    Now all this too has to make you wonder why Darrell joined in attacking Shawn Graham in New Brunswick. His whole position on this just didn’t make any sense before. And it really doesn’t make any sense now that he admits he knows the whole power line to Nova Scotia is just so much crap.

    In fact, Dexter acknowledges the whole thing is crap because he adamantly insists that there’s no way Nova Scotia taxpayers would be on the hook to help build it.

    “We’re not going to build it,” he said.


    Not surprisingly, NALCOR Energy boss Ed Martin is talking about the cost of land transmission through Quebec. Hearings into NALCOR’s application/objections on that front are due to start this week. Land transmission is pretty much the only economically viable way of getting Labrador power out to any market.

    The current estimate for building a new set of power lines across Quebec is $3.0 billion.  That’s not bad considering the estimates for the line Soldier’s Pond for a mere 800 megawatts.

    You can tell the crowd at NALCOR understand the whole game currently being played.  Look at the way it wound up in the Telegram over the weekend:

    Regardless of what happens, officials say the regulator's decisions will provide certainty for Newfoundland and Labrador's energy corporation as it tries to get the Lower Churchill hydro project off the ground.

    "We've collected all the information we need," Nalcor Energy president Ed Martin said in an interview.

    "This is one of the key pieces left. I'm going to have enough information (after) this to be able to complete my discussions with potential customers."

    When people start talking about certainty, then you know they’ve comes to terms with reality.  “At least we’ll know for sure…” should be one of the stages of grief.

    For the record and just for all those people who are still over the shock that the line through Gros Morne was a political racket for nothing, let’s get this straight as well.  The provincial government isn’t concerned that Hydro-Quebec is blocking the precious Legacy Project.

    At least one person in the government is pissed off that the whole thing just can’t get off the ground for one simple thing:

    the sheer economics of it.