30 March 2012

Muskrat Three-some #nlpoli

Here are some treats to keep you up with the latest developments on the Muskrat falls front.

For starters, CBC’s Anthony Germain interviewed Tom Adams on Thursday about Adams’ contention that the Muskrat Falls project will add a significant debt load on the province.  It’s the third audio file from the top on that linked page, incidentally. 

How’s $12,000 per person for a significant debt load?

Adams points out that the industry standard way of figuring out costs for electricity projects makes Muskrat Falls hideously expensive.  Nalcor’s estimate, incidentally, is that the cost using the industry-standard means puts Muskrat falls at a cost of at least 21 cents per kilowatt hour.  When your humble e-scribbler and others said Muskrat would double the price of electricity for consumers, we were wrong.  it would actually triple it or worse.

Because Muskrat Falls is so hideously expensive, Nalcor Energy and its whole-owned subsidiary - the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador - plan to use a costing method that transfers the costs and the huge risks for the project into the future.  That makes it appear cheaper at the front but ensures that consumers get it in the end.

Clever, eh?

Adams’ comments are based on a post he made on March 21.

A couple of days later, Adams posted a link to slides from David Vardy’s presentation to the Rotary Club of St. John’s. That’s your second treat.

Most of this is stuff you may have heard before.  One of the things you might want to pick out, though, is a point Vardy makes at the bottom of slide 18:

Access to financing will depend on the form of the loan guarantee.

Federal officials have talked about delivering their loan guarantee in a number of forms depending on what works best for them.  Provincial officials haven’t really talked about this because it is a very delicate issue.  How the feds deliver their commitment will affect the cost of the project significantly.

It can also determine whether or not the provincial government can raise the cash they will need for this very expensive project that has no apparent chance of ever making a nickel from export sales.  Potential investors are looking at this project like hawks. They aren’t going to be fooled by Twittered bullshit about a 15% cost over-run and revenue streams that make it wonderful and viable.

Financing is the key to this project.  Note Vardy’s point.  You might also want to go back and check two old posts from this corner:  one from December 2010 and another from February 2011.

bruneauYour third treat is the presentation by Dr. Stephen Bruneau (March 28) on the potential for natural gas as a way to produce electricity in the province.  David Vardy noted this one as well as the availability of Churchill Falls power in 2041, incidentally.

Bruneau walked through the entire issue, including availability and potential costs. The slides are here in pdf.

He also looks at the risk of a pipeline rupture.  Interestingly enough, the proponents of the Muskrat project are grasping at that one to try and fight off the threat to their dream posed by natural gas. 

Bruneau estimates that the fuel costs for a Holyrood-sized gas plant would be one quarter of the cost of Holyrood.  That’s based on an assumption that we cost the natural gas at current American market prices.  The overall construction cost is in the neighbourhood of your humble e-scribbler’s estimates of under $2.0 billion.  Bruneau estimates construction would be two years or so.

One of the things that opponents of low cost electricity forget is that you actually need a mix of generation types to deliver a stable supply of electricity.  Natural gas would be the logical compliment to the existing hydro-electric generation on the island.

And, for those folks, that’s a significant issue.  They love Muskrat and criticise natural gas because it isn’t green enough.  What they fail to admit is that their plan for Muskrat includes more thermal generation from oil than the island current has.  The Green Fallacy is just another example of how Muskrat proponents have to cut corners on the facts in order to push their project along.

- srbp -

29 March 2012

Kremlinology 40: Word Search #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Go right through the 2012 federal budget.

Look anywhere you want.

Try the chapter that lists off energy projects and how the latest federal budget will help them.

Note the reference to Hebron:

Hebron Offshore Oil Development (Newfoundland and Labrador)

ExxonMobil Canada Properties’ Hebron Offshore Oil Development project is a 19,000 to 28,000 cubic metres per day offshore oil production proposal located in the Jeanne d'Arc basin, approximately 340 kilometres offshore of St. John's. The proposal consists of an offshore oil production system and associated facilities. A project description was submitted in March 2009 and the review was completed in January 2012.

budget 2012Look at the picture – right – that includes a dot for the dam and some dashed lines for the transmission lines for it.

Go a bit farther down the page and find this reference:

Eliminating this tariff will lower business costs by $30 million annually, improve the competitiveness of the energy industry, including electricity generation in Newfoundland and Labrador …

Interesting.  The federal government is going to make it cheaper to bring certain things into the country – like say oil, coal, and natural gas? – that would make it cheaper for you to make electricity in Canada.

Now go back to your search.

Look high.

Look low.

Try and find the words “Muskrat Falls.”

Your humble e-scribbler couldn’t find them.

Couldn’t find “loan guarantee” or anything like it, either.

After that, it seemed kind of silly to look for phrases like “copper-fastened.”

- srbp -

They’re baaaack #nlpoli

Last December, your humble e-scribbler told you about the Liberal party’s renewal committee.

Well, it’s back, or it will be back according to an anonymous source quoted by the Telegram on Monday.

The thing was going to involve Dean Macdonald, Siobhan Coady and Kevin Aylward.  They would travel around the province listening to people and then report back at some point in the future to the party’s executive board. And then at some point after that all that listening and reporting would produce something called “renewal”.

Now the idea is still alive but, according to the Telly’s source, …

sources in the party indicate since then the project has grown, and when the announcement happens, it will likely include more prominent party members, and representation from different regions of the province.

There’s no talk of a deadline or a timeline according to the source.  The committee will just go on a do whatever it is they will do.

Two things stand out. 

First – what your humble e-scribbler said before Christmas still stands:

If the Liberals knew what to do or had a general idea of where to go, they’d do it.  Instead, they have adopted – in essence -  the fisheries MOU process.  That was a committee by another name and look at how successfully that worked out.

Adding more people to the committee or putting different people on the committee doesn’t change the fact it is still a committee that apparently lacks a focus, direction or purpose. 

So while they are off listening, lots of things are happening while the Liberals reach around in the dark trying to find themselves. 

Telegram editor Russell Wangersky described the party’s performance in the legislature in stark but honest and accurate terms.

Truly effective oppositions not only know the questions they’re asking, but they often have some knowledge of the answers, too.

Then, when governments prevaricate or trot out a handful of off-point bluster, the opposition members go outside the House and give the media the answers the government has been avoiding.

It’s a pretty simple formula, really. The goal is to establish credibility so that voters will see the opposition as a viable alternative in the next election.  The problem for the Liberals is that – very obviously – they just aren’t interested in getting back into power.

Government backbencher or opposition member, the gig is pretty sweet.  No heavy lifting and you are in out of the weather.  And these days you don’t have to show up very often.  You aren’t expected to know much of anything about anything.  There’s plenty of patronage to hand out if you are a government member and that’s what helps to put the votes in the box these days. Wangersky notes the speeches about money for the district. Patronage is why. 

There’s a good reason why the Tories went along with the House allowances scheme the Liberals proposed in the late 1990s. And there’s a reason they not only kept it going after 2003 but didn’t slack off until the Auditor General’s boys tripped over it.

Leave aside the criminals and look at the rest of the members.  The House allowances scheme was all about patronage, about handing out goodies in the district, about bringing back the spoils.  Chief Justice Green nailed it in his report.  The Telegram did, too, even if the truth went up Kathy Dunderdale’s nose sideways.

And on the opposition benches, the motivation is basically the same.  You could be assured that the government boys would look after you, too, even if the amount was less than what the government boys got. They’d toss road work and other stuff your way as long as you stood up and thanked them loudly in the House.

Then you can turn around and issue a news release about the wonderful pork you’ve been able to bring back for your peeps from the big treasure pile in Sin Jawns. 

The same sort of co-operation among the incumbents explains a lot of things, including the special ballots scheme from 2007.  Anything that helps incumbents stay in office is good, regardless of what party the incumbent represents. 

That community self-interest among the insiders is why the people who have been fighting hardest against the anti-democratic trends of the past decade aren’t Liberals or Tories. The only politicians fighting about sitting days or special ballots are New Democrats.  In Newfoundland and Labrador politics, Dippers are the ultimate outsiders.

That might wind up working for them, but that’s all something for another time.  For now, just understand that the Liberals are in no danger of suddenly catching fire politically.  The party apparatus is going to have a committee jerking off across the province.  meanwhile, the caucus is impressing no one in the House.

Second - consider that all this news for the Telly came from an unnamed source.  Someone disgruntled or someone who fancies himself an insider bent on proving it?  Either way, this sort of anonymous leaking is the sign of an amateur act.  it’s a big clue that the Liberals lack the internal cohesion and internal discipline needed to form a viable political party. 

Without the kind of professionalism successful political parties display, the Liberals are destined to stay exactly where they are, even if by some miracle the “renewal” committee manages to do something useful.

- srbp -

28 March 2012

Coulda, woulda, shoulda: the Labrador hydro version #nlpoli

Sometimes completely separate events come together in a striking way.

Your humble e-scribbler and Jerome Kennedy, the provincial natural resources minister exchanged a couple of tweets on Tuesday.   The minister had called it an error that the 1969 Churchill Falls power contract included a clause that said the contract would be interpreted under the laws of Quebec.  If the contract was under the laws of this province, the government would be able to apply section 92A of the Constitution Act, 1867. Go back and read the Supreme Court cases, he suggested.

Well, let’s just leave that for another day without getting into the details.  The ongoing discussion among Labrador aficionados about 92A is long and complicated.

Let’s just look at the bit about an error.

Well, it is an error.

But it’s an error in hindsight.

And that’s hindsight with the benefit of section 92A that was added to the constitution in 1982 and not even dreamed about in 1969.  And that’s with the benefit of knowing what happened in 1976 when the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador effectively nationalised the company that signed the 1969 contract with Hydro-Quebec.

That company was Brinco and its subsidiary, the Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation. Brinco was a private company with its head office in Montreal. The guys who signed the 1969 contract had no idea that their company would all but vanish in 1976 and that the Canadian constitution would change or that this might somehow matter to them.

Meanwhile, earlier on Tuesday, your humble e-scribbler had a chat with someone else about Nalcor’s lawsuit against Hydro-Quebec over the 1969 contract.  You can find CBC’s online story about it on the New Brunswick CBC site.  They also posted the motion to start legal proceedings that Nalcor’s lawyers filed in Montreal against Hydro-Quebec.

The motion doesn’t argue that Hydro-Quebec screwed Brinco. It doesn’t say that the HQ boys used insider knowledge to gain some advantage improperly.  They didn’t use any of the usual descriptions people in Newfoundland and Labrador have for the 1969 contract.

Instead you see stuff like this:

13. When the contract was signed, neither party believed or had any reason to believe that the North American electricity markets would become more competitive, and
CFLCo in particular had no reason to believe that future US open access regulations would in effect enable CFLCo to transmit energy through Hydro-Québec's transmission network to the US or other markets;

14. Nor was there any reason to believe that the commercial value of the energy sold would increase over time. To the contrary, it was generally expected that with the advent of nuclear power plants, the value of that energy might well decline over time;

15. Thus, the contract contains no escalation clause but rather provides for a gradual reduction in the purchase price, a clear indication that the extraordinary increase in
energy prices to their present level was neither foreseen nor foreseeable when the Power Contract was signed;

No one saw anything coming.

Neither Brinco nor Hydro-Quebec “believed or has any reason to believe” their assumptions would turn out to be wrong.

And that declining price is not the result of some evil French plot to oppress the poor benighted folk of the Happy Province. Nope, it was the result of a mutual understanding of what would be fair given all those reasonable assumptions both parties had at the time they signed the deal.

Things changed after that and both parties to the agreement these days have recognised the need to change it.  Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to cut a deal.  So now, Nalcor is in court to get a Quebec court to order a resolution.

Without getting into any more of the argument than that, it is curious to see the extent that both the natural resources minister and the government’s lawyers use hindsight when talking about the 1969 contract. 

Jerome Kennedy used it in a fairly typical way.  Hindsight has been the usual way some politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador use to paint the 1969 contract as the Great Injustice or the Quebec Plot or the Great Give-Away or whatever injustice they pledge to avenge.  For Kennedy it was along the lines that if only they hadn’t made that big mistake back then, we could easily fix the problem.

For the lawyers, the deal was wonderful in the beginning.  Things turned out differently.  So in hindsight, we need to go back and rework the original deal because the situation is changed.  No one did anything wrong but we still need to fix things.

It will be fascinating to see how the courts in Quebec and later the Supreme Court in Ottawa deal with the Nalcor lawsuit.

And it will be really interesting in future years to watch as the Muskrat Falls gang deal with the impact of hindsight applied to their deal.

- srbp -

27 March 2012

Tory and Dipper leader in approvals tie in NL: poll #nlpoli

An unspecified number of people polled online in Newfoundland and Labrador by Angus-Reid approved almost equally of the job done by e Premier Kathy Dunderdale and New Democratic party leader Lorraine Michael.

The margin of error for the entire poll of more than 6,600 Canadians in nine province is given as plus or minus 1.2%.  There’s no indication of the margin of error for Newfoundland and Labrador.

What’s most interesting though is the matched approval ratings.  More respondents disapproved of Dunderdale than Michael but more respondents were not sure of their opinion of Michael compared to Michael.



Not sure

Kathy Dunderdale




Lorraine Michael




Respondents were asked:

Do you approve or disapprove of the performance of each of the following people?

Dunderdale’s approval is down five percentage points from December 2011 and three points from August 2011.

That gets more interesting when you compare Dunderdale over a longer period.  For example, 35% of respondents were not sure about her in February 2011, the highest undecided result for any Premier in the survey.

One year later and those undecideds have moved to the “disapprove” column.  Her “approved” rating is at 55% in 2012 compared to 55%* a year ago.

Here’s how things looked last summer:

According to the latest Angus-Reid poll,  43% of respondents are satisfied with Kathy Dunderdale’s performance as premier down from 55% in February and 67% for her predecessor last November.

Undecided remains at 35% of those polled.

But here’s the thing:  Those who said they were dissatisfied with Dunderdale’s performance went from 10% in February to 23%.

Kathy Dunderdale may be Premier but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have some serious political problems to deal with.

- srbp -

*corrected number

The difference in lost lives #nlpoli #cdnpoli

In the past month, at least two people have died as a result of misadventure in the wilderness on motorized vehicles.

One was was a 23 year old young man who inadvertently rode his all terrain vehicle into the water, where he drowned.

The other was a 14 year old young man whose snowmobile ran out of gas outside his hometown on the Labrador coast.  He turned the wrong way to walk home and wound up, tragically, freezing to death.  Had he turned the right way, he walked far enough to be home twice over.

In both cases, the local police directed the search with the help from volunteers and from the provincial emergency response organization.  The emergency response agency called in helicopters from a civilian contractor to give the searchers the ability to cover more ground.  That’s what they do to help the people searching on the ground.

Here’s what you will find on the Fire and Emergency Services website:

Fire and Emergency Services – NL is called upon to assist the police forces (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary & Royal Canadian Mounted Police) in search and rescue activities. This assistance is usually in the form of air services support for lost and missing persons. The program is also utilized by FES-NL during emergency response activities.

Sometimes they call for help from the military search and rescue service.  But just so everyone is clear on who is responsible for what when it comes to search and rescue, here’s the mission as described on the website for the office that co-ordinates the military rescue service:

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Halifax is responsible for the coordination of all Search and Rescue (SAR) operations associated with aircraft and marine emergencies in eastern Canada.

All this is important because CBC’s Fifth Estate decided to ignore those and a great many other factual details in its ghoulish rush to grab some ratings. They spent most of their recent report reciting aspects of the story that are well known.  The weather issue was one everyone asked about early on and that National Defence addressed in detail.

They interviewed the president of Universal Helicopters.  When his company got the call from provincial officials, they were already committed to going he says, or words to that effect.  He did not add and CBC certainly didn’t bother to explain that Universal has the contract to fly those search missions for provincial authorities. 

And if Universal doesn’t anyone trained to provide much in the way of  emergency medical support on those flights, that is because the provincial government hasn’t put it in the contract.  They don’t have any infra-red equipment either, for the same reason.  But, no need to worry, the provincial government is taking care of that.

New information about problems with the Hercules aircraft fleet in Greenwood actually explains in much clearer terms why the joint rescue centre didn’t send a helicopter from Gander.  To do so, at a time when the weather was iffy, might have risked preventing them from responding to a marine emergency.  After all that is the first responsibility for military search and rescue.  As much as fifth estate tries to spin the story otherwise,  the people who did the searching in Makkovik were the people who were supposed to be searching.

But for all that,  the Fifth Estate story was good enough to get some politicians to ask questions in the legislature.

The CBC supper hour news led into the coverage of the House of Assembly session on Monday by noting that CBC’s reporting was one of the major topics of discussion.  Their online story tells us all that the Premier is demanding answers “to questions raised about the search for Burton Winters by The Fifth Estate.”  If you think pushing turkeys at Christmas is unseemly for a news organization, imagine what you’d think of such public masturbation.

In any event, opposition politicians asked the provincial government what they would do about the federal government.  And, as CBC reported, Premier Kathy Dunderdale was happy to stand up in the House of Assembly and insist that she was as fried as everyone else that those nasty federales weren’t answering questions.  Dunderdale did her best to out-posture Liberal Yvonne Jones about whose indignation was more righteous but in the end they both wound up in a tie. 

They should both be ashamed of themselves, all the ghoul-politicians who have feasted on this tragedy, should be ashamed of themselves.  The problem is that politicians from this province seem to have had the organ that controls decent, human behaviour surgically removed.  No search and rescue crew could find it. 

Otherwise, they’d have long ago stopped torturing the Winters family or figured out they they keep looking to the wrong people to provide answers to any questions they still have.

Incidentally, Jordan Wells is the other young man who died in a tragic accident earlier this year.

No politicians seem to care about Jordan’s family, though.  No one has asked any questions in the legislature about Jordan.  No one seems to wonder why he died, how he died and why the police and local volunteers searched for him.  There’s not much chance  a national television crew will show up to record his parents’ exquisite grief so that people in Sri Lanka can watch them bathe themselves with shards of broken glass over and over and over

There is apparently a difference between tragic deaths that only certain types of politicians and reporters can see.

It might be better to be blind.

- srbp -


26 March 2012

Give us a caption, then: Jerome! edition #nlpoli

He’s a colourful fellow and attracts lots of attention.

So let’s see what this screen capture says to you.  Give us a caption for it.  Serious or funny, that’s your call.  Just keep it relatively clean.


- srbp -

Tuition Fees and University Participation #nlpoli

The connection between tuition fees and university participation was a big subject in the summer run-up to the general election and then in the general election  last fall.

Just to give some additional food for thought on that topic, here are a couple of slices from a study done in September 2011 by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Some observations from the study (page 11):

  • The data show that university participation for 23 year olds from low-income families was lower in Quebec and Newfoundland, the two lowest-tuition provinces, than in any other province.
  • Manitoba, the remaining low-tuition province, had a low-income participation rate that was nearly identical with the
    national average.
  • Nova Scotia, with the highest average tuition fees in the country, boasted the highest university participation rate for
    students from low-income families.
  • Ontario, with the second-highest tuition fees in the country, had the second highest participation rate for young people from low-income families.

In the time period for the study – 2003 to 2007 – Newfoundland and Labrador had the second lowest tuition in the country and participation rates were in the middle of the pack.

Graph both of them and you get this:

chart 3

Some people argue that low tuition fees make it easier for people from low income families to attend university.  maybe they do.  But according to this study, other factors seem to having an impact.  Here’s a chart that looks at participation and family income:

chart 5

Just some food for thought.

- srbp -

$#*! politicians say: Jerome! edition #nlpoli

Everyone’s favourite natural resources minister outdid himself last week for saying things that were just so far removed from reality that they were just funny.

He said them in the House of Assembly and if that wasn’t good enough he repeated them for this week’s episode of On Point with David Cochrane.

By the by, here’s the real take-away from Cochrane this weekend:  the Tories are in such political shape generally and are saying such complete rubbish that Cochrane looked like he was trying desperately not to break down laughing at Kennedy and David Brazil.

This is the hardest pounding Cochrane has delivered to any politician in years and he did it to two of them on the same program.  Make no mistake:  Cochrane was thoroughly professional and fair.  What he did was just refuse to let utter crap go unchallenged.

And it was crap.

Kennedy insisted he wanted to hear all sorts of criticism to point what is wrong with the Muskrat Falls project.  “Show us where we are wrong,” Jerome says.

But as everyone have seen over the past few months, the government simply attacks the critics personally (they are just politically motivated according to Kennedy) or dismisses the criticism.

And when they aren’t doing that, the government just makes shit up.

Like when Jerome claimed that Nalcor and the government had studied natural gas as an option and dismissed it. 

They dismissed it alright, out of hand. They’ve been stuck with all the assumptions they found in a 1980 study, long before anyone found natural gas offshore.  Read the feasibility study done in 1980 and notice the strange similarity to the current thinking about which two choices to think about and which one is cheaper.  You’ll be amazed.

But there’s absolutely no sign that anyone connected to the provincial government has ever given natural gas a moment’s serious thought for what it is:  a much lower cost alternative to Muskrat Falls that would actually produce more electricity than Muskrat Falls ever could.

A natural gas plant with 824 megawatts of installed generation could produce the full amount.  Muskrat Falls will produce – on average – about the equivalent of 570 megawatts or so. The cost would be considerably less than half the cost of Muskrat Falls and the line to Nova Scotia, which incidentally, is now $8.9 billion.

Perhaps the funniest new line Kennedy is using is that Muskrat Falls will be needed to generate electricity for new mining development in Labrador.

That’s a new one.  Until now, Muskrat Falls was supposed to be a replacement for Holyrood. But that’s only for three months a year   A bit of electricity will go off to Nova Scotia for free and the rest was supposed to be sent off to some unknown foreign lands.

During the environmental review process, Nalcor couldn’t produce a single concrete sale to show just how much greenhouse gas Muskrat Falls would displace.  The reason is simple:  MF electricity is too expensive.  No one will buy it.

So now Jerome’s got a new story:  Labrador mines.  The mines will need all of Muskrat Falls and then some besides.  So where we will get the electricity to replace Holyrood?  Someone should ask Kennedy that one so he can invent a new answer.

Last week in the House, Kennedy had another gem:


Gull Island is not possible because we cannot get through Quebec, Mr. Speaker, wind is not an option and we know that natural gas is not an option. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: What options are you talking about? What is it you want us to explore? We have explored everything. Muskrat Falls is the lowest cost and best option to secure the future of this Province.

“Gull Island is not possible because we cannot get through Quebec.”  That is exactly what Kennedy said, word for word.

And not a word of it is true.

Nalcor current sells electricity to New York by running it through Quebec.  They’ve been doing it since 2009.  If they had someone to buy any electricity from Labrador, they could move it through Quebec without a problem.  The reason they aren’t developing Gull Island is because they don’t have any customers for the power.

Full stop.

In fact, if they had customers to justify Gull Island, that’s the one they’d be building because it would be more cost-effective than Muskrat Falls.  In fact, if you look at Nalcor’s own information provided to the public utilities board, it appears they never started looking at Muskrat Falls as a stand-alone project until 2010.  It’s worth quoting a couple of paragraphs from that Nalcor document:

In 2010, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro was faced with a decision relating to generation expansion for the Island Interconnected System for the timeframe ranging from 2015 to 2020. As ensuing analysis indicated that the least-cost expansion option would involve a Labrador-Island HVdc (high voltage direct current) infeed, it was determined that priority should be given to the Muskrat Falls Development. This development would be sufficient to meet forecasted demand in for the Island Interconnected System, while providing some additional capacity for potential export to the Maritimes.

Based on this change, the proposed 1600 MW multi-terminal HVdc scheme would be replaced with a smaller point-to-point system from Muskrat Falls to Soldiers Pond. With an estimated annual plant capability of 4.9 TWh at Muskrat Falls and up to 300 MW of available recall capacity from the Upper Churchill, it was determined that the HVdc link should be sized for 900 MW.

Looking at what Jerome Kennedy said last week about Muskrat Falls, you’d almost think he was making this $#*! up as he goes.

- srbp -

24 March 2012

$#*! the Premier says, Open Line edition #nlpoli

I suggest that the members opposite do the same and they encourage our representatives in Ottawa to do the same, because the only time we hear from them is on Open Line shows here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale, Hansard, March 22, 2012

Kathy Dunderdale was making fun of politicians who call Open Line shows.


Maybe she was making fun because they weren’t participating in an organized program of Open Line show stacking like Kathy and her colleagues have done since 2003.


That would have to be it.

Because otherwise, she’d be like, ah, well, like the biggest friggin’ hypocrite alive.

- srbp -

Cougar to replace gearbox on S-92 #nlpoli

Local media – CBC and Telegram for example – reported on Friday that Cougar Helicopters would “replace the  gearbox” on an S-92 that showed an indication of metal in the fluid of the Number 2 Input Module earlier in the week.

“Sikorsky analyzed data from its global Health and Usage Monitoring system and that analysis indicated an upward trend in a component,” she stated in an email to The Telegram this afternoon.

“This information, when combined with the information shown following an assessment of the elements related to the chip indication, reveal a possibility that this could be an early indicator of reduced performance.”

The Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS) is operated by the aircraft manufacturer, Sikorsky.  It analyses information from sensors located on Sikorsky helicopters operating worldwide.   A photograph from cougar.ca shows the sensor locations:


HUMS can be used to detect changes in how different parts of an individual aircraft work in daily flight and compare performance across the entire fleet of aircraft. Both the pilot and the co-pilot can monitor HUMS read-outs during flights.  Daily maintenance procedures include downloading the information from the helicopter’s onboard computers and feeding the information Sikorsky Aircraft

In this case, it appears that the HUMS analysis by Sikorsky Aircraft showed a pattern of readings for this particular aircraft  - the “upward trend” – for the gearbox that might indicate a problem at some point in the future.  Cougar opted to replace the engine components involved. 

Cougar Helicopters did not release the aircraft serial number for the helicopter involved in this incident.

- srbp -

23 March 2012

Kathy Dunderdale and the “full force” of her political impotence #nlpoli


Okay, so the search and rescue sub-centre was never anything to go to war over anyway.

Still, that didn’t stop Kathy Dunderdale from pledging to do everything in her power to save all those really important jobs.


Kathy had some kind of special new relationship with the Prime Minister since she and her caucus campaigned for the Tories in the last federal election.  She made no apologies.

Here’s how your humble e-scribbler summarised her scrum last summer when this issue first came up:

Dunderdale told reporters that the “full force” of the provincial government will now be brought to bear to get the Prime Minister and his cabinet to change their minds.  She said she has tasked two cabinet ministers and their senior staff to take “every opportunity” to pursue the issue with their federal counterparts over the next year.  In addition, Dunderdale said she is also going to be doing the same thing, spending every available minute of the next year fighting to keep the 12 jobs in the province.

She tried a telephone call to her buddy, Steve, although apparently that kept the two staffs busy trying to figure out how to do it so that Steve and Kathy were on the phone together talking to each other. 

She even wanted to spend provincial government dollars to keep the thing going.

The Premier plus two cabinet ministers,  all their staff, doing everything they could at every opportunity and with the full force of the entire provincial government.

Well, all that they came up with with less than a little poof of hot air.

Kathy delivered nothing.




Sweet Fanny Adams.

And, of course, zilch.

Kathy failed.

You can tell Kathy failed because now she is telling everyone to frig off and go ask someone else. 

Go ask the feds, she told Liberal leader Dwight Ball in the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

As you can see from that tweet CBC’s Jane Adey had later that same day, Kath was telling people to go after the federal members of parliament from Newfoundland and Labrador for answers.  Wednesday wasn’t the end of it. 

Dunderdale continued the foolishness Thursday by blaming Liberal members of parliament for her failure.  It’s like John Hickey taking Roger Grimes to court for defamation over something Danny Williams said:  obviously stupid. The federal Liberals wasted no time in lampooning Dunderdale anywhere they could in return.  Her ministers are going to be taking it in the neck as well.

She’s going to get roasted for failing.  She’s going to get hammered for her photo op with Stephen Harper.

And she brought it down on her own head. 

Here are the political take-aways:

Kathy Dunderdale has no political sense.  Smart politicians would never have been suckered into proclaiming the crusade in the first place. The issue wasn’t crucial to anything and the feds weren’t likely to reverse themselves given that no one could explain why the place was important to anyone for anything.

On the On Point panel last week, Liberal Siobhan Coady excused Dunderdale’s cock-ups.  She’s new in office.  Only a few months since the election.

That’s just crap and Siobhan should know it. Dunderdale’s been there since 2003.  She’s been Premier since the end of 2010.  Kathy’s got decades of municipal experience from before that.  For all that experience, Kathy Dunderdale has no sense of political judgment.

Big Problem.

She doth bestride her imaginary world like a Colossus… So why did she jump in with both feet?  Likely due to a completely unfounded but entirely unshakeable conviction that she can do anything, that she is all powerful and that she can do no wrong.  

That’s the most likely explanation. 

Dunderdale just got caught up in herself in her new job.  Think of it like John Efford in his famous “There it is, Mr. Williams.  There it is, Mr. Sullivan” news conference.  It’s not an act:  she displays all the same kind of prideful arrogance in other places.  And you know what they say about pride.

Stick to your own lane.  The root of this problem lies in Danny Williams’ stupid decision in 2008 to stake his entire political pile on the ABC campaign. 

He lost. 


And then he had to limp through another couple of years as a lame duck. 

Traditionally, federal politicians stay out of provincial politics and vice versa.  If they did campaign, they did it quietly.  No one took an official stand.

Courtesy might be one reason for it, but the real one lay in the simple and the pragmatic:  no matter who wins you might have to work with them.  Better to keep your mouth shut so you can have a productive working relationship.

Danny went one way and paid that price.

Kathy went the other way and will pay a different price. 

Her mistake was in getting involved in the first place.  Again it’s an amateurs mistake committed by someone  - supposedly – with decades of political experience.

How does Kathy legitimately criticise the guys she campaigned for?  What happens when they don’t come across with something you staked your reputation on? 

Kathy is going to find out and the lesson might be painful.  For the rest of us, we’ve already seen the full force of her political impotence.

- srbp -

22 March 2012

All the news that fits the frame #nlpoli

With a couple of discussions about the media and how it covers news, no regular readers of the various scribbles in this province would be surprised to find a column on the same subject from the Telegram’s Peter Jackson.

Go read it.  While you may disagree with Peter from time to time – and sometimes the disagreement is more often than not – Peter brings his considerable experience in newsrooms and that always adds to the discussion.

Right at the start, Peter very accurately describes what the basic problem is for people who toil thanklessly in newsrooms:  too much stuff to fit into the available time and space.  There’s no sarcasm in that, by the way.  They work very hard, no matter what some people think.  As a rule, they are trying to get the story right.  They want to be fair and they want to do what they think is appropriate in addition to meeting the business demands of making money so everyone keeps his or her job.

That said, Peter couldn’t resist tossing some straw into his mix:

The media, say critics, were duped by the Tories into covering their little distraction at the expense of more important news.

Yeah, well, umm, no.

At least, not from this critic.

They weren’t duped by anything.  The way the local newsrooms covered the Bennett story is a function of the way they tend to handle local political stories, especially in the post-2003 era.

Let’s take a look at what Peter says.  He deploys the stock argument about fairness and all that, plus the bit about not “editorialising” that very often crops up in discussions about how stories get covered.

Whether it was a distraction is beside the point. It’s news. In fact, the smoke screen angle is itself part of the story. The reporter can’t conclude as such without editorializing, but the people he quoted certainly can — and did.

The primary goal in all cases is fair and accurate reporting. Keeping a cool head. Otherwise, exuberance can lead some journalists to completely cross the line.

That basically gets us beyond Geoff Meeker’s point about whether or not to cover the story in the first place.  Your humble e-scribbler’s with Peter on this one:  the story is news. 

But now you get to a question that lives just an inch below that first one:  what is the story? 

All the bits that Peter Jackson recites – the call, the message, the kangaroo court in the House, the delay in raising the issue, Burke’s claim of being shaken, stirred or whatever – are all elements of the story. One you get beyond the choice to run the story, you have to figure out what the story is.

News stories tend to follow a pattern. The Big Idea, the thing they want you to remember, goes right up front.  Then you run down through the next most important thing until you get to the end.  That last paragraph is the stuff that first the reporter and then the editor have decided is expendable.  It might actually wind up being tossed between the newsroom and layout, incidentally, but that’s another story. 

The organization of the information in a good news story was always designed to engage the reader’s attention and inform him or her.  You could read the first bit and get the key information.  That imperative is even more important these days:  people don’t read stuff any more.  They skim.  So it’s a bit of a challenge to get a lot of them to last past three or four sentences.  Forget three or four whole paragraphs.

So in this one, would you consider the fact that Jerome made an accusation qualified as the top thing?  Pretty much yeah.  You can encapsulate the main details of the accusation in one sentence.  Try something like:

In the House of Assembly today, the Progressive Conservatives accused Liberal MHA Jim Bennett of trying to intimidate Advanced Education and Skills Minister Joan Burke on February 3.

House leader Jerome Kennedy may have been the person who actually made the accusation.  But no one should be foolish enough to believe that Jerome and Kathy and Joan and all the rest of the caucus didn’t have their talking points sorted out in advance. Your humble e-scribbler would run with the collective attribution for the accusation.

Besides, a news outlet has a obligation to fill in the gaps in knowledge so that people can situate a story in context.  That isn’t editorialising.  It’s informing readers.

Second sentence or paragraph?  Maybe what Bennett actually said along with the context:

Bennett called Burke’s office in early February because he was trying to get help for a constituent who needed transportation from the St. Barbe area to Corner Brook for chemotherapy treatment.

Frustrated that he wasn’t getting results from Burke’s staff, he left a message on a Friday saying if the issue wasn’t settled by Monday, he would call “Open Line,” and “there will be hell to pay.”

Bennett also said, “I will absolutely trash your minister and say what a bunch of idiots she’s got working in her department. You fix the problem and fix it today or there will be lots of trouble.”

That’s from the Telegram story on March 9, incidentally.  The structure we just used is essentially a variation on the “he said, she said” format some people like.  You’ve given all the necessary details of what the whole thing was about.

Interestingly, though, that information about what Bennett said and why (according to him)  is paragraphs four, five and six of the Telly story.

Here’s what they thought was more important.  The accusation was the second thing.  First was the sexed up version of the basic story as the Tories framed it:

Liberal MHA Jim Bennett was in the hot seat Thursday, after he was accused of threatening a government minister.

And before you got to what Bennett said, the Telly wanted you to know that the Premier thought it was ““absolutely appalling” and that the opposition House leader thought the Tories were grandstanding.

Now you don’t have to be a dupe or a partisan to write the Telly version of the story. You’d goose the story so that the drama – as forced as it was – might draw readers in. This could be what Peter referred to at one point:  “making grey stories a little more colourful, is integral to the business of journalism.” 

All legitimate points – journalism is a business as much as we might like it to be otherwise.

All news outlets get to decide a bunch of things about a story.  They get to decide whether or not to cover something at all.  And when they run a story, they get to decide what to do with it.  The people who put news together have lots of choices and they face lots of pressures.

There were plenty of ways the local media could have tackled the Bennett story.  The Telegram did it one way. They could have put a lot more information – facts – into their story at the front end that would have given readers a very different impression than what someone would have gotten if they didn’t make it beyond the third paragraph of the Bennett story.

Just think about it:  in the Telly version, you could have gotten three paragraphs in without knowing what Bennett said.  That information is important if you want people to be able to follow the simple formula:  “We report, you decide.”

Without it, you get to decide, but you could decide wrongly.

It all depends on the frame.

It all depends on what someone decided to tell you about a particular story. 

– srbp -

Living after them #nlpoli

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

In his latest post on Muskrat Falls, energy analyst Tom Adams argues that the provincial government wants to finance Muskrat Falls in a way that shifts the costs and the risks to future generations.

“This proposed financial model inappropriately mixes elements of a power purchase agreement (PPA),” writes Adams, “often used in some elements of the utility industry, and government subsidies to create what Jane Jacobs described in her book Systems of Survival as a “monstrous hybrid”. This monstrous hybrid imposes escalating costs and obsolescence risks on consumers over the next 57 years.”

Adams says that Atlantic Canadian governments have been especially prone to financing schemes that are described as innovative but that turn out to be disasters:

Usually, the purpose is to promote riskier investments than could be justified using conventional approaches. Sometimes, such as with the franchise model innovated by the New Brunswick government in the late 1990s to promote natural gas distribution, the innovation fails spectacularly. Except for industrial consumers, New Brunswick natural gas consumers now pay by far the highest gas rates in North America. The growth rate for the local distribution utility is below a rate that is financially sustainable.

What’s more, the project hasn’t received adequate review, Adams contends.

And, in the end, Hydro-Quebec controls power output from Muskrat Falls since it effectively controls the water flows on the entire Churchill river.

Read the full post – “Newfoundland’s Muskrat Falls Megaproject Fails Test of Intergenerational Ethics” – here.

- srbp -

21 March 2012

S-92 incident: March 2012, Newfoundland offshore #nlpoli

From the offshore regulatory board, March 21, 2012:

The C-NLOPB has been notified that on approach to the Terra Nova FPSO,  Cougar Helicopters experienced a #2 Input Module Chip Light illumination. On deck the crew discussed the matter with Cougar's Maintenance Control Centre (MCC).  It was decided to shut the aircraft down and complete a restart.  After restarting the light was still illuminated.  An engineer will be dispatched to the installation to investigate.

The input modules are part of the helicopter’s drive system.  They translate the energy from the two engines into the main rotor.  You can see the bits labelled in this diagram of a section of the main rotor assembly from the UH-60 Blackhawk.  The S-92 is derived from the Blackhawk.


The sensor that tripped is designed to detect metal fragments in the input module connected to the Number 2 engine.  Metal fragments would indicate wear inside a set of gears that turn at incredibly high rates.  That would not be good. The system also includes a device to get rid of tiny fragments and “fuzz” that might give false positive readings.

Here’s a portion of a U.S. Army training presentation on the transmission’s warning systems:


This is not the first time S-92’s flying offshore have reported this type of indicator.  Here are some extracts from the CADORS system, as posted to a helicopter pilots’ discussion site in 2009:

Date 1/18/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0038
Event Declared emergency/priority
Description TSB Update A06A0005: CHI21, a Cougar Helicopter Sikorsky S-92A, with 18 passengers and two flight crew on board, was enroute from St. John's, NL to the Terra Nova FPSO oil production vessel when the number two engine chip light illuminated. …

Date 2/3/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0073
Event Engine malfunction - other
Description CHI22,S92, enroute St. John’s (CYYT) to – Henry Goodrich Oil Platform (CHEN) requested to return to CYYT due indication light at 1800Z, position 35NM southeast of CYYT(St. John's). Aircraft advised no emergency. At approximately time 1813Z flight requested ERS on arrival. Landed without further incident at time 1823Z. Pilot advised of engine chip light. TSB Case Closed
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 2/3/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0073
Event Engine malfunction - other
Description UPDATE : TSB A06A0010: CHI22, a Cougar Helicopters Sikorsky S-92A, with 19 passengers and two flight crew onboard, was enroute from St. John's, NL to the Henry Goodrich oil platform and was approximately 35 NM Southeast of St. John's when the number two engine chip light illuminated (General Electric CT7-8A). The crew followed checklist procedures and reduced the #2 engine power to idle and elected to return to St. John's. The crew did not initially declare an emergency, however, ten minutes prior to landing requested ERS. The aircraft landed without further incident. After the aircraft landed, maintenance inspected the chip plug on the #2 engine and in consultation with the engine manufacturer, it was felt that the metal found on the chip plug was from the #3 bearing. This engine had a total of 42.2 hrs time in service since new. The engine was replaced with a new engine before the aircraft was returned to service.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 7/25/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0549
Event Declared emergency/priority
Description UPDATE TSB: The number 2 engine had not failed rather a chip light had illuminated resulting in the flight crew reducing power for that engine.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 7/25/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0549
Event Declared emergency/priority
Description UPDATE TSB: A06A0071: Cougar 33 (C-GSCH), a Sikorsky S-92, was outbound from St. John's to Hibernia. At approximately 75 nm from St. Johns the INPUT CHIP 2 light came on. The crew followed the checklist, reduced No.2 engine to IDLE, descended to 500 feet, and joined Route B back to St. John's airport. Once level at 500 feet the crew briefed the passengers and ATC. Approximately 5 minutes after the INPUT CHIP 2 indication the INPUT CHIP 1 also illuminated. The crew declared a "PAN" and continued in to St. John's at 500 feet. A Cormorant on exercises in the area (OUTCAST 903) joined the aircraft and escorted the flight in to St. John's airport. The crew flew a running landing onto Runway 02, then shut down the aircraft on the runway to prevent damage to the gearbox inputs. Upon inspection, the chip plugs in the main transmission and in the associated accessory modules were found to be contaminated. The affected components will be changed out, and the company and manufacturer are investigating the cause of the chip lights.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 7/25/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0549
Event Declared emergency/priority
Description UPDATE TSB: A06A0071: Cougar 33 (C-GSCH), a Sikorsky S-92, was outbound from St. John's to Hibernia. At approximately 75 nm from St. Johns the INPUT CHIP 2 light came on. The crew followed the checklist, reduced No.2 engine to IDLE, descended to 500 feet, and joined Route B back to St. John's airport. Once level at 500 feet the crew briefed the passengers and ATC. Approximately 5 minutes after the INPUT CHIP 2 indication the INPUT CHIP 1 also illuminated. The crew declared a "PAN" and continued in to St. John's at 500 feet. A Cormorant on exercises in the area (OUTCAST 903) joined the aircraft and escorted the flight in to St. John's airport. The crew flew a running landing onto Runway 02, then shut down the aircraft on the runway to prevent damage to the gearbox inputs. Upon inspection, the chip plugs in the main transmission and in the associated accessory modules were found to be contaminated. The affected components will be changed out, and the company and manufacturer are investigating the cause of the chip lights.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 7/25/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0549
Event Engine malfunction - other
Description UPDATE TSB: The number 2 engine had not failed rather a chip light had illuminated resulting in the flight crew reducing power for that engine.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 7/25/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0549
Event Diversion
Description UPDATE TSB: A06A0071: Cougar 33 (C-GSCH), a Sikorsky S-92, was outbound from St. John's to Hibernia. At approximately 75 nm from St. Johns the INPUT CHIP 2 light came on. The crew followed the checklist, reduced No.2 engine to IDLE, descended to 500 feet, and joined Route B back to St. John's airport. Once level at 500 feet the crew briefed the passengers and ATC. Approximately 5 minutes after the INPUT CHIP 2 indication the INPUT CHIP 1 also illuminated. The crew declared a "PAN" and continued in to St. John's at 500 feet. A Cormorant on exercises in the area (OUTCAST 903) joined the aircraft and escorted the flight in to St. John's airport. The crew flew a running landing onto Runway 02, then shut down the aircraft on the runway to prevent damage to the gearbox inputs. Upon inspection, the chip plugs in the main transmission and in the associated accessory modules were found to be contaminated. The affected components will be changed out, and the company and manufacturer are investigating the cause of the chip lights.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 7/25/2006
CADORS Number 2006A0549
Event Diversion
Description UPDATE TSB: The number 2 engine had not failed rather a chip light had illuminated resulting in the flight crew reducing power for that engine.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 6/13/2007
CADORS Number 2007A0519
Event Diversion
Description A Canadian registered Sikorsky S92A, after departure from St. John’s (CYYT), requested to return to the airport due to an input chip light indication. The aircraft landed without further incident at 11:12Z. Nil TSB.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

Date 4/24/2008
CADORS Number 2008A0501
Event Engine failure
Description UPDATE TSB: A08A0059: The Cougar Helicopters Sikorsky-S92A , operating as CHI91, was in cruise flight en route from the Hibernia Gravity Based Platform to St. John's Intl. When the helicopter was approximately 100 NM SE of St. John's, NL the crew contacted Gander ACC to advise they were declaring an emergency and had shutdown engine #1 (GE CT7-8A). The engine shutdown was required due to a Gear Box chip light. The helicopter landed uneventfully at 12:35 NDT while ARFF were standing by. Maintenance determined the chip light was due to an accumulation of "nuisance fuzz" in the form of a "sliver" on a recently installed Main Gearbox accessory input.
Aircraft Model S92A
Aircraft Make SIKORSKY

- srbp -

Bennett’s telephone call “gendered violence” according to PACSW prez #nlpoli

Most of you likely missed it, but a sharp exchange in Twitter on Monday showed the way politics in this province rolls these days.

Dara Squires writes a blog called ReadilyAParent, She’s also syndicated in the Western Star and some of the TransCon weeklies.  Dara’s post on Sunday took up some recent local political events.  “False Feminists in Politics” is about feminism and women in politics. 

Here’s a taste of the broader argument:
And yet, in general, we swallow it hook, line and sinker when a woman rises to a position of power and declares herself a feminist. It's taken as both proof of the validity of the feminist promise and a victory of sorts when they do. But herein lies one of the largest dangers of false feminism, especially with regards to politics. For if some white, upper middle class women make their way into politics, or the heads of boardrooms, or CEOs of major companies, than we find ourselves facing the argument that the fight for equality is over. Wente is one of the white, upper-middle class elites who would have us believe this
Squires drew the whole thing down closer to home with a pretty sharp critique of Kathy Dunderdale. She made some particularly strong comments about the way government House leader Jerome Kennedy tied Jim Bennett’s telephone call and threat with violence against women:
Yeah, you read that right. Not only does he minimise the true extent of such violence by using it in comparison to a single, slightly threatening phonecall [call], he also shows an utter lack of awareness behind the real reasons for delayed reporting or not reporting sexual and domestic violence.

I can't believe that Dunderdale, who has been a member of women's status groups and worked as a social worker, would've not seen the significance of Kennedy's statements. The moment I read the transcript it was like a punch in the gut. But Dunderdale, leader of the party, Premier of the province, and supposed women's rights supporter, did nothing to halt Kennedy's ongoing attack against victims of violence.
Squires got some attention on Monday from some of the most powerful people in the province.  It’s hard to tell exactly how the Twitter discussion started and who got whom involved but before too long it involved not only Lana Payne – head of the federation of labour – but Glenda Power, the Premier’s communications director. 

You should go read the exchange;  just scroll back a couple of days or so and you can find the three contributions to the discussion.  It’s civilised, although tightly constrained by the 140 character limit. And you can expect that the Power didn’t accept for a moment that her boss might be anything but right.

What’s most interesting is that after Squires invited more substantive comment on her blog, she got it but not from Payne or Power but from Linda Ross.  The head of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women left not one but two comments with a title “Criticism without Merit.”  They are right at the bottom of the post linked above.

Now some of you will recognize that this is not the first time that Ross – a cabinet appointee – has entered a provincial political fray on behalf of her patron Kathy Dunderdale.  Last April she launched a pretty savage attack on then-opposition leader Yvonne Jones over what was entirely a fabrication on Ross’ part.

This time Ross has some much more interesting things to say.

For starters, there is nothing half-hearted in Ross’ support for the Premier:
“The record of Premier Dunderdale and her government in Newfoundland and Labrador on advancing the status of women and preventing violence against women and other vulnerable populations has been outstanding.”
Ross then lists a series of what Ross suggests are Dunderdale’s personal accomplishments.  In the classic fashion, they involve how much money government spends. Ross attributes things to Dunderdale that she didn’t do.  Well, certainly not as Premier, anyways, if she did them personally at all:
In addition to the above noted investments, under Premier's Dunderdale's leadership, we now have a 10% participation of women in trades in this Province, up from 3%. Such achievements are critical in advancing women's economic and social equality. Likewise, since 2003 approximately 50 percent of all new recruits to the RNC are now women and more women are appointed to Provincial boards, agencies and commissions.
The construction Ross employs isn’t accidental.  What Ross is employing is the traditional patron-centred politics that has come to epitomize the Williams and now Dunderdale Conservatives in power.  The patron gets personal credit from his or her clients for government policies and programs, as if they would not have occurred without the patron.

The overall discussion about Squires - even on Twitter - and the emphasis in the exchange on common successes runs directly contrary to Squires’ argument without actually refuting it.  But it does express the norm of provincial politics these days:  partisan differences are, in truth, superficial ones.  For the elites themselves, the connections among them are more important than ideological or partisan differences or ones based on different values. 

What the elites have in common is also more important – to them – than anything else.  You can see this is the similarity among the elections platforms last October.  But you can also see this in the way Ross unequivocally endorses the partisan attack on Jim Bennett:
“in reality this event was indeed a very real act of gendered violence.”

All acts of violence and abuse can be equally as damaging regardless of the type of violence and abuse and can have very serious long-term impacts on a woman’s life. Violence is violence, regardless of what form it takes. Minimizing a woman’s experience of violence because it does not fit into the old-school traditional definition of violence could, by many, be identified as a form of violence in and of itself. We as women and as feminists must never minimize or judge another woman’s lived reality. 
Violence and abuse are best understood as a pattern of behaviour intended to establish power and maintain control over colleagues, intimate partners, or groups. The roots of all forms of violence and abuse are founded in the many types of inequality which continue to exist and grow in our society.
Yes, friends, in Ross' world, Jim Bennett’s lone asinine phone call exists as part of a continuum of violence that is directed by men against women solely on the basis of the chromosomal structure of the two people involved. Bennett is scarcely better than a serial killer or rapists. serial killers and rapists. 

Of course, Ross’ argument is as patently absurd as it seems, on the face of it.  Ross has made equally absurd arguments before when both parties were female.  What is important to notice here is that Ross seldom makes public statements on anything.  When she does make them – as in Jones or Bennett - she is as prepared as any Tory backbencher to make a ridiculous argument in support of her patron.

Kennedy’s remarks are – according to Ross -  “totally within the Provincial Policy on this matter.”
But just so that you appreciate the extent to which Ross’ arguments  are not motivated by a general concern about violence in our society consistent with “Provincial Policy”  take note of her comments that criticise any of her patron’s associates that were as bad or worse than Bennett’s or Jones’ at any time since 2003.

Don’t waste your time.  You won’t find any.

Take a minute and let all that soak in.  There’s some pretty heavy ideas in there.

As for what this incident says about issues like equality and political power in the province, we’ll have to save that discussion for another day.

- srbp -

20 March 2012

Another one rides the bus #nlpoli

Albertans will be going to the polls shortly.  All the parties are gearing up.  Here’s the Wildrose Alliance’s campaign bus, featuring a picture of their leader, Danielle Smith.


Yeah, they didn’t really think about the layout until it was too late.

via daveberta.

Nose Job  Update:  Okay, so the Wildrose gang are going to repaint the bus now that everyone has had a good chuckle at the first version. The Edmonton Journal has the story of the unveiling and how the picture of the bus went viral.

The wheel problem will give the party the chance to fix a much more significant problem, though.  Look at Danielle Smith’s face.  A nose job would be in order to fix the distorted way her face winds up looking as a result of where the picture sits across the bus window lines.

While the wheel thing is funny, the face thing is a common problem for these bus wraps.  Closer to home, take a look the next time you are behind a Metrobus with Jake Doyle on the back.  His face gets mashed – the eyes disappear – because of where the face falls in relation to the windows.

- srbp -

All they want is fairity #nlpoli

The people who run the province’s town and cites are looking to get a new financial arrangement from the provincial government.

Last week, the municipalities federation held an emergency meeting to discuss recent developments:

“What we’re asking government for today is very clear,” said Rogers. “Short-term help in this 2012 budget and a commitment to participation in the development of a long-term, strategic plan for the municipal sector.”

Sounds reasonable enough. 

Odds are they won’t get anything in the near term. Give a listen to what municipal affairs minister Kevin “Fairity” O’Brien said at the outset of an interview with On Point with David Cochrane this past weekend. O’Brien quickly started into a recitation of how much money the provincial government has spent since 2008 on municipal infrastructure and things like fire trucks. he finishes off with the warning that any new financial arrangement has to be sustainable for taxpayers.

Coming from a guy who has helped boost provincial government spending to irresponsible, unsustainable heights without a toss about such ideas, those words sound a bit like a lead bell.  

O’Brien is using coded language.

What he really was telling municipalities president Churence Rogers is a simple “f*ck off”.  No one should be surprised if Rogers has heard something along those lines over the past few weeks, perhaps even from O’Brien himself.  Maybe no one used the “f” word exactly, but language likely would have had the finger buried in it.

You see it all comes down to money, power and control.

Right now the provincial government has all of it.

And they will not give up any of it.

The provincial government isn’t interested in changing municipal funding at all.  Any change to funding would have to transfer some of the provincial cash or the ability to raise cash over to the towns and cities. 

If the province doesn’t have that cash, then it no longer has the power to control what goes on in the province.  Fairity O’Brien may not have deliberately mentioned infrastructure and fire trucks, but there’s no coincidence that he did.  That money and those items are part of the old pattern of politics in this province: patronage. 

And that’s the money, power and control we are talking about.

None of that has anything to do with the very serious problem in many towns and cities in the province but frankly provincial politicians like O’Brien don’t give a rat’s backside about that. 

Many parts of the province aren’t really doing all that well, despite the reports you may have heard.  They don’t have the municipal tax base to come up with the sort of cash of their own they need to put into road work, water and sewer projects and other infrastructure.

Problems in the fishery, the loss of paper mills have all taken their toll.  People may be working in Alberta and still living in Stephenville and Grand Falls-Windsor but it’s local companies that pay the taxes that help to keep the street lights on, quite literally.

What’s more, way too many of the towns on the island are full of retirees and not much else.  People on fixed incomes don’t have the ability to tax up the tax slack.  Those towns also have problems finding people to volunteer for municipal services like firefighting.

There’s a bit of a false impression of a boom in some places.  People in Grand Falls-Windsor thinks everything is smurfy.  Ditto Gander.  But in both these towns the major economic engine is the provincial government and a level of spending that we know is unsustainable. 

What’s more, the provincial government doesn’t pay taxes to municipalities.  They do – however – collect taxes on every municipal purchase through the harmonised sales tax (HST).  The effect is to claw back a portion of the money the province grants in the first place.  Until the fictitious oil royalty claw back, though, this one actually reduces the amount of money the towns and cities in the province have available to actually spend on services to residents.

And then when towns and cities go looking for cash, politicians like Kevin O’Brien start coming up with all sorts of excuses for why things must remain as they are.  The miserable, dark joke in all that shouldn’t be lost.  Towns and cities in the province are looking for a fair shake on provincial funding.  Kevin O’Brien is the guy who told us all that the province just wanted “fairity in the nation.”

David Cochrane exposed the fundamental bullshit of government’s position.  Cochrane asked why it was that O’Brien was talking about the impossibility of making commitments of funds for a few millions in the short term to towns and cities while government was prepared to forecast the price of oil for 55 years in order to justify Muskrat Falls.  All O’Brien had was talking points.

O’Brien also couldn’t explain or justify the four years that it has taken for O’Brien to start getting around to talking about a new financial arrangement for towns and cities.  Municipal leaders have asked for predictable funding.  All O’Brien has said is that he and his colleagues in government are willing to talk.

The real bottom line is that people like O’Brien who have politicized the purchase of bed pans and fire trucks simply want complete control over spending in the province for their own, pork-barrel, patronage reasons.

All municipal leaders want is fairity.

They aren’t going to get it from Kevin O’Brien.

- srbp -

19 March 2012

Gas prices and political popularity #nlpoli

In some other places, gasoline prices have a political impact you can identify and measure.

That isn’t the case in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The reasons?  We don’t have anyone doing the research, for one thing.

For another thing, the marketing job that one pollster does like clockwork every quarter is so inaccurate a device that it can’t measure anything but the equivalent of a political tsunami.  Even then, it isn’t clear that CRA’s quarterly omnibus could detect it.

And for a third explanation, none of the province’s political parties identify consumer costs as a political issue they want to talk about.

That’s one of the more curious things.  Political parties in other places actually talk about things that piss off the average voter.  In newfoundland and Labrador,  even if we knew that voters were fried about gasoline prices, there’s no party that would likely raise the issue and try to do something about it.  This is just a variation of the Echo Chamber theme your humble e-scribbler raised in the last election:  the political parties didn’t talk about the issues opinion polls identified as stuff that bothered voters.

- srbp -

What makes news? #nlpoli

Sometimes you have to wonder why does one story make the news while another doesn’t.  Good example:  Jim Bennett’s asinine telephone call to Joan Burke’s constituency office.

Telegram blogger Geoff Meeker smacks the local media for covering the story in the way they did:
It wasn't even a valid news story. It was manufactured. The PCs sat on Bennett’s voice message for five weeks, until it was advantageous to toss out the bait. They played the media like a fish. 
And this is a criticism directed at all media, because they all played it at the top of their news, whether it was TV, radio or print. Meanwhile, as a direct consequence, more important stories – such as NDP Leader Lorraine Michael’s vital question about mercury poisoning in Lake Melville – were pushed back, diminishing their importance.
All fair comment.

In this case, the discussion is about what newsrooms chose to cover.  The usual comment from the people in newsrooms – editors and reporters alike – is that there is way more stuff going on than they could ever print or broadcast.


But that doesn’t get at the question of why they might chose one story over another.

And what about cases where newsroom didn’t cover a story at all? 

There have been a couple of those stories related to energy policy that we know about:  one from April 2008 and another from September 2009.

But then there was another type of story, the one where the locals didn’t report it as news until the mainlanders did it first.

This is a story like the one about an education minister mixing and meddling in the appointment of a new president for the university. Until the story appeared in a national newspaper, no one locally reported it.  Sure there were columns in the Telegram about it but no one reported the story as news.

It’s not like the mainlanders got the story first and scooped all the locals.

Or how about the deliberate breach of the province’s privacy laws in the case of the Craig Westcott e-mail. Telegram editor Russell Wangersky brought up the e-mail in his Saturday column. The context was a discussion of the way the current provincial government selectively interprets the access to information and privacy law in Newfoundland and Labrador.

All the news media in the province had the story at the same time.  As Wangersky recounts the episode:
But first, a little history: Craig Westcott was hired in late 2010 as the communications spokesman for the provincial Liberals, a move that generated considerable ire inside provincial Tory ranks. 
In fact, such ire that a provincial cabinet minister, Municipal Affairs Minister Kevin O'Brien, went on VOCM to denounce Westcott, and to reveal that Westcott had written an intemperate email to then-premier Danny Williams' communications chief, Elizabeth Matthews, in February 2009. O'Brien said the email had been discussed at the cabinet table. 
The email questioned whether Williams had mental [health] issues, and, after O'Brien's VOCM comments, was released in its entirety.
Every newsroom went first with the e-mail story, exactly as the government intended when the Premier’s Office decided to release it.

One of the reasons why the current provincial government can get away with its selective application of the law has an awful lot to do with the consequences.  Basically there aren’t any. 

Sure they might be on the receiving end of a few sharp words in an editorial or a column.  The thing is, though,  that fewer people pay attention to news media these days than they used to.  And the ones who do likely don’t scan all the columns to finds tidbits of information like ones about the latest illegal actions by their own government.  They just don’t see the news that might wind up on the opinion pages instead of the news pages where they belong.

What the public gets instead are stories like the Bennett or Westcott ones where the government’s interpretation of things often appear  unfiltered.

What makes it into print or on the air isn’t always the story, let alone the whole one or the real one.

- srbp -