02 April 2012

Numbers and other information #nlpoli

People aren’t stupid.  They just don’t know stuff.

Politicians are no different.

In Kathy Dunderdale’s case, labradore had an absolutely devastating post last week about the Premier’s reaction to the impact that federal budget cuts might have on the province.  The Premier said that there were only 500 hundred or 600 federal employees in the province so the jobs losses might be only 20 or 30.

As labradore noted:

As per Statscan's CANSIM Table 183-0002, there was an annualized average of about 7400 full-time-equivalent (FTE) federal government jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011.

A five to six percent reduction in federal employment, if applied uniformly across the country, would result in the elimination of about 375 to 450 fedgov FTEs in the province.

“Would result”  might be more accurately stated as “might result” since we still need to see lots of details to tell exactly how the federal budget cuts will work out in practice. 

But still,  Dunderdale was a long way off on the math.  The potential size of the cuts could be 15 times larger than Dunderdale projected, unless she has some inside information she isn’t sharing.  So yeah close, if by close you mean one fifteenth of the possible number.

For another tale of information and politics, consider Lorraine Michael and Dwight Ball on this week’s edition of On Point with David Cochrane.  Toward the end of their segment, Ball noted how much his view of Muskrat Falls has shifted in the past year.  He’s gone from support to something a little less than complete support.

Note two things.  First, Ball supports Muskrat Falls; not surprising, the entire Liberal caucus does.  He just thinks the government should wait a second and look at those other ideas before going ahead.  The only difference between Ball and Dunderdale is how fast he would approve the project.

Second, Ball  obviously trusts the provincial government completely and implicitly. Odds are, Ball assumed that he didn’t need to think about Muskrat Falls. He didn’t need to listen to the critics. Heck, he could just assume the critics were kooks and crackpots.  They had to be wrong because government has all those smart people working there. 

This sort of thinking doesn’t apply just to Ball and the Liberals.  You could say the same thing of Lorraine Michael and the New Democrats.

Heck, listen to the politicians on the panel that Cochrane assembled  for the weekend’s show and you’d hear much the same thing, in one version or another.  Shawn Skinner likes Muskrat Falls.  He just thinks the government may have undermined support for the project by the way they’ve responded to critics and sped along the public utilities board review. 

Federation of labour president Lana Payne said basically the same thing.  Splendid project undermined by a lousy sales job.  One representing the government view and the other representing an opposition party and both believe exactly the same thing.


Skinner used to be a provincial cabinet minister.  You expect him to love this project.  But the Liberals and the New Democrats can only muster up a minor criticism of the Tories based on process alone.

Seems odd.

Seems stunningly superficial, and to be frank, it is.

They accept the government’s contention about natural gas without question, as well.  None of the oil companies want to develop it, supposedly, because they can’t make money at it, therefore, natural gas sitting off our shores is unavailable to the people of the province to meet their own energy needs.

In any other place on the planet, the government would be pushing for the development of the cheapest source of energy for its own people.  In Newfoundland and Labrador,  all but a couple of politicians – literally no more than two at the moment - agree that people should have one of the most expensive forms of electricity available instead and give away some of it to other people.  The only quibbles are about things like how best to convince the public they should pay for their electricity through the nose.

Now given the earlier comments they made – Dwight Ball was surprised to find all these cheaper alternatives that hadn’t been explored – you’d think maybe that Ball, Payne and the others might start to wonder if everything else Kathy Dunderdale and the Tories have been saying but be less than accurate as well. Maybe the problem with Muskrat falls is a bit more complicated than just some lousy marketing decisions.

Evidently not.

Now when most of us don’t know stuff, that’s one thing.

But when politicians -  the people we trust to look after stuff – don’t know stuff, or don’t bother to learn stuff, that’s a whole other thing entirely.

And that whole other thing sure as heck ain’t good.

- srbp -