28 September 2012

Kremlinology 42: Dependency and the Loan Guarantee #nlpoli

The cost of the Muskrat Falls project has escalated to the point where the provincial government can’t do it without a federal loan guarantee.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said as much on Wednesday when she finally got around to meeting with reporters two days after her meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In her long rambling answer to the first question, she called the loan guarantee “important” at least twice. How far they have come since Danny Williams first started down the entirely political road to build the entirely political project.

27 September 2012

Labrador Mining and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is bothered enough by his detailed critical analysis of Muskrat Falls that she has been known to single him out in fundraising speeches in the province and in the House of Assembly.

Journalists like CBC’s David Cochrane are tweeting requests for the guy to get in touch.

Yet so far Nalcor hasn’t challenged any of his commentaries at the Public Utilities Board or previously here at SRBP.

Today, they have another reason to pull at their hair.

26 September 2012

The Boyo called Brazil #nlpoli

Obviously, Premier Kathy Dunderdale got squat from her meeting with the Prime Minister on Monday. 

You can tell because all she had to say on the day of the meeting was nothing.  Her office issued a statement that – for some inexplicable reason – hasn’t turned up on the provincial government’s website.

You can also tell because a media scrum she had scheduled for Tuesday got bumped off until noon on Wednesday.

English v. Pike: Game on! #nlpoli

Supreme Court Trial Division, Court Room 7, Duckworth Street.

10:00 AM.

Be there or be squarer than you’d normally be as a lawyer or person interested in lawyer stuff.

William J. English vs Mark D. Pike et al.

25 September 2012

Tone, Standards and Political Suicide #nlpoli

The song from MASH was wrong.

Suicide is not painless.

And political suicide is more painful to watch than any other kind.

24 September 2012

38! #nlpoli

This will be a record year fort changes in the senior ranks of the provincial public service.

On Friday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced change number 38 for 2012.  That puts her one off last year’s record total.

And as we told you a couple of weeks ago, she’s on track for 49 changes this year.

Cabinet ministers must be pissed off about this constant disruption in their departments.


22 September 2012

Title Shuffling #nlpoli

The news via Twitter looked a lot bigger than it actually is.

David Cochrane tweeted on Saturday:

Sources: Premier Dunderdale shaking up staff on 8th floor (Premier's office). New deputy chief of staff Lynette Carroll (more)

Premier's new press secretary Debbie Marnell, new Director of Policy Denise Payne, new Assoc Dep Chief of Staff Derek Rideout (more)

Premier current press secretary Milly Brown moves to Special Assistant for Comms

Those moves continue a staff shakeup that started this summer with @LynnHammondNL taking the top Communications job on 8th floor.

Take a gawk at the provincial government telephone directory, though, and this looks a lot less impressive than you might think.  Here;s what these people were doing before and what they are doing now.


Old Title

New Title

Lynette Carroll

Director of Policy

Deputy Chief of Staff

Derek Rideout

Director of Operations

Associate Deputy Chief of Staff

Debbie Marnell

Communications Specialist (TCR)

Press Secretary

Denise Payne

Special Assistant

Director of Policy

Milly Brown

Press Secretary

Special Assistant

Basically they’ve brought Debbie Marnell from a junior comms job in Tourism, Culture and Recreation to replace Milly Brown in the job of dealing with reporters day to day.

Brown goes off with a new title but there isn’t anything from the job description or her background that is a clue to what she’ll be up to.

Lynette Carroll, whose LinkedIn profile shows her as the Tory party executive director, moves from policy director in the Premier’s Office to deputy chief of staff.  No one filled that job in the Dunderdale Premier’s Office before.  They’ve created a new title for Derek Rideout but maybe not a new job to go with it. 

Rideout, incidentally had the title of Principal Assistant to the Premier whenever they last changed the PC Party website listing for the party executive board.


Maybe these changes will fix some problems on the 8th Floor but on the whole this looks a lot more like changing some titles and maybe changing some salaries rather than bringing in new staff with new skill sets.

This sort of stuff doesn’t change performance and poll results.


21 September 2012

Sex and the cabinet #nlpoli

If all the speculation about a cabinet shuffle in the near future turns out to be true, it will be interesting to see if Premier Kathy Dunderdale breaks the fundamentally sexist nature of her current cabinet.

Kathy Dunderdale is justifiably proud of being the first woman premier in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.  The fact that she is the first woman to hold the job is what makes her choice of cabinet ministers stand out a bit. Frankly, it’s a wee bit odd that no one has mentioned a curious pattern that appeared.

20 September 2012

The Budget and Oil Prices #nlpoli

Just when everyone thought it was safe, a  gigantic Twitter exchange erupted on Wednesday evening between Telegram report James McLeod and Deanny MacDonald, the guy everyone thinks is already the Liberal Party leader .

They wound up discussing oil prices and the provincial government budget, something you’ll find in Macleod’s article in the Thursday Telegram.

19 September 2012

Now that is what you call interesting #nlpoli

Labradore infuriates Connies both provincially and federally because the guy just knows his stuff and needles the little darlings at every chance.

On Tuesday, he posted a chart showing the number of words recorded by Hansard for each member of the House of Assembly during the last session.  He even colour-coded it by party for ease of reference.

You can find the whole chart here, but let’s take a look at a specific spot on the big picture.


If some of the provincial Connies, were quick to identify Tom Osborne as “deadwood”, then you have to wonder what they think of the people who participated less in the House than Osborne did.

People like Tony Cornect, Ray Hunter, Tracy Perry or John Dinn, all of whom spoke less than Osborne did.

Things got so bad in caucus, apparently, that Tom Osborne decided to leave rather than put up with it.  Is he the only one who will cross the floor this fall?  We could wind up with the “independent” party made up of as many members as the Liberals or the New Democrats.


More mumbo on the mumbo-jumbo #nlpoli

Keith Russell apologized on Tuesday for comments he made a week ago about the religious beliefs of some aboriginal people in Labrador:

I don’t buy into the mumbo jumbo about the trail leading to the Muskrat Falls site as being sacred ground. You can romanticize and sensationalize that particular piece of land all you want, but it is a resource.

As CBC reported, Russell issued a written statement:

With regards to my recent comment about Muskrat Falls, I apologize for my poor choice of words,

There it is: apology.  Job done.

Well… yeah but read a bit more.

18 September 2012

Come again, b’ys #nlpoli

Two things about the provincial government’s new website devoted to climate change and energy conservation:

First, they could have used an editor.  This big chart has a rather glaring error in it.  Can you spot it?

screwed up chart

This seems to be a pretty simple problem with the layout.  Strange that no one noticed it given that it is such a big picture on the middle of a page.

17 September 2012

Dunderdale Translator: expert edition #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale speaks her own language.

She uses words in a different way from the rest of the population.  Take the word “expert”, for example.  Dunderdale claims that she would welcome any expert opinion that contradicts her current plan to rack up billions of dollars in debt building Muskrat Falls.

Dunderdale confirms knowledge of Osborne’s views on her leadership #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale confirmed on the weekend that she was aware Tom Osborne didn’t support her as leader of the Conservative Party in 2010.

Dunderdale told CBC’s On Point with David Cochrane that aware that Osborne supported her as interim leader.  However, Dunderdale said that when she wanted to seek the leadership on “a more permanent basis”, she polled the caucus and called Osborne last.

When Cochrane asked why Osborne was last on her list, Dunderdale said:

“…because you don’t miss when somebody… when he says now publicly that he didn’t support me, that’s not something you miss…”

That’s just one of several contradictions or misleading statements Dunderdale used to continue the Conservative attack on Osborne’s character.

14 September 2012

Your Future. Their Hands. More Russell #nlpoli

In 2011, Keith Russell was dumped from his position as a cabinet minister in the Nunatsiavut government.

Nunatsiavut president Jim Lyall issued a statement afterward that included this section:

Quite simply, Mr. Russell was not fulfilling his duties and responsibilities as a minister. The matter was raised with him previously, on several occasions, and I was assured by him that he would make a more concerted effort to work co-operatively with officials within his department and with the Nunatsiavut Executive Council. It is incumbent on all ministers to be actively involved on a regular basis with their respective departments, and to work with other members of the Executive Council to ensure the Nunatsiavut Government functions efficiently and effectively. By his own admission, Mr. Russell was not actively involved in the functions and operations of the Department of Health and Social Development, and had very little to no contact with senior officials within the department. He made that fact known to me and the First Minister, as well as other members of the Nunatsiavut Assembly and numerous officials. I had taken the liberty of raising the issue with Mr. Russell in hopes that the situation would change. Unfortunately, it did not, and we were forced to take action accordingly.

The future of your province is in his hands.


Your Future. Their Hands. Weakest Link edition #nlpoli

Fact:  Sandy Collins is the member of the House of Assembly for Terra Nova.

Fact:  Collins is a provincial Conservative.

Fact:  Sandy Collins supports Muskrat Falls.

Fact:  Collins was executive assistant to Paul Oram, a cabinet minister who had some problems with facts relating to the province’s recent history

Cabinet Audition #nlpoli

According to former Tory caucus member Tom Osborne, caucus knew a month ago that Kathy Dunderdale would be shuffling her cabinet in October.

That’s bizarre in itself.

But now we know why Steve Kent has been busily telling anyone who would listen and more who didn’t care about  his love for The Leader and her pet Muskrat Falls project.

It explains his one man Twitter war on behalf of Muskrat Falls.

And it also explains his Super-Shitheel behaviour and the shit-eating grin when he was out in August attacking Her enemies.

(Memo to Steve: your forgot to  change the website, sunshine.)

Now it is all clear.

Steve was auditioning for the promotion she screwed him out of before.

And he wasn’t alone, in all likelihood.


Osborne quits Tory caucus #nlpoli

Tom Osborne is part of the old townie Tory establishment in Newfoundland and Labrador.

He quit Kathy Dunderdale’s party on Thursday to sit as an independent member of the House of Assembly.  Osborne’s announcements sent a shock through the political community since no one saw it coming.  He cited a series of grievances he’s had with the way Dunderdale is running the party, although he never referred to the Premier by name.

Osborne’s announcement was a neat bookend to the week in which CBC’s David Cochrane reported on leaked news of a pending cabinet shuffle.  As SRBP noted, that sort of leak suggested that Dunderdale’s administration was “in far more serious political trouble than it first appeared.”

13 September 2012

Osborne versus Kent #nlpoli

The only thing more entertaining than watching the “member that works” leave the provincial Conservative caucus was watching the provincial Conservatives send out the always-credible Steve Kent to talk about party loyalty.

Only a few short weeks ago, the pair were featured in a government news release praising up a can of Matchless paint.


Your future. Their hands: profound ignorance edition #nlpoli

Conservative member of the House of Assembly Keith Russell.

He’s at it again, this time on CBC Radio’s Labrador Morning:

I don’t buy into the mumbo jumbo about the trail leading to the Muskrat Falls site as being sacred ground. You can romanticize and sensationalize that particular piece of land all you want, but it is a resource.

Religious beliefs are just “mumbo  jumbo” for Russell and he is prepared to dismiss them utterly because it is just a resource to refuse.

You wish people just made stuff like this up but there he is, folks.

This guy has your future in his hands.


Brian Peckford’s memoir now on sale #nlpoli

Updated:  Book signing dates below

The room at the Battery Hotel and Suites was packed with former politicians and public servants who were involved in some of the most important events in the province’s history over the past 35 years.

Noticeably absent from the launch of former Premier Brian Peckford’s memoir were members of the current Conservative caucus in the House of Assembly. 

Well, except for St. John’s South MHA Tom Osborne. 

Tom stood out. 

And that’s saying something.

12 September 2012

What’s the hang-up this time? #nlpoli



Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he is looking forward to working out details for the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee with Premier Kathy Dunderdale. … Flaherty says the feds have made a commitment to provide the loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls, but they still need to work out the details.

Working out the details?

Merciful jumpin’s!  At this rate, the damn dam will be built before they work out the details on the loan guarantee.


Bleeding and Motivation #nlpoli

The provincial Conservatives who hang tight around natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy like to say that you have to look at the motivations of people commenting on Muskrat Falls. According to the pro-Muskrat folks, you have to discount the opinion of people who have an interest in seeing the project stopped.

Let’s accept that for a second.

So by the same token we would have to check all the pro-Muskrat types to see if they have a bias that would allow us to completely disregard any opinion they would offer in favour of the mega-debt nightmare.

Your future is in their hands #nlpoli

Forget the engineers, economists, lawyers and all the people who have examined the Muskrat Falls project in great detail.

They do not matter.

The people who will approve Muskrat Falls are politicians.

The future of Newfoundland and Labrador is in their hands.

The fate of your province will be determined by Keith Russell:

Four people can get together roadside up by Muskrat Falls, with magic markers and some sticks and a little bit of cardboard, and they’ll make the news. I don’t see the point at that...

It certainly is the flavour of the month. Everybody’s got their own agenda as to why it should or should not be developed, but what you’re seeing here, especially up in Labrador, is people who have never been there, have never had any historical ties to the site, who have never had any family that ever hunted or trapped remotely close to the area, everybody’s getting’ their picture took, everybody’s talkin’ about their ancestors.

I don’t know, I just find it, you know — it’s nice to be concerned about the land, it sure is, but now this is the opportune time, if you will, for people to jump on the bandwagon, and claim to want to be part of the environmental movement to see this project stopped, which to me, it’s just silly at this point.


11 September 2012

Separated at Birth: Kent and Cleary edition #nlpoli

For the longest time after Kathy Dunderdale became Premier, Mount Pearl North Conservative Steve Kent proudly proclaimed on his website that he was party of the Danny Williams team.


Dunderdale demoted him.

As recently as Hurricane Tuesday, Kent’s website was distinguished by the total absence of the Premier from its pages and pictures.  There’s like one picture and absolutely nothing else.  Kent’s slogan is there”  I’m on your side”.  But the you doesn’t seem to include Kathy Dunderdale.

Well, apparently Ryan Cleary feels the same way about Thomas Mulcair as Kent does about Dunderdale.


Over to you, Mr. Mulcair.

Or back to you, Kathy Dunderdale.

Maybe Steve will change his website if she gives him the cabinet seat he craves with every pore of his ambitious being.


The sum of all fears #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale says that it is gratifying to have the support of the majority of the people of the province, as recent polls show, according to the Premier.

In another corner, former natural resources minister Shawn Skinner thinks it is great that the Conservatives have the support of six in 10 of the people surveyed.  He was referring to the responses in a recent Corporate Research Associates poll asking people whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the current government’s performance.

Shawn and Kathy missed some rather important things.

Polls, Politicians, and Messages #nlpoli

Cabinet is where the real political power sits in a parliamentary democracy. Ministers have enormous power both individually and collectively.

Only the first minister – the prime minister or premier – gets to decide who sits at the cabinet table. That’s a power first ministers are always careful to preserve because it is the ultimate expression of their control over their caucus.  People want to get to cabinet and the only way in is through the premier.

Changes in cabinet are often rumoured but until they happen, they are not real.  Only the premier and her closest, most trusted advisors know what is coming.  They only tell the people involved at the last possible moment.  The expectation  - often a clearly spoken expectation - is that the people who know will keep their mouths firmly shut. 

So when CBC provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane can report that a cabinet shuffle is imminent, attributing information to multiple unnamed but apparently high-ranking Tories, you can understand that Kathy Dunderdale’s administration is in far more serious political trouble than it first appeared.

10 September 2012

That and a buck fifty… #nlpoli

Former natural resources minister Shawn Skinner thinks that the Progressive Conservatives can turn around their current abysmal polling numbers if once they get beyond Muskrat Falls and turn their attention to other things.

Skinner was part of the political panel this weekend for On Point with David Cochrane.

Well,  that and a buck fifty and you have a cup of coffee.

The Swirl Continues #nlpoli

As it appears, all the talk last week in the Telegram editorial about the unusually large churn in the senior ranks of the provincial public service caused a bit of a churn in the stomachs of some people around St. John’s.

Some of them – including one curious series of Twitter comments – insisted the whole thing could be put down easily to retirements because we have an aging work force.  That’s an old one that local Tories have used to try to explain this away when SRBP raised it before.  We’ll get to that in a little bit.

For starters, let’s bring everything up to date. The more you dig, the more curious things you find.

07 September 2012

Who wants to play Brutus? #nlpoli

Just as they ate up the Corporate Research Associates’ quarterly poll when the numbers favoured the local Conservatives,  the local media have reported the latest CRA numbers with equal enthusiasm now that the Tory numbers are lousy.

To put it simply, the numbers confirmed the general thrust of two recent polls and the local media have reported them faithfully. As CBC put it:

Kathy Dunderdale and Newfoundland and Labrador's Progressive Conservatives continue to lose ground among voters, a new tracking poll suggests.

06 September 2012

Fairity O’Brien: Political Genius #nlpoli

On a day when the government’s pollster releases shitty news for his party, municipal affairs czar Fairity O’Brien decides it is a good idea to remind people of the miserable job his government did responding to Hurricane Igor.

Or as it is apparently known in some circles, Hurricane Ego.

For those who may not be familiar with the colourful cabinet minister, Fairity O’Brien is the guy who:

  • doesn’t know what electoral district Snantny is in, and
  • loves to commute between his home in Gander and his office in Sin Jawns, at taxpayer expense.


Did Mulcair really say that? #cdnpoli #nlpoli

According to CBC News, federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair said that his party would honour a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls project “even if price tag goes up.”

But did he actually say that?

As the mind ponders… #nlpoli

labradore takes a unique look at the results of this week’s Quebec general election and wonders what might have happened if a few votes shifted around.

“What if”can be a useful exercise sometime.


As the Public Service World Churns #nlpoli

The Telegram editorial on Wednesday noted the most recent changes to the senior executive at the natural resources department and put it in the wider context of changes during the past 20 months.  The editorial notes that in the budget document for 2011 called Departmental Salary Details show that

the province had 20 deputy ministers, four associate deputy ministers and 61 assistant deputy ministers — a total of 85 positions at the top of the provincial civil service.

In the last 20 months, Dunderdale has announced 54 appointments at the level of assistant deputy minister or higher.

To paraphrase the editorial, maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t matter that their figures show a 63% turnover in senior provincial public service management.

If you look at the period since Kathy Dunderdale became premier you will see that the Telegram missed a fair bit. If you drill deeper again and look at the pattern of changes, you can see even more.

05 September 2012

Ya gotta love Rhonda..for LG #nlpoli


Disappeared Deputy? #nlpoli

Last summer, the provincial government proudly announced the appointment of a new deputy minister of natural resources.

The release included Diana Dalton’s biography.  She’s a lawyer who graduated from Dalhousie in 1979:

… Throughout the course of her career, Ms. Dalton has worked with the Governments of Nova Scotia and Papua New Guinea, as well as with the Department of Economic and Social Development, United Nations, New York. As an independent consultant she has worked in over 30 developed and developing countries in the areas of natural resources, energy and environment, including clients such as the World Bank, United Nations, national governments and private companies. Ms. Dalton has served for the past six years as Chair of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, and for two of these years she was also acting CEO.

As impressive as those credentials are, is Dalton still in the same job a year later?

Seems like more churning in the upper ranks of the public service.

Upper Churchill – an unexplored alternative #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls “not a competitive solution”

SRBP Exclusive

Over the next 55 years – the Muskrat Falls planning period – consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador could achieve savings of up to $4.0 billion if Nalcor used electricity from Churchill Falls, even if the provincial utility purchased the electricity from its subsidiary at market rates.

That conclusion is contained in  “Upper Churchill – the unexplored alternative”, a new analysis and commentary by JM, author of a 175 page analysis of the Muskrat Falls proposal submitted to the public utilities board as part of the board’s review.

“It is clear that Government and Nalcor did not provide a full, costed screening analysis of all the potential options,”  JM wrote in an e-mail to SRBP, “especially in the context of the shale gas revolution happening in the United States.”

JM reviews Muskrat Falls costs, assesses the merits of using Churchill Falls power in lieu of Muskrat Falls, and provides three mechanisms that could be used to gain access to the resource. 

JM notes that while the 1969 contract with Hydro-Quebec will be automatically renewed in 2016,

…the renewal … does potentially weaken some of the legal arguments successfully used by Hydro-Quebec in the earlier court cases. The de-regulation of the North American electricity markets should also ensure that Newfoundlanders gain access to energy at competitive rates. In the current energy climate Muskrat Falls is not a competitive solution.


04 September 2012

Then or now? #nlpoli

Simple quiz.

When did someone make the following claims about an energy megaproject in Labrador:  1965 or 2012?

Up her nose, sideways #nlpoli

For some reason, Kathy Dunderdale wants to know who is criticising her pet project.

Now she doesn’t come flat out and say that, but you can tell someone got her goat pretty good during the public utilities board hearings into Muskrat Falls.

You can tell because Kathy said so in the House of Assembly on May 29.