31 December 2013

The 2013 SRBP Themes (Part 2) #nlpoli

Federal provincial relations

Cast your mind back to the early part of 2012.  Kathy Dunderdale was frustrated.  She couldn’t figure out how to deal with the crowd in Ottawa. 

Suck up to them. 

Attack them. 

Didn’t matter.

They still wouldn’t do what Kathy wanted.

30 December 2013

The 2013 SRBP Themes (Part 1) #nlpoli

The end of the calendar always brings the string of Best of, Top 10, and any other kind of year in review piece.  In the conventional media it’s the season of the interview with leading politicians.

At SRBP this year we did a Top 13 for ‘13 list.  It just ran through all the posts and pages that attracted the largest number of readers during the year.

You get a bit of a different picture of the year when you go through the posts month by month to see what turns up.  Patterns emerge that aren’t as readily apparent when you are reading them – or writing them – daily.

27 December 2013

The SRBP Top 13 for 2013 #nlpoli

For your reading pleasure as we head into the last weekend of 2013 is the list of the top 13 stories at SRBP, as determined by what the readers turned to most:

23 December 2013

Sleigh Ride


The Hollowmen of Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Some of you may have been surprised to find out this weekend that Nalcor has a scheme to import cheap electricity into the province.

A couple of Nalcor officials could barely contain their excitement in an interview with the Telegram’s James McLeod. Here’s the idea in a nutshell:

Essentially, Nalcor would slow down or shut off some of its hydro dams and let the water build up in the reservoir, while buying cheap power from the market. Then later, during peak demand times on the mainland, Nalcor would run the hydro dams flat out and turn a profit.

You are probably scratching your head because the provincial government has always insisted Muskrat Falls was the cheapest way to supply the province with electricity.

Well, now you know they lied.

But that’s really the smallest implication of the weekend story.

20 December 2013

Ghouls, vultures, and a-holes #nlpoli

The marine rescue sub-centre story is one of those things that typifies politics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It’s entirely the creation of a few politicians with their own agenda and a whole bunch of other sincere, well-meaning people have gotten sucked into what is – essentially  - a complete pile of shite.

19 December 2013

Province abandons fisheries policy…quietly #nlpoli

Two years.

That’s all it took to destroy the provincial government’s historic fisheries policy that had been built on the highly successful state-controlled model pioneered by such economic powerhouses as the Soviet Union, Albania, and North Korea.

18 December 2013

Record churn in senior public service in 2013 #nlpoli

Three deputy minister appointments announced on Tuesday brings the number of senior executive appointments in the public service to 24 in the second half of 2013, according to information from the provincial government’s Order in Council database.

That brings the total number of senior executive appointments in 2013 to 51.  Cabinet made 27 such appointments in the first six months of the year.  Cabinet made 12 of them in the first quarter.

Since one of the appointments was a temporary job for a senior deputy minister who retired in September, you could reduce the total to 50.  But that’s still a record, compared to the previous record 49 senior appointments made in 2012.

In the past decade cabinet has typically made a series of senior appointments in December.  That means there is still plenty of time to move the new record significantly higher.



17 December 2013

Danny to fire publicists? #nlpoli

Someone organized a stunt designed solely to gain publicity and no one invited the Old Mullet Hisself to huff and puff and pose for the cameras.

Clearly, the people handling Hisself’s publicity should be fired.



Frankly <shoulder twitch>  I gotta tell ya.



Leading by example #nlpoli

The Liberal Party executive may have screwed up by failing to put in place any campaign finance rules during the recent leadership but the candidates are putting it right.

Liberal leader Dwight Ball and three of his four fellow candidates released information on their campaign expenses on Monday.

Ball committed to release information immediately after he won the leadership but his disclosure went one better than he’d originally indicated.  Not only did Ball ask donors for permission to release their names and the amounts, he refunded money his campaign had received from people who wanted to remain anonymous.

Ball leads by example.


16 December 2013

Inertia #nlpoli

In a letter last May to his federal counterpart, economic development minister Keith Hutchings described minimum processing requirements as the “only policy instrument within provincial jurisdiction that ensures fisheries resources adjacent to the province result in processing jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

For those who do not know what they are,  minimum processing requirements are a condition that the provincial government sets on the licenses it gives to companies that process fish in the province.  The name says it all:  the companies have to process a certain amount of the fish in order to create jobs in fish plants around Newfoundland and Labrador.

There’s been a fairly steady row about processing rules over the past decade as the companies struggle to stay financially viable.  There are way too many plants for the amount of fish available and there are way too many people in the province drawing pathetically small wages slicing up the fish that comes ashore.  Companies can’t process fish profitably here and yet the provincial government insists they keep at bit.

The provincial politicians and bureaucrats know perfectly well that they need to change their ways. The politicians knew about it when they set about to destroy the only truly globally competitive fish company in the province.  They’ve known about it as the fought over exactly the same issue with the company the government’s policy favoured over exactly the same issue.

And yet the politicians persist with their bankrupt idea.

13 December 2013

Friday Foursome #nlpoli

1.  Nova Scotian customers protected; this province not. (Telegram, December 11, 2013) by Ron Penney and David Vardy

The UARB has been empowered to protect the interests of consumers against their public utility, Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Emera. Emera is a publicly traded corporation working in partnership with Nalcor Energy, a non-regulated Crown corporation, to build the Maritime Link. The government of Nova Scotia allowed the UARB to balance the interests of ratepayers and the proponent, a privately owned company, at arm’s length from government.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador took a divergent course of action. They joined hands with their Crown corporation and made it immune from regulatory control.

They took away the powers of our own PUB, so it could not protect the interests of ratepayers. They sanctioned the Muskrat Falls project prematurely and weakened the ability of Nalcor to negotiate a better agreement with Emera. The result is that we are exposed to a one-sided agreement, tilted in favour of Nova Scotia and decidedly disadvantageous to this province’s ratepayers.


12 December 2013

Muskrat Falls costs jump by $1.0 billion #nlpoli

Cost estimates for the Muskrat Falls project have apparently jumped by 16% -  $1.0 billion  - in the past year.  That’s based on information released by the provincial government on Tuesday and the details of the federal loan guarantee.

The new price appears to be $7.2 billion.  The Decision Gate 3 estimate, released in October 2012, was $6.2 billion for the Muskrat Falls dam, a tie to Churchill Falls, and the line to Soldier’s Pond on the island of Newfoundland.

The new cost is 44% more than the $5.0 billion cost estimate for the dam and island link components of the project when it was approved in late 2010. 

11 December 2013

The First Shot of 2015 #nlpoli


Moments #nlpoli

There’s something perverse about the way politicians these days use a memorial to the dead of two world wars in the last century as a backdrop for their own political spectacles.

That’s what Kathy Dunderdale did – yet again – on Tuesday night to tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians about something she regards as truly wonderful.

“This is one of those occasions we should tell our children about,” said Premier Kathy Dunderdale on province-wide television Tuesday night, “and help them understand how important this moment is for them and their future.”

She’s right.

It will be important to mark this moment in time.  We’ll have to help generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians not yet even born understand the magnitude of what Dunderdale and her associates have done.

10 December 2013

Converting principles to other people’s money #nlpoli

When Premier Kathy Dunderdale spoke to a St. John’s Board of Trade last May,  she claimed the federal government had tried to tie the federal loan guarantee on Muskrat Falls to the European free trade talks.

There’s no evidence that her claim is true, at least based on the selected documents Dunderdale released last week in the House of Assembly on the negotiations.

The documents actually show something else.

09 December 2013

The Conservatives and federal-provincial relations #nlpoli

Two news stories last week reminded us once again of the nature of federal-provincial relations for Newfoundland and Labrador over the past decade.

A story in the Chronicle Herald reported on recent comments by Danny Williams about a sharp personal exchange he supposed had with Stephen Harper before the later became prime minister.

The second story was the release late in the week by Premier Kathy Dunderdale of some documents about the provincial government’s position on the Canada- European Union trade agreement. The 80-odd pages of e-mails and letters include an effort by the provincial government to tie search and rescue, an offshore safety agency,  and the federal government’s Hibernia shares in a deal between the federal and provincial governments. 

06 December 2013

University Enrolment #nlpoli

Just for the sake of looking at some numbers, here are some statistics on university enrolment in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past decade.

The figures are from Statistics Canada.

05 December 2013

Grits gain from Cons and Dippers #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t govern by polls.

That’s what she told reporters – yet again – as they asked her about yet another poll that showed the provincial Conservatives aren’t doing so well with eligible voters.

Then Kathy explained to reporters that the polls told her that she and her colleagues must do a better job of communicating with the people of the province.  Oh yes, and she’d happily “take” the improvement in the satisfaction with her administration.

Dunderdale wasn’t the only one having some problems with the results of the Corporate Research Associates November poll numbers.  New Democratic Party leader Lorraine Michael blamed her party’s dramatic drop on the two guys who left her caucus.  Never mind that the Dipper problems showed up in the polls well before this past quarter.

Let’s dig into this latest set of polling numbers though and see if we can help Kathy and Lorraine figure out what the polls results mean.

04 December 2013

Making them answer for their actions #nlpoli

Anyone who wants to understand the value of the House of Assembly need only look at Question Period on Tuesday.

Liberal Andrew Parsons threw question after question at child, and family services minister Paul Davis about a report by the Child and Youth Advocate into the case of a young man, aged 16 years, who went to jail a couple of years ago for killing a man in a fire.  The young man was living alone, unsupervised, at the time, having been taken into custody by government officials.

Parsons asked question after question and Davis through out anything but a direct answer in reply, time after time. 

The value of the House in this instance is not in getting important information.  Rather, the value lay in exposing Davis’ weakness in not having good answers in reply to the Advocate’s damning report.

03 December 2013

Could be right. Could be wrong. #nlpoli

If you accept the provincial government’s version of things, spending a half a billion dollars more than you are collecting is a responsible decision.

That’s the headline the government’s communications people put on the news release covering the release of the fall budget update.

And if you look at either the Telegram or the CBC version of the story,  the biggest thing to notice is that the provincial government deficit is $100 million less than originally forecast.

Let’s take a deeper look and see what is there.

02 December 2013

Political Mummers’ Parade on Monday #nlpoli

Finance minister Tom Marshall will present his mid-year financial update on Monday.  It is supposed to be a way of bringing everyone up to date on how the annual budget is going. It’s an accountability thing.

Since the government’s fiscal year starts in April, the middle of the year was September.  So December is well past the mid-year.  As we all know, December is the last month of the calendar year so this mid-year report is a bit late there, too.  The only calendar that puts December in the middle of some year or other seems to be the provincial Conservative one.

The whole idea of a mid-year financial up-date winds up being a bit of a farce, then.  It’s much like having a consultation about what to put in the budget after the cabinet has already decided on the budget in secret beforehand.

Farce is not a word you associate with good government.  It’s more the type of word you’ll find to describe something like the annual  Mummer’s Parade.  For those who don’t know, mummering is a bit of Christmas entertainment when people pretend to be something they are not. Mummering is foolishness in a good sense of the word.  In politics these days, as with the Mummers’ Parade,  it seems that foolish is the new normal.

And that is not good.

29 November 2013

Feehan dissects Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

According to a new commentary on the Muskrat Falls project by Memorial University economist James Feehan,  legislation passed in December 2012 shields Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro from competition, thereby “reducing efficiency and innovation and preventing wholesale access to American consumers” by violating the open market principles on which the American electricity market is based.

Feehan concludes that potential gains for the province and consumers from unimpeded trade and the development of a competitive market will be blocked.

“Instead, Island ratepayers will be forced to pay for this expensive project, whatever the cost.”


28 November 2013

Ministers confused about public money in stalled $100 million mine project #nlpoli

In addition to the $17 million in public cash announced in 2011, the provincial government has given an additional undisclosed amount of public money from several departments to a company trying to re- open a fluorspar mine on the Burin Peninsula.

Justice minister Darin King made that apparently unwitting disclosure in answer to questions in the House of Assembly from Liberal leader Dwight Ball.  King was answering a follow-up question from Ball on the $17 million.   He’d originally posed questions that fisheries minister Keith Hutchings answered.  Hutchings said the company had drawn down $300,000 of the public money.  When Ball asked King to clear up the obvious discrepancy,  King said emphatically:

I said zero of the $17 million has been drawn down because it is targeted toward the wharf project. There are other sources of funding from Natural Resources and other departments where the company has availed of to move the project forward. The $17 million was targeted specifically to that particular project. [Emphasis added]


27 November 2013

The 2013 Harbour Grace Affray #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale told reporters on Tuesday, while the polls were still open mind you, that the by-election results would be no big thing.

Life would go on. 

The world would turn.

And the Conservatives had two years left in their mandate.

That’s when everyone in the province understood that the provincial Conservatives had already conceded defeat in the Carbonear-Harbour Grace by-election.

Unfortunately for Dunderdale, though, the election result means something.  Here’s what.

26 November 2013

O brother… #nlpoli

There are times when the talk in the province sounds a bit like the soundtrack to a movie,  a comedy to be precise.

On Monday, finance minister Tom Marshall sounded a bit familiar:  “This is a golden age, Mr. Speaker,”  Marshall said, “a golden age.”

Recall only a few years ago, Marshall was talking about Muskrat Falls like it was Bay d’Espoir:  build a hydroelectric facility to supply lots of cheap electricity for industry that can create jobs for the people who will pay for it all. Now Bay d’Espoir is another story altogether, but there’s a bit more to the history that makes this click together.

Serial Fraud Artists #nlpoli

Some old fellow by the name of Williams once said that there was no greater fraud than an unkept promise.

He said that around the time he promised to bring in a law that would protect public servants who protected the public interest by disclosing wrongdoing.

Well, he never kept that solemn promise to protect whistleblowers.

25 November 2013

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker … #nlpoli

The Telegram noticed:

By the end of question period on Tuesday, only an hour or so in, the words “Mr. Speaker” had been uttered 142 times. One of the worst offenders? Premier Kathy Dunderdale answered 11 questions that day, with 31 “Mr. Speakers,” including lines like “Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has a terrible time with facts. He really does, Mr. Speaker, because I certainly do not mind at any time in this House or anywhere else having a debate upon the facts.”

There is even a tee shirt.




Christmas Book List: Last Witness #nlpoli

Glen Carter’s second novel has had an honoured place on the coffee table chez e-scribbler for the past few couple of weeks.  Dog-eared pages and bits of paper marked the progress through the story that moves smoothly from continent to continent and country to country as it unfolds.

And then the book went on the missing list.

No sign of it anywhere.

No sign, until finally on Sunday evening around suppertime,  15 year old daughter asked her frustrated father what he was looking for.  Oh that, she says.  It was the anniversary Friday and I started to read it.

You know you have a winner when it grabs two readers as different as a middle-aged father and a teenaged daughter.

22 November 2013

There is only do #nlpoli

Truly effective communication is often more about what you do than what you say.

That’s a notion that screws up lots of people.

They get fixated on the mechanics of things.  They think if you say the right thing over the right medium, then they’ve aced it.  Job done.

But think about it for a second:  you text message your daughter that you’ll pick her up after school.  She texts back that she got the message and will be waiting at three o’clock.

Some people would be high-fiving at that point because the technical bits for effective communication are there:  message, sent over medium, received and confirmed.

And then you don’t show up.

21 November 2013

More gas offshore #nlpoli

In early October, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board issued two new significant discovery licenses to Suncor and Statoil, partners in Ballicaters.

On November 18, CNLOPB updated its offshore resource estimates to include the estimated 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural in the Ballicaters SDLs.

That makes it the third largest gas field in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin after Hibernia (3.1 TCF) and White Rose (1.98 TCF)


20 November 2013

Dunderdale’s Bill 29 “a dramatic step backwards” for transparency in NL #nlpoli

On Monday,  Premier Kathy Dunderdale blew off any questions in the House of Assembly about Bill 29 with the comment that the centre for Law and Democracy said the province was third in the country for transparency.

Well, as regular readers well know, the Premier is not usually right about many things and this is a fine example. 

The Old Fraudsters #nlpoli

There’s no greater fraud,  former Premier Danny Williams once said, than a promise not kept.

In the House of Assembly on Monday,  his successor claimed that Conservatives “do as we say.”  Premier Kathy Dunderdale was making a dig at opposition leader Dwight Ball over his leadership campaign expenses.

That’s a rather dubious claim of moral superiority in light of commitments the Conservatives made in 2003 about campaign expenses.

20 Answers to the Telly’s 20 Questions (Part 2) #nlpoli

(Continued from Part 1)

On October 19, Russell Wangersky wrote a column for The Telegram entitled "20 questions for the premier." Mr. Wangersky posed questions about the development of the Muskrat Falls project.

On November 9, Premier Kathy Dunderdale replied.

Unfortunately, the Premier did not provide much factual information. In the interest of informing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on this important issue, here are 20 clear answers to 20 clear questions. The information presented here comes from the provincial government and Nalcor as well as publicly available information, such as  electricity markets across northeastern North America.  The post includes links to background information.

The Second 10 Questions

19 November 2013

Lead by Example #nlpoli

Dwight Ball is the leader of the Liberal Party.

He now has a chance to lead by example when it comes to donations for his leadership campaign.

Ball told CBC News that he spent somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000 on his leadership campaign. Even though the party executive failed to provide any rules for campaign financing – as SRBP told you in July – Ball should set an example and publish a list of all donors over $100 and the amounts they gave.

20 Answers to the Telly’s 20 Questions (Part 1) #nlpoli

On October 19, Russell Wangersky wrote a column for The Telegram entitled "20 questions for the premier." Mr. Wangersky posed questions about the development of the Muskrat Falls project.

On November 9, Premier Kathy Dunderdale replied.

Unfortunately, the Premier did not provide much factual information. In the interest of informing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on this important issue, here are 20 clear answers to 20 clear questions. The information presented here comes from the provincial government and Nalcor as well as publicly available information, such as  electricity markets across northeastern North America.  The post includes links to background information.

18 November 2013

Remembering… or not #nlpoli

The news release that announced a provincial commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the First World War includes right at the start a picture of two couples, one older, and a small child.

The photograph is curious.

Look closely at it.

Every day can bring them one step closer #nlpoli

Liberal supporters in the province elected Dwight Ball as the new party leader in voting that ended on Sunday.

By the time this appears on Monday morning, you will likely have heard most of the obvious comments. You will also have heard or read about how this leadership contest staked up against others across Canada for things like percentage of turnout compared to eligible voters or to the population as a whole.

It’s pretty impressive by any count and certainly gives the Liberal Party not merely a solid foundation but a legitimate one on which to build.  None of the other parties in the province can say they have had such a leadership contest or attracted as much attention  from ordinary Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

Now that Dwight is the elected leader, he has a job ahead of him to make sure the party is ready to win the next election.  Here are some thoughts.

15 November 2013

Softball #nlpoli

No wonder the Conservatives are smiling a lot these days.

Not only have the New Democrats imploded as an effective political force but their leader has decided her job is to serve as a cheerleader for the government.

14 November 2013

One step closer to reality four years later #nlpoli

The provincial government announced plans to build two new ferries on Wednesday.  The first one will cost $51 million.

The new ferry will replace the Captain Earl W. Winsor, a vessel that’s been in service for more than 40 years.  Currently it is on the Fogo Island-Change Islands run.

There are a few interesting things about this particular ship and the announcement.

13 November 2013

War, Memory, and Society #nlpoli

Part way through her interview with historian Margaret MacMillan last September, the Globe’s Sandra Martin turned the conversation for the lessons we might draw for today’s world from MacMillan’s understanding of what led the European nations to war in 1914.

MacMillan does more than oblige Martin.  She goes into a lengthy discussion of how the situation in Syria looks somewhat like the conflicts in the Balkans before the Great War.  She winds up at the end with the admonition that “what history can do more usefully is offer you warnings, give you ways of thinking about the present and help you formulate sceptical questions so you can say, ‘Wait a minute, let’s think of examples where that action didn’t turn out well.’”

To that extent, MacMillan is right, even if her discussion of the similarities between Syria in 2013 and the Balkans in 1913 is rather superficial and ultimately useless.  What’s more useful to think about for a moment in the days after Remembrance Day is the tendency people have to interpret the past to fit modern circumstances.

12 November 2013

Christmas Music List: Mike Herriott – off the road

Trumpet virtuoso Mike Herriott has a new CD titled “off the road”,  available online from www.mikeherriott.com.

Awesome music from an amazing musician but if that isn’t enough for you, he grew up in Sin Jawns.

Here are some samples:




Christmas Book List: How Newfoundlanders got the baby bonus #nlpoli

Amid all the new books hitting the shelves this fall, there are a few  worth adding to your list either for yourself or as gifts.

Over the next couple of weeks,  SRBP will highlight some of the fall’s crop of new books.

First up is a book from former lieutenant governor Edward Roberts.  He is the author of How Newfoundlanders got the baby bonus, new this fall from Flanker. 

08 November 2013

Gower Youth Band 40th Anniversary

A video by John Bonnell:


Cathy’s Curious Campaign Kicker #nlpoli

With voting set to begin in the Liberal leadership campaign, Cathy Bennett took out newspaper ads that have stirred up a bit of controversy.

Cathy Bennett Ed JOyce adOn the face of it, they endorse the local Liberal member of the House of Assembly.  The one at right appeared in the Western Star on Wednesday.  It’s about interim opposition leader Eddie Joyce.

Right up until the point where the ad says that Cathy looks forward to working with Ed and asks for “your vote for Liberal leader.”

Quite a few people found the ads curious because the entire caucus  - except for leadership candidate Jim Bennett - has already publicly endorsed Dwight Ball.

07 November 2013

Firm and Unfirm #nlpoli

With the House of Assembly open again, the major topic of Question Period was Muskrat Falls and the second version of the deal to ship power to Nova Scotia.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale explained it on Monday in terms of firm and “non-firm”.  Firm power is what you know that the hydro plants will be able to produce reliably.  The unfirm power is the stuff that you can get when there is plenty of water.

What’s interesting is how much of this unfirm power the Premier says is around.  It is:

“half a terawatt to four or five terawatts a year. Based on fifty years of hydrogeology, the amount of snow or rain in this Province, we have been able to commit to Emera 1.2 extra terawatts of power on average; …, some years that might be 0.5 terawatt, another year that might be three.”

On the face of it, that is such a really interesting idea that it is worth digging into the notion a bit more.

06 November 2013

A failed petrostate? Look closer #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Andrew Leach at macleans.ca took issue on Monday with the idea Canada’s economy is overly dependent on oil production.

Leach notes that both the oil industry and oil industry critics tend to over-estimate the share oil represents of the value of all goods and services produced in the country during the year. These people will estimate that oil makes up about 30 to 40 percent of GDP, in other words.

The reality is more like 10% today, down from 12% in 1997.

Leach goes through a raft of other measurements that support his position.

Fair enough.

But what about particular parts of the country?

Talking down to people #nlpoli

A very smart guy scolded someone in a Twitter exchange recently with the observation that people don’t like it when others  - especially politicians - talk down to them.

Well, here’s a good illustration of the point:  the provincial Conservatives. They love to talk down to people. 

Charlene Johnson and the sexual exploitation report the provincial government paid for and then refused to release at all. They even cooked up a laughably stupid story that they would be jeopardizing people's lives if they even acknowledged the report existed.

As it turns out, they used quotes from people in the sex trade that are in the report as part of a video distributed to young people in the province’s high schools.

That’s sort of a double whammy of talking down to people and hypocrisy.

Then there is Kathy Dunderdale.

05 November 2013

The New Lorraine Party #nlpoli

Make no mistake.

This is not your New Democratic Party.

For those who are active members, they cannot even say that it is “our party”.

It’s hers.

Governing by polls: fracking version #nlpoli

There’s something wonderfully cute about the blind, unquestioning boosterism you get from some of the more aggressive groups of young political party supporters.

All parties have them:  the L’il Liberals, the Dinky Dippers, and the Tiny Tories. 

With the provincial Conservatives so low in the polls, the ones among Kathy’s Kittens that desperately want jobs on the Hill as political staffers have taken to tweeting more aggressively than Paul Lane updating the universe on where he ate his latest free meal.

No comment is too Tony-Ducey inane for them to make or – as it turns out – more honest than the Big Connies would like.

A symbol of failure. A reason to change. #nlpoli

A couple of weeks ago, the St. John’s media devoted huge amounts of of the reporting space to the death of a woman who spent most of her time beating the streets of St.  John’s.

The word the news writers settled on to describe her was “iconic”.  People started a Facebook group about her and talked of making a collection to build a statue or do something else to mark her life.

There was a real sense to the reporting that suggested people didn't understand the meaning of the word “icon” any more than they knew the woman’s name.  She went by “Trixie” but one of the fascinating trends inside the story itself was the way the news outlets had to edit their stories as people came forward to tell them what her real name was. And then others came forward to tell them that the real name was not the real name they’d been reporting but another one.

Few people knew who she really was, as it turned out. 

04 November 2013

Announce it forward #nlpoli

November is polling month in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Corporate Research Associates goes to the field for its quarterly omnibus and marketing poll.

Historically, the Conservatives have skewed their public communications to the four times a year when CRA was collecting data for public opinion polls that the company will release publicly.

The goal was simple:  the Conservatives wanted to manipulate the poll results.  By and large, it worked.  Then the Conservatives plummeted in the polls.  In order to get out of their hole, the Conservatives have been on a relentless campaign to do what they have always done, but more intensely.

So it’s a little odd that people wondered what was going on when the Conservatives announced a hike in minimum wage last Friday.  Look at the calendar.

01 November 2013

One poll to rule them all… #nlpoli

The way things go in Newfoundland and Labrador, you can sometimes think that some things only go on here. 

Not so. 

Take a short trip, if you can spare a second,  to Manitoba and the riding of Brandon-Souris.  The editor of the Brandon Sun published an e-mail last week that went from a federal Conservative political staffer out to thousands of people on a series of distribution lists.

31 October 2013

Liberals gain from NDP crisis. Tories no change. #nlpoli

The headline is as dramatic as NTV could make it:

Leadership crisis sends NDP tumbling to third place in NTV/MQO poll

The numbers looked bad for the Dippers:  Grits at 52% of decideds.  Tories at 29% and the NDP in the basement at 18%.

Then you take a closer look and you see something else entirely.

30 October 2013

Delusional Hat Trick: Lorraine, Trevor, and Ryan #nlpoli

No sooner had Lorraine Michael pronounced the New Democratic caucus back together again than two of its members announced that they would leave and sit in the House of Assembly as independent New Democrat members of the legislature.

Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore made the announcement in separate media statements on Tuesday morning.

This latest twist didn’t actually end anything, of course.  It’s merely another step in a drama that will play out for another year or more. Let’s take a look at 10 observations about the whole ferkakta tale

29 October 2013

Oil and Gas Update: 2013 edition #nlpoli

First, the oil.

Regular readers will recall the Article 82 issue that will affect how much money the provincial government collects from oil and gas development outside the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.  Article 82 of the Law of the Sea Convention requires the coastal state to put up to seven percent of royalties from offshore oil and gas into a fund that will go to other countries.

CBC reported on Monday that neither the federal nor provincial governments have figure out how they’ll deal with it.  The federal government may have legal jurisdiction but the 1985 Atlantic Accord gives the provincial government the same ability to set revenues from offshore resources as if they were on land.

28 October 2013

Opposition Syndrome #nlpoli

Politics is often about compromise.

Compromises are great when they work.

They suck when they don’t.

The provincial New Democrats spent a week in a leadership crisis that climaxed with a two-day caucus retreat complete with a hired, professional meeting facilitator.

The result is the worst possible solution for the New Democrats if they are interested in being a viable competitor in the next provincial general election.

25 October 2013

Where there’s smoke… #nlpoli

Four members of a political caucus don’t usually demand their leader’s resignation unless they had a reason... or a bunch of reasons that built up over time.

As it turns out, the number of people unhappy with Lorraine Michael’s leadership style is a lot more than a small faction.


24 October 2013

Socially-responsible reporting trumps irresponsible government every time #nlpoli

For starters, the messenger the provincial government comms geniuses selected to scold CBC wasn’t their best possible choice.

Well, not if demonstrated credibility was the goal.

Charlene Johnson has a long history of bungling as well as a rep for coming off as condescending and arrogant without even the slightest possible justification for being so.  

She is, as SRBP put it before, Nicola Murray but without the political oomph.

23 October 2013

The New Undemocratic Party #nlpoli

At the end of the first full day of the political crisis inside the New Democratic Party, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador learned more about the party than anyone likely imagined they’d ever know.

Two members of caucus – George Murphy and Gerry Rogers -  showed they are freaks of nature:  they have even less backbone than the average provincial Conservative cabinet minister.  Well, either that or they cannot read plain English. 

That’s about the only choices you have once the pair of them tried to claim the letter they signed to leader Lorraine Michael wasn’t a request for a leadership  review but just a request for a meeting.

The most striking, and in many ways the most startling news, is about Lorraine Michael and the cabal running the provincial NDP.

22 October 2013

The Night of the Pen Knives #nlpoli

Sometimes political party leaders get to chose how they leave the job.

Other times they don’t.

The Liberals punted Leo Barry out of the leadership in 1987.  The entire caucus handed him a letter demanding his resignation after her went off to the States on a trip.  Now the truth be told, the trip wasn’t the cause of the caucus revolt.  The trip just brought everything to a head.

In Lorraine Michael’s case, the New Democratic Party leader came back from a holiday to find an e-mail from her four caucus mates demanding she take a hike in 2014 so that the party can “renew” before the next provincial general election.

Commentary – After the election #nlpoli nspoli

Following is a commentary by Don Mills of Corporate Research Associates in response to the post “CRA, Abacus, and the 2013 Nova Scotia General Election”. – EGH

Don Mills’ commentary is available two ways:  via Scribd and underneath the Scribd insert, as a post within SRBP.  The Scribd version is Mills’ original submission complete with the tables as originally submitted.


21 October 2013

Vale delays Long Harbour smelter… again #nlpoli

Earlier this year,  mining giant Vale was saying they’d start production at the new Long Harbour smelter in 2013, but after a meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale in Brazil,  the company won’t be ramping up until 2015.

That’s the news from VOCM on the weekend, although they didn’t report the actual news about the delay at Long Harbour.  VO just reported that Dunderdale met with Vale officials and that the start-up date was 2015, as if it had always been two years away.

The premier says she went down a few days early to meet specifically with Vale officials to get an update on the Long Harbour development and the Voisey's Bay mine site.

She says Vale officials indicated that Long Harbour will start to ramp up in 2015, while they're looking to go underground at Voisey's Bay.

According to VOCM, the company officials are concerned about power supplies “in the area”. But the story isn’t clear if the power supply problems are in Labrador or at Long Harbour.

18 October 2013

The Gnarley Saga #nlpoli

In case you missed it, flip over to Des Sullivan’s blog Uncle Gnarley and look at the tale Des has put together about why Jerome Kennedy quit politics so abruptly a couple of weeks ago:

“1. Over the last number of months Kennedy had grown weary of Nalcor’s secrecy. He was frustrated that his own officials could not get sufficient information to confirm Nalcor’s numbers or perform their own analysis. His Department was expected to accept Nalcor’s information entirely on its face.

2. Mr. Kennedy wanted his own staff, supplemented by outside experts, to comprise an “Oversight Committee” for the purpose of conducting the Finance Department’s independent analysis of Muskrat Falls Project costs. Evidently, he was no longer prepared to defend the Muskrat Falls Project without the verification of independent scrutiny.

3. Mr. Kennedy went to the Premier with two demands: firstly, that she order Nalcor to release the information referred to and, secondly, that his Department of Finance be permitted to assemble a “Muskrat Falls Oversight Committee”.

The Premier and Kennedy apparently had several “dust-ups” or serious confrontations over these issues, in the Confederation Building as well as in China, from where Mr. Kennedy was reported to have left the Delegation and returned to the Province, only a day or so after their arrival in that Country.

The Premier evidently steadfastly rejected both Mr. Kennedy’s demands and following the final “dust-up” with the Premier, Kennedy informed her that he would tender his resignation from Cabinet.”

There’s more to the tale than that little taste so your little trip won’t be wasted. What’s really intriguing about this is that . Sullivan has the kind of political contacts that make you take this sort of piece pretty seriously.  There’s nothing that confirms the story but you really have to wonder how much of it true.

When you’ve finished that post, check out “Oversight, trust, and the province’s reputation”.  It’s even better:

Nevertheless, at the risk of seeming repetitious, the Premier’s acceptance of Nalcor’s counsel, alone, is so unwise that it still shocks. “Oversight” is fundamental, in Government, just as it is in private business.

When you have considered all the reasons why it is necessary, including the public interest, you still have to return to the fact that it involves personal responsibility, personal liability and plain ass-covering. Rejecting oversight, on a multi-billion dollar project, is worse than mad. It is a dereliction of duty.


17 October 2013

CRA, Abacus, and the 2013 Nova Scotia General Election #nlpoli #nspoli

In the recent Nova Scotia General election, Corporate Research Associates and the Halifax Chronicle Herald teamed up to provide readers with a daily tracking poll.

CRA was quick off the mark after the election to issue a news release defending its own polling, complete with the screaming headline that claimed CRA polls had “nailed It”.

A closer looks at polling during the lection and election results tells a different story.

16 October 2013

2013 Model Show and Exhibition

The St. John’s chapter of the International Plastic Modellers Society (IPMS) will hold an open plastic model exhibition and competition from 10L00 Am to 4:00 PM, Sunday,  October 20, 2013, at the second floor of the former provincial art gallery space at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Center.

cansoThe exhibition by local modellers is open to the public and free of charge.

Local modellers can enter the competition for an entry fee of two dollars for each completed model enter.  Registration will be at the welcome desk in the display area on the day of the exhibition and competition. Registration ends at 1:30PM.

Prizes will be awarded for  Best in Show, Honorable Mention and People’s Choice.  Certificates will be awarded in individual categories such as, but not limited to, Aircraft, Automobiles, Ships, Sci-Fi, and Military.

The St. John’s chapter acknowledges and appreciates Signal Hobbies (http://www.signalhobbies.com) support in presenting our the IPMS 2013 Model Show - Exhibition and Competition.

For more information please contact the chapter at ipmssj@gmail.com


15 October 2013

How not to promote immigration #nlpoli

The provincial Conservatives currently running the place have finally discovered what pretty well everyone else in government knew 20 years ago.

The population is getting older, on average.   That’s not good for a whole bunch of reasons.

They decided to create something called a population growth strategy, which is supposed to do exactly what it says:  make the number of people in the province get larger.


And there are really a whole lot of other “d’uh” moments when you read their background paper on how to get more people in the province.

14 October 2013

Conservative Confusion #nlpoli

When they were high in the polls it was because they were making the right decisions.

Now that they are in the political polling basement it is because they are making the right decisions.

That doesn’t make sense but that’s pretty much the only way to describe Conservative Party leader Kathy Dunderdale’s speech to the party faithful in Gander a few weeks ago.


11 October 2013

So the photo ops were a deception? #nlpoli

Reporters asked the premier on Wednesday about comments by Nova Scotia premier-elect Stephen McNeil about Muskrat Falls. 

Here’s what CBC reported:

"Our contract — our agreement — is with Emera. They're going to sell the power to Nova Scotia," she said.

The Telegram had an extra bit along the same lines:

“I just want to remind people again that the agreement between Newfoundland and Labrador — Nalcor specifically — is with Emera. Emera is a publicly traded company,” she said.

She also told reporters that the agreements with Nova Scotia covered off every possible outcome so everything was just fine.


10 October 2013

Leading the World #nlpoli

In your otherwise dull Thursday,  take a look at an article in The Atlantic about an army of paid Internet commenters from Russia.

This paragraph leaped out:

Paid, pro-government commenters aren't a new phenomenon in Russia, and similar practices are widespread in countless countries. In their Freedom on the Net report released last week, the NGO Freedom House said the strategy has been on the rise over the past two years, and is now rampant in 22 of the 60 countries the group examined. China, Bahrain, and Russia are at the forefront of this practice, Freedom House wrote.

The links are in the original. 

Now think about this province over the past decade.  Seems we’ve been leading the world in another area of endeavour, but not one that is really all that worthwhile.




And the former Republic of Dannystan now doing business as Dunderville.


Government Abandons Energy Plan … quietly #nlpoli

These days, you have to hunt around the government website to find the provincial energy plan.  That’s despite the claim on the website – once you’ve found it – that the 2007 document “guides and defines Newfoundland and Labrador’s vision for energy resource development”.

The first pillar of that policy is something called “equity ownership.”  It’s right there on page 18:

Taking equity ownership in projects to ensure first-hand knowledge of how resources are managed, to share in that management, to foster closer government/industry alignment of interests and to provide an additional source of revenue.

Pretty clear?

The Ode to Newfoundland #nlpoli


09 October 2013

Self-reliance versus Dependence #nlpoli

In both Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador, the local media will report when a town gets a new fire truck.

The difference between the two ends there.

08 October 2013

Much media ado about not very much #nlpoli

On the face of it, anyone even passingly familiar with political events in Newfoundland and Labrador for the past decade would look with some justifiable scepticism on an announcement from justice minister Darin King on Monday that the provincial government was going to have another look at building a new provincial prison to replace one built in 1859.

After all,  this project has been on the go for a lot longer than 2008, the year mentioned in the news release. The current crowd running the place have been trying to get the federal government to pay for the prison pretty much since they took office.

The favoured location for the new prison for most of past decade has been Harbour Grace.  That’s in the district recently vacated by Jerome Kennedy.

There’s another reason to be on your guard with this announcement.

07 October 2013

The real Liberal Renewal #nlpoli

Cathy Bennett launched a 48-day tour of the province last week as part of her bid for the Liberal leadership.

The local media dutifully attended but the story didn’t make the news in any major way.  That’s partly because Bennett and the other Liberal candidates have been traveling around the province pretty much since Day One of the campaign.  That’s also partly because Bennett launched the same day the story broke of Jerome Kennedy’s imminent resignation.

All the same, the launch event was news not in itself, necessarily, but for what it means in a wider context.

04 October 2013

Collins on Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

In Quebec, Jacques Parizeau has turned on the Parti Quebecois’ values charter.  It made national news.

In Newfoundland and Labrador last week, former Conservative finance minister John Collins took another swipe at Muskrat Falls in a letter to the editor of the Telegram.  Not many likely read it and no other media reported on it.

But they should have. 

03 October 2013

Truth and Fiction #nlpoli

If you take Jerome Kennedy at his word on Wednesday, here’s what is going on.

Since he wasn’t planning to run in 2015, he decided that he would leave politics on Thursday, go back to practicing law in November and then start a master’s degree in law in January.

Nothing going on.  No other story.  Nothing pressing.

Just good bye.

Now watch the video of the scrum.

Look at his body language.

And then realise how utterly preposterous Wednesday’s news conference really was.\

02 October 2013

The Elizabeth Towers Fire Inquiry #nlpoli

Enough of you have found the introduction to the Elizabeth Towers fire investigation report to drive it into the Top 10 list.

To make it easier to find, here is a post that links all the bits of the report serialized here back in 2010.

Some of you might be searching for more details since this fascinating tale now that Bill Rowe has printed his volume of reminiscences and anecdotes titled The Premiers:  Frank and Joey – Greed,  Power, and Lust.

Jerome leaves at last #nlpoli

For anyone even halfway clued in to local politics, the rumours have been thick for months that Jerome Kennedy was about to bail from provincial politics.

Now it seems the time has come.  The latest media reports have him going as early as today (Wednesday) while the versions reported Monday had the departure coming next week.

There are three things about Kennedy’s resignation that stand out.

01 October 2013

Politics and car mirrors #nlpoli

So not the same thing.

If the party releases the numbers, we’ll know the actual number of people who have signed up to vote in the Liberal leadership once the party has gone through all the forms and deleted the duplicates, triplicates, and the various fakes.  We’ll also know how many signed up as supporters – with no financial or other real ties to the party – and how many signed on as members.

In the meantime, a couple of the campaigns released their own numbers on how many people they signed up.  The Paul Antle camp is claiming around 10,500, while presumptive front-runner Dwight Ball’s team is claiming 15,000. 

At a staged media event, Cathy Bennett didn’t offer reporters any numbers of her own to reporters.  Bennett just said she wasn’t worried about 10,000 or more supposedly signed by her rivals.  Ok.  She’s focused on launching a tour that was in no way just more of the same travelling around thing she’s been doing since July but this time dolled up for a staged media event.  Fair enough.

30 September 2013

Values and Ideas #nlpoli

“Don’t question my values,” Cathy Bennett warned one her fellow candidates in the Liberal leadership, “and I won’t question yours.”

The other candidate in that part of the debate wasn’t questioning her values.  He just asked, as many have wondered, about the time over the past decade when she was giving money to the ruling Conservatives and holding an appointment only given to the most trusted associates of the current Premier and her predecessor.

On the face of it, that record doesn’t jive with Bennett’s talking point that she has always been a Liberal.  So the other candidates kept bringing the issue up.  Bennett’s usual response has been to recite the obviously suspect claim  - I have always been a Liberal, even when I was a Tory - that brings you back to the perpetually unanswered question. 

When she isn;t doing that, Bennett has tossed out the sort of aggressive reply like the one about values that doesn’t fit either.  Not only was the question about facts not values, but you’d think that as a rule a political leadership candidate would welcome the chance to talk about her values.  It’s a soft pitch to knock out of the park. Yet Bennett clearly didn’t want to get into any discussion about facts or values.

27 September 2013

Ban corporate political donations: Dumaresque #nlpoli

Liberal leadership candidate Danny Dumaresque wants to reform the provincial election laws to ban corporate donations, as the Telegram reported on Thursday.

“I think in Newfoundland and Labrador, we’ve got to update the program,” he said. “(We’re) not living up to the expectations of the voting public, and it’s time for us to go forward and get current and have the respect for the voting public that they deserve.”

He said he wants to see a system in which the law would prevent “any possibility that big business can have access to elected officials — especially people in the government.”

So far Dumaresque is the only Liberal candidate to offer this kind of progressive reform ideas.


Touch Yourself #nlpoli #nsfw


26 September 2013

Jack Ford and his war #nlpoli

Jack Ford spent three years as a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp during the Second World War. He died on September 24, aged 94.

The Japanese used jack and many of his fellow prisoners as forced labour at the Mitsubishi shipyard in Nagasaki.  Jack was in the camp  in August 1945 when Bockscar incinerated the city with the second – and hopefully the last -  atomic bomb ever used in war.

In 2002,  Ford went back to Japan with CBC journalist Reg Sherren. It was the first time he’d been in Japan since 1945.

CBC has posted the complete documentary Reg made of that trip.  Ford’s story is as moving a piece of television as you will ever see crafted by an experienced, thoughtful journalist.

If you do nothing else today, take an hour and watch it here:  Remembering John Ford.


25 September 2013

Employment Insurance Claims in Newfoundland and Labrador, 2003 - 2013 #nlpoli

Every day, in every way, things are better and better.

No, that wasn’t Inspector Dreyfus from the Pink Panther movies.  That was one of the key messages Premier Kathy Dunderdale brought to her fellow Conservatives at their earlier-than-usual annual meeting this past weekend.

With any politician, it is always a good idea to do a veracity check on any claims he or she makes.  One of the ways we could measure that claim of “better” is to look at the number of employment insurance claims filed each month.  Statistics Canada keeps records.

Newfoundland and Labrador still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country after a decade of the Conservative government.  So how are the number of EI claims doing?

The Beast #nlpoli

This week, people across Canada who are interested in the public right to access government information mark a thing called Right to Know Week.

It’s a time to “raise awareness of an individual’s right to access government information, while promoting freedom of information as essential to both democracy and good governance.”

People who are genuinely interested in a healthy democracy and in the effective operation of our federal, provincial, and municipal governments support freedom of information. 

It’s that simple.

24 September 2013

Like we told you: no money rules for Liberal Leadership #nlpoli

SRBP told you on July 18 and this past Saturday, the Telegram had a front page story telling us that the Liberal leadership campaign has no financial rules.

James McLeod’s piece added the views from the individual candidates.  Only Danny Dumaresque plans to release any details on who gave him money and how much they gave.  The best the others will do is tell us how much they raised in total or list the individual amounts, but without indicating who gave the money.

Frankly, the campaigns and the candidates can claim anything they want.  In the absence of an independently verified set of financial statements, their claims, promises, and commitments are meaningless.

23 September 2013

Debt, Demand, and Delusions #nlpoli

The Conservatives running the province got together with their staff and key supporters this weekend to reaffirm their conviction that they alone ought to be running the province.

Some people seem to think it’s remarkable that they stand together behind Kathy Dunderdale and her supposed wonderful charm, despite what the polls says.

There’s nothing remarkable in it at all.  People in power have a hard time understanding it when the voters turn on them. They carry on with their schemes, convinced in their own rightness.  It’s a form of self-delusion.  It’s what the mind does to help people cope when what they believe and what is true are two radically different things.

20 September 2013

poopourri - Friday Funny #nlpoli #nsfw

Forget all the heavy talk about pension liabilities, debt, Fairity O'Brien and the Liberal leadership.

Let’s talk about crap, or specifically one of the most hysterically funny commercial in a long time.

The product is called poopourri.  It’s a type of bathroom deodorizer.


19 September 2013

Politics and the Ethnic Vote #nlpoli

A few people people in Newfoundland and Labrador are getting agitated about the fact there’s a street in Nova Scotia called Newfie Lane.

For those who may not know, the word “newfie” causes huge problems among Newfoundlanders.  Some – like your humble e-scribbler  - have never heard it used except with some measure of insult attached to it.  It’s the other N-word.

Others don’t mind it so much. The key thing to note here is that being from Newfoundland and all things associated with that are powerful symbols. Place is a big thing here.   Identity is a big thing.  The two go together.

18 September 2013

Veracity #nlpoli

Not so long ago one of the frequent claims people in the conventional media used to make about “blogsters” was that you couldn’t trust what they wrote because it might not be true.

You don’t hear that sort of thing as much as you used to.  But  whenever the idea comes up, you have to wonder why some people believe that the Internet is uniquely vulnerable to harbouring untrue things.

After all, just this past weekend the Globe and Mail had a story by Jane Taber that was just nonsense.

Lots of people believed it.  People in the provincial government circulated it widely.

But it was false.

17 September 2013

Unfairity but sadly all too true #nlpoli

Last week, municipal affairs minister Kevin “Fairity” O’Brien denied having anything to do with having a couple of New Democratic Party politicians “uninvited” from a community breakfast organized by the Gander Chamber of Commerce at the annual Festival of Flight.

O’Brien told reporters:

I don't hold any power over them as the MHA. I don't fund them. I can't pull their funding or anything like that. So the NDP nor anybody can say that.

This week, we learned that nothing could be further from the truth.

16 September 2013

Negotiating from Weakness #nlpoli

Markets in northeastern North America are already awash in cheap electricity, thanks in large part of the discovery of massive amounts of natural gas in the United States. They’ll be that way for decades to come.

Current forecasts New England’s regional electricity transmission organization hold that improvements in energy efficiency will allow New England states to expand their economy without increasing energy consumption proportionately.  That means that eight years from now, New England will be using as much electricity as it is today. 

There’s no shortage of supply, either.  As a result, current wholesale electricity prices in New England are about one tenth of what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will pay for Muskrat Falls.

And it is with that context the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are only now learning that a team from the provincial government  has been in Quebec for the past two weeks as part of talks with the Quebec government about the 1969 Churchill Falls power contract, according to one news outlet, and development the Gull Island power plant according to another.

13 September 2013

Moments from the Liberal Debate #nlpoli

Here are some quick observations from the Thursday night Liberal leadership debate on VOCM:

12 September 2013

The facts should speak for themselves #nlpoli

The very best thing that may be said about the idea of a law school at Memorial University is that the proponents of the idea have failed to make their case.

The very worst is that the university is currently wasting everyone’s time by talking about something with no shape, no form, and hence no substance.

After all, the committee that held its last public meeting the other night  has the task – according to Memorial – of looking at “the demographics of existing Canadian law schools, current and future needs for more lawyers, and benefits to Memorial, among other goals.”

They needed to do this before they started “consulting”. 

11 September 2013

Skinner and the useless provincial lobby law #nlpoli

Shawn Skinner used to be a provincial cabinet minister.

Now he works for a construction company trying to get a major contract at Muskrat Falls. Skinner is the senior director of business development with Aecon.

Presumably that job involves him meeting with or arranging meetings with people at Nalcor and the provincial government in an effort to land the Big Contract.

So why isn’t Shawn  - or anyone else connected to his company – registered as a lobbyist as required by the lobbyist registration law Shawn and his Conservative colleagues introduced in 2004?

Good question.

10 September 2013

Nano UAVs #nlpoli

Let’s take a break from politics and have a look at the amazing way that technology has developed in the past decade.

All those small radio controlled helicopters you see in the stores these days?  Yeah well, they  - or ones very similar  - are already in use for  keeping an eye on things in the military.

Here’s a brief video about one such very small remotely piloted vehicle in use by the British Army in Afghanistan.  Tough out the fusilier’s thick Geordie accent.  What he is says is that he and a section of a soldiers (about eight) can use these tiny Black Hornet cameras to scout just a few metres around their location to spot any problems. 

09 September 2013

The Bunker Door is Welded Shut #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale cannot quit as leader of the provincial Conservative Party,  says Fairity O’Brien in an interview with NTV.

He stresses it over and over.  The caucus is solidly behind her.

He stresses it so much – right down to telling you that he wants to stress the message in this interview – that where you’d start to believe that what he is saying is the literal truth:  Kathy wants to go but the caucus won’t let her.

07 September 2013

The Importance of Appearing Earnest #nlpoli

Once upon a time, not so very long ago,  your humble e-scribbler noted the importance the provincial Conservatives placed on the appearance of things.

The idea came together neatly in a celebrity interview not by someone in the private sector media but by a representative of the state-run broadcaster.  “Government by Fernando” it’s called and it is worth going to read even if you read it back in 2006.

It will be worth your while since a front page column by Telegram editor Russell Wangersky this Saturday is likely to have the local chattering class chattering up a storm for the next few days.  You see Russell uses the column to tell Kathy Dunderdale that it is time she resigned. 

Stalwart Tories won’t care about Wangersky’s opinion anyway.  After all he is not one of “us” in whatever way they want to define “us”.  While everyone else in the province is likely to be taken up with the fact he called for her resignation, it’s far more revealing to look at why Russell thinks she ought to go and go now.

06 September 2013

Libs up. Tories and Dippers steady. #nlpoli

By now you have all heard about the latest CRA August quarterly marketing poll.

Fascinating stuff.

Supposedly the Liberals grew at the expense of the New Democrats.  You’d believe that too, unless you looked at CRA party choice numbers without the “decideds-only” skew.  For your amusement, here is a convenient chart showing the numbers as SRBP has unscrewed them

05 September 2013

The Impact of the Tuition Freeze #nlpoli

As students head back to Memorial University, you can see the impact the ongoing tuition freeze is having on the university’s budget.

You can see it in the policy to pass credit card handling fees on to students.  In the official university organ – the Gazette – the university claimed it eliminated the fee.  That’s not true.  The fees still get paid.  The university just transferred responsibility for paying them directly to students who want to pay fees using a credit card.  According to a November 2012 story in the Telegram, the university expected to recover about $550,000 by making students pay the extra fees.

That seems like such a measly sum compared to the university budget, but when the administration has very few ways of raising capital, they have to squeeze every penny until the Old Girl  screams.



04 September 2013

The Boom and the Un-Boom #nlpoli

Ask people in the St. John’s business community about the economy and they are likely to have trouble holding back the grin long enough to get a few words out.

Look around Capital City and you’ll see plenty of job vacancies in the restaurants and small shops.

Meanwhile,  some locals found it newsworthy this Labour Day weekend to note that the companies building the Long Harbour nickel smelter/refinery have had to bring in skilled workers from overseas to fill jobs the local labour pool can’t supply.

All sounds wonderful, until you start to look a little closer.

03 September 2013

Province chops tax breaks for two companies #nlpoli

On August 1, the provincial cabinet revoked tax breaks granted to two companies in the province under the Economic Development and Growth Enterprises (EDGE) program.

Order-in-Council 2013-218 states that cabinet took the decision “due to the companies not meeting a term or condition to which the incentives are subject.”  The two companies are:

  • Newlab Clinical Research Inc., and,
  • Gander Aerospace Manufacturing.

The order in council doesn’t indicate what term or condition the companies failed to meet.

30 August 2013

Osborne joins the Liberals #nlpoli

Not surprisingly, long-serving St. John’s South MHA Tom Osborne has joined the Liberals.

Forget all the stuff about what party he fits with.  Forget all the foolishness coming from the New Democrats.  Osborne’s choice reflects a canny political assessment of the political landscape not as it is now, but as he expects it will be over the next couple of years. 

29 August 2013

The Stunnel Reborn #nlpoli

There’s a story about Danny Williams before he became the Old Man.  It was either in 2001 during the by-elections on the Great Northern Peninsula or later during the 2003 general election.

As the convoy of Winnebago and media drives down the highway, Williams suddenly pulls over and points across to Labrador.  Then he says something to the effect that there is no reason why we couldn’t build a tunnel across to the mainland.

Some ideas never die, no matter how implausible they might be or no matter how many sensible arguments there are not to do them.

One of them is the idea of building a tunnel from Newfoundland to Labrador.  Technically, it’s possible.  But, as SRBP pointed out in 2005,  a pretty simple look at the economics of the project make it as loopy an idea as Muskrat Falls.

That’s why people call it the Stunnel:  a stunned tunnel.


Stay the Course, Choose Change, and the Liberal Alternative #nlpoli

Identifying supporters is only part of the challenge in a political campaign.  That’s basically what the five candidates in the Liberal leadership contest are doing when they sign people up to vote in November. It’s a lot tougher a job than some people apparently thought.

One of the big factors in any political campaign is the candidate’s stump speech.  The name comes from the days when a candidate would go from town to town and stand on the nearest raised platform – including a tree stump – to tell whatever crowd gathered why they should vote for him. 

These days you might call it the vote proposition or the strategic message. The simpler the statement the better.  People remember short, clear ideas like Nike’s “Just do it” or Coke’s “It’s the real thing.”  Former Conservative cabinet minister Shawn Skinner used a variation on that second term when he labelled leadership candidate Cathy Bennett’s message – choose change – “strategic” during a recent discussion with the On Point political panel.

What Bennett’s campaign really shows is something else.

28 August 2013

JM’s assessment of the UARB Decision #nlpoli

According to the commentator JM, the implementation of the Utility and Review Board conditional approval will mean that “Nova Scotia will receive 60% of the power, for what amounts to about 30% of the cost” of the Muskrat Falls project.

Using information provided by Nalcor to the Public Utilities Board, JM concludes that “there is a potential 37% increase in the incremental rates charged to Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers for Muskrat Falls Energy” if Nalcor meets the UARB condition.

This would be reduced to a 10% increase if all export revenue in the early years of the project were used to offset the burden on the Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers. This is assuming that the Holyrood thermal plant can be decommissioned as per the original plan. If the allocation of additional power to Nova Scotia results in Holyrood’s life being extended beyond 2021, then these rates will potentially further increase.

27 August 2013

Getting out the Vote #nlpoli

Older people are more likely to vote.

In the 2011 federal election, about 50% of the eligible voters aged 18 to 24 years actually voted.  That compares to 25 to 34s turned out at about the same rate.  People in the 35 to 44 bracket turned out at around the national average of 61%.

Compare that to 70% turn-out for 45- to 54-year-olds and 82% among eligible voters aged 65 to 74, according to figures from Statistics Canada.

Other factors influenced turn-out as well.

26 August 2013

The Problem Described #nlpoli

One of the major factors affecting economic development in Newfoundland and Labrador is the literacy level of the population.

If you want to see the extent of the problem in one area, consider the case of Bell Island.  According to a May 2008 briefing note released as part of a recent Access to Information request:

“…50% of the population age 20 years and older has less than a high school graduation certificate or equivalent diploma.  Less than 30% of the population possesses a diploma in skills or trades….”


23 August 2013

The Blue Slide #nlpoli

Just flip over to labradore for a look at his latest pretty chart.  It shows the compilation of poll results from various sources going back to early 2010 for the Conservatives, the New Democrats, and the Liberals in the province.

On average, labradore tells us,  the Conservatives have dropped five percentage points each quarter since early 2011. 

Note the corresponding changes for the other two parties.


22 August 2013

Liberal Party Fact Check: Search and Rescue #nlpoli

What is it about politicians in Newfoundland and Labrador and search and rescue?


Newly minted Liberal MHA Lisa Dempster issued a news release on Thursday about rumoured changes at SERCO in Goose Bay.

And that’s where the problems start.

The Value of Controversy and Colleagues

Over the past few days,  one American political science blog has been at the centre of a pretty hot controversy about a post on the value of networking for younger political scientists.  Follow the links below and you’ll find further

Brian Rathbun, the author of the post quit the collective blog called The Duck of Minerva, with a short note that included this comment:

Through poorly chosen and ill-considered language and images, I made light of women’s challenges both in their academic and in their daily lives, for which I am deeply sorry.

Thankfully, someone reposted the original Rathbun piece that some found offensive. Take a moment and read it before going on with the rest of this.  Be warned the title is crude and some may find it distasteful: “Intellectual Jailbait: Hunting for Underage Ideas at APSA”.  That’s the American Political Science Association conference he’s talking about.

21 August 2013

Cod, cod everywhere #nlpoli

John Furlong left some big shoes to fill over at CBC’s Fisheries Broadcast.

As it turn out, the Mother Corp’s head shed found a replacement who is guaranteed to make them hire a cobbler pretty damn quick to make the shoes a few sizes bigger.

Jamie Baker will be familiar to any of you who followed his early career at the old Independent, then the Telegram, or his more recent work at The Navigator

He’s also been doing as blog over at the TelegramJamie’s last effort at the Tely was a post about how there’s basically no market for cod any more.  Some of you will likely find that bizarre but it is true.

20 August 2013

Another job and a business case #nlpoli

One Conservative Kathy gave Ross Reid a new job recently. 

Last January, your humble e-scribbler had another job in mind for Reid.

Kathy came really close.

Right floor.  Wrong office.

And then there’s the other Cathy who told us a few months ago that there were multiple, interlocking business cases for Muskrat Falls.  A couple of weeks ago, she’d whittled it down to just one business case.

She still hasn’t been willing to tell us what they are or it is.

In any event, there is just one business case for Muskrat Falls, as your humble e-scribbler explained in 2012.


19 August 2013

Do they get free roller blades? #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale made a few more appointments on Friday to boost her chances of setting a phenomenal record for shifting people around in the senior ranks of the provincial public service.

She made three appointments following hot on the heels of the quickie switcheroo made necessary by Robert Thompson’s apparently unexpected resignation last month.

16 August 2013

August is Money Month #nlpoli

August is polling month for Corporate Research Associates.

In the first 15 days of the month,  the provincial government announcement machinery has been running in overdrive.  Realistically, though, there have only been 10 working days if you pluck out weekends and Regatta Day,when the provincial government head office in St. John’s shuts down.

15 August 2013

Time to re-think dam costs #nlpoli #nspoli

They call it Site C.

No, it isn’t a sequel to Jurassic Park or The Lost World.

Site C is a 900 megawatt hydroelectric dam project in British Columbia that BC Hydro originally estimated would cost $6.0 billion. The provincial government shielded the project from scrutiny by the provincial utilities regulator.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

14 August 2013

Summer Reading List

dobelliA compendium of 100 biases in the way we all think, described in easy-to-understand language, The Art of Thinking Clearly should be required reading in the provincial government these days.

Keep a pad of paper and a pencil beside you as you read this book. 

Jot down the biases you can relate to Muskrat Falls.

Try not to cry.


mcwhirterJamie McWhirter served with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. A soldier’s tale is his own account of the time he spent there.

This is a touching, highly personal account that doesn’t take you anywhere except inside the author’s head. 

That’s all you’ll need to understand what he experienced, his psychological injuries, and how far McWhirter has come to be able to tell the parts of his story that are in this book.