30 April 2013

Wanted: a good row #nlpoli

One of the unreserved joys that comes from writing these scribbles is the moment when a post sparks something.

Like on Monday, when a simple post looking at change in the provincial gross domestic product prompted an exchange among a few of the provincial Twitterati (Twitteratini?) on the whole business.  Was it useful?  What did it mean?  Wonderful stuff considering that the post was intended to provoke thought of just that sort, not reach any hard-and-fast conclusions.

29 April 2013

Annual GDP Change #nlpoli

A release on Friday from Statistics Canada showed that the provincial economy shrank by almost 5% in 2012.  They even supplied a lovely chart to illustrate the GDP changes in each province as well as the national average.

This wasn’t just modest growth or even a  modest drop.  We are talking one of only two provinces with a drop in GDP and the biggest change – positive or negative – of any province or territory in Canada. 

Alberta is even more dependent on commodities than Newfoundland and Labrador and it still managed to see gross domestic product grow by almost four percent.

Not so in the former Republic of Dannystan. 


By almost five percent.

Chart 1: Real gross domestic product, 2012  

26 April 2013

The 2013 Q1 Churn Appointments #nlpoli

One of the great things about having orders in council readily available is that people can find information.

That’s exactly why the current administration has kept them as secret as possible since 2003 and continue to censor them, even though orders in council are entirely public documents.

But at least in the wake of the Bill 29 Freedom From Information measures,  the Conservatives seem to have been shamed into opening the vault on their secrets a bit even if they still censor public documents.

One of the things we can now readily see, though,  is the number of appointments made by cabinet in the first quarter of 2013 to deputy minister and assistant deputy minister jobs.

24 April 2013

Wiseman violated privileges and rights of all members #nlpoli

Ross Wiseman violated Gerry Roger’s rights as a member of the House of Assembly.

He did so, by his own initial ruling, with no evidence whatsoever that the member had committed any contempt of the House.

He thinks an apology is good enough.

Ross Wiseman is wrong again.

Here’s why.

23 April 2013

Don’t feed the Crazies #nlpoli

First,  slander is something defamatory that someone says.

Libel is what you call a defamatory comment that is printed.  So a poster would be a libel since it is printed.

Second, the story on the VO website about a bunch of posters contains an editorial opinion, not a fact, when it says that the posters “slander” the Premier.

“Who wants Kathy Dunderdale as Premier?” is hardly defamatory.  The last line on the poster is strong, saying that the Premier is a “source of shame for us all.”

Unless the bad words on the poster that you edited out for the website say something really awful, it sure doesn’t look like you have something defamatory.  As it turns out, the words are reputedly “Liar, Bully, and Fool”.

Strong but it is still looking like an opinion and not a defamation.

Best thing for VOCM to do:  leave the opinions to others, like say a lawyer or a judge, and stick to reporting the news.

Third, this poster seems to be something we could reasonably expect after last week’s events.  That doesn’t mean it is right.  It just means that the botched attack on Gerry Rogers and the Facebook group might just be getting some people a bit more riled up than they would be otherwise.


Taxing the Imagination #nlpoli

What is it about the provincial Conservatives and income tax?

Kathy Dunderdale rabbited on about it last fall and again in January.

Last week, the provincial Conservatives were at it again, with a private members resolution in the House that praised the government for cutting taxes and for not raising them now that they’ve fallen on hard times.

22 April 2013

Some free advice #nlpoli

The Premier’s daughter tweeted this comment last Wednesday night.

the grandkids

Few people consider the impact that political life has on the families of politicians and political staffers.  Steve Paikin’s book The Dark Side deals with it, as SRBP noted in 2006.

That tweet is a reminder of that.

Here’s some advice for the Premier’s daughter from an old political hand.

19 April 2013

Dunderfarce 2 #nlpoli

As if the week hasn’t been going badly enough for her, Premier Kathy Dunderdale decided to make it all the worse on Thursday with her scrum about her Twitter account.

Here’s what we have learned:

18 April 2013

#Dunderporn and #Dunderfarce #nlpoli #cdnpoli

What was the tragedy of the orchestrated political lynching of an innocent member of the House of Assembly by the provincial Conservatives has now turned to farce.

On Tuesday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale was on her high horse: Conservative members of the House of Assembly "understand very well how Facebook works," Dunderdale told reporters outside the House of Assembly, “and as an MHA, when you're on Facebook, when you're engaged in Twitter, then you have to have an obligation to pay attention."

Neither Dunderdale nor several of her colleagues apparently were paying attention.

17 April 2013

The Keystone Kops and their Kangaroo Kourt #nlpoli

The Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador are politically deaf.  They only hear themselves.

Former fisheries minister Trevor Taylor used his Telegram column on Monday to issue a few hypocritical tut tuts about the state of public discussion in the province.

Too negative he whined, sounding for all the world like someone was holding a small dog turd under his nose as he typed.  His political pals on da Twitter chimed in as they are programmed to do.

Shortly after 1:30, government house leader Darin King rose in the House on a point of order.  He wanted the Speaker to suspend Gerry Rogers from the House of Assembly not for something Rogers said or even endorsed but merely because her name appeared on a group critical of government on which some moron had posted threats against the Premier.

The Tories sealed the triple play when Speaker Ross Wiseman ruled that while there was no evidence on the face of it that Rogers was guilty of endorsing the threats, he would invent a reason to condemn her anyway.

They are blind, too.

New telephone tax to pay for 911 service #nlpoli

The provincial Conservatives could haul in up to $7.7 million through a new tax on telephones to be introduced ostensibly to pay for province-wide 911 emergency service, municipal affairs minister Kevin “Fairity” O’Brien announced on Tuesday.

According to the official backgrounder, the provincial government will introduce a new tax of “less than one dollar per month” on every landline and cellular telephone in the province.  At a news conference, O’Brien and fire and emergency services boss Mike Samson estimated there were upwards of 650,000 phones in the province. 

Although the release describes the approach as a “cost-recovery” model, neither O’Brien nor Samson would estimate the annual cost of operating the system. 

Other provinces use the same approach.  PEI charges 70 cents per telephone or working line while Nova Scotia charges less than 50 cents. Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and New Brunswick also tax telephones to pay for 911 service.


16 April 2013

The “Significant Impact” of Open Line #nlpoli

Cleaning out the home office has turned up a few forgotten gems.

One of them related to the political impact of open line shows in the province.  Last week,  your humble e-scribbler moderated a lunch-time talk by Professor Alex Marland and Randy Simms on just that topic.  The pile of papers included a Canadian Press story that appeared some time in early May, 2008. 

Headlined “Williams lashes out against accusations of tight message control”,  the story was Danny Williams’; reactions to comments during the Cameron Inquiry by John Abbott, the former deputy minister of health and community services.

Newfoundland [sic] Premier Danny Williams says a former public servant made "offensive and stupid" remarks when he told a public inquiry that radio call-in shows influenced the government's handling of an emerging scandal involving flawed breast-cancer testing.

15 April 2013

Oblivious Neutron Bomb #nlpoli

Even at the worst of their leadership feuding Jean Chretien and Paul Martin never frigged each other over the way Kathy Dunderdale and Jerome Kennedy did last week.

poppyWhile Kennedy was trying to tell everyone that the justice reversal wasn’t going to happen to all the cuts, Dunderdale (right, poppy eyes and all) was on the open line shows and everywhere else someone had a microphone, telling us that if people could make “compelling arguments” she’d have another look at the budget cuts.

What is a “compelling argument”, you might ask?   

No one knows.

12 April 2013

The Keystone Kops Ride Again #nlpoli

We already knew that the provincial cabinet had abandoned their budget before the document had been debated in the House.  That happened last week when the Premier ordered the justice minister and the attorney general to abandon the cabinet-approved cuts in the justice department.

Less than 12 hours after meeting with the same officials justice minister Darin King consulted before cabinet approved the cuts, King and attorney general Tom Marshall (right, not exactly as illustrated) told reporters that whatever those officials had said would now be the policy.

The change of policy is breathtaking enough.  Not only will some of the laid-off court security officers be rehired, but cabinet has also lifted the hiring freeze to allow the High Sheriff to immediately hire more staff.  Someone will also be appointed to conduct operational reviews of the three departments – High Sheriff,  legal aid and Crown prosecution service – involved in the cabinet flip flop.

But that’s not the truly striking aspect of this abrupt change.

11 April 2013

Talk Radio – Communication Tool or Just Local Banter #nlpoli

International Association of Business Communicators (Newfoundland and Labrador) presents a professional development luncheon:

According to Statistics Canada (2007), Newfoundlanders and Labradorians listen to more talk radio than any other provincial group of Canadians.

Is it a useful communications tool for community engagement and the sharing of local information or is it just bantering?

Join IABC NL for lunch and an interesting and interactive open panel discussion on Talk Radio in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Randy Simms, retired Open Line host, Dr. Alex Marland, Associate Professor (Political Science) Memorial University, and moderator Ed Hollett discuss the pros and cons of Talk Radio.

When: Thursday, April 11, 2013, 12:00 - 2:00 p.m.

: Capital Hotel, 208 Kenmount Rd., St John’s

Register:  Online – http://iabcapril.eventbrite.com/
Email – eventsiabcnl@gmail.com

$50.00 – IABC Members
$75.00 – non-members.


10 April 2013

The Transformation #nlpoli

Provincial Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador have a political philosophy that is equal parts Machiavelli,  Kafka, and the Three Stooges.

For the first few years they seemed to be constantly plotting and manoevring, always one step ahead of their opponents at home and abroad. 

Those days are gone, now, replaced by a surreal landscape of bizarre shapes and hideous shadows.

The Conservatives have already admitted to their continuing financial mismanagement of the province.  They admitted in 2009 that what they spend of the public’s money every year is unsustainable. They continue to spend like that even though the public cannot afford it.

Yet these same profligates attack their political enemies with the accusations that the opponents are financially irresponsible.  These same bankrupts defend recent cuts to education by pointing to their previous spending which they have admitted is unaffordable and which is the reason for the cuts.  They censor public documents and at one and the same time, crown themselves most open government the province has ever seen.

This heady mixture now comes to slapstick comedy, courtesy of Trevor Taylor.

09 April 2013

F*ck you in ASL


Edging #nlpoli

Over at cbc.ca/nl, John Gushue has an excellent column on the recent prosperity, in particular the apparent contradiction between a supposedly booming economy and the government cuts or the sense some people have that they aren’t part of the boom.

Take some time and go read John’s observations, if you haven’t already.  You will always be rewarded by John’s accessible style that reveals some very sharp insights.

For all that, though, there’s a sense that there’s something missing from Gushue’s column.  The piece gets right up to the edge and then just doesn’t bring the thing to a satisfying conclusion.

Never fear.

The relentless labradore fills in the bit John missed.

08 April 2013

The Lady is for Turning #nlpoli

Only a few days ago, natural resources minister Tom Marshall was telling us that the Premier was an Iron Lady.  A compassionate one, mind you, but an Iron Lady, nonetheless.

Firm in her decisions.

Unyielding under pressure.

Tom was telling us that Kathy Dunderdale and Margaret Thatcher were made of the same stuff.



Tom was not drunk.

No.  He was not stoned, either.

And it was not April Fool’s.

Knock it off and keep reading.

05 April 2013

Kremlinology 43: We Love the Leader! #nlpoli

Twice last week, provincial Conservative politicians offered unprompted endorsements of Kathy Dunderdale’s leadership.

Natural resources minister Tom Marshall praised her as a compassionate Iron Lady who had his full support.  Here’s the story VOCM ran:

Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall says the premier has his full and complete support. Kathy Dunderdale has come under fire for a tough, cost-cutting budget that includes widespread layoffs and funding cuts. On VOCM Open Line with Bill Rowe, Marshall used a label which came into prominence during the term of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher came into power in the UK in 1970s and developed a reputation of being tough and uncompromising during a time of economic recession, earning the title "Iron Lady". Marshall says Dunderdale is also an Iron Lady, but one with compassion.

Meanwhile, Steve Kent – noteworthy in the past for his lack of Dunderlove – had this to say [via CBC and labradore]:

"Premier Dunderdale is a compassionate and principle-centered leader. I remain inspired by her vision and strength," Kent wrote.

Kent added that Dunderdale enjoys the full support of the PC caucus.

Political Will and Public Policy #nlpoli

The SIDI simulation of government spending that we’ve run this past week might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but these sort of thought exercises are always useful.

The most striking thing is the amount of money from oil and mining that the provincial government has spent in the past seven years:  $15.6 billion.  That’s enough to wipe out the entire public debt plus the unfunded pension liability and have a couple of billion left over for an unprecedented capital works program. 

It’s a staggering amount of money and the only thing more amazing than how much money there was is how easy it was to do something far more productive than just spending all the money, as the current provincial government has done.

The SIDI simulation included:

  • a steady, sustainable increase in spending each year,
  • an unprecedented, sustainable capital works program,
  • a $3.675 billion real decrease in public debt,
  • the prospect of a complete elimination of public debt within a decade, and,
  • an income fund that would continue to grow with further oil money and generate new income for the provincial government for as long as the fund existed.

The only thing needed to make the simulation a reality was a political desire to do it.  Had the provincial government done any one of the elements of the SIDI approach, then the provincial government could have either avoided the current crisis altogether or significantly altered the profile of the crisis and the prospects for coping with it.

04 April 2013

Well on the way to Debt Freedom #nlpoli

According to economist-consultant Wade Locke, the provincial government’s “Sustainability” Plan includes a debt commitment:
The long-run target is to bring the province’s net per capita debt gradually down to the all-province level within ten years.
Locke made it clear in another part of his March 25 memo to finance minister Jerome Kennedy that the purpose of any surpluses the provincial government achieves within the next decade will be to fund Muskrat Falls.

For those who haven’t figured it out yet, the Locke-Conservative plan isn’t actually to reduce public debt.  They want to book the Muskrat Falls asset and – since that’s what net debt is -  make it appear they have lowered public debt when they likely haven’t moved it down very much at all.

By contrast, the SIDI model shows that the provincial government could have reduced direct public debt by $3.675 billion.  The net debt would currently stand at $4.6 billion with a downward trend.  According to Budget 2013, the net debt is is forecast to be about $8.5 billion, continuing an upward trend.

Big difference.

03 April 2013

Responsible Public Spending #nlpoli

You don’t need drugs or alcohol to get the feeling of dizziness or stupor like you smacked your head with a hammer. Hard. Repeatedly.

Just listen to a representative of one of the special interest groups talking about the provincial budget and public spending. It doesn’t matter which one.  As your humble e-scribbler was finishing off this post on Tuesday, a representative of the appropriately named St. John’s BOT was on television talking about how government had to cut public sector jobs and tear into public sector pension benefits because of the hideous unfunded pension liability. 

Corporate lawyer Denis Mahoney even quoted the distorted, misleading government claim about the unfunded liability as a share of only a fraction of the public debt to bolster his position. He never mentioned the billions going to subsidize his members, of course. 

In the process, Mahoney looked about as convincing as the labour mouthpieces like the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives who said in 2004 that the government wasn’t spending too much.  It just didn’t have enough money.  Of course, they never mentioned that the government was outspending just about every other province on a per capita basis.

Listen to this sort of mindless crap long enough and you don’t have to wonder why people wander around in a daze.

To clear your head, take a look at a chart showing the actual government spending from 2005 to 2012 (in blue) compared to the income from sources other than oil and minerals (in red).

02 April 2013

The Road Not Taken #nlpoli

The number is a hard one to wrap your mind around.

$15.6 billion.

That’s the amount of oil royalties and mining royalties the provincial government collected from 2005 to 2012.

Once you think you have that figure in your mind and understand what it means, think about this:  with the exception of about $1.4 billion, the money is apparently gone. 


Never to come again.

If you want to understand how the provincial government got itself into the mess, just think about all that money.  Newfoundland and Labrador is a “have” province with a government that is laying people off and cutting programs.  Then realize that for all that cutting the government is still planning to spend upwards of a half a billion dollars a year more than it is taking in.

The idea is staggering.

Well, be prepared to be floored completely.

01 April 2013

Damn the finances! Full spend ahead! #nlpoli

We don’t know precisely what economist Wade “the Can-Opener”  Locke is doing to earn his loonie from the Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers.

Finance minister Jerome Kennedy hired him this year to give advice on how to manage the province’s financial mess.  According to the Telegram his contract caps of his pay at $75,000 for a couple of months work.  Locke says regardless he’ll only bill a dollar.  That’s decent of him given that the university is giving him 80% of so of his usual paycheque now that he is on paid research leave from his usual job.

Locke has given the provincial government advice before on everything from Equalization to the annual budget to Muskrat Falls.  We don’t know what, if anything, he got paid for those other stints, but that’s really neither here nor there.  The thing is that Locke is closely tied to the current administration and to what they are doing.

We may not know what else he has been doing the past few weeks but Kennedy released a short memo Locke sent him on March 25, the day before the provincial budget.  It’s a telling little document in many ways.

The Public Debt #nlpoli

One of the greatest political frauds committed by the current administration and its supporters is the idea that they have lowered the public debt.

All the politicians say it.

Wade Locke, their tireless economist, talks about the same thing – net debt – in his soon-to-be-infamous memo to Jerome Kennedy.

Talk of the net debt, reducing net debt, and having a net debt reduction strategy is nothing but a monstrous deception of the public. 

The joke’s on us #nlpoli

From the current issue of Canadian Business comes this little ad that is not an April Fool’s joke from energy company currently running the provincial government:


People following the sorry recent history of energy development in the province will instantly recognize the vicious, cruel joke inherent in Nalcor promoting itself as a company interested in developing wind energy.


Federalism and the Newfoundlanders: 64th birthday edition #nlpoli

April 1, 2013 marks the 64th anniversary of Newfoundland’s confederation with Canada.

Here are a few older posts on the subject that stand the test of time: