29 June 2013

Did his nose just grow… again? #nlpoli

According to Nalcor boss Ed Martin,  the absence of a mere $15 million of old-fashioned 2D seismic was an obstacle to multi-billion dollar global corporations doing business offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The strategic investments we are making in our geoscience program in offshore Newfoundland and Labrador is laying the foundation, by lowering barriers, for major international petroleum companies to invest their capital for further exploration in the province,” said Ed Martin, Nalcor Energy’s President and CEO.


Ed Martin thinks people will actually believe that.  People are actually that dim.

Pinocchiosis is truly a horribly disfiguring disease.


28 June 2013

The Crucible #nlpoli

If the Conservative Party in Newfoundland and Labrador threw out people who had been a Liberal or a New Democrat before, there wouldn’t be enough people left in it to have a game of cards.  Pretty well all the old Tories from the 1970s who rose to any prominence started out life as Liberals.

John Crosbie?

Alex Hickman?

Brian Peckford?

Tom Rideout?

All good Liberals once.

Lately, you could even add Ross Wiseman to the list of former Liberals who are now Conservatives.

27 June 2013

Water and beans #nlpoli

You don’t make the kind of telephone calls Cathy Bennett has been making if you aren’t already headed toward an announcement you will go after a political party leadership.

What CBC got was the talking point, nothing more.

What NTV got was the talking point, written down.

Bennett has been calling Liberals like Dwight Ball and Siobhan Coady plus a raft of others.  She’s been looking for support in some cases and in other cases, she has been inviting people to join her campaign team.  That’s not what you do if you are still pondering the possibilities a week before the nomination deadline. 

If Bennett is still on the fence about a run for the Liberal leadership, then Ed Martin is still iffy on Muskrat Falls.

26 June 2013

Cathy Bennett to seek Liberal leadership #nlpoli

SRBP expects that Cathy Bennett, chair of the Bennett Group of companies, will announce her bid for the provincial Liberal leadership next week.


More to follow…



Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act and municipal politics #nlpoli

You mean the Hell’s Angels won’t be deterred by a committee of people telling Doc O’Keefe what they think he should do?


Will he bring more than guesses? #nlpoli

Corporate research Associates president Don Mills is in St. John’s on Wednesday to speak to the Board of Trade.  He’s already teased up his visit with a news release on Tuesday. 

On top of that he gave James McLeod of the Telegram an interview that will appear in Wednesday morning’s edition.  James teased it up via Twitter but after looking at the release, here’s hoping that the head of a market research firm will offer more than unfounded opinion and pure guesses to his audience.

24 June 2013

The Year of Living Dubiously #nlpoli

Conflict of interest is great thing to deal when there is a chance of stopping it or dealing with it, not six or seven years later.

Back in 2006, conflict of interest was all the rage.

Noting the problems with conflict of interest wasn’t.

21 June 2013

Cost Creepy Crawlies #nlpoli

Maybe it’s the lack of independent corroboration in this Telegram article that just sends a chill up your spine.

That’s the one where Nalcor officials insist they are doing a great job keeping costs on the megaproject under control.

20 June 2013

The Article 82 Question #nlpoli

Statoil announced on Wednesday that it had found an unspecified quantity of oil in its Harpoon property about 500 kilometres offshore Newfoundland.

That would be about 310 miles and therefore is obviously outside the Canadian 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

It’s still within 350 nautical miles so Canada still has the right to exploit the resources.

But it is far enough out to trigger Article 82 of the Law of the Sea convention.

19 June 2013

The New Chinese Connection #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale took off for China on Tuesday as part of a new effort to get Chinese state-owned companies to invest in the province’s mining and offshore oil and gas industries.

The story brought to mind three things.

Why aren’t they happy? #nlpoli

Here are some screen captures for your consideration.

CBC’s Jeremy Eaton took the video as part of his coverage of a great announcement. 

The provincial government is putting money into a pilot project that would let some personal care homes take in residents needing higher levels of care than the home might currently be rated for.  That’s a big thing given the rapidly aging population and the shortage of beds for all the people that are going to need them.

The Ever-Changing Provincial Energy Plan #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale told delegates to the provincial offshore oil and gas industries association on Tuesday that the provincial government wants to see more exploration offshore.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is past peak production from existing fields,” Dunderdale told delegates at the NOIA conference.  “To sustain growth, we need to find new fields.”

To compete globally for the limited exploration dollars, Newfoundland and Labrador is “not just open for business, … we are aggressively pursuing it.”

That’s was government policy from the 1970s onward.  More exploration means more oil and gas to develop.  Through the local benefits provisions of the Atlantic Accord (1985),  local companies could gain the experience to compete globally on other projects. That has been the successful policy in places like Norway and Scotland and local politicians and industry experts.

But that hasn’t been government policy since about 2009.

18 June 2013

Arse-lighting #nlpoli

Nothing says make me leader of a party that seems to have accidentally struck a chord with voters than spreading false information and then admitting it.

Sexism Alive in Canadian Politics #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Sexism is alive and well in Canadian politics but it isn’t coming from any of the places you might expect.

Donna Dasko is a co-founder and past board chair of Equal Voice, a non-partisan group dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected politics at all levels in Canada.  In an opinion piece for the Globe and Mail on Monday, Dasko argued that “none of the pundits has pointed to the gender factor and how having a female leader [in British Columbia] may have boosted Liberal support.”

17 June 2013

Montana Time #nlpoli

Both CBC provincial affairs reporter David Cochrane and Telegram editor Russell Wangersky had opinion pieces this weekend telling the provincial Conservatives that they have a big political problem now that they are in third place in a CRA poll. 

The Conservatives need to change what they are doing.

Wangersky had some specific suggestions on changes.  Cochrane added the tidbit of news that there is a cabal  inside the Tory caucus that is growing increasingly frustrated with the inaction of people running the cabinet and caucus.  They live inside The Bubble apparently.

This is pretty much the same thing SRBP has been on about for the past year or so.  The Tories are in a hole.  They need to stop digging.

Great minds think alike, eventually.

The fools differ.

14 June 2013

Ministerial Whimsy #nlpoli

Ever wonder why the provincial government passes laws and then never puts them into force?

Like the Sustainable Development Act that the Conservatives pushed through the House in 2007 and then abandoned.

Or the Court Security Act they passed in 2004, ignored for six years, then brought back with a couple of minor changes to the wording, repealed the old Act they’d never implemented, and passed through the House the new one as…wait for it… the Court Security Act, 2010. <fake dramatic music noise>Dunt…dunt… dah.

13 June 2013

Inquiring Minds? You don’t want to know. #nlpoli

Denial and evasion, wrote Andrew Coyne last week, are only making worse three political scandals. He’s referring to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and allegations of substance abuse, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Mike Duffy Affair, and former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and a police investigation into McGuinty’ s staff, missing e-mails and a gas plant.

Coyne is his usual insightful self.

What’s more, added Telegram editor Peter Jackson, these three have made matters worse by making “false or misleading statements”. Not a good idea, sez Peter, since people “are naturally suspicious.”  You can’t have a good conspiracy because people will sniff out the foolishness.

And in some cases, people will even make stuff up. Peter points to the 9/11 Truthers and the Obama birthers as examples of people who will connect the unconnected.
In short, it’s bad enough when irresponsible rumour-mongers start the ball rolling. 
The last thing politicians should do is feed the flames with fibs and subterfuge.
Wonderful stuff, that, if only we could all safely rely on those inquiring minds to quickly ferret out the truth. 

12 June 2013

Concerning Partisan Communications from Non-Partisan Government Officials #nlpoli

Keith Hutchings issued a news release on Tuesday to respond to”inaccuracies on CETA negotiations.” That’s what the headline on the release said it was about.

He did so in his capacity as a cabinet minister, a non-partisan provincial government official, not as a Conservative.  The media contact name listed is for the departmental communications director.  If this person didn’t write the release, then she approved it, as did the minister and at least one senior official in Cabinet Secretariat.

If you want to understand the communications problem facing the provincial government, then you have a tidy example in this release.

11 June 2013

And then magic will happen: Kennedy #nlpoli

Corporate Research Associates obscures what little useful information there is in its quarterly polling by converting party choice numbers to a share of decideds instead of a share of all answers.

Nowhere has this been more obvious lately than in its second quarter polling in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Report the numbers as CRA released them and you get what CBC and the rest of the conventional media will tell you:  big Conservative drop; Liberals and the NDP in a tie, with the NDP down slightly, but within the margin of error for the poll. Liberals up a bunch


10 June 2013

If at first you don’t succeed… #nlpoli

Shoot your self in the foot yet again.

The Conservative candidate in Cartwright – L’anse au Claire is committed to proving his party runs the government to suit its own partisan interests not what’s in the best interests of all the people of the province.

And this is not the first time Dennis Normore has told the people of the district that his party is deliberately punishing them for voting for someone other than the Conservative candidate.

07 June 2013

Get worried-er #nlpoli

Here are a bunch of stories all of which would deserve a post of their own but that are presented here cut down to the barest of bare essentials.

King of the Keystone Kops Strikes Again:  Not content to demonstrate his incompetence with his earlier budget shag up, justice minister Darin King (Twitter:  @King_Darin) announced on Thursday that 25 fisheries officers his department had booted out the door in the 2013 budget cuts would be rehired to a man and/or woman in very short order.

What can King possibly do to top this besides light his own underwear on fire during a live television interview?

Hide the matches, Tory staffers.

The other king named DarinDarin Pike will head the new Anglo school board for the entire province come the fall, the head of the provincial selection committee announced on Wednesday.

Pike’s experience includes a stint running the Eastern School district, which was the bureaucratic trial project for the creation of a single board for all English-speaking students in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Pike’s appointment is the penultimate act in the bureaucratic plan to eliminate public oversight of public education and replace it entirely with a system run by education bureaucrats who answer to no one except a cabinet minister who has no meaningful authority within the department. 

The plan started in 2004 when education department bureaucrats pitched the idea to the noob provincial Conservatives as a way of saving money.  In the event, they didn’t save a penny, but that was never the real purpose of the scam, err scheme. 

The plan did successfully consolidate de facto power in the hands of the deputy education minister and his four key subordinates, the chief executives of the districts.  The four district boards created under the re-organization scheme were powerless to do anything except as they were told.  This was perhaps most evident in the Eastern District where, from the chair, down to the lowliest anonymous character the board was populated with faceless cowards intent primarily on avoiding any public accountability for decisions they rubber-stamped.

Pike’s experience in implementing the plan makes him the ideal candidate.  D‘uh.

Faithful readers will recognise the similarity between an unaccountable education bureaucracy and the unaccountable provincial energy corporation, Nalcor.

Parochial or what?:  Apparently IOC has laid off some people.  The company won’t say how many.  The CBC story only talks about events in this province. 

The Quebec weekly Le Nord-Cotier broke the story a couple of days ago.  SRBP linked to it a couple of days ago.  The Quebec paper mentioned all the towns and cities where people got the boot, including the ones not in Quebec.

The World Stops at Donovans:  In Nova Scotia, the province’s utilities regulatory board is up to its eyes in the Muskrat Falls controversy.  Search the Internet and you’ll find a raft of stories about the UARB hearings and on public debate about the project.  On this side of the Cabot Strait, you’d be hard pressed to know there is anyone living there. 

The only local mentions of the story have been questions posed to Nalcor boss Ed Martin, who was characteristically vague and uninformative. 
Nice to be wrong Update (7:50 AM):  Telegram.  Top of Page 4.  Canadian Press story on Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter’s lack of concern about the Nova Scotia opposition to Muskrat Falls and the Maritime link.
The Norwegian ModelNorwegian energy giant Statoil announced this week that was reconsidering a major offshore project in part because of changes to Norwegian tax rules. 
"In addition, the Norwegian government has recently proposed reduced uplift in the petroleum tax system, which reduces the attractiveness of future projects, particularly marginal fields and fields which require new infrastructure. This has made it necessary to review the Johan Castberg project," says Øystein Michelsen, Statoil's executive vice president for development and production in Norway.
The Norwegian government is a majority shareholder in Statoil.  Norway manages its state-owned companies like all others, though, subjecting them to the same laws as private sector corporations. 

The Nalcor Model:  On May 31, Nalcor cleared the final bureaucratic hurdle for the Labrador-Island transmission link for Muskrat Falls with news that the provincial environment department had accepted the company’s environmental impact submissions. It’s all in the minister’s hands now.  He must recommend to cabinet whether to approve the project or not.

What are the odds Tom Hedderson would suggest to cabinet  that Nalcor stop work?

More than Muskrat Update (7:50 PM):  On the top of page three of the Friday Telly, there’s a second story by Ashley Fitzpatrick about the Nalcor AGM.  The headline:  “More than Muskrat discussed at Nalcor AGM”. 

Sure there was.

According to the story, Nalcor senior management talked about how Nalcor spending (i.e. cost) is up across the board. 

The reason they didn’t want to discuss as such? 

Muskrat Falls: it’s been driving up everyone’s costs and that’s going to get worse before it gets better.  "It would be easy to blame Muskrat," according to Nalcor vice president Derrick Sturge.

Easy, yes.



What else wasn’t Muskrat Falls? 

Energy marketing, which, of course, has nothing to do with Muskrat Falls except when the gang at the AGM talked about selling surplus power from Muskrat and all these other sales into markets that are not there.…
that’s right there in the story with the “Not Muskrat”  headline.

Big sales potential over the next three or four decades, according to Ed Martin. 


Interesting then that Nalcor hasn’t been able to nail down any long-term sales already (hence the reason to force taxpayers to buy 100% of Muskrat for only notionally using 40% of the power.


They talked about a lot that wasn’t Muskrat Falls.


06 June 2013

Get Worried #nlpoli

Not surprisingly,  a band of familiar faces turned up at Nalcor’s annual public meeting to put questions about Muskrat Falls to Ed Martin, the man more and more people are calling the de facto Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

And equally unsurprisingly, Ed Martin continued with the sort of uninformative or misleading comments of the sort he made most notoriously about water management and generating capacity in 2012.

The fact that Martin does not speak plainly and therefore honestly about anything Nalcor is doing should make people extremely nervous.

05 June 2013

Rumpole and the Big Smoke #nlpoli

Here’s the official summary of a judge’s decision in a recent arson case:

Accused was charged with arson. The Crown failed to prove beyond a  reasonable doubt that the fire was deliberately set and, if it was, that it was the accused who did it. The accused was acquitted.

Failed to prove anyone deliberately set the fire in the first place, let alone that the accused did it.

That’s pretty much the definition of epic fail.


Fluidity #nlpoli

As a rule,  cabinet ministers should be able to tell you exactly what government policy is on any given subject.  They all sit at the same table and they each have an obligation to support the policy they collectively decide.

When two ministers say starkly different things, then, you can understand that people tend to notice the discrepancy.  The difference usually signals a major problem or controversy and that simply cannot stand.  The principle of cabinet solidarity means that in public they must all sing the same song..

It’s bad enough when two ministers disagree. But when the difference is between the Premier and a minister, the matter becomes very serious. If there is one person who must know what government is doing, that person would be the first minister.  If there is one person who gets to set government policy, it is the first minister. Everyone else just has an opinion.

04 June 2013

IOCC cuts staff #nlpoli

The Iron Ore Company of Canada has made cuts to its offices in St.John’s, Montreal, Labrador City and Sept Iles, according to the weekly newspaper Le Nord-Cotier.

The company would not confirm how many positions were eliminated or how many people were affected.

IOC spokesperson Natalie Rouleau told the newspaper that the positions were redundancies and affected permanent staff, temporary employees and contract employees.


Off track betting #nlpoli

That big, ginormous phone-banging-up, trade dispute thingy with evil Ottawa?

So not happening any more.

"We seem to be back on track.  We have alignment," Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters on Tuesday at an event announcing fitness grants to community groups.

Familiar tunes amid the Shifting Balance of Power #nlpoli

All the talk the past week or so about negotiations between the crowd in Confederation Building and the crowd in Ottawa  brought out the conventional wisdom about premiers using fights with the feds for political purposes.

The coincidence of a talk on nationalism the week before linked the two ideas together neatly for some people. Kathy Dunderdale was having a row with Ottawa, possibly to boost her polling and maybe as a show of nationalist fervour that we all love.

Yeah, maybe that’s true.

And then again, maybe it just isn’t.

03 June 2013

No Surplus to Supply #nlpoli

Critics of the Muskrat Falls development pointed out over 18 months ago that the project would have problems meeting its electricity commitments.

Nalcor disputed that.

But this weekend, CBC’s Paul Withers told On Point host David Cochrane that Nalcor has refused to commit in writing to supply Nova Scotia with electricity beyond the original block of free electricity Emera will get as part of the basic deal.

That’s interesting. 

Very interesting. 

The original term sheet and the final capacity agreement basically commit the parties to work it out in the future on two conditions.  First, Nova Scotia has to want the power for the long term.  Second, Nalcor has to agree to supply it.

In the future.

If Nalcor had electricity to sell and Nova Scotia wanted it, then Nalcor should be locking them down and taking their cash.  After all, a long-term power purchase agreement for an export customer is exactly what the Lower Churchill was supposed to be about.

Instead, Nalcor has decided to force local ratepayers in Newfoundland to cover the full cost, plus profit and ship electricity to Emera in Nova Scotia, effectively for nothing.

What’s more, if they sell any electricity from the project to industrial customers in Labrador, Nalcor will sell the power at a huge discount.  According to Nalcor’s plan, everyone will get the benefit of Muskrat Falls except the people who will pay for it.