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.


13 August 2013

Nalcor’s Complaints to the Regie #nlpoli

Last week, the Quebec Superior Court dismissed a motion to hear an appeal from Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro over decisions taken by the Quebec’s energy regulator in 2010.

As NTV reported on Friday, “Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro asked for transmission access from Hydro-Québec TransÉnergie in January 2006. But Nalcor says it was met with delays, so it appealed to Quebec’s version of the Public Utilities Board, the Régie de l’énergie.”

That’s a fair, if very general,  account of the dispute.  You can see the same thing in the other media, such as the CBC’s online account.   The Telegram editorial on Monday described the dispute this way – “the Régie de l'énergie rejected all requested corridors for transmitting power through Québec” -  although that isn’t even close to what actually happened. 

12 August 2013

Access denied: CFLCo and Hydro-Quebec version #nlpoli

Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation tried but failed in 2012 in an effort to see hundreds of thousands of pages of confidential Hydro-Quebec documents on the 1969 Power Contract between CFLCo and Hydro-Quebec.

A decision by the Quebec access to information commissioner in November 2012 denied CF(L)Co access to the documents under a section of the provincial access to information law that excludes requests that are so large that answering them would interfere with  the normal operations of the public body.

Curiously enough that’s exactly the same ruling the Newfoundland and Labrador access commissioner made on a 2008 case involving a request for access to e-mails in the Premier’s Office. In his decision, filed in January 2009, the provincial access commissioner determined that:

the number of e-mails encompassed by the request was over 119,000. At a rate of 500 e-mails per day, it would take about 8 [sic] months to process the request. The Commissioner found that this was an unreasonable interference with the operations of Executive Council.


09 August 2013

Churn, churn, churn #nlpoli

For your consideration:  a conspicuously large number of changes in the senior levels of the provincial public service over the past four years or so.

The most recent person to hold the most senior position in the public service - Clerk of the Executive Council  - has held seven different positions in seven years. At the assistant deputy minister and deputy minister rank, she has averaged a little less than one and a half years in each position.

So how does that stack up with her immediate predecessors?

08 August 2013

The Poster Child for the Churn #nlpoli

On Tuesday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale appointed Julia Mullaley to the top job in the provincial public service - Clerk of the Executive Council  - to replace Robert Thompson, who is retiring.

The news release announcing Mullaley’s appointment rattles off the jobs that she has held, but you really have to do a little sleuthing to see just how often she has moved around in her 20 years of public service.

Mullaley is the poster child for the incredible churn in the senior public service these days.

07 August 2013

Newfoundland and the start of the Great War #nlpoli

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One. 

There’s no sign of any commemorations or other events to mark the occasion, but undoubtedly there will be plenty.  Your humble e-scribbler is working to finish off a major paper that’s been in the works for far too long.  It builds on some original research into Newfoundland’s involvement and pre-war defence policy.

August 7th is the anniversary of the decision by the Newfoundland cabinet on what shape the country’s participation would take.  What follows is a revamped version of a post from 2007 on the same occasion.

Darkness on the Edge of Town #nlpoli

Here’s what St. John’s mayor Dennis O’Keefe told city council on Monday, according to the Telegram on Wednesday:

O’Keefe proceeded to talk about the fact the city lost the opportunity to hold a Springsteen concert this summer because it and the promoter couldn’t come up with a suitable venue.

This summer.


Bruce toured North America last year, 2012.

This year all his gigs have been in Europe.

What gives?

The Smartest Move She Ever Made #nlpoli

Appointing Ross Reid as her chief of staff is probably the smartest thing Premier Kathy Dunderdale has ever done and will ever do.

Reid is an experienced political operator with extensive connections and reputation for bringing people together successfully.

Given all the other decisions Dunderdale has made in her political career,  especially since the Williams brothers made her Premier, that’s why this one just does not fit.

06 August 2013

The Q2 2013 Churn Appointments #nlpoli

Cabinet made 12 appointments at the deputy minister and assistant deputy minister rank in the second quarter of the  2013 calendar year (01 April  to 30 June).

The information comes from cabinet orders (orders-in-council) needed to make these appointments and released by the provincial government via its website.

That’s consistent with the 15 appointments made between 01 January and 31 March.

If the pattern continues, the provincial government will make a record 60 such appointments by the end of the calendar year, bettering the previous record of 49 set in 2012.

This does not include recent changes in the Premier’s Office or cabinet secretariat.


05 August 2013

On bigotry and prejudice #nlpoli

The Telegram editorial last Friday offered a few comments on some recent examples of nasty words tossed at people not from one place or another.

One was a letter that turned up in the Calgary Sun complaining about all the Newfs in western Canada.  Another was the number of people telling local political gadfly Brad Cabana that he should frig back off to western Canada where he came from, or words to that effect.

The editorial noted that these expressions of what the editorialist called bigotry, are different when they come from prominent people compared to “ordinary” people because the “ordinary”  idiots are everywhere.

Every now and then, writes the editorialist, it is useful to “out” the bigots and the racists and give them the “scorn and derision” they deserve.  Otherwise, the editorialist wrote with a tip of the hat to none other than Bill “pimple on the arse” Rowe, we shouldn’t pay any attention to that stuff.

Now if one  read only that editorial, one might cluck approvingly on it and then go on contended that one was with the righteous among us.  But if you knew some context for all this, you would quickly recognise the editorial for the tripe it is.

02 August 2013

Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders – Uncle Gnarley version #nlpoli

If you want some really sharp insight into the latest developments in the Muskrat Falls saga, check out the Thursday post at Uncle Gnarley titled “Don’t tell the Newfoundlanders”.

Don’t stop when you get to the end.

Read the comments.  There are 10 more from different people who add even more insight. Here’s a sample:


The Emera application  was issued on January 28, 2013.

As soon as the carrot of Figure 4-4 was put in front of the UARB, Nalcor should have realised they were going to grab it, and refuse to give the carrot back. The process was de-railed as soon as this Figure 4-4 was shown to the people of Nova Scotia.

Newfoundlanders should read through the UARB hearings. There was a great deal of dialogue between Nalcor and Emera about surplus power availability. Yet during the June 2013 AGM, Ed Martin responded to questioning from Jim Morgan that he was not approached by Emera about surplus power. Something does not correlate. Something does not add up.

But if you want to see what benefits an open and transparent process brings, then read the economics that were presented to the UARB [Excel file at the bottom of the link above]  A clear summary of the costs, the returns, and when the equity will be repaid. This is a level of detail and clarity that Newfoundlanders are yet to see, on a project which we will pay for.

Here in Newfoundland we have a premier who is now saying that the link does not require UARB approval. But if the cost are not recovered in the rate base (15 cents/kwhr) how will it be paid for on the open Market (5 cents)? Who pays?\

Our premier should also understand that in accordance with the National Energy Board, before any power is sold in the US it must first be offered to Canadian utilities at commercially competitive terms. So if they build a link with the intent to sell it to New England at 4 cents, then the terms of their NEB report license dictate that Nalcor will first must offer it to Nova Scotians at 4 cents.

Premier Dunderdale may get Premier Dexter re-elected yet.


Whatever happened to Ryan Cleary? #nlpoli

The story is the kind of thing that used to set the arch-nationalist Ryan Cleary screaming about the ignorance of mainlanders and tearing at his clothes over the latest proof of the evils of Confederation.

These days,  New Democrat member of parliament Ryan Cleary is apparently not interested in rending the Harry Rosen threads his hefty MPs salary puts on his back.

For those who haven’t seen the news, Cleary’s boss – Thomas Mulcair – is set to travel across the country this August.  Across the country  - to New Democrats - means from [as the Globe reported it] "Halifax to Vancouver [Island]."

01 August 2013

Media Facilitation 101 #nlpoli

The Thursday morning post of Liberal leadership campaign videos included a technical note that explained why the videos in it didn’t fit with the formatting here at SRBP.

The reason for the problem – as the post noted – is that the people who posted the videos at youtube put some limitations on the embedding code.  This simple point apparently escaped a couple of readers who spent some time lecturing about how your humble e-scribbler could scale the youtube videos or edit the code.


Liberal Leadership Videos #nlpoli

Two Liberal leadership candidates are using youtube videos as a way of getting their message out.

Paul Antle has a professionally produced introductory video that is also the basis for the first television spot of the campaign.  It turned up on Wednesday during the supper hour news.

Danny Dumaresque is at it as well, although his are short, home-made videos. The longer of the bunch appears to be a speech at Dumaresque's launch event. 


Tech Note:  Some of you will likely notice that these videos are atretching into the right hand side of the SRBP layout.  There's a simple reason for this.  Both campaigns uploaded the videos with limitations on the way that they appear.  

There's no technical reason for this, that is, they are not designed to be shown at fixed diemsnions.  it just appears that someone involved with the campaign missed a couple of details in the upload such that you can only embed them with these fixed dimensions.


Unless this sort of thing gets fixed, these are the last campaign vids readers will see embedded here.