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.