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.