31 December 2013

The 2013 SRBP Themes (Part 2) #nlpoli

Federal provincial relations

Cast your mind back to the early part of 2012.  Kathy Dunderdale was frustrated.  She couldn’t figure out how to deal with the crowd in Ottawa. 

Suck up to them. 

Attack them. 

Didn’t matter.

They still wouldn’t do what Kathy wanted.

30 December 2013

The 2013 SRBP Themes (Part 1) #nlpoli

The end of the calendar always brings the string of Best of, Top 10, and any other kind of year in review piece.  In the conventional media it’s the season of the interview with leading politicians.

At SRBP this year we did a Top 13 for ‘13 list.  It just ran through all the posts and pages that attracted the largest number of readers during the year.

You get a bit of a different picture of the year when you go through the posts month by month to see what turns up.  Patterns emerge that aren’t as readily apparent when you are reading them – or writing them – daily.

27 December 2013

The SRBP Top 13 for 2013 #nlpoli

For your reading pleasure as we head into the last weekend of 2013 is the list of the top 13 stories at SRBP, as determined by what the readers turned to most:

23 December 2013

Sleigh Ride


The Hollowmen of Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Some of you may have been surprised to find out this weekend that Nalcor has a scheme to import cheap electricity into the province.

A couple of Nalcor officials could barely contain their excitement in an interview with the Telegram’s James McLeod. Here’s the idea in a nutshell:

Essentially, Nalcor would slow down or shut off some of its hydro dams and let the water build up in the reservoir, while buying cheap power from the market. Then later, during peak demand times on the mainland, Nalcor would run the hydro dams flat out and turn a profit.

You are probably scratching your head because the provincial government has always insisted Muskrat Falls was the cheapest way to supply the province with electricity.

Well, now you know they lied.

But that’s really the smallest implication of the weekend story.

20 December 2013

Ghouls, vultures, and a-holes #nlpoli

The marine rescue sub-centre story is one of those things that typifies politics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

It’s entirely the creation of a few politicians with their own agenda and a whole bunch of other sincere, well-meaning people have gotten sucked into what is – essentially  - a complete pile of shite.

19 December 2013

Province abandons fisheries policy…quietly #nlpoli

Two years.

That’s all it took to destroy the provincial government’s historic fisheries policy that had been built on the highly successful state-controlled model pioneered by such economic powerhouses as the Soviet Union, Albania, and North Korea.

18 December 2013

Record churn in senior public service in 2013 #nlpoli

Three deputy minister appointments announced on Tuesday brings the number of senior executive appointments in the public service to 24 in the second half of 2013, according to information from the provincial government’s Order in Council database.

That brings the total number of senior executive appointments in 2013 to 51.  Cabinet made 27 such appointments in the first six months of the year.  Cabinet made 12 of them in the first quarter.

Since one of the appointments was a temporary job for a senior deputy minister who retired in September, you could reduce the total to 50.  But that’s still a record, compared to the previous record 49 senior appointments made in 2012.

In the past decade cabinet has typically made a series of senior appointments in December.  That means there is still plenty of time to move the new record significantly higher.



17 December 2013

Danny to fire publicists? #nlpoli

Someone organized a stunt designed solely to gain publicity and no one invited the Old Mullet Hisself to huff and puff and pose for the cameras.

Clearly, the people handling Hisself’s publicity should be fired.



Frankly <shoulder twitch>  I gotta tell ya.



Leading by example #nlpoli

The Liberal Party executive may have screwed up by failing to put in place any campaign finance rules during the recent leadership but the candidates are putting it right.

Liberal leader Dwight Ball and three of his four fellow candidates released information on their campaign expenses on Monday.

Ball committed to release information immediately after he won the leadership but his disclosure went one better than he’d originally indicated.  Not only did Ball ask donors for permission to release their names and the amounts, he refunded money his campaign had received from people who wanted to remain anonymous.

Ball leads by example.


16 December 2013

Inertia #nlpoli

In a letter last May to his federal counterpart, economic development minister Keith Hutchings described minimum processing requirements as the “only policy instrument within provincial jurisdiction that ensures fisheries resources adjacent to the province result in processing jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

For those who do not know what they are,  minimum processing requirements are a condition that the provincial government sets on the licenses it gives to companies that process fish in the province.  The name says it all:  the companies have to process a certain amount of the fish in order to create jobs in fish plants around Newfoundland and Labrador.

There’s been a fairly steady row about processing rules over the past decade as the companies struggle to stay financially viable.  There are way too many plants for the amount of fish available and there are way too many people in the province drawing pathetically small wages slicing up the fish that comes ashore.  Companies can’t process fish profitably here and yet the provincial government insists they keep at bit.

The provincial politicians and bureaucrats know perfectly well that they need to change their ways. The politicians knew about it when they set about to destroy the only truly globally competitive fish company in the province.  They’ve known about it as the fought over exactly the same issue with the company the government’s policy favoured over exactly the same issue.

And yet the politicians persist with their bankrupt idea.

13 December 2013

Friday Foursome #nlpoli

1.  Nova Scotian customers protected; this province not. (Telegram, December 11, 2013) by Ron Penney and David Vardy

The UARB has been empowered to protect the interests of consumers against their public utility, Nova Scotia Power Inc. (NSPI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Emera. Emera is a publicly traded corporation working in partnership with Nalcor Energy, a non-regulated Crown corporation, to build the Maritime Link. The government of Nova Scotia allowed the UARB to balance the interests of ratepayers and the proponent, a privately owned company, at arm’s length from government.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador took a divergent course of action. They joined hands with their Crown corporation and made it immune from regulatory control.

They took away the powers of our own PUB, so it could not protect the interests of ratepayers. They sanctioned the Muskrat Falls project prematurely and weakened the ability of Nalcor to negotiate a better agreement with Emera. The result is that we are exposed to a one-sided agreement, tilted in favour of Nova Scotia and decidedly disadvantageous to this province’s ratepayers.


12 December 2013

Muskrat Falls costs jump by $1.0 billion #nlpoli

Cost estimates for the Muskrat Falls project have apparently jumped by 16% -  $1.0 billion  - in the past year.  That’s based on information released by the provincial government on Tuesday and the details of the federal loan guarantee.

The new price appears to be $7.2 billion.  The Decision Gate 3 estimate, released in October 2012, was $6.2 billion for the Muskrat Falls dam, a tie to Churchill Falls, and the line to Soldier’s Pond on the island of Newfoundland.

The new cost is 44% more than the $5.0 billion cost estimate for the dam and island link components of the project when it was approved in late 2010. 

11 December 2013

The First Shot of 2015 #nlpoli


Moments #nlpoli

There’s something perverse about the way politicians these days use a memorial to the dead of two world wars in the last century as a backdrop for their own political spectacles.

That’s what Kathy Dunderdale did – yet again – on Tuesday night to tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians about something she regards as truly wonderful.

“This is one of those occasions we should tell our children about,” said Premier Kathy Dunderdale on province-wide television Tuesday night, “and help them understand how important this moment is for them and their future.”

She’s right.

It will be important to mark this moment in time.  We’ll have to help generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians not yet even born understand the magnitude of what Dunderdale and her associates have done.

10 December 2013

Converting principles to other people’s money #nlpoli

When Premier Kathy Dunderdale spoke to a St. John’s Board of Trade last May,  she claimed the federal government had tried to tie the federal loan guarantee on Muskrat Falls to the European free trade talks.

There’s no evidence that her claim is true, at least based on the selected documents Dunderdale released last week in the House of Assembly on the negotiations.

The documents actually show something else.

09 December 2013

The Conservatives and federal-provincial relations #nlpoli

Two news stories last week reminded us once again of the nature of federal-provincial relations for Newfoundland and Labrador over the past decade.

A story in the Chronicle Herald reported on recent comments by Danny Williams about a sharp personal exchange he supposed had with Stephen Harper before the later became prime minister.

The second story was the release late in the week by Premier Kathy Dunderdale of some documents about the provincial government’s position on the Canada- European Union trade agreement. The 80-odd pages of e-mails and letters include an effort by the provincial government to tie search and rescue, an offshore safety agency,  and the federal government’s Hibernia shares in a deal between the federal and provincial governments. 

06 December 2013

University Enrolment #nlpoli

Just for the sake of looking at some numbers, here are some statistics on university enrolment in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past decade.

The figures are from Statistics Canada.

05 December 2013

Grits gain from Cons and Dippers #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t govern by polls.

That’s what she told reporters – yet again – as they asked her about yet another poll that showed the provincial Conservatives aren’t doing so well with eligible voters.

Then Kathy explained to reporters that the polls told her that she and her colleagues must do a better job of communicating with the people of the province.  Oh yes, and she’d happily “take” the improvement in the satisfaction with her administration.

Dunderdale wasn’t the only one having some problems with the results of the Corporate Research Associates November poll numbers.  New Democratic Party leader Lorraine Michael blamed her party’s dramatic drop on the two guys who left her caucus.  Never mind that the Dipper problems showed up in the polls well before this past quarter.

Let’s dig into this latest set of polling numbers though and see if we can help Kathy and Lorraine figure out what the polls results mean.

04 December 2013

Making them answer for their actions #nlpoli

Anyone who wants to understand the value of the House of Assembly need only look at Question Period on Tuesday.

Liberal Andrew Parsons threw question after question at child, and family services minister Paul Davis about a report by the Child and Youth Advocate into the case of a young man, aged 16 years, who went to jail a couple of years ago for killing a man in a fire.  The young man was living alone, unsupervised, at the time, having been taken into custody by government officials.

Parsons asked question after question and Davis through out anything but a direct answer in reply, time after time. 

The value of the House in this instance is not in getting important information.  Rather, the value lay in exposing Davis’ weakness in not having good answers in reply to the Advocate’s damning report.

03 December 2013

Could be right. Could be wrong. #nlpoli

If you accept the provincial government’s version of things, spending a half a billion dollars more than you are collecting is a responsible decision.

That’s the headline the government’s communications people put on the news release covering the release of the fall budget update.

And if you look at either the Telegram or the CBC version of the story,  the biggest thing to notice is that the provincial government deficit is $100 million less than originally forecast.

Let’s take a deeper look and see what is there.

02 December 2013

Political Mummers’ Parade on Monday #nlpoli

Finance minister Tom Marshall will present his mid-year financial update on Monday.  It is supposed to be a way of bringing everyone up to date on how the annual budget is going. It’s an accountability thing.

Since the government’s fiscal year starts in April, the middle of the year was September.  So December is well past the mid-year.  As we all know, December is the last month of the calendar year so this mid-year report is a bit late there, too.  The only calendar that puts December in the middle of some year or other seems to be the provincial Conservative one.

The whole idea of a mid-year financial up-date winds up being a bit of a farce, then.  It’s much like having a consultation about what to put in the budget after the cabinet has already decided on the budget in secret beforehand.

Farce is not a word you associate with good government.  It’s more the type of word you’ll find to describe something like the annual  Mummer’s Parade.  For those who don’t know, mummering is a bit of Christmas entertainment when people pretend to be something they are not. Mummering is foolishness in a good sense of the word.  In politics these days, as with the Mummers’ Parade,  it seems that foolish is the new normal.

And that is not good.