31 May 2013

If they do it, it is wrong #nlpoli

On Monday, Kathy Dunderdale said it was wrong for the federal government to try and jam her up by connecting the federal loan guarantee on Muskrat Falls to free trade talks, Kathy Dunderdale acknowledged on Friday that she has been connecting the free trade talks to search and rescue.

When someone else does it, that would be wrong.

But when Kathy does it, she thinks it is sheer genius.

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The Divide Deepens. #nlpoli

David Cochrane called it right the other day in the scrum with Kathy Dunderdale.  He asked if she was laying the groundwork for a failure at the trade talks, a failure of her personal position.

Dunderdale denied it in the scrum, but her latest claim – full of the same vague and largely unsubstantiated claims as on Monday – sounds like someone who is trying to blame someone else before the talks finish and the end result doesn’t match what she’s been personally staking out as a position.

30 May 2013

There’s something to be said for eloquence #nlpoli

Russell Wangersky is a fine writer with a keen and insightful mind.

He is also an editor at the province’s largest circulation daily.

That’s the same place where former fisheries minister Trevor Taylor has been scribbling a column every week.

Dunderdale and Dalley tell different trade talk stories #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale (via NTV):

We’re looking for a ‘carve-out’ on the minimum processing regulations … so they’ll be exempted, and we want access to the European market on a number of our fish lines…

Carve out. 

Hideous jargon for “not going to trade away” minimum processing regulations.

Period.

Fisheries minister Derrick Dalley (via the Telegram):

Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley was at a media event in St. John’s Tuesday, where he assured reporters that the provincial government is not going to give away minimum processing requirements unless it’s a good deal.

Not going to trade away minimum processing requirements.

Oh wait.

There’s more.

29 May 2013

Kathy Dunderdale's Give-Aways #nlpoli

There is something about Kathy Dunderdale’s speech to the Board of Trade that leaves you decidedly uncomfortable.

Part of it is the mention of her grandson  - yet again - at the front end end of the speech.  Kathy told a story about the advice the little fellow gave her in case someone one should break into her house.  This was apparently back in the spring.

Another part of it is the story about the loan guarantee.  “I’ve got to tell you, I never worked for anything so hard in my life as I worked for that loan guarantee,” Dunderdale told reporters in the scrum after her speech. That quote is from the Telegram account by James McLeod.

28 May 2013

Do we have it? #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale had a pretty easy audience on Monday for her relaxed, ambling speech about a whole bunch of stuff.

It was the St. John’s Board of Trade. 

As a rule, the townie business community have the guts of political guppies.  They’ll run along with whatever the government says and Monday was no different.  When the Conservatives were spending and spending beyond what the province could afford, the crowd at the Board of Trade cheered wildly.  And now on cue they are repeating the Conservative line on spending restraint – when there really isn’t any – and the glories of Muskrat Falls, which is the proof the government is continuing to spend beyond the public’s means.

The crowd at the aptly named BOT know what side their bread is buttered on so they applauded in all the right spots in the Premier’s stock speech.

Well, almost stock.

27 May 2013

Like Father. Like Son. #nlpoli

So after a teaser column in the Telegram last week that was more creative fiction than serious history or memoir, John Crosbie explained why he loves the Muskrat Falls project in this Saturday’s instalment of Geriatric Townie Pass-times.

It’s really simple.

The project will be splendiferous.

Phantasmagorical.

Amazingly, marvellously, Keebler-elves-kinda-magical.

24 May 2013

Lowest Cost Option #nlpoli

The provincial government is almost finished “remediating” the environmental contamination left from the old American Smelting and refining Company (ASARCO) mine at Buchans.

According to a news release from Tom Hedderson, tenders are due to go out on May 25 for the final phase.

Read the release and the one thing you will notice is that there’s no description of what the provincial government is actually doing to reduce the environmental risk to residents from the mine tailings and other debris from the old mine.

There’s likely a reason for that.

23 May 2013

Polling Voters #nlpoli

If you are still mulling over the British Columbia election result and the polls, take a look at this post by Eric Grenier at threehundredeight.com.  It includes a link to his piece in the Globe on Wednesday on the same topic.

Pollsters tend to weight their samples to match the population as a whole.  Problem:  that isn’t the same as the demographic profile of voters.voters.

Grenier shows how Ipsos, for example, weighted a poll equally across three age groupings.  In the 2013 election, those age groupings didn’t turn out equally.  The over-55s made up half the total voter turn-out, not one third.

It just doesn’t stop #nlpoli

There’s a new anti-Conservative picture around town. 

This one is via Twitter (@openionated ).


new picture

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Beth and Expenses #nlpoli #cdnpoli

All this talk of Senator Beth Marshall and her hefty annual stipend for chairing a committee that has met once in two years brings to mind the good senator’s role in the House of Assembly patronage scam, a.k.a. the spending scandal.

Marshall is credited with first sniffing something was amiss when she went hunting for Paul Dick’s expenses in 2001-ish.  She was barred from the House by the legislature’s internal economy commission.  The members were Liberals and Tories and, as accounts have it, they unanimously wanted to keep Beth’s nose out of their files.

But if you go back and look, you’ll have a hard time finding any indication Beth thought something else was on the go.  While we didn’t know it at the time, subsequent information confirmed that members had been handing out public cash pretty generously by that point. Yet Marshall has never, ever indicated she felt something more than a few wine and art purchases might have been amiss.

That’s important because of Marshall’s record once she got into the House herself as a member in 2003.

22 May 2013

There’s no crap like old crap #nlpoli

And John Crosbie’s recent column (May 18) in the Telegram about Churchill Falls contains some of the oldest  - and completely unsubstantiated – crap on the go.

21 May 2013

Political Grab-Bag #nlpoli

For the first day back after a long weekend, here are some short snappers on some issues swirling around these days at the national scene.

20 May 2013

Stagnation and Decay #nlpoli

The House of Assembly finished its spring session on Thursday after what appears to be one of the shortest sessions in the past 30 years.

The government presented only seven bills for debate, only a quarter of the normal load for the major sitting for the House.  That seems to be a record as well, and not of the sort any government would wish to hold.

For good measure,  the people of Newfoundland and Labrador could watch some of the most abysmal behaviour in recent memory, including a political lynching aided by a partisan and incompetent Speaker of the House.

What they are really watching, though, was nothing as trivial as a finance minister Jerome Kennedy’s second session of embarrassing  verbal attacks on other members.  People are watching a governing party that is in the advanced stages of stagnation and decay.

17 May 2013

The NAPE Poll Income #nlpoli

As it turns out, Harris-Decima used household income not individual income for weighting the poll they did for NAPE. Keith Dunne, NAPE’s communications co-ordinator tweeted the correct information on Thursday morning.

Your humble e-scribbler thought it was individual income and therefore concluded – wrongly – that there was a skew in the poll toward higher income urbanites.  That didn’t invalidate the survey results but it might have explained the strength of the rejection of the provincial government’s budget.  The Tories might have had a chance to bounce back politically, especially among the lower income types out there.

Turns out that hope was pretty much dashed.

16 May 2013

Self Skew-ered #nlpoli

Two thirds of tax filers in Newfoundland and Labrador report incomes of less than $35,000 per year.

The Harris-Decima poll released by the Newfoundland and labrador Association of Public Employees on Wednesday has only 27% of the sample with an income less than $40,000 per year.

Still, the results show that the provincial government either didn’t have a communications strategy or whatever strategy they had failed miserably.

In fact, it was a stunning, utter, complete, abject failure of their entire communications effort.

The Fruits of A Very Poisonous Tree #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale said on Tuesday that the province will have problems now that it doesn’t have a federal cabinet minister from this province.

As CBC quoted her from a scrum outside the House of Assembly, Kathy said:

“It always makes it more difficult when you don't have somebody inside the tent,…”

This is not just a difficult position, it is a stupid position, but it is exactly the stupid policy that Kathy Dunderdale advocated.

15 May 2013

The Decline of the Forest Empire #nlpoli

While an official with Corner Brook’s municipal government  understandably has to say wonderful things about the economy in the west coast city, a look at some numbers shows the city is feeling the effects of a larger problem in the province.

SRBP took a look at newsprint production levels and the value of newsprint exports from 2003 to 2012.  The numbers are all from the annual editions of the budget document called The Economy.

The picture is not pretty.

14 May 2013

Steep Curves and Third Place #nlpoli

Liberal leader Dwight Ball told CBC’s David Cochrane this past weekend that his job as Opposition Leader came with a steep learning curve.

Indeed it does and on Monday, Ball proved just how steep the curve is.

The $150K Communications Audit #nlpoli

Poor Jerome Kennedy.

They sent him out Monday to explain to reporters what the government got for its $150,000 audit by Fleishman-Hillard in later 2011.

Kennedy had a hard time explaining it.

He went all over the mass of talking points floating around in his head.  he said – without a hint of a joke – that the departmental communications directors are not political staff.  on paper, maybe, Jerome, but in practice, they are either partisans or have been heavily politicised.

13 May 2013

Keep on churnin’ #nlpoli

You can add another five changes to the record of senior executive appointments cabinet has made since the beginning of the year, according to orders-in-council posted to the provincial government’s website.

That brings the total for Calendar Year 2013 to 20.

Six the 20 are acting appointments, meaning that cabinet will either have to confirm the appointment or put someone new in the job.

Cabinet remains on track to make 60 such appointments in 2013, setting an all-time record for changes in the 121 deputy minister and assistant deputy minister positions in the provincial government.

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Where was Fairity’s contract chopper? #nlpoli

In the wake of the tragic death last week of Joseph Riche, it shouldn’t be surprising that some people, including some politicians, are blaming the tragedy on the Department of National Defence.

That’s what politicians do in this province.  Blame Ottawa is a time-honoured political strategy even if it is usually a political lie.

As with the Burton Winters tragedy, these provincial politicians are aiming public concern in the wrong direction.

10 May 2013

More on the 2009 Rift #nlpoli

The Kremlinology post on Trevor Taylor, Paul Oram and the apparent policy disagreement in cabinet in 2008/09 generated two contacts (a tweet and an e-mail) that are worth discussing.

Let’s take them one at a time.

09 May 2013

Kremlinology 44: the 2009 Rift in Cabinet #nlpoli

Trevor Taylor left politics in 2009 in an unseemly hurry.

One minute he was there. 

Next minute?  Gone from cabinet and the House of Assembly.

Very odd.

Then right on his heels went Paul Oram, who muttered something about unsound financial management by the Conservatives as he ran from the Confederation Building.

A very big clue to what was going on at the time turned up on Tuesday in Trevor Taylor’s column in the Telegram.

08 May 2013

Tom Marshall’s Dead Muskrat Sketch #nlpoli

Tom Marshall used to be the finance minister. 

He’s the guy who consistently, year after year, spent more than the people of the province could afford. Tom didn’t do it by himself:  he had the support of all his colleagues in cabinet.

And since 2009, Tom and his colleagues have admitted that they mismanaged the provincial government accounts by overspending.

Deliberately.

Along the way, Tom has claimed some things that aren’t true.  Like saying that he and his colleagues lowered the provincial debt when they didn’t.

So now that he is natural resources minister, Tom Marshall is still telling people things that aren’t true.  This time it is about the glories of the 2008 expropriation.

What Tom says.

The truth.

Two different things.

07 May 2013

And you want to be my latex salesman? #nlpoli

Last week SRBP noted that the provincial cabinet seems to be having some difficulty getting legislation into the House for debate.

Normally, we’d see upwards of 30 bills handled in the spring session.  In 2011 they had almost all the bills introduced by the early part of May.  In 2012, the provincial government had more than twice as many bills on the go as they do this year.

Well on Monday, finance minister Jerome Kennedy gave notice he has one more bill to add:  an amendment to the Revenue Administration Act.  He called it amendment number three.

Except it isn’t.

Ground Control to Major Tom #nlpoli

New Democratic Party leader Lorraine Michael asked natural resources minister Tom Marshall in the House of Assembly on Monday about Husky’s plans for natural gas development offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

The story appeared in upstreamonline.com on May 3 and SRBP told you about it the same day.

Here’s what Marshall said about the article:

I have not had the opportunity to read the particular article that which she is referring to, but I would also be happy to have a discussion with the company.

Not the arse-end of the world … #nlpoli

energy price trendsCheck out the 2012 Hydro-Quebec annual report and you will find a lovely chart showing trends in energy prices in northeastern North America.

“After reaching a historic peak in 2008, natural gas and electricity prices in northeastern North America dropped sharply in 2009, then rose slightly in 2010 only to fall again, such that prices in 2012 were at their lowest in 10 years.” (page 11)

From an historic peak to the lowest prices in a decade a mere four years later.

06 May 2013

Why separate? #nlpoli

Last week, the federal Auditor General pointed out many serious problems with the state of offshore search and rescue.

Last week, the usual gang grabbed any microphone they could find to call  - yet again - for everything from a provincial public inquiry into the state of search and rescue in the province to a new agency to regulate safety in the offshore oil industry.

The idea that we had to split safety from other aspects came up during the offshore helicopter inquiry.  The idea is popular.  Helicopter safety inquiry commissioner Robert Wells included it as one of his recommendations in volume one.

But here’s the thing:  what is a so-called separate safety agency supposed to do that we aren’t doing now or couldn’t accomplish any other way?

03 May 2013

Husky sizing up natural gas offshore Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Husky Energy is sizing up the potential of developing natural gas offshore Newfoundland and Labrador within the next decade, according to the leading petroleum industry news source upstreamonline.com.

First exports could begin in 2025, if enough resources can be certified, according to upstream. The likely export destination would be western Europe, a market very close to Newfoundland and Labrador and where prices are considerably stronger than they are in North America.

upstream’s story notes that the provincial government “quashed” any idea of using local natural gas in place of Muskrat falls, but reports that since then the “the idea of LNG exports appears to now have more traction, suggested one source…”.  upstream reported that “Husky is said to be taking a fresh look at known and potential gas resources to see if their scale would justify, technically and commercially, building a liquefaction plant.”

upstream reports that Husky commissioned a report from IntecSea to explore potential development of the 4.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas offshore Labrador. 

Industry sources suggested a potential timeline towards first LNG exports could see pre-front-end engineering and design studies taking place in 2016-2017.

Front-end engineering and design would take place through to 2019 in advance of a firm decision, according to upstream.

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Light Session #nlpoli

As of May 2, there are a mere six pieces of legislation on the list of bills currently set for debate in the House of Assembly.  It seems to be up to date because on Thursday they added links to a couple of the bills that are ready to start debate.

But they didn’t add any to the six listed there.

01 May 2013

Political Translator: No’durn Strategy #nlpoli

Former premier Tom Rideout has an accent typical of the northeast coast of Newfoundland.  in his days as a cabinet minister after 2003,  Rideout often used the word “northern”.  It came out in his pronunciation as “no-durn” or “know-durn”.

Tom’s legacy leaves on, even inadvertently.  Four years or so after Rideout got fed up and left provincial politics,  Labrador affairs minister Nick McGrath confirmed recently that the Northern Strategic Plan the provincial Conservatives talk about so much doesn’t exist.

There’s no durn plan.

Province settles Fortis asset grab for $76 million #nlpoli

Natural resources minister Tom Marshall announced in the House of Assembly on Tuesday that the provincial government had settled with the last of a string of private companies victimised by a 2008 asset grab of hydro-electric generating facilities by the provincial government.

Taxpayers will cover a $54 million debt owed by Fortis, one of the partners in the Exploits Partnership, as well as pay the company an additional $18 million.  Taxpayers have already paid more than $4 million according to media reports, bringing the total to about $76 million for the Fortis asset swipe alone.

In 2011, the provincial government took responsibility for a $40 million loan owed on Star Lake, another part of the 2008 hydro asset expropriation.  The government also paid $32.8 million to Enel one of the partners in the project.

The provincial government seized the hydro assets in an extraordinary expropriation bill that government original touted as being aimed at Abitibi in punishment for closing a paper mill in the central Newfoundland town of Grand Falls-Windsor. 

Information subsequently came to light that confirmed the government’s real target in the expropriation were the lucrative hydro-electric generating assets owned by Abitibi, Enel, and Fortis in two separate partnerships.  The provincial government turned over the assets free of charge to the Crown-owned Nalcor Energy. 

Nalcor will now use the generating stations to help meet its commitments to provide Emera with free electricity for 35 years under the Muskrat Falls deal.

For now, though, taxpayers are being forced to pay for the seizure and for the electricity Nalcor makes at the seized plants.  Under a cabinet order dated April 4, 2013,  Nalcor sells electricity from the Exploits plant to its subsidiary Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro for the fixed price of four cents per kilowatt hour.  Hydro sells the power to consumers at much higher rates, thereby pocketing a sizeable profit entirely at public expense.

In its original plan, government intended to skim off any valuable assets and leave Abitibi with any environmental liabilities. As it turned out, the expropriation seized one of the most polluted properties Abitibi held.  The expropriation freed Abitibi of any liabilities since they went with the ownership.

There is no independent estimate available of the costs of the environmental clean-up of the seized facilities.

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