31 December 2014

The Legacy of Faulty Assumptions: Hebron Revisited #nlpoli

Hebron is the last of the four, big, offshore discoveries from the 1980s.

It’s due to come into production in 2017 based on a development agreement reached initially in 2007 with the provincial government and finalised in 2008.  There’s a potential problem with current production schedule.  The topsides fabrication is delayed in Korea but we won’t know until the middle of 2015 whether or not there will be further delays that would impact the planned date for first oil in 2017.

Hebron plays a big role in the imagination of the people currently running the province.  Their reaction to the provincial government’s financial problems is based, in part, on the expectation that Hebron will bring huge amounts of new cash into provincial coffers.

But with oil prices down,  people are starting to consider that those assumptions about an imminent return to insanely fat oil royalties might be a bit off base.  With that in mind, let’s revisit the Hebron development agreement and see what turns up.

30 December 2014

The Legacy #nlpoli

There is a lengthy list of political stories in contention to be the top political story of 2014.

Start the year with #darnknl, the failure of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Hydro generation to supply the capital city and surrounding communities with electricity last January.

It led to Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation as Conservative leader and Premier, which in turn led to the appointment of yet another interim Premier. That was followed by the Conservative leadership, the brief and ultimately ruined political career of Frank Coleman, and finally the second Conservative leadership contest that ended with the selection of Premier Paul Davis.

The year ended with a political crisis as Paul Davis, launched a political war with the federal government over a promise supposedly broken. And then there has been the string of by-election victories by the Liberals and losses by the Conservatives.

Or the financial mess,  triggered by the 40% drop in oil prices.  It promises to produce one of the worst deficits on record this year – unless the Conservatives have been bullshitting, like they have done so many times before – or a very harsh budget next year.

Either of these stories alone could be the top political story of 2014.  But the big political story of 2014 is the element that links them all together in one.

29 December 2014

Great Unposted Predictions #nlpoli

Sometimes you find the strangest things among the draft posts.

Here’s a sample from a January 2012 draft post that never saw the light of day that offered a forecast for the political times ahead:


The Top 10 SRBP Posts of 2014 #nlpoli

People love to read posts that contain nothing more than lists. 

You know this is true because every self-appointed guru of the Internet will give you a list of simple things to do online that will make you an instant success and somewhere on the list is the advice to always produce lists.

Who are we to argue with such collective wisdom?

In any event, and in keeping with a long tradition of lists around these parts,  here is the list of the top 10 SRBP posts for 2014.

24 December 2014

Churn dropped sharply in 2014 #nlpoli

Orders-in-council show that cabinet made a total of 20 appointments in 2014 at the ranks of assistant deputy minister and deputy minister or the equivalents.

Compare that to 51 senior executive changes made by cabinet in 2013.  That was a new record,  surpassing the records set previously in 2011 and 2012.


23 December 2014

Better more, and better #nlpoli

The provincial government has a very serious financial problem. 

The forecast deficit for the current year is the second highest on record at $916 million

No one knows how big the deficit will be next year,  but with oil prices forecast to stay in their current range for the next couple of years,  odds are very good that the provincial government will turn in a record deficit next year.

That is saying something.  The forecast in 2004,  the first year the Conservatives took office, was for a deficit of $840 million.  Finance minister Loyola Sullivan called it “the largest deficit in our province’s history.”  He was a wee bit off.  The actual accrual deficit in 2003 was $958 million.

22 December 2014

All they need for Christmas is new talking points #nlpoli

Keith Hutchings - the provincial cabinet minister leading talks with the federal government on European trade  - issued a statement on December 9, 2014.that began with a simple statement.

“In June, 2013,” Hutchings began,

“our governments agreed that, in exchange for the [provincial government] agreeing to lift minimum processing requirements (MPRs) for the European Union (EU), the Federal Government and the provinc[ial government] would establish a fund that would provide for total expenditure of $400 million based on a 70/30 federal/provincial cost share.”

The money was for “industry development and renewal [in the fishing industry] as well as worker displacement”  according to Hutchings.

But when Hutchings spoke with the Telegram’s James McLeod six months later, things weren’t quite so cut and dried.

19 December 2014

PEI buying Quebec electricity #nlpoli

Prince Edward Island is in the market to buy 100 megawatts of electricity from Hydro-Quebec, according to media reports on Thursday.


18 December 2014

Moose Party to enter race in Avalon #nlpoli

Munn E Moose announced today that he will carry the Moose Party banner in the next federal election in the riding of Avalon.

"Harper has no CLASS”  said Moose.  “It's time to take ACTION."

Moose, who is also the leader and only known member of the party said that the previous lack of success for the party is no obstacle.  "This election, we won't be FENCED IN."

Asked if voters in Avalon would support someone who family roots are not in this province,  Moose protested that his family has been here for more than a century.

“I was born in the woods right over there,”  said Moose, "which is more than you can said about any of the townies trying to run out here.”

Asked about his plans for the election, Moose said that he was looking forward to a feed of CHES during the campaign. 


The Lunatic Fringe #nlpoli

If the provincial Conservatives have done nothing else with their European trade charade,  they have breathed new energy into the political lunatic fringe that opposed the trade deal before they even heard of it.

17 December 2014

Worry more about next year #nlpoli

Provincial revenue from oil will be $791 million less than forecast in the spring budget, according to the provincial budget update.

A few other expenses are less than forecast and some revenues are up.  All told,  the provincial deficit is now forecast to be almost $1.0 billion.  That compares to the $572 million shortfall predicted last April.

The provincial government’s financial problems aren’t caused by falling oil prices.

16 December 2014

Our Gift to Nova Scotia #nlpoli

As of March 31, 2014,  Memorial University had an annual deficit of about $330 million.

In 2013-2014,  the annual cost of subsidising tuition for out-of-province students at Memorial was $112 million.

The provincial government operation subsidy to the university has doubled since 2004.

Those are a few of snippets from the Auditor General’s 2014 report.


15 December 2014

Province increased CETA demands after crucial agreement #nlpoli

Almost a year after reaching an understanding with the federal government on a joint federal-provincial fisheries fund related to the European trade talks, the provincial government tried to alter the deal radically.

Documents released by the provincial government in 2013 and 2014 show that the federal and provincial governments agreed in June 2013 to  fund a cost-shared (70% federal and 30% provincial) “transition program” of up to $400 million that would address “industry development and renewal as well as worker displacement.” 

But in May 2014,  provincial fisheries minister Keith Hutchings changed the provincial demands.

12 December 2014

Opportunity knocks #nlpoli

CBC’s David Cochrane took a break from his parental leave Thursday evening to let the world know that On Point is dead as of next June.

Predictably, a bunch of people expressed their great regret but this is far from the end of the world.  Cochrane hinted elements of the show will survive.

Frankly, the best thing to do with the show is kill it now and start revamping in January. Put political reporting and longer form interviews back into the weekly evening broadcast.  That would go a long way to bring back the news into what too often seems like one gigantic weather forecast with periodic interruptions. Make no mistake.  Snodden’s forecasts are great but there is also such a thing as too much.

Bill 28: missing in action #nlpoli

It’s an unknown amendment to the Hydro Corporation Act.


Natural resources minister Derrick Dalley gave official notice he’d be introducing the bill at the start of the current sitting of the House of Assembly and then…  nothing.

So where is it?

What is it?


11 December 2014

Time Lag #nlpoli

On Wednesday,  Premier Paul Davis announced that Ken Marshall had been appointed chair of the board of Nalcor and an unspecified number of Nalcor’s subsidiaries.

Danny Williams’ old business buddy has been on the Nalcor board since 2004 and he’s been the acting chair of the board at Nalcor since earlier this year.

Note the date:  10 December 2014.

Now check out the order in council issued on 04 November 2014:

10 December 2014

Recurring Behaviour #nlpoli

Exactly one year ago,  the provincial government was in a controversy over its part in the European free trade deal.  The Conservatives were  heralding the great deal, including a $400 million fisheries development fund.

The opposition Liberals asked for details.  The provincial Conservatives and then-Premier Kathy Dunderdale wouldn’t release any information.  On December 5, 2013,  Premier Kathy Dunderdale relented and released 80 pages of letters and e-mails between federal and provincial officials about the talks. 

A year later,  the provincial Conservatives are still in a political quagmire over the deal. This time the problem is that there isn’t any deal. Premier Paul Davis said on Monday that the whole thing was just a matter of crossing a few tees and dotting some eyes.  On Tuesday, ,  Davis and a gaggle of his cabinet ministers said the negotiations on the fund were going no where.  He needed to take it to the Prime Minister and so Davis and Stephen Harper would meet on Wednesday.

That was fine except that the Prime Minister’s Office said there’d been no meeting scheduled. Harper was scheduled to be in Montreal for Jean Belliveau’s funeral.

09 December 2014

Decisive Moments in Politics #nlpoli

The NDP are down five points,  the Liberals are up two and the Conservatives are up three, according to the latest Corporate Research Associates poll.

Voters are abandoning the New Democrats who are down by one third from 15 points to 10.  The Liberals and the Conservatives picked up those disaffected former New Democrats, with the Conservatives actually doing better than the Liberals.

Small problem:  that’s not what happened.

What’ve you actually got here is one of the finest possible examples of how the way CRA presents its own numbers can mislead people who want to figure out what is happening with public opinion.

08 December 2014

Let’s talk about pol-i-cy. #nlpoli

Some people are making issue lately out of the fact that – supposedly  - the Liberals have not released any policies.  The Liberals will be government soon and no one knows what they plan to do.

There are two types of people talking like that.  One are partisans, mostly Conservative, but with a few New Democrats.  The Conservative interest in this idea is pretty obvious.  They want to shift the pressure of their team and onto the Liberals.  They want to change the channel.  But more than that, they want to expose the Liberals for the frauds they are. 

05 December 2014

Hebron delayed at least 12 months #nlpoli

CBC news reported on Thursday that the topsides module for the Hebron project won’t be delivered on time. 

Rather than arriving in 2015 for mating with the concrete base,  the entire structure for the living, drilling, and support spaces won’t arrive until sometime in the middle of 2016.

The original project timelines called for the topsides to arrive in early 2015 for mating to the concrete base.  That would allow time to float the structure to the site,  fix it in place, and start drilling the production lines into the field.  The original plan called for first oil in early to mid- 2017.

The one year delay in topsides fabrication will likely mean a one year delay in first oil.  it’s hard to imagine how it could be any different.


04 December 2014

Muskrat Falls more than $8.3 billion: Nalcor #nlpoli

Prompted by Wednesday’s post on Muskrat Falls costs,  a couple of readers drew your humble e-scribbler’s attention to a tidy little briefing note posted on the Nalcor website. 

It’s not really obvious – some might say it is buried - but if you going looking you can find it and a lot of other useful information.  That’s a shame, really because this little two-pager was far more informative than anything that’s actually come out of the mouths of the Nalcor brass or provincial cabinet ministers.

As it turns out, Ross Wiseman did a bit more than bugger up his fractions.  And your humble e-scribbler was off by a bit in trying to unravel Ross’ version of things, too.

03 December 2014

Just do the math: Wiseman confirms Muskrat Falls cost at $7.3 billion #nlpoli

Twitter sometimes produces some gems.

Like on Tuesday when Tom Baird,  a mathematics professor at Memorial pointed out that the province’s finance minister had a wee bit of a problem with basic math.

“Just do the math,”  Ross Wiseman told Liberal leader Dwight Ball during Question Period on Monday.  “ Based on the current projected cost of that project of $6.9 billion, our investment over time, over the life of that project, the construction of that project, will be about $2.3 billion…”.   And that $2.3 billion, according to Wiseman was the 25% investment the provincial government had always said it would put into the Muskrat Falls project.

02 December 2014

A chilling non-answer #nlpoli

The fact that Premier Paul Davis refused to give a simple answer to a simple question should send a chill up your spine.

MR. J. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, at least thirty-five children have died while receiving service from this Province since 2009.

I ask the Premier: Has he been briefed on these deaths? If so, will he provide a report to the House of Assembly?

PREMIER DAVIS: Mr. Speaker, any time a person loses a loved one, I cannot think of anything that would be more difficult, challenging, and have a greater impact on a family. If it be a family who has a child who has a relationship with a government department, is either under a program or receiving services – because many of those children that the member opposite is referring to were not in the care of the government, were not in the care of Child, Youth and Family Services, but may have been receiving some supportive services from government or have had other relationships with government.

Any time those types of incidents happen –

MR. J. BENNETT: Have you been briefed?

PREMIER DAVIS: I am sorry, I say to the member opposite; this is very important, so just please bear with me.

These are very, very important to us as a government. I know how important it is to the minister, I know how important it is to the staff, and we take every step possible to ensure the safety of all children in Newfoundland and Labrador.

[via Hansard]


01 December 2014

Rational. Disciplined. Principled. #nlpoli

Back at the start of the current Conservative administration in 2003, they were very sharply aware of the problem with using one-time revenues for day-to-day spending.

They were so concerned about using that one-time money that they tried to get the federal government to do the impossible, namely give the provincial government here a permanent handout equal to oil revenues, in addition to the oil revenues that the provincial government collected.

Then they tried to get the federal government to exclude those one-time revenues from the Equalization formula so the provincial government could get the oil money and the hand-out at the same time. That didn’t work either.

The one thing the Conservatives didn’t do – for all their rhetoric about independence – was to act like a responsible, independent government.  They didn’t manage public finances for the long haul.

28 November 2014

Welcome to the bottom of the rabbit hole #nlpoli

Putting a freeze on any discretionary spending is the very least that the provincial government could do in light of the dramatic – but entirely predictable – volatility in oil prices that have made the government’s huge budget deficit even larger.

The fact that Premier Paul Davis finally admitted on Thursday that oil prices are likely to remain low for the foreseeable future – something that has been clear for some time now – is a pathetically small sign that the provincial cabinet is finally starting to realise the depth of the problem the provincial government currently faces.

As small and as pathetic as it is, we do at last have a sign.

27 November 2014

A Biblical finish #nlpoli

Paul Davis wasn’t around on Tuesday night to talk to reporters about the by-elections.  He had a family medical problem to deal with.

So the job of speaking for the government fell to Steve Kent, the self-promoting wonder from Mount Pearl whose fan club makes Danny’s look like a bunch of slackers.  No biggie, said Kent of the losses.  we are hard at work.  Lots to do.  Look how far we have come. Yada. Yada.  Yada. Gotta keep our stick on the ice.

Steve Kent spews clichés so often he has become one.  His buddy,  Sandy Collins called the night time talk show on VOCM after the votes were in.  No biggie.  Lots to do.  Keep our stick on the ice. They are all so scripted someone said to your humble e-scribbler.  Not scripted,  sez your scribbler:  sharing a mind. 

They all think alike.

Like Susan Sullivan,  who backed John Ottenheimer in the leadership, and the guy who won, Paul Davis.

26 November 2014

The ABCs of the Conservative Implosion #nlpoli

“What does Paul Davis do now?” 

That was the start of the conversation.  A serious question after the latest in a string of by-election losses for the provincial Conservatives deserved an equally serious answer.

Well, said your humble e-scribbler,  that assumes he and his fellow Conservatives actually want to do anything.  Davis was the leadership candidate who promised to keep the party on its existing course in every respect.  They firmly rejected not only making changes but even appearing to make changes.

Everything we can see – poll results,  talk around town,  you name it  - says that voters want some changes in politics.  The Conservatives refuse to change.  And so it is that they have lost by-election after by-election after by-election.

It’s not rocket science.

25 November 2014

Experience and government #nlpoli

In the 1980s, local entrepreneur Craig Dobbin bought a batch of helicopter service companies across Canada and merged them with his own company  - Sealand – to form Canadian Helicopters. 

By the time Dobbin died in 2006,  CHC was one of the largest providers of helicopter support services in the world.

Not just Newfoundland and Labrador.

Or Canada.

Or even North America.

The world.

24 November 2014

Judge Headroom #nlpoli

The Crown Prosecution Service lost an application last week to overturn a decision by a Provincial Court judge.

That’s not the newsworthy thing.  The Crown wins applications and loses them all the time.  What’s important about this is the back-story
The Telegram covered the decision itself, although you can read the whole decision for yourself. The Crown applied to the Supreme Court in Grand Bank to overturn a decision by Judge Harold Porter on a case in Clarenville on the grounds that Porter had presided over the case in Clarenville from his courtroom in Grand Bank by teleconference. 

The Crown wanted to force Porter to sit in Clarenville.  There’s been no judge there for the past six months ago since the judge there retired.  There’s a relatively light case load in Clarenville so Porter has been handling Clarenville.

And that’s where the rest of the story begins...

21 November 2014

The Apprenticeship of Constable Davis #nlpoli

People are looking back a century to the start of the First World War so,  on the political side, it’s interesting to take a trip back and see what things were like then.

The Prime Minister was a guy named Edward Patrick Morris.  He was a lawyer, popularly known as Ned.  By the time he got to the Prime Minister’s Office, in 1908, he’d been in the House the better part of 30 years and he served in cabinets under different premiers going back to the late 1880s.  Morris’ predecessor – Sir Robert – had pretty much the same sort of background.

Compare that to recent Premiers in Newfoundland and Labrador.

20 November 2014

The Federal Boogeyman #nlpoli

The Liberals kept poking at Premier Paul Davis in the House of Assembly on Wednesday about the European free trade deal announced last year.

Specifically, Liberal leader Dwight Ball asked Davis for the second day in a row about a joint federal-provincial fund under the deal that would see the federal government spend $280 million and the provincial government drop in $120 million on something to do with fisheries.  We say “something to do with fisheries” because there really hasn’t been much substance to go with the announcement in the year since the provincial government announced the thing.

Tuesday’s questions led to Davis admitting there was some kind of unspecified problem with the talks.  As the Telegram reported,  Davis told reporters outside the House that he “wouldn’t say [the funding deal was] falling apart, but having not been able to reach a finalized agreement yet is troubling.”

19 November 2014

When the budget comes… #nlpoli

We’ve got a provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador that has been budgeting for years to spend more than it brought in.

Way back in the beginning, way before the oil money cut in suddenly and largely unexpectedly,  Loyola Sullivan said that people should expect the Conservatives to run deficits annually of half a billion dollars or more.  The logical implication of what he’d said in 2005 was that it might have been 2014 until the Conservatives balanced the budget.

Now to be fair,  Sullivan was speaking about the magnitude of the provincial government;s financial problem as he and his colleagues found it in 2004.  But at the same time,  by 2005,  we were also talking about how the Conservatives intended to run things themselves. 

They were clearly not as concerned about public debt as they had been in 2003.  Part of that might have had something to do with this idea they had of making a killing selling cheap electricity into the United States, but frankly,  Sullivan’s forecast of a debt of about $17 billion – which the Conservatives delivered on – suggests they really had something else in mind. 

18 November 2014

Government Spending and the Economy – Again #nlpoli

A post last week offered a quick confirmation that, as finance minister Ross Wiseman said,  provincial government spending accounts for about 30% of the gross domestic product measured as spending.

A couple of people on Twitter took issue with that idea, apparently.  They also took issue, as it seems, with the contention around these parts that the situation Wiseman described was a matter of government policy as opposed to the random changes in the economy.

Let’s dig into this in more detail.  It really is quite important as the government has a very serious financial problem to deal with, what with the growing deficits and the weakening income. Wiseman mentioned the impact of government spending on the economy, incidentally, as a reason why he could not cut spending very much, if at all. 

17 November 2014

Myths, then and now #nlpoli

You really do have to wonder how anyone could be expected to keep things straight when the people they rely on to help them understand keep changing their statements.

Take, for example,  the fight between the provincial Conservative administration in Newfoundland and Labrador a decade ago over offshore oil royalties and Equalization. 

14 November 2014

The Ego-mentary #nlpoli

Danny Williams’ hockey team tried a little marketing ploy this week.  They sent out a bulletin to news media disguised as a news release. 

They claimed the hockey team was locked in some kind of record breaking attempt with a crowd of mainlander for the most sold-out games.  While everything was going well, apparently, there was a chance that this week’s first game would fall short of the glorious goal of yet another sell-out.

What’s interesting about this pretty transparent marketing ploy is that it worked with the CBC.  Popular opinion, including among the crowd at the Mother Corp is that they just don’t do that sort of thing.  Well, the opinion is wrong. The folks over on the Parkway are as big a bunch of suckers for a good “us versus them” narrative as the rest of the crowd in the province.

13 November 2014

Take a closer look #nlpoli

Premier Paul Davis hasn’t delivered any speeches, issued any news releases, or done anything else to explain who he is and what he wants to accomplish as Premier.

The guy has the job.

But he hasn’t told anyone anything about his plans.

On Wednesday, Davis had the perfect chance.  He delivered a luncheon speech to a few hundred people at the St. John’s Board of Trade.  

“Between now and next spring we’ll let our plans be known,” Davis told reporters after the speech.  “We’re planning as we’re moving along,” he added,  sounding suspiciously like an admission that they are making it up as they go along.

So what did he talk about in the speech?

12 November 2014

Government Spending and GDP #nlpoli

A couple of weeks ago, finance minister Ross Wiseman said that he can’t cut government spending because it is such an important part of the economy.

Wiseman said government spending amounted to about 30%  of the province’s gross domestic product.  He was absolutely right, if you measure the gross domestic product based on expenditures within the province. 

As regular readers of this corner know, provincial government spending has become an increasingly important part of the provincial economy under the Conservatives. This reverses a very clear trend that has been underway for some time.   When you look at the numbers, it’s pretty clear.

11 November 2014

The Funeral by Dave Adey

Originally left as a comment on the post about Remembrance Day,  Dave sent this along as an attachment to an e-mail because it was too long for a comment.

Here it is, as sent, unedited.

Last night I got the urge to look up a couple of my relatives who were killed in World War 1. I've always been interested in genealogy so I had a small amount of info, including a couple of pics on one but very little on the other. One of them was my father's brother and the other was my grandfather's brother on my mother's side.

I guess right off some of you must think I'm 80 odd years old myself. Nope, I managed to defy the normal generations of time...lol, not my doing, my old man was 60 and my mother was 40 when I was born. In fact, I only had one grandparent born in the 20th century.

Anyway, I knew a little bit about my Uncle Alonzo Adey or (Eddy) as the name he signed up with. We all found that strange and one of my brother's said he was too young so he used a false name. Years later I dismissed that as I knew when he was born but last night I discovered the real reason why. I found a pdf online that contained some of his documents from when he was enlisted to when he had died.

He had signed his name "Eddy" yup, a real signature. Why I thought? Then right before my eyes I saw another document where my Grandfather had also signed his name that way as well. I knew they weren't ignorant people contrary to what many believe about our ancestors back then, even though many had little schooling, they did learn to read and write. I knew that all official records had used the spelling "Adey" so my grandfather should have known the difference, especially when a census taker had spelled his, my grandmother and their children’s names as "Adey" I also knew that census takers sometimes bastardized names...I have seen a couple of docs from the early 1800's where the spelling "Eddy" was used on occasion. Anyway, solve one mystery and discover a new one.

My uncle Alonzo joined the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 1916, got some training, was shipped over seas and on April 14, 1917 at Monchy-le-Preux, during the Battle of Arras; he was killed. Not only killed but nothing was found of him. A month later a rather crudely worded message which is not identifiable was addressed to his father saying merely that his son was missing.

Uncle Alonzo had given authorization to the pay office to deduct 60 cents per pay to be set aside for his benefactor, my grandfather. The sum that was paid out after his death was $18.80. Was it a lot of money for him? Who knows but I do know he had to go to the trouble of requesting and providing proof of who he was to get it.

In August 1921 my grandfather received the Victory Medal for his son, Alonzo Adey (Eddy) who had participated and died in the Great War.

I was going to write about my great Uncle William Luther Marsh who had served and died in Europe as well but I don't want to bore anyone. The story is about the same as my uncle Alonzo's...died at a different time in a different place. He was born and lived at Deer Harbour, Random Island...a resettled community. They likely never knew one another and served at different times. He had left his father the tidy sum of $19.72. The only similarities are their ages, the length of their service, their height and their weight. Both were short at 5' 6" and weighed 120 lbs. Maybe someday I'll honor my Great Uncle much better than this short paragraph.

Before I go, I have to say that there were many in my family who have served in peace and war. I can't go before World War 1 as I'm not sure if anyone served in army, navy or war. Perhaps and likely there have been but I have no names to inspire me to search deeper into time and history.

In World War 1 I had 2 uncles serve, one was killed and one was wounded. One great uncle who was killed. One Cousin who was wounded and in POW camp for a year until end of the war. A Cousin who was with the Overseas Forestry Unit in Scotland. And my Grandfather Marsh who served in the Royal Navy Reserve; he told me that he made 16 cents a hour. He lived until he was 97 and attended every Remembrance Day parade in Clarenville at least up into his late 80's, I left home mi 80's so I'm not sure after that. I do know he never said he was going to a parade or anything like that...he called it "The Funeral".

I had one Aunt who married a Nfld soldier of World War 2 and another Aunt who married an American serviceman probably in St. john's during World War 2...they had sons who also served in the American military. Those 2 Aunts also had a brother (my uncle) who served in the CAF...I have to check on something because one of my brother's told me he was the only Sargent Major in the CAF, he's also the same one who told me my Uncle Alonzo used a false name because of his age.

Of my 3 brothers in my family, 2 of them served in the CAF...our other brother had the mumps or measles when he was young and he had bad eyesight, if not for that he probably would have signed up as well.

In 1984, a few days after my mother died I went into the Recruitment Center on Water Street...less than a month later I was in Nova Scotia doing basic training. The day before I left Clarenville I went around to visit my family; I went to visit my Uncle Fred who was the last of my Father's siblings to be alive. He was well into his 70's and many years before he had suffered some very powerful strokes that left him very helpless. I remember going into his house and he was sitting at the table crying, I asked my Aunt what was wrong and she said that he was afraid I was going off to war. As I reflect back now the helpless old man I held in my arms who cried for me was a little boy when his older brother went off to war and he never did see him return. I feel sad because he never saw me return either, he died some months later.


Velox Versutus Vigilans #nlpoli


Corporal Kenneth Chad O’Quinn, 2 Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group Headquarters and Signals Squadron, killed in action, 03 March 2009



Lest we Forget #nlpoli

More people will pay attention to Remembrance Day this year than usually might.  The murder a few weeks ago of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, and to a lesser extent, the murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, are enough to remind a few more of the memorial day for those who have died in military service.  The rest will wear a poppy in their lapels or come out to the parade because this is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. 

Thirty-odd years ago, you wouldn’t have seen this level of interest.  The passage of years since the end of the Korean War made military things too distant from most people’s lives to have a personal impact.  And for many others, the anti-American, anti-war views that came as a reaction to the Cold War kept them not merely indifferent to Remembrance Day but openly hostile to anything that smacked of positive feeling toward anything and anyone connected to the military.

That changed with the end of the Cold War.  Within a year after the Berlin Wall was gone,  Canada was at war in the Gulf.  Through the rest of the 1990s, Canadians took on increasingly difficult and dangerous jobs in places like Bosnia and Croatia.  As the dangers of war service became more personal to Canadians, so too did their interest in in commemorations like Remembrance Day.

10 November 2014

Rodent Intercourse #nlpoli

If you want to see a fine example of the political management of a potentially devastating scandal,  take a close look at how Justin Trudeau and the Liberals handled the accusations against two caucus members.

One news conference stripped the New Democrats of a political issue they could have – and likely would have  - used against Trudeau in the run-up to the next general election.  Trudeau positioned the Liberals as the champions of the fight against sexual misconduct in the workplace.  And to cap it all,  Trudeau’s statement effectively shifted the focus of the story from the salacious details onto the fact that the federal parliament has no means to deal with harassment.

That last one turned out to be highly advantageous.  Within two days of the Trudeau news conference,  a former New Democratic Party staffer launched a law suit against an NDP member of parliament over allegations of harassment.  The best that Thomas Mulcair could muster is the claim that, as reported by Canadian Press, that the MP “would not face a reprimand because a management-union committee had already reviewed the matter.”  The MP said “he took all the right steps, and believes the matter will be dismissed.”

07 November 2014

Cycling through Newfoundland Politics #nlpoli

A couple of recent posts included the invented word “stragedy”.  As some of you figured out, it’s a deliberate combination of strategy and tragedy that reflects the strategic tragedy and the tragic strategy that the provincial Conservatives have been following lately.

That’s what it is, really:  a tragedy.  A political party that only a few years ago was untouchable in any respect is now teetering along on the brink, presumably, of political annihilation.

You’ll hear more and more people talking about this turn of political events as being a cycle.  The Conservatives now are in the same place the Liberals were just before 2003.  Whenever the next election comes, the Liberals will win, just like the Conservatives did in 2003. 

The people who hold this view look at the string of by-election victories point to the victories as proof of the cycle.  And as the Liberals mount up the victories,  other people are persuaded that there must be some truth to the story.

It’s inevitable.

That’s all wonderful, except that it isn’t inevitable, really.

06 November 2014

Spending Comparisons #nlpoli

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released its annual summary of health care spending health care last week. This is a pretty basic collection of numbers that show how much money we spend on health care, whether it is from provincial, federal, or private sources.

The report made the news, as it always does.  The Globe and Mail reported that spending on health care was growing at its lowest rate in 17 years.  fair enough.  They also did a story on how much seniors are costing the health care system.

In that second one, the Globe asked why it is that some provinces pay more per person for health care than others.  Some provinces – like Newfoundland and Alberta – have more money because of oil, said the Globe’s expert.

And if you really didn’t know what was going on, you’d think that made perfect sense.

05 November 2014

Mind-Numbing Sameness #nlpoli

The Conservatives were looking to the by-election in Conception bay South to break their losing streak.

As it seems now as voters in the district head to the polls on Wednesday,  Premier Paul Davis is already conceding that CBS is heading Liberal.  He spoke to reporters [CBC Here and Now, 40 mins in] after announcing a $20 million venture capital fund and tax credit scheme.  Davis said that “one of the disadvantages [in politics is that] it takes a long time for people to have an opportunity to identify with the new government,”  what they have done, their work ethic and all that.

Some of you are undoubtedly wrinkling your nose up at that one.  Well you should.  It’s a ridiculous claim given that Davis has just come through a leadership contest and he’s been in office a while. People know all about him and his team and what they are on about. 

04 November 2014

More political stragedy #nlpoli

Paul Davis started out as Premier talking about his plan to run a national competition to find a communications director for his office.

There’s been no mention of Davis’ missing communications director as he and his office blunder through the Manning mess.  Then suddenly, on Monday, the talk of a national competition was gone.  Davis appointed one of the departmental communications directors to the job.  Davis also announced a bit of old news, namely that he’d hired Peter Morris from the university to handle something called “strategic communications” in his office and Donna Ivey to handle the media inquiries.

Whatever Morris has been doing, clearly it had nothing to do with strategic communications.  The political disaster doing business as unelected cabinet minister Judy Manning has been proof of that. What you’ve probably got there, as much as anything else, is the current fashion to label everything as “strategic” even when it isn’t.

Davis’ new communications director is Heather MacLean. if she wants to make any big changes,  MacLean’s got a tough job ahead of her.  After all, Davis and his crowd have been ploughing ahead without much sign that they want to change anything.  Inertia is the biggest political enemy the Conservatives have but the Conservatives just like the sameness of it all.

Some of you may recall that Davis was the leadership candidate most committed to keeping things pretty much as they are.  It’s not surprising, then, that when time came to find a director, Davis found one who has been with the Conservatives since the beginning.

That communications news wasn’t the only shift on Monday.

03 November 2014

A renaissance feast for Christmas #nlpoli

Fans of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador have two excellent books that should be at the top of their Christmas gift lists this year.

First among unequals: the premier, politics, and policy in Newfoundland and Labrador is a collection of 12 essays on different aspects of recent politics with an introduction, and an opening and closing chapter by Dr. Alex Marland, who, along with Dr. Matthew Kerby, edited the collection.

Newfoundland’s last prime minister by former CBC executive producer Doug Letto is subtitled, not surprisingly,  “Frederick Alderdice and the death of a nation.”

People will  - and should - buy both these books.  They are well written and researched and represent, in their own way, two firsts in local political writing.

31 October 2014

The Devil’s Snare #nlpoli

The latest eruption of  the Manning political controversy volcano is evidence of many things.  Not the least is that Premier Paul Davis and his team have a monumental problem in their organization.  It’s the one that steps in to manage political crises. Davis and his crew don’t have one.

So far, they’ve let Judy Manning wander in front of cameras,  call radio open line shows, and continue to do everything in her power to defend herself and justify her actions. She did all of that on Thursday, starting with VOCM’s Fred Hutton,  followed by a call to Open Line with Paddy Daly and finishing up with an interview on NTV

Manning gave reporters a couple of e-mails that showed she had, in fact, submitted a couple of draft decisions. Everything else has been a personal attack on her.  Manning even managed to get in a slam at James McLeod from the Telegram over a piece he did a while ago that showed Manning hadn’t finished her master’s program.

All that probably makes Manning feel really good.  It’s possible that the great minds at the Confederation Building think that Judy is doing the right thing. The Conservatives have got a record of handling political problems in this way.  The reality is that they are just making the whole thing worse.

30 October 2014

Public Service and Bad Judgment #nlpoli

Shortly after she was appointed to cabinet,  Judy Manning told CBC that she was taking a significant cut in pay from her solo law practice to take the new job as an unelected minister.  “I'm doing this from a public service perspective,”  Manning said at the time.

That was part of her planned responses to questions about Paul Davis’ controversial decision to appoint an unelected minister and break the long-established political convention that unelected ministers seek a seat in the House at the earliest opportunity.

Manning portrayed herself as nobly taking on the job despite the financial hardship.  We should feel sorry for her, presumably, rather than question the arrogant fashion in which she and her boss were breaking the rules.

A couple of weeks later,  in another set of planned replies to questions, Manning blew that noble image to pieces.

29 October 2014

The October 2014 NTV/MQO Poll Numbers #nlpoli

NTV commissioned NTV to poll opinion about the provincial Conservatives a month after Paul Davis took over as Premier.

The party choice numbers are simple enough:  Liberals at 37,  Conservatives at 16,  the NDP at just six percent, and undecided at 40.

Leadership numbers Put Dwight Ball of the Liberals slightly ahead of Paul Davis (31 to 27) with Lorraine at 10 and undecided at 33.

The Conservatives who have been clinging to the belief that “satisfaction” with government is the great hope will be dashed to find the most recent “sat” number is 48%, down from 60% just a short while ago for MQO.

So what does it mean?

28 October 2014

Things that raise alarm bells #nlpoli

As it becomes more clear that the two recent murders of Canadian soldiers had less to do with terrorism and more to do with people who are otherwise screwed up, the RCMP commissioner issues a media statement claiming the police have a video that links one murder to “ideological and political motives.”

But they can’t release the video and may never release it.


27 October 2014

“We are an island economy” and other nonsense #nlpoli

CBC’s On Point  this weekend delivered up some all-too-familiar conversation on the budget and a political panel talking about Judy Manning but sometimes you have to look closely at things to appreciate the value in public comments by politicians and reporters.

In an interview with David Cochrane, finance minister Ross Wiseman confirmed that he cannot even think about trimming government spending because the economy is heavily dependent on it.  Wiseman put the figure at about 30%.

Regular readers of these e-scribbles have know this for years.  What’s news in this is that we have a finance minister admitting it publicly.

24 October 2014

A Greek Tragedy #nlpoli

While you are busily mulling over the possible implications the drop in oil prices might have on the provincial government’s budgets,  distract yourself by pondering some of the other implications of low oil prices on the provincial economy.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency thinks that about 25% of Canadian energy projects would be in jeopardy if oil goes below US$80 a barrel and stays there for any length of time.  As the Financial Post noted in its report last week on the IEA opinion,  that would put a number of newer more expensive projects in Alberta and maybe in Saskatchewan in doubt.  Norway’s Statoil has already shelved an oil sands project.

Globally,  the low prices would also make about three percent of all energy projects dodgy propositions.  Some of those are deep water projects like those in the Orphan Basin offshore Newfoundland. The Orphan isn’t turning up in any of these global forecasts because people don’t know enough about the prospects there to determine if they are even commercially viable.

23 October 2014

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning… #nlpoli


We will remember them.



Warrant Officer Patrice VincentWarrant Officer Patrice Vincent








cirillo  Corporal Nathan Cirillo








22 October 2014

Get the police out of politics and politics out of the police #nlpoli

tacticalteamThey just don’t look like recruiting ads.

That’s the most striking thing about a series of television ads airing in Newfoundland and Labrador.

There’s no sense of an invitation to come and join the group.  At least, there’s nothing of that in the images themselves.

riotConsider the number of shots that have the police facing the camera.  The effect puts the viewer in an adversarial position, especially when faced with the tactical team or the riot team in these shots, above and right.

The only place you see the invitation is in the last image, a graphic that looks like this:RNCA

Now you get why these ads aren’t really about recruiting.

See it?

21 October 2014

Call of Duty meets Police Academy #nlpoli

It’s hard to imagine a more politically tone-deaf set of ads than the three currently in circulation by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary ostensibly as part of a recruiting campaign.

The 15 - , 30 – , and 60-second spots are all similar. They start with a shot of the police tactical team in black clothes, military helmets and MP-5 automatic weapons, all set to burst into a house. The music is dark and ominous, as are virtually all the images. Even the sequences involving the largely ceremonial mounted patrol take on a decidedly sinister or threatening tone.

Just to give you a sense of how incredibly heavy-handed the Constabulary advertising is, take a look at a Canadian Forces recruiting ad from 2011.  It shows personal challenges and lots of physical activity.  The images are full of light and action. The messaging issues a challenge to a potential recruit based on his or her individual expectations.

20 October 2014

Oil and the budget #nlpoli

Lots of people are wondering what the changes to the price of oil will do to the provincial budget.

It will have an impact:  no doubt about that.

But trying to figure out what the provincial budget numbers will look like is a wee bit more complicated.

17 October 2014

Double-down Locke #nlpoli

“I didn’t see this coming,”  Memorial University economist Wade Locke told the Telegram’s James McLeod the other day. Locke was talking about the dramatic drop in oil prices over the past week and a half.

The day before, Locke was on VOCM’s morning talk show dismissing this low oil price stuff as just a passing thing.  No biggie.  And while everyone else is figuring the government is headed farther up a financial shit creek of Amazon proportions, Locke was absolutely confident that prices would go back up and all would be right. 

Sure, government might have to do some trimming, Wade offered, but they should do it gradually over time.  Like losing weight, he said.  If I told you that you had to lose 10 pounds, it would be hard to do it quickly.  But over time, much easier to do.

There’s something truly laughable about Locke’s metaphor because basically Wade is to sound management of public money what a Double-Down from KFC is to heart-smart nutrition.

16 October 2014

International expert on key Muskrat Falls feature to deliver public talk #nlpoli

People interested in one of the big geological uncertainties that could affect the Muskrat Falls dam will have a chancer to hear from an international expert later this month.

Dr. Stig Bernander,an international expert on quick clay landslides, will deliver a public talk at the LSPU Hall, on Victoria Street, St John’s at 8 pm Thursday, October 30th.  He will discuss quick clay landslides with particular attention to the North Spur, a key feature of the Muskrat Falls dam project.

Quick clay is clay material deposited under marine conditions upwards of 20,000 years ago.  Exposure to rain coupled with a barely perceptible upward pressure can cause quick clay to liquefy.  The North Spur at Muskrat Falls contains quick clay .

The North Spur is a  one kilometre long strip of land that Nalcor plans to use as a natural dam to hold back the Muskrat Falls reservoir. Failure of the North Spur would catastrophically release all the water in the reservoir and inflict serious downstream damage on Happy Valley/Goose Bay and Mud Lake while essentially wiping out the Province’s Muskrat Falls investment.

Bernander’s visit is being organized by a local concerned citizens group.

Bernander was a chief design engineer for Skanska West, a large international design and construction company based in Sweden with worldwide operations. His ground-breaking research on quick clay led to the development of an updated method for assessing quick clay stability under different conditions. His first publication on brittle slope failures was printed 1978 and his calculation method was gradually developed in the years 1981 to 1989.

From 1980 to 1998, Bernander served as a part-time adjunct professor at Luleå Technical University as well as simultaneously heading the Skanska West Department for architecture and engineering design.


15 October 2014

What’s in a name? Justice edition #nlpoli

Premier Paul Davis changed the name of the justice department to “public safety”.  The local chapter of the Canadian Bar Association wrote a letter to Davis.  They complained that the government had changed the name of the department without making clear what the new department would do.

So after a couple of weeks of controversy, Davis added the word “justice” back into the department name.  He issued a news release late on Friday afternoon.

Some people think the name change is good.  Some think it is bad.  What’s more interesting is what the episode has revealed about the Conservatives with Paul Davis in charge.

14 October 2014

Election Stragedy #nlpoli

Charlene Johnson quit the legislature first.

The chief electoral office has been plugging special ballot voting in the seat she vacated since the early part of October.  For those who don’t know,  you can vote in Newfoundland and Labrador up to 30 days before the writ drops in any election.  In other words, there is no election at all and no candidates but you can vote.  The catch is you have to vote for a party.

Yes, it’s all completely nutty but such is life in Newfoundland and Labrador under the provincial Conservatives.  And yes, SRBP and others have gone through it all many times before.

Anyway,  under changes the Conservatives made to local election laws,  they have to call the by-election in Trinity-Bay de Verde by November 5, 2014.

On Tuesday,  the provincial government announced there will be a by-election in Conception Bay South on November 5, 2014.


The Manning – Coleman Correlation #nlpoli

Some people who read The Independent last week thought that there was a debate going on between Hans Rollmann and Drew Brown over Judy Manning’s appointment as attorney general and minister of justice, public safety, and whatever-the-department-name-will-be-tomorrow.

There wasn’t.

The pair agreed on everything, except one minor issue.

10 October 2014

Old Twitchy versus the Telegram #nlpoli

Like clockwork, about two weeks after Danny Williams last got his mug on the news, the most thin-skinned media hound on the planet got himself a ton more ego-stroking attention.

Every two weeks or so.

Like clockwork.

If you don’t believe it, just do some google searching.

09 October 2014

Births and Infant Deaths #nlpoli

A recent article in The Atlantic looked at the infant mortality rate in the United States and why it appears so high in comparison to the rest of the world.

After all, the Untied States is one of the richest countries in the world with some of the most sophisticated medical care in the history of mankind.  It seems a bit odd that the infant mortality rate is about 6.1 for every one thousand live births.  That puts the Americans somewhere on par with the Poles and the Slovaks, incidentally.

As The Atlantic piece notes, a recent paper at the University of Chicago explains the numbers.  About 40% of the difference between European and American infant mortality numbers comes from a difference in reporting babies born before the 24th week of gestation.  In other words, Americans report births for premature deliveries that aren’t reported elsewhere.

The biggest difference, though, came from babies after the first 28 days of life.  In particular,  the paper shows that infant mortality for white children is comparable to European data.  Infant mortality among non-white children, from predominantly lower socio-economic circumstances, is much higher and therefore the overall American infant mortality rate is higher than in Europe.

So what about Newfoundland and Labrador?

08 October 2014

Questions and Answers #nlpoli

Unelected cabinet minister Judy Manning was “surprised” that her personal relationship with Paul Davis’ political bagman came up in a recent CBC interview.


That’s an interesting choice of words.

Just like it is interesting for Manning to say that:

“Quite frankly, in terms of my predecessors, I don't recall the media ever approaching any of our previous cabinet ministers or our previous premiers about with whom they were sleeping.”

A complete unknown, with a relatively limited experience practicing law and no public profile at all suddenly turns up as an unelected attorney general, states emphatically that she will violate a fundamental constitutional convention, and then says she is surprised that people wonder who she is and where she came from.

She is surprised?

07 October 2014

CHC Helicopters’ shitty public relations #nlpoli

“CHC Helicopters Canada is establishing a presence in St. John’s.”

There is something about that comment from a spokesman for a company that, not so very long ago, had its international headquarters in St. John’s that makes you want to either laugh or cry. It’s hard to know which one would be the right response.

It’s pathetic that a spokesman for a company with such a rich history  makes a statement that sounds like the company never operated here before.  The official history of the company makes no mention of Craig Dobbin at all and his company – Sealand – is an incidental part of a story that claims the company grew out of British Columbia’s Okanagan Helicopters. 

That tells you that CHC considers this province to be just another dot on a map where their helicopters fly and the company makes money.  It’s no big deal.  In other words:  St. John’s doesn’t really matter.

Well,  since CHC obviously doesn’t really give a crap about St. John’s, the local business community,   local politicians, and local citizens should treat them the same way. As fast as they “establish a presence” in a city where the company once had a frigging global headquarters, CHC will be gone again.  So while they are here, charge them full fare, cut ‘em no slack, and make whatever you can off them all in the name of free enterprise. 

And no one will shed a tear when they leave again.

It’s not personal.

It’s just business.


The Vision Thing #nlpoli

The St. John’s Board of Trade is about the only business advocacy group in the world that doesn’t actually believe in free enterprise.

The Board doesn’t believe that government should control public debt.  They claim they are worried about it, but in practice the Board will shout with joy the more the government spends.

That sounds ridiculous, but it is true. 

The Board of Trade supports the Muskrat Falls project, for example.  The project involves a massive increase in public debt. There’s no evidence it is the cheapest way to meet the provinces electricity needs.  The only way it can work has been to create a complete monopoly in electricity production in the province that will force locals – including businesses – to bear the full cost plus profit, so that the provincial government’s energy corporation can sell discount electricity everywhere else except inside Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Board of Trade likes Muskrat Falls for two reasons.  Above all else,  the Board’s members want a piece of the construction phase for the project.  It’s pretty simple.  Right behind that,  the Board is notoriously sycophantic. It doesn’t actually advocate for business – like you might expect - as much as follow whatever line the provincial government lays down.

Bizarre, yes.  But simple to understand.

The Board is also a pretty funny organization, too.  Not funny as in bizarre or weird, aside from that anti-free enterprise thing, but funny as in roll on the floor and pee your pants laughing.

06 October 2014

Pension Judy #nlpoli

Judy Manning will go down in history as the only unelected cabinet minister in Newfoundland and Labrador since the country gained responsible local government in 1855 who went into office with no intention of seeking a seat in the legislature unless and until she was ready to do so.

The Conservatives are deliberately breaching the centuries-old constitutional convention on cabinet ministers.  It’s spectacular, really, but the attitude that Premier Paul Davis and the Conservatives are displaying on this is hardly surprising.  They think they made the place and that nothing existed before them.  Therefore, they think they own the place.  Pride might go before a fall, but in the Conservative case, they are laying a carpet of breathtaking arrogance before them, as well.

Officially, Manning and Davis have said that she will run in the next general election, whenever that happens. We have a fixed election date, supposedly, so that election could be a year away.  Manning has said we don't know when the election will come and she’s right.  But while Manning has used that to suggest the election many come before next fall,  odds are equally good that it won't come much before the legal limit in October 2016.

So Manning could be working as a minister for upwards of two years without a seat in the House.  She’ll be paid as a minister,  meaning she will get the $54,072 set for cabinet ministers. The amount is small because it’s always been established as an amount on top of the base salary of a member of the House of Assembly.  She’s not getting that salary but, as the Telegram’s James McLeod tells us,  Judy will contribute to the pension plan for members of the House of Assembly.

Some of you might be wondering how that is possible.

05 October 2014

IMPS SJ Hobby Show – November 9

The local chapter of the International Plastic Modellers Society will be having its annual model show and competition on November 9 at the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s.

You can find more information at the chapter website along with some samples of what the talented local modelling community produces.


03 October 2014

It’s what your boobs are for #nlpoli

The first week of October is World Breastfeeding Week.

Check out babyfriendlynl.ca and you can find information on some of the activities going on across the province.

Breastfeeding is the SRBP cause,  for those who don’t know.  Check out this post from 2009 that proposes a provincial goal for breastfeeding that we can achieve:  66 at 6 in 2.  66% of newborns need to be breastfeeding at six months old. We can get from where we are to that 66% target in two years.

The current rates are way lower than that.

We can turn that around.

All we have to do realise it’s more important to get more of our babies on the tit instead of more local politicians.


02 October 2014

Madness #nlpoli

The day after she took the oath of office,  Judy Manning, the province’s new attorney general and minister of public safety, and Premier Paul Davis, her boss,  are facing intense public criticism.

It’s hard to tell whether people are more upset by her evident, and admitted, lack of experience practicing law or the fact that neither she nor her boss are too fussed about getting her a seat in the House of Assembly any time soon.

Either one alone would be enough to call in question Davis’ fitness for the job.  The two combined are damning.  On top of that, you have to add in the completely unnecessary appointment of Keith Russell to cabinet. Then the day before, you have the latest twist in the Humber Valley Paving saga:  it’s really as rough a first couple of days as any politician has had.

There are so many things to discuss but to keep things manageable let’s down on the Manning Mess.

01 October 2014

The Usual Suspects #nlpoli

The Conservatives who said Premier Paul Davis was going to doing nothing more than shuffle the cabinet that was already there got it absolutely right.

On Tuesday,  Davis announced his new cabinet and the names and jobs are all very familiar.  To give the illusion of change, Davis re-organized a couple of the portfolios and gave them some new names but basically, there are no changes of direction in the bunch.

Everyone noticed that Davis rewarded Steve Kent for his support leading up to and during the leadership convention.  Kent got the biggest portfolio – health – and will be the deputy premier and minister responsible for the Office of Public Engagement.

They also noticed the political unknown Davis found to take over the renamed justice portfolio.  The new minister, the unelected Judy Manning isn’t news on her own. Calling the department of police, prisons, and fire trucks the ministry of public safety is as old as the hills.

The big story in the cabinet shuffle is somewhere else.

30 September 2014

Errors in judgement #nlpoli

March 13, 2014 was a Thursday.

Normal cabinet day.

According to Auditor General Terry Paddon’s report on the Humber Valley Paving contract,  Nick McGrath, then minister of works and transportation called his deputy minister at 8:45 AM and asked him whether he’d heard that HVP wanted to get out of their Labrador paving contract. (p.39) He hadn’t.

There’s no indication of how McGrath became aware of HVP’s problems.  According to Paddon’s report,  McGrath told him that he “may have” heard about HVP from colleagues. (p.54)  It’s all pretty vague.

The deputy called Gene Coleman at 9:15 AM, according to Paddon.  Coleman,  son of the erstwhile Conservative leadership candidate McGrath claims he had not heard of, confirmed the company “would not be going back to Labrador” (p. 54) in 2014, at least not without compensation.  Coleman indicated that without compensation,  HVP would want a mutually-agreed termination of the contract with the government. (p.39)

The Fairity Intervention

At 9:30 AM,  the deputy got a call from Kevin O’Brien.  He was calling about  the HVP contract, too, even though O;Brien had no reason to be involved.  (p. 39)  Asked by Paddon later how he became aware of the issue, O’Brien  - who was also an organizer for Frank Coleman’s leadership campaign - said that he had heard “colleagues” talking,  wanted to speak with the deputy about other issues but raised the HVP issue because of the potential connection to forest fires in Labrador.  (p. 54)   O’Brien was minister of fire and emergency services

29 September 2014

All our yesterdays #nlpoli

Someone in Paul Davis’ campaign has a quirky sense of humour.

They picked Bill Clinton’s 1992 election theme music for Davis to use as his walk-in music during the convention.  Let’s leave aside the eventual Bill Clinton of stains on little blue dresses and just look at the 1992 presidential election for a second.

Clinton was the Democratic Party insurgent tackling the other half of one of the more popular Republican presidents in a generation.  Ronald Reagan had run two successful majorities and passed on the legacy to his vice-president – George Bush – who had won handily in 1988.  Bush himself had become hugely popular after defeating Saddam Hussein in 1991 during the First Gulf War.  He’d faltered though, as the American economy faltered. The result was that Bill Clinton won the election in 1992 and ended Republican control of the White House after a dozen years.

26 September 2014

Premier Davis and the Dead Children #nlpoli

Paul Davis will get a lift down to Government House this afternoon and swear the oath of office so Tom Marshall can finally get out of politics.

It’s been about two weeks since Davis won the Conservative Party leadership and that’s a fairly typical period of time between election and taking office.  What hasn’t been normal is that Davis has been doing something in the Premier’s Office since last week.  He’s been standing in for the real Premier and we don;t know for sure what else he has been doing.

Davis doesn’t have a cabinet yet.  He’s going to name the cabinet and get them sworn in next week.  As for office staff,  Davis has named a chief of staff but there’s no sign yet of other names for other jobs.  One of the key jobs that is going begging is the person to run Davis’ public communications. 

There’s talk Davis will run a national competition for someone to take the job.  What would happen in the meantime – if he really goes that idiotic route – is anyone’s guess.  By the time they find someone to take the communications job, Davis’ political goose may already be cooked.

25 September 2014

No Privacy Protection in Marshall’s Office #nlpoli

Someone sent a request to the Premier’s Office for access to all “Email [sic], memos, letters, notes between Elizabeth Matthews and the premier’s office [sic] between June 1, 2013 and June 1, 2014”.

The Premier’s Office sent the person a couple of e-mails.  They deleted some information under section 30 (personal information) and section 7(2) of the Access to Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act. That second section basically allows government to sever information that is exempted from disclosure.

Read the completed access request and you will see the only thing they deleted was Matthews’ e-mail address.

Problem:  the entire disclosure violates section 30 of the ATIPPA. 

24 September 2014

Cabinet documents and deliberations #nlpoli

One of the big changes Bill 29 made to the province’s access to information law was to give a list of documents that could not be released under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act because they were cabinet documents.

Before then, the law in Newfoundland and Labrador, like the similar laws in the rest of the country merely said that people couldn’t get anything that would make public what the cabinet ministers talked about, in private, among themselves.  A British Columbia government policy manual explains why:

Premature disclosure of Cabinet deliberations inhibits the ability of Cabinet members to debate issues openly and freely, thereby reducing the effectiveness of Cabinet’s decision making role.

One of the reasons no one bothered to define a cabinet document and bar that from disclosure is that no one could really say what a cabinet document is.  People who’ve never dealt with cabinet or who have never had occasion to think about these things wouldn’t understand that how cabinet operates can vary widely from first minister to first minister.  The changes made in Bill 29 reflect how cabinet operates these days but Paul Davis or any of the ministers who come along later may run cabinet in such a way that most of those mandatory exemptions of certain pieces of paper won’t matter a bit.

There’s no firm rule as to who may sit in the room with cabinet.  Some administrations have allowed only  the clerk of the council and a deputy clerk into the room to provide administrative support.  Other people may come into the room and make a presentation but they get shuffled out of the room before cabinet discusses anything. In other administrations, they’ve had all sorts of hangers-on sitting in the room.  Most often, the extra bodies are senior political people from the first minister’s office.

At times,  the Executive Council hasn’t included everyone with a ministerial portfolio.  And on occasion pretty well every cabinet will throw everyone out of the room and discuss something entirely among themselves.  But there might never be a paper for them to read in advance, a note, a presentation or anything of the sort.

To give you a sense of how cabinets operate,  consider that, until 1989,  cabinet didn’t keep minutes like most boards and committees do.  Cabinet met.  They talked about things.  The only record of any decision would be the official “minute” issued by the cabinet secretariat and approved by the lieutenant governor.  That’s what made the decision the legal authority someone would need to carry it out.

Even the form of the minute varies.  These days,  it includes a list of people who get a copy.  There’s a number on it and the actual statement of the decision includes all sorts of references to the authority cited for making the decision. 

Go back a hundred years and you will find piles of these minutes.  They might be as little as a sentence or two.  The certified minutes, the ones that needed the Governor’s signature, were written out long-hand in a book the Governor kept.

That’s where things get interesting.  Note that the minute above refers to a meeting of the committee of the Executive Council.  The ones a century ago that your humble e-scribbler has been reading lately say pretty much the same thing.  That’s the another way of saying the Executive Council without the lieutenant governor present for the meeting.  These days it is unheard of for the Queen’s representative to attend any meeting of the council, federal or provincial, here in Britain or anywhere else.  A century ago,  a committee of the council – cabinet ministers without the Governor  - met to discuss all sorts of routine things, including budgets.

Back then, there were meetings of the Executive Council.  They took place at Government House and, as near as your humble e-scribbler can figure, they included the Governor. A good example was the meeting held at 3:30 p.m. August 7, 1914 to decide on the Newfoundland contribution to the war.  You can hunt for any record of the meeting in the cabinet papers and you’ll never find a mention.  We know it happened, though, because the Governor refers to to it in letters.  There’s a specific note in his type-written daily diary and the Prime Minister mentions it in a letter or two written around the same time.  We know they discussed a proposal drafted by the Governor two days beforehand, apparently based on discussions with the Prime Minister.  The version cabinet approved is not exactly what the Governor proposed.

There’s no record of that meeting, though, just as there is no record or any other meeting of the whole council during the period from about 1908 to 1914.  There might be others but YHE-S hasn’t gotten to them yet.

There’s nothing odd about that, by the way.  The British cabinet didn’t keep any record of decisions until after the war started.  There could sometimes be a huge gulf among ministers about what, if anything, they’d discussed and decided.  The only formal record of any sort through most of the 19th century was a letter written weekly by successive Prime Ministers to the Queen, for her information.  Even then, what the Prime Minister said cabinet discussed and agreed on might not be what ministers recalled.

Incidentally, for those who might be wondering about the endless trips to Government House to appoint ministers lately, you need only check the Executive Council Act to see that it wasn’t necessary:  “The Lieutenant-Governor in Council” – meaning the whole cabinet – “on the advice of the Premier may appoint a minister as acting minister for another minister during the absence or incapacity for any cause of that other minister, and all acts of an acting minister shall have the same effect as if done by the minister in whose place he or she is acting.” 

They’ve appointed acting ministers countless times over the past decade,  most often to cover off Charlene Johnson when she was on one kind of leave or another.  Tom Marshall could have done exactly the same thing as ministers quit for one reason or another. The only question is why he chose to swear in new ministers and shuffle his cabinet around all the time.


23 September 2014

Needed: a local think-tank #nlpoli

Anyone who was paying attention to these things has known for about 25 years that the province would face a demographic crunch starting ‘round about now.

Anyone who has been reading Bond Papers for any length of time will know that demographics have been a big issue your humble e-scribbler has been banging on about pretty much since the beginning in January 2005. Go over to labradore and you will find what is known in the professional analyst trade as a shitload of posts, graphs and other sorts of information about demographics.

Collectively, we’ve got a good handle on both the magnitude of the problem and the implications. The problems are already here and the deliberate lack action by successive provincial governments means we are substantially behind where we need to be to cope with the consequences of a rapidly aging population.

So it is that after studying all the stuff that people have already produced about the problems the province is facing, the good folks at the Harris Centre at Memorial University have concluded that we need – brace yourself – “additional research” in order to “get ahead” of these changes.

Ye frackin’ gods.

22 September 2014

Trouble getting SRBP? #nlpoli

Some people have been reporting problems getting SRBP through their Internet service provider or IT support team.

It isn’t clear what’s going on, but one of the problems seems to be a unique one confined to the provincial government’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

If you are having trouble getting SRBP,  drop a line to ed underscore hollett at Hotmail dot com.  Once your humble e-scribbler has a sense of the bigger picture we might be able to figure out how to fix the problem.


Edges #nlpoli

The Premier’s Office issued a couple of news releases last week about what someone they called the Premier-Designate would be doing. 

The first release was a curiosity.  The second one made the whole thing very strange since it was plain that Paul Davis would be attending these events as a sort of Premier-in-waiting,  replacing Tom Marshall. 
Paul Davis is a member of the House of Assembly.  He’s also just been elected the leader of a political party.  But in terms of the provincial government itself, Paul Davis is an outsider.  The news releases issued by the Premier’s Office called Davis Premier Designate, but that’s really just a name people have stuck on him because they don’t know what else to call him.  It isn’t an official title by any means

What’s more, there’s never been a government of the type we’ve had since 1855 anywhere in the world whose been in Davis’ spot.  It’s highly unusual, to say the very least. But when it comes to the crowd currently running the place this is very familiar.

19 September 2014

Political Definitions #nlpoli

Political conservatives like to talk about how government ought to be run like a business.  They talk about it so much that it’s odd, then, that they never actually do it.

Part of it has to do with language. They use words that appear to mean the same thing when, in fact, they actually have two distinctly different meanings.

Danny Williams is a good example of how that peculiar breed of politician.  The Old Man talks about the public money his buddies on city council gave to his hockey team as an investment. As a businessman, though, Williams means something different when he talks about investing his own money.

18 September 2014

No-brainer #nlpoli

Perhaps it is just Danny Williams’ ingratitude that pisses people off.

The multi-millionaire hockey team owner just got a massive subsidy from the taxpayers of St. John’s so that he won’t suffer any lost revenue.  It should be a no-brainer for the guy to say thanks to the people who have made him wealthy for the cash Williams’ buddies on city council handed him this week.

A simple “thank you” wouldn’t have hurt him.

it was a no-brainer.

But no. 

Instead, Ole Twitchy called the media together on Wednesday to whine, moan, bitch, and complain about those who don’t like giving tax dollars to people like Williams who don’t need it.

What a douche.

17 September 2014

No more give-aways #nlpoli

Danny Williams is one of the richest people in Newfoundland and Labrador.  He is a multi-millionaire who owns a successful hockey franchise in St. John’s.

Danny Williams makes a lot of money from the St. John’s IceCaps,  If he didn’t,  Danny wouldn’t be in the hockey game.

Good for Danny Williams. If his business is profitable,  then Williams’ business is good for the city and good for the province.  That’s the way free enterprise works. 

16 September 2014

The Ins and Outs of Newfoundland Politics #nlpoli

Ralph Champneys Williams was a career British public servant who came to Newfoundland as the Governor at the tail end of one of the greatest periods of political turmoil in the country’s history.

Sir Robert Bond went to the polls in the 1908 at the head of the Liberal to face his rival Sir Edward Morris, the Leader of the Opposition and head of a coalition of Conservatives and some others under the name of The People’s Party.

The result was a tied election.  Unable to form an administration that could survive the election of a speaker.  Bond went to the Governor to advise him to issue a writ for a new election.  The Governor – Sir Williams MacGregor – refused to issue the writ and instead called on Morris to form an administration.  He was in the same position, of course, and, when the House could not elect a Speaker,  MacGregor dissolved the House on Morris’ advice.  Morris went to the polls as Prime Minister and won a majority.

Williams arrived in Newfoundland in the wake of two years of political upheaval.  He found himself in a place that was likely very strange to him.

15 September 2014

Insider baseball, again #nlpoli

Paul Davis delivered one of the shortest victory speeches Saturday night of any person elected to lead a party in power.

Davis said very little but what he said might reveal much:

This weekend we started down a path, a path to rebuild the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I ask all of you to work with us as we work together and continue on that path to rebuild our party for the future and prepare for 2015. [via The Telegram]

Davis wasn’t alone in saying that. Rebuilding the party in order to defeat the Liberals was a common theme.

After a while, though, it seemed a bit…well… odd.  After all, Davis was the leader of the party in power, with a majority of seats in the legislature.  Sure, the party is in second place in the opinion polls but that’s not the same as the result of an actual election.

14 September 2014

Premier Paul Davis #nlpoli

It took one more ballot than expected but Paul Davis is the new leader of the provincial Conservative Party and the Premier-designate of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Conservatives spent a lot of time talking about the value of the leadership in rebuilding the party. A majority of the delegates didn’t vote for that, though. Paul Davis was the candidate who talked the least about substantive change in the party’s direction as government.  At the convention, very few of the Conservatives themselves talked about change beyond getting the public to vote for them again.  That was Davis’ core message. 

If you go back to the Abacus poll released during the campaign,  you can see the results of the vote mirrored in the results.  Davis was the choice of a plurality of the respondents and had the support of a higher percentage of those who had voted Conservative in 2011. Of the three candidates,  all were the second choice behind the Liberal’s Dwight Ball as the choice for Premier.  The key thing for Conservatives would be that Davis was closer to Ball than either of the other two.

13 September 2014

Disconnection Trending #nlpoli

Tom Marshall got lots of coverage for his little ego-stroking farewell in the tradition of his ego-stroked predecessors.  The media advisory billed it as a thank-you to public servants and by jingo the local media reported it extensively and called it exactly that.

The one who organized the little show for him got a nice parting gift from her current boss.  Marshall appointed Kathy Dunderdale’s former communications director, whom Tom kept around, to the most senior communications position in the provincial government on Friday.  Milly Brown will be assistant secretary to cabinet for communications. 

Brown succeeds another of Kathy Dunderdale’s former communications directors,  Glenda Power, whom Kathy rewarded with a sweet little promotion in 2012.

There are a few things about this and the other goings-on the weekend that are worth mentioning because they are part of the pattern.

12 September 2014

The Spectators and the “Me” Generation #nlpoli

The official media advisory describes the event at Confederation Building this morning as an opportunity for Premier Tom Marshall to thank public servants “for the support provided by their work over his time as Minister and Premier.”

In reality, this is another one of the grandiose celebrations that have become the trademark of Conservative Premiers first elected in 2003.  Danny Williams gave himself an enormous going-away show when he decided to leave office suddenly and unexpectedly in 2010.  Kathy Dunderdale, Williams’ hand-picked successor, did much the same thing when she decided to leave office suddenly and unexpectedly earlier this year.

And now the third member of the Williams dynasty,  his trusty and well-beloved right hand, is going to make a grand spectacle of his own in the main lobby of the Confederation Building on this the occasion of his imminent departure from office.

11 September 2014

At last! #nlpoli

Without a doubt,  this is the most interesting, entertaining and revealing thing to come out of the Conservative leadership campaign.

This could probably use a bit of writing and editing to tighten it up, but fundamentally, it’s the kind of thing that distinguishes John Ottenheimer in a positive way in the leadership campaign.  Where Steve Kent came off looking a little desperate and nasty in his most recent debate appearance and Paul Davis has just flat out flat-lined,  The Big O just gave everyone a real glimpse of himself.  it’s the kind of thing that could swing some people his way, especially if it is part of a trend.

At last, there’s some sign of freshness and life in the Conservatives.


10 September 2014

Ragging the puck #nlpoli

The Conservatives will have a new leader this weekend. 

Tom Marshall will resign as Premier not long after and the new guy will take over. Terry French announced last week that he will resign from cabinet and leave politics “later this month.”  That fits too, because the new premier will need to swear in a new cabinet.

And at some point we’ll have an election

So when will that election happen?

Good question.

09 September 2014

Everything has a price #nlpoli

Danny Williams famously once said that at some point,  “principle converts to cash.”

When his old friend Tom Marshall named a court house after Williams,  the former Premier said this to reporters about his emotions: "I can't put a price on it."

He may not be able to convert his emotions to cash at this point, but how curious that he ties the two things together so effortlessly.