28 February 2014

14 years to deliver on 2008 midwives promise #nlpoli

In the fall sitting of the House of Assembly in 2008, the provincial government repealed an old law regulating the practice of midwifery.

Then-health minister Ross Wiseman introduced the repeal bill at second reading and promised to replace it with a new law:

We envisage under the new legislation midwifery being an autonomous profession, separate and apart from nursing. [Hansard, 01 Dec 08]

The Health Professions Act – passed by the House of Assembly in 2010 – made it possible for government to set up midwives as a small, self-regulating profession.

After another four years, you’d think we might be a bit closer to what Wiseman originally promised.  If you thought that, you’d be wrong.

27 February 2014

The Sound of Silence #nlpoli

With all the talk the past couple of days about the relationship between the provincial government and the provincial energy corporation, it might be a useful time to ask a fairly simple question:

What does Nalcor do?

Might seem like such an obvious question that it you are laughing, but hang on a second and let’s see what turns up if we go back and look at what the Conservatives said in the past about the energy corporation.

26 February 2014

Nalcor running own show on Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

Nalcor Energy is running the Muskrat Falls project without any independent oversight from the provincial government.

In two interviews with the Telegram’s James McLeod  natural resources minister Derrick Dalley identified Nalcor boss Ed Martin as the government’s chief source of information on the project.  According to Dalley,  Martin passes information to the deputy minister of natural resources who passes it to Dalley.

Additionally, noted Dalley’s communications director in an e-mail sent between the two interviews, the “Departments of Finance and Natural Resources work in close collaboration with Nalcor Energy and have regular meetings and exchanges of information…”.

McLeod asked Dalley repeatedly about any use by the provincial government of its own independent sources to vet Nalcor’s work.  Dalley replied that the department didn’t have the expertise to duplicate that of Nalcor.  What’s more,  Daley asked rhetorically,  “why would we duplicate within the department [of natural resources]” the work going on at Nalcor to develop the project.

Dalley cited external contractors  - such as Manitoba Hydro - hired by Nalcor to vet work at each decision gate for the project as an example of work that “we have done” to validate Nalcor’s project management.

25 February 2014

Non-voters and Influence #nlpoli

There is a new scourge among us.

An evil that causes “problems”.

Russell Wangersky found them and wrote about them this past weekend.

They are the people who do not vote.

24 February 2014

Budget consultations and other political insanity #nlpoli

This year it is Charlene Johnson’s turn to host a series of meetings across the province that the provincial Conservatives cynically tout as a way for people to have some input into the provincial budget.

It’s cynical because – as the Conservatives know – the major budget decisions are already made before the finance minister heads to the first of these meetings. They are a waste of time.

The people who show up at these sessions have no idea what the actual state of the province’s finances are. The provincial government hides the real numbers until budget day.   Therefore the people who show up can’t offer any sensible suggestions, anyway.  Instead, they wind up begging like a bunch of serfs for more cash for this and more cash for that, even though the cash isn’t really available.

22 February 2014

Unconscious Press Humour #nlpoli

Digging through a set of files in the provincial archives once upon a time, your humble e-scribbler came across a particular file in a set bequeathed to the archives decades ago by the fellow who wrote the original legislation that helped create the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War.

The hand-written title on it was “unconscious press humour.”  The file contained a raft of clippings from the local newspapers where the headline made an inadvertent joke when placed in the context of the story.  We are not talking about “Stripper bares all”,  the now legendary Telegram headline from the 1980s that wound up in the National Lampoon’s “True Facts” page thanks to Liberal member of parliament Dave Rooney.  We are talking stuff where some earnest headline writer had put together a groaner entirely by accident.

These days,  you’d title the file on your computer something like “inadvertent media jokes” or if you haven’t grown tired of it yet and wanted to stay true to the original name,  “Bob Wakeham, Volume 15.”

21 February 2014

Thinking about the Unthinkable #nlpoli

Only a decade ago, voters turfed Roger Grimes and the Liberals from office as punishment for – among other things – signing a deal to develop a nickel mine even though it was a really good deal.

[Not one teaspoon, they said, echoing a line Brian Tobin used.  Better to leave the ore in the ground than do a deal that involved any ore leaving the province unprocessed]

But leave the oil in the ground rather than pump it out?


That’s curious because leaving the oil in the ground is a valid policy choice for any government, including one in Newfoundland and Labrador.

20 February 2014

Who is lobbying whom these days? #nlpoli

When it needed a lobbyist in Ottawa to monitor the federal environmental review process for its Kami project, Alderon Iron Ore turned to Summa Strategies and a well-connected fellow named Tim Powers.

You can find out information like this thanks to the federal registry of lobbyists.  Powers’ registration number for the Alderon gig is 777504-308605.  It’s a matter of public record.

For those who may not know, Powers is also a registered lobbyist (777504-14002) for Nalcor Energy in its dealings with the federal government.  Again, it’s a matter of public record. 

But what about Alderon’s dealings with the provincial government and its agency, Nalcor Energy?  Did they have anyone interceding on their behalf? 

Good question. 

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer.

19 February 2014

Maritime Link delayed almost a year #nlpoli

From the Chronicle Herald:

In its letter, the board also points out that parts of the project have been delayed. That includes a 10-month change in the timeline for the transition to start-up and operations. Commissioning of the 180-kilometre cable is slated to be completed by October 2017 rather than December 2016.  [emphasis added]


Threads #nlpoli

Writing good speeches is more art than science but even without much experience, you can tell when a part of a speech doesn’t ring true.

There was a spot like that in Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation speech.

Hearing it made you wince.

It just didn’t sit right. 

Reading the passage doesn’t make it any better.  Here it is:

18 February 2014

Holding Pattern #nlpoli

Justice minister Darin King bailed out of the Conservative Party leadership contest on Monday.

King did it unceremoniously, on Twitter, despite having had a bunch of reporters ask him about it earlier in the afternoon during a media availability.   That way he didn’t have to answer any questions and try to come up with some comment that didn’t make look either like he wasn’t interested in the job or that there was yet another backroom deal coming along to frustrate his ambitions.  Last time around, King was organizing his own run for the top job when he ran headlong into the backroom crowd twisting arms and patting backs for the Dunderdale fix-up.

The reason King had met reporters was in response to a protest about conditions at the penitentiary in St. John’s. Guards protested on Monday.  Last week, one of the inmates had been on the receiving end of a vicious attack by other inmates.

17 February 2014

The Game of Throne #nlpoli

In 1979 and 1989, using pretty much the same party constitution as they have now, the provincial Conservatives in Newfoundland and Labrador managed to find a new party leader before the end of March after the leader quit in January. 

In 1979, the Conservatives picked a new leader, went to the polls, and won a resounding victory in a general election by the middle of June.  In 1989, they’d picked a new leader, gone to the polls, and as it turned out, lost a general election. 

In 2014, the Conservative Party announced on Friday that it will only close the nominations for leader on March 14 and the delegate election meetings will run from early April until June. The Conservatives will hold their leadership convention on the first weekend in July and the new Premier will take office at some point after that.

Those are the differences that leap out at you.

14 February 2014

Premier Tom and Uncle Joe #nlpoli

The provincial government announced on Thursday that it had directed the provincial energy corporation to build a new transmission line between Churchill Falls and western Labrador.

You’ve got to wonder why.

Not why they decided to build the line.  Apparently, there’s a need for the additional power.

Not even why it took them so long to announce it.


You’ve got to wonder why this $300 million project needed a cabinet decision.

13 February 2014

The (un)booming economy and population growth

“Bullshit,” wrote philosopher Harry Frankfurt a few years ago, “is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about.”

Enter Danny Williams, Doc O’Keefe, and Tom Hann.

The  T’ree Amigos dismissed the Conference Board of Canada’s recent population projection for the province with the simple argument that the booming economy  in the province - due largely to oil - would attract people here in droves.

That’s a really interesting idea because we can actually look at the evidence available to see if that might be true.  The province has been doing very well economically for the past decade.  Arguably, the province was even doing fairly well for the decade before that, compared to the 1970s and 1980s what with oil development that started in the early 1990s.

So what happened?

12 February 2014

No brainer #nlpoli

Tuesday’s scrum with Danny Williams proved at least two things

The first is that the Old Man will say anything that comes into his head and most of it isn’t even close to true.  Second is that the local reporters gaggled around him wouldn’t call him on his obvious bullshit if their lives depended on it.

Never have.

Never will.

Among other things on Tuesday,  the Old Man claimed that building a new electricity transmission line to western Labrador from Churchill Falls is a “no brainer” because without the electricity the company whose board Danny sits on won’t build the new Kami mine.

11 February 2014

Understanding Population Changes #nlpoli

It seems like Danny Williams can’t go two weeks without getting his mug on the news so it wasn’t surprising that on Monday the Old Man called the media together to unveil the latest name for his land development project south of Mount Pearl.

He wants to call it Galway.  Nice for his mom. But not really very newsworthy especially since to the rest of us, the land development scheme will always be Udanda or one of the dozen other names local wags have stuck on the thing.

After the show, reporters asked the Old Man about the latest population projection for the province.  This one is from the Conference Board of Canada and it concludes – not surprisingly – that the longer term trend for the population in Newfoundland and Labrador is downward.

“In my opinion, it’s absolute bullshit,”   said Williams.

It isn’t bullshit, of course, and despite what he said on Monday, the Old Man knows exactly what is going on in the province’s population.  That classic Williams contradiction – the truth versus what he said – makes it’s worth taking a look at the issue in greater detail to understand just what the population projections are all about. 

“So where do they come up with this?” Williams asked. 

Here’s where.

10 February 2014

Following the money: Lawyers giving back #nlpoli

When Nalcor needs a bunch of Quebec lawyers, one of the firms they go to is Fasken Martineau. Nalcor has been relying on FM for lots of things over the years, including the infamous series of appeals to the Quebec energy regulator.

Last week, FM issued a news release about the close of the financial deal for the project.  It included a quote from Xeno Martis, the lead lawyer from FM for the project:

"Fasken Martineau conceived and proposed a modified "wrap structure" which sheltered the lenders from any project risk and provided them with direct recourse to the Sovereign," added Mr. Martis.

That was important, as one of the underwriters described in a Financial Post story a couple of weeks ago:

“The benefit of the guarantee was that no one had to look at the merits of the underlying project.”

Whatever the provincial government paid Fasken Martineau via Nalcor, that bit of work was worth it.  After all, as a result of the way FM structured the deal, investors were protected from any risk and none had to look at the merits of the project before putting money into it.

The provincial Conservatives can also thank FM for other cash.

09 February 2014

Water-bombing a tractor trailer #nlpoli

Okay so it isn’t politics, but it is still cool.

This happened last July.


08 February 2014

Separated at birth: Hakuna Matata edition #nlpoli

Media preview

Timon and Pumbaa turned up at St. John’s City Hall for the rainbow flag raising on Friday.


07 February 2014

Following the Money #nlpoli

After Bill Barry  - the only declared candidate -  former cabinet minister Shawn Skinner is the least imaginary of the potential candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“What I’m running for is to form the next government,”  Skinner told the Telegram’s James McLeod.  What I am running for.  Present tense.  Definitive. 

Not what I am thinking about running for.  Not what I might run for.

What I am running for.

And yet Skinner hasn’t actually announced that he is running.  The main reason he gave to the Telegram is understandable:  the party hasn’t announced the rules for the contest yet.

One of the rules Skinner is particularly concerned about is the spending limit for the campaign.

06 February 2014

Cross another one off the imaginary list #nlpoli

A day after the shocking news that Tim Powers is not going to be a candidate for Conservative Party leader in Newfoundland and Labrador,  another imaginary candidate dropped out of a race he was never in.

Charlie Oliver announced on Wednesday he would back Bill Barry, most likely.

And instead of running to be Premier, Charlie wants to fund some sort of “think tank” instead.

Now Charlie might come through with the dough, but the whole idea looks a lot more like something someone gave Charlie to say as a way of saving face.

05 February 2014

Turn, turn, turn #nlpoli

Dale Kirby and Christopher Mitchelmore shifted their desks in the House of Assembly on Tuesday from the independent or unaffiliated part of the chamber to sit with the Liberals.

They left the New Democratic Party last fall voicing concerns as they left about Lorraine Michael’s leadership and the lack of election readiness in the party that had, in 2012, at one point topped the polls in the province.

The news on Tuesday was probably the least surprising news of any that’s happened in provincial politics in the past six months, but that didn’t stop some people from  moaning about it.

04 February 2014

The Abacus Poll for VOCM #nlpoli

A new poll by Abacus Data for VOCM shows the Liberals under Dwight ball leading the governing Conservatives in every region of Newfoundland and Labrador.

According to a new VOCM-Abacus Data random telephone survey of 500 eligible voters in Newfoundland and Labrador, the NL Liberals hold a 15-point lead over the PC Party among committed voters (Liberal 49% vs. PC 34%) with the NDP well back in third at 15%.

But that’s not all.

03 February 2014

Amnesia #nlpoli

This week we should find out when the provincial Conservatives will have their leadership convention.

The talk around town late last week was that the crowd Danny Williams once called a Reform-based Conservative Party would be looking at May or June.  One of Williams’ former staffers turned up on local television on the weekend talking about the problems the party was having finding a hall, what with all the concerts and conventions and stuff on the go.  Steve Dinn talked about having to postpone the leadership convention to some time in the fall, maybe.

What a contrast to what the Progressive Conservative Party used to do.