29 August 2014

Postmodern Jukebox: Maps

It’s the Friday before a long weekend.

Enjoy some music.

And if you like Morgan James, you can find more of her work at her website:  www.morganjames.com.


28 August 2014

Shockwaves #nlpoli

The day after the by-election in St. George’s-Stephenville East,  federal New Democratic Party member of parliament Ryan Cleary showed an interest in provincial politics some might find curious.

“The question is not how to stop NL Liberals,” Cleary tweeted, “but how to boost provincial New Democrats. Status quo not working.”

Status quo means Lorraine Michael’s leadership, of course.

Cleary’s right.  Lorraine’s leadership has proven to be a dismal failure.  Not only did she and her supporters fail to capitalise on the strong showing in 2011,  they’ve obviously failed to gain any ground as the support for the province’s Conservatives has collapsed.  The by-election on the west coast confirmed that the New Democrats under Lorraine are staying firmly where they were.  They aren’t losing ground, but they also aren’t growing, either.

27 August 2014

Big Dams and Empty Promises #nlpoli

Conservative leadership candidate Steve Kent may be running in third place in the race, but the guy makes bold promises.

His energy policy includes the pledge about Muskrat Falls that he will “bring this project in on time, and on budget.”

That’s a rather silly promise considering that the project – originally budgeted at $5.0 billion  - is already officially estimated to cost $7.0 billion and will more likely cost something well above $8.0 billion before everything is done. For those of you doing the math,  that puts the project officially at 40% more than when the project was approved in 2010 and more likely about 60% over budget.

26 August 2014

Free Tampons #nlpoli

Jessica Valenti, a columnist at the Guardian newspaper argued in her column in early August, that women should get free feminine hygiene products.

Consider these points from Valenti’s column:

  • UNICEF estimates 10% of African girls don’t attend school during their periods”
  • One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days – and six days of pay – every month because of their periods.”
  • “In the United States, access to tampons and pads for low-income women is a real problem, too: food stamps don’t cover feminine hygiene products, so some women resort to selling their food stamps in order to pay for “luxuries” like tampons.”

Valenti doesn’t make her argument on cost, but on basic health care policy.

Amanda Marcotte at slate.com took a more blunt approach: 

Valenti is asking audiences to really think about how the right to move about in public without bleeding all over yourself, a no-brainer for men, is a privilege for women that depends all too much on their ability to afford sanitary products.

It boils down to the same basic idea, though.

Take that idea. 

Kick it around in your own mind.

We’ll come back to it another day and work it through as a potential public policy issue.


25 August 2014

Mystery Meat #nlpoli

The Telegram’s exceedingly generous headline said that Conservative leadership candidate Paul Davis put meat to the bones of his  campaign on Friday by announcing details of his policies. 

In reality,  Davis offered vague platitudes for the most part with very little substance to any of his plans.  There’s nothing surprising in that.  Pretty well all the provincial politicians and parties have kept their plans and ideas vague.

You can see the vagueness in Davis’ financial priorities.

22 August 2014

Summer reading: Command and Control

From the blurb:

Command and Control“Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years.  It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policymakers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can’t be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust.  At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.”


21 August 2014

Identity Crisis #nlpoli

Newfoundland is changing, Michael Crummey writes in the Newfoundland nationalists’ newspaper, the Globe and Mail.  House prices are climbing in St. John’s.  There are plenty of expensive restaurants around and people to eat the food and drink the wine sold there.

“But,”  says Crummey,  “while oil execs tuck into their gourmet fish, much of rural Newfoundland is falling deeper into a crisis that began with the cod moratorium in 1992.”

The whole province – Newfoundland and Labrador – is changing.  There is a difference between the changes around the provincial capital and the rest of the province.  Crummey says that a “generation from now,  what it means to be a Newfoundlander will be something altogether different” from what he calls the traditional Newfoundland of “isolated, tightly knit communities that relied on the fishery and each other for survival.”

All true stuff.  The place and its people are changing.  The problem with Crummey’s commentary is that he gets his timescales wrong and misidentifies the root of the change and its implications.

20 August 2014

Information Underload #nlpoli

Poor Sandy Collins.

The Minister (of the Moment) of Public Engagement and a gaggle of senior public servants went to meet the access to information review committee on Tuesday.  Supposed to be half a day chatting about this whole letting people have access to government information thing .  Turned into a marathon grilling. 

Not pretty.

19 August 2014

Conservative Misinformation and the Public Sector Debt Problem #nlpoli

There is no limit to how selectively provincial Conservatives will read a document in order to find some microscopic filament that might possibly confirm that they have really been running the most magnificent administration in the history of the galaxy.

They still insist, for example,  that they are the tops in leadership and accountability even though the most recent poll shows that 77% of the people in the province don’t think so.

Conservatives also insist they have done financial miracles.  No less a personage than the party’s vice president took to the Twitter on Monday to tell everyone that:

According to Fraser Institute, SK and NL are the only provinces that reduced their public debt since 2007.

Well,  they said a lot more than that,  but evidently Mark Whiffen and didn’t need to read anything but that. Since the rest of us are not obliged or inclined to such delusions,  let’s see what the gang at the Fraser Institute actually said.

18 August 2014

Politics for 200, Alex #nlpoli

Who was the first Newfoundlander elected to the Canadian House of Commons?

What party did he represent?

What year was he elected?

What riding did he represent?


15 August 2014

Politicians and Cars #nlpoli

The Liberals are touting their latest campaign-style television spot featuring Dwight Ball talking about accountability and connecting with voters.  In the spot, he’s driving somewhere in the driving province and as he talks the thing cuts to shots of him talking to people.

Remember that the latest poll shows that the Liberals own the accountability and leadership issue (48% to the Conservatives’ 13%).  This tidy little spot reinforces the Liberal strength and highlights the Conservatives’ weakness.

When you are done watching that, flip over the the Mother Corps’ online archive and watch a 1971 current affairs documentary on the provincial election that year.  Your mind will bend about a lot of things, not the least of which is the comment from New Democratic Party leader Jim Walsh. 

Yes, friends,  that Jim Walsh.  He’s out west somewhere now, a long way removed in every way from that 1971 election.

But when your mind gets back on its even keel again,  notice the portion of the documentary where Frank Moores is driving along a stretch of newly paved highway talking about the problems of the faltering Smallwood administration.  While it’s highly unlikely the producers of the new spot remembered or knew about the old documentary,  some would say there is a fitting parallel in there.

Let that be your Freak Friday political thrill for the week.


14 August 2014

Truth and Consequences #nlpoli

Wednesday morning started with an intriguing but hardly surprising story.

CBC’s David Cochrane tweeted that sources in the John Ottenheimer camp believed that Conservative leadership candidates Steve Kent and Paul Davis were working together to thwart Ottenheimer’s bid.  Kent quickly replied via Twitter,  writing that “I am not teamed up with any camp.”

NTV’s Mike Connors tweeted a couple of hours after Cochrane that former cabinet minister and Ottenheimer campaign co-chair Shawn Skinner told him that Kent and Davis had started “combining slates” of delegates at some delegate selection meetings. Connors also tweeted the Kent denial that he was teaming up with anyone.  Connors also added Skinner’s assessment that Ottenheimer was leading the delegate count or was tied with Davis while Kent was in third place.

Bu then Connors added some detail that made it clear Kent’s denial earlier just wasn’t true.

13 August 2014

Perks #nlpoli

A story in last weekend’s Telegram documented all the perks that former Premiers get.

Aside from a severance package, a couple of extra months pay, and a government car allowance for three months,  they also get a free game license (big, small,  salmon) if they want one. Now truth be told,  those game licenses go with the job anyway.  From the day a Premier gets the job, he or she can lay claim to a license to hunt or fish whatever they want. 

Most of these date back to at least the 1970s around the time the first guy who served as Premier got booted out and the second guy replaced him.  The Telegram story covers all of that.

12 August 2014

The Shared Delusion #nlpoli

Tom Marshall is a typical politician.  He got into politics to make things better.

And, as he reaches the end of his political career,  Tom feels a little frustrated or disappointed in how things turned out.  Marshall’s big hopes didn’t turn into equally big results.

So he blames others.

11 August 2014

Oculus #nlpoli

Justin Simms makes films.

His latest project is a documentary about Danny Williams.  Funded by the National Film Board,  the movie, imaginatively titled “Danny”,  will premiere in Halifax next month at the Atlantic Film Festival.

“We had a window of time,”  Simms told The Overcast recently,  “where we kind of fought back and stood up to Canada in a way that we never have and possibly never will again.”  Simms was talking about the racket a decade ago over federal transfer payments, including Equalization. 

Simms said that it was very interesting for the team that made the documentary “to see us, the further we get away from that,  reassessing it.”

Williams may be gone from the political scene, but as The Overcast put it, “the rapid pace of change in the province continues.  ‘That might make the films and the art we make about the place,’ Simms said, 'all the more important.’”

08 August 2014

The Stark Numbers #nlpoli

Anyone who wants to get insight into the political landscape in Newfoundland and Labrador need look no further than the Abacus poll commissioned by VOCM, the first bit of which was released on Thursday.

Provincial Conservatives may be running around consoling themselves with all sorts of notions but the reality of their position is starkly revealed by Abacus.  Don’t look at the party choice numbers.  Although that’s bad enough news for Conservatives and New Democrats,  that’s the simple stuff.  Look instead at all the data below that.

07 August 2014

Cost Driver #nlpoli

Companies large and small in the province are under considerable stress as a result of Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls project.

The cause?  This CBC story from Labrador mentions “steep wages” as the major issue:

"Over across the river, the average paying job is up to $40 an hour, and that's before benefits and everything else, so it's very, very hard to compete with," said [Mike] Hickey [of Hickey’s Construction].

According to CBC,  Hickey’s been having a hard time keeping employees as a result.  He just can’t compete with those kinds of wages. 

06 August 2014

August is polling month #nlpoli

The provincial government headquarters offices in St. John’s will be closed on Wednesday for the annual St. John’s regatta.

There won’t be any news releases most likely. 

But so far,  there have been three working days in August,  the same month when Corporate research Associates will be in the field,  and that’s been plenty of time for government’s publicity machine to get to work on its regular poll-goosing agenda

05 August 2014

Paging Dr. Freud #nlpoli

Reluctant Premier Tom Marshall said some interesting things in what appears to be his retirement interview with the Western Star.

Like running for office in 2011 wasn’t what he planned. It was what happened after some unnamed person or people asked him to stay around a while longer.  He was set to go before the last election as SRBP told you back then.  He only stuck around as party of inside deal worked out by the Conservatives that including keeping Kathy Dunderdale as figurehead leader.

Just like sticking around these past few months wasn’t in his plans either.  In fact,  when Bill Barry packed it in,  Marshall was ready to go at that moment.  He hung around because that’s what Frank Coleman wanted, presumably just like Marshall later fired all his own staff in a miserable way one Friday afternoon because that’s what Frank and his people wanted.

And when it comes to leaving office this time,  Marshall won’t be going anywhere until the next leader of the party tells him what to do.  The always sharp labradore already pointed out that Tom is a little mixed up on how that works.  Marshall told the Western Star that he will resign “when the next premier chooses to call a byelection.” Of course,  there can’t be a by-election until Tom resigns so what Tom  said doesn’t make sense.

But just look at what he said.  He’ll resign when the next Premier calls a by-election. But…

If either Steve Kent or Paul Davis win the leadership,  then the Premier won’t need to call a by-election.  They already have seats in the legislature,  Tom can stay in his seat as a backbencher unless there’s some reason to get someone in Tom’s place in a hurry.

Maybe Tom was just saying that he’ll be going regardless of who wins and his successor will have to call a by-election to replace him as a member of the House of Assembly.

Or maybe Tom was having a slip of the Freudian kind.

In the context of the interview,  Tom was talking about when he’d hand over to the next Premier, not just when he’d leave as the member of Humber East.

Premier calling a by-election.

The only one of the three candidates who would need Tom’s seat would be John Ottenheimer.  Maybe Tom was giving us a clue to who he knows will win the leadership.  Freudian slips can be fun.  We’ll know in a few weeks if this was one.


04 August 2014

The 2018-2019 Offshore Review #nlpoli

In 2003,  the new Conservative administration set as its first task to renegotiate the Atlantic Accord.

They hadn’t campaigned on that issue.  The campaign election platform included a pledged to change the Equalization system in order to address the supposed claw-back of oil revenues.

Still, they started out in office wanting to renegotiate the Atlantic Accord.  That idea sent a few people familiar with the Accord into the horrors.

01 August 2014

Another tired dog and sway-backed pony show #nlpoli

Temporary premier Tom Marshall and natural resources minister Derrick Dalley released a 40-odd page document on Thursday.  It’s was supposed to be a report of a committee of senior public servants appointed to provide something called “oversight” of the project.

Neither the report nor the committee actually reports on anything about the project.  This first report is actually about re[porting on the project.  More specifically it contains information about the oversight committee,  all the other sources of “oversight” for the project,  some boilerplate about project schedules and budgets,  and a report from Ernst and Young. 

That last document takes up about 12 pages of the total.  It is dated July 25 and describes what Ernst and Young suggest would be the best way for this “oversight” to work.

If you wanted to know how to say absolutely nothing useful in 40 pages,  this is the document to study.