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.