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.