31 July 2014

STI rates in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Saskatoon Health Region released a report on July 18 on the rates of sexually transmitted infections in the city in 2013. 

A CBC report earlier this week quoted the deputy regional health officer as saying that social media was having an impact on the rates of syphilis in the city. 

"We do know that meet-ups using social media has led to an increase in these types of infections, and even outbreaks of syphilis, in other parts of the country," Julie Kryzanowski, the region's deputy medical health officer, told CBC News Monday.

That’s actually a follow-on from a similar story in April in which Kryzanowski’s predecessor said that the regional health authority had interviewed some of the patients who reported they “were using certain social media sites to meet sex partners.”

So that got your humble e-scribbler wondering about STI rates in this province.

30 July 2014

Mullet Policy #nlpoli

Government is like a lot of things in life:  it’s about finding solutions to problems.


If that upsets your cynical sensibilities,  think about it as about finding answers to questions.



Now matter what way you want to look at it,  that’s basically what government is supposed to do.  There’s a problem.  Government comes up with the answer.  Ideally, they ponder the problem.  They look at it from a whole bunch of angles.  They figure out if it really is a problem first and then come up with a way to deal with it.  They might even come up with a bunch of ways of dealing with it

29 July 2014

The Jewel in the Crown #nlpoli

If you are a Newfoundland politics junkie who hasn’t been reading Uncle Gnarley,  then you’ve been missing out.

You can fix that by reading the latest offering from Gnarley – a.k.a. Des Sullivan – about Nalcor and the idea of having bureaucrats play at being entrepreneurs.

While you’re at it,  you might also want to read a couple of SRBP posts to go with it:


28 July 2014

Horse farts #nlpoli

If you do nothing else in the next few days,  take the time to read the decision issued Friday (via CBC) by a Quebec superior court judge in a case brought by the provincial government against Hydro-Quebec.

Judge Joel Silcoff does one thing supremely well:  he summarises about 40 years of dealings between Hydro-Quebec and the Government of Newfoundland – via first Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and lately Nalcor – to change, alter, adjust and otherwise frig around with the 1969 power contract originally signed by HQ with Brinco.

Silcoff actually adds a new details to the public knowledge of what has taken place between Hydro-Quebec and the Newfoundland government over the years.  Before now,  the best summary was one produced for Vic Young’s Blame Canada commission over a decade ago.

And when you are done reading the judge’s decision, you can count yourself among one of the few people in the province who have actually read it.  Never mind all the people talking about it or pontificating about what it means.  They likely have not read it, any more than they have read the decisions of the Regie d’energie or Moby Dick.

25 July 2014

2019 should be interesting #nlpoli

The cheque’s been cash. 

There’s no more cash flowing.

But the deal is not quite done, yet.

24 July 2014

Crime Severity Indices, St. John’s #nlpoli

This week, Statistics Canada released their latest compilation of crime statistics based on reports by police.

The figures in the release were year to year but if you hunt around a bit,  you can find the original tables of data.  from there, you can pluck out specific information.  In this post, we’ve pulled out the data for St. John’s from 2003 to 2013.

23 July 2014

Slates #nlpoli

In any delegated political convention, you need to elect delegates in each of the districts who will vote for your candidate at the leadership convention.

CBC’s On Point featured three individuals last weekend who were touted as being key players in each of the camps.  David Brazil was from the Kent Krew.  Paul Oram was there as a Paul Davis supporter.  Shawn Skinner was John Ottenheimer’s man.

22 July 2014

Uncommon Stupidity #nlpoli

There are times when a politician’s comments are so stunned they just take your breath away.

The first few days of the Damn-fool Fishery this weekend were marred by a tragic and entirely preventable death off Bell Island.  A man drowned after being tossed from the boat in which he was riding.  None of the people in the boat were wearing life jackets.

The major of the largest community on Bell Island turned up on CBC Monday evening.  Gary Gosine explained that while some people might think the man would be alive today had been wearing a life jacket,  the real culprit in this tragedy was the federal government.  The feds restricted the “food fishery” to a few weeks of the year.  people have to go out in all kinds of weather while in other provinces they can fish a lot more often.

Where does one begin to explain the utter stupidity of Gosine’s comments? 

21 July 2014

Traitors Everywhere #nlpoli

Tony Collins loves Muskrat Falls.

He loves it so much that every now and again he takes the valuable space from his column in the weekend Telegram and lets loose with a verbal assault on the people who don’t love the project as much as he does.

The last time Tony got in a lather about Muskrat Falls was 2012.  Back then,  he was “tired” of discussing Muskrat Falls.  Time to “get on with it”,  he said, just like all the other blue-bleeding Conservatives. 

18 July 2014

The Blackbird Song

It’s summer.

We don't need to talk politics all the time.

Here’s a song from the past that some people will remember.  It only did well in this part of North America likely because we are the only ones who didn’t think these people had an accent.


17 July 2014

La Romaine: on or off? #nlpoli

On Monday,  Quebec premier Philippe Couillard left the impression that the third and fourth dams on the La Romaine river were in doubt. 

Couillard told reporters as he headed to the meeting of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers that Hydro-Quebec would finish the first two dams, currently under construction, and then make a decision:

“We will evaluate them and we will see exactly what is needed. [translation of “On va les évaluer et on va voir justement quel est le besoin.”

According to La Presse, Couillard said that HQ would assess electricity needs for industrial use within Quebec as well as for export before determining whether to build the last two dams of a four dam project.

A report commissioned for the short-lived Parti Quebecois administration last year concluded that continued development of La Romaine would not be profitable,  given the large surplus of electricity currently available to Hydro-Quebec.

The entire cost of the the La Romaine development is pegged at $6.5 billion for approximately 1500 megawatts of electricity.  If HQ proceeds with the remaining dams, the current schedule will see the third on line by 2017 and the fourth producing electricity by 2020.

A statement issued by Couillard’s office on Tuesday changed the story.  The statement said that planning was already underway for the third and fourth dams.  It also repeated Couillard’s comment from Monday that the surplus generating capacity would be an asset for Hydro-Quebec in the marketplace.


16 July 2014

Shapes and sizes #nlpoli

The Duke of Connaught,  Governor General of Canada and uncle of King George, visited St. John’s in the middle of July, 1914.  During his visit,  he officially opened a new park in St. John’s and inspected the paramilitary groups that formed the basis of Newfoundland’s defence plan in the event of war,  of just the sort that was on the horizon in July 1914.

As part of imperial defence preparations in the decade and a half before,  the Newfoundland government had participated like all the parts of the British empire. At the 1909 Imperial Conference,  Sir Edward Morris had committed officially to organize soldiers for local defence and potentially service in addition to the Royal Naval Reserve division created around the time of the Boer War at the turn of the century and maintained by the Newfoundland government at a cost of 3,000 pounds sterling annually ever since.

The Newfoundland force would draw its men from the paramilitary brigades like the Legion of Frontiersmen,  the Armed Lads’ Brigade in Twillingate, King Edward brigade in Harbour Grace, and the religious groups like the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Catholic Cadet Corps,  the Methodist Guards, and the Newfoundland Highlanders, representing the Presbyterian Church.

In the event, the British government signalled the imperial governments to adopted the precautionary stage of the country’s defence plan on July 29, 1914.  Newfoundland did so.  The Admiralty mobilized the Royal Navy the same day and on July 30,  the governor in St. John’s formally forwarded a telegram to the commanding officer of the naval reserve division in St. John’s to “hold in readiness” for a call-out.  That word came at 4:00 AM local time on August 2, in a message sent through official channels in the name of the secretary of state fro colonies (Harcourt) to the governors of colonies with naval reservists. 

15 July 2014

The Conservative race picks up speed #nlpoli

One of the great things about political campaigns is that the players have a chance to surprise observers. We saw that in the Liberal leadership as Cathy Bennett went from being a complete political novice to coming in third against two experienced competitors.

In the Conservative leadership race, we have three experienced politicians so there is none of the newbie growth potential. 

That doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen some shifts in perception in the first couple of weeks.

14 July 2014

Gone, baby, gone #nlpoli

In September 2008,  four cabinet ministers went to Harbour Grace to announce that the provincial government was giving the company $8.0 million in public money,  interest free.

092503pic1The provincial government communications people circulated a picture of the four at the time - from left, Jerome Kennedy,  Danny Williams, Paul Oram, and Trevor Taylor – as they tried on some of the boots made at the plant.  Every one is smiling.  The $8.0  million in taxpayers’ cash was supposed to help the company add another 50 full-time jobs on top of the 170 at the plant.

It’s an interesting picture because within 12 months of the announcement,  the two on the right – Taylor and Oram – would be gone from politics.  Williams left in 2010,  the year the provincial government started a “review” of the loan after the company cut the work force to 100.  They never did add any jobs. Kennedy hung on the longest of the lot,  but five years after his trip to the boot factory, Jerome was gone from politics as well.

11 July 2014

Issues and Answers – on line #nlpoli

After a couple of false starts over the past year,  it looks like NTV has started posting episodes of Issues and Answers online. 

That’s good news for political junkies.  The half hour public affairs show airs Sundays at noon with a couple of rebroadcasts.  Unfortunately, if you missed it or forgot to program the PVR  - or before that the VCR – you were basically SOL. 

If NTV keeps posting them online, more people will get a chance to see them.


10 July 2014

The Desolation of Smog #nlpoli

The Telegram’s Peter Jackson used the most recent JM paper on consumer electricity prices and Muskrat Falls as part of his Wednesday column.

Peter made some worthwhile observations, so head over and read the column if you haven’t already.  That includes pointing out that current forecasts have electricity prices in Ontario and British Columbia rising by 42% and 45% by 2018.

“All these numbers are maddening,”  writes Jackson,  “both in terms of scale and in terms of variability between Nalcor and critics.”

Absolutely true.

09 July 2014

Convergence #nlpoli

A couple of years ago,  Liberal leader Dwight Ball said the Liberals would use earnings from Muskrat Falls to lower electricity prices for consumers in this province.

The Conservatives dismissed the idea at the time.

Then a couple of weeks ago, with news the cost of Muskrat Falls continues to climb, Premier Tom Marshall told the province that he and his colleagues had adopted the idea of using revenues from Muskrat Falls to lower consumer prices as their own policy.

That’s not all of it.  To understand the importance of Marshall’s comments fully you have to start at the beginning.

08 July 2014

Electricity prices when Muskrat comes on line #nlpoli

Cost over-runs on Muskrat Falls as well as other costs not included in previous calculations by Nalcor will likely increase current electricity prices by almost double their rate in 2011,  according to a recent assessment.

JM,  a professional engineer who has worked extensively in the construction of large engineering projects,  totalled up revised project costs and other factors including:

  • the most recent Muskrat Falls cost increases,
  • the cost of a third line to the Avalon from Bay d’Espoir,
  • a new line to western Labrador,
  • lower-than-expected electricity demand,
  • a win by Hydro-Quebec in its lawsuit, and,
  • revenue from export sales of electricity.


JM estimates that any revenue from sales would only lower the price of Muskrat falls electricity by about three cents a kilowatt hour.

However, the reader should be reminded that the government of Newfoundland will be borrowing 1 Billion dollars to finance the equity contributions into the project. Assuming a 5% annual interest rate on the borrowed equity there would be an annual interest payment of 50 million dollars. What Nalcor put in one pocket, they take from the other.

Consumer electricity prices from Muskrat Falls


07 July 2014

The World According to Kent #nlpoli

kentkarIf you are one of the political savants who thinks that dominating Twitter makes for a modern, inspired, and successful political leadership campaign, then say hello to Premier Steve Kent, right.

The guy and his Twitter army, some of them undoubtedly utter fakes,  managed to spam the living hell out of twitter over the weekend.  They far surpassed Con O’Brien, the solo anti-Muskrat Falls army who previously held the record for relentless tweeting. 

Con is ahead of the other Con on substance though:  O’Brien usually makes his own comments;  the Kent Klub tend to send around anything anyone else said about their man-boy, as long as it is positive.

04 July 2014

Friday Bits #nlpoli

To understand the real Steve Kent and not the manufactured front he presents to the world these days, take a look at this 2007 post by Simon Lono back when he wrote Offal News.

There’s a great quote in it from Kent when he was thinking about a run at federal politics for the Alliance/Reform crowd.  You’ll be struck by how familiar it is. 

When you get over the willies, skip over to Uncle Gnarley.  Des Sullivan notes that the “narrative” on Muskrat Falls is changing as the project goes along. 

That’s it for the week.  Enjoy the summer sunshine.


03 July 2014

Political Fashionistas #nlpoli

Before the year is out, we will have yet another strategy from the provincial government.

We were supposed to have this one on July 1, however like pretty well everything associated with the current crowd running the place, it is a day late.  The minister responsible for the strategy – Fairity O’Brien – says we will now have it some unspecified time in the fall.  That will be after Fairity releases a document that tells us what the government heard during some sort of consultation process that they are almost as fond of as they are of strategy writing.

The thing will likely also be a dollar short, as well, if recent experience is any guide.  You see this “population growth strategy” is actually the second kick at the cat for the provincial government.  Their existing strategies aimed at dealing with some of the factors affecting population were all dismal failures.

Avoiding a cabinet shuffle #nlpoli

By the end of the week,  Premier Tom Marshall will be short at least two cabinet ministers.

Paul Davis quit as health minister on Wednesday and Steve Kent is expected to follow on Thursday as both vie for the party leadership.

On top of that he’s missing Joan Shea who quit last month.

Some think Tom will shuffle the cabinet.  He could do that, except that he doesn’t really have much to shuffle with.  On top of that, he’d also be stuffing people into cabinet who the new leader might not want to face as a cabinet minister in the middle of September.

Tom doesn’t have to shuffle his cabinet at all.  This is the slow time of the year as Trevor Taylor laughingly put it or, to be more accurate,  everything is on hold anyway while the party sorts out its leadership mess.

Therefore, Tom can rely on his table of alternate ministers,  established by order in council at the last major shuffle in May.  That’s the official list of substitutions to cover periods when the appointed minister of a department is out of town or incapacitated.

Paul Davis is gone.  Between Susan Sullivan as first alternate and Sandy Collins as second, the job of health minister will get done.   And if Susan goes, Sandy can get the job as stand in.

Over in municipal affairs, Fairity O’Brien will fill in.

And if Susan Sullivan jumps into the race – as she should given Paul Davis’ weak, amateurish  launch on Wednesday - there’s someone to replace her, using the same table.

Pas de sweat.

If Tom needs to have someone fill in on a temporary basis other than the alternates table,  he can do that using powers in the Executive Council Act and something called the Crown or Royal Prerogative.  It takes a cabinet order but surely the crowd running the place can manage to do that, as they did in 2013,  all without the show of a cabinet shuffle.  It’s really just paper work after all.


02 July 2014

The Mulligan Race begins #nlpoli

By the end of the week, the provincial Conservatives will have the leadership race they deliberately avoided the last time out.  That’s the one that ended with the Coleman fiasco.

It will be different in at least two ways:  first, there will actually be a race, in the sense that there will be three competitors.  Second,  unless someone shows up who no one has even whispered about yet, the race will be comprised entirely of party insiders.

Last time out, if you can cast your mind back three or four months,  people like Steve Kent – who will launch his campaign on Thursday – insisted that the party needed a fresh face from outside the circle of people running the party from the inside.

01 July 2014

Commemoration Day, 2014 #nlpoli

Tread softly here! Go reverently and slow!
Let your soul go down upon its knees
And with bowed head, and heart abased strive hard
To grasp the future gain in the sore loss!
For not one foot of this dank sod but drank
Its surfeit of the blood of gallant men.
Who for their faith their hope – for life and liberty
Here made the sacrifice – here gave their lives
And gave right willingly – for you and me.