31 March 2015

The sky is falling. Or not. #nlpoli

First they claimed the budget consultation would be way later than usual.

So your humble e-scribbler worked it out. 

Turns out it wasn’t later than usual.

Then they said the budget would be way later than usual.

End of April or early May? 

Turns out that while the budget usually shows up around the end of March,  the Tories brought down two back-to-back budgets in April a few years ago.

Premier Paul Davis tied the provincial budget to the federal one and last week the feds started talking about a budget in May. 

Then there’s the Doom and Gloom forecasts of every public sector union in the province.  The Conservatives are going to sell everything,  cut the rest, and fire everyone else.

30 March 2015

More like a snapshot than a panorama #nlpoli

Last week, a group called Samara released the results of its research on Canadians and politics.  Democracy 360 they called it.

The media locally covered it, if for no other reason than it showed that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians trailed the country in things like donations to political parties.  Didn’t fit our perception that we all love our politics, some reporters said.

One of the news stories went to Memorial University and talked to students. Results are shocking said one student politician. Students are really politically engaged, apparently.  They talk about politics a lot.

Democracy 360 and the coverage of it are more good examples example of why it pays to look at the details to find out what is going on.

26 March 2015

More of the same. It’s the economy. And, … #nlpoli

Past behaviour is a good indicator of future behaviour.

If that’s the case, then lots of people are getting their knickers in a very great bunch over nothing when it comes to the budget.

The Conservatives set their course with Wade Locke’s prosperity plan. Here are the key elements, as SRBP laid out in 2013

  • Government will budget for annual deficits of about $500 million (accrual)/$1.0 billion (cash), if necessary.
  • The money to cover that deficit will come from borrowing.  That is, government will borrow from lenders, as Tom Marshall said in 2012, or government will take money out of temporary cash reserves, with no apparent intent to re-pay that own-source borrowing.
  • Government will make up any shortfalls beyond that deficit level by cutting spending in one area and shifting the spending to other areas.  

25 March 2015

The ongoing saga of the remittance economy #nlpoli

A downturn in the economy in Saskatchewan and Alberta caused by falling oil prices will affect Newfoundland and Labrador.

This is hardly surprising.  Regular readers will know the phenomenon as remittance labour or migrant labour, something your humble e-scribbler has been writing about since 2007 or thereabouts.  One of the curious aspects of recent economic growth in the province has been that a sizeable chunk of it is actually driven by circumstances outside the province. 

Thousands of workers have been travelling to work in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the north on a cycle of so many weeks working followed by so many days or weeks back in the province. 

24 March 2015

Letto to speak on access legislation #nlpoli

Commissioner Doug Letto will be speaking to the Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society at the Fluvarium, March 27, 2015 at 12:30 PM.

Doug will be speaking about the new ATTIPA legislation and its impact on public relations practice.

Admission is $40 for non-members and $35 for members.

E-mail cprsnlchapter@gmail.com to register.


A legacy of secrecy and bad deals #nlpoli

In response to questioning in the House of Assembly last Tuesday and Wednesday, natural resources Minister Derrick Dalley confirmed that the provincial government is in secret talks with Norwegian oil giant Statoil to develop a new field offshore Newfoundland.

There’s was nothing in the local media about it until the end of the week when the Premier appeared to chance his position on the talks.

The Telegram’s James McLeod wrote:

Premier Paul Davis says that when he told his natural resources minister to wrap up a major offshore oil deal by the end of the year, he didn’t really mean exactly that.


23 March 2015

Budget ignorance abounds #nlpoli

The provincial government’s own economics and statistics agency conducted a telephone survey for the budget consultations this year. 

They released the results along with the questions and some details about how they conducted the poll. Let’s just look at the answers to some of the questions, as presented by the provincial government.

20 March 2015

The Next Question #nlpoli

Scott Andrews’ political career ended last fall.

He may not have realised it at the time.

His bizarre news conference on Thursday made plain he may still not understand that his political future is over, even though he – in effect – shot himself between the eyes in front of a gaggle of reporters.

As much as some might find in picking over his political entrails, there is a far more interesting political questions that has been hanging since Liberal leader Justin Trudeau punted Andrews from the Liberal caucus last November.

Who is going to run for the Liberal nomination in Avalon?


19 March 2015

British VC Memorial Dishonours Former British Dominion #nlpoli

As part of its commemoration of the Great War,  the British government unveiled a memorial to Victoria Cross winners who were born in other countries. 

That includes Commonwealth countries and, in some cases, places that weren’t even countries during the First World War.

It’s a companion to the memorial to British Victoria Cross winners: a small plaque in the birthplace of every person who received the highest British decoration for gallantry.

Wonderful stuff.

There’s just a problem with two of the recipients.

18 March 2015

The Endless Supply of Sacred Cows 2015 #nlpoli

On the first day of the session in the House of Assembly, the finance minister tabled an interim supply bill for slightly more than $2.7 billion.

Supply is the word the use in the House of Assembly for money the government will use to run things. Interim supply is an amount to tide things over from the start of the new fiscal business on April 1 until the formal budget bill gets passed sometime later on.

The size of the interim supply bill is a pretty good indicator of how much money the government will want to spend over the whole year.

17 March 2015

Oil and polls #nlpoli

Two things for Tuesday after a monster snow storm.

Oil:  Brent crude hit a low of $52.50 before rebounding to finish Monday at just below US$55 a barrel.  Newfoundland light, sweet crude trades at Brent prices.

West Texas Intermediate was even lower.  It settled at $43.88 with global production staying high and analysts fearing a glut.

Thus is a reminder of the folly of Conservative policy that ignored historic trends and did nothing to hedge against a rainy day. The people who made the stupid decisions and the people who gave them the crappy advice should be dragged through a public inquiry and account in public for their decisions and advice.

16 March 2015

Felix the Half A-G #nlpoli

If politicians are good at one thing, they are usually good at telling a story that serves their purpose even if it isn’t, strictly speaking, actually what happened.

Last week’s cabinet shuffle is a fine example of that. The story started on the day of the shuffle.  The story appears, in its entirety, in a great column by CBC’s David Cochrane.  He’s accurately repeated the story as Conservative politicians and staffers conveyed it to him. 

No one should doubt Cochrane got the story they told him absolutely correctly.

The thing is, the story Cochrane heard from the politicians isn’t what happened.

Here’s how you can tell.

13 March 2015

Constable Contempt #nlpoli

Paul Davis fired Judy Manning from cabinet on Wednesday.

He didn’t meet with her in person.

Davis called her on the phone.

Short of sending her an e-mail or a text message,  Davis couldn’t have shown less class, tact, or respect for the job he holds and for Manning herself than in the miserable way Davis he fired her.

To make matters worse, Davis couldn’t even come up with a good reason for dumping Manning.  Take a look at three minutes from the post-shuffle scrum that CBC posted to its website.

David Cochrane asked a simple question.  Davis wandered all over the place and never gave a plain answer.  Even at the end of Davis’ answer to the second question, we aren’t really any further ahead in understand why Davis threw Manning under the bus and then backed over the body a few times for good measure

12 March 2015

The Salvation of Bell Island and Other Fairy Stories #nlpoli

The Conservatives rode to power in 2003  by accusing the Liberals of not being able to manage anything.  Ferries played a big part of their narrative of supposed incompetence.

Just to prove that Karma is Payback’s other name,  the Conservatives have proven themselves to be considerably worse at managing the province’s ferry system than the Liberals ever were in the Connies worst lies.

The Conservatives currently running the place have proven themselves to be worse than previous administrations – Liberal or Progressive Conservative - at managing a great many things, as it turned out, but that’s another story.  Let’s stick with the ferries.

11 March 2015

The Other Other March Madness #nlpoli

Premier Paul Davis mentioned the prospect of privatizing some public services last week.

This week,  the Liberals started running ads declaring they were opposed to privatising any part of health.

This week, NAPE started an ad campaign that predicted any form of privatization of public services would result in the end of life on the planet and possibly on adjacent planets in the galaxy.

This week,  whatever political staffer it is they have looking pretending to be Paul Davis on Twitter assured us all the future is bright, the fundamentals are strong, and that this financial problem is just a temporary hiccup for which the Conservatives will have a plan.

We’ve heard that before every year for the past three or four years.  It wasn’t true then and it isn’t true now.

But that’s not you should pay attention to.

10 March 2015

Gimme that Old-Time Religion #nlpoli

Kim Keating is the president of the St. John’s Board of Trade this year.

In her Telegram column on Saturday, Keating offered some advice to the provincial government about the upcoming budget and taxes.  “As the voice of business, the St. John’s Board of Trade does not support tax increases.”

Funny that.

A couple of years ago, the Board of Trade enthusiastically supported a new tax called Muskrat Falls. The whole scheme is premised on raising electricity rates in the province to pay for the deal and to generate sizeable profits for the companies involved.  The profit for Nalcor is supposed to go to the provincial government to help pay for government services.

So maybe what Kim said wasn’t entirely inside the Ring of Veracity.  The Board of Trade likes some taxes. Like say ones where its members can make crap-loads of money from government procurement.

09 March 2015

Gimme that Old-Time Reaction #nlpoli

The only news to come out of the New Democratic Party convention this past weekend is that the party now has not one but two leaders.

Earle won’t be looking for a seat in the House before the next election.  As a result, Lorraine Michael remains the leader of the party in the House of Assembly while Earle is now the leader of the party everywhere else.

It’s the worst possible position for the party, even if it fits precisely with the shrewd game Lorraine’s been playing over the past few months.  She successfully called the bluff of other pretenders to the throne in January. Now she gets to share the leadership with Earle.

06 March 2015

Federal Presents, the 2015 edition #nlpoli

November 2005.

The Harris Centre at Memorial University issued a report on the number of federal public servants working in Newfoundland and Labrador.

With a Liberal administration in Ottawa and with a provincial Conservative government that enjoyed shooting at foreign enemies,  the whole argument about federal presence was a big deal.

05 March 2015

The Offshore Ownership Fight Examined #nlpoli

Last year was the 30th anniversary of one of the most significant events not only in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador but of Canada as a whole.

The agreement between the federal and provincial governments known as the Atlantic Accord resolved a dispute over the control of oil and gas resources offshore Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ray Blake is a historian at the University of Regina with a research interest in federal-provincial relations.  His latest article is “Politics and the Federal Principle in Canada: Newfoundland Offshore Oil Development and the Quest for Political Stability and Economic Justice.” (Canadian Historical Review, volume 96, number 1, March 2015)

Here are some extracts from the last two paragraphs:

Federalism and the Constitution were not established as simple instruments of coercion to impose a final victory between the two orders of government. They were designed to manage and mediate, not eliminate, conflict, but in the offshore dispute no compromise was achieved between successive Newfoundland premiers and the
federal government.

The Atlantic Accord represented a new approach to federalism and regional development. Peckford’s federalist dreams had come in a bilateral political agreement, not a constitutional one, and it applied
only to oil and gas, not to fisheries or electricity. … Peckford succeeded in reducing the power and influence of the national bureaucracy in one sector of the Newfoundland and Labrador economy.

Blake has written a concise account of the dispute and the resolution.  He has also captured the importance of the final agreement.  As recent as this history is,  too many people seem unaware of it.  Blake’s article will help change that.

This article is based on research for Blake’s book - Lions or Jellyfish?  Newfoundland-Ottawa Relations since 1957 – due later this year. 


04 March 2015

The Abacus Insight #nlpoli

[Updated:  1715 hrs]

By lunch time today, you’ll have Corporate Research Associate’s latest quarterly omnibus poll.  Odds are the overall numbers on party choice for provincial politics will be in line with all the other polls we’ve seen over the last while.

What sets Abacus Data’s poll released on Tuesday is that Abacus asked a bunch of questions that give much greater insight into local public opinion than what you’ve seen from the other opinion research firms.

Before we get to that stuff, let’s look at the party choice numbers.

03 March 2015

Class Conflict #nlpoli

The former Premier.

The premier wannabe.

kent swear jar


Obesity in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

A study published in 2014 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal projected that 71 percent of people in Newfoundland and Labrador would be overweight or obese by 2019.

Think about and then reconsider comments by a Norwegian writer working for the New York Times.


02 March 2015

The Elephant in the Room, the Astigmatic Seer, and other horrifying budget tales #nlpoli

Has anyone noticed a small problem in all the discussions about next year’s budget?

On Point’s David Cochrane had both NAPE’s Carol Furlong and the Conservative’s pet economist Wade Locke on the show to talk about the next budget.  Carol was warning against cuts.  Locke was talking about a request by Tom Marshall last year to reform the provincial income tax system. Locke and his students – are busily working them up, in close co-operation with the provincial finance department.

Can you see the elephant in the room?