30 April 2015

The little things will get you #nlpoli

Maybe someone can point to this information somewhere please.  Maybe your humble e-scribbler missed it.

But  in the past couple of days, there’s been a simple number missing from the discussion of long-term care beds in Newfoundland and Labrador.

How many do we need?

Seems like a fairly obvious question.

Both Premier Paul Davis and health minister Steve Kent pointed to the current problem with chronic care patients taking up acute care beds.  That’s been happening for decades. They used a number of 237 as the number of beds being occupied in acute care facilities by patients needing long-term care.

But that isn’t all the demand.  That’s just the stuff that they actually have right at the moment.

So how many long-term beds do we need?

29 April 2015

Yes. The government has big financial problems #nlpoli

Yet another academic paper emerged on Tuesday that pointed out that the provincial government has a big financial problem caused by following the flawed policy of spending all the money it takes in, plus more besides.

Don’t take that as a dismissal of the paper by University of Calgary professor  Ron Kneebone. To the contrary,  Kneebone’s paper adds yet more weight to the argument offered by a few people in this province since about 2006 or so. 

Taken together with the recent report by the Conference Board of Canada on the province’s economic competitiveness and you have a pretty strong indictment of the Conservative/Lockean policy the provincial government has been following since 2003.

28 April 2015

Contending Political Strategies #nlpoli

Starting last Friday, the ironically-named Conservatives currently running the place started holding a series of “pre-budget” announcements.

They started with news that to deal with the massive financial crisis they would be dumping 77 and a half teaching positions in the provincial school system.  About twice that many would retire, so the school boards in the province would only hire enough teachers to fill half the empty slots.  To make that fit with the declining student enrolment,  the school boards would adjust the allowed class sizes by one student per teacher for grades 4 to 6 and by two students per teacher for grades 7 to 9.

Other than that, no change in staffing.

On Monday, the finance minister announced that the massive financial problem the government is facing led the government to cut the public service by zero real people.

27 April 2015

Hysteriana #nlpoli

The response to the proposed boundaries for districts in the House of Assembly has been…what’s the word for it? … oh yes,  totally off-the-wall, batshit crazy.

On the Burin peninsula you have a bunch of people who claim that having two members represent Marystown instead of the current one member is an unprecedented tragedy of biblical proportions,  The town will be split in two, they claim.

Presumably families will be separated, unable to speak to one another across the giant zone of barbed wire and land mines that the northern district will erect between the southern district.  Berlin.  North and South Korea.  Right here.

24 April 2015

You know things are going badly when… #nlpoli

… you launch your election campaign at at huge fundraiser and your signature policy announcement gets slaughtered on Twitter within seconds of the words leaving your lips.

Yes, friends,  Paul Davis told the world he will create some kind of savings fund from oil royalties.

In 2021.

If, and only if,  they can manage to balance the books by then.

And of course, only if Paul and/or the humourously named Conservatives can get re-elected not once but twice between now and then.

A number of people pointed that out immediately on Twitter on Wednesday night.

23 April 2015

Another little thing that stood out #nlpoli

From Tuesday’s throne speech, here’s another little passage buried away, that could prove to be one of the most significant parts of any throne speech in a long time:

Our government is developing Newfoundland and Labrador's first Open Government Action Plan, reflecting the best 'open government' practices in the world. The plan will nurture a culture of openness within the government by promoting access to information and data and enhanced dialogue and collaboration on initiatives. Under this plan, Newfoundland and Labrador will become, by 2020, one of the most open and accessible jurisdictions anywhere in the world.


22 April 2015

The little things that stand out #nlpoli

Throne Speech 2015 was the kind of document you’d expect from a group of politicians who are out of new ideas.

People are making a big deal out of the review of the provincial curriculum for K-12 schools.  That’s what the folks in the education department do for a living.  It’s nothing new.

The promise that the review will produce a 21st century curriculum is such a cliche that it is laughable, given that we are in the second decade of the new century.

Not very impressive, is it?

21 April 2015

Pre-emptive rebuttal #nlpoli

This excerpt from Tuesday’s federal budget speech seems aimed at province's like Newfoundland and Labrador where the government promised the same day that they’d be piling up more debt on top of their current record debt levels until at least 2021:

Maintaining Fiscal Balance in the Federation

There is no fiscal imbalance between the federal government and the provinces. A fiscal imbalance could be created when federal transfers to provinces and territories are significantly cut and the federal tax burden is increased at the same time. The federal government has adopted the exact opposite approach. Since 2006, the Government has pursued a low-tax plan to support job creation and economic growth. As part of this plan, the Government has increased major transfers to provinces and territories, reduced taxes on individuals, families and businesses, and balanced the budget. Budgetary pressures faced by provinces and territories are due to their own spending plans.

Federal, provincial and territorial governments in Canada each have access to all of the tools necessary to deliver the public services under their respective areas of responsibility and manage their public finances responsibly. Each level of government is accountable to their residents for taxing and spending decisions.

All levels of government must be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and control public spending to achieve balanced budgets. Provincial and territorial governments have access to virtually all of the same sources of revenue as the federal government. In addition, provincial and territorial governments have other significant revenue streams such as royalties from natural resources and profits from lotteries and gaming that, with limited exceptions, do not generally benefit the federal government.


The problem with no problem #nlpoli

Dwight Ball is the latest Liberal to emerge from the candidate protection program.  He popped up on NTV on Monday evening to tell us all two things:

First, he thinks there should be an inquiry into the Dunphy shooting.  He made up some nonsense about the need for an imaginary process that supposedly had to play out before he revealed the real Liberal position.  After telling us about Step One:  the Dunphy family grieving,  and then Step Two the two investigations that aren’t finished,  he could now announce Step Three, namely that he will appoint an inquiry when he is premier.

Not gonna call on the Conservatives to do it now. Nope. Gonna wait until he is on the 8th.  If that happens. And, allowing that he might not get to be Premier until October 2016, that could be a long wait for an inquiry that could begin soon and be finished by this fall.

Then, of course, you have to recall that on Friday,  the official Liberal position was that anyone calling for an inquiry now is just playing politics with this tragedy.

You can see a few pretty obvious problems with the latest Liberal position on the Dunphy inquiry. But at least  the Liberals are finally accepting the need for an inquiry.  They are going to be the butt of more than a few Conservative and New Democrat jokes but at least they are finally in the right spot.

20 April 2015

The Political Game of Stupidity #nlpoli

Last week,  the provincial Liberals came out of the candidate protection program to talk about the Dunphy shooting.  Liberal justice critic Andrew Parsons told Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that his party thought it was too soon to talk about any type of further inquiry into the tragic shooting death of Don Dunphy beyond what is going on at the moment.

And besides, as Parsons’ put it, “I think to just jump out and (call for an inquiry) right now is just playing politics.”

Liberal candidate Paul Antle echoed Parsons’ sentiments on Twitter.  “ For the love of God let's do what's right by the family and keep politics out of it, wrote Antle.  “Let the process and not politics determine the course and see where it leads.”

Too bad for the Liberals, then, that Erin Breen, the lawyer for the Dunphy family, made it plain last week that the family wants a public inquiry into Don Dunphy’s death.  They just want it after the preliminary investigations are out of the way.

The result was that the Liberal comments last week were monumentally stupid whether as politics or policy..

17 April 2015

Has anyone seen the Liberals lately? #nlpoli

This editorial by Craig Westcott originally appeared in The Pearl newspaper and is re-produced here with permission.

Two of the most serious issues to hit Newfoundland and Labrador in some time occurred over the past two weeks and on neither one of them was the provincial Liberal Party prepared to perform its duty. Neither the leader, nor any MHA, was available to give guidance, offer comment, or suggest any indication of the government-in-waiting’s thinking.

The first, and more serious issue, was the tragic shooting of Don Dunphy, who was killed after the Premier’s Office referred one of his social media comments to Paul Davis’ bodyguard detail for investigation.

The tragedy raises fundamental questions about public safety, political management of the police and an individual’s basic freedom to comment on political issues and express dissent without fear of receiving a visit from the police or being blacklisted by the government. How the police visit led to Mr. Dunphy’s death is a mystery that has yet to be explained. That the tweet in question led to a police visit is disturbing. It contained no threat to the premier or anyone else. On that basis, the police visit to his home was a contravention of Mr. Dunphy’s human rights.

The circumstances connected to the killing of Mr. Dunphy question the integrity of our justice and political systems and threaten democracy itself. And yet neither Liberal Leader Dwight Ball nor any of his caucus members have stepped forward to offer their assessment and recommendations. They have scurried into hiding like bats at the approach of daylight. Up to the time of this writing, not a peep has escaped their lips since Mr. Dunphy was shot and killed by the premier’s body guard.

The other issue that has driven the Liberals into hiding is the so-called House of Assembly ‘reform.’ The commission charged with chopping eight districts and redrawing the electoral map unveiled its proposed scheme last week.

NDP Leader Earle McCurdy was out early and often pointing out the flaws in the ‘reform,’ especially when it comes to gutting representation in rural Newfoundland. The Liberals supported the PC government in its unexpected, rash and ill-considered proposal to reduce the legislature.

It was a desperate ploy by Premier Davis to delay the long overdue provincial election and the Liberals fell for it.

Perhaps that’s partly why most of them have lost the use of their voice boxes. The more likely reason, however, is that the proposed new boundaries sets up the Liberals for some internal dog fights over district nominations, even between the leader and a fellow MHA in the newly proposed district of Gros Morne. The only Liberal to step forward with a genuine  comment as of Tuesday was MHA Jim Bennett.

The Liberals’ poor performance when it comes to addressing key issues is not new. Their stand on the multibillion dollar boondoggle that is Muskrat Falls has been vacillating, confusing and, given their failure to oppose a giveaway of gigantic and historic proportions, irresponsible.

Similarly, they have failed to press Davis about his various tricks to delay the election – which according to the electoral law brought in by Danny Williams, called for the vote to have been held by this past January, due to the resignation in January 2013 of Premier Kathy Dunderdale. When Davis told the CBC recently that he was looking at delaying the election yet again, until after the federal vote on October 19, the Liberals maintained silence.

Their reticence is inexplicable. Paul Davis’ PCs have shown themselves to be incompetent, untrustworthy and in disarray. They are unworthy of government.

Surprisingly then for this late in the game, the question begs to be asked: If Dwight Ball’s Liberals are incapable or unwilling to do their job as the people’s loyal Opposition, how can they be trusted to take on government?

Given their timidity, the Liberals are not so much a government in waiting as they are a party in hiding.


16 April 2015

Goldilocks and the three mayors #nlpoli

Almost a week after we all got a peek at the new provincial electoral boundaries,  things have settled down in some areas and the insanity has exploded in others.

Over on the political side,  things have largely settled down.  The Liberals, for example have a raft of nominations to re-run but there’s no sign of any significant problems.  Sure, there are pissed off people, but in the long run things should work out. 

On the west coast, every incumbent or nominated candidate should be able to find a home. Your humble e-scribbler made a mistake on Monday:  there are actually enough seats in the new configuration for Gerry Byrne,  Stelman Flynn, and Ed Joyce to find a spot.

Jim Bennett is doing the smart thing and looking for a seat without a Liberal incumbent where there’s a good chance he could win. He’s looking at Terra Nova, according to media reports, and the current Conservative incumbent - Sandy Collins - is eyeing Gander.  Ditto Jeff Marshall, who has decided to run in Ferryland district now that the old Kilbride district is gone. 

15 April 2015

Minority Report #nlpoli

One of the police officers responsible for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s Twitter presence did an interview with CBC’s Anthony Germain last Friday.

The online CBC story that came out of the interview had an interesting set of comments in it. Constable Geoffrey Higdon said:

“People think Facebook or Twitter is different in how we traditionally police. It's actually very much the same. In a sense, it's no different than someone writing a threat to someone, or to an organization, on a wall in a bathroom or a public place. And we would investigate that and treat that seriously, until we determine that there is no threat."

Writing something on Twitter is like writing something on a bathroom wall.

Got that?

14 April 2015

Politics, the police, and tragedy #nlpoli

Last October,  Premier Paul Davis appointed Lynn Moore to his new advisory council on crime.  Moore is in private practice these days but, as the little profile Davis’ office appended to their announcement of her appointment shows,  Moore spent five years as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary’s in-house lawyer.

She’s also been known to write the odd letter or two to the editor of the local papers.

Last October, for example, Moore felt compelled to write to the editor of theindependent.ca to explain why she thought that the province wouldn’t turn into a police state now that a former police constable was the Premier.  Such thinking was the result of bias and elitism,  according to Moore.

Last weekend, Moore sent another letter to the gang at the Indy.  This time,  she tried to tie the death of Don Dunphy to what Moore called “boneheaded” decisions like the Liberal one 20 years ago that put one cop in a car instead of two.

13 April 2015

Political Boundary Issues #nlpoli

Some people thought that the electoral boundaries commission wouldn’t get its job done within 120 days.

On Friday, those people found out that was a pretty silly hope on their part.  That’s the day the commission released its preliminary maps of the new 36 districts on the island.  The district maps appeared on the Internet around 11:00 AM and by noon the truly hard-core political nerds had looked at the maps and sized them up.

Here are some quick observations on the boundaries and initial reactions to them.

10 April 2015

The week from hell #nlpoli

You gotta feel for police chief Bill Janes and the rest of the men and women of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

All this happened between Sunday, April 5, 2015 and Thursday April 9, 2015:

  • An RNC officer investigating a complaint by the Premier’s Office about an online comment shoots and kills the interview subject during a confrontation.
  • A former civilian employee convicted of tipping off the subject of a drug investigation about the police operation appeals her nine month sentence for obstruction of justice.
  • A Provincial Court judge in Corner Brook sentenced a constable to four months for making indecent telephone calls and 10 months for misleading police during their investigation of the indecent telephone calls.
  • The Crown Prosecution Service is reviewing an RNC internal investigation of a senior non-commissioned officer for his actions in the indecent telephone call investigation.  The internal investigation found no no grounds to lay charges against the NCO.
  • A constable who has been unpaid leave for two and a half years was arrested on Thursday and charged with two counts of uttering threats to kill or harm a woman and two counts of uttering threats to cause damage to property and of damaging the property.  Janes has ordered an internal investigation into the incident. 


09 April 2015

The irresponsible rush to judgment #nlpoli

For those not involved but deeply concerned about the events in Mitchell’s Brook on Easter Sunday, one of the more disturbing aspects of the Dunphy shooting has been the ease with which a relatively small number of people have taken up sides on the shooting without much in the way of evidence.

The rush to judgment has been equally easy both for those unduly keen to declare the shooting was “by the book” as for those who see the shooting as a political assassination,  murder of an injured worker, or a sign of what will come  under the federal government’s controversial anti-terror legislation. 

At the same time,  official sources have decided to say very little.  They shouldn’t discuss the subject of the investigation itself.  That would be inappropriate and both the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have shut down any extraneous information.  The only official comment is coming from the detachment handling the investigation.

The official vacuum extends much winder than it should though.  There’s a complete absence of factual information about the type of investigation, its scope,  or the actors involved in this incident.  Basic information would kill off most of the commentary out there coming from all sides. 

The result is that the public is misinformed.   They aren’t getting a full picture.

08 April 2015

For the Quebec lovers #nlpoli

We’ve got two recent pieces on events in Quebec.

Don Macpherson explains why the student “strikes” aren’t really strikes at all.

And for all those people still cheering about the great student resistance to austerity in Quebec,  Paul Wells explains what austerity in Quebec means.


07 April 2015

The Dunphy Shooting: serious questions #nlpoli

Question Number 1:  Who has been trying to spin the story by feeding both David Cochrane and Fred Hutton with confidential information?

The standard police position is to withhold all information about officer-involved shootings as part of the investigation.

That’s the position Royal Newfoundland Constabulary chief Bill Janes took at his news conference on Monday morning about the death of Donny Dunphy.

Yet, both VOCM and CBC reported information on Sunday evening and early Monday morning about the fatal police shooting in a rural community that could have only come from either very highly placed political sources or police officers very close to the incident and the investigation.

Here’s the first line from Cochrane’s first story:

CBC News has learned that an officer of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, who was at the scene of the fatal shooting on Sunday in Mitchells Brook, NL, was there to investigate an alleged threat against Premier Paul Davis.

Other reports indicated that the officer shot Dunphy after Dunphy produced a “long gun” on the lone police officer there.

All those details could only have come from the officer who shot Dunphy, someone else who was on the scene at the time of the shooting, one of the investigating officers, or a senior political staffer who had been briefed on the incident by police.

Who has been leaking information?

06 April 2015

Soothsayer #nlpoli

Wade Locke has had a profound impact on public policy in this province like no academic since Parzival Copes.

Locke has been intimately involved with Conservative policy since 2003.  He has provided advice to both the oil industry and to the provincial government and its energy company Nalcor.  He’s also acted as a public commentator on economic issues, often simultaneously and without having the conflict of interest inherent in such a position identified for the audience.

If you aren't on holiday somewhere,  take a look at this interview  Wade Locke did with Roger Bill of BellAliant’s community channel.  Wade’s comments will tie into a couple of posts coming later this week.

02 April 2015

The New Chainsaw Earle #nlpoli

Carol Furlong had the good fortune to be the head of the province’s largest public sector union at a time when the provincial government had more cash than it knew what to do with and was prepared to buy support from anyone, anywhere, at any price.

Now that the bills for the Conservatives’ profligacy are coming due,  the people who profited from it are rightly nervous that they will be asked to pay up.

The fellow they elected to replace Furlong – Jerry Earle – has promised to be more aggressive in dealing with government.  He appears to be a reactionary union boss of the old fashioned kind.  In his first scrum with reporters,  Earle promised to make himself the official opposition to government.

While everyone in the province ought to take notice of the NAPE presidential election two politicians in particular need to pay particular attention.

01 April 2015

Rumpole and the Judge’s Wage #nlpoli

How hard can it be to figure out what Provincial Court Judges should get paid to do their work dispensing justice all around the province?

Apparently, it can be quite difficult.

There’s a teeny amendment bill in the House that sets a new date for a report from a commission that has to be set up to figure out the judges’ pay and benefits:

(1.2) Notwithstanding subsection (1), the next report required under subsection (1) after September 30, 2010 shall be presented to the minister not later than December 31, 2015.

Once the thing gets through the House,  this “Act is considered to have come into force on September 29, 2014.”

That’s six months ago.

What the heck has been going on all this time?