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?

No.  But it fits with the staleness of the speech.

Still, though, there were a few curiosities in the speech.  Take this sentence, for example:

Our government is also working to conclude a new generic royalty regime to maximize revenues from offshore oil development.

We’ve had a generic oil royalty regime since about 1997. That royalty regime has produced the lion’s share of the cash the Conservatives have burned through since 2003.

In 2007,  the Conservative’s released their energy plan.  They promised to develop a new generic gas royalty regime and a new oil royalty regime.

New Generic Offshore Oil Royalty Regime

The Provincial Government will also establish a new Generic Offshore Oil Royalty Regime based on principles and structure similar to the Offshore Natural Gas Royalty Regime. In the case of satellite field developments that use existing field infrastructure, adjustments to the regime may be made to reflect the robustness of satellite field economics, including consideration of  recoverable reserve size and the potential that costs of existing field infrastructure may have already been recovered.

The provincial government has been trying to develop a gas regime since the 1990s.  So far, they have had no success even though the provincial energy department has a section on its website that describes a new regime that – legally doesn’t exist.  Don’t worry, though.  The department’s website states that in “order to implement the Natural Gas Royalty Regime, detailed Natural Gas Royalty Regulations are being development [sic] and are expected to be promulgated in 2010.”

There ya go.

We’ll have it in 2010.

Hang on.

That was five years ago.

Still nothing.

And now they are promising a new oil royalty regime but there’s no mention of the gas regime.

Hmm.  Maybe we should doubt that promise of the oil royalty scheme.

Still, though, that one sentence is a rather curious one, given that it has taken the current administration eight years and they still haven’t been able to release even a draft version of the new oil royalty regime.

There are others.  “In 2014,”  the speech states, “our government took unprecedented steps to improve markets for cod harvested from the St. Pierre Bank area. They included temporarily relaxing minimum processing requirements to test fresh markets in the United States and authorizing outside buyers.”

Relaxed minimum fish processing requirements, those sacred things.

And authorized foreign buyers.

A few sentences later,  the throne speech reminds everyone that the Conservative administration is locked in a feud with Ottawa over the agreement about the European free trade deal. “Ottawa agreed to provide fully $280 million for the fund as a condition of our acceptance of the elimination of minimum processing requirements in order to facilitate the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as CETA.”

In one instance, the provincial government dropped MPRs without any federal cash at all in order to improve access to markets and “authorize foreign buyers.”  Makes you wonder if that story the provincial government boys have been telling about a supposedly broken federal commitment might be  a lot less than true.

Wonder not.  The provincial story is false.

Then there are seals.  “Our government is also proud to be supporting the sealing industry as it capitalizes on opportunities associated with seal processing. There is reason to be optimistic about the future of this sustainable and humane harvest, given the longstanding role of Carino Processing and the introduction this year of PhocaLux International as an additional player in this industry.”

That might be believable except for the news last week that Carino won;t be buying seals at all this year. Oh, and Phocalux is a company owned by a retail store that specialises in seals.  They are getting into the harvesting side of things – most likely – because their supply is not as reliable as it once was.

There’s a good reason for that.  The table below comes from the most recent stock assessment report prepared for the US government’s National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.  Note the decline in commercial catches:  from 224,000 animals in 2007, to about 40,000 in 2011MMPA stock assessment.

The provincial government announced in the throne speech that they will reinstating the family violence prevention court.  That’s certainly good news and it’s also something we can expect to see more of.  The Conservatives likely have a list of all the things people have been complaining about, like the court.  They will work through the list, one by one, crossing off every single one of the grievances.

But look at the first sentence in the paragraph about the court:

Every member of our society has the right to live free from the fear of violence.

Wee bit familiar.

Every person has a right to feel safe.

That’s what Paul Davis said in the scrum with reporters the day after the Dunphy shooting.  It’s a simpler line and, interestingly enough comes right out of the promotional materials about bullying and family violence.  It’s also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The throne speech saved the best for last, though.

responsible governance demands fiscal prudence. In this year’s budget, our Finance Minister will present a plan to return Newfoundland and Labrador to a balanced budget in 2020-2021

Responsible governments keep a close watch on public money. They spend it prudently.

That would be pretty much the opposite, though, of a government that has admitted to spending more than the public can afford consistently and that, as of Tuesday committed to piling up more public debt over a total of more than eight years in a row. What would the bond raters think of that?