31 July 2015

The Friday before it starts #nlpoli

There are plenty of signs that the federal Conservatives will start the official campaign for the fall election earlier than scheduled.  Earlier being as soon as Monday, rather than the usual federal campaign period of five or six weeks before polling day on October 19.

You’ve got to call it the official campaign because the fixed election date has meant that parties engage in an unofficial campaign months before the official campaign starts.  All the Conservatives will do – if they drop the writ on Monday – is trigger some particular election rules and get the open warfare started a bit earlier than usual.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the early federal election will have a significant impact on the provincial election due in November.  We are not talking about the strain on campaign volunteers.  We are talking about public attention and money.

30 July 2015

More ways to lose than win #nlpoli

“What this province needs is not just someone with the brains to figure out what's wrong with our economy,” future Premier Kathy Dunderdale wrote in 2002. 

“What this province needs is someone with the guts to start doing something about it for a change.”

Dunderdale’s letter to the editor of the Telegram appeared on April 1, 2002.  She was praising Danny Williams, not surprisingly.  The then-opposition leader had savagely attacked the government during debate in the House of Assembly on the annual throne speech.

No more give-aways, was their cry.

You can hear the words ringing in your ears all these years later.

29 July 2015

As Karl’s mom would say… #nlpoli

For all their efforts, the NLHC cleaners couldn't get the smell of bacon out of Len's old seat.The Conservatives came to power in 2003 promising to do things a new way.

People thought that meant the Tories would do away with the practice of stuffing people into fat government jobs based solely on their political connections.

And so the Conservatives proved they were different by appointing failed candidate Joan Cleary to run the Bull Arm Corporation.  Cleary had absolutely no relevant experience, but they owed her some pork and so she got the high-paid job.

28 July 2015

The Grecian Formula and mineral rights #nlpoli

In the late 1990s, the provincial government faced some tough financial times.  The debt and the size of the economy were the same number. The government went through the usual rounds of layoffs and cuts, and the sorts of things they needed to keep the budget under control.

One of the things government did to help deal with the financial state was to get rid of a batch of provincial parks that it had built up since the development of the provincial roads system in the 1960s.  They weren’t parks in the sense of the national systems in Canada or the United States.  They were campgrounds and picnic sites.

In 1997, they billed the 21 sites as “business opportunities” for private sector or local not-for-profit groups.  By the end of the year, they’d manage to get rid of the lot.  “These parks were made available to the private sector, tourism minister Sandra Kelly told the House of Assembly, “because they offered viable business opportunities for rural Newfoundland. Government also realized that it no longer needed to play as large a role in the recreational camping industry as it once had in the 1970s.”

Recreational camping industry.

27 July 2015

Smoke, mirrors, and Harper’s senate moratorium #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Heading into an election and with the three major federal parties within five or six points of each other in the opinion polls, the Prime Minister has decided that this is the time to talk about reforming the senate.

Stephen Harper said last week that he will not make any more appointments to the senate.  His plan is to create a crisis and then either reform the senate or abolish it in the ensuing melee among and with the provincial premiers.

The New Democrats are flattered. They have already advocated abolishing the senate altogether. This is a popular idea in Quebec where the NDP are threatened by the resurgence of the Bloc Quebecois.  The NDP won its current status as official opposition in 2011 with a surprising haul of seats in the province as the Bloc vote collapsed and its supporters looked for a politically friendly home. 

The sovereignists found a welcome embrace from the NDP.  To the extent that anyone else in the country thinks about the senate, it is likely only as the object of derision given the recent scandals over spending.  Few have thought through the implication of the NDP plan.  In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, it would cut in half the province’s representation in Ottawa. 

24 July 2015

The Line They Didn’t Need #nlpoli

For some time now, Nalcor has needed an extra line from Bay d’Espoir to increase the capacity across the Isthmus of Avalon. 

They just kept finding excuses not to install it.

In January 2014,  Nalcor chief executive Ed Martin told CBC’s Ted Blades that  the line would be the most expensive option with additional generation on the Avalon being more cost-effective.  Nalcor’s analysis, according to Martin, showed there was no justification for the extra line. 

23 July 2015

Gull Island? Dead duck. #nlpoli

From the Financial Post, Tom Adams and Ed Hollett take a look at three issues that will hold up any development of Gull Island:

While Gull Island might have a modest edge over Muskrat Falls’ cost per unit of production due to its greater size and less challenging local geology, it’s highly doubtful that Nalcor would be able to offer Gull Island electricity at Ontario prices that are remotely competitive. That is, not without massive subsidies from somewhere.



22 July 2015

Reality check for the Ontarians, please #nlpoli

If nothing else, media coverage about energy talks between Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador shows just how much people don’t know about what is going on in the country.

Not a crowd for half measures,  the National Post ran a story on Monday morning that was rife with basic factual mistakes.  They even started the piece with a statement that had two facts in it, both of which were simply not true.

“Ontario is the latest customer to line up to purchase Newfoundland and Labrador’s growing supply of hydroelectricity…”

21 July 2015

Always ready for a better tomorrow #nlpoli

Ontario and the faltering Conservative administration in Newfoundland and Labrador are talking about the possibility of developing Gull Island to supply Ontario with renewable energy. 

CBC’s online story on Monday said exactly that:

Ontario eyeing Lower Churchill hydroelectric power from Labrador.

But if you listen to what  grim-faced energy minister Derrick Dalley said to CBC’s David Cochrane during the supper hour news on Monday,  there is a lot less to the announcement than first appeared.

20 July 2015

Maternal mortality #nlpoli

Black women in the United States are twice as likely to die as a result of complications of pregnancy and childbirth as are white and Hispanic Americans, according to new research.  The story turned up in The Economist over the weekend.

colour of risk - economistBetween 2006 and 2010,  the death rate for black women was almost 40 per 100,000 deliveries compared with just over 10 for Hispanics and whites. 

But there’s more.

The United States is one of only eight countries globally to see its maternal mortality rate head up in decade 2003 to 2013..”American women are now more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as their counterparts in Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany or Japan,”  according to The Economist.. The overall American rate of maternal death is 18.5 for every 100,000 live births.

17 July 2015

Seven with one blow #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Seven companies in Newfoundland and Labrador have reached a deal with Elections Canada in the Penashue illegal contributions case.

According to Canadian Press, the companies have reached an agreement with Elections Canada in which the companies admit to making illegal contributions and promise not to do so again.

“Executives of Air Labrador Ltd., Dee-Max Innu Tautshuap Ltd., Innu-Chiasson Construction Ltd., Kakatshu Construction Ltd., Labrador Sales Ltd. and N.E. Parrot Surveys Ltd. admit they directed their companies to donate $1,000 each to Penashue’s campaign.

The CEO of Pennecon Ltd. [the seventh company] admits that six of his company’s officers were involved in sending Penashue’s campaign a $5,500 corporate cheque.”

Federal election finance laws prohibit corporations from making political donations.


16 July 2015

Arse Foremost #nlpoli

Politicians help out with each other’s election campaigns all the time.

There’s nothing unusual for a municipal politician to work on a provincial or federal campaign or for a federal politician to help a provincial colleague.  Sometimes  the one politician will work as the campaign manager for another.

Usually,  the politicians don;t broadcast the fact. There are many reason s for this. Not the least of the reasons is that the campaign is about the person seeking election, not the staffer, regardless of the fact that the staffer might be well-known publicly in his or her own right.

That’s one reason  why it is so odd for Conservative Jonathan Galgay to be so vocal and public about the fact that Liberal candidate Paul Antle has taken Galgay on as his campaign manager.

15 July 2015

That’s gotta suck, big time #nlpoli

All the country’s provincial and territorial leaders – except for Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia – are in Newfoundland and Labrador this week for their annual conference.

What an  opportunity for Paul Davis in an election year.  He gets to show himself off looking all leader-like and premieral or whatever the word is for it.

The first day of the meeting the premiers and territorial leaders discussed aboriginal issues in Goose Bay.  In the afternoon, Davis laid on an all-expense-paid trip to the super exciting megaproject at Muskrat Falls.

And then everything went horribly wrong.

14 July 2015

It was Greek to me #nlpoli

After days of intense talks,  the Europeans apparently have finally reached a final deal to help Greece out of its latest financial misery.

Greece is broke.  With a gross domestic product of about US$238 billion, the country had a government debt of about US$346 billion.  Some of the country’s banks have very low reserves of cash.  People have already made a rush and withdrawn their money from them.  This has forced the government to impose a tight limit on withdrawals in order to avoid a bank collapse of the type that hit Newfoundland in 1894.

Under the new deal,  the European Union will place officials in key parts of the Greek government in order to ensure that the Greeks actually implement reforms that are part of the bail-out deal.

It’s a tough response, but then again the Greeks are in a tough economic spot.  The third tough spot, since 2009. For all that, though, there are people around the world who believe the whole problem is imaginary.  They believe that something called “austerity” is the real culprit.  If you just got rid of it, so this way of thinking goes, the Greeks could go back to the way things used to be.

13 July 2015

Cripple you say? #nlpoli

Unnamed Conservative “insiders” have been talking about the Ches Crosbie nomination fiasco as if it was a rejection of a new Tory Jesus or something.

The way they talk you’d think people are waiting breathlessly for the pictures on Jane Crosbie’s Twitter feed of young Ches taking his first steps across Virginia Lake, just as his father and grandfather did at his tender age without getting so much as a bunion moistened.

Some of these nameless Conservatives   - to use the words from the CBC story – .”believe Ches Crosbie could have raised at least $100,000 by now for his run in Avalon. Many of those donors will now sit on their wallets rather than give cash to another candidate.”

Now that’s an interesting claim.

10 July 2015

Overcooked Ambition #nlpoli

Nameless Conservative Party insiders predict that without Ches Crosbie as a candidate, the federal Conservative party will be crippled in Newfoundland and Labrador in the next election.

Supposedly Ches could have raised $100,000 dollars already.  But without Ches, they won’t raise a penny. Volunteers will stay home, too.  

But here’s the thing: 

CBC’s  story on Thursday is essentially more of the same completely preposterous Ches-the-Saviour-of-the-Conservative-Nation fairy tale that John and Jane Crosbie have been shovelling since Canada Day.

09 July 2015

The long summer campaign #nlpoli

Liberal leader Dwight Ball kicked off a 10 week campaign swing around the province this week.

It’s basically a tour of the local festivals coupled that the party leaders do every summer.  This one is a bit different.  Ball has a few planned speeches mixed in there somewhere and Ball will be driving a white car with a big picture of him on the side.

As the Telegram’s James McLeod reported on Tuesday, Ball told reporters that the tour will “be about the economy and jobs. It’ll be about health care. It’ll be about education and many other things.”  Those are the top three issues with the public as identified by public opinion polls.
Mostly, Ball said, the aim is to have a “grassroots” summer of meeting with people and talking about the issues that affect the province — and talking about how the current government is letting people down. [Telegram]
Mostly, the tour will be about real consultation.

08 July 2015

Confidence Builder #nlpoli

The public utilities board asked Liberty Consulting to review Hydro’s decisions in 11 projects.

Hydro is looking for a rate increase.  The board wanted to make sure the increase was justified.

Of the 11 projects, the consultant found:

    • “Liberty found Hydro’s decisions and actions imprudent in seven of the eleven specific projects or programs set for examination by the Board. Liberty identified adverse cost consequences associated with six of these seven projects or programs, laying a foundation for consideration of the propriety of their recovery from customers. Liberty found planning and execution of the seventh project imprudent, but concluded that Hydro would have borne essentially the same costs even in the absence of such imprudence. 
    • Of the remaining four specific projects or programs, Liberty found that Hydro had acted prudently with respect to three. Liberty did observe significant weaknesses in the supply planning process related to one of these projects, the new combustion turbine, but not to a degree that would constitute imprudence. For the fourth, Liberty concluded that while Hydro acted prudently in making its decision, some of the costs incurred were influenced by imprudent prior actions.
    • The twelfth area of Liberty’s review consisted of an identification of 2014 actual capital costs and operating expenses that could be attributed to imprudence. This identification lays a foundation for later efforts that seek to identify any such expenses that may form part of Hydro’s estimation of a 2014 Revenue Deficiency of $45.9 million.”

“Liberty found that the costs that Hydro could have avoided in the absence of the instances of imprudence found by Liberty were:

  • Actual 2014 capital costs of $10.9 million (as reported by Hydro)
  • Actual 2014 operating expenses of $13.4 million.
  • Estimated 2015 operating expenses of $2.6 million.

With that sort of report, you just know that Nalcor has just gotten everything exactly right at Muskrat Falls.


07 July 2015

Canadian Forces recruiting centres and demographics #nlpoli

The Canadian Forces is planning to move its three full-time recruiting staff out of the office in Corner Brook and move them elsewhere.

From now on,  recruiting on the west coast will take place like it does pretty well everywhere else in Canada:  via the Internet.  The military recruiting system will send staff out to Corner Brook a few days a month.  They can always travel to high schools or job fairs to promote the Canadian Forces as they do now.

Documents leaked to David Pugliese at the Ottawa Citizen  last month said that the Corner Brook office has one of the lowest numbers of recruits in the Canadian Forces system.  The Corner Brook office, along with the one in Sydney Nova Scotia and Oshawa Ontario are affected by the changes.

06 July 2015

Impotence and weakness #nlpoli

If you take John Crosbie’s version at face value,  the Conservative Party rejected his son Ches as a candidate for the party in Avalon because of the intervention of David Wells.

Wells,  the son of retired justice Robert Wells,  is a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador.  He is also an influential Conservative, the sort of fellow who normally goes about his business largely out of the public spotlight.  .

Thanks to Crosbie, Wells is in the public eye.  According to Crosbie, Wells didn’t  “want Ches to be elected as an MP in the district of Avalon or any federal district because he would be too independent-minded and [Wells] wouldn't be in control as he has been now for a couple of years of most of the transactions between Newfoundland and the federal government.”

What the venerable Conservative was doing with that accusation was telling us less about the specific events that led to Ches’ rejection and more about a bigger story behind the scenes in Conservative politics.

04 July 2015

Way behind schedule #nlpoli

The reports you will likely read in the conventional media all peg the Muskrat Falls project as behind schedule.

That’s what the latest project update from the provincial government and Nalcor says.

The media reports are also citing an overall number that has the project modestly off schedule.

You need to look at the whole report.

03 July 2015

Through a glass, darkly #nlpoli

Imagine that Newfoundland history is enclosed inside a gigantic room.  Inside the room everything is pitch black.

Every now and again,  someone opens the door and goes inside the room to take a look at an event somewhere in the past.  They don’t have much in the way of light to help them see.  When they get to whatever spot they are looking for, they take a picture and bring out with them to tell the rest of us the story of what they saw in the dark room.

If you had hundreds or even dozens of people going in and out of the room,  after a while you might build up a really clear picture of all the stuff inside.  Unfortunately,  only a few people have gone in.  Some of them have come out with nothing more than sketches.  Some of them brought cameras and a couple had the sense to get short movies.

For anyone who wants to understand what happened in our collective past, you can see what kind of a problem there is.  Not only have we only had a handful of people go in, a lot of them go to the same place over and over again.  In some cases,  people interested in the local history don’t even go into the room  any more. They just describe to us the sketches and out-of-focus snapshots taken by others.

02 July 2015

John Crosbie and the Last Crusade #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Every story told thus far about Ches Crosbie and the riding in Avalon has the unmistakeable odour of bullshit about it.

The latest twist, namely that Senator David Wells was scuttling a potential rival as The Biggest Conservative in Newfoundland and Labrador, is a bit more in the realm of plausible but it still doesn’t quite ring true.

Jihad against people who dissed Harper?

The Great War and Newfoundland Political Memory #nlpoli

“It is sobering to think,”  historian Sean Cadigan wrote in the Telegram on Tuesday, “that the memory of the casualties of war has been used partially for later political purposes for almost a century.”

Cadigan was recounting the history of the ceremony on July 1 that started in 1917 to mark the anniversary of the battle in which hundreds of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians died in a few short minutes.
It is possible that, in the process of "remembering," we may be in danger of forgetting the real aspirations of the men of 1916 when we gather on Memorial Day tomorrow.
Sobering though it may have been,  Cadigan had no trouble using the corpses at Beaumont Hamel for his own purpose and that is where we begin.