31 August 2015

Ferry Tales #nlpoli

There are times when you have to wonder if provincial cabinet ministers actually realise how moronic they sound to everyone else.

David Brazil is the transportation minister.  By his own admission,  a company in Romania could build ferries for the ferry system in Newfoundland and Labrador for a better price than anyone else.

That better price included – by his own claim – if the provincial government had to pay a multi-million penalty on the project under federal tariff law. 

28 August 2015

Chainsaw Earle keeps austerity on the table #nlpoli

NDP leader Earle McCurdy called the province’s major open line show on Thursday and by the sounds of things he hasn’t backed off the position that the size of the government’s financial problems will mean more cuts.

Sure he said he was opposed to austerity,  but what Earle did say was that the government will have to cut jobs, lay people off and slash spending to cope with its financial problems. 

Potato, potato, Earle.

27 August 2015

NL NDP boss admits deeper “austerity” on the table as gov cash situation worsens #nlpoli

“All options are going to have to be considered I guess, from both the revenue and the expenditure side, to make the best of a challenging situation,” NDP leader Earle McCurdy told CBC on Wednesday.

“All options” includes more job cuts,  spending reductions, and public sector layoffs in addition to higher taxes.

That endorsement of “austerity” as a serious option is a radical change of direction for the provincial Dippers,.  Up to now, they’ve been adamantly opposed to any cuts to public spending no matter how bad things got.

26 August 2015

We should put up a statue or something #nlpoli

There’s something a bit surreal about the news this week.

Well, not really the news itself, so much as the way people are reacting to it.

The drop in oil prices and the forecast decline of jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador are not anything people haven;t heard before.

And yet people seem genuinely shocked.

Let’s understand, there is absolutely nothing – not a single thing – about any of this information that didn’t come with plenty of warning.

25 August 2015

The Uri Geller of MUN Economics Strikes Again #nlpoli

Does anyone really take Wade Locke seriously anymore?


Do they?


Go back to last October to see why.

The next time reporters have Wade on camera, give him a spoon to bend with his psychic ability.

Wade might just be able to do it.  God knows he sure can’t figure out energy pricing and sound economic policy.. 


24 August 2015

Honouring Newfoundland Writers #nlpoli

Most of you have probably never heard of a fellow named Alonzo John  Gallishaw. 

John Gallishaw is best remembered in his native land for his brief service in the Newfoundland regiment during the Great War.  Wounded at Gallipoli,  Gallishaw was invalided out of service and eventually went back to the United States.  Born in St. John’s in 1890, Gallishaw had been in the United States at the time war broke out.  He was studying English at Harvard University, of all places.

He took up a teaching appointment and after the Americans entered the war,  Gallishaw enlisted in the American Army in January 1918.  He  took a commission and went to France as part of the American expeditionary force   That was Gallishaw’s hat-trick since he had enlisted briefly in the Canadian army on the war to Newfoundland in 1915.

21 August 2015

Moral victory: saying yes to less #nlpoli

A couple of years after his war with one prime minister, Danny Williams was locked in another war with another federal first minister.

Williams was demanding compensation for yet another supposed injustice. 

“What I said before and I said going in, this is about principles,”  Williams told reporters in November 2007 “but it's also about money as well. At the end of the day, the promise and the principle converts to cash for the bottom line ….”

The pattern set in 2004 was repeating itself.   

20 August 2015

Mr. Williams Goes to Hell #nlpoli

The story of the 2004 war with Ottawa is the story of disconnects,  mismatches, incongruities, of things that just didn't add up.

October 2004 is a good example.  In the middle of the month,  Loyola Sullivan,   the provincial lead negotiator, went to Ottawa for a meeting with federal finance minister, Ralph Goodale.  he headed the negotiations for the federal government in the effort to find a draft agreement.

Sullivan told reporters the chances of a deal looked good.  The two governments were talking about something that would last eight years and bring the provincial government between $1.4 and $2.0 billion depending on the price of oil.

At exactly the same time, Premier Danny Williams was telling reporters the provincial position had not changed.  "There are no movements from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador,”  Williams told Rob Antle of the Telegram on October 16.  “There's no doubt about.that. We have no intention of moving.”

19 August 2015

From agreement to disagreement #nlpoli

On June 4, 2004, Danny Williams delivered a keynote speech to delegates at the oil and gas conference organized annual by the association that represented offshore service and supply companies.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should not support any candidate or any party in the upcoming federal election” he said, “that does not clearly and unequivocally provide us with a commitment to keep 100 per cent of our provincial revenues under the Atlantic Accord.”

The day after Williams’ speech, Martin was in St. John’s as part of his election tour of Eastern Canada. Martin told the CBC that in an early morning conversation with Williams, “I have made it very clear that the proposal that he has put forth is a proposal that we accept."

18 August 2015

S’truth #nlpoli #cdnpoli

New Democratic party candidate Linda McQuaig caused a bit of a stir in the first week of the federal election campaign when she said that in order to meet the national carbon emission reduction targets, we’d likely have to leave most of the oil sands oil in the ground, undeveloped.

Writing in the Toronto Star on Tuesday, Seth Klein of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the reaction to what he called McQuaig’s “innocuous and true statement” is just further evidence that “our politics do not allow for serious — and truly honest — discussion of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Klein then decries the fact that all sorts of politicians from all sorts of parties are not embracing all sorts of policies that Klein thinks are not just good ideas but absolutely correct ones.  Therefore, our politics is bad.

Well, it isn’t actually. 

17 August 2015

The 2004 war with Ottawa revisited #nlpoli

The 2004 “war” with Ottawa over a version of federal Equalization payments to Newfoundland and Labrador is an early episode in the provincial Conservative administration.

The confrontation helped propel Premier Danny Williams to unprecedented heights of popularity.  This, in turn, affected the rest of his tenure as Premier.  It was a critical element in his quest for political hegemony in the province during his first term.

In SRBP’s review of Ray Blake’s new book on federal provincial relations, there are some comments about Blake’s chapter on Danny Williams and the war with Ottawa in 2004. The review wasn’t the place to get into that.  The subject is too big. 

This post will explain the problems with Blake’s accounts and with other accounts of the period.

14 August 2015

Diversity #nlpoli

Labrador economy must diversify to survive, say opposition parties.

There is a CBC headline to conjure with.

Pure political magic for the two parties promising something different from what has gone on before.

Liberal leader Dwight Ball told CBC that we “must look at the other advantages that we would have available to us, things like power.” 

"This government talks a lot about the export of power. I want to talk about using that power as a competitive advantage for us."

Lorraine Michael, for the New Democratic Party,  said that "Government has to have long term plans that will deal with helping communities and workers when the issues arise."   Michael thinks that we have been too dependent on private sector corporations in Labrador.

No one has ever heard those ideas before

13 August 2015

Essence #nlpoli

The Telegram has been running a series this week on the number of communities in the province where people can’t drink the water supplied by their local municipality.

Regular readers will know the issue as it first came up here in 2009, in 2011, and in 2013. 

A couple of years ago, CBC was highlighting the problem.  Your humble e-scribbler reminded the universe that giving people water fit to drink was one of those fundamental commitments the Conservatives made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2003.

And it was one of those fundamental commitments that they failed utterly and completely to honour.

There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept, their leader used to say.

He was absolutely right.

12 August 2015

Sucks to be us #nlpoli

Not so very long ago,  provincial Conservatives were crowing about how they would be running all sorts of mining projects in Labrador using electricity from Muskrat Falls.

These days, the word from Labrador isn’t all that good.  One mine is closed and, on Tuesday, things looked bad both for the major mine operating in western Labrador and the KAMI project.

No one can take an glee in the bad news. What we should do is remember that the assumptions on which the Conservatives spent heavily over the past decade were completely inconsistent with about a century and a half of experience with resource extraction industries  years in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Rather than learn from our considerable, collective experience, the Conservatives arrogantly assumed they alone knew better than everyone else.

They didn’t.

We all get to pay the price.

Oh joy.


11 August 2015

Lions or jellyfish: a review

jellyfishHistorian Ray Blake’s new book  Lions or jellyfish:  Newfoundland  - Ottawa relations since 1957 is likely to be be on many reading lists. 

It should be.

Blake examines:

  • the Term 29 dispute,
  • hydro-electric development in Labrador between 1960 and 1970,
  • resettlement,
  • offshore oil and gas ownership,
  • Meech Lake,
  • the 'Williams’ “fair share” argument.

Resettlement gets two chapters, one before 1965 and one for the period afterward.  Likewise, offshore oil and gas gets two chapters, the second focussing on the period between 1979 and 1985.

Blake examines the relationship between the province and the federal government in the context of Canadian federalism and, specifically, through the lens of executive federalism.  That is, he frames the discussion as one focussed primarily on the relationship between the individual first ministers. There are sound reasons for doing this. Blake describes his reasons for doing so and puts the book in a general theoretical framework in a crisply written introduction.

10 August 2015

The name they fear #nlpoli

Cast your mind back to April 2007

In his ongoing penchant for fighting with everyone and for small-mindedness,  Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams decides he will only refer to the new Prime Minister as “Steve”.

Williams made no bones about the fact his decision was very personal and intended to be insulting.

07 August 2015

Debate Quickies #nlpoli #elxn42

The first English debate is over.

Here are some quick observations to help you cut through the huge amount of noise coming from the conventional media.

Debate host Paul Wells showed why he’s one of the best political journalists in the country.  Read his opening column on the campaign, in case you missed it. 

As for the party leaders, here it is in the short form:

Stephen Harper

Looked and performed like Stephen Harper, the guy who has been prime minister for the past decade.

His weak spot was the senate. He wasn’t clear on the party policy.  When discussing who controls senators,  Harper admitted his gang are puppets. You can say the same thing of the senate that Harper said of the Bloc-NDP position on a sovereign Quebec:  who the frack wants to bring THAT up again?

Other than that, steady as she goes. 

What was most remarkable about the PM was that he was the same old steady-as-she-goes guy.  For his folks, that is reassuring.  For his opponents, that’s a bad thing since it means none of them managed to get a knife edge under his armour and expose a bit of flesh to chew on.

Thomas Mulcair

Three words:  smug,  uncomfortable,  robotic.

Having not watched much of Mulcair in the House, your humble e-scribbler now understands that conventional media journalists who praise his sharp debating skills or his strong style are on something.

Not onto something.

On something.


Weak moment:  What’s your number?

The alliance with Bloc supporters is Mulcair’s greatest liability.  Both Trudeau and Harper took turns savaging the Bloc-NDP leader and he handled all of it badly. They will return to this again and again in English Canada.  Mulcair cannot run from it, as much as he clearly wants to. Without that huge base in Quebec, Mulcair is just another small party leader with a beard.

To go with that strategic problem, you had a really clear tactical blunder:  Whoever told Tom to recite “What’s your number?” should be shot.  It made him look condescending, and that’s the most generous thing you could say about it. The fact Mulcair set Trudeau up for his highly quotable riposte mirrored the way the NDP strategy is playing neatly into the federal Conservative agenda.

Funny moment:  when he slipped in the line about standing with Jack Layton.  It looked scripted and desperate at the same time. Expect to see Mulcair ditch his own wife for campaign appearances with Olivia Chow by his side and lots more references to Layton,  the Dipper Ronald Reagan.

Mulcair’s strongest moments were on the economy, which is also where Harper was the weakest.  Reciting economic stats.  Nerds got wood.  No one else did. This could have been the spot where Mulcair shone.

Could have been.

Elizabeth May

Give her some rest and you have by far the strongest performance of the night, overall.  May spoke clearly, intelligently, and succinctly about her party position.  She did the same when going at the other four over theirs.

Weakness:  prefacing every comment with “all due respect”.

At best, it was tedious.  At worst,  it was transparently passive aggressive. 

Given Mulcair’s evident discomfort and May’s strong performance, don’t be surprised if the Bloc-NDP start shying away from other debates.  Bloc-NDP support is notoriously soft.  The Greens could bleed NDP support in the west.  If May performs like this again and again, that could erode the Dipper position in some close races. They’ll want to hide their man away and let him only appear in tightly scripted moments as they did on opening day of the formal campaign.

Justin Trudeau

He showed up with his pants on, the right way around.

The Conservatives lowered expectations of Trudeau to the point that his performance will surely help change perceptions of him in key ridings.  The Cons might want to rethink that strategy.

Weak point:  the closer.  Ugh.  Did he end?  or wait.  There are a couple of words I forgot. Let’s.  stumble.

Strong point:  my number is nine.

A scripted line drilled into the candidate’s head. The boys and girls in the Grit backroom did their oppo in spades or have a spy in the Dipper debate camp.  They anticipated the NDP line and gave Justin a rejoinder he delivered with consummate skill.  It was probably the only quotable moment of the night in a debate that was surprisingly devoid of the quotable one-liners we are used to. 

Trudeau isn’t out of the woods on credibility yet but his debate performance was a step in the right direction.


PQ hung up over Old Harry #nlpoli

Pierre Karl Peladeau won’t say yes or no to development of Old Harry, according to ledevoir.com.

Le Devoir interviewed the Parti Quebecois leader during a recent visit to the Magdalen Islands.  Peladeau refused to endorse a moratorium on development,  a move favoured by the islands fishermen who are concerned about the potential economic and environmental damage that could result from a major oil spill. Peladeau said the issue of a moratorium needed more study.

Peladeau insisted, however, that any decisions about Old Harry belonged solely to Quebec. He criticised the recent introduction of a bill in the National Assembly that would enable Quebec to establish a joint management board like the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board.

“If the Gulf is in federal jurisdiction,” Peladeau told Le Devoir, “recall that it is Ottawa that sets fish quotas. In an independent country, the question would not arise.”


06 August 2015

Figuring out what the parties are doing in #elxn42 #nlpoli



If you want to get a really good summary of the contending election strategies at this early stage of the federal campaign, read Evan Solomon’s piece at macleans.ca.

It’s simple, concise, and – from the feel of it – informed by conversations with people who know what is going on.  That sets Solomon apart from a lot of media types who write “analysis” pieces.

The Conservatives strategy has been to drive Trudeau’s numbers down so that Mulcair rises.  So far so good.  While Solomon considers this a risky strategy for Harper,  all you have to do is look at the New Democrats to see it could be a very effective idea.

05 August 2015

Minority rights in education #nlpoli

It’s one of those persistent comments.

You don’t hear it or see it every day but, once in a while it comes back.

Like in 2013 .  Some guy used the discussion about access to in formation – specifically rescinding Bill 29 – to wonder if we might be able to rescind the supposedly anti-democratic referendum on denominational education.

That’s actually the most common term in that letter to the editor:

  • “The referendum violated many democratic ideals.”
  • “A 32-day notice for a referendum is disrespectful of democratic ideals.”
  • “The mandate for both referendums was suspicious and anti-democratic.”

04 August 2015

Half and half #nlpoli

On the first working day during August, 2015, the provincial government issued four news releases.

Two announced funding from the spring budget.

The other two warned reporters of two more funding announcements to be made on the second working day in August.

Corporate Research Associates will be in the field very soon.


03 August 2015

This is your political life: Ross Wiseman #nlpoli

Anyone surprised by the news isn;t paying any attention to local politics at all.

Ross Wiseman has his pension. It cannot get any fatter.  He likely won’t get re-elected in the November general election and even if he does, Wiseman has no interest in sitting on the opposition benches now that he has been in government.

15 years is long enough, sez Ross, so he won’t be running in the next election.

For those who are shocked and for the entertainment of the rest here are three moments from Ross’ political life over the past 15 years.