30 September 2015

Pride and Failure #nlpoli

‘”Pride is a big factor”  a manager at Muskrat Falls told the Telegram’s James McLeod on Monday during the latest media junket to the Big Dig North. People come to work every day and say “I built this.”

Pride is the essence of Muskrat Falls. 

Go back to 2012.

All the business people who looked forward to making a fortune off the project never talked about risk, profits, cash flows, return on their investment, and other stuff you’d expect business people to talk about.

They say stuff like “We believe in good things for our province.”  Or “… we believe we have the courage to harness the opportunity before us and make these things happen.”

29 September 2015

Rumpole and the Family Compact #nlpoli

Sixteen of the province’s 22 full-time provincial court judges are either already in or are on their way to St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

They are in for a surprise.

They’ve headed to New Brunswick for the annual meeting of provincial courts judges of Newfoundland and Labrador, called a few months ago by Chief Judge Mark Pike to coincide with the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges.  As recently as 10 days ago, Pike was still finalising the agenda.

Surprise:  now Mark won’t be there.

Pike quit very suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday.  And just as quickly and just as surprisingly,  Attorney General Felix Collins announced Pike’s replacement.  It’s Pike’s wife, Pamela Goulding, a former head of the Crown prosecution service who is the third most junior judge on the provincial court bench.

The judges won’t be surprised by that appointment. 

It’s par for the course these days.

28 September 2015

White is the new black #nlpoli


Stephen Harper said that his party had a program that would help change the dependence in Atlantic Canada on government spending, a dependence that had led to what he called a “culture of defeatism.”

That’s the actual phrase, by the way,  “culture of defeatism.”  Not a culture of defeat as some politicians have put it in the innumerable times since 2002 that they have used that phrase against Stephen Harper in a federal election campaign.

25 September 2015

The N-word #nlpoli

New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair likely never imagined that an insult he threw at a couple of Parti Quebecois politicians in the Quebec National Assembly 20 years ago would come back to haunt him 2015.

Liberal candidate Nick Whalen likely never imagined that reminding Mulcair of the word he used – “Newfie” -  would rob Mulcair of whatever coverage he’d hoped to get out of his campaign stop in St. John’s.

But it did. 

Then the controversy over Mulcair’s remarks carried on for another two days as New Democrats whined and complained  about the whole issue.  That only served to keep it going.

And to make sure the story didn’t die,  two national pieces  - Colby Cosh (National Post) and Evan Dyer (CBC) – weighed in.  Cosh and Dyer picked up on the context of the original comment and that’s where things stared to get really interesting.

24 September 2015

That's Doctor King to you #nlpoli

Not surprisingly, Darin King has decided to leave politics after only eight years.

King is just the latest in a long line of pensionable Conservatives who have decided it would be better to quit politics now with a fat pension rather than risk sitting on the opposition benches for a few years.

If he is remembered at all, King will stand out among his colleagues in the current Conservative administration for two reasons.

23 September 2015

Crossing Topsail Road #nlpoli

A new high school has put the better part of a thousand young people on Topsail Road opposite a raft of fast food outlets and a major mall.

Young people will cross Topsail Road, a four–lane major thoroughfare in St. John’s.  it is dangerous.  Things will get more dangerous.  City council is thinking about building a pedestrian walkway way over the street so pedestrians don’t have to cross at street level.

The pedway will be costly.  Some people don’t like the cost and suggest that some other, far less expensive measures would do.  Those people are wrong and here’s why.

22 September 2015

Three things about Hurricane Igor #nlpoli

hard to believe but it has been five years since Hurricane Igor ripped through Placentia Bay and into Trinity Bay.

What stands out most about those events today is the same as it was at the time.

First, the devastation was astounding in every respect.

Second,  the resilience of the people affected by the disaster was amazing.

Third the capacity of senior government officials, politicians and bureaucrats alike, to polish their own knob without any justification remains as appalling in 2010 as it was at the time.

21 September 2015

No race in Avalon, except for the truth #nlpoli

Tom Mulcair will not be coming back to Newfoundland and Labrador again during the current federal election.

He certainly won;t be coming back to visit Avalon and he will only be back if there is a sense that Ryan might actually have a shot at winning St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

The only other reason he might come back is if he had a candidate in a fight for a seat.  The latest poll from Mainstreet Research confirms what dedicated political analysts have known for some time:  there is no race in Avalon.  Liberal Ken MacDonald is miles ahead of any of his rivals. 

The New Democrats are a distant second.

“Distant” means the Liberal candidate is out front by more than two to one either in decided voters or if you add leaning to the decideds.

Les vrais newfies #nlpoli

Sometime late in the last century, Bloc NDP leader Tom Mulcair said something in the Quebec National Assembly about Newfies.

Mulcair apologised for the remark during his campaign stop in St. John’s on Sunday, and well he should

“Newfie” is a slur. Even if it is used by people from Newfoundland, the word is still offensive. In some sense, It conveys an attitude about the place as being one so destitute that people leave it in droves for a better life.   In another sense, it conveys an attitude about the people as buffoons. 

So Tom apologised and, as far as that goes, we should hear no more of it.  What we should continue to discuss, though, is the rest of what Tom had to say.

18 September 2015

Cabinet control of Crown corporations #nlpoli

Hearings at the pubic utilities board revealed that senior executives at Nalcor received hefty bonuses again in 2014 as they have in other. 

Ostensibly, they are a reward for achieving corporate performance targets. Given that Nalcor has had some serious problems with its capital works and maintenance program over the past decade, it is rather surprising to see people getting great gobs of cash while the company hasn’t been performing.

Ostensibly, the bonuses are part of a compensation package that keeps the company competitive.  That’s how Nalcor chief executive Ed Martin justified the compensation now that we understand they are the chief cause of the cost increases Nalcor is using to justify its request for an increase in electricity rates this year.

17 September 2015

Political Calculations 2 #nlpoli

The next provincial general election finishes on November 30, 2015.

Not the way you are used to thinking of it, right?

You think the election happens on that day because, traditionally, that’s the day when most people vote.

Thing is,  voting takes place on several days and pretty much always has.  In Canada,  elections sometimes took weeks and months according to Elections Canada.  The rules to determine who can vote also changed over time.  Some elections in the 19th century had different qualifications for voters in different provinces.

Through all that, the basic goal of the election was the same:  be the one who had the most votes in the ballot box when the elections officials counted them up.

16 September 2015

Political Calculations #nlpoli

As you look ahead to the fall election, the bigger political addicts among you are likely trying to figure out different aspects like how the parties might run the campaign.

We got a clue this week with the debate story.  Apparently the front-runner Liberals never thought of forcing the media outlets to pool together and have one debate.  Instead they took the requests one-by-one until they hit their quota of two.  Anyone who came along after that, including the largest private radio network, were shit-out-of-luck.

The episode reveals a curious bit of Liberal political strategy but it made your humble e-scribbler think about a bunch of other calculations that we should likely all keep in mind.

Let’s look at the numbers.

15 September 2015

Putting the questions about the debate #nlpoli

The Liberals have decided to skip the provincial leaders debate sponsored by VOCM and the St. John’s Board of Trade.

The reason, according to Liberal leader Dwight Ball is that there is only so much time available, so the party has decided to go with the two television debates that will offer province-wide coverage.

Here are some questions that are begging for an answer…

14 September 2015

The state of federal politics in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

There is a problem, apparently.

A very big problem.

In the current federal election, none of the federal party leaders have visited the province yet.

On Friday, three of the four major outlets in the province all carried some version of exactly the same story.  For the quibblers, the Telly story appeared on Saturday but it had to be written at least the day before.  In itself, that fact says much about the state of the news media in the province and it isn;t a good tale.

NTV had local candidates on Issues and Answers but included a reference to the absent party leaders in the set up.  CBC has a commentary by Peter Cowan on its website about the issue. The Telegram story on the Great Void includes comments from Bloc-NDP incumbent Ryan Cleary for good measure. Only VOCM seems to have ignored this political bombshell.

11 September 2015

Near the bottom of a very big rabbit hole #nlpoli

Thursday was one of those days where you felt like you had dropped down the rabbit hole with Alice.

Or maybe had indulged a bit too heavily in some mind-altering substance.

There was Lorraine Michael on the radio complaining that Muskrat Falls would likely cause environmental problems through the release of methyl mercury.  Let’s be clear:  there is nothing we know about Muskrat Falls today on any subject that wasn’t known when Lorraine endorsed Muskrat Falls. Yet, there is Lorraine trying to make it sound like she never, ever supported this megaproject.

10 September 2015

Three months later … #nlpoli

In June,  SRBP used the CRA poll from the second quarter of 2015 as the basis for a bit of “what if” thinking.

Consider that the Liberals have dropped seven points in six months.  The New Democrats are up seven in three months.  Extend that trend forward to September.  Then you’d have the Liberals down from 35 to 31.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, would move from 16 to 23. It isn’t unusual at all to see shift in votes during an election a lot larger than the one needed to close the eight point gap you’d have at that point between the NDP and the Liberals.

Guess what happened.

09 September 2015

Finding the voice of the next generation #nlpoli

“My Government will harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater cultural, financial and moral autonomy vis-à-vis Ottawa.”

That’s from the 2007 throne speech. 

At the time, the language started a few people.  That’s odd because Danny Williams was basically building up to that point for six years.  He started with a speech in Halifax in 2001 shortly after he became leader of the provincial Conservatives.  He ramped up the rhetoric and the tension through 2004 and into 2005. 

Then in 2006, he went to war again, this time with Stephen Harper.  It was the Conservative re-election strategy and came complete with an anthem composed in 2004.

What’s weird about the 2007 throne speech language in hindsight is not that the Conservatives used it or that some people found it surprising.

Take a look at the second use of the word autonomy and see if you can spot the oddity.

08 September 2015

Senior appointments in 2015 #nlpoli

Orders in Council up to the end of August 2015, show that the cabinet has made on 13 appointments at the rank of deputy minister and assistant deputy minister since the beginning of the new calendar year.

That’s roughly on par with the changes made in 2014.

It’s dramatically short of the record 51 such appointments made in 2013 or the very high rates of turn-over in 2011 and 2012.


07 September 2015

Adios to another one #nlpoli

Clyde Jackman is the latest provincial Conservative to quit politics.

That’s not surprising.  He was supposed to go in 2011 but hung around to make sure the party didn’t have to make an serious changes in people or policies.

Jackman had a few colourful moments during his political career, not the least of which was his stint as fish minister.  He scuttled an historic agreement to reform the fishery. Clyde and his colleagues couldn’t be arsed to spend money on it when they had all their cash tied up in other things.

Then there was the time Clyde and his colleagues couldn’t be arsed to fund an historic commemoration when Clyde was responsible for tourism.

Other than being part of the crowd that added more public debt to the back’s of provincial taxpayers than all the other administrations since Confederation combined,  Clyde Jackman had a relatively tame political career compared to some of his colleagues.

Now Clyde is retiring.  Not surprising really.  In 2011, he barely scraped back into office in a situation where his party didn’t face huge opposition.  Clyde wasn’t alone.  Lots of his colleagues kept their seats by only the thinnest of margins.  it’s only when you look at the numbers that you realise how just close the Conservatives came to losing in 2011. It wouldn’t have taken much,.

Good bye and good luck, Clyde.

Enjoy the grand-kids.


04 September 2015

Timeliness #nlpoli

The federal and provincial governments need to sort out a royalty regime for the areas of the seabed outside the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

Wylie Spicer of McInnes Cooper has pointed this out in a new paper from the University of Calgary public policy school..

SRBP pointed this out in 2009, at the time of a significant discovery that might have commercial potential.

SRBP pointed it out again earlier this year when the notorious scoff-law Paul Davis said he wanted to get a development going outside the 200 mile limit without having publicly addressed the issue of the new royalty regime. He had started talking about a new royalty regime, apparently, but was keeping it a secret.

Maybe now that someone from Calgary has pointed out this deficiency  someone will notice the problem and do something about it.

Maybe it is something one of the political parties in the province would like to bring up during the provincial election. 


03 September 2015

Leadership and opportunity #nlpoli

On Tuesday, the provincial Conservatives launched their election campaign.

It was to be built solely on the image of Paul Davis as a great leader.  They labelled the campaign Davis 15. The revamped the party website and they launched a second site – with the clever address davis15.ca – that included videos by and about Paul.

One of the videos included an endorsement from a police officer who, as it turned out, received a promotion last spring from sergeant to inspector.  Only a short while before he had been a constable.

02 September 2015

Omega Man #nlpoli

The word that comes to mind when you look at the new provincial Conservative party website or the davis165.ca site isn’t fresh, new, rebounding, or even trying.

It is “alone”.

You see lots of pictures of Paul Davis.

By himself.

01 September 2015

New Englanders know you’re bullshitting ‘em, Paul #nlpoli

The New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers were in town on Monday for a quick meeting.

The only thing that seemed to make local news was talk about electricity sales.  This is old hat for regular readers, but it is worth going over again.

New England wants to buy electricity.  They can get lots of it very cheaply thanks to shale gas lately.  How cheaply, you may wonder?  Well, in August it was running around four to five cents a kilowatt hour wholesale, not including transportation.

To put that in Muskrat Falls perspective,  it is less than half the cost of making electricity according to the estimate five years ago.  Where the price is these days is anybody’s guess.