30 November 2015

The youtube election #nlpoli

This is the year of the youtube election.

Some of them, like Alison Coffin’s recession pitch or Dan Crummell’s “I live in the district” spot are simple and straightforward. Others, like those of Conservatives Beth Crosbie and Ryan Cleary are so bizarre that they are funny.  On Facebook, Conservative Alison Stoodley identified Browning Harvey as a threat to public health.

All are reminiscent of a string of videos released by John Ottenheimer during the Conservative leadership campaign a year ago.  Ottenheimer, the outsider candidate,  tried to use humour to attract some attention to his effort.

29 November 2015

Great candidate quotes #nlpoli

The Telegram did voters a valuable service the last weekend of the campaign by printing responses from candidates in metro districts to two simple questions.

They asked the candidates to identify the single biggest issue in the district and how they would tackle it.

Some of the replies were fascinating.

Kevin Parsons, is in a dogfight for his seat in Cape St. Francis.  He is the only candidate who didn’t reply to the Telegram at all.

Bill Kavanagh, the NDP candidate in Conception Bay East – Bell Island is running on the Liberal platform. He thinks public consultation is extremely important.  He’s right.  What’s interesting here is the NDP and Conservatives are criticising the Liberals for not having enough detail in their platform when they talk about consultation.

Dan Crummell, the Tory seeking re-election in St,. John’s West thinks he is the biggest issue facing the district and all his friends agree with him, apparently.

The best answer to any question came from Ryan Cleary.  It’s probably the most honest comment Cleary’s made since he lied to CBC about how he changed parties:

Cleary: First, I would be shocked if I were elected. … .


What’s the biggest issue facing your district?

Cape St. Francis - Kevin Parsons, Progressive Conservative (PC): No response as of deadline. [Nuff said]

Conception Bay East – Bell Island - Bill Kavanagh, Bell Island, NDP: There is a democratic deficit in this district and it’s a direct result of a lack of public consultation when it comes to decisions made by our politicians. [Interesting given the Liberal platform calls for lots of consultation and public input.  The NDP and Conservatives call that a lack of detail.]

St. John’s West - Dan Crummell, St. John's, Progressive Conservative: Strong and effective representation by someone who lives in the district. [That’s his only talking point]

Windsor Lake - Ryan Cleary, St. John's, PC: Change.

27 November 2015

Weight Problems #nlpoli

If you want to know why Forum Research’s poll is out of line with the other polls done on the provincial election, you need look no further than the data tables for the questions.

This is why pollsters should give out this information. Lots don’t.

Polling firms adjust their sample so that the sample matches the population as a who for sex, age, geography, and so on.  It’s called weighting.

Forum notes that where “appropriate,  the data has been statistically weighted by age, region, and other variables to ensure that the sample reflects the actual population according to the latest Census data.”

That’s where you get the problem.

26 November 2015

Abacus poll confirms massive Liberal lead #nlpoli

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador awoke Thursday to a massive sucking noise as amateur pundits, media commentators, and newsrooms across the province realised they’d read way too much into a single poll on Wednesday.

A new Abacus Data poll shows the Liberal are actually on track to sweep the entire House of Assembly.  The results contradict a lone poll by  Forum Research that had the Conservative miraculously closing the gap with the Liberals.

Never happened, as it turned out.  Every other poll taken during the campaign lines with the latest Abacus poll.  What’s more  the behaviour of the Tory and Dipper campaigns confirms what serious political watchers already knew:  Paul Davis and Earle McCurdy are desperately trying to save the furniture in the face of a potential Liberal tsunami.

The Leaders

The provincial election campaign a decidedly nastier turn on Monday. Conservative leader Paul Davis is trying his best to save the party’s furniture.

Davis’ best is nasty stuff.

Davis called Dwight Ball a liar.

Rarely does one politician openly attack another using words like that.  They try to remain civil and respectful.  Davis is the first Premier since Confederation who, facing imminent defeat at the polls, has thrown any trace of decency out the window.

25 November 2015

Selling energy assets a good thing: Danny Williams #nlpoli


“It was a previous Liberal government that wanted to actually privatize Hydro. This particular government wants to strengthen Hydro, wants to make it a very valuable corporation: a corporation that will ultimately pay significant dividends back to the people of this Province; a corporation that perhaps some day may have enough value in its assets overall as a result of the Hebron deal and the White Rose deal, possible Hibernia deal, possible deals on gas, possible deals on oil refineries and other exploration projects, where hopefully we might be able to sell it some day and pay off all the debt of this Province, and that would be a good thing.”

Premier Danny Williams, House of Assembly, 30 April 2008


The CRA poll in Election 2015 #nlpoli

Corporate Research Associates’ latest poll is in line with polls by MQO and Abacus.

The table below shows CRA’s quarterly poll results since the last provincial election with the CRA “decideds” skew taken out.CRA Q4-15

Liberals are at 50% of all respondents, with the Conservatives at 16% and the NDP at seven with 26% undecided or giving no answer.

24 November 2015

The parties and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The mighty Muskrat Falls turned up a few times in the leaders’ debate on Monday night.

Now that the project’s huge problems are plainer,  folks like Earle McCurdy of the New Democratic Party are working hard to capture the anti-Muskrat vote.  They’d like you to believe that the NDP opposes the project.

The truth is that all three three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador support Muskrat Falls. 

No party wants to stop the project.

That’s it, in a nutshell.

But for the fun of it, let’s go through this old chestnut again, in detail.

23 November 2015

The Debate #nlpoli

The only winner in the debate was David Cochrane. 

He’s no Paul Wells but he did a fine job of wrangling the three leaders.

And that’s the problem for the politicians. 

Real people were talking about the fact the neutral guy didn’t frig up like the guy on the other network.  The other folks – all the party h’acktivists on Twitter  - were just talking about how their guy won, which they were saying before the thing started.

If debates matter at all in Canadian elections, this one was a must win for Earle McCurdy or Paul Davis. They needed to score big points on Dwight Ball in order to stand even a vague hope of shifting a few votes in the last week of the campaign.

Neither did.

Methylmercury and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls has been the big issue in two successive elections.

In 2011, the parties wanted to talk about the project, while voters didn’t.  It never showed up in the list of any Top Five issues for voters.

The parties wanted to talk about Muskrat Falls because it was something they all agreed on.  The 2011 election was a good example of an election in which the three parties ignored what the voters wanted to talk about and chattered instead among themselves.

Well, in 2015,  Muskrat Falls and its impact on the economy is a huge issue but none of the parties want to talk about it.  The best they’ve done is insist that non-existent export sales will help keep electricity prices low.  It wasn’t true in 2011 and it certainly is nonsense now.

Another Muskrat Falls issue turned up recently and it could prove to be one of the most significant things so far.

20 November 2015

The Undull Election #nlpoli

The only people who think this is a dull election don’t know anything about politics.


On the day before nominations closed for candidates,  the governing provincial Conservatives admitted on Thursday that they probably won’t have a full slate of candidates.  Reporters were quick to remind everyone that we haven’t seen that situation since 1972.

That was the year the Conservatives won a majority government and put an end to 23 years of uninterrupted rule by the Liberals under Joe Smallwood. That was also the first time since Confederation that we’d had a change of political party governing the province.  The second one of the two in the 20th century came in 1989.

Think about that for a second.  In the 40 years after Confederation we changed governing parties precisely twice.  Come December we will have done precisely the same thing within the first 15 years of the new century.

19 November 2015

Kicking ass in political coverage #nlpoli

The province’s major media outlets have taken different approaches to political coverage in this election from what they did last time.

The result has been one of the most interesting campaigns in recent memory.

First with the political news…

In the second week of the campaign, VOCM has been kicking ass with a series of polls commissioned from Abacus Data.  Tim Power’s firm has been producing poll results with much more interesting and useful data than we’ve seen in the province for a while. Their work so far in the 2015 election has consistently made news.

18 November 2015

Details #nlpoli

While the townie media are clamouring for details from people who don’t have the details, it’s important to look at what the people with the details are saying.

CBC’s Ramona Deering had Premier Paul Davis all to herself for a minute on CBC Radio’s Crosstalk.

She asked him what the current provincial deficit is.

“Hard to put a number on that,” said Davis just before launching into a long-winded rambling yack in order to run even further away from the simple question.

17 November 2015

The same sheet of paper #nlpoli

In all the elections in the 21st century, the three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador have proposed what are essentially the same economic policies.

The differences are minor.

16 November 2015

Fear and Hope #nlpoli

In his major interview with NTV on the first weekend of the formal provincial election campaign,  Premier Paul Davis insisted that his party was not the same as the federal Conservatives.

Then he argued that Liberal Dwight Ball would not be able to represent the province’s interest in Ottawa because the Liberal leader would not be able to challenge the Liberal prime minister,  who Davis referred to as Ball’s “boss.”

It was a classic Conservative ploy to resort to fear.

Fear a Liberal government, Davis warned.  Bad things will happen.

Ryan Cleary told a gaggle of reporters that the prospect of a Liberal government in Ottawa and a Liberal government in St. John’s kept him awake at night.

More fear.

Then we got the hat-trick of fear. While the other two were pretty much par for the course, the third one was a gob-smacker..  

15 November 2015

The possible shift #nlpoli

If the polls are right, we could be looking at an unprecedented shift in politics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We could be looking at lots of things but it’s a useful exercise to put a bunch of ideas on the table.  That’s about the only way you can tease out rends that others won’t see.

What can we say about these polls?

13 November 2015

Possible Extinction Event #nlpoli

A third poll has confirmed that the provincial Liberals have the support of an overwhelming majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

74% of decided and leaning respondents said they would vote Liberal if an election was held tomorrow.  17% said they would vote Conservative, while only nine percent chose the New Democratic Party.

Asked who they thought would be the best Premier, 36% chose Liberal Dwight Ball, 24% chose Conservative Premier Paul Davis but only six percent chose NDP leader Earle McCurdy.

12 November 2015

Invention #nlpoli

The provincial election campaign is barely a week old and already we have seen certain themes and interpretations emerging that are the product not of fact and observation but of invention.

The most striking one is the imagined explanation for the massive Liberal lead revealed through two polls released at the start of the campaign.  Already we have  commentators in local media connect the Liberal lead to the recent federal election.  They call it the “Trudeau Effect.”

Political scientist Amanda Bittner told a CBC audience on Tuesday night that because the poll came on the heels of the federal election “it’s hard to say what is going on there.”  She then talked in the abstract about what potential impacts the poll results might have on voters.

This is a bizarre comment on several levels.

10 November 2015

Polls and Projections #nlpoli

If you want to get a sense of how accurate polls were in the last federal election take a look at the ones we have in public and compare those to the actual result on polling day.

In each of the tables below,  we are using the official vote for each party as a share of eligible vote.  Basically, that’s what the pollsters surveyed.  They asked people who were eligible to vote what they would do.

09 November 2015

The polls must be wrong #nlpoli

Over the past couple of weeks,  some people have been questioning the accuracy of public opinion polls.

People have questioned the polls in the federal election, especially after the defeat of two candidates in metro St. John’s a lot of people thought would win.  The two polls released last week show the Liberals with such a commanding lead that some people – especially Conservative and New Democrat supporters are doubting the accuracy of the polls.

If you are a Conservative and think the Conservatives should be doing better, then you may be disappointed by what follows.  But if you are interested in a better understanding of polls and what you are seeing in public, then read on. You should always look closely at public opinion polls to make sure you understand what you are looking at.

07 November 2015

Downfall #nlpoli

On Day Two of the official provincial general election campaign, a new poll by a different polling method lines up with the Abacus Data poll. In both Abacus and Forum Research, results are shown for decideds and leanings.

Forum goes farther than others, though, by showing demographic breakdowns of the responses. The Telegram had the poll first.

In the party choice question, Liberals dominate ever age category.  The narrowest gap is in the 65+ group where the Liberals have 55% of support compared to the Conservatives 33%.  In the 18-34 cohort,  Liberals hold a commanding lead with the support of 70% of respondents.  The Conservatives and New Democrats have the support of 16% and 14% of respondents respectively.

The sex split is equally stark (L/C/N):  62/24/12 for males and 68/19/13 for females.

06 November 2015

Abacus – First poll 2015 #nlpoli

No surprise that the Liberals are way ahead in the latest Abacus horse race poll.

No surprise the NDP have fallen and the Tories have held steady.

What you need to look at to understand what this means are the results for three Abacus questions.

Setting fire to your own ass is never a good idea #nlpoli

While Paul Davis and the Conservatives were launching their official election campaign,  Ryan Cleary turned up in a recorded interview on NTV to talk about the controversy he embodies.

The single biggest thing Cleary did was confirm that his answer to David Cochrane last week was a lie.

Did you discuss running in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, David Cochrane asked Cleary for the second time.

“Absolutely not,” said Cleary clearly.

Yet there was Cleary not even a week later telling NTV’s Lyn  Burry that – in fact – Cleary had talked to NDP leader Earle McCurdy about Cleary running in Virginia Waters instead of the current candidate Bob Buckingham. Cleary brought up the idea by questioning whether Buckingham could run a law practice and be a candidate at the same time.

05 November 2015

Media Training 101: Truth and Credibility #nlpoli

Last Friday, CBC’s David Cochrane asked Ryan Cleary about information Cochrane had – apparently from NDP sources  - that Cleary had tried to run in a district where the New Democrats already had a candidate.

They asked him specifically about Virginia Park-Pleasantville, where the NDP had already announced lawyer Bob Buckingham would be the star candidate for the party.

Cleary replied:  “Absolutely not.”

That wasn’t true, as CBC’s Terry Roberts confirmed on Wednesday.

04 November 2015

Admission of failure: Conservative offshore negotiations #nlpoli

The news release on the government’s generic offshore royalty  wasn’t exactly a model of clarity and accuracy.

The headline and first sentence referred to the announcement of a “framework.”

The first quote claimed that “establishing the enhanced generic offshore oil royalty regime” was an achievement for the current administration. 

The problem is that none of it is true.

03 November 2015

Rumpole and the Noble Judge #nlpoli

The provincial justice ministry had to increase spending to put a new judge in the Provincial Court in Clarenville even though the caseload in the court didn’t justify the decision, government documents reveal.

Director of Public Prosecutions Donovan Molloy e-mailed then-deputy justice minister Paul Noble on September 6, 2014 about a news story in the Telegram.  Finance minister Ross Wiseman told the Telegram that plans were in the works to appoint a judge in Clarenville. 

Noble replied that he “literally and figuratively” had no idea what Wiseman was talking about. 

But in another e-mail sent on August 28,  Noble had asked assistant deputy minister Heather Jacobs and departmental controller Deborah Dunphy to “trace the evolution” of the issue.  Specifically,  Noble said he was trying “to unravel the details” about how many judge positions the department had and how much funding went with them.  

“It boils down to why we cannot appoint a judge in Clarenville, which in turn is connected to” an issue the departmental censors blacked out. 

02 November 2015

Blue balls #nlpoli

Ryan Cleary didn’t become the punchline to any New Yorker cartoon at 3:00 PM last Friday afternoon.

Peg Norman and other local New Democrats may want to believe he did.  But he didn't.’t

Norman laced into Cleary on Facebook Friday afternoon, calling Cleary’s decision to join the Tories “an indictment of Ryan's dishonesty and disloyalty.”  and “the actions of a person who has absolutely no understanding of political ideology and is solely motivated by a narcissistic attempt to be on top."

All true, no doubt, but it was just as true when – as Norman acknowledges – she decided not to contest the NDP nomination in 2008 in favour of the NDP’s then-new star candidate. It isn’t Ryan Cleary’s fault that Peg and a bunch of others decided to welcome him with open arms as their asshole and are now feeling a bit like Richard Nixon in another joke.*.After all, Cleary is – as he truthfully said standing next to Paul Davis – exactly the same guy he was as a New Democrat.

Ryan Cleary’s score on the Determination of Arseholic Narcissism scale is entirely irrelevant to what is going on right now in provincial politics. To appreciate the political developments last week, look beyond the superficial.