31 January 2016

Junkyard wars

Syrian rebels have been using modern technology in the simplest of ways in their war against the Assad regime in Syria.

In the picture at left,  a rebel crew are shown using an angle meter app for the iPad to check the alignment of a mortar barrel before an attack.

According to a story in the Daily Mail last September,  the photo shows members of the 'Ansar Dimachk' Brigade, which operates under the Free Syrian Army, using a tablet "to help fire a homemade mortar towards a battlefront in Jobar, a suburb of Damascus."

The rebels have also been using iPads for other purposes as well, as the following video shows.


30 January 2016

AG reports on suspected frauds in FY 2014 #nlpoli

In his most recent report, Auditor General Terry Paddon disclosed alleged frauds identified during his review of the provincial government's accounts:
  • The finance department's Professional Services and Internal Audit Division discovered a potential fraud of $42,000, less about 10% that had been repaid, that occurred in the the division's examination of the Provincial Courts bank reconciliation processes. The Department of Justice and Public Safety referred this matter to the police for investigation. 
  • The same division reported a suspected fraud in the Department of Transportation and Works' depot involving thefts of automotive fuel and supplies as well as inappropriate use of employee resources. "It was concluded by the Division that due to the poor state of records and lack of effective internal controls at the depot, it was not possible to prove that any fraud had occurred. No further action was taken."
  • During a routine review of travel claims, the Department of Justice and Public Safety identified irregularities that totalled approximately $1,300. The Department forwarded the matter to the police for investigation. 
  • The Department of Child, Youth and Family Services reported that A foster parent may have committed fraud by submitting claims for funding for overnight babysitting when no babysitting services were provided. CYFS turned the matter over to the police and the individual is no longer a foster parent. 
  • The Department of Advanced Education and Skills identified an alleged forgery of documentation submitted for reimbursement of approximately $30,000 for medical transportation costs and possible false documentation to support $27,000 in client rental payments.  Both cases are with the police.
  • The Forestry and Agrifoods Agency identified an alleged misappropriation of funds by an employee of the agency that involved deliberately delaying the submission of cash remittances and personally using the funds during the intervening period.   The agency recovered the $21,000 involved,  terminated the employee but did not report the matter to the police.  
  • Nalcor Energy identified a theft of petty cash of $360.  Nalcor revised its procedures for handling petty cash.
  • The Provincial Information and Library Resources Board informed the AG of a fraud against the board involving a cheque that had apparently be altered.  The board subsequently recovered the $7,100 from its bank but did not report the matter to the police. 
  • The Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation identified an instance of improper retention of public money in which two employees were using their assigned corporate procurement cards to make purchases for personal use. Overall, the improper transactions amounted to $5,156 ($4,698 related to one employee and $458 to another). The $5,156 has been recovered from both employees and one employee has resigned. The other remains an employee of the Corporation. The Corporation has not referred the matter to the police. 


29 January 2016

S and P lowers NL rating, cites uncertainty of fiscal policy #nlpoli

Standard and Poor's said on Friday that the company had lowered its credit rating for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro from A+ to A with a negative outlook.

In a news release, the company said the "negative outlook reflects our view of the uncertainty of the magnitude of the government's expected fiscal policy response to lowered offshore royalties and projected operating and after-capital deficits."

S and P's base-case forecast for 2014 to 2018 gives the government an "average operating deficit of about 7% of adjusted operating revenue and average after-capital deficits of close to 19%
of total adjusted revenues."  S and P calls this weak.  The company also said that it considers the government's "budgetary performance is subject to considerable volatility, given its high reliance on resource royalties...."

The company said it considers both the province's debt burden and contingent liabilities level to be high.  The company cited unfunded pension liability and the risk associated with Nalcor and Muskrat Falls as key issues in these areas.  "We believe the province has an incentive to provide extraordinary government support to Nalcor in the event of financial stress." Standard and Poor's also considered the government's luiqidity level to be low.

S and P  noted the strong federal-provincial financial relationship,  the provincial government's financial management history,  and strong budget flexibility as factor's working in the provincial government's favour.   "We believe that the province's economic and fiscal situation will make public acceptance of fiscal measures, such as tax increases and spending reductions, much more acceptable despite their unpopularity."  

The negative outlook reflects the uncertainty of the magnitude of the government's expected fiscal policy response to lowered offshore royalties and projected operating and after-capital deficits. We could revise the outlook to stable if the newly elected government takes the fiscal measures necessary to establish an improving trend in its budgetary performance beyond fiscal 2017, and develops a credible plan to restore budgetary balance in the medium term. Conversely, we could take a negative rating action should the province's budgetary performance show signs of weakening further beyond what we expect for fiscal 2017, particularly if projected after-capital deficits remain near 23% of consolidated operating revenues or the tax-supported debt burden reaches 270% of projected consolidated operating revenues [currently 100%].




28 January 2016

Moody's warns NL government on finances #nlpoli

Moody's Investor Services is the second rating agency to give the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador a negative trending  in light of the government's financial problems.

In a release, Moody's said that the "negative outlook for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador reflects the rising risk that the province's fiscal position will deteriorate further than previously expected in an environment of protracted low oil prices and reduced economic activity. Without corrective fiscal action, this will lead to significant deficits, resulting in rapid debt accumulation across the medium-term."

Moody's expects oil to sell at US$33 a barrel in 2016 rising to US$38 a barrel in 2017 and US$43 a barrel in 2018.  The company expects that this will lead to significant deficits, with the deficit for the current fiscal year expected to reach 32% of revenue.  

"The outlook could be revised back to stable if the province introduces and implements a comprehensive fiscal plan that limits debt accumulation and debt service at levels in line with similarly rated peers, or exceeds these levels for a short period only."

Although the company describes the provincial debt level as low compared to its rating peers,  the company cautioned that "a lengthy period of consolidated deficits, along with a long-term expectation of recording debt in excess of 200% of revenues ... could result in negative pressures on the rating."

Gross debt is already more than 200% larger than anticipated revenues and net debt is almost guaranteed to hit or exceed that trigger, if the company includes consideration of the financial implications of Muskrat Falls.  


27 January 2016

Revelation: Labrador hydro edition #nlpoli #cdnpoli

“I wonder how I would feel if a province or a region in another province prevented Hydro-Québec from building its transmission line. I would feel exactly like the people in the West do now. I understand them.”  

Quebec City mayor Regis Lebeaume had a revelation.


Let's have a chat about another transmission line, shall we?


Jerry Earle won't retweet this post #nlpoli

Apparently the surest way to piss off a couple of university academics a.k.a the NDP policy brain-trust is to point out how their take on the government’s financial crisis is out to lunch.

Short recap:  Math prof and Indy columnist Tom Baird got hold of an access to information response that explained the calculations behind a comment by cabinet minister Susan Sullivan on Twitter in March 2015:
In 2014 NL taxpayers will pay $744 million less as a result of tax deductions – affordable?
The ATIP request asked for a breakdown of that $744 million figure. Tom left off the cover page from the response when he posted a link to it in his Independent column in 2015.

“Tax cuts made during the Williams-Dunderdale era now cost the government $744 million in revenue each year,” Baird wrote, “ according to a recently released document from the Department of Finance obtained through an access to information request. This accounts for more than two-thirds of last year’s $1.1 billion budget deficit.”

That just doesn’t look right

26 January 2016

Revenue problem #nlpoli

Jon Parsons  has an interesting take on the provincial government's financial mess.  It’s worth taking a few minutes to go through it.  Follow some of the links he offers as well.  Altogether they form what you might call a different perspective on things:
 The current deficit and debt…are the result of decisions that were made by a small number of people, and also because of the whims of the global trade in oil.
The key element of Parsons’ argument is that we are not dealing with a spending problem but a revenue problem.  We don’t bring in enough money largely because local elites have given away gigantic benefits to the local rich and to multi-national corporations.

The idea we have a revenue problem isn’t new and it certainly isn’t unconventional.  The province’s three political parties and the public sector unions all basically say the same thing or have made the same claim over the past year.

25 January 2016

Turmoil tamed #nlpoli

Few people would be brave enough to start out a book on politics in  Newfoundland and Labrador with the words “Paul Lane.”

Fewer still could bring it off successfully.

Telegram political reporter James McLeod does both and more in a deftly written and insightful new book, Turmoil, as usual.

22 January 2016

DBRS downgrades government rating #nlpoli

DBRS issued a revised rating for the provincial government on Thursday.  It remains "A" but a change to trending from "stable" to "negative" for long-term debt.  DBRS' short-term debt rating remains R-1 (Low) with a stable outlook.

In a news release, "DBRS has also confirmed the Guaranteed Long-Term Debt ratings of Newfoundland and Labrador Municipal Financing Corporation and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro at “A” and has changed the trends to Negative from Stable."
"...DBRS believes that the Province’s ability to implement a fiscal response sufficient to slow the deterioration in the credit profile is limited. Without a material improvement in the fiscal and debt outlook supported by a credible multi-year fiscal plan, a one-notch downgrade is likely."

21 January 2016

A chasm they can't ignore #nlpoli

That didn’t take long.

The fundamental strategic political problem Dwight Ball and his senior advisors have been busily building since last year exploded on Wednesday with the leak of a treasury board directive to departments, agencies, boards, and Crown corporations.

Ball has been promising that he would deal with the provincial government’s mess without layoffs.  As recently as last week Ball said that attrition – job vacancies due to retirements – were the only way he’d consider job reductions in the public service.

Yet,  the ministers of the treasury board have recently sent a note to departments, agencies, boards and Crown corporations asking them to come up with options to reduce spending by 30% over the next three years. There is no commitment that government will cut that much.  This is an exercise in generating options for the cabinet to consider.

20 January 2016

Will DBRS re-do its rating for Newfoundland and Labrador? #nlpoli

Premier Paul Davis was proud of the fact that a bond rating agency had confirmed the province's credit rating.

Curiously, he never told anyone which rating agency it was and, as it seems,  very few if any news outlets reported on the release issued on November 19 by Dominion Bond Rating Service.

DBRS confirmed the provincial government's rating at "A" for long-term debt and "R-1 (Low)" for short-term debt.  They also confirmed Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro at 'A' for long-term debt and "R-1 (Low)" with stable trending.

What's interesting, though, is that DRBS doesn't seem to have had access to up-to-date financial information even though they issued the rating in late November 2015.  Here's the basis for the stable rating,  according to the news release:

19 January 2016

Updating the Alternative Spending Plan #nlpoli

In April 2013, SRBP ran a series of posts about public spending. The goal was to show how the government could have avoided its serious financial problems by having a financial policy more sophisticated than “spend it all.”

 A couple of very dramatic years have passed since then.

 Let’s update the projections and see what we get.

18 January 2016

Process Question #nlpoli

Finance minister Cathy Bennett told CBC that "everything is on the table and we have to make sure that we don't leave anything that potentially could help us move to the destination that we all want to get to...So, my answer would be everything is on the table."

Soooo, my question would be "where is that destination?"

15 January 2016

‘Engagement’ can be an excuse for avoiding action #nlpoli

by Craig Westcott

The Ball administration is off to a shaky start. Actually, it seems afraid to start at all. Tuesday’s press conference announcing 15 months of public consultation on how to handle the deficit is another indication that this administration is afraid to act. To use a tired cliché, the Liberals are like the dog that caught the car and doesn’t know what to do with it.

 Granted, the party has only been in power about a month, with much of that month being down time due to Christmas and the New Year’s holidays. But the Liberals had plenty of time to prepare an action plan. It has been obvious for the past two years that they would inherit the new government. That’s why the lack of a transition plan is so perplexing.

 Ball and his ministers need to send signals, already overdue, that they are changing the way we “do government.”

14 January 2016

Thank you, Danny Williams #nlpoli

Rob Strong has been a key player in the local oil and gas industry pretty much since the earliest days.  He knows what he is talking about.

Strong pointed out to VOCM on Wednesday that the Hebron field won’t be the cash cow for the provincial government some people hoped/pretended it would be.
Analyst Rob Strong says he fears that on the front end of a project, that will have a 25 year life, this province won't reap any benefit for being a partner in the development.
Strong says when oil was at $100, Hebron type crude was being discounted by $35. He says that means in the short term, the picture does not look as bright for Hebron owners. This province has a has a 4.9 per cent share in the development.
What Strong is pointing to is a deliberate cut in the provincial royalty offered as a gift to the oil companies by Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale in 2007.  Dunderdale, the natural resources minister at the time, said that she and Williams wanted to give the multi-national oil companies “some downside protection if the price of oil went very, very low.”

13 January 2016

Clarity #nlpoli

From the announcement of "intense" public consultations to solve the provincial government's financial crisis:

Question:  Health care spending eats up as you were saying  almost 40% of the budget, you must have some idea some clue as to why that is, why are we paying more per person than on average?

Premier Dwight Ball:  Well the interesting thing about what we... Minister Bennett mentioned this in her comment, the thing about health care in particular,  I spent quite a number of years and we are certainly very pleased to have Dr. John Haggie and other many resources that we have within government and outside of government feeding into a process , Minister Bennett mentioned the aging population that we have in our province right now, so given where we are,  you'd anticipate an even higher portion of the budget but what we are not getting is as we spend money in health care we are not seeing the improvement in health outcomes aso that's going to be our focus... how we improve the health of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians...


12 January 2016

Pressure #nlpoli

A curious thing happens in societies where a huge amount of the collective income derives from outside the local economy and the local tax base.

They do not see a connection between the money they receive and the action of earning it.  The money that flows into the collective pot – the government treasury – seems to appear by magic.

That might sound a bit odd but if you think about it this way, you may get the idea.  Whatever you did for your first paying job, you could see a direct relationship between the labour you expended and the cash you received in exchange.  Painting a fence earned you an amount of money. 

Paint two fences and you could get twice as much money. Or paint another bigger fence and you could get a bit more, Depending on how big the fence was and how much more paint you needed and how much more time it took you to finish painting, as a result,  you could get more money for painting the fence.

And if everybody in your community painted fences or had the same basic connection between labour and reward,  you could all understand it when someone asked you to give a bit of your fence-painting money so that you could buy a fire-truck to fight fires in your town.  That extra bit of money for the community is a portion of your individual earnings from fence-painting or ditch-digging or tree cutting, or whatever it was that you did to make money. 

But what about a place where, in addition to that cash, you all shared in something like money that came from producing oil?

11 January 2016

Enough #nlpoli

You can easily lose track of the number of former cabinet ministers who will tell you the same thing.

Ask them about the one lesson of government and budgets that stands in their minds.  They’ll likely all tell you some version of the same thing.

There is never “enough.”

No matter how much money you put into a department,  that department will always want more or have a way to spend more.  Doesn’t matter the department.  You can never spend “enough” such that you can safely say you can then turn to another department and start trying to give it “enough.”

08 January 2016

Equalization... again #nlpoli

Equalization is a really simple idea.

In order to ensure that Canadians across the country have access to comparable services regardless of where they live,  the federal government sends money to provinces that don’t make enough on their own.

The federal finance department website describes the scheme pretty well.  We’ve reformatted the website version to take out the bullets.

07 January 2016

St. John's Land Prices 1997 - 2015

An argy-bargy erupted on Twitter Wednesday involving a bunch of Danny Williams Fan Klubbers on the one side and a couple of people who have a few issues with the recent plan by some folks at St. John’s city council to buy land from Danny Williams that Williams had purchased over the years from the provincial government at pretty cheap prices.

One of the Klubbers raised the issue of the change in land prices since Williams first started the land assembly for what became Glencrest and then Galway.  The idea – apparently  - was that Williams’ asking price for the land was justified since prices had climbed a lot since 1997.

That leaves out a whole whack of details that we’ll return to in another post.  For now, let’s take a look at the change in land prices since 1997.  The source for the information is Statistics Canada’s monthly report of house prices, that breaks down the price for the house and land in a typical parcel.

06 January 2016

Let's hear it for the Fraser Institute geniuses #nlpoli

A year after Kathy Dunderdale left office, the Fraser Institute said she was one of the best fiscal managers of all the Premiers in Canada.

Provincial Conservatives repeated the story anywhere and everywhere they could, just as they had done the other time the Fraser Institute said Kathy was a financial genius.

Sound fiscal management was a big thing for the crowd that just finished up their latest term running the place.  Danny Williams listed “sound fiscal management” as one of his big promises when he announced his first cabinet.

In his first budget speech,  Conservative finance minister Loyola Sullivan reminded everyone of the promises he and his colleagues made in the 2003 election.
Prior to and during the election, we outlined a number of commitments to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. I would like to focus today on three major commitments: 
First, to balance the Budget on a cash basis in four years and restore sound fiscal management; 
Second, to expand the economy and create jobs; and 
Third, to ensure that our health and education systems meet the needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and are sustainable into the future.
In hindsight, it all looks like some kind of sick joke.  And it would be finny too if we all weren’t the ones living through the awful truth of just how badly wrong the Fraser Institute and all the rest of them were.

05 January 2016

Metrics #nlpoli

Telegram editor Russell Wangersky tried on Monday to put the government’s financial mess into some shape that people could understand.
The simple fact, to put a shortfall of $2 billion into perspective, is that if the provincial government wanted to cover those costs outside of oil revenues, it would have to not only double the province’s income tax rates, but double the provincial share of the HST as well. (Given the current five per cent federal and eight per cent provincial breakdown of the 13 per cent HST, that would bring this province’s total sales tax to 21 per cent.)
If we could do that, we’d break even, says Russell.

Well, ummm,  no.

Russell’s got the right idea.  He just missed another billion dollars of borrowing in the budget for capital spending.  The way the government reports its spending that capital works borrowing keeps getting left out but it is stuff we have to pay for. 

And that  $3.0 billion is just to cover this year.  Next year,  the problem is due to get worse again.

04 January 2016

The Bridge to Ottawa #nlpoli

Premier Dwight Ball said everything is on the table to deal with the massive financial problem facing his administration.

And then, in a string of year-end interviews,  Ball immediately took everything off the table.

No cuts to spending as that would slow the economy.  Ditto for tax increases.  Even “efficiency” went out as Ball told the Telegram’s James McLeod that you couldn’t deliver existing services without the existing staffing levels.

Ball told NTV’s Mike Connors that we “need to find a way to bridge us [from] where we are currently until the commodities rebound and be [sic] the significant contributor we need them to be."

The bridge Ball wants to take is a familiar one.  According to McLeod, Ball is “ counting on infrastructure money from the federal government to help out some, and he’s also taking a close look at the equalization formula, to see if the province can wring any more money out of Ottawa.”

What are Ball’s options in Ottawa?

03 January 2016

Up the harbour and down the shore, again #nlpoli

Today marks SRBP's anniversary.  The first post appeared on January 3, 2005.

Events of the past few weeks are a reminder of both how much has changed - we have a new government party - and at the same time, how little has changed.  Read on and you will see how little has changed.

Danny Williams and the Conservatives won the 2003 election promising to cure all the province's financial ills by "growing the economy."  Danny Williams said time and again that he was all about "jobs, jobs, jobs."   They'd attacked the Liberals over their poor financial management and promised to do things better.

In the middle of 2006,  CBC updated the world on Williams' progress. "These days," SRBP wrote, "the Premier is feeling a bit beleaguered, at least if a piece that aired recently on CBC is anything to go by.

The Premier's own take on things doesn't really have any evident shred of optimism. 
Rather the Premier appeared to be speaking defensively: gimme credit for saving the place from imminent bankruptcy. We have things going on that no one can control. In the meantime,we are working on planning to plant seeds for future growth. 
Interestingly enough, the province was never facing imminent bankruptcy: that was the Premier's fiction. The other factors he mentioned [in the interview] were specific to ... some companies in the fishery alone. The same factors - like Chinese competition and high exchange rates - don't affect other economic initiatives or don't affect other industries in the same way.  
The segments with the Premier were an interesting clue to Danny Williams' current state of mind. If March was manic, then June is borderline depressive.

That June 2006 post continued:

What was pretty clear in 2003 was the province could get out of its budget woes with some careful planning and with the continued economic growth coming from the offshore and Voisey's Bay. We all knew that growth was coming. Danny knew it too and that's why he ran the election on the up-note of growth. 
What no one knew was that oil would hit US$70 a barrel and the cash would be pouring in at a rate no one in the province had ever seen before. That allowed Danny Williams to avoid making a whole bunch of good decisions and to crank up spending to unprecedented and, and in light of the economic slowdowns, likely unsustainable heights. 
These days, though, there is no mistaking the point that the provincial government is in a hard spot. There are some factors in the economy that are beyond Williams' control. The stuff that is within his purview either foundered for one reason or another or simply have never existed. 
And that goes to the core point of this piece from shortly after the 2003 election: government needs to focus on what government does. 
In largest measure, since 2003 Danny Williams has focused his considerable talents in areas where, as Premier, he simply can't have an impact. He has been trying to run in the business sector rather than applying his managerial skills to running a government that will in turn create an environment where the private sector will develop the economy.
If he wanted to create jobs, he should have stayed in the private sector and put together the deals to create jobs and generate wealth. Instead, we have wound up with a mismatch between Danny Williams' considerable skills and the challenges at hand. 
Worse still, the centralizing tendency of government bureaucracy merely reinforces the most pernicious attributes of Williams' own hands-on leadership style. This has slowed down government's processes such that many policies are done one at a time rather than in parallel.
 Government has slowed to the point where it has taken three full years to get even the vaguest idea of some policy areas - like widening Hydro's mandate - and others, like the role and impact of the Business department or Danny Williams' own economic development seeds still haven't been seen at all.
Running government is like drinking from a four-inch firehose.
 The most important thing for an incoming administration is having a way of figuring out how much to drink so it can avoid getting drowned. An incoming administration has a list of the things it definitely wants to accomplish and sets to work on them right away. For everything else there is a framework that identifies what is important, what is not important and gives a guide that helps triage the stuff that pops up along the way. 
In a sense, we are looking at a Premier and a government, three years into its mandate, that is increasingly being driven on some major issues instead of doing the driving. It's a variation on the idea discussed in another "Outside the Box" column from early 2004.
Back then, it looked like those columns were just penetrating insights into the flipping obvious. In hindsight, the observations seemed to be all too relevant.


Government spending ramped up to unsustainable heights based on oil at US$70 a barrel.

Now here we are in 2016 with Danny Williams' legacy of unprecedented financial mismanagement staring us plainly in the face.

And just to show how timely a column your humble e-scribbler wrote for the old Independent in late 2003,  here's that column again for your anniversary reading pleasure.  Note the bit at the end.  That isn;t what Dwight Ball talks about when he refers to consultations, but it is the sort of thing that would change the way government operates in this province fundamentally.

Up the harbour and down the shore 

If Danny Williams wants to solve the government deficit problem by producing new jobs, as he said he would, he will have to create something between 50, 000 and 100, 000 new jobs in the province over the next eight years. 
To put that in perspective, there are about 219, 000 full-time equivalent jobs in the province today according to the Economics and Statistics branch of the provincial government. Since 1996, the economy produced about 31, 000 new jobs. To meet his commitments, Danny Williams will have to produce twice or three times as many jobs in the next eight years as the province could create in the past eight. 
And he will have to do that while providing increased health services to an aging population, providing education, services, roads, water and sewer and all the other things people expect from the provincial government. And he can'’t lay off government employees or increase the deficit. 
Sounds impossible? 
It is. Just look at our collective experience in the province and you can see why making promises like "“Jobs, Jobs, Jobs" ” is nothing short of silly. Politicians seem to forget that whenever government tries to create jobs, it fails and fails miserably. 
Stupidity, someone once said, is doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different outcome. To stop being stupid, politicians need to focus not on creating jobs - something they can'’t do - and focus on politics, something they can do. 
That'’s why, a decade ago, the provincial government decided to get out of the job-making business. It decided the best it could do is creating a climate where entrepreneurs - – people with ideas - – could focus on making jobs that last. There was a bit more to it, though. The regional economic boards were supposed to be a way to let people in the different areas of the province decide for themselves what they would do to develop their local economy. 
The boards were also part of a wider move toward more regional control over a number of things, including health care and education. After all, politics is about who decides. In a province as big as this one, with a very small population, the "“who"” who decides often shouldn'’t be someone hundreds or thousands of kilometres from the issue. One major problem is that it has been hard to wrestle power out of the hands of bureaucrats and politicians in St. John'’s who want to keep deciding just about everything, right down to who can and cannot ride the local school bus. 
But the logic remains. Take Eastport, for example, or other areas of the province where local fishermen have had a greater say in how the resources they depend on are managed. They make sensible decisions based on science, their own knowledge and their own interests. They virtually eliminate poaching. They close fishing in areas where it needs to be closed and develop new ways to improve the price they get for their product. 
Maybe it is time to take these ideas a step farther and create a form of regional government that promotes economic development and administers health care, municipal services, education and even social welfare programs. New regional councils, elected regularly, would sort out local priorities and make decisions on that basis. The provincial government can look after setting broad strategic goals, much like the federal government set down basic principles for Medicare and then lets the provinces actually deliver the services. But the decisions on where hospitals go, or indeed if a new hospital is actually the best way to deliver health care in that particular region are left to the people who will be directly affected. 
Transferring power for some decisions from St. John'’s to new regional governments wouldn'’t be a magical solution to job creation or anything else. It also won'’t guarantee equal success everywhere. What it will do is involve more people in deciding what the future will look like in Newfoundland and Labrador. In an odd way, a new approach of regional government -– a county system - might help people realize that the issues up the harbour are much the same as the ones down the shore or in the four distinct regions of Labrador
For the provincial government, those politicians can look at projects like Voisey'’s Bay or the offshore for the government revenues they generate, rather than the number of jobs. The deficit problem might just get sorted out by thinking outside the box for a change.