29 July 2016

The Unhappy Gang #nlpoli

The provincial cabinet ended a "retreat" at The Rooms by holding a news conference on Thursday using as a backdrop posters commemorating the slaughter of the Newfoundland regiment at Beaumont Hamel a century ago.

Not exactly the kind of image you want to have but at least it fit with a new poll from MQO that shows the Liberals are now in third place behind the provincial New Democrats with the Conservatives on top.

You can see the party choice numbers in the table, below.  April and July are MQO.  May is Corporate Research Associates.  Compare the MQO numbers:  the Conservatives have grown eight points since April and are now in first place.  The Liberals have dropped five points and are in third place.

28 July 2016

Reforming the courts #nlpoli

The numbers in Tuesday's post showed all the time spent in the court in each seat,  totalled up for the month, averaged,  then divided by seven to give an estimate of full-days the courts in the province actually sit.

Judges do other work besides sitting in their courts.  But you really have to wonder if the courts are as overtaxed as some would have it when you have so many of the judges spending as little as three days or even six days a month, in total, actually sitting in court hearing evidence or motions or what have you.

The truth is the Provincial Courts  are not burdened at all. According to people familiar with the operations of the courts, about 85% of the charges laid in Provincial Court never go to trial.  There are either plea deals or the charges are withdrawn.

27 July 2016

The truth about Danny Williams, Hydro-Quebec, and the Lower Churchill #nlpoli

Danny Williams promised he would never cut a deal on the Lower Churchill with Hydro-Quebec unless it included redress for the 1969 contract.

But as Kathy Dunderdale revealed in 2009,  Williams spent five years secretly trying to sell the Lower Churchill to Hydro-Quebec without any redress at all.

Then Williams got pissed off because Hydro-Quebec wasn't interested.

Here's what Dunderdale told VOCM's Randy Simms in September 2009 about Williams' desperate efforts to get a deal with Hydro-Quebec:


One Danny does Two Ronnies #nlpoli

In an exclusive interview, VOCM's Fred Hutton caught up with Danny Williams to talk about Williams' latest project.

The former premier is teaming up with his old sidekick Ed Martin to headline a Florida dinner theatre tribute to the late, diminutive comedian Ronnie Corbett.

One Danny does Two Ronnies will premiere on the Labour Day weekend at his new dinner theatre in St. Petersburg.

Williams said he was looking forward to being back in the limelight.

He said that he is working on plans to tour arts and culture centres in Newfoundland and Labrador with the show in 2017 as the opening act on a triple bill with Anna McGoldrick and the Carlton Showband.


Good-bye John #nlpoli

In their last year in office, the provincial Conservatives went on a patronage bend on top of the patronage bender they started in 2003.  They came into office promising reform and - you guessed it - did exactly the opposite.  If there is no greater fraud than a promise not kept, then then Old Man and his cronies were the biggest political fraudsters in the history of political fraud.

We told you about this last July when Paul Davis appointed political operative John Ottenheimer to replace political operative Len Simms as head of the provincial government's housing corporation. After the Ottenheimer appointment, Davis and the Conservatives kept going with the questionable appointments.  The swap of the chief judge in Provincial Court remains highly suspicious and unexplained, as does the sudden firing of the High Sheriff.  The former is one the new Liberal administration genuinely could not do anything about.  The former High Sheriff is now suing the provincial government for wrongful dismissal.

The Liberals could have and should have done something about all the others.  It was a way of setting a new tone for their administration and demonstrating that things that are wrong cannot stand.  For some unknown reason, Dwight Ball would not commit to reversing the Ottenheimer appointment  - on principle - when Davis made it a year ago. When he took office, Dwight Ball decided to leave not only Ottenheimer but all the other Conservatives appointees in place.  And when he unveiled the new appointments commission, Ball had a third opportunity to set a new standard for government appointments by getting rid of the old, wrong ones.

He didn't.

Now, Ball has punted John Ottenheimer.  We do not know why.  No one from the provincial government did any interviews. The minister responsible for the housing corporation issued a news release announcing Ottenheimer's replacement.  Everything else that we know - including the size of Ottenheimer's severance - came from Ottenheimer himself.

26 July 2016

How many days does a Provincial Court sit? #nlpoli

If you listen to some people,  Provincial Courts in the province are seriously overloaded such that with the loss of a couple of court houses - not judges, but buildings - we could see cases running upwards of 49 months or more and therefore causing massive constitutional problems.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as statistics on Provincial Courts show.

Some others would have you believe the courts cannot become any more efficient than they are.

Again.  Truth.  That claim.  Not even close to the same thing.

So what is the sitch in the courts?

25 July 2016

Justice and the budget #nlpoli

The latest in a string of little budget dramas ended on Friday afternoon. A group of lawyers that included former Conservative party president John Babb launched a court case to try and force the provincial government to re-open the courthouse in Harbour Grace.  So Friday afternoon ,  justice minister Andrew Parsons announced that the government had decided to reverse the decision to close the court buildings in Wabush and Harbour Grace.

Parsons said the government had managed to find savings to offset the cost of opening the courts. He also said the government would keep the courthouses open to avoid running afoul of  a recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in  R.v. Jordan.  Babb made the same argument about the need for the courthouse in Harbour Grace.

Both Babb and Parsons know that the entire dispute here is over a building and a couple of jobs that go with it.  They also know that the particular building makes absolutely no difference to scheduling a trial.  And therefore, they both know that the SCC decision in Jordan had nothing to do - truthfully - with  Parsons' decision.  Why they said something other than the truth on Friday is another matter. 

22 July 2016

In-house and cheap #nlpoli

Provincial government communications consists chiefly of making up vacuous comments for ministers to recite.

They are called key messages.  In the uncomms-speak of the government bureaucrats,  they are KMs, pronounced Kay-Emmzzz.

On Thursday, two rating agencies downgraded the province's rating with a negative outlook.  Not surprising but definitely not helpful since the government has already exhausted its political capital for nothing thanks to the complete disaster last spring.

Anyway, let's take a look at what Moody's said about the government's finances.  Specifically let's look at what they said about the negative trending.

The future of the information commissioner #nlpoli

Donovan Molloy will be the new information and privacy commissioner.  He'll do a fine job, to be sure, but there is something about the appointment that seems a waste of the talents of a fellow who has been the director of public prosecutions.

He'd have made a fine judge, but the last time he applied for that position Molloy got screwed over by the guy in charge at the time.  Eventually, the former deputy minister of justice managed to get himself appointed to a seat where - as he well knew - we didn't need a judge at all.  

And about 11 days after that,  the chief suddenly and for no apparent reason quit his job as chief judge. Cabinet replaced him just as quickly and with no reason whatsoever vaulted his wife - the third most junior judge on the provincial bench at the time - to replace him. 

All very odd, if not downright suspicious.  

Molloy would have also made a fine deputy justice minister.  Too late for that now.

21 July 2016

The New Approach in Uncommunication #nlpoli

There are times when you look at a government news release and just laugh.

Apparently, people who catch fish illegally are now called "abusers."

The gang at fish and wildlife caught a few of these "abusers",  according to the release, and these people are now facing charges related "to illegal poaching."


No qualified candidates? What nonsense. #nlpoli

Let's make two things clear at the outset.

First, the Globe and Mail is a rag.  It's reputation has more to do with snobbery than the quality of its content.

So right away, that the Toronto rag  wrote a story about the fact there are no candidates from Newfoundland and Labrador in the finals for the Supreme Court seat vacancy is the political, intellectual, and legal equivalent of some entertainment television show telling us anything about anyone named Kardashian.

Second, no one ought to be named to the Supreme Court of Canada based on their province of residence.  The qualifications for sitting on the highest court in the country ought to be about anything but something that has nothing to do with knowledge of the law, sound judgement,  belief in justice or any of the other qualities we would cherish in a judge.

With that said,  it is preposterous that there are no qualified candidates for the SCC from Newfoundland and Labrador.

Utter nonsense.

20 July 2016

The historic franchise decision #nlpoli

Tuesday was one of the most important anniversaries in our political history.

As labradore reminded everyone, July 19 was the 70th anniversary of the day on which residents of Labrador - male and female alike - were able to voted in elections in the place then known as Newfoundland.

We mark the anniversary of the dates when women gained the right to vote.  Well, in Newfoundland and Labrador we should do something to recognise the date on which the Commission Government enfranchised an entire swath of people who had previously been left out solely because of where they lived in the country.

Talk about a colonial mentality.


19 July 2016

Apologise for what? #nlpoli #cdnpoli

The Government of Canada never operated a single residential school for aboriginal people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Not one.

That's why aboriginal people in this province weren't included in the settlement of the class action lawsuit several years ago and why they were excluded from the apology that went with the settlement.

The  recent settlement of a claim by aboriginal people in this province was an effort to make the lawsuit go away and in the process, the Government Canada:

  • effectively absolved the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador of its legal and ethical obligation to all the people who attended residential schools under its exclusive jurisdiction and who suffered physical, sexual,  and psychological abuse at the hands of individuals at the schools, and,
  • ignored people who are not aboriginal who suffered abuse in schools in Newfoundland and Labrador.  They will get nothing.
Now there's talk of an apology.

There should be one, but it should not be coming from Ottawa.  The only apology that means anything at all should come from the government legally and ethically responsible for running or overseeing the residential schools involved.

And someone needs to extend compensation to the non-aboriginal people who suffered abuse as well.

To do anything else is to perpetuate an injustice while making amends for another.


18 July 2016

The right decision on shrimp #nlpoli

On the surface, it looks like a classic political compromise.  The federal government caved to political pressure and reallocated the shrimp quota to give more to the inshore sector.  But, they also lowered the shrimp quota by 42%, consist with the reduction in the stock since 2014.

Not surprisingly,  news of the quota reduction brought complaints from the fisheries union.  It remains, even without Earle McCurdy,  one of the most backward and reactionary agencies in the province. We have too many people in the industry chasing a dwindling resource but the fisheries union does not case about the sustainability of the industry.  The fisheries union and its political allies have no interest in reforming the industry into one that is sustainable and profitable for all those involved.

15 July 2016

Donald Trump is a bad role model

One after another, folks who'd posted this Clinton ad to youtube either took it down or made it private.

Well, here is is from Hilary Clinton's youtube account. That one won't be going away. The latest Clinton ad is very simple and very effective.

Like a couple of recent Clinton ads, this one lets Donald Trump speak for himself.  That should have a strengthen Clinton voters and shake up undecideds and anyone leaning weakly either to Clinton or Trump.

These ads are not aimed at Trumpers.  The hard core Trump voters already love this kind of stuff.  This is part of the "telling it like it is" that they eat up. Everyone else either cringes at him already or has the capacity to at least shiver a bit when they hear some of this crap.

In an earlier version of this post, it read that the ads would have a "devastating" impact on Clinton voters. Some people didn't get the intended meaning, which, in hindsight was wrong.   This ad should reinforce Clinton voters and get to everyone except the hard core Trump voters.


14 July 2016

If Jesus understood public relations... #nlpoli

Jesus understood public relations.

John 10:25 (Authorised Version)

Are you the Saviour?  Tell us plainly.

"I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me."

Saying something isn't as important as doing it. Actions speak louder than words. This is a really simple idea but you'd be astonished at how many people do not get it.

Dwight Ball isn't any saviour;  no politician is.  But given the massive hole Dwight is in, he'd do well to take some advice from Jesus.

13 July 2016

Being there #nlpoli

Thursday is July 14.

Bastille Day.

It's also another anniversary.

Dwight Ball has been in office seven months.

In the latest edition of The Overcastpublisher Chad Pelley asks "What do we do if Dwight Ball resigns?"

That's a  reminder of where we are in this province.  A mere seven months into his first term, after winning a comfortably-large majority government,  people are demanding that Dwight Ball resign.  In the most recent poll Ball's personal popularity is south of 20%.  His party is in the same neighbourhood as is the level of satisfaction with his administration.

There is no precedent since 1949.   No precedent for the dramatic drop in a Premier's public support. No precedent for the calls that Ball resign.

And certainly no precedent for an article with that title that isn't panicked at the prospect the Premier might resign.

12 July 2016

Delivery #nlpoli

Michael Barber headed a group of officials for then-Prime Minister Tony Blair that was responsible for getting Blair's major commitments through the government bureaucracy and into practice.

They called it the delivery unit and Barber has become a prophet of what he calls the science of delivery. In many ways, delivery is just a restatement of some very well-known ideas about planning and project management.  What Barber has done, though, is put those ideas into a new package that has captured the imagination of people who have been facing the same problem of getting a huge bureaucracy to implement a simple idea.  From outside, you'd think that's what government does.  The reality is  - more often than not - very different.  And that's why people interested in politics and public policy have been taken with Barber's ideas.

Barber's just been able to garner lots of attention around the world.  Dalton McGuinty's staff were big advocates of Barber's philosophy and they have carried that belief with them to Ottawa for Justin Trudeau.

Closer to home there's never been any such creature.  There's also no talk of creating one.  Go a step further.  There's never really been the equivalent here of the policy unit that British Prime Ministers have used since around 1970s to come up with ideas in the first place.  The closest anyone came was the Economic recovery Commission in the 1990s.  Usually, the task of handling policy from the political side of government has come  - if at all - from one or two people in the Premier's Office in among a bunch of other things. Some staffers carry the title of "policy advisor" but that hasn't always been occupied by someone providing policy analysis and support to the political side of things advice. More often than not,  the job of evaluating whether or not something is worthwhile gets done by the bureaucrats.

11 July 2016

If Kelvin's departure was no biggie... #nlpoli

According to Premier Dwight Ball,  Kelvin Parsons was never going to stick around for long as the Premier's chief of staff.


Let's think about that for a second.

07 July 2016

labradore's Labrador #nlpoli

For your summer reading enjoyment, here are five books on Labrador, courtesy of the always helpful Wallace McLean at labradore:

Elizabeth Goudie, Woman of Labrador
Originally published in 1973, Woman of Labrador is Elizabeth Goudie's enduring and candid story of her pioneering life as a trapper's wife in the early 1900s. She was left alone much of the year to rear eight children while her husband worked the traplines. Independent and resourceful, Elizabeth fulfilled her multiple roles as homemaker, doctor, cook, hunter, showmaker, and seamstress for her growing family. In the span of her eighty years, she witnessed radical changes to Labrador.

06 July 2016

More Newfoundland books you should read #nlpoli

Yesterday you got Jerry Bannister's five books on Newfoundland.

Today you get an eclectic list from your humble e-scribbler:

1.  Jeff Webb,  The Voice of Newfoundland: A Social History of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland, 1939–1949.  This is a book about how radio helped shape Newfoundland at a crucial time in its social, economic, and political development. Grab the Kobo edition if you don't want the hard copy.

2. Consider Ray Guy:  the Smallwood years and Ray Guy:  the revolutionary years as one huge compilation of Ray Guy's political columns broken into two pieces.  Ray was a fine writer, more mythologised since his death than he was regarded through most of his life but that is often the way it is with prophets in their own land.  So many of the columns could be about more recent events.  Just the names have changed.

3.  Edward Roberts,  How Newfoundlanders got the baby bonus is a collection of columns the former lieutenant governor wrote for The Compass newspaper.  Each column is engaging, accessible, and informative.  Together they cover virtually every period in Newfoundland and Labrador history.  

4.  As a bonus,  Roberts included a suggested reading list in the back broken down by topic.  One of the books Roberts highly recommends is Jerry Bannister's The Rule of the Admirals: Law, Custom, and Naval Government in Newfoundland, 1699-1832.  Roberts calls this one of the most important scholarly works about Newfoundland's history.  Roberts is right.

5.  John R. Martin is a retired physician who served as chief occupational medical officer for the provincial government from 1984 to 1992.  The fluorspar mines of Newfoundland: their history and the epidemic of radiation lung cancer combines the author's considerable professional knowledge and experience with prodigious research that included access to Alcan's corporate archives.


05 July 2016

Emails, government business, and ATIPPA #nlpoli

During the Ed Martin fiasco,  an email turned up from Ken Marshall - then chair of the Nalcor board - to Premier Dwight Ball and natural resources minister Siobhan Coady about the board's decision to send Martin out the door in a way that maxed out his severance and other entitlements.

Marshall used his gmail account to send the message to Ball's government account and Coady's gmail.

Some folks raised a question about the appearance that Coady was using her gmail account for official business.  Coady denied she was doing it but now the Telegram's James McLeod has an access to information response that includes 70 pages of material sent from Coady's government email account to her gmail account.

The "new" Newfoundland #nlpoli

Every once in a while,  SRBP has featured a list of suggested books either for summer enjoyment or as in April 2006,  for anyone interested in reading about Newfoundland and Labrador.

A recent email reminded your humble e-scribbler that it was time to update the recommended list of books on Newfoundland and Labrador.  There are more than five and even more than 10 books you should read.

To get us started, here are some suggestions from a faithful support of the Bond Papers,  historian Jerry Bannister.  We'll feature some other lists as the summer wears on.

04 July 2016

Two Solitudes #nlpoli

"Newfoundland and Canada, separate countries for so long, exist as two solitudes within the bosom of a single country more than 65 years after Confederation. They do not understand each other very well.  Canadians can be forgiven if they do not know much about Newfoundlanders beyond caricatures in popular media, let alone understand them.  But Newfoundlanders do not know themselves.  They must grapple daily with the gap between their own history as it was and the history as other Newfoundlanders tell it to them, wrongly, repeatedly."

That's an excerpt from " Two solitudes,"  my thoughts on Newfoundland, Canada and the Great War.  You can find it in in the latest Dorchester Review  now available.  [Available as a per issue purchase]

Check it out.


01 July 2016

On came the Newfoundlanders...


"On came the Newfoundlanders,  a great body of men, but the fire intensified and they were wiped out in front of my eyes."

Private F.H. Cameron, 1st battalion, the King's Own Scottish Borderers,  watched the Newfoundland attack from a nearby shell hole. His battalion had been part of the initial attack by the 29th Division that had failed as German soldiers recovered from the initial barrage and manned their trenches and machine guns.

The Newfoundland battalion attacked alone across open ground from reserve trenches as the communications trenches and front lines trenches were already full of wounded.  Many fell dead or wounded before reaching their own front line and many more died trying to get through the few gaps in the wire that had been cut by the preparatory bombardment.

The battalion war diary recorded 26 officers killed or wounded and 658 other ranks killed or wounded.  Private Ron Dunn lay bleeding for most of the day from a pair of leg wounds and a chest wound before crawling back to his own lines later in the evening. He staunched the bleeding with his own field dressing and with clumps of bright green grass he pulled from the earth within his reach.  Dunn made it back to his trenches,  survived the war, and died in 1993.

Owen Steele was a young lieutenant and the officer commanding D Company.  He and 16 of his men survived the assault uninjured.  Steele was wounded by German shellfire within a week of the attack and died of his wounds.

The 29th Division, of which the Newfoundland battalion was a part, was a Regular Army Division made up of overseas service battalions recalled for active duty.  The Newfoundlanders joined the division in Gallipoli in September 1915 and covered the withdrawal from the beaches on two occasions in January 1916.

The Newfoundlanders were the only Dominion troops to take part in the attack on the opening day of the Somme offensive.  The South African 1st Infantry Brigade served as part of 9th (Scottish) Division and was in reserve on the first day of the Battle of Albert (1 to 13 July 1916).  It first took part in action on July 7, 1916.


The scribes on all the people shove
and bawl allegiance to the state,
But they who love the greater love 
lay down their life; they do not hate.

Wilfred Owen
"At a Calvary near the Ancre"