30 January 2019

Election year a time for serious issues #nlpoli

This originally appeared in The Telegram, 30 Jan 2019.

Budget consultations are not the place for serious discussions of government finances at the best of times but in an election year, the usual charade becomes something else again. 

This year, people lined up asking a government that is the better part of a billion dollars short on its budget this year to spend even more money that it doesn’t have next year.  There are the usual cries from the usual special interests to hire more of their members but even groups that two years ago were calling for drastic action to curb spending are now sticking their hands out toward the government election-year goodie bag in hopes a few treats.

For its part, the government is playing along.  There will likely be a tax cut this year and a few other bits of retail politics. But what you won’t hear about is that the government probably won’t hit its target of delivering a surplus budget in 2022.  That is a major problem. There are three reasons for it.

28 January 2019

Turmoil, unusual #nlpoli

A petro-state with political instability is a pretty weird idea 
but then again we *are* talking Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Government in Newfoundland and Labrador brings in money revenue per person living in the province than any other government in Canada except Alberta.  It's been like that since 2009.

In fact, for a couple of years before 2009, the provincial government posted record cash surpluses based solely on the world price for oil.

At the same time,  though, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have seen an unprecedented period of change in the most senior positions in their provincial government.  Political and public service jobs have changed hands at an unprecedented rate.

19 January 2019

The Spring Election - when and why #nlpoli

There's likely going to be an election before Victoria Day.

If - by some miracle - the Liberals manage to win the Topsail-Paradise by-election next week you could be at the polls before the beer turns green for a day.

If you haven't heard that,  don't say now that you haven't been warned.

03 January 2019

Mitigating Muskrat Falls: Ron, Harry, and Hermione are still baffled #nlpoli

Mitigating the impacts Muskrat Falls will have on taxpayers of Newfoundland and Labrador remains the single biggest unanswered question in the province nine years after the project started and the politicians first started talking about how they might do it.

To mark the 14th anniversary of The Sir Robert Bond Papers,  here's the tale from 2010 to now.

Most people in Newfoundland and Labrador finally noticed the impact Muskrat Falls would have on electricity prices when Nalcor chief executive Stan Marshall confirmed that Muskrat Falls would double electricity prices in the province once it was finished in 2021. 

That was the middle of 2017.

The word “mitigates” - to make less severe or painful - became popular overnight.  Since Marshall’s comments, just about all that anyone in Newfoundland and Labrador has fretted about is how the government will make electricity prices not double because of Muskrat Falls.

But here’s the thing:  Muskrat Falls was always supposed to double your electricity prices. Right from the start – November 2010 – the provincial government talked about electricity prices of between 14 and 16 cents wholesale, which would have made the retail cost in this province about double what it was at the time.  No worries, people like Kathy Dunderdale said.  Oil prices will be so high and electricity prices will be so high by 2017, anyway, that you will never notice Muskrat Falls except that it will stop prices from climbing higher.