24 June 2019

Quebec appeals court decision on Churchill Falls contract no win for Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

Media reports, political comments, and pundit opinions are wrong about the decision last week by the Quebec Court of Appeal in a case about the renewal clause of the 1969 Power Contract between Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation and Hydro-Quebec.
The Court decision leaves Hydro-Quebec with virtually all of the electricity produced from Churchill Falls and, most importantly, operational control of water flows on the river.  This will have an adverse impact on Muskrat Falls. As a result, CF(L)Co is likely to appeal the decision.

The Quebec Court of Appeal ruled last week that Hydro Quebec retained operational control of electricity production at Churchill Falls. It made a minor change to an earlier decision by the Quebec Superior Court in a decision from 2016.

That’s why Hydro-Quebec issued a statement that it was satisfied with the outcome of the decision.

In other words, English-language media reports and political commentary got it wrong when they claimed “Quebec's top court rules for N.L. in Churchill Falls dispute with Hydro-Québec” (Canadian Press) or “A Victory For NL In Long-Standing Legal Battle With Hydro-Quebec On Upper Churchill” (VOCM).

The English-language reports focused on the idea that Hydro-Quebec could only buy electricity from Churchill Falls up to a maximum each month under the terms of an automatic renewal to the 1969 power contract between Hydro-Quebec and Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation.  VOCM went a step further in the mistake department my making it sound like both Hydro-Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro could sell electricity from Churchills Falls. 

The clue that something was amiss in the English-language coverage is the statement from Nalcor that said the Quebec Court of Appeal “had ruled substantially in favour” of CF(L)Co on the question of Continuous Energy.

Here’s why.

Critical Thought in a Technological Age #nlpoli

Some thoughts from Simon Lono on civil discourse.


17 June 2019

Women in elected politics: is it a choice? #nlpoli

The number of women in elected office in Newfoundland and Labrador remains below the numbers one would expect based on changes in society over the past 40 years.  
Why is that? 
Maybe, it's a choice.
Luana Maroja is a biology professor at Williams College, a small liberal arts college in Massachusetts.

Maroja wrote recently in The Atlantic that for most of the decade that she’s taught evolutionary biology and genetics, “the only complaints I got from students were about grades. But that all changed after Donald Trump’s election as president. At that moment, political tensions were running high on our campus. And well-established scientific ideas that I’d been teaching for years suddenly met with stiff ideological resistance.”

The resistance she is getting is not from MAGA-hat wearing Trumpians. On the contrary, the criticism Maroja takes has come from those who would fancy themselves progressives. They reject evidence of the biological basis of some differences among humans but they do so based on ideological assumptions. 

When confronted with evidence that contradicts their assumptions, some “students push back against these phenomena not by using scientific arguments, but by employing an a priori moral commitment to equality, anti-racism, and anti-sexism. They resort to denialism to protect themselves from having to confront a worldview they reject—that certain differences between groups may be based partly on biology.” 

An example of the type of evidence to which Maroja pointed was a study published in Psychological Science.  It compared the percentage of women STEM graduates in a country with its Global Gender Gap Index.  Countries with the highest gender equality scores also had the lowest percentage of female graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

10 June 2019

The New SRBP

After a couple of years of irregular posting, SRBP has been back since the start of the year with at least one new post every Monday.

Some of you have likely noticed this already. 

What you may also have noticed is the appearance of  a longer form paper as well.  They are a return to the original idea for this space:  a series of detailed papers on major issues affecting the province.

From the production end of things, that's been the most significant development.  The longer papers allow for a bit more background and a bit more discussion of the conclusion.  That's important for people who want to better understand the issues involved and,  as in the paper on rate mitigation,  a better explanation of the proposed solution.

So far there has been one paper,  the one on rate mitigation.  There is another in the works on barriers to medical care, a subject the Atlantic region's governments have made a top priority.  This is one of those well-known problems that no one has come to grips with so far.  The SRBP paper will describe the scope of the problem and highlight some solutions to it.  The solutions are practical and workable.  They will only need a decision from those in authority since the problems - quite ridiculous once you see them laid out - are theirs to fix.

There's also one on reforming the provincial political system.  This is a bit different as the ways to achieve goals many people desire are not quite so easy to attain as some imagine.  All the same,  the paper should give anyone interested in the subject both a better understanding of how we got to the place we current find ourselves in and of the potential ways to get to the end goal.

There may be some other changes as the year progresses. 

Stay tuned to see what happens.


03 June 2019

Jack Harris: Good Bye and Good Night #nlpoli

From 2006 to early 2010,  Simon Lono wrote Offal News, a commentary on local politics, debating, and whatever caught Simon's eye.  
When Jack Harris quit as leader of the provincial New Democratic Party,  Simon turned his sharp eye to Harris' legacy. Simon respected differences of opinion but he had no time for anyone who fell below the high standards that Simon set for himself.  
Harris jumped to federal politics not long after and represented St. John's East until he was defeated by Nick Whelan in 2015.  Since Harris announced last week that he wanted to be the NDP candidate again, here's a second look at Simon's obituary for Harris' provincial political career.  

Jack Harris:  Good Bye and Good Night

by Simon Lono (April, 2006)

Like many of us of a certain age, I had the period in my life where the ideas of democratic socialism had a certain appeal. And why wouldn't they? They expressed some of the highest ideals of human generosity, belief of control over our destiny and the sense that all people deserve basic fairness. And further, it seemed that all those things were within the grasp of government to deliver.

But then as Aristide Briand said, "The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head."

Jack Harris, I'm sorry to say, never found his head. Nor did he ever find his calling as the leader of a provincial political party. When you look as his record as a political leader and contributor to provincial public affairs, the best one can say is that he always demonstrated potential.

The problem was that he generally managed to perform way below his perceived potential. On occasion,  he surprised us all with occasional flashes of true political competence worthy of his inflated reputation. More often he just disappointed us all.

Let me give you just two examples: