30 September 2019

Disconnects and Infection #nlpoli

The handful of people who pay close attention to politics in Newfoundland and Labrador are probably scratching the barely-healed-over scabs on their head in the latest round of bewilderment.

Tory leader Ches Crosbie announced last week he had named a philosophy professor at Memorial University to head up a task force of people he didn’t name - because he hasn’t figured out who they are - to develop a strategy to combat climate change.  Philosophers are widely known for their skills at developing effective public policy, by the way.

Anyway, Crosbie announced his latest policy brainstorm the week of a global protest for action against climate change so Ches’ finally honed political nerves were probably jangling hard enough to make him spit out a hasty announcement.

If that wasn’t obviously funny enough, the punch line to this own-goal of a joke was delivered, appropriately enough, by Crosbie himself.

You see Ches has spent his time as leader of the local blue team viciously fighting *against*a measure that would help fight climate change. Not only that, but Crosbie started out his tirade against the fight against climate change by encouraging the Premier to join with Doug Ford in the philosophical fight against those people Ches has now decided to cuddle up with.

Not once.  Not twice.  But 13 times. 

23 September 2019

Perceptions of Racism in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

VOCM's Question of the Day is not a reliable gauge of public opinion.

But the three times that VOCM asked about race in the province over the past five years,  the answers stand out in light of events in the province in the same period.

Here are the polls and responses:

18 September 2019

Dippers go home #nlpoli

The latest quarterly poll from Narrative Research shows that a gaggle of folks who were likely New Democratic Party supporters returned to the fold in the past quarter and are now happy to identify as New Democrats once more.

So while this is good news for Alison Coffin and the NDP,  it really puts everything back in the space the parties occupied before February 2019.  That's when things were decidedly beige.

You can see this in the chart at right by looking at the orange line (NDP party support) and the green line (undecided, no choice, refused to answer, will not vote).  What you also see there is that generally polling from other firms has picked up the same basic pattern.

16 September 2019

More to the Trimper Affair #nlpoli

The most important implications of the Trimper Affair escaped notice.

In the midst of all the public commentary about the Trimper affair last week – strikingly racist as it was in some respects – even the people ostensibly supporting the Innu missed the most obvious and most meaningful aspects of it.

The most striking was the skillful way in which the Innu Nation organization obliterated Perry Trimper as a political force and imposed its will on southern politicians from all parties.  The Innu Nation project against Trimper displayed a sophisticated understanding of how the media works in the province, a solid appreciation of the weaknesses of the governing Liberals under Dwight Ball, the organizational cohesion to implement a simple but effective plan, and, above all the will to do it.

Equally compelling to watch was the speed with which the Premier’s Office slit Trimper’s political throat.    While southern newsrooms and Twitterati neither knew about nor cared about the wider context of the story that unfolded in front of them last week, Dwight Ball and his staff either knew or ought to have known.

After all, Ball had brought Trimper back to cabinet only the week before he resigned.  The environment side of Trimper’s portfolio would bring him in direct contact with the sensitive issue of Muskrat Falls and others throughout Labrador and Newfoundland that would involve dealing with organizations representing Indigenous people.

Certainly, Ball and his staff would have noticed that Trimper took – literally – a dozen votes out of Sheshatshiu in the general elections.  Of the two polls in the community, Trimper got five in one and seven in the other.  His Conservative opponent garnered 238 votes.  An unaffiliated candidate took three votes in each poll. 

Ball and his staff, admittedly down by three key people since the election, should have anticipated problems might come up with Trimper.  Yet, Ball brought him back to cabinet and at the very first sign of trouble, Ball disowned his minister. Ball’s statement issued Thursday evening said - in effect – that Trimper did not represent the government.  The statement was blunt and simple.

09 September 2019

Finding a family doctor #nlpoli

Holyrood is the latest place in Newfoundland and Labrador to go through what is, in many parts of the province, a regular event.

One of two family doctors in the community is leaving practice and so people are left without a family for a period of time.

According to Corporate Research Associates,  about 10% of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians did not have a family doctor in 2017.  That's about 52,500 people and typical of the situation across Atlantic Canada.

People wind up without a family doctor for two reasons, basically.  Some people never have a family doctor.  Typically, that’s by choice but people in remote communities may go their entire lives without a family doctor regardless of whether they want one or not.

The other folks without a family doctor find themselves in this situation because of something the family doctor decided.  The doctor may retire or just close the practice (to move somewhere else) leaving people without a doctor for a few months or for however long it takes to find a new doctor.

How many doctors are there?

One of the problems the public has in trying to figure out if there is a serious problem in health care these days is that we do not know how many doctors are actually practicing medicine.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador issues licences to doctors annually.  About five years ago, the College changed the way it publicly reports its licensing statistics. 

03 September 2019

The Political Doldrums #nlpoli

Last week,  Newfoundlanders and Labradorians got a few reminders of the magnitude of the political problem they face in addition to the financial and economic problems already lurking.

The most obvious  was word that one of the longest-serving members of Dwight Ball’s inner circle has decided to leave for the private sector.  Joy Buckle is the third senior staffer to quit Ball’s office in as many months. Her departure will affect both Ball’s office and its ability to manage the day-to-day business of government.  It will also affect party election readiness, such as it is anyway.  

Buckle’s departure may be the most obvious indicator of how big a problem the province faces, but its significance is not.  Buckle continues a pattern of staff turn-over in Ball’s office and the senior ranks of the public service in the very short time he has been Premier.  

And in that respect,  Ball’s premiership has carried on the pattern of the Conservatives after 2010. A decade of political uncertainty – if not outright instability -  has meant that administration after administration has been unable to come to grips with the financial problems facing the province.  This is the reminder of how big is – how incredibly persistent is – the political problem in Newfoundland and Labrador.