24 February 2020

On the need for politics #nlpoli

Politics [is] the art of pursuing common interests through... active listening, advocacy, public persuasion, compromise and negotiation.

William Ford Coaker,
the father of the Commission
The people from Newfoundland and Labrador quoted in the Globe and Mail on Friday described the problem facing the province today.

We are not talking about chronic overspending, an aging population that will need more health care, or the impact of Muskrat Falls.

The problem is the shared attitude among the province’s opinion leaders  - the ones quoted by the Globe and many more besides - that *any* solutions to the province's financial problems are bleak and politically unacceptable.

Here are the bits from the Globe and Mail piece, ironically by some guy named Greg Mercer, a name he shares with the current Premier’s chief of staff:
  • Political science professor Amanda Bittner: “You’re going to be making some tough choices that nobody is going to be happy with, and it’s probably going to be miserable.”
  • Lawyer and cable television show host Melissa Royle Critch described the problems as “daunting” and said the debt problem was “insurmountable.”
  • Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie: “We are in a death spiral.”
  • Outgoing Premier Dwight Ball said that borrowing to cover continued deficits will be the major challenge facing his successor.
  • Economics professor Scott Lynch said,” [Dealing with the financial problem is] going to be a nasty situation. These cuts will be extremely painful.”
We can add to that finance minister Tom Osborne who recently dismissed out of hand a proposal to put the government’s liquor corporation in the private sector, like Alberta did more than 20 years ago.  The result would create jobs,  preserve provincial tax revenues, and bring in a couple of billion dollars in the sale.

But Osborne, like all the others leading the province will brook no change in anything.

They simply want someone else to pay the bills.

17 February 2020

Settlement in ExxonMobil dispute #nlpoli

CNLOPB regulates the Newfoundland and Labrador offshore
The Government of Canada and ExxonMobil have reached a settlement in the oil company's 16-year-old dispute over the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board's requirement for spending on research and development.

In the settlement, reached in January,  the Government of Canada will pay ExxonMobil CDN$35 million to end an arbitration under the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

ExxonMobil challenged a CNLOPB requirement that offshore operators of producing fields spending an amount of the earnings on research and development in the province.  ExxonMobil challenged the requirement in 2004 and in 2011 won an arbitration that found the requirement violated ExxonMobil's rights under NAFTA.  The award in the first claim was $17.3 million.

The second claim was for damages incurred between 2012 and 2015 not included in the first award. Before an amended version of the claim proceeded, the parties reached a settlement.


11 February 2020

Interesting news, buried under bull #nlpoli

There are two aspects to Monday’s announcement about Muskrat Falls and electricity rates:  political and practical items related to Muskrat Falls.  

Another set of decisions are actually related to the provincial government’s non-Muskrat Falls finances.

And then there’s a little tidbit about how far behind Muskrat Falls is.

Political - If this is how Dwight treats his friends…

Monday’s announcement was a political stunt pulled purely for the province's benefit apparently to cover over the fact that there was no agreement as Dwight Ball had promised before Christmas.

The announcement came front-end-loaded with the sort of ego stroking and puffery that is not merely unnecessary but tends to turn off audiences listening for a major announcement about arguably the most pressing public issue.

10 February 2020

The Rate Mitigation Circus of Horrors #nlpoli

Late Friday evening, the Muskrat Falls rate mitigation circus came to town.


Around 7:40 PM, long after everyone with sense had gone home for the day, natural resources minister Siobhan Coady released the last report from the Public Utilities Board review that started in 2018.

As expected, it told us nothing more than what we already knew.

That didn't stop people from getting upset, yet again, at the prospect of electricity rates twice what they are currently paying if no one does anything about it.

We got this reminder because the charter Dwight Ball gave the PUB was to repeat precisely what Ball knew his officials had already done in 2017.

It was like another pathetic re-run of the ploy from 2011 when Kathy Dunderdale – just as jammed up then as Dwight Ball was in 2018 – asked the PUB to look at Muskrat Falls using all the same assumptions and limitations that led the government to endorse the project in the first place.

In this case, Ball was in a pickle – and likely a rage - because he and his star by-election candidate at the time stood in front of a crowd during a by-election, promised everyone they wouldn’t have to pay for Muskrat Falls,  and then watched everyone burst out laughing since the two obviously had no idea what they were talking about.

So, someone in the political back room came up with the novel idea of bringing the PUB in to repeat exactly what the officials had already done.  When something works the first time, it is always smart to do it again. /sarcasmfont

You cannot make this shit up.

So here we are on Monday morning, precisely where we were before.

03 February 2020

Sliding by #nlpoli

Sliding b'ys.

During the recent emergency in eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, both the provincial government and the City of St. John’s denied the public access to basic information about the emergency.

Instead, they both preferred either self-serving political messages – “all is well.  We are doing great job” – or authoritarian edicts and directives -” stay off the roads”.

The City news release quoted in last week’s post typify this.

Supposedly it was about the lifting of some restrictions on the public. 

That’s what the headline said.

But the first sentence - supposedly the most important information in the release was a self-serving statement:

City of St. John’s snow clearing crews continue to work around the clock to clear streets for regular traffic.
The middle bit contained short statements about what stores could open for a few hours.