28 December 2020

Mind the Gap #nlpoli

There is no shortage of gaps in politics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Regular readers will be familiar with the Credibility Gap.  That’s the space between what a politician says and what the politician does.

Marketers forget that when it comes to reputation and hence lasting, reliable political support, actions speak far louder than words. They talk about brands and branding.  If you spend any time digging into brands and branding you will find really vague definitions that quickly lead you to the revelation that brands are for marketing what dependency theory and neo-liberalism are for left-wing academics.

True in civilian marketing. 

Doubly true in political marketing.

The gap between words and actions may not turn up right away but it does have an impact.

So take a look at the end of four months of Andrew Furey’s premiership at the number of times he has talked about “big, bold ideas”.

Now looked at his actions.

Nothing big or bold about them.

And the ideas are very familiar.  Pour government money into this hole or that.  Hold a government-issue dog and pony show to watch the politicians pouring public money into the hole.

Rinse.  Repeat.

21 December 2020

An evidence-based Alert system #nlpoli


Communication remains the single biggest chronic failure of the province’s COVID-19 response.

As regular readers of these e-scribbles know, that means it is really a management problem.

Government officials have a hard time explaining things clearly because they do not have a clear idea of what they are doing. 

You can see this problem most clearly in the “Alert” system announced last spring.  Many countries, states, and even cities use alert systems like this for emergencies.  They are easy to understand – when they are properly put together – and all the people who need to act can know what to do, when to do it, and why they are doing it.

In the case of a pandemic alert system, people reading it should be able to see what types of restrictions went with what level of risk. There’s an internal logic to the system:  a low risk goes with very low restrictions or rules.

 In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Alert system fails all the basics of a functional Alert system. That’s because it was never intended to be a proper staged system for easing or increasing restrictions in responses to changes in the risk of COVID.  The Chief Medical Officer cobbled it together in response to a political demand. 

18 December 2020

All around in circles 2 #nlpoli

December 17 is an auspicious day in Muskrat Falls history.

That was the date in 2012 when Kathy Dunderdale stood in front of a group of cheering supporters of the ludicrous megaproject and proclaimed that the government had formally approved its construction.

“It all begins here!” she shouted to the overjoyed throng. ““It all begins now!”

It didn’t start there of course.

Kathy had stood with Danny Williams two years earlier - 18 November to be precise - and announced a deal to build Muskrat Falls, the project the media hailed as the fulfillment of a dream to build the Lower Churchill and break the stranglehold Quebec had over our province.

That was a lie, to be sure. 

But still the reporters parroted Williams’ and Dunderdale’s lines just as they had 18 months before that - in April 2009 - when Williams said a deal to sell Churchill Falls electricity to Emera through Quebec had broken the stranglehold.

Arguably, though, Muskrat Falls started in May 2006 when Williams announced the province would go it alone to build the Lower Churchill.

The Clerk of the Executive Council at the time emailed the finance deputy minister and asked if anyone had checked with the deputy to see if the province could afford it.  He got no reply.

In April 2010, when a gaggle of politicians, bureaucrats, and Nalcor thugs decided to go ahead with Muskrat Falls first, they figured the local ratepayers and taxpayers would foot the entire bill out of their electricity rates.

By November 2010, when Williams announced the crowning achievement of his career, the cost of the project had grown to the point that the impact on electricity prices would make people unhappy.  SRBP pointed out at the time the price would double from what it then was. 

And so the Muskrateers started to figure ways to lower the sticker shock – mitigate the initial rates.

Every single Premier since Danny Williams has promised to mitigate the project’s impact on rates.

On December 17, 2020, eight years to the day after Dunderdale whooped it up, Premier Andrew Furey became the latest one to promise rate mitigation.

07 December 2020

The Good Old Days #nlpoli

Danny Williams made the news last week.

Williams was locked in a battle with St. John’s city hall over whether or not Williams could put a big Christmas tree in a round-about in his development at Galway.

No one in the local news media noticed, though, that Thursday was the 10th anniversary of Williams departure from the Premier’s Office.

Back then, they couldn’t say enough good about him. 

The Telegram praised Williams as “The Fighter” – the title of the paper’s editorial the day after he announced he’d be leaving office – “a man of the people” whose popularity rating “hovered around 80%.”

That was true. 

Williams *was* an incredibly popular politician.

No question.