labradore

"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Elections Dannystan rides again

As happened after the 2007 election, and as happened after the 2011 election, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador, for some inexplicable reason, took the full nine months given to it under statute to publish the "book" containing poll-by-poll results of the latest provincial election.

This length of time to publish such detailed results is entirely out of line with the practice in every other province; each of which, with the exception of PEI, has more polling stations, votes, parties, and candidates whose vote tallies need counting and verification.

This corner is not going to link to that "book".

Why not? Because for equally inexplicable reasons, Elections NL has published a PDF "book" that clocks in at an absolutely staggering 218.9 megabytes in size.

Try downloading that in Makkovik.

That bloated file size, incidentally, runs counter to the provincial government's own web-publishing standards, which state:
Compression and optimization techniques should be used to keep file sizes small. This includes all files which are delivered to the web browser, such as html/css/scripting files, images, audio and video files, and document/application files (pdf, word, etc.)


By way of comparison, here are the file sizes for the PDF version of the last six provincial election results. The first two of these (1996 and 1999) are simply black-and-white graphical scans of a printed copy, because apparently computers and internets and digital pre-press and so forth didn't exist in the mid- to late-1990s.



To their credit, Elections NL did, for the first time ever, publish the detailed results on-line in a machine-readable format. (Zipped Excel file link.)

To their debit, each electoral district is a separate page. Sheesh.

And, not for the first time, the "book" of detailed election results was not actually published for more than a month after the date which the "book" itself bears:

 
But wait! There's more! The PDF version was not posted to the internet for computers for more than two weeks after the date on which the incredibly bloated PDF was generated using InDesign:
 
 
 
The poll-by-poll data itself has existed in its final form for months — at least since early June, if not before. For reasons that remain mysterious and unique to Elections NL, it was not made public until now.
 
Again, this bears repeating and underlining: just because the statute gives you a nine-month limit in which to do something for the public's benefit, does not mean you have to take all nine months.
 
The acting Chief Electoral Officer also alludes to the forthcoming report on candidates' expenditures. If past shoddy practice at Elections NL is anything to go on, the financial returns relative to the 2015 general election campaign, and political contributions for calendar year 2015, may be published by December. (Next door in Nova Scotia, the 2015 financial figures, which incorporates many more data points than the comparable NL reports, were published in June.)
 
If the provincial government is looking to engage in a little democratic reform, as promised at para 1.4.2 of their election platform last fall, tightening up the practices of the elections office, which are completely out of wack with comparable practices in every other Canadian jurisdiction, would be a most excellent place to start.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Raising awareness

The new Information Commissioner spots a surge:
"It's my understanding that there's been a substantial increase in the number of requests since 2015," said Molloy.

"One public body that I dealt with last week asked for an extension because amongst other things they said they had more requests this fiscal year than they had in the previous three." 
Molloy has been at the helm of office since July 22, and he said the changes and increased number of access to information requests have made the job more demanding for many in the office.  
"It's a real struggle right now in terms of volume, keeping up with the number of requests."
During the 2014 review of the Access to Information Act designed to undo the unaccountable and undemocratic Bill 29 changes made during the Dunderämmerung in 2012 – changes made to satisfy the intolerance towards access to information shown by Danny Williams –  Commissioner Ring, who never met a Williams-era attempt to restrict access that he couldn't enthusiastically endorse, compiled some statistics in his supplemental submission of August 2014. (See p. 21 of this PDF)

Supplementing these statistics with a quick search of the completed requests database (not quite apples:apples, but close enough), and graphing the result, one can’t help but spot less of a “surge”, and more of a return to business as usual.



Between fiscal years 2008-09 and 2012-13, there was a slow but steady increase in the number of ATI requests being made, averaging about 535 per year until 2012-13, when there truly was a mini-“surge” to nearly 700 requests.

That “surge” during that period could well have been in response to Bill 29, which came into effect part way through that fiscal year, as frequent users of the Act tried to cram their pre-Bill 29 requests in “under the wire”: Bill 29 had a transitional clause which provided that requests received before a certain date would be processed under the law as it existed before the Danny-Dunderdale Tories gutted it.

(Many departments and agencies cleverly short-circuited the transitional provision by simply refusing to open mail addressed to their ATI co-ordinator until the day after Bill 29 received Royal Assent.)

Did Bill 29 have the Danny-Dunderdale desired effect of suppressing ATI activity? You betcha. For the first two full fiscal years that Bill 29 was in force, ATI request volumes dropped to nearly half their pre-29 levels.

Mission accomplished!

After the Wells commission reported, the Davis government, tail between its legs from having been beaten up on the issue for three years, passed the new Act recommended in that report. A few months into fiscal year 2015-16, the new, de-Bill-29’d version of the Act received Royal Assent.

Lo and behold, request volumes returned to their pre-29 levels.

So far this fiscal year, 343 ATI requests have been completed. Projecting forward, and assuming that the pace of request-completion stays constant throughout the year, that works out to 800-and-some requests completed for the year, which would be something of a surge compared to Bill 29 levels, and even, to a lesser degree, compared to pre-29 levels.*

But, apart from a hypothetical surge during the balance of the fiscal year, the statistics do not support the Commissioner’s concerns. On the contrary, they show that the Bill 29 “reforms”, meant as they were to suppress the public’s access to government records, worked, and worked well. To the extent that there has been a surge in request volume since the 2015 unravelling of Bill 29, that may just as easily be accounted for by the fact that, in the post-Bill-29 era, the public is simply more aware of their right to access public records, and, thanks to the elimination of application fees and the praiseworthy creation of an online filing system, more able to exercise that right.

That, in a deliciously perverse way, might be the best legacy of the process, kick-started by Danny Williams in 2009 and dutifully completed by his successors, that was intended to gut that access and deny such accountability in the first place.


* The projected figure for the rest of this fiscal year is "ghosted" in the graph above.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

How'd they vote?

As usual, it is taking Elections Newfoundland and Labrador an unusual amount of time, compared to its peers in other Canadian jurisdictions, and given the small number of data points involved, to publish the final poll-by-poll results of last November's provincial election.

So here they are, in cleverly colour-coded map format. Enjoy.


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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

70 years ago today

The National Convention (Labrador) Act, 1946

S.N. 1946, No. 29
An Act relating to the Election of a Representative to the National Convention for the Electoral District of Labrador.
[19th July, 1946]
 
Be it enacted by the Governor, by and with the advice of the Commission of Government, as follows:

1. In respect of the election of a representative to the National Convention under the National Convention Act, 1946, (hereinafter referred to as the said Act) for the electoral district of Labrador (hereinafter referred to as the said district) the provisions of this Act shall apply together with such provisions of the said Act as are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Act.

2.--(1) A person eligible for nomination as a candidate for the said district shall be deemed to have been validly nominated if there shall, within the period between the date of the Proclamation mentioned in Section 3 of this Act and the expiry of the time for nomination set by Section 25 of the said Act, have been delivered to the Returning Officer copies of the following documents:
(a) a document signed with his own hand by such person stating his full name his address and occupation and his desire to be nominated as a candidate for election to the National Convention; and

(b)a document signed with their own hands by at least five electors of the said district certifying that to their knowledge such person is an ordinary and bona fide resident of the said district and is qualified to become a candidate for the said district.
(2) The documents provided for under subsection (1) shall be delivered to the person in charge of a telegraph office within the period in the said subsection mentioned for telegraphic transmission to the Returning Officer.
(3) Nothing in this section contained shall affect the validity of nominations made in accordance with the provisions of Sections 26, 27, 28 and 29 of the said Act.

3.--(1) The Governor in Commission shall, by Proclamation, fix the day and place of nomination for the said district and constitute in the said district polling centres and may designate a ship as the polling station for any or all of the said centres: Provided that the Deputy Returning Officer may establish the polling station in a building at any polling centre.
(2) The Proclamation issued under this section shall fix the day and hours of polling in each of the polling centres of the said district and may fix different days and different hours in the same day for polling in different centres and may direct postponement of the poll in any or all polling centres until such time after arrival of the ship at polling centres as the Deputy Returning Officer may decide.
(3) The provisions of sections 19 and 23 and subsections (1) of section 54 of the said Act shall not apply in respect of the election in the said district.

4.--(1) The Chief Electoral Officer shall appoint one or more deputy returning officers and poll clerks for all the polling divisions of the said district.
Appointments made under this section and oaths taken by persons appointed shall be in the form prescribed by Sections 16 and 17 of the said Act with such modifications as the Chief Electoral Officer may deem desirable to render them applicable.

5. There shall be a separate ballot box for each polling centre and immediately after the close of the poll in each such centre the deputy returning office shall follow the procedure prescribed in subsections (6) and (8) of Section 67 of the said Act and upon receipt by the Returning Officer of all ballot boxes for the said district he shall proceed to count the votes in accordance with the procedure for counting provided in the said Section 67 and the provisions of Sections 68 and 69 of the said Act shall, in so far as they are capable of application, apply to such count and the declaration of election.

6. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 46 of the said Act conferring voting qualifications upon certain persons in a district in which they have been resident for two months immediately preceding the day of polling, any person who is not ordinarily and bona fide resident in the said district on the day of polling in the polling division in which he seeks to vote shall not be eligible to vote in the said district.

7. The forms in the Second Schedule of the said Act shall, with necessary alterations to render them applicable, be used where such use is necessary.

8. This Act may be cited as the National Convention (Labrador) Act, 1946.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

From the Memory Hole, XI

The ever-astute Bill Thomas notes on the twitters:
Bill @BillThomas_NL
Funny I can't seem to find a copy of either of these reports anywhere. They used to be on MF web
At some point in recent history, The Most Open And Accountable Government Ever (TMOAAGE), a Nalcor subsidiary, saw to it to bit-bucket the entire contents of the former powerinourhands.ca rah-rah website, including the two reports referred to in the tweeted link. These were an in-house one by the Department of Natural Resources entitled "Labrador mining and power: how much and where from?", and a report by Our Dear Economist, commissioned for the same department, entitled "Economic Impact Analysis of Iron Ore Mining Industry in Labrador 2011-31".

Here's what you get when you follow a fossilized link to that formerly-active content:


Obviously, TMOAAGE, the government which produced the information-improving Bill 29, and gave Steve Kent the job of opening all of the government, must have removed these files from the internets by mistake.

So here they are, in case you missed them the first time around.




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Friday, June 24, 2016

N'oublions jamais


Saturday, June 11, 2016

On the settling of scores

The Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Act provides:


9. (1) For the purpose of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, social origin, religious creed, religion, age, disability, disfigurement, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, family status, source of income and political opinion.  

11. (1) A person shall not, on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination,
(a) deny to a person or class of persons goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily offered to the public; or
(b) discriminate against a person or class of persons with respect to goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily offered to the public.
The Code of Conduct of the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society provides:

6.3 HARASSMENT AND DISCRIMINATION  
6.3-1 The principles of human rights laws and related case law apply to the interpretation of this rule.
6.3-2 A term used in this rule that is defined in human rights legislation has the same meaning as in the legislation.
6.3-3 A lawyer must not sexually harass any person.
6.3-4 A lawyer must not engage in any other form of harassment of any person.
6.3-5 A lawyer must not discriminate against any person.  


Commentary 
[1] A lawyer has a special responsibility to respect the requirements of human rights laws in force in Canada, its provinces and territories and, specifically, to honour the obligations enumerated in human rights laws.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Word-challenged

Great, another "comedian".




1. "NL" does not stand for Newfoundland.


2. Babiche ("babbish") is not a Newfoundland word; it is a Labrador one. A Newfoundland and Labrador one, even. But not a Newfoundland one. It is a loanword from Innu-eimun, via the French (hence the giveaway -che spelling).


3. Babiche is not "like, snowshoes". It is what the webbing of snowshoes was traditional made with.


4. Call me old-fashioned, but aren't comedians supposed to be, like, funny?

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Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Govsplaining is bad, mkay?


Some choice govsplaining quotes from the former Hon. Member for Virginia Waters while she served as Premier:
If it would help the members opposite understand what we have agreed to with Emera better, then I am prepared, Mr. Speaker, to talk to Nalcor and to the Department of Natural Resources to prepare further briefings for the members of the Opposition. (December 6, 2010)
Mr. Speaker, I am embarrassed for the Leader of the Opposition. She does not even understand the kind of process that is required to settle a boundary dispute. (March 31, 2011)  

Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to commit that outright here today because, first of all, it is not affordable power. This is a $6.2 billion project that has to be paid for by ratepayers. You see, Mr. Speaker, that is the problem, that is the problem we have here in the House of Assembly. They do not even have the fundamentals of hydro or electricity generation down. They do not understand what they are talking about. (April 6, 2011)  

Mr. Speaker, these are serious accusations that are being tossed across the House by the Leader of the Opposition, and I do not know quite where they come from. I am not quite sure if she is not aware of the facts, that she does not understand how the transmission of electricity works in this Province, and that there is a regulated rate of return when people invest in utilities in this Province, and that is what Emera has taken advantage of, Mr. Speaker, or there is some other plan afoot. (April 12, 2011)  

Mr. Speaker, we get good return through our royalties from our oil and gas. We are going to also get a return from our equity, through Nalcor, because of what we are doing in oil and gas, Mr. Speaker. Electricity is a regulated activity in this Province, something we are well aware the members of the Opposition do not understand, Mr. Speaker. Anybody who has been listening to the debate on Muskrat Falls must be scratching their head in wonderment that three members who are part of a government, two part of a Cabinet, do not understand the regulation of electricity in this Province. (May 18, 2011)  

Mr. Speaker, this is the kind of foolishness that one has come to expect in this House of Assembly on questioning around Muskrat Falls. When you understand how a utility operates, how debt is incurred, how that debt is paid down, and the responsibilities of rate payers, Mr. Speaker, then we understand what the cost of electricity is to the people of the Province. We have spent the last year explaining that. You tried to commission this project twice under your own Administrations. You think you would have understood that. Perhaps if they were not trying to give it all to Hydro-Quebec to do, they might have been a bit more successful and they might have understood some of these processes better than they obviously do. (April 26, 2012)  

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I encouraged the Leader of the Third Party to read the MOU. Mr. Speaker, I am going to give her the same advice today. Yesterday, we heard the former Minister of Fisheries speak about the fact that he was twenty-three months in that portfolio without a question from the Leader of the Third Party, Mr. Speaker. Now we know why, because she does not understand about the fishery. (May 8, 2012)  

Mr. Speaker, one of these days I would be absolutely delighted to hear from the Opposition Parties – both the Liberals and the NDP – what their issues are around Old Harry, because I do not believe either one of them understands the project. (November 26, 2012)  

You might not understand all the engineering decisions and all of the market complexities: selling on the spot market; selling high and selling low; that you blend power out of Bay D'Espoir with power coming out of Muskrat Falls; that your transmission system can only integrate so much wind; that you have backstop wind; tidal energy is not sophisticated enough yet to be fully commercialized; and whatever else is out there, Mr. Speaker. People get up and they throw things around. (December 20, 2012)  

He clearly does not understand the difference between capital, investment, and current. I truly, sincerely invite you to a briefing where we can explain the difference or you will stop pretending that you do not know the difference, because it is not good enough, Mr. Speaker, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to be subjected to these kinds of false arguments. (March 12, 2013)  

Mr. Speaker, I find the position of the Leader of the NDP absolutely incredible. Obviously, she does not understand again the structure, or she pretends she does not understand, although she claims to represent a significant portion of the labour movement in Newfoundland and Labrador. (April 18, 2013)  

It is nothing short of incredible, Mr. Speaker, that we are at this stage in the development and the Opposition does not understand that the court case in Quebec is about continuous power under the 1969 hydro contract, Mr. Speaker, and not about water management. (November 14, 2013)  

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the members opposite understand anything about the ATIPP legislation. Fifty per cent of the requests, by the way, that we get at the ATIPP office come from the Opposition Parties; 24 per cent come from the media. There is only one-quarter of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians looking for information, Mr. Speaker. (November 19, 2013)  

Mr. Speaker, more information on this project has been released than any other project in our history. I get that the Opposition does not understand that, Mr. Speaker, because they still think that Muskrat Falls falls under the ATIPP legislation, and it does not, Mr. Speaker. (November 20, 2013)

On the cost of filibusters

Tom Marshall, before his brief stint as Premier, speaking on June 12, 2012 — so long ago, and just the other day — during the opposition filibuster on Bill 29:


MR. MARSHALL: Thank you, Mr. Chair. 


Once again we are here debating amendment 124 to section 6 of the act. I do not know how many amendments have been brought forward – I am sure there is plenty – over and over, bringing in amendments to the same piece of legislation and wasting the time of the Legislature of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is a filibuster and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are looking on television to see what is happening in this House, and looking at the waste of money and waste of resources on this.

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Priorities

Forget meaningful reforms to private member's business; cast aside any idea of a functional committee system... the House of Assembly has turned its attention to that most pressing of issues: the intersection of the Standing Orders and Twitter. From the proceedings on Thursday:

However, just because a comment is tweeted or retweeted by a Member does not mean that the comment is not offensive. I remind Members that they are not only bound by the Standing Orders and precedents of this House and of other parliaments, but are also bound by their Code of Conduct. In particular, clause 1 of our code states, “Members shall inform themselves of and shall conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions and spirit of the Standing Orders of the House of Assembly, the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act, the Members' Resources and Allowances Rules, the Elections Act, 1991, the House of Assembly Act and this Code of Conduct and shall ensure that their conduct does not bring the integrity of their office or the House of Assembly into disrepute.”

Clause 4 states, in part, “… there will be occasions on which Members will find it necessary to adopt more stringent norms of conduct in order to protect the public interest and to enhance public confidence and trust.”

Members are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with higher standards of ethical practice while holding public office. I call on all Members to respect the integrity of the office they hold and not violate the principles and intent of our rules and precedents, even if not violating the actual provisions. As indicated, we must be held to a higher standard.

There is no prima facie breach of privilege here, and while I could rule today that the statements made are out of order, it is more appropriate that I address the issue of our Standing Orders. Our Standing Orders are very old and were meant to address parliamentary behaviour and conduct of business in this House at a time when social media was not even contemplated. It is my hope that the Standing Orders Committee will commence consideration of the Standing Orders and our practices after the House rises this spring.

Social media can present a great challenge to procedures followed in this House, so I ask that foremost amongst the Committee's considerations should be the use of social media by Members of the House as it pertains to the proceedings of the House in order to ensure that our existing parliamentary practices and conventions adapt to social media use.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Oracle of Brunei

The former Minister of Finance has some ideas on how to address the mess that she played no small role in creating. From her Facebox feed:

Charlene Johnson
Yesterday at 2:35am · Kuala Belait, Brunei · 
 
There has been much discussion about the negative impacts of Budget 2016 and how it no where closely reflected the Government's election platform and there has been lots of blame tossed around. What I haven't heard a lot of - at least in the channels that I follow- are constructive ways to find savings to either reduce the deficit or undo some of the choices made in Budget 2016. In my view it would be great to hear more dialogue around that. I can start with a few suggestions. I know some people will say that I should reserve my comments because I left politics but my belief is if there is opportunity to highlight potential improvements from past experience then why not do just that. While I no longer live in NL I still care very much about it.
So here are a few of many suggestions that I have. Some will be unpopular -in fact perhaps very unpopular- but again this is only my opinion and if others weigh in perhaps we can build on these ideas and amend them to find suitable proposals to submit to government.  
1) End night sittings in the HOA. Air time is premium price at night and then there's the over time for staff. I don't know the exact figures (I was given an estimate years ago but don't recall) but it is significant and every dollar counts. Why not sit more weeks or even months if necessary. Besides the financial savings it would go a long way to attract more good people to politics in particular women. I remember doing a 43 hr session days before Christmas. It's not good for all involved- staff of the HOA, security staff, MHAs and especially their children. I offered wondered who was watching at 2am on Dec 21st anyway??  
2) Eliminate all business class/premium economy travel (if not already done) and limit the number of staff attending meetings,etc. This is not just for Ministers but for Boards and Agencies - Nalcor, Health Boards, CEOs, VPs, anyone paid by the taxpayer. The reasons for allowing business class - at least the ones that I heard- were that people needed to be rested and that others close by could see any documents you may be reading. My view - arrive a day earlier to rest and review as a hotel and meals are cheaper than a business class ticket and have your staff sit next to you so others can't see what you are reading. I used business class once paid for by government in my political career and only because it was advised medically that if I went I had to have my legs elevated due to being 7 and a half months pregnant (I had a very difficult pregnancy medically) and I was traveling to one of the territories. It was a meeting of Canadian ministers with the federal minister of environment regarding waste water regulations that would severely impact the province and I had worked on the file for some time and felt I had to put the provinces view forward. Most if not all Ministers were diligent with business class travel as far as I could tell but I passed by staff (not mine) in business class several times while I headed "to the back".  
3) Provide an allowance for accommodations and meals for MHAs from out of town. This was in place before but the changes in my view were overkill and some MHAs ended up charging significant amounts (figures need to be checked but my recollection of some examples was $30000) a year for hotels/per diems. This was within the rules but this needs to be revisited and common sense applied. I don't know how many staff are currently employed (worth checking) but when the new Green Rules came into effect my recollection is that there were upwards of 20 staff (needs verification) processing/checking/rechecking claims at a cost of $2M a year. While layoffs are never popular I believe this is an area for improved efficiency.

A Danny Williams Tory suggests further erosion of the House of Assembly and democratic oversight? Say it isn't so!

But set that aside for a minute. Yes, it's always worth looking at expenses, benefits, and perks, to see if there can't be some savings to find and some blubber to trim. Why the PCs spent a dozen years increasing the size and cost of government, instead of, y'know, delicately doing the opposite, is a mystery that will endure for generations.

But even if you cut out every dime of spending on the House of Assembly[1], even if you abolished it entirely[2], you have saved $16-million.

That is less than a single percentage point of at $2-billion annual deficit.

A fortiori, assuming you merely identify some "improvements" or "savings" within the legislature's financial habits, however laudable that goal might be, you are at most talking about hundreds or tenths of a percentage point of the $2-billion deficit that is due, in no small measure, to the profligate ways of Ms. Johnson, her predecessors, her successor, and her colleagues between 2004 and 2015.

If a former finance minister cannot grasp the true size of the fiscal problem; if a former finance minister cannot entertain the serious, and tough measures, that would have to be taken, short of a deus-ex-machine economic and fiscal surprise, to bring the public finances back into something resembling balance; if a former finance minister can only propose populist tinkering around the edges that results in cost-savings with less fiscal impact than a few cents' fluctuation in the price of Brent crude or the exchange rate, then what hope is there for the public at large?



[1] For a whole bunch of reasons, you can't do that.

[2] Seriously, you can't.