Monday, January 26, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
There. They fixed it.
The left-hand column represents the $916-million deficit projected in the December financial update, which bore the deliciously orwellian headline "Responsible Decisions Secure Long-Term Prosperity".
The column on the right represents $2-million — the estimated cost-savings from the bold reform of cutting eight members from the House of Assembly.
What? You don't see a right hand column?
Click to enlarge.
Labels: pretty charts
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Monday, January 19, 2015
As of this evening January 18, 2015, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has still not published party financial disclosures for 2013.
This is a perennial problem. The financial disclosures for the seven calendar years from 2012 through 2006, inclusive, were not published until, respectively, 374, 359, 431, 348, 331, 483, and 436 days after the close of that year. On an average, it takes Elections NL until the end of January to disclose party and candidate financials from the calendar year two years before.
Oh — and the annual report for 2011, which did sneak in under the wire before 2012 came to a close, failed to distinguish regular contributions to political parties from those made during the campaign period, as required by s. 299 of the Elections Act. Elections NL has still not explained this lack of disclosure.
Elections NL has not published any candidate's campaign finance documentation for any of the by-elections held so far during the life of the current legislature, including two — Cartwright–L'anse au Clair and Carbonear–Harbour Grace — which were held two calendar years ago, in 2013. Nor is there any sign of that for the Virginia Waters by-election, held nine months ago in April 2014.
It is probably too much to expect that the financial reports from more recent by-elections — St. George's–Stephenville East in August, and Conception Bay South, Humber East, and Trinity–Bay de Verde — would yet be available. But it is not too much to expect the release by now of the detailed, official poll-by-poll voting results of those by-elections, given the relatively light work that such a job would entail. But no: there is no sign of them, either.
The most recent by-election report is that for Virginia Waters, which is dated September 23, 2014 — 167 days after polling day. On average, since 2003, it has taken Elections NL nearly four months to publish official by-election results. Entire, large provinces report the poll-by-polls of their entire general elections in less time. It takes Elections NL, on average, the entire nine months they are given by statute, to publish poll-by-poll results of a general election. This, in the second-least-populous province, and in an era when other provincial electoral offices are able to do so in mere weeks, or even days. This is a perennial problem, but not one which causes Elections NL any embarrassment.
They would appear to be incapable of it.
There's more. Of course there's more. Even after Elections NL finally gets around to "publishing" its report — it defines "publishing" as sending a copy to the legislative library — it can take additional weeks for the House of Assembly to accept the report, either by tabling it or deeming it tabled. There are entire swathes of by-electoral history which have never been tabled in the House of Assembly, for reasons unknown.
In the last two sets of by-elections, Elections NL has even managed to publish the wrong preliminary count on election night in Humber East and Conception Bay South, even as the scrutineers for one of the political parties, working from the exact same set of election-night Deputy Returning Officer tallies, came up with the correct figure before their victory parties were even shut down.
(And don't even think of asking for the same type of digital district and polling-division boundary files that other electoral officers routinely make available for download.)
All of which is why it would be funny, if it weren't so serious, that Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has given everyone a heads-up that they are setting a pretty firm deadline for the redrawing of the provincial electoral boundaries:
Elections NL says their work needs to be done 2 months before elxn, need commission report 4 months before #nlpoli
— Peter Cowan (@PeterCBC) January 16, 2015
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Sunday, December 21, 2014
Not quite getting this "openness" thing (Part II)
On December 5th, the Office of Public Engagement released a wonderful collection of reports documenting some of the things they have learned through their internal and external consultations over the past number of months.
Records on the internal consultations, sounding out government's own employees on issues of openness and disclosure, are fascinating reading. It is quite clear that when it comes to transparency and access to information, there are many inside government who "get it".
And then there are the others. The ones who are still cowering like sand crabs in a shell of paranoia, second-guessing who wants what information and why. The ones who keep coming up with supposed technological and other obstacles to sharing information that exist only in their imaginations, and not in the real world. The ones who obsess over "misuse" of information — whatever that is.
- Careful not to put too much data info out that is too much and becomes not useful or used.
- Will it be interesting to people, or will it be of minimal interest?
- The people who were interested might only be mildly interested
- We don’t have the people power and money to upload all of this in presentable forms
- The problem with making everything free, there is a potential misuse of information
- Why put up the information public if it has only 4 views?
- Do away with Fridays
- We have already proactively disclosed of a lot of information, like expenses and salaries and it doesn’t really make much of a difference
- Putting policies up online can be open to interpretation, so that can also cause a problem when uploading them
- Hard to talk about collaboration when approval to travel to this session was questioned.
- Try to limit the amount of information that has to go through a democratic process
- Tricky to decide what information needs to be released and what doesn’t
- Putting information up on the website has increased the sensitivity internally about what is shared.
- The release of some of the ATIPP requests online actually deter some from requesting information
- Then there is a problem of people paying for information currently, then everyone gets it anyway
- But without putting money on it, then people will make frivolous requests and ask for multiple things and all the information
- I think there is a culture of ownership of government works and that it can’t be shared
- Need to get over the fear of releasing the information.
- Sometimes the information that public is seeking is not going to help me do my job. I wouldn't take the time to collect.
- Government needs to “get over” the fear of providing information
- How do you decide what is meaningful to share; need to have dialogue with people to understand that (Combination of pillars!)
- Does the public really want such information and is it worth it compared to the costs to do this?
- Are people doing anything with it? Are we just liberating data for no reason, is there a net outcome?
- Unless there is a demand, should it be released?
- More is not always best
- Formats would have to be the same across government
- The volumes of data make it impractical to share everything
- Need to figure out what people need to know
- Is it really the public that wants this or is it politics?
- Maybe some people just want government to do their jobs
- Ensure that released data is indeed appropriate to be released (quality, privacy, etc.)
- Personal privacy is an issue—must be protected; what is the intent of people wanting such information
- Formats that aren’t accessible to broad public i.e GIS mapping
- Types of information can be left open for interpretation
- Ever changing data – when do you draw the line
- The public don’t want a table full of data
- You don’t want just the ticked off people
- We have to keep in mind political sensitivities
This corner, for one, would truly be fascinated to learn more about this idea of abolishing Fridays.
Friday, December 19, 2014
Not quite getting this "openness" thing (Part I)
Over at open.gov.nl.ca, there's an interesting proactively-disclosed Access to Information request.
In it, the requester asked the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for:
Copy of the review prepared for the provincial government by Burke Consulting Inc. on a review of the minimum processing requirements - as noted in a press release from DFA dated Sept. 13, 2006.Given the apparently weighty nature of the document requested and released, it's a bit surprising to find that the PDF of the release is only 313KB and four pages long.
That would be because, as yet another example in a broader pattern, the release package bears the following annotation:
Well, sure, you could do that.
Potential copyright material
If you wish to obtain a copy please contact the ATIPP Office at (709) 729-7072 or email@example.com.
Or you could just go over and download the report — or at least a redacted version thereof — from the DFA's website.
The Ministry of Openness could use a refresher course in the governing party's long-standing committment to openness and transparency. In their 2003 platform, the Progressive Conservatives under what's-his-name promised:
A Progressive Conservative government will ... release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it, indicate the action government will take on a report's recommendations within 60 days, and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet.
It would seem bizarre and illogical that the government is now relying on (rather dubious) copyright grounds to avoid releasing copies of reports it has commissioned, and, indeed, published elsewhere in its little web empire.
Perhaps it would assuage the nervous legal nellies in open.gov.nl.ca if government were to make it a standard requirement for all outside consulting contracts that copyright in the resulting work either be transferred to the government, or at very least that government obtain an unlimited license to the third-party reports it commissions and pays for.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the Tellitorialists the other day, Mr. Speaker, made some hay, Mr. Speaker, not only, Mr. Speaker, out of the Bow-Wow Parliamentarians' overuse of the phrase "Mr. Speaker", Mr. Speaker, but also, Mr. Speaker, of the Hansard editors' application of the editorial pen, Mr. Speaker, in mercifully protecting future readers, Mr. Speaker, of having to put up with repetitive, Mr. Speaker, and redundant, Mr. Speaker, addressing of remarks through Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker:
Jeers: to an inaccurate public record. It behooves us, Mr. Speaker, to point out, Mr. Speaker, that the official record, Mr. Speaker, also known as Hansard, Mr. Speaker, seems to be inaccurate, Mr. Speaker. Specifically, the House of Assembly transcripts are missing several utterances of “Mr. Speaker.” The annoying habit of some members has been glossed over by whoever is writing things down. In a series of answers by Services NL Minister Tony Cornect last week, seven utterances of the term became one in Hansard, then seven became one again, then nine became two, then five became three. If you read the record, you would think the minister only occasionally uttered the term, rather than repeating it ad nauseum. Some shorthand is understandable, such as non-recognized members saying the generic “Hear! Hear!” But this practice leaves a false impression about what was said — or, more accurately, how it was said.So that got a body wondering: is the Bow-Wow Parliament, as many observers sense anecodotally, getting misterspeakerier?
Mr. Speaker, the answer, Mr. Speaker, is yes, Mr. Speaker.
For the purposes of this exercise, misterspeakeriness is measured in the number of instances of "Mr. Speaker", as well as "Mr. Chair/Madam Speaker/Madam Chair", uttered in debate of the House, including when it is resolved into Committee of the Whole, by identified ordinary Members, expressed as a share of total words spoken. "Identified ordinary Members" means that the words of the presiding officer are excluded, as are those of unidentified Members ("Some Hon. Members" or "An Hon. Member"), and those uttered by non-Members, such as the Clerk, the Lieutenant-Governor, or guests.
This chart shows the misterspeakeriness of debate, as recorded in Hansard, in each session of the House of Assembly since Hansard records begin in HTML format.
Subject to possibly changing editorial tastes by the magical gnomes who produce Hansard, there was a pronounced uptick in misterspeakeriness in recent years, though, whether in the real world or due to editorial fashion, it has fallen off somewhat. The increase in misterspeakeriness would appear to be largely driven by an increase on the government benches:
This would tend to confirm the conspiracy-minded belief that increasing misterspeakeriness is a way of diminishing the amount of meaningful, and potentially embarrassing content that comes out of government members' mouths, especially during Question Period. (Some wags have suggested a similar trend is at work in the House of Commons.)
By contrast, here is the trend for the combined opposition side:
(Private to all Members: you only need to address yourself to the Speaker once, off the top.)
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Straining to restrain
Early on Thursday afternoon, Premier Paul Davis, and whoever the Finance Minister is, went before the legislative gallery to announce hiring and spending freezes:
#Newfoundland and #Labrador Premier Paul Davis announces spending freeze, hiring restrictions in response to falling oil prices. #NLpoliWithin two hours, their own party was happily stomping all over the "restraint" message track, because nothing says restraint quite like tooting your own spending:
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) November 27, 2014
Labels: cognitive dissonance
Differently competent – 2014 edition
It has now been over a year since the provincial by-election in Carbonear–Harbour Grace, the second of two provincial by-elections, the other being Cartwright–L'Anse au Clair, held in 2013.
Over at Elections Newfoundland and Labrador, there is no sign of the candidate financial disclosures for either of those two by-elections.
Naturally, neither is there any sign of the party contribution disclosures for 2013 – an ongoing, well-documented lassitude at the electoral agency.
And the report, mandated by s. 299 of the Elections Act, which requires the agency to produce a report documenting contributions made to parties during the campaign period? The report for the 2011 provincial general election is still not available – assuming it was ever created – more than three years after that election was held.
On the electoral administration side of things, there is also no sign of the poll-by-poll return for the St. George's–Stephenville East by-election, which was held three months ago.
A grand total of 3738 votes were cast in that by-election.
By contrast, Elections Ontario published full poll-by-poll results for June general election for the entire province — nearly five million votes cast in nearly 25,000 polling divisions in 107 electoral districts — the week after the election was held.
In Quebec, DGEQ released full poll-by-poll results of the April provincial election in May — 4.2-million votes in 125 electoral districts, subdivided into about 18,000 polling divisions.
In both cases, the provincial electoral offices released the detailed poll-by-poll results in machine-readable format, which allow researchers to use the data, and marry the numbers to cartographic files.
Elections Newfoundland and Labrador? When the do eventually get around to publishing the figures, such as those for Virginia Waters, more than five months after polls close, their format of choice is... PDF.
Don't even dream of getting the polling division boundary files.
What, on earth, is wrong with Elections Newfoundland and Labrador?
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Some Tiny Tories had an interesting exchange with CBC legislative reporter David Cochrane as last night's by-election results rolled in:
Here are some more valid points:
Not only did Liberal Crocker get more votes in Trinity–Bay de Verde than Tory Johnson did in 2011, he had one of the highest raw vote-tallies of any Liberal since this historically "swing" district was created in the redistribution of 1975: