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

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Disclosure delayed (III)

In 27 days it will be 2019.

Over at Elections NL, there is still no sign of the 2017 political financial disclosures which have been in the hands of the elections office for months. Public release of the documents was promised "in the near future"... back in August.

Is it the near future yet?

That was the same time, incidentally, that the same elections administrator said that financial reports from the November 21, 2017 Mount Pearl North by-election would be finalized "in the coming weeks."

The candidates in that by-election, per s. 304 of the Elections Act, had until March 21, 2018 to submit that documentation.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Disclosure delayed (II)

With 41 days to go before it's 2019, the most recent Elections NL political finance disclosures are from calendar year 2016.

And on the eve of the anniversary of the electoral event, there is likewise no sign of the campaign finance disclosures for the November 21, 2017 by-election in Mount Pearl North.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Disclosure delayed

With seven weeks to go before it's 2019, the most recent Elections NL political finance disclosures are from calendar year 2016.

With two weeks to go before the anniversary of the electoral event, there is likewise no sign of the campaign finance disclosures for the November 2017 by-election in Mount Pearl North.


Monday, January 01, 2018

Lake Melville, December 2017

Yes, that's open water.

Saturday, September 30, 2017


The people have spoken. From two recent VOCM Questions of the Day.

Thursday, June 01, 2017


It is June 1, 2017.

As of today, Elections NL has still not posted a disclosure of campaign contributions to the candidates who ran in the November 2015 provincial general election.

In one nod to very-delayed accountability, the disclosure of contributions to central party coffers was posted on May 18th. Contrary to the provisions of the Elections Act, Elections NL did not distinguish contributions made during the campaign period from other contributions during that calendar year.

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Monday, May 01, 2017


It is May 1st, 2017.

Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has still not posted annual and campaign-period political financing disclosure reports for calendar year and election period 2015.

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Monday, April 03, 2017

Access denied

Section 299 of the provincial Elections Act provides as follows:

299. (1) Where an authorized person, on behalf of a registered party accepts, in a year, a contribution, the chief financial officer of the party shall record the contribution as to amount and the name and address of the contributor.
(3)   A registered party shall file with the Chief Electoral Officer, within the period during which an annual financial statement shall be filed, a return with respect to contributions that either individually or in sum exceed $100 setting out all the information required to be recorded under subsections (1) and (2).
Read in conjunction with s. 303, the deadline for filing that return of "annual" political finance contributions is April 1st.

That is, the deadline for registered parties to file their financial returns for calendar year 2016 expired on Saturday past.

As of now, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has still not posted such annual returns for calendar year 2015, which were due on April 1, 2016, nor the campaign-period returns relative to the 2015 election, which were due the day before that.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

In memoriam

On February 23, 1973, the recently-elected MP for the then-riding of Grand Falls—White Bay—Labrador delivered his maiden speech in the House of Commons.

Bill Rompkey went on to be re-elected four times in that riding, and twice in the future standalone Labrador riding whose creation he mused about in 1973. In 1995 was appointed to the Senate, where he served until the mandatory retirement age in 2011.

Mr. Rompkey — "the Boss" to any of us who ever worked for him — died last week in Ottawa at the age of 80.

Here, for the record, is the text of that maiden speech (scanning errors excepted.) As always, it is fascinating to note how many things have changed in the intervening four decades, and how many things have stayed the same.

* * *

Mr. William Rompkey (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of the Environment):  Mr, Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise as a member of this House on the first occasion and it is a particular pleasure to take part in the budget debate. I want to say to you, Sir, I am very pleased to be here at this time as the member for Grand Falls—White Bay—Labrador. May I also take this opportunity of saying to you and to those who occupy that chair how impressed I have been with the impartiality and fairness with which you conduct yourselves. I want to tell the House something about my riding. I will try to relate my remarks to the budget speech because certain aspects of the budget have very wide implications for my riding.

This is one of the largest ridings in Canada, encompassing an area of about 130,000 square miles including a great part of the island of Newfoundland and the territory of Labrador of some 112,000 square miles. It is a wide-spread riding with diverse and divergent social and economic problems ranging from the problems of the woods industry in central Newfoundland through the beautiful Green Bay area with its great tourist potential, through the area of White Bay which is primarily concerned with the fishing industry, to the whole territory of Labrador. This area has been called the last great storehouse of natural wealth, but even in Labrador there are great contradictions. On the coast are the small isolated communities sometimes ranging from two or three families in the summer months to communities of 1,000 people. In the central part of Labrador we have the communities of Hamilton Inlet, Goose Bay—which is now undergoing a transitional stage—and in the west one of the greatest hydroelectric developments in the world at Churchill Falls. Farther west there are the great iron mines of Labrador City and Wabush. It is a land of contrasts. There, too, we have the Indian and Eskimo communities. These people are desperately trying to adapt themselves to the twentieth century. If we think we are having cultural problems in adapting to the rapid pace of technology, these people are suffering even more so in that regard. These changes baffle all of us who are Canadians whether we live in small villages or large cities. So, in a way, this riding is a microcosm of Canada with problems of regional disparity, problems of great distances to be spanned, problems of communication from one end to the other, and problems of economic and social development.

It is to areas such as mine that this budget is mostly aimed. I take issue with the term that our areas are have-not provinces. They have been described as such in the past. We may be have-not in economic terms, but there is a great cultural heritage there and a great historic background from which to draw. In these areas there is a sense of identity and a sense of community which my friends from Quebec may understand very well but which I believe is lacking today in many areas of North America and, indeed, in the world where the impact of technology has been felt. So there is a lot there to be thankful for.

I hope that when we plan our future in these areas we will take into account our way of life and find the kind of province we want. Like all parts of the world, we have felt the impact of rampant technology. Industry today is becoming capital-intensive rather than labour-intensive. Jobs are disappearing whether a man works in a fishing boat, in the iron mines, in the mills, or wherever it happens to be. Those who have prided themselves on their independence are dismayed and frustrated now in having to accept government assistance. It is my hope and belief that this budget, reflecting as it does the policies of this government, will alleviate the economic problems from which my riding suffers.

I was extremely pleased to see the proposed increase in pensions for the elderly and the veterans. I think we have a responsibility to both these groups. Money in their pockets should represent an asset to the economy. But I believe we must do more than that. We must not simply look after our elderly people; we must create a positive role for them in our society. I am very pleased to see the New Horizons program and the extension of it this year. This should be a positive way whereby we can draw on the experience of the older people in our society so that they may play a useful role with the knowledge and experience only they possess.

We must solve the unemployment problem. We must give people in the disadvantaged areas, people who pride themselves on their independence, an opportunity to get back their self-respect. I was particularly pleased to see the tax cuts. This should be of great help to people, particularly those in the lower income group. The mothers in my riding, I believe, will be particularly pleased to see the tax taken off children's clothing and other food items. This will help combat the high cost of living in many areas.

I may say here that I look forward to the time when the government introduces the revised family income security plan. These two measures together should be of great help to the people in the lower income group. There are other pressing problems in my riding which obviously could not be dealt with in the budget speech but with which the government must deal. This will mean positive expenditure and government action.

Perhaps I might say a few words about the fishing industry in my area because it is particularly important. At the present time this industry is in a transitional stage. The time really has passed when a man could survive through the use of a small boat in the inshore fishery. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to that man. He is the man who prosecuted the fishery for years, who survived on his own, who wanted to make a contribution to society and who is prepared to be independent. We all know there is far too little of this in the world today. So we must preserve the fishery in so far as possible. This industry has felt the impact of technology, as have other industries in the province. Yet there is an increasing demand for food, and prices are improving. We must help the inshore fishermen. I think the government is dealing with that problem and will continue to do so.

I take issue with those on the other side who criticize the department which is presently administering those policies. I want to tell them that the Minister of Fisheries (Mr. Davis) is not dead. He is alive and well. He is administering a very capable department served by a very capable staff in the fisheries branch, many of whom I am very pleased to say are Newfoundlanders, I have great confidence in that branch and in the department and I am very pleased to be associated with it.

This year there is a great need for improved icebreaking services in our province. I note with satisfaction that there is provision in the estimates for at least one more ice-breaker. However, I feel this will not be enough and that there will have to be more expenditures in this region if we are to help the woods industry in central Newfoundland and the fishing industry on the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. I look forward to the time when government will provide even more funds for this very necessary service.

I was pleased to note that live television has come to Goose Bay. I am disappointed that it is not yet in Labrador West. I look forward to the time when the people on the Labrador coast will also receive live television. In fact, it may very well be that they will receive live television before they have a telephone service, because there are still communities in that area which do not have this very necessary service. Communication in northern Newfoundland and in many parts of my riding is far from acceptable either in terms of telephone or mail. It is still extremely frustrating to me to try to communicate with my constituents in that area. I urge the government, either directly or through agencies connected with it, to try to solve this problem and take steps immediately to improve these essential services which all Canadians should enjoy and to which they are entitled. These people still are not in the mainstream of Canadian life, and meanwhile the rate of change is increasing.

I was very pleased to hear my colleague, the Minister of Regional Economic Expansion (Mr. Jamieson) speak of the decentralization of his department. This is a most important department to us both in terms of infrastructure development and industrial incentive. The idea of bringing decision-making down to the local level is something to which we have looked forward for some time. It will allow us, in that area and in all areas, to do our own thing, because I believe it is not simply enough for government to provide goods and services for people; we must ask the people at the local level to assist and take part in the decision-making process and assume responsibility for the policies and programs that will affect their lives.

I hope the government will make an effort to build a highway across Labrador which is one of the last great areas of the north to be opened up. We have seen what has been done in the Yukon territory and the Northwest Territories. We have seen that area being slowly opened up by the construction of highways. I hope the same thing will occur in northern Labrador. I hope the government will give every consideration to building the highway across Labrador to open up that great area and to the highway up the northern peninsula from the national park which is presently under construction, as well as the road from Baie Verte to La Scie which will connect the communities in Green Bay. These are some of the problems I shall be bringing before the government during the coming months.

While there are problems, there is great potential, particularly in the Labrador area. I believe it has a great future; and having lived there for eight years and now having the honour to serve in the House, I am proud to be able to help build that future, I believe that the economic development of Labrador has great meaning, not only for that area of the province and the whole province but indeed for the whole of Canada. And when we are made aware of power shortages that exist on this continent, such as have been experienced recently, we realize how much emphasis we must give to the development of the power potential in that area.

Labrador needs a great deal of attention. To this end I believe it should have a member representing it in the House, a member wholly and solely for Labrador, as have the Northwest Territories and the Yukon. I give notice now that I shall be introducing a bill in the House which I hope will be debated and will receive a great deal of consideration, a bill which will ask the House to provide a member for Labrador in its own right so that its problems and its potential are put in their proper perspective.

We in Grand Falls—White Bay—Labrador want to make our own unique contribution to the Canadian mosaic. We must create the kind of province we want. But the kind of province we can have depends on the responsiveness of the government of Canada, I believe this budget is an indication that the government is listening and is prepared to respond.


Sunday, October 23, 2016


In its last electoral platform before winning power in 2003, the PC Party under Danny Williams pledged:
The Elections Act limits election campaign contributions and spending, and attempts to promote electoral fairness by allowing candidates to recover part of their campaign expenses from public funds. The intent of the Act is undermined by loopholes that allow political parties to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money before an election is called, as well as unlimited contributions and spending on candidate nominations and leadership contests.

A Progressive Conservative government will take the following actions to close those loopholes:
  • Limit political contributions by a person, corporation, or union in any year, including an election year, to a total of $10,000 to a registered political party and a total of $5,000 to one or more district associations of a registered party or one or more candidates in a provincial election in relation to their candidacy, by way of cash, cheque, money order, credit card or goods and services, but excluding the purchase of tickets or passes and donations in kind to fundraising events sponsored by a registered political party or district association of a registered party.
  • Legislate contribution and spending limits for Party leadership contests and nominees in Party candidacy races.
  • Require full disclosure of contributions and expenditures in party nomination contests and elections.
  • Require disclosure of contributions to leadership campaigns as they occur and disclosure of independently audited expenses within three months after the election of a new leader.
  • Enact provisions requiring leadership candidates to return unused contributions to their leadership campaigns.
At its first annual convention since losing power in 2015, the PC Party under — Sandy Collins? — contemplated overhauling the campaign finance rules:
The party will also decide whether to adopt positions to limit corporate and union political donations, encourage more trade with the UK, as it exits the European Union, and grow more food locally.

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.


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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