labradore

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Happy anniversary?

A year ago right now, the following disgraceful episode occurred in the House of Assembly.

A week later, the gormless Speaker ruled his own ruling to be wrong, and apologized to the Hon. Member for St. John's Centre.

Doctor Darin King has still not done so.
MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise today in the House on a matter of great importance, on a point of privilege. I am aware, Mr. Speaker, according to O'Brien and Bosc, page 141, that any time a member wants to raise a point of privilege before this House that he or she ought to do so at the earliest point in time. The issue that I am going to speak to today just became aware to me this morning, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the point of privilege that I want to speak to is indeed very serious. It is perhaps, in my tenure in this House, one of the most serious points of privilege that I have ever seen. I want to reference a couple of quotes to give it some context, Mr. Speaker.
In addressing a matter of privilege, in the section entitled Freedom from Obstruction, Interference, Intimidation and Molestation in Bosc and O'Brien, they state very clearly, "Members are entitled to go about their parliamentary business undisturbed. The assaulting, menacing, or insulting of any Member on the floor of the House or while he is coming or going to or from the House, or on account of his behaviour during a proceeding of Parliament, is a violation of the rights of Parliament. Any form of intimidation … of a person for or on account of his behaviour during a proceeding in Parliament could amount to contempt.
Mr. Speaker, my comments are reflected in a point of privilege which I suggest to you, and I hope to prove to you, constitute a point of privilege and/or contempt of this Parliament.
Further, Mr. Speaker, speakers in many Houses of Commons and other provincial Legislatures and elsewhere "have consistently upheld the right of the House to the services of its Members free from intimidation, obstruction and interference." One speaker in 1973 ruled that he had "no hesitation in reaffirming the principle that parliamentary privilege includes the right of a member to discharge his responsibilities as a member of the House free from threats or attempts at intimidation".
"If an Hon. Member is impeded or obstructed in the performance of his or her parliamentary duties through threats, intimidation, bribery attempts or other improper behaviour, such a case would fall within the limits of parliamentary privilege. Should an Hon. Member be able to say that something has happened which prevented him or her from performing functions, that he or she has been threatened, intimidated, or in any way unduly influenced, there will be a case for the Chair to consider."
Mr. Speaker, all of us recognize in this House, serving as an MHA in the provincial government, in any government, in fact, but certainly in the provincial government, has good times and bad times. We recognize that. There is at least one member opposite who can attest to that, I am sure, having served in government. We recognize that.
There are times over the course of a government when things are going well and you enjoy a lot of good political life. There are other times when there are challenges. We know that when we run for public office we expect to encounter that roller coaster ride as politicians, but in spite of that, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the people of the Province have an expectation of the behaviour of the people that they elect to sit in the chairs, in the seats in this House. Their expectation is a little higher for us than it is for many members of the public. I do believe, Mr. Speaker, that there have been many instances, not only inside this Chamber but outside the Chamber, where the public has demonstrated that they have a high expectation level for their politicians, and that there are limits.
What I am going to talk about today I believe passes the limit of expectation for the people of the Province and passes the limit of acceptability in this House. We have been very fortunate in Newfoundland and Labrador for a long time, Mr. Speaker.
We reflect on the bombing yesterday in Boston, for example. We see lots of incidents of that all around the world, civil disobedience. We, fortunately, do not have to be exposed to that. There are events in Britain today with the death and the funeral of Margaret Thatcher and some of the non-supporters of Margaret Thatcher, Mr. Speaker. Of course, there has been the bullying and intimidation, and mass murders that we have seen down in the United States over the last number of years.
All of that, Mr. Speaker, are events for the most part that our Province, our democracy, and our governments have been somewhat oblivious to. It is a behaviour that I do not think for one minute that anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador would ever condone, or any actions in particular that would lead to that kind of behaviour, Mr. Speaker; more importantly, which is what I am talking about today, actions that might lead to some kind of illegal or immoral behaviour. I do not believe for a minute that the people of the Province who are here in this gallery or who are watching at home would for one minute condone or accept that type of behaviour.
We also have seen in Newfoundland over the last short period of time, Mr. Speaker, that the political environment has shifted. We all recognize that it has become somewhat testy, and we understand that. It has been a very tough Budget. There have been a lot of expectations placed on government. A lot of critical decisions had to be made by members on this side of the House and by the Premier of the Province as the leader of the government.
We understand that, Mr. Speaker. We also understand that the brunt of the criticism, while we all share it to one level or another, has been levelled at the Premier. The Premier, like all other members of this House, I believe, expects as a leader of the government that is going to happen from time to time.
Mr. Speaker, what we have seen over the last three or four weeks, perhaps, in particular, is a shift in the way that people are starting to express their views and even in some of the actions that we are seeing throughout the Province. For information of the House, there are currently two interlinked Web sites published on Facebook expressing in what I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, to be the most vile and contemptible language that I have ever seen personally: the desire of protestors to not only intimidate and obstruct government, but indeed to assassinate the Premier.
I want to read for the record into Hansard one of the comments that have been posted. I do this, and I suggest to people that the language is not the best, but upon advice I have been told I ought to read in for the record so that this House is fully aware. There is an individual going by the name of Adam Maher. I have no idea whether this is a real or fictitious name, but the following was posted. As I said, I warn you that the language is strong, "ur crazy shes the most useless premier we ever had i can't believe no body..." – I am going to use letters and say ‘jfk'd' her. I think members can figure out what it is. I prefer not to read those three words into the record, Mr. Speaker. "…i can't believe no body jfk'd her already n sniped her out cuz the whole province is gone to shit cause of that woman".
There are several others there, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read to illustrate. One of the most recent comments we have found was the Premier was called a "terrorist" – and the terrorist comments were linked to the events in Boston yesterday, posted today, linking the Premier as a "terrorist" to the Boston activities yesterday.
I say again, I cannot believe at all that anybody in Newfoundland and Labrador condones that type of activity or that type of language to be describing the leader of the government – in spite of whether you like the decisions this government is making or not – I cannot believe that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador would condone that, and I will never believe that. I do not believe this House ought to condone those activities either, Mr. Speaker, but I want to move on because there are a few other things that I do want to say to you.
Some of those postings, Mr. Speakers, while I just became aware of that today, people who have advised me about it tell me that there were many other stronger ones, and I do have a list here. I will not read all of them, but many of them have been purged, Mr. Speaker. They were posted long enough to show people who were members of the group, what the group stood for, what the group represented.
I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that if people have the courage to post those comments in a public forum like Facebook, with such vile and direct and obscene language, then one, as I am advised as the Justice Minister, one has no alternative but to consider those as threats and to consider that what is said in the comments ought to be taken very seriously, Mr. Speaker. As Justice Minister, I, of course, deal with the police on a regular basis, and I am advised that you do not take any of those things for granted. You assume that they are valid comments and valid threats.
Together, Mr. Speaker, I reference those particular comments. These Facebook sites – there are two linked together – are calling for a protest here at Confederation Building on Friday. Now, a protest at Confederation Building in and of itself would not seem out of the norm. We have seen lots of them over the years on any number of events.
The key here, though, Mr. Speaker, is some of the threatening comments. In particular, the comments directed at the life of the Premier in particular. The person who made those comments is also involved in both particular groups and providing leadership to both particular groups, and they are supported by other participants. Mr. Speaker, the Facebook site has a membership list, which is bringing me to the point I want to make.
There is a membership list. In order to be a part of this group, in order to support this group and to tell people of Facebook and the world that you believe the things that are posted on this group and that you are prepared to stay a part of this group because you think the things that are being said there on this site ought to be done – and people who are part of Facebook or social media would understand. I do not need to explain all of this. That is how Facebook works. You join a group, generally, like you do in the public, Mr. Speaker, because you support the values and you support the objectives of the group and you support what the people of the group are doing.
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, there are many prominent people who are members of that group. Alan Moulton, a leader with the FFAW, for example, is a part of it, one of the leaders of the FFAW. There are many others. There is also, Mr. Speaker, a member of this House of Assembly who is a member of that group. I believe that that constitutes a point of privilege in no uncertain terms.
In this Province, Mr. Speaker, we have seen a months-long orchestrated campaign now by public sector unions in our Province to try and encourage government to take a certain path, a certain direction with respect to the financial priorities of the government, the future of the Province and the budgetary decisions in particular, and to try and knock us off course. We accept that. That is part of what happens in political life. It is part of trying to influence and develop social policy.
To see the kind of rhetoric that we are seeing on these Web sites, Mr. Speaker, over the last number of days, threats to the life of the Premier, threats to burn down the Premier's home. By the very nature of the comments, Mr. Speaker, the Premier of the Province, who I submit to you, is like most other people here. She happens to be a mother with children, and she happens to be a grandmother, a grandmother who has regularly grandchildren in her home.
I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the group and the members of that group of which there is a member sitting in this House today, who is endorsing and supporting that – threats to her life and threats to her home, implicit in that are threats to her family, to her children and her grandchildren. Mr. Speaker, that, in my view, is reprehensible and totally, totally unacceptable. Not just for the members of this House, Mr. Speaker, but I believe for the members of the general public who are watching at home and who pay attention to politics. I do not believe for one minute that people in Newfoundland and Labrador support or condone that kind of activity.
Every day, Mr. Speaker, we face a barrage of questions and debate back and forth by members opposite because it is their goal to defeat this government. That is the way democracy works. We accept that, Mr. Speaker, for what it is. We accept the lobbyists and those who try to advocate and influence social policy, Mr. Speaker. That is part of the process of democracy.
What is happening today with a member of this House supporting and participating in that kind of activity is beyond the pale, Mr. Speaker. I submit to you, as I would to members of this House and members listening, what kind of message is that sending to the people of the Province, to our children in the Province when we talk about bullying and harassment and intimidation? It was only a short while ago we had anti-bullying day in schools, Mr. Speaker, for our children.
To think that we are here today talking about a point of privilege because a member of this House is part of a group whose members are advocating that we kill the Premier. I cannot believe the day would ever come while I was sitting in this House that we would be talking about that.
Mr. Speaker, the member that I am referencing, who is a supporter of that group, is the NDP Member for St. John's Centre. Mr. Speaker, I ask that you rule that there is indeed a case of prima facie breach of privilege and I ask that the House be directed to take action under the following motion:
WHEREAS two interlinked Web sites published on Facebook with the explicit support, public support and participation of the New Democratic Party Member of the House of Assembly for St. John's Centre have included grievous threats to intimate, obstruct and assassinate the Premier of our Province;
BE IT RESOLVED that the House directs that the Speaker commission an investigation of these threats and take appropriate action; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Member of the House of Assembly for St. John's Centre be suspended from her position as a member in light of her public support for and participation in these activities.
Thank you.  
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party, to the point of privilege.
MS MICHAEL: To the point of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Obviously, I am quite disturbed by what the House Leader has presented in terms of the content. I, too, do not condone the kind of language, the kind of actions that the House Leader is speaking of; however, this is the first time that I have heard of what he has put forward in terms of the Member for St. John's Centre, so I am requesting a short recess so that we can talk about this, Mr. Speaker, before coming back to the House to address the issue.
I am presuming that is in order, Mr. Speaker.  
MR. SPEAKER: To respond to the Leader of the Third Party's question, I have heard your comment with respect to the point of privilege raised and I will hear comments from other members of the House who may wish to make comment before I make a comment myself.
The hon. the Opposition House Leader, to the point of privilege.  
MR. A. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would just like to say at this juncture that I think a recess may be needed to review this, but at that point I do have comments I would like to make to this very serious issue that has been brought up. I do believe a recess – I have no issue with a recess at this time to review it because, obviously, it is a very serious matter.  
MR. SPEAKER: Are there further comments to the point of privilege raised?
There being none, the House will take a brief recess for the Speaker to consider whether or not there is a prima facie case of privilege being breached.
With respect to the request for a recess to consider the issue and come back and present further comments, I will reserve any judgement with respect to that until I have had a chance to review it myself to determine whether it is a prima facie case. If there is a prima facie case, then there is a method for the House to deal with it and at that time anybody else who may want to make representation at that time will be given the opportunity.
The Speaker will consider first if there is a prima facie case of privilege, and until such time as I have done that, this House stands recessed.
Recess

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
I have had an opportunity to review the statements presented by members with respect to the point of privilege raised by the hon. Government House Leader and I want to share with the House my ruling.
As members of this House, we are granted certain privileges and these include the right not to be molested or intimidated in carrying out our parliamentary duties. We also have the right to say things within this Chamber which may be subject to House discipline which may be, by virtue of our privilege, exempt from the normal civil and criminal remedies of the rest of society. With these privileges comes a great responsibility.
As the Speaker, I find myself once again in a position of having to remind members of the care which they must take when engaged with social media. Twitter and Facebook are wonderful, modern tools allowing us to maintain a connection with our constituents, our friends, and our colleagues as never before. With the use, comes this: a responsibility to use them wisely. That responsibility includes holding yourselves to a higher standard than would be accepted and acceptable for the general public.
I find the comments on Facebook referred to by the Government House Leader to be offensive and intimidating. They certainly require that we examine ourselves as to whether or not this is the kind of discourse that we wish to become involved with.
I have taken the time to examine the Facebook pages in question and have found that the Member for St. John's Centre appears on the list of members of this Facebook, and was invited to join that Facebook group on April 11, 2013. There is no way, however, of determining how this participation was initiated and accepted. There is no evidence that the member made actual comments on this site that would directly connect her to the offensive statements.
In this regard, as stated by Maingot, Parliamentary Privilege in Canada, page 227, "…the Member is entitled to receive the benefit of the doubt." I believe that the benefit of the doubt here extends to any findings of a breach of privilege of the House of Assembly or its members. It cannot be clearly and unequivocally stated that the Member for St. John's Centre was herself carrying out an implied or actual threat; therefore, there is no prima facie case of breach of privilege.
Despite this, such comments, though, diminish the work that we do in this House. An affiliation with this type of discourse by any member of this House is contemptuous of what we do, regardless of the role as a member of the Official Opposition or the Third Party or government.
As stated in O'Brien and Bosc on page 97, "Telecommunications, including… the Internet, should therefore not be used to transmit otherwise defamatory material." I want to broaden that to include the need to avoid the transmission of threatening material and participation in activities that might be seen to be threatening.
Consequently, I find that there has been a contempt against this House. I ask that the member apologize for any disrepute that she may have brought upon this House of Assembly by participating in a social media site which clearly targets a Member of the House of Assembly.
The hon. the Member for St. John's Centre.  
MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I feel that I –  
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. Apologies in this House are to be without qualification and simply put.
I call upon the Member for St. John's Centre. 
MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I will not apologize for something that I have not done. I am sorry; I cannot apologize to the House.
I would also like the opportunity to speak –  
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker has made a ruling. The Speaker has asked the member to apologize. I ask for the second time, if the member would apologize to the House? 
MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, I wholly do not condone violence in any way, shape, or form. I cannot apologize for something –  
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The Speaker is going to ask for the third and final time for the Member for St. John's Centre to apologize to the House. 
MS ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Out of great respect for this House, I cannot apologize.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
I ask the Sergeant-at-Arms if he would escort the Member for St. John's Centre out of the Assembly.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

A picture speaks a thousand words

The final frame of VOCM's news video of Our Dear Rant in Virginia Waters last night.
 
What a beautiful image.
 

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

HouseKu, Fall 2013

From the pages of the House of Assembly Hansard, a backfill of 17-syllable found hankus during the November-December 2013 fall sitting.


It has been explained
       over and over again,
even by the PUB.
- Premier Dunderdale, November 4, 2013

I will give the hon.
       member ample time to go
into denial.
- Kevin O'Brien, November 4, 2013

Those roads are still out
       there and a safety concern
from the floods last year.
- Eddie Joyce, November 4, 2013

They have been recalled,
       but they should not have been let
go in the first place.
- Lorraine Michael, November 5, 2013

The long-term effects
       are what this government does
not seem to look at.
- Lorraine Michael, November 5, 2013

It is time to get
       this external, get public
engagement in it.
- Dwight Ball, November 6, 2013

In passing this through,
       we will see that it gets out
there before Christmas.
- Clyde Jackman, November 7, 2013

The labour market
       in Labrador, we know how
hot that is right now.
- Dan Crummell, November 12, 2013

It is washed away
       in certain sections where there
is only one lane.
- Andrew Parsons, November 12, 2013

It was St. John's South.
       He was talking about how
Clyde Wells rolled it back.
- Eddie Joyce, November 12, 2013

The member has time
       for a quick question without
any preamble.
- Mr. Speaker, November 13, 2013

There is no such fund
       in that department right now,
absolutely none.
- Eddie Joyce, November 14, 2013

That has no bearing.
       Explain why it cannot be
put in Corner Brook.
- Eddie Joyce, November 14, 2013

It makes me wonder.
       I called out a member last
week on just that point.
- Sandy Collins, November 14, 2013

This needs to be solved.
       It has gone on long enough.
There are solutions.
- Christopher Mitchelmore, November 14, 2013

Smaller kids should not
       have to be out there in bad
weather conditions.
- Dale Kirby, November 18, 2013

Well, of course we do.
       Of course, when it comes to food,
you know that we do.
- George Murphy, November 18, 2013

We worry about
       things that might happen to us
because of strangers.
- Premier Dunderdale, November 20, 2013

I will take my turn
       and I will have another
opportunity.
- Eddie Joyce, November 21, 2013

This is like four years
       old now. What are we doing?
What is going on?
- Andrew Parsons, November 21, 2013

I would also say
       if you check Hansard I think
I was very clear.
- Darin King, November 27, 2013

A lot of people
       are living in their homes now
and they are older.
- Eddie Joyce, November 27, 2013

I have gone and helped
       at one of the soup kitchens
here in the Province.
- Tom Osborne, November 27, 2013

We can talk about
       Aboriginal training
programs all we want.
- Randy Edmunds, November 28, 2013

That is not a plan;
       that is a reality.
They did not plan that.
- Lorraine Michael, November 28, 2013

We are just changing
       our legislation to match
what is being done.
- Andrew Parsons, December 2, 2013

She used to reach out
       in the nighttime to make sure
that I was still there.
- Kevin Parsons, December 2, 2013

We have to follow
       suit with their legislation.
That is how it works.
- Darin King, December 2, 2013

If no documents
       are filed, then the department
will conduct a search.
- Paul Davis, December 3, 2013

We just cannot ask
       people to slow down, because
sometimes they do not.
- George Murphy, December 5, 2013

There was a time when
       women were not visible
in curriculum.
- Gerry Rogers, December 5, 2013

Will the minister
       commit to have regular
school board elections?
- Jim Bennett, December 9, 2013

We would love to bring
       everybody back to work,
but I do not know.
- Eli Cross, December 9, 2013

You actually could not
       even get a place to rent
or a place to live.
- Clayton Forsey, December 9, 2013

Laws do not always
       change hearts but they can protect
those from the heartless.
- Gerry Rogers, December 10, 2013

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HouseKu, March 2014

HouseKu for the month of March, 2014:


Seniors are out there
        not able to make ends meet,
as I have just said.
- Lorraine Michael, March 12, 2014

I ask the Premier:
        Why have you delayed calling
this by-election?
- Dwight Ball, March 13, 2013

They are telling us
        that down the road again there
is a chance of hope.
- George Murphy, March 13, 2013

It is good to be
        back in the House so we can
do some debating.
- Nick McGrath, March 13, 2013

They have also made
        the Public Utilities
Board aware of it.
- Derrick Dalley, March 18, 2014

We have the lunchroom
        also being utilized
as a music room.
- Paul Lane, March 18, 2014

I have had a few
        people actually say to me:
What is that building?
- Sandy Collins, March 18, 2014

At that point, there left
        something to be desired
about that building.
- Sandy Collins, March 18, 2014

The minister spoke
        about many seniors right
now in our Province.
- Dwight Ball, March 19, 2014

We had various
        programs on the go throughout
the years federally.
- George Murphy, March 19, 2014

I do not know why
        that is, and REEP is a good
example of that.
- George Murphy, March 19, 2014

Set the temperature
        back further when the business
is unoccupied.
- Tony Cornect, March 19, 2014

We have already
        talked about the smart meters
and how that could help.
- Tom Osborne, March 19, 2014

On a regular
        basis for the last two years,
I had to do this.
- Eddie Joyce, March 20, 2014

He asked me many
        questions about exactly
what we are doing.
- Dan Crummell, March 20, 2014

The member across
        the way there is wondering
who my barber is.
- Nick McGrath, March 20, 2014

I am very pleased
        with the way the government
has reacted there.
- Nick McGrath, March 20, 2014

Imagine travelling
        through unfamiliar terrain
at night at high speed.
- Randy Edmunds, March 24, 2014

That is exactly
        what was done with their partners
in Nova Scotia.
- Dwight Ball, March 24, 2014

They did a good job
        and I appreciate them
getting back to me.
- Andrew Parsons, March 24, 2014

Guess who is paying
        the bill when they are off work?
The government is.
- Lisa Dempster, March 25, 2014

As I said, the last
        time I spoke primarily
about my district.
- Susan Sullivan, March 25, 2014

It is just something
        that needs to be monitored
and needs to be fixed.
- Eddie Joyce, March 25, 2014

It is my first time
        as the minister getting
up and answering.
- Paul Davis, March 26, 2014

I want to look at,
        for a minute, what those two
reviews came back with.
- Lisa Dempster, March 26, 2014

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Monday, March 31, 2014

Yikes

Per the Newfoundland and Labrador budgetary estimates, 1994-2014 passim, here's the total public-sector debt by fiscal year, cleverly colour-coded by party in office at the start of the fiscal exercise. Figures are in $million. Click to enlarge, if you dare.

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Clarity Act

The Telegram on Thursday ran the following "clarification" (hyperlinks added):
A page A1 story in The Telegram March 17, "Hands tied by Bill 29," suggested the government will not be able to make the findings of its Muskrat Falls project oversight committee public, since Bill 29 - the access to information law - prohibits the public release of reports prepared for cabinet. In fact, interim Premier Tom Marshall has since clarified that the access to information law allows the public release of reports prepared for cabinet, provided they have not been requested through the formal information request process first - a quirk of the access law. For further explanation, see the latest blog post from The Telegram's political reporter, James McLeod http://www.thetelegram.com/Blog-Article/b/25893/My-mistake.

Slight problem:

The "clarification" actually introduces errors of its own.

Take this hypothetical: "James" applies for document XYZ under the Access to Information Act. The ATI co-ordinator denies James access under the Act, because of s. 18 of the Act, which was enacted as part of the paranoid, secretive PC government's Bill 29 in 2012.

Does the fact that James has applied for document XYZ preclude government from releasing it, ex gratia, of their own meer motion, to Mary?

No, it does not.

Does the fact that James has applied for document XYZ preclude government from releasing it, ex gratia, of their own meer motion, to James himself?

No, it does not.

Good luck getting government to do so. But the fact that the document has been requested, does not inoculate it from being released, other than to that requester and pursuant to the request made under the Act.

Never mind that's what the government has spent the past two years wanting you to believe. Never mind that they apply the supposed "principles" of the Act, including the Bill 29 provisions, to things other than the Access to Information requests that the Act governs.

Subject to the Protection of Privacy portions of the Act, the government can release just about any record it chooses to.

It just doesn't so choose.

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

A hanging in the morning

It only took nearly seven years — about the same length of time as he was ever in office — but the Progressive Conservatives, under whoever the Premier is this month, languishing about 20 points behind in the polls, and having burned through four Ministers of Justice, are finally making good on Danny Williams' 2007 promise to bring in provincial whistleblower protection legislation.

A quick recap, then, of how we got to this point.

October 7, 2007:
Progressive Conservative Leader Danny Williams pledged Saturday a new Tory government will implement whistleblower laws in the first session of the legislature after the Oct. 9 election.
"We'll get that on at the very earliest opportunity," Williams said in response to questions from reporters at a Carbonear shopping mall.
"The very first session of the House that we have, that's something we'll have a look at. As a matter of fact, there'd be no reason why we wouldn't get it on."

March 10, 2008 (Speech from the Throne):
Mr. Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly: My Government moved early and effectively to shine the spotlight of accountability on the operations of the Government and of the House of Assembly. My Government commissioned Chief Justice Derek Green to recommend an overhaul of management procedures at the House of Assembly and subsequently enacted legislation reflecting his recommendations. Among his recommendations was a call for ‘whistleblower' legislation establishing procedures for the disclosure of wrongdoings and for protecting public servants who disclose wrongdoings. My Government will introduce whistleblower legislation this year after appropriate consultation has taken place.

May 20, 2008:
MR. KENNEDY: I can tell the hon. member opposite that we are, and have been working on the whistleblower legislation. We have looked at the legislation that is in place across this country, and we have had extensive discussions as to the nature and content of this legislation. However, what we are looking at now, there does need to be some consultation with certain groups to determine the matters of significance that would come under the whistleblower legislation.
My understanding, and I can be corrected if I am wrong, but my understand was that we would bring in the whistleblower legislation during this session of the House, and I think that also includes the fall session.

September 8, 2008:
The Williams administration has yet to begin consultations it says are necessary to bring in a law protecting whistleblowers.
 "At this time government has not conducted consultations on this matter and as this legislation affects the public service for Newfoundland and Labrador, consultations will target the public service," Ken Morrissey, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said in an e-mailed statement.
 Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy indicated in May that those consultations were holding up the development and implementation of the law.
 "We are, and have been working on the whistleblower legislation," Kennedy said in the House of Assembly May 20. "We have looked at the legislation that is in place across this country, and we have had extensive discussions as to the nature and content of this legislation.

March 23, 2009:
MR. T. MARSHALL: In our party's blueprint in the last election we did indicate that in our second term we would develop whistleblower legislation, and we are in the process of doing that. Of course, we already have a form of whistleblower legislation. All members of this House joined in the passing of what I call the Green act which is the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act which provides for protection for those public servants who might disclose information about wrongful activity on the part of a member of this House, an officer of the House, or an employee of the House.
The next step is to move to extend that protection to those who disclose information, who see any wrongdoing about general civil servants.

June 1, 2009:
"Well, you know, the whistleblower legislation, we want to do right," said Premier Danny Williams, who said government is taking its time on Green's recommendation because he wants tight legislation.
Williams said the existing access-to-information legislation has meant that government has been bogged down with what Williams called "frivolous requests."
"It's a good thing. Access to information is a very, very important thing," Williams said.
"But there are a lot of requests that come in that are very, very time consuming … The one thing we don't want to do here is just create another situation where we are going to put another stranglehold on government."

December 9, 2010:
MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the department has consulted with jurisdictions all across Canada, all associations, anybody with a stakeholder interest in whistle-blower legislation. We have done a tremendous amount of work on it, a tremendous amount of consultation on it. We are monitoring existing legislation in other jurisdictions to see how it is working out. It is new in most provinces, and when we see how it works out, what discrepancies can be ironed out of these legislations, where the discrepancies are, and what the best practices are, Mr. Speaker, we will look at bringing in our legislation to serve the best needs of our public service.

April 6, 2011:
MR. F. COLLINS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we did, in 2007, promise in our blueprint - we promised in our 2007 blueprint - that we said we would: a Progressive Conservative government will develop whistleblower legislation. We deliberately said develop, Mr. Speaker, because that indicates that it will be an unfolding process, an unfolding process.
To do so immediately, Mr. Speaker, as suggested by the hon. Opposition, would be irresponsible, and not in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador. It would not be in the best interest to bring in legislation simply because other jurisdictions have it, or bring in legislation that would be mired in bureaucracy, with pitfalls, mired in secrecy, misguided, and unaccountable.
So, Mr. Speaker, for that reason, we will not support this motion. Not because we do not support whistleblower legislation. We have been considering and continue to consider whistleblower legislation, Mr. Speaker, for a number of years – and we continue to do so – but we will be voting against the motion, because the motion directs us to proceed immediately, when good government planning and prudence dictates otherwise.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of questions one might ask when trying to strike a right balance with whistleblower legislation, and none of these questions, Mr. Speaker, are easily answered.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that there is no need to call upon government to consider immediately such an initiative, because, as I mentioned earlier, this government has been considering, and continues to consider whistleblower protections for public service employees. Mr. Speaker, to do so immediately, as I mentioned, would not be responsible.

May 16, 2012:
MR. F. COLLINS: Finally, Mr. Speaker, we get the question on whistle-blower legislation; we have been waiting all session for it.
Mr. Speaker, my answer in the past to that question has been that we were monitoring jurisdictions across the country and elsewhere in the world with respect to best practices and experiences with new legislation, because whistle-blower legislation is relatively new in most jurisdictions. Mr. Speaker, the results we found have not been encouraging, but let me say this to you, the federal whistle-blower legislation, which is the one that all the other legislations in the country are mirrored on, has been in effect since 2007. There have been 228 complaints, nine investigations, and no findings of misconduct. It is called a toothless piece of legislation (inaudible) –

Related CBC scrum video:


May 29, 2012:
MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, we value our public servants in this Province. They are the engines that drive government; they are the nuts and bolts of this government. We will give them every assurance they need, that their jobs are protected, that they have nothing to fear from reporting something untoward in the workplace.
We do that in several pieces of legislation, and we do that in our assurance to them that they will not have to worry about any kind of repercussions because there is no specific whistle-blower legislation in place. They have lots of protection under all other pieces of legislation, and as I reiterate again, we will give them every assurance that they will not be retaliated or intimidated in any way by providing something that is untoward in the workplace.

June 14, 2012:
MR. F. COLLINS: Mr. Speaker, the whistle-blower legislation has been discussed at length in this House, or the lack of whistle-blower legislation. We made it clear, Mr. Speaker, in this House that when we see a piece of whistle-blower legislation that we can adopt, we will do that. In the meantime, Mr. Speaker, we have all kinds of coverage in our legislation and in the Criminal Code of Canada with respect to protection for people in the workplace.
December 4, 2013:
MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite is probably referencing a topic that we have talked about many times in this House; it is the issue of whistle-blower legislation which, while connected perhaps to the previous topic, certainly falls within my department.
As I have said before, we are quite confident at this point in time that our current legislation within the Province and current laws within the Province provide a lot of protection for workers to speak out. We encourage that, as a matter of fact, all the time.
We want to hear from people. We amended a piece of legislation last week that provides just that particular protection so that people are feeling comfortable about speaking out. At this point in time, there is no intention to bring forward the whistle-blower legislation in this session of the House.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Downward is upward

The PC MHA for Terra Nova is ever so pleased with the latest CRA poll
An uptick in the PC's popular support, within the margin of error of CRA's methodology, and one point less of support than the Abacus poll taken in the immediate aftermath of former Premier Dunderdale's resignation, might be the silver lining that the Tories are looking for. But the trend — the real trend — is not all that rosey.

Here is the four-poll rolling average of published popular opinion surveys over the past four years (click to enlarge):


Maybe the slight uptick in PC fortunes in the past half-year or so means something, and something that will last.

Or maybe it's just the third dead-cat bounce that the party's fortunes have seen since Dear Leader first noticed that his support was starting to soften in 2010.

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Thursday, March 06, 2014

The lay of the land – February 2014

CRA is out today with the first poll conducted after the dust has settled on Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation. Here is what the notional-projection electoral map would look like in a general election where the CRA vote-intent figures reflected actual popular support.

Dark colours indicate holds. Light red indicates notional Liberal pickups, while light blue indicates narrow PC holds. Grey indicates districts where the forecast models are in disagreement about the notional outcome. (Click to enlarge.)


The Liberals would take 28 seats – up from 25 in the other most recent poll by Abacus – including St. John’s West. Another nine seats would be tossups in which the Liberal candidate would be one of the contenders.

The incumbent PCs would retain at least eight seats, and would be contenders in eight of the previously-mentioned tossups. If all of the cookies crumbled their way, the PCs would have a remote chance of retaining up to 16 seats and official opposition status.

The NDP would notionally hold on to three seats... but one of those is St. John’s North, where things have changed. Note the important caveat that the forecast models do not take into account changes in party affiliation of the incumbent (St. John's North, St. John's South, Mount Pearl, Straits and White Bay North), nor a seat which has changed hands through a by-election (Carbonear–Harbour Grace). These districts are marked with an asterisk.
As with all poll projections, the overall seat-count result tends to be more accurate than the district-by-district count when the models are tested post-election. The errors in individual district forecasts tend to cancel one another out.

Interestingly, the notional “tossup” seats, those in which the projection models are in disagreement, are heavily concentrated in and around St. John’s. These include the newly-vacated Virginia Waters, where a recent IVR poll showed a close contest between the Liberals and PCs as the by-election campaign looms.
Poll projections in the latter half of 2013 also suggested a notionally close or “tossup” race in Carbonear–Harbour Grace, which in a real-world by-election test was carried by the Liberal candidate.

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Private to Sandy Collins and Paul Oram

For the benefit of both the VOCM newsroom, and the Terra Nova cell of the Lone Gunmen, here is the full text of three write-thrus of VOCM's story today on the provgov Wabush announcement, complete with Dwight Ball paraphrase:


Premier in Wabush for Third Transmission Line Announcment
Thursday , February 13 2014 | 9:28:20 AM
 
Premier Tom Marshall is optimistic about what the future may hold for Wabush. With the idling of the Scully mine, the town has lost its main employer with 400 people having lost their jobs.
The Premier is in Wabush today, joined by Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley and Labrador Affairs Minister and area MHA Nick McGrath for a series of meetings with the town and union to discuss ways the province can help. Marshall wouldn't get into specifics about exactly what the government would consider, but says all options are on the table. Marshall says the first thing is to meet with the stakeholders. Given these are workers with specific skills, he says it is important they are aware of other projects going on in this province and programs available to them to help get them back on their feet.
While Wabush sits idle, another company is pushing government for power to open. Development of the Kami Iron Ore Mine is being held up according to Alderon because there's not enough power available in Lab West. VOCM's Danielle Barron reports.
Sources tell VOCM News an announcement regarding the third transmission line between Churchill Falls and Lab West will be made this afternoon. Alderon Executive Chair Mark Morabito indicated on Twitter that even with the idling at Wabush Mines there isn't enough power to sustain Kami so a third transmission line is still needed. Morabito boasted that Kami has the potential to replace all of the jobs lost at Scully. Negotiations have been ongoing for some time now between government and Alderon on a third transmission line. Premier Tom Marshall would only say yesterday that a decision was imminent.
Marshall says everyone is aware of the power needs of the region and he will be discussing the issue with stakeholders and the community.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dwight Ball says government needs to be working with the community and the union to ease the adjustment period. He says government's top priority should be protecting the future of Wabush Mines, rather than focussing on a third transmission line for Alderon.
He says we have core assets including ore in the ground and a skilled work force. He says power is part of that asset, so future developments requiring power should not be the focus at this time.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says the workers laid off from Wabush Mines need to be sure their futures are secured. The union is hoping to meet with government and the company to try to work out an early retirement program to help families through a very tough time. Michael says the circumstances in Labrador West are such that appropriate assistance will be needed.
A news conference to discuss mining developments in Lab West is scheduled for 2 p.m. (Atlantic Time). VOCM News will be there to bring you the news first.
 
 
Premier Announces Third Transmission Line for Labrador West
Thursday , February 13 2014 | 3:04:42 PM
Premier Tom Marshall has confirmed that an agreement has been reached for a third transmission line to Labrador West. The premier, joined by Natural Resources Minister Derek Dalley and area MHA Nick McGrath made the announcement just a few moments ago in Wabush. Marshall says the role of government is to provide support to the industry. He also say governmen will do what it can to help the people of Wabush affected by the closure of the mine. He says over the next few weeks, labour market resources will be provided in the town.
The Premier is in Wabush today, joined by Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley and Labrador Affairs Minister and area MHA Nick McGrath for a series of meetings with the town and union to discuss ways the province can help. Marshall wouldn't get into specifics about exactly what the government would consider, but says all options are on the table. Marshall says the first thing is to meet with the stakeholders. Given these are workers with specific skills, he says it is important they are aware of other projects going on in this province and programs available to them to help get them back on their feet.
While Wabush sits idle, another company is pushing government for power to open. Development of the Kami Iron Ore Mine is being held up according to Alderon because there's not enough power available in Lab West. VOCM's Danielle Barron reports.
Sources tell VOCM News an announcement regarding the third transmission line between Churchill Falls and Lab West will be made this afternoon. Alderon Executive Chair Mark Morabito indicated on Twitter that even with the idling at Wabush Mines there isn't enough power to sustain Kami so a third transmission line is still needed. Morabito boasted that Kami has the potential to replace all of the jobs lost at Scully. Negotiations have been ongoing for some time now between government and Alderon on a third transmission line. Premier Tom Marshall would only say yesterday that a decision was imminent.
Marshall says everyone is aware of the power needs of the region and he will be discussing the issue with stakeholders and the community.
Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Dwight Ball says government needs to be working with the community and the union to ease the adjustment period. He says government's top priority should be protecting the future of Wabush Mines, rather than focussing on a third transmission line for Alderon.
He says we have core assets including ore in the ground and a skilled work force. He says power is part of that asset, so future developments requiring power should not be the focus at this time.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says the workers laid off from Wabush Mines need to be sure their futures are secured. The union is hoping to meet with government and the company to try to work out an early retirement program to help families through a very tough time. Michael says the circumstances in Labrador West are such that appropriate assistance will be needed.
A news conference to discuss mining developments in Lab West is scheduled for 2 p.m. (Atlantic Time). VOCM News will be there to bring you the news first. 
 
 
Third Transmission Line to Labrador West Announced
Thursday , February 13 2014 | 4:39:42 PM
Premier Tom Marshall has confirmed that an agreement has been reached to bring additional power to Lab West through a third transmission line from Churchill Falls. It comes on the heels of the decision by Cliffs this week to idle the Scully mine. As VOCM's Danielle Barron reports, the power deal was finalized just last night.
The 165 m/Wh line will take about two years to construct at an estimated cost of $300-million. It will be up to Newfoundland Hydro as to when construction will begin, but the province has asked the utility to expedite the process. The cost of the line will be bore by those who use it, in this case a combination of industry and residents.
The Public Utilities Board will set power rates and allocation, but Marshall says the planning and design of the line is exempt from PUB review. Marshall says the PUB regulates rates and protects consumers.
Alderon, the company who had been pushing for extra transmission for its Kami Iron Ore project is expected to start construction as early as mid-summer, with an estimated 2,300 jobs at peak and a workforce of 650 once operational.
The fall out from the shutdown of Wabush Mines has far-reaching effects. Not only are 400 employees without work, the town has lost its major employer and small businesses now worry what the closure will mean for their operations. Roger Enault owns four of six hotels in the region, including the Wabush Hotel. He's been operating in the town for some 26 years. Enault says while he doesn't suspect to feel the pinch in terms of occupancy, he says the closure will affect the bottom line of the dining room.
Every day he says the hotel restaurant serves 500 customers, Enault estimates at least 100 of them are workers at Wabush Mines.
Bob Cole runs three restaurants and bars in the Wabush region including Stanley's. He's been doing business in the town for 10 years. The closure of Scully, meant the loss of a contract for Cole, who use to provide meals for workers doing overtime. While it's a big loss, he says he's not going to lie down and die over it.
Cole says he's confident other projects will help prop-up the loss of Scully. He says Labrador people are resilient and while this loss is significant they will survive.
The provincial government will be providing labour market resources to the town and those affected in the coming weeks. Premier Tom Marshall had meetings today with the Steelworkers Union, and members of the town council to discuss ways government can help. The union has suggested an early retirement package for those eligible, an option that is being considered according to the Premier.
Marshall says through the department of advanced Education and Skills a full range of individualized training and transition support programs will be offerred in the weeks to come. Things like career counselling, resume writing workshops and help with interviewing skills.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New deal

An excerpt from a St. John's Telegram report by Jamie Baker, from October 24, 2006:
Premier Danny Williams is rejecting an Iron Ore Company of Canada's (IOC) call for continued access to cheap power, even going as far as to compare the company's proposal to the infamous Upper Churchill contract.

Williams said the company wants to continue a longstanding agreement with the province to buy its power at a rate of .5 cents per kilowatt.

"The half-cent, from our perspective, it's a renewal of a deal that's very similar to the Upper Churchill contract," Williams told The Telegram Monday, suggesting the company is "virtually getting their power for nothing."

The existing contract was struck when Churchill Falls was being built.

IOC agreed to shut down its Twin Falls generating station on the condition that the province would provide an equivalent amount of power for the company at an equivalent price.

That contract expires in 2014.

Williams said the power rates in that deal are outdated and any new deal with IOC would have to be more in line with existing energy markets.

He said the standard industrial rate for the province was about 6.5 cents; the residential rate for island customers is approximately 12 cents; and the rate for recalled power would be some four cents.
Quaere: what price is Alderon looking to pay?

Monday, February 03, 2014

Paul Oram is right

The PC's are back.

In second place.

Per this morning's Abacus poll for VOCM, conducted in the days following Kathy Dunderdale's resignation, here's what the notional electoral map would look like. The Liberal seat count would be at least 25, including one notional win in St. John's, with another eight potential pickups, not including seats which the caucus has already picked up through floor-crossing and a by-election.

The incumbent PCs would struggle to retain a caucus of more than ten, though they would save the furniture in their traditional northeast Avalon chateau-fort.

The NDP, despite the Troubles, and despite being well off their record-breaking polling highs of 2012 and 2013, would notionally hold onto a caucus of at least three.

Dark colours indicate holds. Light red indicates notional Liberal pickups, while light blue indicates narrow PC holds. Grey indicates districts where the forecast models are in disagreement about the notional outcome.





* The models do not take into account changes in party affiliation of the incumbent (St. John's North, St. John's South, Mount Pearl, Straits and White Bay North), nor a seat which has changed hands in a post-2011 by-election (Carbonear–Harbour Grace). It also does not account for the impact of likely pre-election vacancies (Virginia Waters) or incumbents who choose not to re-offer (Humber East).

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