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

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Free enterprise: selectively alive, selectively dead

"'We' will 'go it alone' on the Lower Churchill."

"'We' 'own the wind'."

"No more giveaways!"

“It is vital that the people of our province receive maximum economic benefit from this very valuable resource, and indeed from all our natural resources..."

"All our province is requesting is a small stake in our own resources."

"These resources are finite and we, as a province, must be able to achieve greater prosperity for our people."

"The oil is not going anywhere. And neither are we. "

Then considering all that... why, if "Stog’er Tight" is such a great gold property, if "a small stake in our own resources" is such an important goal, if "we own the wind", if "these resources are finite" and "greater prosperity for our people" is so important, why, oh why, is the provincial government "attempting to fast-track development of the resource by a company interested in advancing the property in the short term".

Why not "go it alone"?

Is the gold going somewhere?

Are "we"?

St. Anthony: integral part of the province

CBC Corner Brook today reports that Trevor Taylor has announced a $6-million “Regional Civic Centre” for the Northern Peninsula, to be built in St. Anthony.

Meanwhile, the province's so-called “committment” to the Mealy Mountain Auditorium project in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as usual for anything to do with Labrador, is dependent on federal funding.

“It’s high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else’s treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of ourprovince. We cannot expect fair treatment from Ottawa if we don’t practise what we preach.”
That was Danny Williams, on becoming leader of his party, on April 7, 2001.

How hollow it sounded then. How hollower it sounds with every passing day.

RIP free enterprise — we hardly knew yah.

When the provincial government issues press releases with appaling, Soviet-esque statements like this:
To support the continued efforts of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to use the province’s natural resources for the benefit of its people, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro will oversee a monitoring program to measure the wind resource in Labrador .

“Our government believes wind has great potential as a source of energy in Labrador and on the island,” said John Ottenheimer, acting Minister of Natural Resources. “We also believe that wind must be developed in such a way that benefits accrue to the people of the province. That is central to our government’s natural resource development policy.”
is it any wonder that far too many people believe that employment comes at the end of a government program, and that jobs are things that are made (passive voice) by government, not something that you, yourself, can make?

Why would any company — local or external — want to invest in a province where the provincial government sees itself not merely as the steward, but as the owner, of everything, even the very wind, the fungible, recyclable wind, that the province had no interest in until private industry and some people in Labrador got interested in it first?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Trevor Taylor on transport

Some interesting comments today from Trevor Taylor on the Trans-Labrador Highway front.

In a CBC Radio Noon interview [audio available here] probably scheduled before The Scandal blew everything else away, Trevor becomes Danny's appointed Minister of Rain, delivering the bad news that all is not rosy on the TLH. Conveniently, he also sets up the play for Danny's future, already-scripted rupture with Harper and Company.

(As Trevor says, when Anne Budgell starts to make him squirm, "And I think that these questions, with all due respect Anne, you should be asking Minister Cannon these, not I. ")

To start with, when, oh when, is someone going to point out to Trevor, Danny, and the public at large, that a provincial "committment" to the TLH that is entirely conditional on dollar for dollar matching funds from the federal government, is not actually a committment at all?

Seriously: if you make your dispensing of money entirely contingent on an event that has not happened, nor is likely to, have you promised to dispense anything? Say, "I'll give you fifty bucks if Elvis walks in that door with Marilyn Monroe." Have you promised fifty bucks? No.

Trevor describes this year's provincial TLH "committment":

...certainly we made our commitment on surfacing the Trans-Labrador Highway last October, November I guess it was. We budgeted for it this year. But that’s pending of course the feds coming along with their 50% of the costs.
Question: when did the "feds" commit to "their 50% of the costs"? (Partial answer: not here.)

Trevor also says:

The feds have still not concluded exactly how that gets shared out, how it’s going to be divvied up, so to speak, between the provinces, how much of that may be allocated to the Trans-Labrador Highway or if it’s just going to be a block funding for the National Highway System, those types of decisions we’re still waiting from the federal government. We estimate that it will cost $100-million to put a hard surface on the Trans-Labrador Highway, fifty from us, fifty from the federal government, because it does qualify, it’s now a part of the National Highway System.
Question: The entire Trans-Labrador Highway, right from Labrador City to L'anse au Clair, including the yet-unbuilt Phase III from Happy Valley-Goose Bay to Cartwright Junction, was added to the National Highway System. Does the province consider paving about one-third of this length (Wabush to Happy Valley-Goose Bay), without completing Phase III, or paving it or Phase II, to be "completing" the Trans-Labrador Highway? Does Stephen Harper? Or Lawrence Cannon? Are Danny and Trevor prepared to finish the other two-thirds of the TLH, up to hard-top standards, with provincial funds alone? That would be spectacular news, and might even get the cumulative provincial contribution to the TLH up to 40% or so of the total costs.

And what program, exactly, does the TLH "qualify" for? Usually things that "qualify" qualify for something. Qualify is not, in this context, an intransitive verb. There's an object in the sentence. What's the object, Trevor?

Trevor also explains the unorthodox budgeting procedures of his department:

Us the province['s committment] to this construction season was $7.5-million. The budget says $15-million. The way the budget works, when you identify this, there’s your expenditure line of $15-million, but in that same section of the budget there would also be a revenue line that would identify $7.5-million federal, for a total of $15-million this season.
Question: Is this orthodox, or even legal, provincial budgeting procedure, to vote an amount (the $7.5-million federal "revenue line") which doesn't even legally exist at the federal level?

Trevor says, when asked by Anne Budgell whether the province would go ahead with its funding in the absence of federal matching dollars:

Well that’s a decision that I unfortunately can’t make on my own. This is a decision that cabinet can make, but our concern is if we start down this road without the feds, then we’re going down this road alone.
Question: Considering that 90% of the money that has ever gone into the TLH has come from federal sources, isn't it fair to ask why the province won't make any solid, and unilateral, funding commitments to the TLH, above and beyond anything that might be cost-shared?

What signal does it send to Labrador from Danny "integral part of our province" Williams and his government if their "commitment" to the "integral part of our province" is entirely contingent on federal matching payments, especially ones that Stephen Harper didn't actually promise?

(Again, for those who don't quite get the point of the Harper letter, nowhere in it does Harper commit to cost-sharing on a 50-50 basis, notwithstanding Danny's spin to the contrary.)

And what will it mean for Labrador's vote in the future referendum, if Danny's notions of "integrality" come at a 50% discount? ;)

It is pretty hard to play Blame Canada for the fact that 57 years after Confederation the TLH is still unfinished — Canada, after all, has kicked in the vast majority of the funding so far.

While it is easy, heck quite proper, to hold the Conservatives to account for their election promises, Trevor and Danny owe the public honesty on what exactly was promised.

Harper promised to cost-share the completion of the TLH, not to merely pave the vote-rich (and more importantly, most-likely-to-vote-provincial-PC-rich) Lab West-HVGB axis. He did not promise to cost-share it at a 50/50 ratio. If Danny and Trevor consider this paving project to be "completing" the TLH, they have a lot of explaining to do south and east of the Grand River Causeway.

However, even a lesser federal involvement in percent terms, over a longer stretch of highway, could easily surpass a federal 50% share of paving 1/3 of the road in raw dollars...

...if, and only if, Danny Williams' promise about making Labrador "feel like an integral part of our province" actually means anything.

After all, Labrador's drivers pay provincial taxes, too.

Even from Cartwright and south.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Danny and dog-whistles (again)

Bill Rowe got the ultrasound message too!

Newfoundland's former Ambassador to Canada wrote his latest column (so sadly not available online) for the St. John's Telegram under the headline "A few dire consequences?"

Ominous, wot?

He sets the scene:

Back in June of 2006, no one in Canada took Premier Danny Williams seriously when he warned that, if the Canadian government accepted the equalization changes recently recommended by a panel of "experts," and clawed back this province's hard-won Atlantic Accord money, there would be "dire consequences."
Then a bunch of other stuff happens, leading up to:

Quebec quietly settled enough of her citizens in Labrador to win a majority in a referendum to have Labrador join that province. The Parti Quebecois government, wildly popular from the future billions of extra equalization dollars, and for righting a historic wrong by regaining Labrador and its riches as a lawful part of Quebec, expected no difficulty in obtaining a big majority in their own upcoming referendum to achieve Quebec independence.

Newfoundland, reigned over by Prime Minister Danny Williams, got its own seat at the UN, and became a tight little island nation facing the challenges, like Iceland, of sink-or-swim independence alone in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean.
Fantasy is such a wonderful genre, but it's a bit of a stretch to ask the reader to suspend disbelief to the point where a parallel universe exists in which a province is prompted to leave Canada because they get so much money from the federal government, or because they don't get enough.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

They like us! They really like us!

From VOCM today:

Province Being Noticed for Ocean Technology - Jun 14, 2006

Premier Danny Williams says Newfoundland and Labrador is opening a lot of eyes when it comes to this province's ocean technology. Williams says both the United States and Ireland are showing significant interest in the opportunities this province’s ocean technology present. He says this resource is opening a lot of doors in the ocean industries field, and stakeholders in the business community and academic community are really involved. Williams points out the technical capability in Newfoundland and Labrador for ocean technology is relatively unknown, and people from the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island are recognizing that we have a lot to offer. The Premier says some of the most informed people in the world on this subject are in Rhode Island, and they are looking at the potential this province has to offer, which would enhance their position as well. Williams says governors along the eastern seaboard of the United States are also recognizing Newfoundland and Labrador has a lot to offer when it comes to our people, culture, music, energy, and tourism, along with ocean technology.
Someone, please, tell Chairman Dan that the Sally Field act, just like the Irish Leprechaun — begyourpardon, Celtic Tiger, comparison — is getting a little old. And someone else, please, tell the VOCM newsroom that the Danny Field act is not especially news-worthy.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Notes from Nova Scotia

A province has a provincial election in which the three main parties actually run, not against the federal government, but against each other!

What is the world coming to? A provincial election whose central theme wasn't "We can hate Canada more than the other guy can." What will they think of next?

Memo to the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador (and the LP and NDP): Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader aren't going to be on the October 2007 provincial ballot. You want to knock a strip off Danny Williams (and avoid the same oblivion that the NS Liberals avoided tonight)?


Memo to Stephen Harper: Danny Williams is going to run against you. Have fun!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Of Danny and dog-whistles

For two days running, Glorious Leader has been in the media predicting vague, indeterminate, but "dire" consequences should Stephen Harper, the only political leader capable of out-bullying and out-childishing Glorious Leader, adopt the report of the Expert Panel on Equalization as part of his grand scheme to fix the chimera known as Fiscal Imbalance.

"Dire consequences". Glorious Leader said it on CBC and on VOCM. Glorious Leader said it, so it must be true.

When pressed, Glorious Leader declines to offer more details as to these dire consequences. They are dire. Glorious Leader leaves it at that, even if the interviewer or audience can't quite figure out what Glorious Leader is on about.

But that doesn't stop his nationalist base from "knowing" exactly what it means.

As "Bad Boy" writes in his originating post:

Danny has tossed out the idea of Newfoundland separating as a threat over equalization ...
It's official: Glorious Leader has imported the dog-whistle into Newfoundland and Labrador politics.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What nobody asked Ed Byrne

On Thursday, Natural Resources Minister Ed Byrne was Anne Budgell’s guest on CBC Radio’s Crosstalk. [Link to .ram file]

Setting aside the question of what happened to his definite articles (the Minister, bizarrely, invariably refers to “Lower Churchill”, without “the”, as if his native language was Slavic), several questions jumped out as having not been asked by neither guests nor host.

1. Starting at approximately 3:50 into the audio file, in the intro, Ed Byrne says:

“Financially, we believe, based upon our conversations with bondholders and the financial markets, based upon our improved financial position as a province, based upon the commitment made by the Prime Minister of the country, all of the independent advice that we’ve received is that this is, in moving forward ourselves, without exposing the people of the province to any undue or unnecessary risk, that this can be done ourselves with long-term power purchase agreements.”
And at 19:26, in response to a call:

“…the commitment from the federal government with respect to this project…”
Questions: What commitment has the Prime Minister of the country or the federal government made? When and where did he (they) make it? (Hint: it wasn’t here.) Does it involve a loan guarantee? If so, up to what dollar value?

2. At 7:57 he says:

“[transmission of Lower Churchill power to coastal Labrador] is the issue that has come up in terms of access to cheap, reliable power. That’s being assessed right now. We’re not in a position, and it would be unfair for me to make a commitment to that, because we’re not in a position to make that commitment, because our assessment has not been completed...”
Meanwhile, in response to Tom Kierans, at 21:12:

“You haven’t heard the government of Newfoundland and Labrador proposing, either the Premier or myself, say that we’re not proposing [using Lower Churchill power within the province]. What we’re proposing is a balance in terms of export of power. We’re also talking about reserving a significant block of power to advance and attract industry in Labrador, to develop the economy of Labrador.”
And in response to another caller, at 25:55:

“If we looked at an interconnect, or the Anglo-Saxon Route, or Maritime Route, whichever acronym [sic] we wish to use, it would be approximately about [sic] $2-billion… We haven’t confined ourselves to any single option… All options, including that option, are currently on the table.”
Questions: Given that last October, Ed Martin poured a large dose of cold water on the idea of a Lower Churchill “infeed” transmission line to Newfoundland, why is Ed Byrne still holding out the apparently false hope that Newfoundland might have access to Lower Churchill power? Has a transmission line to Newfoundland been assessed, such that Ed Martin could reject it last October? If it is still being assessed, as Ed Byrne said on Thursday, then why did Ed Martin cast doubt on it? If it isn’t feasible, why is Ed Byrne still suggesting that it’s a possibility? But if it is part of Dan’s Grand Plan, why not come out and say so? And if a transmission line to Newfoundland is part of the plan, why the hedge on transmitting the power to the Labrador coast that a Newfoundland line would have to cross in any event? If the plan is to use power “in the province” in Labrador, and not in Newfoundland, why be ambiguous about it? Isn’t Labrador an integral part of the province?

3. At approximately 12:01 Ed Byrne describes one of the benefits of Chairman Dan’s Lower Churchill plan as:

“providing not only revenue to the province, but hopefully an opportunity for that power to be used to expand our industrial base in Labrador, and to offer cheap power to expand the economy, and ultimately to reduce rates for the ratepayer or homeowner…”
Questions: Does this mean that the plan is to use Lower Churchill revenues to cross-subsidize other people’s power rates? If so, whose? Labrador’s? The entire province’s? Just domestic customers? Commercial? Industrial?

4. Starting at approximately 50:05, in response to a question from the host, he says

“…the Premier has acknowledged, the government has acknowledged, that unless there is an agreement reached with the Innu Nation, that there will be no project, so those discussions and negotiations are occurring as we speak.”
Remember that the Premier promised, during the 2003 election campaign:

We will involve the Labrador Metis Nation, as we will representatives of all residents of Labrador, in the process of negotiating a Lower Churchill Development Agreement.
Questions: How are the LMN and “representatives of all residents of Labrador” being involved in the negotiating process? If they aren’t now, then when will they be? Why don’t reporters ask about this element of Danny’s Lower Churchill policy? And why do the government’s own, unprompted statements about the Labrador hydro proposals, while always taking great pains to include the Innu Nation, and properly so, never mention the LMN or “representatives of all residents of Labrador”?