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

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ideas that matter

A moment to remember Jane Jacobs.

Very sloppy journalists called her an "urban planner", which, given her frequent run-ins with that dismal science, was an insult really. Slightly less sloppy ones called her an "urban thinker".

In reality, Jane Jacobs' thoughts, on a wide variety of economic and social phenomena, were really little more than common sense. What set here apart was her ability to lay bare the obvious, to systematically dismantle fetishes, to dissect facts and structures and put them back together in ways that made their deep structure obvious, and above all, to observe, and to write in ways that gave her readers those same "a-ha!" moments that she had experienced in her observation.

Jane Jacobs was one of those few idea-people, whose ideas matter a lot to me, who I have ever actually met. Hoping against hope that she might have had another book in her fingers, I knew they would never make it out of her fertile and energetic mind.

In the front matter to The Death and Life of Great American Cities, she wrote:


The scenes that illustrate this book are all around us. For illustrations, please look closely at real cities. While you are looking, you might as well listen, linger and think about what you see.

That was her technique, but it was also her command. We could all do well to look, listen, linger, and think about the things that are important to us, difficult to understand, easy to demonize, and easier to destroy.

And her books should be on the shelves at the Department of Business.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Like-y speech-y?

To his credit, the Prime Minister has continued his predecessors' sensible habit of posting the text of speech speaking notes to his web site.

Why doesn't the Premier's office do the same?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Remedial meteorology

A couple of interesting points out of the Prime Minister's speech in St. John's today:

For years now, this province has had to endure inaccurate weather forecasts from nearly a thousand kilometres away in the Maritimes.

As discussed previously in this corner, someone has pulled a Stockwell on Harper. Airport to airport, Halifax is 816 km from Gander. Downtown to downtown, Halifax is also about 480* km from Port aux Basques, 910 from St. John's, and 960 from St. Anthony. Even much of Labrador is 1000 km or less from Halifax; Goose Bay is nearly 1000 km on the nose; L'anse au Clair is about 900; Labrador City about 960.

What's really interesting, though, is the broader implication that you can't, as a matter of principle, have a weather forecaster more than 1000 km, or at least, no farther than Halifax is from Newfoundland, from the weather forecastee.

What are the implications, then, for Gander, which is farther from Cartwright (540 km), Rigolet (620), Goose Bay (630), Hopedale (810), Churchill Falls (830), Nain (960), Labrador City (965), or Cape Chidley (1390)? If Halifax is too far from Newfoundland to forecast its weather, then Gander is too far from all of Labrador except for the communities that follow Newfoundland Time.

Harper continues:

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians deserve better than to be told to expect five centimetres of snow over night only to wake up to ten times that amount.

That's a line to bear in mind the first time — and there will be a first time, and times after that — that the re-established Gander weather office does what all weather offices do: makes a bum call.

It is, after all, Environment Canada. Harper may end up learning, belatedly, that people who lay the blame for bum forecasts at the foot of the federal government, won't care about the partisan affiliation of the government of the day that the forecast is wrong...


* The distance estimates in this post were generated with a different mapping tool than the December 7 post, and have been rounded to the nearest 10 km.

When $50-million is $0-million

The provincial government is sometimes too clever by half.

In his letter to the party leaders during the federal election campaign, Chairman Dan asked the parties to commit to funding the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway:
Key to the economic progress of Labrador is the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway (TLH). The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was pleased with the Federal Government’s decision to add the TLH to the National Highway System. The time has come for the Federal Government to commit to the completion of the TLH, in partnership with the province.

Does your party support a Federal-Provincial cost-shared agreement to complete the TLH?
Note the premise in the preamble: "The time has come for the Federal Government to commit..." Never mind the fact that the federal government, of various stripes, has already outspent the province, 90 cents to 10, on the construction of the TLH. Or that Danny Williams' government hasn't put one penny of money into the TLH that didn't come from the federal government in the first place through the 1997 Labrador Transportation Initiative Fund.

In his reply, Stephen Harper said:
Yes, a Conservative government would support a cost-shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway.
Notice anything?

Danny didn't ask for a 50/50 split.

Harper doesn't offer one.

But that didn't stop Danny from cheerleading for his Conservative cousins. As he was quoted in the January 18 edition of the Telegram:

"The Conservative and NDP responses were very encouraging on several fronts, including support for a loan guarantee for the development of the Lower Churchill, support for the reinstatement of the Gander weather office and support for a cost-shared agreement on the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway, among other issues," Williams noted.
In the late provincial budget, Chairman Dan ratchets it up a notch, announcing:

$15.0 million for Trans-Labrador Highway Phase I sealed surface, subject to Federal cost shared commitment.
And again:

As recently announced, $25.5 million to further construct Phase III of the Trans- Labrador Highway, including 50 kilometres near Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Cartwright. Another $15 million – subject to 50-50 federal-provincial cost-sharing – will be put towards a sealed surface on Phase I of the Trans- Labrador Highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush.
Emphasis very much added.

The figure is used again today:

Government will invest $26.7 million to further construct Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway - including 50 kilometres between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Cartwright - and another $15 million, subject to 50-50 federal-provincial cost-sharing, to start application of a sealed surface on Phase I of the Trans-Labrador Highway between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Wabush.
Of course, the budget documents have very clevely obfuscated three figures — the $50-million in "investments" for Labrador, the $15-million in conditional money for surfacing parts of the TLH, and the "50/50" cost-sharing agreement that Danny and his Minions are desperately flailing about trying to convince people they actually have with Harper in respect of the TLH.

Questions for discussion:

Since Danny didn't ask 50/50, and Harper didn't offer it, what is his authority for the "50/50" figure? Where does it come from? Where has 50/50 ever been committed to for any part of the TLH, other than in a one-off project in 1992?

If the provincial "committment" of $15-million for Labrador is entirely contingent on federal, "50/50" money, can the province be truly said to be committed at all? If the province can afford $15-million, why should the money be conditional? If the TLH is truly a provincial priority, and truly "key to the economic progress of Labrador", shouldn't the province of which Labrador is a part be spending the money anyway?

What happens if Harper honours the spirit of his letter and offers cost-sharing on a basis less than "50/50"?

When is the province going to commit unconditional money to the TLH, especially bearing in mind the dismal record of provincial participation in funding the project, to the tune of barely 10% of the cost, over the past 30 years or so?

Is Labrador an "integral part of the province", to use Chairman Dan's phrase, any day of the year other than the ones on which provincial taxes are due?

Has Danny, by bandying about this "50/50" figure as if someone had ever actually said it, set Harper and his party up for a manufactured crisis, and a fall? If so, how long before he pulls the plug?

Why does Chairman Dan, and, in fairness, his predecessors in other parties, get off the hook when they try and put Ottawa on the hook for half the cost of public works in Labrador, for no other evident policy reason than those works are in Labrador? Is Labrador 50% a territory or something?

And, most importantly: why is no one in the province, especially in the legislative press gallery, asking these questions of the people who should be answering them?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Compare and contrast

Stephen Harper's promises to Danny Williams, vs. Stephen Harper's priorities for the country as a whole.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The First Person Royal Prerogative

From various media accounts of the Hebron fallout. The speaker in each case is, as Terence Corcoran has cleverly coined, Hugo Williams.

We have good reason to believe that ExxonMobil was the only partner (dissenting)”

“But our position is, and what we understand is, that the holdout was ExxonMobil.”

We will be prepared to take you out.”

“If that takes 10 terms and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador want to re-elect us time and time again, we'll stay here until this is done. So they won't wait us out.”

We've come out very strongly indicating that we can't allow one company to hold up development of this project on an ongoing basis.”

We will be saying to oil companies in this province that you won't be able to sit on discoveries for five or 10 or 20 years without developing.”

Our motto here will be 'use it or lose it.'”

“But give us an opportunity to develop this.”

We are going to have to find a way to legislate you out, because we are not going to allow a company like ExxonMobil or anybody else to hold up these reserves indefinitely.”

“What we have said is that we are going to find a way that, if development of discoveries are not proceeded with on a timely basis, that they are going to be forced to abandon them.”

We have worked toward a good-faith negotiation.”