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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dunderdale's omission

Making an obligatory appearance on Voice of the Cabinet Minister this afternoon, Kathy Dundedale talked up the mining industry in Newfoundland. and Labrador.

She talked about Nugget Pond. She talke about uranium exploration all across the island. and Labrador. She talked about the potential of Labrador West. Boy, if only you could smelt potential.

She boasted that mining employment in the province stands at 3100 person-years, one presumes, annually.

And she talked about ongoing nickel exploration around Voisey's Bay.

The one thing she did not mention?

Voisey's Bay itself.

According to the latest figures from VBNC, last fall there were 421 people employed in the company's Labrador operations, and even more in Newfoundland.

And according to Danny Williams, Voisey's Bay was the biggest "giveaway" since Churchill Falls.

That orthodoxy must not be questioned, even if VBNC, assuming (wrongly) for the sake of argument that all its jobs are full-time, year-round ones directly attributed to the mining industry, would account for a third of the province's mining employment.

And it must be questioned, even if VBNC, the greatest "giveaway" since blah blah blah holes you can drive a truck through blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah, employs more people than South Hibernia, Hebron-Ben Nevis, the Lower Churchill, and the Stephenville paper mill.

Comment se traduit "pass the buck"?

Radio-Canada reports that the Council of Mayors on the Lower North Shore have extract a promise from André Boisclair and the PQ to honour the $100-million commitment to beginning construction on the Route 138 Lower North Shore extension. (Despite the recent strengthening in support for the ADQ, l'équipe Mario Dumont is still a very long shot to form even a minority government, and longer still to win Duplessis, mais, on verra.)

And, to boot:
Le président du Conseil des maires de la Basse-Côte-Nord, Randy Jones est du même avis que M. Monger. L'important, selon lui, est de poursuivre la recherche de financement.

M. Jones estime qu'André Boisclair a été honnête: « N'importe quel leader va avoir de la misère à engager le total des sommes. Il faut commencer en quelque part et je crois que le 100 millions c'est un début eh puis on va aller chercher des fonds dans l'autre pallier du gouvernement ».

(The President of the Council of Mayors of the Lower North Shore, Randy Jones is of the same opinion as Mr. Monger. The important thing, he says, is to continue to look for the financing.

Mr. Jones says that André Boisclair has been up-front. "Any leader is going to have trouble coming up with the total amount. You have to start somewhere, and I think that $100-million is a start, and then we'll go look for money from the other level of government.")
It's not the first time, of course, that a provincial highway committment has been made contingent on federal financing. Not at all.

Nor, for that matter, the only province. Plus ils changent, plus ils sont la même chose.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Small business, and getting smaller

The 2003 PC Party platform stated:

In this Province, medium and small businesses play the lead role in creating employment and income, and in diversifying both the products and services we sell and the markets into which we sell them.

Medium and small business are even more important to sustainable economic and social development in rural communities, since they are labour-intensive and widely dispersed throughout the Province. They are often the only realistic prospect for creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

During its first mandate, a Progressive Conservative government will formulate and implement smart policies and programs to promote medium and small business development.
How has the small business sector fared in the past four years?

Not good.

According to the provincial government's own statistics, the number of businesses in the province has declined by nearly 3% overall between the election year of 2003 and 2005, the most recent year for which statistics are available. The number declined in almost every part of the province, with the sole exception, among the 20 economic zones, of Labrador West and St. John's. This map shows the extent of the decline; green represents an increase in registered businesses; yellow a decrease of up to -5%; orange a decrease of up to -10%; red a decrease of -10% or more. (Click to enlarge.)

In the first two full years of Danny Williams' government, 2003 through 2005 inclusive, the number of registered businesses decreased for two years running in the province overall. The decline was widespread, exhibiting itself in twelve out of twenty zones.

And in the five years up to and including 2005, a pre-census year, the number of businesses in the province declined by nearly -5%.

(In fairness, the year-over-year change for 2004-2005, the most recent figures available, was positive in northern, central, and western Labrador, and in St. John's, which has only had a year-over-year business decline in one year (2002) for which figures are available.)

If — and it's a somewhat of an "if", but not a huge "if" — this business decline corresponds even approximately to the population change over the same period, then the 2006 census of population, due out in just over two weeks, will probably reveal a province whose population, which stood at 512,000 in 2001, has slumped back below half a million, to the population it had in the mid- to late 1960s.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Québec, ville non surprenante

Paul Wells comments on the latest CROP sub-provincial Quebec City subsample on the federal vote-intention question:

In the Quebec City region, meanwhile, I'm not sure you'd believe me if I told you. OK, I'll tell you. BQ 31%, Liberals 13%, Conservatives 39%. With those numbers, they at least hold their current numbers in Quebec City and bid fair to pick up seats. Didn't see that coming, did you.
Polls, as a poli-sci prof at a particular Maritime university is very fond of saying are a snapshot in time.

To say "they at least hold their current numbers in Quebec City and bid fair to pick up seats", is to describe a present-perfect or future trend. For that you need at least two measurements. Measure twice or more, describe trend once.

In the five close-in urban or predominantly suburban Quebec City area ridings of Beauport, Charlesbourg, Portneuf, Louis-Saint-Laurent, Louis-Hébert, and Québec, the Tories took 37% of the vote in 2006, as compared to 34% for the BQ, 12% for Others, mainly personified in Independent MP André Arthur,'s successful bid, and 10% for the Liberals.

Expanding the defintion of "Quebec City region" to include Montmorency, Lévis—Bellechasse, and Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, which include suburban populations as well as exurban and rural ones, the 2006 Tory vote increases to 39% (they did very well on the south shore), the BQ is unchanged at 34%, Other, again mainly André Arthur, is at 11%, and 9% voted PLC.

All of which is to say, that over a year of Tory attempts to build on their Quebec beachhead, which is concentrated in Quebec City region, a series of supposedly "devastating" attack French-language attack ads, a federal Liberal leadership, and the renewed rumours of the BQ's impending demise... the federal vote intention in the metro Quebec City area, at CROP's moment in time, is, statistically speaking, unchanged from the 2006 election result.

Of the nine ridings listed above, there are Conservatives representing six of them. Three of them — Charlesbourg, Beauport, and Louis-Hébert — they won by a margin of 3% or less.

Two are held by the BQ; Québec, where Christiane Gagnon scored a 12%-margin over the Tories, and Montmorency, where Michel Guimond polled 17% ahead.

The CROP poll, if it were an election result, would mean the Tories opened up at most another 3% to 5% over the BQ, which might make Gagnon and Guimond break a sweat... but they'd also break the tape.

Assuming that the CROP results were an accurate reflection of an actual late-campaign insider poll, the Tories would be playing defence, not offence, in every one of these nine ridings. With the possible exception of André Arthur's Portneuf, depending on whether he runs again, or who for, there are no Quebec City area "pickups", on that kind of a popular vote, for Harper's Quebec branch-plant.

Wells' political assessments are usually pretty astute and insightful... but, well, insert the usual caveat about +/- 3.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The invisible Tories

According to CRA polling over the past year, support for Danny Williams and the PC Party has ranged anywhere from 69% to 73%, roughly 10% to 15% higher than the 58% which his party received in the 2003 general election.

So... where are all these Tories?

In the five by-elections from Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, through to Humber Valley, the Tories are down 6,652 votes in the five districts combined. True, that reflects lower turnout across the board, but even after factoring out the depressed turnout for all three major parties, the Tories have been hit disproportionately hard: 36% fewer Tory votes were cast in the five by-elections than in the 2003 general, as against 28% fewer Liberal votes, and 17% fewer NDP ones.

Perhaps most revealing, only in Port-au-Port was there any significant boost in Tory fortunes compared to 2003, where the Tory vote share was up 6%, even as the overall number of Tory (and all) votes fell dramatically. In Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi and Kilbride the Tory vote was up by less than a percentage point; in the other two by-elections the Tory vote share was substantially lower than in 2003.

In the five districts overall, the Tory vote was 3.4% less than in 2003. Not a massive loss of vote share, but not the vote gain that should have been expected if Danny and his party are, as we keep hearing, riding so high in the polls. The Liberal vote was 1.3% higher, even after sitting out Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi. Excluding that district, the Liberal vote is up in the remaining four districts by a combined 3.5%; the Tory vote is down 4.5%. And including Placentia-St. Mary's from 2005, when Danny's support was stratospheric, the Tory vote share in the 2005 through 2007 by-elections is 7% less than it was in 2003.

So, where are all the people who say they support Danny Williams when polled?

Or, looking at the other side of the coin, why do people who are polled say they support Danny Williams?

On to Labrador West!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Pomises, pomises

John Ottenheimer is heading up to Ottawa to give them flappy-headed Canadians a piece of his mind:
The Honourable John Ottenheimer, Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, is in Ottawa today and Friday to meet with federal ministers regarding issues of importance to Newfoundland and Labrador and impress upon the federal government the importance of abiding by their commitments.
Hoo boy, that's rich, coming from a Minister in a government with this kind of track record:
[Lying Premier Danny] Williams insists the proper course is an independent study to determine the most effective plan to service Labrador by ferry.

The study, he said, will be carried out by Memorial University's public policy institute which should report back by late January or early February.

"They'll come back with an independent, non-partisan, non-regional approach to this and it'll be based on the facts," he said.

"We want to make a decision based on the best possible information. Let's get an accurate study done. And I think that serves the people of Cartwright and the people of Lewisporte." [St. John's Telegram, November 25, 2003]
"Our intention as government is to have an independent body determine the evidence-based foundation of configuring the service." [Source.]
A Progressive Conservative government will acknowledge that the decision in the Powley case applies to Metis in Newfoundland and Labrador, and will participate with specific rights affirmed in the Powley decision and other rights protected under s. 35 of the Constitution. [Source.]
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. [Source.]
This one:
“We will not develop the Lower Churchill unless the primary beneficiaries are Labradorians. You have my assurance on that.” [Danny Williams, quoted in the October 6, 2003 issue of The Labradorian.]
And above all else, in the immortal words of Danny Williams himself:
"It's high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else's treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of our province. We cannot expect fair treatment from Ottawa if we don't practise what we preach."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Mine! All mine!

Two bits of Tomrideoutiana right in a row!

CBC North reports today:
Process Nunavut's turbot onshore, suggests N.L. minister

Nunavut's turbot quota should be processed in Canada instead of Greenland, Newfoundland and Labrador's Fisheries Minister Tom Rideout says.


Nunavut controls the turbot fishery in the Davis Strait but it has only 27 per cent of the quota off southern Baffin Island.

Rideout said he supports Nunavut getting a bigger share of the turbot fishery off its shores but does not think the fish should be processed in Nuuk, Greenland, as is currently the case.

"I think what we have to do, collectively as Canadians, is to draw more of that resource into the Canadian sphere for dividing up," said Rideout, who would like the fish processed in his province.

Baffin Fisheries Coalition chair Ben Kovic told CBC News he understands why the province would like the extra business but it has to make economic sense.

In this brave new world of official DannyBrand Newfoundland nationalism, what’s Newfoundland’s is Newfoundland’s.

What’s Labrador’s, of course, is also Newfoundland’s.

What’s Nunavut’s, a separate territory within Canada… that, too, is, or should be, Newfoundland’s, regardless of the business sense for the people who put up the capital. (How depressingly familiar that’s become.)

And, of course, what’s Greenland’s, a separate, semi-autonomous territory of another country altogether? Yip, that, too, is Newfoundland’s.

Adjacency, in Dannystan, is a one-way street.

So, these days, is capital investment. And outmigration. Only in the opposite direction.

Yet no one wants to see where these streets intersect.

Constitutional nuances

I'm a big believer in deadlines. The minister has already indicated that we can get it done by the end of the summer. I've already indicated that to the prime minister. So, that's the deadline we should stay with, as far as I'm concerned.
That was Danny Williams, on July 21, 2004, talking about the negotiations that led to the so-called “Atlantic Accord 2005”.
Earlier this month, I, along with departmental officials, met with Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, after which Minister Cannon presented an offer for federal funding to surface the Trans-Labrador Highway... We remain optimistic that an agreement will be finalized next month.
That was John Hickey, on November 28, 2006, talking about his timeline for the still-nonexistent Trans-Labrador Highway deal.
We're not going to have artificial timelines imposed on us by this corporation whom we've had difficulty dealing with over these past number of months.

That was Tom Rideout, today, talking about talks with FPI.

I.P. Freelynl can add one more to the list of Danny Williams’ constitutional innovations: The provincial government has the sole constitutional authority over setting timelines and deadlines.

DannyWilliamsAdministrationNewfoundlandLabrador can set deadlines on others, but no one is lawfully allowed to set deadlines on them.

Big political truth

Ivan Morgan's interview-based article with Roger Grimes in this week's Independent hits on something Roger Grimes should have been hitting on all along:
Former premier Roger Grimes says when -- or if -- Danny Williams signs a deal to develop the lower Churchill, it will be "almost identical" to the one Grimes nearly signed with Quebec in 2002. He says the project remains undeveloped because of political games played by Danny Williams' administration.

"My assessment of it, quite frankly, is this: if Danny Williams ever does a lower Churchill deal," Grimes tells The Independent, "he'll do the deal I had on the table, or very close to it, because it is the only one that makes any economic sense."
If Danny were to strike a deal to develop the so-called "Lower Churchill" — and hey, there's a first time for everything, including Danny striking a deal with someone about anything — it will either be virtually identical, in pith and substance, to the one that Danny Williams and Co. railed against on Confederation Hill... or it will be no deal at all.

Smart money is on the latter.

Splitting hairs

From today's Telegram:

Hickey said comparing Marine Atlantic to provincial services doesn’t make sense, starting with the fact Marine Atlantic services are constitutionally guaranteed.
Where in that constitutional guarantee does it say anything about the rates?
32. (1) Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.
And what is it about the non-constitutional nature of the provincial ferries that give the province free rein?

This is what they would call, in Danny Williams' and Tom Rideout's law schools, a "distinction without a difference?

Jamie Baker also reports:
Although the Argentia run is dubbed non-constitutional, Hickey said his department doesn’t see things that way.
Hickey's department is hereby challenged to find the word "Argentia" in Term 32.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Bakeapple Republic

From Friday's editorial in the St. John's Telegram:

Wednesday, an ordinary citizen called to ask if it was still possible to comment on government programs, especially if a person was going to use the word "dumb."

Would calling government policies "dumb" result in a lawsuit, the prospective letter-writer asked? It's not an unfair question, given the current atmosphere.


But perhaps someone could explain how it's a good thing to have ordinary citizens feel that they are at risk of financial ruin for simply questioning the actions of their own government.

It only took four years, but the province has now become, once more, a Banana Republic without bananas.

A Bakeapple Republic, perhaps?

Oh, to have Bob Benson back. His ability to draw some lesson from his vast knowledge of the Smallwood era and its excesses is never more missed than on days like these.

Averill's new math

Avid pianist — and that's decidedly not in the Frank sense of the term — Averill Baker's latest column is about garbage.

In it, she floats this interesting mathematical proposition:
Have you ever heard of such a stupid, asinine idea for this province? You wouldn’t know but we were Now York City or Toronto with a garbage dump problem.

The stupidity of such a policy is mind-boggling. The brains-to-body mass ratio of our politicians must be getting smaller.

[Emphasis added.]

Interesting thought, that, Averill. There are three ways, mathematically speaking, in which this change in ratio could be happening.

First, the politicians' brains could be getting smaller.

Or, the politicians' bodies could be getting larger. (That will happen to pigs who make one too many passes at the trough.)

Or both things could be happening simultaneously.

In this new age we live in, where, if you can't say nothing nice — shhh! say nothing, or your glutes will get sued off of you — this is dangerous ground for Averill to be treading.

Suggesting that politicians are getting stupider! or fatter! or both! The nerve! The disparagement! The down-taking of reputations!

Averill, like all those who comment on those dedicated people who have chosen public life, must be careful these days, even when you are merely making factual statements or asking impertinent questions.

Who knows, someone, a lawyer even, could try to scare you into silence with a frivolous, vexatious, and merit-lacking threat to sue you for defamation.


Friday, February 16, 2007

What a difference a week doesn't make

The week began with threats of a lawsuit and a Premier making intemperate remarks about intemperate remarks:

I'll tell anybody out there, if they're going to take down the reputations of people that are in public life, then they'll have to basically answer for it, and they'll have to answer for it in court. I told Gerry Reid in the House of Assembly, when he basically told an untruth about me in the House of Assembly, that I asked him to repeat it outside. And I said, when you get outside, if you repeat it, I will sue you. That goes for Roger Grimes, that goes for Sue Kelland-Dyer, that goes for Ed Hollett, that goes for anybody who may attempt to disparage the reputations of people. So I'm serving notice on people now, that there's people out there that are going to take away the good reputations of people in public life, then they're accountable to the courts...
Take that, ye disparagers!

The week ends with the Premier and the Deputy Premier making fair comments of a type that are to be expected in an open, democratic society.

Today, the Premier said, as paraphrased by The Ministry of Truth:

Premier Danny Williams says he's concerned about possible problems with the voting process in the Humber Valley byelection.
And yesterday, the Deputy Premier made the following fair comments in a perfectly ordinary press availability in Corner Brook on Thursday:

"The ballot box was moved from where it was set up and taken around to seniors' cottages so seniors could vote from where they were residing[...]"


On Friday, [Dwight] Ball said that while he owns the Deer Lake nursing home where the polling station was based, he had nothing to do with how Elections Newfoundland and Labrador officials managed the vote.

"I would imagine [the Progressive Conservatives are] trying to insinuate something, but I really don't know why," said Ball.

Neither of these reports go as far as suggesting anything untoward involving the mobile poll location set up in the seniors' residence owned by MHA-elect Dwight Ball. The fuller accounts of the Premier's and Deputy Premier's comments might be interepreted that way, but of course, that would be wrong. Because, you know, in this post-Hickey era, where Danny has laid down the (defamation) law, no politician, certainly not Premier Williams, certainly not Deputy Premier Rideout, would ever, ever, do or say anything that could be interpreted as "tak[ing] down the reputations of people that are in public life".

Dwight Ball is clearly over-reacting. Danny Williams and Tom Rideout, who are running the cleanest government the province has ever known, would never insinuate anything about anybody, anywhere, for any reason.

In any event, the Chief Electoral Officer came on VOCM this afternoon to thoroughly disabuse anyone of the ridiculous notion that anything untoward happened at all. And it was on VOCM, so it must be true.

It is very clear that the Premier and Deputy Premier are merely making fair comments of a type that are to be expected in an open, democratic society, and are doing absolutely nothing to disparage the reputation of Dwight Ball, who happens to own a private personal-care home.

Not only is this the case because Danny himself has said that all this disparaging and reputation-taking-away stuff has to stop, and we all know Danny is as good as his word and would never breach the Golden Rule, but also because it isn't just Liberals that own personal care homes that might have had, or might in the future have, ballot boxes set up in them during a provincial election.

This new era of open, honest, transparent politics, where all comments are above board, and no one ever personally slags or disparages anyone else, is so very refreshing. Thank you, Danny, for changing forever the way politics is done in Newfoundland and Labrador!

Tom Rideout, LLB

For the benefit of the very concerned Tom Rideout, LLB (Ottawa, 1997), Attorney-General of the province, here is an important late-breaking excerpt from the Elections Act:

Voting in hospitals, etc.

121. (1) Where a polling station has been established in a home for the aged, a hospital or similar institution for the care and treatment of chronic illness, the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk shall, while the poll is still open on polling day and when considered necessary by the deputy returning officer,
(a) suspend temporarily the voting in the polling station; and

(b) with the approval of the person in charge of the institution, carry the ballot box, poll book, ballots and other necessary election documents from room to room in the institution to take the votes of those patients unable to come to the polling station who are ordinarily resident in the polling division in which the institution is situated and are otherwise qualified as electors.
(2) The procedure to be followed in taking the votes of patients unable to come to the polling station referred to in subsection (1) shall be the same as that prescribed for an ordinary polling station.

(3) The deputy returning officer shall give patients assistance in accordance with the provisions of section 118 when necessary.

Backtalk with Bill Rowe

From The Telegram.

The St. John's Telegram.

Tuesday's St. John's, NEWFOUNDLAND, Telegram:

Taxpayers on the hook; Provincial coffers will pay for Hickey's defamation defence
Craig Jackson

Taxpayers will be on the hook for legal expenses when Transportation Minister John Hickey files a defamation suit against former Liberal premier Roger Grimes.


The alleged defamatory comment was made by Grimes on a VOCM open-line radio show. It surrounded the issue of Hickey double billing his House of Assembly constituency account, as disclosed last month by the auditor general, 20 times between December 2003 and June 2005, for a total of $3,770.
The VOCM open-line radio show in question?

Backtalk, with Bill Rowe.

Which is broadcast out of a studio in St. John's.

The St. John's in Newfoundland.

Where The Telegram is published and distributed.

Why, then, is Bill Rowe having such trouble remembering what it was Grimes said on the air, and when, and on which show, that set Hickey off?

Perhaps if Bill Rowe would actually listen to the callers — it's a call-in show, Bill, not a listen-to-your-own-mellifluous-voice-show, Bill — or if he'd read The Telegram like everyone else at VOCM so obviously does, he'd know that.

Or his protestations that he doesn't, would sound a little less strained.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

More nice money if you can get it.

Fresh on the heels of the Danny Williams' Administration's decision to fund 81% of the new arena in St. Anthony, comes the Danny Williams' Administration's decision to fund 75% of the new recreational facility for the northern suburbs of St. John's:

Province Partners with Towns to Build $6.5M Recreational Facility

Government has partnered with the municipalities of Torbay, Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, Pouch Cove and Flatrock to support construction of a new $6.5 million arena for the region.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will contribute $4.9 million to the new facility through Municipal Capital Works funding. The remainder of the funding will be cost-shared by the Towns of Torbay, Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, Pouch Cove and Flatrock.

Once again, for the benefit of visual learners, here's a cleverly colour-coded pie chart:

Speaking in the House of Assembly on November 28, 2005, Glorious Leader said, speaking of the still-unbuilt Mealy Mountain auditorium in Happy Valley-Goose Bay:

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I can give the hon. member opposite my firm assurance that there is absolutely no intention whatsoever to discriminate against youth in Labrador. I can tell you that. That is quite honestly and quite definitely.

What we have already indicated is that we are now giving favourable consideration to this particular facility. What we are trying to do is to lever as much money as we can out of the federal government in order to proceed with this.

And as Danny also said, of the same project:

Our government is endeavouring to work collaboratively with the Government of Canada to identify ways for the federal government to bear the majority of the costs of an auditorium project.

So here are two community infrastructure projects in Newfoundland. In the St. Anthony case, the province, including the taxpayers of Labrador, are paying 81% of the cost, and the federal government is paying 10%. In the other, the northeastern Avalon case, the province, including the taxpayers of Labrador, are paying 75% of the cost, and not one cent is expected or demanded of the federal government... let alone that Ottawa "bear the majority of the costs".

"It’s high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else’s treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of our province," Danny Williams once said, a long, long time ago.

And yes, it is high time.

"We cannot expect fair treatment from Ottawa if we don't practise what we preach."

And no, you can't.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another modest proposal?

Simon Lono's codicil to this post provides food for thought.

Perhaps Danny Williams was on to something in musing about abolishing the House of Assembly.

Its work can be done, so much more cheaply to the taxpayer — and that taxpayer needs a break — through Government By Open Line.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Hobbit

Ottawa’s defender”, sneers the headline in Ryan Cleary’s latest literary-ish output for the Newfoundland Weekly Separatist.

The opening paragraph confirms the tone:

How do I say this nicely? MP Loyola Hearn seems to be coming down with the same political sickness that took out heavyweight John Efford. What happens to our politicians when they get to Ottawa? Why do they suddenly get the urge to defend the federal government and its wicked ways? Are they not strong enough to stand up for us? Are they so easily defeated?
It’s followed by:

If Hearn was a fighting Newfoundlander… Let’s review our wish list of things Hearn needs from the feds…. Financial support for Gander airport…. Financing assistance for lower Churchill development…. An early retirement package for fishery workers… Cash.

What we need, more than ever before, are political representatives with the backbone to do the job.
Cleary’s column brings into sharp focus, more than anything else (other than possibly Danny Williams' speeches) the two twin demands that the local political culture makes of politicians. Let’s call it the The Hobbit rules:

Slay the Dragon

Bring Home Loot
The identity of the Dragon has changed over the decades. In the early 19th century, the enemy was, in many respects, Britain, the denier of representative and then responsible government. Those battles having been fought and won, the new institutions, and the politicians elected to them, began to fustigate against new enemies. For a while France and the French fisheries were the top of the list. Later in the 19th century, they were joined by the Americans, and, in repeated, periodic episodes, Canada. Canada, of course, has remained the Dragon since 1949, although Quebec, Foreigners Who Fish, and even, to some degree, visiting American forces, have served as lesser Dragons.

Bring Home Loot, too, has been firmly ensconced as a governing demand of the political culture. A politician who fails to deliver the bacon, in the form of transfers to persons, subsidies, grants, and general largesse, is, well, a failure. A quick glance through the Journals of the pre-Confederation House of Assembly confirms that this phenomenon is as old as responsible government in Newfoundland (though not in Labrador, which, it must be pointed out, was never given the franchise by pre-Confederation Newfoundland, and hence missed out on the 19th-century heritage of supplication to a local MHA.)

In the post-Confederation era, the two demands have even enjoyed a crossover. Smallwood made great hay out of Slaying Dragons to Bring Home Loot, in the form of countless contrived battles with Ottawa over funding of, well, just about everything.

Sound familiar?

Depressingly familiar?

Slay the Dragon and Bring Home Loot explains a lot of features of electoral politics. It helps explain the longevity of post-Confederation provincial governments; Smallwood’s 22-year run; 17 years of Moores and Peckford; 14 of Wells-Tobin-Grimes. Punishing the party in power is a risk that’s only safe to take once it’s clear that everyone else is willing to do it, too.

And the infertile ground for third parties, for instance, can be viewed as a direct result of the unwillingness of the electorate to bite the hand that Brings Home Loot. The veiled, and not-so-veiled threats made during the recent by-elections, especially in Humber Valley, continue to illustrate that quite well, even in the 21st century.

Joey Smallwood also threatened to cut Ferryland off of the public teat, unless Greg Power was elected there.

Many other provincial political cultures have at least one of these rules as a guiding principle. The Maritimes have long had a culture of Bring Home Loot, although in Nova Scotia, the spoils system was largely dismantled by the late former Premier Savage, contributing both to his own downfall, and to the rise of Nova Scotia’s distinctive, and surprisingly persistent, three-party system. PEI’s spoils system is alive and well, but PEI has never been overly big on Slaying Dragons. Parva sub ingenti.

Alberta, Quebec, and to a lesser degree B.C. all have some elements of Slay the Dragon. Alberta Premiers love to bash Ottawa; to what political end it’s hard to say, given the decidedly non-competitive nature of a province that has changed the party in power exactly three times in its first century in Confederation. It’s a bit less popular in B.C. In Quebec it takes the form of a leader’s having to prove his or her nationalist credentials, even as federalists or crypto-federalists.

The middle provinces, Saskatchewan through Ontario, no longer show terribly strong tendencies towards either demand. In fact, when SK or ON try, as they have recently, to play Slay the Dragon with Ottawa, something rings hollow and uncomfortable about the very attempt.

So that leaves Newfoundland and Labrador; the province where the Premier Slays Dragons by tearing down the Dragon’s flag, by calling the Dragon “politically unstable”, by opening up petty disputes with the Dragon at every turn, hoping to parlay one of them into a full-fledged rain-of-arrows war that will accomplish – well, only the Dragon Slayer seems to know the plan.
It’s also where the Premier, and indeed all MHAs, are utterly addicted to Bring Home Loot; whether in the form of by-election promises of honey or the withholding of honey, in the form of constituency slush funds, or in the blatantly partisan distribution of basic infrastructure funding.
It’s all so 1857.

And it might be funny.

Except it’s 2007.

It’s public money. Your money. And your country, to boot.

Just when the province needs the opposite – measured spending, especially of windfall resource revenues; mature relations with the federal government and those of sister provinces – the public seems to demand, and the politicians are only offering, more of the same. Lots of loot, and lots of defeated dragons.

After a particularly brutal decade, Clyde Wells left the provincial economy well on the route to the meaningful structural changes it needed to have made. The private sector economy was growing, as measured by the source of personal income. Private-sector employment and investment income was growing as a proportion of all personal income. Public-sector income and government transfers to persons, as a proportion, was declining.

Now, in the decade since Wells has been out of power, that trend has reversed, and with a vengeance. It is sustainable neither in the long run, nor in the short run. The political response?

Demand more federal spending, especially on civil service employment. That way the provincial government can spend its unsullied money on other, more visible ways, of buying votes.

The “federal presence” fraud has been an especially good tool to exercise both demands. Never mind that the province as a whole, and St. John’s in particular, have among the highest federal civil service presences in the country, certainly well above the national average, torqued figures and appeals to emotion have allowed the issue to serve both ends; Dragons are slayed, Loot is brought home.

When the Dragon hunt should be cast aside as an anachronism, it is being revved up instead. New opportunities are being sought in Labrador, for instance, not to sensibly and rationally develop resource projects, but to open up new Dragon-slaying prospects against the flying worms of Canada and Quebec.

Meanwhile, Danny Williams’ notion of “independence”, in the fiscal sense, or whatever other sense he is getting at, seems to be to make the provincial government more dependent on transfer payments from Ottawa, and the provincial economy more dependent on transfers from both orders of government.

“Ask not what we can do for our country,” as Danny Williams said, “because we have done enough. Let’s ask our country what they can do for us.”

It’s the diametrical opposite of what the province needs.

It’s the opposite of what an independent-thinking person would be seeking at this time in history.

And it’s why it’s not hard to see that independent thought is NOT what the “Independent” in the PWG paper’s masthead stands for:

There’s an unwritten rule that says our MPs have to strike a balance between what Newfoundland and Labrador wants and what Ottawa is prepared to give….
That’s the “rule” in every province. In every country. In every democratic society.

Politics, they say, is the art of the possible. Politics is the authoritative allocation of values.

Only in the 19th-century-going-on-9th world of the Newfoundland crypto-nationalist orthodoxy could “having to strike a balance” be seen as a problem. And if that is a problem in a democratic society, then, well, how democratic is that society to begin with?

The Dragon Must Be Slayed.

And only in the 19th-century-going-on-9th world of the Newfoundland crypto-nationalist orthodoxy could a wish-list of federal largesse be published, without any sense of irony, even as a scandal concerning provincial largesse swirls around the paper and its erstwhile dragon-slaying champion.

Bring Home Loot.

There is a day of reckoning coming for that political culture. There is a day of reckoning coming for the provincial government's decades-long congenital failure to act like an adult, not a two-year-old, in its intergovernmental relatiosn. There is a massive day of reckoning coming for the culture of Bring Home the Loot.

It’s going to be ugly when it comes. Brutal, in fact. But there are some days it seems like it can’t come soon enough.

It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power

Word of the day: barratry (n.)

Factual inexactitude

There are a whole bunch of things wrong with Ryan Cleary's latest column in the Newfoundland Weekly Separatist, (of which, more anon) and it also does a terrific, if inadvertent, job of revealing a Great Truth (of which, more anon) but for now, let's stick to this:
A ferry link is guaranteed in the Terms of Union, but, as usual, we didn’t check the fine print — there’s no guarantee of level of service or fee structure.
Blatantly wrong.

Everyone in Newfoundland seems to talk about the Terms of Union, but does anyone ever read them?

Read the Terms of Union, Ryan, specifically Term 32:
32. (1) Canada will maintain in accordance with the traffic offering a freight and passenger steamship service between North Sydney and Port aux Basques, which, on completion of a motor highway between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques, will include suitable provision for the carriage of motor vehicles.
There's your "level of service", right there in black and white in a constitutional enactment.

If that level of service isn't being met, take it to court. Seriously. With a Great Lawyer™ in charge of running, well, everything these days, and threatening to sue posteriors left, right, and centre, if there's a case, sue the federal government and win.

Other province-specific constitutional enactments, notably the PEI Terms of Union, but also the British Columbia ones, the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Acts, and even provincial-specific sections of the B.N.A. Act of 1867, have frequently been the subjects of litigation in the past.

If Great Lawyer™ can't make a Term 32 case, who can?

Enough jaw-jaw. More sue-sue.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Reading the entrails, I

It is possible, easy, in fact, to read too much into by-elections. There's a limited amount and geographical spread of data available (even if Danny Williams has now presided over more by-elections in one term than any post-Confederation first minister). Comparing multiple by-elections, which are held on different dates, risks being even a mug's mug's game. However, a number of things jump out about the recent, not-quite-finished, set.

First, Humber Valley, if the count as of tonight holds up, will be the first Liberal by-election win since Roland Butler in Port-de-Grave in 2001.

Second, the five consecutive Tory by-election wins from Humber West to Placentia and St. Mary's inclusive, is without precedent in post-Confederation provincial politics. The Tories have also won eight of the past ten, tying their own record which they acquired with Placentia and St. Mary's last year.

Third, long-term by-election trend don't always say much about general election party fortunes. Moores and Peckford governed for almost 18 years between them, but were smoked 10 to 6 in by-elections during the 1970s and 1980s.

Finally, much has been made of by-election turnout. It's difficult to meaningfully measure turnout trends over time. District populations fluctuate. Seasonal and even day-to-day weather changes can influence the turnout. Turnout figures since the advent of the Orwellian-named "permanent voters list" are almost meaningless; low turnout may be the product of an inflated denominator (a voters list riddled with the dead, relocated, and outmigrated) as much as a deflated numerator (absolutely low turnout).

The best measure, therefore the ratio of the total number of valid votes cast in the by-election, to the total number cast in the same district in the previous general election.

And that's where things get scary.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, where politics is a popular spectator sport, by-elections have historically broken the by-election stereotype of low turnout. Of the 44 contested by-elections since Confederation, three-quarters have had turnouts at least 80% that of the previous general election. Nearly a third have had turnouts higher than the general election; five by-elections in the early part of this decade saw that level of interest. (Click to enlarge chart; colours represent the party winning the by-election according to the traditional colour scheme.)

The 70% ratio seen in last fall's Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi contest was at the low end of the historic range. But it was part of a more significant longer-term trend; from the heights of 100% plus in The Straits, Humber West, and Bonavista North just five and six years ago, there have now been eight consecutive sub-100% by-elections, including all-time low Kilbride, and third-last place finish Ferryland.

The low, and lowering, turnout ratios, especially in rural districts, may reflect, in part, the reality of outmigration and population decline. What, though, to make of supposedly booming St. John's and its environs?

And what if, as many are starting to suspect, this is all a symptom of something more serious? Do we even know the diagnosis, let alone the cure?

From the Memory Hole

Res ipsa loquitur.
ST. JOHN'S, Nfld., December 11, 2000 (CP)—The Newfoundland government is scrambling to deflect a sudden wave of criticism that has saddled it with a reputation for keeping too many secrets.

The governing Liberals' latest attempt to promote a sense of transparency came Monday with the release of two secret hydroelectric deals negotiated with Quebec in the past two years.

The Conservative Opposition has spent the past year hammering the government for keeping the documents sealed while boasting about how much they benefit the province.


Not to be out done, the Conservative's lone leadership candidate, Danny Williams, took aim at his Liberal rivals when he quoted Abraham Lincoln at his leadership rally last week.

"Let the people know the truth, and the country is safe,'' Williams said.

"We will keep the people of this province fully informed at all times. There will be no secret documents. There will be no hidden agenda."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How Irish We Aren't, Part II

Finally, Part II of "How Irish We Aren't".

The "How Irish We Are!" brigade in Newfoundland like to draw attention to a superficial geographical resemblance between Ireland and Newfoundland.

And superficial it is. Thin. Like the glacial till. That passes for soil. In This Place.

Oh, sorry for the sentence fragments. For some reason, whenever talk turns to Ireland and Newfoundland, it becomes impossible to write full sentences.

The population of the Republic of Ireland alone is just over four million. Northern Ireland bring the population of the entire island to about six million, and this in an island that at 81,638 square kilometres is only 80% the size of Newfoundland's 108,860.

Ireland, north and south, therefore has a population density 15 times that of Newfoundland.

Ireland, north and south, is also heavily urbanized. Dublin has a population of over a million, Cork nearly 200,000, Limerick nearly 100,000, Galway over 60,000, and Waterford roughly 50,000. In the north, metro Belfast has roughly 600,000 and Londonderry 90,000. In both countries, there are hundreds of thousands more people in exurban areas less than an hour's drive outside the main cities.

Newfoundland has St. John's, metro population 172,918. If you are feeling generous, you can give St. John's a region comprising the entire Avalon, which you can then generously estimate to have a population of a quarter-million.

This map shows Newfoundland and Ireland at the same linear scale, using the same population-density scale, based on the latest census data. (Click it to enlarge.)

The most densely-populated parts of Newfoundland have population densities comparable to the least-populated parts of Ireland. Not only is the province, not being an island, a poor comparison with Ireland, but Newfoundland and Ireland, as islands, aren't even that similar. Those who like to play up the supposed similarity get as far as "we're both island!" and then their brains stop working.

Setting aside the fact that they are both islands, and the obvious, if overplayed, cultural connection between Ireland and Newfoundland, what is the intellectual attraction? How are Newfoundland and Ireland in any way alike?

Another modest proposal

This delicious little item today from The Ministry of Truth via OffalNews:
Holiday Bad for Business
February 11, 2007

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says they will not go along with another statutory holiday, especially not without the proper consultation. This province is considering following Saskatchewan and Manitoba's lead in creating a holiday in February to break up the long winter between Christmas and Easter. CFIB president Bradley George says that could be disastrous for business in this province.
Hmmmm. Sounds like an opportunity to kill several birds with one stone.

If such a holiday would be "disastrous for business", then the commemoration should reflect that. It would also give Glorious Leader yet another opporunity to advance his personality cult.

So "Danny Williams Day", it is!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Danny was right!

Danny was absolutely right when he said that Ottawa would be watching and Stephen Harper's government would be taking a message from last week's by-elections. As quoted by CTV News:
Williams said the victories send a strong message that Newfoundlanders support his fight to wrestle more revenue from Ottawa through a revised eqalization formula.

"It's basically saying to Ottawa that the people are supporting this government when it comes to the question of equalization," Williams told 50 supporters at a community centre in Witless Bay, a coastal community in the Ferryland district, a half-hour drive south of St. John's.

"If I had ... my butt whipped here tonight in these three byelections, he (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) would be watching very closely. If he's a good politician, he certainly does take notice."
Responding to a planted soft-ball question in the snoozefest that is Friday morning's House of Commons Question Period, Harper's local viceroy interpreted the by-election results:
Mr. Colin Mayes (Okanagan—Shuswap, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore clearly opposes the transparency, accountability and empowerment of stakeholders that would result from the modernizing of the Fisheries Act.

Will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans bow to the NDP's crass political games or will he deliver what is right for Canadian fishermen? Will he ensure that these public resources are managed for and in collaboration with Canadians?

Hon. Loyola Hearn (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am working with my willing colleagues on both sides of the House and with my provincial counterparts, industry, first nations and NGOs to ensure we do a good job on modernizing the act, protecting the fishery and fish resources, which are public, not private resources.

Most people are willing to work with us because they know the act should be modernized, except the NDP members who as usual are off track. I heard them brag earlier about winning a single seat in Ontario yesterday, while they were wiped out in three elections in Newfoundland, where the Progressive Conservatives had three landslide victories.
There you have it.

The three provincial by-elections in Newfoundland were a repudiation of the federal NDP and, by necessary implication, an endorsement of the Harper federal Conservatives.

Danny's message is received in Ottawa, loud and muddled.

On to Humber Valley and Labrador West.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Translating from provincialese

This can only mean one thing:

Province Encourages Company to Take Another Look at Wabush Mines

The Provincial Government is encouraging Consolidated Thompson to continue to look at possible synergies between its Bloom Lake iron ore project and Wabush Mines.

"I spoke with representatives of Consolidated Thompson this week myself to strongly encourage them to keep exploring ways to make a business partnership work between the two operations because of the important impact it could have for the region," said the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. "We believe incorporating Wabush Mines in the development plans for the Bloom Lake project will result in a win/win for the two operations and for Labrador West."

Consolidated Thompson has expressed interest in Wabush Mines and how that operation could complement its 500-million tonne Bloom Lake iron ore project in Quebec. Part of the plan is to link Bloom Lake to the rail line that connects Labrador to the Quebec North Shore, which opens up possibilities for synergies with Wabush Mines.

"We really think there is a basis for an arrangement that will benefit and strengthen the business cases for both operations and we want to see the companies take a fresh look at this," said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources. "I think there is interest on behalf of the companies to make this happen and that bodes very well for Labrador West and the future of Wabush Mines. We believe the Bloom Lake project is stronger with Wabush Mines."

Given that Danny gets top billing over Kathy Blunderdale, and that the Ministers of Business — whoever or whatever that is — or Labrador Affairs — ditto — are nowhere to be found, the Labrador West by-election will be called, oh, shortly before the ink dries on the signature on Randy Collins' resignation letter.

Funny, though, how this project, if it were to go ahead, would violate the supposedly sacrosanct rule that resources must never, ever, cross provincial borders. Perhaps, like osmosis, that only works in one direction.

Tabar! Say it isn't so!

A péquiste at Radio-Canada? Who would ever have thunk?

It's a darn good thing there are no provincial separatists at the CBC in any other provinces.

Up Chuck

From the Ceeb today:

"I think we're in an unprecedented time of gloom," Chuck Furey said Friday.

"There's a real, deep cynicism about the whole political system, and it's come about in the last year or so."


"It just seems to be one thing after another after another, after another, after another, and that piles on top of people," he told CBC News. "I'm sure it makes them cynical."

That's from Chuck Furey.

The Chief Electoral Officer, Chuck Furey.

Former cabinet minister, Chuck Furey.

The impartial Chief Electoral Officer. Chuck Furey.

Everything he says here is true.

But none of it should be said by Chuck Furey, Chief Electoral Officer Chuck Furey:
5. It is the duty of the Chief Electoral Officer
(a) to exercise general direction and supervision over the administrative conduct of elections and to enforce on the part of election officers fairness, impartiality and compliance with this Act;
So while the PCs turn themselves into a Smallwood-style Personality Cult, the provincial government is turning the province into a banana republic without the climate advantages.


A funny mental image from the Ministry of Truth:
Tories Sweep By-elections
February 9, 2007

Premier Danny Williams is basking in the glory of victory today, after the Tories swept all three provincial by-elections yesterday...

They danced, and sang, chanted and cheered, as supporters greeted Premier Williams and Keith Hutchings at the Kinsmen Community Centre in Witless Bay last evening, waving signs.
Yes, the transition from Progressive Conservative to Personality Cult is complete.

The morning after

The only huge surprise of the night in last night's by-elections was in Port au Port. For a supposedly "tight" race, it was nowhere near being so. In fact, people in the district were so furious at Danny, on whose watch the Stephenville mill would never, ever close, that the margin spread between the two parties increased by 14 percentage points.

And for all the slagging that Danny Dumaresque has taken by Liz's Rapid Reaction Battalion of planted VOCM callers — the only Rapid Reaction Battalion in the province — he was spot-on in predicting a substantial increase in Liberal support in Ferryland, where the margin swang over 20% in the provincial Liberal's favour.

Of course, that's about as meaningful to the final result as a 20% swing towards the federal Liberals in Wild Rose.

In Kilbride, the vote-share change (Liberal down -1.2%, split equally among the Tory and NDP candidates) is of no great statistical significance, as is the three-district total overall: Liberals up 2.3% in the three districts combined, PCs down -2.6%, NDP up 0.9%.

But consider this: According to the recent CRA polls, Danny Williams and his party have been polling up to 14 points above their actual vote share in the 2003 election. In 2003, he took 58.8% of the popular vote. CRA has had him up to 73%.

So why doesn't this Smallwood-esque level of support show up in actual voting results?

That's a question Danny might want to ponder, although it's largely academic: you only need to win by one vote, after all. It's certainly something the opposition parties need to ponder.

And it's especially a question CRA needs to ask itself. Is there a flaw in its methodology when it comes to fieldwork or weighting in its Newfoundland and Labrador quarterly?

On to Humber Valley and Labrador West!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Eats, shoots, and leaves

The actual headline on a Craig Jackson story in today's edition of The Telegram:
Fine people who don't vote, Tory MHA says
What Danny Williams and Shawn Skinner would have run:
Fine people who don't vote Tory, MHA says

And Now The News!

A quick break from the political stuff to give a boost to the OKalaKatiget Society, the Labrador Inuktitut-language broadcaster, headquartered in Nain.

From their main web site you can also check out their frequently-updated blog-format news briefs (in English), which fill an important gap in Labrador's news universe.

If you need to know what's going on on the North Coast and in individual Labrador Inuit communities, this is the place to start.

The language of desperation

Danny's Minions, up to and including Danny himself, have spent the last ten days or so of By-Election 2007 (Part I of III) spouting a bizarre argument: Vote for Danny or you weaken Danny's ability to Blame Canada.

Maybe that's not it exactly, but its' close. There are various iterations of it: "vote for Danny or you weaken our hand with the oil companies", "vote for Danny or Stephen Harper will know we are weak", or, as a local satirical blog has crudely put it "vote for Danny, equalization and bunnies".

This is a desperation argument.

There should be many, better, arguments for voting for Danny Williams.

Even this corner will concede that there are many such better arguments.

That Danny and his Minions resorted to this, really, pathetic argument, when the Premier is supposedly running sky-high in the polls, raises some interesting questions.

Is Danny really running sky-high in the polls?

Are Danny's Minions just really stupid campaigners?

Or are they really that desperate?

There is something creepy about a democratic leader in a democratic society openly campaigning on an argument calling for the opposition to be wiped out. We haven't seen that since, well, since the days of Joey Smallwood. Which wasn't that long ago.

Has the provincial political culture evolved that little since the 1960s?

(Yeah, yeah, the MHA slush fund scandal renders that question rhetorical.)

Either way, Danny's call for all opposition to be elminated from his realm is either a bold move, or a desperation one.

This time tomorrow night, 3/5 of the answer will have been revealed.

And it's a CRA polling period too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Further to "Set your phases to synchronize":

a) If Ed Martin et al. are only now evaluating submarine transmission of so-called "Lower Churchill" power, what were they doing in the three to four months in late 2005 and early 2006 in which they were originally going to evaluate it? Hasn't this all already been "evaluated"? If so, what was the outcome?

b) What is the market for this submarine power, and is that power still competitive in that marketplace once the transmission costs have been passed on to the consumer.

c) Those costs will be passed on to the consumer.... right?

d) Does the first segment of the "Maritime" route — Labrador to Newfoundland — include a fixed link? Or has Danny finally given up?

e) If so-called "Lower Churchill" power is available for industrial use in Newfoundland, what incentive is there, if any, for making industrial use of any of that power in Labrador, given the year-round navigation available in much of southern Newfoundland, and only available with great icebreaking difficulty and expense in Labrador?

f) Why submarine transmission to New Brunswick? The closest approach between the two provinces is a straight line from Cape Anguille to Miscou Island, at about 235 statute miles, or Miscou to Cape George, about five miles longer. Both routes pass through maritime areas likely to be claimed by Quebec, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence between the Magdalen Islands, Anticosti, and Gaspé.

The closest approach between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia is the 65 or 70 statute miles across the Cabot Strait. In neither area is the straightest route necessarily the best for a submarine cable, depending on bathymetry and submarine geology, but why not Nova Scotia?

And what happens past New Brunswick, if the intended market is Ontario, and if Quebec Is To Be Avoided At All Costs? New Brunswick, it may or may not have been noticed in Confederation Building, does not border Ontario.

It all seems a little too Underpants-Gnomey:
Step One: Submarine Cable to N.B.

Step Two:

Step Three: Ontario!
g) Finally, is it possible that in this, an election year, this is all an elaborate, cynical, and expensive (guess who's paying for all these studies and evaluations?) appeal by Dan to his nationalist and crypto-separatist base, proving once again that he's capable of sticking it to frenchy? And perhaps that his apology for calling Quebec politically volatile (hah!) was less than heartfelt?

Something — manything, actually — doesn't smell right in all this.

Retrospective kudos

Occasionally, even Danny gets one right. And when he does, credit will go out where credit is due.

By plonking the $2-billion "Atlantic Accord 2005" buyoff against unfunded pension liabilities, he avoided an all-out political war, in the second half of a four-year House of Assembly term, over what to spend the money on, thereby keeping it out of the hands of these people.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Quadruple-dipping in Sin City

Oh, to suffer the plight of the lucky, worthy, and deserving residents and community organizations in Capital City's Ward Four, which is partially subtended by Federal Electoral District 10006, St. John's East (or whatever it's called this time.)

Not only do they get to avail themselves of the well-known charitable impulses of the Members of the House of Assembly (in this case they have four to hit up, John Ottenheimer, Kathy Dunderdale, Jack Byrne and Bob Ridgley), and of His Excellency Taoiseach Williams himself, but also of federal MP Norm Doyle, whose charitable impulse is, of course, beyond reproach, and, one learns today, of local Big Man Around City, Ron Ellsworth, Councillor, Ward 4:
Later, Wells told Ellsworth he should cut his own salary before suggesting a cut in the mayor's pay. Councillors are paid about $35,000 per year.

Ellsworth, a successful businessman, said most of his salary winds up in community groups.

"My salary goes back into my ward," Ellsworth said.
It's nice to let people know where it goes.

It would be better to remind people where it comes from.

As Brian Jones (yes, Brian Jones) put it in a May 2005 Telegram column:
We're too easily swayed by image, and by superficial actions masquerading as something profound. It may seem awfully nice for a politician to give his or her public salary to charity, but it actually reveals a considerable level of contempt.
Oh, to have the problem that Ward 4 has; a surplus of charitable and well-heeled elected officials; a veritable glut.

Set your phases to synchronize

From the labradore archives (article is no longer on-line):

Power Play
Quebec route the way to go: Martin

The Labradorian
October 24, 2005

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Chief Executive Officer Ed Martin believes transmitting power from the proposed Lower Churchill development through Quebec and not to the island is the best available option.

Mr Martin was the guest speaker at the Labrador North Chamber of Commerce’s Annual General Meeting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay last week. During his keynote address, Mr Martin deviated from previous suggestions that running an underwater transmission line from Labrador to Newfoundland was the most viable option.

“If we can do a deal across Quebec and into Ontario that would probably be our best deal, if we can get the right structure for that deal,” he said.

Mr Martin added that decisions on how to transmit the power would be made in the near future but that government would have the final say.

“We’ll [Hydro] decide on what power is being sold, what power will be retained for recall in Labrador, will there be an infeed or not…all those decisions on the configurations will have to happen in the next three to four months.”
Fast-forward to Chairman Dan’s press release today:
In addition to Lower Churchill power being available for domestic use, Hydro continues to evaluate two potential market access options. These options include obtaining transmission service on Hydro-Québec’s transmission system through Québec to neighbouring markets, and secondly transmission via a sub-sea high voltage direct current (HVDC) line through Newfoundland, connecting into New Brunswick’s transmission system and providing access to New Brunswick and neighbouring markets.


"The application we have filed in New Brunswick is required as part of our analysis of the sub-sea cable option. It is another very important step in our planning process for the Lower Churchill Project," said Ed Martin, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro President and CEO. "We are collecting the information necessary to make informed decisions on the best market access options for Lower Churchill power."
In 2005, after flirting with the idea, Ed Martin seemed to reject the submarine, or so-called "Anglo-Saxon" transmission route, even as Chairman Dan continued to flog it. The difference of approach would now appear to be papered over.

But papered over must be all there is to it.

What has substantially changed since less than 18 months ago that suddenly makes Ed Martin a convert now to the submarine "infeed" that he poo-pooed in 2005?

And given that the 2005 timeline for decision was "three to four months", why, two calendar years later, is Hydro "continuing to evaluate"?

Danny and Ed appear to have synchronized their phases.

Or, at very least, Danny has synchronized Ed's for him.

And, after a long period of trying to lower Churchill expectations, Danny is now ratcheting them up.

This is going to be fun.

A premature proposal

Simon Lono has a modest proposal, but a good one.

But it's kind of premature.

First, riot. Then Commission. This is the natural order of things, though, this being the modern age, perhaps the riot is already taking place on the open-line shows.

Meanwhile, nottawa pines for responsible government. Perhaps it's a job for the Responsible Government League.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

A very safe bet

Noah Richler, expanding his horizons, blesses St. John's with his presence. From today's Globe and Mail:

In the final instalment of his eight-part travelogue, NOAH RICHLER breaks from his book tour to visit a contentious landmark


The Rooms once provoked a lot of local consternation, as it towered not only above the harbour and the rooftops, but the city's Anglican cathedral and its Roman Catholic basilica too. Even now, argument about The Rooms can be divisive. Many see the building as an eyesore and a waste of money (and object to it being federally funded).

Tails, the Newfoundland nationalists win, heads, the feds lose. How much are you willing to bet that the set of "Many [who] object to it being federally funded" overlaps rather neatly with the set of the "many" who were outraged, OUTRAGED, you hear, when the prerequisite federal funding didn't come through for the Rooms' equally appalingly-named predecessor, the never-built "Caboto Building"?

The Procrastinator-in-Chief

Under the title "The serial government slows further" BondPapers deconstructs the slow pace of, well, everything, in Dannyland and Labradan:
Since Danny Williams took office in 2003 he's tried to manage the provincial government with everything - literally every little thing - flowing across his desk.

He's a micro-manager for micro-managers.

It shows in everything government does.

Or, to be more accurate what it doesn't do.
Which brings this to mind, from a front-page Will Hilliard report in The Telegram of September 14, 2003:
"We need to have an eight- to 10-year plan for this province that sets out here's what we have to do and here's how we're going to do it," said Williams.
"We... we... we." Is that inclusive, exclusive, or Royal?

Whichever it is, it's four calendar years into the Danny Williams era, and "we" — inclusive, exclusive, or Royal — are nowhere closer to seeing the "eight- to 10-year" plan that "we needed to have" four calendar years ago. Does the clock only start ticking on "eight- to 10-year" once the plan is issued, or does Danny get credit, or even double credit, for time served?

And meanwhile, the provincial economy is headed in the same direction as those of the countries under the regimes that also used to have multi-year economic plans promulgated by Glorious Leaders.

They were really fond of "Five-Year Plans".

Respect your roles

This, from Kathy Blunderdale today, is rich on seventeen different levels.

Not only is it her, and not Danny, engaged in this new front in the Holy War (if the cause is so just, why isn't Danny on the front lines, where he so loves to be?) but she comes up with this unintentionally hilarious condemnation of the Infidel Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board:
The minister said a critique by the board of the province’s decision is highly unusual and outside the board’s role as regulator.

"For the board to question our need to be provided with more information on which to base our decision on the development of a resource that belongs to the people is quite frankly inappropriate," the minister said. "The board is subject to the review of the federal and provincial ministers. The ministers are not subject to review of the board."
For the sake of argument, let's assume this is true: that the CNLOPB did something outside its role. (A big assumption: as demonstrated by the provincial government's false belief that the CNLOPB is responsible for ensuring local benefits, as amply documented over at Bond Papers, it's abundantly clear that Danny Williams, The Greatest Lawyer Ever, doesn't have the first clue about the statutory role of the Board. You would be well advised to take any provincial minister's description of the role of the board with a big fat grain of legal salt.)

Danny Williams has stepped outside his role, under his Premier's hat, as chief executive and legislator, in making determinations that only courts can make. It is not up to Danny to decide whether the Powley case applies to Labrador and the Labrador Métis. It is up to the courts. And it's not the only time Great Lawyer has gotten up on the wrong side of the courts.

It is not Danny Williams' job to determine school closures, mergers, or other such decisions. It's the job of the school boards. Did that stop Danny from stepping outside his role? Noop. Not a chance.

Danny Williams is not the administrator of the House of Assembly. Does it stop him from demanding that the legislature pledge its fealty to him? Nope. And again, nope. No way.

Any Great Lawyer — for that matter, a merely Good Lawyer, an Indifferent Lawyer, even the better part of the Incompetent Lawyers of the world — will have paid enough attention, in Consititional 1001, to know about constitutional baubles and trinkets like, oh, the separation of powers.

Or the division of powers.

But here is Great Lawyer, Premier of the Universe, a constitutional bull in a constitutional china shop. The man is risking becoming a latter-day Duplessis — you know, as in Roncarelli v. Duplessis.

One can only hope that the bull won't smash anything of real value, as measured by the standards of the emerging deep-pocket-justice on the local judicial scene, during its term in the shop: either by lucky happenstance, or because its time in the shop will be mercifully short.

But if Cathy Dunderdale is truly, honestly, concerned about actions being taken by a public actor, which are "highly unusual and outside [that actor's] role", then what in the name of all holiness is she doing in Danny Williams' cabinet?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Quote of the day

"We are an island province."

- Norm Doyle, MP, St. John's-whatever-it's-called-now, speaking today to his own House of Commons motion on building a fixed link "to Labrador".


"Mr. Norman Doyle (St. John's East, PC): Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saint John. I would like to say a few words in the transportation debate. Coming from an island province, transportation is very important to us and is always uppermost in our minds.


The problem, again, is that Newfoundland is an island province with a very small population."

- Norm Doyle, MP, St. John's-whatever-it-was-called-then, May 30, 2000.

Battle of the Tories

Time to compare notes:
"[The provincial Conservative government] have put aside $50M for the TLH... [ellipsis in original - ed] throwing good money after bad[?! - ed] without the feds," says McGrath.

- Nick McGrath, PC nomination candidate for the impending Labrador West by-election, as reported in the January 21st edition of 53 North.

Other road improvement plans include: [...] $15 million to commence hard-surfacing of Phase I of the Trans-Labrador Highway – subject to cost-sharing with the federal government
- John Hickey, PC MHA and Minister of Transportation and Works, in a January 17, 2007, press release.

Grassroots Without Borders

An interesting little tidbit hit the news in two provinces last week, though without the prominence it deserves.

VOCM reported (link now defunct):

Communities Working Together for Better Results
January 24, 2007

Communities in northern Newfoundland, southern Labrador and the Quebec lower north shore are thinking of themselves as one region. They're calling it "A Region Without Borders." Mayors in the region met in Blanc Sablon recently to talk about what they feel is an inadequate transportation system and problems of isolation. They're calling on governments to improve road links in the area.
Similarly, Radio-Canada reported:

Développement des régions
Des maires s'unissent pour le bien de leur région

Mise à jour le mercredi 24 janvier 2007, 11 h 38 .

La municipalité de Blanc-Sablon a été le lieu d'une rencontre historique la semaine dernière. Des dizaines de maires de la Basse-Côte-Nord et de Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador s'y sont rencontrés pour discuter d'isolement et de l'exode massif de la population.

Les maires soutiennent que leur économie est paralysée en raison d'infrastructures de transport déficientes. Selon le président du Conseil des maires de la Basse-Côte-Nord et porte-parole du regroupement, Randy Jones, un lien routier entre la Basse-Côte-Nord et le Labrador pourrait tout changer. « C'est la seule place où il reste du développement à faire et les routes vont faire en sorte que l'on va changer notre sort si vous voulez. On ne peut pas développer rien sans avoir la route », fait-il valoir.

Pendant que la frontière entre Terre-Neuve-et-Labrador et le Québec fait toujours l'objet de querelles entre les deux gouvernements, les maires souhaitent mettre sur pied une stratégie commune. « On a écouté la bureaucratie pendant les 50 dernières années, venir avec des solutions pour essayer de sauver nos villages, de dépenser des millions de dollars pour absolument rien faire. Là, c'est un mouvement de la base qui va prendre ça en main », affirme Randy Jones.

Les centres locaux de développement de la Basse-Côte-Nord appuient les démarches des maires. Le regroupement espère maintenant convaincre Développement économique Canada et ACOA, l'équivalent dans les maritimes, de se joindre à leur cause.

Une rencontre est prévue cette semaine avec le ministère des Transports du Québec.
It's gotten attention in the francophone press in Quebec as well, as in this piece from Le Nord-Est Plus in Sept-Iles.

Des maires abolissent la frontière Québec-Labrador!
Par Jean-Guy Gougeon

Réunis la semaine dernière à Blanc Sablon, des maires de la Basse Côte-Nord, du sud du Labrador et du nord de l'Île de Terre-Neuve ont aboli dans leur esprit la frontière séparant le Québec du Labrador depuis 1927.

Une région sans frontières, qui a besoin de liens routiers. C'est le message que le président du Conseil des maires de la Basse Côte-Nord et maire de Gros-Mécatina, Randy Jones veut apporter aux élus du Québec et de Terre-Neuve. Car les maires, les collectivités et les représentants régionaux se sont réunis à Blanc Sablon pour discuter du prolongement de la route 138, d'un lien terrestre avec Terre-Neuve, des problématiques d'isolement et de l'exode massif de leur population.

La priorité a été donnée à la construction de la route 138 entre Vieux-Fort et Kégaska, longue de 376 kilomètres, de même qu'à l'amélioration des routes existantes, soit des tronçons entre quelques localités de ce secteur, totalisant au plus cinquante kilomètres.

Le développement d'un lien terrestre entre la Basse Côte-Nord et l'île de Terre-Neuve sera le «dernier clou» de la transcanadienne, selon le maire Jones. Celui-ci a déjà entrepris des démarches pour rencontrer les dirigeants québécois et terre-neuviens.

Un comité a été formé à l'issue de la rencontre de Blanc Sablon, le maire Jones a été nommé pour représenter ce comité.
One of the attendees, Burf Ploughman penned the following email [link won't be active forever] to Bill Rowe, in response to Rowe's shock column earlier in the month:

Time to get in bed with Quebec


Excellant commentary. Should be read by every Newfoundland and Labradorian.

If we could only get the Upper Churchill monkey off our back we could then start to sensibly discuss the rationale for our two Provinces to start working together to pursue common goals and interests.

You very eloqently outlined the commonalities we both share and which we do not have with any other Province.You also make a strong case for increasing our political influence at the Federal level by aligning ourselves with Quebec.

The one area where I would disagree with you is with regard to your suggestion we have a political union with Quebec.

May I take the liberty of proposing another alternative which may be more practical and achievable.

Let us consider a Coalition with Quebec.For the purpose of definition I prefer the one that states "it is a union of people and organizations working for a common cause. "

You may be interested in knowing this process has already started..

I was privileged to attend an historic meeting in Blanc Sablon, Quebec, on Wednesday,January 17 of this year. The meeting brought together the Mayors of the Quebec Lower North Shore ,the Mayors of Southern Labrador and the Mayors of St. Anthony and Roddickton on the Northern Peninsula.

What caused it to be historic was the fact that it was the first time since 1927, the year the borders were defined by the Privy Council, that the community leaders from the Quebec Lower North Shore and Southern Labrador had met.The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a strategy for completing Highway 138, the last section of road to connect the Lower North Shore with the rest of Quebec, completing the fixed link accross the Strait of Belle Isle which will give our Province a direct road link with the rest of Canada and to encourage our two Provinces to work together on the proposed hydro projects in Quebec and the Lower Churchill.Combined these hydro projects are estimated to cost close to 50 Billion dollars.To put his in perspective Alberta is planning to spend 90 billion in oil development over the next decade.

In addition to dealing with these various issues it was also decided to form a Coalition to meet on a regular basis to deal with other issues of common interest.

What is of particular interest with regard to this initiative is that it is not originating from St. John's, Quebec City or Ottawa but from rural Quebec Lower North Shore and rural Southern Labrador.

The proposition I would now like to make to you is let us expand on this initiative to form a Coalition between the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Province of Quebec.

Let the debate begin.
Indeed! The debate should begin. A sensible, factual one. It's long past time.

This effort on the part of southern Labrador, northern Newfoundland, and the Quebec North Shore, is just the latest in a long line. Going back to the 1980s, there have been periodic efforts by mayors of communities along the highway from Baie-Comeau to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to bridge the provincial, cultural, and linguistic divide. The record has been mixed. There has been a lot of talk. There has been much less action.

Given the frequent tendency to turf-protection that has often prevented southern Labrador and northern Newfoundland (let alone adding the Coasters from Quebec into the mix) from working effectively together, the organizers of "Region Without Borders" deserve full marks for getting this far. These regions have much more in common than they have apart; much more in common than many in either region often even realize. But this endeavour, as with any other grassroots and mossroots effort to link — politically, socially, economically — three regions into one, numerous social segments into something larger than the sum of its parts, is only as successful as the first interprovincial obstacle it runs up against.

And there's lies the problem.

As long as nationalist Newfoundlanders are suspicious of Quebec; as long as nationalist Quebecers are resentful of the mere existence of Labrador; as long as nationalists on either side of the provincial border, at least the one running, theoretically, down the middle of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, hold out the other as a strawman and a target of vilification; as long, in short, as interprovincial relations, at the provincial government level, and at the level of the broader provincial society, involves little more than a slightly less crude version of Smallwood and Duplessis literally, or metaphorically, urinating across the provincial boundary line; then these grassroots efforts will continue to come to naught.

All the best intentions are only as powerful as the first bout of interprovincial sniping, petty jealousy, or misguided protectionism that the intentions run up against.

Yes, this means you, John Ottenheimer. And And those in Newfoundland who seem to think that with a highway connecting Labrador to Quebec, and especially without a precious "fixed link", that somehow Labrador will become Quebecified, and no longer be part of the province.

The real threat to provincial unity doesn't come from Labrador's proximity to Quebec. It comes from its distance from Newfoundland; a distance that grows with every double-standard on resource development or provincial policy decision, and every buck-passing to the federal government.

If nationalist Newfoundlanders and nationalist Quebecers care as much as they profess to do about the far-flung and forgotten outposts of their accidental 19th-century geographical empires, they will do the right thing by these grassroots attempts, on the part of the frontier communities, realizing that they are in the same boat, to pull together:

If they can't get out and help, they can at least get out of the way.