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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Accountability attempts to reign

Wonders truly never cease.

Over at Elections Newfoundland Labrador, whatever that is, they have finally made available the 2007 election-period financing report.

Still no sign of the many, many, missing by-election financial reports.


Sick sense of humour

Dave Bartlett reports for The Telegram today:
"If I wasn't committed to this job, I'd love to be in your business right now," he said.

"Instead of making money, I'm just turning grey and trying to stay away from getting sick because I'll have to face the doctors and the nurses if I end up going to hospital," he said, to a loud round of applause.

Nurses in this province will begin voting on whether or not to strike Feb. 9.

The only man who can save us

The closing few paras of a Telegram article by Tracy Barron — whatever happened to that fine reporter? — which appeared on November 10, 2000 under the headline "Province may go it alone: Dicks"
The province has spent tens of millions of dollars on negotiations with Hydro-Quebec. Most of that was for environmental and engineering work that would have to be done anyway, [Mines and Energy Minister Paul] Dicks said.

Still, Opposition Tory Leader Ed Byrne wants those expenditures tabled.

The province financing its own project is the preferred option, Byrne said, but it makes him wonder what the negotiations with Hydro-Quebec were all about.

"Was it to further the political aspirations of one man, Mr. Tobin, who boasted he was the only one who could negotiate a deal?"


In the immortal words of Jean Chrétien, "A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof, and when you have a good proof, it's because it's proven."

The Word of Our Jean.

Which brings us to an absolutely spectacular innovation by the opposition Liberals in Nova Scotia:
Opposition leaders demand proof budget changes won’t cost N.S. money

The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s opposition leaders are demanding written assurances that the province won’t lose any money because of unilateral changes the federal government made to the equalization formula.


Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the premier is stretching credibility when he talks about a deal without documentation to back it up.
Imagine that! A legislative opposition which, rather than meekly and mildly taking the government and Premier at its word on something, demands proof.

The novelty! The utility! McNeil should rush, rush, rush to the patent office on Monday; subject to the rules of prior art, he might just have something here, something he could sell to other provincial oppositions.

In the general vicinity (II)

According to the 230km definity of "vicinity" recently set down by the provincial government in the La Romaine case, most of Newfoundland is in the "vicinity" of Grand Falls-Windsor, the red dot in the centre of the purple circle on this map.

Complaints about the portrayal of the maritime boundaries can be directed at Google. And look! No boundary between the French Islands and Newfoundland; who is claiming whom?

If the current trend continues...

Even with eleven months left to go in 2009, this Bond Paper is already well out in front as probable Bond Paper of the Year:

Equalization flips, flops and fumbles
And even with eleven months left to go in 2009, this snarky Telegram comment by “Randy” is already well out in front as the probable snarkiest Telegram Comment of the Year:
randy from nl writes: Thanks..Mr Grimes --Ya done good buddy..Nice to see Dan and the bludderdale woman trying to take credit for a project they voted agains't to begin with--except for senator Manning
Posted 30/01/2009 at 4:33 PM

Friday, January 30, 2009

A birth, a death, a romance

Some people, especially the easily-impressed, may look to today’s announcement by NALCO(R) of the environmental assessment of the Lower Churchill “infeed” (outstarve?) line, as the birth of Our Dear So-Called Lower Churchill Project:

Nalcor Energy today initiated the Environmental Assessment (EA) process for the proposed Labrador – Island Transmission Link. A directive of the province’s 2007 Energy Plan, this proposed 1,200 km High Voltage direct current (HVdc) link will be the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador and will be constructed from Gull Island in Central Labrador to Soldiers Pond on the island’s Avalon Peninsula.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die. A moment of respectful silence, therefore, upon the death of the Danny Williams Memorial Tunnel:

In Newfoundland and Labrador, everything's shifted to the east coast. The fixed link would be well into the northern peninsula, so it accomplishes a few things. It would promote a movement to populate the west, and it would join our province to Labrador and to the country. I think it's critical to our future.
So young, so young, not even nine years old.

And yet, eight years later, pace Bill Wells, the Newfoundland hydro grid hasn’t collapsed. Six, seven or eight years later, not only is the tunnel not built, the roads on the Labrador side aren’t even completed.

O dura fata!

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In the general vicinity

The provincial government's tardy intervention in the Quebec government's environmental review of the La Romaine hydro proposal has a number of curiosities in it, including the following map detailed below, which is titled Known Archaeological Sites in the vicinity of the Romaine Watershed
Most of the sites portrayed as being "in the vicinity" are those uncovered during past archaeological work done in conjunction with the Trans-Labrador Highway project and the proposed Lower Churchill project. These are the cluster of sites on the northern edge of the above map, up to 230km away from the closest of the four proposed La Romaine generating stations, La Romaine 4. The location of LR4 is marked by the red dot on the following map, with circle of 230km radius, centred on LR4, indicated in purple:
By the same standard, archaeological sites within the purple circle below, which are 230km or less from the Gull Island location, are also in "the vicinity" of it. This encompasses an area from the reservoir in the west, north to Harp Lake and almost to Postville, east almost to the outskirts of Rigolet, and south to the Quebec-Labrador border.

If Muskrat Falls were ever to be added to the scheme, another purple circle would be centred about 50km northeast of this one; a circle which would take in Postville and Rigolet as being in "the vicinity", as defined by the good folks at Intergovernment Affairs.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Voisey's Bay has something to do with Labrador?

That'll effect the whole province, and probably Labrador too.

— Caller "Clyde" on Nightline, tonight, describing the beneficial impact of the Voisey's Bay nickel plant in Long Harbour.


That'll show 'em

We are not getting enough money from Ottawa in order to be autonomous and go it alone with.

Therefore, we should separate from Canada.

Such is the logically- and financially-spurious thesis of an astonishingly large number of completely spontaneous Premier-positive comments on the airwaves and the internets these past two days.

By way of example, from the Telegram's site:

Ches from St. John's writes: If we are living in a country that see's fit to bluntly harm it's citizens for exercising their right to vote, we shouldn't cooperate with that country.

Take the MPs home, it doesn't matter what party they are.

Newfoundland will NOT be allowed to prosper as a province of Canada.

Want someone to blame? Blame your parents and grandparents who sold us out for the promise of a cheque for nothing. WHERE HAS THAT GOT US? COLONIZED BY THE COLONIZED. That's where.

Posted 29/01/2009 at 12:44 PM

Ches from Newfoundland writes: Is Danny steadily working towards NL separation and to become the new Republic's first Emperor? Wouldn't doubt it. Thought that for a while now.

I hope so, it's why I support him.

What's Canada done for you lately, Shannon?

Posted 29/01/2009 at 10:48 AM

Ches from Newfoundland writes: You people saying either we the people, or Williams, are to blame for the Canadian budget really need to give your heads a shake.

Does being Canadian mean that if a population doesn't vote for the right side then you become open for wanton abuse?

I'm not ashamed or embarrased to be a Newfoundlander, but I AM DISGUSTED THAT I HAVE TO BE A CANADIAN by virtue of the fact that I was born here.

I don't want to be a Canadian anymore.
I want to be a Newfoundlander.

Give me a shot at it Williams.
Posted 29/01/2009 at 3:03 PM

And another Ches, this one posting from Canada of all places, expressing his opinion spontaneously over at the Globe and Mail, the paper which nationalist Newfoundlanders aren't supposed to care about, let alone read:

Ches Crosbie from Canada writes: Harper has confirmed what we all know.

As long as Canada owns Newfoundland, Newfoundland wil not prosper. It will not be allowed. The warnings were given in 1947-48, and were not listened to in some corners of the country. We lost our country, and now are losing our people, our children, our resources, our future.

If we are to have hope for our children's generation we must un-shackle ourselves from this unholy alliance. It must be done while there is still something to protect.
Posted 29/01/09 at 5:17 AM EST

Ches Crosbie from Canada writes: Micheal Power, if you think that nothing was coming out of Newfoundland all those years, just Canadian money going in out of the good of an Ottawa heart, you are sadly mistaken.

Newfoundland with it's 500,000 souls, has contributed FAR more to the Canadian pot than it has pulled out, since 1949.

Anyway, a PM who seems to think he is the King of Botswana has provided all the ammunition necessary to show even the most ardent Canada supporter, that Newfoundland cannot, and should not, exist as a province in Canada.

The 60 year experiment has failed, and will be concluded shortly. Just watch.
Posted 29/01/09 at 5:27 AM EST

Ches Crosbie from Canada writes: Scotty Tranna, living in Toronto you must know a lot about the third world, from listening to your neighbors.

To those who think NL's choice in the last election was about Liberal MPs vs Conservative MPs, you are way out of your depth.

The last election was to show the Govt of Canada, (of course it was going to be Conservative), that we will not be represented by those who do not represent. No Taxation without Representation.

The current crop dispatched to Canada will face the same fate should they not represent those who sent them.

The best outcome would be for the current crop to be the last. At this point, Williams has more than enough arrows in his quiver to see us bring our MPs home.

It's time to start dusting off the chairs at the Colonial Building.
Posted 29/01/09 at 7:33 AM EST


Not just new, improved, too!

Executive Council
Natural Resources
January 29, 2009

Province Reaches Improved Development Agreement with Vale Inco

The Provincial Government has negotiated improvements to the development agreement with Vale Inco for the construction of a commercial hydromet processing plant at Long Harbour. The improvements include more certainty that the project will proceed on this new schedule, enhanced local employment benefits and greater protection of the province’s resource.

In exchange, government has agreed to a later construction completion date of February 2013 due to the increased size and complexity of the project’s construction. The Provincial Government and Vale Inco reached an agreement-in-principle Thursday on amending the original 2002 Development Agreement.

“In its draft Implementation Plan, Vale Inco requested an extension of 14 months beyond the original completion date of December 31, 2011, contained in the 2002 Development Agreement,” said the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. “When we entered into discussions four weeks ago, it was important to us that we reach an agreement that provides greater assurances around the project, protects the public interest and gives us enhanced benefits. We are confident we have achieved that.”

Vale Inco was to have submitted an Implementation Plan for the hydromet facility on December 31, 2008, that met the terms and conditions of the original 2002 Development Agreement. The province extended that deadline to January 22, 2009, to have further discussion with the company when it became clear the completion date was not going to be met. Discussions with the company continued after the extension expired under the understanding that no nickel concentrate would be shipped out of the province while negotiations were ongoing.

The company cited the larger size and complexity of the project, and the lengthy process for receiving federal approval for residue disposal at Sandy Pond for the extended completion date.

“There is no change in the project beyond a new completion date of February 2013,” said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources. “It will still be a hydromet facility at Long Harbour processing nickel concentrate from Voisey’s Bay. The company will not be able to export any more than the 440,000 tonnes of nickel they were granted in the 2002 Development Agreement, despite the longer construction period. They will be required to maintain a maximum annual export average from Voisey’s Bay over the next four years. The province has achieved significant increased benefits and controls in this negotiation and greater certainty that the project will proceed on schedule.”

Vale Inco will now submit its final Implementation Plan on March 31, 2009. Initial work for this project will start in April of this year with site clearing and port demolition work.

To improve certainty around the schedule, Vale Inco has also agreed to change the original development agreement to remove a clause that would have allowed them to delay the project schedule for such reasons as a shortage of labour or supplier interruptions.

As part of the new arrangement, Vale Inco commits to a target of 77 per cent of total project employment – 8.9 million person hours – in Newfoundland and Labrador. This translates into roughly 4,500 person-years of work between now and February 2013, and includes 460,000 hours of engineering work. Under the previous agreement, the commitment was to full and fair opportunity and first consideration for local employment.

“The construction of the hydromet facility at Long Harbour is a tremendous boost for the entire area and the increased certainty that now accompanies this project is a great relief to businesses and families who have been waiting for this project to start for some time,” said Felix Collins, MHA for Placentia & St. Mary’s.

The Provincial Government took this opportunity to solidify certain aspects of the original Development Agreement. Under the new agreement, the company is now required to complete its second-stage feasibility study for underground mining by June 30, 2011.

For the hydromet plant, the company must also meet six project milestones on specific dates in the first half of 2009, and three more milestones during the life of the project. This allows government to measure the company’s progress. If the milestones are not met, the province can shutdown any further export of nickel or copper concentrate. In addition to the milestones, they are pledging financial security in the event of a default.

The company has also agreed that it will pay the island industrial rate for its power supply, surrendering its option to have a better rate should other industrial customers obtain a better rate for whatever reason.

The dog ate my paperwork

As the Telegram reported on line this afternoon:

Last updated at 4:28 PM on 29/01/09

Update: News conference to announce Vale Inco deal delayed again; expected within the hour

The Telegram

Premier Danny Williams is expected to announce a deal has been reached on development of Vale Inco’s commercial nickel processing plant in Long Harbour.

Williams had planned a news conference for 2:30 p.m. today, but it had been postponed first to 4 p.m., and then delayed again so that officials can put together the proper paperwork.

Which they managed to put together, just in the nick of the supper-hour newscasts.

Worth their weight in gold, that comms shop and those paper-pushers; in gold.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

On childish things

Sheila howard from St.Johns, NL writes: This sounds to me like giving with one hand and taking back with the other, a tactic common to children. A childish and vindictive move […]
Childish and vindictive! Amen to that, sister!



What's a "minister"?

January 27, 2009

Media Advisory: Minister to Respond to Federal Budget

The Honourable Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, will provide comment on the federal budget at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, January 28) in front of the House of Assembly, East Block, Confederation Building.

January 28, 2009

Media Advisory: Media Availability Cancelled

Media availability that had been scheduled for 10:00 a.m. today (Wednesday, January 28) with the Honourable Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, to provide comment on the federal budget has been cancelled.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

But (V)

Bob from NL writes: Look...I support the Premier (not like theres an alternative)...I think he's doing a decent job and has benefitted greatly when the price of oil was high....BUT....its the missed potential of what could have been that gets me.


What's Icelandic for "Manitoba"?

How times change, and how quickly:

The successes in jurisdictions like Iceland and Norway in the fishery and energy industries should be achievable in Newfoundland and Labrador, said Premier Danny Williams today. The Premier visited the two countries last week and was accompanied to Iceland by the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Tom Rideout.


“I recall commenting on several occasions, that if these northern countries can turn opportunity into success, then we can certainly do it in Newfoundland and Labrador,” added the Premier. “This is especially the case with Iceland, where you see a geographically isolated region with a very small population base. And yet they have a strong economy partially based on a prosperous fishery. Both Norway and Iceland have certainly encountered challenges in the fishery, yet they continue to be models for success that we can learn from.”

Iceland, Iceland, Iceland.

And now, with the economic picture having turned on a dime, some Icelanders are looking to a Canadian province as a place of hope for the future.

Maybe it's time for Lisa Moore to pay a return visit. Somewhere, in a basement in Kópavogur, a nationalist Icelandic blogger is typing a lament: if only we were more like Canada...


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taxing the innumerate (II)

The comments on this Telegram story concerning last night's Lotto 6/49 jackpot wins were entirely predictable:
sandy from nl writes: Grand Prize winners are mostly always from Ontario and Quebec, so what's new. Every now and then the Grand Prize will go to WESTERN Canada.

jamie fitzpatrick from St.John's, NL writes: atlantic lottery corp........hahaha why do it always go to the QUEBEC-QWAAAA FRENCH CANADA....OH SO ASHAMED

j f from nl writes: i seldom buy lottery tickets and this is just another confirmation of why...reason has it that because there are more people in ont.; more prizes will go there. if this is true, then more prizes should be awarded outside of ont...given that more people in the country reside outside of there. the lottery ridiculous!
Rather than re-write the wheel, gentle reader, just go re-read this. Thank you.

Fiscal regime change

VOCM News, October 29, 2008:
Finance Minister Tom Marshall says Newfoundland and Labrador is not likely headed for a recession. Marshall was in Montreal last week for a meeting of Canada's premiers and finance ministers. He says governments are taking the necessary steps to lessen the impact of the slowdown in the global economy. Marshall says Canada's banking system is strong, unlike the United States. He says the biggest impact on this province is declining prices for oil and minerals, but everything is still on target. Marshall says when the economy slows down, governments should free up credit, lower interest rates, and spend more on infrastructure. He says now is not the time to stop spending and increase taxes.
Finance Minister Jerome! Kennedy, at the St. John's Board of Trade Business Development Summit, January 22, 2009:
The message I’m giving is that we are maintaining the course. We are not simply going to try to spend our way out of this recession. We are going to continue that which we have been doing.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Leçon de géographie

From the Western Star earlier this month:
[Averill Baker] said the case seems a little discriminatory. While none of the Newfoundland sealers had any whitecoats, she said the investigation was initiated on whitecoats that were seized belonging to a vessel from the Magdalen Islands in Quebec.

“None of those French sealers were ever prosecuted for those offences,” she said. “Instead they turn around and decide to charge the Newfoundland sealers for something that had always been allowed in Newfoundland.”

Quebec and France are underlined in blue. The Magdalen Islands are contained within the little blue circle in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just to the northeast of Prince Edward Island.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Legislative calendar

In order to legislate someone back to work, that means the House of Assembly itself has to get back to work, innit?

Someone didn't get the memos

Everton McLean recounts Jerome!'s economic report to the St. John's Bored of Trade:
Kennedy said he doesn't expect to get much from Ottawa in the stimulus package expected next week with the federal budget.

"There's been very little indication given as to what they're going to do. There's been all this talk about stimulus, but we have no indication as to where and how stimulus money could be spent," Kennedy said, although he did plug a new federal penitentiary as a good idea for a stimulus project in this province.
While Kennedy prepared the people at the conference for lean times, economists gave a fairly favourable picture of what the province can expect.

In an audio clip yesterday on VOCM, Jerome! also fustigated against Stephen [spit!] Harper for not predicting the economic downturn.

Jerome!, apparently, didn't get a number of key memos [or non-ATIPpable oral briefings — ed.]
1. The ABC campaign is over, and the hatchet is buried.

2. The future isn't gloomy, so there are no "lean times" to prepare for.

3. Another First Minister with a spurious reputation for brilliance was a bit off in his economic forecast, too.

East, West

For a second, it almost seemed like the Mayor of the Province was talking about the TLH:
O'Keefe Wants East/West Arterial Completed
January 23, 2009

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe says its time the East/West arterial was completed. O'Keefe gave his first State of the City Address to the St. John's Rotary Club yesterday. He says they have plans for a large number of infrastructure projects, but there is one major project in limbo. O'Keefe says even though the major beneficiary will be it's residents, Mount Pearl continues to refuse to share the cost of finishing the road. Mount Pearl maintains the proposed extension of the Team Gushue highway should be the province's responsibility. Their position is that it is a provincial highway and it is unfair to ask municipalities to foot the bill.

He can fly, he can fly, he can fly

Think of a wonderful thought,
any happy little thought:
Oram Talking Positive to Central Newfoundland
January 23, 2009

Business minister Paul Oram was preaching the positive in Grand Falls-Windsor. He says the hub of central Newfoundland in industry and business faces a bright future. The minister spoke at last night's Exploits Business Excellence awards banquet. Oram says with its identity and background, Grand Falls-Windsor and surrounding area has the right attitude facing the challenges presented by the closure of
AbitibiBowater's paper mill. Oram says a government task force is working to offset the impact of the mill closure and he sees lots of potential for future growth.
Just don't forget the pixie dust.


Thursday, January 22, 2009


Skinner! doesn't like negativitude:
Skinner Calls on People to be More Positive About Economy - Jan 22, 2009

The Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development says people need to be more positive when it comes to the economy. Shawn Skinner admits it's vital to be cognizant of the global economic situation...but there needs to be a balance between the good and the bad, so we maintain a positive outlook. Skinner says if that happens, when the economy turns around the province will have gained momentum. He suggests focusing on the success we're having and trying to grow more success. Skinner was speaking to the International Personnel Management Association, Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter luncheon.
In related news:
One by one the July days passed. To Pollyanna, they were happy days, indeed. She often told her aunt, joyously, how very happy they were. Whereupon her aunt would usually reply, wearily:

"Very well, Pollyanna. I am gratified, of course, that they are happy; but I trust that they are profitable, as well—otherwise I should have failed signally in my duty."

Generally Pollyanna would answer this with a hug and a kiss—a proceeding that was still always most disconcerting to Miss Polly; but one day she spoke. It was during the sewing hour.

"Do you mean that it wouldn't be enough then, Aunt Polly, that they should be just happy days?" she asked wistfully.

"That is what I mean, Pollyanna."

"They must be pro-fi-ta-ble as well?"


"What is being pro-fi-ta-ble?"

"Why, it—it's just being profitable—having profit, something to show for it, Pollyanna. What an extraordinary child you are!"

"Then just being glad isn't pro-fi-ta-ble?" questioned Pollyanna, a little anxiously.

"Certainly not."

"O dear! Then you wouldn't like it, of course. I'm afraid, now, you won't ever play the game, Aunt Polly."

"Game? What game?"

"Why, that father—" Pollyanna clapped her hand to her lips. "N-nothing," she stammered. Miss Polly frowned.

"That will do for this morning, Pollyanna," she said tersely. And the sewing lesson was over.


Economist predicts stuff

November 7, 2008: Economist predicts megaproject for Labrador

Locke wouldn't rule out plans for a possible aluminum smelter. Premier Danny Williams flew to Brazil a year ago this month to press Inco's parent company into considering building an aluminum smelter in Labrador. An aluminum smelter would need huge amounts of cheap power to be competitive.
Meanwhile, non-economist predicts that economist will continue to predict stuff.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Assentator emeritus (I)

Even with Danny Williams-Government activity at unusual and historic lows, it doesn’t mean that sycophancy towards the Regime is by any means in abayance. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, today there was such a stunning example of it that this corner feels compelled to award an Extraordinary Award for Special Achievement in Sycophancy — the first in what will, sadly and inevitably, become an occasional but still too-frequent series.

Congratulations to radio host No Names Please, who today puckered up and said:
Is this the price we pay for having a good Premier?... There’s a great risk with someone like Danny Williams in the leadership role, someone who people respect and highly esteem, there’s a tendency to say that things are going well.


Self-delusion is better than none

Jerome! issues a press release:
Sound governance and prudent fiscal management have been cornerstones of the Williams government said the Honourable Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board, today in his response to the release of the Auditor General’s report on the review of departments and agencies for the year ended March 31, 2008.

"We stand on a solid record of responsible management," said Minister Kennedy. "Our government will now thoroughly review the findings of the Auditor General and consider his recommendations. This report provides another lens through which our government can view its operations and procedures and we will take this opportunity to identify any steps that can be taken to further strengthen how we govern."

Minister Kennedy also noted the Provincial Government’s ongoing commitment to enhanced accountability and transparency for all government departments and public agencies.
He almost sounds as if he believes it, too.

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Economic philosophy

Radio host No Names Please, in full-flight rant against that nefarious federal Crown corporation, Marine Atlantic, rails against the corp, decries its lack of competition, and sputters, "We all know what can happen when a bureaucracy gets its hands on something."

Indeed we do know, No Names Please. Indeed we do.



Sound governance and prudent fiscal management have been cornerstones of the Williams government said the Honourable Jerome Kennedy blah blah blah blah.

Finally! After more than a full month on hiatus, Danny Williams-Government is back. Who knows; Jerome's release could be the tie-breaker again this year.


Busy, busy (II)

According to the reportory of Tabled Documents over at the Bow-Wow Parliament's website, the Chief Electoral Officer deposited with the Speaker, on March 11, 2008, the Report on Election Finances for the By-Election held in the District of Placentia & St. Mary’s February 21, 2006.

Curiously, said report is nowhere to be found on the Chief Electoral Officer's financial website. Curiouser, the Placentia & St. Mary’s financial report from March 21, 2006, is the only one noted on the House of Assembly site. And none of the other seven financial reports from by-elections held during the last House of Assembly are listed as Tabled Documents.

Nor are the financial reports for seventeen* of the eighteen provincial by-elections held since 1996, available on the CEO's site, even though the general election reports and annual contribution reports since 1996 are.

Well, unless you're looking for the annual and general election reports for 2007. Which aren't.

* The sole exception: Exploits 2005.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not his department

The crack provincial finmin Jerome Kennedy is pledging multilateral help for the Grand Falls-Windsor region. As CBC reports:

"The issue of all the displaced workers, the bridging to retirement, the issues of training and retraining — these are issues that we will have to look at, but there are other departments that will play a significant role," said Kennedy, whose meeting with people in the area ran two hours longer than expected.
"Other departments," indeed. As the good Minister explained on the airwaves of that other radio station, and as his cabinet colleague laid out the other day, other, federal, departments.

If The Provincial Government gets its way, soon there'll be more than enough money coming in from the federal government that they'll be able to declare financial autonomy once and for all.


Stuck in the middle with you

Minister of Highways Happiness Trevor Taylor made another interesting comment on VOCM this morning concerning the Trans-Labrador Highway:
You’ve got 500 km of highway, with Churchill Falls stuck in the middle of it.
You're wondering, "what could possibly be interesting about that?", right?

Well, for starters, the Trans-Labrador Highway is actually 1100 km long, and change. And while Churchill Falls is in the middle(ish) of the Labrador West to Happy Valley-Goose Bay segment, it is not in the middle, or even the middle(ish) of the Trans-Labrador Highway overall.

This new re-imaging of the Trans-Labrador Highway is not unique to the good Minister. Some time last year, "completing" the TLH became re-defined as widening and paving Phase I of the road, the aforementioned Labrador West to HVGB segment.

There are two other Phases; Phase II which runs from the Labrador Straits to Cartwright, and Phase III, still at least notionally planned for, um, "completion" this year, linking Phases I and II.

The fact that Phase I runs through, and links, two government-held districts, let alone the fact that Phases II and III do not share the same electoral geography, of course has absolutely nothing to do with the new, less-ambitious definition of "completing the Trans-Labrador Highway".


Noted dissident George Andrews expressed concern last night and today on VOCM's airwaves, over the lack of reliability in the loaner-phone program that is available to users of the Trans-Labrador Highway, at least between Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay:
Traveller Says Satellite Phones Unreliable - Jan 20, 2009

A man from Goose Bay is raising concerns about the province's emergency satellite phone service after he and his family were involved in an accident on the Trans Labrador Highway. Satellite phones are provided to travellers at either end of the highway to use in case of emergency. George Andrews told VOCM Niteline with Ryan Cleary there were no serious injuries yesterday when their vehicle left the road and rolled several times...but it's what happened after the accident he fears could have had tragic results. Andrews says he walked some distance from the scene in frigid temperatures to get service to make a phone call, but ran into problems. He says he managed to get service for a few seconds, but soon lost it again. Andrews worries that the satellite phones provide travellers on the the Trans Labrador Highway with a false sense of security. He says his family could have died from exposure, because of the poor phone service.
On VOCM Open Line this morning, Minister of Highways Happiness Trevor Taylor agreed that the service needs improvement, and offered to help. However, he sounded a note of caution, saying:
You know what government acquisition processes are like.
Yes, we do know what government acquisition processes, especially for communications technology, are like.

They are often, like, untendered.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Then, meet now (III)

The Telegram, November 12, 2008:
Williams' forecast for province: mostly sunny

Premier Danny Williams is cautiously upbeat about the province's economic future, even in the face of a looming recession.

Williams said that's because of a combination of strong natural resources revenues and his government's sound management of the economy.

"If we do, in fact, get into a deep and long recession, I think our province will be as good or better off than any of the other provinces," he said.

"The island will be affected, and transportation costs will be affected at some point throughout this, however I think we'll be fine."
The Telegram, Everton McLean reporting, January 17, 2009:
Premier Danny Williams went into the first ministers meetings in Ottawa Friday with a lot ideas about how to help this province and the country work through the economic downturn. He said he was pleased to get a chance to voice all his ideas and concerns.


"I pointed out to the federal government that the resource industries in Newfoundland and Labrador are the ones that are going to be affected. We've seen it in the forestry industry, we've seen it in the fishery, we've seen it in mining and we've also seen some affect on the oil and gas side."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Responsible government

Morrison from Newfoundland makes an interesting point in a comment on Russell Wayne-Gretzky’s Tuesday column:
Nobody can argue that the price of oil, which had nothing to do with this government, helped the province right its finances immensely. However, before the price of oil soared, the PC's were in the process of trying there brand of fiscal responsibility (does anyone need to be reminded of the NAPE strike). Like it or lump it, moves such as those are also what this government is talking about when it refers to them straightening out our financial situation, and they have every right to do so, just as we have every right to debate it.
Morrison is partially right. High oil prices were a very big part of Danny Williams-Government’s “fiscal responsibility”.

As the Comedian in Chief said announcing the Hebron deal, quoting J. Paul Getty, ““the formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”

That’s about the only fiscally responsible thing associated with Danny Williams’ premiership. Striking oil. (And large, viable, base metal deposits.)

The only problem is, Danny Williams didn’t strike any of those mineral motherlodes. Nor did he strike any of the revenue deals associated with them.

(Contrary to the popular myth, which He and His government have done everything to promulgate and nothing to dissuade, the Hebron deal has contributed not a penny towards the provincial treasury or the recent positive changes to the provincial balance sheet.)

The most recent of the above-named discoveries, Voisey’s Bay, was a decade and a half ago. The most recent of the associated revenue deals, also for Voisey’s Bay, was in 2002. It helped catapult him, with all his talk of “giveaways” and “loopholes” into the Premier’s job.

It has also, along with those earlier resource discoveries, balanced the books and created large surpluses. No real measures have been taken on the expenditure side of the ledger. Well, none to bring expenditures under control, anyway: DWG has taken many measures to keep shoveling money out the door as rapidly as it has, hitherto, been coming in.

It will be up to some future Premier – and the not-to-distant future, either – to make some very painful choices about public sector spending and employment. And that’s not only because of the profligate ways of Danny Williams-Government. The commodities boom has gone bust, meaning revenues are going south, and about to go even souther, even as expenditures are going north, and about to go even norther.

And the Danny Williams-Government plan for the provincial finances, on a go-forward basis? He laid it out in his recent TV interviews.

He tells Debbie Cooper of the CBC:
But, you know, the good thing is, is that all during this past period as we were having surpluses, we were paying down debt. And we were criticised at times, they’re saying, oh, you’re paying down debt you shouldn’t just put it, you know, on the account. But when you do that you, you increase your borrowing capacity because if you or I, you know, depleted our line of credit and paid it off, well, then we have the ability to draw back on that when we need it and that’s exactly where we are.
And Fred Hutton of NTV:
As you pay down the debt it also gives you the ability then to bring it back up. It’s no different than if you paid down your line of credit at the bank or pay off your car loan, it gives you the ability to go borrow a little more, take a little more if you need it. So, that money will be used, for example, that, that surplus that’s actually going on the debt, though, will also be used to fund, you know, the settlements with the unions.
Funding day-to-day government operations, on a go-forward basis, with new debt spending. And neither seasoned political interviewer so much as bats an eye.

In household terms, it’s like someone having paid off one line of credit, a student loan, and most of the car loan… just so that you can “afford” to put your weekly groceries on Visa. Hands up, everyone who’s seen this movie before.

This is not fiscal responsibility. It is fiscal madness. It is going to end very badly, and DWG is not likely going to stick around to face the consequences, or the wrath of the public, when (if?) they ever wake from the long, long, slumber. Just watch how casually he skips out of the House of Assembly when the nattering nabobs of negativity deign to start asking questions.

On September 7, 2001, Trinity North MHA Ross Wiseman woke up a member of the provincial Liberal caucus, and retired a member of the Danny Williams Team. In the press release he issued rationalizing his decision to engage in the Newfoundland national sport, Crossing the Floor, Wiseman said:
Our province is in desperate need of… greater financial accountability and fiscally responsible spending.

I am also very concerned about the serious fiscal problems facing our province and the growing expectation that the government will miss its financial target this year by a wide margin. It is becoming increasingly apparent that this year's budget rests on very shaky ground, and that worries me greatly.
Wiseman is no Winston Churchill, or even a Walter Carter; having ratted, and given his thoroughly dismal performance as a cabinet minister, he would never be able to pull off a re-rat.

But where are the reverse Ross Wisemans in the current government caucus? The Clyde Wellses, the John Crosbies?

Are there even any?

Is there not one of the forty-four lap-lackeys with the foresight to see what’s coming, and the fortitude to stand up and speak out now, instead of when it’s too late?

If it’s not too late already?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Busy, busy (I)

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer — also operating as "Elections Newfoundland Labrador" — has a "business plan" (why does an officer of the legislature have something called a "business plan"?) to take its very important work up to the next election in 2011.

The pdf file is available here.

In its business plan, Elections Dannystan helpfully informs its public:

For the past year or so, the Office has been extremely busy. A Province-wide Enumeration was conducted in May 2007 to effectively update the voter’s list and an evaluation of the Electoral Boundaries was done, followed by a Boundary Redistribution. The 2007 General Election took place on October 9, 2007.
Notice the temporal references here. "For the past year or so", and two references to 2007 sandwiching a reference to "an evaluation of the Electoral Boundaries was done, followed by a Boundary Redistribution".

The Electoral Boundaries Commission — which was cleverly made "non-partisan" by making it ALL partisan — was appointed on March 13, 2006. It published its proposed electoral map on August 10, 2006. It held hearings on its proposal in the fall of 2006. It submitted its final report on November 20, 2006.

The new electoral map legislation received Royal Assent on March 27, 2007, having been passed by the House inside 24 hours a few days before.

Elections Dannystan's "business plan" was tabled in the House of Assembly on June 30, 2008.

Counting backwards, the "past year" would extend back to June 30, 2007.

Even if you're in a charitable mood, and give Elections Dannystan the "past year or so", it's still very difficult to imagine how, in the "past year or so" leading up to June 30, 2007, Elections Dannystan could in any way have been evaluating electoral boundaries, given that the final report of the EBC was published in November of the calendar year before.

How, then, to explain this bizarre claim? It has to be (choose one of the following):

    • That while the CEO's "business plan" was tabled on June 30th, 2008, it was actually sitting somewhere collecting dust for the number of months prior which would make the reference to "past year or so" sensical instead of nonsensical, or
    • That the CEO is evaluating electoral boundaries outside of the times and process laid down by the Electoral Boundaries Act, or
    • That the CEO is so desperate to make itself look sooper bizzy that it is taking credit for work that was long since already done.

Tick, tock

The Annual Let Us Tell You What You Think Show begins.

Will there be a debt clock this year?

Flimsy excuses (I)

Back in August 2005, then-MHA Eddie Joyce, Bay of Islands, issued a press release which took the performance of then-Highways Minister Tom Rideout to task:
"It is time for the Minister to put politics aside and find money in the roads budget to fix the north shore road near McIver’s. Recent road work announcements are evidence that Liberal districts are being neglected while the Minister rewards districts of his political friends."
In his rebuttal, Rideout was rather proud of his record of blatantly using highways spending as a political pork-barrel:
Minister Rideout says he offers no apologies for addressing transportation issues in government districts throughout the province. "When the previous administration was in power, opposition districts were highly neglected," said the minister. "This neglect now needs to be addressed, and that is exactly the action our department is taking.

"I had an analysis completed for the last five years that the previous administration was in office. Statistics from this analysis clearly indicate that the largest percentage of the allocated funding for roads went to government districts.

"I make no apologies now for addressing areas that were neglected when the previous administration was in power."
(Quite a marked departure from the deny, deny, deny approach of The Big Guy, and his "nothing further from the truth" when confronted with the same allegations.)

So, while there were no apologies from Rideout, was he at all justified in "addressing areas that were neglected"?

Of the districts receiving PRIP funding of $100,000 or more in 2000, the last year of the Tobin government, the three highest were held by government Liberals. The fourth-highest was a PC district.

In 2001, the first year of the Grimes government, the three highest were Liberal, the fourth was PC. In 2002, the highest was Liberal, but the second-highest was PC.

Only in election year 2003 was there much sign of hyper-favouring of Liberal districts, when the seven biggest grants went to governing Liberal members' districts, while the PCs took eighth and ninth spots.

In 2004, the first year of Danny Williams-Government, at a time when the opposition Liberals still held twelve seats, the highest PRIP allocation to a Liberal district was the $367,000 in George Sweeney's Carbonear-Harbour Grace. It ranked twenty-seventh out of thirty-five districts which received $100,000 or more in funding.

The only remotely mitigating factor in the brazenosity of 2004 was that the one non-metro NDP district, Labrador West under Randy Collins, received a remarkably generous $1.3-million, placing seventh overall.

In 2005, the Labrador West play perhaps not having had its desired political payback, the district was demoted to 25th, while the highest-ranking opposition district was Gerry Reid's Twillingate and Fogo, with a little over a million, for 15th spot.

(Bay of Islands, home of that trouble-making Eddiot Joyce, who had the gall that summer not only to question Our Dear Highways Spending, but to have defeated Michael Monaghan two years prior? Goose egg. Punishment?)

The good people of the Isles of Notre Dame Bay came up 25th again the following year, once more taking top spot among opposition districts, with an even million.

And finally, in election year 2007, Yvonne Jones' Labrador district and Carbonear-Harbour Grace were the lucky winner of Most Favoured Opposition district, with $1.45-million allocated, at least notionally, to each, putting them in a tie for 21st spot among all districts. That is, twenty Tory ridings somehow managed to finish ahead.

Again considering only those districts which received $100,000 or more, the pattern of government favouritism is very clear when you consider the average total annual dollar value of PRIP grants, broken down by district and party affiliation:
The graph shows the average annual PRIP grants for government (saturated colours) and opposition (muted colours) districts in each calendar year since 2000. Up until 2004, these are actual expenditures; from 2005 on, they are notional allocations as provided in provincial government press releases.

The party affiliation of a district was considered to be whatever it was during the first four months of the year, when the budgets are being drawn up and funding announcements are being shoved out the door. That is, changes in district affiliation due to floor-crossing or by-elections don't "take effect" for this purpose until, in most cases, the following year.

Note as well that from time to time between 2000 and 2006 inclusive the opposition average was calculated including the then-NDP district of Labrador West.

During the four Tobin-Grimes years shown above, the average oppostion district got between 70% and 86% as much PRIP funding as the average government district, with the one exception of 2001, where it dipped to 45%.

During the first four Danny Williams-Government years which followed, the ratio didn't once rise above 50%. In 2005, the average opposition district received just 31% as much in PRIP funding as the average government district — and that's after districts under $100,000 are excluded. While many of the districts with small or zero PRIP grants are urban St. John's districts, now almost all PC-held, two notable rural exceptions in 2005 were Liberal-held Bay of Islands and Port de Grave. If their goose eggs, in districts which most years do have meaningful PRIP grants, were included in the averages, the ratio would fall to 25%. That is, all things being equal, a kilometre of pavement in a government district was three times as likely to get repaired than across the district boundary in an opposition one.

Only in 2008 did the ratio increase to a more reasonable 80%, and that, with only three opposition data points to crunch. (The NDP's St. John's beachhead, Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, does not get PRIP funding.)

Tom Rideout and Danny Williams-Government made no apologies for favouring government districts with pavement.

Which means that Tom Rideout and Danny Williams-Government made no apologies for behaving more egregiously and more partisan than the previous government that they not only condemned, but used as an excuse to justify their partisanship.

Is PRIP the only provincial funding program in which such a blatantly partisan pattern lurks?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Constitutional Law 101

From the desk of that noted constitutional scholar, the Hon. Kathy Blunderdale, as recorded by Roger Pike:
Kathy Dunderdale, Natural Resources Minister: "The average salary at the mill was around $70,000 a year and most I suspect lived closely to the edge of that envelope. There is certainly not anything available in training or make work projects that would offer anything close to those kinds of wages, so we need the federal government to step up here in terms of a stimulus package.
The federal government?

You mean — the province has absolutely no jurisdiction whatsoever over stimulating packages?


The resource is under provincial jurisdiction, and now, thanks to Our Dear Expropriation, is under provincial management... but it's up to Uncle Ottawa to mop up the financial mess like some sort of mystical fiscal ShamWow?

What a mighty odd view of the constitution, and the roles of the federal and provincial government, from such a Proud, Strong, Determined government whose Proud, Strong, Determined Premier so fervently wishes to "harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater cultural, financial and moral autonomy vis-à-vis Ottawa"

Two sets of books

In 2004, ODP along with then-Minister of Pavement Tom Rideout — oh, the good ol' days — made a very modest Provincial Roads Program announcement for the Premier's Humber West district:

Premier Danny Williams, MHA for the District of Humber West and Tom Rideout, Minister of Transportation and Works, today announced road work for the district under the provincial roads program.

"I am pleased to announce that government has allotted $80,000 to complete the replacement of the Pinchgut Brook Bridge in the District of Humber West," said Premier Williams. "This is part of government’s overall commitment to a safe and reliable provincial infrastructure. Funding for this project will come out of the $30 million Provincial Roads Improvement Program announced in this year’s provincial budget."
Just $80,000 out of $30-million. The benevolent one wasn't favouring his own district unduly; nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the cost to the good people of Humber West for his benevolence, was that out of 39 districts for which PRIP announcements were made in 2004, their good district, their great and beautiful district, ranked 36th in the dollar value of those announcements. Or, measuring from the other end, the fourth-lowest announcement by dollar value.

Well, at least that's what they announced.

What they actually spent was a different story. A remarkably precise $1,737,213. That makes it the second-highest PRIP expenditure in any district in the province that year.

So, why the discrepancy between the modest public announcement and the eventual expenditures?

Were they just holding back? Curiously, unlike many other districts, there was no double-announcement for Humber West: the modest $80,000 plan was trumped up for political advantage, but there was no follow-up announcement later in the summer, as per customary pattern ("letting the people know after") announcing the awarding of the contract.

Was it a cost overrun? If so, at over 2100%, it would be the Mother of All Cost Overruns. OK, maybe not the Mother, but certainly the Aunt, or the Female Cousin.

Was there some creative allocation of funding envelopes?

What gives?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Then, meet now (II)

Then, October 2006. (Hi, Billy Hickey!)

Newfoundland and Labrador leads the country in providing Access to Information

An audit released by the Canadian Newspaper Association ranks Newfoundland and Labrador's Access to Information system tied for first across the country. Justice Minister and Attorney General Tom Marshall said today that the results of the audit clearly illustrate that government is living up to its openness and transparency commitments.

The Canadian Newspaper Association’s second National Freedom of Information Audit, released last week, tests the federal access to information program, as well as those of the 10 Canadian provinces. The audit ranks Newfoundland and Labrador tied with British Columbia as having the best access to information program in Canada. "We are obviously very pleased with the results of the audit, being one of the top two is certainly a record to be proud of, especially in light of the fact that this is a new program," said Minister Marshall.


Province's grade drops in freedom of information report card

The Telegram

A national audit of freedom of information laws puts Newfoundland and Labrador in the bottom half of national openness and transparency rankings.

The Canadian Newspaper Association audit - undertaken in conjunction with the University of King's College in Halifax - gave the province a grade of C+.

Newfoundland and Labrador ranked ahead of only Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario among the 11 provincial and territorial governments surveyed.


The Newfoundland and Labrador government declined comment on the audit's findings.

"At this time, without having the opportunity to review the report in its entirety, it would be premature to respond to the findings," Ken Morrissey, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said in an e-mailed statement Friday.

Had time to review the report in its entirety yet, Ken?

Will there be a press release?

Then, meet now (I)

Then, a little under two years ago:

First Shipment of Gold Ore to Arrive in the Province for Processing

The arrival in the next few days of the first shipment of gold ore from Greenland for processing in this province is an economic boost for the Baie Verte Peninsula and a significant development for the province’s mining industry.

"For the first time, a mineral resource is being shipped into this province for processing, bringing a new life for the Nugget Pond mill and related employment and economic spinoffs," said the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources. "This is a positive development for an area with a strong mining past and a bright future for the return of mining-related economic development."

Crew Gold (Canada) Ltd. acquired the Nugget Pond processing facility in October 2006 to process ore from its Nalunaq gold mine in south-western Greenland. Significant capital investment has gone into reactivating the mill and constructing the required infrastructure. The reopening of the mill will create about 30 new positions, with local companies being contracted to provide trucking, security and other services.

(Oh, lookie: another false claim of a "first"! And why is it virtuous to ship someone else's natural resources into the province, but vicious to ship the province's resources out? Won't someone think of the Greenlanders?)

And now: Where, oh where, you might ask, is Minister Blunderdale's press release in response to this piece of news, reported by Gary Kean of the Western Star?

...according to Crew Gold’s corporate website, a comprehensive review of the ore resources at Nalunaq has shown the ore strike lengths have not been meeting management’s expectations and, also taking into consideration the current economics of mining, Crew Gold has decided to suspend mining operations at Nalunaq.


The website does say that processing of remaining ore will continue at the Nugget Pond facility and that, upon completion of that processing, the Nugget Pond facility will be “placed on care and maintenance unless profitable toll milling contracts are successfully concluded.”
Under the BNA Act and the Terms of Union, the province has exclusive jurisdiction over sunshine. Rain? Someone else's department.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Time-honoured tradition

Again from the bizarre parallel universe peered into by Dave Bartlett in his January 3 report for The Telegram on the latest Grimes-Williams war of wits over the idea of Lower Churchill transmission line as economic stimulus:
But Williams says Grimes is out of the loop on just how much has been accomplished.

"Poor Roger is talking through his hat. He doesn't have the background, he doesn't have the information," says Williams.

"We've been working on this plan for a long, long time, we've a lot of engineering done," says Williams.


Williams agrees Kennedy misspoke when he said no environmental assessment would have to be done.

But he says it could be fast tracked to speed up the start of construction of a transmission line.

"The basic part of clearing the lands and brush cutting and getting the area in question ready for transmission can start immediately," says Williams.
Ah, yes... that venerable tradition, the one that doesn't make it into the slickly-produced tourism videos... brush-clearing as make-work.

Is the Premier, another Great Lawyer™, even he has little known expertise in the environmental field, as correct as Jerome Kennedy was wrong, when he suggests that "brush cutting and getting the area in question" [which area is that? -ed.] can also be done without any environmental assessment?

Labels: ,

Go west

Lenny from the Rock writes:

Our whole province is east of Halifax!
No, Lenny from the Rock, it isn’t. In fact, a large swath of the province, one nearly as large as Newfoundland, lies at the same longitude as Halifax, or to the west thereof:

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stop your "more for me, please" rants

Amazed from NL is amazed:
Amazed from NL writes: I am so tired of the whining from Labrador and them saying they get nothing! Labrador deserves to get as much as the rest of the province gets, no more. Labrador as a whole area has the population about the same as the Burin Peninsula. Why do you derserve more, just because the resource is up there? By that logic maybe Labrador should stop asking for other monies seeing as most of it comes from oil these days, which isn't located up there.
I agree that labrador deserves to have the highway done properly and have good hospitals, etc, just like the rest of the province, but I don't agree they deserve more because it is a big area with resources. We are a province as a whole, regardless of the stupid seperatist thing up there, and the benefits of resources should benefit us all, and Labrador always saying they are getting stiffed is getting old. Labrador will benefit from the infrastructure in place to develop these resources up there, and then the province as a whole should benefit from the money obtained.
Labrador is a beautiful place, I spent my childhood in Labrador City, but I do not agree with all the complaining up there. Population wise it makes no sense compared to populations elsewhere in this province.

Guessing game (II)

The following is an excerpt from the Premier’s year-end interview with Fred Hutton of NTV’s Evening News Hour on January 4th.


One of the two statements — either the clip from the Premier, or the follow-up question from Hutton — is genuine. The other is a complete fabrication. It is up to you, gentle reader, to figure out which one.
PREMIER WILLIAMS: As you pay down the debt it also gives you the ability then to bring it back up. It’s no different than if you paid down your line of credit at the bank or pay off your car loan, it gives you the ability to go borrow a little more, take a little more if you need it. So, that money will be used, for example, that, that surplus that’s actually going on the debt, though, will also be used to fund, you know, the settlements with the unions. I think the public sector settlements are going to cost us in the range of a half-billion dollars a year forever. So, that money will sort of go, go towards the public sector workers, which is, which is good, though, from an economic perspective because now we have this whole new infusion of eight percent and then four, four, and four into the economy and that’ll help drive our own economy, as well.

HUTTON: OK, wait, wait, wait, hold on just a cotton-pickin’ second here, Premier. Are you telling us, are you seriously telling us, that we have paid off the borrowing of the past, in order to make it easier to borrow again today or in the future? Come on, now! Really? Are you telling the people out there in NTV Land tonight that the virtue in paying down the provincial debt is that it makes it easier for us to go back into debt? Are you out of your gourd? Isn’t that the same sort of fiscal tomfoolery and incompetence that Ross Wiseman used, ostensibly, to justify crossing the floor to your party back in 2001?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Plans are subject to change

Our Dear Energy Plan, which supposedly laid out Our Dear Energy Future between now-ish and 2041, when we “get Our Dear Upper Churchill back”, stated, on page 42 (.pdf link):

Two export routes are being investigated and pursued:
    1. An overland route through the Province of Quebec, using Hydro-
      Quebec’s Open Access Transmission Tariff (OATT) process into New
      Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New England and New

    2. A subsea route from the Island into the Maritimes or Northeast
      United States, building on the transmission link from Labrador to
      the Island. This type of link would be similar in nature to subsea
      links currently in existence around the world. For example, the
      NorNed link between Norway and the Netherlands is a 700 MW
      capacity line stretching 580 km subsea, as compared to an 800
      MW line between Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick,
      a distance of 425 km.

[Emphasis added.]

The 425-km figure would mean a cable between the Cape St. George area of Newfoundland, and the Acadian Peninsula of New Brunswick, passing between Anticosti and the Magdalene Islands along the way.

This weekend, however, the Halifax Chronically Horrid reports:

Ed Martin, president of the provincially owned corporation Nalcor Energy, told The Chronicle Herald on Friday the plan is to bring hydro power from Labrador by cable to the island of Newfoundland before laying a line to supply grids in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the United States.

“It’s looking like somewhere in the Sydney area would be an excellent landfall for us,” Mr. Martin said of the proposed undersea cable.

“Not only is it distance-wise one of the closest points to Newfoundland, but it’s close to the Lingan plant, which is a significant emitter for Nova Scotia (Power) . . . but nothing is final yet.”

Firm decisions will be made within the coming months, he said.
No “firm decisions” having been made on anything — even though 2009 is supposedly the year in which “project sanction” takes place.

Any bets on how much closer to the 2011 election that press release will be moved back?

At the same time, it is heartening to know that Our Dear Energy Plan is merely written in PDF, not stone, what with all the mutation and speculation about which other provinces will be in line to receive Our Dear Lower Churchill Power by way of which routes. Our Dear Energy Plan isn't even eighteen months old, and is already subject to revision. Imagine how many more changes may come before 2041!

Just about the only thing that seems indelible in Our Dear Energy Plan is that, even though it is not economically feasible to transmit the power from Labrador to Newfoundland without externalizing the cost to the federal government, the provincial government continues to cling to economic feasability, or lack thereof, as its excuse why Lower Churchill power won't flow to the coast.

Yip. New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New England and New York may all be in line for Labrador power; the only place that Ed Martin and Danny Williams have no real interest in transmitting Labrador power is within Labrador itself.

As a former chairman of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said in 2002, giving as an ostensible reason for resigning his post in the middle of the last round of Lower Churchill hyperbole, “Labrador is being marginalized by this deal. They would never have a steady stream of affordable power.”

Indeed, as a noted Rhodes Scholar once said, “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.”


Guessing game (I)

The following is an excerpt from the Premier’s year-end interview with Debbie Cooper of CBC Here and Now on December 26.


One of the two statements — either the clip from the Premier, or the follow-up question from Cooper — is genuine. The other is a complete fabrication. It is up to you, gentle reader, to figure out which one.
PREMIER WILLIAMS: Well, you know, we’ve gone from a $147, approximately, of oil down to as low as one point in the market $33 last week. It’s unbelievable that in a, six-month period or a nine-month period that could actually happen. Forecasts are varying now.

My personal feeling is that oil will eventually come back in the 75 to 80 range, at least, because Iran and Venezuela and the tar sands and Saudi Arabia all feel that those prices have to be up in that range. If it stays low, we will incur deficits. We’ve already projected out that if, if oil is below $60 a barrel, we will incur multi-hundred-million-dollar deficits.

But, you know, the good thing is, is that all during this past period as we were having surpluses, we were paying down debt. And we were criticised at times, they’re saying, oh, you’re paying down debt you shouldn’t just put it, you know, on the account. But when you do that you, you increase your borrowing capacity because if you or I, you know, depleted our line of credit and paid it off, well, then we have the ability to draw back on that when we need it and that’s exactly where we are.

COOPER: OK, wait, wait, wait, hold on just a cotton-pickin’ second here, Premier. Are you telling us, are you seriously telling us, that we have paid off the borrowing of the past, in order to make it easier to borrow again today or in the future? Come on, now! Really? Are you telling the people out there in Here and Now Land tonight that the virtue in paying down the provincial debt is that it makes it easier for us to go back into debt? Are you out of your gourd? Isn’t that the same sort of fiscal tomfoolery and incompetence that Ross Wiseman used, ostensibly, to justify crossing the floor to your party back in 2001?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Environmental law 101

Jerome Kennedy, QC. Great lawyer.

Just not so great an environmental lawyer. As Dave Bartlett reported for the Telegram last weekend:
In December, Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy told The Telegram he asked federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to consider investing in a transmission line for the proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric project as part of a regional energy corridor.

"That's something that we could start immediately, it's something that we wouldn't have to wait for the environmental assessments because, essentially, we'd simply be building a transmission line," said Kennedy at the time.


Williams agrees Kennedy misspoke when he said no environmental assessment would have to be done.


What purple files?

“Let the people know the truth and the country is safe.”

That was Danny Williams quoting Abraham Lincoln. Favourably.

And this was Danny Williams in his own 2003 election platform:
The Transparency and Accountability Act will greatly enhance openness and accountability in government, but a comprehensive and effective Freedom of Information Act is the best safeguard against the tendency of governments to descend into official secrecy and elitism.
A Progressive Conservative government will:

• Proclaim new Freedom of Information legislation which will include amendments that will clearly identify information that should be in the public domain, including cabinet documents, and will require full and prompt disclosure of the information to the public.

• Release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it, indicate the action government will take on a report's recommendations within 60 days, and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet.

Yet, there are “no responsive records” when a reporter sees “purple files”, is told “purple files” exist, obtains documents which refer to the existence of “purple files”, and then requests said “purple files”.

And, as Rob Antle reports in today’s Telegram:
the Department of Transportation and Works would only provide the audit team with a printout of highway contract work, not a computer file. Government officials contended the information "does not exist in electronic form within this department" — even though the record released was a computer printout that included a "print date." The law allows public access to paper and electronic files.
Only nine more months till Right to Know Week.

And oh — has anyone yet thought of requesting a copy of that “30-day” policy yet? Anyone?

The very necessary corollary of the Lincoln aphorism that Mr. Accountability was once so fond of quoting, is that if you do not let the country know the truth, then the country is not safe.


Separatists: bad

Friday morning on the airwaves of the Ministry of Truth, radio host No Names Please dismissed the Bloc Québécois, the federal separatist party, with the phrase, “They want to break up Canada, yup.”

From the context and tone of the quip, it would appear that No Names Please thinks breaking up Canada is a bad thing.

This would represent a marked change of attitude on the part of NNP, his second this decade, in fact. Back when he had a column in the Quebec-based St. John’s daily newspaper, he wrote, on June 18, 2005:

Last year, I went to Ottawa a cuddly little confederate. Seven months later, I tore back home out of it a savage Newfoundland separatist. The moral? If you want to keep on enjoying your hamburgers, don't ever visit the slaughterhouse.

To be candid, though, I felt my enthusiasm for Confederation waning years ago at Joey Smallwood's cabinet table, listening more often than was healthy to this: "Newfoundland ought to be down on her knees, on her very knees, to thank God, yes Almighty God Himself, for the manifold benefits, the countless indubitable blessings, of Confederation."

NNP then went on to make that favourite of Newfoundland nationalist-separatist comparisons… the one with Iceland:

If Newfoundland decided at this stage to go it alone like Iceland, would we thrive, too, and develop one of the highest standards of living in the world?


Generally, could we make a go of it alone in the face of those and similar challenges? At this stage it would be extremely hard, but I think we could. Islands like Tasmania, Sicily, Corsica and Newfoundland have withered as inconsequential appendages joined to a large country. Islands like Ireland and Iceland have thrown off the colonial yoke and flourished. I believe we could belong to the latter group. I personally would love to see Newfoundland assuming the challenges and self-esteem of independence.


Friday, January 09, 2009

Nice work

Friday morning on the Ministry of Truth, radio host No Names Please says, in connection with newly-minted Senator Fabian Manning, "A 65-day work year, that’s pretty good."

That's a reference, of course, to the number of days a year the Senate sat in 2008.


Between 1987 and 2008, inclusive, the Senate sat an average of 71 days a year. While it did sit just 65 days in 2008, that's largely attributable to the fact that it was an election year, during part of which Parliament — both chambers — couldn't sit at all. There have been only five other years since 1987 inclusive in which the Senate has sat for fewer than 65 days. Three were election years.

That's substantially lower than the House of Commons' average of 120 sitting days per year, or 104 days per year during Senator Fabian's brief stint as an MP.

But it's also substantially higher than the frequency with which the Bow-Wow Parliament sits.

Between 1987 and 2008, the House of Assembly sat an average of just 60 days per year. That's not only five days less than the Senate's 71-day average, it's less than the 65-day figure that No Names Please ridiculed.

In the past 22 years, the House of Assembly out-sat the Senate in only six of them. Probably not-coincidentally, all six were during the Clyde Wells years; the last time was in 1995. Also not coincidentally, the Clyde Wells year in which the Senate outsat the House of Assembly was in 1990, The Year of the Meech.

You don't hear No Names Please sarcastically sneering about that, do you?

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The realm of possibility

From the Ministry of Truth this morning:
Dunderdale Says She Was Consulted on CNLOPB Appointment
January 9, 2009

Minister Kathy Dunderdale says contrary to concerns raised by NDP Leader Lorraine Michael, she was consulted in the appointment of a new board member to the
CNLOPB. Dunderdale, the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women, says she was aware Premier Danny Williams would be appointing a man to replace the only female member of the board. Dunderdale says she is not overly concerned with the makeup of the offshore petroleum board, since a number of women will have input by virtue of holding top positions in government. Dunderdale says government has strived to ensure gender balance on boards and committees, but it's not always possible.
Not always possible? OK, sure.

So... how often is it "possible"?

Surely such an open and accountable government as Danny Williams-Government, if asked, would furnish a list of all LG-in-council (and other) appointments it has made, so that an enterprising body could judge just how hard government has strived.

A first time for everything

"For the first time..."

Joan Burke claimed it — falsely.

It's actually part of a broader pattern, in which the government (and it's well-known biggest fans) keep claiming "firsts".

Just as in the first term of Danny Williams-Government, everything was about "due diligence" and "drilling down", and the second term has so far given the lexicon the instantly-hackneyed "on a go-forward basis", "For the first time..." is a new stockphrase that must be used wherever, whenever, as often as possible.

"For the first time" was used in its new, official, sense, for, um, the first time, late in 2006, but it's only really gained momentum in the past year and a half or so. It comes in radio talk-show scripts for Ministers and plants, and in press releases, typically in contexts such as:

"For the first time, we are taking control of our resources."

"For the first time, we have a government with no more giveaways."

"For the first time since 1949 we are off equalization and a have province."

"For the first time there's a course that teaches something about the province in schools."

"For the first time, we have a Premier who is standing up for the Province."

"For the first time, I am proud to be a Newfoundlander. And Labradorian."

Hundreds of years of history not merely re-written, but wiped clean. Nothing ever happened before. It's all happening now, for the first time.

It's even He who doles out pride. None of the DW-G enthusiasts can ever remember being proud before He came along. They are now, for the first time in their lives, proud.

For the first time, for the first time, for the first time.

For the first time, for the first time, for the first time for a long time.

Never mind, that for the first time, the number of paper mills in the province is declining.

For the first time in the history of the province, for the first time in the province's history, for the first time.

For the first time anyone can recall, a sitting Premier is called as a witness to a public inquiry.

For the first time, for the first time, fibre optic cables will be built along the south coast of the island, because, presumably, Smallwood or Squires or Bennett didn't have the foresight to invent fibre optic cables.

For the first time this, for the first time that.

For the first time in generations a community will no longer have any kids in school.

For the first time, for the first time in a generation (even if that claim, too, is false, unless fifteen years still counts as a generation).

There's a first time for everything.

There'll be other firsts, too.

Just not the kinds of firsts that get trumpeted in bumpfy press releases.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The province and Labrador (III)

I had a good meeting with Peter MacKay just a while ago, and we went through a whole list of things, which included Labrador issues and, of course, also the pro—, the island, issues.

— The Premier just catches himself, during his year-end interview with Debbie Cooper of CBC Here and Now, Boxing Day.


Chilling effects

Danny Williams-Government worries about what it considers the chilling economic effect of a decision by the Nunatsiavut government over the Labrador Inuit Lands under its jurisdiction.

The Canadian Federation of Bradley Georges worries about what it considers the chilling economic effect of a decision by St. John's city council over the zoning and traffic issues under its jurisdiction.

OK, so what, no one is going to talk about the elephant in the room?

No one?

Well, almost no one?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Two-time sycophant of the year, factually-challenged Education Minister, claims:

"Up until now, there has been no course specifically geared toward issues affecting Newfoundland and Labrador," said the Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education.

A factual inexactitude, an exaggeration, but certainly not a fib, that is almost instantly rebutted by those Telegram website visitors who, you know, can actually remember stuff:

Mark from ON writes: I still have my textbook from Cultural Heritage 1201, a compulsory course in grade ten.

PJ from NL writes: I graduated in 1990, and in Grade 10 we did a course called Newfoundland Culture. It was mandatory in order to graduate. So this statement by Joan Burke (Up until now, there has been no course specifically geared toward issues affecting Newfoundland and Labrador.) is erroneous.

ndintoronto from ON writes: I graduated from high school in 1993, at which time Cultural Heritage was a required Level I course.