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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Floodgates (II)

This corner speculated, not very wildly, back on July 3:

So why the hard line against adjacency when it comes to hydro benefits?

Go ahead. Take a wild guess.

The local Chamber of Commerce has had an idea to form a venture capital fund using power revenue from the Exploits River rejected by government, which expropriated that energy from AbitibiBowater earlier this year.

Gerald Thompson, the acting president of the Exploits Regional Chamber of Commerce, received a letter from the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Shawn Skinner indicating government would not support the establishment of a company funded by an equity stake in profits from the hydropower now owned by Nalcor.


In his letter to the Chamber dated Aug. 10, Minister Skinner, who is also the head of a task force struck to deal with the fallout of the AbitibiBowater paper mill closure, said that Nalcor Energy is 100 per cent owned by all the people of the province, including those in central Newfoundland. The letter states that because of this, every citizen has an equal stake in the Churchill River, oil and gas projects and every other development in which Nalcor participates.

[h/t: Ofer Wadham]

You tell 'em, Shawn Skinnie!After all, Labrador is almost drowned by now in Hibernia oil, thanks to that cherished equal stake. You can barely walk ten feet without the waft of petro-dollars mingling with the black spruce and the black flies. And soon enough, the same principle of equality, having displaced quaint old-fashioned notions of adjacency, will mean power from the Exploits and so-called Churchill rivers will soon, equalstakefully, power the subways of St. John's.

Equality all round! Anything else would be so unequal.

But hey, while you're in the letter-writing mood, Minister — what, with the rest of your cabinet colleagues having developed a pathological aversion to the written word — perhaps you can also write to Labrador on Your Dear Premier's behalf, and explain what He meant when He said, six years ago:
We will not develop the Lower Churchill unless the primary beneficiaries are Labradorians. You have my assurance on that.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Not his department

It would appear that Paul Oral, he of the freakishly large memory, may not be quite so infallible after all. Andrew Robinson reported in this week's Gander Beacon:

Health minister Paul Oram said briefing notes referred to in an interview with The Beacon shortly after he took over the health and community services portfolio in early July were not prepared for him.

Last week, CBC News were told by the Department of Health that no briefing documents or notes were prepared for the MHA for Terra Nova District after he left the business portfolio to look after health. CBC used access to information laws to make the request.

In a telephone interview with The Beacon conducted the same week he was announced as the new health minister, Minister Oram said he had briefing notes on his desk waiting for him to go over.

"I'm sitting at my desk here now with, I don't know, maybe 24 inches of briefing notes and books and everything I have to go over. So there's a load of work here to do - there's no question about that. I just need to get brought up to speed, and I've had individuals in my office this whole day in fact briefing me on the department."
You would think someone of Paul Oral's powers of recollection would remember that the briefing notes weren't his own. (So, whose were they?)

So, he either didn't remember — human fallibility being why they invented writing, Minister Oral — or he did remember, but, contrary to His Dear Premier's solemn vow, he wasn't being very open or accountable.

Which is it?

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Show and tell

The Ministry of Truth reports today:
Natural Resources and Energy Minister in Labrador

The Federal Minister of Natural Resources, Lisa Raitt, is in Labrador with her provincial counterpart Kathy Dunderdale for a tour of the Churchill River. On the eve of the National Mines and Energy Ministers' meetings taking place in St. John's, Dunderdale says the opportunities are big to showcase our green energy resources and the potential of the Lower Churchill project. Dunderdale says officials will tour the Upper Churchill generating station, before returning to St. John's for a reception at The Rooms later this evening. She says hosting Ministers from across Canada presents the province with a unique opportunity to highlight the abundance of natural resources on this side of the country. The conference gets underway tomorrow at the Sheraton Hotel.
Curious, innit? For a crew that has put such great emphasis on its so-called "go it alone" approach to the so-called Lower Churchill, and expresses such a great desire for "autonomy" from Ottawa, they sure are eager to show off the imaginary so-called Lower Churchill project to federal ministers visiting from Ottawa.

Why would that be?

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Time tunnel

This corner is firmly in the tunnel-skeptic camp. And without claiming to speak for Sir Robert Bond Papers, so, it would seem, is Sir Robert Bond Papers.

Which makes it yet another level of funny for the following newspaper wire story from 1907 (this version from the Kingston, Jamaica, Gleaner)

Important Scheme for Newfoundland.
Extensive Plan Including a Great Ocean Tunnel.

(By Direct W.I. Cable Co.)

St. John’s, NF., Feb. 27.—In the Legislature to-night, the Premier proposed the adoption of a contract between the Government and Messrs. Ochs, capitalists of London and Paris, providing for the establishment of a short line of trans-atlantic steamers between the west coast of Ireland and Green Bay, Newfoundland. The plan provides for a two hours’ railway trip across the colony to Port-au-Basque, whence 20 knot steamer would convey mails and passengers to Gaspe, Quebec, in summer, and to Sydney, N.S., in winter.

The promoters of the project claim that there would be a saving of 32 hours over any other trans-atlantic route.

The Government stipulates that the project must take shape within two years or else all liability on the part of the colony will cease. Should the capitalists carry out their announced plans the Government propose to pay them £15,000 annually for twenty-five years. It is said that the British, American and Canadian Governments will be asked to assist in establishing the proposed line.

In the contract submitted by Sir Robert Bond to the Assembly, the Messrs. Ochs are given the right to construct a tunnel under the Strait of Belle Isle, which separates Newfoundland from the mainland, within eight years, and to establish railway connections between a proposed line through Labrador and the Newfoundland railway.

The Legislature will act on the contract within a few days.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

The marine synopsis

First, those in the know said that Danny was “poorly organized” and that there was “great uncertainty” about Danny’s future course.

Then a wag noted that Danny was still lingering in the Caribbean.

Another wag speculated that Danny might instead veer off on a tangent, slam central Canada, and dump all over Ottawa.

A third wag wondered aloud whether Danny wasn’t already showing signs of weakening.

The second wag agreed, and figured Danny isn’t going to live up to the hype.

The first wag predicted that in the end, after arriving from down south, Danny would just inflict a bunch of wind and hot air on Newfoundland.

Yes, said the third wag, Danny will storm into town.

Yup, said the second wag, and then what’s left of Danny will blow off to Ireland.

No temperaature chaaange.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Lemme get some action from the election

The Ministry of Truth reports:
Mayor Wants Action Before Election

Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Rex Barnes wants government to come public with any plans for a grant in lieu of taxes. The town used to receive about $800,000 a year from Abitibi Bowater, and with the mill closed, council has asked the government to help offset some of that. Barnes is confident that government will come through, but he would like to see it announced before the September 29th election.
Don't worry, Rex. If the government comes through with another round of HappyMoney™ (surely, as per the Ross Wiseman Rule, after considering the impact on Labrador and other regions of the province), it'll be announced before the election.

Well, okay, maybe it'll be announced before an election, if not the currently-running municipal one.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's not what you're thinking

Danny is described as "poorly organized". There is a great deal of uncertainty about Danny's future course.

No, not that Danny. The other one.

A matter of time

Some pointed questions, and, even by Ross Wiseman standards, some spectacularly flat-footed answers, during his CBC Labrador Morning appearance on Tuesday concerning air service in southern Labrador (.mp3 audio link). Peter Cowan is behind the mic for the Ceeb.

COWAN: Now what is that response? What are the various options that the Department is actually looking at in this specific case?

WISEMAN: Well, I think that the, y’know, that’s, I’m, I really wouldn’t want to start speculating today through your medium what might be the response government might have. What I can assure the people of the south coast of Labrador, and your listening audience, y’know, that we are very much aware of the uniqueness of the south coast of Labrador. We need to develop a response in the context, though, of a greater provincial strategy which we had planned to have ready by the end of the year. This announcement now relative to the south coast of Labrador is gonna prompt us to zero in more closely and focus on that particular aspect of the access strategy in the near future. And we’ll be working with the communities on the south coast of Labrador, the community leaders there, and the industry itself, as to how we might provide an appropriate response to ensure the people of that region of Labrador have reasonable access to air services.

COWAN: We’ve heard calls for a regional airport in Port Hope Simpson, your government has talked about this being a priority, it was mentioned in the consultant’s report. How far along are we? How serious is the government in terms of developing this as one option in terms of alleviating some of the burden on an airline having to serve so many communities?

WISEMAN: It is an option, and it is under active consideration.

COWAN: What does “active consideration” mean?

WISEMAN: As I said to you a moment ago, y’know, we’re looking at an overall strategy for air access in the province. And part of the infrastructure considerations has to be obviously part of that piece, y’know, we’re really advanced, well advanced, in that process, we need to be well advanced, obviously, if we’re going to plan to have that strategy document ready for release by the end of this year, so as we get into early fall, y’know, we’ll be able to formulate some definitive decisions around infrastructure issues, other issues relative to access will be considered at that time.

COWAN: Now, considering though it’s going to take a long time to actually get that infrastructure in place, isn’t this something that you should fast-track in order to get that infrastructure if it’s decided that it’s needed?

WISEMAN: Well, making some decisions in the next couple of months is a relatively short time line… We will be, in the very near future, making those kinds of decisions around what the future will hold, what kind of infrastructure investments we’ll be making…
Oh, that Ross Wiseman. Danny, whatever you do, never, ever, drop this guy from cabinet!

As previously well documented by this corner, you might be forgiven for thinking that Danny Williams-Government, or indeed, His predecessors, had already decided to build a new airport in Port Hope Simpson — strategies, and pieces, and the public opinion in Belleoram notwithstanding.

Since then, Trevor Taylor has re-stated Danny Williams-Government’s case. Not only is DW-G “committed” to building a new airport in Port Hope Simpson, He, or They, are equally committed to pawning the bill off on Ottawa.

So the government of which Ross Wiseman and Trevor Taylor are members have, in the past, decided upon building an airport in Port Hope Simpson, and are, in the present, committed to building an airport in Port Hope Simpson. But they simultaneously, in the present, have the idea — sorry, the “option” — under active consideration, and, in the very near future, but still the future, they will make the necessary decisions.

Paul Oram’s super power is freakishly accurate and perfect memory. Ross Wiseman and Trevor Taylor can travel in time.

It might seem, at least to those of us who can’t conceive of this universe where time moves in all directions at once, that nothing is getting done by a provincial government that increasingly appears to be treading water, and poorly. But it’s all appearances. Mortal senses deceive. Things are getting done. They are getting done in the future, and in the past. Things that appear to be incomplete, or the subject of endless procrastination and indecision now, are in fact firmly in hand then.

Ah, don’t worry your little head about it; Ross and Trevor will soon arrive in the future, or maybe back in the past, and make the decisions that their colleagues already made in the past, or that they will make in the future. And if you’re still confused, there will be plenty of further press releases, and possibly even a decision or two, sometime between now and October 11, 2011, to set your mortal mind at ease.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Plagiarism begins at home

The always pessimistic and negative Bond Papers makes a snarky point:
2005: Simon Lono municipal campaign slogan: Back to basics.
2008: Ron Ellsworth deputy mayoral campaign slogan: Back to basics.

2008: Doc O’Keefe mayoral campaign slogan: Leading a Great City.
2009: Ron Ellsworth mayoral campaign slogan: Standing up for a Great City.
To which SRBP might have added:
2009: Ron Ellsworth has a Strategic Long Range Plan
2009: Danny Williams has a Strategic Long Range Plan

Peeve du jour (II)

"Ted Kennedy was 77-years-old."

No. He. WAS. NOT.

Ted Kennedy was 77 years old.

At most, Ted Kennedy was a 77-year-old man when he died today from brain cancer.

If you don't know the difference, you have no business editing CTV News Channel's abyssmal "scroll".

On regionalism

Ross Wiseman discusses Air Labrador’s pullout from the south coast on CBC Labrador Morning on Tuesday (.mp3 audio link)

We were working on this overall strategy piece. Work has been pretty well advanced. What we do in Labrador is a response to the unique circumstance in Labrador, yes, but at the same time we do it in the context of a provincial strategy. It’s difficult sometimes to go into one region of our province and develop a policy framework, or develop a strategy, or provide a response, without giving some consideration to what impact that might have on an entire province, and how that might fit into a broader strategy, so we’re cognizant of what we’re trying to do in the bigger piece.
Ah. OK, then. Thanks for clearing that up, Ross. You can’t do something for Labrador without considering an entire province. (Which province?)

That must mean, of course, that the provincial government considered the impacts on an entire province when it went into one region of a province and developed a policy framework, or a strategy, or provided a response — pick your bafflegab of choice — when the region in question was, oh, let’s say, Lewisporte, or Stephenville, or Grand Falls-Windsor, or the Northern Peninsula.

Right, Ross?


Monday, August 24, 2009

Not Just Another State

A pseudonymous political genius posts to VOCM's Question of the Day, "Do you think Danny Williams should seek a third term as Premier?":
Yardstick Said: Anyone who votes "no" is insane. Do you have any idea what this man has done for the province of NL. I mean after all of the blundering idiots that have made there way through the political landscape back there, you want to try someone else? Danny is good for the province for too many reasons to list. I would keep him forever. He has made some tough choices that others were too big of cowards to decide. Long Live King Danny!!!
Yardstick would appear to be a veteran of certain classic American political campaigns of the 1990s. What's next? A not-so-subtle reminder that Mary Bailey isn't going to fire you if you don't vote for her?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Ian Cruickshank, on assignment for the Toronto Star — yes, the Toronto Star in Toronto — decides to whack a few balls in Newfoundland. Lo and behold, he has the distinct pleasure of meeting the Ball-Whacker in Chief:
My friend Sandy pointed to a handsome home overlooking the water and said it belonged to Danny Williams, Newfoundland's premier.

Williams is as much folk hero as politician, famous for taking on Ottawa and the oil companies. About 10 seconds after seeing the house, we actually passed Williams, who was out for a post-dinner stroll.

Sandy insisted I meet the premier and pulled a U-turn. Turns out Williams actually owns two courses: The Willows, a nine-hole gem that curls through the local valley and forest, and Glendenning, where his daughter is a teaching pro.
Of course, a CFA like Cruickshank could be forgiven for overlooking the important fact that the folk hero, politician, and golf enthusiast has, of course, put any assets such as his ownership stake in golf courses into blind trust. Just like his similarly business-minded health minister, Paul Oram, he is far, far, far removed from the drudgery of managing any properties which might, thanks to his former career as super awesome businessman, stand in his name.

But Danny Williams-Government's enthusiasm for ruining a perfectly good stroll by whacking balls is undiminished. Whether it be personally greeting visiting out-of-province journalist-golfers, or exhorting the locals to take up the sport — seriously, did you not hear Us the first time? — to direct financial support to the golfing sector (on a go-forward basis), his love of the sport remains.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Simple arithmetic (II)

Another curious mathematical wrinkle in the topology and arithmetic of the routing of the Lower Churchill outstarve infeed.

According to NALCO(R)’s own environmental filing, the routing of the outstarve infeed is rather sensitive to the mounting costs that might result from a longer or more circuitous choice of route. Once again cleverly defeating NALCO(R)’s insistence on copy-protecting its public documents, here’s the money quote, from page 9:

For the Labrador (Gull Island to Strait of Belle Isle) component, study area selection was undertaken to identify a pathway within Labrador that would minimize the overall length of the transmission line, and which would take advantage of the Trans Labrador Highway (TLH, Phase 3) to provide construction and maintenance access, particularly along the central part of the proposed line. The option of following entirely along or adjacent to the TLH (Phases 2 and 3) was also explored, but given the added distance involved (over 200 km) this was not considered to be an economically viable alternative.
So here’s the thing: in the case of the Gros Morne vs. alternative routings, the alternative routing is shorter, as previously established.

With some new, more refined geographical data to hand, the alternative routing (shown here in green) can now be said to be 132 km long, give or take a km, from the point where it leaves the main route to the point where it rejoins it. This is using the westernmost (closest to the coast) deviation point near Daniel’s Harbour, but also using the westernmost (and longer) alternative for re-joining the main route near Sandy Lake.

The Gros Morne route itself (shown in brown), takes 200 km (again give or take about a km) to connect the same two points. And the closer-to-Sandy-Lake option is the most favourable to the brown route; the other, eastern re-attachment point would make the Gros Morne route even longer by about another four kilometres.

So, depending on where the alternative route rejoins the brown main route, the Gros Morne option for getting from the west coast of Newfoundland to central Newfoundland is somewhere between 68 and 74 km longer than the alternative route that ODP says is shorter. And really, who are any of us to doubt Him?

At best, the Gros Morne route is fifty percent longer than the alternative. And it would mean giving up 75 km of linear advantage, after having so assiduously saved 200 km of distance in Labrador by deviating from the Trans-Labrador Highway and making as close to a beeline from Gull Island to the Strait of Belle Isle as the topography and the 1825 border will allow.


Friday, August 21, 2009


Today's Tellytorialist is trusting:
It's a shame these public meetings have so far fallen under the radar. Holding it during the summer was a bad idea - but not a deliberate one, we trust.
Of course not.

It wasn't deliberate.

Just as it wasn't deliberate to have every single one of the sessions from two to five in the afternoon.

Not deliberate.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Data acquisition

The Telegram editorialist today makes an interesting and familiar comment which absolutely does not come straight out of an Eighth Floor polling-period talking point:

Even if the drilling turns out to be a bust, the core samples alone will provide invaluable geographic information.
A slight, if inadvertent, nuance from the official position of nominal Natural Resources Minister Kathy Blunderdale, who just a few days ago confouted traducers and counter-span negativity along much the same lines:

Minister Counters Liberal Criticism on West Coast Oil Exploration

Even if they don't find oil on the Northern Peninsula, the geological information will be very useful. That's the word from the Minister of Natural Resources in the wake of criticism from the Liberals that the province should not be risking taxpayers' money.
Who herself was echoing the sentiments of oil magnate and wind owner, Ed Martin:

(It) will provide access to new, valuable information and further assess the petroleum potential in this area
All of which is true: drilling a hole in the ground will yield valuable data on the stratigraphy and petroleum deposits (if any) in that area. That’s the geological information.

And by the time you’re done drilling that intellectually interesting hole, you should also have a pretty good idea where your drill rig is. That would be the invaluable geographic information that the Tellytorialist so looks forward to receiving.

Ed Martin looks forward to receiving data, too. To him, it’s imperative:

We know there’s oil there. We know there’s source there. We know from our seismic work that there are formations that should support oil. And the only thing we need now is information down-hole. We need to drill to get that data.
But you see, here’s the question which some people, though not, apparently, the optimistic and positive Tellytorialist, are asking themselves:

Is the expenditure of $20-million in public money the only way to obtain this geological (and geographical) information?

Do the magical animistic pixie-rocks near, and underneath, Parsons Pond, somehow know when it’s private money operating the rig, and, true to their socialist principles, clam up about their own stratigraphic history and petroleum potential?

Who is the “we” who needs to drill to get that data?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How not to be autonomous (IV)

Trevor Taylor, Minister Responsible for NewfoundlandLabradorHousing (Housing), and Len Simms, the non-patronage appointed Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NewfoundlandLabradorHousing (Housing) released a "new long-term vision" for NewfoundlandLabrador Housing (Housing) last week.

So, even though We want to be Masters of our own House:

To that end, My Government will harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater cultural, financial and moral autonomy vis-à-vis Ottawa.

We don't, apparently, want to be Masters of our own NewfoundlandLabradorHousing (Housing) Housing.

In just nineteen pages — not including prelims and covers, which make the total thirty-two — the document issued by NewfoundlandLabradorHousing (Housing) makes four separate references to the federal funding that We, supposedly, so earnestly yearn to be autonomous from:

Page 5:

Federal funding for social housing has been declining and will continue to decline even further over the next three decades. Increased provincial funding for social housing has helped to off-set the reduced federal funding. Across Canada, all provinces and territories are continuing to seek a long-term funding commitment from the federal government.
Page 12:

Objectives 2.1 Enhanced communication and increased information exchange on housing need and market trends, policy issues, strategic priorities and reporting on outcomes.

Examples of actions to achieve this:

  • Continue to seek a long-term funding commitment from the federal government to ensure the preservation of the existing social housing stock.

Page 14:

3.1 Increased rental options for low- and moderate income households.

Examples of actions to achieve this:

    • Fund new affordable housing under a renewed federal/provincial Affordable Housing Agreement.

Page 16:

The province’s commitment to the Social Housing Plan must be tempered by its fiscal ability to fund specific projects and initiatives. However, the province will make its best effort, in cooperation with the federal government and private and not-for-profit sector partners, to deliver on commitments in the plan. The plan is intended to be sufficiently flexible to allow adjustments based on the province’s changing demographics, results of future research on social housing need, the federal government’s response to requests for a long-term social housing funding commitment and the practicalities of our fiscal response capabilities.


Pease in a pod (II)

Campbell Clark, Globe and Mail, February 26, 2009:
In the 2006 election that brought them to power, Mr. Harper's Conservatives promised to introduce a new law, drafted by former information commissioner John Reid, to reform the access system.

But it shelved the promise when it took office.
Rob Antle, The Telegram, January 10, 2009:

The Williams government came to power on a promise of unprecedented openness, transparency and accountability.

"A comprehensive and effective freedom of information act is the best safeguard against the tendency of governments to descend into official secrecy and elitism," the 2003 Tory blueprint of campaign promises said.

In the past year, however, the province has moved to exempt more and more information from public access.

Legislation passed in 2008 exempted Nalcor, the government-owned energy corporation, from public tendering laws, and broadened the class of "commercially sensitive" records that can be withheld from freedom of information requests.

Bill 63, which passed in December, created a special, wide-ranging class of cabinet records under laws governing the management of provincial information. Cabinet records are exempt from public disclosure.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hilarity ensued

May seems to be an amazing month for unintended Hansard funnies from Minister Mnemonic. From May 22, 2008:

MR. PARSONS: The Member for Humber East must be having a very trying time because he is a man of integrity; I have no doubt about it. I understand, for example, he has a very close friendship with the Member for Baie Verte, very close. So, that makes it tough for a lot of people. All I am saying is that when these personal issues get relegated to Open Line talk shows and attacking people’s personal characters —

MR. ORAM: You’re not fit.

He says it like it's a bad thing

Some unintended humour from then-backbencher Paul Oram, May 5, 2005:
I do know where the hon. Leader of the Opposition is coming from today. Of course, I noticed this over the past few months, since I have been elected, that he continues to play politics all the time to try to get the air time whenever he can get it, and to try to inflame the people as much as possible.

Funny of the year

The Kukumber King, the Potentate of Pickles, the Guru of Greenhouses, has some thoughts on the latest foray into $20-million economic development projects (or, if you like geological research):
Peckford Applauds Nalcor

A former premier is applauding government owned Nalcor, and its role in west coast oil exploration. Brian Peckford was in St. John's yesterday for the opening of a park in honour of Cyril Abery, one of the instrumental players in putting together the Atlantic Accord. There has been some concern raised about public money being used for the west coast oil play, but Peckford says, as long as it's done prudently, it's a good move.
The Telegram article by Dave Bartlett (sadly not on the public intertubes) helpfully provides some direct speech:
Peckford said he supports Nalcor Energy's decision to invest $14 million in oil exploration on the province's west coast, which the province's opposition parties recently compared to high-stakes poker and roulette.

Peckford said while exploration is risky business, it's a risk worth taking at this time.

"Nothing happens unless there is some risk involved," he told reporters. "To take on that kind of a role is not unwise, but rather a prudent thing to do as long as (Nalcor does) it carefully."
The current Premier was apparently unavailable for comment, but is on record that former Premiers should "shut up and go away", a policy pronouncement which, as far as this corner is aware, still stands:
“I find it sad when former premiers comment on current administrations,” Williams said.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Having trouble making water?

Here. Read this.

Welcome back, Winston.

Playing it by ear

Michael Connors reports for NTV news:
The opposition parties say the government is trying to circumvent Access to Information requests by not putting anything in writing. That's after Health Minister Paul Oram admitted he is only getting verbal briefings from his officials. But Premier Danny Williams is jumping to the defence of his minister, saying he also prefers aural briefings. Oram was the second minister to admit doing it. He says he asked for verbal briefings only as he settles into his new job as health minister. That means no briefing notes on paper, and that means his briefings cannot be obtained by Access to Information requests. Joan Burke is doing the same thing in her new job as minister of child youth and family services. The opposition says the government is clearly trying to sidestep Access to Information laws. But Premier Williams says he agrees with the way his ministers are doing business. And he flat out denies that there is any co-ordinated effort throughout cabinet to circumvent the law.
And well he should deny! If it’s false, it’s false. And if it’s true, you honestly think they’d still be stupid enough to put anything to do with that co-ordinated effort [there is no co-ordinated effort — ed.] into ATIPPable writing?

So let’s see: Himself, Paul Oral, and Joan Burke, like Meg Griffin, like getting it in the ear.

And so does John Hickey. Rob Antle reported in the Telegram on August 28, 2006:
The Department of Labrador Affairs has solved the problem of having to publicly disclose ministerial briefing papers.

It doesn't create them.

Incoming Labrador Affairs Minister John Hickey was briefed verbally upon taking over the portfolio in early July.
That’s four members of the current cabinet. How many more are there?

Is it possible that the government is being run by the Aural Majaurity?


Pease in a pod (I)

The first of what will be an occasional, but very lengthy, series.

Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, April 24, 2007:
A key paper trail that once tracked the handling of Taliban prisoners has been eliminated in the defence minister's office, raising questions about human-rights accountability.

Unlike his Liberal predecessor, who received written reports every time a detainee was captured, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor is given only oral briefings.

The practice of written daily briefings, born partly out of the Somalia prisoner-abuse scandal in the early 1990s, has been discontinued, a spokeswoman for the minister confirmed.

“The minister is briefed verbally on a daily basis regarding operations,” Isabelle Bouchard said in an e-mail.
Alexander Panetta, Canadian Press, November 8, 2007:
Conservative government ministers did not read briefing material prepared by the Justice Department on the Airbus affair and cash payments to Brian Mulroney, documents suggest.

Notes drafted for the Conservatives by bureaucrats point out that briefing material on Airbus and Mulroney was prepared in 2006 and 2007, but that it never made it to the desk of the current or former justice minister.

The statement that there was no briefing is written several times, and phrased in different ways, in notes produced by the department for Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
CBC, August 17, 2009:
The cabinet minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador's $2.6-billion health ministry didn't receive any written information about issues in his department when he was appointed to the position last month, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

The CBC used access to information laws to ask for any briefing documents or notes prepared for Paul Oram after he stepped into the health minister's job in early July.

A written response from the department of health said, "There are no documents."


Monday, August 17, 2009

Simple arithmetic (I)

Some more curious line from Dave Bartlett's Polling Week One interview-story with Himself:

The project has received some negative publicity in recent months after one proposed route for the power would have it go through Gros Morne National Park.

But Williams said this is not the preferred route.


Williams said the Gros Morne route would probably be the cheaper and shorter route, but he said it could be taken off the table if Ottawa would commit to help fund the project.

Set aside the crude and risible attempt at environmental blackmail — Give me Nine Hundred Million DOLLARS! or the bunny-rabbit gets it — and ask yourself a basic question of fact: is the Gros Morne route shorter than the alternative?

This map, taken by cleverly defeating the idiotic copy-protection that NALCO has built into its environmental filings, shows the preferred route for its Lower Churchill outstarve infeed, including the segments that would cross Gros Morne National Park (brown), and the alternate routes to the east of the park (green).

Do your eyes deceive you? No, they do not.

The shortest of several alternate routing options veers off the preferred route just north of Daniel’s Harbour, strikes out more or less directly cross-country, with a few meanders and dog-legs, and reconnects with the preferred route east of Howley. This route is approximately 125 km long.*

The For-the-Love-of-Danny-Don't-Call-It-the-Preferred Route continues west of south down the coast of Newfoundland, through 64 km of Gros Morne National Park crossings, then southeast and east via Deer Lake, along a route roughly paralleling the existing highways and lower-capacity transmission lines. It is approximately 210 km long.*

In other words — according to Nalcor's own documentation — the alternate route down the Northern Peninsula is the shorter route.

* (Nalcor's environmental filing is astonishingly vague on the question of the lengths of the various route options, the following, approximate, figures were arrived at by manually transposing Nalcor's route maps into Toporama. Ed, Danny, given that Nalco is so committed to openness and transparency and whatnot, it would be useful if you would provide a table of those distances, or better still, raw GIS or .kmz files for your adoring public to play with.)


Sunday, August 16, 2009

We have his assurance on that — whatever that is

As noted in the last posting, the "go it alone" approach on Our Dear Imaginary Lower Churchill project is utterly dependent on getting many hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government that we — or is that We — so earnestly desire to be morally and fiscally autonomous from.

Speaking of transmisson lines, Our Dear Environmental Filings propose transmitting power from Labrador to Newfoundland... but not within Labrador itself. The idea of an infrastructure fund for Labrador was the target of much Danny condescension and ridicule during the last provincial campaign. And in recent weeks, the Régime has made it clear that no region of the province can expect any special fiscal considerations just be virtue of being the host of any particular natural resource. While that message may be directed in the instant case at Grand Falls-Windsor, make no mistake: its real purpose is pour encourager les autres.

So, Labrador won't get any power from Labrador, and won't get any revenue from Labrador, and won't get any infrastructure by virtue of generating resource revenue for the provincial government; and really, other than being the location of the river, the dam, the cachement area, and most of the attendant environmental consequences, Labrador's connection to the Lower Churchill, in the eyes of Chairman Dan, would appear to be little more than some kind of crazy coincidence.

How'd all Our hydro get on Their river, anyway?

Perhaps the next time — polling season comes again in November, guys; mark your calendar — someone at the Telegram can ask Mr. Consistency...

"Sir, back in 2003, when you said, quote:
We will not develop the Lower Churchill unless the primary beneficiaries are Labradorians. You have my assurance on that.
what exactly did you have in mind? Could you name some of the specific ways — apart from access to power, infrastructure investment, or other fiscal considerations, since you have already soundly rejected all three of those options — by which you intend to make Labradorians the 'primary beneficiaries' of the Lower Churchill?"

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

How not to "go it alone" (III)

A truly bizarre, polling-period "exclusive" in today's astonishingly deferential piece by Dave Bartlett. In fact, so bizarre, it's hard to know where to begin.

How about near the end?
Williams said Ottawa will come on side eventually before the project is built, whether it is the current government or a subsequent one.

But Williams said if that doesn't happen, he's still willing to have the province go it alone.
"Still willing"?

When has Danny Williams ever been "willing to have the province go it alone" on the so-called Lower Churchill project, under any definition of "go it alone" that has not involved one or both of:
(a) a federal loan guarantee to build the power plant at Gull Island Rapids; and
(b) a federal subsidy to build a transmission line from Labrador to Newfoundland.


Friday, August 14, 2009


Back by popular demand, the current top-ten list of most popular, and decidedly un-positive, news stories on the VOCM website:

Accident Victim Dies
Man Charged With Assaulting Partner Back in Court in September
Premier Skips Conference
Dog Owner Charged
Incident Involving Teenage Girls Under Investigation
No Serious Injuries in Major Fire
Televisions Stolen
RCMP Warns of Risks of Drug Growing Operations
Drug Bust in Brigus
Motorists Noticing What Looks Like Geyser


Thursday, August 13, 2009


To: Hon. Brad Wall, MLA, Premier of Saskatchewan

Cc: Hon. Darrell Dexter, MLA, Premier of Nova Scotia; Hon. Rob Ghiz, MLA, Premier of Prince Edward Island; Hon. Shawn Graham, MLA, Premier of New Brunswick; Hon. Jean Charest, PC, MNA, Premier of Quebec; Hon. Dalton McGuinty, MPP, Premier of Ontario; Hon. Gary Doer, MLA, Premier of Manitoba; Hon. Ed Stelmach, MLA, Premier of Alberta; Hon. Gordon Campbell, MLA, Premier of British Columbia; Hon. Dennis Fentie, MLA, Premier of Yukon; Hon. Floyd Roland, MLA, Premier of the Northwest Territories; Hon. Eva Aariak, MLA, Premier of Nunavut

Just so you know, this is why Danny couldn't be bothered:

Make work (II)

The Spontaneity Committee, who are definitely not part of any organized effort, strike again, this time over at the private broadcaster:
Eric Said: of course not even if they dont strike oil the money will benfite the whole west coast you have to spend money to make money

I am no mermaid Said: i hope they strike it big, then all the negative people can eat crow. i''m behind danny 100%

Happy Said: i''m sure even the exploration will create a few jobs and the spin off from the workers spending money on hotels, resturants, and lap dances will help the west coast economey.

Just me Said: some folks well get jobs so it can''t be a total lost!!!!!!!

Lilly Said: if nothing else, it will provide some employment. so all is not loss.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vote early, vote often (revisited)

Over the summer VOCM, to its credit, amended the code for its popular Question of the Day feature to make it a little bit harder to torque the results.

Harder. But not impossible. The August 10th question was “Do you agree with government's decision to appeal the court ruling over the highway depots?” As with past questions dealing with the performance of Danny Williams-Government, there was a surge in “voting” on this question, with 4756 “votes” cast. This is the highest number since the new verification-word voting was implemented on June 29th.

Entirely unsurprisingly, 71% of this entirely-spontaneous expression of the popular will agreed with the course that Danny Williams-Government is taking.

The last question to get more “votes” [caveat: data is no longer available for QoD between April 24th and June 28th, inclusive] was under the old, control-free system. On April 23rd, VOCM asked, “Should the Chief Electoral Officer investigate the 2001 St. Barbe by-election?”

A total of 31,476 “votes” were cast, the 11th-highest “turnout” of all time. Of those, 63% toed the Williams-Reynolds line, and said no.

Make work

Some telling comments on the CBC story concerning Our Dear Area Play, from a variety of online personas, not one of whom is a member of an organized torquing effort running around the intertubes spouting anti-PNC talking points:

johnnykarate: At the very least, some of the $20M will pay wages, rent equipment, and development some expertise in our workforce.

Sud_Newf: With Nalcor spending Nfld & Lab money, they have their own scientists carrying out the work (who are in most cases from the province) and have a choice to contract out to local companies because they know that these people are in turn, going to spend their wages in the province.

DB333666: Considering the need for jobs on the west coast, how can they question the potential for finding oil in the area? To say that the possibility of finding jobs for the area is not a priority at this time shows a total lack of understanding of the needs of the area.

tducey: Oil is where this province is headed and at right now. We need to invest lots of energy into oil because people in Alberta who want to come home (And there are many who do) aren't coming home to work in a fish plant or go fishing they're going to want to work with big oil.

JoshTaylor: This is an important investment in the regions future.

Waabooze: All of this money (not to mention the money other investors will contribute) will get spent right here in good old NL - creating good oldfashioned jobs. Basic economics suggests that even if they never pump a drop of oil on the West Coast, the Province will reoup its investment many times over in taxes alone. Not to mention the secondary or spin-off benefits.

MarkMorrissey: I would like to see Mrs. Jones explain her party's thinking to the people of the West coast who will benefit directly from the work and spinoff benefits this money will create, regardless if they find oil or not.
“Regardless if they find oil or not.”

Well, we should give these folks their due. (And boy, the great economist Waabooze could certainly use a due or two.) As out-to-lunch as their knowledge of economics or the oil business might be, there is a fundamental, if inadvertent truth in what they have collectively written.

This latest NALCO(R) gambit has nothing to do with energy policy, nothing to do with petroleum geology, and everything to do with putting even more people on the public payroll.

It is the youngest, coolest province’s youngest and coolest equivalent of moving rocks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A national story with international overtones

Our Dear Area Play gets picked up by robo-bloggers with hilarious consequences.

Evasive highway manoeuvres

Another excerpt from Trevor Taylor’s July 30th appearance on CBC Labrador Morning with Mike Power:

Power: Now, the Nunatsiavut Government wants a feasibility study on building a road to the North Coast. They say they got a letter from the province saying there would be no commitment on road work until Phase I was paved and Phase III built. So why make this commitment to pave the South Coast, then?

Taylor: Well, first of all, as I said earlier in the interview, there hasn’t been a commitment made. What John [Hickey] said, was that he would hope that over the course of the next 10, 15 years, that he would see all of the highway from South Coast to western Labrador with pavement, asphalt, chipseal, whatever it might be. For anybody to say that, y’know, there was a hard and fast commitment on this, no there was not. Y’know, maybe at some time in the future, I don’t know, depending on what kind of case is made, there might be something done on the North Coast. But, I mean, there is no, not that I’m aware of, anyway, anybody in government who’s willing right now to jump into doing anything on, from a road perspective, on the North Coast. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, a lot of evaluation that needs to be done.
And then Mike Power goes on to ask about ferries, leaving the audience in suspense about the premise of his original question.

Trevor Taylor, having poured cold water on John Hickey’s supposed commitment to pave anything in southern Labrador, says that no one is planning to do anything “from a road perspective” in the north.

So how about this question, expressed in trendy bureaucratese that maybe you can understand, Trevor:

You say that a case would have to be made from a case-making perspective, and that from an evaluation perspective, a lot of evaluation needs to be done.

(Bonus points for using the Official NewfoundlandLabrador National Verb Voice as well, the nice, vague, actor-less passive. Well done.)

So how about that feasibility study, then, the one that Nunatsiavut itself is willing to pay a large chunk of the costs for?

From a Trevor Taylor perspective, how about answering the question from a question-answering perspective instead of a sticking-more-knives-in-John-Hickey perspective or an evading-the-question-altogether perspective? Since no one in Nunatsiavut is asking you to actually build a road right now, but rather to merely pay a portion of the very modest costs of studying the rather abstract idea of building a north coast road eventually, from a feasibility study perspective, are you willing to do the evaluation that needs to be done, which will help make the case (or not) that, passively, needs to be made?

[On a go-forward basis — ed.]

Um, on a go-forward basis?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

What comes around goes around (II)

A couple of interesting tidbits out of Central Dannyland, by way of the Advertiser.

Shawn Skinner throws a lot of cold Exploits River water on the principle of adjacency, once sancrosanct — at least as it applies to enemies foreign, not domestic:
[Skinner] mentioned the original overture from the [Exploits Regional Chamber of Commerce] that they would like to see an economic development fund for the region. However, the minister reiterated that government would not be creating such a fund.
After presenting government's take on the issue, the chamber indicated it understands government's rationale and decided not to proceed any further.

"The rationale is that this is a resource owned by the people of the province, and a resource that will benefit the people of the province," said Minister Skinner.

"If a particular area of the province needs economic stimulus, we as a province will step up. Right now in central that's something that's needed and we've agreed to and have been doing and continue to do in terms of providing economic stimulus. We really don't believe it's good policy to break up the province into regions and if they happen to have a natural God-given resource, they should be the only ones to benefit from that."
So no regional fund.

But that's not stopping the ERCC:

ERCC acting president Gerald Thompson agreed that the meeting with Minister Skinner was a cordial one.

He said the chamber has changed its strategy - what it's looking for is an equity share.
Yeah, OK. Good luck with that. But have fun trying. By the time you're done, ODP will rue the day he ever decided to popularize the E-word.

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Travel plans

The lengths, and places, that Danny Williams will go to, in order to represent His People:

Plum Point
Port Union
Washington, D.C.
Banff and Calgary
Rhode Island
Iceland and Norway
Sackville, New Brunswick

The lengths and places he won't:

Saint John

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Creating employment (II)

Well, if not natural resources, then surely tourism employment, what with all those Ontarians coming down to sniff the laundry, must be booming, right?

After all, as the Minister of Laundry himself said earlier this year:
Over the past five years, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has doubled its marketing budget from $6 million to $12 million annually. Spending by resident and non-resident tourists totals approximately $800 million annually. In 2007, there were 12,730 people whose employment was directly attributable to tourism spending – or 4.7 per cent of the working population.
In actual fact, employment in the Accomodation and food services industries — the sector which most closely corresponds to a catch-all "tourism" category — has taken a marked dip in just the past year. The stacked bars show employment (red) and self-employment in this sector:

There is an obvious seasonal element to accomodations and food service employment, reflecting the seasonal nature of the tourism industry. This graph separates employment and self-employment (with the same colour scheme) and shows the twelve-month trailing average (thick line) to smooth out the seasonality of the raw data (visible in the background). Self-employment in the sector has shown weakness over the past three years, while employment, after surging in 2007, has since fallen off a cliff:

Totalling the employed and self-employed figures, and again averaging them over twelve months, the number of people working in tourism-related industries in the province has dropped sharply in the year ending May 2009 from just under 15,000 to about 12,500.

In the first five months of 2009, the average monthly total of employed or self-employed in these industries was 11,000. During the same period in 2007, it was 12,500.

[Data sources: Statistics Canada tables 282-0008; 282-0011]

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Creating employment (I)

This was Jerome! Kennedy in December:

"The message delivered by economists [which economists? - ed.] has been consistent: the plan Premier Williams and our government put in place five years ago is the right plan...

The plan is working and we must maintain the course. In the current economic environment, the measures recommended to stimulate the economy are the very things that our government has been doing far in advance of this economic downturn. This includes:

creating employment;

Our government wants to assure Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that while there will be an impact, overall the province is expected to retain employment and income growth as the global downturn runs its course.
So, which are the sectors of the economy in which Danny Williams-Government has been creating jobs? Which are the sectors which are retaining employment?

First, let's consider natural resource industries. Here is the aggregate of employment (in persons) in the forestry, fishing, mining, and oil and gas industries. The blue line is the twelve-month rolling average of monthly data (which smooths out seasonal fluctuations); the faint line in the background shows the raw monthly figures.

From the start of this data set in 1987, the trend had been mostly and consistently downward until the start of 2003. Then, somehow, before a single Danny Williams-Government resource project got underway, indeed, before Danny Williams-Government got into power at all, there was an upward trend, from about 14,000 to about 16,000 late in 2004. Total employment in natural resource industries has fluttered above and below the 15,000 mark since, with a downward cycle beginning again in the spring of 2007.

However, the aggregate of all natural resource industries actually masks diverging trends in the several natural resource sub-sectors. (Annual data only is available for the sub-sectors shown in the following graphs.)

Fisheries employment has continued its downward trend, having lost nearly a quarter of its workforce between 2005 and 2008. Forestry and logging is barely 1/3 the industry it was, in employment terms, a little over a decade ago — and the most recent data on this chart is 2008, which doesn't yet reflect recent changes to the forestry landscape. (How many net jobs has Our Dear Expropriation created in the woods?)

In the aggregate, natural resources employment is at best treading water, with increases in mining (remember how bad a deal Voisey's Bay was?) and oil failing to offset the losses in fisheries and forestry:

Considering only the traditional natural resource industries, the trend in the employment picture is even starker:

[Data sources: Statistics Canada tables 282-0008; 282-0011]

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Purple Prose Heart 2009

It's only the first week of August, with nearly five full months left to go in the year, but there is absolutely no way that any of the many hard-working and talented (worth their weight in gold!) PR folks at DanGov, busily PRing away, especially in months like this, a CRA month, can possibly out-purple-prose this exuberant piece of purplosity:
The Williams Government’s enduring commitment to invest in communities to strengthen municipal services and support regional cooperation initiatives was demonstrated today in another Municipal Capital Works announcement by the Honourable Dianne Whalen, Minister of Municipal Affairs.
That's it, game over. No one else need apply until 2010. Congratulations, Heather!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

You think it’s easy to make priorities?

Two Ministers, two – um, nuanced answers to hard questioning from local radio about the “hard surfacing” of the Trans-Labrador Highway in southern Labrador:

We’re just in the process of completing 280 kilometres construction, new road construction, between Cartwright Junction and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. We’ve committed to, y’know, in excess of 500 kilometres of hard surfacing between Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Labrador City. When you combine that with the other infrastructure issues that we have in the province, and road upgrading, and what have you, there’s only so much that, y’know, for one, our engineering department, is able to handle. There’s only a certain amount that you’re able to do from a construction perspective in the run of a season. Y’know I think that all indications are that we’re very close to maxing out on what we can do from a road constructionupgradingresurfacing perspective in the province as a whole. And we need to work on the projects that we’ve identified as priorities right now, and as they get done, we move on to the next ones on the list. It’s just really as simple as that. And you have to bear in mind what might be your fiscal capacity, and, y’know, this year we, y’know, we were lookin’ at a fairly significa— the probability of a fairly significant deficit. Only time will tell where that will come in. We have two big big highway projects under way in Labrador right now, and we want to see those through before we start on any new ones.

Trevor Taylor, CBC Labrador Morning, July 30th

I can tell you, that this project here is the number one project with the Department of Transportation and Works for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and it will continue into the future, until the 1125 kilometres between Red Bay and Labrador West is completed… I mean hard-surfacing, right from one end to the other. We have waited too long.
John Hickey, CBC Labrador Morning, July 22nd.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Sycophant of the Month: July 2009

Total number of ProvGov press releases issued in July: 144 (-30 from June).

Total number with the phrase "Williams Government": 7 (-7 from June).

Sycophancy index: 4.9% (-3.1% from June).

The curious decline in overall ProvGov output (the lowest since January), in WilliamsGovernment output (dropping below the teens for the first time since March, and the overall sycophancy level (slumping below 5% for the first time since February), couple with the startling lack of His Master's Voice on the raddio during much of July, only add up to one thing: August Is Polling Month.

On a go-backwards basis, Susan Sullivan put one in on the 6th, and Charlene Johnson on the 15th, showing that even in the absence of former superstar Joan Burke, the women still got game.

But their game was irrelevant: Trevor Taylor answered Sullivan on the 10th, and spent the last week of the month making it look easy, dropping in four uninterrupted points in a row between the 22nd and 31st.

For blowing the others out of the water, 5-1, Trevor Taylor earns his fourth consecutive monthly title. Congratulations!

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Saturday, August 01, 2009

St. John's takes the hit that it can take

Some truly astonishing statistics in the latest Statscan report on Employment Insurance, out earlier in the week.

Year-over-year, the largest proportionate increases in the number of EI recipients were in Alberta (+260%) and BC (+129.4%). Within those two provinces, Calgary (+339.5%), Edmonton (+277.4%), Victoria (+182.8%) and Vancouver (+161.6%) were four of the top five metropolitan areas for proportionate increases in EI rolls. (Windsor, Ontario, up 215.5%, was the only non-western city in that club.)

All provinces and and all metropolitan areas saw increases in EI recipients in May 2009 compared to the same month one year earlier. Newfoundland and Labrador's EI roll was up 20.1%, roughly on par with NB (+20.2%) and NS (+23.5%), but the "least bad" among province with the exception of PEI (+14.9%).

St. John's had the third-lowest increase among metropolitan areas (+31.4%), with only Trois-Rivières and Saguenay being less bad. This says as much about the denominator as the numerator.

The stats also show that, in the past year, the EI rolls have grown at a greater clip in St. John's than in the province as a whole. Subtracting St. John's from the province, the smaller centres and rural areas saw EI rolls increase by "just" 18.7% from May to May. This is consistent with a broader national trend, in which 20 of 28 metropolitan areas have seen their EI-receiving populations grow at a steeper rate than that of their respective provinces overall.


Gee, tanks

A release issued late on a Friday — don't shoot anyone — without so much as a Minister's name, let alone a The Provincial Government or a The Williams Government:
Environment and Conservation
July 31, 2009

The Provincial Government advises the public that the deadline for the registration of home heating oil tanks is today July 31, 2009.


2009 07 31               4:30 p.m.