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

Monday, August 29, 2011

The "votes" are in

The final tally is in, in VOCM's weekend Question of the Day:

It was awfully nice of someone or something to disable the "yes" option on Sunday, to allow "no" and "not sure" a chance to catch up. So very egalitarian.

Sadly, it failed, just barely, to make the top spot as the votiest Question of the Day of all time. That honour still goes to the one on November 19, 2010.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

The persistence of memory

Himself, reached by phone, tells VOCM news:
He showed a real deep concern for the issues that were important. I mean, when we were going through the period of talking about being masters of our own destiny and being self-reliant here, Jack got it. Jack understood it. He understood how important our resources were, and, y'know, particularly, y'know, our natural resources obviously, whether they were in the mining or the petroleum side, or the fishery. And on the major issues of importance in the fishery, y'know, Jack was always quick to step up and endorse the requests that we made of him from a federal perspective.
Pop quiz: what did Danny Williams-Government ever request of the federal government "on the major issues of importance in the fishery, y'know"?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Full disclosure

Meanwhile, if you are so inclined, you can beaver away searching through party, candidate, district association, or leadership candidate financial contributions, depending on the requirements of the law from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, all the way up to 2010, and in some cases into 2011, in Nova Scotia, PEI, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, and Yukon; at the federal level; and even candidate disclosures at the municipal level in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Peterborough, Kitchener, Oakville, Burlington, Mississauga, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Waterloo, Oshawa, Kingston, London, Edmonton, and Calgary.

We are now 237 days into 2011.

The most recent financial contribution disclosure in Newfoundland and Labrador is for 2009.

Neither the 2010 annual disclosures, nor those of any of the candidates in the three provincial by-elections held since December 31, 2009, are yet available.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Unaccountability knows no boundaries

Between 2005 and 2009, Elections Nova Scotia published political finance disclosure documents in somewhat-unwieldy, but otherwise useable and searchable, text-based, PDF files.

For the 2010 disclosure, published earlier this summer, they switched format to an entirely-graphical, non-textual, non-searchable style of PDF.

Way to be transparent and accountable, guys.

Bang-up work.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Parliament Hill, August 22, 2011

A couple of images from Monday evening in Ottawa:

Petermania (XXV): Breaking up is hard to do

After another brief sojourn behind weather, the Petermann ice emerged from cloud today, in pieces. The breakup would appear to have happened some time on Sunday as the original ice island rounded the Grey Islands. The two large remaining ice islands form an interesting combination with the two pairs of natural islands nearby, the Greys and the Horses.

The new ice islands may risk being embayed somewhere in the White Bay area, between the Northern Peninsula to the west and the Baie Verte Peninsula to the south:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Timing is everything

Now, this is curious.

The announcements of Order of Newfoundland and Labrador recipients, since the inception of the Order in 2003, have occurred on June 16, 2004, October 20, 2005, November 24, 2006,
November 26, 2007, and November 30, 2009.

That is to say, with the exception of the inaugural list in 2004, all of the announcements have been made fairly late in the fall of the year.

This year, for no reason in particular, things are different.

Now, before you get your hackles up, remember that when Danny Williams-Government tinkered with the appointments process six years ago, it was absolutely, under no circumstances, so that the Order could be used for political purposes, let alone electoral ones.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Petermania (XIV): Zig-zag

Petermann spent most of Friday cloaked in heavy cloud, and re-emerged mid-day Saturday to be just barely captured in this false-colour Terra image. At the time, it was making its closest approach to dry land since it left the High Arctic, having tacked back towards the southwest after four days of southeasterly movement. Just barely visible here in red, it was hugging tight to the eastern shore of Newfoundland's, uninhabited Bell Island.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Petermania (XXIII): Hi ho, hi ho, it's back to sea we go

After spending another couple of days cloaked by clouds, Petermann re-emerged today northeast of the Grey Islands. It is visible here as the bright red object in false-colour infrared, northeast of Grey Island and Bell Island (not to be confused with Belle Isle).

The ice block made an average of twelve km a day towards the southeast during the time it was concealed by weather. If it were to keep up that rate and heading, it could be in the vicinity of Fogo by the end of the month.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

40% = 50%

Fred Winsor of the Sierra Club tells VOCM:
We would have like to have seen some discussion about regional public transit. We've got fifty percent of the population living within an hour's drive of St. John's. At least even doing a feasibility study on what kinds of public transit are feasible in terms of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that would be a big one, because greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles is one-third of the emissions in the province.
Whatever the merits of public transportation in St. John's and area — and this corner is a big fan of public transportation of all modes — fifty percent of the population of the province does not live within an hour's drive of St. John's, at least not officially as of the most recent census.

At that time, about 200,000 people lived in the St. John's Census Metropolitan Area, and in the municipalities and unincorporated areas within an hour's drive, as per the official guvamint driving distances database. That represented about 39.5% of the provincial population.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mutatis mutandis

A self-defeating argument

If Frank Moores and his PCs are to have any chance in this election campaign, it won't be through attacking Churchill Falls.

Neial R. Hankey
The Independent
August 16, 1971

“There’s a pulse out there,” said Frank Moores after he was named the leader of the provincial PC Party. Moores was referring to what he believed to be a growing opposition to the government’s plan to develop the Churchill Falls. With such a bold statement made directly after his coronation and on the eve of an election, it seems clear that leading the charge against the mega-project is going to be a major plank of the Moores’ election platform. I can’t help but think that Moores is way off the political mark on this one.

The role of the official opposition
Yes, it is the duty of the official opposition party to ask the important questions, press the governing party for details, present a different point of view, and hold the government accountable for its actions. This is something the PC’s were sure to do under Gerry Ottenheimer’s leadership; seemingly every opportunity Ottenheimer had in the House of Assembly was used to interrogate Smallwood or his ministers on the Churchill developments.

And yes, there is no doubt that there are some very real issues with the project. Are we giving too much to Quebec? Is Brinco, a private corporation, too partisan in its drive to develop the resource? This is just a sample of the important questions we must ask our government about Churchill Falls; Newfoundlanders owe it to themselves to give the project a sober second thought; it’s not like we haven’t made mistakes on mega-projects before.

This is now an election campaign
But from a strategic point of view, hammering away at the project throughout the course of an election campaign is political suicide.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, the Churchill Falls agreement was engineered and delivered by one of the most popular politicians in the history of the country, let alone in Newfoundland. Whether the PC’s agree with his politics and methods or not, they have to accept the fact that he was and still remains one of the most beloved characters of Newfoundland and Labrador. He is the man who depleted the PC opposition to just 3 seats in the House of Assembly, and he regularly enjoyed approval ratings between 77% and 82%. His track record for delivering for the province makes the majority of Newfoundlanders not just believe in him, but trust him. And if Joey Smallwood was the man who created the Churchill Falls agreement, then he knew what he was doing. An attack on the Churchill Falls agreement is not just an attack against the governing Liberal party, but is an attack on the works of Joey Smallwood… and people just won’t like it.

The second reason Moores should stay away from Churchill Falls in the election is even more important than the first: it is a self-defeating strategy. The better argument he can make, the worse off he will be. Let’s just say that the PC’s actually manage to gain some traction in their position against the Churchill Falls development, and voters in the province on a large scale really start to question whether or not this is the right thing for Newfoundland and Labrador. What do you think the odds are of Joey Smallwood staying on the side lines while his pet project is even mildly threatened by PC momentum? Nil. If Moores and his PC’s make gains in the campaign through opposition to Churchill Falls, Joey Smallwood will be there to defend his project, his legacy, and our future. And if Joey Smallwood gets involved in this election campaign, I’m sorry but it’s over.

Let go of Churchill Falls for now
No matter the case Moores can make against Churchill Falls, the defence of the project is much more attractive: our economic future beyond fishing and mining, regional cooperation, clean energy, job creation, independence… the list goes on. And that message is infinitely more powerful if delivered by Smallwood. The PC’s have to let go of Churchill Falls for now, swallow their resentment for Smallwood, and fight the Churchill Falls battle another day within the confines of the House of Assembly.

So whatever tricks Frank Moores has up his sleeve in the next two months, let’s hope they extend far beyond feeling this pulse. Note to PC’s: let the sleeping dog lie.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Petermania (XXII): Monday movement

Having made about nine kilometres since mid-day Sunday, the Petermann Ice Island was about the same distance, nine kilometres, off the harbour of St. Anthony on Monday, and about equidistant from St. Carol's to the north and Goose Cove to the west. It now dominates the entrance to Hare Bay, though it has also moved slightly seaward, perhaps having re-caught the Labrador Current:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Petermania (XXI): Sunday ride

A more intimate view of Petermann at around mid-day on Sunday. After several days of painfully slow movement, if any, the ice island managed eight kilometres in 24 hours. At the time Terra took its snapshot on Sunday, it was less than four km from the coast at St. Carol's, and extended right outside the entrance to St. Anthony harbour. If it doesn't ground or drag bottom again, it may start towards a close encounter with the uninhabited Grey Islands (bottom centre):

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Petermania (XX)

After being totally obscured by cloud for the past two days, the Northern Peninsula was only partially obscured today, allowing for this update on the position of the Petermann Ice Island (marked by the red arrow). While under the cover, the ice only nudged about two kilometres further south than it was before the weather came on:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Petermania (XIX): Little Fluffy Clouds

After being clouded out yesterday, here is today's Terra imagery, from about mid-day local time, showing the latest situation of the Petermann Ice Island. The ice is essentially unmoved since 48 hours ago, still basically moored less than four kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula just outside St. Anthony:
Numerous, and large, meltwater ponds are visible in the full image (click to enlarge).

And, as can be even more clearly seen in beautiful false-colour infrared, the temporary "strait" which separates the ice island from the rock island is littered with "small" icebergs which have calved from it:
If you're looking for an excuse to drive the Viking Trail, it's a good one.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


The plan

Tom Marshall claims, hilariously, in Tuesday's Telegram:
Our first few years of office saw cuts to the public service and public sector wage freezes, decreases in program spending and a deferral of all non-essential capital expenditures.

To turn things around, we developed a plan and stuck to it. In that short span of eight years, the turnaround that has taken place in Newfoundland and Labrador is remarkable.
The "plan" that Tom Marshall and his Progressive Conservatives Dunderdale2011s developed included:
Approximately 40% of all government expenditures goes towards salaries and employee benefits. Over the next five years, approximately 25% of the public service will be eligible for retirement. A Progressive Conservative government will use this five-year period to reduce the size of the public sector through attrition.
That's straight out of his party's 2003 Blue Sheet. Let's fact-check it, using Statistics Canada Table 183-0002.

Between 2003 and 2005, under Danny Williams-Government, the provincial civil service labour force shrank by 8.6%.

Between 2005 and 2011, it grew by 25.9%.

Employment in the entire provincial public sector, including the civil service and health, education, and crown corporation employees, shrank during the brief "attrition" era by 2.9%.

Since 2005, it has grown by 16.9%.

That's what's happened in the "short span of eight years."

Some turnaround.

Some plan.

Some sticking to it.

If he weren't still hale and hearty, Liam O'Brien would be rolling in his grave.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Bacon to Burin

Dr Darin Luther King tells VOCM (temporary audio link):
Every single dime that I can bring to my district I'm going to try and announce, because if I want people to know, going into an election, people are going to look at other candidates, and they're going to assess them and say "what are your qualifications, what are you going to do for me if you're elected?" Well, a part of what I'm going to do as an incumbent is say, "here's what I've delivered upon for you, here's my track record, you know what I promised in 2007, here's what I've worked on and delivered upon, and you can expect more if I get re-elected."
You'd think the Progressive Conservatives Dunderdale2011s had invented government spending, or something, the way they keep implying that they are the only ones who will continue to spend money on government programs and services.

But, really now, what is the difference between the implication, in Dr. Darin Luther King's VOCM hit, that you CAN'T expect more if someone other than himself gets elected, and this?
I’m sitting on top of the public chest and not one red cent will come out of it unless Greg Power is elected. Unless you vote for my man, you’ll be out in the cold for the next five years. Those settlements which vote against Greg Power will get nothing, absolutely nothing.

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Monday, August 08, 2011

Petermania (XVIII): Docked

The Petermann Ice Island, seen here in a Terra false-colour infrared image captured a few hours ago, is essentially unmoved from the spot it occupied 24 hours before — this near shore meaning it's almost certainly hung up on the bottom.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Petermania (XVII): Welcome to Snantny

Our old friend Petermann Ice Island drifted another five kilometres southward these past 24 hours, and is now less than four kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula, dominating the view from St. Lunaire south to the outskirts of St. Anthony:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response

Christopher Mitchelmore has some pics, while Jeffrey Curtis has YouTubed this brief but impressive video from yesterday at St. Lunaire:


Information sharing

Premier Kathy Dunderdale says that the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 government's spending (announcement) spree is all about sharing information. In an email statement to The Telegram, she says:
I make no apologies for sharing information with the residents of our province on how our government is spending their tax dollars. People should know what their government is spending money on and public announcements are a good vehicle to accomplish that.
Good, then.

In the spirit of information-sharing, openness, accountability, and all those other long, pretty words, Premier Dunderdale will, naturally, want to release the dollar figures associated with the district-by-district highways spending announcements; dollar figures which are curiously lacking in this year's batch of "sharing information" press releases, just as they have been lacking, for reasons as yet unexplained, for the past three years.

And, given that three-year history of selective information-sharing, or non-sharing, as the case may be, she will, naturally, want to provide such information to the public on a go-backwards basis.

Right, Kathy?


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Petermania (XVI): Kiss, kiss

In the past few days, the Petermann Ice Island has edged to within its own length of the Newfoundland coast near St. Lunaire-Griquet.

Today, it has edged to within its own width. When the Terra satellite captured this image earlier today, the ice island was less than six kilometres from shore:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Just a big coincidence

Since the middle of June, the Ministry of Information has issued 106 press releases in which the government makes a funding announcement of one or more dollar amounts, and in which the the district or districts where the money is being "invested" is specifically mentioned.

This is usually in the context wherein the sitting Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 MHA for the district or districts where the money is being "invested" is named and "quoted" in the body of the press release.

This count does not include press releases in which the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 announces:
- that it is spending money (or has spent money), but where a specific district or MHA (other than the Minister responsible) is not identified, even though the spending obviously attaches to a given local area. (However, if the Minister doing the announcing is also the MHA for the lucky district, it still counts);

- that it is spending money (or has spent money), but where the funding is provincial or regional in scope, and not attached to any particular district; or

- that it is doing something that necessarily involves (or involved) spending money, but where the dollar amount is not given — most conspicuously, in connection with highways work and Firetruck Summer (formerly Firetruck Month).
Only four of the announcements pertained, in whole or in part, to districts not currently held by a sitting Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 MHA.

By end of press release business day Friday, the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 government and its MHAs had announced (or recycled) over $90-million in district- and MHA-specific funding.

This includes just the provincial share of federally or municipally cost-shared projects. It also excludes the recapitulations, often to be found near the bottom of the release (like this one) of past glories hand-delivered by the MHA, often in the form of oversized novelty cheques.

On the other hand, dollar figures which are obviously already spent are included in this total when they form the subject-matter of the release to immediate hand. Like this one and this one, both from Friday.

Now, here's where that dollar figure starts to get really interesting.

You will, of course, recall that two provincial cabinet ministers — Current Minister of Nothing, Derrick Dalley, and former Minister of Nothing Kevin O'Brien — recently reassured the concerned public that the putative ramp-up in spending announcements was nothing more than coincidence.

To suggest anything else, well, they might say, if they are still allowed to use the phrase, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, far be it from this corner to deny the Ministers' firm denials. So, rather than do that, he will simply offer, without any attempt at explanation or editorializing, the following Pretty Chart, which shows the total amount of funding announced this summer, with specific MHA and district names intimately associated with the funding announcement, week by week. If it looks like there's a pattern, remember: that's just coincidence:

It will probably be fun to update this graph, on a go-forward bas—


Phone is ringing.

Who the heck is this "CRA", and why on earth are they calling at this hour?

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Friday, August 05, 2011

Petermania (XV): Eppur si muove

It's back to Terra's false-colour infrared imagery today, to help tease Petermann out from among the clouds... and back to movement. The Petermann Ice Island drifted about eight kilometres in the past 24 hours, and, what's more, it drifted to the southwest, bringing it closer still to the coast of Newfoundland. Its coast now lies just eleven kilometres from the mouth of Gunner's Cove.

If you are travelling the Northern Peninsula, or to or from Labrador via the Straits ferry, it's probably well worth the detour:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Forecast (II)

Continued from part (I), here.

OK, so the fun thing about Nalcor's raw numbers is that you can apply some simple arithmetic to them and make them dance.

Dividing the total forecast population (see part I for a cautionary note about population) by the total forecast number of domestic power customers on the Island system (not quite the same as the number of households, but close enough) you get the following projected population per domestic customer:

This, of course, is in line with the demographic forecasts of everybody and his dog: smaller family sizes, and, especially, an aging population, with plenty of older couples/no kids and single-senior households.

A province with a grey-shifted demographic pyramid is, of course, just the demographic you want when you have billions in old public debts to pay off, plus $6-billion in new Muskratty debt, plus the debt incurred from whatever the true, greater-than-six-billion cost will be once the sane cost estimates and their overruns are made public.

Nalcor's figures also helpfully provide projections both of total forecast domestic energy demand, and the share of which is expected to be demand for domestic heating. Applying the percentage to the projected total, one can separate the projected demand into the two categories.
Note that domestic demand for uses other than heating stays pretty much flat throughout the forecast period. Given that Nalcor projects a population decline, but at the same time, an increase in the overall number of domestic customers, it means that Nalcor is projecting those customers to be individually less energy-intensive as time goes on, for domestic electrical uses other than heating.

Or, translated into Nalcor-speak, "demand is growing".

On the other hand, note the steady projected increase in domestic demand for heating purposes.

Here's the same data, stacked this time, to show that the only thing driving the projected increase in domestic demand is heating:

Let's show those same figures, expressed in projected kwh per projected domestic customer:

Again, notice the slow but steady projected decline in domestic non-heat consumption, while domestic heating demand is projected to increase.

Once more, let's stack'em:

So this, at least in so far as domestic electrical demand is concerned, is the Muskrat Falls business model:

- get more senior couples and individual seniors heating their homes electrically.
- charge them more for the electricity than the going rate anywhere else in North America.
- protect the government monopoly in that expensive electricity, at all costs, including by showing the door to any potential investors in small-scale, alternative generation.
- expect this aging population, with their taxpayer hats on, to simultaneously service the debt incurred to embark on this adventure in autarky.
Is that about right?

Oh, and also hope that any of the alternatives, like the overpromised, underperforming wood pellets, or, heck, buddy who spray-paints aluminum cans, don't start looking real good in the meantime. Coz that might throw all the demand projections off.

Something else that would throw the projections off: assuming a ridonkulously high price for home heating oil well into the decades to come.

That same assumption has significant construction-cost-inflationary implications for the price of building the "cheap" Muskrat Falls project in the first place.

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Petermania (XIV): Good morning, sunshine

By mid-day Thurdsay, Petermann, having calved a bumper crop of berglets, had edged to within 14 km of the coast of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula.

That's only a bit more than the ice island's length of over 11 km. But during a clear break in the weather, you wouldn't actually need a satellite image to tell you that.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Petermania (XIII): Hide and seek

Barely visible through cloud and fog, Petermann drifted slightly to the northwest since yesterday, bringing it to within about 18 km of Quirpon Island:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


The forecast (I)

Some interesting numbers are to be found in a document entitled Exhibit 1 Addendum: NLH 2010 PLF for the Island Interconnected System, which Nalcor has filed with the Public Utilities Board.

Let's turn some of those numbers into pretty charts. Yes, let's.

First, here is Nalcor's working assumption for population (in thousands, axes do not cross at zero):
Now, note that while this is one of the primary forecast assumptions in connection with the Island Interconnected system's planning load forecast — "Island" here referring to the one called Newfoundland — the population figures are more in line with those of the province as a whole. That is, including Labrador. Labrador, where the Muskrat Falls power would be generated, but not actually used.

By 2021, Nalcor's working assumption is that something (Island? province?) will have a population that has declined to 508,000. It would probably be indelicate to point out that 2021 came early this year, according to the latest Statistics Canada intercensal population estimate.

Second, here's Nalcor's figures for estimated number of domestic hydro customers on its own, and Light and Power Byes' grids (in thousands, axes do not cross at zero):
Population goes down. Number of domestic customers goes up. More on that anon.

Here are Nalcor's assumptions about the total domestic electrical demand (in Gwh):
And this is Nalcor's assumption as to how much of that domestic demand will be consumed in residential (and other domestic) heating (as a percent, axes do not cross at zero):

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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Petermania (XII): Peekaboo

The Petermann ice island is almost lost in today's fog off the northeastern tip of Newfoundland, and essentially unchanged in its position from 24 hours before.

You can compare the size of the ice to Groais Island to the south, or Belle Isle to the north. Note also the numerous aircraft contrails, from trans-Atlantic flights, running diagonally across the southwestern corner of the image.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Monday, August 01, 2011

Comparative statism

Hebron: "Equity"

White Rose Extension: "Equity"

Hibernia South: "Equity"

Republic of Punchintheface: "Equity"

Pine Cove Gold Mine: Here, have a loan.

Petermania (XI): Get ready for your close-up, St. Anthony

Petermann was obscured by clouds on Sunday, but has re-emerged to enjoy the last day of the long weekend. This is the latest Terra image, taken mid-morning local time, reprojected in Google Earth:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response

The ice island is still moving very slowly, having made just 12 kilometres since its last satellite appearance on Saturday. However, its encounter with Tooker Bank has helped re-direct it towards the coast of Newfoundland. At the time of this image, it was abut 23 km due east of Quirpon Island, its closest approach to a populated area since its close encounter with St. Lewis last week.