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

Friday, September 30, 2011

Population politics

Meanwhile, in Nova Scotia, the opposition provincial Progressive Conservatives are playing the same blame game once practiced by another notionally Progressive Conservative leader and party on the other side of the Cabot Strait. Once again, it's time to Blame the Government for the Demographics:

HALIFAX, NS – Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie says the high cost, job killing polices of the NDP are to blame for the alarming amount of young people leaving Nova Scotia.

The latest Statistics Canada figures show approximately 60 per cent of Nova Scotians leaving for other provinces are in their 20s. Baillie says the province is on a path to a crisis situation with an aging population and a shrinking workforce.

“We’re losing our young people to provinces that see the importance of attracting business, investment and good jobs,” said Baillie. “On the other hand, the policies of our NDP government are raising costs, killing jobs and forcing our kids to leave to find work in alarming numbers.”

While immigration essentially balanced out the overall population number, Baillie says the loss of younger Nova Scotians adds to the province’s demographic woes. Nova Scotia has the highest proportion of people aged 65 and over in Canada and the lowest proportion of people under the age of 15.

“The NDP government’s high cost policies are suppressing job creation in Nova Scotia, leaving younger people with few opportunities,” added Baillie. “The real cost of the NDP’s mismanagement is families watching their children leave to start their lives elsewhere.”

Outmigration from Nova Scotia to other provinces reached 19,151 people in 2010/11 according to Statistics Canada preliminary data. That’s the highest number since 1989/90.
Now, let's accept — solely for argument's sake — that provincial government policies are what drives interprovincial migration patterns.

It was certainly the argument used by the Danny Williams Party from 2001 to 2010, blaming the then-governing Liberals for out-migration; then, when in government, pushing the notion, to the gullible, of some supposed "Williams Effect" to account for in-migration and other positive statistical indicators.

Curiously, according to this theory, the Liberal government did not get credit when out-migration slowed and converted to net in-migration; nor was the "Williams Effect" to blame when out-migration accelerated during the mid-2000s, nor when out-migration resumed in earnest once the worst of the 2008-2009 recession was over.

But, let us accept at face value the implied argument of the Progressive Conservatives on both sides of the Cabot Strait, that government policies drive interprovincial migration.

This naturally raises the question: what were things like when the PCs were in power in Nova Scotia?

Well, then.

This chart shows the quarterly out-migration from Nova Scotia going back just over thirty years, to 1980, cleverly colour-coded according to which political party formed the provincial government of the day:

Note the strong historical pattern for out-migration to peak in the third quarter of the year. This chart smooths out that seasonality; the figure for any given quarter here is the total outmigration for the previous year. (Note that the chronological attribution of party-in-power breaks down a little during transitional election years):

And remember, out-migration is only half the picture. There is also interprovincial in-migration to consider, which from time to time results in net interprovincial migration into Nova Scotia. (Along with international migration, births, and deaths, all of these components go into the top-line population figure for any given province.) This chart shows net interprovincial migration in Nova Scotia, again colour-coded by government of the day, with periods of net in-migration in dark colours, and net-outmigration in pale colours:

So, all in all, interprovincial migration in Nova Scotia under the New Democrats is, well, on the lower end of its long-standing historical range, but still not quite as bad as it was at its worst, in 2006, when Rodney MacDonald was the province's Progressive Conservative Premier.

So: are provincial population trends a product of provincial politics?

Jamie Baillie and company may want to consider their answer to that question very carefully.

Data source: Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 051-0017.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Can St. John's take the hit?

Just where does the provincial government spend its money?

It's not easy to say. There is some guidance to be gained, perhaps, by analyzing the budget documents and government press releases. However, there is no single easy breakdown as to what gets spent where.

At least not publicly.

There has been at least some suggestion, however, that Dundergov has produced some attempt at quantification for internal consumption. As a government record, this will naturally be released under the Access to Information Act, promptly and without obfuscation, to anyone who applies for it.

Thus you have, for instance, the NewEnergy Party's platform claiming:
most of our infrastructure investments (in fact, 71% of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development investments) over the past eight years have been in rural areas
And NewEnergy Party representative Tom Marshall claiming before the St. John's Bored of Trade on Thursday:

One presumes Mr. Marshall is also able to quantify where provincial income tax, sales tax, mining royalties, federal transfer payments, and other sources of revenue end up being spent, given the remarkable ease with which he was able to say, with such certainty, where the oil money was distributed geographically.

With respect to at least one head of government spending, there is some indication as to where the money goes.

As of the twelve months ending in March 2011, the direct provincial civil service has increased in size by almost 22%, as compared to 2004, the Tories' first full year in office. The civil service payroll has increased by 59% during the same period.

There is no readily- and publicly-available data source that tells you where, geographically, you will find provincial civil servants. Perhaps it's also in Mr. Marshall's big book of handy statistics. However, scraping the provincial government employee directory, and sorting all listed civil servant telephone numbers by three-digit exchange, you find the following rough breakdown:

At least by this telephone-book method, two-thirds of the provincial civil service is housed in the St. John's dialling area. The next nine localities with the largest provincial civil-service presence account for most of the rest. All other communities have less than the 1% share the Deer Lake has, totalling 9.3% of all listed provgov employees. This is the civil service whose payroll is now $200-million a year more than it was in 2004.

(By way of contrast, the often-maligned "National Capital Region", for federal employment statistical purposes, has about 32% of the federal civil service as of September 2010.)

And remember, these figures are just for the direct provincial civil service. They do not include other aspects of the public sector, including the health system ($300-million increase since 2004), post-secondary education system ($130-million), or provincial crown corporations ($45-million).

Incidentally, that last class, crown corps, have collectively had their payrolls increase by over 60% during the same period. In that time, their total number of employees has increased by just 5%.

What's up with that?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The name game

The Tellytorialist complains, properly so, on Monday:
Cheers: to labelling. Or branding. Or something. You have to like the title given to the new Conservative omnibus crime legislation by its authors. They went with the lovely title “The Safe Streets and Communities Act.” Sounds like a new, improved detergent. Other possibilities? For the next change to the country’s environmental legislation, how about “The Happy Trees and Flowers Act”? Simple wildlife legislation is so dull, so how about the “Cute Bunny and Bambi Act”? And just in case George Orwell’s “1984” has fallen down your memory hole, it’s worth considering that, in the novel, the Ministry of Truth was in charge of propaganda, the Ministry of Plenty was in charge of rationing, the Ministry of Peace was in charge of war, and, most of all, the Ministry of Love was in charge of law and order. So when the feds introduce the “Internet Oversight, Security and Privacy Act,” (or some equally pleasant-sounding variant) better watch what you say. Anywhere.
This isn't new.

Starting around the middle of second session of the 40th Parliament — that would be the fall 2009 semester — government bills started to get the "branding" treatement, including the bizarre use of something called an "Alternative Title" that must have driven the highly-competent and professional drafters at the Department of Justice completely and utterly bat.

So it was that Parliament was called on to consider C-32, the Cracking Down on Tobacco Marketing Aimed at Youth Act. C-36, the Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act. C-47, the Technical Assistance for Law Enforcement in the 21st Century Act. C-60, the Keeping Canadians Safe (Protecting Borders) Act.

The title of almost every single government bill in the last session of the last pre-election Parliament went through the same politicization process: Keeping Canadians Safe (International Transfer of Offenders) Act; Jobs and Economic Growth Act; Balanced Refugee Reform Act; Fairness at the Pumps Act; Ending House Arrest for Property and Other Serious Crimes by Serious and Violent Offenders Act; Combating Terrorism Act; Increasing Voter Participation Act; An Action Plan for the National Capital Commission (sans "Act"); Standing up for Victims of White Collar Crime Act; Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act; Eliminating Pardons for Serious Crimes Act; Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act; Safeguarding Canadians’ Personal Information Act; Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act; Copyright Modernization Act; Creating Canada’s New National Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 Act; Cracking Down on Crooked Consultants Act; Strengthening the Value of Canadian Citizenship Act; Ensuring the Effective Review of RCMP Civilian Complaints Act; Ending Early Release for Criminals and Increasing Offender Accountability Act; Celebrating Canada’s Seniors Act; Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act; Strengthening Aviation Security Act; Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act; Protecting Canadians by Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act; Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act; Improving Access to Investigative Tools for Serious Crimes Act; Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act; Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act; Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act; Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act; Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act; Preventing the Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation of Vulnerable Immigrants Act; Improving Trade Within Canada Act; Protecting Victims From Sex Offenders Act; Ensuring Safe Vehicles Imported from Mexico for Canadians Act; Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act (reintroduced); Tackling Auto Theft and Property Crime Act; Penalties for Organized Drug Crime Act.

There aren't enough gerunds in the Library of Parliament.

Where did this abominable practice come from?

From Ontario. From Mike Harris' version of Ontario, in fact, whither the practice was imported from Congress and state legislatures south of the border. In fairness, both the government and the opposition parties in Ontario enthusiastically embraced the cheese, whence the Freezing of Compensation for Members of the Assembly Act; Fewer School Boards Act; Taxpayers Savings Municipal Amendment Act (Ottawa-Carleton Region); Crackdown on Illegal Waste Dumping Act; Tax Cuts for People and for Small Business Act; Prevention of Unionization Act (Ontario Works); Zero Tolerance for Substance Abuse Act; Lower Property Taxes in Sudbury Act; Fairness is a Two-Way Street Act (Construction Labour Mobility); Safe Schools Act; Save Our Architectural Heritage Act; and the hysterically funny Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander Act and Balanced Budgets for Brighter Futures Act.

No word yet on whether the Harris Conservatives' Fewer Politicans Act will be answered, federally, with the More Politicians Act, when the House of Commons is enlarged.

This is a vile, tacky, appalling practice, that should offend the sensibilities of anyone who has a modicum of respect for tradition and decorum, one that should be stamped out, but one which, sadly, probably never will be.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to spot a plant (VI)

A fasctinating comment on this CBC web story:

"After reading all 3 party platforms, I will have to vote PC in this election," CBFA said.

At 3:30 p.m., on the day before the third party to release its platform actually released its platform.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Three things

Let us consider three Things, in the abstract at first:

Each of the Things is represented by a different colour. The year-over-year increase in the cost of each Thing is shown for Years 1 through 5, as compared to what the Thing cost in a baseline Year 0. You can clearly see that the Blue Thing has had by far and away the biggest increase, pushing $2-billion by Year 5. The Yellow Thing, which is in actual fact a subset of the Blue Thing, has increased by nearly $800-million by Year 5. The Green Thing, by contrast, is about $56-million more expensive in Year 5 than it was in the baseline Year 0. Expensiver, to be sure, but an order of magnitude or more smaller than the other Things.

Got that?


* * *

Now let's put some names to those numbers, and remove them from the world of abstraction.

The first set of columns, in blue, shows the increase in provincial government program spending as compared to a baseline of fiscal year 2006-07. This was the year in which Danny Williams, rattled by the hit his popularity took during the three months in 2004 in which he actually tried to rein in spending, abandoned all pretext of being a conservative, hooked fire hoses up to the public treasury, and started spraying money around. Until the day he abruptly left office, he never stopped. The unrevised figures for fiscal year 2011-12 show program spending that's nearly two billion-with-a-b dollars higher than it was five years ago.

The second set of columns, in yellow, show the increase in the provincial public-sector payroll; i.e., the total salaries of provincial civil servants, employees of the public health and education systems, and of provincial crown corporations. (2011 figures are preliminary estimates.) Not only has the provincial government been on a hiring spree during the Williams years, it's been on a pay-raise spree, too. The net effect is a provincial public sector that is approaching a billion dollars more expensive now than it was in 2006.

The third set of columns, in green, show the impact of the provincial Liberal party's pledge to index public employee pensions, starting with a 2.5% increase in Year 1, and a cost-of-living increase, to a maximum of 2%, in each year after that. This chart assumes that the maximum 2% is reached every year, and, importantly, that not a single public-sector pensioner — how to put this delicately? — becomes permanently pension-inelegible due to unavoidable biological reasons during that time.

Whatever the merits, or lack of merits, in the pension-indexing platform plank, it is hypocrisy of the highest order on the part of the punditocracy, and, especially, of anyone in the Progressive Conservative Party, to suddenly claim to have found Fiscal-Responsibility Jesus in these past 48 hours.

Where have these people been for the past eight years?

[Data sources: Newfoundland and Labrador budget estimates, Statement IV, passim; Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 183-0002; basic arithmetic.]

Labels: ,

Answer key

The questions:
This is a screen-cap of the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 NewEnergy Party website entry page as of late on Day 1 of the 146-hour campaign.

Can you spot the element what's not there?

Bonus points: can you spot the one visual element carried over from the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 NewEnergy Party campaign in 2007?
The answers:

Missing in action: almost any reference to the PC Party. The initials "PC" only appear once, on the "Our Team" button. The logo is relegated to the footer of the page, in washed-out blue camouflage colours.

The one visual element inherited from 2007? The calm blue ocean.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Next up

During the 2007 provincial election campaign, the now-defunct PC Party leader's tour team would wait until very late at night, or even into the wee hours of the morning, before posting the agenda for the next day's public leader's tour events.

In 2011, the Dunderdale2011 NewEnergy Party seems to have decided to do away with such public notices altogether:


Nice work if you can get it (III)

This chart compares the number of annual sitting days of the amateur legislature of Newfoundland and Labrador, notionally a province, with the number of sitting days of the sittingest territorial legislature in any given year, and with the number of meetings of St. John's city council, a municipal government:

In all but one year since 2001 inclusive, the sittingest territorial legislature has out-sat the House of Assembly. (That legislature is generally that of Yukon, although each of the other two territorial legislatures has been the sittingest at least once during that time.) In provincial election years 2003 and 2007, all three territorial legislatures out-sat the House of Assembly; as recently as 2009, two of three territorial legislatures did.

In five of the past eleven years, including 2011 to date, St. John's City Council has met as often, or more, than the House of Assembly which created it.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"An impartial and effective public service"

A fascinating snippet from a CBC report on the he-said-they-said campaign pension promise issue:
Meanwhile, the Department of Finance told CBC News that the Liberals' plan would add $1.2 billion in additional liabilities to the pension plan.
The fascinating bit?

Who the they are.

Why on earth is the Department of Finance — the Department — commenting on anyone's electoral platform in the middle of a provincial election campaign?

Luke Joyce can be reached for (further?) comment at 709-729-6830 or 725-4165.


Nice work if you can get it (II)

This cleverly colour-coded chart shows the number of sitting days of the House of Assembly, by calendar year, going back to 1987. Columns are coloured according to the governing party which controlled the legislative agenda for most of the year. Pale colours indicate election years, during which there is naturally less time for House business to begin with. (The 2011 figures are for year to date.)

Disregarding election years, during the Clyde Wells era the House sat an average of 88 days a year. Under Tobin, that plummetted to 53, declining further to 51 under Grimes, and 49 under Williams.

Something to bear in mind, when incumbent MHAs, or fresh-faced candidates, come to your door, auditioning for what has become, in essence, Newfoundland and Labrador's most lucrative part-time seasonal job.

Labels: , ,

Visual quiz

This is a screen-cap of the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 NewEnergy Party website entry page as of late on Day 1 of the 146-hour campaign.

Can you spot the element what's not there?

Bonus points: can you spot the one visual element carried over from the Progressive Conservative Dunderdale2011 NewEnergy Party campaign in 2007?


Monday, September 19, 2011

Nice work if you can get it

This is the agenda for this afternoon's meeting of St. John's City Council.

The City of St. John's has a population of about 100,000, a budget in 2011 of just under $225-million, and a municipal work force of 1200 to 1400, depending on the time of year.

This will be City Council's thirty-third meeting of 2011.

That is the same number, co-incidentally, of sittings that the House of Assembly has had this year.

The House of Assembly is the legislature for a province of just over 500,000 people, whose government has budgeted nearly $8-billion in expenditures this fiscal year; a government with over 11,600 people directly on the payroll, with another 21,000 working in the health-care system, nearly 11,000 in the public post-secondary educational institutions, more than 9500 in the public education system, and over 2000 who work for provincial crown corporations.


In three of the past six years, St. John's City Council has had as many meetings, or more, than the House of Assembly has had sittings.

So far in 2011, there has been at least one territory — the NWT — whose legislature has out-sot the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly. It has been a decade since this provincial legislature out-sat all three territories; every year since 2001, at least one territorial legislature sat more.

It has been 16 years since the elected House of Assembly held more sittings than the appointed Senate.

Only once in the past decade has the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly ranked higher than eighth, out of all thirteen provinces and territories, in terms of number of sitting days of its legislature.

With a ridiculously abbreviated provincial election campaign about to start, here's a good question you may want to ask any incumbent who shows up at the door looking for your vote:

Good sir/madam, if you don't seem to like the job very much, if you don't want to provide oversight of government, if you don't want to spend time working on sound legislation, hearing from witnesses in committee, and all the other things that healthy legislatures in healthy democracies like PEI and Nunavut do, why on earth should I hire you again this time as my MHA?

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

(Some of) Alberta votes

The results of the first round of the Alberta PC leadership election, beautifully mapped and colour-coded by candidate, and by whether the candidate got a majority (dark colours) or plurality (pale colours) of the vote in any given district.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A donation has been made on your behalf

An interesting story appeared on p. A3 of the Carbonear Compass on Tuesday, reprinted in the Telegram and Western Star on Wednesday, in which Terry Roberts reports, in part:

Carbonear Mayor Sam Slade is defending the town’s practice of donating to the Progressive Conservative party, saying “we know how they work on our behalf.”

Slade also points out the town would support other political parties if there was a request.

“If it was a Liberal function tomorrow, and we were asked to purchase tickets, we would do the same,” Slade says.

According to the 2010 report on donations to political parties in this province, the Town of Carbonear made two separate donations to the PC party — one for $100 and a second for $150.


Past reports indicate the Town of Carbonear made a $400 donation to the party in 2009, while the Town of Harbour Grace made a $160 donation in 2009.

Only one other municipality — the Town of Badger, at $ 400 — made a donation to a political party in 2010. It, too, was to the PC party.


When asked if it was a wise and appropriate use of taxpayers’ money, Slade replied by saying the donation was a council decision.

“The town should support this. This is how council felt about it,” Slade explained.

Deputy Mayor Ches Ash said the donations were related to a June 2010 fundraising dinner hosted by the Carbonear-Harbour Grace PC district association. Ash said council unanimously approved the spending of $ 500 to purchase a table at a June 7, 2010 meeting.

He said the town approved a similar expenditure this year.

Ash said the decision to purchase the tickets was made at a public meeting, with the funds coming from the town’s promotions and marketing budget.

“We saw that as a legitimate expense within that budget. In doing that, council makes every effort to spend our money in a responsible way … and we didn’t see that as being unreasonable,” Ash said.
Here's the minute of the 2010 donation:

And the minute of the one which shows up in the 2009 disclosure:

The third donation, referred to in Roberts' report as having been approved earlier this year, does not yet seem to show up in the town council's minutes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Private for Whiff83

This chart shows three items from MUN budgets over the past 1.5 decades: the amount MUN collected in student fees, the amount MUN received from provincial government budget votes, and the amount MUN spent on its academic programs.

And here, to put things into perspective, are the MUN student fees paid, expressed as a percentage of the university's academic budget:
If recent trends continue through 2011, MUN students will have paid just under 20 cents of every academic expenditure dollar. Students already pay less than 20% of MUN's entire budget, when non-academic expenditures and all revenues are factored in.

[Data source: MUN Financial Reports.]


Voting with their wallets (I)

This graph shows how the NS and NL provincial political donations discussed in yesterday's post are distributed according to the size of individual donations.
In Nova Scotia, between 2005 and 2010, nearly 60% (by number, not dollar value) of all personal contributions over $99.99 to central party coffers* came in the form of contributions of $100 to $199.99.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, that share was less than 40%.

Political parties in NL depended more than there NS counterparts on contributions in the $200+ and subsequent brackets. The $400+ and $500+ brackets were particularly higher in NL than in NS, accounting for 8.6% and 7.7% of all contributions in Dannystan, vs. 4.7% and 2.0% in Nova Scotia.

So not only does the party financing system in Newfoundland and Labrador depend heavily on St. John's area donors, to a degree that Nova Scotia does not depend on metro Halifax, the NL party system depends much more on well-heeled donors who can contribute multiple hundred dollar-bills at a go, rather than the NS party financing system, which skews more towards the smaller donor.

Note carefully that these figures only take into account contributions $100 and over, in order to adjust for differences in both the disclosure reporting requirements, and actual reporting practices, in the two provinces. However, the total number of contributions under $100 is shown in pale colours in the above graph, expressed as a percentage of the contributions over $100, in order to provide an apples:apples comparison. Given the vagaries of reporting practice, the <$100 figures should be taken with a hefty grain of salt.

* Corporate, union, and other contributions, and inter-party transfers, excluded. This data also only includes contributions to provincially registered parties, not election candidates or Nova Scotia electoral district associations.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The amazing atrophying democracy (II)

Despite the best efforts of Elections Nova Scotia to obfuscate the data, this corner has been able to crunch a few numbers which put the atrophying of party democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador into a comparative context.

The following charts were generated by extracting data from Elections Newfoundland and Labrador and Elections Nova Scotia's legally-mandated disclosures of party and election campaign financing. The data under consideration here include personal donations, from in-province donors, to registered parties, from 2005 to 2010. (Nova Scotia figures are not available on line for earlier years.)

That is to say, corporate, union, and strange miscellaneous donations to parties are not included. In addition, only contributions to central party coffers are included; contributions to election and by-election candidates, and, in Nova Scotia, to district associations, are excluded. Donations from out-of-province contributors are also excluded. Finally, in order to ensure and apples-to-apples comparison, Nova Scotia contributions under $100 (about 5.6% of the total) have also been excluded, to ensure that the data set is comparable to the Elections NL disclosure, which is only required for donations of $100 or more.

Note that these figures may also be further slightly distorted due to
(A) Different reporting conventions in the two provinces: In NS any given contributor's multiple donations are usually aggregated for the entire year, while in NL there are some donors who give multiple reportable contributions throughout the year, and who are reported separately for each contribution.

(B) The fact that there were two provincial general elections in NS during the study period (2006 and 2009) vs. just one in NL (2007). Elections tend to shake loose the cash.
With these caveats in mind, let's look first at the average size of personal contributions to party finances. At first blush, the two provinces are roughly comparable in this respect. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the average party contribution was about $311, while in Nova Scotia it was $250. In both provinces, the average contribution tended to be smaller from rural donors than from donors in the province's largest metropolitan areas (St. John's or Halifax, including their suburbs, respectively.)
However, the overall similarity in donation size masks a stark and important contrast between the two provinces. This chart shows the total rate of donations, expressed as the number of donations per 1,000 of population (as estimated in 2010) per year:
As previously noted, political contributions in NL are heavily skewed by source towards the St. John's urban area. There were about 1.8 party finance contributions, per person, per year from the St. John's metropolitan area. In the rest of the province, the figure is an anemic 0.4 contributions per 1,000 per year. In a town of 2,000 people (say, Wabush), you might statistically expect just under one person to have contributed to the NL party financing system in any given year.

Urban or rural, financial participation in party politics pales in comparison to Nova Scotia, where the number of political contributions averages 3.3 per 1,000 per year. Furthermore, there is very little skewing of this figure towards the provincial capital (3.6, vs. 3.1 in the rest of the province.)

The same trends appear in the total monetary value of party contributions, again expressed in population terms (dollars per person per year):
In NL, the entire population donated an average of $0.28 — 28 cents — per person per year to the registered provincial political parties. For metro St. John's, the figure is $0.59, which means, conversely, that in the rest of the province the average contribution was a meagre $0.10 per person per year.

By sharp, sharp contrast, in NS the average contribution per person per year in rural areas alone was $0.68, higher than the figure for St. John's, and just over $1.00 for metro Halifax. Nova Scotia as a whole scored $0.82 per person per year, so while there was still a marked difference between rural and urban participation in the party system, it was nothing like the near non-existence of political parties in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

Finally, this chart shows the two metro areas' relative shares of their provincial populations, the total number of party finance conributions, and their total dollar vallue. (Remember, contrary to very popular myth, St. John's does not have nearly as large a share of the provincial population as it thinks it does.) Again, the relatively egalitarian situation in Nova Scotia contrasts vividly with the northeast-Avalon-dominated participation in political parties across the water:

In Newfoundland and Labrador, politics is a spectator sport, not an audience participation event, especially in rural areas.

These numbers make it abundantly clear that it will be very difficult for the political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador to accept making the major, and positive, legislative change which came into effect in 2010 in Nova Scotia, namely, the prohibition of all corporate, union, and organizational donations to the political and electoral process, and all contributions from outside the province.

Labels: ,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Care to elaborate?

Elections Newfoundland and Labrador provides a singularly unhelpful single-word answer to a Frequently Asked Question:


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stop the madness

OK, it's bad enough that some idiot, many years ago, had to go and invent "island portion of the province", where "Newfoundland" was a perfectly good name that had been in use for hundreds of years.

But this? Really, folks?

The Hebron project, located approximately 350 kilometres offshore the island portion of Newfoundland and Labrador, is a joint venture among the province’s energy corporation, Nalcor, on behalf of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Chevron Canada, ExxonMobil Canada, Petro-Canada and StatoilHydro Canada.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Petermania (XVII): Blocked!

Stunning Terra imagery from Wednesday, showing the main remnant Petermann Ice Island, plus other daughter bergs, in White Bay and off the Baie Verte Peninsula.

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The amazing atrophying democracy

Bondpapers comes up with an amazing statistic:
Construction, design and engineering companies gave the provincial Conservatives $239,725 in political donations in 2010, according to figures from the province’s chief electoral office.

Companies in the design, engineering and construction field gave a mere $3, 950 to the Liberal Party and none to the New Democrats.
This observation is a subset a figure which yours truly twoot yesterday, namely, that nearly three-quarters — 74% and change — of all contributions to all provincial political parties in 2010 came in the form of corporate contributions to the governing Progressive Conservatives.

All other contributions, personal, union, or RNC, and to all registered provincial parties, made up the other 26%. Contributions from private inviduals constituted less than 20% of the entire total of reportable political donations.

Not only is it staggering how anemic the provincial party financing system is, it is concentrated very heavily in and around Capital City. Now, this overly-urban concentration of political money is a feature of fiscal democracy for just about every party in every jurisdiction in North America. But, at least at first glance, the situation in Newfoundland and Labrador seems to take it to the extreme.

This map shows where the money came from in general party contributions, to all parties, made between 2008 and 2010 inclusive. (Contributions to by-election candidates are not included.) The totals were summed by municipality as listed in the Elections NL disclosures, then allocated to the electoral district where that municipality is located. Where a municipality is split into two or more electoral districts, the total for that town or city was, somewhat arbitrarily, re-allocated to its constituent districts roughly in proportion to the number of the municipality's regular polling divisions contained in that district. (See legend at bottom right.)

There are a large number of districts where there are few recent personal donations on file for the 2008-10 period under consideration, and one (Grand Bank) where there are none at all.

However, a large proportion of personal donations — upwards of 25% — come directly from elected officials themselves. Exclud those donations made by sitting MHAs, MPs, and a Senator, and the map colours become even paler. There are fully 18 out of 48 districts in which private individuals have donated a combined total of less than $1000 to all registered parties over the course of three years... and five where there have been none at all.


Royal Newfoundland Constabutory (II)

According to figures released on Tuesday, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Assocation helpfully donated another $2000 to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2010.

Together with the $2000 which they helpfully donated in 2009, this makes a combined historical total of reportable contributes from the RNCA to the PC Party to $16,450 since 1999.

Over the same period, the RNCA has contributed a combined $700 in two separate contributions to the provincial Liberal Party or a Liberal candidate.

Three by-election financial reports, including that of the 2010 Topsail by-election, have yet to be published to the Elections NL website.

Special for Doug Horner and Ted Morton...

... and anyone else involved in the current Alberta PC leadership race.

Danny Williams and his party used to have a not-very-subtle message for recovering politicians and non-residents who intervened in current, local politics:
You know, to live out there and then come in here and tell us we're doing it all wrong is a bit much.


Well I must remind you that actually Brian Peckford is not in government number one, number two is that he's not a resident of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mr. Crosbie had his day in government, and he made his decisions in that time - that was a long time ago. Now we are the government and we are going to do what we think is in the best interests of rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and that's exactly what we're doing here.


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

On second thought

VOCM headline, early Tuesday afternoon: Poll Shows a Tory Victory

VOCM headline, later Tuesday afternoon: CRA Poll Shows Little Change Before Election


Ring, ring

Among the many other interesting tidbits in the much-delayed 2010 party financing disclosure ther is found, on page 12, one Edward Ring, of Conception Bay South, who contributed $400.00 to the PC Party of Dannystan (as it then was.)

This is the first, and so far only time, in all the annual, general election, and by-election disclosures going back to 1996 inclusive, that a person of that name has made a reportable financial contribution to any registered provincial political party or candidate.

The Dunderdale Test

Kathy Dunderdale tells VOCM Radio:
There's all kinds of people who want fibre, for all kinds of reasons. But are there going to be jobs here for the people, y'know, besides the harvesting? Is there going to be some kind of secondary processing done? Is there going to be a benefit to the people of this region of the province? And unless you can meet that test then, y'know, it's better to leave the trees where they are.
She was referring to "fibre" — formerly known as "trees" — in central Newfoundland, post-Our Dear Repatriation of AbitibiBowater resources and toxic waste.

It is not immediately clear whether the solemn principle laid down in the Dunderdale Test applies to other resources or to other regions of the province.

Coz, if so, hooo boy...

Labels: ,

Monday, September 05, 2011

The power of ridicule

Traditionally during Fire Truck Season, the Williams Provincial Dunderdale2011 have been eager to squeeze as much credit as possible, both political and financial, out of the firetrucky goodness.

So, for example, from 2008:
The Town of St. Anthony will receive a new fire truck, valued at $250,000, through funding from the Provincial Government.
Or from 2009:
The St. Joseph’s Fire Department will receive a new tanker truck, with the Provincial Government contributing 90 per cent of the cost.


The new truck will be cost-shared at a 90/10 ratio between the province and the town. The Provincial Government will contribute $206,443, while the municipality will add $22,938. Including the utilization of a GST rebate of $10,619, the total cost of the truck is approximately $240,000.
Not only do you find out which community is getting the shiny red truck, you get to know how much it cost. Or, as Premier Dunderdale might put it, they are telling people how their money is being spent.

In 2010, however, there was just the One Big Announcement in August. Odd, that.

But in 2011, it was back to telling the people how their money is being spent. A $220,000 fire truck for Hampden; a $232,240 one for Bell Island; a $197,734 job for Buchans; two priced collectively at over $400,000 for Smith Sound and Trinity Bay North; and finally, on June 13, a $197,000 number for Marystown.

Then, on June 15th, the Telegram masthead published a cutting editorial:
Hopefully, Jackman isn’t taking the same kind of pride in taking part in the annual “we’re giving you a fire truck” political dog-and-pony show. Sure, this is a provincial election year, and sure, we’re going to hear plenty about any political announcement that can be trotted out to squeeze in a few more votes.

But not on the backs of this province’s firefighters, the vast majority of whom are volunteers sacrificing their own time doing dangerous work.


It’s hard to believe that politicians want praise for providing the sort of equipment that constitutes basic fire protection in North America.

They should be ashamed of turning a necessary service into a self-serving political football — and ashamed of making firefighters say “thank you” for basic tools.

Provide the necessary equipment, thank your lucky stars there are people out there willing to risk their lives, and get the heck off the podium.
On June 16th, the fire-truck rollout continued, this time for Labrador City and North West River, but, oddly, the individual dollar amounts were conspicuously absent. Only the big-pictureboilerplate, common to all the releases, remained:
Budget 2011 Standing Strong: For Prosperity. For Our Future. For Newfoundland and Labrador provides a historic investment in the municipal fire service. An investment of $3.9 million has been allocated for new firefighting vehicles, as well as a continued $1 million allocation to fund equipment needs to assist communities. With the addition of a new Provincial Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit to acknowledge the commitment of the men and women in the volunteer fire service, the Provincial Government has allocated more than $6 million towards the municipal fire service this year.
On June 20th, another release squeaked out the individual dollar amount for Carmanville's fire truck, but every subsequent firetruckiness release, starting with a dual jobby on June 30th, have omitted the invidual costs of any given fire truck funding.

How very odd.

Odder still, when you consider that Kevin O'Brien's shop are still cranking out individual dollar amounts for the much-smaller funding rollouts for more basic pieces of firefighting kit, like this, this, this, or this.

Why, it's almost as if they are as thin-skinned as ever.

Labels: ,

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Petermania (XXVI): White, white bay

If you didn't see the Petermann Ice Island off Labrador or St. Anthony this summer, there's still time. The diminished, but still large, ice chunks are now scattered about Newfoundland's Baie Verte peninsula and White Bay. The detritus of smaller bergs litters the water for miles around, as shown in today's Terra image:

Source image: NASA/GSFC, Rapid Response


Saturday, September 03, 2011

For David Campbell

Re this. Twelve-month trailing averages of total private-sector employment and self-employment in New Brunswick (1000s):
And in Canada as a whole:
Data source: Statistics Canada Table 282-0011.

Labels: ,

Friday, September 02, 2011

Fact-check in aisle three

Today's Tellytorial checks the numbers, and this corner graphs them.

Here are the total number of spending announcements counted by the Tellytorialist for each week of August, for each year, under WilliamsGovernment (light blue) and Dunderdale2011 (dark blue):

For the record, the "late" budget in 2011, the ostensible reason for the flurry of (re-)announcements in August, was on an earlier date than the budgets of both 2007 and 2008.

Labels: ,

Thursday, September 01, 2011


My, but the Williams Government Provincial Government Dunderdale2011s have been doling out the cash, what?

Now, of course, this has nothing to do with any impending election. (Nothing could be further from the truth.) Instead, it's all for a noble purpose:

“The business of governing the province cannot be stalled for a lengthy time period just because of a fixed election date. And it is completely appropriate that our government inform residents of how public moneys are being spent.”
The Word of Our Kath. And, of course, this is just the normal course of government business, nothing to do with the election, a point easily proven by going back and looking at press releases from the same time last year. Right?

Herewith, a Pretty Chart showing the amount of funding announced by Ministers AND local MHAs, by week (the dates are for the Monday), over the course of the summer.

Funding announced without the involvement of a local MHA is not even considered in this chart; only the crassest local politicking informing residents of how public moneys are being spent is included. Funding where, by nature of the announcement, there is no local MHA to give credit to, or where the local MHA, for mysterious reasons, was shut out from credit, is omitted for the purpose of this exercise.

Where funding announcements involved contributions by other orders of government, only the Williams Provincial Dunderdale2011 contribution is included in the total.

Yes, that's over an $80-million week which ended on Wednesday, capping off a summer of $211-million worth of announcements for hard-working local PC MHAs, not to mention the further adventurers in regional and pan-provincial Happy Money doled out by Ministers alone.

So sad for the Dunderdale2011's self-imposed deadline of the end of August to shovel all the money out the door; imagine how high the bar could have gone if the press releases were still rolling out until Friday.

So that's it now. Well, of course, barring those wink-wink nudge-nudge "unforeseen circumstances."