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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Not fit for it

On April 3rd, a provincial cabinet minister is reported to have told the VOCM radio audience, "the opposition has its say, then the government gets its way."

Pithy. Rhyming. Mostly true, in a majority government situation.

And utterly arrogant.

But don't think for one second that this sorry lot have yet reached the heights (or depths) of their hubris.

Not with sorry cases like the MHA for Terra Nova.

And certainly not after the disgusting display on Thursday by that legend in his own mind, Jerome Kennedy, who had the following exchange with NDP leader Lorraine Michael:
MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, legislative standing committees are an integral piece of the democratic puzzle in every province in this country, every province except Newfoundland and Labrador. Hundreds are describing our Legislature as immature and most agree using standing committees would lead to better public policy.
Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she direct the House of Assembly Resource Standing Committee to study Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls project proposal?
MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
What we have is a province with a population of 500,000 people. We have forty-eight members who are all equipped to do their job. As a government, we are elected to govern, Mr. Speaker. It is a Cabinet appointed by the Premier. We will make the decisions in relation to such things as affect our people on a daily basis.
The Committees that we have in place, Mr. Speaker, review the Estimates. They can ask questions. I say to the Leader of the Third Party: If you want to govern, get elected.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
Kennedy, in all his typical hubristic glory, is here arguing for cabinet government by fiat, independent, it seems, of the "forty-eight members who are all equipped to do their job." Whatever that job is; at least on the government side of the aisle, the job consists mainly of being the first, loudest, and last to pound the desk at every minister's every vacuous question period answer.

"If you want to govern," Kennedy, reputed to be a lawyer admitted to the bar of at least one province of Canada, "get elected."

Sound advice in one sense. Utterly arrogant coming from that mouth.

Besides the desk-pounding, MHAs are elected as advocates for their district, whether in government or in opposition.

But MHAs, both in government and in opposition, at least in healthy, functional legislatures, in healthy, functional parliamentary democracies, have an important oversight function.

Indeed, cabinet is dependent on the confidence of the legislature for its authority to govern, moral, political, and constitutional.

What Kennedy is arguing here — and there is every indication that this is the self-appointed theory of government now adopted by the arrogant Progressive Conservatives of Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale — is nothing less than the very repudiation of Responsible Government.

You know, that thing that Ambrose Shea, John Kent, Philip Little, Robert John Parsons, Bishop Mullock, and others agitated for, and won, a century and a half ago.

That thing that so many Newfoundlanders mourned the loss of in 1934, and formed a political party, a "league" — what the devil was its name? — which campaigned for its return in the 1940s.

Bosc and O'Brien, write of the Canadian House of Commons, though the same principle applies throughout the Westminster world:
In terms of ministerial responsibility, Ministers have both individual and collective responsibilities to Parliament. The individual or personal responsibility of the Minister derives from a time when in practice and not just in theory the Crown governed; Ministers merely advised the Sovereign and were responsible to the Sovereign for their advice. The principle of individual ministerial responsibility holds that Ministers are accountable not only for their own actions as department heads, but also for the actions of their subordinates; individual ministerial responsibility provides the basis for accountability throughout the system. Virtually all departmental activity is carried out in the name of a Minister who, in turn, is responsible to Parliament for those acts. Ministers exercise power and are constitutionally responsible for the provision and conduct of government; Parliament holds them personally responsible for it.
This is no trifling thing. It is one of the cornerstones of the constitutions of Canada and the provinces. And it is something that Jerome Kennedy dismisses with his usual snide sarcasm and arrogance.

To top it all off, Kennedy, for some bizarre reason best left asked of him, resorts to some population justification: "What we have is a province with a population of 500,000 people."

Prince Edward Island is a province of 130,000 people. It has a healthier legislative committee system than the province across the Gulf of St. Lawrence whose sad-sack cabinet contains Jerome Kennedy.

Nunavut and Yukon are territories, each with a population roughly similar to that of Labrador; the North West Territories is somewhat larger. Each territorial assembly, creatures mainly of federal statute, has a healthier committee system than the sad-sack House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, a stand-alone and fully autonomous institution whose ancestry goes back 180 years.

In fact, there are many politically active people in the three territories who would jump at the chance for their territory to have the same constitutional footing — an autonomous crown, responsible government — that Kennedy is wishing away.

Jerome Kennedy is not fit to be a cabinet minister in a responsible parliamentary government.

He is not fit to be an elected legislator in a Westminster parliamentary democracy.

Jerome Kennedy is simply not fit. He should be ashamed of himself. But he isn't.

And he won't be.

Jerome Kennedy, like the other charter members of the hubris caucus within his party, is a disgrace.

He is disgraceful — just like the institutions to which he holds membership have allowed themselves to become.

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before

Finance Minister Tom Marshall has a hilarious sense of humour, telling the CBC's Rob Antle:
The next review — called a “core mandate analysis” — will be part of a decade-long process to get the province’s books in order, according to Finance Minister Tom Marshall.
“We have to know that our spending is going to get down to a level [where] our spending is going to be sustainable,” Marshall said.
Ever-so-modestly, a government that is constitutionally bound to a five-year term, and statutorily bound to a four-year one, starting from last year, is planning ten years in advance.

But wait! There's more!
After months of tough talk about belt-tightening, Marshall defended the relatively light touch. The deficit is expected to be $258.4 million in 2012-13.
“We could have done it in one year,” he told reporters Tuesday morning, before delivering his budget speech. “We could have cut $258 million, and cut a lot of jobs. We decided that we’re not doing it in one or two years. We decided that we’re going to have a 10-year plan and that we’re going to get where we have to be over that time.”


Marshall indicated that some savings could be realized through attrition. He noted that 24 per cent of the core civil service will be eligible to retire over the next five years. Other workers, he said, will depart of their own accord for the private sector.
Attrition... a quarter of the civil service... where have we heard that before?

Right! In the 2003 platform that Marshall and Whatsername and Whatisname before her were all elected under, which pledged:
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.
Of course, this was the same 2003 Bull Sheet that promised:
In order to stabilize government's fiscal position, a Progressive Conservative government proposes the following policies:
  • Keeping real program spending constant by limiting the annual growth in spending to the anticipated growth in inflation. New needs that arise will be accommodated within this budget constraint.
Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hoo, boy. Good one!

Antle saved the best of Marshall's humour for last, though:
“Obviously, our 10-year plan will recalibrate from time to time,” he said.
Translation: “Just like every one of our other 'plans' and 'strategies', we will continue to re-package the things government intends to do anyway, call it a 'plan' or a 'strategy', or maybe a 'strategic plan', and still make it all up as we go along (on a go-forward basis, naturally)”.



Monday, April 23, 2012

Hubris, the sequel

By way of Terra Nova MHA [insert name here], Exhibit 2,766 in the case for Governments Defeat Themselves:

Full-text: the [Muskrat Falls] dev was a huge part of our govt's platform. The electorate spoke (loudly) in Oct Brad and you &others should respect that


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Someone get Doc Keefe a math

St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, like any good Townie Tory Newfoundland Nationalist, has never let the facts get in the way of a good myth, and isn’t about to start doing so now.

He tells the CBC’s Ramona Dearing, in the top-of-Crosstalk banter:

There’s no doubt in my mind that over the years we have never, ever been treated fairly when it comes to federal employment in this province. I was told recently that on a per-capita basis we are number last when it comes to federal employment in Canada.

In 2011, the federal public service presence in Newfoundland and Labrador averaged 7442. (Averaged, because it fluctuates from month to month.) The total provincial population in the July estimate was 510,578. The per-capita federal civil service presence – you can repeat the basic arithmetic at home – works out to 1.5%.

Only Nova Scotia (2.6%), PEI (2.57%) and New Brunswick (2.2%) had higher per-capita federal employment. Newfoundland and Labrador is not only NOT “number last” in this regard, the province has a larger per-capita federal civil service presence than Ontario or Quebec or any other province that isn’t a capital-M Maritime one.

Moreover, the metropolitan St. John’s area, with about 38% of the provincial population, was home to over 5000 of those federal civil servants when Statscan measured civil service presence by metropolitan area in September 2011. That works out to 2/3 of the total federal employees in the province. (St. John’s also has at least 70% of the direct provincial government civil service work-force, in case any mayors who aren’t named Dennis O’Keefe are counting.)

Among its urban peers, the St. John’s metro area has a per-capita federal civil service presence of 2.6%, which places it fifth among the 33 Census Metropolitan Areas in the country. Only Ottawa-Gatineau (10.8%), Halifax (4.3%), Kingston (4.3%), and Victoria (2.9%) have a larger per-capita federal civil service presence than St. John’s.

Data sources: Statistics Canada CANSIM Tables 183-0002, 183-0003 (government employment); 051-0001 (provincial population), 051-0046 (population of Census Metropolitan Areas.)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A matter of perception

A very clever and topical sight-gag, via the Facebox, created by Stacy Clarke of Port Hope Simpson:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Democracy #fail

The Foundation for Democratic Advancement studies the electoral finance laws of all ten provinces, and comes up with some brutal conclusions [emphasis added]:
Based on the FDA scoring scale (see Conclusion section), Newfoundland and Labrador received an unsatisfactory score of 51.3 percent. This score means that Newfoundland and Labrador has numerous deficiencies in its electoral finance legislation and borders on a failed democratic state. The FDA believes that this legislation is not working in the interests of the majority in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Although there is electoral finance transparency and campaign expenditure limits, Newfoundland and Labrador does not limit contribution amounts, offer public subsidies, or regulate third parties. It allows contributions from corporations and trade unions and imposes minimal penalties for electoral misconduct. The FDA believes that the shortcomings in these areas could undermine a fair and democratic election process in Newfoundland and Labrador. Candidate and party funds might not reflect popular support due to a lack of caps on contributions and allowance for corporate contributions. The absence of third party regulations might allow for wealthy segments of society to have a disproportionate influence on election outcomes.
(Radio-Canada account; full report available here)


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Step three: profit!

Just in time for Titanic Week, a couple of articles from Ye Olde Memory Hole. And no, this was far from the craziest idea in Newfoundland history, or even in the Peckford era.

First, from a CP wire story which appeared in the May 21, 1981 edition of the Ottawa Citizen:
Peckford eyeing Titanic

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. (CP) Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford, who has already laid claim to offshore oil and gas resources, is now eyeing the remains of the Titanic, which lie far down on the ocean floor somewhere on the Grand Banks.

Peckford apparently thinks the Titanic, which sank when it hit an iceberg off Newfoundland on April 14, 1912, with the loss of nearly 1,600 lives, could be a tourist attraction if plans to refloat the vessel ever succeed.

The matter was brought up during the legislature's question period Tuesday by Steve Neary (L - La Poile).

Is the Newfoundland government going to lay claim to this valuable tourist resource?" Neary asked the premier.

Peckford quickly replied the government is carrying out research on the matter.

"(The government) intends to make sure of every single possibility of development we can get our hands on. We will never overlook the Titanic nor every last microscopic opportunity for the benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador," Peckford said.
And wire copy from the July 15, 1981 edition of the Montreal Gazette:
Nfld. wants share of 'Titanic' riches

St. John's – Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford said yesterday his government wants to "work something out" with explorers seeking the Titanic to decide who can claim the fortune in gold and jewels believed to be aboard the sunken luxury liner.

A group of American adventurers, headed by Texas oilman Jack Grimm, dropped underwater cameras into the frigid north Atlantic yesterday to determine whether a 500-ton metal fragment lying on the ocean floor might be part of the sunken ship, lost since 1912.

While explorers have been searching off the Newfoundland coast, Peckford said, his government has decided the province, too, has some claim to the vessel.

Peckford said the explorers would have a legitimate claim on the ship if they successfully discovered it, "but in the legal constitutional context, we do have some claim as well."

"We will allow those people, who have all the interest and all that money, to raise the vessel, and then we'll sit down with them and work out some arrangement for its use and for the wealth that may come from it."

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Bows have it

During Question Period in the Bow-Wow Parliament last Thursday the Speaker recognized an opposition member, let him ask his question, and then, before the government could, or would answer the question, the sad-sack Speaker of possibly the saddest legislature in the Westminster world called an end to Question Period:
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John's North.

MR. KIRBY: Mr. Speaker, this government has said it will phase out the student loan program and replace it with a needs-based grant. The government needs to start this soon, Mr. Speaker, because if the transition does not happen soon, the greater the burden will be to the public treasury down the road.

Can the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills assure us today, Mr. Speaker, that government will not stall on this commitment and will begin to phase in the new grant program for the upcoming academic year?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Unfortunately, the time for Question Period has expired.


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
Almost instant update: Again on Monday.


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Dannyism dies

A moment of silence for one of the cardinal tenets of Dannyism. From Monday's Question Period in the Bow-Wow Parliament:

MR. BENNETT: Mr. Speaker, in response to the Premier’s 2011 election letter to Mr. Harper, the Prime Minister committed to introduce legislation in its first sitting this year to give our Province a formal role in the management of the fisheries.

I ask the Premier: What initiative have you taken to ensure that the federal government lives up to that commitment?

MR. KING: Mr. Speaker, for those watching at home and in the galleries, I hope you are paying attention to the line of questioning. It was about two questions ago the member opposite suggested that this government have responsibility for managing the fisheries. He just acknowledged in the last question that he does understand, in fact, that the federal government has responsibility for managing the fishery. I say to the member opposite: At least be forthright and share with people who has complete jurisdiction and responsibility, if you are going to talk about fisheries and put questions in this House that are very important to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that we continue to engage with processors, harvesters, and all who have a stake in the fishing industry. If there is one thing that this government will do, Mr. Speaker, is we will fight until our dying days to make sure that the interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and those who make a living from the sea, are protected.