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

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Apology and retraction

On February 29th, Telegram columnist Peter Jackson published a piece entitled "The percolated jumping frog of Dunderdale county".

In response, this corner published a posting entitled "Name game".

Since April 24th, the Dunderdale Government has issued at least 21 press releases containing the phrase "Dunderdale Government", almost half of which start with the phrase "The Dunderdale Government...".

All nineteen such press releases issued since July 27th have been put out by the Hon. Kevin O'Brien, Minister of Whatever Kevin O'Brien is Minister Of.

I hereby retract said posting of February 29th (though it will be retained for posterity) and apologize whole-heartedly and without reservation to Mr. Jackson.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

149 + 29 = 244

On Friday, the opposition Liberals released a heavily-redacted copy of a report entitled “Job Evaluation Systems Project”, obtained under the provincial Access to Information Act. (Big PDF file here.)

A typical page of the report looks like this one (selected at random):

The blacked-out bits are the redactions, passages that the responding department felt justified to exclude from the document release based on one or more provisions of the Act. Those provisions are cited in the little call-out boxes. In this case, all of the redactions were justified on the basis of s. 24(1)(c) through (e) of the Act.

In total, there were 227 instances where one or more paragraphs of one particular sub-section of the Act were cited to justify one or more redactions of material in the release. (Some citations applied to multiple blocks of blacked-out text.)

There are 149 pages in the document. Some of them consist of the single word, “Deloitte”.

That very popular sub-section is 24(1).

Sub-section 24(1) of the Act, as amended, was legislated in June as part of Bill 29.

There are a further 13 redactions which are justified on the basis of ss. 20(1) of the Act.

Sub-section 20(1) of the Act, as amended, was legislated as part of Bill 29.

There are another three redactions justified on the basis of s. 18 of the Act, as amended.

You guessed it: s. 18 was repealed and replaced with an entirely new section as part of Bill 29.

There do not seem to be any other sections of the Act cited as justification for any other redactions, and no section which has survived unamended from pre-Bill 29 days.

There is one redaction on p. 138 which is not attributed to any provision of the Act.

With that one possible exception, every single one of the 244+ redactions, in a 149-page document – including, in many cases, redactions to section tables of contents – is justified on the basis of one or more provisions of Bill 29.




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Thursday, November 15, 2012


The PC Party’s Tommy Williams, whoever that is, speaking of The Party’s fundraising efforts, tells the CBC:

"We obviously have a corporate campaign, and we have an annual golf tournament. But this is our big event on an annual basis."


This chart shows PC Party central regular fundraising totals from 1996 to 2010. It does not include election-period fundraising for the central party (hence the apparent "dip" in 2007, when fundraising was directed towards the campaign), nor writ-period fundraising by general- and by-election candidates. It also doesn’t include the PC Party’s heavily ramped-up district association fundraising, nor any putative leadership candidate fundraising. Fundraising and spending by both of those types of party machines fall outside the ambit of Newfoundland and Labrador’s anemic electoral law.

The pale, small column represent donations from persons, while the darker, larger columns are donations from businesses and corporations.

The figures for 2011 are in ghosty colours because, with 47 days left to go before 2012 becomes 2013, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has still not published the annual and campaign finance disclosures for 2011.

Corporate campaign?


That, or one hell of a golf tournament.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brave new world

A fascinating tale of access to information in the post-Bill 29 universe is told in Wednesday's Tellytorial:
...[H]ere’s the results of a request The Telegram made for the financial rationale behind the budgetary decision to spend $765,000 on the remediation of abandoned mines, including money to clean up the former Gullbridge copper mine site near South Brook. A simple request, really — but under the new rules, nothing is simple.

The cover letter that came with the released information sounds hopeful enough: “… (W)e have severed information that is excepted from disclosure and have provided you with as much information as possible.” The information, however, is sadly lacking.

To put the finest point possible on it, “as much information as possible” is now virtually no information.

Between the broadened exemptions for cabinet secrets, policy advice and claims that the information requested would harm “the financial/economic interests of a public body,” the new, Dunderdale-repaired legislation has completely neutered any response.

It’s almost comedic: the first page of information is a one-line email that reads “Hope this makes sense.” Everything after that sentence in the email is blacked out.


To add insult to injury, the information on the mine mess was requested on May 11. It was finally sent to The Telegram on Nov. 9. Six months to release 55 blank pages. Stellar work, folks.
[Emphasis added.]


Assume, at least for argument's sake, that the Telegram is rightfully aggrieved in attributing the lack of information in the release to Bill 29.

Bill 29 contains the following important transitional provision:

34. (1) Where, on the coming into force of this Act, a public body, the commissioner or a judge has begun to consider, review or decide on a matter but has not completed the consideration or review or made a decision on it, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as it existed before the coming into force of this Act shall apply to that consideration, review or decision.
Bill 29 did not come into force until June 27th.

Bill 29 was not even introduced at first reading until June 11th.

So, if the Telegram filed its request on May 11th, and if any of the extensive redactions are justified by the respondent department on the basis of Bill 29 amendments to the Act, the necessary and obvious consequence is that the respondent department either delayed "consideration" of the request for six weeks, for no obviously good reason other than to punt it into the post-Bill 29 era, or it began "consideration" in a timely manner, sometime before June 27th, but, gleefully ignoring s. 34 of Bill 29, broke the law by treating it as a post-June 27th request.   Which is it?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012


It would appear that "get it done"/"get on with it" — alternatively "get 'er done" — is an official talking point which someone on the Eighth Floor imagined is a persuasive argument in favour of Muskrat Falls; a talking point which is circulated to assorted Tory shills to spout where and whenever occasion demands it.

Like here, where at least fifteen totally spontaneous commenters use some variant of the line, including this commenter:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Case study

Here's an interesting case study in the growth of corporate money in local campaign financing in Newfoundland and Labrador provincial politics.

This chart shows the total amount collected in business (dark) and personal (pale) donations to Roger Fitzgerald, former PC MHA for Bonavista South.

In 1996, Fitzgerald raised more from individuals for his local campaign than he did from companies. About 43% of his total was company money. Three years later, the proportion was essentially flipped, with 56% of his enlarged local campaign kitty coming from business sources. (There was also a $1000 contribution from the IBEW that year, the only reported union donation of his electoral career.)

In 2003, the year the government changed hands, his corporate contributions topped out over $11,000, and accounted for 86% of his total intake. And in 2007, business donations accounted for 94% of his campaign war chest. But for a single personal donation of $500, from an out-of-towner, not a local,* it would have been 100%.

The 2007 corporate share is made all the more remarkable by the likely reason the total fell off compared to 2003: in 2007, Roger Fitzgerald was elected by acclamation.

Fitzgerald did not re-offer for election in 2011.

For comparative purposes, here's the chart updated and asterisked to include the campaign financials of his successor as candidate and MHA, Glen Little:

* A Townie named John Crosbie.


Sunday, November 04, 2012

Big money

This chart shows the growth in business' investment in democracy in Newfoundland and Labrador since the introduction of somewhat modern campaign finance disclosure rules in 1996.

Corporate donations to the Liberals and Progressive Conservative's local candidate campaigns in each general election are shown in dark shades of the respective party colours. For comparative purposes, personal donations are also shown.

The dollar-value totals are the total amount of each class of donation to each party, divided by the number of districts in which the party fielded candidates. For example, in 2011, the average PC candidate pulled in over $13,000 in donations from corporate sources. (Contributions to the NDP, other parties, and independent candidates, and union or other classes of contributions, are excluded from discussion here.)

Two obvious observations jump out.

First, the extent to which business supporters of democracy back the winner, and back the winner more and more with each election.

And second, with the very slight exception of the Tories in 2003, the utterly anemic state of both of these parties' fundraising from their grassroots, flesh-and-blood natural-person supporters.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

Election footnote

Without so much as a tweet, Elections NL has quietly posted the financial contribution disclosures of candidates in the October 2011 provincial general election, a mere 55 weeks after the electoral event itself.

The reports on election and regular 2011 contributions to the parties themselves, as distinct from the candidates, are still wanting.

Some quick observations (most amounts rounded to the nearest thousand; subject to slight errors and corrections in the original Excel spreadsheet which generated all this numbery goodness):
  • Candidates for all three parties collectively raised more money in 2011 than 2007. Liberal candidates raised $282,000 (up 23%) and PC candidates a whopping $811,000 (up 24%) during the campaign. The NDP, however, with the lowest total ($123,000) was more than tripled its candidate fundraising total from four years before.
  • From all sources, the average PC candidate raised almost $17,000, the average Liberal $7000, and the average Dipper $3200. Nine of the top ten local campaigns were Tories, with Tom Marshall ($55,000), Jerome Kennedy ($41,000), Shawn Skinner ($37,000), Derrick Dalley ($35,000) and Kevin Parsons ($32,000) leading the pack. The top Liberals, in tenth and eleventh spot among all candidates, were Dwight Ball ($26,000) and Wayne Morris ($25,000). The top NDP candidate was Gerry Rogers in St. John's Centre ($14,000). By defeating Shawn Skinner, she gave him the honour of being the best-financed losing candidate in the election. At the other end of the spectrum, Christopher Mitchelmore only raised $500, in one union donation, but won his seat.
  • $634,000 of the PC candidates' total came from business donors, or more than 78% of their total funds raised, and more than 52% of all money, from all sources, to all election candidates. This beats the previous record of 76.9% set by Liberal candidates in 1999. Business donors were more generous to the Liberals this time around than they were in 2007, up from $134,000 to $173,000. Business donors contributed just $12,000 to the NDP.
  • Eleven candidates — Tories all — each fundraised more than $20,000 from business donors.
  • For the record, these were Tom Marshall ($47,250), Shawn Skinner ($29,025), Kathy Dunderdale ($27,950), Jerome Kennedy ($27,600), Ross Wiseman ($26,250), Derrick Dalley ($24,950), Kevin Parsons ($23,500), Steve Kent ($22,975), Keith Russell ($22,200), Darin King ($20,300), and Susan Sullivan ($20,246).
  • In fact, 33 of 48 PC candidates took in at least $10,000 from business donors, compared to just five Liberals and no NDP candidates. The top Liberal business fundraisers were Wayne Morris in Grand Falls-Windsor–Buchans ($19,084) and Dwight Ball ($16,925).
  • Personal donations accounted for just 21.2% of PC candidates' revenues. The personal contribution amount was up slightly to $172,000 (from $160,000 in 2007), but personal donations to the PCs continue to slide as a share of their total, as it has in every election since 1996. For the first time since 1999, personal donations to the PCs represented a plurality of all personal donations to all candidates — 49%, vs 31% for the Liberal candidates and 20% for the Dippers.
  • Personal donations to the Liberals rose from $91,000 in 2007 to $107,000 in 2011, and was virtually unchanged as a share of Liberal candidates' intake (39%, down from 40%).
  • The NDP was the big gainer in the personal donations sweeps, up to almost $72,000 from just $17,000 in 2007. In fact, individual donations to the NDP in 2011 were more than in the previous four elections combined. Individual donations to the NDP, at 20% of the total personal donations, was that party's highest on record, never having hit a double-digit share in any previous election.
  • In terms of personal donations, Tory Jerome Kennedy was top fundraiser, with $13,000, followed notionally by Liberal Sheila Miller in Virginia Waters, Dipper Gerry Rogers in St. John's Centre, and Liberal Marshall Dean on the Northern Peninsula. However, putting an asterisk besides the two Liberals (see below) Tories Derrick Dalley ($10,000) and Kevin Parsons ($8800) round out the top tier of personal fundraising.
  • The average business contribution to the Tories was $591, compared to the $478 for the Liberals. The average personal contribution to the Liberals was almost identical, at $476, compared to $361 for the Tory candidates and $306 for the NDP.
  • NDP candidates, as is customary, also took almost all of the union contributions, nearly $39,000 from unions, union locals, and other labour organizations. A Liberal received $500, and a PC $1000 in single union donations.
  • That is, of course, unless you count the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association as a union: it also donated $1000 to former RNC officer Paul Davis in Topsail, carrying on the RNC's proud tradition of supporting democracy as long as it comes in blue.
In other eyebrow-raising entries:
  • The Bell Island Sports Hall of Fame gave $200 to Tory David Brazil.
  •  Numbered companies gave $21,000 to PC candidates. (Another $3350 went to Liberal candidates.)  
  • The largest personal donations were each $10,000 — William Tapper to Liberal Sheila Miller in Virginia Waters, and Dean Marshall to himself in the Straits and White Bay North. (They both lost.)
  • The largest corporate donations were $7700 from the Windsor Pharmacy to Liberal Wayne Morris in Grand Falls-Windsor–Buchans and $7500 from Coleman Management to Tory Tom Marshall in Humber East.
  • The largest personal NDP donation was Alex Saunders' $5000 to himself in Torngat Mountains.
  • The NDP received four union donations of $4,000 in four separately-booked contributions from CUPE.
  • At least fifteen NDP candidates, eight Liberals, and three Tories donated to themselves, as did the one independent (John Baird) with declared contributions.
  • The Corner Brook Port Corporation gave $500 to each of the three Tory candidates in metropolitan Corner Brook, and nothing to anyone else.
  • The Conne River Indian Band gave $1500 to Tory Tracey Perry, and nothing to anyone else.
  • Kurtis Coombs, running for the NDP in Mount Pearl North, donated $5793.02 to himself.
  • John and/or Judy Risley of Bedford, NS, made two contributions totalling $5,000 to the two Tory candidates on the Burin Peninsula.
  • Tory campaign manager, and revolving-door patronage appointee Len Simms contributed to two Tory campaigns, Susan Sullivan's successful one, and Selma Pike's differently-successful one.
  • Ellsworth Estates Inc. made contributions totalling $4750 to eleven candidates, all Tories, all but one in the metro St. John's region.
  • Emera of Halifax, NS, gave $1200 to Shawn Skinner, Tory candidate, and, as it turned out, outgoing Minister of Natural Resources. (Also the Mastermind of Muskrat Falls, for the record.)
  • One Sandra Pupatello of Windsor, Ontario, donated $250 to a Liberal candidate.
  • One Daniel Williams gave a single donation of $500 to Tory Kevin Parsons in Cape St. Francis.