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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Your open and transparent government at work

Paving season officially started on Friday. This press release was the starting gun:
Road work is scheduled for the districts of Trinity North and Bellevue this summer as the Department of Transportation and Works rolls out its annual Provincial Roads Improvement Program.

“This government is committed to maintaining our more than 9, 000 kilometres of provincial roads to a high standard,” said the Honourable Tom Hedderson, Minister of Transportation and Works. “Our Provincial Roads Improvement Program ensures the quality of our highways every year by making priority maintenance and improvements possible.”

The department is set to call a tender for the rehabilitation and repaving of sections of Route 204 between Long Beach and Butter Cove. A tender will also be called for the realignment of the intersection of Arnold’s Cove Road and Refinery Road.

“I am pleased to see this work happening in our region,” said Calvin Peach, MHA for Bellevue. “Every improvement we make to our highway system enhances our overall network of roads.”
Conspicuously absent?

Any mention of the dollar value of the work to be done in Trinity North and Bellevue.

Stung with (entirely true) accusations that highways work was being doled out under partisan electoral considerations rather than highways engineering ones, in 2009 Danny Williams-Government simply stopped releasing the figures, and even either stopped keeping them, or, if kept, started denying that such records exist.

This is a practice which Kathy Dunderdale and her gormless cabinet have inherited holus-bolus. They almost seem proud of their opacity.

Which makes it almost hysterical, Mr. Speaker, if your sense of humour bends that way, Mr. Speaker, to hear Kathy Dunderdale say, Mr. Speaker, as she told the House of Assembly the other week:
Mr. Speaker, anybody who is concerned about access to information and the practice of this government only has to compare it to the kind of access to information former Administrations had for the people of this Province. Mr. Speaker, it was little or nothing. There is more information available to the people of the Province now, Mr. Speaker, than ever before in our history.


Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with people having access to information. The more information you can provide to people, Mr. Speaker, the better informed they are, the better they understand your rationale for doing certain things. Mr. Speaker, it also requires when you are in governance that in the best interest of good governance and good stewardship that you moderate some types of information as far as making them available to the public.

This government is more open, provides more information, Mr. Speaker, than any government in the history of our Province. We are very proud of that, Mr. Speaker. 

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On the office of Lieutenant-Governor

You have to be neutral and not give opinions about public, political issues. So that'll be quite a change for me, so I'll have to be very disciplined.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dunderdale Effect

Hey, look: the quarterly demographic estimates are out.

During the first quarter of 2012, interprovincial net outmigration from Newfoundland and Labrador was -1579. That is, nearly 1600 more people left the province for other parts of Canada, than moved in. That's the largest net outmigration since the same quarter in 2007, which was about the time #FormerPremier was boasting about all the people he'd meet at the only airport in Newfoundland, moving home for something or another.

The absolute out-migration figure (gross, not net) is even more striking: 4120 people moved away in the first three months of the year. That was the largest absolute quarterly out-migration since 1998 — which coincided with the end of the TAGS program.

Any second now, the same Tories and gullible media types who believed so fervently in a "Williams Effect", will naturally ascribe these demographic trends, personally, to the current First Minister.



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

High time

It’s high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else’s treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of our province.
I think 20, 30 years from now there’ll be any number of mines up there, generating billions of dollars of tax revenue that’ll benefit mostly the island. That’s where everybody lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. So that’s schools, hospitals, roads, you name it.
Whatever became of that nice Danny Williams, anyway?

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Words of wisdom

Guess who?

Select the text at bottom for your answer.

"Unsupportable refusals to release information and delays in responding to requests for access are particularly frustrating to applicants as well as to this Office. This being said, it is of significant comfort to acknowledge that there is a sustained effort under way by government through the ATIPP Office in the Department of Justice to train public bodies in their obligations under the ATIPPA, especially as it relates to the timeframes for notification and action. The government’s ATIPPA Policy and Procedures Manual is an integral part of the ongoing training program. This Office has and will continue to work with government in this effort.
It is noted here that public bodies often express resentment that they too often receive requests for information that they would call repetitive, trivial or even vexatious. They argue that knowing how much a minister or a CEO spends on hotel bills and meals doesn’t do anything to promote good public policy, or that requesting copies of thousands of e-mails leading up to a dismissal of an employee does nothing to further the mandate or efficiency of an agency or municipality. Whether these assertions are correct or not, the fact is that in the grand scheme of things, requests for records which may seem petty to some, may be a serious issue for certain citizens whose right to make a request is protected by the ATIPPA. The legislation does not provide for or allow this Office to pick and choose whether an access request is important, useful or frivolous. Referring back to the above examples, politicians who appreciate that their expenses may become public might be a little more conscious of thrift when traveling, while public bodies preparing to dismiss an employee may be a little more sensitive and professional in their human resources practices.
The bottom line is that it is inevitable that the public’s recourse to access laws will likely grow. Whether they are policy, financial, economic, political or personal, issues are becoming more and more complex and the public is becoming more questioning. The right to demand access to such information, even if it seems trivial or unimportant to all but the requester, is still paramount in that process."


Edward P. Ring
Information and Privacy Commissioner
Annual Report, 2008-2009


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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Visual metaphor


It can happen to you

From: [PERSON]
To: [me]
Sent: Monday, January 19, 2009 8:54:01 AM
Subject: RE: ATIPPA Practice


You ask if the requests are anonymized by the Coordinator. Our Office takes the position that, pursuant to section 39(2) of the ATIPPA, the disclosure of the personal information of the Applicant should be limited to the minimum amount necessary to respond to the access request. Therefore, the request should be anonymized and every effort should be made to protect the privacy of the Applicant.

You ask other than in the case of a request for an Applicant's personal information, why would the public body or anyone need to know the identity of the applicant. It seems to me that it would be only those cases where there is a request for the applicant's personal information that the name would be need to be disclosed.

In relation to the further guidelines on what constitutes a "need to know", our Office would be guided by the wording of section 39(2):
(2) The disclosure of personal information by a public body shall be limited to the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the purpose for which it is disclosed.
At present, our Office does not keep statistics on how often the identity of requesters is released to the public body.

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How did Paul Lane access this information?

From the Twitters this morning:

@drewfoundland @stephenkent have any of you been able to provide an actual definition or example of what constitutes 'frivolous or vexatious' yet, or...?

@PaulLaneNL @drewfoundland. Mitchelmore asked for same info 14 times

@mark_watton @PaulLaneNL how would you know that? Are Access requests passed around the caucus table?

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

The reviews are in

Lake Melville PC MHA Keith Russell goes on VOCM to defend the indefensible:

The Facebook reviews, from some of his own constituents, are, um, colourful:
I threw up in my hand when I was listening to Keith. Shameful, and I helped put him there. Shame on me!

Alot of politicians went on that day after i heard Keith i went on the show and told Randy Simms that all the politicians are scared because they passed this bill and did what they wanted not what their constituents wanted them to do.The constituents have voiced through the media that they didn't want this bill but the politicians didn't listen. I said let me tell you Randy that we could go right now to a ellection and all the PC Government would loose !!! I said i would like to know if something was done wrong and would like to be able to access that info but with the new FOI act i wont be able to do that.

Me arsehole got more sense and purpose. You're full of it Keith! How dare you???? Come on election!!! Get these aresholes out of office. They certainly do not represent me!!!! Good job Randy! We are slowly losing our basic rights! This is not progress! "Strengthen the legislation?""""" Yes By'. For whom????? KD's puppet. Saving his political ass, which is lost in the general population. You are gone Keith!!!! Focus, Keith! Your government has no focus; not for whom you are in power for. Your focus is purely to save your asses. Is that good governing?????

I just hope the voters have a long memory...3 1/2 years of this left yet!

Imagine, I voted him in twice with Nunatsiavut and once with Provincial because I thought he was a strong voice for us...boy did he make a fool out of me..

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Friday, June 15, 2012

October 13, 2015

Let us consider some math.

Imagine, just for fun, that just enough voters migrate from voting PC in 2011, to voting for the runner-up candidate in each PC district, to cause the defeat of that PC incumbent.

The magic figure is 50% + 1 of the PC candidate's winning margin. If the Tory won 4000 to 3000, 501 voters need to change their minds to change the district outcome.

With this notion in mind, here are the first thirteen PC districts which would flip, giving the name of the incumbent, and the number of votes which would need to change hands:

1. Burin–Placentia West, Clyde Jackman: 21
2. Bonavista North, Eli Cross: 103
3. St. John's West, Dan Crummell: 138
4. Lake Melville, Keith Russell: 267
5. Labrador West, Nick McGrath: 332
6. Mount Pearl South, Paul Lane: 351*
7. St. George's–Stephenville East, Joan Burke: 354
8. Baie Verte–Springdale, Kevin Pollard: 364
9. Conception Bay East–Bell Island, David Brazil: 385
10. Grand Falls-Windsor–Green Bay South, Ray Hunter: 484
11. St. John's South, Tom Osborne: 487
12. Gander, Kevin O'Brien: 490
13. Bonavista South, Glen Little: 509

Let us pause for a moment, and consider that at this point, having notionally defeated incumbent Glen Little, the Progressive Conservatives no longer command an outright majority in the House of Assembly.

Shall we continue?

14. Placentia–St. Mary's, Felix Collins: 521
15. Grand Falls-Windsor–Buchans, Susan Sullivan: 709
16. Kilbride, John Dinn: 711
17. Lewisporte, Wade Verge: 732
18. Humber West, Vaughn Granter: 752
19. Cape St. Francis, Kevin Parsons: 755
20. Port de Grave, Glenn Littlejohn: 813
21. Bellevue, Calvin Peach: 825

At this point, having picked off Calvin Peach, the Conservatives are no longer the largest party.

And finally:

22. Port au Port, Tony Cornect: 828
23. Virginia Waters, Kathy Dunderdale: 832

With these two conversions, the PCs become the third-place party.

Onerous task, you might think, knocking off 13, let alone 21, forget 23 incumbent Tory members.

But remember this:

To reduce the Progressive Conservatives to a minority government, would mean flipping 8,549 2011 votes.

To relegate them to the opposition benches outright, would mean flipping 20,174 votes.

Those may sound like big numbers. But they represent, respectively, 2.2% and 5.3% of the total number of eligible provincial electors.

The target is in sight. Fire away.

* Entry corrected from original post

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Kremlinology: ██████ ██ ███████████ edition

On January 26, 2011, hapless Justice Minister Felix Collins released the ominous report of the one-man Cummings Commission, reviewing the Access to Information Act.

On January 31, 2011, Information Commissioner Ed Ring pronounced his pleasure.

On June 11, 2012, Felix Collins tabled the legislation, Bill 29, to amend the Act with a dog's breakfast of bad things that were in the Cummings report, and other bad things which were not.

Later that day, the Information Commissioner said nothing.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012


A fascinating couple of bits of Hansard today in the Bow-Wow Parliament, as Susan Sullivan introduces a bill to regulate tanning, piercing, tattooing, and other such body arts:
MS SULLIVAN: In Canada, a number of provinces have either moved forward with regulating tanning facilities or are considering doing so. Nova Scotia currently has regulations in place to ban tanning for those under nineteen years of age. Nova Scotia also requires tanning bed salons to display mandatory health warning signs. This fall, British Columbia may limit the use of tanning beds to those under eighteen, and Quebec is considering an age restriction as well. As you can see, Mr. Speaker, we are among the top three or four provinces in the country to move forward with this legislation.

MR. S. COLLINS: I am proud to say that, while we are not the first Province to adopt such legislation, we are amongst the first. Only Quebec and Nova Scotia have a law prohibiting people under the age of nineteen from using tanning beds. All other provinces have voluntary guidelines, which we have as of right now. I am happy to say that BC, Ontario, and Manitoba all have legislation in the works. We are not the trailblazer, but we are one of the few, which I think is something to be very proud of.

We have taken essentially a proactive approach with this. Many provinces have not jumped on board yet. There are some in the queue that are trying to get their legislation together as we are doing right now. It is good to see that all the Canadian provinces are moving towards this. If you look on an international level, as was stated earlier, France, the UK, and Australia have similar measures. The entire countries do.
So, when it comes to tanning beds and tongue-piercing, Dundergov will gladly (a) point to the legislative experience of other provinces, (b) boast about being among the first provinces in Canada to legislate in the field, and (c) actually take some legislative action.

But not when it comes to the whistleblower protection that was promised for the first post-election session of House of Futility back in 2007.

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Changing landscape

Taking today's CRA figures at face value, and plugging the vote-intent response into Ol' Betsy the Prognosticator, a uniform change in vote intention across the province would yield the following electoral map (click to enlarge):

Dark colours indicate seats whose notional outcome is unchanged from the October 2011 election. Pale orange and red indicate notional pickups by the NDP or Liberals. Pale blue indicate notional Tory holds by a margin of 10% or less over the runner-up.



From the memory hole, again:



Government subverting right of public access under Freedom of Information Act

ST. JOHN'S, April 5, 2000 — Opposition Justice critic Tom Rideout says the government has embarked on a deliberate policy to subvert the public's right of access, under the Freedom of Information Act, to information in the records of government departments and agencies.

The purpose clause of the Freedom of Information Act states: "The purpose of this Act is to provide a right of access by the public to information in records of departments and to subject that right only to specific and limited exceptions necessary for the operation of departments and for the protection of personal privacy."

In the legislature Wednesday, Rideout said, "That right is being restricted and denied, illegally, at every turn. And, worst of all, the Minister of Justice has been put in charge of government's censorship strategy. Why has the Minister of Justice, the chief law enforcement officer in the land, accepted this unbecoming role? Why has he allowed the Ministry of Justice to become the Ministry of Government Censorship?"

"The Act says, very specifically, that only the minister of a department that receives a request for information can decide to grant or deny the request. It doesn't happen that way anymore. Every minister and deputy minister have been ordered by the Premier to send all requests for information to the Justice Minister's office, and to comply with that minister's decision. That is a violation of the Act. Why is the Minister of Justice, the person in this province who has a sacred obligation to uphold the law, a willing participant in this scheme to circumvent the law and deny citizens their legal rights under the Freedom of Information Act?" he asked.

Rideout said, "Public servants who know what is going on, laugh at the notion that the Justice Minister's instructions are based solely on legal opinion. Lawyers in his department give professional legal opinions, when asked. But the orders the minister gives departments are not based solely on legal opinion, but are politically motivated to deny information, in contravention of the Act, that would embarrass government or expose government misdeeds."

"The Minister of Government Services and Lands knows the Justice Minister is the Censorship Minister. He has, in fact, been censored by the Justice Minister. He told a journalist – after her request for information about buried fuel tanks was denied – that he wanted to release the information, but the Justice Minister wouldn't let him. What gives the Justice Minister the legal right to deny this request? Certainly not the Freedom of Information Act!" Rideout said.

- 30 -

For more information:
Tom Rideout, MHA Lewisporte

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012


From a CP wire story which moved on December 11, 2000:
The Newfoundland government is scrambling to deflect a sudden wave of criticism that has saddled it with a reputation for keeping too many secrets.


Not to be out done, the Conservative's lone leadership candidate, Danny Williams, took aim at his Liberal rivals when he quoted Abraham Lincoln at his leadership rally last week.

"Let the people know the truth, and the country is safe,'' Williams said.

"We will keep the people of this province fully informed at all times. There will be no secret documents. There will be no hidden agenda."
Dear Leader's equally incompetent and hypocritical hand-anointed successor is about to "reform" the provincial Access to Information Act.

This is the funeral service for any pretence that the incompetent and hypocritical Progressive Conservative Party has ever had about being committed to open, transparent, and accountable government.

What a farce.