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

Friday, December 27, 2013

There, I fixed it.

In one teensy weensy nod to competence and accountability, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador have posted the poll-by-poll results of last month's provincial by-election in Carbonear–Harbour Grace. (PDF link.)

Before you get too excited, know that the results are not in machine-readable format, despite having obviously been prepared in one (and that, nearly a month ago.) This corner has remedied this obvious lapse.
Here is the same data, in tab-delimited vanilla PDF, which you can copy and paste into other software:

Meanwhile, as of the close of business today, December 27th, 2013, with only two government working days left before it becomes 2014, there is still no sign of the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador political finance disclosures, nor of the 2011 election-period contributions to political parties, as required by the provincial elections act. (It's probably too much to hope, at this point, that the candidate disclosures for last June's Cartwright–L'Anse au Clair by-election, might also have shown up this calendar year.)


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Hedging their bets

It is an interesting exercise to cross-reference Liberal leader Dwight Ball's leadership finance disclosure against the statutory financial disclosures of provincial political parties and candidates.

Ball receieved donations from a total of 106 different corporate donors, including the separately-accounted golf tournament. They include both large and small business donors, as separate from donations made by individuals (or by the Town of Deer Lake.)

Of the 106, 70 show up on past party or candidate donor lists as published by Elections Newfoundland and Labrador between 1996 and 2011, both years inclusive. For no obviously good reason, with just days to go before 2014, the 2012 political finance disclosures have still not been, um, disclosed.

Those 70 companies have between them made 974 political contributions to parties or candidates over the years, with the lion's share of the total going to either the PC Party or individual PC election and by-election candidates:

Of the 70 companies, thirteen have only ever given to Liberal party or candidates before, and thirteen have only ever given to the PC party or candidates.

Now, it is well-established that corporate Support for Democracy™ in Newfoundland and Labrador, and elsewhere, where it is still legal, tends to follow the party that is in power. Limiting ourselves, then, to the period from 2004 to 2011 inclusive, when the provincial PCs have been in power and up for re-election, the picture shifts somewhat.

Between 2004, the first full year of the PC era, and 2011, the most recent year for which stats have been published by the woefully inadequate elections office, 60 of Dwight Ball's corporate donors made contributions to provincial parties or candidates. The 60 companies between them made 508 political contributions, with an even larger majority of the cash going to the incumbent Tories:

Of those 60 companies, nine had dyed-in-the-wool Liberal links, having only ever given to the Liberal party or candidates since 2004. But nineteen of the 60 — nearly a third of the total — have only made reportable contributions to the PC party or its candidates while Danny Williams or Kathy Dunderdale have been Premier.

There is no surer sign of political bets being hedged, than when Support for Democracy™ starts to treat the opposition party with something resembling an even financial hand. And these figures are based only on what the Captains of Industry gave to the Ball campaign. The other candidates have not made similar voluntary disclosures.

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Friday, December 20, 2013


With a tip of the virtual hat to the snark-meisters of the Telegram masthead, here's a chart showing the total number of annual uses of the word "vibrant" in official @GovNL press bumpf since 1996.

The 2013 figure is for year to date. The chart is cleverly colour-coded to show the change in government.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Top billing

An interesting little detail from last week's latest Annual December Muskrat Falls Announcement. This still from the video shows the standard-issue Get-the-Buzzwords-in-the-Shot Cards affixed to the front of the lectern:

Full video here:

Now, when you're dealing with the HarperGovernmentcomms shop, nothing happens by accident. The standard-issue Action!Plan! card was on the lectern, for a reason.

And it was on top, for a reason.

And, for the same reason, this breathless bit of text appeared in the Premier's prepared prolix purple prose:
When the greatest moments of our history are recollected long generations from now, Newfoundland and Labrador’s historians will remember the choice that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made – the choice to stand beside our people in advancing the Muskrat Falls development under financing terms so advantageous that all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will benefit.

I would like to thank our regional Federal Minister, the Honourable Rob Moore for joining us here today, on behalf of Prime Minister Harper, and Nova Scotia’s Energy Minister, the Honourable Andrew Younger for representing his government and his Premier Stephen McNeil.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Papering the House

What is the sound of one civil servant clapping? An email invitation sent to provgov employees this morning:

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

About that corner being turned

Here’s the notional district-by-district map* based on today’s CRA vote-intent figures. For the current opposition parties, dark colours indicate holds and pale colours are pickups. For the incumbent outgoing PCs, dark blue is a hold, while paler blue is a hold by less than a notional 10% margin of victory. Light grey indicates a district where the two projection models are in disagreement about the notional winner. The projection models do not take into account changes in affiliation of incumbent MHAs, including the impact of the NDP Big Snit and the Osborg migration from the blue to red teams. (Click to enlarge.)

The Liberal caucus would notionally jump to at least 29 members, with another nine districts too close to call — and all of those, potentially in the Liberal column — for a total of up to 38 seats. Between one and seven districts in St. John's and the suburbs are potential Liberal pickups. In fact, most of the “too close to call” districts are on the northeast Avalon. In Labrador, and off the Avalon, the Liberal party would be expected to sweep nearly every seat. The only notional PC hold, Humber East, is held by incumbent Tom Marshall, who has already made it clear that this is his last term in office.

Without bearing in mind the impact of the Big Snit, the NDP could retain a caucus of five members, including Snit members. The decline in the NDP support figures, while large compared to their recent high polling numbers, is not nearly as large when compared to their 2011 actual result. A notinal loss in The Straits–White Bay North would be offset by a gain in Burin–Placentia West. (Where is that court case, anyhow?)

The more important figure bearing on the NDP fortune is the ongoing suffering of the incumbent outgoing PCs, who have retained barely half their 2011 popular support. The PCs would notionally hold from six to ten seats, depending on how the “too close” races split. And one of those notionally “too close” districts, Carbonear–Harbour Grace, just went Liberal in a real-world by-election test, with an outright majority of the vote and a margin of victory of just over eight percent.

* To be taken with a grain of salt – the overall seat totals in swing models are more accurate than district-by-district projects, as the errors in the latter tend to cancel one another out.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Differently competent

Interested in political financing for the current or most recently-completed year?

You can easily find political finance disclosures for 2012 in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island.

In Ontario and Quebec, disclosures are made in near "real time", with a lag of up to 30 days. In Quebec, all political donations are channelled through the electoral office itself. In Ontario, not only is there "real time" disclosure, electoral district association and party leadership finances are disclosed, including for 2012.

Electoral district association funds are also disclosed in Nova Scotia and Manitoba. They are in Alberta, as well, and, along with party and candidate contributions, the reporting period in Alberta is quarterly.

British Columbia's political finance database includes party leadership, electoral district associations, and candidate nomination filings.

Even Yukon, the only territory with formal political parties, has its 2012 party finance disclosures published on-line.

At the federal level, Elections Canada provides a wide variety of political finance disclosures for federal parties, candidates, nomination contestants, leadership contestants, electoral district associations, and third parties. Federal party disclosures are made quarterly.

(In the Northwest Territories, there are no political parties, and there were no electoral events to trigger disclosure rules in 2012. In Nunavut, candidates are still within the 60-day grace period to disclosure their financing from the recent territorial election campaign, and there were no electoral events in 2012. New Brunswick is finally in the process of moving its political finance disclosures online.)

Which brings us to Newfoundland and Labrador, where, with fewer than 30 days to go before 2013 turns into 2014, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador still have not published the 2012 contribution disclosures for the registered parties.

And it's probably too much to expect that the campaign finance disclosures for the Cartwright–L'Anse au Clair by-election, held six months ago, will be put out this calendar year.

Unlike at the federal level, and as in a number of other provinces, those political finance reports do not include funds raised by constituency associations, nomination contestants, or party leadership candidates. These funds fall into a legislative black hole that has not yet been filled, notwithstanding the PC Party's 2003 solemn platform promise:
The Elections Act limits election campaign contributions and spending, and attempts to promote electoral fairness by allowing candidates to recover part of their campaign expenses from public funds. The intent of the Act is undermined by loopholes that allow political parties to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money before an election is called, as well as unlimited contributions and spending on candidate nominations and leadership contests.  
A Progressive Conservative government will take the following actions to close those loopholes:
  • Limit political contributions by a person, corporation, or union in any year, including an election year, to a total of $10,000 to a registered political party and a total of $5,000 to one or more district associations of a registered party or one or more candidates in a provincial election in relation to their candidacy, by way of cash, cheque, money order, credit card or goods and services, but excluding the purchase of tickets or passes and donations in kind to fundraising events sponsored by a registered political party or district association of a registered party.  
  • Legislate contribution and spending limits for Party leadership contests and nominees in Party candidacy races.
  • Require full disclosure of contributions and expenditures in party nomination contests and elections.
  • Require disclosure of contributions to leadership campaigns as they occur and disclosure of independently audited expenses within three months after the election of a new leader.
  • Enact provisions requiring leadership candidates to return unused contributions to their leadership campaigns.
Furthermore, in the 2011 election-year finance disclosures — also not published until very late in 2012 — Elections Newfoundland and Labrador fails to distinguish campaign-period contributions to political parties from those made outside the campaign period. This disctinction, which was made in respect of the party finance reports for general election years 1996, 1999, 2003, and 2007, is mandated by s. 299 of the Elections Act. For no obviously good reason, the current crew at the Elections office have absolved themselves of that duty.

How hard can it be for such reports to be compiled, and published, in a timely manner, in the second-least populous province? (Compare the ongoing, ludicrous saga, of Elections NL taking nine months to do what Elections Canada, and every other, larger, province, does within days or weeks: publish poll-by-poll election returns.)

What on earth is going on at Elections Newfoundland and Labrador?