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

Monday, July 29, 2013


The Labrador Interpretation Centre is now a seasonal operation. The Labradorian reports on a move that is oddly yet not to be found on the So Very Open provincial government's newswire:
For the first time in its operating history, the Labrador Interpretation Centre in North West River will be closing up shop come October.

The Centre will be closing for the winter season and re-opening in the spring.

Terry French, Minister of Dept of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, said this closure will bring the LIC in line with the other three regional museums in the province.
French went further, justifying the new seasonal schedule on the basis of a drop in visitation:
"In 2012, the centre experienced a reduction of 30% in visitation over 2011. Although the centre recorded slightly more than 600 visits during the past winter season, the Provincial Government recognizes the importance of this facility to the visiting public and local residents. The new hours will still allow for local schools and youth groups to engage in educational tours of the centre."
And why might the LIC have seen such a drop in 2012, compared to 2011?

Surely it had nothing to do with its main exhibits having been sent to storage during the height of the 2012 tourist season.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


The Telegram's Russell Wangersky makes an unfortunate omission in his Saturday column:
They may not, but the fact is that this is not the time to start a parliamentary review — and while there may be no rails left in this province, the reasons why the committee shouldn’t start now can apply to the efforts of any number of parliamentary committees.
While there are no rails left in Newfoundland, there are plenty left in the province: Wabush Lake Railway, Bloom Lake Railway, Tshiuetin Rail Transportation, and — most importantly — the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway, which until the recent emergency safety directives, operated under the same running rules as the ill-starred Montreal, Maine and Atlantic line.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Read it for yourself

Unfortunately, there is a chronic shortage of otherwise knowledgeable people in Newfoundland and Labrador who can read this in its original language, but here is a searchable and machine-readable version of Hydro-Quebec's Statement of Claim against CFLCo, derived from the version originally published by Tom Adams.

There is some font-formatting wierdness in the embedded version; download the file for clean reading and printing.


Monday, July 22, 2013

A certain ratio

Jerome Kennedy's shop put out the following self-congratulatory bumpf today:
“While it is recognized that volatility in the province’s resource revenues presents budgetary challenges, Moody’s noted that the province’s net direct and indirect debt has fallen from 153.9 per cent of revenues in 2004 to an estimated 71 per cent at March 31, 2013,” said the Honourable Jerome Kennedy, Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board. “Interest payments as a percentage of revenue also declined from the highest among Canadian provinces (16.1 per cent) in 2003-04 to an estimated 4.9 per cent in 2012-13.”

A couple of important mathematical points.

First, the odd and continuing fixation on net debt. You don't pay interest on your net debt.

Second, the revenue:debt ratio has not improved because of any change on the debt side of the equation. It has improved because of change on the revenue side. The provincial government's revenues, especially own-source, especially natural resource, and especially offshore oil royalties (and to a lesser degree mining ones) are massively higher in recent years than they were in 2004.

This has nothing to do with the wisdom and foresight of the Danny-Dunderdale government, who neither put the natural resources into the ground, nor instituted the revenue mechanisms which govern their extraction.

As all six regular readers here will remember, in all but three of the Danny-Dunderdale years, the "Conservatives" have left the provincial ledger with higher public debts at the end of the fiscal year than they were at the start of it.

The revenue:debt ratio is improving despite the Progressive "Conservative" government, and not because of them. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as of the most recent fiscal year (ending 2012), had more debt owing than it did when the "Conservatives" were elected in fiscal year 2003-04.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Smoke on the water

A loop of 48 (daylight) hours from the GOES-East weather satellite, showing smoke plumes drifting out across the Gulf as fires on the Quebec North Shore and southwestern Labrador interior flare up.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pomises, pomises

My goodness, but Telegram James has opened up an interesting can of stewed worms.
Last week, Telegramreported on the slowth in the government’s fulfillment of one particular 2011 PC “Blue Book” promise commitment concerning student loans.
Ever-touchy about criticism or questions, Dundergov reacted, in the person of Jerome Kennedy, who gave Mr. James a delightful follow-up:
“You use the word ‘promise.’ I’m not sure the Blue Book can be described as a promise,” he said. “It’s a blueprint or a platform as opposed to an absolute promise.”
Well, that got the commentariat, the twitterati, and the VOCM crowd going. By Thursday morning, Kennedy had taken to the airwaves to whine that his words had been taken out of context, and that people should read the full transcript.
The “full transcript”, of course, would be the one that Telegram himself had already produced and posted the previous afternoon.
Later in the day, Kennedy’s totally non-partisan communications shop issued an epic, if obviously rushed press release, weighing in at over 5,000 words, the vast majority of which were cribbed, verbatim, from the 30,000-word 2011 PC Party Blue Book. The release professes to outline the 228 of 534 Blue Book promises commitments which have already been acted on.
And no, Kennedy wasn’t finished there, and probably isn’t finished yet, having written a stern letter to the Telegram, which the paper ran on Friday morning.
The whole episode has provided the politics-watching public with the entertaining spectacle of seeing a minister douse himself and his government in isopropyl alcohol, put a lit match to it, then try and put out the ensuing flames with more ispropyl alcohol.

It’s a liquid, right?
Moreover, it has offered as good an excuse as any to go back over the 2011 Blue Book, a document which, with the benefit of hindsight and closer scrutiny, is much thinner than its 30,000 words and 80 pages might otherwise imply.
Take, for example, the promise commitment which the press release claims to have been acted on: 
We will move forward to build upon the achievements to date of the Northern Strategic Plan for Labrador, mapping others on the horizon, building on the initiatives already taken, consulting on emerging needs and adjusting our work according to evolving circumstances.
At best, this means “we will continue to make things up as we go along, and re-package them as part of a ‘Northern Strategic Plan’, whatever that is.”
At least – and it’s closer to the least end of the spectrum – it means nothing.
There are the promises commitments along this line: 
We will maintain the fleet of new waterbombers the province recently purchased to better protect us from forest fires.
Well, that’s a relief. The government will actually maintain the waterbombers, and not, dunno, use them for target practice like all those other parties proposed doing in their platforms. One notorious traitor summarized this class of promise commitment as "we will turn the lights on. We will heat buildings and answer the phone."
There are others which are especially vague: 
We will ensure our legislation, regulations and permitting process for mineral exploration, mine development and quarry development are modern, balanced and reflective of the needs of the industry and the province.
How on earth would anyone know, objectively, whether or not this promise commitment had or had not been kept? Similarly: 
We will pursue every opportunity to see Labrador recognized nationally and internationally as a Gateway to the North and positioned to take a lead role in providing goods, services and a base of expertise for all other regions of Canada’s North.
“Recognized” by whom? What is the practical consequence of such “recognition”?
Numerous other promises commitments are laden with the type of bureaucratic-bingo buzzwords – “advanced”, “examine”, “best practices”, “broad spectrum”, “consider strategies”, “bring forward”, “facilitate” – which draw a body to the almost-inevitable conclusion that bureaucrats themselves were engaged in drafting this 80-page partisal document full of promises commitments.
Finally, there’s at least one intriguing case of a promise commitment actually kept, yet not highlighted in the press release for some reason: 
We recently received the recommendations of the 2011 statutory review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We will introduce appropriate reforms to the legislation. We will continue to protect personal information, commercially sensitive information and cabinet documents.
This, of course, is the promise commitment which begat Bill 29, which begat the Conservative government’s accelerated collapse in popular support.
It would be a fun exercise, then, to cross-reference the 5,000-word totally-non-partisan press release cribbed from the governing party’s 2011 election platform, with the 30,000-word election platform itself.
The promises commitments highlighted in the press release are emphasized in this version of the 2011 PC platform in blue with double-underlining. Where a promise commitment was truncated for the purpose of brevity in the release, the entire text of the promise has been highlighted here. Note, however, there are cases where the press release version of the promise commitment includes a conspicuous ellipsis, such as here: 
As we announced on July 6, 2011, we are launching a suite of initiatives to reduce the number of moose-vehicle collisions on Newfoundland and Labrador roadways. These initiatives include a wildlife fencing pilot project, a wildlife detection system pilot project, a Collision Data Management System (which will record the precise locations of all collisions, including those involving moose), an increased number of moose hunting licences, additional brush clearing, vegetation control and measures to improve driver awareness. We will explore options to enable people receiving moose hunting licences to designate surrogates to hunt a moose for them. We will work with the province’s outfitters on ways to provide more moose-hunting opportunities for non- resident hunters.
Or here:  
We will review the tax regime – the Revenue Administration Act, the Mineral Act and the Mineral Holdings Impost Act to ensure it strikes the right balance between providing appropriate revenue to the province while remaining competitive in the global mining industry.
In those cases, the words or phrases glossed over in the press release have not been highlighted as a promise commitment kept. Presumably, the totally non-partisan communications staff at Finance glossed them over for a substantive reason.
Note that the conversion of file formats from the source PDF to an editable version, and back to PDF, has resulted in some format wonkiness which is not present in the original document. Graphics quality has been deliberately degraded.

If you spot any errors or omissions in the comparison of the press release and the platform, feel free to report it in the comments section.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


This afternoon's Aqua satellite image (false-colour rendering) shows old fires flaring up, and new ones breaking out, across Labrador and neighbouring Quebec. (Click to enlarge.)

The head of Lake Melville is visible at upper right. Active fires are false-coloured reddish-orange, with smoke plumes a steely blue. Brighter cyan-blue hues are clouds.

Roughly clockwise from top, there were or are active burns today in the Seal Lake area, the headwaters of Goose River, Gull Island (which resulted in the closure of the Trans-Labrador Highway), the Mecatina headwaters, the Natashquan River watershed (probably responsible for much of the smoke today), the Atikonak Lake area, and Shabogomo Lake and neighbouring parts of Quebec and western Labrador, as well as others scattered elsewhere, but obscured (and subdued) by cloudy weather.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The big smoke

False-colour Aqua imagery collage of the fire zone stretching from James Bay to the Atikonak region of southwestern Labrador, mid-day on Thursday. (Click to enlarge.)

By way of reference, Ile René-Levasseur, the distinctive circular feature in the middle of the Manicouagan crater at the bottom-centre-right of the image, is about 72 km across.


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Where there's smoke...

Wednesday false-colour Aqua satellite imagery showing forest fires and smoke plumes across northern Quebec and Labrador. (Click to enlarge.)

The largest burn is near Eastmain on the shores of James Bay (left side). Another large burn in Quebec, south of Labrador City, Wabush, and Fermont, continues to smolder.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

This is what a boom looks like

Again courtesy of our old friend CANSIM Table 282-0011, here is a chart comparing the rate of employment growth in the public and private sectors in Newfoundland and Labrador since the "conservative" spending spree began in 2006.

The figures represent the cumulative growth in public-sector employment, and the private-sector labour force (employment and self-employment), expressed as a percentage change from July 2006 — when the "Conservatives'" early experiment with restraint came to an end — up to May 2013. To smooth out seasonal variations, figures are calculated using twelve-month trailing averages.

Since bottoming out in July 2006, public-sector employment in Newfoundland and Labrador has grown by 25.8% Over the same period, the private-sector employed labour force — private employment and self-employment combined — has grown by just 3.4%, rising only modestly since the depths of the 2008-09 recession.

No other province has seen such a large increase in its public sector over that same period, though PEI is effectively tied at 25.7%. The only other province to see an increase remotely as large is BC, at 20%. The other two Atlantic provinces have had public-sector growth rates under 5%.

On the private-sector side, only Nova Scotia (2.7%) and PEI (2.1%) have had smaller growth rates, while New Brunswick, alone, among the provinces, and worryingly so, has seen its private-sector employment decrease by more than 1%.

Since July 2006, the net increase in public-sector employment in Newfoundland and Labrador was 14,300, compared to a net increase in private-sector employment and self-employment of 5,300. No, your eyes do not deceive you — the public sector accounts for almost three quarters of the increased employment during this time of "boom". Canada-wide, the public sector accounts for 36% of net employment gains since July 2006, with only PEI's public sector outstripping NL's, at 80% of net new jobs. (New Brunswick, as indicated above, has seen a decline in private-sector employment.)

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Boreal burn

A collage of false-colour Aqua satellite imagery taken on Tuesday, showing forest fires and attendant smoke (blue-grey streamers) burning from James Bay to the Labrador border.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

This is what restraint looks like

After a very brief flirtation with fiscal restraint early in their time in office, the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive "Conservatives" began a ramp-up in public-sector spending, including public-sector hiring, which shows no real sign of abating.

By way of Statscan CANSIM Table 282-0011, here is a chart of total public-sector employment in the province over the past decade and a bit. Of necessity, this includes federal and municipal public-sector employment, as Statistics Canada has discontinued detailed breakdowns by order of government and crown corporations. However, historically, the provincial public sector (civil service, health care, education, provincial crown corporations) accounts for most of the total.

Figures are in thousands. The raw monthly figures are shown as a pale dotted line, with the twelve-month running average shown as a heavier, solid line.

No, your eyes do not decive you: even up to this spring, the public-sector employed labour force was continuing to grow, with a twelve-month average of 70,000, nearly 15,000 more than when the "conservative" spending spree began in 2006.

In November 2012, the one-month total hit 73,100. And no, your eyes still do not decieve you, that is almost 20,000 more than the monthly low of 53,400 reached in April 2005.

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Monday, July 01, 2013

Canada Day


Voluntary Statement of MALCOLM MCLEAN of Carter Basin, Lake Melville.

1.     I came to Labrador from the Island of Lewis, Scotland, a young man of 19 years of age, in the year 1872, in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company. For five years I worked at the Company's posts at Rigoulette and Northwest River ; then I left the Company's service in order to do trapping and fishing on my own account and I have followed that occupation ever since. I have resided continuously on and about the Hamilton Inlet and Lake Melville, and have an intimate knowledge of the conditions which have obtained from time to time and of everything that has happened in this region since I came here.
8. The inhabitants of this country are dissatisfied with the present state of things and are anxious, according to my knowledge, hardly without exception, that this country should be held to constitute part of Canada rather than Newfoundland.
They believe that their lot cannot be any worse and expect that it is likely to be a great deal better if the question as to the boundary is decided in that way.