02 September 2014

Nalcor and the Eff In Way #nlpoli

Over at Uncle Gnarley,  JM’s at it again with the first of a two-parter on Nalcor and its problems with forecasting for Muskrat Falls.

Nalcor assumed that they would get 830 megawatts of electricity out of Muskrat Falls in the winter months when demand is highest.  That’s the number they gave everyone else and, as you can tell by the language Nalcor uses, it was an assumption, not a solid forecast.  Now they say they should be able to get 673 MW at Soldier;s Pond from Muskrat Falls.  That’s a difference of 157 MW, not an inconsiderable difference.

01 September 2014

Family reasons #nlpoli

The story flopped out on Friday morning,  broken by VOCM, based presumably on information that came directly from Charlene Johnson herself.

We can presume that because as the rest of the newsrooms caught up to VOCM,  Johnson confirmed that the story was generally true.  As CBC reported, “Johnson said she wants to leave because of family concerns. Her husband now works overseas. As well, she is the mother of a young daughter.”

The eulogies for her political career were quick and generally laudatory. Some picked up on the line from her commentary that she was leaving because of family considerations and pronounced it entirely right and just.  Her husband was working out of the country and her young daughter was just five years old. 

Good for you, girl, they clucked in paternalistic approval.  Someone claimed out that Johnson had broken new ground by being the first politician to give birth while in office.  She’d challenged the conventions, so the claim went, and forced the legislature to consider new rules about parental leave and responsibilities.  The political panel assembled for this week’s On Point over at CBC all thanked Charlene for her years of service and wished her well.

All wonderful stuff, except that “family reasons” is an excuse so worn out from over-use and, as in Johnson’s case, misuse, such that it is not a cliche.  “Family reasons” is beyond that.  It is now a code word for something else.

And everyone knows it is bullshit.

29 August 2014

Postmodern Jukebox: Maps

It’s the Friday before a long weekend.

Enjoy some music.

And if you like Morgan James, you can find more of her work at her website:  www.morganjames.com.


28 August 2014

Shockwaves #nlpoli

The day after the by-election in St. George’s-Stephenville East,  federal New Democratic Party member of parliament Ryan Cleary showed an interest in provincial politics some might find curious.

“The question is not how to stop NL Liberals,” Cleary tweeted, “but how to boost provincial New Democrats. Status quo not working.”

Status quo means Lorraine Michael’s leadership, of course.

Cleary’s right.  Lorraine’s leadership has proven to be a dismal failure.  Not only did she and her supporters fail to capitalise on the strong showing in 2011,  they’ve obviously failed to gain any ground as the support for the province’s Conservatives has collapsed.  The by-election on the west coast confirmed that the New Democrats under Lorraine are staying firmly where they were.  They aren’t losing ground, but they also aren’t growing, either.

27 August 2014

Big Dams and Empty Promises #nlpoli

Conservative leadership candidate Steve Kent may be running in third place in the race, but the guy makes bold promises.

His energy policy includes the pledge about Muskrat Falls that he will “bring this project in on time, and on budget.”

That’s a rather silly promise considering that the project – originally budgeted at $5.0 billion  - is already officially estimated to cost $7.0 billion and will more likely cost something well above $8.0 billion before everything is done. For those of you doing the math,  that puts the project officially at 40% more than when the project was approved in 2010 and more likely about 60% over budget.

26 August 2014

Free Tampons #nlpoli

Jessica Valenti, a columnist at the Guardian newspaper argued in her column in early August, that women should get free feminine hygiene products.

Consider these points from Valenti’s column:

  • UNICEF estimates 10% of African girls don’t attend school during their periods”
  • One study showed that in Bangladesh, 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days – and six days of pay – every month because of their periods.”
  • “In the United States, access to tampons and pads for low-income women is a real problem, too: food stamps don’t cover feminine hygiene products, so some women resort to selling their food stamps in order to pay for “luxuries” like tampons.”

Valenti doesn’t make her argument on cost, but on basic health care policy.

Amanda Marcotte at slate.com took a more blunt approach: 

Valenti is asking audiences to really think about how the right to move about in public without bleeding all over yourself, a no-brainer for men, is a privilege for women that depends all too much on their ability to afford sanitary products.

It boils down to the same basic idea, though.

Take that idea. 

Kick it around in your own mind.

We’ll come back to it another day and work it through as a potential public policy issue.


25 August 2014

Mystery Meat #nlpoli

The Telegram’s exceedingly generous headline said that Conservative leadership candidate Paul Davis put meat to the bones of his  campaign on Friday by announcing details of his policies. 

In reality,  Davis offered vague platitudes for the most part with very little substance to any of his plans.  There’s nothing surprising in that.  Pretty well all the provincial politicians and parties have kept their plans and ideas vague.

You can see the vagueness in Davis’ financial priorities.

22 August 2014

Summer reading: Command and Control

From the blurb:

Command and Control“Written with the vibrancy of a first-rate thriller, Command and Control interweaves the minute-by-minute story of an accident at a nuclear missile silo in rural Arkansas with a historical narrative that spans more than fifty years.  It depicts the urgent effort by American scientists, policymakers, and military officers to ensure that nuclear weapons can’t be stolen, sabotaged, used without permission, or detonated inadvertently. Schlosser also looks at the Cold War from a new perspective, offering history from the ground up, telling the stories of bomber pilots, missile commanders, maintenance crews, and other ordinary servicemen who risked their lives to avert a nuclear holocaust.  At the heart of the book lies the struggle, amid the rolling hills and small farms of Damascus, Arkansas, to prevent the explosion of a ballistic missile carrying the most powerful nuclear warhead ever built by the United States.”


21 August 2014

Identity Crisis #nlpoli

Newfoundland is changing, Michael Crummey writes in the Newfoundland nationalists’ newspaper, the Globe and Mail.  House prices are climbing in St. John’s.  There are plenty of expensive restaurants around and people to eat the food and drink the wine sold there.

“But,”  says Crummey,  “while oil execs tuck into their gourmet fish, much of rural Newfoundland is falling deeper into a crisis that began with the cod moratorium in 1992.”

The whole province – Newfoundland and Labrador – is changing.  There is a difference between the changes around the provincial capital and the rest of the province.  Crummey says that a “generation from now,  what it means to be a Newfoundland will be something altogether different” from what he calls the traditional Newfoundland of “isolated, tightly knit communities that relied on the fishery and each other for survival.”

All true stuff.  The place and its people are changing.  The problem with Crummey’s commentary is that he gets his timescales wrong and misidentifies the root of the change and its implications.

20 August 2014

Information Underload #nlpoli

Poor Sandy Collins.

The Minister (of the Moment) of Public Engagement and a gaggle of senior public servants went to meet the access to information review committee on Tuesday.  Supposed to be half a day chatting about this whole letting people have access to government information thing .  Turned into a marathon grilling. 

Not pretty.

19 August 2014

Conservative Misinformation and the Public Sector Debt Problem #nlpoli

There is no limit to how selectively provincial Conservatives will read a document in order to find some microscopic filament that might possibly confirm that they have really been running the most magnificent administration in the history of the galaxy.

They still insist, for example,  that they are the tops in leadership and accountability even though the most recent poll shows that 77% of the people in the province don’t think so.

Conservatives also insist they have done financial miracles.  No less a personage than the party’s vice president took to the Twitter on Monday to tell everyone that:

According to Fraser Institute, SK and NL are the only provinces that reduced their public debt since 2007.

Well,  they said a lot more than that,  but evidently Mark Whiffen and didn’t need to read anything but that. Since the rest of us are not obliged or inclined to such delusions,  let’s see what the gang at the Fraser Institute actually said.

18 August 2014

Politics for 200, Alex #nlpoli

Who was the first Newfoundlander elected to the Canadian House of Commons?

What party did he represent?

What year was he elected?

What riding did he represent?


15 August 2014

Politicians and Cars #nlpoli

The Liberals are touting their latest campaign-style television spot featuring Dwight Ball talking about accountability and connecting with voters.  In the spot, he’s driving somewhere in the driving province and as he talks the thing cuts to shots of him talking to people.

Remember that the latest poll shows that the Liberals own the accountability and leadership issue (48% to the Conservatives’ 13%).  This tidy little spot reinforces the Liberal strength and highlights the Conservatives’ weakness.

When you are done watching that, flip over the the Mother Corps’ online archive and watch a 1971 current affairs documentary on the provincial election that year.  Your mind will bend about a lot of things, not the least of which is the comment from New Democratic Party leader Jim Walsh. 

Yes, friends,  that Jim Walsh.  He’s out west somewhere now, a long way removed in every way from that 1971 election.

But when your mind gets back on its even keel again,  notice the portion of the documentary where Frank Moores is driving along a stretch of newly paved highway talking about the problems of the faltering Smallwood administration.  While it’s highly unlikely the producers of the new spot remembered or knew about the old documentary,  some would say there is a fitting parallel in there.

Let that be your Freak Friday political thrill for the week.


14 August 2014

Truth and Consequences #nlpoli

Wednesday morning started with an intriguing but hardly surprising story.

CBC’s David Cochrane tweeted that sources in the John Ottenheimer camp believed that Conservative leadership candidates Steve Kent and Paul Davis were working together to thwart Ottenheimer’s bid.  Kent quickly replied via Twitter,  writing that “I am not teamed up with any camp.”

NTV’s Mike Connors tweeted a couple of hours after Cochrane that former cabinet minister and Ottenheimer campaign co-chair Shawn Skinner told him that Kent and Davis had started “combining slates” of delegates at some delegate selection meetings. Connors also tweeted the Kent denial that he was teaming up with anyone.  Connors also added Skinner’s assessment that Ottenheimer was leading the delegate count or was tied with Davis while Kent was in third place.

Bu then Connors added some detail that made it clear Kent’s denial earlier just wasn’t true.