21 October 2016

False choices #nlpoli

It's not often you can see a "half-way" compromise as plainly as the one the provincial government announced on Wednesday about Muskrat Falls.

Government's starting point was to flood the reservoir now and not do any additional clearing of the area to be flooded.  The protesters wanted to hold off on flooding for a bit and to clear vegetation and topsoil from the flood area.

On Wednesday government opted to flood now but to do some clearing, plus have some folks do a study to see if more clearing would be good.  That's pretty much half way between the two positions.

And not long after that, you could see plainly that the attempt at compromise had no effect.

20 October 2016

The Reverse Midas Touch Rides Again #nlpoli

The crowd running this place these days has an unrivalled ability to look at a problem and find the worst possible response imaginable.

On Wednesday,  natural resource minister Siobhan Coady and environment minister Perry Trimper announced that the government would tell Nalcor to keep flooding the Muskrat Falls reservoir but at the same time, they will have to cut down more trees and clear more vegetation from the flooding area.

This solves nothing.

19 October 2016

Rumpole and Reversible Error #nlpoli

Brian Tobin's favourite judge may be on his way to the Supreme Court of Canada but along the way he will probably have to answer a few questions about his decision in the appeal in R v S.B.

The case is on its way to the Supreme Court of Canada and Rowe will have to appear before a House of Commons committee before his appointment is confirmed.

Justice Malcolm Rowe wrote the decision with Justice Charles White concurring.  Chief Justice Derek Green dissented.

In the original case,  S.B. was acquitted by a jury of "two counts of sexual assault upon C.M. in addition to six charges of assault (five against C.M. and one against another complainant), one count of assault with a weapon (against C.M.) and one count of careless use of a firearm." (R. v S.B.,  2014 NLTD(G) 84)

In the appeal,  Rowe wrote that notwithstanding "the serious errors made by the trial judge outlined above, the jury verdict should not be set aside. I have reached this conclusion with reluctance given the unfair manner in which the complainant was dealt with." (2016 NLCA 20)

18 October 2016

The War of the Flea Circus #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls has become a three-ring flea circus.

In the first ring, we have the political ambulance chasers, a.k.a. Maudie Barlow and the Council of Xenophobes. The Safari Saviours rolled into town last week, issued a fill-in-the-blanks news release, and then frigged off having successfully tutted a few tuts and gained the media coverage they wanted,.

They, at least, want to end the project, which is more than you can say for the folks staging all sorts of protests here and there.  The folks in the third ring are likely the majority of folks in the province. They want Muskrat Falls finished,  no matter what the cost.  The only difference between Gil Bennett and Bill Gauthier is that Gil actually wants to spend less public money on a project that never made any sense at all.

In the centre ring of the circus we have the province's New Democrats and the self-described "progressive" white folks in the south.  The Dippers sent a letter to the Premier on Monday demanding that he open the House of Assembly "forthwith" in order to give the circus a bigger stage.  Make no mistake,  the Dippers don;t want to stop the project either.  They just want to slow things down a bit.  The NDP, like the Liberals and Conservatives and the overwhelming majority of people in the province want Muskrat Falls at any cost.

The Dippers, like some others, just want you to think they are against the project.  That is the flea in our flea circus.

And that, of course, is the flea in our circus.  It is the thing people insist is there  even when it obviously is not.

17 October 2016

Caribous, Choice, and Craziness #nlpoli

For a while, it looked like one of the island's major communities wouldn't be able to put a senior hockey team on the ice for the new season.  Low ticket sales were threatening the Clarenville Caribous.  After a bit of publicity,  the team managed to sell enough tickets to finance the team.

There's no way of knowing if changing demographics were affecting the Caribous.  Clarenville has enjoyed a small boom driven largely by Hebron construction at Bull Arm. As that project is winding down,  the local economy is likely to shrink a bit.  Maybe some folks didn't want to shell out for hockey tickets given the local economic slow-down and the potential for more taxes or cuts coming from the provincial government.

We shouldn't be surprised, though, if more and more of these sorts of stories turn up as our population shrinks,  gets older, and migrates into some of the major centres, particularly St. John's.  After all, we've heard from municipal leaders over the past couple of years that some towns are having a hard time finding employees or even enough people to form a council.  In some places, councilors are picking up garbage and doing other jobs that the town would normally hire someone to do.

14 October 2016

Refitting the USS Nimitz (CVN-68)

Ordered in 1967,  laid down in 1968,  launched in 1972 and commissioned in 1975,  USS Nimitz is the lead ship of  a class of 10 aircraft carriers in the United States Navy.  They form the backbone of American naval power in the world.

The ships in the class will be replaced by the Gerald R Ford class.  Current plans call for the navy to retire the Nimitz between 2025 and 2027.

The video documents part of the recent repair and refurbishment of the Nimitz at the naval shipyard in Bremerton, Washington.  It highlights refurbishment of the rudder,  catapult, and anchors and chain as well as the fabrication and installation of new sponsons on the hull.


13 October 2016

The politics of Sally Albright #nlpoli

A surprisingly large number of people loved Monday's post about the political impotence of protesting against Muskrat Falls now that the thing is pretty much finished.

As if to confirm their impotence,  some of the protesters turned up on Tuesday at the government's dog and pony show.  The Premier cut out the back door to avoid them but most of the participants went out the main entrance and stepped around the folks laying about at the protest.

There was a bit of cynical joke, of course, because what was going on inside the "consultation" was a display of political irrelevance for all the folks in the building.  The whole idea of these consultations is to make people feel like they are playing some role in making government policy when, in reality, they are just being played for fools.

12 October 2016

Eeyore and the Blustery Day #nlpoli

Premier Dwight Ball stood up before a hand-picked crowd at The Rooms on Tuesday and told them they were there to help develop a strategy for the future of our province.  They would look over some ideas the government crowd had worked up,  sit around tables talking with "facilitators" as part of this gigantic consultation, and then the government crowd would figure out what the final strategy should look like.

In his speech,  Ball said that we were in the current financial mess because the crowd running the government before now had followed a strategy of strategies.  They'd have a strategy for ever problem. One year they came out with 10.  All developed according to the same basic formula:  issue - idea - consultation - cogitation - strategy.

The Liberals would do things differently, Ball said. How they would be different he could not say. Maybe it was that instead of doing a health strategy and a n innovation strategy and a fisheries strategy, Ball and his crowd were going to have One Big Strategy.

But somehow,  the same was different to Ball's way of thinking and all would be wonderful as a result.

11 October 2016

The Bigger Picture #nlpoli

Whatever the provincial government is doing about its own spending or the provincial economy generally or whatever it is up to starts at 9:00 AM.

They announced an invitation-only event by Twitter a week or so ago that made it sound like the Premier would be the key player all day.  On Friday, the official announcement made it plain Ball is showing up for the kick-off and wrap-up. Another announcement had him with another minister doing a funding announcement at 10:00 AM.

Oh yeah, and that invite-only thing had transmogrified into a case where "the general public" can participate by live video using social media.

There you have it:  can't tell you what they are doing because they do not know what they are doing, otherwise known as "making-it-up-as-they-go."

No encouraging at all, but let's skip over that sort of eye-roll inducing stuff and think about some of the bigger issues.  We can then keep an eye open to see how they turn up - *if* they turn up - in this stunt at The Rooms.

10 October 2016

Politics as masturbation #nlpoli

"I am warning you.  Don't make me wear my pikachu costume."
Demonstrations at Memorial University and at Nalcor headquarters on Friday show the extent to which Newfoundland politics has become little more than irrelevant stunts staged chiefly for the personal amusement of the folks with the expensive cellphones.

The protesters do not want to stop the project. A few people who turned up *think* that was the goal. But the university students' union representative quoted by the Telegram about aboriginal rights made it plain in her CBC interview she wasn't interested in stopping the multi-billion dollar blunder cum boondoggle. said exactly that.

Just as well.  The project is basically unstoppable and has been for years. That is also the position of all three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador:  we cannot afford to let this project stop.

07 October 2016

Sweat Equity - new ISER book on housing policy #nlpoli

Sweat Equity

Cooperative House-Building in Newfoundland, 1920–1974

C.A. Sharpe and A.J Shawyer 

"The lack of decent urban housing — a problem neither new nor unique to Newfoundland — was widely recognized during the twentieth century. After numerous piecemeal attempts to find a solution, a remarkable and successful government-supported “sweat equity” program was established in 1952, where homes were built cooperatively and, upon completion, became owner-occupied. This labor (about 2,000 hours per man) was accepted in lieu of a down payment. 

"Tracing public policy during the Commission of Government and the early days of the Smallwood administration, and sourced from archival material and interviews with surviving members of the cooperatives, Sweat Equity outlines how people in Newfoundland tried to solve the housing shortage themselves by building more than 500 houses in the 1950s and 1960s.

"This critical monograph-length study — the first of its kind on the subject — is the story of how the Commission of Government and the then new provincial government recognized the desperate need for decent accommodation and what they did to provide it."

Available online from the Institute for Social and Economic Research or in bookstores.


06 October 2016

Canada's Dippers: taking the democracy out of politics #nlpoli

The guy who didn't know what electoral district he lived in  likes proportional representation.

Provincial Dipper boss Earle "More Austerity" McCurdy was so excited Wednesday that he talked to a parliamentary committee about it and even got all frothy about it on Twitter.

If proportional representation is such a wonderful thing, then Earle must have included it in his party's election platform last fall.  Right?

Go check it out.  

Look for any reference at all to proportional representation. 

We'll wait.

Take your time.

The trouble with transparency - CADO version #nlpoli

"How do you deal with a government computer system that is hopelessly out of date it wants you to 'update' your Internet browser to a version that is actually three version older than the one you are using?"

That would be the online search for the government registry of deeds, companies, and lobbyists.  The thing was already ancient in 2009 when SRBP first wrote about it. The thing was nine years old then. These days it is around 16 years old and is still chugging along.

Someone else took a poke at the database by asking for an electronic copy of the record through the access to information law. In addition to requesting the data,  the person offered an observation that the database wasn't truly access as required under the access law because the software was so old:  "I am of the opinion that these records are not truly available to the public. Currently a user must access this database online using Internet Explorer 7, which is no longer supported by Microsoft, and leaves the end user vulnerable to malware spyware. I doubt Ministers would be permitted to use IE7 at Confederation Building due to the threat of digital exploits. The CADO system built by x-wave is incredibly outdated."

05 October 2016

The trouble with transparency #nlpoli

Last week, the provincial government's communications gang tweeted a picture, which we have reprinted on the right. It was supposed to show where Premier Dwight Ball is on his little sojourn to tomorrowland that he calls "our fiscal future."

You can see how they have crossed off a whole bunch of milestones on the way along.  Supposedly we are now at the "Focus and Refine" stage.  Next thing to come is the "Report of Choices" due at some unspecified point in the fall. Notice the diamond-shaped point there called the fall fiscal update.

The Liberals haven't told us when the update will come.  First we have to get through this thing on October 11 at which a bunch of hand-picked leaders from various "sectors" of our society will get to see what choices the government has already made for "our fiscal future."

This is "consultation" in GovSpeak. In LibSpeak, it is Transparency,  one of the Five Points of the Liberal Plan for Strategic Word Capitalization.

04 October 2016

The Strategic Two-Step #nlpoli

There's a sheet of paper taped on the underside of one of the drawers in the Premier's desk on the 8th Floor.

It's very old.  No one knows for sure how long it has been there but there are countless rings from countless coffee cups on it and more than few circles from the underside of rum bottles.

On the back, there are a couple of spots where it looks like people jotted down messages and phone numbers. You know, like someone had the sheet laying around on the desk and it just happened to be the closest bit of paper handy.

You can barely make out  "Doyle - Panama" and long string of digits including what looks like a bank account number after the word Caymans.  In another corner there's a woman's first name with couple of numbers and a note :  "Frank - call her back for Christ sake.  Gerry"  

On the other side, the words are in Courier 10 point from an IBM Selectric.

At the top, in all caps and underlined, it reads  WHEN IN TROUBLE...  The first bullet is one word:  Pander.   The second bullet is:  Pick a fight with Ottawa.