31 December 2015

Consistency #nlpoli

"We need to find a way to bridge us [from] where we are currently until the commodities rebound and be [sic] the significant contributor we need them to be." That’s what Premier Dwight Ball told NTV’s Mike Connors in an interview that will air in full this coming Sunday.

The words are very familiar. 

We heard them just a few short months ago.

"I have laid out a five year plan,” Conservative finance minister Ross Wiseman told the House of Assembly last spring, “to bridge the commodity revenue dip and get us back to surplus, step by responsible step." 

30 December 2015

Advice #nlpoli

New governments often wind up in a bit of a pickle.

They walk into a new job where they are supposed to be the folks in charge, but they very often aren’t the people who initially know how everything works. They don’t know how to get things done but they have things they need to accomplish.

The folks who do know how everything runs are the public servants.  According to the theory,  the public servants are supposed to be the impartial professionals who give every government expert advice n how to handle every problem.  They are supposed to be separate from the politicians.

The theory is one thing. 

Practice is another.

29 December 2015

Do election signs work? #nlpoli

Apparently, they do.

In four randomised field experiments, researchers at Columbia University found that lawn signs increased vote share by about 1.7%. They published results of their research online on Christmas Day.

That isn’t going to win an election single-handedly but it could be the difference in a tight race. The advertising didn’t drive turn-out but it did increase awareness of a candidate.

Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab, looked at lawn signs for Slate magazine in a 2012 article. Issenberg noted studies that showed a correlation between signs and voting. In one study, “households that displayed either an American flag, football insignia, or campaign sign were 2.4 times more likely to have a resident who voted in the elections than houses which had none of the three.”


-srbp-

28 December 2015

Top SRBP Posts of 2015 #nlpoli

1.  The Dunphy Shooting:  Serious questions  In January, we are supposed to get the results of the police investigation into the shooting of Don Dunphy.  Then there'll be a public inquiry.  Maybe then we'll get the whole story into both the shooting and the efforts to spin the story over a couple of tweets that ended with the shooting death of their author.

2.  DHDM 2:  St. John's East  The biggest political upset in recent newfoundland and Labrador political history was Nick Whalen's defeat of Jack Harris in St. John's East.  Harris and his team were beaten by a young upstart who worked really hard.  The NDP campaign was hampered by a combination of arrogance, the incompetence of the national campaign, and just sheer laziness on the part of the local NDP.  For Whalen supporters, the night was all the sweeter as the upset in St. John's East became the story out of Newfoundland and Labrador, replacing the heavily spun story that Seamus O'Regan,  the good friend of the prime minister and guaranteed cabinet minister was really where all the news would be.

3.  Rumpole and the Family Compact  The last year of the Conservative term in office was marked by a series of abusive appointments.  None was more odd than the sudden switcheroo of Pam Goulding and her husband, Mark Pike, as chief judge of the Provincial Court.  Pike had a year left in his term of office and was certain not to be re-appointed by a new Liberal administration in light of Pike's disastrous term. As the story filtered out of the Confederation Building some people within the government at the time tried to get Pike appointed to a second term a year early.  When that provided to be impossible, the people looking to manipulate the appointments process did the next best thing:  Pike quit inexplicably and cabinet stuffed his wife in the job.

23 December 2015

The Merry Christmas Financial Update and other sick jokes #nlpoli

First, anyone who keeps talking about the two percent HST cut simply has no idea what the hell is going on in provincial finances.

Seriously.

Give it up.

You are only embarrassing yourself.

Second, absolutely no surprises in the latest update on provincial government spending. Well, no surprise for anyone who has been following SRBP faithfully.

For the rest of the folks out there,  the whole thing probably came as quite a shock.

22 December 2015

Blind in one EY #nlpoli

The new Liberal administration is firmly, irrevocably committed to completing the Muskrat Falls project regardless of the final cost to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

We know the Liberals will build the MF project because Dwight Ball said precisely that several weeks ago. We cannot let it fail,  Ball told a CBC audience in September.

We know Ball is committed to building Muskrat Falls because he told reporters on Monday that “cancelling this project is not what this review is about.”

Ball and the Liberals have argued for some time now that the problem with Muskrat Falls was nothing more than bad management.  To prove this, Ball and natural resources minister Siobhan Coady announced on Monday that they would send an accounting firm back to do what the same firm just finished doing a few months ago.

21 December 2015

Mr. Speaker Osborne #nlpoli

Members of the House of Assembly had the good fortune of having two fine candidates for Speaker.

While SRBP endorsed Scott Reid, the House made an excellent choice in Tom Osborne. Tom is the longest-serving member in the House having first been elected to the House in 1996. He held a number of cabinet portfolios in the first Williams administration before crossing the floor to sit as an independent. he eventually joined the Liberal caucus.

Osborne brings considerable experience to the job, plus he brings a reputation for fairness and integrity. He is well-liked and widely respected.

18 December 2015

Adios comments section

The comments section at SRBP is gone,  this time for good.

The theory was great.

People could offer their own views on your writing and then you could have an exchange of views based on mutual respect,  even if the conversation got animated.

In practice,  online comments – whether on blogs or on conventional media sites – quickly became the domain of  arseholes.  They post under a variety of fake identities and spew what most arseholes spew. More often than not the same arsehole had multiple identities to increase the quantity of mayhem.

So it is that newspapers have started to shut down the comments functions on websites.  No one will mourn their loss.

Scott Reid for Speaker #nlpoli

Liberal member of the House of Assembly Scott Reid is a candidate for Speaker of the House.

By the looks of things,  members will have a competition for the Speaker's chair.  That will be a first.
In the past,  nomination of the Speaker was treated as a prerogative of the Premier.

Having a competition for Speaker will be a key element of reforming the House and separating the House from the control of the government.  Scott Reid has the personal integrity to uphold the traditions of the House,  to protect the rights of members, and to resist any efforts to curb the legislature.

Reform of the House is an important feature of the Liberal platform.  Reid has the professional knowledge as a political scientist and the experience as a political staffer to guide the reform.  Scott also has the personal qualities the new Speaker will need to work with both his newly elected and veteran colleagues to bring about that reform.

The Speaker has significant responsibilities to manage the statutory officers, such as the child and youth advocate,  the privacy commissioner, the chief electoral officer,  and the auditor general.  Scott's personal commitment to the integrity of those positions will be crucial to successfully reforming the way those positions have been filled and the way the incumbents fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Scott will likely have competition from Tom Osborne.  Osborne has wanted the Speaker's job for some time now.  Kathy Dunderdale saw to it that Osborne didn't stand a chance after the 2011 election.  Tom Osborne would be a fine Speaker.

But for your humble e-scribbler,  as good a man as Tom Osborne is, Scott Reid is the choice.

-srbp-

The Quick Clay Dam #nlpoli

A very short post by James Gordon at Uncle Gnarley contains a whole lot of information about the dam Muskrat Falls.

Gordon is a retired professional engineer with a 60 year career that took him to projects in 15 countries. He knows about hydro-electric dams. Six of Gordon’s projects won awards of excellence for design.

Gordon took a look at the plan for Muskrat Falls. Here are a couple of key points.

Nalcor plans to use the North Spur as a key part of the dam. “The hill consists of three layers of sand, and two layers of quick clay, sloping downstream, on a deep foundation of quick clay extending down to far below tidewater.”

Even after Nalcor takes measures to counteract the tendency of quick clay to liquify when it is disturbed, two layers of quick clay will remain within the main body of the dam.

“To my knowledge, Gordon wrote, “quick clay has never before been used to form part of a dam structure, nor has a dam been built on a quick clay foundation.”

“Since the design of the North Spur dam is without precedent, and the consequences of a failure are catastrophic, it becomes imperative to have the design reviewed by an independent panel of experts – a Review Board, to provide added assurance that the design is acceptable.”


-srbp-

17 December 2015

Changing the direction. Changing the tone. #nlpoli

A month ago,  a CBC “analysis” by David Cochrane warned against a band of Liberals running the government with too much power.

Two weeks ago,  another CBC “analysis” by David Cochrane told us that Dwight Ball was an “unlikely” fellow to be Premier who now faced an enormous task of dealing with the government’s financial problems based on a campaign platform that was, supposedly, “greeted with enormous skepticism in the final week of the campaign.”

And now we have the latest Cochrane “analysis” that tells us that the public service is liking their new bosses.  The administration has been delivering on “Ball's campaign promises of evidence-based decision-making and to bring [sic] stability to cabinet by ending the practice of frequent shuffles, thereby leaving ministers in place long enough to build command of their portfolios.”

What changed?

Well, it certainly hasn’t been Dwight Ball and the Liberals he led to a substantive victory in the recent election.

16 December 2015

The Bonds of Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

15 minutes.

That’s all Tom Marshall said it would take to sell out the bonds on Muskrat Falls.

He also said that a federal loan guarantee would lower electricity prices for consumers from Muskrat falls.

The price one wasn’t true at all, as it turned out, and the bonds aren’t all that popular either.

15 December 2015

Revisiting the spring budget: a little thought experiment #nlpoli

Last spring,  SRBP looked at some speculative budget projections using some different prices for oil and  assumed growth in revenue from non-oil sources.

The results weren’t pretty.  The only way to get to a surplus was if you managed to hold spending constant.  Even a modest increase in spending would throw everything out of whack.   And in the one scenario where you got a surplus, it vanished as oil production dropped.

Well, folks, reality turned out to be uglier than the optimistic forecast of the provincial government at the time and its pet economist, Wade Locke.  The assumed average price of oil last spring is now a distant memory.  The most recent forecasts from the United States suggest oil may hover around US$50 a barrel until we are into the next decade.

So let’s take another look at those figures.

14 December 2015

Baker Ball's Dozen: three challenges facing the new administration #nlpoli

The new Liberal administration will take power later this morning.

Dwight Ball will lead a cabinet of 12.

This is only the fourth time since 1949 that we have changed the party governing the province. It’ the second time we have done so in this century.

The task ahead of the new cabinet is daunting. From 11:00 AM this morning, everything is down to the baker’s dozen of them. Here are the challenges they face.

13 December 2015

The deficit in perspective: HST version #nlpoli

Some people are upset that the provincial sales tax won’t be going up by two percent.

The current harmonized sales tax rate is 13%.

If you wanted to – if it was even possible to – raise enough money to balance the books by hiking the sales tax – the new rate would have to be 41%.

That’s 14 times higher than the cancelled increase.

It’s a bit more than triple the current HST rate.

Clear?

-srbp-

11 December 2015

The Tory-gram Returns #nlpoli

And there it was.

Top of the front page. 

Screaming headline.

Economist warns Liberal plan doesn’t make sense.

Right underneath a picture of the new Liberal Premier-in-waiting and the new Prime Minister smiling as they met in Ottawa.  Title: Happy Liberals.

About as objective as Fox News and then you read the story.

Their economist shitting on the Liberals is….

wait for it…

Wade Locke.

Hands up who didn’t just piss themselves laughing?

10 December 2015

Friends in high places: changing the HST in a hurry #nlpoli

According to a statement from the federal finance department on Wednesday,  “the federal government will take any necessary steps to ensure that the [HST] rate increase does not come into effect on January 1, 2016.” [CBC]

That came out of the first meeting between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier-designate Dwight Ball.

Ball wrote two federal cabinet ministers last week asking them to do what they needed to do in order to halt the two percent increase in the harmonized sales tax included in the provincial Conservatives’ spring budget.  Ball promised last spring to roll back the rate hike.

He issued a news release about his letter a couple of days before he met with Trudeau. Local media covered it.

But what would have to happen in order to halt the hike?

Good question.

09 December 2015

Two solitudes #nlpoli

CBC and the Telegram  carried a story on Tuesday that the province would be hit by a “mild recession” next year. There’s not much real news in that since oil and minerals will all be down in price for the foreseeable future. Major projects are coming to an end.  All known.  All foreseen. But since the Conference Board of Canada issued the release and used the words “mild recession” and so that makes it news.

Later on Tuesday,  everyone carried the story that Premier-designate Dwight Ball had written to the federal government to try and forestall the two percent hike in the harmonised sales tax. Same thing:  news release, therefore news.

At the risk of repeating the same thing again, let’s just recall that the latest change in oil prices means that 36% of government spending this year will be covered by borrowing from the banks.

The sales tax hike won’t make much of a difference this year.  The  $50 million or so it will bring in between January and March will amount to precisely 1.6% of the revised borrowing. It was frig-all before oil dropped. It is even moreso frig-all now when compared to the magnitude of the provincial government’s financial problems.

We can say that revenues won’t be much better next year.  This is another point worth bearing in mind.  The local media have habitually followed slavishly behind the provincial government’s lead over the past decade and talked about last year, not the year coming up. and in truth.  Well, this whole HST thing is another example of chasing mice when the deer are just over the hill.

08 December 2015

The Hundred Days #nlpoli

“A new government has a very small amount of time in which to lay the groundwork for its term of office. It has about six months to show things are different and about a year to start showing signs of results. In fact, they really have about 100 days to make a mark, and when it comes to things like re-organizing the departments and getting political and public service staff changes made, they have even less than that.

“The reasons are pretty simple: The outside world wants to figure out what government they really elected. For the government itself, they need to sort out the basics so they can cope with the onslaught of demands that come with the force of a three inch fire hose. Put another way, the new government has a short time to take control of the public agenda. That’s the only way they can filter the workload down to a manageable level, let alone do the things they want to do. Without control of the political agenda, they become followers rather than leaders.”

That’s the first two paragraphs from a column your humble e-scribbler wrote for The Independent was back when it began. It appeared in January 2004 after the Conservatives under Danny Williams had gone through a few less-than-stellar moments.  Go back and read the whole thing to see if any of it applies to current events.

07 December 2015

Townies and Baymen #nlpoli

Last week’s post on the political narrative war currently under way was a combination of two separate, but related ideas.

The incoming Liberal administration – like all political parties – is faced with the challenge of identifying itself or defining itself in the public mind.  Inevitably, that also involves the image of and the public attitudes toward the leader.

We’ll turn to the narrative war but first, let’s unbundle the other part of the post, the bit about townies and baymen.  That’s both the most provocative bit for some people and also the bit that is an exploration of some much bigger ideas in Newfoundland politics over the past century.

04 December 2015

Voter turn-out #nlpoli

Political scientist Stephen Tomblin is concerned about the low voter turn-out in the recent elections.

Tomblin thinks it is a sign that voters are disconnected from the political system.  The recent lacklustre election didn’t have the political parties connecting with voters in a meaningful way.  There are lots of issues politicians could have discussed with voters but they just didn’t bother.

Tomblin makes some good points but there are some things about recent elections we should consider as we try and put some meaning on the recent election.

03 December 2015

The real Ministry of Magic exposed #nlpoli

The information the Conservatives leaked to David Cochrane Tuesday on the budget update confirmed the extent to which they are actually the ones who have been running the finance department as if it was a ministry of magic.

The cash deficit this year looks like it will wind up being almost $3.0 billion.  Bear in mind that the budget the Conservatives introduced last spring called for a 12% increase in spending  - although they talked about restraint - and for borrowing $2.1 billion to cover a record deficit.

Incidentally, the accrual deficit figures leaked to Cochrane by the Tories leave out the $900 million the Conservatives planned to borrow for public works.  You need to look at the cash numbers to understand the magnitude of what the Tories did last spring.

02 December 2015

The Narrative War #nlpoli

The day after a massive Liberal victory in the general election,  CBC’s David Cochrane posted an analysis piece on the new administration.  CBC distributed it nationally.

Cochrane described Dwight Ball as a man “unlikely” to be Premier:

Four campaigns. Two losses. Two wins.  By a combined 75 votes.

Cochrane’s account leaves out relevant context.  When it comes to describing how the Liberals won,  Cochrane focuses not on anything the Liberals did but rather a string of Tory blunders that  - according to Cochrane  - made it easy for the Liberals to win the election essentially by accident.

And now, as Cochrane’s story goes, Ball The Unlikely will have to face enormous financial problems using a plan that Cochrane claims “was greeted with enormous skepticism in the final week of the campaign.”

01 December 2015

Election Results #nlpoli

Doing things differently.

That’s what the Liberal campaign was all about.

Now we have to see if Ball and the Liberals actually put that into action.

30 November 2015

The youtube election #nlpoli

This is the year of the youtube election.

Some of them, like Alison Coffin’s recession pitch or Dan Crummell’s “I live in the district” spot are simple and straightforward. Others, like those of Conservatives Beth Crosbie and Ryan Cleary are so bizarre that they are funny.  On Facebook, Conservative Alison Stoodley identified Browning Harvey as a threat to public health.

All are reminiscent of a string of videos released by John Ottenheimer during the Conservative leadership campaign a year ago.  Ottenheimer, the outsider candidate,  tried to use humour to attract some attention to his effort.

29 November 2015

Great candidate quotes #nlpoli

The Telegram did voters a valuable service the last weekend of the campaign by printing responses from candidates in metro districts to two simple questions.

They asked the candidates to identify the single biggest issue in the district and how they would tackle it.

Some of the replies were fascinating.

Kevin Parsons, is in a dogfight for his seat in Cape St. Francis.  He is the only candidate who didn’t reply to the Telegram at all.

Bill Kavanagh, the NDP candidate in Conception Bay East – Bell Island is running on the Liberal platform. He thinks public consultation is extremely important.  He’s right.  What’s interesting here is the NDP and Conservatives are criticising the Liberals for not having enough detail in their platform when they talk about consultation.

Dan Crummell, the Tory seeking re-election in St,. John’s West thinks he is the biggest issue facing the district and all his friends agree with him, apparently.

The best answer to any question came from Ryan Cleary.  It’s probably the most honest comment Cleary’s made since he lied to CBC about how he changed parties:

Cleary: First, I would be shocked if I were elected. … .

-srbp-

What’s the biggest issue facing your district?

Cape St. Francis - Kevin Parsons, Progressive Conservative (PC): No response as of deadline. [Nuff said]

Conception Bay East – Bell Island - Bill Kavanagh, Bell Island, NDP: There is a democratic deficit in this district and it’s a direct result of a lack of public consultation when it comes to decisions made by our politicians. [Interesting given the Liberal platform calls for lots of consultation and public input.  The NDP and Conservatives call that a lack of detail.]

St. John’s West - Dan Crummell, St. John's, Progressive Conservative: Strong and effective representation by someone who lives in the district. [That’s his only talking point]

Windsor Lake - Ryan Cleary, St. John's, PC: Change.

27 November 2015

Weight Problems #nlpoli

If you want to know why Forum Research’s poll is out of line with the other polls done on the provincial election, you need look no further than the data tables for the questions.

This is why pollsters should give out this information. Lots don’t.

Polling firms adjust their sample so that the sample matches the population as a who for sex, age, geography, and so on.  It’s called weighting.

Forum notes that where “appropriate,  the data has been statistically weighted by age, region, and other variables to ensure that the sample reflects the actual population according to the latest Census data.”

That’s where you get the problem.

26 November 2015

Abacus poll confirms massive Liberal lead #nlpoli

Residents of Newfoundland and Labrador awoke Thursday to a massive sucking noise as amateur pundits, media commentators, and newsrooms across the province realised they’d read way too much into a single poll on Wednesday.

A new Abacus Data poll shows the Liberal are actually on track to sweep the entire House of Assembly.  The results contradict a lone poll by  Forum Research that had the Conservative miraculously closing the gap with the Liberals.

Never happened, as it turned out.  Every other poll taken during the campaign lines with the latest Abacus poll.  What’s more  the behaviour of the Tory and Dipper campaigns confirms what serious political watchers already knew:  Paul Davis and Earle McCurdy are desperately trying to save the furniture in the face of a potential Liberal tsunami.

The Leaders

The provincial election campaign a decidedly nastier turn on Monday. Conservative leader Paul Davis is trying his best to save the party’s furniture.

Davis’ best is nasty stuff.

Davis called Dwight Ball a liar.

Rarely does one politician openly attack another using words like that.  They try to remain civil and respectful.  Davis is the first Premier since Confederation who, facing imminent defeat at the polls, has thrown any trace of decency out the window.

25 November 2015

Selling energy assets a good thing: Danny Williams #nlpoli

 

“It was a previous Liberal government that wanted to actually privatize Hydro. This particular government wants to strengthen Hydro, wants to make it a very valuable corporation: a corporation that will ultimately pay significant dividends back to the people of this Province; a corporation that perhaps some day may have enough value in its assets overall as a result of the Hebron deal and the White Rose deal, possible Hibernia deal, possible deals on gas, possible deals on oil refineries and other exploration projects, where hopefully we might be able to sell it some day and pay off all the debt of this Province, and that would be a good thing.”

Premier Danny Williams, House of Assembly, 30 April 2008

-srbp-

The CRA poll in Election 2015 #nlpoli

Corporate Research Associates’ latest poll is in line with polls by MQO and Abacus.

The table below shows CRA’s quarterly poll results since the last provincial election with the CRA “decideds” skew taken out.CRA Q4-15

Liberals are at 50% of all respondents, with the Conservatives at 16% and the NDP at seven with 26% undecided or giving no answer.

24 November 2015

The parties and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

The mighty Muskrat Falls turned up a few times in the leaders’ debate on Monday night.

Now that the project’s huge problems are plainer,  folks like Earle McCurdy of the New Democratic Party are working hard to capture the anti-Muskrat vote.  They’d like you to believe that the NDP opposes the project.

The truth is that all three three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador support Muskrat Falls. 

No party wants to stop the project.

That’s it, in a nutshell.

But for the fun of it, let’s go through this old chestnut again, in detail.

23 November 2015

The Debate #nlpoli

The only winner in the debate was David Cochrane. 

He’s no Paul Wells but he did a fine job of wrangling the three leaders.

And that’s the problem for the politicians. 

Real people were talking about the fact the neutral guy didn’t frig up like the guy on the other network.  The other folks – all the party h’acktivists on Twitter  - were just talking about how their guy won, which they were saying before the thing started.

If debates matter at all in Canadian elections, this one was a must win for Earle McCurdy or Paul Davis. They needed to score big points on Dwight Ball in order to stand even a vague hope of shifting a few votes in the last week of the campaign.

Neither did.

Methylmercury and Muskrat Falls #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls has been the big issue in two successive elections.

In 2011, the parties wanted to talk about the project, while voters didn’t.  It never showed up in the list of any Top Five issues for voters.

The parties wanted to talk about Muskrat Falls because it was something they all agreed on.  The 2011 election was a good example of an election in which the three parties ignored what the voters wanted to talk about and chattered instead among themselves.

Well, in 2015,  Muskrat Falls and its impact on the economy is a huge issue but none of the parties want to talk about it.  The best they’ve done is insist that non-existent export sales will help keep electricity prices low.  It wasn’t true in 2011 and it certainly is nonsense now.

Another Muskrat Falls issue turned up recently and it could prove to be one of the most significant things so far.

20 November 2015

The Undull Election #nlpoli

The only people who think this is a dull election don’t know anything about politics.

Seriously.

On the day before nominations closed for candidates,  the governing provincial Conservatives admitted on Thursday that they probably won’t have a full slate of candidates.  Reporters were quick to remind everyone that we haven’t seen that situation since 1972.

That was the year the Conservatives won a majority government and put an end to 23 years of uninterrupted rule by the Liberals under Joe Smallwood. That was also the first time since Confederation that we’d had a change of political party governing the province.  The second one of the two in the 20th century came in 1989.

Think about that for a second.  In the 40 years after Confederation we changed governing parties precisely twice.  Come December we will have done precisely the same thing within the first 15 years of the new century.

19 November 2015

Kicking ass in political coverage #nlpoli

The province’s major media outlets have taken different approaches to political coverage in this election from what they did last time.

The result has been one of the most interesting campaigns in recent memory.

First with the political news…

In the second week of the campaign, VOCM has been kicking ass with a series of polls commissioned from Abacus Data.  Tim Power’s firm has been producing poll results with much more interesting and useful data than we’ve seen in the province for a while. Their work so far in the 2015 election has consistently made news.

18 November 2015

Details #nlpoli

While the townie media are clamouring for details from people who don’t have the details, it’s important to look at what the people with the details are saying.

CBC’s Ramona Deering had Premier Paul Davis all to herself for a minute on CBC Radio’s Crosstalk.

She asked him what the current provincial deficit is.

“Hard to put a number on that,” said Davis just before launching into a long-winded rambling yack in order to run even further away from the simple question.

17 November 2015

The same sheet of paper #nlpoli

In all the elections in the 21st century, the three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador have proposed what are essentially the same economic policies.

The differences are minor.

16 November 2015

Fear and Hope #nlpoli

In his major interview with NTV on the first weekend of the formal provincial election campaign,  Premier Paul Davis insisted that his party was not the same as the federal Conservatives.

Then he argued that Liberal Dwight Ball would not be able to represent the province’s interest in Ottawa because the Liberal leader would not be able to challenge the Liberal prime minister,  who Davis referred to as Ball’s “boss.”

It was a classic Conservative ploy to resort to fear.

Fear a Liberal government, Davis warned.  Bad things will happen.

Ryan Cleary told a gaggle of reporters that the prospect of a Liberal government in Ottawa and a Liberal government in St. John’s kept him awake at night.

More fear.

Then we got the hat-trick of fear. While the other two were pretty much par for the course, the third one was a gob-smacker..  

15 November 2015

The possible shift #nlpoli

If the polls are right, we could be looking at an unprecedented shift in politics in Newfoundland and Labrador.

We could be looking at lots of things but it’s a useful exercise to put a bunch of ideas on the table.  That’s about the only way you can tease out rends that others won’t see.

What can we say about these polls?

13 November 2015

Possible Extinction Event #nlpoli

A third poll has confirmed that the provincial Liberals have the support of an overwhelming majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

74% of decided and leaning respondents said they would vote Liberal if an election was held tomorrow.  17% said they would vote Conservative, while only nine percent chose the New Democratic Party.

Asked who they thought would be the best Premier, 36% chose Liberal Dwight Ball, 24% chose Conservative Premier Paul Davis but only six percent chose NDP leader Earle McCurdy.

12 November 2015

Invention #nlpoli

The provincial election campaign is barely a week old and already we have seen certain themes and interpretations emerging that are the product not of fact and observation but of invention.

The most striking one is the imagined explanation for the massive Liberal lead revealed through two polls released at the start of the campaign.  Already we have  commentators in local media connect the Liberal lead to the recent federal election.  They call it the “Trudeau Effect.”

Political scientist Amanda Bittner told a CBC audience on Tuesday night that because the poll came on the heels of the federal election “it’s hard to say what is going on there.”  She then talked in the abstract about what potential impacts the poll results might have on voters.

This is a bizarre comment on several levels.

10 November 2015

Polls and Projections #nlpoli

If you want to get a sense of how accurate polls were in the last federal election take a look at the ones we have in public and compare those to the actual result on polling day.

In each of the tables below,  we are using the official vote for each party as a share of eligible vote.  Basically, that’s what the pollsters surveyed.  They asked people who were eligible to vote what they would do.

09 November 2015

The polls must be wrong #nlpoli

Over the past couple of weeks,  some people have been questioning the accuracy of public opinion polls.

People have questioned the polls in the federal election, especially after the defeat of two candidates in metro St. John’s a lot of people thought would win.  The two polls released last week show the Liberals with such a commanding lead that some people – especially Conservative and New Democrat supporters are doubting the accuracy of the polls.

If you are a Conservative and think the Conservatives should be doing better, then you may be disappointed by what follows.  But if you are interested in a better understanding of polls and what you are seeing in public, then read on. You should always look closely at public opinion polls to make sure you understand what you are looking at.

07 November 2015

Downfall #nlpoli

On Day Two of the official provincial general election campaign, a new poll by a different polling method lines up with the Abacus Data poll. In both Abacus and Forum Research, results are shown for decideds and leanings.

Forum goes farther than others, though, by showing demographic breakdowns of the responses. The Telegram had the poll first.

In the party choice question, Liberals dominate ever age category.  The narrowest gap is in the 65+ group where the Liberals have 55% of support compared to the Conservatives 33%.  In the 18-34 cohort,  Liberals hold a commanding lead with the support of 70% of respondents.  The Conservatives and New Democrats have the support of 16% and 14% of respondents respectively.

The sex split is equally stark (L/C/N):  62/24/12 for males and 68/19/13 for females.

06 November 2015

Abacus – First poll 2015 #nlpoli

No surprise that the Liberals are way ahead in the latest Abacus horse race poll.

No surprise the NDP have fallen and the Tories have held steady.

What you need to look at to understand what this means are the results for three Abacus questions.

Setting fire to your own ass is never a good idea #nlpoli

While Paul Davis and the Conservatives were launching their official election campaign,  Ryan Cleary turned up in a recorded interview on NTV to talk about the controversy he embodies.

The single biggest thing Cleary did was confirm that his answer to David Cochrane last week was a lie.

Did you discuss running in Virginia Waters-Pleasantville, David Cochrane asked Cleary for the second time.

“Absolutely not,” said Cleary clearly.

Yet there was Cleary not even a week later telling NTV’s Lyn  Burry that – in fact – Cleary had talked to NDP leader Earle McCurdy about Cleary running in Virginia Waters instead of the current candidate Bob Buckingham. Cleary brought up the idea by questioning whether Buckingham could run a law practice and be a candidate at the same time.

05 November 2015

Media Training 101: Truth and Credibility #nlpoli

Last Friday, CBC’s David Cochrane asked Ryan Cleary about information Cochrane had – apparently from NDP sources  - that Cleary had tried to run in a district where the New Democrats already had a candidate.

They asked him specifically about Virginia Park-Pleasantville, where the NDP had already announced lawyer Bob Buckingham would be the star candidate for the party.

Cleary replied:  “Absolutely not.”

That wasn’t true, as CBC’s Terry Roberts confirmed on Wednesday.

04 November 2015

Admission of failure: Conservative offshore negotiations #nlpoli

The news release on the government’s generic offshore royalty  wasn’t exactly a model of clarity and accuracy.

The headline and first sentence referred to the announcement of a “framework.”

The first quote claimed that “establishing the enhanced generic offshore oil royalty regime” was an achievement for the current administration. 

The problem is that none of it is true.

03 November 2015

A less than noble appointment #nlpoli

The provincial justice ministry had to increase spending to put a new judge in the Provincial Court in Clarenville even though the caseload in the court didn’t justify the decision, government documents reveal.

Director of Public Prosecutions Donovan Molloy e-mailed then-deputy justice minister Paul Noble on September 6, 2014 about a news story in the Telegram.  Finance minister Ross Wiseman told the Telegram that plans were in the works to appoint a judge in Clarenville. 

Noble replied that he “literally and figuratively” had no idea what Wiseman was talking about. 

But in another e-mail sent on August 28,  Noble had asked assistant deputy minister Heather Jacobs and departmental controller Deborah Dunphy to “trace the evolution” of the issue.  Specifically,  Noble said he was trying “to unravel the details” about how many judge positions the department had and how much funding went with them.  

“It boils down to why we cannot appoint a judge in Clarenville, which in turn is connected to” an issue the departmental censors blacked out. 

02 November 2015

Blue balls #nlpoli

Ryan Cleary didn’t become the punchline to any New Yorker cartoon at 3:00 PM last Friday afternoon.

Peg Norman and other local New Democrats may want to believe he did.  But he didn't.’t

Norman laced into Cleary on Facebook Friday afternoon, calling Cleary’s decision to join the Tories “an indictment of Ryan's dishonesty and disloyalty.”  and “the actions of a person who has absolutely no understanding of political ideology and is solely motivated by a narcissistic attempt to be on top."

All true, no doubt, but it was just as true when – as Norman acknowledges – she decided not to contest the NDP nomination in 2008 in favour of the NDP’s then-new star candidate. It isn’t Ryan Cleary’s fault that Peg and a bunch of others decided to welcome him with open arms as their asshole and are now feeling a bit like Richard Nixon in another joke.*.After all, Cleary is – as he truthfully said standing next to Paul Davis – exactly the same guy he was as a New Democrat.

Ryan Cleary’s score on the Determination of Arseholic Narcissism scale is entirely irrelevant to what is going on right now in provincial politics. To appreciate the political developments last week, look beyond the superficial.

30 October 2015

Party Finance, 2010 to 2014 #nlpoli

Elections Newfoundland and Labrador released the 2014 party financial reports recently.  That let’s us take a look at trends over the past five years.

party revenue

The Conservatives have consistently been able to raise more money than both of their competitors.

That changed in 2013.

In 2014, the year of the Great Tory Leadership  Disaster Part One and Part Two,  cash deserted the Conservatives.  They aren’t destitute, but their annual cash haul dropped by half in 2014 what it had been in 2013.  And if you look at 2013, you can see it as lower than it had been for the previous three years..

Money is the fuel all political parties need. When the Tories talk bravely about a 21 seat strategy they know they are blowing smoke up a reporter’s ass when they know they have the sort of annual cash haul the Liberals had in 2011.

-srbp-

29 October 2015

The United Newfoundland and Labrador Party #nlpoli

In preparation for the coming general election battle, the provincial Conservatives are digging in their headquarters within sight of the head waters of Shit Creek.

They are frustrated, as David Cochrane reports.  They cannot lay a glove on Dwight Ball and the Liberals. As a result, “[w]e are going to be very aggressive,”  a big Tory told Cochrane.

Like the Conservatives have been push-overs and pansies until now.  Since 2001,  the provincial Conservatives have been the most harshly partisan bunch of politicians Newfoundland and Labrador has seen since Confederation.  Go back to the Bill 29 racket or the Muskrat Falls fight. 

Heck, go back to the way they treated Tom Osborne.  Ostracised within caucus and then when he left them,  brutally abused by Steve Kent, Joan Burke,  Kathy Dunderdale and the rest of the Conservative goon squad.

28 October 2015

Real change #nlpoli

“A positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naive dream,”  Justin Trudeau told Canadians after he won a truly historic victory in the October 19th federal general election.  That victory, said Trudeau,  “is what positive politic can do.”

“We beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, divisive politics with a positive vision that brings Canadians together.”

Premier Paul Davis spoke to the St. John’s Board of Trade on Tuesday.  Earlier in the day he released another letter he’d written to Trudeau listing off Davis’ demands,  things he wanted Trudeau to give the province as soon as possible.

The provincial government had problems dealing with the federal government, wrote Davis, as if he and his colleagues had absolutely nothing to do with creating those problems.

Davis complained about not having a federal cabinet minister from the province, as if Davis and his colleagues had absolutely nothing to do with creating that situation either.

“But with your election,  we now have change,”  wrote Davis.

And just to prove how Davis himself had nothing to do with change, he then proceeded to rattle off a list of demands.

27 October 2015

Blackmail and the Conservative dysfunction #nlpoli

Paul Davis and his cabinet were all smiles and chuckles last week at the election of a new administration in Ottawa.

Optimistic for the future.

Looking forward to a new relationship and all that.

Then came the issue if the tariff on ships of a certain size built outside Canada.  The Conservatives are holding it out as a test of Justin Trudeau and his fellow Liberals.  Forgiving the tariff would be a sign that things had changed in Ottawa.

26 October 2015

The Conservative NDP Merger we need #nlpoli

The province’s largest public sector union met last week in St. John’s for its annual convention.  They started out their first day with a speech from recently-elected boss Jerry Earle. The militant guy promised the union would militantly oppose any plan to turn public sector services over to the private sector.

The province’s NDP leader – Earle McCurdy - spoke to delegates on Thursday.  McCurdy said for umpteen thousandth time this year, that he and his friends in the union party would also steadfastly resist any effort to privatize public services. 

Friday was the day the union let the other two provincial party leaders say a few words.  What happened next was amazing..

22 October 2015

Polls, St. John’s East, and the coming provincial election #nlpoli

SRBP told you on Tuesday morning that the federal election did not bode well for the New Democrats and Conservatives in the province.

The Liberals are just better organized than the other parties.  They can identify their voters,  keep in touch with them, and get them to the polls far better than the New Democrats or the Conservatives.  That’s how you win elections.  And when you are that much better at it than all the others, the odds go up exponentially that you will get more and more seats than people might expect. 

There’s way more to it than just the idea that the Liberals have a computer program that does today what we used to do on index cards.  Campaigns converted to Excel and other spreadsheet programs back when personal computers first appeared.

Organization is also about how the parties collect information and what they do with it. The Liberals are light years ahead of the competition, as Monday’s results showed.

21 October 2015

Scary words #nlpoli

From Newfoundland Power’s rate application to the Public Utilities Board.

Uncertainty:

The interconnection to the North American grid is a transformative event for the electrical system that currently serves the island of Newfoundland. It also creates significant uncertainties for Newfoundland Power and the customers it serves.

How the costs of the Muskrat Falls development and the transmission systems necessary to create the interconnection will be recovered from Newfoundland Power’s customers is part of that uncertainty. The reliability of wholesale supply for the Company and, indirectly, Newfoundland Power’s customers after interconnection, is another part of that uncertainty. These matters will likely be considered by the Board over the next 2 to 4 years. It is already clear, however, that the interconnection as currently proposed will have significant potential consequences for the future cost and reliability of electrical service for Newfoundland Power’s customers. (pp. 1-6 to 1-7)

20 October 2015

The lessons from Monday night #nlpoli

Nick Whalen killed a giant.

That’s the story of the 2015 federal election in Newfoundland and Labrador, bar none. 

People told Whalen he was crazy to run against the popular NDP incumbent.  No one gave him a chance.  But Whalen wound up defeating the NDP heavyweight.

19 October 2015

An opportunity to feel like we’re part of the country again #nlpoli #cdnpoli

This is Craig Westcott’s editorial from The Pearl newspaper, reproduced with permission.. 

This is a tough column to write. Taking an editorial position in favour of one candidate over another when both have worked so hard in this election isn’t as easy as some partisans on either side might think.

My opinion is tempered by the experience of having run myself, back in 2008, when I didn’t stand a snot of a chance as the Conservative candidate in the federal election against the NDP’s Jack Harris, who had the full weight and force of Danny Williams’ popularity and provincial PC machine behind him.

As I said at the time, I ran not so much for Stephen Harper’s Conservatives as against Danny Williams’ ABC campaign and his bid to isolate Newfoundland even farther from the political mainstream of this country.

Dead Meat #nlpoli

Two polls taken during the recent campaign showed Scott Andrews was losing in his old seat in Avalon.

Decided and leanings

Mainstreet
(September)

MQO/NTV (October)

Liberal

43 (37)

31

NDP

19 (16)

10

Conservative

14 (13)

9

Andrews

19 (13)

22

Number in brackets is decided only.  UND = 17

The “undecided “in the Mainstreet poll was 17%. When Mainstreet probed them to find which way they were leaning, the numbers you got above came out the other end. The decideds only, without the leaning figures) is in brackets. NTV didn’t release the raw data.

The numbers in those polls shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Liberals turfed Andrews from the caucus over allegations of sexual impropriety.  Andrews has talked around the issue but still hasn’t told anyone what happened. 

As it appears, people aren’t interested in the issue.  They aren’t interested because they have already made up their mind about Andrews.  He is dead meat just as he has been dead since the Liberals turfed him from caucus. The campaign didn't change anything for him.

The rest of the field never mattered.  You can see in these polls the fact the NDP has absolutely zero impact outside metro St. John’s. The Conservatives are pulling nine points in the most recent poll. 

-srbp-

17 October 2015

DHDM 2: St. John’s East #nlpoli #cdnpoli

If the numbers from the Liberal campaign in St. John’s East are right,  then New Democratic Party incumbent Jack Harris is in serious trouble.

Asked if which candidate they would vote for,  the 1,000 respondents to the IVR survey conducted over 48 hours late last week picked Harris by one point over his Liberal rival Nick Whalen.

This would be remarkable on a number of levels, not the least of which is that Whalen is a relative unknown in politics.  Harris, by contrast,  first got elected in 1987.  Whalen was 15 at the time.

Harris is a likeable fellow and his appeal cuts across party lines.  That broad appeal is why he has won the two federal elections he’s been in by sizeable margins:  74% of votes cast in 2008 and 71% in 2011.  That second huge victory shows that the internal feud within the Conservatives had nothing to do with his victory in 2008.

16 October 2015

Dead heat = dead meat #nlpoli

As the federal election winds down to the last day,  the result is likely going to be nothing any of the pundits expected.

Okay, the election isn;t winding down for the parties.  For them, it is winding up tighter than tighter, but for everyone else we are coming down to the end of things.

Anyway,  even for the folks who will be working this weekend without much sleep,  things now do not look anything like they looked at the start. more than two months ago.

15 October 2015

WTF?

There are times you read stuff and you just have to wonder what brought that on.

There’s Telegram editor Russell Wangersky explaining how newspapers are still relevant in the world today.  he starts bitching the old bitch about how radio stations in town used to read Telegram stories on the air word-for-word without crediting the folks at the Telly who did the work.

Then he starts in on bloggers for some reason.  Russell tells us the “dirty little secret”, namely that “they depend on us more than anyone else. They couldn’t do without us. They are building their sometimes-flimsy logical constructions on the rock-solid work of front-line reporters. The bloggers aren’t working the phones or holding the digital recorders — as much as private radio used to, and still does, rip and read, online commenters grab and gab.”

Yes, b’y Russell and we all live in our parents’ basement, never get out of our pyjamas, and rock and roll music is the spawn of Satan.

14 October 2015

Consumer to pay 19.8 cents for electricity in 2020: Nalcor #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls will ensure consumers in Newfoundland and Labrador pay much higher electricity rates than they otherwise needed to pay.

The latest Nalcor estimate is that consumers in the province will see a 53% jump in rates between now and 2020, with rates hitting 19.8 as the project enters commercial production.

The information came in the reply by Nalcor officials to a question by Tom Baird.  Here’s a screen cap of the portion he tweeted on Tuesday:

baird nalcor cost

Double whammy there for Nalcor:

Bad enough. the 2020 date confirms recent projections from two different independent sources - via Uncle Gnarley - that Nalcor’s megaproject in Labrador is now two years behind schedule.  There’s a very good likelihood the real date will be later..

Far worse, you now know you will be getting a massive  - and entirely unnecessary - jump in electricity rates due to Muskrat Falls.  The cost over-runs are just adding to the amount of the increased cost. 

Nalcor’s official figures put the jump at 53% above your current charge  For folks using 1500 kilowatt hours a month of electricity, you’d be looking at about another $100 a month. 

Compare that to the “seven dollars” more figure Ed Martin was tossing around a couple of weeks ago when word of the last cost over-run and project delay hit the news. VOCM even used it in a headline on September 30: 

Nalcor Expects Average Power Bill to Go Up About $7

Wrong!

The truth was that the seven dollar hike Martin was talking about was on top of several other Nalcor increased estimates that still didn’t account for the gap between where we are currently and where Nalcor’s estimates started.  More on that below.  Key thing here is that official Nalcor figures now put the rate increase at 53%.

Only problem is we can’t be sure Nalcor has its own figures right. Here’s why.

13 October 2015

The Manipulation Manipulation #nlpoli #cdnpoli

/What a difference 36 years makes.

There’s  New Democrat strategist Robin Sears in a National Post piece complaining about the way the Liberal are running their guy named Trudeau in lots of situations that give him good visuals.

“He isn’t running to be a boxer or a canoeist, he’s running to be Prime Minister, which is a different set of credentials,” said Robin Sears, who spent several campaigns in the war room for former NDP leader Ed Broadbent.

Now jump back to 1979, courtesy of the National Film Board’s documentary about the federal election in which another guy named Trudeau figured prominently.

12 October 2015

The ABCs of ABC #nlpoli

 

In 2004, Danny Williams fought for three months against a federal government decision that had been settled – at least for the federal government – earlier in the year as part of the usual budget cycle.

Williams got the money the federal government had allocated but won the domestic war for public opinion.

In 2007,  Williams and his provincial Conservatives launched a second political holy war against the federal government’s budget decisions.  Williams waged a much longer war,  lost it, but was widely credited at home with a victory.

There were other similarities

08 October 2015

The uncivil Civil War #nlpoli

At the heart of the ongoing civil war between Danny Williams’ provincial Conservatives and Stephen Harper’s federal Conservatives is the claim by Williams that Harper broke his 2006 election promise on Equalization.

Williams wrote to each of the federal party leaders and asked the leaders to state their party’s position on Equalization.

07 October 2015

Alternatives to the Falls #nlpoli

Since people are wondering if Muskrat Falls really is still the cheapest way to make electricity for local use,  let’s take a look at it.

The tale is actually very simple.

Nalcor argued that Muskrat Falls was cheaper than one alternative:  an island system dependent on thermal generation using some sort of petroleum fuel like the heavy stuff burned at Holyrood.

Now that wasn’t true even in December 2010, as this SRBP post noted at the time. Even if you accept the contrived studies used in 2012 to justify Muskrat Falls,  the massive cost increases for the project have made the Falls more expensive than the alternatives. 

The only advantage Muskrat had over thermal (oil) was fuel and those prices have gone in one direction:  down.  Since you can build a new thermal plant near to the demand source, you wouldn’t need the expensive connections to the mainland.  That all works for oil-fired generation and against Muskrat Falls.

Oil prices have plummeted in recent months and are forecast to stay low,  Muskrat Falls’ only advantage is definitely gone.

Poof!

06 October 2015

The smallest details tell the biggest story #nlpoli

Last week, provincial fisheries minister Vaughn Granter held a news conference at a local restaurant known for its seafood dishes to announce that from now on, that restaurant and even ordinary consumers could buy fish.directly from a fisherman without facing any legal problems.

That may sound a bit odd to some people but truth be told the provincial government has for decades banned direct sales to consumers.  Ostensibly it was based on concerns over public health but in truth it was just another way the government tried to control the hell out of the fish business.

Wonderful news.

But the really fascinating detail was buried away in Granter’s speaking notes.

05 October 2015

Consumer electricity costs to jump by 51% (revised) #nlpoli

 

The average consumer in Newfoundland and Labrador should expect to pay 51% more for electricity compared to their current  rates once Muskrat Falls comes online,  according to SRBP’s estimate.  Nalcor figures available at the time of writing.the original version of this post suggested a rate increase of 51%.

A household that current pays $156 $179.25 a month for electricity (not including HST, basic charge or provincial rebate) will see their monthly charge increase by $94 $282 a month with Muskrat Falls included in 2020.  Those calculations use Nalcor figures and current domestic electricity rates. 

Former Premier Danny Williams, the man behind the project, dismissed the cost increases for the project as “mouse droppings” and nothing more than the “cost of doing business.” 

Nalcor boss Ed Martin said last week that consumer prices would go up by an additional seven dollars a month due to the most recent increase.  Martin didn’t explain that those calculations were merely the added costs from the latest increase added to Nalcor’s earlier forecast based on cost over-runs.  What Martin also didn’t say was that Nalcor’s calculations started from an assumed price that was significantly higher than actual consumer rates at the moment.

02 October 2015

Hyping the stock, yet again #nlpoli

Any oil company seriously interested in bidding on an exploration license offshore Newfoundland and Labrador isn’t likely to need the hyped presentation by the provincial government Thursday.

Exploring offshore is expensive.

Always has been.

Always will be.

Exploring beyond the 200 mile exclusive economic zone, in upwards of two kilometres of water, just makes the oil and gas all that much more costly. to find and more costly to produce.

01 October 2015

Muskrat Falls commercial power by Q2 2019 ? #nlpoli

The latest progress report shows that Nalcor had a productive summer, but an extrapolation by the researcher and writer  JM of information in the latest progress reports points to first power from Muskrat Falls in September 2018 and full commercial power by the middle of 2019.

In at post at Uncle Gnarley, JM described the challenge facing Nalcor in 2015:

As correctly noted in the March 2015 oversight report the productivity improvements in Q2 2015 are essential to meeting the final milestone schedule.  For the Muskrat Falls team, the summer of 2015 is really “make or break” for the project.  They need to get the project back on track before the construction schedule is hampered yet again by another Labrador winter. Winter begins earlier in Labrador than it does on the Island. The project team knows this.  The questions is this:  is the productivity improving at a pace where the schedule can be recovered? [sic]  If Nalcor have any hope for schedule recovery they must first start meeting their originally planned productivity targets.  In the July 2014 schedule, they planned to complete about 6.7% of the project in Q1-2015.  With all their mitigation measures, Nalcor should be looking for about 33% complete by the end of June.

30 September 2015

Pride and Failure #nlpoli

‘”Pride is a big factor”  a manager at Muskrat Falls told the Telegram’s James McLeod on Monday during the latest media junket to the Big Dig North. People come to work every day and say “I built this.”

Pride is the essence of Muskrat Falls. 

Go back to 2012.

All the business people who looked forward to making a fortune off the project never talked about risk, profits, cash flows, return on their investment, and other stuff you’d expect business people to talk about.

They say stuff like “We believe in good things for our province.”  Or “… we believe we have the courage to harness the opportunity before us and make these things happen.”

29 September 2015

Rumpole and the Family Compact #nlpoli

Sixteen of the province’s 22 full-time provincial court judges are either already in or are on their way to St. Andrews, New Brunswick.

They are in for a surprise.

They’ve headed to New Brunswick for the annual meeting of provincial courts judges of Newfoundland and Labrador, called a few months ago by Chief Judge Mark Pike to coincide with the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges.  As recently as 10 days ago, Pike was still finalising the agenda.

Surprise:  now Mark won’t be there.
Pike quit very suddenly and unexpectedly on Monday.  And just as quickly and just as surprisingly,  Attorney General Felix Collins announced Pike’s replacement.  It’s Pike’s wife, Pamela Goulding, a former head of the Crown prosecution service who is the third most junior judge on the provincial court bench.

The judges won’t be surprised by that appointment. 

It’s par for the course these days.

28 September 2015

White is the new black #nlpoli

2002.

Stephen Harper said that his party had a program that would help change the dependence in Atlantic Canada on government spending, a dependence that had led to what he called a “culture of defeatism.”

That’s the actual phrase, by the way,  “culture of defeatism.”  Not a culture of defeat as some politicians have put it in the innumerable times since 2002 that they have used that phrase against Stephen Harper in a federal election campaign.

25 September 2015

The N-word #nlpoli

New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair likely never imagined that an insult he threw at a couple of Parti Quebecois politicians in the Quebec National Assembly 20 years ago would come back to haunt him 2015.

Liberal candidate Nick Whalen likely never imagined that reminding Mulcair of the word he used – “Newfie” -  would rob Mulcair of whatever coverage he’d hoped to get out of his campaign stop in St. John’s.

But it did. 

Then the controversy over Mulcair’s remarks carried on for another two days as New Democrats whined and complained  about the whole issue.  That only served to keep it going.

And to make sure the story didn’t die,  two national pieces  - Colby Cosh (National Post) and Evan Dyer (CBC) – weighed in.  Cosh and Dyer picked up on the context of the original comment and that’s where things stared to get really interesting.

24 September 2015

That's Doctor King to you #nlpoli

Not surprisingly, Darin King has decided to leave politics after only eight years.

King is just the latest in a long line of pensionable Conservatives who have decided it would be better to quit politics now with a fat pension rather than risk sitting on the opposition benches for a few years.

If he is remembered at all, King will stand out among his colleagues in the current Conservative administration for two reasons.

23 September 2015

Crossing Topsail Road #nlpoli

A new high school has put the better part of a thousand young people on Topsail Road opposite a raft of fast food outlets and a major mall.

Young people will cross Topsail Road, a four–lane major thoroughfare in St. John’s.  it is dangerous.  Things will get more dangerous.  City council is thinking about building a pedestrian walkway way over the street so pedestrians don’t have to cross at street level.

The pedway will be costly.  Some people don’t like the cost and suggest that some other, far less expensive measures would do.  Those people are wrong and here’s why.

22 September 2015

Three things about Hurricane Igor #nlpoli

hard to believe but it has been five years since Hurricane Igor ripped through Placentia Bay and into Trinity Bay.

What stands out most about those events today is the same as it was at the time.

First, the devastation was astounding in every respect.

Second,  the resilience of the people affected by the disaster was amazing.

Third the capacity of senior government officials, politicians and bureaucrats alike, to polish their own knob without any justification remains as appalling in 2010 as it was at the time.

21 September 2015

No race in Avalon, except for the truth #nlpoli

Tom Mulcair will not be coming back to Newfoundland and Labrador again during the current federal election.

He certainly won;t be coming back to visit Avalon and he will only be back if there is a sense that Ryan might actually have a shot at winning St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.

The only other reason he might come back is if he had a candidate in a fight for a seat.  The latest poll from Mainstreet Research confirms what dedicated political analysts have known for some time:  there is no race in Avalon.  Liberal Ken MacDonald is miles ahead of any of his rivals. 

The New Democrats are a distant second.

“Distant” means the Liberal candidate is out front by more than two to one either in decided voters or if you add leaning to the decideds.

Les vrais newfies #nlpoli

Sometime late in the last century, Bloc NDP leader Tom Mulcair said something in the Quebec National Assembly about Newfies.

Mulcair apologised for the remark during his campaign stop in St. John’s on Sunday, and well he should

“Newfie” is a slur. Even if it is used by people from Newfoundland, the word is still offensive. In some sense, It conveys an attitude about the place as being one so destitute that people leave it in droves for a better life.   In another sense, it conveys an attitude about the people as buffoons. 

So Tom apologised and, as far as that goes, we should hear no more of it.  What we should continue to discuss, though, is the rest of what Tom had to say.

18 September 2015

Cabinet control of Crown corporations #nlpoli

Hearings at the pubic utilities board revealed that senior executives at Nalcor received hefty bonuses again in 20914 as they have in other. 

Ostensibly, they are a reward for achieving corporate performance targets. Given that Nalcor has had some serious problems with its capital works and maintenance program over the past decade, it is rather surprising to see people getting great gobs of cash while the company hasn’t been performing.

Ostensibly, the bonuses are part of a compensation package that keeps the company competitive.  That’s how Nalcor chief executive Ed Martin justified the compensation now that we understand they are the chief cause of the cost increases Nalcor is using to justify its request for an increase in electricity rates this year.

17 September 2015

Political Calculations 2 #nlpoli

The next provincial general election finishes on November 30, 2015.

Not the way you are used to thinking of it, right?

You think the election happens on that day because, traditionally, that’s the day when most people vote.

Thing is,  voting takes place on several days and pretty much always has.  In Canada,  elections sometimes took weeks and months according to Elections Canada.  The rules to determine who can vote also changed over time.  Some elections in the 19th century had different qualifications for voters in different provinces.

Through all that, the basic goal of the election was the same:  be the one who had the most votes in the ballot box when the elections officials counted them up.

16 September 2015

Political Calculations #nlpoli

As you look ahead to the fall election, the bigger political addicts among you are likely trying to figure out different aspects like how the parties might run the campaign.

We got a clue this week with the debate story.  Apparently the front-runner Liberals never thought of forcing the media outlets to pool together and have one debate.  Instead they took the requests one-by-one until they hit their quota of two.  Anyone who came along after that, including the largest private radio network, were shit-out-of-luck.

The episode reveals a curious bit of Liberal political strategy but it made your humble e-scribbler think about a bunch of other calculations that we should likely all keep in mind.

Let’s look at the numbers.

15 September 2015

Putting the questions about the debate #nlpoli

The Liberals have decided to skip the provincial leaders debate sponsored by VOCM and the St. John’s Board of Trade.

The reason, according to Liberal leader Dwight Ball is that there is only so much time available, so the party has decided to go with the two television debates that will offer province-wide coverage.

Here are some questions that are begging for an answer…

14 September 2015

The state of federal politics in Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

There is a problem, apparently.

A very big problem.

In the current federal election, none of the federal party leaders have visited the province yet.

On Friday, three of the four major outlets in the province all carried some version of exactly the same story.  For the quibblers, the Telly story appeared on Saturday but it had to be written at least the day before.  In itself, that fact says much about the state of the news media in the province and it isn;t a good tale.

NTV had local candidates on Issues and Answers but included a reference to the absent party leaders in the set up.  CBC has a commentary by Peter Cowan on its website about the issue. The Telegram story on the Great Void includes comments from Bloc-NDP incumbent Ryan Cleary for good measure. Only VOCM seems to have ignored this political bombshell.

11 September 2015

Near the bottom of a very big rabbit hole #nlpoli

Thursday was one of those days where you felt like you had dropped down the rabbit hole with Alice.

Or maybe had indulged a bit too heavily in some mind-altering substance.

There was Lorraine Michael on the radio complaining that Muskrat Falls would likely cause environmental problems through the release of methyl mercury.  Let’s be clear:  there is nothing we know about Muskrat Falls today on any subject that wasn’t known when Lorraine endorsed Muskrat Falls. Yet, there is Lorraine trying to make it sound like she never, ever supported this megaproject.

10 September 2015

Three months later … #nlpoli

In June,  SRBP used the CRA poll from the second quarter of 2015 as the basis for a bit of “what if” thinking.

Consider that the Liberals have dropped seven points in six months.  The New Democrats are up seven in three months.  Extend that trend forward to September.  Then you’d have the Liberals down from 35 to 31.

The New Democrats, meanwhile, would move from 16 to 23. It isn’t unusual at all to see shift in votes during an election a lot larger than the one needed to close the eight point gap you’d have at that point between the NDP and the Liberals.

Guess what happened.

09 September 2015

Finding the voice of the next generation #nlpoli

“My Government will harness the desire among Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to cultivate greater cultural, financial and moral autonomy vis-à-vis Ottawa.”

That’s from the 2007 throne speech. 

At the time, the language started a few people.  That’s odd because Danny Williams was basically building up to that point for six years.  He started with a speech in Halifax in 2001 shortly after he became leader of the provincial Conservatives.  He ramped up the rhetoric and the tension through 2004 and into 2005. 

Then in 2006, he went to war again, this time with Stephen Harper.  It was the Conservative re-election strategy and came complete with an anthem composed in 2004.

What’s weird about the 2007 throne speech language in hindsight is not that the Conservatives used it or that some people found it surprising.

Take a look at the second use of the word autonomy and see if you can spot the oddity.

08 September 2015

Senior appointments in 2015 #nlpoli

Orders in Council up to the end of August 2015, show that the cabinet has made on 13 appointments at the rank of deputy minister and assistant deputy minister since the beginning of the new calendar year.

That’s roughly on par with the changes made in 2014.

It’s dramatically short of the record 51 such appointments made in 2013 or the very high rates of turn-over in 2011 and 2012.

-srbp-

07 September 2015

Adios to another one #nlpoli

Clyde Jackman is the latest provincial Conservative to quit politics.

That’s not surprising.  He was supposed to go in 2011 but hung around to make sure the party didn’t have to make an serious changes in people or policies.

Jackman had a few colourful moments during his political career, not the least of which was his stint as fish minister.  He scuttled an historic agreement to reform the fishery. Clyde and his colleagues couldn’t be arsed to spend money on it when they had all their cash tied up in other things.

Then there was the time Clyde and his colleagues couldn’t be arsed to fund an historic commemoration when Clyde was responsible for tourism.

Other than being part of the crowd that added more public debt to the back’s of provincial taxpayers than all the other administrations since Confederation combined,  Clyde Jackman had a relatively tame political career compared to some of his colleagues.

Now Clyde is retiring.  Not surprising really.  In 2011, he barely scraped back into office in a situation where his party didn’t face huge opposition.  Clyde wasn’t alone.  Lots of his colleagues kept their seats by only the thinnest of margins.  it’s only when you look at the numbers that you realise how just close the Conservatives came to losing in 2011. It wouldn’t have taken much,.

Good bye and good luck, Clyde.

Enjoy the grand-kids.

-srbp-

04 September 2015

Timeliness #nlpoli

The federal and provincial governments need to sort out a royalty regime for the areas of the seabed outside the 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

Wylie Spicer of McInnes Cooper has pointed this out in a new paper from the University of Calgary public policy school..

SRBP pointed this out in 2009, at the time of a significant discovery that might have commercial potential.

SRBP pointed it out again earlier this year when the notorious scoff-law Paul Davis said he wanted to get a development going outside the 200 mile limit without having publicly addressed the issue of the new royalty regime. He had started talking about a new royalty regime, apparently, but was keeping it a secret.

Maybe now that someone from Calgary has pointed out this deficiency  someone will notice the problem and do something about it.

Maybe it is something one of the political parties in the province would like to bring up during the provincial election. 

-srbp-

03 September 2015

Leadership and opportunity #nlpoli

On Tuesday, the provincial Conservatives launched their election campaign.

It was to be built solely on the image of Paul Davis as a great leader.  They labelled the campaign Davis 15. The revamped the party website and they launched a second site – with the clever address davis15.ca – that included videos by and about Paul.

One of the videos included an endorsement from a police officer who, as it turned out, received a promotion last spring from sergeant to inspector.  Only a short while before he had been a constable.

02 September 2015

Omega Man #nlpoli

The word that comes to mind when you look at the new provincial Conservative party website or the davis165.ca site isn’t fresh, new, rebounding, or even trying.

It is “alone”.

You see lots of pictures of Paul Davis.

By himself.

01 September 2015

New Englanders know you’re bullshitting ‘em, Paul #nlpoli

The New England governors and eastern Canadian premiers were in town on Monday for a quick meeting.

The only thing that seemed to make local news was talk about electricity sales.  This is old hat for regular readers, but it is worth going over again.

New England wants to buy electricity.  They can get lots of it very cheaply thanks to shale gas lately.  How cheaply, you may wonder?  Well, in August it was running around four to five cents a kilowatt hour wholesale, not including transportation.

To put that in Muskrat Falls perspective,  it is less than half the cost of making electricity according to the estimate five years ago.  Where the price is these days is anybody’s guess.

31 August 2015

Ferry Tales #nlpoli

There are times when you have to wonder if provincial cabinet ministers actually realise how moronic they sound to everyone else.

David Brazil is the transportation minister.  By his own admission,  a company in Romania could build ferries for the ferry system in Newfoundland and Labrador for a better price than anyone else.

That better price included – by his own claim – if the provincial government had to pay a multi-million penalty on the project under federal tariff law. 

28 August 2015

Chainsaw Earle keeps austerity on the table #nlpoli

NDP leader Earle McCurdy called the province’s major open line show on Thursday and by the sounds of things he hasn’t backed off the position that the size of the government’s financial problems will mean more cuts.

Sure he said he was opposed to austerity,  but what Earle did say was that the government will have to cut jobs, lay people off and slash spending to cope with its financial problems. 

Potato, potato, Earle.

27 August 2015

NL NDP boss admits deeper “austerity” on the table as gov cash situation worsens #nlpoli

“All options are going to have to be considered I guess, from both the revenue and the expenditure side, to make the best of a challenging situation,” NDP leader Earle McCurdy told CBC on Wednesday.

“All options” includes more job cuts,  spending reductions, and public sector layoffs in addition to higher taxes.

That endorsement of “austerity” as a serious option is a radical change of direction for the provincial Dippers,.  Up to now, they’ve been adamantly opposed to any cuts to public spending no matter how bad things got.

26 August 2015

We should put up a statue or something #nlpoli

There’s something a bit surreal about the news this week.

Well, not really the news itself, so much as the way people are reacting to it.

The drop in oil prices and the forecast decline of jobs in Newfoundland and Labrador are not anything people haven;t heard before.

And yet people seem genuinely shocked.

Let’s understand, there is absolutely nothing – not a single thing – about any of this information that didn’t come with plenty of warning.

25 August 2015

The Uri Geller of MUN Economics Strikes Again #nlpoli

Does anyone really take Wade Locke seriously anymore?

Really?

Do they?

Seriously.

Go back to last October to see why.

The next time reporters have Wade on camera, give him a spoon to bend with his psychic ability.

Wade might just be able to do it.  God knows he sure can’t figure out energy pricing and sound economic policy.. 

-srbp-

24 August 2015

Honouring Newfoundland Writers #nlpoli

Most of you have probably never heard of a fellow named Alonzo John  Gallishaw. 

John Gallishaw is best remembered in his native land for his brief service in the Newfoundland regiment during the Great War.  Wounded at Gallipoli,  Gallishaw was invalided out of service and eventually went back to the United States.  Born in St. John’s in 1890, Gallishaw had been in the United States at the time war broke out.  He was studying English at Harvard University, of all places.

He took up a teaching appointment and after the Americans entered the war,  Gallishaw enlisted in the American Army in January 1918.  He  took a commission and went to France as part of the American expeditionary force   That was Gallishaw’s hat-trick since he had enlisted briefly in the Canadian army on the war to Newfoundland in 1915.

21 August 2015

Moral victory: saying yes to less #nlpoli

A couple of years after his war with one prime minister, Danny Williams was locked in another war with another federal first minister.

Williams was demanding compensation for yet another supposed injustice. 

“What I said before and I said going in, this is about principles,”  Williams told reporters in November 2007 “but it's also about money as well. At the end of the day, the promise and the principle converts to cash for the bottom line ….”

The pattern set in 2004 was repeating itself.   

20 August 2015

Mr. Williams Goes to Hell #nlpoli

The story of the 2004 war with Ottawa is the story of disconnects,  mismatches, incongruities, of things that just didn't add up.

October 2004 is a good example.  In the middle of the month,  Loyola Sullivan,   the provincial lead negotiator, went to Ottawa for a meeting with federal finance minister, Ralph Goodale.  he headed the negotiations for the federal government in the effort to find a draft agreement.

Sullivan told reporters the chances of a deal looked good.  The two governments were talking about something that would last eight years and bring the provincial government between $1.4 and $2.0 billion depending on the price of oil.

At exactly the same time, Premier Danny Williams was telling reporters the provincial position had not changed.  "There are no movements from the government of Newfoundland and Labrador,”  Williams told Rob Antle of the Telegram on October 16.  “There's no doubt about.that. We have no intention of moving.”

19 August 2015

From agreement to disagreement #nlpoli

On June 4, 2004, Danny Williams delivered a keynote speech to delegates at the oil and gas conference organized annual by the association that represented offshore service and supply companies.

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should not support any candidate or any party in the upcoming federal election” he said, “that does not clearly and unequivocally provide us with a commitment to keep 100 per cent of our provincial revenues under the Atlantic Accord.”

The day after Williams’ speech, Martin was in St. John’s as part of his election tour of Eastern Canada. Martin told the CBC that in an early morning conversation with Williams, “I have made it very clear that the proposal that he has put forth is a proposal that we accept."

18 August 2015

S’truth #nlpoli #cdnpoli

New Democratic party candidate Linda McQuaig caused a bit of a stir in the first week of the federal election campaign when she said that in order to meet the national carbon emission reduction targets, we’d likely have to leave most of the oil sands oil in the ground, undeveloped.

Writing in the Toronto Star on Tuesday, Seth Klein of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the reaction to what he called McQuaig’s “innocuous and true statement” is just further evidence that “our politics do not allow for serious — and truly honest — discussion of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Klein then decries the fact that all sorts of politicians from all sorts of parties are not embracing all sorts of policies that Klein thinks are not just good ideas but absolutely correct ones.  Therefore, our politics is bad.

Well, it isn’t actually. 

17 August 2015

The 2004 war with Ottawa revisited #nlpoli

The 2004 “war” with Ottawa over a version of federal Equalization payments to Newfoundland and Labrador is an early episode in the provincial Conservative administration.

The confrontation helped propel Premier Danny Williams to unprecedented heights of popularity.  This, in turn, affected the rest of his tenure as Premier.  It was a critical element in his quest for political hegemony in the province during his first term.

 

In SRBP’s review of Ray Blake’s new book on federal provincial relations, there are some comments about Blake’s chapter on Danny Williams and the war with Ottawa in 2004. The review wasn’t the place to get into that.  The subject is too big. 

This post will explain the problems with Blake’s accounts and with other accounts of the period.