24 July 2017

Dunkirk (2017)

Reviewers have been so effusive in their praise for Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk that one suspects that something is very wrong here.

The New York Times, for example, called it a "tour de force", "a brilliant new film",  and "a characteristically complex and condensed vision of a war in a movie that is insistently humanizing, despite its monumentality."  The Guardian called the film "structurally immaculate" and "a jaw-dropping spectacle in which the picture for the most part stretched beyond [the reviewer's] field of vision, both vertically and horizontally."  Vanity Fair, among others, calls the film Nolan's "most artistic, impressionistic film yet."

But the Vanity Fair reviewer gives us a clue that something is amiss here with his very first sentence. He describes the challenge of trying to find words to describe this film. "It was a dance piece, then a music video, then a poem, then a prayer."

They should be a clue, though that something is amiss in the reviews.  After all all, these are bizarre ways to describe a movie about the defeat of Britain and France in early 1940 at the hands of an invading German army. Britain only avoided a catastrophe by a combination of muddling, luck, and improvisation. The story of Dunkirk is a spectacle in its own right. It is spectacular in the wider context of defeat and conquest at the opening phase of the largest war in human history. Thematically, Dunkirk is the antithesis to Normandy:  retreat in defeat versus attack leading to victory. Dunkirk: improvised. Normandy:  meticulously planned. The one is the prelude to the other.  This is a rich mine of a story.

Go read the New York Times review of the one movie made about Dunkirk thus far. Now look at the reviews of the 2017 movie. They seem thin. Insubstantial. Lacking in depth.  You should be squirming by now at the idea that such a subject can be a rendered as a tour de force dance piece or a structurally immaculate music video.

17 July 2017

Traces of the Grossly Impudent Lie #nlpoli

There's a phrase in Pam Frampton's Saturday column on Muskrat Falls.

A bunch of words dropped in easily,  maybe offhandedly.

Nothing that really stands out.

Just a simple fact.

The kind of thing that you might just skip past, unless maybe you'd be writing about this project since before it was a gleam in some old twitchy-shouldered man's eye.

"Now, the project is more than 75 per cent finished, two years behind schedule and 70 per cent over budget."

11 July 2017

Heretics and Believers


Peter Marshall's Heretics and believers:  a history of the English Reformation from Yale University Press (2017) arrived as a belated birthday present on Friday past.  It's proven to be well worth the wait.  

"Heretics and Believers" by Peter Marshall


As the official blurb describes it, "Peter Marshall’s sweeping new history—the first major overview for general readers in a generation—argues that sixteenth-century England was a society neither desperate for nor allergic to change, but one open to ideas of “reform” in various competing guises. King Henry VIII wanted an orderly, uniform Reformation, but his actions opened a Pandora’s Box from which pluralism and diversity flowed and rooted themselves in English life.

With sensitivity to individual experience as well as masterfully synthesizing historical and institutional developments, Marshall frames the perceptions and actions of people great and small, from monarchs and bishops to ordinary families and ecclesiastics, against a backdrop of profound change that altered the meanings of “religion” itself. This engaging history reveals what was really at stake in the overthrow of Catholic culture and the reshaping of the English Church."

-srbp-

30 June 2017

Canada 150 #nlpoli #cdnpoli

From my paper "Two solitudes",  Dorchester Review, volume 6, number 1, spring/summer 2016:

"Newfoundland and Canada, separate countries for so long, exist as two solitudes within the bosom of a single country more than 65 years after Confederation. They do not understand each other very well. Canadians can be forgiven if they do not know much about Newfoundlanders beyond caricatures in popular media, let alone understand them. But Newfoundlanders do not know themselves. They must grapple daily with the gap between their own history as it was and the history as other Newfoundlanders tell it to them, wrongly, repeatedly. 
These solitudes are not fragments of the past of no consequence in the present. They are not without shape and substance in the world today. People who think of themselves as eternal victims of conspiracies will see conspiracies everywhere and act accordingly. For some Newfoundlanders,  the British bogeyman of 1914 became the Canadian and British bogey of 1949, and the Quebec bogey in 1969 at Churchill Falls, or the bogey of Ottawa and offshore resources in 2004. A century after July 1, 1916, the result of these two solitudes is a relationship between Newfoundland and the rest of Canada that may well be more distant than it ever was, but certainly is needlessly so."
For the full thing, buy the single issue or subscribe.

You'll get some thoughtful and thought-provoking stuff from writers across Canada.

-srbp-


23 May 2017

The Newfie Thing #nlpoli

Facebook has become hugely popular in Newfoundland and Labrador and, not surprisingly, some creative and enterprising fellow came up with a running joke - these days called a meme - featuring a fellow in a sou'wester.

You will find it called "newfie word of the day". The text that goes with the picture involves a joke based on some mispronunciation of a standard English word or phrase and out of that comes some sort of joke.

The one above is an example.  There are dozens more.  The thing is quite popular as you can tell by searching the Internet for "newfie word of the day".

Memorial University's political scientist slash sociologist Jamie Baker has discovered that the guy in the picture isn't a Newfoundlander.  He's actually Czech.  The picture came from a post on a Northern Peninsula blog by cabinet minister Christopher Mitchelmore.  It's about a Screech-in ceremony in the Czech republic that Mitchelmore ran during a visit there on one of his numerous globe-trotting ventures.

Baker posted the link on Facebook and asked folks to give them their thoughts. Feel free to do so by sending him an email:  jbaker at mun dot ca.  Baker's also written about about nationalism and racism, if this interests you. He got some notoriety last week not for this "newfie" meme story but for one on a paper he wrote about young people's attitudes to the word "newfie." He interviewed 30 university students and found that among the young people, the word is either an insult or no big thing.  You can find a CBC story about it, one from Radio Canada, and one from NTV.

15 May 2017

The unbroken machine #nlpoli

The Unbroken Machine coverThe best little book on Canadian politics and government in a long time.


Starting with the basics,  Dale Smith describes how the Canadian political system works and why things are like they are.  The language is plain and that makes the idea understandable for as wide an audience as possible.

Every politician, pundit, and plumber should have a dog-eared copy of The unbroken machine close at hand and check it before speaking about any current issue in Canadian politics. Smith's focus is on the federal system but the basic ideas - responsible government,  the role of the Crown and so on - apply in the provincial sphere as well.

Available in paperback,  pdf, and ebook editions from your local bookseller or online from Dundurn Press.

-srbp-



12 May 2017

Junk reporting of medical research

The Telegraph is a major conventional newspaper in the United Kingdom.

And it spreads fake news.

There's nothing surprising in that. Most conventional news organisations produce some amount of pure nonsense in the course of a year.  The crap content level varies from outlet to outlet and the people who work hard in pretty well every conventional news outlet also work diligently to get stories right.

But excrement seeps through.

It's a Law of Averages thing.

Anyway...

24 April 2017

Plain language, power, and politics #nlpoli

In the midst of a political controversy over recent fishing quotas in Newfoundland and Labrador, two people are talking about the need for better communication about science and the fishing quotas.

Jacqueline Perry is the regional director of fisheries management for the fisheries and oceans department of the Government of Canada.  "This is difficult stuff,"  she said, referring to reductions in quotas that the decisions that flow from the scientific information on fish stocks will have an adverse impact on people in the fishing industry.

"We are doing the very, very best that we can with the information that our science colleagues are able to provide to us with the input of industry. Are we getting it 100 per cent right? I don't know if we will ever know [about the precise size of fish stocks]."

In related comments,  the head of the Marine Institute's fisheries science program told CBC that the "fact that there is so much controversy is indicative that communication is a necessary component … If we're going to find a way forward, we're going to have to keep talking."  Brett Favaro said the Marine Institute will include course work in the master's and doctoral programs aimed at teaching scientists how to communicate their research findings more effectively.

He's talking about plain language, among other things.  Plain language or Plain English establishes some simple rules about the way you use words and sentences in order to ensure the greatest number of people will understand what you are saying.

14 April 2017

Monchy-le-Preux #nlpoli

Very few Newfoundlanders and Labradorians let alone very few Canadians have ever heard of Monchy-le-Preux.

People from St. John's might know of Monchy Street,  in the city's Rabbit Town neighbourhood. It is there alongside Suvla,  Cairo,  and Edinburgh Streets and a few others that seem to people unaware of Newfoundland's military past to have very little in common.

The streets are all connected to the Newfoundland Regiment during the Great War.  Suvla is where he regiment landed during the Gallipoli campaign.  Cairo is where it spent some time training before landing in Turkey.  Edinburgh is the city in Scotland where the Newfoundlanders mounted guard at the famous castle.and Cairo.  Hamel, another street in that neighbourhood, refers to Beaumont Hamel, of course.

And Monchy is Monchy-le-Preux.

03 April 2017

Ray and Robert #nlpoli

With the release of Ray Guy:  the final columns, 2003 - 2013,  almost every column Ray Guy ever published is now available in book form.

This compilation is edited by Brian Jones,  published by Creative,  and contains a decade's worth of writing Guy did for The northeast Avalon Times.  The topics are all familiar fodder:  provincial politicians.

Let's be clear about one thing up front.  You will buy this book to fill out your collection of Ray Guy's work.  You will not be buying it as a penetrating insight into a decade's worth of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. Sure the cover blurbs are effusive in their praise - "brilliant writing"  and "unequalled style" - but by the time Ray was clacking out his opinions on Danny,  Jerome or Roger,  he was clearly tired.

What's more evident is that his touchstones,  his go-to references had become cliche,  stale and lifeless through overuse.  And what's worse, his writing lacked any sign of crispness, clarity, deftness of phrase, or any of Guy's other hallmarks.

27 March 2017

The Andrew Potter Affair #nlpoli #cdnpoli

For those interested in the controversy caused by an opinion piece in Macleans,  here are some useful links.

1.  "How a snowstorm exposed Quebec’s real problem: social malaise"  Sub-head:  "The issues that led to the shutdown of a Montreal highway that left drivers stranded go beyond mere political dysfunction"  Andrew Potter's original piece,  with some alterations and editorial notes that have been added since it first appeared.

2.  "This is not how a liberal society responds to criticism"  -  Andrew Coyne's typically cogent and eloquent criticism of the response to Potter's column article.  From the Montreal Gazette.

3.  "It was shoddy journalism that cost Andrew Potter his job"   - Chantal Hebert's typically cogent and eloquent examination of the response to Potter's column.  From the Toronto Star.

4.  From Joseph Heath, an academic's perspective on what he calls "l'affaire Potter".

5.  Many people have incorrectly stated that the vitriolic reaction to Potter's opinion piece is unique to Quebec.  Those people either are not aware of or have forgotten about the string of attacks perpetrated in Newfoundland and Labrador between 2003 and 2014 against individuals who were accused of pretty much everything folks have said Andrew Potter did or failed to do.

Here are a few stories and relevant SRBP posts:

2005:  "A vast and scenic welfare ghetto"  - Margaret Wente's original column in the Globe and Mail sparked some loud and widespread condemnation.  To find some of the reaction, you have to search the Internet Archive.  Other reaction will cost you a subscription to the NewfNat's newspaper of record, the Toronto Globe and Mail.

2005:  For others,  you need look no farther than Rex Murphy in the Globe whose entire argument is based on the premise that while others presume to be victims,  Newfoundlanders really are.   Rex becomes the Fifth Yorkshireman.

Various:  Quislings and traitors

2013:  "On bigotry and prejudice"

2016:  Margaret Wente, again,  only this time knowing how to provide the stimulus to get he neo-nationalist knees in Newfoundland jerking wildly. SRBP:  "Through others' eyes".

2016:  "Poor Russell's Almanack"

-srbp-


20 March 2017

Queen's Counsel and other things that sound alike #nlpoli

"The Honourable Dwight Ball, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced this year's appointments to Queen's Counsel by the Lieutenant Governor in Council."

That's the lede from a news release issued in January about appointments for lawyers.  On Friday, there was a little ceremony at Supreme Court in St. John's where the lawyers appointed as counsel to Her Majesty received their new robes.  They are made of silk instead of ordinary material, hence the phrase "take silk"  when one gets a QC appointment.

Anyway,  the sticklers may have already noticed the problem with the government news release.

One is appointed *to* a council, which is a group of individuals, but one is appointed *as* counsel, meaning that one is an advisor.  So yes, one can be counsel to a council, which is what the Attorney General is, for example.  He or she is the government's chief legal advisor and so is the law counsel to the Executive Council.  The correct sentence would have been "announcement of lawyers appointed as Queen's Counsel" or something to that effect.  If there was a simple explanation of qualifications for getting this disctinction - like say, long service, it might have gone there as well.

The error in the government news release the sort of detail that is like nails on chalkboard to folks whose business it is to be accurate about such matters. Feel free to come up with a more modern simile for irritation.

-srbp-

When did it start?  Update:

The always annoying labradore produced a list via email this morning comparing every QC email issued since 1996. That's the year the government website went live.

The provincial government issued seven news releases between 1996 and 2003 announcing QC appointments. They described the appointment of individuals as Queen's Counsel.

Started in 2004,  someone decided to call them appointments *to* Queen's Counsel, which is wrong. 

There have been 11 such releases since 2004.










03 March 2017

A change is as good as a rest #nlpoli

After 12 years and two months, we are going to make some serious changes at Bond Papers.

For one thing, we'll be going from daily posts to weekly ones, most likely on Monday mornings. 

For another thing, there'll be a change of content.  There are some book reviews that have been in the works for a while. Those will appear over the next few weeks.  General political science and history posts will appear as will notifications of events. I may need to make some observations about public relations now and then. SRBP has always been a very personal thing for me and, as such, the truly personal stuff will stay.

Fans of the policy analysis and commentary will find it at aims.ca.  Long-time readers will know that the original idea for SRBP was for longer, detailed policy analyses. It turned into a blog, went through a number of changes of style and form, and has still been evolving up to and including these changes. In that respect, this next evolution - of doing policy research and analysis for an independent think-tank - makes perfect sense.

AIMS does some other regular public commentaries through conventional media and I will be producing those for Newfoundland and Labrador. Don't be surprised if you see some other efforts to make more people in Newfoundland and Labrador more aware of AIMS and the work we do.

Many of you have sent good wishes via Twitter, Facebook, and linkedin.  It has been truly gratifying to know that all this work has had an impact.  There are thousands of people I have gotten to know online. You have all made an impact on me, in return, in more ways than you realise.  Thank you for that and thank you for the good wishes.

Many of you have told me you want SRBP to continue. The simple truth is that it cannot keep going as it is, under the circumstances. Hopefully you will continue to follow the policy work I will be doing through AIMS and will check in at SRBP for your fix of Newfoundland and Labrador history that will turn up as time allows. If you feel so moved, you can always reach me by email at ed_hollett at hotmail dot com, the address I have been using since hotmail started.  I will try and answer as much as I can. Of course, if you see me anywhere around town,  you can always come up, introduce yourself, and say hello.  Contrary to rumours, I don't bite. You know what I look like.

After all that, look at it this way:  it is not like I am disappearing.  And, if other plans work out, you will have a book or two to read in the near future that have come out of SRBP.

Take care and keep an eye out for me.

Ed

 

01 March 2017

Barry Inquiry Phase 2

Phase 2 of the Commission of Inquiry respecting the Death of Donald Dunphy will take place on March 9.

It is a one-day symposium to discuss issues about public disclosure of information during a major investigation, use of force by poe, and investigation of serious incidents involving police officers.

There will also be a session on the use of social media and the potential for an infringement of civil liberties by police and government. Your humble e-scribbler will be participating in that portion of the discussion as part of the Ad Hoc Coalition of Civil Liberties.

-srbp-

28 February 2017

AIMS hires dedicated policy analyst for Newfoundland and Labrador #nlpoli

ST. JOHN’S, NL – The Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS) is pleased to announce the appointment of Ed Hollett as a senior research fellow with a focus on policy analysis, public affairs commentary and general outreach for Newfoundland and Labrador.

“At this pivotal time, we believe that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should set their course for the future informed by entrepreneurial values like creativity, frankness and adaptability,” said Leo Power, AIMS vice-chair for Newfoundland and Labrador. “We want to present fresh ideas and stimulate discussion and debate in a way that embodies the values that we believe in.”

Power said that the new position serves two purposes. It establishes an AIMS presence on the ground in Newfoundland and Labrador to better serve the needs of the province. At the same time, it gives AIMS the opportunity to bring the unique perspective of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to a wider audience across Atlantic Canada and throughout the country.

Marco Navarro-Génie, AIMS’s President and CEO, said that since its founding in 1994, AIMS has provided a distinct perspective on public policy issues facing Atlantic Canadians. The Institute publishes peer-reviewed policy studies, intended to inform policy makers and citizens. It also supports public discussion by publishing fact-based commentaries, having AIMS fellows appear on television and radio to discuss policy issues and hosting public events to disseminate its research.

"Mr Hollett’s communications experience, his policy expertise, and his love of his home province are tremendous assets for AIMS,” said Dr. Navarro-Génie. “We are very excited about this new initiative and the perspective he will bring. In the weeks and months ahead, you will be hearing and seeing more of what AIMS is about throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.”

-srbp-

Escape Hatch #nlpoli

Escape HatchHistorian Gerhard bassler's new book from Flanker  examines efforts by the Government of Newfoundland to develop local industry by recruiting immigrants from Germany, Latvia,  and Austria between 1950 and 1970.

Based in large part on interviews Bassler conducted for other research on Germans in Newfoundland,  this is a personal account of the men and women who came to Newfoundland and who, in many instances, stayed despite their initial impressions of the place and its people.

Bassler documents each of the industries created and, as such, this is a welcome companion to Bassler's biography of the architect of the program - Alfred Valdmanis - as well as Doug Letto's Chocolate bars and rubber boots.

Escape Hatch is available in book stores or online from Flanker.

-srbp-

27 February 2017

Davis' paranoia #nlpoli

Perhaps one of the most disconcerting aspects of former Premier Paul Davis' testimony at the Barry Inquiry last week is the clear evidence that he still lacks a level-headed, rational perspective on the events of April 2015 and afterward.

In response to questions,  Davis said that "very quickly [after the shooting] there were rumours that I had ordered an assassination and that was a concern."   As CBC noted in its story on Davis' testimony,  Constable Joe Smyth earlier had testified he was concerned about the conspiracy theories bandied around on social media.

One can only wonder why such lunatic ideas - obviously, insane notions unsupported by any evidence - would even cause Davis a second thought.  Most people would dismiss them immediately for the idiotic drivel they are.

But, by his own account, Davis gave them credibility and continues to do so.

One can only wonder why.

25 February 2017

A week and a verdict later #nlpoli


Last Saturday, this headline (left) in the Telegram prompted a storm of outrage from people who thought that it placed the blame for a sexual assault on the victim.

The words were essentially what the victim had said during her testimony in the trial.  They were also a more blunt version of what both the Telegram story and CBC's story said.

If the victim had been too drunk to recall details of what had happened the night of the assault, then logically she was too drunk to consent.

The jury of five women and six men delivered their verdict Friday.  They found accused attacker - a police officer, on duty at the time of the assault - to be not guilty of the assault.  A group gathered on the steps of the courthouse on Friday night protesting the verdict.

One of them carried a sign that was astonishing in light of the screams of outrage the week before at the Telegram headline.  The sign read "Too drunk to consent."

The headline and the subsequent controversy didn't have an impact on the verdict but the headline and the sign make an interesting contradiction.


-srbp-

24 February 2017

Asserting our Knowledge #nlpoli

Opinions are great things.

Everyone is entitled to them.

Not every opinion, though, is equal in value or validity or, as former CBC boss Tony Manera showed recently, in veracity.  Manera wrote an opinion column for the Ottawa Citizen that appeared on Thursday. He offered three changes to the constitution that he said would fittingly boost Canada's sovereignty in this the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

23 February 2017

More cuts. Some questions. #nlpoli

Flatter, Leaner Management Structure.

Put it all in caps like that and you have a handy acronym that bureaucrats can type over and over again without getting tired.

It's like the Government Renewal Initiative.  Internal government documents quickly started referring to the GRI.  And almost as quickly, the wags among the province's public servants started calling the regular meetings  GRIM in their schedules.

So Flatter, Leaner, Management Structure is FLMS.  Most likely folks would pronounce that with an "I" in there to make it a word:  FLIMS.

Then the wags will add a "Y" on the end.

There's your joke for the morning.

Now let's look at Wednesday's announcements.

22 February 2017

Canadian nationalism: left- or right-wing? #nlpoli

Economist Stephen Gordon argues that "in Canada, the nationalism is as likely to form on the left as on the right." (National Post, 2017).  What's more interesting, though, is that this might not make any difference when it comes to the political or policy consequences.
Nationalism is deeply-rooted on the Canadian left, and it’s not hard to imagine scenarios where the nationalist challenge comes from there. Some elements in the nationalist left — Maude Barlow, for one — find themselves both agreeing with the nationalism of Donald Trump and trying to avoid being associated with him. This stance may be harder to sustain if the flow of immigrants — and especially unskilled immigrants — increased sharply. If suppressed national wages and increased national inequality is enough for you to reject trade, then it’s not clear why you’d accept an immigration policy that has the same effect.
A dozen years ago,  philosopher Joseph Heath argued that nationalism in Canada and the United States formed on opposite ends of the political spectrum (US = right.  Canada =  left).
 "The central barrier to increased political integration between Canada and the United States is that there is almost no policy overlap between nationalist groups in the two countries, and thus fewer projects that can motivate these groups to set aside national partiality in order to participate in a joint undertaking."
-srbp-

21 February 2017

Paddon's report on Martin contract just bizarre #nlpoli

After a lengthy review,  Auditor General Terry Paddon said Monday that the provincial government hounded former Nalcor boss Ed Martin out of his job.  He had no choice but leave and since he never quit and no one fired him,  Martin was entitled to the multi-million separation payments he got

"The events which [sic] occurred in the months leading up to Mr. Martin’s cessation of employment and which culminated in the wording in the Budget speech on April 14, 2016 and subsequent comments to the media by Government officials were tantamount to constructive dismissal."

 What's truly bizarre, though, is the behaviour Paddon considered to be harassment.

20 February 2017

The Tory Race #nlpoli

Ches Crosbie announced last week he is going to take another shot at entering the family business. The son of former Mulroney cabinet minister John Crosbie will spend some time travelling the province, getting to know provincial Conservatives and building a campaign for the party leadership in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ches, whose grandfather was a delegate to the national convention, tried for a federal nomination for the 2015 election.  The federal party rejected him, apparently because of some donations he'd made to the Liberal party federally.

That's really no nevermind as Ches has as good a shot at anyone of taking the party leadership.  If he did so,  Ches also has a shot at succeeding his father and his great grandfather.  They were both named John, both were cabinet ministers in St. John's and elder of the two Johns served briefly as Prime Minister of Newfoundland in 1918.  The younger John wanted the job but never got it.

Ches' launch last week was not accompanied by great hoopla but his media interviews were as polished as one might expect of a professional political family.  Crosbie undoubtedly had some help in getting ready from veteran political consultant John Laschinger.  He's an old family friend, having run John's campaign for the Tory leadership in the 1970s and later helped provincial Progressive Conservatives win general election after general election.

CBC confused by repetition of decade-old hospital promise #nlpoli

Maybe the poor folks at CBC were just confused.

Heaven knows it can be confusing with all the announcements of the hospital in Corner Brook since 2007.

"Price tag missing,"  the headline screamed, "as Corner Brook hospital finally gets green light."

The price tag should be missing because... wait for it... the government didn't give the hospital the green light.

Read the very first sentence of the official news release.

17 February 2017

The Mythical Golden Age of Newfoundland News #nlpoli

Ray Guy, on the endless search for truth in local newsrooms (circa 1974):
Sometimes you get the feeling that the newsrooms of the city are as divorced from reality as the earth is distant from the sun. Their almost exclusive stock-in-trade has become the reports of speeches, seminars, election campaigns, council meetings, legislative shenanigans, endless press releases…  All that is planned news, programmed news, bloodless mimeographed news, which touches not at all on the endless swirl of the sometimes-grubby, sometimes-heartening day-to-day life in the streets outside.
-srbp- 

16 February 2017

Alternative Facts: Prairie Dipper edition #nlpoli #cdnpoli

Erin Weir is the New Democrat member of parliament for Regina - Lewvan.

In the House of Commons on Monday,  Weir used alternative facts - i.e. stuff that is utterly false - in a speech on the European free trade implementation bill:
There was the AbitibiBowater case where that company shut down its last pulp and paper mill in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The provincial government reclaimed water rights that it had given to AbitibiBowater to operate the mills, but then the company challenged Canada under NAFTA for the loss of its water rights, which it was no longer even using for the purpose they were intended. Well, the previous Conservative government paid AbitibiBowater $130 million to withdraw that NAFTA chapter 11 claim.
Not true.

15 February 2017

S'truth and consequences #nlpoli

Truth and something else was clearly in the atmosphere this week as the Telegram's Russell Wangersky offered a few thoughts on the subject in his Tuesday column.
But if we reach a point where anything true can be discounted, and anything false can be announced as true, where do we go to ensure that we’re making the best decisions on everything from voting to retirement savings to whether our school system is working?
"If we reach a point."

Seriously.

As if in Newfoundland and Labrador, that point remains somewhere in the future.

As if the point  - where false is true and truth is not merely discounted but savagely attacked  - was not already a receding dot in the rearview mirror.

And, for the record, what Russell calls "the weakening, cash-strapped traditional media" played an essential role in pressing the heavy foot of government excess even harder on the accelerator in order to make the dot smaller.

14 February 2017

Trust, facts, and truth #nlpoli

Trust is the foundation of any strong relationship.  That's why a great many journalists, troubled at the decline of their industry, emphasise the importance of trust in re-establishing a solid relationship between the news media and the folks who used to be their captive market.

Canadian and American news media are in a comparable position of trust with their respective audiences.  A 2016 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 22% of Americans have a lot of trust in local news organizations and 60% said they had some trust. (82% total) National media fared a little worse:  only 18% of respondents trusted them a lot while 59% had some trust in national media. (77%)

In its 2016 survey on Canadians and trust, Environics found that 44% of respondents trust Canada's conventional news media as an industry. About 50% said that editorial content - either major conventional media or online news sites - was their first choice as a source of information. Fully 53% picked the websites of major conventional news media as their first choice for information online.

Neither Canadians nor Americans are particularly inclined to trust social media. Pew found that only four percent of Americans trusted social media a lot. 30% trusted social media somewhat as a source of information.  Environics found that 31% of Canadians used their Facebook news feed as the first, second, or third preferred source for current news.  Only eight percent of that was as a first choice.  Bloggers: 14% in total and only three percent as a first choice for current news.

Conventional news media:  69% of Canadians want their news from them, with 38% ranking it as their first choice for current news.

So there you have it, journalists. The numbers aren't directly comparable but there's enough pf a similarity to come to the conclusion that Captain Sweatpants is not eating your lunch on either side of the border.

13 February 2017

Captain Sweatpants and the future of news media #nlpoli

The numbers are so large they take your breath away.

In a poll conducted for The Public Policy Forum for its recent report on Canadian news media, eight "out of 10 respondents said they actively follow the news (with education, not age, being the main determinant)."  As pollster Allan Gregg noted in an article for Policy Options, 93% of respondents to that poll said people get "more news today, more quickly and frequently than we ever have in the past."

And yet half of them had no idea that conventional media was facing a financial crisis so severe that many current media outlets are likely to vanish in the months and years ahead.

Doesn't fit together.  Doesn't make sense.  You just can't have all those people wired in and miss a story that was quite literally in all the newspapers,  on radio, and on television.

Doesn't make sense unless people aren't paying as much attention as they say.

10 February 2017

The Doldrums #nlpoli

MQO conducted a little poll in late January and found the party standings among voters remains where it was in November.

No surprise.

Nothing has happened in the past few months to move support for either of the three parties in the province up or down.  We are in the lull before the provincial budget coming in March or April. That lull isn't happening by accident.  The Liberals retreated last summer in the face of massive public rejection of their spring budget.  Since then the ruling Liberals have been virtually silent, cancelling planned budget cuts and other measures to cope with the government's financial crisis.

That silence resulted in a very slow climb in Liberal support from a low of 17% in May 2016 to about 27% of all respondents by the fall.  But look at the Conservative number.  It's basically the same as the Liberal one, given that the margin of error for the poll is plus or minus four percentage points.

09 February 2017

Sweat Equity - panel discussion #nlpoli

ISER Books and the Queen Elizabeth II Library will hold a panel discussion on the recent ISER publication Sweat Equity: Cooperative House Building in Newfoundland 1920-1974

Authors Chris Sharpe and Jo Shawyer will be joined by panelists Kim Blanchard, Stephen Jewczyk, and Jeff Webb to discuss the book, cooperative housing in Newfoundland, and current housing issues affecting the province. 

Admission is free and they've got snacks and refreshments.

Where:     Centre for Newfoundland Studies, Queen Elizabeth II LIbrary, Memorial University
When:      Wednesday, February 15th at 3:30pm.

-srbp-

08 February 2017

The Classroom Jungle #nlpoli

CBC aired the first  of three half hour programs on Monday night featuring a bunch of teachers talking about problems in the Newfoundland and Labrador school system.  The rest will come along over the next couple of weeks.

To be perfectly clear, CBC claims ownership of the programs but, by the looks of things, CBC had very little to do with the program content, at least in the first one. The provincial teachers union picked the people to appear and covered their travel, meals, and accommodations for one Saturday to record the three 30-minute programs.

It's an absolute fascinating insight into how news media have changed in a very short space of time. 

07 February 2017

Words and Violence #nlpoli

Canadian writer J.J. McCullough used a column in the Washington Post last week to ask a very useful question:  why it is that the progressive society in Quebec produces "so many massacres"?

Regular readers will recognise this question from SRBP last week.  McCullough also noted that Canadian conventional media are looking for familiar narratives in which to frame the story.  That basically fits with the stimulus for last week's post, namely Neil McDonald's trite opinion column on the shooting that framed the story in the context of Donald Trump's islamophobia.

McCullough says that Quebec is a sensitive topic in Canadian politics and media:
In a  2006 essay, Globe and Mail columnist Jan Wong posited a theory that Quebec’s various lone nuts, many of whom were not of pure French-Canadian stock, were predictably alienated from a province that places such a high premium on cultural conformity. She was denounced by a unanimous vote in the Canadian Parliament and sank into a career-ruining depression. The current events magazine Maclean’s ran a cover story in 2010 arguing that Quebec, where old-fashioned mafia collusion between government contractors, unions and politicians is still common, was easily “the most corrupt province in Canada.” That, too, was denounced by a unanimous vote of Parliament.

06 February 2017

Cultural Replicant Fade #nlpoli

The people of Gambo held their first mummers' parade the December before last.

The Gander Beacon,  the weekly newspaper that covers events in Gambo, featured some pictures of the parade and a write-up on it.  The town's recreation director organised the event and the handful of people who took part in the parade wound up at the local senior citizens home.

Gambo.  First mummers' parade, ever, in 2015.

Wonderful stuff, but awfully queer given that mummering or jannying is an incredibly old tradition among Europeans in Newfoundland and Labrador that only died down in the second half of the last century. People did all sorts of things and called it mummering.  In the version most would know, people would dress up in various costumes and go door-to-door in the community.  More often than not, they'd be invited in for some refreshments in exchange for music and dancing and the chance to try and guess the identity of the costumed revellers.

People settled in Gambo about 1857.  David Smallwood,  grandfather of the former premier, set up a lumbering business and sawmill at the southwestern end of Bonavista Bay around 1860.  In other words, Gambo is a place where mummering ought to be well-known.

03 February 2017

Full of sound and fury #nlpoli

Pity Earle McCurdy.  

The provincial New Democratic Party boss is rightly getting raked over the political coals for his Twitter comment that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "sent a rookie woman minister" to announce that the government had abandoned plans for changing the way Canadians go to the polls.

The hyper-partisan attack by McCurdy and other New Democrats on Trudeau isn't about the issue itself. New Democrats know as well as Liberals that no one in Canada gives a rat's behind about changing the way we vote from first-past-the-post to something else.  That's why the Liberals shelved the plan.  Few people turned up at the hearings. Not many sent in comments on the initiative. Canadians don't care.

01 February 2017

No Market Research Required #nlpoli

In the House of Commons, members can put questions to cabinet ministers several ways.  One of them is called Questions on the Order Paper.

Ask a sensible question.  Get a sensible answer.

This is a truly amazing idea given that the House of Assembly got rid of the notion 20 years ago. Actually telling people something useful instead other uncommunication that remains all the rage in provincial government circles.

Bloc Quebecois member of parliament Marilene Gill put a Question on the Order Paper about Muskrat Falls and the recent federal loan guarantee for $2.9 billion.

Here are the questions from Gill and the answers from natural resources minister Jim Carr.  Note the underlined bits for anyone not aware of this information.

Populism: the lesson from Venezuela #nlpoli

Born and raised in Venezuela,  Andreas Miguel Rondon is an economist who now lives in Madrid.

He wrote for The Washington Post last week on the lesson Americans should learn from the Venezuelan experience with Hugo Chavez.  Trump may be a capitalist and Chavez may have been a socialist but the populist formula remains the same.
The recipe for populism is universal. Find a wound common to many, find someone to blame for it, and make up a good story to tell. Mix it all together. Tell the wounded you know how they feel. That you found the bad guys. Label them: the minorities, the politicians, the businessmen. Caricature them. As vermin, evil masterminds, haters and losers, you name it. Then paint yourself as the savior. Capture the people’s imagination. Forget about policies and plans, just enrapture them with a tale. One that starts with anger and ends in vengeance. A vengeance they can participate in. 
That’s how it becomes a movement. There’s something soothing in all that anger. Populism is built on the irresistible allure of simplicity. The narcotic of the simple answer to an intractable question. The problem is now made simple.
The solution?

Not so simple, but worth considering no matter where or when you encounter a populist politician.

-srbp-


31 January 2017

What is it about Quebec and mass killings? #nlpoli

Compared to the United States, there haven't been a lot of mass killings in Canada.

Period.  Full stop.

Canada is predominantly white and Christian and researchers tell us that across the world, men are usually the perpetrators of mass killings.  That's why what CBC's Neil Macdonald calls an inconvenient truth is really a penetrating insight into the obvious. Telling us that Canadian mass killers are white, male, and Christian is like saying that in Sweden, the mass killers are usually male blond protestants or that in China they are unlikely to be Africans.

Local news media in the post-factual world #nlpoli

Chris O'Neill-Yates is a veteran CBC journalist.  Like most people in her line of work,  Chris is on Twitter plugging both her own work and commenting on events in the world around her.

Not surprisingly, Chris has been fascinated  - appalled might be a better word for it - by events in the United States over the past year.  "Global media will face [a] credibility challenge in the next four years,"  O'Neill-Yates tweeted one day around Christmas. "There'll be those who report facts and those who report nonsense."

A Telegram editorial last week also chimed in on the issue of facts, in the way of even more recent events in the United States.
The message is clear: the media is now dealing with a situation where some believe they can simply make things up. 
We have to be more careful than ever to be accurate. We also have to be ready to clearly identify and call out both mistakes and lies for what they are, when they occur. 
We want you to consider the source, and not find us wanting.
Oh dear.

30 January 2017

Duff in the hole encore #nlpoli

Oh dear.

The CBC has gone off to the mainland to get Duff Conacher to make a comment about the need for political finance reform in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Three observations:

1.  There is a desperate need for campaign finance reform in Newfoundland and Labrador.  SRBP has been writing about it relentlessly for a dozen years.  By comparison, the conventional media simply couldn't be arsed to cover the subject more often than not.

When they did notice something was amiss, as in 2006,  they were inclined to follow the line set by the government-of-the-day rather than have a look at the facts for themselves. What they would have discovered in the massive patronage scheme that ran here between 1996 and 2006, for example, was that the the level of misuse of public funds went *up* after 2003.

And after that they'd have found all sorts of other odd things.  Donations by companies getting hefty contracts from government?  Absolutely, a problem. Tired of writing about it.  Finance minister and later premier Tom Marshall financed his entire election campaign in 2011 out of a series of seven cheques from construction companies all of which did work for the government as Marshall shovelled cash into capital works at an unprecedented - and unsustainable - rate.

But what about political donations by town councils and the police?  Or what about a politician who ran a charity while he was in office that was funded by his government salary)?

2,  Conacher knows shag-all about what is happening here, as some of his previous comments have shown.  That actually weakens the case for campaign finance reform here since he is going to miss more than he hits.

Duff's good for the penetrating insights into the obvious - we need reform because it lends itself to corruption - but as with the CBC story his ignorance of the particulars makes him look like a bit of a goof at best or a blind nob at worst.  You see, Duff's been stonily silent on far worse things between 2003 and 2015 than anything he said before 2003 or since 2015.

3.  Stunned as me arse or what?  You really have to shake your head in disbelief at Dwight Ball's comments in the CBC story.  His election platform included a promise to change the campaign finance laws.  Instead of playing that up, Ball goes on the defensive making he look like he opposes finance reform.

That's the kind of stuff that must leave everyone outside of the Premier's Office banging their heads on the wall in frustration.  Inside the office, it's likely high-fives all around as the boss nailed another one to the wall.

Nailed his thumb more like it.


-srbp-




Mean Tweets #nlpoli

In the United States,  a late-night television program created a regular feature that has celebrities read the comments made about them on Twitter.

The comments are - to borrow the words of Constable Joe Smyth - "rude, inappropriate, [and] hateful". He was speaking about comments aimed at politicians but his description of many Twitter comments.

Americans laugh at them.  Some of the celebrities offer a pithy comment in return or flip the bird.  But most laugh.

On Jimmy Kimmel's show they call the segment "Mean Tweets".

27 January 2017

Feehan, electricity prices, and the bigger problem. #nlpoli

Jim Feehan's proposal to change the way we price electricity in the province got some media attention -over the past 24 hours.

Feehan believes that we should set the base price of electricity in this province on the best export price rather than the current proposal to have electricity from Muskrat Falls sold in this province for a price wildly more than that.  Under Feehan's scheme,  the money to pay for Muskrat Falls would come from a reduced profit for Nalcor and hence a reduced divided for the taxpayers. As well, there'd probably have to be an additional tax created to cover off the rest of the costs.

As we noted here in a recent post, Feehan's suggestion doesn't represent any change from what is actually going to happen anyway. He just wants to present it to consumers in a different way.  That's not a bad idea since it is inherently more transparent.  You can see what is what.  Unfortunately, Feehan's idea misses entirely the core problem, which is the electricity policy inherent in Muskrat Falls in the first place.

26 January 2017

Faroese fishermen skirting Canadian port ban via St. Pierre #nlpoli

Fishing boats from the Faroe Islands are getting around a ban on shipping through Canadian ports by unloading their catch in St. Pierre first.  franceinfo reported on January 20 that a total of five trawlers would unload their catch in St. Pierre by January 25.  The fish - mostly cod but with some halibut bycatch - came from the Flemish Cap.

Three quarters of the catch would go to the Faroes and Denmark, according to the franceinfo report, but the shipowners could sell 25% of their catch to foreigners.  The Danish fishing boats employed 30 French dock workers to unload their catch and repackage it in shipping containers. The first ship unloaded 150 tonnes of cod.  Eventually 30 containers would go to Halifax for transshipment, according to a spokesman for the St. Pierreais fishing company involved in the work.

In 2010, Canada banned Faroese boats from using Canadian ports to offload cod and other species following accusations that the Faroese were overfishing outside Canada's 200 mile exclusive economic zone.  The 2010 ban was the culmination of a running dispute with Denmark about overfishing.

The Faroes are a Danish-owned group of islands approximately half way between Norway and Iceland, and about 320 kilometres north northwest of Scotland.

-srbp-


25 January 2017

Kevin, Donald, and Danny #nlpoli

Forum poll released on Monday showed 27% of those surveyed thought celebrity businessman Kevin O'Leary would make the best leader of the federal Conservative party with Maxime Bernier a distant second at 11% and Lisa Raitt coming in at a mere seven percent.

Among self-identified Conservatives,  O'Leary's support climbs to 31%, according to Forum and with Conservative voters from 2015,  O'Leary is the pick of 49%.   Among Conservative supporters,  Raitt comes in second.

No one should panic just yet since this is still very early days and O'Leary has to win the leadership before we need to wonder if he might become prime minister.  Then again,  when Donald Trump started his campaign, no one thought the guy would last out the primaries, let alone take the nomination, and then win the presidency.

Since O'Leary's never shown himself to be politically active or to have a concern for public policy before, you have to wonder how he managed to enter the race in such a strong position.

24 January 2017

Ratings trump truth: Justified edition #nlpoli

Updated (scroll to the -srbp-)

Someone in Gander Bay has been catching and selling quantities of smelt.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans received complaints,  conducted in investigation, and laid charges against an adult who they caught in the act of selling fish to a fellow who turned out to be an undercover fisheries officer.  The basis of the charge is that it is illegal to catch and sell fish without a licence.

Now that you have those simple facts , take a look at the way CBC presented the story.

23 January 2017

Sovereignty #nlpoli

Newfoundland and Labrador is one of the very few countries on the planet that got itself into such a financial mess that it gave up self-government.  The people gave up their right and power to govern themselves. That is, they gave up their sovereignty.

They took it back in 1949,  no matter what sort of fairy tales some people continue to believe but now with massive public debt coming from chronic overspending and the crushing debt of the insane Muskrat Falls project, some people are raising the prospect that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians may once again see their sovereignty in jeopardy

Energy analyst Tom Adams has raised the issue of sovereignty with Pete Soucy and Paddy Daly recently.  Muskrat Falls is likely to create such financial problems that the federal government will have to bail the province or Nalcor out, argues Adams.  And it is almost certain that the federal government would look for some "austerity measures", as Adams put it,  as part of whatever deal lets the money flow.

20 January 2017

Another premier... same health care facility #nlpoli

A gaggle of provincial politicians representing districts along the west coast of Newfoundland turned up in Corner Brook on Friday for another one of the set-piece media events that government's uncommunications bureaucracy loves if only for their mind-numbing sameness.

The headline on the news release is simple:  "Premier announces New Long-Term Care Facility for Corner Brook".  Construction will start this fall, according to the very first sentence.

120 beds for long-term care.  15 beds for palliative (end-of-life) care.  Another 10 beds for rehabilitative care.

The second paragraph - all in bold according to the template so folks know it is a quote from the most important person - starts with the obligatory statement that every action of government and its employees from bowel movements to budgets is guided by the latest Roadmap to Salvation announced last fall in  hideously expensive media event.   As polls showed, no one was impressed by it.

Ratings trump truth #nlpoli

Sometimes the universe delivers you the magical set of circumstances you just can't ignore.

Danny Williams turned up at the St. John's Board of Trade luncheon on Thursday to deliver a speech the day before Donald Trump's inauguration as president.  As much as people might like to forget,  this was a great reminder of just how much Williams and Trump are the same kind of politician.

The board of trade booked Williams because he will sell tickets.  And in the same way, the local media turned out in droves for Williams.  They treated just as they have always treated him and that's our story for today.

Williams delivers to electronic news media what Trump does: ratings. Fox and CNN adore Trump just like VOCM and CBC television followed every Williams' gaseous emission.  He drew the audience.  The difference is that while CNN news anchors are routinely critical of Trump and even Fox might take the odd poke at the president-elect, the local media have typically  handled Williams and his most ludicrous claims as if they were holy writ.  Folks who think the Canadian media would fact-check a Trumpish politician out of office can look no further than the way the locals recited Danny's lines almost verbatim.

19 January 2017

New French anti-terror measure impacts Newfoundland #nlpoli

A group of 35 young people traveling from St. Pierre to Corner Brook at the end of the month are going to be affected by a new French anti-crime and anti-terrorism measure, according to francoinfo.

The students will each need special parental authority in addition to any other travel documents.  The new requirement is called the Autorisation de Sortir du Territoire  or AST and came into effect on January 15.  All French citizens under the age of majority and unaccompanied by an adult with parental authority must have a special permit to leave the country. The permit includes both authorization by the parents and copies of documents such as passports for parents who are not French nationals.

The document could be valid for up to one year and covers travel outside France for any purpose.  The decree authorising the measure states that it is intended to fight terrorism and organized international crime.

-srbp-

Actions and Words (2016) #nlpoli

The provincial cabinet has known since January - at least - that the powerhouse at Muskrat Falls is only 15% completed despite a huge payout to the contractor.

That's what Nalcor reported to the committee of provincial bureaucrats named by the Conservatives to get a report from Nalcor every now and again.  They can't do anything else except receive the reports and pass them on to cabinet.  They still do it under the Liberals.

The company hired by cabinet to conduct yetanother review of information supplied by Nalcor that government already had included a little table of progress on major components at Muskrat Falls.  The powerhouse is a major component.

But it isn't on EY's table, shown at right and released earlier this month.  It's lumped in with "spillway" and shows it is supposedly almost 40% complete.

There's a lot of difference between 15 and 40.

18 January 2017

A bail out, a bail out ... #nlpoli

Conversation about the province's financial state in the past couple of weeks have turned to talk of bailouts and threats to the province's sovereignty.  A Carlton University economist  told CBC in early January that the provincial government would need a bailout to keep the province from collapsing under the weight of electricity rates once Muskrat Falls arrives. Energy analyst Tom Adams talked about Muskrat Falls with Pete Soucy and Paddy Daly.

The talk about bail-out is related, in one sense, to a refrain some people have been singing for a while now that somehow the provincial government is hard-done-by because it doesn't get Equalization despite having this huge financial mess.  People who say those sorts of things don't understand a thing about Equalization.

Let's take a quick look at the province's finances and the idea of a bail out.  In another post, we'll look at sovereignty.

The Narrative War (2015) #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 scepticism in the final week of the campaign.”

In the supper hours news, Cochrane then reported on information leaked to him by someone with access to highly confidential government  information.  Their purpose  - quite obviously – was to maximise the the damage to the new administration before it even had a chance to take office.  The information fit quite neatly with Cochrane’s ongoing narrative and so, he naturally, had no hesitation in using it. 

17 January 2017

The last man on the moon

Gene Cernan died on Monday.

He was many things in his life but Cernan will be best known as the last man who set foot on the moon during the Apollo missions.

Cernan's official website contains all you will need to know about the man who went to the moon twice: once as lunar module pilot on Apollo 10 and later as commander of Apollo 17.

His memoir - The last man on the moon - became a 2014 documentary of the same title.

-srbp-

Cognitive Dissonance (2014) #nlpoli

People like things in life to fit together.

When things don’t fit together, people get upset.  They get fidgety.  They try to make things fit together.

It’s an idea regular readers know from other posts.  Take this bit from a post from 2012 as a good example of how some people react when faced with a situation where what is happening doesn’t fit with their preconceived notions. The context was a decision by then-Premier Kathy Dunderdale to refuse to meet with the parents of a boy who had  died tragically.
Our friend the open line caller did exactly what people tend to do when confronted with this cognitive dissonance.  He made up a completely fictitious set of claims.  Kathy Dunderdale was the victim of a plot.  Some unspecified crowd called “they” had set a trap for her with this meeting.  When they tried to spring it, Kathy foiled their nefarious plot. 
The media have been pounding away at this  because they just love misery.
And the root of it all was the end of the sectarian school system almost 20 years ago.  Since the evil Liberals did away with sectarian schools, we have been set on just this course.  Politics in this province is gone down to the lowest level with this sort of mean-spirited attacks on good people, besmirching the good name of lovely people like Kathy who are only trying to do good for the world.

16 January 2017

A muskrat by any other name... #nlpoli

Memorial University economist Jim Feehan proposed in the December issue of Canadian Public Policy that the provincial government should change the way electricity is priced in Newfoundland and Labrador once Muskrat falls comes on stream.

Now to be clear,  the way government prices electricity will already change for Muskrat Falls.  The project is so financially odious that the only way its proponents could get it off the ground in the first place is to force local taxpayers to bear the full cost of the thing, plus profits to everyone involved except themselves.  That's what will happen.

The provincial government used to have a policy to ensure we had the lowest cost electricity possible. No any more.  With Muskrat Falls, we get the most expensive electricity possible and may well wind up with the most expensive electricity in Canada.

Now Feehan is suggesting that we price electricity  based on the external markets in the fashion that the pricing will be set for the Nova Scotia block.  Unbundled transportation costs and let people see what they are paying for that.  And allow other costs of providing electricity,  like fluctuations in oil prices, show up directly on consumer electricity bills.

The Keystone Kops Ride Again (2013) #nlpoli

We already knew that the provincial cabinet had abandoned their budget before the document had been debated in the House.  That happened last week when the Premier ordered the justice minister and the attorney general to abandon the cabinet-approved cuts in the justice department.

Less than 12 hours after meeting with the same officials justice minister Darin King consulted before cabinet approved the cuts, King and attorney general Tom Marshall (right, not exactly as illustrated) told reporters that whatever those officials had said would now be the policy.

The change of policy is breathtaking enough.  Not only will some of the laid-off court security officers be rehired, but cabinet has also lifted the hiring freeze to allow the High Sheriff to immediately hire more staff.  Someone will also be appointed to conduct operational reviews of the three divisions – High Sheriff,  legal aid and Crown prosecution service – involved in the cabinet flip flop.

But that’s not the truly striking aspect of this abrupt change.

Watch the video of the media briefing posted by CBC
At 40 seconds into his remarks, King confirms that the direction to abandon the cuts came from the Premier herself last week.  The Lady indeed was for turning.

13 January 2017

Conservatives and Millennials #nlpoli #cdnpoli

The talk was supposed to be about the political culture in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Does it ever change?

What Tim Powers wound up spending a lot of time talking about was Donald Trump,  millennials, and Liberal Party databases in the last election.

Not surprising, really, given that Tim is a veteran Conservative backroom guy and the federal Conservatives have been looking at how the Liberals bumped them out of power in the 2015 federal election.  They are so fascinated by the Liberals' internal campaign management system they have been complaining that the Prime Minister's national tour is just an excuse to build up a contact database.

Yes, b'y,  like there is no other way to collect names, telephones, and email addresses and collecting them is all there is to it.

Toward a fair and just society (2012) #nlpoli

The December 2008 expropriation bill was not the right thing for the provincial government and the House of Assembly to do.

The expropriation was wrong.

It was wrong, but not because it didn’t work.

It was wrong, but not because the provincial government accidentally expropriated a contaminated mill site.

The December 2008 expropriation was wrong because it was a violation of the fundamental principles on which our society is supposed to operate.

12 January 2017

Debt servicing and revenue, 2013-2016 #nlpoli

There are lots of ways of looking the government's budget. Here's one that's a bit unconventional.

Rather than look at how much the government is spending on debt servicing as a share of all expenses, let's take a look at what it means as a share of the government's income from its own sources.

Debt servicing is the amount spent to pay the interest on public debt. Own-source revenues excludes federal transfers and borrowing.

Year
Percent of Own-Source
2016b
21
2015
16
2014
07
2013
06

The percentage is a function of the amount spent to pay interest on the public debt and the amount of money the government earned from its own sources.

Debt servicing tripled in four years, going from $360 million to more than $1.0 billion. Own-source revenues dropped by about a billion dollars, going from $5.762 billion in 2013 to $4.775 billion in the 2016 budget.

That's a really good indicator of how rapidly the government's financial situation deteriorated.

-srbp-

Torque wars: media, politicians, and the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee #nlpoli (2011)

Some people will tell you there the federal and provincial governments have a deal for a federal loan guarantee on Muskrat Falls.  The provincial government has already met three criteria set by the federal government and Stephen Harper confirmed that in a speech in St. John’s.

That’s what you could take out of some stories from different media outlets coming out of Harper’s campaign stop in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bear in mind though that the loan guarantee story took a couple of turns within the past 24 hours even for one single news outlet. 

On Wednesday, CBC reported the deal was done:
Multiple sources tell CBC News, though, that the federal and provincial governments have reached a deal on the terms of a loan guarantee.
Multiple sources.

Multiple unidentified sources.

Not even a hint if they were highly placed in both the federal and provincial governments.
Sometimes that happens.  You don’t even give the slightest clue as to the authenticity of the sources on which the story is based. Put it down to a judgment call.  Doesn’t mean that the comments are right or wrong, but it could put a question mark over the accuracy of the information.