Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Weakest Link

It turns out that the real news during yesterday's question period was not the end of DW's boycott but the performance of Ross Wiseman, who demonstrated, once again, that he is without question the most incompetent member of cabinet.

The Opposition largely ignored Wiseman on Monday, but yesterday they returned to their favourite feeding ground. And the good minister seemed only happy to oblige, as his lengthy exchange with Jones attests.

Below is an extract from yesterday's Hansard. It's been edited to focus on the Jones-Wiseman exchange, and I've inserted political translations of Wiseman's non-answers. For the full transcript, see:

JONES: My question to the minister is: What are the clinical advantages to placing this facility in Central Newfoundland?

WISEMAN: What I find interesting in the House, Mr. Speaker, is how questions have changed over the years. For many years in this House members opposite have raised questions around, what are we doing for rural Newfoundland? Now, all of a sudden, we are getting questions in the House lobbying for St. John’s, Mr. Speaker. They want all services centralized in St. John’s.

Mr. Speaker, I answered questions in this House a couple of weeks ago around this very same point. One of the critical considerations for us as a government was to ensure that we are able to provide quality programming with capable, competent people, and we are very confident – we are very confident indeed - that Central Newfoundland, and in particular Grand Falls-Windsor, is a community in a region of the Province that can attract the kinds of people that we need. We are very confident that we are going to be able to provide the kind of programming that will respond to the challenging needs of those individuals who need that kind of addiction services.
So we stand by the decision to locate this new facility and this new program in Grand Falls-Windsor because we believe it will be successful and the people of all of Newfoundland and Labrador will be well served by that new program.

TRANSLATION: Wiseman cannot answer the question, so he fell back on his favourite defences. He used his "it's interesting/ironic" wisecrack, and then he gave a lengthy statement of the political/regional reasons for putting the facility in Grand Falls-Windsor, rather than the clinical reasons. If he had rattled off the reasons from a briefing note (or remembered something from it), he could have easily dispatched this question; however, his long-winded, disingenuous non-answer only invited more questions.

JONES: Who did your government consult prior to making the decision to place this important residential treatment facility in the Central Region of the Province?

WISEMAN: Again I am somewhat bewildered by the nature of the questions and the persistence, Mr. Speaker, of members opposite.

I do not have any difficulty, as a minister, and none of my colleagues on this side of the House would have any difficulty, meeting with any group in the Province to talk about issues of their concern. So, if there are organizations who would like to come in and talk with me about this decision, I am open to do that at any time of the day. Just invite me, or make the request, and I will have the discussion.

What I find very ironic, Mr. Speaker, is the persistence by not only the Leader of the Opposition but the Opposition House Leader in the continuous questions in this House, bringing into question a decision that we made about a location of a service in Grand Falls-Windsor. An attack, I say, Mr. Speaker, it is nothing more than an attack on the people of Grand Falls-Windsor and the people of Central Newfoundland and Labrador, as if it is a place no one would want to work.

TRANSLATION: Here Wiseman offers up the full meal deal of incompetence:
1) He admits he's bewildered (never a smart thing to do in politics)
2) He throws out another "I find it very ironic" herring to try to deflect from his shortcomings
3) He fails to answer the question
4) He sinks to the lowest form of political insult: he accuses Jones of attacking the people because she is asking a question

JONES: Mr. Speaker, what rubbish I have just heard coming out of the minister!


JONES: Mr. Speaker, the minister has a responsibility, and a responsibility to provide services in this Province based on clinical cases and factual information, not based on what is politically opportunistic for the government –


MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
I ask the hon. member to complete her question.
The hon. the Leader of the Opposition.

JONES: Mr. Speaker, the minister has trouble defending his actions today - that is quite obvious by his comments – but there are four groups in this Province who provide services and treatment to residential youth, and they have serious questions.

Mr. Speaker, the day treatment program that services addictions for youth is based in the St. John’s region, and I guess one of the questions they have is why government would choose to separate those two facilities and those two lots of services.

TRANSLATION: Jones knows that she has Wiseman on the run.

WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, I do not have any difficulty at all, none whatsoever. I have no difficulty at all, or this government has no difficulty at all, in defending a decision to relocate a service in Grand Falls-Windsor.

TRANSLATION: Well, this doesn't need much translation: anytime you end up getting that defensive, you know that you're toast.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

WISEMAN: A community, Mr. Speaker, that has demonstrated their innovative approach to providing health care. They have been leaders on a number of fronts. They have a very comprehensive mental health and addictions program already in existence there. They have proven they have the ability to be able to attract the qualified professionals that we will need to run this program. It is a community that is centrally located, provides easy access in and out of other parts of the Province; because, keep in mind, this is a provincial centre, not a St. John’s centre.

This is purely a provincial centre. It is centrally located, provides ease of access by road or by air, and it provides the professionals that will provide the delivery of those programs, Mr. Speaker.

TRANSLATION: Wiseman not only doesn't know the answer to the original question, but he doesn't seem to know much about the initiative or facility in general. All he had to do was throw out some specific details, in order to redirect the question; but he's just floundering.

JONES: One of the other issues that they raise is around the detoxification services. I ask the minister today: Is that part of the program for this centre, and will the people of the Province who need the service be assured that they will have access, and affordable access, to that service?

WISEMAN: To the first part of the question, yes, it will include a detox program. The second piece, by definition - I have said before, but let me repeat it - this is a provincial program. It is a provincial program and we are delivering it from Grand Falls-Windsor. By definition, every single person who lives in Newfoundland and Labrador will have access to that particular program and that particular facility.

This is not a regional facility. This is a provincial facility, so anyone who needs it will have access to it, just like Humberwood does in Corner Brook.


MR. SPEAKER: Order please!

WISEMAN: This is purely a provincial program, no different than any other provincial program; because we have many provincial programs in St. John’s. People travel to St. John’s to access provincial programs here. Now people will travel to Grand Falls-Windsor to also access a provincial program, Mr. Speaker.

TRANSLATION: By this point, Wiseman just wants to run out the clock, and all he can do is trot out generalities and repeat himself (several times), relying on tautological reasoning. At no point does he offer details about the facility, or the specific estimates or plans that are, no doubt, locked away in his filing cabinet.

JONES: The Native Friendship Centre has also raised an issue around the Aboriginal component for this treatment process. They are asking if it will include an Aboriginal component in the program. I ask the minister today if he will commit to that.

WISEMAN: Mr. Speaker, it will absolutely give consideration to the Aboriginal community. In fact, as we develop the program, as we start to look at the design of the building, the programming will be driving the design and the program will give consideration to the Aboriginal needs of this Province.

TRANSLATION: Wiseman knows Jones' pummeling is just about over, so he mailed in a "we'll look into it" platitude

Wiseman wasn't off the hook, however, and Michaels took him to task later in question period. But the damage was done. Not only did Wiseman make himself look defensive and incompetent (again), but his inability to answer a simple question needlessly fed the new cycle another negative story:

DW's other ministers are not exactly paragons of eloquence, but no one comes to Wiseman's combination of incompetence, verbiage, and defensiveness. He's not usually as nasty as DW, but he sank as low as they go when he accused Jones of attacking the people of Grand Falls-Windsor.

After failing to draw blood on Monday, Jones knew where to go. If this keeps up, I suspect that Wiseman will come down with a political flu of some sort which will prevent him from attending question period.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Desperately Seeking Danny

Before we get to the Premier's homework, it should be pointed out that this question period was easily the most anticipated of the year.

There are at least 3 major stories that the media have been pursuing (AbitibiBowater and the situation in Grand Falls-Windso; the Reynolds fiasco; and the looming nurses strike, along with other assorted health care crises) since the last question period way back on April 8th.

As a result, yesterday's question period received unusually heavy coverage from both maintream media and bloggers:

It is highly significant that DW chose to boycott this particular question period. For a leader whom everyone, especially his supporters, insists is in total control, his absence spoke as loudly as a speech.

Whatever the excuse, DW still has to answer to the House of Assembly.

So here are the homework questions set for DW at yesterday's question period:

1) "I ask the Premier today: Now that AbitibiBowater has cancelled these payments is government willing to step up for these workers, make the payments and deduct the amount from what will be paid for the expropriated assets?

2) I ask the Premier today: Is government going to do anything to provide financial assistance to these workers now that they have been told the payments will not be coming?

3) I ask the Premier: Is it right that these workers are now caught between a company who is broke and a government who has retrieved the assets but are unwilling to pay out the money that is duly owed the employees?

4) I ask the Premier today: Has his government given any consideration to this [stimulus package] proposal? If so, what action do you intend to take to help these workers?

5) I ask the Premier today - I know that both sides [Dangovt and nurses] have made compromises, but I ask again: Why won’t government move away from these two clauses in order to avoid a nursing strike in the Province?

6) I ask the Premier: Will Mr. Byrne be repaying this money pursuant to the restitution order, or will the PC Party of Newfoundland and Labrador be reimbursing the taxpayers for money specifically used for PC Party operations?

7) I ask the Premier and the government: Are you willing to support an independent third-party investigation into election campaigns, to determine whether any other inappropriate funds were channeled to the Progressive Conservative Party of Newfoundland and Labrador?

8) I ask the Premier: Why are you so adamantly opposed to a third-party investigation that protects the Province’s electoral laws and would identify any abuses that have occurred?

9) I say to the Premier, who we all know is also a lawyer: Why are we refusing an investigation under the Elections Act, which is a totally separate issue than anything the former member might have done under the Criminal Code?

10) So I have a question for the Premier, and my question is: If this government is so sure that you can negotiate with AbitibiBowater to get the severance covered and the workplace reduction program money covered, if you are so sure you can do that, why won’t you put money up front to deal with what the workers are going through right now at this moment?

11) I ask the Premier: Why can’t this government give a clearer explanation to them so that they will feel something is going on to meet their needs?

12) I am not asking the minister or the Premier to go out and explain the position of AbitibiBowater. I am asking them to explain to the workers why they are so confident when they say they are going to take care of them, because they do not see themselves being taken care of. Explain your own position to them, Minister. That is what I am asking for."

For the full monty, see

p.s. Number 10 is a particularly good question. If Dangovt won't put up a bridging fund of some sort, why won't the premier himself convene a town hall meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor to speak directly with the people affected? If he wants to be like Obama, who is giving another news conference as his administration marks 100 days in power, then surely DW can manage a stop-over in Grand Falls-Windsor on his way back from wherever he's been.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Minister Responds to Swine Flu Pandemic Threat

Just when you thought it was okay not to panic, this just in from VODW:

"Health Minister Ross Wiseman says, although the province is lacking an infectious disease specialist, everything is being done to ensure the public's safety. Wiseman says efforts continue to secure another specialist for the province. "

You just can't make this stuff up.

For the full report, see


CBC offers the first news story from the new Premier-less era in the House of Assembly:

"The Liberals and the NDP said Reynolds' refusal to investigate was unacceptable, and have been calling for Reynolds to resign ever since.

Dunderdale said that won't happen since the Williams government has "every confidence in his ability to deal with this matter."

And while the opposition has focused on the fact that Reynolds is a former PC party president, Dunderdale insists that isn't an issue.

"I mean we are speaking to the integrity of the man, particularly in this circumstance, and our confidence in his ability to put his partisan politics to one side. And we believe that he's done that," she said.

Here's a question for DW's body-double: What about the integrity of the law?

Premier Boycotts Legislature

Earlier today VODW reported that the House of Assembly is going to be prorogued.

Now it's reporting that DW has decided that it would be faster and easier just to boycott the whole Confederation Building. Here's the breaking story:

Government Standing on Chief Electoral Officer
April 27, 2009

The province's Deputy Premier says she stands firmly on the Chief Electoral Officer in the wake of questions of an apparent but nonexistent breach of the Elections Act. The Premier was not in the House today, so all the questions concerning the 2001 St. Barbe By-election and how monies from former member Ed Byrne's constituency allowance was used to pay a conservative campaign worker fell to his Deputy, Kathy Dunderdale. Dunderdale said she was sitting on Reynolds and would not let him get up until everyone stopped asking questions. Opposition House Leader Kelvin Parsons is calling for a third party investigation into why Williams got to stay in Florida longer than everyone else. NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says the party executive wants to establish an all-party committee to ask Premier Williams to bring back two bottles of duty-free rum. Health Minister Ross Wiseman rose in the House to thank everyone for paying so much attention to the Reynolds scandal. He said he would try and rescue Reynolds if the Opposition promised to give him an easy ride during tomorrow's question period.

For the full story, see

House of Assembly to be Prorogued

This just in from VODW:

Legislature to be Prorogued
April 27, 2009

Premier Danny Williams' spokesperson sent an email to VOCM announcing that he plans to tell Lieutenant Governor John Crosbie to prorogue the House of Assembly because the government is too busy. The spokesperson says Williams is "very, very concerned that the tedious work of the House of Assembly will impede democracy by forcing his ministers to spend time answering questions." She pointed out that a group of 12 local chambers of commerce across the island portion of the province sent a letter to Williams asking cabinet ministers to spend less time in the House of Assembly and more time giving luncheon speeches as a way to stimulate the provincial economy. The AbitibiBowater situation was supposed to get some shouting in the legislature today. MHAs are due to be back thumping their desks following their Florida vacations, and the Opposition has a list of issues they want heckled, including the impending memory loss of Ross Wiseman, the new highway confusion system, and odors lingering around the 2001 St. Barbe by-election. The Spring session resumes at 130 this afternoon. Corporate Research Associates announced that it will begin polling in Newfoundland as soon as the House of Assembly is closed.

For the full story, see

And for more on the effects of government's very hectic schedule, see

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Iceland & Magic Bullets

According to the AP: "Iceland's leftist coalition won the country's general election, according to final results on Sunday — a blow for the pro-business Independence Party that many blamed for the collapse of the country's banking system....

The biggest issue in the election, however, was membership in the EU — seen by many voters as a magic bullet for Iceland's financial troubles even though membership could take years. The results represented a strong victory for Iceland's pro-European Social Democratic Alliance. The Social Democrats, the Progressive Party and the Citizen's Movement want Iceland to apply for EU membership, which would eventually allow the country to adopt the euro."

I guess Newfoundland and Iceland do share one thing in common after all: popular beliefs in magic bullets.

But for some reason, Newfoundland nationalists have become remarkably silent about the once-popular Icelandic model.

Ironically, as I was reading the AP story on the Globe's web site, the insipid Newfoundlandlabrador tourism ad kept popping up:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Week the Government Left Town

Perhaps it's an audition for another CBC series, this one based in St. John's rather than Tatamagouche.

Orwellian News has been trying to keep track of the list of MIA Ministers. Here's what we have so far:

1) In response to the controversy surrounding the chief electoral officer, DW merely sent a statement to CBC News, stating that he has no intention of asking Reynolds to resign. The statement says DW respects Reynolds's non-investigation.

2) While the crisis at St. John's hospitals became worse with the resignation of an another anesthesiologist, Health Minister Wiseman was in Clarenville, giving a luncheon speech to the local Chamber of Commerce.

3) According to the Tely, Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale was not available for an interview Thursday to discuss the news that AbitibiBowater had given notice that it will file an arbitration claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement. In an e-mailed statement, she said, "The fact that a notice of intent has been filed does not establish the merits of a challenge. NAFTA falls under the responsibility of the Government of Canada. The province will let the established process unfold and we have no further comment at this time."

4) While the situation in Grand Falls-Windsor worsened this past week, Dangovt was, even VOCM was forced to admit, saying little. According to the Tely, not only was Dunderdale unavailable for an interview, but DW was saying nothing about the crisis.

5) Meanwhile, according to CBC, Minister Skinner's response to the crisis in Grand Falls-Windsor is to send letters: Rick Fudge, the president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union local that represents the woodcutters, "has requested meetings with Shawn Skinner, the innovation, trade and rural development minister and the head of a task force that is supposed to come up with a plan to help the region, but has only received written responses. "I know government might be busy, but this is very important. We are the direct people that are impacted. We are what that task force was set up for. We need to know what the plan is," he said.
While Skinner could do no more than send letters to the workers and get a spokesperson to send a statement to CBC, he was more than happy to do an interview with the Tely on an upcoming trade conference:

So where was all the action this past week? Aside from a generous schedule of luncheons and feel-good press releases, there was a media blitz, complete with news conference, on the New Highway Signage System, which featured two cabinet ministers, Clyde Jackman and Kevin O’Brien, along with representatives of Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador.

Good to know that they have their priorities straight.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hatchet Jobs

A couple of weeks ago we considered the nascent détente between the US and Venezuela and asked this question: is DW more captive to his populist nationalism than Chávez is to his populist socialism?

We now have our answer: Yes.

Since that post, Obama and Chávez have met, shaken hands, and started the process of burying the hatchet:

In a gesture of goodwill, Venezuela has returned an island to the US:

Meanwhile, the ABC folly continues to cast a dark shadow in NL. Yesterday, the Tely editorial noted its effects on federal funding; today, it's being discussed as a block to negotiating a settlement for the laid-off workers in Grand Falls-Windsor.

In a Tely story by Moira Baird, "On Notice," which is not available online, the provincial representative for the Communications, Engery, and Paperworkers had this to say: "The federal government and the provincial government are going to have to bury the hatchet -- they need to do a forestry worker adjustment program similar to what's being contemplated in other sectors."

If DW is unwilling or unable to bury the hatchet, why doesn't he act boldly and autonomously, and announce a special provincial fund to assist the workers while the legal issues get sorted out?

Such a fund would cost a fraction of the multi-millions being poured into NALCO. In fact, it would cost less than setting up a new government bureaucracy:

If DW wanted to be really bold, Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) could be located in Grand Falls-Windsor, so that the $8.5 million (plus the $275,200 allocated for two new government lawyers) could be used for regional development to help a high unemployment area, rather than further inflate the economic bubble in St. John's.

For more questions on AbitibiBowater-gate, see

AbitibiBowater-gate MIA Update:
Even VOCM has noticed that Dangovt is MIA:

This is the best they can do update?

Missing Ministers P.S.:
Yesterday, Wiseman was in Clarenville (where the internet access is as good as Town), so he will have a hard time (even for him) saying he didn't know the latest news in health care when Jones asks him about it in the House:

By the way, if Wiseman can find the time in his hectic schedule to give a speech to the Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce and have lunch at the St. Jude Hotel, then surely he can find the time to keep up with developments in his own Department:

Another day, another serious health care problem in a have-province. Any idea of when no longer being a have-not province will actually produce better health care?

My guess is that this will begin to happen when the Minister of Health devotes more time to his own Department and less time to chatting up local Chambers of Commerce.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Risky Business

As the questions surrounding Reynolds' conduct widen, it is important to place this burgeoning scandal in context. Coincidentally, this morning the Tely returned to ABC in its editorial:

The Tely focuses on the question of revenge and the costs of ABC: "Now, you can say that governments shouldn't hold grudges, and shouldn't make decisions based on politics or differences in personalities. You'd be right. On the other hand, all of them - even our near and dear provincial government - do. So it probably should not be a surprise when it turns out that "Steve's government" actually has a long memory. Or that ABC may end up having ramifications throughout its tenure."

Fair enough, but there are 3 issues that demand further attention:

1) These ramifications were well known from the beginning of the ABC folly. Anyone even remotely aware of federal politics knew when the last federal election was called that it was highly unlikely that Harper would lose. The polls wavered from majority to minority status, but the prospect of defeating Harper was very remote from the beginning.

2) As for the difference between a minority and majority government, by DW's own admission Harper had shown that he was more than capable of doing what he wanted with a minority government. If Harper had already shafted NL when he had a minority government prior to 2008, then why would anyone expect that keeping him from a majority government would somehow alter his position towards NL?

3) As DW himself said repeatedly, Harper is a vindictive, nasty politician. So if the chances of defeating him in a federal election were known to be so slim, why would DW be proposing to launch a rhetorical nuclear weapon? Unless there was a realistic chance that Harper could be defeated, it made no political sense to torch the last plank in the bridge between St. John's and Ottawa, leaving NL with no representation at the federal cabinet. (And it needs to be noted that having no MP from NL serves Harper's interests more than anyone else's).

The Tely editorial also serves as a useful reminder of DW's infamous speech which, as they point out, "many in this province might remember, if for no other reason than the slightly bizarre appearance of a sign-waving Buddy the Puffin."

So let's return to the actual speech. Below is the passage where DW attacks Harper:

"Stephen Harper’s own campaign literature proclaimed, "There is no greater fraud than a promise not kept." He used these words as he successfully attempted to woo voters from this province to not vote for the opposing party. Naively we trusted him. He rewarded that trust with a broken promise. According to his own brochure – he is a fraud. I think you all know my views on this issue and I firmly believe that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at home and abroad still feel the same cold, sharp sting of betrayal at the hands of our country’s leader. Other commitments were also made by Stephen Harper that were not kept. 5-Wing Goose Bay; custodial management; a Lower Churchill guarantee and numerous others. We all know that these promises are sadly not worth the paper they were written on and the bond of his word is meaningless. The raising of rates at Marine Atlantic in times of high gas prices, poor service and inaction on badly needed vessels is another example of their attitude to isolate the island and which creates more economic hardship on small rural businesses. American actress, Katherine Hepburn, once said, "To keep your character intact you cannot stoop to filthy acts. It makes it easier to stoop the next time". I believe these words hold a dire warning for all Canadians. If Harper is prepared to slash program spending with large surpluses and break his written word as the leader of a minority government, the future for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and indeed all Canadians, will be very bleak under a Conservative majority. Do not let Stephen Harper turn your focus onto a green shift in his attempt to turn your focus away from the Conservative’s blue shaft. His list of broken and unfulfilled promises portrays a lack of integrity in his character and shows us he cannot be trusted. This is a federal government willing to not only break their own promises, but they go so far as to break their own laws and call an election even though they mandated fixed election dates. There is nothing Harper will not do to win a majority government. This is a party who purportedly offered a terminally ill MP a life insurance policy to get his vote. How low can you go? This is a man who wants an election before losing by-elections that were to have taken place this month. A man who wants an election before the economy declines any further due to fiscal mismanagement. He wants an election before findings are released on various ethical breaches against his government. It is so critically important that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador let Stephen Harper know that his treatment, his attitude, his indifference to this province is NOT acceptable. When I met with him to offer a compromise he told me face-to-face that he does not need the people of this province to win an election. So, let’s let him know that we don’t need him either."

Stop for a minute and reflect on what DW actually said. Consider the seriousness of the accusations and the nastiness of the insults.

I'm not suggesting for a second that you have sympathy for Harper, but just stop and reflect on what he's calling the prime minister. DW's speech was singularly visceral, vitriolic, and vindictive.

Think about the stakes. This was no ordinary speech. It was made on the eve of a federal election which everyone knew that the target of that vitriol was going to win.

Whatever your political views, one thing cannot be doubted: this was an incredibly risky move. DW was taking a huge political gamble. He was rolling the dice in a high stakes game of chicken.

But there were two problems with this game: 1) he was gambling with the public's money, not his own; 2) the odds were stacked so high against him that it's hard to believe that this speech was really about whether Harper won a minority or a majority government.

The two lines in italics get the closest to what was really going on here. Harper allegedly said that he didn't need NL to win a federal election. That's an incredibly nasty and dismissive thing for a prime minister to say, but in terms of pure, Machiavellian politics, it was true: he won the election without any MPs from NL, and he's governing the country today without any MPs from NL.

DW's response was, essentially, screw you! If you dismiss us, we'll dismiss you. That may work well on the playground, but federal-provincial relations is an entirely different matter. Last month, Orwellian News reflected on the options DW had before him:

Imagine that you're in charge of a regional office in a much larger corporation. Your boss is a jerk and you hate him, but you have to work with him nonetheless. You may despise the little creep, but you have to work with him to ensure that your regional office gets its fair share of funding and support. So what's the best way to achieve your goals?

You could throw a fit during a meeting, froth at the mouth, call him every name in the book, and launch a scorched-earth war against him. You could do this right away, before you have lined up sufficient support from the other regional offices, and while your boss is in a relatively strong position.

Alternately, you could smile when he jerks you around, bide your time, keep him in the dark, and maximize your short-term position while you pursue your long-term goal of removing him. You could wait for the right moment to act decisely when conditions are ripe for success. I leave it to you to decide which tactic is the dumb one.

But, in retrospect, I think dumbness explains only part of the puzzle. Another important part is recklessness: Dangovt seems addicted to risky behaviour and unnecessary brinksmanship.

Whether it's meddling with the MUN presidential search, antagonizing the nurses, or allowing Wiseman to remain in cabinet, Dangovt has shown a consistent pattern of recklessness.

This recklessness gets sold to the public in various guises -- passion, pride, patiotism, optimism, determination -- but let's not lose sight that it is, in the end, risky business.

And that's how we got to the latest scandal.

If the past is any guide, it's only a matter of time before Dangovt takes another big political risk that will distract the public's attention from Reynolds' inaction and the fallout from Byrne's conviction.

Psychological Update
If you're curious about the psychology behind such recklessness, then you may be interested in John Lanchester's take:

"One of the peculiar things about the world of finance is that it freely offers the sensation of being proved right to its participants. Every transaction in the markets has a buyer and a seller, and, in most cases, one of them is right and the other wrong, because the price goes either up or down. The cumulative weight of this right-or-wrongness is one of the things that make financial types psychologically distinctive. Artists, sportsmen, surgeons, plumbers, and the rest of us have secret voices of doubt, inner reservations about ourselves, but if you go to work with money, and make money, you can be proved right in the most inhumanly pure way. This is why people who have succeeded in the world of money tend to have such a high opinion of themselves. And this is why they seem to regard themselves as paragons of rationality, while others often regard them as slightly nuts. The chairman and C.E.O. of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld, in his no-apologies testimony to a congressional committee after his company’s collapse, gave us a glimpse of this state of mind in its full pomp.

This is also why the financial masters of the universe tend not to write books. If you have been proved—proved—right, why bother? If you need to tell it, you can’t truly know it. The story of David Einhorn and Allied Capital is an example of a moneyman who believed, with absolute certainty, that he was in the right, who said so, and who then watched the world fail to react to his irrefutable demonstration of his own rightness. This drove him so crazy that he did what was, for a hedge-fund manager, a bizarre thing: he wrote a book about it."

For the rest of the article, see

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tory Logic

This morning the Tely has an editorial on the Reynolds scandal:

They pursue one of the strangest parts of this story: "But asked again Monday, Reynolds still said no - and went even further, saying that, since a Tory has been elected in the seat twice since then, the original byelection result must have been a legitimate one. That argument is so bizarre it hardly requires detailed examination. In case Reynolds is not aware, it's the Elections Act, not the Ends-Justify-the-Means Act.And if someone as supposedly versed in elections law as the chief electoral officer can't understand the difference, maybe it's time to hire someone who can."

Yes, the argument is bizarre but, if that's the position of the Chief Electoral Officer, then it warrants some analysis.

Reynolds' assertion is little more than wishful thinking that relies on the fallacy of argumentum ad consequentiam:

His argument is based on two false premises:
1) Success = Legitimacy, i.e., if someone won an election more than once, it must be legitimate. This is similar to the popular fallacy in NL politics that Wealth = Honesty. Or that other popular doctrine: CRAPoll Numbers = Democracy.

2) What happened after an event explains what happened before. This is also known as presentism, or the fallacy of nunc pro tunc:

Let's take a real historical example. There was an American politician who won an election in 1968 and then proceeded to win a huge landslide victory in 1972. According to Tory logic, the election campaigns must have been legitimate, because the candidate won twice.

The politician was Richard Nixon, and the funny thing is that the Watergate break-in happened less than six months before he crushed George McGovern in the November 1972 election.

Nixon hardly needed the antics of the "plumbers" unit and second-rate burglars to win the presidential election:

But corruption is often illogical and what happens after an event cannot be taken as an explantion for what happened before. Correlation is not the same as causation.

If nothing else, the Reynolds scandal should help dispel some of the popular myths that continue to surround Dangovt.

Campaign Ad Update:
Our Research Department has uncovered one of Nixon's election ads from 1972:

With lines like making dreams a reality, and he'll show us how repeated with an oddly revivalist tune, it sure sounds like Dangovt. This would be a correlation, of course, not causation -- unless you subscribe to Tory logic. For other correlations between DW and Nixon, see

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Byrne-gate and the Fallacy of Negative Proof

Both Labradore and Bond Papers are busily exposing the logical flaws in the Tories' response to Byrne-gate, while Nottawa has made the legal case:

As Bond Papers notes, Reynolds' statement contains a generous helping of Dangovt's favourite snack, red herrings:

Reynolds conflates a quantitative issue (the amount of money spent on the election campaign) with a qualitative issue (where the money came from). Orwellian News has examined the statement posted by Labradore:

This particular section stands out:
"The [1] available evidence indicates no knowledge or involvement on the part of the candidate or party with respect to the actions of Ed Byrne. There [2] is also no indication that the fraudulent actions on the part of Mr. Byrne affected the outcome of the 2001 by-election. Further, [3] there is no evidence that anyone other than Mr. Byrne was involved in a deliberate attempt to manipulate funds or to otherwise fraudulently circumvent the provisions of elections finance requirements in the Elections Act, 1991.

On the basis of the above, I conclude that any impropriety involved in the 2001 St. Barbe by-election was related to the actions of Ed Byrne, actions for which he has been convicted, and are not attributed to other persons involved in that by-election. [4] There is no evidence presently available to support a contention that the outcome of the by-election was affected by these actions and no formal investigation is required."

As any lawyer knows, the burden of proof rests squarely with the prosecution. However, that applies only when a thorough and impartial judicial investigation has been undertaken -- not when a cursory review of the known facts is tossed out as justification for blocking queries.

Given the severity of the potential breach of justice, the lack of initial evidence does not constitute a prima facie case against a full investigation into whether stolen money was indeed used to fund a provincial election campaign.

Reynolds' statement contains 4 attempts of negative proof, otherwise known as argumentum ad ignorantiam. For a pithy explanation, see Fallacy Files:

The case against this type of argumentation is simple: a lack of evidence by itself is no evidence.

Until a thorough and independent investigation is completed, we have no way of knowing whether any wrongdoings -- criminal or otherwise -- were committed.

Simply saying that we have no evidence at this juncture is autoepistemic, i.e., self-knowing. As Fallacy Files explains, the form of such reasoning is:
If X were true, then I would know that X.
I don't know that X.
Therefore, X is false.

Given the known facts, the burden of proof is on Dangovt to demonstrate that it has done everything in its power to ensure that elections in NL were not bought with stolen money.

An argument based on negative proof is nothing more than an untested assertion.

National Boundaries, Provincial Politics

I was reading the CP story on the French boundary claim on the Globe's web site (while trying to ignore the always annoying NewfoundlandLabrador pop-up ad) when this line stuck out: "Mr. Williams, who has repeatedly clashed with Mr. Harper, has said he expects Ottawa's full support in defending the province's interests in the region."

Then I checked VOCM's take on the story, which had a similar line: "Federal cabinet minister Peter MacKay says Canada's position on the matter is clear, and the federal government will be standing up for Newfoundland and Labrador on the matter."

What are these lines doing in a story about an international boundary dispute between two sovereign nation states?

The headline for the CP story gives a clue: "Canada rejects French claim to seabed off Newfoundland, PM tells Williams." While the explicit news is that Harper sent DW a letter to tell him that the federal government is going to do its job and protect Canada's claim to the Atlantic seabed, the implicit news is the question of whether the ABC jihad will affect how Harper deals with France's claim.

Notice how differently the CP story deals with the French department of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. While France does not have a federal system of government likes Canada's, its system of departments is not as uniform as it appears. Since 2003, overseas territories such as the collectivité territoriale de Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon have enjoyed a measure of administrative autonomy.

As Nottawa reported last month, Saint Pierre et Miquelon has its own set of political grievances with Paris:

And yet, this is all the CP story has to say about the interests of Saint Pierre et Miquelon: "Annick Girardin, the elected member for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, has said she wants the two countries to come to an agreement on dividing up the resources and any economic windfall that could come from the region."

The story gives two starkly different impressions. On the one hand, we have the unitary interests of France, which speaks with one voice on international border disputes; on the other hand, we have the bifurcated interests of Canada, which speaks with two voices on international border disputes.

This is false on two counts. First, in terms of politics, France is hardly the monolithic entity that it's made out to be, and what's happening involves regional grievances that would sound familiar to anyone in Canada.

Second, in terms of international law, Harper is neither defending the province's interests nor standing up for Newfoundland and Labrador. Rather, he is defending the country's interests and standing up for Canadians.

Harper's letter states, "I have also conveyed our position to President Sarkozy." DW has repeatedly said that he is a proud Canadian who does not support separatism -- so why, I wonder, would anyone think he'd have a problem with the Prime Minister of Canada doing his job?

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Kennedy Doesn't Know

From the Canadian Press:

"The dispute over what’s known as a market adjustment clause would allow the government to offer bonuses, bursaries and other special allowances to nurses in order to boost recruitment in a province where there is an estimated shortage of 1,000 nursing positions. Such incentives are offered to nurses elsewhere in Canada where nursing jobs are difficult to fill. But what makes this proposal unique is that the province’s nurses’ union would not be involved in negotiations between its members and the government.“That’s not happening anywhere across Canada,” said Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions.

Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy said he wasn’t aware of the precedent the clause could set in Canada, but defended the overall wage package as highly generous.“There is also no other province in this country right now offering 30 per cent (pay) increases to nurses,” Kennedy said in an interview.“In order to ensure equitable application of these market adjustment policies, we need to bring it under one roof and give government the flexibility [i.e., sole dictatorial power] to deal with hard-to-fill positions.”

I guess Kennedy figures that Dangovt's policy of giving special raises to only certain professionals within a larger bargaining group has worked so well for its relationship with the NLMA, it would be a sure hit with the nurses:

Where's Wiseman in this story, by the way? He must have been in one of those special meetings that's always scheduled when important questions get asked.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Paper Tiger

Where would we be without Friday afternoon press releases? Labradore has already dissected this PR roadkill:

But the last two paragraphs are worth another look:

"The company has indicated that severance is not available at this time," said Minister Skinner. "However, AbitibiBowater is not bankrupt and there have been many companies who have come out of creditor protection to resume normal operations and commitments to former employees. We are hopeful that this will continue, and in the interim will impress upon the company that their obligations should not be compromised. As a government, we intend to keep their feet to the fire, keep their officials accountable and ensure that the workers receive the appropriate documentation to file EI claims."

"Given the forestry’s overall importance in the national economy, there is tremendous opportunity for the Federal Government to support workers during this trying time," said Minister Skinner. "The forestry employs twice the number of workers [IN CANADA] as the automobile sector. With this in mind, I encourage the Federal Government to step up and provide similar levels of support."

Who knew that a press release had such awesome power that it could not only keep a company's feet to the fire but also get the federal government to do something it has said it's not going to do?

Skinner got quoted in yesterday's Globe, so he must have read this:
"Ottawa is refusing to rescue AbitibiBowater Inc. with loan guarantees — putting thousands of jobs in communities across Canada at risk after the forest products giant filed for bankruptcy protection.
AbitibiBowater, one of the country's oldest companies and the world's biggest producer of newsprint, filed for Chapter 11 protection in the United States Thursday, citing a debt burden of more than $6-billion (U.S.), and plans to file for similar protection in Montreal today, under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
Federal Revenue Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said Thursday that loan guarantees for the Montreal-based company would be a commercial advantage to Canadian producers and fuel the softwood lumber dispute with U.S. firms."

And this morning the Globe is reporting that Quebec is doing more than using a press release to tell Ottawa what to do:
"A loan guarantee of up to $100-million (U.S.) from the Quebec government is a welcome vote of confidence in AbitibiBowater Inc. [ABH-T] and helps reassure job-dependent communities in the province that suppliers will continue to be paid, court was told Friday. “That is a tremendous shot in the arm for us,” Sean Dunphy, the head of the legal team guiding the debt-laden newsprint giant through bankruptcy protection proceedings in Canada, told Mr. Justice Clément Gascon of Quebec Superior Court.

So here's the VODW Question of the Day: What is Dangovt actually going to do about the situation, besides issue a media advisory at 4:50 on a Friday afternoon?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Odds, Hatchets & Nadirs

Odds are that Barack Obama is going to have a meeting with Hugo Chavez long before DW has a civilized discussion with Harper:

I'm still puzzled by the lack of local media attention to former Foreign Minister Hedderson's remarkable comments in the House of Assembly on April 8th:

MR. HEDDERSON: On the point of meeting with the [Fisheries] minister, I certainly made the minister aware that I was in Ottawa. I did make a request, but obviously she did not see fit to meet with me at that particular time.

MR. HEDDERSON: We have continually asked him [Stockwell Day] to move forward in the position, to take the, I guess, WTO action. It was only last Friday that they indicated that they will. We have asked them constantly for their strategy and have not been given the courtesy of them telling us what their direction is.

Who knew that we could reach such a nadir that the fact that a provincial cabinet minister cannot even get a meeting with the Federal Minister of Fisheries would go largely unnoticed in NL.

Who knew that maintaining even the semblance of a functional federal-provincial relationship would be less likely than the US and Venezuela burying the hatchet after years of tremendous political hostility.

Obama-Chavez Handshake Update:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Foreign Minister Replaced

Dangovt has announced that Foreign Minister Hedderson has been benched.

Hedderson has been replaced by Dave Denine, who is being sent on a whirlwind trip to Ottawa to block the proposed ban on seal products by the EU:

Sources have told Orwellian News that this change may be the result of last week's negative coverage:

What the news release didn't say:

1. Whether Denine can, unlike his predecessor, manage to get a meeting with the Federal Minister of Fisheries, or at least find out the location of the Federal International Trade Minister.

2. That Denine is meeting with officials from only second- and third-tier European nations. There are no meetings scheduled with any officials from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, or even Britain. Getting the Irish ambassador to say something nice about DW may make for a swell PR photo, but it's not going to change EU policy.

3. That these meetings are little more than photo-ops. With no less than 9 meetings scheduled for today and Friday (and we all know how much work gets done in Ottawa after coffee break on a Friday), there will be little time to conduct substantive discussions. By lining up a series of bilateral meetings, Denine has ensured that he will have to spend much of his time sequentially repeating Dangovt's position. Denine could have arranged trilateral meetings in cooperation with the Federal Minister of Fisheries -- alternatively, he could have tried to convene some sort of summit or group meeting -- but he's stuck with the tactic that Hedderson has already tried.

4. The Federal Government has been magically wished away, officially redacted from media advisories. No doubt it's part of a grand strategy to force the Minister of Fisheries into a meeting by ignoring her.

5. As even the media advisory admits, the whole thing is an information session. Denine's mandate is merely "to ensure that EU member states are well informed about the seal harvest and its important implications from both an economic and fisheries conservation perspective." Since European opposition to the seal fishery is based largely on ethical arguments that have little to do with economic considerations, telling European ambassadors about how the ban will adversely affect the NL economy (which DW is telling everyone is in fantastic shape) will have about as much impact as trying to shout down Tory hecklers in the House of Assembly.

6. The trip appears to signal an expansion in the mandate of the Ministry of Intergovernmental Affairs. According to their 2007-2008 report, the furthest contacts had been with the Conference of New England Governors and the South Eastern United States–Canadian Provinces’ Alliance, neither of which are bilateral forums:

For initial press coverage, see

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Equalization Matrix

"Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. [A red pill is shown in his other hand.] You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

If you want to take the red pill and see where the equalization/Atlantic Accord/O'Brien formula rabbit-hole goes, then read this:

Once you've finished, take a minute to watch Kennedy's news conference again:

Back in March, I noted Kennedy's strikingly bald assertion about the political power of CRAPolls:

While this assertion certainly stands out, the whole news conference was singularly strange. It has the type of weirdness that reminds me of a glitch in the Matrix:

Watch Kennedy's body language as he tries to explain The Shaft. About a minute into the news conference, he shifts into a lawyerly style to explain how the federal government "unilaterally made a determination...." He touches his face and his body language is odd.

Interestingly, he doesn't touch his face at all when he makes the CRAPoll comment.

Maybe it's nothing. Maybe you believe that Kennedy was telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Maybe it's better not to take the red pill.

But keep in mind Kennedy's actual words, as opposed to all the media spin: "I don't think we have to convince the public that what we're doing is right."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Optimus Prime

This morning's news:

"Premier Very Upbeat About Province's Future
April 14, 2009
Premier Danny Williams is very upbeat about the future. Premier Williams says consumer confidence is high and future job prospects for this province have never looked better. He says the recent announcement of another oil find off our coast is very significant and business optimism here is the highest in the country. Williams says consumer confidence is also very strong as people feel good about themselves and their future. He says the offshore continues to provide huge employment benefits; over 2.2-billion dollars will be spent at Long Harbour; the Lower Churchill project is making good progress, and the future has never looked brighter."

Today's Optimeter reading: 4 verys; 2 upbeats; 2 high/highest; 2 never looked better/brighter; 1 huge; 1 strong.

But what's that I see in the last sentence? Good? Things never make just "good progress" in Dangovt. Someone must have removed the "very, very" part of the sentence. It sounds like a Decepticon has infiltrated VODW.

This looks like a job for Optimus Prime, DW's alter ego. Whenever something is less than very, very superlative -- whenever a project is described as making anything less than very, very huge progress -- DW transforms into Optimus Prime, who battles the evil forces of skepticism.

According to published reports, "Optimus has a strong sense of justice and righteousness, and has dedicated himself to the protection of all life, particularly the inhabitants of Earth; he will battle his foes with unyielding resolve to uphold this belief. He always seems to wear a mask over his mouth."

For further information about Optimus Prime, including his personal life, see the Optimus news sites:

Orwellian News has also uncovered one of Optimus Prime's early election campaign videos:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Transmission Talk in Quebec

With local coverage of NALCO in a temporary lull, it's worth taking a look at what's being said in the Quebec media.

According to an opinion piece by Gilles Boivin in Le Soleil, the lack of trust between NL and Quebec is inhibiting negotiation of a broader agreement for developing and transmitting power from the proposed Lower Churchill project:

Unless I'm missing an ironic or saractic tone, Boivin seems to take the so-called Anglo-Saxon route seriously. He appears to believe that the technological challenges can be overcome and that NL has enough petrodollars to move forward.

Here's the google translation:
"Time or never
Gilles Boivin Le Soleil
We already knew that Quebec and Newfoundland did not speak the same language. Since the announcement of an agreement for the transport of electricity in Newfoundland on the Quebecois, it is reasonable to ask if they speak the same things.

At first glance, there would be any place to celebrate the beginning of collaboration between two provinces with hydro litigation will rebound to rebound in recent decades. But reading is different in the two protagonists songeur leaves. The premier of Newfoundland, Danny Williams, saw its first breakthrough into the U.S. market. The Quebec Minister of Natural Resources, Claude Béchard sees rather a recognition of the need for agreement with Quebec for the transport of electricity to this lucrative market.

The least we can say is that trust is a tragically absent from negotiations between the two provinces. It includes an agreement to work jointly harness the rivers of Lower Churchill has been short-lived, some years ago. Watching things and each of its end of the telescope, we lose sight of the goal.

At the point where now Newfoundland (and Ottawa!) Dream of a highway east-west power in Canada with transit to the United States. Québec is hard as iron to be within its territory, the sole owner and project manager for the highway ... . pay. No way to let Ottawa "put your nose in the construction of transmission lines" among us, slice, with reason, Premier Jean Charest.

And for good reason! Behind this apparently theoretical debate, if not constitutional, is looming in effect the sale of green power on the lucrative markets as Ontario and American. Faced with billions of dollars at stake, early agreement announced earlier this week does not compute. Just 40 to $ 80 million for Newfoundland and twenty million dollars for Hydro-Quebec. But it could still lay the groundwork for a broader agreement between the two provinces.

An exciting prospect for Ontario, which relies on the energy of a future development of mega terreneuvien Lower Churchill to get rid of its coal. And Newfoundland also has need of a market for this ambitious project. At the point where she is studying the feasibility of a submarine link to bypass the province and its precious megawatts sell directly to the U.S. market.

But petrodollars helping the island province will probably be the means to do so. Especially since technically it has already been done in Europe, between Sweden and the Netherlands. Moreover, one of the companies associated with the Lower Churchill, the Norwegian Statnett, has expertise in this area.

This comes on the table for Quebec when it comes to run the La Romaine project, a hydroelectric plant with a capacity of 1550 megawatts. These are more than 2800 MW project that the Lower Churchill put on the market almost simultaneously. And Newfoundland has already indicated it does not remove the nose on a "support" a few billion federal dollars.

To the chagrin of Quebec alone has developed and continues to do so, its hydropower. Before ending up before the fact, Quebec and Hydro-Quebec would certainly benefit to undertake serious negotiations with neighboring Newfoundland. Unless it is already too late and that he refuses ... Face it, the speaker of Quebec is no longer small and powerless poor province that has signed in the late 60s, a way that has benefited 19 times less than Hydro-Québec."


As I argued in an earlier post, I believe that blogs can be a positive force in democratic politics and civic engagement:

But I'm not a fan of self-indulgent blogs, social-climbing facebook sites, or the latest fad, Twitter. I survived high school, thank God, and I fail to see the attraction of returning to that world of popularity contests and status ranking. If connecting people and fueling dialogue are the internet's virtues, then facilitating banal exhibitionism and encouraging a hyper-personalized culture are its vices.

If you are, like me, baffled by Twitter, then you might find this Slate article interesting:

It asks, "To vast swaths of the population, though, Twitter is inscrutable: Wait a minute—you want me to keep a perpetual log of my boring life for all the world to see? What if I just spend my free time watching Golden Girls?"

But if you like to spend your free time telling the world about what you ate for breakfast and your choice of underwear, then you're likely not reading this blog anyways.

If youth can be wasted on the young, maturity can be wasted on the middle-aged.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Switch Newfoundland for Turks and Caicos Islands, and this story sounds strangely like 1934 all over again. What's particularly eerie is the fact that the return to direct rule is receiving support from supposedly ardent defenders of liberal democracy.

Who said that British colonialism is dead? As is so often the case with Globe editorials, they are paternalistically supporting something in another jurisdiction that they would never support in Ontario. Notice how they move so immediately and so silently from an atypical situation (in this case extreme corruption) to a gross over-generalization (colonialism is good). It looks like the learned editors skipped their logic classes at Upper Canada College:

Some suggestions for the neoimperialist editors: perhaps the concerns of people actually living in a region (in this case the Caribbean Community) should not be so quickly dismissed. Perhaps there are other, less regressive ways to deal with corruption than imposing direct rule from London. Perhaps you should be extremely careful when generalizing about what's good for other people living in another country. Perhaps people in other countries deserve the same rights and freedoms as you do.

"From Saturday's Globe and Mail
April 11, 2009 at 12:47 AM EDT
The Caribbean Community, an organization of island nations, has expressed concern that colonialism is being reimposed on the Turks and Caicos Islands, a overseas territory administered by the British government. But if it is colonialism, then the people of other developing countries may want a part of it.
After the island's British-appointed Governor raised the alarm, the Queen sent in a judge recently to undertake an investigation into “possible corruption or other serious dishonesty” in relation to the conduct of island politicians. In an interim report, Lord Justice Sir Robin Auld cited “political amorality and immaturity,” and “chronic ills collectively amounting to a national emergency.” The British government is acting on the recommendation, urgently suspending parts of the territorial constitution, imposing direct rule from London, and dispatching an emergency state-building team of bureaucrats and advisers to oversee “a root-and-branch overhaul” of the government. The Caribbean Community might not like it, but this is very good news for the 32,000 people of the Turks and Caicos.
After the investigation found “clear signs of corruption,” Michael Misick, the premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, resigned. Mr. Misick denied the allegations and defended his US$288,000 salary, which is more than is earned by the British prime minister, telling the inquiry: “I have done more for the Turks and Caicos than Gordon Brown has done for England.” Whatever the merits of the massive sell-off of Crown land and the accompanying development frenzy that has occurred over the past six years, one of the leading beneficiaries appears to be Mr. Misick himself.
It is reported the premier had a modest $50,000 in assets in 2003. This ballooned into a multi-million-dollar fortune during his term as premier. He flew in a private jet, wore designer suits and lived in a $8-million mansion. Unlike the kleptocracies in Africa and elsewhere, which are looted bare by corrupt leaders and officials who are rarely held to account, the residents of the Turks and Caicos islands have been spared from apparent serious misconduct at the highest levels of the territory's government, and have seen precious Crown assets protected. If this is colonialism, then it has had a bad rap."

Give me a freakin' break!

Look for yourself. I'm not making it up:

P.S. And while you're reading newspapers online, check out the front page to today's Tely. What's missing? Not only is there no oversized photo of DW. Not only is there no story on DW. Not only is there no story based on a Dangovt news release. Not only is the Opposition actually discussed. But, unless I missed something, DW doesn't get a single quote, beyond a generic reference to the infamous death threat he made last week. Instead, we're treated to a thoughtful editorial and a fine column by Pam Frampton. My favourite part was reading Steve Bartlett explain to readers why Jones had to raise her voice in the House last week. If the Tely keeps this up, I'll have to eat some crow.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Clairvoyance & War

Two things stand out in the latest developments in Dangovt's negotiation with the nurses' union.

First, in the initial media coverage, the Tely stood out as the most DW-focused. Not even VOCM framed the story as all about Danny. Here are three headlines:
"Williams disappointed by nurses’ union decision."

"Strike Still Looming for Nurses Despite Latest Offer."

"No thanks: union urges N.L. nurses to reject government offer."

The three headlines convey radically different impressions. As is often the case with the Tely, the headline is biased towards DW, though usually their actual stories are balanced. In this case, the story is as sympathetic to DW as the headline. Even though it's just a short update story (with full-length reporting presumably coming on Saturday), the Tely stands in stark contrast to the CBC, which opens with the reaction of the nurses' union, not DW's feelings.

The second thing that stands out is DW's claim to clairvoyance. All three stories referred to Kennedy's/DW's claims that they knew from the outset that the nurses wanted a strike, but only the CBC offers a direct quotation from DW: "We've said all along, right from the start, that we felt that the leadership of the nurses union wanted a strike, and it looks like they're going to get one."

This is not the first time that DW has asserted, after failed negotiations, that he knew all along how someone would act. In his letter to the National Post in February, DW gave two contradictory explanations of the fallout from ABC and the Shaft. His first account was that after he won the ABC battle, "we began what we hoped was a new era of relations for the benefit of all." Later in the letter he offered a second explanation, "If I have a single disappointment from this recent punitive action, it is not with Stephen Harper, because this is the sort of behaviour I expect from him." As I noted in an earlier post, it's difficult to reconcile the evident contradictions:

Which brings us back to the nurses' union. If DW is now trotting out the "We've said all along" rhetoric, it's not a good omen. Dangovt's propaganda unit is already cranking out ads, and yesterday's remarks signal that the PR dogs of war are going to be released again. As I've said many times, conflict is the lifeblood of this regime.

With DW's foreign policy initiative going nowhere fast, health care stumbling from one crisis to the next, and problems such as the MUN mess still unresolved, the looming war with the nurses will provide a convenient scapegoat.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Foreign Policy Report

More news on the progress of the new foreign policy initiative, from yesterday's Hansard:

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, later today we will be debating a motion dealing with the Province’s seal hunt and the proposed EU ban. This ban on imported seal products brings a serious threat to 6,000 sealers and their families who depend on this industry. Last week, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture travelled to Ottawa to meet with EU officials.
I ask the minister: Did you achieve any results from these meetings and garner any additional support in an attempt to stay the proposed EU ban?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In response to the question from the member opposite, certainly, any time that you speak with European politicians, in this case, ambassadors, you do garner intelligence.
What I did find out was that ban appears to be going full-fledged ahead in the Parliament. However, in meeting with some of these ambassadors, we do have allies, we do have opportunities, and of course, our Premier certainly put a letter out to all ambassadors clearly stating our position and indicating that we are not satisfied just with the ban or the exemptions. We want to have our seal harvest continue without any restrictions, because it is humane, it is viable, it is sustainable, and we as a jurisdiction are going to pull out all the stops to make sure that they fully understand the consequences of what they do.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, an issue of such importance requires a solid plan to deal with any potential EU decision, and requires cooperation and dialogue between the federal and provincial governments.
I ask the minister: During your visit to Ottawa, did you meet with the Minister of Fisheries to discuss any strategy in dealing with this important issue?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: On the point of meeting with the minister, I certainly made the minister aware that I was in Ottawa. I did make a request, but obviously she did not see fit to meet with me at that particular time.
As the regards to the federal government and cooperation with the federal government, we have been two years, I say, Mr. Speaker, asking this federal government to take trade action so that we have something that we can stand behind.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: I tell you: finally they have listened to us and are moving forward.
We, as a jurisdiction, as I pointed out, will do anything we can to ensure that this hunt is not only continued but continued in a way that can give us the commercial return that we need.
Thank you, very much.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for the District of Port de Grave.

MR. BUTLER: Mr. Speaker, seeing as the Minister of Fisheries would not meet, I am going to ask him another question.
Mr. Speaker, CBC Radio reported on Friday that if a ban on seal products is instituted the Government of Canada will launch a world trade organization action.
I ask the minister: Have you been in contact with the International Trade Minister, Stockwell Day, to lend our support to any international challenges to reverse this potential ban?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out to the hon. member on the other side, we have left no stone unturned in trying to make sure that the federal government and our European politicians understand the position that we hold. My predecessors and ministers have been in contact with not only the DFO minister but also Stockwell Day. We have continually asked him to move forward in the position, to take the, I guess, WTO action. It was only last Friday that they indicated that they will.
We have asked them constantly for their strategy and have not been given the courtesy of them telling us what their direction is. As a result of it, I say, Mr. Speaker, we have to, as a jurisdiction, step up to the plate. We have stepped up to the plate and we will continue to be at the plate until we finally hit that homerun. Mr. Speaker, we will again leave nothing unturned to make sure that we get that result.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!
The time allotted for Oral Questions has expired.

So here's the Foreign Policy Progress Report:

1) The Foreign Minister cannot get a meeting with the Federal Minister of Fisheries.

2) The Foreign Minister cannot get the Federal International Trade Minister to reveal his strategy.

3) The Foreign Minister knows what's being reported in the news.

4) The Foreign Minister knows that DW sent a personal letter.

5) Because of numbers 1 & 2, the Foreign Minister is going to play baseball.

Helps to explain why DW didn't make a significant cabinet shuffle:

Principle & Practice

The Principle: In a hierarchically structured administration, people tend to be promoted up to their "level of incompetence."

The Practice: No major changes in cabinet. No shakeup at Health.

Links to the Peter Principle:

Links to the Danny Practice:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Health Care in the Republic of Newfoundland

Here is Part 3 in Orwellian News' series on life in the future Republic of Newfoundland. Parts 1 & 2 explored democracy and foreign policy in this independent utopia:

From the standpoint of Newfoundland nationalism, what's most interesting about health care is the silence. Newfoundland separatists are easily thrown into fits of rage when the topic veers anywhere near nationalist terrain such as foreign over-fishing, borders of any sort, equalization, flags, Hydro, oil rights, and almost anything else involving federal jurisdiction. In addition, they are provoked into apoplexy by discussion of the past, the Referenda, Confederation, conspiracy theories, the First World War, or Commission of Government.

But when talk turns to health care, the angry blogs and call-in shows go curiously quiet. When DW appointed a Mainlander to run Eastern Health, there was nary a peep from the separatist camp. While the mainstream media and public were focused on the tragic findings of the Cameron Inquiry, the nationalists were busy plotting war on the Romaine River. When asked for his opinion on Confederation, Greg Malone, the newest nationalist expert, simply pontificated, "It's a total failure." He didn't feel the need to burden himself with details such as health care:

This state of affairs is rather curious. If a liberation movement passionately craves nationhood, then surely its members would feel compelled -- nay, they would jump at the opportunity -- to spell out how an independent republic would offer better health care than a mere Canadian province. Surely they would be able to point out how health care was superior in the good old days, before the Canadian wolf imposed Medicare.

Surely they would be able to point to the gross injustices perpetuated by the Canada Health Act. Surely they would be able to show how the federal government mismanages Eastern Health. Surely they would be able to blame the findings of the Cameron Inquiry on Ottawa.

But there is a Parkway-sized pothole on the road to separatist health policy: it's a provincial jurisdiction. The many failures of health care in NL cannot be pinned on Ottawa. If the separatists criticized the running of health care, they would have to criticize DW, whose government has been running it for six years.

Still, the question remains: What would The Ministry of Health in the future Republic of Newfoundland look like? According to Brian Dobbin, departments such as Health would be run by professional experts, not elected politicians: "Ministers should be professionals like in Taiwan or the U.S. cabinet." He continues, "Elect the premier separately, he’s the CEO. Let him or her recruit and hire the professionals needed to minister the delivery of our services and the stimulation of our economy."

Professional administrators, not politicians. No Ross Wisemans screwing things up. No cabinet interference. Get the business of health care out of the House of Assembly and into the hands of capable professionals, who know how to handle complicated things like issuing a press release. Keep it out of the public glare -- that's the nationalist ticket.

Free from the federale's Canada Health Act, the professionals could create a type of Crown Corporation -- a hybrid called something like Republic Health -- and give it a separate building in the west end, far away from the Premier's Office. An independent Newfoundland could also search the world for the best and brightest and attract professional CEO's from places like Ontario.

But some funny things happened on the way to the tricolour flag ceremony. The funny thing is that in 2009 it's not the elected Minister of Health who is receiving public death threats from Danny Williams. The funny thing is that it's not the elected MHA's who are being put under severe official censure. The funny thing is that being a have province -- the necessary condition to mastery and autonomy -- did not magically solve the health care crisis. The funny thing is that with all the petrodollars sloshing around the provincial treasury, the Health Sciences Centre still looks like a New Orleans hospital after Hurricane Katrina.

No matter. Following the Dobbin report, The Republic of Newfoundland would privatize health care and emulate the United States. Anything American has got to be better than Canadian, right? Don't they live longer down there and pay less in GDP on health care than Canada?

What Wiseman Doesn't Know

From Hansard, April 7th:

"If I could, Mr. Speaker, I will provide an update to the member opposite and to the House."
[In response to the question, "where is the evidence that communications and protocols are being put in place and being followed within Eastern Health?"]

"Mr. Speaker, the real answer to that question is that there is an issue of reasonableness here. What is the role of the government, what is the role of the health authority, and what should they do? If you look at Hansard, Mr. Speaker – this is ironic, if you read from Hansard, because Hansard records what people say in this House."
[In response to the question, "Why are you and your department not practicing proper follow up on this issue?"]

"Mr. Speaker, I need to understand what goes wrong so we can find a remedy."
[In response to the question, "Have you identified who made the judgements on Friday, and has the shot yet been fired across their bow, as the Premier indicated yesterday?"]

"If the member opposite has some information about her recent resignation, then I will commit to investigate in terms of that particular resignation and what plans are in place, actually, to provide a replacement for her, but the most current information I had was that the individual was going to be on a sick leave and returning around the middle of April, I say, Mr. Speaker."
[In response to a question on the resignation of the nurse practitioner at the HIV/AIDS clinic.]

"I understood that Eastern Health had made arrangements as an alternate plan while that individual was on sick leave and pending to come back around the middle of April. I will undertake to find out what the new plan will be, now that the member opposite has become aware that the resignation was tendered this morning....That is not something that I would ordinarily know...."
[In response to a question on the resignation of the nurse practitioner at the HIV/AIDS clinic.]

No wonder he's such a very busy minister: that's a lot of non-knowing for one question period. So let's do a tally of where things stand before he speaks in public again.

In just three weeks of work, Wiseman didn't know:

1) That the only nurse-practitioner of the HIV/AIDS clinic had resigned:

2) That Eastern Health would release the new cancer test information last Friday:

3) Changes in the rates for personal care homes in Newfoundland and Labrador:

4) What is happening on a day-to-day basis at an operational level at many health authorities:

5) That he was supposed to show up at a major health conference:

6) That he was supposed to let the media in to hear him speak:

Here's some food for thought: Wiseman is surrounded by an army of communications people. He faces a decimated opposition. After the coverage of the Cameron Report, there have been five major news cyclyes, none of which have focused on Wiseman's portfolio: Curious George Baker's circus and its aftermath; the tragedy of the helicopter crash; the bold and brilliant Throne Speech and budget; the debate and non-celebration of 60 years in Confederation; and the Hydro announcement.

The latest failure in his portfolio was overshadowed by DW shooting off his mouth. As for the current news cycle, the story of the resignation of the nurse practitioner is going up against the announcement of a new discovery of hydrocarbons off Newfoundland. I wonder which story will attract the most attention....

To put the problems in Health in context, Orwellian News contacted an international expert in unknowledge, Donald Rumsfeld. Reached by phone in Washington, Rumsfeld had this to say: "There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know. And then there's Ross Wiseman."

Rumsfeld recommended that Wiseman view his instructional video: