Saturday, May 23, 2009

To everything there is a season

A time for every purpose under the sun;
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to weed;
a time to call and a time to poll.

You could feel it in the air last week. The garbage gulls feasted on the curb offerings heated by the happy sun. The potholes breathed a sigh of relief as the last studded snowtire was finally put away for the year. And the dandelion began its annual takeover of lawns. As St. John's witnessed the ritual start of the seasonal struggle between homeowner and dandelion, everyone knew who was going to win. Yet habit and custom pushed voters outside, where they could be seen throughout the East End, on bended knee, fixated on the yellow apparition.

For those of you who missed the news because you were out in the yard, here are the highlights:

1) DW made a heroic phone call.

2) In the midst of a global recession, the capital bubble is unperturbed.

3) Bob Simmonds is optimistic.

4) The House of Assembly passed a motion calling for the federal government to do something it is already doing.

5) The federal and provincial governments have partnered.

Quite a week. Whether it was the power of polls, or something in the water, the nurses' strike was averted and I, for one, was happy to be proved wrong. Now I'm going outside to pull up some more dandelions. I know that they will return as soon as I pull them up, but I just can't help myself.

Judging from the news, things look good in Sunny Patch:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seal Hunt Fallout

Doug Saunders has a thoughtful piece in yesterday's Globe about how the Tories' attempt to make a big splash in Europe was derailed by the seal hunt controversy. Saunders explains how the Tory leader's strident defence of the seal hunt alienated the Europeans. He argues that the inability to compromise seriously undermined relations with European states.

According to Saunders, the unrelenting defence of the seal hunt was part of a pattern of Tory leadership that is at once idealistic and bullying. "Nor would he consider sacrificing the seal hunt," according to Saunders, "despite its negligible role in the economy, in order to gain a larger victory."

Saunders says that the Tory leader's approach is "to project and impose his strongly held" ideals. He quotes a senior EU official as complaining that the mistake “was that they didn't play the diplomatic game – they didn't do the Henry Kissinger stuff and make a big, visible sacrifice so they could get something in exchange. They just wanted to win everything.”

Who do you think Saunders was writing about?

Who do you think took a political hit because he refused to sell out the seal hunt?

The answer may surprise you:

Friday, May 15, 2009

Déjà vu

There was apparently another glitch in the Matrix this morning. For a few minutes around 7:00, VODW had two versions of the same story posted online.

Here is story number 1:

House Winding Down
May 15, 2009

There was another late-night sitting at the House of Assembly. Members debated legislation until the wee hours of the morning..... and that has the Opposition parties speculating on the possibility government could close the House soon in light of the situation unfolding with the province's nurses. Opposition House Leader Kelvin Parsons gets the feeling that government is winding things down, even though a host of legislation still sits on the order paper. Government House Leader Joan Burke says it's her intent to see all outstanding bills passed before the session closes. However she does say that it is their right to close the House.

Here is story number 2:

House Winding Down
May 15, 2009

Another late night sitting at the House of Assembly. Members debated legislation until the wee hours of the morning..... and that has the Opposition parties speculating on the possibility government could close the House soon in light of the situation unfolding with the province's nurses. Opposition House Leader Kelvin Parsons says he gets the feeling government is winding things down, even though a host of legislation still sits on the order paper. Government House Leader Joan Burke says it's her intent to see all outstanding bills passed before the session closes. However she does say that the right to close the House is their's.

Aside from the amusing solecisms, it is interesting to see how VODW struggled with the wording in the final sentence.

It must be hard to find a delicate way to re-write the constitution.

One or both of the links may now be inoperable, since such glitches don't last very long; but they still worked the last time I checked. For more on the provincial Matrix, see

Remix Update:

It looks like VODW has settled on this version:

The main page has an interesting audio link that captures Burke claiming absolute control over whether and when the House of Assembly is dissolved or prorogued.

For a different view of whether the Tories can unilaterally close the House of Assembly, see the Lieutenant Governor's homepage:

"Role and Duties

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is Canadian Head of State and The Queen of Canada with the Governor General being the Queen's representative for Canada. The Lieutenant-Governor is the representative of the Queen in the Province and exercises powers under Section 9 of the Constitution Act 1867 essential to the workings of the constitutional monarchy in Canada.

The Lieutenant-Governor must always ensure that the post of Premier is filled following resignation or death and that a Government is in place following defeat at an election or in the House of Assembly. Additional governance responsibilities include: administering oaths of office to Members of the House of Assembly and Ministers of the Crown so they may take up their duties; summoning, proroguing and dissolving the House of Assembly; assenting to legislative bills in order for them to become law; and signing into force Orders-in-Council, Proclamations and other official documents on the advice of Cabinet."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

ABC's of Health Care

As the provincial government's drama with the nurses' union enters its final act, it is clear that very little has changed over the past year.

Beneath the macho posturing and shrill rhetoric, the conflict is being driven by the same basic issue that's been driving it from the beginning: a battle over respect.

As the lead actor on the government's side changed from Wiseman to Kennedy to Williams, this battle over respect merely intensified and grew ever more personal over time. What is interesting about DW's latest diatribe is not the rhetoric, the threats, or the illogic. We're beyond that now. We're beyond mere bullying. What we're seeing is a personal feud that has devolved into a scorched-earth, ABC-style jihad.

If you watch the video feed from CBC (and if you can overlook the weird shoulder twitches), you will notice a revealing pattern. DW seems incapable of saying Debbie Forward's name:

Unless I missed something, he says her name only once during a lengthy rant. For the remainder of the 3:25 minute video, all he can utter is a steady stream of "she" and "her." She has done this, she has said that, she will suffer the state's mighty wrath. Judging from the Danspeak, Debbie Forward has become an official non-person. As a persona non grata, Ms. Forward can expect the same treatment meted out to all enemies of the people.

When the premier of the province cannot bring himself to address the head of a major union by her own name, you know how this is going to end. It's going to end the same way that all of DW's conflicts end. It's going to be utterly personal, utterly ugly, and utterly gratuitous. What it will do is feed Dangovt's insatiable desire for hyperbolic self-righteousness, personal revenge, and fighting for the sake of fighting.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

ABC's of the Seal Hunt

Okay, I tried. I really tried. I tried to ignore the news, I tried not to read the papers, I tried to block out the ranting and roaring.

But this morning's latest, predictable outburst of populist cant about the seal hunt is just too much to bear silently.

So I posted a comment on the CBC's web site in response to their story on Williams's kangaroo comments: "So Europeans should have a good, hard look at themselves," says Premier Williams.

Europeans do not have a monopoly on hypocrisy. Williams completely burned the political bridge between St. John's and Ottawa and then launched his own foreign policy initiative to deal directly with the Europeans; now that his reckless gamble has failed, he will place responsibility on everyone but himself.

The failure of Williams's seal hunt foreign policy is part of a larger continuum whereby the ABC virus has infected every aspect of NL's public life. Anyone following Hedderson's foreign policy folly in Ottawa could see that the initiative was doomed from the outset.

Blame Ottawa, blame Liberals, blame Europeans...Williams will blame everyone but himself. I'm sure he'll even try to pin this on Manning somehow.

Williams and Hedderson fooled themselves (and tried to fool the public, too) that they could somehow change European opinion without coordinating their actions with the Government of Canada.

As bad as the EU ban is, it will be important not to burn every bridge with the Europeans. As usual, Williams is putting populist rhetoric before reasoned policy.

Williams seems to forget that there is an international jurisdictional battle over undersea resources looming with France, and Canada will need all the allies it can muster. Ranting and raving may be good for the polls, but it's not a sound basis for foreign policy. In other words, it's better to speak softly and carry a big stick than shout loudly and carry a twig.

Before the nationalist mob starts burning European books in the streets, they should stop and think about what would be the best way to fight the next foreign policy battle, not the last one. Here's the link to the CBC story:
I'm sure the thumbs down votes on my little comment will be in triple digits before the day is over.

It's not as if there aren't voices of reason out there. The Tely had a sensible editorial on the economic realities (as opposed to political rhetoric) of the seal hunt:

But trying to make a reasoned argument when it comes to this issue is like spitting in the wind. It was bad enough when DW had the usual arsenal of populist anger to tap into; now he has the seal hunt to whip the public into an unthinking frenzy of rage and revenge.

Lost in all the rage is reasoned policy. Lost in all the frenzy is a sensible strategy for getting the most out of a difficult situation.

Let me be clear: Yes, the Europeans are hypocrites. In fact, as any diplomat can tell you, geopolitics is full of hypocrisy and Machiavellian manipulation. As Orwellian News tried to point out, for example, Putin did not favour a seal hunt ban because he's a soft-hearted guy:

The latest debacle has links to DW's Excellent European Adventure that started in February:

Now we've come full circle: the foreign policy chickens hatched by the ABC folly have now come home to roost.

Which brings us back to hypocrisy. Dangovt expects the unreserved support of Harper's government at the same time as it continues to condemn them.

Dangovt wants it both ways: they want to blame Ottawa and they want Ottawa's help.

So what do they do? Hedderson's quote in the Globe sums it up:

"Obviously the seal hunt and perhaps us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are not important,” said Fisheries Minister Tom Hedderson. “We joined this country in '49 and we became full Canadians. And we expect our Prime Minister to stand up for us.”

Blame Ottawa for ignoring NL; dredge up Confederation and '49; and demand that Ottawa fix something that wasn't their fault. That's foreign policy in Dangovt.

Before long, the whole thing will be sold as another Shaft, another reason to give DW more blind support in time for the next CRA polling season.

Before Long Is Here Update:
Well, that didn't take very long did it? Note the machismo language of violent revenge (with "muscle" being the Danword of the day), and the lack of thoughtfulness or reflection on the larger contexts or consequences:

Here are the links to the original Globe and VOCM stories:

Now, back to trying to be on hiatus.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Kiss the Backsides

"Kiss the Backsides," Williams's own words -- not mine. Words uttered in the House of Assembly, where "yahoo" is strictly prohibited.

Each day in the House this week has had its own particular theme. Monday was Where's Waldo Day and Tuesday was Wiseman Evisceration Day. Yesterday saw an outbreak of the flu known as D1W1.

Here is a list of what Williams actually said and claimed yesterday in the House of Assembly. Anyone who isn't drunk on PC Kool Aid will see these statements for what they are:

1) Williams couldn't care less if the federal government doesn't fund projects in NL.

2) The federal government promised him $10 billion.

3) The federal government took at least $1 billion away from NL.

4) Williams is not going to kiss the federal government's backside.

5) Williams doesn't care if NL has bad relations with the federal government.

6) The federal government has slapped and abused him and the people of NL.

7) The successful ABC campaign prevented the clowns from attaining a majority government.

8) Despite numbers 1-7, provincial cabinet ministers are meeting with their counterparts in Ottawa.

9) Despite numbers 1-7, the provincial government is doing everything appropriate to ensure that everything is covered and proper federal representation is maintained.

10) Despite 8-9, Williams's sole strategy is to wait until Ignatieff or Layton win the next federal election.

There you have it: the latest top ten of I Can't Believe He Said That (Again). I can hear Danny's angry supporters already dismissing this as just Danny being Danny -- this is just passionate talk from a proud, determined leader.

What do you think Williams and his government would say if Harper used words like clowns to describe them? How do you think they would react if Harper started talking about backsides? What would they say if Harper claimed they had slapped and abused him?

If Jones or Parsons had used language like Williams's, how do you think the Tories would respond? If Jones referred to someone's arse in the House of Assembly, what would the Speaker of the House say?

Language either matters or it doesn't. It's as simple as that.

If Williams wants to be taken seriously, then what he says has to be taken seriously. And if you're the type of person who happily puts up with such crap from your Premier, then you truly deserve such crap.

As for the substantive claims Williams made yesterday, I leave it to you to determine what's true, what's false, and what's pure bullshit. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows, for instance, that Hedderson is on public record as saying that he cannot get a meeting with the federal Minister of Fisheries. Anyone who has been reading Labradore knows how often the provincial government appeals for federal funding. And anyone who has been reading Bond Papers knows the many inconsistencies and contradictions surrounding the entire ABC and equalization ponzi scheme.

Below is the transcript of Williams's exchange with Parsons, copied from yesterday's Hansard, with Williams's notable statements in bold:

As you read over what Williams actually said (this is Question Period, remember, not a late-nite call in show), think about how this is part of a much longer and larger pattern of state language that:
1) Focuses obsessively on conflict
2) Focuses obsessively on personal insults (both received and given)
3) Uses violent imagery
4) Uses vulgar epithets
5) Responds glibly to serious issues
6) Fails to be ironic or funny
7) Fails to evolve or adapt to changing circumstances
8) Insists on double-standards
9) Insists on self-righteousness
10) Fails to take consequences seriously

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Mr. Speaker, my next question – I will move on to another topic here - our federal regional minister, Minister MacKay, announced today $136 million in funding that will ensure that Halifax is the Atlantic Gateway. Unfortunately, our Province has lost out once again. Minister MacKay stated in a news release that this funding will allow Halifax to play their role as a major trade gateway to the world.

I ask the Premier: What recent discussions have you had with Minister MacKay and the federal government regarding our Province’s position as the Atlantic Gateway, and were you advised that this funding announcement would be coming today?

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to Minister MacKay probably three or four times in the last six weeks and raised all kinds of issues with him: cost-shared funding through transportation and works. We talked about the Gateway. We have talked about all kinds of other projects, kept a constant dialogue going. He did not phone me up today to tell me that this announcement was made, nor would I expect him to, but we have made all appropriate submissions to the federal government. We are maintaining a dialogue with them. If they choose not to fund us at this particular point in time we couldn’t care less, quite frankly.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Minister MacKay, in his words, stated that it was thanks to the strong relationship between the federal and Nova Scotian governments that communities in that province will see the benefits of the Atlantic Gateway that will allow them to remain competitive and prosperous.

I ask the Premier: Is this another instance where the poor state of federal-provincial relations is costing the people of this Province new money and investment from the federal government?

PREMIER WILLIAMS: This is a situation, Mr. Speaker, whereby we were promised $10 billion from the federal government. They refused to provide that to us, so we took issue with it and we stood up on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador; because with that kind of money we could have paid off our entire debt. They subsequently turned around during the last Budget and basically took away $1 billion to $1.5 billion from us.

On that basis, we are not prepared to turn around and kiss the backsides of the federal government under any circumstances. If that means that we have bad federal-provincial relations, then so be it.

MR. KELVIN PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Nobody is talking about kissing backsides. We are talking about doing your job, whether you are a Premier or a minister.

I say to the Premier: You alluded to the fact that you have had several conversations with Mr. McKay in the last six weeks. Has there been any discussions between you or any of your ministers with regard to the Atlantic Gateway that we could look forward to seeing some money coming here, or are the state of affairs, in fact, so bad that there is no conversation even ongoing in that regard?

PREMIER WILLIAMS: Mr. Speaker, I can only tell you that I have had several discussions with the minister. I have had meetings with the minister. My ministers have had meetings with counterparts and that minister. We have done everything appropriate from our perspective to ensure that we have basically covered ourselves to make sure that we represented on behalf of the people of the Province.

Now I come back to the other principle. We can only go so far. If these people are going to abuse the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, if they are going to slap us in the face, there is nothing we can do about that. What we did do is we conducted a very successful ABC campaign, which ensured that these clowns did not end up with a majority government across this country. As a result of that, they do not have a majority government. Hopefully, there will be an election and they will be kicked out of office. That is our goal. Then we will see where it goes there, and we will see what Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Layton can do for us at the end of the day.