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Friday 26 August 2011

Muskrat Falls Joint Review Report in Brief

This just in: Muskrat Falls deal "might not" be the best option!

Hardly breaking news if you read this, or any one of a multitude of blogs on Newfoundland and Labrador. But what makes this pronouncement a little different is that it comes from an independent panel mandated to study the environmental impacts of the project. For the full report go here. But be warned it's almost 400 pages so I'd suggest you boil the kettle first. To get the majority of the points in the least amount of time you could stick with the Executive Summary in the front and the list of recommendations at the back.

While the Report largely covers the potential environmental impacts (and there are MANY) there are a few very specific points worth noting. The first is captured in this quote:
However, the Panel concluded that Nalcor’s analysis, showing Muskrat Falls to be the best and least-cost way to meet domestic demand requirements, was inadequate and recommended a new, independent analysis based on economic, energy and environmental considerations. The analysis would address domestic demand projections, conservation and demand management, alternate on-Island energy sources, the role of power from Churchill Falls, Nalcor’s cost estimates and assumptions with respect to its no-Project thermal option, the possible use of offshore gas as a fuel for the Holyrood thermal generating facility, cash flow projections for Muskrat Falls, and the implications for the province’s ratepayers and regulatory systems.

So in other words there could be other ways to meet the potential electrical demand. Then Why is Government pushing Muskrat Falls so hard?

The Second point is clearly identified in this note:
Would there be net benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador?
The Panel concluded that the Project might deliver net economic benefits to the Province as a whole, depending on the results of the recommended studies regarding long-term benefits and alternatives. The residual environmental effect for Labrador would likely be adverse. Whether there would be net social and economic benefits for Labrador would depend on whether enough of the revenues generated by the Project were re-invested in Labrador.

So not only is this a project that we may not need, but we may also not get any real benefits from it. Especially if you live in the Big Land.

Sounds like a good use of $6.4 billion to me.

PS. According to the review the cost is now $6.4 billion. I guess that means the cost has gone up by $0.2 billion in about 8 months since the project was announced. Wonder what the over run will be by the time the project is complete in 6 or 7 years time?

Thursday 18 August 2011

Political Fortitude

Go read page 5 of todays(August 18th) Telegram.

So you got to see some pics and read a quote from me saying that I'm still planning to run for the Liberal Party in Bonavista South. What else would you expect from someone who is committed to positive change, and who just ran for the leadership of the party?

You will also have read about a candidate who has decided to jump ship because he's unhappy with the new direction of the leadership. Well Mr. Baird, let me first say what a pleasure it is to see how committed you are to the Liberal Party and the positive direction we are working toward in NL! Sheesh. You're well aware that my preferred choice for leader wasn't successful either, but all that does is change my focus to bringing positive change over the long run from the inside. I'm not just running away.

Sure I understand that people have every right to leave a party or change parties if they no longer feel aligned with the direction the party is taking. But if you choose to leave who will make the change you want to see? How about a little backbone or perseverance here?

I mean the objective is to make things better isn't it? If all you wanted to do was win then you'd gladly sell your self, and choose the party you thought would win instead of they party you actually support. Unlike a recent former Auditor General...

We have to work hard to make things different, and we can't just cut and run because we don't like a decision made by party leaders. It just goes to show that there are certain folks who don't have the fortitude required to make change happen

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Pharmacies, Pharmacists and Ministers of the Crown

Wow, is anyone else tired of hearing about the dispute between the independent pharmacy owners and the NL Government? Don't get me wrong, they have every right to fight it out in public, but I'm getting tired of hearing two sides say completely different things about the same issue. So here in a nutshell is my 2 minute version of what's happening and why it needs to be resolved before I go hoarse from yelling at my radio.

The Players
To lay the ground work we need to know who is involved, at least from a collective perspective. We have the Gov. of NL usually represented by the Minister of Municipal Affairs (you heard me), but sometimes represented by others, vary rarely ever by the Minister of Health himself.

We have the Pharmacists Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, or PANL as they are usually called. This is a professional organization of pharmacists in NL, and all pharmacists are members. According to their website: "The Pharmacists' Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL) is a non-profit corporation established under the Corporations Act on November 5, 2003, with a mandate to serve as the professional association representing pharmacists in Newfoundland and Labrador and promote the profession of pharmacy in the Province."

Then we have the Council of Independent Pharmacy Owners, or CICPO. They are a collection of the majority of non-chain pharmacy owners in NL and they have a website over here.

The Game
The Gov of NL says that they can save between 18 and 45 million dollars(wow thats a big gap) by changing how generic and brand name drugs are administered in NL. They are about to enter into negotiations with PANL on ways to cut back on reimbursements to pharmacies paid by the brand name drug manufacturers, thereby encouraging the use of more generics, and thereby saving the Gov some cash by paying out less money on its drug program.

The folks over at CICPO are crying foul for two reasons. The first reason is because they use those reimbursements to cover operating costs, and that money is necessary to remain in operation in many cases. And two, because the folks in the GOV, namely Minister of Health Kennedy, refuses to meet with them.

GOV says that CICPO is just a rogue splinter group of PANL and they refuse to even acknowledge them. They will only speak with PANL. CICPO says that they have very different needs then the members of PANL and that they need their own organization.

PANL has said very little.

The Rules
So we have a group of business owners, some of whom are pharmacists, but many of whom are not, are upset because the GOV sets all the regulations for their industry but yet refuses to meet with them. GOV makes all the rules here and they say they can pretty much ignore CICPO as long as they want.

Minister O'Brien went so far as to suggest that the members of CICPO who are pharmacists could literally take over all the board seats on PANL and then they could represent the interests of the independent pharmacy owners as well. So to be clear, the Minister is suggesting that a group of business owners overthrow a professional organization so that they can subvert it's purpose for their own benefit. Yeah...that sounds like a great solution... Perhaps he should stick to Municipal Affairs.

The Winners and Losers
So who wins? No matter what the outcome no one wins this thing. Unfortunately that means we all loose. How badly we lose depends entirely up to the GOV because they make the rules.

Look at it this way. If you owned a garage and had the best mechanic in the world working for you, would you want him, or his professional association negotiating the price you could charge for an oil change with GOV? Of course not. He may be an excellent mechanic, but he is your employee and has his own priorities that may not always coincide with yours.

The Minister of Health should be ashamed to say he refuses to meet with CICPO. Whatever the specifics of the dispute he should at least meet with them. They could be an association of any kind of health related professionals and it is his job and his obligation to meet with them. He does not get to hold the healthcare system ransom! Oh wait, GOV makes the rules, so I guess he does. But he damn well shouldn't.

Monday 15 August 2011

Leadership Race Debrief

And now it's over. It has been a busy few days for anyone interested in the leadership of the Liberal Party, and it has certainly been crazy for me! Now that it's all been said and done I thought I'd take a few minutes to give my impression of the candidates, the process, the consultations and the direction from here onto the October election.

The Process
From the moment Yvonne announced that she was stepping aside as leader the Executive Board of the Liberal Party were faced with an incredibly difficult decision. How do you determine a new leader, with appropriate input from party members in time to still mount an effective election campaign for October. There were certainly those who would have liked to have seen a quickly organized and executed leadership convention, but I agree with the position taken by the Board. We needed a leader ASAP, there simply wasn't enough time or money to hold a proper convention of any sort. And I say that knowing fully that a longer process may have worked to my favor as a candidate. In the few short days, and the few people I could reach with my message, I had very positive results, and I know I could have mobilized more people given more time. But we didn't have the time and that's the reality.

The only change I would have made would have been some tangible and substantial accounting of the consultations via the telephone and email comments. Some sort of a scoring matrix, or possibly even a weighted system of votes that would see the consultation votes literally counted at the table. With that aside, I fully support the process and the legitimacy of the selection.

The Candidates
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and speaking with each of the 6 other candidates in the race and I can say that I was honoured to be in such esteemed company. This group of individuals have to be commended for stepping up to the plate to offer themselves for what will be a very difficult and demanding position.

Bern Coffey: A well respected, and very well spoken man. He is a consummate professional and I really hope he does run in October. It will be a great loss to us all if he doesn't.

Danny Dumaresque: A long time party supporter and experienced man. I'm not sure I've ever met a man with more passion about politics and the Liberal Party. That kind of passion earns my respect.

Charles Murphy: Without a doubt the closest to an "everyman" in the bunch of us. We spoke briefly about how we need more "regular" people involved in politics.

Rodney Martin: Touted himself as a "maverick" in the race and offered himself as a regular voter as well. Again a well spoken man and I hope he remains involved as well.

Ryan Lane: Well if you read my blog you probably know what my platform was, and that I'll be going after the nomination in Bonavista South no matter who the leader is!

Brad Cabana: Brad has been in the media since his bid for the PC leadership a while back and after meeting him I believe he is fully interested in improving the political scene in NL. I believe he intends to seek a nomination in the CBS area and I wish him luck.

Kevin Aylward: He offered the most practical experience as a former Cabinet Minister. He is well spoken and is a well know individual, and a down to earth good guy.

Of course Kevin earned the nod, and he'll make a great leader for the Party.

Liberals could email or telephone their comments and preferences into the executive, but the most notable event that took place was the Virtual Town Hall and arranged by Mark Watton. Put together in a very short time, this process saw almost 3500 NL households listen and pose questions and comments to the available candidates. For the full details check out Mark's Blog over here.

The bottom line is that there was tremendous support for the candidates and interest in the process. The Liberal party should be buoyed up by the level of interest and participation in such a short time.

Now What?
The Liberal Party of NL has now chosen a new leader and he has to hit the ground running. The clock is ticking and there are thousands of voters who waiting to be inspired to mark their X. The election readiness committee, the Board and the new Leader must plan quickly and act effectively. They must get the remaining candidates in place and the the show on the road.

For me, I'm ready to roll as soon as the nomination is called for Bonavista South. I look forward to inspiring liberals to chose me as their candidate, and then convincing the folks in Bonavista South to select me as their representative in the House of Assembly.


Saturday 13 August 2011

To the Liberals of NL

My name is Ryan Lane, and chances are you’ve never heard of me. I’ve been among the silent majority of Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans who have been paying attention to the political scene but who have never spoken up, until now. Over the past 10 years I have watched as our amazing province was finagled by a political party to promote the party’s own ego. During that time the Liberal Party fought hard to bring important issues to the floor of the legislature and to the attention of the public, sometimes with success, sometimes without. The popularity of the Williams Government was undeniable and it has reduced the number of Liberal supporters in this Province. But the time has come for the Liberal Party to once again seek the people’s support to form a truly responsible and transparent government.

This will be no easy task, and it will require the utmost integrity and commitment from the people in the Liberal Party. We must differentiate ourselves from our opponents. We cannot rely on simply finger pointing and casting disparities at the current administration. Instead, we must show that we have become the party that the people need us to be. We must accomplish this difficult task by developing a clear vision of where we see Newfoundland and Labrador in the future, and we must set solid and realistic goals to lead the way to accomplishing that vision.

We have to first begin with a clean slate. We must start anew. We cannot head into the upcoming election carrying the past, and all of its baggage on our backs. People of the province are ready for a party with a fresh approach led by fresh faces. The party simply cannot afford to fight battles from the past if we are to focus on our future. I offer the chance for a new beginning that will focus on the grassroots of the party. People are ready for a leader who is willing to not just try something different, but to be something different.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are crying out for a party and a leader who understands that we don’t all drive shiny new cars, or have million dollar homes, or even that we don’t all have clean water to drink. They want a leader who understands their issues and they want a party that wants them to be involved in the decisions that will impact their own lives. The Liberal Party is that party, and I am that leader.

Rural Newfoundland and Labrador needs our help. But it’s not just infrastructure and money that they require. They need to be reminded of just how strong and resourceful they really are. The Liberal Party must work with rural community leaders to maximize the existing resources instead of stifling development and tying the hands of local leaders from making real progress. Over the past five years I have heard far too many stories of Municipal councils who have been ignored by the current PC administration. These community leaders have some of the answers, and we need to help them implement innovative solutions to make our communities healthy and sustainable.

A modern Liberal Party must take advantage of every opportunity to engage the people, especially the younger people who tend to shy away from traditional communication methods. As such we must strive to utilize modern social media tools. We need a young, strong voice, speaking in a language and through a medium that the next generation can relate to. Of course we must remember to continue traditional means of communication and consultation as well, for those who prefer those methods. It must be a broad sweeping consultative approach that engages anyone who has the initiative to take part.

If we are to really break through to new voters we must take strong stands on issues that are of significant importance. Issues such as investment in rural communities, improving access to government services, and finding alternatives to the proposed Muskrat Falls deal. It is where we stand on these and many more issues that will tell people the kind of party we are and the kind of government we will be. This is how we will win votes.

The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador needs a new, young leader. One who is well spoken, understands the issues, and is not afraid to fight for the rights of the people of this province. The leader has to understand modern media, speak in a language all generations can understand, and most importantly convince the people that the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador is a party with a vision for the future, and not stuck the past.

My name is Ryan Lane, and I am ready to be the next leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador.

For more information on me check out

Friday 12 August 2011

Final List...and I'm on it!

ST. JOHN’S, NL – Judy Morrow, President of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland & Labrador is pleased to announce that nominations for Leader of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland & Labrador have closed. At the close of nominations, the following seven (7) people submitted an expression of interest:

· Aylward, Kevin
· Cabana, Brad
· Coffey, Bernard
· Dumaresque, Danny
· Lane, Ryan
· Martin, Rodney
· Murphy, Charles

Following the resignation of Yvonne Jones, the Liberal Party of Newfoundland & Labrador Executive Board opened nominations on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 closing today at Noon.

Commencing at 2pm today, the Liberal Party of Newfoundland & Labrador shall engage in a 48-hour consultation process that will reach out to Liberals province-wide.

The Executive Board of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland & Labrador shall convene on Sunday, August 14, 2011 at 2pm at the Delta St. John’s, New Gower Street. At this time, candidates will have the opportunity to address the Executive Board. Members of the Executive Board shall consider and discuss the feedback received through the consultation process. Following the candidates presentation, the Executive Board shall vote to determine the successful candidate for Leader.

“This is a step in the right direction to further grow and strengthen our party,” said Morrow. “I am thrilled by the high level of candidates that have come forward at this time. The selection of a new Leader will ensure Liberals are strong, united and ready to challenge the government in the upcoming provincial election.”

The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador is looking forward to informative candidate discussions. Interested members of the public who wish to provide feedback during this consultative process can do so by:

· Email –
· Phone – (709) 754-1813 or toll free (866) 726-7116
· Fax – (709) 726-7164

Candidate biographies and headshots will be available after 2pm today,

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Liberal Leadership Sprint

Definition of Courage
I stood in a room at the Holiday Inn yesterday (Aug 9) and saw courage personified in Yvonne Jones. Her political history is well known. She took the leadership of the Liberal Party when no one else would. She proceeded to face off against one of the most popular Premiers NL has ever seen, holding her own every step of the way. The cancer was a shock to all, but her courage in the face of that cancer should have been a surprise to no one.

While fighting the most difficult battle of her life she continued, not only as MHA but as Liberal Leader. Her battle was seen as an inspiration to women with breast cancer and people working through health issues throughout NL. Following chemo and radiation treatment she wore a wig, as do many, and finally the day day came when she no longer needed that wig and she proudly donned her own hair once again. It was seen as an indication of just how strong and healthy she was, and that she was ready to take on all comers in the fall election. The spirit was willing but the body was not able. Following long days on the pre-campaign trail her body was not recovering as it should have been and medical advice clearly pointed to the fact that she needed time to rest. Then came the decision.

By her own admission she was angry that cancer had taken from her this opportunity to lead the Liberal Party into the fall election. Thankfully she is able to stay involved and focus on her health and her district. There are rumors that she was forced out, but every last person who was in the room for her announcement will know the foolishness of that rumor. In fact it is verging on insulting. She has been the epitome of strength and courage and she will be missed as leader.

Now what?
The election is little more then 60 days away and the Liberal Party needs a new leader. Unfortunately 60 days is not sufficient to run a full leaders process, so instead of a leadership race we get a leadership sprint. The Party executive have decided to open the leadership to nomination beginning today(Aug 10) and closing on Friday(Aug 12) at noon. The executive will then consult with the membership for 48 hours, no word on exactly how that will happen. On Sunday August 14th each candidate will have an opportunity to make a presentation to the executive board, after which the executive will decide who the next leader will be. It's not ideal but it will have to do in a pinch. Unfortunately it will lead to a fall election where none of the three leaders were actually elected by their membership. 1 acclaimed, 2 appointed.

The Ideal Candidate
Yvonne is stepping back, the leadership void must be filled ASAP, and possible successors were mentioned as soon as her departure was rumored. The next few days will likely see a number of possible suitors reach out for support from the membership, touting themselves as the ideal candidate to lead the flock into the fall election. Regardless of what names come forward the criteria for the position should be clearly defined and include some of the following:

The leader must have an understanding of the government processes, the political landscape and at least a solid base of knowledge of the major election issues: fishery, healthcare, education, rural NL, and Muskrat Falls.

Name Recognition
A regular candidate can get by without much name recognition with some hard work, however the leader of the party is essentially asking to be Premier. That ask is a difficult one if the voters don't know who you are.

This one often gets overlooked by parties in favor of things like name recognition, usually at their own peril. The ability to unite people with passion, and clearly point the way is essential to the success of any leader.

The current Liberal Party has a real chance of significant gains in the fall election, possibly even taking control of the government. This can only happen if the leader of the Party can develop and focus a clear vision of where the Liberal Party will lead the Province. It is an opportunity to clearly define how the Liberal Party will take NL to a much more positive and healthy direction then the alternatives.

Whatever the outcome of the leadership sprint, it's going to be an interesting political Fall in NL.

Monday 8 August 2011

Fishery Reform Pt.2. A Rebuttal.....sort of.

As I mentioned in the original Fishery Reform piece I am not engaged in the fishery and am simply an observer, looking out my window as we head toward the rocks. As such I put forward those thoughts knowing full well that there are a raft of folks who have real experience in the industry and are much more knowledgeable. Some comments of that nature made their way to me. And I'm glad they did.

To review the main points of the Fishery Reform spot were as follows:
1. Fishery is in serious trouble. ( I said in shambles)
2. We waste our time blaming others for the collapse.
3. An inquiry into the industry is not necessary.
4. We need to start focusing on new ideas and a solid vision forward.
5. The MOU would have been a good place to start.
6. The process must be collaborative and include actual fishermen.

The critical comments that came my way were basically along these lines:
1. I said things were in shambles but this was felt to be a little too strong. I stand by my comment here. The industry is still salvageable but I believe that in comparison to what it could be, what it once was, that it is in shambles.

2. I'm glad to say that the finger pointing is slowing and most people seem to accept that we share the blame for the state of the industry.

3. I've actually gotten a couple of comments defending an inquiry into the fishery. Reasons like protecting the remaining stocks, understanding where things went wrong, and recognizing the collection of players that should be involved. I support all those things. My concern is still that inquiries tend to me more show and less substance. There comes a point where you get of hearing "I can't seem to recall." However, I'm open to being convinced. Given the right set of criteria and specific direction it could be worth it. Maybe.

4. Everyone seems to agree that we need to do something. It has to start with a clear and strong vision and be followed up by specific accountable actions.

5. I saw the MOU as a missed opportunity because it appeared to be a collaborative effort and rationalization seemed like a reasonable place to start. I've since been informed that it was not as collaborative as I assumed and that significant players were not consulted, including the general public. So it wasn't an open process. There are also no real commitments in the document, it doesn't involve the Feds and it doesn't address restructuring the industry. I don't disagree with any of those criticisms. As an outsider looking in I saw the MOU as the only thing out there that was proposing any suggestions, and therefore it was better then nothing.

6. There does seem to be agreement that a collaborative approach is the only way to successfully move forward.

When it comes down to it I'm open to hearing new and better ideas as to how we make the industry healthy and strong, and I would love to take part in any process that engages fishermen, processors, community leaders, youth and government. We just need to get moving sooner rather then later! Keep the comments coming.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Fishery Reform

Here we go. Delving into one of the public policy areas in NL that has always been an issue but yet never seems to make it into the forefront of media or political attention for any longer then a few days, despite efforts by harvesters, processors and the FFAW. Lets get one thing out of the way up front. I am no expert on the fishery. Frankly the closest I've been to the industry is the fact that my mother worked in the Charleston fish plant until 1992. And the second point to make here is that I'll be talking about the "wild" or traditional fishery and not fish farming or aquaculture. Aquaculture is a great addition to the overall industry in the province but it is currently a small sector of a very large industry. And so off we go...

Pointing the Finger
The industry is in near shambles. Thats one of the few things everyone seems to agree on. The other thing generally agreed upon is that it's someone else's fault. Some say DFO or Canada in general, many say foreign fishing fleets who have "raped" the resource for years. Many a politician have waved a pointed finger at those who are to blame for taking our birthright. The most recent is NDP MP Ryan Cleary. Cleary has built his career on fighting for answers on "who's to blame" for the fishery. Go read his blog at Fisherman's Road and you'll see that he does raise some good questions and he certainly uses strong language, like "serial rapists." Since becoming an MP he's been fighting to have an inquiry into the collapse of the fishery with no real success to date. While I respect his passion and drive for answers I don't share his need to blame someone. There's plenty of blame to go around and everyone knows it. If we're going to move on and rebuild a successful industry we need to focus our efforts on new ideas and not on pointing fingers.

The MOU Released back in February was an interesting document. Despite what the cover says it dealt mostly with rationalization and not restructuring. It would have made a good starting point to actually make some change in an industry that is collapsing under it's own weight. Sure, not everyone agreed with all the recommendations, but it could have been a jumping off point for discussion for real change. Unfortunately the current administration and Fisheries Minister completely washed their hands of it as soon as they released it. It was literally dead in the water, immediately. The report suggested investment of about $400 million to help scale down the harvesting and processing operations through buyouts and retirements so that the remaining operations could be more competitive and successful. It also suggested the creation of a joint marketing approach for the industry as a whole, but more about that in a second.

This MOU was ground breaking for two reasons. First, because it actually pointed a way forward, and made specific suggestions for a new direction to take. It was also unique because of the process involved in developing the document. This was a collaborative effort that included various sectors of the industry, the union, harvesters and processors. That doesn't happen very often and the result should have been given proper respect and attention and not dispelled without proper consideration.

Fast forward five months and apparently the Minister has had a change of heart, kind of. See here that they are now ready to implement the marketing recommendation that they completely dismissed back in February. Im sure that wouldn't have anything to do with the coming election.....Nah.

New Starting Point & New Ideas
So how do we move forward with new ideas in an industry so steeped in lore, myth, politics and history? We have to design a system from the bottom up that can deliver a high quality product while maintaining long term economic sustainability for those engaged in harvesting and processing. To quote the conclusion of the MOU:
"We must achieve vertical integration (or, at least, an integrated industry approach to resource utilization and market development), advance technology, enhance quality and focus on other related initiatives that ensure that our product is easily differentiated from those of our competitors and in demand by highly valued long-term customers."

The MOU would have been a good launching point but it is already getting stale and collecting dust following a late release to the public and being ignored for five months. Seeing the success in preparation of the MOU points to the ability of the various players in the industry to work together. It shows just how much the industry is crying out for change. Perhaps the starting point is a discussion by those involved. Maybe a fisheries forum or symposium that would give all the players an opportunity to hammer out an approach together. It would need to be strictly moderated to ensure not too much time is spent pointing fingers, but instead the focus is on possible solutions. It would be complicated and messy, but it would be a start.

Maybe they would come up with ideas for a complete regulatory review to cut back the red tape and streamline the systems? Maybe they would talk about a possible auction system for landed catches as mentioned over at The Robert Bond Papers? The point is that we need the vision to develop new ideas and the political fortitude to begin a process of change that is badly needed.

The Key to Success
So how do we ensure that this process has public buy in and is successful? We would have to do something unique, unusual and rare. We have to engage fishermen. Overall processing operations and the union are vital to the discussions but if this process is to move forward in any successful manner it MUST INVOLVE FISHERMEN!!!!!!

Lets hope that the industry that this province was founded on gets the attention it deserves before it dies a slow and painful death.