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Monday 16 December 2013

Tis The Season

It is always a balancing act during the Christmas Season for major businesses to promote their product or service without seeming to be a bunch of money grubbing buggers. Holding on to the Christmas spirit as well as a few dollars takes a significant amount of skill, intuition and impeccable timing.

The recent effort by West Jet has been making the rounds and because it is an excellent example of a great idea and incredible execution. In case you haven't yet seen it here you go.

Hats off to them and a merry christmas to all!

Thursday 24 October 2013

Bad Timing

It's been the buzz around office water coolers and coffee shops for the past few days. The NDP are imploding and it's all happening in public. It is a sad turn of affairs for a party that plays an important role in the Province. But the worst of it all is the serious case of bad timing involved. It's not their fault, I'm sure they didn't plan a public meltdown that would be at the top of every newswire, but thats exactly what happened. Unfortunately it has distracted most everyone from a far more important story.

The CBC's Adam Walsh broke this story about a Government report completed over two years ago regarding various forms of sexual exploitation. The real story was that the report was never released, even though it makes some significant recommendations. Government claimed that they didn't release the report because just the simple knowledge that research was happening would put people at risk. You can see more of the ridiculous comments by the Minister and the Deputy Police Chief here.

Over at The Sir Robert Bond Papers there's some good commentary on why the Governments position is so hard to swallow. The bottom line is that most people, including some of those interviewed for the report and others who work in that sector feel that at the very lest the recommendations for the report should be made public. How else can we expect change to happen?

It appears to be another case of a "trust us, we know what we're doing" style of government. The most unfortunate part of this is the timing of the breaking story. Even with the weight of this story to stay in the news for a couple of days the NDP collapse is still getting top billing. It's not surprising but it is unfortunate.

Monday 23 September 2013

Municipal Election Thoughts Pt 2.

My original plan was to write a few posts about some of the issues facing municipal councils in NL. It turns out that I'll only end up writing two, this being the second. The topic of this post has changed from my original intent to something a little more in the media over the last week or so. CBC ran a story here on Sept 17th regarding some of the discrepancies between municipalities and other communities, and then followed it up on the 19th with one here on how the Province "isn't ready" to tackle the structural issues of unincorporated communities. In light of those stories and a conversation I almost had on VOCM's Nightline I thought I'd share my thoughts on the issue, and while it won't change any ones vote come Tuesday I hope those who read this will leave with a better understanding of our broken municipal sector.

Structural Integrity 
The current system has 4 distinct types of community.

  1. The City. We currently have 3 cities and they are regulated slightly differently then other communities as they have unique legislation. 
  2. The Municipality. There are approximately 276 municipalities in NL. They are governed by the Municipalities Act, among some others, and are monitored by the Province to ensure they are operating within the rules. 
  3. Local Service Districts. Last time I was involved in the sector there were somewhere areound 180 LSD's in NL. They are generally run by a committee and can provide basic services like garbage collection for a fee from residents. They cannot charge a tax but can charge fees. I believe there are a couple that also own and operate water systems. 
  4. Unincorperated Communities. Hard to say just how many since there's no real definition as to what consitutes a "community." They also usually have fee for service arrangements for garbage collection at least. 

For the purposes of this discussion it makes sense to group these into 2 main groups which I will call municipalities that will include all towns and cities, and unincorporated communities that will include LSD's and completely unincorporated communities. Note also that there was a 5th kind of structure referred to as a regional municipality made up of a mix of these options, but the only one in NL was dissolved to create the municipality of Fogo Island not too long ago.

So why does it matter? Who cares if there are different types of representation or community structure? It matters because it sets up a significant imbalance in the system that is usually tips the scales against municipalities. To illustrate the point we'll look at two items; property tax and snow clearing.
First we'll look at property tax and how the imbalance across the community types causes an unfair advantage for unincorporated areas and a loss in potential revenue to be used for community development. Around NL it is common to have municipalities and unincorporated communities side by side. When businesses and individuals look to build new buildings they often look outside the municipality so they can avoid business and property tax. This causes a loss of potential revenue for municipalities and even provides a slight business advantage to those who operate in unincorporated areas. In addition these businesses and people will often use services in nearby municipalities such as banking, retail and government services that use resources of that municipality. Therefore people are appreciating the benefits of being near a municipality but are not contributing to the operation of that system.

On the side of expenses we need to look no further then the roads that we drive on everyday. During the winter months all municipalities have to budget thousands of dollars just to keep the roads passable. Snow clearing forms a large percentage of the expenses for many small towns who don't provide many other services. What's the big deal? Well, neighbouring unincorporated communities need not worry because the Provincial Government takes care of it at no cost. How? By using Dept. of Transportation equipment or by throwing a little cash at a neighboring municipality to use their equipment to do the job. That sounds fair right?

What does it all mean? On a small scale it leaves municipalities and those who pay municipal taxes feeling that they are paying a little more then their fair share as they pay municipal taxes in addition to the provincial and federal taxes just like all others. On a larger scale it highlights the disparity and disfunctionality within our municipal sector. It certainly isn't necessary or practical for all areas of the Province to have the same service levels but shouldn't we be working toward a basic standard that can apply to all? At least we should have a system that applies the same cost for the same service to all on an equal basis?

Our municipal structure needs an overhaul. It's needed one for decades but as usual it requires significant political will that has so far been missing from the equation. And until we have all parts of the equation on the table we have very little hope of reaching equality.

Saturday 14 September 2013

Municipal Election Thoughts. Part 1

With the province wide municipal elections coming up in just over 2 weeks perhaps it's time to have a quick look at the general state of our municipal sector. Of course this time around I'm also a candidate for my town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, and you can check out my campaign website at  If you want a detailed look at the sector, have a look back at a 4 part series I wrote in 2011 starting with Part 1. Over the next couple of weeks I'll provide my current thoughts on the sector and highlight the areas we really need to work on. In this first instalment I'll cover municipal financing and citizen engagement.

Cash Flow
Those involved in the sector are well aware of the financial realities of running a town on very limited resources and increasing responsibilities. It's a sign of the health of the sector that most towns would have to close their doors if they stopped receiving the Municipal Operating Grants from the Province. Then there's the infrastructure that they have even less control over. Each year municipalities put forward applications for desperately needed infrastructure development and maintenance in hopes that they might get chosen from the random and largely politicised infrastructure lottery.

So we have a level of government with seriously insufficient funding and secretive, sketchy and politicised access to infrastructure funding. How do we fix it? Well, the Province has promised a proper fiscal framework review for many years, and there is one ongoing right now but the outcome is likely to simply be a rejig of the MOG formula. Municipalities need proper enabling legislation, more diverse revenue generation tools and a multi-year public and prioritised infrastructure plan from the Province so that they can plan appropriately without having to cross their fingers and hope that their project will get approved.

Citizen Engagement
This topic is a tough one because some towns do their utmost to engage residents, while others treat residents as an unfortunate side effect of having a council. Most towns are in the middle somewhere. This problem stems from the fact that neither the Province nor many councils or councillors understand what municipalities are for, nor what they are capable of. Because of this many towns don't try to engage residents because they wouldn't know what to do with them even if they were engaged in the process.

The most recent unfortunate example of this I've seen is with my own town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove where I expressed concern to the council that our residents might not get the opportunity to meet all the candidates. I suggested a simple meet and greet for all candidates to make sure no resident could say they weren't given the opportunity to know who they were voting for. Unfortunately the response from the Town was that the majority of the current council had no interest in holding such an event. This is a problem.

While Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and the Professional Municipal Administrators association are always holding training sessions that often emphasise the importance of resident engagement many councils still don't quite get it. It is the backbone of our democratic system, and engaging citizens once every 4 years is just not good enough.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Up and Running

September the 24th will be here before we know it. And that's a big deal because it's municipal election day in Newfoundland and Labrador. So wherever you live be sure and get out and vote!

If you happen to live in, or know someone who lives in the great town of Logy Bay-Middle Cove Outer Cove then you may know that I'm running for that council, and you should check out my campaign website at

My campaign is simple and based on my years of experience in the municipal sector, and in areas of community development and strategic planning.

Unfortunately I've just today received some disheartening news regarding the election in my Town. All candidates have been invited to an event in the City if St. John's hosted by the Board of Trade. A meet and greet, of sorts, that was open to all candidates from surrounding municipalities. It's a great idea and I appreciate the invitation, but I'm not sure many residents of LB-MC-OC will attend.

As such I made a request to my town to host a similar, simple "meet and greet" style event. My response came today from the town office:
"Just ran this by council last night. Unfortunately, no one was in favor of hosting an event at this time."
We only get to choose a council once every 4 years, and I find it unfortunate that this council doesn't appear interested in providing one event where residents can come together to meet the people who want to make important decisions on their behalf.

In the beginning I wanted to volunteer my experience to help make good decisions for our town. Now it seems, I will also be running to ensure that people have every opportunity to become involved and engaged in the municipal process.


Thursday 29 August 2013

Time to Make Your Mark

It only happens every 4 years, and last time around there wasn't much interest in the municipal elections around Newfoundland and Labrador. What about this time?

The usual trend in municipal elections for NL is to see more interest in the larger towns and cities but less interest in the smaller communities, unless there's a major issue dividing the town. This certainly isn't always the case as some smaller communities have very healthy elections and voter turnout. But the general trend is to have more councils acclaimed in smaller towns, and in many cases there are often not even enough people nominated to fill the available seats. In fact in the MNL Municipal Census  it was almost a 50/50 split between those that had contested elections and those that did not. So at least 110 municipalities did not have a contested election in 2009.

When I worked with MNL and with Municipal Affairs, councillors and mayors would often comment that they were perfectly happy being acclaimed. They would tell me how it was a sign that their residents were content and didn't feel they needed change. The unfortunate truth is that uncontested elections are not generally a good thing. While it can be a sign of contentment it can also be a sign of apathy and frustration with a system people don't understand.

Healthy elections are important for healthy communities. Its a part of democracy to have choice, no choice means no democracy. It also is an amazing way for residents to get to understand the system of municipal government. Speaking with councillors from around NL a common theme that arises is how they had no idea what was involved until they became a member of their council. The average person doesn't know, or often care to know how the municipal system works in NL. What better way to get to know then by getting involved and sitting on a council.

The current Make Your Mark campaign as pushed by the Department of Municipal Affairs and Municipalities NL is attempting to reach out and encourage people to run for council. It does appear to be having some success as some municipalities seem to have more names coming forward then for the last election. The closest example for me is my home community of Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove. While Mayor John Kennedy has been acclaimed there is a great deal of interest in the other council seats.  There was a fully acclaimed council last time around, but this time for the 6 council positions there are 11 names to choose from, including mine.

And don't forget that even if you don't want to run for your council you still have the a very important role to play in choosing your council. So on September 24th get out there and Make Your Mark!

Friday 23 August 2013

The Liberal Leadership: Round 1

It started with a decent size crowd in a warm room and ended with handshakes and smiles, with a few fireworks in between. Overall it was a very successful and positive night for the Liberal Party of NL, and despite a couple of pointed questions and some raised voices the one thing I took away from the event is that the tide has now turned and it's acceptable to be Liberal once again.

Each contestant had a very different approach and they didn't all resonate with the affable audience. While some answers were canned others were a little more off the cuff and in the end I'd put two of the five at the front following this first round, and for different reasons. Dwight Ball came off looking good due to actually answering some questions and holding his own in most of the debates. Jim Bennett looked to be the only one who actually had policy based answers to the questions of the night. And while these two came out on top there was a lot more going on...

In order of their placement on the stage I give you my impressions of each candidate from the 1st Leadership debate.

Paul Antle
Antle looked and sounded like a leader. He was well spoken if a little slow in some cases for my taste, almost dropping to William Shatner speed once or twice. He is obviously a polished speaker and was well prepped on the style of the debate. In one instance on the one on one debates he set Danny Dumaresque up to bash Muskrat Falls, A.K.A. Cathy Bennett, and not surprisingly Dumaresque didn't disappoint him. It was a good job of getting one of the others to do his bidding and was well played.

The downside of Paul's performance was with regard to his answers to pretty much every question. That is to say he sounded great but he didn't actually say anything. Going into the debate I was looking forward to learning more about how he actually felt about issues, but alas after almost 3 hours it still looks like he doesn't have many thoughts of his own. Only two things were clear from his answers; first is that he doesn't have enough information on Muskrat Falls (Really? After two years?) and secondly that he's adamant that the current Government is doing everything wrong. But that's about it. When asked a very important question regarding the fact that he doesn't have a seat in the house and the difficulty related to being a leader outside the house or would he ask someone to step down, Antle's response was basically that he would have to assess the situation after he became leader. Non-answer.

Dwight Ball
Ball also looked and sounded the part for most of the night. He looked comfortable and answered casually never loosing composure. He relied heavily on the growth of the popularity of the Party during his time as Interim Leader, stating that a recent poll put the Party in first place at %46. He answered a couple questions with actual answers including a couple healthcare planks that would focus on smoking cessation work and specific chronic disease (Diabetes) programs.

Unfortunately for Ball his answers weren't exactly up to scratch for those were really paying attention. The substance of his responses was lacking to say the least. It was most obvious when asked by Dumaresque specifically what he would do to reinvigorate the fishery. He struggled badly and came up with little more then marketing and joint management. In addition, his reliance on his track record was also a little off base. While the Party is gaining ground I'm not sure he can claim much success when compared to a Government that continuously shoots itself in the foot. And finally, his debate with Jim Bennett around public support and polling numbers seems to indicate a bad memory or creative story telling. The Party has not been in first place, nor at %46 anytime since Ball has been at the helm. In fact the last Poll indicated the Party in second place at %36, with Ball as leader showing %24 support, exactly what Bennett had said. Edit: I was contacted by Ball with some clarification including the latest MQO poll which puts the Party in first at 46%. Those numbers however were not publicly released until they appeared on CBC's On Point and there are still no media stories on them and no official release information from MQO. Odd. And he also indicated an Angus Reid poll that placed him in first place across Canada tied with another opposition leader. The full report on that poll available here does place Ball tied in first place across the country but that portion does not include other party leaders within the home province. The full report and poll within this province still places Ball second behind the NDP leader.  

Cathy Bennett  
I'll refer to her by first name here simply because there are two Bennetts in the race. Cathy looked the part and many of her answers were well prepared and for her part she provided the answers reasonably well. And to her credit she was able to stay on topic and held her ground and stood by past decisions even when she was being nearly shouted down by two of her competitors.

As well spoken as she was she did stumble a few times throughout the night, not terribly but noticeably considering she was really the only one to do so. Like Antle her answers were terribly vague, but she took a different track. Her response to most every question revolved around consultation and listening. This indeed seems to fit with her general campaign messaging thus far. And while consultation is imperative to government decision making it appears that Cathy doesn't have many real answers beyond consultation. But her largest impediment on the night was her support of the Muskrat Falls project. To her credit she did not back down despite an obviously anti-Muskrat audience. The topic got the most response from the audience and was never in her favor. She questioned Jim, the other Bennett, on seniors housing and the beginning of his response included his concerns for the increases coming for their light bills and how that would impact their pocket books. She just couldn't win and at a couple of occasions her attitude began to slip into defensive territory and she got snippy, especially with Antle.

Danny Dumaresque
Dumaresque is a good public speaker and he's good at pushing those buttons that get people riled up. In the case of this audience it was Liberal pride and anti-Muskrat Falls. He answered some of the questions with actual answers and was one of the few who actually indicated some kind of plan for a couple of sectors. This included a commitment to construct a fixed link to Labrador to increase tourism and broader economic development.

Dumaresque did have answers to most questions but unfortunately almost all his answers were Muskrat Falls. Even when he was asked a direct question about improving healthcare his answer was about how Muskrat Falls was wasting our money. In the end I still don't know much about his platform beyond how he feels about the Party, Muskrat Falls, and the fishery.

Jim Bennett
Jim sounded well informed, spoke clearly and he had obviously done his homework with regard to the majority of issues. He conveyed portions of his platform in most every answer and his references to the work he had completed as a member of the opposition gave legitimacy to his responses. From creating a Special Prosecutor for organized crime, a switch from open to closed aquaculture, and a strong focus on social justice issues he actually answered the questions.

Even with his detailed answers there were missed opportunities for him during the debate. During one 2 minute debate he didn't get the opportunity to speak because the others were talking and he didn't insert himself. And while questioning Ball on his popularity he allowed Ball to get away with his incorrect statistics.

In Closing...
To be honest it was more spirited then I expected and there was a good turnout with some great questions. Full credit to the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce and the moderator, Darrin Murray, who did a fantastic job of keeping things on track.

I was really hoping to hear more policy. My main criticism of the current Government is that they do not understand how important good planning and policy are to good government. I want a Liberal Leader who understands those things. It's no secret I'm supporting Jim Bennett and his strong approach to planing and policy is a large reason for that support.

I firmly believe that in the end whatever the result of this process the Liberal Party of NL will be well positioned for 2015. I enjoyed the debate and I can't wait for the next one!

Sunday 11 August 2013

Taking your life in your hands

I've just returned from one of my summer pleasures. For the past 4 years my girlfriend and I volunteer as Judges for the Tidy Towns program and it has the incredible benefit of taking us all around the province to visit the most beautiful places you can imagine. This summer we evaluated 7 towns and traveled over 3000 kms from the Avalon, Baie Vert, Burin and Great Northern Peninsulas. As you would expect there's a fair bit of effort keeping eyes peeled for large furry mammals who might ruin our happy trip, but this summer we only saw 3 of those. There were however lots of other things to be wary of.

While I can say that we were never in any real danger on this trip we still got to see plenty of evidence as to why there are so many accidents on our highways. Most accidents on our highways are not a result of moose, but instead its another dumb animal that's to blame.

I drive fast. I always have and I don't expect it will change soon. But I don't drive stupid. I choose a constant speed and based on road and weather conditions I do my best to keep that speed and safely pass those who wish to drive slower. On this trip, and on most trips, I was passed by quite a few folks who seem to feel that their vehicle does not have to conform to the laws of man or of physics. It is not uncommon to be passed as though I'm standing still, even in very heavy rain sometimes, and remember I drive fast already so these folks are skipping along. And with the condition of some of our roads Its just crazy.

I see drivers every day who seem to be blissfully unaware that their vehicles are equipped with indicator lights to help INDICATE when they are turning. Then there are those who like to surge and slow as they drive, I hate them. Pick a speed and stick with it. Differences of more then 20kph in a few minutes on unchanging roads is not safe. We will always have those who drive slowly until you attempt to pass and then it turns into a race. These people are simply unbearable.

Some people seem unable to do the simplest of tasks like use a signal light, use headlights, merge, pass safely or drive without doing at least two other distracting things at the same time. Eating, smoking, talking on the phone, texting, putting on makeup, reading, falling asleep, drinking etc.

Then there's simple vehicle maintenance. You see cars with exhaust pipes falling off, tires falling off or bald, lights not working and we even saw one car who's reverse lights were on while drive 100 on the TCH. It's scary.

In the end the demands on a driver to remain alert are very high and our roads can be very dangerous. Next time you're on the TCH heading across our beautiful countryside don't just concentrate on the ditches, keep an eye to your fellow motorists as well, because they may not be keeping an eye out for you. Drive safe.

Friday 2 August 2013

I'll be supporting...

The slate of candidates who have come forward for the Liberal Leadership is nothing short of fantastic. It is a mix of experience and new voices in a party that is crying out for both. The character and experience of these candidates will grow the party and increases the chances of at the very least having some great new Liberal candidates for the next election. I have more hope for the Liberal Party of NL right now then I've had since I became involved a few years ago. I know that whomever wins this race will be a great leader and the party will be all the stronger for it. In the end only one candidate can win and despite being asked by multiple candidates, I can only support one of them. I support Jim Bennett for the Leadership of the Liberal Party of NL.

I have not made this choice lightly. I examined the candidates and while they all have many skills to bring to this contest I feel strongly that Jim is the leader that the party currently needs. Jim had contacted me some time ago to talk about the leadership possibilities and even then, before the contest had been announced, he impressed me with his strategic approach to how the contest could be won and how the party could be developed to lead NL back to an accountable government again. His emphasis on planning was especially important to me since a large part of my career was spent extolling the need for planning to municipalities around NL. Here was a person looking to lead a government and he actually wanted to begin with analysis and planning. What a contrast to the current Government!

In 2006 Jim held the leadership of the party for a brief period when no one else would even put their name forward. He stepped up and was not afraid to push for new ideas and new approaches. Unfortunately at the time the party was not ready for the change that Jim tried to create. He knew then that if he stayed and fought it would only tear the party further apart so he did what was best for the party at that time and stepped down. In 2007 he ran for the party and despite some very hard work he was not successful. But he did not miss his next opportunity in 2011. While the party was in shambles and we were all fighting for every vote Jim had his ground team in place and worked hard to push his way to victory. It was hard fought and a surprise win in an election where many of us did not fare so well. His determination and ground work had made the difference.

In our conversations since that election Jim has spoken of his vision for the Liberal Party of NL. A party that is focused but fluid enough to adapt. Rebuilt from the ground up with long time party supporters and new blood to reinvigorate and innovate. This must begin at the local level and he has worked hard to get his District Association to a place where they are a healthy functioning organisation.  That's what he wants to do all over the province. In addition to his skills it is perhaps his belief in the Liberal Party and the province of NL that makes him the best choice. He truly believes in a party and a government that is transparent and accountable, fiscally responsible and representative. Jim is a believer in the Liberal Party and the Province of NL. And it's that combination of faith and skill that inspires people. It has inspired me, not only to vote for Jim when the time comes, but to be part of Jim's campaign team.

In the end all that we can do is vote for the person we feel will do the best job. I think that person is Jim Bennett. You have to decide for yourself.

You can find out more about Jim's Campaign at

Monday 29 July 2013

The Pain and the Gain

I am sore. I mean physically sore to the point of having to hobble. Yesterday I scratched an item off my bucket list and today I continue to pay the small price of sore feet, legs and for some reason even my back has not escaped the wrath of the Tely 10. With the ecouragement of my girlfriend I registered early and even trained a little (very little LOL) and yesterday I had a chip time of 2:06:52. I had set a goal of 2hrs but I have to say I don't think I'd be much happier if I had picked up the extra 6 or 7 minutes. I had a great and punishing time and it has given me a tremendous appreciation for those who undertake full marathons!

It starts great and you're all full of energy and by the end you have an overwhelming need to stop moving, just for a little while. My asthma didn't hinder me any more then I was expecting but it was a struggle to keep motivated in the later stages of the race. Lukily there was some unexpected motivation along the way, but more on that in a bit. 

The race is a 10 mile foot race from The Paradise Communituy Center to Bannerman Park and this year there were 3501 regestered runners. Not all runners show up or finish but if you know someone who was in the race or just want to take a look at the results you can check them out here. You'll note there are 2 times listed for each competitor because there is the time from the starting pistol to the finish and the time from when you pass the starting line til you cross the finish line(chip time). This is necessary because with 3500 runners they can't all start the race at the same time. In fact some will be waiting 5 or 6 minutes after the pistol just to cross the start line. 

It is essential to thank all those who make the event possible including organisers and volunteers at the water stations. The officers at the intersections and the fire and paramedic staff who attend just in case they are needed are also greatly appreciated. Some of the traffic staff put up with some pretty silly complaining from motorists who were somehow unaware that sections of road are closed for the race. Afterall it only happens every year. 

I have to offer a very special thank you to one more group of people that I mentioned earlier as the unexpected motivation along the way. It is a challenging race and there are moments where you may feel its just easier to give it all up or to take it easy and walk it out to the finish. But thankfully there are people who line the streets to cheer on runners for close to 3 hours in various spots along the way. There are signs of encouragement, motivational things written in chaulk on the pavement, people with noisemakers and water hoses. But I have to say that the most impressive were those people who stood close to the course and motivated people with their words of support, even to the point of reading the names of the runners off their Bibs (number labels) so they could shout personalized encouragement. I can honestly say I had not expected to hear complete strangers say my name and tell me how great I was doing and that I could keep going til the end.    

It was a great experience. The pain will last a few days for sure, but the gain of crossing it off my bucket list and knowing that I had the determination to push myself even when I though I would pass out, as I almost did at about 5.5 miles, will stay with me forever.

Friday 26 July 2013

The Fails Continue.

There was an opportunity to stop it. We missed it. If the people of the Province had become informed early enough we had a chance to really slow things down and ensure it was really what we needed and at a reasonable cost. Unfortunately we have passed the point of no return on Muskrat Falls and its now all about mitigation. The sad part is that as time goes on the situation seems to continue to get worse and our mitigation efforts will have to increase tenfold if we expect to have any hope of not having the rate payers of NL foot the bill. The newest issues to cause concern involve the ability to generate electricity and the ability to sell it. These two issues would seem to be important to a hydro project yet the current Government are content to say that both of these concerns are non issues by the usual rationale "trust us."

On the sales front the body responsible for monitoring utilities in Nova Scotia was allowed to do a complete review of their involvement in the project which is centered around the construction of the subsea transmission cable. It would have been nice for our very own PUB do the same we'll just have to "trust" in the decision making process that we have absolutely no input in. For their part the NS body decided that they support the project on the condition that a proper contract be signed that would include a possible guarantee for the purchase of power at rates that may be lower then what we could sell it to others for. Power sales would be good but we need the ability to sell that power at the highest rates possible to help remove so much of the burden from NL rate payers.

On the generation front there has been a court case filled by Quebec Hydro to clarify some of the details on the Upper Churchill details regarding the details around supply and management of water resources for generation. If the water resources at the Upper Churchill are managed in the best interests of Hydro Quebec it can significantly interfere with the reliable production capacity at Muskrat Falls. It has the potential of seriously limiting the reliable power available to NL. For the full translation of the details of what has been filed pop over to Labradore here.

The unfortunate truth is that these are only two of many concerns around this ill-conceived project and it is becoming painfully obvious that as the project continues this will be par for the course. Brace yourself.

Thursday 11 July 2013

And The Race is on!

Five contenders and only one crown. The Liberal leadership race has begun and it will be an interesting few months until the final decision is made in mid November. Like any race worth watching this one has interesting characters and is bound to have a few twists along the way.

The cast of 5 contains a few familiar names to Liberals of the province and here in brief are my comments on each.

Cathy Bennett. Successful business woman who has decided that now is the time to get involved in politics. Her name is known in the metro area as she owns a few McDonalds restaurants and has been vocal on a recent daycare issue. However beyond those few morsels I'm not sure Liberals of the province really know that much about her. The media has already informed us that she has been a reasonably significant contributer to the PC party but that doesn't necessarily mean that much. In the end she will likely garner support in metro and from business minded folks but I think she'll struggle to connect with the average Liberal voter.

Paul Antle. Paul is another successful business person from the metro area. The main difference is that Paul has a history with the Liberal party including financial support and even running as a Liberal candidate in the past. He only just officially launched his campaign but even before the rubber hit the road the CBC was reporting a story of some legal issues around tax avoidance in a southern country. Paul is a Liberal, is well educated and well spoken but again he may have trouble connecting with the common man.

Danny Dumaresque. Danny is no newcomer to the NL Liberal party, not in any way. He's been on the board of directors, a previous MHA, and a former contender for the leadership. He is passionate and incredibly knowledgeable about the fishery. He has a great deal of old school Liberal contacts and connections and he's a damn hard worker. The struggle Danny will have is that he may be seen as the past of the Liberals and not the future. In addition he's know as strongly partisan and rural focused, and even though he is attempting to soften his image a little, he is a very polarizing figure.

Jim Bennett. Current Liberal MHA and former Liberal leader, for a very short period. Jim has been involved with the party for a long time and it is well know that it was his hard work and organization that won him his hard fought seat in the last election. He has strong rural routes but doesn't bash the townies with them so he may have a wide base of support. Jim's obstacle will be to prove he's the right person considering he had the job previously and was essentially forced to resign.

Dwight Ball. Dwight has the considerable advantage of essentially being in the position already. Being interim leader for the past 18 months or so has already placed him in peoples minds as the leader. Some feel that it is his leadership to loose. He also has support from most of the caucus and a couple Liberal MPs. With all this you might think he's a shoe in, but he is not without his challenges. Because he has been seen so much people have commented that he lacks a little in the personality department but that is not his biggest challenge as I see it. If you look at the polls it is true that the PCs have tumbled and the Liberals have risen, a little. But with a government imploding the way the current one is the Liberals should have gained much more ground in terms of public support, but they haven't. As a party they haven't really done a whole lot, and it shows. So Dwight's biggest challenge is in fact his experience and track record as Liberal leader for the past year an a bit.

So there you have a brief look at all five candidates. In future posts I'll go over the basics of the process and a few more details on the timing and such. But up next will be a shout out to the candidate who I'll be supporting and why. Stay tuned...  

Friday 14 June 2013

You Don't Have The Right

Occasionally a news article will get a rise out of me. Unlike yelling at the radio when ridiculous comments are made on the call in shows, yelling at the paper in my hand doesn't have the same level of satisfaction. And so here we are.

Yesterday I checked the mail and was delighted to find my most recent issue of the Municipal News. It is a quarterly paper printed and distributed by Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador and contains the usual updates and news stories relative to the municipal sector in NL. I've been reading it for 6 years or so now and you can get the digital copy over on the MNL website here.

In the most recent installment there is a cover story on electronic voting by Randy Simms. It's something I have an opinion about and as it turns out so does Randy. Reading through the piece I find that Randy is in favor of the idea and was hoping we might all have a go at it in the upcoming municipal elections in the fall. But alas, it is not to be this time around. The current Government has taken the unsurprisingly short sighted view that we're not ready for it just yet.

The article was generally informative and pretty well written but I actually had to pause in the middle of reading it to let out a few choice words that thankfully only my dog was close enough to hear. The offending paragraph contained a quote for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Kevin O'Brien. Now to be upfront I'm not a big fan of "Farity O'Brien", as The Sir Robert Bond Papers like to call him. And I've heard him say some pretty darn silly and upsetting things, like the time he compared the departure of Danny Williams to the assignation of JFK. But this one really got my blood boiling. In reference to uninformed voters who might vote given an electronic ballot option he said:
"People who don't know what's going on, voting for people they don't know, is not appropriate"
So if I might take a moment to clarify that comment, it appears that he feels that not everyone has the right to vote. Now if I'm not mistaken the right to vote is accorded to every man and women of legal age and can show they are a resident of the district they wish to vote in. There are no tests to determine their intimate level of knowledge of the parties, the candidates or the issues at hand. One person, one vote.

But hey, he's only a Minister of our Government, if he doesn't believe in democracy then I guess it's no big deal. After all, if we did things his way and every voter had to know full details on the people running in an election and perhaps even their motivations for running, he might still be in private business and we might all be spared old Farity's version of democracy.


Thursday 13 June 2013

She Is The Premier After All

I have been very critical of the current Government headed up by Premier Kathy Dunderdale, and for good reason. As a Government they have made terrible decisions, passed damaging legislation and operated Government as though it was their private corporation. All reasons to be very critical and work damn hard to get them out of that position of power before they do even more damage.

The odd part about politics is that this Government which I despise is made up of good people who at least on some level feel they are doing the right thing. With rare exception the current Cabinet Members I have met and spent time with have been nice people. Most  of them got into politics to make a positive contribution to NL, some simply saw a free ride on Danny's coat tails to popularity, a salary and maybe even a pension. So if they are largely good people with what they feel is the right motivation it is imperative to separate the political criticisms from the personal attacks.

As an example I look at Minister of Education, Clyde Jackman. Like many Ministers he has changed departments over his many years in Government and as such I have had the opportunity to meet him more then once. I find Minister Jackman to be a very knowledgeable, thoughtful, and personable man. I have a great deal of respect for him and his abilities. So when I look at the ridiculous decision to amalgamate all the english school boards I will criticize the decision and the man for making/backing the decision but never on a personal level. In fact because I respect him I wonder if there's more to that decision then I know in order for him to endorse it. I don't think so but it does give me cause to pause.

The same logic applies to the Muskrat Falls project. I see it as a terrible idea that is both unnecessary and damaging to NL but yet sensible people made the decision to begin and continue this massive mistake. While Kathy did not initiate the project she has stood behind it (while standing next to Harper lol) and has continued to defend it and push it forward. Paddy Dally has asked why would people, politicians and bureaucrats alike, push for a project if it was so bad? I have a few theories but I only wish I knew the real answer, but there's no doubt that Dunderdale's credibility has been irreparably damaged because of this and many other issues over the last few months.

This is a woman with a very accomplished past even before she became Premier. I have no doubt she is a formidable person who has the faculties to be the Premier of a challenging province. These are the items that people should remember before throwing personal attacks her way. There's a difference between calling a person stupid and calling a decision stupid. Never has there been a person on earth who has never made a decision that they immediately know was the wrong one. It was a stupid decision but it doesn't make you a stupid person.

While this may be a simple point it is often lost in the word of political commentary, both for those who can hide behind their keyboard and for those under the bright House of Assembly lights. It is the path of a week debater to attack the person and unfortunately we see it far too often. From a political standpoint besides the optics of personal attacks, all they do is show that you have underestimated your opponent, a mistake in any encounter. In the end respect for others involved in a debate, discussion or the general political arena is a must. When you don't show respect for others it reflects badly on you, not on them. After all no matter how many bad decisions she has made, Kathy Dunderdale still deserves respect, she is the Premier after all.      

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Step right up, And don't forget your wallet!

After a mere 16 months of having no voted official party leader the Liberal Party of NL has decided to open nominations for the position. The position won't be officially filled until the fall of this year which will make it nearly 2 years since Kevin Alyward announced his decision to step down following the election of 2011. Since that time Dwight Ball has been keep things in line as Interim Leader. Over that time a few names have come and gone as possible contenders for the top seat but the only confirmed/announced candidate so far is in fact the the current Interim Leader.

The last time the Party had a leadership contest it was hashed out over a few short days between a group of largely unknown folks (including yours truly) and two old school Liberals. In the end the process may not have been perfect but it accomplished a great deal of things in a short amount of time. It gave people a chance to be candidates who may not have normally had the opportunity. It created a media frenzy and grabbed public attention. And most importantly it engaged Liberals around the province through a teleconference in numbers that were quite unexpected. In the end it should have been more then simply a board decision, but it still was a fairly successful exercise. This time around I have some concerns.

First off, if you haven't read the actual rules for the contest pop over to the NL Liberal Party website and read them here. Most of the items are fairly standard fare and will work reasonably well as a leadership deciding process. There is one item that I find pretty unusual, and borderline offensive. Under Article 3 it states the following:
3.05 A nomination fee of $20,000.00 will be paid to the NLLP by each Candidate. The nomination fee is payable in three or four instalments depending upon when the Candidate files the LCNF. The first instalment of $5000.00 shall be paid at the time of filing the LCNF. The second instalment of $5,000.00 shall be paid by not later than 5:00 p.m. on the 5th day of July, 2013; if the Candidate does not file the LCNF until July 5, 2013, then $10,000.00 fee is payable upon filing. The second or third instalment, as the case may be, of $5000.00 shall be paid not later than 5:00 pm on the31st day of July and the final instalment of $5000.00 shall be paid not later than 5:00 pm on the 30th day of August, 2013.
Yeah. $20,000. When I had first heard it I thought it was a joke. Well in a way I suppose it is. A pretty sad joke.

The Liberal Party is essentially saying that as leader your job is to help bail out the Party from your own personal finances. Or perhaps it's just a general statement that you need to be very wealthy to lead the Party. Whatever the rational I happen to think it is a very poor decision. Part of what made the previous leadership contest even remotely interesting to the general public was the fact that there were some candidates who were not know. This single bad decision will hurt the Party and it's attempt to drive media and public interest, and will eliminate some potentially great candidates.

Unfortunately this move seems to indicate that the Party still has trouble learning that people actually want to get involved in politics and government. They seem determined to prevent that involvement, at least at the highest level. And despite the "Renewal Tour" that didn't seem to do much except conclude a bunch of stuff everyone already knew, there are still no significant moves to engage the public, or actual card carrying Liberals in any real decision making. The one thing I saw and heard from the couple of Renewal meetings I attended was that Liberals want to see action toward change. I don't think this is what they were talking about.

The consolation here is that there will be good candidates come forward who can afford the bill. Being wealthy enough to afford the entry fee certainly does not include or preclude the ability to be a good leader. But unfortunately it does exclude a great number of potentially great leaders from even entering the race. In the end I have no doubt that whomever the successful candidate is that they will do their best to represent the Party leading up to the next election. I sincerely hope that by the deadline there will be quite a few contenders. Not just for the sake of democracy within the Liberal Party, but also for the sake of the Party's bank account.  

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Necessary Negativity

I'm a pretty positive guy. I look for the up side whenever possible. As a result I try not to be too negative even when it's the only logical response. The old saying "if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all" has played in my mind and kept me quiet on more then one occasion, but not often enough some might say. When it comes down to it I believe in truth above all else, and when it comes to the current Government of Newfoundland and Labrador the truth hurts.

Unless they discover an eternal oil well under the confederation building "The Dunderdale Government" may go down as at least one of the worst, and perhaps the worst NL has ever had. From a simple optics perspective she has taken NL from a have province just off the Canadian teat, to an economic basket case, forced to lay off a significant number of employees and cut services. Now to be fair the truth is more complicated then that. This current crisis is a result of years of planning, or lack of planning. Good old DW knew exactly whet he was doing when he jumped ship a couple of years back.  "Get while the getting's good" as they say. Despite the fact that the current crowd were set up to fail they could have avoided this by not hanging the entire provincial economy on one very volatile commodity, oil. But there I go starting down the path of negativity, but thats kind of the point.

I'm doing my best not to say "I told you so" and to not jump on every little ridiculous move the current Gov of NL makes, but its quite difficult. It doesn't matter if hundreds of people danced up and down the streets foretelling the eventual failure of this Gov and their lack of sound financial planning, we are where we are. The challenge now is to somehow get out of this with our services and economy intact. And while I don't have much faith in the "Dunderdale Crowd" on the hill, I still have faith in the people to raise hell when the need arises. And the need has arisen. We need to let them know that this kind of bull shit is not acceptable, under any circumstance. Call the radio shows, write letters to the editors, write blogs and write and call your MHA. I am glad to see the general public awakening to the financial mess that we now have to deal with and I hope that when the time comes to cast a vote again we can change "The Dunderdale Government" back to the "Government of Newfoundland and Labrador." I'm positive we can make it happen!  

Sunday 10 March 2013

Some Witty Perspective

In light of the current state of our Provincial Government I thought it might be interesting to add a little perspective from across time and culture from a few much more well known then myself. Lets start with one that may indeed highlight where our problems begin...

Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
Thomas Jefferson


People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can't live within its income.
Robert Half


Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
George Washington


The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.
George Washington


It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.
Thomas Jefferson


We have the best government that money can buy.
Mark Twain


Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.
George Washington


Some food for thought. 

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Water Woes Continue

The Town of Bonavista has serious drinking water issues and it can't afford to address them properly. Unfortunately it isn't alone. This article over at CBC lays out some of the issues related to chlorination and water quality in two towns, but it mentions the fact that well over one hundred other municipalities are facing similar issues with little help from the Provincial or Federal governments.

To get a little more background you can have a look at some of my previous posts on drinking water issues in NL that are mostly linked through this one. The state of our drinking water is appalling and everyone knows it. There is no simple solution but there must be a solution. It is a basic need or right especially if you're paying taxes for it, like the residents of Bonavista.

The interesting side of this article at the CBC is the response by Minister Hedderson:
"If you are in a community where there are any levels of THMs, you can put a filter system on your home water," Hedderson said.
Hedderson says residents can also purchase personal water filtration systems, in the form of a jug with charcoal filters, that are designated to remove THMs. ("NSF Standard 35" should be on the label).
"As long as the filter is certified for THMs, you can be assured that your drinking water is relatively free of them," he said.
Wow. So if your municipal taxes aren't enough you can pony up some more cash for filters that can provide drinking water that is "relatively free" from harm. Nice.

There's also a picture of Hedderson with a caption stating
"... government believes it would take a lifetime of exposure to THMs to make a significant difference to residents' health." 

The problem Tom doesn't seem to grasp is that this is indeed the very situation for hundreds of residents in Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe we should start by fixing the basics and then moving on to the complicated stuff. Just a thought.

Monday 11 February 2013

What is Real Leadership, and Where can it be Found?

That's a question that has to be on the minds of each of the three major Provincial Parties in recent days.  The PC's know Kathy is not a strong leader and she'll not likely lead into the next election. The NDP has surged under Lorraine but again she is unlikely to lead the party into the polls either. Unfortunately neither party has much of an heir apparent to step in and take the reigns. Then there's the Liberal Party...

Take a few minutes and pop over to Sir Robert Bond papers and have a read about the Latest Candidate who Never Was. Ed points out that the party is still struggling and despite the myriad of names of potential suitors there have been no real declared candidates. The Party still needs all the things I mentioned in this post almost a year ago, and in the face of the "Renewal Tour" very little real renewal seems to have taken place. It has to start with a leader who has vision, passion, drive and is willing to push the boundaries and embrace change. Maybe we've met that person, maybe we haven't. Either way the longer the party squabbles about the leadership rules and delays the election, the less time the leader will have to raise funds, organize the troops and lead them into another provincial general election.

P.S. I have been asked if I would consider running again in the next election, or if I would take another shot at the leadership. My response has been similar to Mr. Scott Sims... a good politician never rules anything out.  

Sunday 10 February 2013

Labrador Caribou and Red Herrings

I don't often give advice on any sort of personal level, especially unprompted advice. However one bucket list item I always suggest people scratch out early is a trip to Labrador. And if it's not on your bucket list then it should be. It's land and people are unlike any other and you need to experience it for yourself. About 10 years ago I had the pleasure of living in Wabush for a couple of years, and what made that time extra special was that I had the opportunity to travel around and see more of The Big Land then just Lab West. I met people and saw things that were truly unique to Labrador. One of those things I will remember is when I served as an observer on the Labrador Woodland Caribou Recovery Team.

Labrador Caribou are generally divided into two main groups, the non-migratory Woodland Caribou that are a protected species and the migratory George River Caribou herd. The Woodland group was generally considered to be made up of three herds in the Red Wine, Mealy Mountains, and Lac Joseph areas of Labrador. While they do move around within their regions there is no comparison to the tremendous migratory pattern of the George River herd. At the time when I lived in labrador the Woodland Caribou population was somewhere between 2000 to 5000 based largely on ariel head counts, while the George Rive heard was estimated somewhere between 500,000 and 700,000 by some. The George River herd was open to hunting to all residents of Labrador, and boy did they take advantage of that opportunity. I have photos of many many heads and carcasses littered along the sides of the Trans-Labrador Highway from one season alone.  The Woodland herds were off limits to all hunters, supposedly.

If you even vaguely  follow the news then I'm sure you'll recall stories of Quebec Innu hunter crossing into Labrador to hunt and kill the protected Woodland herds, at least once even bringing a rented panel van to carry back their game. There were multiple incidents over the years with multiple threats made on both sides but in the end very little was ever done from an enforcement perspective. No doubt politics have played a huge role in the lack of action in the multiple incidents. I was told of one example where a radio tracking collar was found in the freezer of a gentlemen in Quebec. No action was take except to request the return of the collar. Fast forward 10 years and what has changed?

Now the once healthy George River herd is in trouble and the Provincial Government is implementing hunting restrictions in an attempt to let the herd rebuild. Some aboriginal groups and individuals have stated that they don't care what the government implements they will continue to hunt as it is their right to do so and has been for hundreds of years. The real explosion began when VOCM Open Line host Randy Simms berated former Innu leader Simeon Tshakapesh and openly called him stupid for continuing to hunt a species that was in danger just because they considered it their right. Simms went on to say that any who continued to hunt were also stupid. And thats when Tshakapesh unleashed the accusation that Simms comments were racist.

Was Simms being rude and unnecessarily confrontational? Yes. He even hung up on the caller without any real chance for discussion, however his comments were not racist.

Racism is a constant struggle that we all must work to overcome wherever it exists, but so must we recognize when it is being used as a red herring to distract from the real issue as it was in this case. Race is completely irrelevant to this discussion. The herd is in trouble and the Province has done the proper thing and instituted a hunting ban for everyone. If there are those who feel the rules do not apply to them then they have to realize there is one set of rules for all, or at least there should be. I've never been much of a fan of double standards of any sort, regardless of history. If animals shouldn't be hunted then no one should be permitted to hunt them regardless of history, race or culture. Period. To provide special exceptions because of any of those things, especially race,  is in fact the very definition of racism.  

The race of the hunter has no bearing on conservation of a caribou herd, to think otherwise, to quote Mr. Simms "is just stupid."

Tuesday 5 February 2013

The More Things Change...

I know it's been a little while since I've written here and yet it seems like it was only yesterday. Some days pass and an old topic will creep up in the news or a new topic will jump in to the mix and I'll be temped to sit a write a bit, but unfortunately most of the old topics have been covered and rarely merit a new post and some of the new items that make the local news are not worth commentary. Thankfully that's certainly not the case for everything and there is usually at least one idea a week worth digging into so one of my New Year's resolutions is to write more often. As I review the last couple months that I haven't been writing anything I find mostly rehashed foolishness and few items worth comment. 

A brief review of the last couple of months. 

Muskrat Falls. It's still a bad idea no matter how many great announcements are made about it. The basic facts have not changed even though the espoused rationale for the project has changed more times then I care to count.

 MHA's. They are just people, and as such will do and say stupid stuff. Some of it will have repercussions come election day but most won't because we have short memories. Shouting obscenities at a hockey game ain't what it used to be.  

Search and Rescue. It's still inadequate and one year after the Burton Winters tragedy little has changed except we know a little more about about how bad it is. 

The Liberal Party. Still underwhelming. Lets just say that even though they are working hard they may not be working smart. I will continue to be the parties biggest supper and biggest critic until they get it right. 

Racism. It's still bad, not that I've written much about it before. It also still gets tossed up as a red herring to distract people from the real issues. Randy Simms may have said some pretty rude things that he should probably apologize for but I didn't hear anything racist in his comments. I may dig a little deeper into the Labrador Caribou issue soon, as I have, or at least had a unique window into some of the activities when I lived in Labrador a few years ago. 

So as they say the more things change the more they stay the same!