Monday, 27 October 2014

THE ‘ROCK’ STAR OF “QUICK CLAY”

The biography of Dr. Stig Bernander reads like that of a ‘Rock’ Star except in his case, he is better known for his work with clays rather than rocks, especially “Quick Clay”.  Some of this “sensitive” material is present at the North Spur, the projection of land creating the natural dam at Muskrat Falls.  It is one of the issues which threaten the viability of the project.

Dr. Bernander, you ask?  Who is he and why would you be interested? I will get to those questions in a moment. First, what are “Quick Clays”?

Quick Clays are unique, sensitive glaciomarine clays.  The clay deposits occurred when sea water levels were much higher.  They are unstable clays. Their peculiar characteristics are known to cause landslides.  When Quick Clay is subjected to sufficient stress, the material may liquefy. At Muskrat Falls, Quick Clay could undermine the structural integrity of the North Spur. Remediation is potentially a money pit.  It is a public safety issue, too.

One of the best known and large Quick Clay landslides occurred at Rissa, Norway.  The slide was videoed as it progressed. The event is as exciting as it is horrifying. If you choose to follow the Link, just be patient for the first couple of minutes and the Rissa video will demonstrate why Quick Clay should be taken very seriously. It is the perfect primer in advance of Dr. Bernander’s Lecture. 

Bernander is neither politician nor bureaucrat. He is a scientist; one with long industry experience.

Monday, 20 October 2014

OIL REVENUES: DON'T WORRY. BE HAPPY!

Bobby McFerrin’s light-hearted lyric “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” seems perfectly suited to Dr. Wade Locke’s analysis, as he explained it to James McLeod of the Telegram last week, on the future of oil.  Dr. Locke is an Economist and Professor at Memorial University.

Indeed, why would we worry when the ass is coming out of the Provincial Budget!

The slide in the world price of Brent Crude, closing at US $86.16 per barrel on Friday October 17th, is a significant event and not because people will save money at the gas pumps. 

Since oil’s decline began just a few weeks ago, a host of oil producing nations including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Venezuela, and Russia among others, whose budgets rely on $100 plus oil, have expressed concern that they will feel the sting of lower revenues. While none could forecast the exact day or week that a major correction on the markets might occur, all knew it was coming.

The fact that the U.S. will become energy self-sufficient by 2030 or earlier is old news.  Unlike the Saudis, few oil producing nations have maintained a rainy day fund.

Newfoundland and Labrador is just as reliant, on a relative basis, as many of the countries mentioned.  Oil directly generates 33% of the Province’s budgetary revenues.  The figure does not reflect proceeds from corporate, personal taxes and HST associated with offshore related jobs, construction and services. In fact, oil’s impact on the Treasury may represent as much as 50% of revenue or more when the labour pool doing the round trip to Fort McMurray is assessed.

Monday, 13 October 2014

LEADERSHIP WOES OF THE CONSTABLE PREMIER

Premier Paul Davis knows the sting of political whiplash. Just four weeks ago he experienced the euphoria of victory.  Minutes after his investiture, he discovered no honeymoon awaited him with either the pundits or the public.

It is not Davis’ fault the Auditor-General chose to dump the HVP Report on him, rather than on Tom Marshall, who is as much deserving of blame as Nick McGrath. But Paul Davis is entirely responsible for not ordering a deeper investigation into its odious contents.

As to his other decisions, what does it say about him that he would elevate an uncouth backbencher, Keith Russell, and award him Ministerial status?

The public may not understand the importance of political convention vis a vis the unelected Ms. Manning, but the Premier should.  

Similarly, even a police constable should know that changing the Department of Justice to the Department of Public Safety is akin to replacing an ‘ideal’ with a ‘cop car’. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

THE LIBERALS: NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY

Last week, the public saw Premier Paul Davis appoint an unelected female Minister of Public Safety arguing, among others things, the Government suffers a gender deficiency.  

Meanwhile, an intelligent and successful woman, a fine communicator, the MHA for Fortune Bay-Cape La Hune, Tracey Perry is left out of the Davis Cabinet.  She failed to make the list of the Williams, Dunderdale and the Marshall Cabinets, too.  

But the Tories aren’t the only ‘lug heads’ in politics when it comes to promoting women and levelling the scales of gender equality.  The tricks played by the Liberals in the District of Humber East, to discourage Corner Brook businesswoman Donna Thistle from running, do little to give the Party a legitimate claim to enhancing female representation in the House of Assembly. 

It seems Thistle was a cause celeb when the Liberals thought her a sacrificial lamb.  But when Frank Coleman’s departure from the P.C Leadership also removed him from a planned by-election, the Liberals decided they didn't want a political neophyte to challenge the Tories in the District after all. 

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A-G's REPORT INTO HVP UNDERMINES HIS OWN OFFICE

At the outset, let me state that anyone knowledgeable of how government operates will not be pleased with the Office of Auditor General let alone his Report into the Humber Valley Paving (HVP) affair.

I have read the Report.  I am quite certain this is the stuff of Judicial Inquiries. One should be called forthwith. 

How Premier Paul Davis responds to the findings will constitute the standard of integrity that will mark his Office. 

The A-G’s Report, despite its shortcomings, leaves little doubt that the public purse was of secondary importance alongside the Minister’s political imperatives in advance of Frank Coleman’s nomination for the P.C. Leadership.

I cannot remember a time when a Cabinet Minister presided over such evidence-based proof of an abuse of power.  Though the Premier denied having been informed in advance or that he was a party to the cancellation of the contract, it bears remembering that Premier Marshall stated, following the revelations, he believed Minister McGrath made the right decision. Perhaps, now the media will stop eulogizing his short tenure and acknowledge his terrible lack of judgement. We should all be grateful he is gone.

Still, questions remain which the quick resignation of Nick McGrath do not resolve.

This Post should be entirely about the Minister and the other parties who played supporting roles in an affair that stinks.  Instead, my comments are directed towards the Auditor General, the necessity for which, I find disconcerting.  I am sure I will get back to the subject of Nick McGrath later.

Monday, 29 September 2014

DELEGATED CONVENTIONS: REPLACING EXILARATION WITH BOREDOM?

Two weeks ago, delegates to the P.C. Convention and those listening in, via radio and television, got to experience their first delegated leadership convention in 20 years. Some had previously participated in one or more. They likely took for granted Steve Kent’s move to Paul Davis following the first ballot results. Not so the newbies who seemed quite surprised by the drama that unfolded. For them, it seemed, shifting loyalties produced a range of emotions.

Welcome to the delegated convention!

Imagine there were five or six contenders or more; think the surprise, the sense of excitement, disappointment, as hopes are dashed and promises once assured are replaced with those to higher placed and more likely successful contenders. Think of the sense of fear when the votes of a candidate who is dropped are up for grabs.  Will candidate X ‘release’ his delegates? Will he deliver his (sic) delegates to another contender, as did Steve Kent asked his supporters? How many will follow? (In case you were wondering, Kent’s arrival on the platform to thank his delegates and encourage their support of Davis constituted a breakdown in the protocol of Convention management.)

Monday, 22 September 2014

ICECAPS SUBSIDY: NO BRAINER OR JUST PLAIN DUMB?

When news broke of City Council’s decision to award the IceCaps a subsidy of $700,000 over two years, in a private meeting no less, I waited for the key words which might help explain what gave rise to the decision. 

Councillor Galgay supported the measure, spoke at length, but said little. Next day, as social media went viral, in a local context, Councillor Art Puddester acknowledged he was the one who leaked the information and that he had voted in favour.  He explained why he had broken the protocol of ‘private’ Council Meetings but did not address the merits of Danny Williams’ demand. 

Finally, Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, noting the need to respond to widespread public rebuke, acknowledged he had voted against the subsidy and stated:

I just felt we never had enough financial information from the IceCaps, with regards to looking at their financial statements…looking at what the impact of the million and half dollars would have on them and their bottom line. Those are the things I would like to have at the table to make a decision.
Ron Ellsworth confirmed what I had suspected.  The IceCaps did not open its books to Council in order to justify an award of $700,000!