Monday, 23 February 2015

NAPE CAROL FURLONG’S LOSS OF FAITH

 “…if you are looking for some money, why don’t you delay the monies you are paying out to Muskrat Falls…a significant amount of money…”

These are words of Carol Furlong, Head of the Province’s largest public sector union, NAPE, giving advice to the Davis Government on NTV, Feb. 13th.

Furlong continued her expostulation: “We have a war chest now…combined assets… of more than $40 million…I can assure Government, if they believe they can just lay off workers …they will feel the brunt of NAPE to the full capacity of our finances.”

These are heavily laden statements. One would be foolish to think them merely drum beating in advance of a contested leadership.

Carol Furlong has done what the Head of no other Union, political party, or business organization has considered.  To her membership and to NTV’s large listener audience, she has telegraphed a stark message, one slow in its evolution, perhaps, but powerful in its timing and implication: ‘I no longer have faith in the Muskrat Falls project’.

Monday, 16 February 2015

WILL DWIGHT BALL PLEASE STAND UP

If Opposition Leader Dwight Ball continues to hide in the reeds, failing the test both of courage and cleverness, he risks being denied the ‘Mandate of Heaven’.

The ancient Chinese believed that Heaven granted emperors the right to rule, based on their ability to govern well and fairly; the idea is distinct from ‘divine right’. Possibly, due to the Liberal Party’s unblemished by-election record and favourable Polls, Mr. Ball may have embraced the latter concept far too early. 

Ball’s handling of Premier Davis’ seat reduction plan (Bill 42) contains elements of self-immolation. But more importantly, has helped reinforce an impression of an under-tasked House of Assembly. Catering to the unmindful, he has raced down-market in search of cheap applause. But, those who are not complacent with democracy would never entertain the thought that opposition parties have nothing to do.

For that reason, Mr. Ball may be the one a bit light.

Monday, 9 February 2015

GIVING NALCOR THE AX (PART III)

Ronald Reagan once said the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.   The Economist recently voiced the equivalent ‘Reaganesque’ threat, most relevant to enterprises like Nalcor: “I’m from a state-owned firm and I want your capital”. 

The newspaper, consistently insightful, noted state owned enterprise (SOE) share of global market capitalism has shrunk from a peak of 22% in 2007 to 13% today. The problem is not just Nalcor; it is international.  

Nalcor doesn't always have to be our problem.

It offers no public policy role that is not available through the private sector.  The SOE had the opportunity, not lacking money, to change NL into a modern, technically advanced and cost competitive electricity market. But, the talent was never in their genes.

Monday, 2 February 2015

WHAT WOULD YOU LOSE, LOSING NALCOR? (PART II)

This piece was supposed to deal with some specifics about how we might begin to dismantle Nalcor. But, on reflection, it is insufficient to condemn Nalcor having been unwise enough to be born a state owned enterprise (SOE).  The question deserves a wider evaluation than the condemnation, offered in Part I, for its high spending ways; though I cannot assure a different conclusion. 

Still, it might be a good idea to discuss and determine whether that SOE has made decisions so wise that their public policy impact exceeds even its ability to destroy public money. The originally intended part II will now become part III.

Typically, governments establish SOES to fill a spot in a program it deems essential to economic growth and development; one that the private sector is unwilling or unable to undertake. In addition, governments expect SOES to use the clout of the state to lever those goals.

When SOES act in conflict with economic policies or when they behave recklessly, management must be cleared out. This outcome equally applies if the SOE’s original purpose is no longer relevant, having been submitted to the clarity of changing circumstance, or clearer minds (for Nalcor it is both). 

Monday, 26 January 2015

WHY WE SHOULD DISMANTLE NALCOR (PART I)

Nalcor is engaging in lay-offs at the Muskrat Falls construction site.  Undoubtedly, it will say this is a normal and recurring process, except it is known in some quarters the project is suffering low productivity amidst a typical Labrador winter, an unfinished “dome”, and inexperience just as its major contractor suffers a veritable turnstile of senior construction management.  

The Oversight Committee won’t acknowledge the fact yet; perhaps it don't even know. But, eventually someone will have to tell us the project is at least a year behind schedule and that cost overruns are worsening.

The saga of bureaucrats masquerading as entrepreneurs, in a business we can ill afford, plays out.  For whom does the ‘bill’ toll? As always, it tolls for thee. 

Having created Nalcor to pursue a foolish 'energy warehouse' mandate using public money, the Williams/Dunderdale Administrations have gotten the Province into a pack of financial trouble, especially by having sanctioned Muskrat Falls. 

Nalcor's mandate, of course, is far wider than even Muskrat implies. At a time when the House of Assembly is being de-constructed, ostensibly to save a few dollars, we ought to be looking for bigger fish; a place where serious money is being squandered.

Nalcor is one of those places.


Thursday, 22 January 2015

"MINI-BUDGET” NEEDED; TIME TO DISMANTLE NALCOR

The Province needs a “Mini-Budget”.  The Government should commit to dismantling Nalcor, too.

Presently, the House of Assembly is engaged in a ridiculous debate over minimal savings on downsizing the Legislature. The Government has created a diversion; large, financially worthy decisions are delayed. It should to be talking about public policy issues and measures that will seriously downsize government expenditures; it dwells on an amount equal to a rounding error in the context of the size of the deficit, especially next year's.

A crisis looms; the important issues can’t make it to the top of the public agenda.

Monday, 19 January 2015

DEMOCRACY WHACKED WITH A NIGHTSTICK

The Premier’s decision to redraw electoral districts and reduce the House of Assembly from 48 to 38 seats has little to do with saving money. As his window of opportunity closes, the Premier is on the hunt for a fix to reverse his Party’s dismal standings. His latest move seems like pure mischief; except it has far ranging consequences.

The 10 seat reduction represents a savings of about $10 million over four years. That is far less than half the amount Nalcor’s Ed Martin wasted in a misguided oil exploration plan that drilled two dry holes in Parson’s Pond!

The strategy of altering the number of electoral ridings for political advantage is not original; though, I am not inclined to ascribe to Paul Davis any of the skills of Prince Machiavelli or even of former Premier Frank Moores, the latter having employed it to great effect.   

Frank Moores’ redistribution plan was not just skilful; it had a purpose noble enough to exceed its crassness.