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Monday 31 March 2014


Budget 2014 has been handed down. Taxpayers’ money has been liberally sprinkled by a Tory Government determined to avoid a repeat of last year's Budget fiasco. 

The media describes it an “election budget”.  That is an all too familiar code for fiscal irresponsibility.  Boosters of full-time kindergarten, student grants, lower small business tax and a plethora of other programs and initiatives have been placated. 

Everyone got something; a new Premier will arrive soon, too.  Why would anyone speak of ‘change’ when the good times are rolling again?  Why would anyone expect Tom Marshall or Frank Coleman to represent better government?

What about the awful government that has been upsetting voters? 

Why would anyone ask?  Don’t you understand that was Dunderdale’s fault.  It was not her policies either; it was simply her inability to communicate. And, besides, the wicked witch is dead! 

Wednesday 26 March 2014


When Premier Tom Marshall announced his Administration’s intention to establish an “Oversight” Committee for the Muskrat Falls construction project skepticism abounded. 

Afterall, the Premier eschewed demands for project reviews when he was both Minister of Finance and Natural Resources. He supported Premier Dunderdale’s position on ‘oversight’ even as he watched his colleague, Jerome Kennedy, bolt the Cabinet over the issue.

With Dunderdale gone, it was natural to wonder whether it was really possible that Premier Marshall, now possessed of the power to arbitrarily cause a reversal of policy, might actually do so.

It was left to the Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dally to announce the details of Government’s plan.  He confirmed was most suspected.  

The Oversight Committee will be completely internal to the Government and consist of the Deputy Ministers of Finance, Natural Resources and Justice and Chaired by the Clerk of the Executive Council. The Minister says the Committee will focus on project costs, scheduling and overall performance.

Monday 17 March 2014


The new Finance Minister Charlene Johnson recently concluded the annual series of Pre-Budget consultations.  The meetings, held regionally, provide an opportunity for town and community leaders to put their “wish lists” directly before the Minister. 

Almost always, the requests involve demands for “more” not “less” money. Rarely are they about the Government’s poor fiscal management. 

The consultations are supposed to be an exercise in democratic practice. Yet, I suppose it is too much to expect a rural Mayor to give the same government, from whom funding is expected, a piece of his mind.  You won’t get that from the Mayor of St. John’s either.

For a decade the public has been relieved of warnings about the high expectations which usually prefaced the annual Budget. 

Thursday 13 March 2014


If a society wishes to endure it ought to rely on its wisdom more than on its wealth.   

The idea suggests we have to use our heads, employ intelligence and rely on analysis rather than risk being swept into a whirl-wind of indulgence.   

An essential component of wisdom is discipline, both personal and collective. Discipline speaks to self-control, to living within ones means, to thoughtful planning, and to the ability to make adjustments even when they are painful; discipline suggests a pre-occupation with a larger prize, more than that afforded by immediate gratification.

Following the Budget last year, some asked: how it is possible that financial whiplash could again be suffered so quickly; the music suddenly muted on our celebration of nascent wealth?

Others rightly express bewilderment that we have not taken care to prevent successive deficits of $200 million and $450 million for the past two years and a forecast deficit for the 2014-2015 fiscal year will be higher again.  We have also done little to resolve the accumulated debt of the first five decades of Confederation.    

The question is: are we any more enlightened than our 20th Century forbears?

Monday 10 March 2014


Nalcor’s warning to the public last week: ‘conserve power or suffer more rolling black-outs’  lends credence to suggestions that the Agency is a ‘Gong Show’. 

A winter weary citizenry co-operated but not without expressing bewilderment of the people in charge of the Island’s electrical system. 

No leadership is expected from either Premier Marshall or Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dalley. 

In the real world, Nalcor CEO Ed Martin would have been sent packing early in January.  But, the Government is weak and cannot distinguish those matters which are truly in the public interest. 

The one source of light in this whole sordid business is an Order from the Public Utilities Board, specifically No. P.U. 3 (2014).  The Order followed the lodging of a formal Complaint by the Official Opposition and by a five person Citizen’s Group.

Thursday 6 March 2014


The Tory Leadership Contest is slower than a cold engine on a frosty morning.

The field remains crowded only by Bill Barry.   

Senator Manning has bowed out; Derrick Dalley has done himself in. 

"All Hale Premier Frank Coleman" , posted last week, spoke not only to the fact that Danny Williams has placed his velvet glove on Coleman’s shoulder.  It confirmed that the whole Caucus is gazing west for signs of white smoke. 

Only Steve Kent remains a potential contender from Cabinet; but, even he is just pretending.

On the outside Shawn Skinner and John Ottenheimer are still mulling it over.  The price tag of running a credible campaign still daunts them; if Frank Coleman confirms his candidacy, both will fold. 

According to insiders, they are emboldened because rumours abound Coleman is having second thoughts. 

Monday 3 March 2014


The appointment of Tom Marshall to head the Tory Administration heralded not just an end to a failed Dunderdale Premiership; it caused an expectation, though a modest one, among an angry and hopeful citizenry of fundamental change in the way the Government operates and communicates. 

That sense of hope might have engendered a belief the new, if temporary, Premier had heard their protests; that he understood why they were angry.  It wasn’t that Tom Marshall had excelled as a Minister.  He had not.  He had bullied critics alongside Kennedy and Dunderdale. He had implemented no oversight procedures for Muskrat, engaged in excessive deficit spending in Finance and asked to be relieved of the Finance job when he found the going too rough.

The public’s optimism was associated less with any prior manifestation of leadership than with a belief that he could not possibly have mistaken the reason Dunderdale was banished.

There was another reason, too. 

The Tory Leadership Convention, delayed until July, implies a five month hiatus before a more permanent successor claims the reins of power. 

That Marshall might use the opportunity to implement immediate and necessary change is not entirely presumptuous.

The Government has been on a joyride since the world price of oil hit $140/barrel; government is in a fiscal mess.  Muskrat Falls is a public relations nightmare and a potential public policy disaster; the Government has chosen secrecy over accountability. There is little talent in the Cabinet including in the important Finance and Natural Resources portfolios.

What was the opportunity given Tom Marshall?