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Monday 29 December 2014


2014 could be rightly named the year of missed opportunity.  It didn’t begin with Paul Davis at the helm, but it ends that way. Already hindsight confirms that, in contrast to Pope Francis who will never have to face re-election, Davis’ failure was pre-ordained.

Almost at the start, Premier Dunderdale vacated her post amidst appalling insensitivity to widespread public endangerment and economic disruption.  Nalcor had visited upon the Island the vicissitudes of DARKNL. Her “not a crisis” comment was just the latest in a series of gaffes exhibiting an incapacity for empathy. A frustrated public had reached their breaking point.

Temporary first minister, Tom Marshall, took no opportunity to right what had become a ship-wrecked administration. While opinion polls awarded him barely higher marks than his predecessor, the local media did its best to award him an undeserved pedestal. The man of great girth warranted little stature.

Monday 22 December 2014


Last week the Minister of Finance confirmed what everyone knew: lower oil prices are a wrecking ball for the 2014-15 provincial budget. While no one forecast $60 Brent crude, equally we should not be surprised. Events such as this have long been a feature of resource based economies.

When we say commodity demand and prices are ‘cyclical’ that doesn’t mean they go up and then go up further.  Prices fall, too, often hard and precipitously. Anyone who has invested in the stock market has felt the euphoria of conquest. But nothing always stays the same. When the market turns, the whiplash of price swings guarantees that those having danced with, and perhaps married risk, get stung. The markets do not discriminate between the well-intentioned, the prudent and the foolish.   

The word “prudent” made its way into the Finance Minister’s budget update. Said Ross Wiseman, “In the shorter term…we have to be prudent and adjust our oil price forecast for the remainder of this fiscal year.” The word has no meaning for this Minister; short or long term.

Monday 15 December 2014


The Keystone Cops were fictional incompetent policemen, featured in silent film comedies. In Confederation Building these days, it seems a comedy of errors is being played out by our very own version of the Keystone troupe; though no one is laughing.

Loss of federal funding in relation to the Canada/European Trade Agreement (CETA) has stirred up a new war with Ottawa.  Premier Davis might like you to pick up placards and show your outrage. My advice: save your energy.  The ineptitude is right here.

Even though the CETA issue is not about high sounding principles or constitutional rights, the controversy involves a lot of money. Whether the Province ought to have levered funding from a trade deal in which it was also a beneficiary is moot. Now we are left to ask: how could a deal deemed by Dunderdale to be “done” completely fall off the rails?

This story involves more than just a dispute over phraseology or even intent; it is about naivety and over bearing confidence. It calls into question the judgment of the former Premier (one more time) and the professionalism of the bureaucrats who headed the negotiating team.  

Monday 8 December 2014


There was a time when an appearance by public servants, in front of the media without the presence of their Minister, was a rare sight.  Any such briefing was limited, technical, and forthright.  If ‘spin’ were needed, it remained the Minister’s job to provide cover for the government. Public servants are not politicians.

Since the Williams’ Government hired Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, the Minister of Natural Resources is often nowhere to be seen. Martin has been handed the policy and conducts the implementation role; there is little evidence the Premier or the Minister are knowledgeable enough to be conversant in Nalcor’s entanglements.  Nalcor’s Board of Directors is composed largely of political hacks whose part-time oversight capacity is fundamentally meaningless.

The level of risk to the public purse and to programs and services of Martin’s investment schemes are increasingly evident, as oil prices fall precipitously and overruns on Muskrat are reported. Unfettered by political control, Martin runs a Crown Corporation using public money in the billions; the amounts have no precedent.  The practice seems publicly acceptable because they are thought to be ‘investments’. 

Monday 1 December 2014


Following the P.C. Party’s defeat in last Tuesday’s two by-elections, one might have had some sympathy for Premier Davis if he had not been part of the Dunderdale and Marshall Governments.  Davis had an opportunity to deal with those years of misrule. He didn’t. 
Upon winning the Tory Leadership, Davis should have dashed for the job, attempted to strike a different tone and set a new agenda. Instead, he dallied on getting sworn-in, chose a politically inexperienced Chief of Staff, made a balls of his new Cabinet, signalled the wrong public policy priorities and proceeded to confirm he was happy with the Government’s record. 

Not having caused the current Session of the House of Assembly to prorogue, he lost a strategic opportunity to assert additional ideas for a ‘fresh’ image.   He overlooked the fact that the chief function of a Throne Speech is to signal innovation and renewal to an expectant public.