Thursday, 31 December 2020

ENJOY THE REST FROM SNOW AND COLD, COUNSELS THE BARD

WINTER SCOLD
(Warm and healthy 2021 to all)

It’s Boxing Day, the lawns are green,
Snow’s all melted from the scene.
The forecast warm for most next week,
Could see New Year in weather meek!
May days in late December!
Sunny skies to long remember.

Is this the Global Warming??
That’s banished winter’s storming,
More likely, winter’s wrath will roar
Before the summer’s at our door -
Enjoy the rest from snow and cold -.
Bring on the ‘Warming’ to winter scold.

                                                                            
John Tuach
                                                                          December 26, 2020

Thursday, 24 December 2020

PLASTICS INSPIRE THE BARD'S "Humbug" SIDE

PLASTIC JESUS
 (Humbug)

The Amazon and Walmart dolls
Leave the world with plastic sprawls -
The moulded plastic, cents at most,
Tens of dollars on-sale boast.
The moola pours to big-box stores
And corporate profits soar.
Jesus and the Easter Bunny,
Jingle bells, send plastic money
To landfills full of plastic waste.

Monday, 21 December 2020

PREMIER MUST RESTORE CONFIDENCE IN OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM

 Guest Post by Ron Penney

“Justice must not only be done it must also be seen to be done” 

The recent controversy about the interactions between the Chief of Police and the former Premier and present cabinet ministers brings to mind the aphorism quoted above, which comes from a decision arising from an apprehension of bias in the judicial setting, but has equally applicability to actions of the police.

Our police forces have immense power and the mere fact that you are under police investigation, even if it doesn’t result in charges,  can be a life altering experience, which is why confidence in a police force can be seriously eroded if the general public isn’t confident that that there isn’t political pressure to commence an investigation, end an investigation or interfere during the course of an investigation. 

Thursday, 17 December 2020

THE BARD'S "PRIORITIES"

Priorities

Priorities have to be food and shelter,
Heat and health, not helter-skelter,
Not rushing around to party hard
Or relax in the sun on travel card.

Not dollars and cents, makes no sense -
Can’t eat construction, nor money immense
Though gives you the means to provide -
Those at food banks have nowhere to hide.

Donations to charity, won’t bring parity
Or provide for a future fixed with clarity.
Government funds to feed the skint
Needs be provided to prolong life’s stint.

John Tuach
Dec 12, 2020


Monday, 14 December 2020

THE TIMING OF THE NEXT PROVINCIAL ELECTION

Guest Post by Ron Penney

Under section 3.1 of the House of Assembly Act, an election is required to be held within 12 months of the swearing in of a new Premier, which occurred on August 19, 2020. So an election is required by August of next year. 

It is obviously tempting for the new Premier, operating in a minority situation, and having a recent further reduction in his caucus, to call the election sooner rather than later. This is  particularly the case because Dame Moya Greene will provide her interim report on February 28, 2021 and final report on April 30, 2021, focusing in large part on our fiscal crisis and  how we should respond. 

In addition, we have so far had a good public health response to the pandemic and federal programs have alleviated to a large degree the economic impact on most families. Given the imminent rollout of the vaccine, and should the caseload remain low, it will be to the political advantage of the government to go to the polls sooner rather than later. 

And finally, the governing party is riding high in the polls 

The Government should resist that temptation. 

Monday, 7 December 2020

NALCOR BONUSES: A FLAT-FOOTED MINISTER "RE-IMAGINED"

If the Industry, Energy and Technology Minister had cleaned house at Nalcor immediately upon his arrival, we would have applauded him. No applause is necessary.

The public moans, again, over Nalcor’s narcissistic leadership; a “runaway train” unbowed and unpunished.

How many successive years has it been; repetitious and frustratingly undeserved bonuses given to Nalcor officials? Why is government so deaf? How is it that no institution in the province possesses the capacity to, at least, nudge them to change? 

It seems Andrew Parsons knows not where to begin. It is a far tougher job than the Justice Ministry, a place where rules abound, a bevy of lawyers administer them and even make the political role routine.

Industry and Natural Resources is different. It requires personal energy, brains, creativity, boldness and above all leadership.  The job has been vacant for a very long time.

Monday, 30 November 2020

OILco: GIVE JIM KEATING TO THE NORWEGIANS

Newfoundland's oil and gas company acting CEO, Jim Keating, is touting a solution to Muskrat Falls' almost worthless surplus electricity. He suggests using a ‘shore-to-offshore’ extension cord for future oil production platforms. Presently, the electricity used on offshore production platforms is produced by generators using natural gas feedstock which comes straight from the well bore - no worries about Alpine conditions - or software - leaving a high-cost production platform in the dark. 

Keating is spouting a Norwegian concept. All you have to do is run a 400 km. “power cord from Soldier’s Pond”, Keating told NOIA, out to one of the as yet undiscovered 16 prospects. Keating neglects to mention that the ‘juice’, as Dunderdale used to call the power, is connected to another 1100 km. extension cord, which the Norwegians don’t need to account for. 


And, by the way, how many offshore prospects are there in Jim Keating’s frame of reference? The number is specifically - not approximately or even a guesstimate -  16 - and that’s just in the West Orphan Basin. 

Thursday, 26 November 2020

THE BARD THINKS ABOUT COVID SPREAD

 The Waiting Room

She coughs and sneezes - virus strews,
Says got it from the jab for flu?
As patients patiently wait
For doctor- or procedure-date.

Her story’s but a tale of woe,
She catches all that’s on the go,
Waiting room’s a second home
For her and family-ills to moan.

Monday, 23 November 2020

"NAYSAYERS" AND "BOTTOM FEEDERS": OUR DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT NEEDS REMEDY (Part II)

Guest Post by Ron Penney

The following segment is the third of three containing speaking notes from my presentation to the Wessex Society on October 14, 2020. The presentation is available at the Wessex Society of Newfoundland, wessexsociety.ca - Ron Penney

The Democratic Deficit

While the Commissioner declined to get into the broader issues which we urged him to consider he did have a short chapter titled “Dealing with Opposition to the Project” which focused on the reaction of project proponents to the critics and naysayers, or, as my brother Neil, described us - the Muskrateers! 

The Commissioner described the project proponents response to the critics as “at times unbalanced and disproportionate to the commentary.” 

In particular he referenced Mr. Williams characterization of us as “bottom feeders”. 

Thursday, 19 November 2020

PENNEY REFLECTS ON "NAYSAYER" STATUS AND THE MUSKRAT INQUIRY (Part I)

Guest Post by Ron Penney 

The following are two segments containing speaking notes from my presentation to the Wessex Society on October 14, 2020. A third part, dealing with the Province's democratic deficit, will be posted on Monday, November 23. The presentation is available at the Wessex Society of Newfoundland, wessexsociety.ca

Part 1 

Setting the Stage:

Unfortunately the delayed release of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry Report on March 5 of this year coincided with the worst public health crisis since the Spanish flue of 1918, which had the effect of dampening public interest in the report and its conclusions. So aside from a few interviews in March this is the first opportunity given to me to comment on the report in some depth. 

The main thrust of my lecture is to deal with a fundamental issue which the Commissioner declined to examine, which is what democratic deficits in our society allowed “a Misguided Project”, to proceed.

Monday, 9 November 2020

ON THE TRAIL OF THE "REAL" PROVINCIAL DEBT (OR) WHEN THE FIGHT BROKE OUT

An auspicious start to a new career on the global lecture circuit recently occurred, your scribe having answered in the affirmative an invitation to address a small public policy group, called Ballicatters. The venue was a well-established local Pub, a perfect place to soberly test new and old material, in preparation for the big leagues. Naturally, I selected a barnburner of a title: “Fiscal Crisis: Will ‘hope’ repair a mess too deep?” Pretty catchy, eh? In pursuit of not just their heads but their hearts, too, I even added a subtitle and chose this one: “The Inevitability of Death by a Thousand Cuts”.

Soon after, the fight broke out.

(That’s not actually what happened, but it is as true as the Government’s accounting of the public debt I had planned to discuss.)

Thursday, 29 October 2020

THE VIRUS TROLLS

The Virus Trolls
Pandemic care for years to bear, a quick-fix card is but a prayer.
Isolated, some despair, we’re not to hug our loved-ones dear, 
Life on slow won’t course the same, self-indulgence much to blame, 
In touring, travel, pubs, games, people touching to boost inflame.
Frenzied lifestyles could be waived, to slow the rush to early grave,
Cutting travel to be new norm, consumer culture: shave the slave.

Focus is all on companies, and corporate profits led,
The virus bred: many with long-Covid bed, and many dead.
We could be vaccined twice a year to bay the Covid storm,
And as it spreads, dread mutations, to a more fatal toxic form.
It’s on a roll, out of control, and each day, numbers higher toll. 
Oblivious to the human social role, the virus mankind trolls.

John Tuach 
October 29, 2020

Monday, 26 October 2020

MOYA GREENE’S BIG MISTAKE

Chair of the “Premier’s Economic Recovery Team”, Moya Greene, is the last person I would have expected to be duped by the politicos on the 8th Floor. Yet, for all her experience, she managed to be taken in, placing at risk an urgent requirement to deal with our large and immediate fiscal crisis.

No one can argue that the Team is composed of talented and successful people. Among the group is David Vardy who has been a frequent – and valuable - contributor on this Blog. That said, the expertise appointed for the purpose is terribly lopsided, especially considering the expertise required to examine a Government “broke” - unless the exclusively financial people  on the Team are weighed.

The Premier’s mandate letter requires the team to create a “comprehensive plan to address [the province’s] ballooning debt, deficit, and expenditures”. It ought to have been the sole requirement.

Monday, 19 October 2020

WAITING, WISHING, AND HOPING

Sometimes an easy “fix” to a problem is wanted so badly that people will delude themselves with the sheer mention by partisans of the next best thing. 

One recent example. The Federal Throne Speech announced the “Atlantic Loop”, an expansion of electricity transmission capability entering New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 

Immediately, it was embraced by Newfoundland worthies as one of the long-awaited answers to the Muskrat Falls debacle. Yet, it contained not a shred of evidence that this Province has a role to play. 

The word “Atlantic” has historically enabled locals to distinguish the four most easterly provinces from the “Maritimes”. The inclusion of “Quebec” would naturally assume nomenclature like the “Eastern Canadian Loop”. Presumably, that would have allowed too much transparency to a plan in which the Government of Canada is involved. 

Still, what is it that inspires locals to think that the “Loop” is about them and to give it an air of credibility in which the truth is missing? 

Monday, 12 October 2020

NATURAL GAS OFFERS "DECARBONIZATION" STRATEGY FOR OFFSHORE OIL INDUSTRY (Part II)

Guest Post by Cabot Martin

The recent Opinion piece on our offshore natural gas resources by journalist Ian Esau in the international publication Upstream (reprinted in Uncle Gnarley last Monday) seems to have received considerable interest in this embattled Province.

So it seems a good time to revisit the issues set out in my piece on offshore gas published on the Uncle Gnarley Blog back on May 28th.

Let’s get the main proposition in both articles on the table right away – our oil and gas industry has to develop “decarbonization” strategies to fight climate change - or die.

As Mr. Esau so clearly put it – any offshore strategy that is not founded on a sensible decarbonization strategy cannot hope to gain the support of oil companies (let alone Ottawa) because increasingly the financial resources to implement such strategy will not be forthcoming from private capital markets.

Monday, 5 October 2020

TIME RIPE TO DEVELOP NL OFFSHORE GAS: INTL OBSERVER

Guest Post by Cabot Martin 

Uncle Gnarley is a fine fellow. 

I was supposed to do a piece on one of my favorite issues – why an law suit against Emera for “Civil Deceit” regarding their role in the Muskrat fiasco would make a whole lot of sense and just might get us off the hook for billions. 

I’ve written on this on Uncle Gnarley before but was going to take things a step further by broaching the idea of getting a Civil Deceit “Class Action” case going – every rate payer in the Province would be eligible to participate - and surely there must be some sharp young lawyer (or lawyers) out there willing to tackle such a case.  

But like I say – Uncle Gnarley is a fine fellow, so when a couple days ago there was “breaking news” re our offshore gas resources in the international oil & gas press, I simply had to go back to him and plead the case for a change in topic. He agreed. 

Thursday, 1 October 2020

THIS FINANCE MINISTER DOES NOT UNDERSTAND "CAN'T AFFORD" EITHER

Another big deficit Budget and a Total Public Debt of $29 billion means simply that a grim reality show, "Death By A Thousand Cuts", has been given a new chapter; this one is written by Finance Minister, Siobhan Coady. Like her predecessors, she does not understand the concept of "can't afford". We are, therefore, brought a step closer to the opening act of a "Play" that will open soon in every neighborhood in this province.

The essence of the annual Budget ritual is captured in Statement I of the 2020-21 Estimates. The Government is spending $7.65 billion against only $5.43 billion revenue.

The math confirms a cash deficit of $2.2 billion (which includes $332 million of capital works).

Forecast revenue is down by approximately $0.5 billion, reflecting 44.6% lower oil royalties than received last year, exposing a severely impacted domestic oil industry.

Monday, 28 September 2020

THE QUEBEC MARITIME LOOP

Guest Post by Ron Penney
The recent Speech from the Throne contained the following commitment: “(a plan) that will connect surplus clean power to regions transitioning away from coal.”

We know, because the Premier told us that this was the first he had heard of it. But this idea, now named the Atlantic Loop, has been furiously spun as the solution to our Muskrat Falls woes and the key to developing Gull Island.

Our regional Minister confirmed that we were out of the “loop” on the Atlantic Loop. “We’ve been working with Quebec and with Maritimes energy ministers on this.” No mention of Newfoundland and Labrador.

So much for the vaunted relationship between the new Premier and the powers that be in Ottawa.

As I will explain, this is all nonsense.

Friday, 25 September 2020

THE BARD ON "FAMINE"

FAMINE
(Black Horse to the Fore)

Locusts and floods
For shortage of foods
Reported on page twenty-four.
Those won't make front page
Till kids of young age
Have bones sticking out of their skin -
A picture for readers to skim.

Monday, 21 September 2020

JOBS CRISIS: FOCUS ON THE "COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT" ALONE NOT ENOUGH

It is ironic that the oil industry, whose excesses have helped distort economies in many parts of the world, including ours, now has its hand out to the same governments they have “played-off” against each other for decades.

Still, two groups of local workers – operations and construction - rely heavily on the industry for their livelihood and, understandably, want it rescued. This post is a commentary on the plight of the latter category.

While oil will be in demand for many years yet, the problems of the industry, including price, are not going away. No matter how you feel about environmentalists, many of whom naively believe that economies can switch to other job producing opportunities as fast as turning on a light bulb, the replacement of dirty oil is both necessary and unstoppable.

But naivety isn’t the exclusive purview of just one group. The oil industry, prohibited from engaging in monopolistic practices in free enterprise economies, have for years climbed on the backs of OPEC, particularly Saudi Arabia, to keep benchmark prices as high as possible. The added fear is that countries like Iran and Venezuela, who have vast unproductive oil reserves, will get their act to together.

Those realities, and others to be described, announce that on the jobs front: “Houston, we have a long-term problem”.

Monday, 7 September 2020

MOYA GREENE IS THE NEW LORD AMULREE

Premier Andrew Furey’s appointment of Moya Greene to Chair the Economy Recovery Team is a sound choice; it may even signal that he possesses a mind-set that extends beyond the comfort zone that his predecessors found in political friends, compliant bureaucrats and paid consultants.

This province has a huge economic and fiscal problem. It is so large, in fact, that words like “insolvency” and “bankruptcy” not only give it ascription, they have entered common usage. Those who understand phrases like “fiscal capacity” – the revenue generating capability of the province to fund services and pay the public debt – know that, realistically, successive undisciplined governments - from Williams to Ball – have pushed the province into a financial abyss.

The sheer dimension of the problem underscores the necessity to have a proven professional examine and advise as to a realistic cure. Make no mistake: Moya Greene is not Dr. Doug House, Premier Wells’ economic czar; she is the new Lord Amulree - his echo, anyway - Britain’s response to Newfoundland’s plea for financial assistance in the 1930s. She sports a Royal title, too.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

SEA-DOO RACKET

SEA-DOO RACKET

Cavorting around on a sea-doo
Is most that many can see to do.
Swirling, birling, a whirlpool.
Grinning, spinning, on toys that can vex A vortex – and debt dances too.

Trailers and sea-doos, bikes, skidoos,
Suites and accessories, fuel too.
Government - and bank-financed -
The racket assails folks' private expanse.
It's the best that many can see to do!

John Tuach
August 31, 2020

Monday, 24 August 2020

SIOBHAN TO BRING NEW ECONOMIC THEORY TO FINANCE

How Andrew Furey let his "funny-bone" get the better of him

Likely Andrew Furey understood the dearth of talent that comprises the Liberal Caucus long before last Wednesday’s Cabinet making. Adding to the difficulty Perry Trimper’s indiscretion towards the Native People required the absolution of another election win, while the Ph.D toting Scott Reid is far too intelligent to handle matters Departmental.

It was wise to clear “the debt is manageable” Tom Osborne from Finance; it was confusing for him to be surrounded by so many zeros.  But who thought that Siobhan Coady’s talents would be Furey’s rare find?

I had feared that Andrew might have filled the all-important Finance portfolio first. Such untimeliness might have resulted in Finance Minister Elvis Loveless, though this public does not need reminding of his gyrating namesake or that, in NL, every other day brings the expectation that “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”.

Luckily, Furey waited until after placing Bragg, Bennett and Loveless. When he was finished with Coady, he must have felt like Jesus on the seventh day.

Monday, 10 August 2020

ANDREW FUREY: A DOCTOR. BUT CAN HE DO MIRACLES?

If there is a single question that has been uttered by observers of the Liberal Leadership race in reaction to Andrew Furey’s decision to trade in his medical career for the Office of Premier, it is this: What was he thinking?

The query, of course, is less a commentary on his mental state than it is on the nearly impossible task many rightfully perceive awaits him.

At the outset, Dr. Furey should know that we congratulate him, wish him well and hope that, rather than possessing any claim to “visionary” status, he simply puts province ahead of partisanship, offers a fresh perspective on the way government relates to the citizenry, and brings courage as well as new energy to the Office of Premier.   

As much as some may wish it, Furey should not be expected to be a miracle worker. We are all to blame for what has occurred; if the miracle isn’t in us (mostly), we are in really deep trouble.

Monday, 27 July 2020

OVER 1000 FPSO JOBS GO TO SPAIN WHILE WE BEG THE FEDS FOR MONEY

True to form, Premier Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady have joined NOIA in a new crusade to have the Government of Canada ante up for a “neo-PIP” (Petroleum Incentive Program). NOIA not only wants the oil industry to receive exploration funding, they want the “beleaguered” Companies to get operating assistance, too. This is not as surprising as it is aggravating. We are talking about a group of petty, quick-buck, short-sighted manufacturer’s agents anyway; the Ball Government aligns perfectly with their thinking.

Many “private-enterprisers”, not just oil companies, are wont to pump their chests about the capital which they put at risk; until there is an economic hiccup — or pandemic — that transforms them into beggars. Problem is, when the distress passes, they expect to be left alone to conduct “private” business unhindered, the notion of payback quickly forgotten.

Monday, 20 July 2020

GNL SHOULD REJECT RISKY CANADIAN BUBBLE

Guest Post by David Vardy

As of now, we have no active Covid-19 infections in the province, 259 have recovered and three have died.  In the face of the surging pandemic south of the border and in other hot spots around the globe, this is no time to reduce controls over imported infections by dropping the requirement for quarantine or self-isolation (I use these terms interchangeably). We should instead build upon the natural protection arising from our isolation, as have other jurisdictions, such as Iceland and New Zealand. Having eradicated the virus our goal should be to remain virus free.

We should maintain the 14 day quarantine and begin to test people arriving in the province.  We should also require the use of contact tracing apps for at least 14 days after arrival.  The Atlantic Bubble is a bad idea. The proposed “Canadian Bubble “is much worse. These “Bubbles” are both flawed because they exempt more people from quarantine, thus increasing risk of imported infections without offsetting measures to reduce risk, such as testing and contact tracing.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

THE BARD ON THE "LET 'ER RIP" COVID CROWD

LET ‘ER RIP

The antivaccine and open-up crowd
And anti-mask brigades
Where egoed leaders lunacy lead
Ignore the Covid threat
Creating catastrophe for mankind.
The virus mutates aggressively
And seriously afflict the mind.

Monday, 13 July 2020

ANDREW FUREY’S PLAN FOR AN ECONOMIC CZAR NEEDS SCRUTINY

Does Andrew Furey understand the implications of his plan to appoint a chief economic recovery officer who “would function similarly to the chief medical officer of health”? If he does and he becomes the next Premier, every individual, business, and union should worry about what comes next.

In June, Furey announced that a chief economic recovery officer was key to getting the economy of the province back up and running after the COVID-19 pandemic. John Abbott made a similar announcement except that he drew no parallel with the functions of the Chief Medical Officer. Did someone forget to check the arbitrary powers given that unelected official under the “Public Health Protection and Promotion Act”, which requires deference to neither the Premier nor the Cabinet?

Or does Furey perceive that the only way to deal with the province’s fiscal condition is to assign to a single economic Czar the right to impose draconian measures, however oppressive and arbitrary they may be?

Thursday, 9 July 2020

TRUMP FAMILY FIGHT SHOULD INFLUENCE HOW WE THINK ABOUT OUR MUSKRAT OBLIGATIONS


Guest Post by Cabot Martin

An interesting piece appeared in the New York Times last week concerning a big dust up between President Donald J. Trump and his, to put it mildly, “estranged” niece, Dr. Mary L. Trump. Both Donald J. and her father, Fred Jr, were sons of Fred Trump Sr., the Trump family patriarch.

Dr. Trump has a “tell all” book coming out next week that promises to give the world a unique look inside the mental world of a man who has wreaked havoc on his nation and the world for the past three and a half years and is bidding , through re-election, to repeat this extraordinary performance .

The title of her book foreshadows it’s substance: “ Too Much - Never enough : How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man”.

Now Dr. Mary L. Trump (she has a PhD in Clinical Psychology and is a certified Clinical Psychologist) is obviously not your average political commentator and The Donald has wheeled out his overworked legal team in an attempt to use the courts to avoid the publication of her professional/personal scrutiny.

Monday, 6 July 2020

COVID-19: THE NEW COVER FOR DELAY AND OVERRUNS AT MUSKRAT

It took a Commission of Inquiry to uncloak the deceit that flowed from the Offices of former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, who thought he should be the one to define the “lowest cost” option and the extent of “cost overruns”.

It seems Stan Marshall is finding some of the tools of deception that Ed Martin left behind.

The Muskrat shutdown — a precaution amidst the COVID-19 pandemic — is now to blame for Marshall’s failure to “finish strong”. “The end is in sight, even through the fog of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CBC quoted the blustery Stan, neither the CBC nor the CEO willing to measure the fog of incompetence that still inhabits the Crown Corporation.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

BUBBLE TROUBLE: WHY ATLANTIC PROVINCES TRAVEL IS A TERRIBLE IDEA


Guest Post by Ron Penney

Why having an Atlantic Provinces travel bubble is a terrible idea and an imminent threat to public health.

Tomorrow, July 3rd, travel restrictions will be lifted for the Atlantic Provinces and residents of the Maritimes can visit us without the necessity of self isolation for two weeks. For the time being travel restrictions for other provinces remain the same, but the Premier has mused that they will be lifted in mid-July.

The agreement to have an Atlantic Provinces travel bubble, with no requirement to self isolate for two weeks is a risky and foolhardy decision for Newfoundland and Labrador, with little potential economic upside.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

JOHN ABBOTT: OUTLIER IN A PARTISAN TENT?


In contrast to his Liberal leadership rival, John Abbott may be a heavyweight in the public policy arena but policy-wonk, alone, will not count with the Liberal Party or in the high office of political leadership. Then, too, what constitutes timely, affordable, and sensible policy alternatives is moot.

Leaders need to be capable of “selling” their ideas to an electorate and of “winning” their support. Individuals afraid of change — because it may hurt — will look for leadership which offers glib solutions. Others, who see change as inevitable and necessary, will prefer someone who has the courage to follow through, provided any such plan is not dysfunctional.

Monday, 22 June 2020

ANDREW FUREY THINKS RHETORIC AND IDEAS ARE THE SAME


This is Andrew Furey at the kick-off to his Liberal Leadership bid: “I want to make a difference. I know the province is facing some tough times right now… I think I have something to offer.”

The Address, attended by all but one Member of the provincial Liberal Caucus, continued with this assertion: “I think everyone realizes the budget crunch that we’re under. My top priority is going to be to get in there, get fully up to speed on the fiscal situation… get a better understanding of the economic pressures, upward or downward, and the levers that have been pulled or not pulled.” What codswallop! “Upward or downward”… “pulled or not pulled”. This is a Premier-in-waiting who is not “up to speed” in more ways than one.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

HOW TO REOPEN SAFELY: THE BALANCE BETWEEN PUBLIC HEALTH AND ECONOMICS

Guest Post by David Vardy

Are We Ready?
The pandemic has become the biggest public policy issue which we face. It poses a threat to our public health and to our economic and fiscal sustainability. Yet government has hesitated to engage in a systematic consultation process as had been recommended or to establish advisory councils to seek guidance from concerned citizens on governing in the age of coronavirus.

How far should we go in locking down our economy? Should we protect only the vulnerable and the elderly or lock down the full economy? GNL is being pressed to reopen the economy, particularly by the tourism industry and various business people who recently wrote to the Premier. Are we now ready to reopen fully and to invite tourists to the province? The letter to the Premier asked for “an immediate end to the State of Medical Emergency and a return of the governance of the province to our elected officials.

Monday, 15 June 2020

THE JOY OF THIS SUMMER MAY NOT BE WHAT YOU THINK

After nearly three months of listening, on an almost daily basis, to Premier Ball’s continuous string of innocuous and unfinished sentences, presumably intended — who would know — to safeguard the province from a largely non-existent local pandemic, some happenings are worth noting.

People have started back to work, the sun has come out, the Liberal Leadership contest is back on, and a group of business people — Hall of Famers no less — have weighed in on Government’s determination to kill the economy. Then, too, a pulse — though still weak — has been discovered in the two Opposition Parties who now oppose a second Interim Supply.

This is not normally the stuff of great rejoicing; dancing in the streets still being de rigeur in the era of pandemic. But in a place such as this, starved for leadership, the equivalent of even watery gruel can seem a time of feast.

Monday, 8 June 2020

WHY THE TELEGRAM’S BRIAN JONES CAN’T RIVAL “GO-BAG”.

The decision by the management of The Telegram to disembowel the editorial pen of columnist Brian Jones signals more than just evidence of continued decline in the idea of freedom of the press. His dismissal from the role exposes the extent to which special interest groups — and their petit leadership — will stoop to assuage the fragile egos of those paid from the public purse.

“Real” independent journalism has a spotty history in Newfoundland and Labrador anyway. It is a fact of life not exclusive to here, but this should give us no comfort. 

Our story is simply that of a small homogeneous population far too ready to embrace political, business, social and institutional networks that are inward-looking, and who thrive on nepotism, partisanship, insecurity, and perpetual deference to authority. It is an environment more likely to perpetuate pettiness than self-confidence, or that is likely to magnify perceived insult, when all that is required to matters about which we disagree is the barely cerebral retort: “we beg to differ.”

Thursday, 4 June 2020

WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM OTTAWA? (Part 4)

Guest Post by David Vardy and Ron Penney
What should we expect from Ottawa?
Part Four
GNL has to commit itself to put its house in order, recognizing there are practical limits. GOC will not want to write us a blank cheque. Ottawa will seek a commitment to a three to five year fiscal recovery plan and they will demand a say in the plan. Will we have to surrender our sovereignty in order to secure the help we will need? Or will a commitment to balanced budget legislation at the end of a three to five year fiscal recovery plan be sufficient?

We have 1.38% of the population of Canada. We receive 0.947% of federal transfer payments. Nova Scotia has 2.58% of the population and receives 4.43% of the federal cash transfers. Nova Scotia gets $2.1 billion in equalization, while we get none. This is the case because the equalization program is based on fiscal capacity and operates with a lag. Our fiscal capacity has been above the national average so we have not been meeting the threshold but this does not mean there is not a strong case to be made for enhanced funding under both existing program such as Fiscal Stabilization Payments and under other funding mechanisms, designed to provide fiscal relief during the pandemic. 

Monday, 1 June 2020

FISCAL CHOICES AFTER REOPENING: A FRAMEWORK FOR DISCUSSION (Part 3)

Guest Post by David Vardy and Ron Penney

FISCAL CHOICES AFTER REOPENING:
A FRAMEWORK FOR DISCUSSION
 

PART THREE

We had intended to send this to the Telegram to ask if it would publish the two parts as guest columns as it had for the first two. 

The Telegram has been very good to both of us and has published the many opinion pieces we wrote both together and individually on Muskrat Falls and other public policy issues over the past decade. In the same period the Telegram has done an excellent job though it’s columnists, such as Russell Wangersky, Pam Frampton and Brian Jones, on Muskrat Falls, and other important public policy issues, as has its reporters such as Ashley Fitzpatrick. 

The recent decision of the Telegram to suspend further columns from Brian Jones is not what we expect from the Telegram, the last bastion for freedom of the press in Newfoundland and Labrador.  

As Voltaire said “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” 

Thursday, 28 May 2020

NATURAL GAS: WHY SAVING THE PLANET WILL HELP SAVE NEWFOUNDLAND

Guest Post by Cabot Martin 
Uncle Gnarley’s recent invitation to pen a few words on Oil & Gas issues has emboldened me to return to a few of my favorite offshore issues. 

There will be two articles – the first on our most neglected sector, offshore natural gas development; the second on oil issues.  

The natural gas aspect seems to be largely absent from the recent “Town Hall” efforts in support of the oil & gas industry’s continued presence and vigor in our offshore area. 

These comments are meant to “complement those efforts” in the old days I would have said “demonstrate they are missing the boat” – but that was then and this is now. 

Indeed, the first draft of this piece included a long list of unfortunate aspects of the natural gas debate – but in the interest of the common cause it ended up on the cutting room floor. 

Monday, 25 May 2020

CROSBIE AND COFFIN CONTRIBUTING TO WEAK GOVERNMENT

One year after the General Election, Ches Crosbie’s pathetically weak Opposition should not go unnoticed. Neither should NDP Alison Coffin’s entirely un-influential role, despite holding the balance of power holding up a minority government. 

Another year of the same is layered onto a fifteen year legacy of disastrous public administration under Williams, Dunderdale, Marshall, and Davis and Ball. Each has built on the thesis of Lord Amulree, whose Royal Commission Report suggested that the British Constitution is not suited to the people of Newfoundland. That is to say, we are incapable of self-government. Crosbie and Coffin have done their part, too, to strengthen Amulree’s claim.

Monday, 11 May 2020

ECONOMY NEEDS MENDING AT A HIGH LEVEL


Premier Ball’s March 20, 2020 letter to PM Justin Trudeau seeking help following his Administration’s failure “to finalize our borrowing program, both short and long term”, might have reminded the PM of the Dickens character Oliver Twist, and his plea to Mr. Bumble: “Please, sir, I want some more.” Luckily for Ball, he wasn’t handy enough to Trudeau to be given a knock with the soup spoon, Oliver Twist’s reward for ingratitude; surely only distance could have spared him.

During his five years as Premier, Ball has never shown an inclination to “self-help”. That is not to suggest that the Province did not need the assistance of the Government of Canada to meet the public sector payroll. However, the economic fallout of the pandemic and an oil industry labouring under obliterated demand, has only compounded a pre-existing overspending problem; it did not originate there.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

BARD'S RECIPE FOR SELF-SUFFICIENCY

REMOTE REALITY
(Fish and Berries)

The fisher’s catch to feed our breed
With private sales, no markup greed.
Local goods to move to fore:
Poultry, pigs, sheep and more,
Veggie-plots to produce grow,
Simple ways for food to flow.

Monday, 4 May 2020

STAN MARSHALL IMPRESSES LESS AND LESS

The construction industry continues to hum throughout the province during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some big projects enjoy no interruption, including Memorial’s Science Building. Then, too, the line-ups at COSTCO confirm the daily congregation of 300-400 customers and staff. In proportion, Walmart and Dominion Stores are equally well populated; all have implemented physical distancing measures.

In contrast, the Muskrat Falls project is dormant. Laden under $13 billion of debt (likely, more) Nalcor executives cannot employ even the management skills of a Walmart “Greeter” to keep the operation running.

Monday, 27 April 2020

TRAVEL CONTROLS – CAN CONCERNED CITIZENS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Guest Post by David Vardy

Isolation an advantage
In the past our isolation has been perceived as a disadvantage. This is no longer the case, when it comes to the pandemic. As we face this most serious threat to our safety and security we are able to turn our isolation into an advantage. We can be “masters of our fate”. It is not too late but we could and should have acted sooner. We can and must get it right. It is a matter of survival.

The coronavirus is the biggest threat to our province and its people today. The Director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Robert Redfield, recently said the US would experience a second wave in the fall.  We, in this province, should be able to keep it at bay and avoid a second wave. Fortunately, it is something over which we can exercise some control but only if the public is fully engaged, both individually and collectively, through our provincial government.

Monday, 20 April 2020

PROVINCE MISSING THE BOAT ON COVID-19 TESTING

There is a risk that we will come in contact with COVID-19 but there’s absolutely no risk that the Province will do anything except "follow the leader" - Ottawa . The best opportunity to control spread - mass testing - accompanied with physical distancing and/or quarantine, is not even on the table.

Testing is not without its critics however, some of them highly credible, including B.C.'s officer of public health, Dr. Bonnie Henry. A common problem is that COVID-19 tests result in a high number of false negatives. "The false negative rate can be as high as 30 per cent early on in infection", stated Henry in an April 14th CBC news story. "Testing in B.C.," the story continues, "is currently being limited to those who develop coronavirus symptoms who are hospitalized, residents or staff of long-term care facilities, part of an outbreak investigation, or health-care workers" - not unlike the testing regime here.

Friday, 17 April 2020

MOURNING THE PASSING OF JIM LEARNING


All associated with the Uncle Gnarley Blog wish to join in expressing sincere condolences to the family of Jim Learning, especially his partner, Roberta Frampton Bonafiel. 

What can be said except that he brightened the spirits of those whom he met with his laughter and optimism as he contributed to his community and his province, honored his native heritage and traditions, stood up for  the principles in which he believed and passionately defended the preservation of the environment. This he did, not maliciously, but peacefully - employing his democratic rights. And those rights were ones that he was always prepared to defend, even at the expense of his liberty. 

What more could any Labradorian or Newfoundlander expect from a native son!

Rest in peace, Jim Learning.
____________________________________________
Related:
WHY WE SHOULD RESPECT THE INCARCERATED LABRADOR THREE

Thursday, 16 April 2020

EVERY DAY ALL-FOOLS DAY


ALL-FOOLS DAY 

The world is run by egoed fools
That let covirus spread
In planes and boats, around the globe.
For cash, they cancelled dread.

But dread it is, and many dead -
More corpses on way.
For fools, that flaunt reality
All days are all-fools day.

John Tuach
April 01, 2020

Monday, 13 April 2020

COVID-19: WE STILL DON'T HAVE A PLAN. TELL POLITICIANS THAT TESTING IS THE BEST ONE AVAILABLE.

We should be concerned that the politicians - the one-string violins preaching social distancing - are far too caught up in the daily afternoon “War by Video Conference”. They are not making any real decisions to control COVID-19 spread or how to return the province’s economy to life as fast as possible, without precipitating another outbreak. They are awaiting instructions from Ottawa. 

Having emptied the public Treasury these past five years, why would we think that they possess the skills necessary to manage a pandemic, anyway?   

Let’s get serious. The afternoon “Video Conference” is nothing more than chatter; it is as predictable as the afternoon Soaps. When you have heard all the admonishments over “social distancing”, what have you learned except that they will return for more of the same the next day?  We hear it all from the PM anyway. 

We need a Plan, and we don’t yet have one. This article will suggest one.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

RCMP and PUBLIC PROSECUTOR FINAL STEP IN LONG MUSKRAT JOURNEY

Guest Post by the "Anonymous Engineer"

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of today's article is the whistleblower, dubbed the "Anonymous Engineer", who first disclosed falsification of the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project in January, 2017. 
…………………………………………………...

The Muskrat Falls Inquiry had a very interesting beginning, which may have been forgotten by now. When the costs of the project started going off the rails, the public outcry for an inquiry began to get louder and louder.  The timing was about mid 2017. The demand for an inquiry was strongly resisted by the leadership at the time, Premier Ball, Minister Coady, and Stan Marshall the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Nalcor. The public pressure for that response was too strong to resist. The leadership capitulated and initiated an Inquiry. Time line about mid 2018.

Monday, 6 April 2020

AVOIDING THE APOCALYPSE (PART II)

Guest Post by Ron Penney
The Apocalypse is Coming

Two weeks ago I wrote a guest blog, Avoiding the Apocalypse, in which I noted that at every step of the way our public health response has been slow and that as a result, we may well have squandered the advantage we have as a result of our geography. As the song goes, with respect to the island of Newfoundland, “thank God we’re surrounded by water.” And, of course Labrador is also very remote from the rest of the continent.

In addition, I pointed out that our isolation meant that we were going to be one of the last jurisdictions to have cases. This result is that we had the advantage of learning from the experiences in other places and could act accordingly.

We have missed that opportunity and, as a result, we are into the pandemic big time. More cases than New Brunswick.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

BROKEN TREASURY ADDED TO THE LEGEND OF DANNY

Premier Ball’s March 20, 2020 letter to the Prime Minister was clear: Newfoundland and Labrador had "run out of time". No one, except the Government of Canada, could be found to buy the bonds of a bunch of drunken sailors.

By mid-April the Provincial Government would not have had sufficient cash to meet its payroll or send cheques to the plethora of people, businesses, and organizations who rely upon them to pay their bills, unless the Governor of the Bank of Canada intervened.

The debacle of insolvency now greets all the people of the province at the worst possible time - during a health pandemic and a global economic crisis. I suspect that no one needs to hear the historical parallels – economic or political – with the 1930s. I will save you the imposition.

Monday, 30 March 2020

GOVERNING IN THE AGE OF CORONAVIRUS: ADVICE TO PREMIER

Editor's Note: Today, two articles – rather than the usual one – are posted for Uncle Gnarley readers. This one contains a letter written by frequent contributor, David Vardy, to Premier Dwight Ball containing a series of 12 recommendations intended to promote an “all-of-government” approach to combating spread of the COVID-19 virus threatening this province. Recommendation #12, which encourages Government to act to increase the number of people who stay at home, is especially poignant; it is this theme about which PlanetNL has also written. His article is entitled "Courting Disaster With Half-Measured Hypocrisy Against COVID-19". Both pieces rely on an Australian study described in the following Link:  Data shows coronavirus can only be controlled if 8 out of 10 Australians stay homeThe Report is based upon simulation studies which conclude that physical distancing requires 80 per cent compliance in order to stop the spread of the virus. The failure by our Government to require closure of construction, mining and other heavy industries, likely makes such a target unattainable. I would be grateful if you liked/shared both pieces on social media and, otherwise, you are welcome to send them to people whom you know are connected with those sectors. – Des Sullivan

Guest Post by David Vardy follows

COURTING DISASTER WITH HALF-MEASURED HYPOCRISY AGAINST COVID-19

Guest Post by PlanetNL
PlanetNL29: Courting Disaster With Half-Measured Hypocrisy Against COVID-19

This province has suffered plenty from political failure in the past decade plus.  We don’t need COVID-19 to turn out to be the next major disaster but the present administration seems, as usual, unable to calculate the risks.  The issue is that the necessity for physical distancing and the shelter-in-place concept needs a very high rate of participation to succeed but the government has left a mile-wide loophole for “essential” businesses to keep operating that is placing many communities and the entire province at great risk.
…………..

Saturday, 28 March 2020

THE BARD'S COVID-19 UPDATE


LAME DUCK UPDATE
(COVID-19)

Ball has ballsed the Muskrat Falls
And all he’s called’s on stall.
He now appalls the Covid call
An obscene photo-op to trawl.

Do you believe his words at all? -
Non-confidence installed,
That they can fall the Covid squall.
A lame-duck presence is banal!


March 22, 2020
John Tuach

Thursday, 26 March 2020

TIME FOR A REAL WAR ON COVID-19


The Chief of Defense Staff – aka Commander of the Canadian Army - should be involved in fighting the war on COVID-19; the Prime Minister and the Premiers should step back, at least a little, as coordination to combat the spread of the virus seems both late and fragmented.  

After three weeks, we only have the dulcet tones of the Prime Minister and the Premiers. They are doing a good job of staying in touch with Canadians, but as to a coherent plan that will save lives and get the public back to work, there is none. In particular, knowing that one person can infect dozens, no regime exists to stop people from engaging in irresponsible behaviour.  

Monday, 23 March 2020

COVID-19: AVOIDING THE APOCALYPSE

Guest Post by Ron Penney
Because of our geography we have a big opportunity to nip the Coronavirus in the bud but I fear we are not taking full advantage of that fact.

And because we are late in getting cases, we can learn from other jurisdictions.

I know that some will say: what does he know about this, as was said of me and my other fellow naysayers when we dissented on Muskrat Falls.

Friday, 20 March 2020

LIBERALS SHOULD RETHINK LEADERSHIP DECISION

The decision by the Liberal Party to ignore candidate John Abbott’s request to “stop the clock” on the May 9th leadership vote is both disrespectful and unwise. Yes, the public wants to see the ‘arse end’ of Dwight Ball as quickly as possible, but his unsuitability was recognized, including by his own Caucus, long before now. A few more weeks won’t matter didley squat.

More importantly, the Liberal Party should make sure that the process applied to replacing Ball is fair, dignified and respectful to the candidates - and to the public, too. If not them, who does a political Party serve?

The Liberals’ are forgetting that the fairness of the selection process is inextricably linked to the next Premier’s legitimacy. The public is watching; their metric of winning leadership may be just a bit different than that of the Party’s insiders.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

THE CHEAP SEAT CATASTROPHE

THE CHEAP SEAT CATASTROPHE

Cruise lines, bus lines, train lines AIRLINES
Move us round like canned sardines.
They sit us down in tiny seats
With bodies bound, cheek to cheek
To share the air tween all throughout,
That circulates and mixes croup.

Monday, 16 March 2020

SCAPEGOATING COVID-19 JUST MORE OF THE SAME

It is difficult to think of a greater responsibility of government than to support citizens in a time of crisis. The Ball Administration is working on the largely non-financial measures to prepare for the arrival of COVID-19, like discouraging events where crowds congregate and gearing the healthcare system to provide strategic care amidst an array of jurisdictions. Otherwise, it has limited, if any, capacity to supplement measures proposed by the Federal Government, to assist individuals and small businesses financially injured by the curtailment of trade and work, or to engage in tax relief. The COVID-19 event arrives on the heels of “snowmageddon” which has already robbed a good many pockets.  
Government’s haplessness exposes the extent to which NL has squandered the ability to function as a viable entity within the nation. The revelation is not new. When a pandemic dramatically shuts down normal commerce, it is a time that exposes how badly we have mangled our financial resources and the opportunity to confront any peril. Even after all that has occurred, in place of leadership, we witness only scapegoating.   

Thursday, 12 March 2020

WHY GILBERT BENNETT, OTHERS SHOULD BE FIRED

The public should be disturbed that, in releasing the Report of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, Premier Ball and Minister Siobhan Coady were unwilling to demonstrate that there are consequences for senior public servants who engage in a calculated and systematic abuse of the public’s trust. Indeed, they exhibited no capacity to even check the behaviour of their Tory predecessors.

Among the Commissioner’s findings is that, in the case of Nalcor, the Corporation failed to adhere “to the core values of open communication, honesty and trust, or accountability in their discussions and communications with GNL [the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador] and Nalcor’s board of directors.” He found that “Edmund Martin, Gilbert Bennett and the PMT [Project Management Team] frequently took unprincipled steps to help secure Project sanction. They concealed information that would undermine the business case reported to the public, to GNL and to Nalcor’s board of directors.” His findings confirm that senior officials of Nalcor and GNL behaved in this way on multiple occasions.

Monday, 9 March 2020

ENGINEER EXPECTS MF INQUIRY to CONFIRM ALLEGATIONS of FALSIFICATION, DECEIT

Guest Post by the "Anonymous Engineer"
EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of today's article is the whistleblower, dubbed the "Anonymous Engineer", who disclosed – on this Blog - falsification of the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project in January, 2017. His disclosures helped bolster the case for the Government's call of the Commission of Inquiry under Judge Richard LeBlanc.

The Muskrat Falls Project – Nalcor's DNA (Deceit, Deception, Falsification)

Background
The Muskrat Falls Inquiry is over. We are awaiting the Provincial Government's release of the report by Judge Richard LeBlanc. What the evidence at the Inquiry has revealed, through 6 million documents, 135 witnesses, is an intriguing sequence of deceit, deception and falsification, which has essentially become the DNA of Nalcor. Almost every aspect of the project was falsified, information withheld, writings edited to dilute the impact, and no one takes ownership, accountability or responsibility for anything.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

THE BARD'S THOUGHTS ON COVID-19


THE REAPER HEWS
(The Pale Horse)

Scourges stalk the human race,
Unheralded, unseen,
The Reaper hews - no coup de grace,
Messy and obscene.

The virus grows and many dread,
Few ICU nor cure,
And stealthily, a cancer’s fed -
To final days ensure.

Monday, 2 March 2020

WHEN POLITICIANS ABUSE PATRONAGE


Patronage is all too often a license abused. The rites of political leadership empower politicians to make appointments outside a screening process reserved for the middle and lower ranks of the public service. The practice, while necessary, does not always secure the best and brightest; at times the nod is given to a person on the basis of demonstrated loyalty to the Party in power, or just because they are a friend. That practice is called cronyism.  

Politicians find solace — not that any is needed — in the dictum that patronage, left to bureaucrats, will be afforded the very same standard to which politicians adhere. The argument goes: why should politicians defer such opportunity to bureaucrats when the responsibility and the opportunity is theirs. The argument fails, however, when a generally decent system of meritorious selection is corrupted because the appointees are not up the job or are installed in inappropriate positions.  

Thursday, 27 February 2020

UNDERSTANDING THE BALL-O’REGAN RESTRUCTURING PLAN

Guest Post by David Vardy
Former CFO Derrick Sturge told the Muskrat Falls Inquiry the project and its financing were “rock solid”. CEO Stan Marshall told us two years ago the project would “finish strong”.
Premier Dwight Ball promised “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that they will not bear the burden of higher electricity rates or taxes as a result of Muskrat Falls. We will deliver on that promise.”

On February 25, 2020 Nalcor CEO held a press conference and took questions from the media confirming the delays which had already become well known. He did not provide a cost update on the project, which appears likely to exceed the official 2017 estimate of $12.7 billion. He repeated the statement that Nalcor would “finish strong”.

Monday, 24 February 2020

RATE MITIGATION AND OTHER DELUSIONS

Guest Post by Ron Penney
We are faced with two big problems, either one of which would be difficult, if not impossible, to resolve. 

The first is the fiscal situation. 

The Auditor General, in her most recent presentation, set out again our perilous financial situation. By almost any measure we have the worst fiscal metrics compared to the other provinces, despite having the highest per capital revenues in the country. 

 Expenses have gone up 33% over the last ten years. Over the same period revenues decreased by 9%. Over the past 7 years we have had a cumulative deficit of $6.4 billion.  

We have the highest per capita expenditures in the country by a large margin. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

DWIGHT BALL MOVES ON. GODSPEED. GODDAMN.

When political leaders step aside, expectations of them, however fanciful, are withdrawn; civility requires us to wish all, including Dwight Ball, godspeed. But while some leaders are quickly given the peace they seek, others warrant the lament popularized in the now famous lyric by Ron Hynes: “Godspeed. Goddamn.”

It wasn’t as if this Premier rose to the status of First Minister on a wave of expectation. He didn’t defeat a leviathan in Paul Davis. The public just needed to rid themselves of a godawful government in a province where good governance is a rarity. The new broom had represented at least the possibility of hope.