Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Monday, May 11, 2020

The Coronation of Andrew Furey - Part 3 - Paddick, Risley and Nalcor

On March 3, 2010, Doctor Andrew Furey announced (officially) that he was running to take the leadership of the provincial Liberal Party, and by ricochet the premiership of the province. The video of his announcement can be found here . He makes two very telling statements in his address:

at 8:49 on the tape:

"This change will not be just generational - it will be transformational" ; and

at 14:59:

"Our thriving technology sector has shown the world that geography means nothing when it comes to bold, new ways of thinking in areas such as ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, ON-LINE SECURITY AND INNOVATION. Our brightest minds can be see as far as SILICONE VALLEY, the technology giants are taking notice."

I've capitalized the parts of his address that give a simple glimpse of the truth that Andrew Furey and his associates have in mind for the province, the country and the world. Before we start, I would like to draw your attention to Furey's promise of a new politics of transparency. You can listen to the whole spiel in his speech at the link above. The ink had literally not dried on the Liberal Party's postponement of the race when Furey deleted every leadership/Liberal tweet from his account. Almost insignificant if it didn't hint at a lack of transparency lying just over the horizon.

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series I outlined a series of business relationships between the people behind Furey - Paddick, Myles and Risley (to a lesser extent). It's time now to focus on that threesome, and their friendship with Furey. As mentioned before, Myles recruited a young and ambitious Paddick and mentored him. Myles and Paddick then partnered with Risley. All of which is detailed here . It all gets a little tangly after that. Suffice it to say that Risley acted as the banker through his Clear Water Fine Foods company, while Paddick acted as the brains and Myles as the facilitator. They became a very successful team.

However, and it's a big however, Paddick entered the realm of public life when he "volunteered" to become Chair of the Board of Nalcor Energy, the province's energy crown corporation, in November, 2016. It just so happens that Paddick and Risley have another business together. A big business in fact. An electricity based business to be precise. Yes, the current head of Nalcor Energy's Board, a crown corporation, is run by  a man who is, and always was, in a potential conflict of interest. You may be aware of a Salt Wire story last year on Paddick complaining he and the Board weren't being paid enough.  The story put it like this:

"Brendan Paddick volunteered and was appointed chair of the Nalcor Energy Board of directors in 2016. He says he took the position largely because he felt a sense of patriotic duty."
But is that true?

Paddick and Risley's venture into the electrical utility market started in 2014 according to their company's website, which you can find here . The website states:

"Mr. Paddick and Mr. Risley founded Cormorant and in 2014, purchased Power Tel and Power Traxx. 2 years later, the acquisition of Eptcon Limited and its fully owned subsidiary, One Line Engineering was finalized in 2016. With the addition of the two companies, our group is becoming one of the largest Ontario-based contractors in the power transmission and distribution industry, and the future synergies will allow us to become a significant player across entire Canada and North America"

(their English, not mine)

In reality, What is Cormorant Utility Services started out as 9099166 Canada Inc on November, 24, 2014. That corporation was amalgamated into another corporation on February 25, 2015 (one quarter later) named Power North Holdings Inc. On March 1, 2017, four months after Paddick "volunteered" to Chair Nalcor's board, Power North Holdings, and another Paddick/Risley company named Columbus Utility Services were amalgamated into what is now today Cormorant Utility Services Inc, Cormorant Atlantic Utility Services Inc. In addition to the four companies listed as controlled by Cormorant (above), it also has a controlling 50% interest in a Calgary-based electrical corporation named BowArk Energy Limited.

As of this time I cannot find any disclosure whatsoever of these interests by Paddick, Nalcor Energy, or the government. Their various press releases on appointments of Paddick can be found Here: Provincial Government here ; and Nalcor here . This failure to publicly disclose the energy/electricity holdings that Mr. Paddick does own creates a serious and palpable potential for conflict of interest. The question to be asked is why? Why don't the various bios and announcements include his experience as an owner in the electrical power/transmission industry? Would it not be common sense to show the man is just not a "cable guy" who got lucky, but also a man deeply experience in the power industry?

There are now some real questions here. Have any of Paddick's companies being doing business with Nalcor on Muskrat Falls or any other supply and services contracts. Given Paddick's business interests, is he steering Nalcor toward privatization? It is very suspicious that the President of Nalcor is a man who built and has holdings in a private energy corporation, and now the Chair of the Board has the same (albeit less). What are the Liberals planning to do with Nalcor and even the liquor corporation for that matter? After all, Wayne Myles, the Chairman of the Board of the Newfoundland Labrador Liquor Corporation also owns Terra Nova Foods Inc ( a large distributor in the province) and sits as Chairman of the Board of Distribution Group Inc (which he also owns).

That brings us back to Andrew Furey. For a man that claims to be bringing in a transformational change to the province, an administration based on "transparency" (can we not just say "the truth"), the facts say otherwise. Furey's biggest immediate, and most public backer (politically as well as to his charities) Paddick is most definitely not being transparent with the public. He is most definitely in a potential conflict of interest, which as the chair of the province's largest crown corporation is a big deal. Have you heard Andrew Furey talk about that? No you haven't. That may not be surprising from a man so concerned about health he starts mercy missions to Haiti, but also has owned a bar with two other gents in Harbour Main for decades - drinking not being the most healthy past time...

The next part to this series will involve Furey's involvement with artificial intelligence. Those Silicone Valley folks he talks up in his campaign address, Paddick, Myles, Risley and a few others will all feature in this. Their intricate web of companies have been established for years now, operating quietly on the sides. Now that Furey is attempting to become Premier of this province people must know exactly who they are selecting to lead them. This series is intended to do just that. They won't get in through the side door without scrutiny. The public deserves no less.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Economic Implosion for Newfoundland and Labrador

It's not news to anyone that Newfoundland and Labrador is in a complete financial collapse. 2003 rang in the era of reaping rewards from the oil industry for the province, but it wasn't long before a new industry, fracking, was revolutionizing the oil industry in the United States - a revolution that is still reverberating through international oil markets and alliances. In any case, the province had ten years to reap what it could before the fracking revolution really kicked off in 2013. The graph below helps show that era:

As you can see, from 1998 until 2007 the province's production was greater than the value created by those barrels. In 2008 production and value finally met, then in 2009-2010 production was again greater than value, but from 2011 until 2014 the province really reaped a massive windfall from its production. Oil's value vs production petered out after 2014 and remains that way to this day. The nuts and bolts of it is that out of 22 years of oil production, the province had only 5 years where we made money on oil by its pure value over simply producing as many barrels as possible.

All that seems a little academic now though. Upwards of $3 billion of that money the government managed to save in the bank was spent as its share of the Muskrat Falls project. The remainder was blown and no provincial rainy day fund was created. In fact, people like Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale often said that Muskrat Falls was that rainy day fund, and that just seems outright scary at this point. Nonetheless, given that oil's best days have come and gone, where are we left today?

Some facts:            18%     of the budget is funded by oil revenue

                               49%     of the budget is funded by taxpayers income tax, sales tax,
                                           booze and smokes revenue

                               4.3%    of the budget is funded by corporate tax

                               18%     of the budget is funded by the federal government

That's the nuts and bolts of it. The average working person in the province and oil (a distant second) pay most of the place's bills.  A real eye opener should be the measly 4.3% corporations in the province contribute to the well being of the bottom line. Another, perhaps more ominous number is 20%. That's the amount that the province must pay on every dollar it makes to service its debt annually.

All these numbers would be enough on their own to paint a foreboding financial picture, but it gets worse - much worse. The key for the province is that 18% of oil revenue, because that revenue actually represents new wealth rather than simply recycled money. It allows the government to pay for the roughly 30% of the province's work force that it employs. Newfoundland and Labrador's 2019 budget pegged oil at $65 a barrel, but then revised it to $63. Either way, the province pretty much hit the market price and its budgeted revenue was for the most part in tact.

However, and its a huge however, once again international strategic events have blind sided the government's best laid plans. The advent of the US fracking revolution created a massive strategic shift in the control of international oil markets - specifically market share. Initially the US essentially satisfied its own oil needs, but as its fracking industry grew the US became an exporter of oil for the first time in history. It was no longer dependent on the Middle East for oil. Now, it can be easily argued, it has used its military and covert forces to knock other players out of the market to make room for its own product. Major oil producing countries like Iran, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Sudan and even Iraq have been partially or completely removed from the oil market place. Even Russia, until fracking the largest oil producer in the world, has been targeted by US sanctions and attempts to wrestle its market share from Europe.

On March 6, 2020, Russia and Saudi Arabia decided to start an oil war. The story goes that Saudi wanted Russia to sign off on a three year production agreement that would limit each country's oil production - even further than it had already been cut. Russia backed away from that so Saudi opened the valve and promised to flood the markets, bringing Russia to its knees in the process. Russia, especially Putin the judo master, likely saw an opportunity to starve US oil companies by killing their stock values and driving them out of the markets. While all this plays out, innocent bystanders like Canada have seen their own domestic oil industries crippled in the cross fire, and by ricochet, their budgets. While this province escaped 2019 with a break even oil projection of $63 a barrel, it won't be as lucky in 2020. The graph below gives a sense of oil prices for the first quarter of 2020:

Newfoundland and Labrador's stated budget price for oil this year is $65 a barrel (US). As you can see on the graph above, oil was already falling from that point by mid January. Much of the decrease can be attributed to the corona virus outbreak in China, which resulted in oil demand from the world's largest oil importer drying up. The price continued to get worse as things got worse in China, then globally. Then, on March 6, the bottom fell right out as Russia and the Saudis threw in the towel. The market has been trying to find its bottom ever since.

The cost for the province is potentially catastrophic. The average price of oil for the first three months of this year was $51.73 per barrel (US). If oil recovers to a consistent level around $50.00 a barrel the hit to the treasury will be about $300 million. Unfortunately, as bad as that would be, there is no reason to expect either Saudi or Russia will pull back in this market share battle. If oil settles at $30.00 a barrel for the rest of fiscal 2020, the treasury will lose $600 million dollars. For perspective, the province budgeted oil revenue of  $1.09 billion, in other words the government will receive a mere $400 million or about 40% of what it had budgeted for. If, as many analysts have suggested, the price of oil drops to $25 a barrel and remains there, the hit to Newfoundland and Labrador's budget will be a striking $670 million leaving the province with a mere $300 million to fund 18% of its budget for fiscal 2020. It must be remembered that Russian President Putin has stated publicly Russia can withstand a $25 per barrel price for at least 6 years, and lower if necessary.

Now lets turn the page on oil for a moment, and focus on the Coronavirus pandemic's effect on the economy, and therefore budget. The most conservative projections in Canada place the country in a three month shut down. Many others are putting it at four to five months - likely dependent on how bad the pandemic ravages the US. Those will impact the budget:

Scenario One:

The Newfoundland economy shuts down for 3 months, and takes 2 months to regain normalcy. The government will lose in every category of its budgeted revenue. Everything from mining royalties to personal income taxes, and all areas in between. The potential direct cost is in the vicinity of $809 million (cdn), or a 13% loss in budgeted revenue for 2020. Once combine with a $30 per barrel price for oil, the combined loss to the budget will be about 1.5 billion (CDN). Some of that will be slightly offset by the fact Newfoundland and Labrador receives its oil funds based on US dollars - but not a lot. Given the province's budget for 2020 had already pegged a deficit of $1.1 billion, a new deficit projection of $2.6 billion would not be out of the question.

Scenario Two:

The Newfoundland economy shuts down for 4 months, and takes 2 months to regain normalcy. The budgetary losses will be in the vicinity of $869 million, or a 14% budget loss. The combined loss, oil revenue included, is about $1.6 billion, or a total budgetary deficit of  $2.7 billion.

And so it goes.

None of these figures address business losses, or the compensation they may receive for those losses, or what form that compensation will take (ie: loan vs grant), or even whether or not the compensation will be taxable. It does not address the economic costs of closing the tourist industry, or potentially the fishing/processing industry. They don't reflect the costs in interest and financing of shutting down the completion of the Muskrat Falls project. It goes on and on. Bottom line, for a place that was already expecting a terrible financial year, with a preexisting $1.1 billion deficit projection, an oil war and pandemic are especially devastating. Newfoundland and Labrador risks a complete financial collapse from these turbulent times and, perhaps even more deadly for the province, a new 1980's ish exodus of people escaping a doomed ship - so to speak.

It all sounds very negative, but people need to know the truth of what they and their families are facing. Premier Ball said Newfoundland and Labrador is facing a financial crisis once the pandemic crisis is over. He wasn't kidding folks. Reality bites and this will be one hell of a bite. God guard thee Newfoundland and Labrador.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Coronation of Andrew Furey - Part 2, Brendan Paddick

1986 was a defining year in the province's cable history. Prior to 1986 there were a number of scattered cable companies all over the island of Newfoundland. Everyone is familiar with former Premier Danny Williams involvement in those early days, but there were others. On May 13, 1986 the CTRC brought down its decision on which one of four cable companies would control cable vision in rural Newfoundland. Danny Williams' company Eastern Cable was in the bidding. So were Shellbird Cable (formerly Western Cablevision of Corner Brook), Central Cable and N1 Cable. HPhil Keeping, N1's founder, and personal mentor to twenty something Paddick, succeeded in convincing the CRTC to grant his company the coveted licence.

Shortly after that fateful decision, Williams' Atlantic Cable bought all the losing companies except N1. A young Brendan Paddick, fresh  from MUN's commerce program, was hired by Keeping to sell N1 to the collection of towns and villages granted to him by the CTRC. During an interview with Atlantic Magazine, Paddick opined on the old days, but his tale also tells us something about him:

"As a salesman for N1, whose business model was to build a rural cable TV network where there wasn't one, I knocked on the doors of literally every home in 151 towns. That was thousands of doors. I knowm people used to look at me and say, 'Well, now, look there's Paddick with a business degree no less, going door-to-door, couldn't find a real job.' But, you know what? In my first year oof doing that, I made about $150,000. Of course, I kept it very quiet..."

The camera pans back to the young door-knocker and his homemaker customer. Remember, he tells her, to stick her yellow copy of the cable work order in the window facing the road. That way, when the technician rolls by later, he'll know which house he's supposed to service. After all, he laughs, street numbers in these rural towns can be hard to find.
'The next thing I knew,' he says, 'is I'd have kids stopping me in the street saying, Mom wants one of those yellow things for her window. It had nothing to do with cable. It was pure peer pressure. Before I knew it, there was this groundswell. They all wanted yellow slips for their windows."

What these statements say, at least to this author, is that Paddick is an aggressive, motivated, manipulative, and ruthlessly determined individual whose primary focus is making money and using the basest means to do it. As he says:"It had nothing to do with cable. It was pure peer pressure," and "Of course, I kept it very quiet". Remember those comments for later.

Despite the aggressive expansion of its business, and re-branding to Regional Communications, the company was having great difficulty in remaining in business. It was not meeting all its debt obligations, and Paddick managed to talk the Board into allowing him to become the company's new president when the original gave his notice.

Then, in 1991, a truly fortuitous moment happened in Paddick's life - he met Wayne Myles. At the time Paddick was running his own company named Research Associates, a market research company. Myles approached Paddick to join the Board of the Victorian Order of Nurses (Myles Chaired the Board - More on Myles the Rotarian in the next part of this series). Once Paddick agreed. Myles became involved in his life helping him to negotiate a concession package, and restructure of the debt of Regional Communications. This allowed for the rebranding of Regional Communications to Persona Communications - as most people are familiar with it. Persona continued on with varying degrees of success until it went public in 1998. After the IPO Paddick became President of Persona.

Myles describes it:
"When he became CEO, we did a number of complex deals for my firm which was then known as Benson Myles. So we did work for Persona across Canada and established a fairly deep relationship with him and his team."

In 2001, Myles hooked up with John Risley (much more on him in next parts), owner of ClearWater Seafoods. At the time, Risley was attempting to take control of FPI, but the Newfoundland government (Brian Tobin) would not give control of more than 15% of the company to any non-Newfoundland entity. The solution was to place Paddick as a Board member. Risley was then successful, on his second attempt, to take over FPI. After that time Myles, Risley and Paddick collaborated in each others' business:" Risley as an investor in Persona; Paddick as a board member of the Risley-founded Clearwater Seafoods public company; and Myles as legal strategist for both."

In 2002, as President of Persona, Paddick purchased a 25% share in Cable Bahamas from his old mentor Phil Keeping. As the Globe and mail noted, in 2002, Paddick did quite well by his new acquisition:
"A walking tour through Persona's management proxy circular and assorted financial statements presents a few curious tourist attractions. Here's one: Brendan Paddick, Persona president, is the happy recipient of a $1.1 million (US), interest free loan. The money, according to the proxy, was used "to finance the purchase of his new personal residence. And where is the new residence? In the Bahamas, lucky him."

By 2003 Paddick faced  a shareholders revolt over his Caribbean wanderings - they accused him of not being focused on Persona's core operations. So, in 2004, Paddick agreed to sell Persona to a group of wealth funds fronted by Dean MacDonald. The wealth fund that purchased Persona could not, however, own holdings outside of North America, so Persona's interest in Cable Bahama became immediately available. Paddick scrambled to buy it before anyone else moved in. He personally did not have the money to purchase it, but his friend John Risley did. As Risley put it:
"We had decided what our launch had to be. We originally thought it (Cable Bahamas) carried a price tag of US $35 million. At a dinner in Toronto, it became apparent that it was going to be US $50 million, and I went home angry and disappointed. Brendan told it was 50 or we weren't going to get going, so I agreed."

According to Paddick:
"Risley actually wired US $50 million to my personal chequing account in the Bahamas without a piece of paper, a demand note or a lawyer involved. We closed the deal after regulatory approvals in February 2005 and the rest is history."

By that same year, despite a seven year rule for citizenship in Barbados, Paddick was a Barbados citizen. Also in that year, Paddick and Risley had run out of their own money after buying the Cable Company of Trinidad and Tobago. Hankering back to his early door-to-door, dogged, pavement-walking days, Paddick and Risley tried to raise funds in New York, but failed. As providence would have it, or just good intelligence, billionaire Michael Lee-Chin and Michael Dell (Dell Computer) came to their rescue. They paid $130 million for a sub sea cable network called New World Networks, which became Columbus Networks. Over the years of purchasing, amalgamating, and selling cable companies in the Caribbean, Paddick established 30 corporations through a law firm owned by one Andrew V Thornhill in Barbados. The disclosure  of these tax haven accounts was made as part of the giant leak of tax haven accounts collectively known as the "Paradise Papers" to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. For your information, the 30 accounts and their details can be read here:

It is unclear whether or not any of Paddick's businesses or income have paid any taxes in Canada, and specifically Newfoundland and Labrador, in ages. He remains a citizen of Barbados, and his income fund remains there too.

In November, 2016, Brendan Paddick was named Chair of Nalcor Energy, despite having no background in utilities or mega projects, other than being the "cable guy".

Exactly six months later, Wayne Myles, lawyer, chief connector with a large empire of his own, was named as Chair of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation.

The next part in this series will focus on John Risley, Wayne Myles, Mark Dobbin with a few others, and their ties to Doctor Andrew Furey. The alarming agenda behind the coronation of Andrew Furey.