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)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Feds outplay NL PCs again

Chess on the federal level is not a game that our PC provincial government is effective at - to put it gently. Rather than realizing it's playing against an opponent, the Newfoundland and Labrador government acts as if the game only flows one way.

Take the request Ms. Dunderdale finally made to have a meeting with the Prime Minister. The Premier made accusations the federal government had failed its "humanitarian duty" to send a helicopter to participate in the Winters rescue mission in Labrador. There is an assertion by the provincial government that there was a two hour window that a federal chopper could have made a difference. Of course that assertion ignores the time for a chopper to travel from say Gander to Labrador and back. Forget the complete lack of common sense of that assertion for a moment.

Instead, think of the intelligence of singling out Peter MacKay for her wrath. Not only is he a primary factor in the dolling out of all that federal cash she is constantly on about, he is also one of two "founding fathers" of the new Conservative Party of Canada. The ruling party. The majority party. Does she not understand that it was Leader Peter MacKay of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada that struck the deal with the Alliance's Harper to form the Conservatives? Does she understand the terms of that deal? Does she wonder why he has escaped so many bad hits on him as a Minister? For Harper to fire Peter MacKay would be like Harper setting fire to his own house, and unlike Ms Dunderdale, he's not likely to do that. So why attack him to get your issues on the table? In the first year of a federal majority government?

Then, as if to compound the injury, Dunderdale says:

"I have no authority to institute an inquiry into the federal government's activities to have access to the kind of information that we would need," Dunderdale told the house of assembly in March. "I can call on the federal government for such an inquiry [and] that may very well happen."

Except, and here we go again, the feds know how to play chess. So, the one MP that Dunderdale could have criticized fairly safely, Peter Penashue, comes out today and says no problem. Specifically, he stated:

"We would not be in a position not to co-operate...This is a legally initiated process and everyone would have to co-operate...Everyone knows that if you call an inquiry, everyone has a legal responsibility to participate."

In other words, checkmate. The feds are more than willing to participate in the inquiry. They recognize the province's right to hold such an inquiry, and they've placed the ball right back in Dunderdale's court while she waits for a call back from the PMO on her requested appointment. Bottom line is the feds know that land search and rescue is a sole provincial jurisdiction, and that if they were to dispatch the air assets to participate then they would be unable to fulfill their sole jurisdiction - sea search and rescue - should a call come in during the same time. They know that no inquiry will be able to find any differently, and that the province will be found in its usual position: trying to cheap out on spending on its core functions and blaming Ottawa for the shortfall.

To compound the troubles, MHA Paul Lane spilled the beans prematurely that the Premier had requested an appointment. Now the humiliation watch is on. How long will it take for the PMO to get back to her with an appointment time and day? How long will the appointment be? Now she is at the complete mercy of the PM, which is not the way it should ever be.

It reminds me a lot of the Old Harry issue. The day before the federal election the feds grant Quebec an offshore accord that directly attacks Newfoundland and Labrador's oil and gas interests in the Gulf. Does the provincial government make it an issue in the federal election? No. Does the Premier, or even better the House of Assembly as a whole, file a formal protest to Ottawa? No. The response was:
“We haven’t seen a lot of the details that might be included today, but we’re told that that dispute resolution process is included.”

So the first rule of federal combat is you give no ground until you see all the details. The details of this deal essentially placed the Old Harry basin into a kind of suspended animation. A no-man's land. Why does that matter? Well first of all, it took 18 years to come to a resolution with Nova Scotia, who we get along with, on the dispute between the two provinces on the maritime boundary between them. Secondly, it essentially killed all exploration in the area. Corridor Resources, which had been actively seeking financial partners so it could explore its licence on the Newfoundland side of the line, had to essentially give up in 2012. Corridor never stated it publicly that I'm aware of, but it's hard to get serious investors to inject cash where there is instability in jurisdiction. That instability did not exist as much as when the feds gave Quebec exactly what it wanted. So now Quebec has all the time it needs to set up its offshore oil and gas industry while Newfoundland and Labrador loses revenues for up to twenty years - potentially.

It is mistakes of maneuver, of exercising power properly within Confederation that constantly plague the provincial governments here. It's not that Confederation does not work for Newfoundland and Labrador, it's the inability of the provincial government to play properly within Confederation that's the problem. Danny Williams made the same mistakes. The only reason he won a short term reprieve on off shore oil revenue was the minority position the federal government was in at the time. Other than that he would have been just another casualty of poor play. Disagree? Look no further than his botched attempt to covertly install his communication director on the CNLOPB as Vice-Chair. You could even examine that poor preparation before Igor, and the subsequent hat-in-hand aftermath for military assistance and funding - again after the fact.

Kathy Dunderdale is not capable of playing with the big boys in the federal government - let alone getting a result that favours the province's people. It's not just her though. It was the man in the chair before her as well, and so on. The finger also points to the senior "advisers" that normally surround a Minister/Premier. It would appear that Newfoundland and Labrador politicians are concerned about one thing and one thing only - hold onto power for as long as possible, to dish the cash to as many friends as possible, and if it happens to benefit the common man... well... we can spin that as well. The focus is purely on the hold of power and not on the greater good. It's not unique to the current crowd for sure. The difference being we should know better by now. Newfoundland may be an island in the physical sense, but the vision needs to look past that. The over the top corruption and self interest that blinds the provincial government in Newfoundland and Labrador belongs in the past, and a focus on playing the game in Confederation, for the benefit of all its citizens, needs to become the focus of the future.

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