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)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

New Leaks from Insiders on Muskrat Falls

We all know things are going badly with the doomed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam project on the Churchill River, but just how badly are they going? Well, according to insider leaks to this blog things are getting very bad. Very bad indeed. In fact, the installation of Stan Marshall seems to have made things worse up there than better. The leaks in this blog have to do with scheduling. It appears instead of taking a cold eyes look at the project, and seeing if the project is even viable any more (it never was) Marshall is trying to ram through the schedule and creating a complete mess of the project. At least that's what the insiders are saying.

Several weeks ago I received a leak that there was no room left at the camp for workers to stay. Instead, Nalcor was offering workers $117.00 a day tax free to stay in Happy Valley Goose Bay, with the added bonus of being bused in and out of the site each day. When I received that information I thought it may be an attempt to reduce costs. Perhaps it was cheaper to pay them the $117 a day and bus them in and out. Perhaps the cost per occupied bed were so expensive it made some sort of sense.

However, the most recent leak from the project tells a different story. The insider tells me the camps at Muskrat Falls are full. Completely full and there is just no room left to accommodate anyone. That's part of the story, but there is more. Last week 100 people were flown into the site to work, but there were no accommodations for them at the camp, so they were turned around. There were also 250 people called out to work at the dam site, but they had to be cancelled because there was no place to house them. Now the big plan is to fly people who live in Lab City to the site every day, and then fly them home at the end of their shift. This plan is apparently not approved yet, but is actively being considered.

What is the problem you ask? According to my insider it is a change in Nalcor's scheduling priorities. Nalcor has ranked the three main contractors in a priority triage: first priority Pennecon; second priority Pomerleau; and last priority is now Astaldi (the main contractor). In fact, it is so bad for the prime contractor Astaldi that they have been reduced to 140 bunk beds at the camp and have had to lay off 30% of their workforce on site. This at a time when they are being hammered for being behind schedule.

All of this gives a bit of context to the new lawsuit filed against Nalcor this week by Andritz Hydro Canada Inc, an Austrian company. According to the lawsuit Nalcor demanded Andritz get on site and install the gates to the water ways at the Falls. Andritz explained to Nalcor, and Nalcor must have known, that Andritz could not install the gates until Astaldi had completed the cement works the gates were to be attached to. Andritz went to the Falls, inspected the work, and found the work to not only be incomplete, but also a large number of deficiencies with the work. Therefore, they informed Nalcor they couldn't proceed until the work by Astaldi was finished properly. According to the lawsuit Nalccor then threatened to call in Andritz's $20 million performance bond - so Andritz sued Nalcor.

Given this lawsuit, and the insider leaks coming from the project, it seems quite obvious that Nalcor's project management is desperately trying to drive the project ahead rather than fixing the issues at hand first. In doing so Nalcor is creating a real nightmare out of the scheduling and therefore cost process. Andritz's lawsuit is a result of that. Given Nalcor's decision to deprive Astaldi of the camp space needed for their staff it won't be long until we see a major lawsuit against Nalcor by Astaldi. Logically, how can Astaldi be expected to cure its scheduling issues if it can't get space to house its workers and has to lay off 30% of its staff at the project? In other words, due to very serious mismanagement of the project by Nalcor, contractors are now piling up against each other on the site and any efficiencies of the project's construction are out the window.

The news on Muskrat Falls just keeps getting worse all the time. Thank-you to the insiders at Muskrat Falls, good Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are troubled by what they see where they work and the impact it will have on all of us, for emailing me and getting the information out there. If you are up at Muskrat Falls, and you see something we should know, please email me right from this blog page. I'll keep your name out of it, I promise, and we'll let the people know what's going on up there.


Saturday, May 28, 2016

The NL Liberals Vietnam

There are no good options within the Liberal Party in this province. That is the basic truth. Now that is becoming more and more obvious by the day. Newfoundland and Labrador was sick and tired of the secrecy and shady dealings of the PC Party, and in the last election the people turned to the Liberals to put an end to that kind of politics. Just like the Liberal leadership process that saw a lackluster, even boring, Dwight Ball selected as the party leader, so the electorate settled for a lackluster but seemingly less dangerous option when they voted in the Liberals. Surely the Liberal would have gotten the message that the sleazy, corrupt, secret type of politics practised by the PCs would no longer be accepted here. Now, it is very obvious they didn't get the memo.

The truth is that behind the scenes within the Liberal Party powerful elements of the old guard and backroom boys were not supporting Dwight Ball as leader, but rather their sweetheart was Cathy Bennett. In fact, she was not even considered a Liberal until she threw her name in the race claiming to have always been there, and that her "coming out of the closet" was simply a coincidence as it coincided with the leadership race. A strange place to be for a woman who wrote cheques every year to the PC Party, and not the Liberals. An odd place for a woman running in a party that was at that time anti-Muskrat Falls considering her Chairmanship of the Board of Nalcor Energy. The woman who hired Nancy O'Connor to come to Newfoundland from Nova Scotia to set up the pro-business lobby group for Muskrat Falls - including paying for the websites etc of that group.

As Bennett money poured into her leadership campaign instant Bennett fans started appearing out of the wood work. Many "young Liberals" suddenly appeared lobbying for her on social media, and organizing for her on the ground. Yes, the darling of the likes of Danny Williams was about to take the party by storm. Just one problem: older Liberals didn't trust her. They didn't accept her pro-Muskrat Falls business position. So despite her money, Bennett lost to the compromise candidate Dwight Ball. Bennett and her powerful friends in the business community weren't prepared to accept that, and a covert movement began to overthrow Ball from the leadership. They had a problem though. The election was too close at hand, so the plan was scheduled for once the Liberals were in power - sort of. In reality Bennett and her minions became very involved in district association nomination meetings trying to get pro-Bennett/business types in as Liberal candidates and thus Liberal MHAs.

I was approached myself by such a person a month and a half before the election, and during a nomination race in one district. This old time Liberal had a serious issue in over throwing a Liberal candidate who had managed to get nominated, but wasn't marching to Bennett's pro-fracking band wagon. A local wealthy businessman was putting up the funds to beat the candidate during the election. As part of their approach to me the person emphasized that Bennett was going to take over the leadership after the election. That she had all the cards already in place. He also mentioned that Paul Antle and Siobhan Coady may be involved as well. If this person hadn't been a long time Liberal with deep roots I may have dismissed it out of hand, However, they were. They also had invested in shares of Shoal Point and the goal was to get Bennett in so that fracking would be approved in the province, and of course those shares would become very valuable. So, as you can see, the sleaze and secrecy was oozing from the seams of the Liberal Party even before the election had officially begun.

Fast forward to today, and it becomes even more obvious - albeit much more public. Ball struck a deal for Martin to leave Nalcor, and put in place Stan Marshall. Marshall's plan will be to privatise NL Hydro - which includes the 65% of CFLCo that NL Hydro owns (and that also necessarily means the Upper Churchill which CFLCo owns). Bennett and her St. John's business boys are all for selling it too, but they want it to go to Emera. That's what the big business boys bet on, and that's what they want. Those are the dividing lines within the Liberal Party today. I say Liberal Party, but it's more like the Chameleon Party - elements of the old Liberal party controlled by the boys and girls of the St. John's business community that are suddenly Liberals having just been PCs.

In any case, that is the war. Not whether or not to sell NL Hydro, but to who. The peoples' interest in all this... you're kidding right? So now Ball has put forward his plan. He gave  Ed Martin an "offer he couldn't refuse": leave or be fired. He also promised to give Martin his full severance and $160,000 in bonuses - or just under $1.6 million dollars. Designated fall guy in all this? The Nalcor board. Pass the resolution to fire him without cause so he can get his bonus and severance, and then resign yourself. No loose ends. Nice and tidy for Marshall to come in. Emera is out, Fortis is in. Not surprisingly, just days after Marshall was named as President of Nalcor he returned to his home in Belize with a number of senior officials of Fortis who stayed with him at his house for a week. Then came the nuke from David Vardy's access to information request that saw Ed Martin's employment contract released - which in itself is bizarre - and "highly suspect". An employment contract is a privileged document. Those kind of documents aren't released ever. Go figure, this time it was. It just so happened to prove Ball was lying. In other words, the ambush of Ball was on.

Despite the roll that Finance and Justice would have to play in these contracts, and severance negotiations, suddenly Cathy Bennett has disappeared from the scene. Ditto Siobhan Coady. Their two Deputy Ministers sit on the newly appointed Board of Nalcor. Both Bennett and Andrew Parsons have a direct ear into the Nalcor transition and on what happened with the severance negotiations, etc. Yet they've two stepped back from the limelight on this affair, just as Coady has. Coady was in the US until May 5 and claimed she knew nothing. Apparently she can't be reached by telephone or email or skype or what have you. Apparently Texas is now the third world without any such services. The lies are palpable, disingenuous, but meant to do one thing - leave Ball on the gallows by himself. Just as the plan before the election promised to do - get rid of him. That doesn't mean Ball didn't lie. It just means he thought everyone had his back in the deal, and found out that they were gunning for his back instead. As Minister Gamble-Walsh said to me two days ago: "Ball will very likely fall, but caucus is united". United for what you may ask? Good question. She never filled in that blank, but given the moves before the election was even called, it could well be said that the caucus is united in knifing their own leader, falling into line with Bennett, Coady, and possibly Antle, and all those business boys and girls sitting in the shadows and watching the game unfold.

As the Russian army found out in Afghanistan, and the US army found in Vietnam, it's easy to get into a war, but hard to get out. In the last 5 years Newfoundland and Labrador has had 5 Premiers or Premier designates fall. Soon to be 6. The place has become a frenzied feeding zone. It's become a guerrilla war here in a sense. The establishment vs. the people. Social media vs main stream media (sometimes holding hands when it suits the backroom boys). In this frenzy, for the lust and race for power and wealth, very few bases have been covered well. Political and business bodies keep piling up everywhere you look. Social media has morphed into the people's voice. The political "establishment" finds itself largely talking to ... well itself. Nobody else is believing or listening. Easy to get in, hard to get out. Welcome to the jungle baby.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Premier Ball caught in a big Lie

Some people say that you know a politician is lying when you see his or her lips moving. I like to think that isn't true, but today's news is shaking that faith. David Vardy filed an access to information request to gain access to the employment contract of former Nalcor president Ed Martin. What a bombshell that was.

Premier Ball, and Ed Martin himself went public, speaking to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and claimed Ed Martin resigned. It was subsequently released that his severance package was just under $1.4 million dollars. Weeks later it was revealed that he was paid just under $200,000 in bonuses as well. As Ball slashed jobs, and severely increased taxes, he made the case that Martin's excessive severance was required by his contract, and there was no choice in the matter. However, with Vardy's release of Martin's contract, that was not true. In fact it was a boldfaced lie that was spoken to the public as if it were the truth.

Here is Martin's employment contract . You can see for yourself that the only circumstances that require a severance for Martin is dismissal. That makes sense because if Martin quit he would be the one breaking the employment contract, and therefore would not be entitled to compensation. In any case, he is not entitled to a severance package if he quit according to the terms of his employment outlined in the contract. So did he quit or was he fired and allowed to save face? Right now we don't know for sure. The bottom line is that either way Premier Ball lied, and now he's caught in it. If Martin was fired, then he was entitled to a package - but Ball said he quit for "family reasons". Now if he did quit, then Ball is lying when he said that the contract required him to receive a severance package. So, either way Ball lied to the people of the province. In case you don't recall his exact words, here are some of the stories that covered the severance storm that Ball addressed publicly: Telegram story ; and CBC story .

Ball needs to resign now for his deception - hell let's just call it what it is: boldfaced lie to the people of the province. The people already consider themselves betrayed by Ball's broken promises made during the election, but this takes things to an all new level. A level where people know their own premier has lied to their face and been caught in the act. It's a disgrace to his office, to the province and to democracy. Resign, Mr. Ball. Do the honourable thing if you're capable.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Minister Foote attacks Veteran

It didn't take long for the Liberals to get arrogant beyond belief did it? Last week the Liberals announced they were resuming the lawsuit against disabled veterans. Despite having passed a resolution in the House of Commons recognizing Canada's "sacred" duty to its injured veterans, a motion passed unanimously in the House, the good old Liberals just renewed the lawsuit against those same vets in the courts in BC. Among the points of contention - should veterans have to prove they are still disabled every 2 years? One of the vets in the suit points out his lost two legs are not going to regenerate themselves... and so it goes. The Liberals broke their word.

As one of those vets I was deeply angered at the betrayal. My local member of parliament Judy Foote, who also happens to sit at the right hand of the Prime Minister in Parliament, posted a few pictures of herself with provincial and federal politicians on Facebook a few days ago. It was the usual pomp and circumstance - flags, podium, smiling politicians - you get the idea. Ms. Foote captioned the photos with self-congratulatory commentary about $35 million the feds were putting into Newfoundland to help with roads, etc. Your typical political stuff here. However, given the absolute anger and borderline hatred displayed recently against the newly elected Liberal provincial government here, it was inflammatory at the least for Foote to be sitting with those same politicians extolling all that they're doing in the province. In other words, it was typical Newfoundland politics of "look at us, we're giving you money for a road, aren't we awesome". The flavour of politics here isn't going down well anymore.

My anger and disappointment at the Liberals renewal of the veterans lawsuit overcame me, as did the obvious attempt by Foote and her other Newfoundland and Labrador federal Liberal MPs to boost the provincial Liberal government, that I had to comment. As a disabled veteran, and as a member of Foote's riding, I thought it was my right to let her know my opinion on these issues. Wrong. Judy Foote, in her righteousness and arrogance decided that wasn't the case. Here's how it went down on Facebook:

Me: " Putting lipstick on a pig (the provincial Liberal Party)  doesn't help. They are tattered.    You should be convincing Trudeau to settle the lawsuit with injured veterans before you (the federal Liberal government) end up the same way."

This is how she responded:

"Well a happy 24th May long weekend to you too Brad. So now you've turned your sights to finding fault with initiatives I am taking as a Member of Parliament to help the people of NL. Why am I not surprised that I have ended up on your long list of those who just can't get it right and you say that without any idea of the work I do behind the scenes on many federal issues to make a difference in the lives of others including our veterans. It is so easy to find fault - having a positive impact takes effort and desire to effect real change and in some circumstances takes longer than in other cases."

Now, in case you can't find any logical connection with her response to me on Facebook and the comment posed to her, well let's just say you're not alone. Minister Foote in fact chose a public forum to marginalize, if not gently smear, a permanently, severely injured veteran - the kind she professes to do so much for. It is true that as a writer, commentator, and as a political scientist I do push for democratic change in this province. I push for fundamental change to the political culture of this province that Ms. Foote's commentary so richly illustrates. As part of that push for change I've written this post so that others can see not just the challenges seriously injured veterans must put up with in pushing for our rights, and those of our brothers and sisters, but also the contempt for which we are held in for doing so. Our Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees us the right to freedom of thought and expression. Apparently Minister Foote disagrees.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Veterans Liberally Betrayed

                                               Kent Hehr, Liberal Minister of Veterans Affairs

As an injured vet I was really hoping against hope that the Liberals would live up to their promises made toward injured veterans during the election. Hope against hope. Fighting that inner voice that warned of disappointment after disappointment with politicians associated with Veterans Affairs - and in many cases the department itself. A vast bureaucracy that eats so much money that it would probably be cheaper to give every seriously injured vet a million dollars - it would cost far less and be far quicker - and just get rid of the department. Wishful thinking I know, but you have to go through the process of trying to deal with Veterans Affairs to understand the hell it is to deal with. It is not uncommon, according to studies, that some vets actually get PTSD, or severely acerbated cases of it, by simply dealing with Veterans Affairs for periods of 5-9 years simply to be looked after from their injuries.

So, the Liberals got in and made a big splash in their first budget about everything they would do for vets. They increased the Income Loss Replacement program from 75% to 90%. That's a monthly payment program to fund injured vets who can't work due to their injuries. Up until now the monthly payment has been based on a basic Corporal's pay. When they increased from 75-90% they reduced the basic payment to that of a senior Private. That's pretty hard for a guy like me to wrap my mind around considering I was a Captain - Major qualified - when I left. Getting paid as a Private is a wee bit of a demotion. Beyond the personal though, the Income Loss Replacement program is essentially all that is left of a "disability-like pension" that's there for vets anymore. It's only like a disability pension in that it is all you can receive as a monthly benefit anymore - there is no disability pension for us. A major difference: disability pensions are tax free, as are workers compensation programs. Not so for us broken soldiers. We pay tax on that monthly payment - a lot of tax. That was one of the issues that the lawyer for the six Afghan veterans suing Veterans Affairs was fighting for. That leads us to the latest betrayal of vets by this rather new Liberal government.

The Liberals promised to recognize the social contract the country had with those of us injured by our service. They were outraged and indignant that the Conservatives were denying a social contract existed with the veterans and their country during that lawsuit. Former Minister Erin O'Toole, Tory, a veteran himself, managed to have the lawsuit put on ice for a year to negotiate a settlement that would see these serious veterans issues addressed with honour. There was some optimism. However, for what ever reason, O'Toole did not reach an agreement with the vets and their lawyer before the election. The Tories lost, and the Liberals promised to fix it. They even passed an all party resolution in the House of Commons that recognized the social contract between the country and their injured soldiers. Things appeared to be going as they should be. There was calm in veteran land - so to speak. Then came this week.

There is no greater betrayal than the betrayal of hope. Veterans watched in horror and dismay as the new veterans minister threw us to the wolves by resuming the lawsuit in the BC Court. Now, as if a bad nightmare has been revisited, Hehr is using the very same argument in court - that there is no social contract between Canada and it's fallen and injured troops. It is a cut so deep for an injured veteran that it's hard to describe. It strips us of the dignity and honour of our service. It says we owe you nothing. You will get the crumbs we feel you deserve, when we deem it, and as much as we deem. You will be greatful. A soldier by definition has to be a proud person. Pride is drilled into you, and so is honour. You associate that with your comrades, your unit, your country and even yourself. Hehr, and his boss Trudeau, have just ripped that from us yet again. It hurts deeply and it is unforgiveable. To know betrayal you must have your Prime Minister and your national government stick the cold steel blade of political betrayal into your heart. That is what Hehr and Trudeau have done. They have Liberally betrayed us.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Jerry Dean and Accountability

I'm sure Jerry Dean is a fine fellow and all that. You don't get to be elected as a Mayor of your community without the respect and support of that community, so it goes without saying the man has, or had, that. However, Dean's comments in the House of Assembly this week likely did a lot to damage that reputation.

In the wee, dying hours of the House of Assembly this week Dean stood up and began speaking off a prepared script. Yes, a prepared, written script. He made constant reference to it as he spoke. What does that have to do with anything? Well, a prepared script from a back bencher in our politics means the party in charge of the government crafted it for him to say. That's normally for several reasons: to fly a trial balloon by someone who is expendable (ie: don't use a Minister to do it); to start the spread of a message the government wants out there; and to change the channel and focus of discussion. Likely, in this case, all three were at play.

Here is exactly what Dean said in the House in the late hours of May 11, 2016:

"Despite the squandering revenue and resources by the PC administration, they don't, you people don't (points to the PCs across the House) deserve shouldering all the blame either. So, now who can we blame? ... (suggests Clyde Wells, Brian Peckford, or Joey Smallwood could be too blame then says) No, they don't deserve the BULK OF THE BLAME either. Everybody here tonight, and everybody at home throughout the province, it's time for all of us to take, take the blame. The unfortunate truth is that WE COLLECTIVELY, the CURRENT POPULATION and the PREVIOUS POPULATIONS, ARE TO BLAME. Nobody likes to say it, but there persists a culture of ENTITLEMENT in this province in which we demand jobs, benefits and services from government that our province simply cannot afford to continue enduring. At the rate. Decades of borrowing and spending by our governments, to pay for our CULTURE OF ENTITLEMENT, because we demand it."

( link is here for the speech - around the 2:40 mark - differs on different systems)

If you watch you will notice that Dean reads that little diatribe word for word off the prepared speech he was given to say. So, it wasn't just his position, but in fact a Liberal government message he was putting across. Now he clearly states: the people "collectively are to blame"; the people past and present deserve the "bulk of the blame"; the people have a "culture of entitlement"; and absolves the political parties of the "bulk" of the blame as entities. That's a fact of the record.

Now go to Dean's recorded interview with the CBC (the audio of the interview located in the story is what you need to listen to here . Here is what Dean said 3 days later to the CBC:

The CBC reporter asks: "So Mr. Dean, why do you think the population is to blame for the deficit?"

Dean answers: " Well, uh, I don't think that's exactly what I said."

Yet that is exactly what he said.

Then he said: "If some people want to take that, and misconstrue it, that I was laying the entirety of the blame at the people, at the general population, both current and previous, excluding Jerry Dean, and Dwight Ball, and Cathy Bennett and previous finance ministers and previous premiers and cabinet ministers and the list goes on then that's not what I said and it's there on the record... and if one were to take the time to take it, not from second hand news from someone else out.. you know I believe... there was quite a bit of cherry picking going on there, but I'm where I'm to on my reputation of being open and honest...."

So, when Dean refers to "someone out there" he is referring to me, because I watched as he said it, and put the info out immediately on social media - which caused a fire storm of indignation amongst the people - as it should. Then, Dean accuses people of "misconstruing" what he said. But, as you can see above, it is exactly what he said. He then relies on his reputation of being open and honest, yet it is quite clear he is not being honest at all.

The CBC reporter goes on and asks him:

"It's not second hand news. We heard your voice there in the House of Assembly and you did say the general population and people listening to that would say how is the general population to blame when they don't get to make the decisions?"

Dean answers:

"Ya, well... but ... I'm looking at what I said here now... that collectively the current and previous populations ... now, you know ... what ... what that encompasses is everybody... so ... if ... again somebody wants to take something out of context that... that I can't control that.."

Dean stumbles so badly he has to read the same prepared statement he read in the House to buy himself some time to answer the question. He then stammers to make his answer sound palatable, and ends with people twisting his words. Yet, he admits in the same breath he was referring to everybody - ie: the people of the province.

The CBC reporter isn't buying that and follows up with this:
"If you're including everybody, how are those of us not elected responsible?"

"Why... this is ... unfortunately... like I say this is something that inadvertently... I guess has been brought upon inadvertently, uh, not in a mean spirited way... uh just be the harsh reality of the ...that the populations of the day uh... have...I listen and follow the lead of ... of a consecutive government, whether they be Liberal or PC,  and we've all had a ... probably ... a ... oh can I put this ...we're all guilty as politicians and sitting governments... so um ... unfortunately... uh...ah of promising things to people... and in a lot of case delivering to the people...the people themselves...everyone of us collectively, couldn't afford to begin with... and inadvertently and we've we've a ... unfortunately just found ourselves in this mindset."

If you think that answer was a complete run around by a scared politician, trapped by his own words in a corner, you aren't alone. The CBC reporter comes right back at him:

"So...I'm trying to understand this in a clear way, does that mean those of us that are the electors, or the voters or the citizens are responsible for where we sit right now, because we expected things from the government or that we accepted what the government was promising?"

Dean: "Well.. I'm saying collectively in part...." and the dribble just goes on from there. I really encourage you to listen to the taped interview at the link for the CBC story. The reporter did an excellent job of holding him to account. And therein lies the purpose of this post - accountability. That one word every politician in Newfoundland and Labrador is scared to death to hear. Anything but that! The truth is the people don't suffer from a sense of entitlement - not at all. The simple truth is they want roads and services that are accepted as routine in the rest of the country, but for some reason here they depend on how you vote as to what level of service you'll get - if any. Successive generations of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians haven't suffered from a sense of "entitlement". Quite the opposite is true. Successive generations have been brainwashed to believe they aren't entitled to the basics of all modern societies of the world, and to complain about that is to be a "whiner". To demand services before spending on mega projects is to be a "naysayer". To demand basic services is to have a sense of "entitlement".

It goes back a long way here. The Merchants. The small number of business families in the province that were the Merchants and are now the Corporations have a long history of keeping people "in their place". Keep them hungry so they'll work. Keep them uneducated so they won't question. Keep them poor so they'll be grateful for the crumbs of the natural wealth they rightly own. The key to all these things for them is not to be held accountable for it. That's why they have ingrained into the people the principle "don't trust outsiders" and "don't have outsiders coming in and telling us", because "outsiders already know what is basic human expectations in the modern world. That the interests of people take priority over the wealth of a few families. That holding people down isn't acceptable. All dangerous philosophies here to the ruling elite, but the standard everywhere else in the country. Like my neighbor who moved away 20 years ago, came back, and after one year is selling to move out, Newfoundlanders that have gone afar know now what should be expected of our government and are incensed at the mentality of "keeping people down". They won't accept it, and they leave.

We don't live in a culture of fat cat citizens with a "sense of entitlement". We live in a province of hard working people, fighting just to get by, with low expectations and strong family values who have been conditioned to believe that demanding what is normal elsewhere is somehow being greedy here. That's why Jerry Dean's statements are so offensive. Make no mistake, this was a prepared statement written for him to read word for word by the Premier's office - as is the case everywhere else for backbenchers. this is the position of the government. Like all the governments before it. It's aim is to invoke that item from your memory. Your conditioning. Don't ask for anything. Sacrifice for us. It is how you've been and how you must remain. Don't hold us to account. Yes, in this province there is definitely not a culture of "entitlement". Instead, we have a "culture of excuses". The culture of "it wasn't me" to quote the Caribbean singing star Shaggy. But, it doesn't apply to current and past generations of the population. No, it applies to current and past political elites as they spend  the fruit of the land and sea on themselves, and toss the crumbs to the population as if they should be grateful they got that. The "culture of the Merchants".

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Big Muskrat Falls Lie

Here's a trivia question for you: Who said "If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed." Answer: Adolph Hitler. I get it. The first one to invoke Hitler's name loses the argument. It's just that a better quote can't be found for the die hard proponents of Muskrat Falls dam.

The most recent Muskrat Falls "story" was published today by CBC Newfoundland and Labrador. The CBC here has been as big a proponent of Muskrat Falls as anyone since 2010. It's almost as if there is some official policy to support the project over there. The story here is from an access to information request, but almost sounds as if it's a leak - which the reporter involved quickly pointed out it was not. Nevertheless, the story gives six reasons why Muskrat Falls cannot be stopped or postponed: the province needs power; a lot of money has been spent; the feds could take the project over if we stopped it under the terms of the loan guarantee; we'd still owe Nova Scotia power; it would put a lot of people out of work; and the province wouldn't be weaned off fossil fuels. No advantages were identified in the heavily redacted briefing paper. There you go. Can't be stopped. Oh well. The big lie get's repeated yet again to the public.

Here is the truth:

1. All contracts signed to build Muskrat Falls were signed by Nalcor, not the provincial government. That is significant because the province passed legislation in 2012 that designated Nalcor as essentially a private corporation for the purposes of contracts to build the project. It pulled their "Crown Agent" status. That means only Nalcor can be sued for breaking the contracts. Critically, that also means that the government can halt Muskrat Falls and Nalcor can claim a Force Majeure event. A Force Majeure event in contract terms means an event outside the control of the parties to the contract that puts the terms of the contract on ice until the event is resolved. Nobody can be sued, and no monies or penalties can be levied. So, the government could stop the project without getting sued by the contractors building and supplying Muskrat Falls.

2. The federal government does have the right to invoke the default clause in the federal loan guarantee if the province halts construction. It also has the right to do that if the project becomes over indebted as well. So the federal government takes over the project? The permit to construct the dam itself is a provincial permit authorized by the provincial government. Our provincial government can simply revoke the permit which means the river can't be dammed. So the federal government is left with a huge pile of concrete that can't produce a single watt of electricity. That is really no threat. There is no real threat to us until the dam across the river itself is built. Then we couldn't cancel the permit to alter a waterway, and that would be more troubling. Bottom line is though we are no where near that now.

3. Yes there would be jobs lost if the project were cancelled, but look at the jobs- permanent jobs, being lost now due to budget cut backs as a result of spending on Muskrat Falls. In addition, many of the jobs at Muskrat Falls are employing people who aren't from the province in any case. And, all those jobs they keep talking about are over when the project is over in any case. Short term gain for long term extreme pain.

4. Yes Nova Scotia is entitled to power from Muskrat Falls - 20%. When I say Nova Scotia I really mean Emera - a publicly traded corporation. Emera's contract for the supply of power is not with the government here - it's with Nalcor. Again, Nalcor can exercise the Force Majeure clause and Emera is out of luck, that's why the Nova Scotia Premier has been frantically calling our Premier to make sure Muskrat Falls is still a go.

5. The argument about the need for power is just a three way circus. For starters, the new Maritime link could import power into the province if we needed it. There are also many wind options that could cover many anticipated shortages. There are policy changes that could be made to preserve the power here - too many to mention. The argument that a dam in Labrador is needed to do this is frankly intellectually lazy at best. On top of all that, consider that the province has the quickest aging population in all of North America. There aren't going to be as many around in the near future. Our population will be shrinking. So what kind of power consumption will we really need in 10-20 or more years down the road?

6. The argument we aren't weaning ourselves off fossil fuel for power is almost laughable. Ok, it is laughable. The amount of oil used to power Holyrood in a year amounts to four days of production from the oil platforms off our coast. In other words, you foolish hypocrites, you can't beat your chest for becoming 98% green when you're harvesting every bit of black grease you can get off the ocean floor, and will until there isn't one drop left. In any case, wind, solar and tidal are options that would ease our conscience about exporting oil everywhere else in the world.

Be aware of the big lies that the government and Nalcor have been putting out there, and which are essentially being repeated in the media without question. Beware of the big lie.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Newfoundland and Labrador's Class Revolution

It's been weeks now since the provincial government here laid down its budget. A budget designed to touch the lives of every man, woman and child in the province. A budget that severely hurts the poor and working class, but spares the middle class, and up from equal severity. Whether it be the taxes on insurance, or the hated levy, the less fortunate and working class are being nailed to the cross in a way they can't compensate for. Their way of life is at stake. Not so much for the middle and upper classes here. It's a hit for them as well, but ever so slight in comparison.

The targeting of the civil service here, which makes up about 25% of the working people in the province, has also cast a distinct class flavour to the mix. Closure of 60% of the province's libraries - all in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Closure of Courts - also in the rural. The message is clear: if you are an upper income earner in St. John's and the Avalon you'll be fine, but otherwise you will suffer the economically suicidal policies of former Premier Williams and his class of upper class types. They caused the pain, but aren't willing to pay the piper. That's the job of the "great unwashed" apparently - us.

That is where the class comes into the revolution. I get that sounds a bit Marxist - it isn't meant to be. It's just a fact on the ground here. Big business leaders in the province, and especially their lawyer buddies, are taking care of their own. The people that directly benefitted from the oil boom are making sure they're not the ones who pay now that it's collapsed. That isn't going over well. Several large demonstrations now have pointed, even indirectly, at this underlying conflict. Sure unions have been involved, but so have social justice groups and plain old taxpayers. The theme: this is becoming class warfare.

A warfare that can best be described as a revolution in the making. A revolution of thinking. A revolution of perception. There is a real sense of "revolt" in the literal sense of the word. An anger that permeates from a deep sense of betrayal. A betrayal of the working class and poor by the upper class. A squandering of wealth that had not been had to squander before, and may never again. A deep betrayal of the futures of the working people now, and their children yet to come. The immensity of the conduct of the PCs is just starting to sink in, but the anger is already quite evident every where you turn. There is not an acceptance of the inevitable. There is instead an absolute resolve to change things up - hence the revolt.

Now people have to witness a new government, this time Liberal, looking after the interests of the law firms and big business here. It is as if there was no change in government. Instead, the perception is of a tag team of wrestlers - one taking over from the other to pummel the people. That isn't surprising t those of us that study the debauchery known as politics here. The new Premier is a businessman. He is good friends with Brian Tobin who set up his Toronto political dinner  at $10,000.00 a plate. Tobin is also good friends with Williams. We all know Williams. So there you go. Fat cats looking after fat cats. Law firms making sure it's all "scrupulously" taken care of. Newfoundland and Labrador politics in the nut shell. Also, now, the target of a new class revolution forming against them by average Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Get ready to rumble.