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)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It's Hard Being a Liberal Right Now


Normally, when your party is close to an electoral victory, a party supporter is quite happy with the state of affairs. That doesn't apply to me this time around. Back in 2011 when I joined the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party it was a much different place. Back then a Liberal was a Liberal, was a Liberal. There were no Tories in sight. In fact there were very few Liberals in sight. It was the core supporters of the Liberals that came to meetings or conventions. A small core.The party rested somewhere around 14% in the polls.

Yet, it had soul. The people gathered had purpose and spirit. They were 100% against things like Muskrat Falls and duplicitous PC conduct. That was a principled group of people in it for the good fight. Today things are much different. It really began when Yvonne Jones decided suddenly, just before the 2011 election, to bolt and rather quickly become involved in federal politics in Labrador. There were plenty of rumours she had been offered a pay off to leave, but they were just rumours.

Then, with approximately 15 minutes left in the filing deadline, Brian Tobin faithful Kevin Aylward jumped into the race and filled Jone's place as leader.That was the first indication things were taking a backroom turn. Shortly afterwords a $10,000 a plate dinner in Toronto was set up by Tobin for Aylward to raise election funds. Mining interests in Labrador figured prominently, and their pitch for Muskrat Falls became a shove. Thereafter, the Liberal fight to halt Muskrat Falls began to whither.

Fast forward to today. Dwight Ball is now the leader, and with him has come an exclusive-type of leadership that centers on a very small circle within the party. Many Liberals, especially old-time Liberals, aren't happy with being virtually shut out of the Liberals "new vision" and campaign. There are whispers. Plenty of whispers. So many in fact that it has become hard to distinguish between genuine complaints of autocratic leadership, and not so upstanding attacks from internal leadership hopefuls like Bennett and Antle. Now of course all that will be denied from the highest mount, but it has become very real.

Layered upon the internal dissent of eternally ambitious people, is the stealth election campaign. Ball is doing his damnedest to dance around all the minefields laying before him. He hasn't been upfront with the people on the real state of the province's finances, even though an economics student with no access could clearly see the mess ahead. Instead, he has chosen to place power over honesty. Sad when you consider the people are jettisoning the PCs from power for the very same reason.

Yes, it's a sad state when the Liberal Party here is merely imitating the departing PCs. It's sad to see people like Paul Lane, disgraced stacker and fixer of on-line polls and radio shows, leave the PCs for the Liberals. It's harder yet to see him embraced. After all, wasn't he the most savage of all PC members and defenders? And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It's painful to watch the lawyers and law firms jockey for place within the Liberal Party. Down to a man (and woman), the vultures are circling for the crumbs that are left of what was an oil inheritance for the people of the province - now squandered.

Finally, as if by some Shakespearean twist, it was very painful to watch Ball offer empty promises, at best, during the last televised leaders debate. It had the aura of the future surrounding it. It had the leap of faith, even though you know full well there is nothing to have faith in, kind of feel to it. It had the "I'm taking power and I have no earthly idea how I'm going to fix this mess" kind of feel to it. It was disingenuous, and insulting to the intelligence.

Whatever the electoral result is come November 30th, one thing is crystal clear - there will be no Trudeau moment. The promise of a more just society isn't even on the cue cards, let alone the heart. There is no promise of "sunny ways". Nope, none of that. Instead there are tightly gripped jaw bones, fake smiles, red jackets, etc. You get the idea. The provincial Liberal Party, as it stands today, is a disheartening imitation of the PC machine it has ambitions to replace. Discarded are the lessons of the PC downfall by those that are tripping over themselves to grasp at the empty cookie jar. Man, it's hard being a Liberal right now.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Tyranny of the Majority

It seems that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are on the verge of breaking the old rule : "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results - Albert Einstein". Over and over again people vote en mass for one party, get royally betrayed and disillusioned, swap colours, and do it all over again for the other side. Each time huge majorities are given to the winning side, while the opposing side sits with a rump of 3-5 MHAs. The old saying is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet, here we go again.

According to all the polls the Liberals have between 70-80% of the decided vote. What that means is 40 seats for the Liberals, 0 seats for the NDP and ditto for the PCs. When that happens the Liberals must pick, from among their members, MHAs to sit as Opposition. Imagine that. We are just coming out of one of the darkest periods in oppressive government here, and yet we are prepared to set ourselves up for another.

Some of my fellow bloggers have railed against the NDP for bringing this matter to the public attention as an issue to consider when voting. Terms such as "fear mongering" are being thrown out there. Yet, isn't it just plain common sense? Of course it is. It's also good political strategy. Many people here say we want an effective opposition - just not from my District. That's another hang over issue from the political culture of "road politics" that still pervades the province's mentality.

The truth is the NDP are really the only party well suited for Opposition today. Firstly, and most importantly, they aren't the PCs. PC party politicians have been responsible for fiascoes ranging from massive overspending that's left the treasury bust, to unresolved questions over the killing of injured worker (and injured worker advocate) Don Dunphy in his home on Easter Sunday at the hands of Premier Paul Davis's good friend and bodyguard Sgt Joe Smyth of the RNC. They brought us Bill 29. They disallowed any meaningful public scrutiny of Nalcor. They created a financial albatross on Muskrat Falls. Just this year they committed to borrowing $2 billion to have a budgetary deficit of $1 Billion. Yet, as we all know, those figures were based on $63 barrel for oil. It's now $20 less than that. The list goes on and on and on.

Strangely, perhaps, it was the PCs own unbelievable arrogance that finally brought them down. It blinded them from seeing what they were doing was wrong. It led to an assault on the government by a few bloggers, and some local activists on radio shows and social media. A switch in the national political scene brought the death nail as Trudeau's arrival as Liberal leader 2 years ago marked the moment the decline began in a hurry. There is a lesson in that for Dwight Ball. It wasn't anything he did that brought an end to the Tory Tyranny. It was a combination of a hearts and minds war conducted by a few on the ground, and a final coup de grace with a switch in national fortunes. He would do well to commit that to the forefront of his memory.

With the PCs ruled out as Opposition, by any measure of common sense,  the NDP ought to be the default go to party. They are in some ways ideally suited given their roots in social activism and claim to represent the "working man". The next many years, let's just say the foreseeable future, this province is going to see public service cuts, spending cuts, and unemployment that it has not seen in decades - at the least. Given the way the PCs spent, and committed future funds, there is no realistic alternative. It will be a blood bath. A social voice is needed in those circumstances in any case. So, the need for an effective Opposition and an effective social voice should cause the people of the Province to elect at least a rump of an NDP Opposition - although somewhere around 10 or so seats would be better. The odds of this happening are in the hands of the NDP, and to some extent the Liberals. Ball ought to be cautioning people against a 40 seat landslide. I know that sounds politically iffy, but it also sounds statesmanlike and mature. The NDP ought to be selling the need for an effective Opposition, and one that is not responsible for the financial disaster unfolding in the Province. It's a no-brainer, right? I guess we will see if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have learned much from the last 10 years, or whether they enjoy the tyranny of the majority - the absolute majority.

Monday, November 9, 2015

New Facts on the death of Don Dunphy

The tragic death of Don Dunphy has haunted me now for seven months. Don was a close friend on social media, and his plight at the hands of the Workers Compensation Board hit close to home. As a disabled veteran I could have faced the same life-long struggle if it were not for the fact that my injuries were sustained while serving the country in the army. But for the Grace of God... as the saying goes. Many of you will know that I've campaigned long and hard to get the truth out about Don's death - whatever that may be.

To show support for Meghan, Don's daughter, and to serve the memory of Don, my wife and I recently attended the March for Don Dunphy in Mount Carmel - his hometown. Afterwards Meghan and family invited us in for some coffee and biscuits. We had a good talk about Don, and the circumstances surrounding his death that night. The words were spoken in confidence as the details were not yet public. However, national columnist Michael Harris just released a story on Don where some of those details were exposed (here), so silence on those points no longer serves any purpose.

Fact #1

Sgt Joe Smyth, the Premier's personal friend and bodyguard, and officer in charge of internet surveillance for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) at the time, was the officer that shot Don Dunphy to death.

Fact #2

Smyth was alone at the scene for one half hour before other police forces arrived, and found wondering aimlessly around the scene.

Fact #3

Smyth did not write a statement on the shooting until two days after the fact.

Fact #4

Meghan was not allowed to view her father's body until two days after his death.

Fact #5

Premier Paul Davis spoke with Smyth BEFORE the officer had written his statement on the events surround Don's death.

Fact #6

Don was shot numerous times, including at least one shot to the forehead. He died at the scene and his body was not removed until 4:00 a.m. the next day - or roughly 14 hours after he was killed.

These are some shocking, absolutely shocking details of Don's death and the subsequent process. The fact that Paul Davis, the Premier of the Province, and former serving RNC officer with Smyth, would speak to him on the phone prior to Smyth writing his statement is beyond the pale. Given the recent revelation that RNC Sgt Buckle counselled a fellow officer to lie (here) the question becomes: Is the RNC corrupted? Whether it is or not, and whether Davis counselled Smyth or not, the bottom line is he spoke to an officer who killed a man before his statement was written, and that is an outrageous breach. One that should cause his immediate resignation as Premier.

Also, and extremely disturbing, is the fact the officer had two days to give a written statement. Aside from the fact that many details can be forgotten in two days, which is why a statement is normally done immediately, the time lapse gives the officer time to create a story to match the events should he be so inclined.

On a human side, it was very disturbing to learn that Don's daughter could not see her father's body for two days. According to her, the police said she could not see the body due to the Coroner's instructions. When Megan finally contacted the Coroner he stated there was nothing holding her back from seeing her father's body. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that seeing the person's body is a critical part of the process of coming to terms with their death. This basic right was denied to Meghan for days, which I can only imagine must have been pure hell for her.

Of course it is now semi-public knowledge that Sgt Smyth, after writing his statement, and then sending an email that he had "no regrets" to his fellow officers (which was subsequently leaked to the media) hustled off to Florida for a vacation. As disturbing as Don's death was, and remains, to us all, the details thus far released are nearly as disturbing. One thing is for certain though, Premier Paul Davis must immediately resign as Premier, PC leader, and MHA. He has committed an inexcusable act by speaking with his personal friend and officer on the killing of a man without that officer first writing a statement on the events. That is how the truth looks so far in the death of our friend Don Dunphy.