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, 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.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Coronation of Andrew Furey - Part One

Doctor Andrew Furey, son of Senator Furey (Chair of the Senate of Canada), Surgeon, Philanthropist, humanitarian, and family man. Have I missed anything? This is how Furey is being sold to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and all of it is true to one degree or another. However, and it's the biggest however I can give you, that is only one side of Andrew Furey. The other side of Furey, the one that is driving his coronation as Liberal leader and therefore Premier, couldn't be more different. That side of Furey is all business, friends in business, and back room wheeling and dealing. The two seem impossible to reconcile on the face of it, but facts don't lie.

To understand the backroom deal made to bring Furey in as Premier you have to understand that in the realm of the backroom. or the darker side of politics shall we say, there exists a schedule. When a person such as Furey "suddenly" emerges onto the scene, and has this sudden swell of support, you need to understand that it is not spontaneous. It involves years of grooming and positioning by handlers and fixers. Anyone remotely close to Furey's position has both - normally close to their inner circle. They also have financial backers to pay for organizing it all, and to fix those problems that come up along the way. Furey has these folks, and in the following parts to this expose I will be laying them out in detail for the people of the province.

Another important fact to remember is that the soil which has fed the political and business roots of Furey's life has been supplied by his father - Senator George Furey. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that, and all of us might hope our Dad would do the same for us. However, in the context of the rise of Andrew Furey, and the business interests that he has surrounded himself with, it is important to note that his father has been in the general area, so to speak.

All of that generally brings us to the backroom dealings to bring Furey into the Premiership of the province. Without getting into too much detail in this part of the expose, suffice it to say several clues were put out there to show people what happened. The first thing you need to understand is that backroom deals appointing Premier are across party lines - ie: in this case the backroom of the PC Party has decided to throw Ches Crosby on the proverbial pitchfork, and the PCs will be relegated to opposition with a caretaker leader - as per the schedule.

The first clue a move was under foot, from the general public's perspective, was the decision by the Liberal government not to proceed with a public inquiry into the Humber Valley Paving scandal. Frank Coleman, who was at the time owner of the company, and anointed leader of the PC's (Premier in waiting actually), was a long-time business associate of not only Andrew Furey's father, but also Brendan Paddick, John Risley, Peter Woodward, Rex Anthony, and Danny Williams. Other major business people with links to Andrew Furey, and or his father, include people such as Paul Antle and especially Mark Dobbin (as you will see later). Here's a little taste of what's to come on this:

The Fish Merchants Battle For the PC Leadership
Rock Solid Politics, March 30, 2014,

Coleman was educated as an economist. He was the senior economist for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (before there was a Nalcor), and had a private consulting business known as Atlantic Consulting Economists Ltd. Strangely, he wrote a study in 1993 on the economic feasibility of the Trans Labrador Highway - which his company is now paving. But there are many more twists along this road.

It goes back to the fishery, strangely enough. Back to the days of FPI. FPI was a company formed by the provincial government from the assets of a number of failed fishing companies in 1984. Then, in 1987 under Premier Peckford, FPI was privatized. Previous to the privatization, a number of fishing corporations that were competitors to FPI put forward proposals to take it over, but the government wouldn't relax the rule of a maximum 15% ownership per entity. The predecessor to Iceland Group PLC was one of them. The Risley Group (Clear Water) was another. The proposals were refused by the government, and John Risely blamed the Williams government for meddling in the deal, and killing it.

In any case, Bill Barry of the Barry Group (the other PC leadership candidate) thought he had secured a deal to buy FPI's Newfoundland assets - so much so that it was made public: 

But, the Williams' government didn't go with Mr. Barry. Instead, the assets were sold off to Ocean Choice International which was owned by Ches Penney of the Penney Group. National media were so perplexed by Penney's move that they speculated he could be the front man for an Icelandic company:
The other successful bidder was High Liner Foods Inc of Nova Scotia - which bought a plant and FPI's US marketing arm.

What was left of FPI became FP Resources Ltd. (FPR) FPR's membership is a who's who of the Newfoundland and Labrador business establishment : Peter Woodward (Woodward Group); Rex Anthony (Anthony Group); Frank Coleman (Coleman Group); and previous members John Crosby and George Furey. International players are: Iceland Group PLC; Glitner Banki hf (recently stripped of its bank status in Iceland and in the midst of serious issues); Eric Barratt (Sanford Limited New Zealand); and Randy Bishop (Whitecap International Seafood Exporters). John Risely and his Risely Group of Nova Scotia round out the list.

FP Resources took its cash from the fishery and began investing in the Caribbean. Specifically it began investing in a company called CFFI Venture (Barbados) Inc. (CFFI). CFFI in turn invested in Columbus Communications Ltd, a privately owned telecommunications company that provides retail, cable and internet services to Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Grenada, and broadband connectivity to Caribbean countries.  Columbus is run by Newfoundlander Brendan Paddick. He was also the CEO of Persona Communications, which some of you may remember being at the centre of a $15 million contract controversy (Williams' government gave Persona an untendered  $15 million contract to deliver cable services to Labrador). "

By dropping the judicial/public inquiry into Coleman and his company, the Liberals signaled a deal had been done. Within a week Dwight Ball resigned as Premier. The media in the province is spinning Ball's departure as an uprising within the caucus against Ball. The truth is that certain cabinet ministers within the caucus, acting in conjunction (more or less orders) with the backroom, deliberately undermined Ball to make room for Furey. Furthermore, there is evidence the federal Liberal party is up to its neck in the Furey coronation (later in parts to come). Suffice it to say that the political/business establishment is behind the "sudden rise" of Andrew Furey.

It is also evident that once Furey is made leader of the Liberal Party (officially), and Premier (officially), that he will call a summer election. The first clue for this is the temporary spending bill just passed in the House of Assembly that funds the government until June. The second clue is that Furey will be an un-elected Premier, which has never happened in the province's history, and therefore its a good excuse to call an election so he can "have a mandate, blah, blah...". You get the idea.

Other signs to look for:

1. The media, especially the CBC, spinning stories that make Ches Crosbie look bad or ineffectual;

2.  Media, or Liberal spinners (yes, like you Lori Ann Oates), stressing the need for a new economy in the province based on technology rather than resources (as if the place doesn't need every single cent it can squeeze from any rock available...)

3.  Key words like "transformational"and "generational" and "fundamental" "change" coming from the media, business, and/or previously mentioned shills. These words are a clue to what Furey and his business backers/friends have in store for the province. They're trying to get people thinking along those lines before they bring in their plans;

4.  A heavy emphasis on the state of the economy and the desperate need to act - to create fear in the public, and condition them for saving solution; and

4.  Marginalizing of critics publicly.

These are some of the things you can expect. There may well be others for the same purpose. The important thing for you to know, as a Newfoundlander and Labradorean, is that you are being played yet again by the business elite of the province - as disgusting as that is. Muskrat Falls made some in the business community very rich. They took what little money you had, and then they mortgaged you for generations, but they got their piece. Now they are about to do it again. This time it will involve technology. The "transformation" that Furey referred to in his opening address has to do with digitizing the province, artificial intelligence, and selling people's genetic information - most notably to an American corporation. All the players mentioned above have a hand in it. Most have formed corporations to profit from it. It's happening exactly the same way Muskrat Falls happened: an arranged political coronation that has at its core people with vested interests that will cost the people of the province whatever they might have left.

The parts coming up in this expose will be the detailed breakdown of the business people involved in this "transformation", their relationship to Andrew/George Furey, and the detailed breakdown of the corporations and organizations they have established over the last decade to get ready for this moment. You've been warned. Be vigilant. Be informed. Let others know the truth. If you question whether I'm telling you the truth ask yourself this: "Was he telling us the truth about Muskrat Falls?"