"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

No more secret deals? No! More secret deals!

3.2.2      The Milestone Date of "Within 18 months following the actual date of Phase 1 Completion" is deleted where it appears in Section (c) in the Table following Section 4.1A.2.

3.2.5      There is added to Article 4 a new Section 4.4B as follows:

                4.4B Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge (2014) The Proponent shall pay to Government a definitive unprocessed nickel charge in respect of Nickel-in Concentrate exported from the Province pursuant to the Additional Exemption (2014) ("Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge (2014)"). The Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge (2014) shall be calculated using the same formula as is currently in Section 4.4A of the Agreement in respect of the Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge, but the rate of 8% shall be increased to 11% in respect of the Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge (2014). All other provisions of Section 4.4A shall apply to the calculation of the Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge (2014), mutatis mutandis.

3.2.6      Section 4.7A.2 is amended by deleting the date "30 September 2014" and replacing it by the date "30 April 2015"

3.5.1      The Table following Section 15.5 is amended by deleting therefrom the last line "4.1A.2(c) – Processing Plant. "Phase 2" Completion (18 months following the date of "Phase 1" Completion) – 90 days".

4.6          Confidentiality. The Government and Proponent agree that the provisions and information described below each contains commercially sensitive information and shall be maintained in strictest confidence and not disclosed to the public, all in accordance with the provisions of Article 9 of the Agreement:

(a) the Milestone Date provided in Section 3.2.2 of this Sixth Amendment Agreement;
(b) the amount of the Definitive Unprocessed Nickel Charge (2014);
(c) the date upon which the Benefits Plan shall be agreed upon as provided in Section 3.2.6 of this Sixth Amendment Agreement;
(d) the removal of a “Phase 2” Completion date under Section 3.5.1 of this Sixth Amendment Agreement; and
(e) this Section 4.6.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the provisions and information described in Section 4.6 may be disclosed to the public when such information is no longer commercially sensitive as determined by the Parties acting reasonably, and the provisions of Section 9.3 of the Agreement shall not apply to any such disclosure, provided that the particulars of the dollar amounts of the Liquidated Damages and the Contingent Unprocessed Nickel Charge may only be disclosed with the prior Approval of the Proponent.

The Parties acknowledge and agree that this Section 4.6 shall not apply to preclude the public disclosure in general terms by the Government of the nature and effect of this Sixth Amendment Agreement, nor prevent the disclosure by the Government of any information concerning the subject matter of this Sixth Amendment Agreement which has been publically disclosed by the Government prior to the date hereof.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lede buried

From the tail end of the recent CBC report concerning the political finance history of Justice Robert Stack:
Stack told CBC News the donations were made by his law firm on his behalf, adding that "they don't show any blind allegiance to a party," and he wasn't even aware of the amounts actually donated
Um, wut?

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Friday, January 30, 2015

Cabinet government

The Williams Dunderdale Marshall Coleman Marshall Davis Government released a rather self-serving report on its first 120 days in office this evening.

Apart from Premier Davis himself, the report mentions three other cabinet ministers by name:
  • Steve Kent
  • Tony Cornect
  • Ross Wiseman
  • Judy Manning

Steve Kent, who ran for the PC leadership himself last year, and who totally didn't have a sooper-sekrit leadership pact with Paul Davis, but who threw his support to Davis after being eliminated, garnered five mentions.

Tony Cornect received two, and Ross Wiseman, one.

Judy Manning, who has yet to set foot in the House of Assembly as a Member of that august body, also received one.

No other cabinet minister, elected or otherwise, merited a mention.

Maybe someone with a fresher memory will recall who Messrs. Cornect and Wiseman, and Ms. Manning, supported during the PC leadership race.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Private to John Riche

Cumulative number of times Wade Locke's name has been invoked in the House of Assembly, by caucus.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

There. They fixed it.

The left-hand column represents the $916-million deficit projected in the December financial update, which bore the deliciously orwellian headline "Responsible Decisions Secure Long-Term Prosperity".

The column on the right represents $2-million — the estimated cost-savings from the bold reform of cutting eight members from the House of Assembly.

What? You don't see a right hand column?

Click to enlarge.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thirty-eight (II)

Alan Hall has gone back to the drawing board with some slightly changed assumptions, and drawn up another 38-district electoral map.

Hello, radio listeners.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Electoral deadlines

As of this evening January 18, 2015, Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has still not published party financial disclosures for 2013.

This is a perennial problem. The financial disclosures for the seven calendar years from 2012 through 2006, inclusive, were not published until, respectively, 374, 359, 431, 348, 331, 483, and 436 days after the close of that year. On an average, it takes Elections NL until the end of January to disclose party and candidate financials from the calendar year two years before.

Oh — and the annual report for 2011, which did sneak in under the wire before 2012 came to a close, failed to distinguish regular contributions to political parties from those made during the campaign period, as required by s. 299 of the Elections Act. Elections NL has still not explained this lack of disclosure.

Elections NL has not published any candidate's campaign finance documentation for any of the by-elections held so far during the life of the current legislature, including two — Cartwright–L'anse au Clair and Carbonear–Harbour Grace — which were held two calendar years ago, in 2013. Nor is there any sign of that for the Virginia Waters by-election, held nine months ago in April 2014.

It is probably too much to expect that the financial reports from more recent by-elections — St. George's–Stephenville East in August, and Conception Bay South, Humber East, and Trinity–Bay de Verde — would yet be available. But it is not too much to expect the release by now of the detailed, official poll-by-poll voting results of those by-elections, given the relatively light work that such a job would entail. But no: there is no sign of them, either.

The most recent by-election report is that for Virginia Waters, which is dated September 23, 2014 — 167 days after polling day. On average, since 2003, it has taken Elections NL nearly four months to publish official by-election results. Entire, large provinces report the poll-by-polls of their entire general elections in less time. It takes Elections NL, on average, the entire nine months they are given by statute, to publish poll-by-poll results of a general election. This, in the second-least-populous province, and in an era when other provincial electoral offices are able to do so in mere weeks, or even days. This is a perennial problem, but not one which causes Elections NL any embarrassment.

They would appear to be incapable of it.

There's more. Of course there's more. Even after Elections NL finally gets around to "publishing" its report — it defines "publishing" as sending a copy to the legislative library — it can take additional weeks for the House of Assembly to accept the report, either by tabling it or deeming it tabled. There are entire swathes of by-electoral history which have never been tabled in the House of Assembly, for reasons unknown.

In the last two sets of by-elections, Elections NL has even managed to publish the wrong preliminary count on election night in Humber East and Conception Bay South, even as the scrutineers for one of the political parties, working from the exact same set of election-night Deputy Returning Officer tallies, came up with the correct figure before their victory parties were even shut down.

(And don't even think of asking for the same type of digital district and polling-division boundary files that other electoral officers routinely make available for download.)

All of which is why it would be funny, if it weren't so serious, that Elections Newfoundland and Labrador has given everyone a heads-up that they are setting a pretty firm deadline for the redrawing of the provincial electoral boundaries:

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Saturday, January 17, 2015


Via electoral cartographer-psephologist extraordinaire Alan Hall, here's a putative example of what a 38-district provincial electoral map could look like.

[Edited to fix embedded map.]

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Not quite getting this "openness" thing (Part II)

On December 5th, the Office of Public Engagement released a wonderful collection of reports documenting some of the things they have learned through their internal and external consultations over the past number of months.

Records on the internal consultations, sounding out government's own employees on issues of openness and disclosure, are fascinating reading. It is quite clear that when it comes to transparency and access to information, there are many inside government who "get it".

And then there are the others. The ones who are still cowering like sand crabs in a shell of paranoia, second-guessing who wants what information and why. The ones who keep coming up with supposed technological and other obstacles to sharing information that exist only in their imaginations, and not in the real world. The ones who obsess over "misuse" of information — whatever that is.

A sampling:

Making Government more open
  • Careful not to put too much data info out that is too much and becomes not useful or used.
  • Will it be interesting to people, or will it be of minimal interest?
  • The people who were interested might only be mildly interested
  • We don’t have the people power and money to upload all of this in presentable forms
  • The problem with making everything free, there is a potential misuse of information
  • Why put up the information public if it has only 4 views?
Improving Public Engagement
  • Do away with Fridays
  • We have already proactively disclosed of a lot of information, like expenses and salaries and it doesn’t really make much of a difference
Improving Collaboration
  • Putting policies up online can be open to interpretation, so that can also cause a problem when uploading them
  • Hard to talk about collaboration when approval to travel to this session was questioned.
Information Sharing
  • Try to limit the amount of information that has to go through a democratic process
  • Tricky to decide what information needs to be released and what doesn’t
  • Putting information up on the website has increased the sensitivity internally about what is shared.
  • The release of some of the ATIPP requests online actually deter some from requesting information
  • Then there is a problem of people paying for information currently, then everyone gets it anyway
  • But without putting money on it, then people will make frivolous requests and ask for multiple things and all the information
  • I think there is a culture of ownership of government works and that it can’t be shared
  • Need to get over the fear of releasing the information.
  • Sometimes the information that public is seeking is not going to help me do my job. I wouldn't take the time to collect.
  • Government needs to “get over” the fear of providing information
Data Sharing
  • How do you decide what is meaningful to share; need to have dialogue with people to understand that (Combination of pillars!)
  • Does the public really want such information and is it worth it compared to the costs to do this?
  • Are people doing anything with it? Are we just liberating data for no reason, is there a net outcome?
  • Unless there is a demand, should it be released?
  • More is not always best
  • Formats would have to be the same across government
  • The volumes of data make it impractical to share everything
  • Need to figure out what people need to know
Additional Comments
  • Is it really the public that wants this or is it politics?
  • Maybe some people just want government to do their jobs
  • Ensure that released data is indeed appropriate to be released (quality, privacy, etc.)
What We Heard: Data Session
  • Personal privacy is an issue—must be protected; what is the intent of people wanting such information
  • Formats that aren’t accessible to broad public i.e GIS mapping
  • Types of information can be left open for interpretation
  • Ever changing data – when do you draw the line
  • The public don’t want a table full of data
  • You don’t want just the ticked off people
  • We have to keep in mind political sensitivities

This corner, for one, would truly be fascinated to learn more about this idea of abolishing Fridays.


Friday, December 19, 2014

Not quite getting this "openness" thing (Part I)

Over at, there's an interesting proactively-disclosed Access to Information request.

In it, the requester asked the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture for:
Copy of the review prepared for the provincial government by Burke Consulting Inc. on a review of the minimum processing requirements - as noted in a press release from DFA dated Sept. 13, 2006.
Given the apparently weighty nature of the document requested and released, it's a bit surprising to find that the PDF of the release is only 313KB and four pages long.

That would be because, as yet another example in a broader pattern, the release package bears the following annotation:

Potential copyright material

If you wish to obtain a copy please contact the ATIPP Office at (709) 729-7072 or
Well, sure, you could do that.

Or you could just go over and download the report — or at least a redacted version thereof — from the DFA's website.

The Ministry of Openness could use a refresher course in the governing party's long-standing committment to openness and transparency. In their 2003 platform, the Progressive Conservatives under what's-his-name promised:
A Progressive Conservative government will ... release to the public every government-commissioned report within 30 days of receiving it, indicate the action government will take on a report's recommendations within 60 days, and ensure prompt public access to all government reports in hard copy and on the Internet.

It would seem bizarre and illogical that the government is now relying on (rather dubious) copyright grounds to avoid releasing copies of reports it has commissioned, and, indeed, published elsewhere in its little web empire.

Perhaps it would assuage the nervous legal nellies in if government were to make it a standard requirement for all outside consulting contracts that copyright in the resulting work either be transferred to the government, or at very least that government obtain an unlimited license to the third-party reports it commissions and pays for.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mr Speaker, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Tellitorialists the other day, Mr. Speaker, made some hay, Mr. Speaker, not only, Mr. Speaker, out of the Bow-Wow Parliamentarians' overuse of the phrase "Mr. Speaker", Mr. Speaker, but also, Mr. Speaker, of the Hansard editors' application of the editorial pen, Mr. Speaker, in mercifully protecting future readers, Mr. Speaker, of having to put up with repetitive, Mr. Speaker, and redundant, Mr. Speaker, addressing of remarks through Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker:
Jeers: to an inaccurate public record. It behooves us, Mr. Speaker, to point out, Mr. Speaker, that the official record, Mr. Speaker, also known as Hansard, Mr. Speaker, seems to be inaccurate, Mr. Speaker. Specifically, the House of Assembly transcripts are missing several utterances of “Mr. Speaker.” The annoying habit of some members has been glossed over by whoever is writing things down. In a series of answers by Services NL Minister Tony Cornect last week, seven utterances of the term became one in Hansard, then seven became one again, then nine became two, then five became three. If you read the record, you would think the minister only occasionally uttered the term, rather than repeating it ad nauseum. Some shorthand is understandable, such as non-recognized members saying the generic “Hear! Hear!” But this practice leaves a false impression about what was said — or, more accurately, how it was said.
So that got a body wondering: is the Bow-Wow Parliament, as many observers sense anecodotally, getting misterspeakerier?

Mr. Speaker, the answer, Mr. Speaker, is yes, Mr. Speaker.

For the purposes of this exercise, misterspeakeriness is measured in the number of instances of "Mr. Speaker", as well as "Mr. Chair/Madam Speaker/Madam Chair", uttered in debate of the House, including when it is resolved into Committee of the Whole, by identified ordinary Members, expressed as a share of total words spoken. "Identified ordinary Members" means that the words of the presiding officer are excluded, as are those of unidentified Members ("Some Hon. Members" or "An Hon. Member"), and those uttered by non-Members, such as the Clerk, the Lieutenant-Governor, or guests.

This chart shows the misterspeakeriness of debate, as recorded in Hansard, in each session of the House of Assembly since Hansard records begin in HTML format.

Subject to possibly changing editorial tastes by the magical gnomes who produce Hansard, there was a pronounced uptick in misterspeakeriness in recent years, though, whether in the real world or due to editorial fashion, it has fallen off somewhat. The increase in misterspeakeriness would appear to be largely driven by an increase on the government benches:

This would tend to confirm the conspiracy-minded belief that increasing misterspeakeriness is a way of diminishing the amount of meaningful, and potentially embarrassing content that comes out of government members' mouths, especially during Question Period. (Some wags have suggested a similar trend is at work in the House of Commons.)

By contrast, here is the trend for the combined opposition side:

By party caucus, here are comparative figures for the Tories:
The Liberals:
And the NDP:

(Private to all Members: you only need to address yourself to the Speaker once, off the top.)

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Straining to restrain

Early on Thursday afternoon, Premier Paul Davis, and whoever the Finance Minister is, went before the legislative gallery to announce hiring and spending freezes:

Within two hours, their own party was happily stomping all over the "restraint" message track, because nothing says restraint quite like tooting your own spending: