Friday, September 29, 2006

Scott Simms, MP and fallow fields

Normally the MP after Mr. Simms' name would mean Member of Parliament but in this case it means Missing Perspective.

Today it's reported that he's working on a private member's bill to put in place fallow fields provisions on the offshore. His office, they say, are working on wording even as we speak.

This may be the last we ever hear of it because as they delve into the issue, they should soon realize that Premier's Williams' call for fallow fields is not a call for legal action, it's pure politics.

Fallow offshore fields means potential petroleum developments that companies want to sit on for one reason or another but that government wants to see move forward.

In this case, however, we have companies who want to move forward but they just can't come to an agreement with Premier Williams on terms.

When Mr. Willaims says he wants "use it or lose it", what he really means is "do it my way or else". That's a negotiating dispute, not a fallow-fields situation.

Mr. Williams is calling for fallow fields provisions, not to force development over the objections of companies who don't want it, but rather to force a development on his terms.

Those two things are not the same thing.

So what will Mr. Simms discover as he proceeds on his merry way? Either that he can introduce substantive fallow fields provisions into the enabling legislations that won't apply in the case of Williams versus Hebron anyway or he will produce meaningless political drivel passing as legislative amendments that will never move off the order paper.

Anti-province anti-sealing site

Before you check this link, make sure you are up to date on your blood pressure medication. I heard about this site before but never had a chance to look at it.

I've already posted on or otherwise pointed out the reprehensible tactics of the anti-sealers here and here and even triggered a legal letter to the Telegram for my trouble. But I've never seen anything quite like this before. This is a cyber-smear of the first order.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Right to Know Week - Post #100

As OffalNews reaches the milestone of post #100, this week marks International Right To Know Week.

I'll merely point out that this provincial government press release marks and explains the occasion and leave all the multiple layers of irony of that fact to others. Other excellent internet sources include a site for the Freedom of Information Advocates Network and the leading Freedom of Information & Open Government Blog.

This is an issue particularly close to my heart because I've always suspected that the government reflex, on both the political and bureaucratic level, to withhold information from the public and media had more to do with controlling levels of embarrassment than disrupting effective government operations through unduly revealing the sensitive information government needs to make decisions.

I have yet to be proven wrong.

I held a minor role in the provincial government when the legislation and concepts of the current provisions of the access to information act were being developed and I recall the many explanatory briefings before and during the roll-out period.

The principle was simple: with very few exceptions, all information was deemed to be open to release to anybody who asked, no questions asked, outside of narrow exceptions which had to be justified to the person making the request and, ultimately, to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Overall the default position was to release information, not to hold it back.

But it didn't take very long before these lofty goals were highjacked by self-serving bureaucrats and politicians.

Now I don't want to paint all politicians and bureaucrats with the same brush. I have known plenty of both who had no problem disclosing all the information they had to. Many generally wanted to, and would have, disclosed more if they could in the interests of the public's right to know. And contrary to popular thought in the public and media, it is not the political class who obstruct most freedom of information requests; it's the officials.

I've been told of incidents where senior communications officials in government, those entrusted and ethically bound to full and complete disclosure of information as part of their professional responsibilities, have obstructed freedom of information requests on the flimsiest grounds.

In one case, a very senior communications bureaucrat, with smug and proud self-satisfaction, refused to release a file requested by a reporter when she knew that it was the exact material the reporter was asking for. Why? Because the request was not phrased using the *exact* and *precise* description of the file.

Of course how would the reporter know the exact and precise description of the file without ever seeing it? This was in contravention of the spirit and intent of the legislation and arguably in contravention of a few letters of it too.

In another case a media outlet recently requested another file of information. From the media reports that followed, I strongly suspect that important parts of the files were held back from that reporter simply to avoid embarrassment to officials who deserved to be embarrassed.

Again, I suspect the reporter has no idea that he's been snookered.

I remember speculation by officials and politicians that if written materials would be subject to discloser then that would merely lead to more oral briefings as a way of disclosure avoidance. I note with some sad horror that the local media reports that this has come to pass.

The Telegram, to their credit, has vigorously pursued this issue and well they should.

When the House of Assembly closed on Friday, December 17, 2004, government was proud of implementing their "Accountability Agenda" and CBC reported that:

A revised Freedom of Information Act was passed, with career civil servant Phil Wall appointed as information commissioner. "The system is going to change," Byrne says. "And while we may not or any government may not want to issue or give information, we've put in place a systemic approach by where information will be readily available to the general public, to groups and organizations who may wish to have it, that was not there before. So we feel very strongly that we've changed the current system."
They certainly did.

Whatever fine work this government may or may not have done, there is no doubt in my mind that this government is obsessively secretive to an absurd fault and that they have reinterpreted the provisions of the Access to Information legislation in a way that clamps down a lid on information disclosure.

In areas like this, government is lead from the top. When the top dog in the province, the Premier, gets into long and protracted battled over information disclosure issues it sets the standard for everyone else in government. They too will drag their heels and obstruct.

Strangely, it's not enough to just talk about openness, transparency and disclosure; you have to put your money where your mouth is.

In celebration of Right to Know week, OffalNews has turned it's mind to a project: to make an access to information request to a provincial government department and to track the progress. I know local media outlets do that all the time but I have something special in mind.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

City Council and the real world

Councillor Keith Coombs is quoted in the Telegram today with his point of view on the mill rate adjustment for the City of St. John's.

He says that the city will first determine how much the city needs to operate and then the city will set the mill rate accordingly.

Imagine if we all lived our lives the that way:

  • First we decide the kind of lifestyle we want: say 2 trips to Florida a year, steak every meal, bigger house and a full-time maid.
  • THEN we go to our boss and tell them how much they are going to pay us this year.
Wouldn't we all want to live our lives that way?

That's the difference between the kind of living within our means that we all have to do every day in the real world and the sort of casual public adminstatrion we see at city hall.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why I support Stephane Dion

The media is a funny creature.

According to the Independent, I am a prominent Liberal who is supporting Stephane Dion. At the same time and in the same weekend, according to the charming, perceptive and ever-sunny Telegram columnist Bill Rowe I am a mere low-level functionary - a flunky, so to speak - supporting Stephane Dion.

In the end, what can I say in the face of such a barrage of widely disparate observations except that they both correctly report that I am a supporter of Stephane Dion for the Liberal Party leadership.

I've never tried to bury my partisan inclinations but nor have I been a blinkered warrior in the cause of the big red machine. It's possible that under other circumstances, I could have become a tory, albeit a red one. I'm sure I'd be mighty uncomfortable in the federal Conservative Party the way it is now, for example.

I think my world view tends towards the purple (reddish-blue or bluish-red as you'd prefer) on economic issues. In terms of government activity in everyday life, the more time I spent in government the more libertarian I've become because I've seen from the inside too much of the incompetencies that passes as government "core competencies".

But on the issue of national unity, one close to my heart, I am an unrepentant federalist because I believe, and can argue on many grounds, that it's the way forward with the best future for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and for the country, the bleating of the local nationalists notwithstanding.

Now I have had severe objections with the leadership of the provincial and federal Liberal parties at different times. On the national level I always though Martin was a weak and vacillating disaster who damaged the party and the country by trying to be all things to all people all the time. And I was certainly disappointed with the reign of the regional minister John Efford who always seemed out of his depth and appeared advised by fools of a similar state.

Provincially, the leadership of Leo Barry was a dark time and I undertook a policy of total abstention from all partisan activity during the Tobin interregnum because I could not help but conclude that he was short-sighted and self-serving on almost every level. Even in the periods which I generally admired, the Grimes premiership for one, I had grave reservations about certain initiatives (the infamous Vic Young royal commission, for one) and objected when I could and to whom I could.

At the same time there are many Progressive Conservative politicians that I've greatly admired over the years because they were fine people who did worthy things regardless of party stripe: Ross Reid (greatly wasted where he is now), John Ottenheimer (a very fine gentleman), Trevor Taylor (courageous, tough and smart - too bad he was cut off at the knees by his

And of course John Crosbie: a first-class mind, the most powerful and effective regional minister and perhaps the greatest provincial premier and Prime Minister of Canada that never was. We need more like him of every stripe because they can make a difference in our society.

Overall, though, my political home, and where I've felt most comfortable most of my life, has been with the Liberals on the provincial and federal level.

My personality and way of dealing with issues is part of the reason I've found my home with the Liberals. One thing that drives me to distraction about the current federal Conservatives and the NDP at all levels is their ideological drive and zeal. In their worldview there is no need to ask questions because, as far as they're concerned, the answers are obvious and are fed by their ideological rectitude.

In that sense the right wing of the Conservatives and the main part of the NDP are not dissimilar.

That's not a way to dealing with the world to which I subscribe. In the end I'm too much a rationalist and a skeptic to be comfortable with a party that has all the answers - I think asking the right questions is more important. Critics of the blue and orange variety might refer to that perspective as amoral pragmatism and often do when denigrating the grits. Sorry but I can't agree with that characterization; it's glib and facile.

A special case of the party having all the answers is following the Leader who has all the answers. For some reason this province is particularly prone to that affliction and it's one that I can't abide by. Both parties have been guilty of this. The Liberals went through this under Smallwood and it took years to get out from under that shadow. The local PC's have drank from that well under a few different leaders with the highlights, or low points depending on your perspective, being the Peckford regime and the current Leader Who Must Be Obeyed.

It was that kind of repellent political foolishness that led to my first active political experience in the late 80's when I volunteered in the '89 election and found myself on the Clyde Wells Express crisscrossing the province with the man who would become Premier. I worked for him afterwards for three years and learned much about politics, the province and what was possible.

It was chance that brought me there but it was fortuitous chance. At a open meeting at MUN where I was taking some odd courses, I heard Wells articulate a rational view of provincial and national politics that echoed what I held dear. After the nationalistic breast-beating lunacy of the Peckford years, it was a breath of fresh air.

But that is all a digression from the topic at hand - my political inclination favouring Dion. In the mass of faceless federal cabinet ministers of the Chretien era, Dion was the one that caught my attention for a couple of different reasons.

First was his relentless dogging of the nationalist mythmakers of the Quebec separatist movement. As federal minister of intergovernmental Affairs (Unity minister), he was meticulous in responding to every misleading, untrue and unsubstantiated comment by Parti Quebecois government officials with public letters clarifying and correcting the statement at hand. Through this process, he helped prevent further corrosive nationalistic myths from taking hold in the public consciousness in Quebec.

And he did it without rancor or rant but was clear and substantial in every refutation of PQ government claims. I often wished we had his equivalent in this province.

Second was his championing of the Clarity Act. While many in the Liberal party quaked about provoking separatist fervor in Quebec, he dared to bring logic and clarity to a murky issue. Through a Supreme Court reference, he established clear ground rules on future referendum conditions including the substance of the question, some conditions under which future referendum campaigns could be fought and the circumstances under which the federal government would open negotiations. These principles were written into the Clarity Act which has become, I believe, the ultimate tool to deter the kind of nationalistic shenanigans which threatened the integrity of this country in the past.

Third is his combination of political realpolitik experience with a keen academic mind. While coming from a very successful academic background, his real and hard political experience has lead him away from the kinds of rookie mistakes made by Ignatieff, for example, who recklessly talks about re-opening the constitutional issue for what I can only characterize as short-term political advantage. For that reason I can't help but put Ignatieff in the same class as that other great politically motivated constitutional reformer, the Rt Hon Brian Mulroney.

When Dion says the Canada is a country that works better in practice than in principle, he recognizes the kinds of hard choices and compromises that needs to be made without sacrificing certain bedrock principles.

In the end I don't think the PMO is the place for on-the-job training in federal politics.

Finally, I was impressed with his grace in the face of political humiliation. Once the Martin forces seized the levers of the Prime Minister's Office, they shortsightedly worked to sweep away any remnants of l'ancienne regime. This included Dion who was dropped from cabinet. But in the 2004 election, when circumstance threatened to sweep the Martin government out of office, Martin brought Dion in from the cold. Dion, in spite of the shabby treatment afforded him by the Martin team thus far, agreed to assist in the party's Quebec and prairie campaigns where he was credited with winning several close ridings.

He placed the future of the team over that of his personal ego. That makes him a far bigger man that many others in his position.

A few weeks ago Dion came to St. John's. I organized his media work (hence the email to Bill Rowe) and squired him about for the 36 hours he was here. He was a very quick study, charming and considerate with a subtle sense of humour I appreciate.

On a personal gut level, I was impressed with him a person and, when you get right down to it, that is as important as any number of more cerebral factors.

I'm happy to see Stephane Dion jump into the race for Liberal leader and I'm glad to see others recognize what I'd long seen in him. Right now, I'd be hard pressed to imagine a better choice.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Weather: Cold? What cold?

(This was my Telegram Community Editorial Board piece published March 2, 2006. That's the end of the houskeeping posting of that material)

In the weeks before I came here to Iqaluit on the southern tip of Baffin Island, “bring a warm coat”, was the constant refrain I heard.

It didn’t matter if that person was up here, or if that person had people up here or if that person had no idea what it was like up here. The consensus was – it’s a cold spot. My daughter started to monitor Iqaluit weather on TV and saw numbers she’s never associated with home. Honestly; when was the last time we had –47c wind chill in St. John’s?

I retrieved my parka from storage and bought leather/thinsulate gloves and high-performance/high-tech long underwear just in case.

Meanwhile I heard on the news that the polar icecaps were melting at rates faster than initially thought. What a break, I thought lightly, if that happened before I got here. You never know; it could happen. But rather than being gone by the time I arrived, it seemed like I got here just in time to see them go.

A few days ago the thermometer hit +6c. Since then it’s hovered mostly around daytime highs of +2 or so. This is a major local event in a month considered to be the coldest of the year so naturally this has been the cause of much discussion.

I’ve learned that this is causing problems across Nunavut for a variety of reasons.

First, it’s causing social confusion and disorientation, particularly amongst the older folks. Life here is traditionally based on the timeless rhythms of weather and seasons, which have told the Inuit when to hunt and when to move from one place to another. In a society based upon oral tradition and the received wisdom from the Elders, when the Elders are confused, that makes waves throughout the community. An unprecedented temperature spike shift upwards of 25 degrees Celsius or more is bound to do that.

Second, it causes storms and other unpredictable and unfamiliar weather. The other night we had thunder and lightning while the temperature was around 0c. That’s considered very strange around here. Also high winds are hitting many of the isolated communities. It cuts off their power with no way of getting linesmen in there for repairs for several days. Never mind the general wind damage to buildings etc.

Third, on a practical level, it’s affecting the food larders. Food shipped in from the south and bought in stores is enormously expensive so many rely on “country food”. The arctic equivalent of “bush meat”, country food is game – caribou, arctic char and whatever else can be fished, trapped or shot and then cleaned for human consumption. To store, simply toss into the backyard shed out of reach of dogs and it will keep for months because of the very cold conditions. Unless the temperature climbs above freezing, of course. Now people are approaching the territorial government for compensation.

Finally, it changes the natural rhythms for hunting, fishing and trapping. The reduction in offshore pack ice makes it difficult for seals to breed and for polar bears to hunt. Normally, in Iqaluit, all you have to do is go three miles out of town and you can find caribou for the taking. Local hunters tell me that they don’t see them out there now. The herds seem to have moved on for a while.

Clearly global warming is making its presence felt up here. There’s no doubt that it’s coming soon to a place near you too.

Williams Versus Ruelokke

(For the sake of completeness, I include this last column from my stint on the Telegram Community Editorial Board: Williams versus Ruelokke, published Aug 17, 2006)

On July 12th, Premier Williams said he would abide by the decision of the Judge Raymond Halley on the matter of Max Ruelokke’s appointment as Chairman and CEO of the CNLOPB.

Judge Halley then ruled that Ruelokke has already been Chair since December 2005 and this must be acknowledged by the Province.

Now Williams has backtracked: he merely “accepts” the findings of the court while not necessarily committed to abiding by them.

When the premier and his officials are pressed to explain this change, the replies are predictable. The usual buzzwords like prudent review, good governance, doing drilldown and performing a due diligence piece are bandied about to provide cover while government plays for time and figures out which way to jump.

Williams has even resorted to undermining the credibility of the judgment and belittling Judge Halley himself. He calls the conclusions of this senior jurist “over the top” and attributes his reasoning to “getting up on the wrong side of the bed”, thus calling into disrepute the administration of justice.

Government might think it can take its time in thoroughly reviewing the matter at its leisure but time is ticking and other parties are moving forward.

While government dithers, Mr. Ruelokke has already shown a strong disinclination to leave his fate in the hands of others. Thanks to the clarity of the Halley judgment, I can only imagine he's less inclined now.

Mr. Ruelokke has said he hopes to be on the job by Labour Day. No doubt he will take further action if the government continues to stall.

Meanwhile, federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn has repeated federal acceptance of the panel decision and support for putting Ruelokke to work now.

While we can't predict for sure what Premier will eventually do, his choices are limited.

He can immediately heed the judgment and let Mr. Ruelokke take the job he has already held de facto since December 5, 2005. This would put the matter to bed, provide much-needed leadership at the CNLOPB and allow government to get on with other important business.

Unfortunately, it now looks like Williams may choose to appeal, most likely a fruitless exercise that will only delay the inevitable. It would also make the government and the Premier appear spiteful, obstinate and graceless.

Williams’ best choice is clear and is based on his preferred self‑image as an eminent lawyer, successful businessman and honourable politician.

As a lawyer, he is equipped to understand the decision that Ruelokke is already the Chair. As an officer of the court, he is obliged to heed decisions of the court without undue or mischievous delay. If he plans to appeal, he should announce that now instead of playing it to the bitter end.

As a businessman he must know the consequences of continued instability in the province's largest industry - the biggest source of provincial government revenue and the largest industrial contributor to our GDP. He must understand that the longer this drags out, the more the world sees a province whose economic policy and petroleum regulatory regime is based on capricious whim and not rational public policy decisions.

As an honourable politician he is obligated to keep his word: his word on July 12th was that he would abide by the decision of the courts. At that time he placed no caveats, equivocations, conditions or exceptions on his declaration of intent.

This is a watershed moment for this government and for the Premier in particular; unjustified delay under the camouflage of prudence damages credibility and calls into question any statement he makes in the future on any issue.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A New Years Resolution - Optimism

(Published Jan 5, 2006 as part of the Telegram Community Editorial Board)

(Update: I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge a rebutting post from Sue called Political Realist. Judge for yourself.)

I have trouble getting excited over every off-the-cuff remark made by mainland newspaper columnist. And I am mystified when people choose to respond with a level of political umbrage normally provoked by vicious racial attacks.

Let me be clear: I’m not a political naif, I’m a political optimist. So when I hear a rude or offensive statement about this province or its people, I can take it in without automatically assuming the comment is malicious. It’s far more likely to be clumsy, accidental or simply ignorant.

But what does the political pessimist hear? That person hears an offensive remark, assumes malice and concludes that anti-Newfoundland conspiracies must be at work. They believe that people and institutions are actively working to keep our province down and/or prevent us from getting our “fair share” (whatever that is). That response is more than cynicism. It is a peculiar form of political paranoia.

This would all be merely be a point of interest to an academic psychologist, were it not for the fact that this perspective is alive and well in Newfoundland and Labrador. It plays a large part in our public discourse. We read it on the editorial pages of our provincial newspapers, and we hear it on radio talk shows and in the debates of the House of Assembly.

Lately I’ve noticed at least two variant schools of political pessimism.

The first is the “it’s all their fault” school. This argues that agents outside the province - the federal government, foreigners, national media and/or international capitalists - are to blame for all our problems. They are our enemies: they look down on us, they are keeping us down, they are stealing our birthright. Collectively, these malevolent agents are responsible for the collapse of the fisheries, the closure of Abitibi, the elimination of the Gander weather office and the scattering of our children across the nation.

The second school of thought - “it’s all our fault” - is a form of political self-flagellation that writes the history of our province as a series of betrayals and repeated failures of ourselves and our children. The reasons vary. According to some, we have been historically passive and need to “take matters into our own hands”, or become “masters in our own house”, or some other pithy cliche that says little and means less. Other variants condemn our politicians (or the entire government) for “selling us out”, being “traitors to our people” or somehow benefitting themselves at our expense.

Both these attitudes are negative and bitterly corrosive because they define our province and people in terms of lack and loss, and characterize all of us as victims, either stupid or weak. They insist on seeing Newfoundland and Labrador as deprived and downtrodden, and believe us besieged by enemies, without and within. Concerned with pointing fingers, they prefer to apportion blame for the misfortunes we encounter and emphasize historical grievance over exploring future potential. They represent a political philosophy that, by definition, always leads to a dead-end. Because they define all social, economic and historical problems in this way they paint us into a corner where we can do little but rant, rail, vent spleen and spit bile.

These schools of political pessimism exact a huge economic and political cost. They preclude realistic appraisals of the issues facing our people and the assets we have to address them - and therefore prevent sensible exploration of possible solutions and future opportunities.

Here’s a resolution for our public debates in 2006: let’s be optimists instead.

We can get more done that way.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Municipal Tax Creep in St. John's

It's already been reported in many local media outlets that the St. John's tax assessments are out and been received all over town. People have been shocked and appalled to discover that their house assessments have climbed an average of 22%.

Last Fall, during the municipal election, I talked about the dangers and effects of Tax Creep. The concept is a simple one: the mill rate stays constant while house assessments rise and that effectively increases tax rates for the homeowner. That lets City Hall rake in more revenue while preening about "no tax hikes".

These assessment hikes are exacerbated by the fact that they are based on last year's market values, a recent high from which we've already seen a drop. It's bad luck of timing for us; good luck for the city.

Right now the mill rate is $12.7 per $1000 in assessed residential value or 12.7 mills. For 2006, total revenue from residential property taxes to the city is estimated at $47.4million on total property values of about $3.9billion. This represents about 1/3 of the total $152million revenue taken in by the city.

With a 22% increase in residential assessed value, that means that the city will now realize a tax haul of almost $58million or an increase of $10.4million over last year.

This is equivalent to a mill rate hike from $12.7 per $1000 in assessed residential value to an astounding $14.9 per $1000 in assessed residential value.

That's a pretty steep rise in one go - 12.7 mills to 14.9 mills.

For the city to make the assessed values revenue-neutral in terms of taxes realized, the city would have to drop the mill rate down to no more than $10 per $1000 or 10 mills. To account for the rate of inflation as suggested by Mayor Wells, the magic number to look for is 10.2 mills. That's a drop of 2.5 mills from the 12.7 mills currently.

The Board of Trade, who also want to see the mill rate dropped to compensate for the artificially high assessments, are crunching the numbers before committing themselves to a mill rate target.

Meanwhile, the chair of the capital city's finance committee Dennis O'Keefe would like to see the mill rate drop between half a mill and a full mill when it's set in December.

In other words, he's going take 5 away from us behind our backs, give us back 1 or 2 and then expect us to be grateful for the magnanimous gesture. I'd really like to say I want to be impressed by that kind of shell game but I really can't.

Watch city hall carefully over the next few weeks and see what they do.

In fact, contact your councilor and find out what they intend to do.

And while you're at it, it might be worth your while to invest $60 in appealing your assessment. Apparently Mayor Wells thinks that because few people are appealing their assessment through a process that is known by very few residents, then we must be pretty satisfied with the situation.

I know I'm not.

Barry picks up Harbour Breton plant for $1


I'm not sure why this has come as a big surprise to the Town of Harbour Breton nor why Minister Rideout is apparently raising objections to it.

It's been a long-standing policy of the provincial government to limit potential liabilities to itself. While this might seem sensible on the face of things and unrelated to this issue, in fact this concern goes to the heart of this $1 transfer to the Barry Group*.

In this province, as in all other provinces, municipalities are creatures of the provincial government. That's why the Confederation Building pays keen attention to, and closely regulates, how much debt the municipalities take on. At the end of the day, no matter what the intentions of a town or city council, if things go very badly then it's the province that's on the hook.

That's why the province won't let towns buy federal wharfs or ports when they become available. Or airports either. All these infrastructures are transferred to outside organizations, not municipalities, to limit liability except in very rare cases.

In this case FPI does not care where the $1 transfer fee comes from. It doesn't matter to them if it comes from the town, the provincial government or the Barry Group.

Rideout may say today that the deal is illegal and needs cabinet approval but that sorely confuses the issue. The fact is that, as mentioned today on the Fisheries Broadcast, the Premier's Office knew of the sale from FPI to Barry last Friday. And, significantly, Rideout never says that government won't approve the deal.

One thing for sure, the province is not going to let the town take it over and in that action the province will do the right thing. This way it's the Barry Group who will assume full liability for any problems at the plant, including environmental problems.

The option of the town buying and then leasing out the facility was always a fleeting one with no support other than in the Town Council and its allies. In any case that option is gone now.

It would be interesting to know what are the estimated liablilties associated with the take-over of the plant. That would tell you how much the province was not keen to fork over to help the town.

And why not tell the Town of Harbour Breton in advance and explain the facts rather then letting them hear the news from the media instead of the minister? I can only assume it's yet another manifestation of government's severe allergy to bad news.

*It's also the issue at the heart at the dogfight between the government and INCO over the placement of the hydromet facility in Long Harbour over Argentia.

Independent Alternate History

According to Wikipedia, alternate history or alternative history is a subgenre of speculative fiction (or some would say of science fiction) that is set in a world in which history has diverged from history as it is generally known. Alternate history literature asks the question, "What if history had developed differently?"

It's known by historians as "counterfactual" history.

There are some classic practitioners of the genre. One is Harry Turrtledove who has produced alternative history fiction based on what if the South won the Civil War, what if aliens invaded earth during WWII and what if the Spanish Armada succeeded in conquering Britain.

Local practitioners of this form of specialized speculative fiction include Dr. John Fitzgerald, Jim Halley and the latest contributor, The Independent newspaper.

Local lawyer Jim Halley and ambassador to Ottawa John Fitzgerald have both posited that a great golden age of the province would continue to this day if not for Confederation. Much of their public remarks have centered on the response to the question, "what if Confederation never happened". Their response has always been that we would have been much better off culturally, spiritually and economically.

I think it would be fair to say that Fitzgerald has devoted much of his career to demonstrating that the fictional film "Secret Nation" is actually a documentary.

Mind you their reasoning has always been weak, their arguments flabby and evidence pretty flimsy at best. Their conclusions have never been able to stand up to rigorous analysis by anyone who lacked their ideological convictions and political predispositions and prejudices.

Now we can re-welcome the Independent to this list of political/historical fiction publishers. It was not enough that this "newspaper" already muddied the public discourse with their previous work of fiction: a project, quarterbacked by editor Ryan Cleary, proporting to be a provincial-federal balance sheet.

I need not repeat here that the project was riddled with ridiculous omissions, misplaced categorizations and incomplete numbers all resulting in misleading conclusions which led precisely to what the working group wanted to conclude from the very beginning no matter what information they came across: that we are being screwed by Confederation.

Now editor Cleary, in his ongoing attempt to stave off total collapse, has initiated a new project: Our Terms of Union. He's assembled an eclectic collection of "experts" to examine the Terms of Union and suggest alternatives.

Now I have no problem in principle with that kind of thought experiment. It's always an interesting pastime to revisit the past and explore what might have been. But it looks like it won't even have that basic legitimacy of being that.

In the same way the balance sheet project panlel had no economist or even an accountant on board, this panel contains no historian or constitutional notable (all due respect to John C.).

So far it looks more like what the Indy has become famous for: an ill-conceived bitch session at the status quo backed by a myth-based revisionist review of history culminating with the inevitable constitutional/fiscal wish list worthy of a child's list to Santa Claus.

And what's the point of that?

Already the basic philosophical ideological underpinning of the Independent's work is already nakedly clear: a cult of victimhood where we are the sainted hard-done-by's led down the garden path by Smallwoood and the Confederates to be ruthlessly mugged by the evil triumvirate of Ottawa, those "damn'd furriners" and Big Oil assisted by the self-interested traitors from within.

It's a point of view that is sad, corrosive, unhelpful and which insults the intelligence and integrity of those who live in this province. It's also wrong.

I'm still waiting for this newspaper to become a newspaper and get away from being a yellow broadsheet of half-baked polemics masking as investigative journalism. Whatever else this project might be, one thing is for sure: it's not journalism.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bill Rowe and the Irregular Verb

As I've already mentioned here, I'm a chronic listener to talk radio shows of all kinds.

Yesterday my ears pricked up when, while listening to Bill Rowe's BackTalk show, I realised that Mr. Rowe has constructed a new political irregular verb I'd never heard before

Let me explain. Irregular verbs are verbs that change the way people and ideas are described as a function of the subject and object. That sounds complicated but let me give you some examples to illustrate:

I draw upon a rich variety of sources,
You plagiarise,
They are thieving scum.

I free associate
You daydream
They snore

I have an independent mind,
You are an eccentric,
He is totally nuts

I am making strong but defensible points in support of a valid struggle.
You are undercutting the basis of your right to free speech.
He is being charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

I am a statesman
You are a freedom fighter
He is a terrorist
I first came across these little gems on Yes Minister and thought they were a brilliant and pithy way of exposing political relativism and moral hypocrisy*. So how does this relate to the wit and wisdom of Mr. Rowe?

Yesterday on BackTalk, after whinging and complaining about how badly we are treated by Canada, how unfair it all is and how it's a given that we get a crummy deal out of confederation, Mr. Rowe received a call from a gentleman in Labrador.

This person raised a perfectly legitimate and reasoned contention that, while roads on the island part of the province were quickly tended to, roads in Labrador were left to languish in various states of disrepair.

Mr. Rowe then offered his opinion that an awful lot of people from Labrador were calling to whine about the way they are treated by the province.

Labradorians don't raise issues; they whine, according to him.

Interesting. Clearly Mr. Rowe has created a new political irregular verb to add to the list:
Newfoundlanders raise legitimate historical grievances
Labradorians whine for no good reason,
Canadians never have any right to complain about anything.
Nobody could ever accuse Mr. Rowe of not making a positive contribution to the political culture of the province.
*If you come across, or come up with a new one, pass it along and I'll add it to the list!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Richards, Ex-Governor of Texas, Dies at 73

Ann Richards died yesterday and a very interesting politician and person passed on.

It's worthwhile checking out the full biography of Ann Richards here but I'll give you a few highlights from her New York Times obit.

She was born Sept. 1, 1933, in Lakeview, Tex and graduated in 1950 from Waco High school, where she showed a special facility for debate. She enrolled at Baylor University in Waco on a debate scholarship and after graduating, she moved to Austin, where she earned a teaching certificate at the University of Texas in 1955.

In the early 1960’s, she and a handful of other young Democrats founded North Dallas Democratic Women in an effort to give more power to women in the party. “The regular Democratic Party and its organization was run by men who looked on women as little more than machine parts,” she said later.

In 1972, she ran her first campaign, helping elect to the Texas Legislature Sarah Weddington, who had successfully argued Roe v. Wade before the United States Supreme Court.

In 1976, Richards defeated a three-term incumbent to become a commissioner in Travis County, which includes Austin. She held the job for four years. She also began drinking heavily, becoming alcoholic and putting great strain on her marriage, she said later. It ended in divorce. After going into rehabilitation, she stopped drinking in 1980 and later said that the decision to seek help had saved her life and salvaged her political career.

“I have seen the very bottom of life,” she said. “I was so afraid I wouldn’t be funny anymore. I just knew that I would lose my zaniness and my sense of humor. But I didn’t. Recovery turned out to be a wonderful thing.”

In 1982, she ran for state treasurer and received the most votes of any statewide candidate, becoming the first woman elected to statewide office in Texas in 50 years. She was re-elected in 1986.

In 1990, when Gov. William P. Clements Jr., the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction, decided not to run for re-election, Ms. Richards challenged a former Democratic governor, Mark White, in a primary and won. She went on to defeat the Republican candidate, Clayton Williams, a wealthy rancher, in the general election after a brutal campaign.

As governor, among other achievements, she fulfilled her campaign promise to bring more blacks, Hispanics and women into public office. She appointed the first black regent to the University of Texas and installed the first blacks and women on the state’s legendary police force, the Texas Rangers. She also pushed for harsher penalties for polluters and gained control of the state’s insurance board in a drive to reduce the industry’s influence over state government.

Richards oversaw an expansion of the state’s prison system, increasing the space for prisoners by a third, and cracked down on the number of prisoners being paroled. She also instituted a major substance abuse program for prisoners. And she championed the creation of the Texas lottery as a source of public school financing. She bought the first scratch-off ticket herself on May 29, 1992.

Two years later, she underestimated her young Republican challenger from West Texas, George W. Bush, going so far as to refer to him as “some jerk.” The comment drew considerable criticism. She refused to call him by name throughout the campaign, referring to him as "shrub" (small Bush).

She later acknowledged that Mr. Bush had been more effective than she at “staying on message” and that he had made none of the mistakes that her campaign strategists had expected. She was beaten 53 percent to 46 percent.

In her later years she travelled around the US campaigning for Democratic candidates and her popularity made her a cultural icon. Getting her motorcycle licence at age 70 helped. She also starred in a set of television advertisements.

She was a devastating debater and a captivating speaker. She brought down the house at the 1992 Democratic Convention when she delivered the nomination speech for Bill Clinton.

She was known for her oratorical skills and sense of humor. In a country where politicians can be dull and drab and bland, she stood out and then some. As small taste can be seen here.

Notable quotes can be found here but my personal favourites include:
  • I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you.
  • If you give us the chance, we can perform. After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.
  • Poor George (President Bush Sr.), he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth.
We won't see her like again too soon. Too bad.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Distraction during destruction

I saw this photo on Slate.

The New York Times writer Frank Rich wrote:

Seen from the perspective of 9/11's fifth anniversary, Mr. Hoepker's photo is prescient as well as important—a snapshot of history soon to come. What he caught was this: Traumatic as the attack on America was, 9/11 would recede quickly for many. This is a country that likes to move on, and fast. The young people in Mr. Hoepker's photo aren't necessarily callous. They're just American. In the five years since the attacks, the ability of Americans to dust themselves off and keep going explains both what's gone right and what's gone wrong on our path to the divided and dispirited state the nation finds itself in today.

Andy: You Talk Too Much

Just when you thought that the city and province could enjoy some Andy-free media, our hopes have been dashed by his latest remarks.

Wells' attacks on Hearn guarantees that nobody in any position of responsibility will ever talk to or deal with Andy ever again.

When Wells accused Hearn of misleading him through empty assurances that the CEO and Chair job was his, he took one more step into political pariah status. And it doesn't matter if the charges are true or not.

If Hearn did make those remarks, then besides the fact that Heanr had no business making comitments in an area over which he had no control, then Andy has assured that nobody will ever provide him with any kinds ov committments, empty or otherwise.

If Hearn did not make those remarks, then Andy's bold-faced lies means nobody will touch him with a ten-foot pole.

Either way, Andy's telephone won't be ringing for a while and his calls won't get returned.

Not an auspicious beginning when embarking upon a new career as board member of the CNLOPB.

Senate Reform from the Reformer - Part 2

Prime Minister Harper'’s current proposal before the Senate which precipitated his appearance are contained in Bill S-4, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (Senate tenure). It's short, sweet and to the point: senators appointed after this Bill comes into force will sit for a term of 8 years.* That's very clear and has been on the public record for months.

What's new is the announcement he made during his appearance: this Fall he intends to introduce legislation to allow for elected senators rather than the current practice of Prime Ministerial appointments.

Let's take these issues one at a time and see where they lead us. First, the term limits.

Senator Marjory LeBreton, the Government House Leader in the Senate, stated that:

"The proposal to set the length of tenure at eight years does not change the method of appointment, the powers of the Senate, or the distribution of seats, which are known as "essential characteristics of the Senate."

Altering essential characteristics requires the use of the more demanding amending formula contained in the Constitution Act, which requires the support of the provinces. It is clear that Bill S-4 can be enacted by Parliament alone, as was done in 1965 when life tenure for senators was changed to the present mandatory retirement at age 75.

Comprehensive change that will make the Senate an effective, independent and democratically elected body that equitably represents all regions will require the consent of at least seven provinces representing 50 per cent of the population because these moves would alter "essential characteristics" of the Senate. This will take more time.

Therefore, in proposing a Senate tenure of eight years, the government has taken a significant first step toward ensuring that this important democratic institution evolves in step with the expectations of Canadians. It is a step that stands on its own as laudable and reasonable."

It's interesting to note that she uses the precedent of the 1965 tenure change to justify making the current change. In fact it is not clear at all that these kinds of tenure changes can be made by parliament alone for two reasons.

The 1965 change was initiated by the Canadian Parliament but then it had to be sent to Westminster for ratification through an act of the British parliament; that's the way amendments were done back then. This differs from her contention that the Canadian parliament did it alone.

Secondly,this pre-dates the Constitution Act of 1982 which established, for the first time, a made-in-Canada amendment formula for things like this.

Bear with me for a minute: Section 42. (1)(b) says that amendments affecting "the powers of the Senate and the method of selecting Senators" may be done only in accordance with the amendment formula in 38(1).

And in 38(1) the formula is passage by the parliament (House of Commons and Senate) and 2/3's of the provinces with at least 50% of the population.

It's worth noting that there are several amending formulas specified in the constitution. The first is that one: the 2/3's-50% formula.

The second is in section 38(2) and says that if the amendment affects only one province then it need only be passed by the federal parliament and the affected province only. If you think that's arcane, remember that this province has used that section twice already; once to change the name of the province and anther time to eliminate the denominational school boards.

The third and last is section 44: Parliament exclusively may amend the constitution on it's own if, and only if, it's related to "the executive government of Canada or the Senate and House of Commons".

The Senatorial question of the day is this: Can Prime Minister Stephen Harper unilaterally change the tenure of senators from retirement at age 75 to an 8 year term without going to the provinces for approval?

And the answer is probably. It depends on if the tenure change comes under "the executive government of Canada or the Senate and House of Commons" but only the Supreme Court of Canada knows for sure and we won't know that unless there's a reference of the question to the court or unless the proposal passes and then somebody takes it to court.

I'm not sure who would care enough to go through that effort especially since it seems likely that senatorial tenure comes under the matter of executive government of Canada. So Harper can probably go right ahead and make the change he wants without any provincial consultation and avoid going cap-in-hand to the provinces.

Next post will plough through the issues around the elected Senate proposal. I promise that issue will be more interesting.

* It's silent on the matter of re-appointments so, in theory, a Prime Minister could hand somebody a re-appointment on their way out the door and steer them right back in again. But no matter; that's not relevant to this discussion.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Premier Williams Accepts Reality re Ruelokke

Back on August 8, I offered advice to Premier Williams on his best option to deal with the Ruelokke delimma based on my past experience in advising Premiers and ministers on getting out of the problems they put themselves in.

My advice would have been:

"Mr. Premier, it's time to cut your losses. Your misplaced determination to install Andy Wells as Chair has caused you and this government severe legal and political embarrassment. The public perceives that this has become an issue of stubbornness on your part and wants you to move forward.

As you previously promised, don't appeal this decision.

Instead immediately issue a press release appointing Mayor Wells to the vacant seat on the CNLOPB, and be sure to include all the usual accolades about how he will fight for the interests of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians etc, etc, etc.

At the end include a paragraph accepting the judgement of Justice Halley and wishing Ruelokke well in his position as Chair and CEO of the CNLOPB.
Maybe more time passed than was seemly but in the end the right thing was done; no charge for the advice this time.


(Updated pics)

I'm not usually inclined to post about things like this but this one poked me in the gut harder than these things normally do.

From '85 to '87 I attended university in Rhode Island. My oldest brother, the news photographer, moved into New York about the same time. Not quite New York but Jersey City right across the river. You could step out of his apartment and see the twin towers. There were the great landmark for orienting oneself.

Pretty well every second weekend I'd hop the Amtrack train in Providence, RI and ride the 4 hours or so the Penn Station in Manhattan, catching up on my studies on the way. Then I'd transfer to the Jersey City train across the platform and make my way to my bro's apartment.

We'd play cribbage, talk, eat, smoke too much and spend many evenings and days in the city. Sometimes I'd go myself, other times with him and oter times I'd meet him there. The way into the city was always the same: PATH train from Jersey City station to the main transportation nexus under the twin towers and then catch whatever train or subway I'd need to take from there.

I knew those towers well.

Sometimes I'd go to the top for the hell of it. You simply couldn't beat the view. They had express elevators to the top that'd make your ears pop. The subway station below was filled with great stores and places to eat. My favourite was a BBQ place that served pulled pork sandwiches. I loved those sandwiches and I'd get one every chance I'd get.

A few weeks ago we saw the 9/11 movie WTC. The area where those firemen were trapped was a spot I walked through dozens of times.

The morning the towers were hit, my first thought was for my brother. As a news photographer, he has an instinctive response to big trouble: while others run away he's the one running into it. I knew that morning would be no different.

I tried to call him at his home on and off through the day. Around mid-afternoon I caught his wife at home. Her voice was tight and controlled in a way I'd never heard it before. She told me that he got the call from the New York Times as soon as the first plane hit and he fairly flew out of the house. No, she hadn't heard from him since. My other two brothers and my mother had already spoken to her tool. Yes, she would tell him to call me when she next spoke to him.

After school that afternoon, my boy, then 8 was watching TV. He'd watch the towers get hit by the planes and them collapse like a house of cards over and over again. He was fascinated as we all were. He asked if uncle Norman was in New York.

Yes, I said. He thought about that minute.

"Is uncle Norman dead", he asked. That was the question on my mind too.

"No", I said, "Don't worry about uncle Norman. He can take care of himself."

Very late that night the phone rang and it was Norman. He had gotten trapped on the Jersey side of the river when they closed all the bridges and tunnels into the city. Turned out he was on the edge of the river shooting the buildings and the crowd response from there, frustrated he couldn't get closer but making do the best way he knew how.

(copyright NY Lono 2001)

(copyright NY Lono 2001)
"Do me a favour," I asked him. "Call your nephew in the morning. He'll be glad to hear from you."

The world is a small one.

(copyright NY Lono 2001)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Unfit to Govern, Unfit to Oppose

(update - see here too)

I become more convinced every day that the NDP are not a political party in the true sense when I see stories like this one on VOCM:

Michael Supports Withdrawal of Troops

Provincial NDP leader Lorraine Michael says she supports the federal party's call for a withdrawal of Canadian troops from Afghanistan. Michael is attending the federal NDP convention in Quebec City. She says the majority of the Newfoundland delegation also supports the withdrawal of troops. NDP delegates voted about 90 per cent in favour of leader Jack Layton's call for a pullout, making it formal NDP policy. Layton wants Canadian troops out of Afghanistan by February.
Instead they are a group of well-meaning, social-minded dilettantes with little, if any, interest or awareness in the substance or consequences of public policy decisions beyond their simplistic and surface standards of pseudo-morality.

The NDP, in their present state, are clearly unfit to govern this country or this province. They cannot even reach their own rather modest goal of presenting a principled opposition.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bill Rowe - Zealous Guardian of the Orthodoxy

I don't have a problem with healthy debate and disagreement. In fact, it can be fairly said I live for it.

I've been a competitive debater, coach, judge and organizer for nigh on 25 years. I spent many happy times traveling throughout Canada, the USSR, Europe and up and down the US east coast visiting top universities where I verbally beat up on the very best the global debate circuit had to offer. Of course I received beatings in return; that's the way the game is played.

My debate style was described by some as "take no prisoners" and that is certainly the style I continue to coach and advocate to this day. You learn fast that you don't go for the low blow; that's an automatic loss and a petulant admission of defeat. Besides, if you are any good at all, it's just not necessary; there are just too many legitimate augments to make on any given issue.

So when I put a call into one of our fair province's talk radio shows, I look forward to crossing swords and exchanging positions and views with the host on the issues of the day.

I'm a big fan of Randy Simms, for example. He's smart, tough, fair, unerringly accurate, even-tempered, even-handed and unwaveringly courteous at all times; he's always game and he's never nasty. He's the best thing in talk radio today, in my opinion.

However, it's been long observed by many fans of the genre that the character of the afternoon show with Bill Rowe has become darker with a negative undertone. Callers are more likely there than on other shows to be cut off or their point of view casually and summarily dismissed. There is audible impatience with other points of view and there is a tendency to quickly resort to negative labeling rather than dealing with the issues.

Opposing points of view and callers themselves, are frequently labeled "stupid" or with other similar epithets.

But today, Mr. Rowe truly outdid himself.

I called this afternoon to comment on Premier Williams' reaction to Harper's letter on the offshore. In that letter Harper stated that Hebron was a commercial dispute and he would not get involved.

My points were threefold:

  1. Premier Williams should not have been surprised by this response since Harper himself said exactly the same thing months ago;
  2. Even if Prime Minister Harper did agree to initiate fallow-fields legislation, it would be unrealistic to expect him to make it retroactive and so this would have no effect on the Hebron negotiations anyway; and
  3. Provincial governments since Peckford have fought (legally, constitutionally, politically) to eject the federal government from offshore oil jurisdiction so that the province could manage the issue for itself: royalties, terms of negotiations and benefits. Therefore it is incongruous for this provincial government, to become disagreeable about the feds staying out of the very jurisdiction the province has worked so hard to eject them from.
One would think that these points might become the basis for an interesting and substantial discussion. And that's the way it would have gone with another host. Mr. Rowe's preferred response, however, was to sidestep the issues, attack me for being partisan and accusing me of selling out the province for my position.

It's not often I'm accused of selling out the province for simply offering a legitimate and responsible alternative point of view from his.

I'm not sure what provoked such a violent and unfair reaction. Perhaps he believes that questioning prevailing provincial government orthodoxy is tantamount to heresy. Maybe I just caught him on a bad day. Or it could be that he was annoyed that I specifically rebutted points made in his regular Saturday Telegram column with a letter of my own.

In any case he clearly needs to exhibit more professionalism in his broadcasting activities than he has shown today. It's sad to see a man of promise and ability reduced to defending the status quo with low-rent ad hominim attacks and intolerant dogmatic political cant.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Senate Reform from the Reformer - Part 1

It was only a matter of time until Prime Minister Harper devoted some time to one of his favourite long-standing issues: Senate reform. Today in the first-ever appearance of a sitting Prime Minister before the Senate of Canada, Harper announced he would be introducing legislation in the Fall sitting of the House to elect senators.

He has already introduced legislation to change to change the term of senators from retirement at age 75 (brought down from a lifetime appointment in 1965) to a single 6 to 8 year term depending on how the Bill changes as it progresses through the House and Senate.

Those with a long memory will recall the bad olde days of the Reform Party under Preston Manning when the battle-cry was "the west wants in!" One of the ways the west wanted in was through the Triple-E Senate. The idea was relatively simple one albeit with complex ramifications. The goal is to reform the Senate such that it would become:

  • Effective: Because the Senate is not elected and appointed on a partisan basis, it lacks legitimacy and is unaccountable.
  • Equal: Rather than representing regions, each province would have an equal number of senators more like the US Senate.
  • Elected: The Senate and its important functions must be elected in order to play a legitimate role as a lawmaking body with the members accountable to the people of Canada through a democratic election process.Fundamentally, Senate reform is about three issues: powers, composition and membership.
In terms of powers, it is widely unrealized that in all powers except the ability to originate a money bill (budget, tax or expenditure) the Senate and the House of Commons are equivalent constitutionally.

In fact in the early days of Confederation, it was unclear where the power would eventually lay so John A. MacDonald seriously looked at a Senate seat because he thought that might be where the action was going to be. As it turned out the real action lay with the House of Commons but that has evolved that way because the Senate has largely declined to exercise the powers it has.

These days the Senate has taken on different roles - investigative, committee reports, legislative refinement - but has seldom thrown it's weight around because it has lacked the electoral legitimacy to do so with any confidence. The exceptions, like the GST Senate insurgency under Mulroney, are very much the exceptions.

Few, if any, Senate reformers have suggested trimming Senate powers (other than those advocating total abolishment) and many have suggested expanding the powers to be more like the US Senate (approving treaties, court appointments etc).

The composition of the Senate has been a ripe target for senate reformers. Right now the Senate has 105 members broken down into the 4 regions of West, Ontario, Quebec and Maritimes with 24 senators each plus further adjustments for NL and the territories. The final provincial tallies are:
  • Alberta 6
  • British Columbia 6
  • Manitoba 6
  • Saskatchewan 6
  • New Brunswick 10
  • Newfoundland and Labrador 6
  • Nova Scotia 10
  • Prince Edward Island 4
  • Ontario 24
  • Quebec 24
  • Yukon 1
  • Northwest Territories 1
  • Nunavut 1
An article of faith amongst the triple-E advocates is that this arrangement is manifestly unfair and they want to see, at a minimum, equality among all provinces. Manning backed the idea of 10 senators per province. The argument is that there needs to be some regional balance in the central government to protect the less populous regions of the country from central domination.

The next post will discuss the implications of Harper's proposal for an elected Senate and what he needs to do to achieve it.