Tuesday, January 27, 2015

RENOWNED PROFESSORS EXPRESS CONCERNS WITH BILL 42



CBC NEWS
The scions of academia at Memorial University's Department of Political Science (and other departments) have written Premier Davis demanding his government repeal the controversial Bill-42.  

Two dozen renowned professors from Memorial and from universities up-along want the Davis Tories to withdraw its legislation to cut the number of seats in the House of Assembly.

Bill 42 was rushed and did not reflect evidence based decision making or public input but the whim of a dying majority government, aided and abetted by the Official Opposition. The anti-democratic government picked a populist measure and the Liberals fell for it hook, line and sinker rather than take a principled stand against the obvious rushed political maneuvering. 

The seriousness of the democratic deficit and leadership vacuum facing our province is evident when our esteemed academics feel they must become engaged publicly to demand the best outcomes for the citizens of our province and protect our democratic institutions from partisan interference.

Please find the letter for your consideration. It continues after the break.



January 25, 2015

Dear Members
House of Assembly
Newfoundland and Labrador
PO Box 8700
St. John’s, NL
A1B 4J6

We the undersigned would like to express our extreme disappointment at
the manner in which Bill 42, An Act to Amend the Electoral Boundaries Act
(2015), has been hurriedly pushed through the House of Assembly.

While improvements to the democratic governance of the province are
desirable, and Members’ attention to this issue is valuable, the changes
contained in Bill 42 only further undermine the effectiveness of the House
of Assembly. As an institution, the House is intended to act as
representative of the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, and as a
check on the executive power of cabinet and the office of the premier. The
proposal to cut the number of seats diminishes its ability to fulfill those
roles. To put it bluntly, the legislation is undemocratic and ill-informed.

MNL AWAKENS TO REALITY OF LEGISLATED CUTS TO HOA

The horse is galloping away and the barn door has been slammed shut on the 2015 boundaries commission. The unelected Justice Minister (great optics by the way) has initiated the electoral boundaries review by requesting that the Province's Chief Justice appoint a chair.

Now that the barn door is closed, a number of groups are waking up to the reality that the proposed cuts might not have been that well thought out. 

Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador is expressing concerns that the reduced number of MHAs may hurt rural representation. Go figure. If the divisor used by the commission is only 36 (or possibly 34) the result is going to be a much larger percentage of seats and representation in the new House of Assembly coming from the North East Avalon - where 60% of the provinces population actually resides.

President Churence Rogers says ""There has to be expansion of the rural seats." The former Liberal candidate and party president may want to have his excellent staff review the 1991 Supreme Court of Canada Provincial Electoral Boundaries Reference which dealt with the validity of the ways and means by which electoral districts are created in Canada. It also dealt with the principle of "one person-one vote" and defined "other" factors that can be used to create districts other than population.

In fact, deviations from the formula are subject to Charter Challenges, so much of the hyperbole about enhancing and protecting rural regions from the impact of the reduction in seats was hogwash. In fact. I strongly believe that Bill 42 could already be challenged based on providing Labrador with four seats for a total population of 26,000. It would be a hurdle for the government to defend a Charter Challenge regarding Cartwright-L'Anse au Clair district which may no longer meet the geographic isolation test if challenged.

MNL may want to study the impact that this loss of influence will have on budget and decision making by governments that will no longer be under the "electoral" leash and chain of rural newfoundands disproportionate representation around the caucus tables.

The loss of influence will have serious consequences on the provision of services from ferries and roads to doctors clinics.

The long overdue absurdity of protecting sacred romantic cows may shift to a wholesale slaughter.




DRONES POSE SECURITY PROBLEM FOR WHITE HOUSE

Opps!

My family loves flying recreational drones. It is hard to say who is the biggest fan, my boys or Uncle Mike who bankrolls most of the fun!

We have had a few mishaps - the drone has gotten out of control range or dropped on someones roof or glass sun room!

That all seems minor compared to the Washington mans quad copter mishap yesterday that resulted in a brief  brief lock-down of the White House!

US SECRET SERVICE PHOTO OF CRASHED DRONE
The remote control drone measures about two  feet in diameter and weighed about two pounds. 

The unidentified operator, a hobbysist,  was flying it near the White House around 3 a.m. for recreational purposes when he lost control of it. It crashed on the White House lawn after colliding with a tree.

The incident resulted in a secret service investigation and questions about how a remote controlled flying device could evade the White House radar system designed to detect flying objects like planes, missiles and large drones.

The incident has provided a wake-up call for those charged with protecting the president. Could a drone be weaponized?Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a Moroccan man living in Connecticut for allegedly plotting to use a drone to bomb a federal building in Connecticut and a university. 

These small recreational drones have limited battery life and can’t carry more than several pounds which limits their capability, but where there is a will - there is a way!

It certainly makes knocking on the neighbors door for permission to retrieve our drones appear a lot less stressful. 

Still, be kinda neat to have the President answer the door and pass you back your toy!


A U VS A V MEANS MORE BAD NEWS FOR OIL PRODUCERS


__________________________________________________
Oil prices are likely to remain subdued through 
the first half of the year, and follow more of a U-shaped
 recovery pattern than the V-shaped pattern that typically
 follows such sharp price declines,”
- TD BANK FORECAST
_____________________________________________



It is all about the demand, supply and price! 

Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Dina Ignjatovic is predicting West Texas Intermediate prices to sink below $40 as bulging inventories weigh on the market in the next few months. 

She is not expecting a sharp bounce in prices with  the U.S. benchmark  averaging just $53 in the second half of the year, and $65 next year! 

The collapse in oil prices has driven prices down by nearly 60 per cent from their peak last June. The impact on this province has severely curbed oil revenues, postponement of some offshore infrastructure expansions and the loss of income for hundreds of Alberta oil-patch workers that make the shuffle out West on lucrative turnarounds.

Alberta based oil producers are slashing their capital spending plans and laying off staff. The down stream impacts are causing job loss losses in the supply and support sectors which in turn is negatively impacting every part of the economy. The Alberta and federal government, like Newfoundland and Labrador are attempting to cope with major reductions in revenues.

The impact of a slow rebound to the $65 mark on this province could be quite significant as displaced migratory workers from rural regions of the province that have become dependent on the Alberta Oil Industry run out of income and savings.

Strap on you seat-belts, this could be a bumpy ride!






CYBER SNITCHING AND SNOOPING

Social media is being incorporated by police to help them solve crimes and It is becoming a trendy way for felons to keep in touch with the law.

Local media reported over the weekend that a St. John's man wanted for a number out outstanding warrants had communicated with the RNC that he was going to turn himself in on Monday via Facebook.

Rodney Constantine, 29 made good on his Facebook word. He was wanted for traffic violations, charges of assault, breach of probation, breach of recognizance and failure to appear in court.

He is now a guest of the police. He is due to appear before the Provincial Court in the morning.

Unlike Constantine, 22-year-old Eddie Smith had no intention of turning himself in when he posted on his Facebook page that he had more than a dozen warrants out for his arrest.

The cocky Texan wrote, "So, I have 16 warrants out right now. Lol they know where I’m at tho so, it must not be TOO bad." When police were tipped off to the braggart, they paid him a visit.

Unable to pay his fines or make bond, Smith was ordered by a municipal judge to serve 51 days in jail where I assume his access to social media will be scaled back.

Police look at what information is public and sometimes create fake online identities to befriend suspects and view their private information.

Criminals with big egos or no sense at all, often use social networks to blab about the crimes they were plotting, set up drug deals, brag about wrongdoings and even upload incriminating videos.

There may be honour between thrives, but the jury is out on using social media to brag about your criminal misdeeds.





- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

THE SHIP STRUCK A ROCK


When the 42-metre long MV Grace Sparkes began plying the waters between Burnside and St. Brendan’s in May 2011, the mayor stated that “it feels like we won the lottery.”




The state-of-the-art passenger ferry has the capacity to carry 16 automobiles, or 11 and a transport truck, has room for 80 passengers, and has a lounge area and elevator.



The Sparkes and her sister ship, the MV Hazel McIsaac,  were built by Kiewit Offshore Services  in Marystown at a cost of at least $55 million. 

The pair - and eight others - were announced as part of the Tory government’s ambitious ferry replacement policy.  The Progressive Conservatives made building new ferries in Newfoundland and Labrador a plank of the 2003 election platform. 12 years later the two vessels are the only ones to have been built.


The government and Kiewit disagreed about the costs. The government claimed the shipyard was taking them for a ride. Negotiations to build a third ferry fell through and so did the government's manufactured right here policy.  

In 2013,  the province announced the award of two new ferry contracts to Damen Shipyards of the Netherlands. The vessels are being built at a facility in Romania.


The Sparkes hit a rock outside of Burnside last Thursday and is out of service while repairs are carried out. Residents were offered helicopter transportation until the privately owned leased MV Norcon Galatea arrives as a replacement.

The Galatea used to be known as the MV Hamilton Sound which went into service in 1968. Due to frequent breakdowns, expensive repairs and unreliability, the vessel was sold for $214,000 in 2011. Read more about the Galatea debacle in a previous post.



St. Brendan's had a population of 147 in the Canada 2011 Census.  Romanticism aside, how do you justify spending $27 million on a new ferry to service 147 people? That does not include the millions in fuel, crewing, insurances and other operational costs. These are just the costs for the ferry - what about maintaining roads, schools and other services?

The Davis government, facing a $1 Billion deficit this year says nothing is off the table. Is it time for a long overdue chat about the economic sustainability of continuing to operate ferries and providing services to communities like St. Brendan’s.

The unsustainable economic reality of these communities makes for some gut wrenching decisions, fueled by demographic truths that can no longer be delayed or avoided.

It is time to discuss the giant elephant in the room. How much longer can we support unsustainable communities?

In many ways the mayor was right about winning the lottery, however the winning can not go on forever.