Thursday, March 29, 2007

Anger at Harper, Justified. Rationalizing Non-Renewable Exclusion for NL, Iffy

No doubt, few will argue that Stephen Harper broke a promise. In doing that, he gave many in Atlantic Canada, Sasketchewan, and the rest of Canada a huge reason not to trust him. As Rex Murphy suggested last week, he has become the type of leader he once despised. The hope that his promise gave to people in Newfoundland and Labrador was shattered and hence people are justifiably angry at him.

The fallout of our Premier protesting with feisty words and ads is no surprise. Any Premier ought to have been angry with Harper over this, and stand up for the province. The message was sent, received, will be repeated in the next election, but it's time to put it to the back burner right now to give full focus to home developments and promises. The Williams government has to obsess on projects that are stalled and dying. In this blogger's opinion, he has good intentions for the long term interests of the province. He's certainly not signing agreements with big oil just to say it was done under his watch. That's good, and bad obviously, but that potential is still there. He has gotten the message through that Harper can't be trusted out there, but needs to move on.

Rationalizing 100% Exclusion of Non-Renewables from Equalization Formula
Harper used several provinces to get elected, 21 seats in Atlantic Canada and Sasketchewan, the margin of his win. He will likely win big in the next election. But if Harper did not win the next election, or if there wasn't a Harper promise to remove non-renewables resources from the equalization formula at all in the first place, could their exclusion be justified on its own merit? And how? Of course there would be little, if any, controversy in NL if he had kept his campaign promise in last Monday's budget. It would have been a great opportunity to pay down the debt sooner, enhance infrastructures in the province, etc. But ultimately our province has to answer why should we be permitted to exclude non-renewables and be exempt from a cap on fiscal capacity. So people will ask, "what makes NL so special?" Some rationale rightly or wrongly might be, for example:

1. In 2005, we had the highest per capita debt load of any province at $23,280 (2005), much higher than the next highest, Nova Scotia, at $13,000 (2005)
Quebec Finance Minister Michel Audet announced last year that Quebec then had the highest per capita debt.

Like the other 7 provinces we do not want to receive equalization continually, but paying of our provincial debt will take generations.
We have to run a surplus of $250 million a year for 48 years just to get to no debt, and Alberta has passed that point. - Loyola Sullivan, 2006

2. NL chronically has the highest unemployment rate in Canada.

3. Significant and continuous outmigration and declining population.

4. Many see excluding non-renewables from the equalization formula as fair compensation for the lack of intervention of the federal government in the 1960's, after Quebec declined Newfoundland's request for a transmission line across Quebec for the Upper Churchill Hydro development. NL MHAs were ultimately responsible for approving the notorious 1969 deal. But in an interview with Cabot Martin, Smallwood said that his request to Lester Pearson to use federal authority to allow a transmission line across Quebec, was rejected before he could formally present the request out of fear it would jeopardize national unity. After 17 years of investigation, negotiations and preliminary development, NL and BRINCO ran out of money, choices and time. Quebec had a geographic advantage and would not budge from their position. Some called it a "revenge of geography" for a decision, decades earlier, of including part of Labrador as part of the province of "Newfoundland". (same source) As a result Quebec gets 96% of the benefits each year (roughly $800 million in 2005, compared to $20 million for NL).

5. Displacement of tens of 1000s of fishery workers resulting from the moratorium on northern cod. While many factors may have contributed to the collapse, one factor is mismanagement of the fishery.
"In our view, the major factor was clearly mismanagement."
- Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

In any future case where consideration is given to excluding 100% of non-renewables, some good clear rationale will have to be outlined. Non-renewables are finite, but also finite everywhere. If there are more arguments to support NL's case they would have to be compiled at some point.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Hope Springs as Hate Ends: The Historic Deal in Northern Ireland

Yesterday two former political and religious enemies declared that they will begin power sharing on May 8. Gerry Adams of Sein Finn (Catholic) and Ian Paisley (Protestant) were bitter enemies for nealy 40 years. In that time close to 5000 have been killed, thousands more injured, and countless more greiving relatives suffered, as both sides, filled with hate, bombed and butchered each other. Since the 1970s, it was typical to see the nightly news filled with stories of more fighting in Northern Ireland. It seemed like a never ending nightmare. But a new peaceful chapter in Northern Ireland history is thankfully underway. Many who were in the middle of the conflict thought that they would never see the day that these two leaders would be sitting across from each other and agreeing.

A devolution or home rule is being ushered in to Northern Ireland. (Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a state to government at national, regional or local level.) Members of Paisley's DUP and Adams' Sein Finn will help make up the power sharing executive.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said, "Everything we have done over the last ten years has been a preparation for this moment."

The lesson for areas of the world where hatred and violence reign over reason and peace, is that understanding and resolution is possible. It is hard to stop violence once it starts. Someone's family member is killed, revenge is sought, past violent acts rationalizes future vengence, and the cycle continues. It should sound familiar as it appears on our tv and computer screens every day. Iraq, the Middle East, Somalia, Sudan, and Congo, to name a few, are violent places of war and hate. However, empathizing with others is a large part of the resolution process.

When emotions are high in the midst of such tradegy, it has to be extremely difficult to listen to the opponents' point of view in order to start resolving problems. It's better to do teach empathy before conflict arises rather than after.

The more the world falls apart through killings, hate, and discrimination, the more important emphathy is between those of different cultures, religions, political views, languages, and race. There really ought to be a United Nations agreement for all countries to have a common or similiar program of education where Understanding/Empathy is a required course, where conflict resolution is taught, where what humans of all backgrounds have in common is taught, and includes teaching what different belief systems do have in common. That is important because while there may be commonalities between diverse groups, there are often different approaches, i.e., customs, rituals, prayers, no prayers, to achieve good goals. That needs to be acknowledged, understood and respected. For example, Paisley and Adams are Christian but their sub-religions approach it differently. Unfortunately, centuries of viewing the other side as extra-terrestrial aliens, clouded the fact that they were of the same species, who have the same basic needs in life.

The historic deal in Northern Ireland brings hope to all other fighting groups in the world. The direction is positive and hopefully the deal will stick. If peace can happen there it can happen for other regions at war. Hopefully, those fighting will see this as an example to live by, and begin a new trend in resolving socialized hatred, and ending the most horrific atrocities we see daily.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Fiscal-Imbalance & Weapons of Mass Destruction - they didn't exist

For years we've heard the term "fiscal imbalance" used continually, especially by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. He claimed that Ontario was getting short-changed in the federal transfers to his province. The sentiment was echoed by Quebec, the federal finance minister and the Prime Minister. Looking back, it is reminiscent of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney, announcing over and over that "the whole world knows Iraq has weapons of mass destruction". It was a repeated sermon done with such conviction, that many felt foolish to question something "so obvious". In a different realm of the economy not war, Canadians were fed the whining "fiscal imbalance" line to make it appear that Ontario and Quebec were losing out in the whole deal. This line played well for Harper. Fix the "fiscal imbalance" in ON and PQ and fix the old minority government status with one stone.

Andrew Coyne writes that the whole thing was a myth. His "The 'Fiscal-Imbalance' Myth" is worth reading. Here are some excerpts from the March 24 article. (emphases are mine)

"It was always a sham, there was never anything to it, it was obvious to anyone who bothered to look. But this was the week when it became impossible to sustain even the pretense.

In essence, there never was a fiscal imbalance, even in the provinces' imaginations. There was Quebec's agenda, unchanging as ever, for more money, dressed up as a systemic federal-provincial thing to enlist the aid of other provinces. There was Ontario's quite different complaint, which was not that Ottawa was stiffing the provinces in general, but that it was being shortchanged relative to the others. And there was the ambition of the newly rich oil-producing provinces, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, to get out from under the equalization clawback.

But the only way to deliver enough booty to Quebec to make a dent in its demands was to give it the lion's share of any increase in transfers, and the only way to do that was to smuggle it in via a "reformed" equalization program: Otherwise it would be too clear to all what was going on. But to deliver to Quebec, you had to include oil revenues in the equalization formula, and to deliver to Newfoundland and the others, you had to exclude them. And while both might have been satisfied simply by expanding the program, that ran you afoul of Ontario. Only two sides of this puzzle could be solved at once, and all of the budget's obfuscations couldn't conceal which two.

But if Charest's federally funded tax dodge did not give the game away, Ontario's budget did. Here's how hard done by Canada's largest province is: In the coming fiscal year, it will receive fully $16.1-billion in funding from Ottawa, or more than one-third of all federal transfers. That's up from $7.8-billion in fiscal 2002, just six years ago. Ontario's share has been rising, not just in absolute terms, but relative to the other provinces.

That at least clears up one puzzle: how the McGuinty government has been able to sustain such extraordinary levels of spending -- a 30% increase in just four years. In popular mythology, it's because Mr. McGuinty took the difficult but necessary step of raising taxes, even after promising he wouldn't. He had to, don't you know, after Mike Harris's heartless, ideological tax cuts had starved the government to the bone. Just one problem with that explanation: Tax revenues were higher under Harris than under Mr. McGuinty.

Look it up. Personal income tax revenues, on average, under the tax-cutting Mr. Harris: 4.3% of GDP. Under the tax-raising Mr. McGuinty: 4.2%. Total own-source revenues -- that is, exclusive of federal transfers -- are roughly the same under the two governments, at around 13% of GDP. Mr. McGuinty's four-year spending spree has been financed, not with his own tax hikes, but with a massive increase in federal transfers -- the very transfers he has spent the last four years complaining about.

Not that this is likely to shut him up, you understand, any more than Mr. Charest. I only say that it should."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

21 Seats: Could Harper's PQ Investment Backfire?

Coincidentally, 21 is the margin of the Conservative victory over the Liberals in the 2006 election, and also, the number of Conservative ridings in Sasketchewan, and the Atlantic provinces.

Irritation is apparently growing among western and eastern provinces with the news that Jean Charest is already spending a huge chunk of his $2.2 billion budget windfall to lure voters by a $700 million tax cut.

(From today's National Post)

Keep in mind that this most desperate of premiers governs a province that debt-finances Canada's most unaffordable lifestyle. Yet Mr. Charest diverted the windfall given Quebec in this week's budget to a tax cut worth $750 per average Quebec family, buying votes using Ontario, Alberta and B.C. currency.

The galling spectacle of Mr. Charest stripping $700-million for tax reduction from his $2.2- billion haul just 24 hours after receiving word of the federal handout may well bring back Quebec-bashing as a Canadian heritage sport.

Stephen I'll say or do anything to get elected Harper enticed 12/14 Sasketchewan ridings to vote Conservative based on the promise made to Premier Lorne Calvert to exclude all non-renewable resources from the new equalization formula. He clearly misled Newfoundland and Labrador, and Sasketchewan to get elected. On Monday, he just invested in Quebec in order to form a majority government in the next election. But with Quebec on side, and Ontario for the most part liking this budget, which is what really counts, Harper's chances of shaking minority government status would be much greater. However, if Charest does not win the Quebec election, then there might again be a frenzied atmosphere of a separatist government promoting the Bloc, which will make it tougher for the Conservatives in the next federal election.

Also, Harper's image as a promise-breaker is getting a steady mention in political editorials in Canada.

From his article, "Dishonest Budget", Andrew Coyne had this to say:

The budget claims to have solved “the fiscal imbalance” -- a debatable claim about a debatable problem... Yet the Tories campaigned on a promise to exclude these revenues from the equalization formula, in their entirety.

A broken promise, right? Not according to the budget. Thanks to various add-ons and one-time payments, it claims, no province will be worse off under the 50% inclusion rate than it would be if resources were kept out entirely. This, it says, will “fulfill the Government’s commitment to fully exclude non-renewable natural resources revenues from the calculation of Equalization.” But it didn’t fully exclude them. It half-included them. It might have compensated provinces for breaking its promise, but it still broke the promise.

(from the Prince Albert Daily Herald) Deal, but no Deal

We don't think that promise was kept, and either should the electorate who sent Tories to Ottawa from 12 of our 14 seats. Those votes were cast, in part, on the basis of that commitment, and Monday's federal budget made it clear the assurance was not kept.

The tone of CBC and CTV journalists, especially just after the budget announcement, was, as it often is, snobbish, towards Newfoundland and Labrador. However, to this blogger, it seems to be changing, to one which is more serious about the weaknesses in the budget. This is due in large part to the fact that SK, NS have similiar concerns as NL, and NB and BC have reasons for disliking the budget as well.

It's not like Harper said just once that non-renewables were to be excluded from the new formula, he said it on many occasions, on video and in writing, to NL and SK. He condemned Paul Martin for trying to impose a cap on equalization. However, there was a gradual erosion of his commitment of his promise noted in Jan., 2006 by Premier Calvert, and throughout the rest of last year, so it was no surprise that he offered the 50% inclusion option.

Technically, NL still gets the benefit of the Atlantic Accord till 2012, and possibly another eight years, and in that time frame, a promise kept. But Harper is not deferring his promise/suggestion to exclude 100% of non-renewables, he is changing it on paper.

Danny Williams should, and as he said, will, focus on other economic and provincial issues. As we know there's enormous economic potential for the province, and equalization is no more a crutch for our province than it is for other "have-not" provinces. (see previous post on federal transfers)

Here's more Quebec food for thought

(National Post)

Quebec runs a nation-leading debt of $122-billion, which drains a staggering $7-billion in interest payments from general revenue every year.

The government provides a distinct society of $7 daily daycare, tuition fees a third of the Canadian average, child care allowances that can hit $2,091 a year for the first kid and top-ups for registered education savings plans all wrapped in thick layers of heavily unionized job protection.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Transfer Payments to the Provinces

Do you ever get the feeling that the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is the biggest drain on the Canadian economy? When people hear and see comments from outsiders and insiders that suggest that, then they could start to believe it. People associate "welfare state" or receiving "welfare" with references to our province, and others. The meaning of such terms as we know, is often interpreted to mean someone who is a slack, lazy, conniving and deceitful opportunist. Eight of ten (8/10) provinces are currently receiving equalization payments. See the numbers and per capita amounts below.

From the Federal Department of Finance, these are the Major Federal Transfers to Provinces and Territories.
Equalization Payments ($ millions)

Total Health & Social Transfers ($ millions)

Estimated Per Capita Transfer ($ )

Monday, March 19, 2007

Greyed Expectations

Reports say there will be increases in equalization to the provinces in the budget later today. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says provinces will see it as a fair resolution to the fiscal imbalance problem, but not all provinces will be happy with it. Hmm, who could that be? The vibe is that the anticipated 50% inclusion of non-renewables will be part of the new principled long-term equalization formula. There are eight "have-not", sometimes seven, BC and/or SK could be "have" provinces again, so the money has to get split. Quebec gets over $5 billion in equalization each year, and may get the biggest share. The budget has some general tax cuts, and an incentive for hybrid car purchasers, but the bump in overall money for the provinces, the government hopes, will take the sting out of the broken promise he made on equalizaton.

The $1 billion he gave to Sasketchewan farmers might have smoothed over the expected budget news for many in SK, but not necessarily Lorne Calvert. Jack Layton has said a few days ago he supported the view that non-renewables should not be part of the new formula. Dion has not said much about this. There doesn't appear much anxiousness for an election. It won't be surprising if all parties support this budget, but the real proof will be in recipe of the pudding.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Black Hole

These days the normally verbose Lord Conrad Black of Crossharbour, is cross and harbouring resentment toward his former associate, David Radler, who will be a chief witness against him in the coming trial. Radler had been chairman and CEO of Black's Hollinger International Inc. Both men have been charged with diverting cash and assets from the company between 1999 and 2003, for their own personal gain. Radler has agreed to pay $29 million (US) as part of a settlement, though he neither denied or admitted the charges against him. The other part of the settlement is Radler's testimony in the trial.

Black's universe appears to be imploding as it spirals closer to a black hole where he may not escape. Just eight years ago his company Hollinger International Inc., had revenues of $2 billion, and was the third biggest newspaper publishing group in the world. He became a Lord in 2001, and his wife became Lady Barbara Amiel-Black. Their posh home and high-class parties drew the society of his peers, princes and counts. As reports of criminal allegations became public in 2004 Lord Black has been diss-counted by his peers in the London social scene. Facing lawsuits, charges of racketeering and money laundering, he sold over 500 newspapers from Hollinger International Inc. which is no longer his. He has had to sell two homes and mortgaged another to raise money.

When Lord Black's case begins on Monday, March 19, 100s of reporters will be covering the expected four month trial. A jury "of his peers" were selected from a cross-section of Chicago society a few days ago. It will likely reach a peak in public interest several times, when Donald Trump appears, and when the star prosecution witness Radler testifies against Black. If Eddie Greenspan and the rest of Black's defense team can discredit the evidence of David Radler, then that may be their best chance of proving Black's innocence.

We will be hearing plenty more of this trial in the coming months. Whether you have a little or a lot of interest in this case, you might be wondering what the final verdict will be. Will Conrad Black again be living side by side with the upper crust, or simply eating it?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Anti-Sealing Groups Could be History?

(from yesterday's Telegram)
According to Burford Ploughman, former president of the St. John's Board of Trade, anti-sealing groups are in clear violation of the Canadian Competition Act. The Act prohibits any business or organization, including charitable and not-for-profit operations, from using any kind of misleading information to raise money. Well that's certainly the case, they are over in Europe today using white coat seal pup props with "blood" around them to protest something which does not happen, and hence will dupe people into donating to animal rights activist groups.

Ploughman says Consumer Affairs would have to investigate and if they find the animal rights groups' claims cannot be justified, the federal government is obligated to lay charges and any money raised under misleading information or false pretenses ends up being forfeited. He goes on to say, "One case like that would send the rest of them scrambling."

It's too bad this approach has not been investigated before, but better late than never. In the meantime, protestors should really be kept far and away from where sealers work. It isn't easy to recall the last time video footage of how cattle are killed in slaughterhouses was shown.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Media Fails to Expose Animal Rights Activist Deception

(Just in: European Union rejects ban on seal fur imports)
Much of the media is missing or avoiding the real story of the seal hunt and annual protest fundraiser. The real story is that the cute seal is the best way to get money from the public, for animal rights activists (ARAs). Deceit artist Paul Watson told CBC journalist Barbara Frum this very thing in the 1970s. Watson even admitted that the natural tear production from baby seals was exploited to make people think that the seals were crying.

"The seal is very easy to exploit as an image" - Paul Watson in a 1978 interview with Barbara Frum (audio clip interview)

Still today, media puts the onus on the sealing industry to be defensive rather than approach the story in a way that makes animal rights activist groups justify their methods of lying to the public to get millions in donations.

In a conversation I had with a DFO scientist who regularly goes to the seal hunt front to see observe it, the importance of the landmark Report of the Royal Commission on the Seal Hunt became evident. The report, still very valid, said that the hunt was done in a humane way. It was an extensive and comprehensive study with assessments from veterinarians and scientists, social analysts, and people involved in both sides of the issue. That was also at the time that the hakapik was used. There are plenty of other sources from veterinarian groups which also conclude that the hunt is humane.

CBC tv still uses images of the hakapik while doing stories on the hunt. For years just a small percentage of the hunt used this very humane method, and now it is not used at all. But media still chooses to use this image which is associated with the often fed image of a barbarian. That is one of the major images promoted by ARAs, in addition to the white seal pup, to lie to the public. The white coat seal has been illegal to hunt for 20 years. Still protestors will don white coat seal costumes to imply that these are the helpless animals being taken. The CBC will of course run that footage.

The Anna Nicole Smith channel (CNN) will do the same if they run out of sensational stories. CTV will probably do the same. Animal rights activists raise money through deception, and this type of story is Fifth Estate material, or W5. But the way in which major media broadcasts the annual seal hunt fundraiser/protest is just the way swindlers like Paul Watson, Ingrid Newkirk and their ilk like.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Have-Not Province Big Givers: StatsCan

This is not new information, it's been heard for a number of years now, that Atlantic Canadians were the most generous.

(excerpt from June 2006 CBC item) Statistics Canada says Prince Edward Islanders and Newfoundlanders are more likely to give to charity than other Canadians.

In those two provinces 93 per cent of people gave to charity. That compares to only 79 per cent in Alberta, and 77 per cent in British Columbia. Nationally, the rate was 85 per cent.
Clair Smith, executive director of the United Way on P.E.I., said he's not surprised to hear that Islanders are so generous.
"Probably the main reason is the better appreciation of the concerns by way of the closeness of the community," said Smith.
"It's a community of friends that live together, I guess, and we know each other and we're aware of the concerns and the issues that are facing each and every person."

While not as many westerners per capita give money, those that do tend to give more than their eastern counterparts.
The average donation by an Albertan was $500. The average donation by someone living in Atlantic Canada was about $400. Quebecers gave the smallest amount, on average about $176 annually. (source: CBC)

However, when you take into account the average earnings between provinces, NL was better than Alberta. The $400 is still high when you consider that the average income from Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI is the lowest in the country, $24,165 and $22,303 respectively. Ontario and Alberta had the highest average income at $35,185 and $32,603 respectively. (source: StatsCan 2001)

NL gave 1.65% of their income as compared to 1.53% of Albertans.

Also see The Canadian Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating with 2004 information

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Equalization: From "Promise" to ComPromise

Alberta paid off its debt several years ago and hence does not receive equalization because it is a rich "have" province. The longer our provincial debt exists the more we pay out to service the interest on the debt. Conversely the quicker we get it paid off, the better the province and ultimately the country benefits. If Stephen Harper stuck to the "promise", or the idea that he supposedly inferred, that all (100%) non-renewable resource revenue would be exempt from the equalization formula, then that would mean billions more for the province. That scenario would be an excellent opportunity to pay down the province's debt more expediently, and get out of the equalization business, albeit still many years away.

Harper's Letter to Danny Williams - quote on non-renewables in the equalization formula:

We will remove non-renewable natural resource revenue from the equalization formula to encourage the development of economic growth in the non-renewable resource sectors across Canada. The Conservative government will ensure that no province is adversely affected from changes to the equalization formula. (Feb. 4, 2006)

That's what he told Williams in writing, it's pretty general and leaves the percentage of non-renewable removal wide open. It does not actually say 100%, but did he mean 100% by verbally expressing that to Danny Williams?

It would appear that Harper has gone from "promise" to compromise. As long as Harper looks pretty in the polls, then he probaly won't budge much from the much talked about, and seemingly expected, 50% of non-renewables, rather than 100%, excluded from the equalization formula. One argument for keeping 100% of non-renewable revenue is that it is a one time only opportunity for that particular resource, e.g., oil and gas. That type of income for the province is finite.

How will the Liberal or NDP's version of equalization compare to Harper's and to Danny Williams' vision of a fair formula? Even if Stéphane Dion made a "promise" to Premier Williams to totally clear non-renewables from equalization, or say 25% inclusion of non-renewables, offer to Danny Williams, which would sound better, then we will still have to ask, "what is a promise?" What does general wording really mean other than wishful thinking? On the other hand, even if we had more detail in writing up front, e.g., "100% of non-renewables will be removed ..", does that matter anyway?

If the province is ultimately stuck with some compromise on equalization, then how about a counter compromise offer? For example, if 50% is the amount, then what if 25% of that were to be mandatorily put towards our provincial debt. That is, in addition to what the province normally pays or should pay, according to income percentages (or at least an average of the last 10 payments, for example). The rule could be that the province has to make its payment towards the debt each year first, then the federally held in trust 25% portion can then be paid towards the debt also.

The net debt per capita for Newfoundland and Labrador, for 2005-06 was $22,733. The debt for the same year was $11.7 billion.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Equalization Promise Not So Promising

If Sasketchewan Premier Lorne Calvert knew PM Harper was coming today he may have baked a wheat cake. Harper announced $1 billion worth of farm aid for Sasketchewan, but as Calvert said later on CTV news, the announcement was hastily arranged and members of his party did not know what was going to be announced. He was disappointed at the way this news was orchestrated, and said, Typically there is some discussion with farmers, and farm groups. He added that he had little detail of where the dollars were going to flow, and warned MPs were going to be held accountable if Harper's equalization promise was not kept.

At the press conference reporters asked Harper about equalization but he had little to say, except that the answer is coming soon. For weeks it's been bandied about that 50% of non-renewables would be removed from the new equalization formula. Sasketchewan has also made it known last year that there might be a political price to pay for reneging on that promise. In August, 2006, Saskatchewan Conservative caucus chair Brian Fitzpatrick wrote that it will cause no end of political difficulty in the next election.

The Sasketchewan Conservatives campaigned on the promise to exempt non-renewables, and they ended up with 12 out of 14 federal seats. It will be interesting to see if Harper has any other surprises in the budget on equalization, and if Danny and Lorne will really attempt to form an east-west political grid.

NL vs Ontario in Tonights Curling Semi-Final

It's on at 9:00 p.m. NF time, 8:30 Labrador, 7:30 Eastern. The game will be live on TSN. Ontario is currently 10-1, while NL is tied at 8-3 with AB & MB. The final is on Sunday and will be particularly interesting if Gushue's team makes it. This is the third year that there is a cash prize. The winning team gets $40,000. Some, if not all, curlers support advertising sponsor logos on their jerseys. It would seem to make cents for all (pun intended) - great lengthy sponsor or advertiser exposure, and likely to be more sponsor money for curlers. Now that could be a good bilateral agreement.

* Update: Team Newfoundland and Labrador wins 7-6 over team Ontario. They qualify for the final on Sunday.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

300 Jobs - New Marystown Call Centre

The company Help Desk Now is an American company and already has offices in New Brunswick, Grand Falls-Windsor, and Guatemala. They plan to hire 300 people for the Newfoundland operations. From their website, jobs are Customer Service Representatives, Technical Support Specialists, and Inside Sales Representatives. They will also be hiring 30 managers for Newfoundland locations. The starting wage is $8.75 an hour for customer support representatives. While the fish plant is still closed, it is encouraging news for Marystown. (source: VOCM)


Sorry, no new post really, just trying to work out a few technical glitches. Seems my statcounter does not want to work with this new template. So testing others.

Fed Money for Toronto Transit: More Tory Seats Down the Road?

Prime Minister Harper made Dalton McGuinty's day on Monday with a $1 Billion cheque for the Toronto GTA transit system, and another half billion for Ontario to help pay for an east-west transmission grid to Manitoba. The grid will allow Ontario to import cleaner electricity from Manitoba, thus help to clean up some of Ontario's worst polluters. This is all good. It must be a nightmare to experience those long clogged commutes into the populous Toronto. It's a big gift from the feds, which probably won't soon be forgotten, at least Harper hopes so. This transaction has a familiar ring - fix up the roads, some time before an election, and get some political payback. The CPC's really need to make some headway in Toronto, no seats in the last election. He'll pick up some seats there next election. That could neutralize the threats of Premier Williams to have the province vote for anyone else if the equalization deal doesn't go his way. But you still can't burn any bridges when you need every seat.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fees, Please

What kind of a greedy crowd have customers become, wanting banks to get rid of the ATM fees, and be like Britian. Scotiabank posted a first-quarter profit of only $1.02 billion, up from mere $852 million a year ago. Record profits, that sounds familiar, oh yeah, it's been news annually at least for the last 10 years. So no wonder president and CEO Rick Waugh (above) doesn't want to ban the fees. Let's hope that there is a total cashless society soon so that they can make more record profits, and silly people like the NDP's Jack Layton won't be pressuring Finance Minister Jim Flaherty anymore to encourage the Canadian Banking Association to abolish ATM fees.

Another Gas Hike. Are you Fuming?

Twice in a week. Ok we need energy alternatives sooner rather than later. The increase for tomorrow is 7.7 ¢/litre. More competition is needed to give consumers some choice on how to run their vehicles. Right now there is no choice but to pay whatever fossil fuel companies decide we should pay. Those poor altruistic companies, how do they get by?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sensible and Healthy Initiative

Go Healthy is a website about healthy living for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. It offers information on what's the best to eat, the benefits of certain foods like fibre, fruits and vegetables, and links to excellent resources like Encouraging a healthier and more active lifestyle is the goal. The benefits are immediate and long term for individuals and also our health care system. There is a fact quiz there with one question that asks,
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador makes money on tobacco. true or false      Answer: False
In 2005/06, Government received about $116 million in tobacco taxes (Budget 2006). According to the Canadian Costs of Substance Abuse report of 2002, tobacco use costs this province about $363 million in health care every year. This does not include other costs like enforcement of tobacco control laws, public awareness, loss of worker productivity, and property damage due to fire. Worst of all, tobacco costs this province about 680 lives every year, including many non-smokers affected by second-hand smoke.
Well known province personalities have been and will be pitching the concept and site on tv ads. For a province that has the highest rate of obesity in the country, it's time for this, which should have been launched years ago. Well it's in the right direction anyway. Gotta go, need to pick up some psyllium fibre, and a veggie tray.

More Beautiful Places to Visit in Newfoundland & Labrador

There are so many places all around the province that are interesting to visit just because of their natural beauty alone. In a February, 2007 blog I posted many other places worth seeing, and here are some more. Newfoundland and Labrador is an astounding province with an alluring variation of scenic coastlines, landscapes, bays, hills, waterfalls, and ruggedness. It is a hiker's paradise, and offers pristine areas of nature. It is ours to protect and yours to discover.
Aviron Bay (South Coast) below

These photos are not mine, but I will try to find the web source.
Red Rocks, West Coast

Fraser River Canyon, Labrador
The only problem you might have is deciding what part of the island and Labrador to see first. The province is huge, so the best thing to do is get a map, study the regions, and places you want to visit, and set aside enough time to cover a number of places, or the number of things you want to do. You can certainly see alot in a week or two, but chances are, you'll want to come back.

Links for Tourists

Provincial parks

Iceberg Finder

Hospitality Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism

Provincial Ferry Service

Scenic Touring Routes

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Political Deflection

Politics is indeed like a game, a hockey game - one way to achieve a goal is through deflection. We read about it all the time in Newfoundland and Labrador blogs, "Danny is doing this, when he should be doing this". But who hasn't used a deflection of issues from time to time? I'm not sure there are many, or any. Deflection is used to postpone a ready answer to important topics. That can be prudent from the government's point of view, especially if saying something about a development or negotiations in the works, could jeopardize any behind the scenes dealings. If a politician has definite positive policies or developments to focus on, then deflecting negative exposure is wise too. On the other hand it is frustrating, and can indicate that there is absolutely no solution or movement on key issues facing the government. In the case of the spending scandal and cynicism about politicians and honesty in government, I think it would be wise to meet this issue head on, offer reassurance in the form of rigid safeguards.

Each election, one of the ways to get votes is to offer up hopeful words, "promises", to achieve things when the candidate is in power. People who need good news like to hear good or promising news. But often times neither the politician nor the electorate is being realistic about what can be achieved in the next four or eight years. So this realization is observed by the elected, and deflecting the issue is resorted to.

Deflection may very well be one of the most common political tactics used in this game. Mike Harris used it effectively in his 1999 election. There is a very interesting article written by James Winter and Jeremy Gillies, Communication Studies, University of Windsor. They wrote an excellent article called " News Media Rallied To Corporate Clarion In Ontario Election". In it, they describe how the Conrad Black owned and influenced media, "cooperated in no small degree" to get Mike Harris elected. They reviewed over 500 newspaper articles in the National Post the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star and found all papers to be bias and severely lacking. For example, with polls close between the Liberals and the Tories, the Toronto Star said, "Mike Harris and his team have the look of winners."

Harris had embarrassing confrontations with protestors and withdrew into "a bubble of carefully orchestrated events." The Globe and Mail went to unusual means to promote Harris' Tories. They hired a "body language expert" to inform the public that Harris had the look of a winner, "the whites of his eyes" mean "clarity of vision". In a televised debate Dalton McGuinty was described as "too excited", and NDP Howard Hampton was mostly dismissed. After he was said to have won the debate, he was dismissed as just a spoiler and robbing votes from the Liberals.

Writers Winter and Gillies said that "what the press left out was just as important as what was reported on." Some of the scandals and controversies were ignored by the press.
Harris' possible role in giving instructions to the OPP in the shooting of Dudley George at Ipperwash, the use of closure to pass the omnibus Bill 26; passing Bill 22, which denies basic human rights to workfare recipients; UN criticism for the increasing legions of homeless and poor; ... Tory Speaker of the Legislature Al McLean's resignation over a sex scandal; Leslie Noble and two other prominent Tories receipt of about $450,000 in fees from Ontario Hydro for consulting work that produced just 12 pages of records; the "Lands For Life" scandal that saw millions of hectares of public land given away cheap to the forestry industry; Tory spending of about $100 million in taxpayers' money in blatant political ads during the run up to the election; the Dionne Quints scandal; Ontario air pollution.

Harris got a deflection and he scored. In our fall election there ought to be realism, less alluding to things like, bringing Newfoundlanders and Labradorian home. I'm not so sure that politicians actually use the word "promise", but people seem to use that word alot. The public needs to be more realistic about what to expect. Somehow people think that swarms of ex-patriates will be returning, in a short time. But if Hebron and Lower Churchill deals were signed in 2008, it will create economic opportunites, but it will probably allow 100's of ex-pats to return for work, maybe over 1000. But there are tens of 1000's of province expats away. There are also people living in the province who will be working on projects like this too. There should be more realism on the part of the electorate and politicians, and then hopefully less deflection of the issues.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Scandals & Fiascos from Sea to Sea

As the Canadian union was just six years old, news of the first Canadian scandal was about to explode. In the summer of 1873 news broke that Sir John A. Macdonald and his Conservatives received a whopping $350,000 in campaign funds in exchange for a lucrative railway contract, Canadians were outraged.

Canada is a great country in so many ways, yet we are still evolving in areas of social equality, and democracy. However, the evolution of principle, ethics and honesty in politics has been slow, and has not caught on with every elected official. Newfoundland and Labrador has had scandals and fiascos before, but it is like other provinces of Canada who in recent years, and currently, have had politicians surrender to the chance to pocket more coin. Some things don't change much. Here are just some other Canadian examples of wastage and dishonesty in government:

Saskatchewan Tories in Fraud Scandal

Twelve members of Grant Devine's government in Saskatchewan, which was swept from office in 1991, were charged in relation to a scheme that defrauded taxpayers of more than $837,000.

There are some similiarities between this scandal and the still ongoing IEC scandal investigation in NL. The seeds of the controversy were planted in 1987, when Devine's caucus agreed to pool 25 per cent of the communications allowances that MLAs were entitled to receive from the legislature into a central account. The CROWN has alleged that some members of the Devine government signed expense allowance claims that were submitted to the legislature along with invoices from four shell companies set up by John Scraba, then the caucus communications director. Many of the invoices were for services never rendered, or for expenses that were illegitimate. After the invoices were approved by the legislature's finance offices, cheques were issued to the phoney companies. That money was then funnelled back to several caucus members and Scraba in the form of cash and merchandise.

Police were first alerted to the scam in July, 1991, when legislature clerk Gwenn Ronyk reported some suspicious invoices. The investigation received a break in April, 1992, when a Regina bank branch opened a safety deposit box after its registered owner failed to respond to a notification that the bank was moving. Inside the box were 150 $1,000 bills. The owner's name proved to be bogus, but his address was quite revealing: Room 203, Saskatchewan legislature, aka the Tory caucus office. After contacting other banks, police uncovered a second safety deposit box, under the same phoney name, that contained 90 $1,000 bills.

Perhaps the most explosive testimony came on Oct. 24, when another former caucus chairman, Myles Morin, told the court that Devine had approved a plan in 1985 to transfer $455,000 - an amount unrelated to the $837,000 fraud scheme - in surplus caucus funds into an investment account.

Eventually, more than a dozen former Conservative MLAs and party workers were convicted of robbing taxpayers in a bogus-expense scheme. Sadly in a much darker vein, former cabinet minister Jack Wolfe committed suicide in February, 1995, leaving behind a pregnant wife and three young children.

British Columbia's FastCat Fiasco

Also called the Fast Ferry Scandal was the name given to a political scandal in British Columbia during Glen Clark's tenure as Premier (1996-99). Hoping to revive BC's shipbuilding industry to some semblance of its past glory of the 20th century, Glen Clark's NDP government, refusing the advice of the BC Ferries corporation to lease a similiar type of ferry for trials, went ahead and constructed three vessels.

The project was originally set to cost $210 million, but due to various blunders by the government, BC Ferries, design bureaus, and the shipyards, it rose to almost $460 million and final delivery was almost 3 years behind schedule. A large part of the delay was due to the fact that the shipyards commissioned to construct the vessels had very little experience working with aluminum.

There were also significant problems like high fuel consumption, little outside deck space for passengers, and loading the ferries took longer.

In 2003 the ferries went up for sale. They were auctioned of to the Washington Marine Group for $19.4 million. If that wasn't enough salt in the wound, there this was: the same company offered to purchase the fleet for $60 million prior to the auction.

Alberta 2005: Worst land deal deal ever

Inside sweet land deals got some civil servants in trouble and cost the government of Alberta. Ethics commissioner Donald Hamilton cleared Environment Minister Guy Boutilier of influencing an Alberta Social Housing Corporation decision to sell 231 acres of Fort McMurray land for affordable housing to the Timberlea Joint Venture Consortium. The consortium got the land at a price set for 158 acres. Not only was the deal sweet, but beneficiaries include Boutilier’s personal friend Tim Walsh, and other individuals who NDP critic Ray Martin says have contributed $14,000 to Boutilier’s campaigns since he became an MLA. To top things off, the $35,000 per acre price was based on 1990 land values. The government lost at least $2.5 million in potential revenue on the sale.

Ontario's Hydro One Scandal
Here's an excerpt from the above link

Reports say Ontario's publicly owned utility paid out $5.6 million to former advisors to Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves.

The players involved in the Hydro One affair were key insiders during the 8-year Tory reign at Queen's Park: Tom Long (former Harris advisor), Paul Rhodes (Tory campaign communications director), Leslie Noble (co-chair of the Tory election campaign), and Michael Gourley (a reported advisor and confidant of Eves).

What's particularly unseemly about the Hydro One affair is that, many of the individuals involved are the very ones who concocted the "Common Sense Revolution" which hypocritically preached fiscal restraint, cuts to social assistance, and scaling back public services. This resulted in a Tory government that inflicted brutal cuts to the poor, ransacked health care, and created a "crisis" in education.

Ontario December, 2006
Millions wasted on gov't credit cards: Ont. AG
Excerpt from CTV News

A number of Ontario's public sector workers can't account for millions in charges on taxpayer-funded credit cards, the province's auditor general finds.

"I'd have to say that we noticed examples across all broader public sector areas that we looked at," Jim McCarter said in his annual report released Tuesday.

"The number of questionable examples that we noted across the system were certainly of concern this year ... we have a lot of examples in here of what we would call really questionable expenditures."

The report highlights include:

A litany of spending abuses at the Children's Aid societies, including all-inclusive trips to Caribbean resorts and questionable overtime. (One employee was paid $21,000 to catch up on paperwork);
$127 million charged to Hydro One credit cards without receipts. (One secretary charged $50,000 in goods that went to her boss, who signed the expenses);
$6.5 million charged on Ontario Power Generation credit cards without any receipts;
300,000 more OHIP cards than Ontarians;
Teachers and staff at four school boards charged thousands for questionable lunches, trips and gifts; and
Workplace Safety Insurance Board patients receiving quicker access to high-tech diagnostic exams than non-WSIB workers.
Spending abuses at several Children's Aid societies, which prompted an outcry last week after a draft report was leaked to the media, included purchases of SUVs worth $59,000 and expensive trips to all-inclusive Caribbean resorts.

One staff member, who was given a society-provided vehicle, also received a $600 a month tax-free car allowance.

I have not heard much about this since. If anyone has more information please share it here

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The COD Con

cod - to fool

When the news first broke that Ed Byrne had been asked to step down by Premier Danny Williams, it was came as quite the bombshell. He had the political image of being hard working, trustworthy and dedicated, where upon hearing the news, one might say, "Say it ain't so Ed!" If anyone were going to be honest in government it just might be Ed Byrne. But it appears that the former Minister of Natural Resources was one of 46 current MHA's who at some point unquestionably took money from the public purse. He was one of 5 current and former MHAs to overspend their constituency allowences. The others include Wally Anderson, Randy Collins, Jim Walsh and Percy Barrett. There are over 140 MHAs who may have been involved from the mid 1990's to 2004.

The public always seem to be suspicious of politicians in general because of other scandals nationally, provincially and historically since Canada became a nation. Newfoundland & Labrador is not the first or only province or political body to have political scandals. But now respect for elected officials is likely at an all time low, and only a couple of key figures come out untainted, Premier Williams, and particularly former Auditor General Elizabeth Marshall. It wouldn't be expected for multi-millionaire Premier Williams to accept the kinds of monies concerned with in this scandal, or any amount. But to me Beth Marshall seems to really have kept her hands on the moralistic tiller, and out of the till.

Since the 1990s the Internal Economy Commission acted like civil servers, dishing out cash nuggets in increasingly larger chunks for the next 15 years (see summary below). Sometimes it was even rationalized, for example, Bill 19 was tabled and passed. Bill 19 was significant in that it would give the IEC unregulated capacity to deliver the cash to MHAs. After Clyde Wells' time as Premier was done, the rules of the IEC began changing. It was easier to increase constituency allowance amounts, there was less transparency, less permission to increase various financial forms of income or support for MHAs, and tighter control over who could see the transactions that took place.

Whatever way you look at this scandal it is sad on a number of levels. First of all, the stress of the families of those MHAs must be very difficult. The job comes with pressures but also an image of prestige because of being a peoples' representative, a civil servant. But the image now is more inverted than ever, and families can suffer unenviable embassassment. It is also sad in that when you are connected to dishonesty it paints a new image for the public, something about the person that may not otherwise have been perceived. It can be interpreted to make the person seem morally or personally weak, and all too human. We have seen that picture many times before in our national and provincial histories, e.g., Sponsorship scandal, Hydro One, Mike Harris 1999 election.

Each new election carries the hope that people will have learned from the mistakes of others before them, and to not give in to the till temptation. The satisfaction of doing your best for the province's benefit with an already respectable pay should be enough. With the fall election, there may be plenty of new faces this time, who want to prove that. The extent of shady dealings within the House of Assembly would be enough, one would think, to make new candidates think twice about accepting cash bump ups. If this broad sweeping scandal will not teach people lessons, I'm not sure what it would take. Then again, year after year, we see that people have short memories.

Why weren't more questions asked by MHAs from the 1990s to 2004 about all these constituency allowance raises, discretionary spending amount increases, and lax rules which allowed them to be more unaccountable? It's apparant that an environment of acquiecense, and stealthy approval of the direction of where the IEC was going after the Clyde Wells era, saturated the mindset of MHAs. The whole affair leaves questions still unanswered, such as, "How much of say, constituency allowance increases, would be considered normal, given inflation, the passage of time, and demands on MHAs?"; "Why was there approval of $2850 in 2004 after the IEC began reversing previous benefit changes?"; "How much did Premiers Tobin and Grimes know about the IEC's actions, and what moral interventions should they have exercised to halt the abuse of public funds?"

It would be very interesting to hear some explanations from MHAs of their perceptions of the many increases, raises, benefits and rule changes that took place while they were in office. Did they not sense its secrecy was wrong? Again, it's sad when many MHAs do have many good qualities, are hard working, and appear to have sincere intentions for the people they represent.

It will also be very interesting to see how the fall election unfolds. Will many more MHAs throw in the towel? I'm thinking yes and we will see many new faces seeking party nominations. Let's hope that future potential representatives will learn valuable lessons from all of this and from now on, set a better example of honesty in government.

'Life is for one generation; a good name is forever'
~~ Japanese Proverb


Below are excerpts from Rob Antle's very detailed research.

------- For a Complete Reference see Rob Antle's article or the Feb. 23 issue of The Telegram -------

A Timeline of Key Developments in the MHA spending scandal
Taken from Rob Antles article "Behind Closed Doors" from the Feb. 23 issue of The Telegram

  • In 1989, new speaker of the House Tom Lush announced the creation of a commission to examine MHA salaries and benefits - initiative that dated back to the previous government. Lush noted that Newfoundland politicians were underpaid compared to their peers elsewhere in Canada in virtually every area - salary, indemnity and allowances.
  • Former MUN president M.O. Morgan was selected to head the panel.
  • MHAs at the time received a sessional indemnity of $28,811, plus a tax-free allowance of $14,405. They were entitled to a district allowance of between $1200 and $6000, depending on the geographical makeup of the area they represented.
  • The Morgan report raised MHA salaries to $35,000, and the tax-free allowance to $17,000 - an increase of more than 20 per cent.
  • The Morgan report wiped out the district allowance, and replaced it with a new constituency allowance system.
  • It set down the rules for members' travel - both to and from their districts, and within them.
  • Importantly, it advised the creation of an "accountable constituency allowance," with the IEC determining the amount.
  • The report's authors said that "Receipts should be required, and if no receipts are submitted for certain types of expenditure, some form of verification should be provided.
  • In 1990, the IEC - which is comprised of Tory and Liberal MHAs set the maximum amount for constituency claims at $7500. The committee also imposed rules on how that $7500 could be spent. ... Receipts were required.
  • The bulk could be used for things like office rentals, furniture, office supplies and secretarial assistance ($5000), and receipts were required.
  • A maximum of $1000 could be spent on non-partisan newspaper and radio advertising flags, pins and Christmas cards. Again, receipts were required.
  • The remaining $1500 was discretionary, but required receipts.
  • The $7500 limit on constituency spending remained in place throughout Clyde Wells era.
  • Over the next number of years some changes were made but for the most part, there appeared to be few changes that significantly bumped benefits during the Wells era.
  • MHAs even took pay cuts in the early 1990s, for example, when the Wells government brought in a severe austerity program.

    First Media Inquiry, 1991

    On July 14, 1991, the Sunday Express first raised questions about how MHAs were spending the constituency cash. Then-Speaker Tom Lush rejected the newpaper's request for detailed receipts.

  • Days later, then -NDP leader Jack Harris made public details of his own constituency spending. Said Harris, "I think the answer to it all is to encourage everybody to disclose (their receipts)."
  • Little public attention was paid to the constituency claims system until 1994, when CBC reporter Russell Wangersky reported on a controversy involving Liberal cabinet minister Tom Murphy.

    April 12, 1995 - another IEC review of the various Morgan commission report with a view to rationalizing the system.

    Clyde Wells era was concluding in 1996 and Brian Tobin's was about to begin and with that many more changes to the constituency claims process.


    The IEC said it would reduce travel and constituency allowances for members.

  • Pre-1996, there were capped limits on claims in certain categories.
  • Post-1996, those category caps weer removed.
  • Before, MHAs could spend a maximum of $7500 on things like newspapers, advertising, etc.
  • After 1996, that cap no longer existed.

  • The new rules also clarified that was ok for MHAs with a second home to claim accommodation expenses if that home was "within reasonable proximity of his or her district."
  • The IEC also permitted MHAs to claim $2000 per year from their constituency allowance without receipts, for "miscellaneous expenses."

  • In June 1996, the Tobin government passed an amendment to provincial law allowing the IEC to vary travel and constituency allowances "in accordance with rules made by the commission." In other words, the IEC could make the rules, and change the rules, as it saw fit.


    The IEC created a sub-committee to review constituency allowances for "members who appear to be having difficulties with their allotments." Its three members were Tory MHA Loyola Sullivan, Speaker Lloyd Snow and Liberal MHA Melvin Penney.

    On Dec. 1, 1998, immediately after question period - with the press gallery empty ... Government House Leader Beaton Tulk introduced amendments to the Internal Economy Commission Act. There was no debate. MHAs voted themselves a pay raise in 41 seconds, retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year eight months earlier.

    Soon after Tobin was re-elected in 1999, the IEC again re-examined constituency benefits. Transparency and accountability of constituency spending faded.

  • There were new positions for MHAs with generous new salaries.
  • more hefty bumps in allowable spending
  • A sub-committee of the IEC recommended another increase of the "discretionary" portion of constituency allowances.
  • The IEC also axed the monthly limit on "discretionary" funding.
  • Furniture owned by the public, more easily became property of MHAs - Anything under $1000 would now be the property of the politician and not the public.

    After 2000

  • Bill 25 was passed which was significant in that is further blocked accountability and the auditor general from reviewing the House books.
  • In December 2000, constituency allowance amounts were raised yet again
  • The IEC even threatened Elizabeth Marshall salary and office operating allowance.

    In 2002 AG Elizabeth Marshall said that her office was blocked from carrying out an audit of the constituency allowances.
  • All this was done behind closed doors, with public disclosure delayed months or years from the dates those decisions were made.

    After Danny Willams was elected Premier in 2003, he "directed" the majority Tory members of the IEC to allow the AG back in to review the books. There seemed to be a sense of contrition as there were some reversals of allowance and benefits raises, that is, until 2004, when the now infamous $2850 constituency bonus was accepted by 46 out of 48 MHAs.

  • The overspending of constituency allowances by five current or former MHAs amounted to $1.6 million.
  • The House also made questionable payments of an additional $2.8 million to a number of companies for trinkets and baubles like keychains and fridge magnets. A key House employee was tied to one of the firms.