Author Archives: Ginger

Newfoundland and Labrador premier resigns

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Kathy Dunderdale hugs her finance minister and interime leader, Tom Marshall, after announcing her resignation in St. John's, Newfoundland today, Jan 22, 2014. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Kathy Dunderdale hugs her finance minister and interim leader, Tom Marshall, after announcing her resignation in St. John’s, Newfoundland today. Photo by Greg Locke © 2014

By Greg Locke

Only three years after becoming Premier and two years since a decisive election victory, Kathy Dunderdale is stepping down as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada’s most eastern province.

First elected to the province’s legislature in 2003, Dunderdale came to power in November 2010 when Danny Williams’, one of the most popular premiers in Canadian history, stepped down and appointed her as Premier and leader of the province’s Progressive Conservative Party. As leader she won a significant majority in October 2011 over long-time rivals, the Liberal Party, and the up-and-coming, left-of-centre New Democratic Party. This secured her party’s third major election win.

Since then she’s had a fast ride downhill ride. Two years of polling numbers show a trending descent to a current all-time low of 20 percent approval ratings, down from the ludicrous 80 percent  afforded her predecessor, Danny Williams. Polls suggest her personal popularity is worse:  Dunderdale has been named the least-liked current Canadian premier. This is remarkable considering that Newfoundland and Labrador has one of Canada’s few hot economies, with big revenues coming from the oil and mining industries and their major projects in Labrador and offshore oil on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the north Atlantic ocean.

But while politicians, operatives and pundits are all reading the Red Rose tea leaves for the signs, the reality is her manner and tone simply didn’t catch on with the public. Some in the business of politics are saying she just had a communications problem, but the problem is a lot deeper than they are able to think. Communications is just the harbinger of a greater ill.

Despite having record GDP numbers, that “booming economy” is not translating into jobs.  The offshore oil industry does not generate many jobs and what goes into government coffers bypasses the local economy on the streets. With the province still recording very high unemployment numbers (officially at 11.1 per cent last month, which misses those who already left or are no longer seeking work), that many are still forced to migrate, mostly to the western provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, is a sore point with the voting population. (See Mexicans With Sweaters – subscriber access).

As the government and business organizations trumpeted the booming economy and the province’s elevation to the coveted Canadian status of a “Have Province,” the citizenry received a mixed and hypocritical message, as the conservative government continued to cut funding for education, health care and the public service.

The final straw in the public’s view seemed to be a recent massive province-wide power blackout and weeks of rolling black-outs that left some 400, 000 people without electricity at one point, not because of extreme weather, but due to poor equipment maintenance planning by Nalcor, a provincial crown energy company. Dunderdale’s seeming  lack of concern, compassion or leadership on this issue turned off a lot of people including members of her own party caucus who, facing a general election in less than two years, seemed to be in tune with the public in thinking it was time for a change.

Dunderdale opted to depart before a palace coup.

Another one bites the dust.

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F&O’s WEEK IN REVIEW

Downtown Corner Brook, Newfoundland on a beautiful wintery Friday night. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.

Downtown Corner Brook, Newfoundland, on a beautiful wintery Friday night after more than 30cm of snow fell over the previous two days … just another winter day on the west coast of the Atlantic Canadian province. Photo by Greg Locke © 2013.

 

New work on Facts and Opinions – and selected reading and viewing from elsewhere in the week past:

This week Facts and Opinions welcomed aboard Jim McNiven with his new regular column, Thoughtlines, in Commentary. In his inaugural column, Bill, Shane and Jim, McNiven tells the tale of three men who changed the modern world, from the baseball field to major political campaigns, but who remain almost unknown.

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examined the symbolism of Japanese and Indian military exercises, and their relevance to China, in a column titled Japan moves to unshackle its military as storm clouds gather over Asia. Manthorpe also turned his attention to the renewed threat of civil war in South Sudan. Excerpt:

The sickening smell of unfulfilled vengeance hangs over fighting that broke out Sunday among rival clans in the capital of Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan — and there is an awful predictability about where it will lead.

Included among several new reports in our Dispatches section is a story about an American fraudster sentenced to six years in jail for his exploits in a strikingly grotesque line of work. Excerpt of a ProPublica story:

“Joseph Caramadre saw death as a holiday, a cause for celebration, a way to make money,” U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha declared on the courthouse steps downtown. “He stole the identities of people and used it to make money from companies who should have probably done more due diligence.”

In Canada a panel of the National Energy Board gave conditional approval to the contentious Northern Gateway pipeline proposal by Enbridge, which wants to ship oil from the Alberta oil sands overland to Canada’s West Coast, and then load it on tankers bound for Asian markets. Look for an upcoming F&O feature on the issue.

Spying – or surveillance for those who prefer the sanitized word – was again in the news this week as analysts blamed America’s National Security Agency for the loss of a $4.5 billion Brazilian aircraft contract that American aircraft manufacturer Boeing was widely expected to win. Brazil, publicly irate over American spying, awarded the contract to Sweden’s Saab AB, reported Reuters. See F&O’s Dispatches section for a report on recommendations aimed at curbing the NSA by an American expert panel appointed by United States President Barack Obama.

An interesting development, reported widely, caught our eye in Latin America: Chile’s election of former president Michelle Bachelet on a centre-left platform that promised profound change in the South American country, including using higher corporate taxes for better education, and getting big money out of politics.

And finally, if you’re considering giving someone a new bicycle for Christmas this year, you might consider that the two-wheeled mode of transportation and fun has, at least according to one columnist, become the symbol of a new conservative front in North America’s culture wars. Yes, you did read “bicycle.” No, we’re not kidding. The title of the piece, in the Boston Globe, says it all: Conservatives’ new enemy: Bikes.

— Deborah Jones                                

 

Posted in All, Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Analysis: Japan’s military and Asian storm clouds

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the symbolism of Japanese and Indian military exercises, and their relevance to China. Excerpt:

The Japanese and Indian navies are in the second of four days of joint exercises in the Bay of Bengal, an event which neatly demonstrates the gathering storm of military preparations rumbling over Asia.

Log in to read the column, Japan moves to unshackle its military as storm clouds gather over Asia.*

*F&O premium works, including our commentary, are available for a $1 site day pass, or with monthly or annual subscriptions. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.

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Analysis: Conflict in South Sudan

The sickening smell of unfulfilled vengeance hangs over fighting that broke out Sunday among rival clans in the capital of Africa’s newest nation, South Sudan — and there is an awful predictability about where it will lead, writes Jonathan Manthorpe in his latest international affairs column.

He looks at the renewed threat of civil war in the country, where at least 500 people have been killed so far. “There was a sure sign today that this fighting between the Dinka tribe of President Salva Kiir and the Nuer people led by his sacked Vice-President Riek Machar is to settle old scores,” writes Manthorpe. Log in to F&O  to read the column here.*

*Please note, F&O premium works including commentary are available for a price that’s less than a coffee, with monthly or annual subscriptions or with a $1 site day pass. Real journalism has value, and to avoid the conflicts inherent in advertising or soliciting outside funding F&O relies entirely on reader payments to sustain our professional quality.

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Introducing Thoughtlines, a new column by Jim McNiven

McNiven for F&O bio

Jim McNiven

Facts and Opinions is pleased to welcome aboard Jim McNiven and to introduce his new regular column, Thoughtlines, in Commentary.

In his inaugural column, Bill, Shane and Jim, McNiven tells the tale of three men who changed the modern world, from the baseball field to major political campaigns, but who remain almost unknown.

McNiven is Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, where he still teaches part time, and Senior Policy Research Advisor with Canmac Economics Ltd. He has been a Fulbright Research Professor at Michigan State University’s Canadian Studies Center and, at Dalhousie, was the R. A. Jodrey Chair in Commerce and Dean of the Faculty of Management. He has served as Deputy Minister of Development for Nova Scotia, and President of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council.

He has also been CEO of a small technology company, served on numerous corporate and government boards, and was a member of the Canadian Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation. McNiven, who has a PhD from the University of Michigan, has written widely on public policy and economic development issues, co-authored three books, and has a special interest in American business history.

In A Lesson Passed On, his piece in October for the Loose Leaf salon of Facts and Opinions, McNiven wrote about taking his young grandson to a museum for Cold War-era Titan nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles – and how that trip put the ghosts and goblins of Halloween into perspective.

Posted in Gyroscope Tagged |

A ballet of birds

Serendipity on the Internet: ease into the weekend with “Bird Ballet,” a gift of sound and movement by Neels Castillon, a young filmmaker in France who filmed this murmeration of starlings near Marseille.

A bird ballet from Neels CASTILLON on Vimeo.

Posted in Gyroscope

Analysis: power struggles in Beijing and Pyongyang

In the capitals of China and North Korea ‘tis the season to be merry, but only over the bodies – real and figurative –  of purged enemies and rivals.

Jonathan Manthorpe’s latest international affairs column focuses on the power struggles in the corridors of power in Beijing and Pyongyang. Log in to F&O first to read the column here.*

*Please note, F&O commentary is available to monthly or annual subscribers, or with a $1 site day pass.

 

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Analysis: South Africa’s nightmare

By Jonathan Manthorpe

Nelson Mandela has been praised to the rafters for promoting peace and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa, but there is precious little evidence on the ground that his message was heard or understood.

Read the column, The Nightmare of Mandela’s Dream in South Africa, here.*

Please note: log in first to read F&O columns, available to monthly subscribers or with a $1 day pass to Facts and Opinions.

 

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

A hacker goes to jail

By Deborah Jones

The case of Jeremy Hammond, who victimized a private American security firm, is yet another the stranger-than-fiction tales of global surveillance, activism and espionage being churned out lately in the United States.

Hammond, a self-described American anarchist, was sentenced in a U.S. court today to 10+ years in jail for hacking into the servers of Strategic Forecasting, Inc., for which he had pleaded guilty. Hammond wiped information from company computers and stole millions of email messages along with some 60,000 customer credit card numbers. As Wired reports, “The emails went to WikiLeaks, while the credit cards were used by Anonymous to rack up $700,000 in fraudulent donations to non-profit groups.”

Hammond was, according to numerous accounts, directed to target the private security company by an American government informant. Reports the Guardian: “Hammond suggested that the FBI may have manipulated him to carry out hacking attacks on “dozens” of foreign government websites …  he was often directed by a individual known pseudonymously on the web as ‘Sab,’ the leader of the Anonymous-affiliated group Lulzsec, who turned out to be an FBI informant.”

Meantime Hammond’s activities revealed information Stratfor and its powerful corporate clients would likely prefer not be splashed over the pages of WikiLeaks — such as emails amongst activists working on the Bhopal, India, chemical plant leak in 1984, which killed thousands and has had lasting effects.

Hammond now goes to jail. Any bets on what — if any — repercussions Hammond’s victim Stratfor and its clients will suffer? Any bets on when the movie will be released?

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Labour’s freedom of expression trumps privacy, rules court

By Deborah Jones

A union’s right to freedom of expression trumps people’s privacy rights in union disputes, Canada’s top court ruled today, in a constitutional case involving complaints against a union that photographed workers crossing picket lines.

The Supreme Court of Canada decision overturned privacy legislation in the province of Alberta – though it gave legislators a year to fix it.

Excerpt of the ruling:

The central issue is whether (Alberta’s  privacy act) achieves a constitutionally acceptable balance between the interests of individuals in controlling the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information and a union’s freedom of expression. 

This appeal requires the Court to determine whether Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act unjustifiably limits a union’s right to freedom of expression in the context of a lawful strike. At issue is whether the Act achieves a constitutionally acceptable balance between the interests of individuals in controlling the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information and a union’s freedom of expression.

The dispute in this case arose when the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 recorded and photographed individuals crossing its picket line for use in its labour dispute. Several individuals whose images were captured complained to the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta that the Union’s activities contravened the Personal Information Protection Act, S.A. 2003, c. P-6.5 (“PIPA”), which restricts the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by a range of organizations. Those individuals were successful, prompting an application for judicial review on the basis that the legislation infringed the Union’s right to freedom of expression under (the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms)…

In our view, the legislation violates (a section of the charter) because its impact on freedom of expression in the labour context is disproportionate and the infringement is not justified…

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