Newfoundland and Labrador Political Pot Pourri

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Newfoundland and Labrador Political Pot Pourri

The Liberal Ball minority government nor the loyal opposition Progressive Conservatives do not look good at the public inquiry looking at their handling of the Muskrat Falls debacle that has left Newfoundlanders facing a future of skyrocketing electricity rates and enormous environmental damage. That's probably one of the major reasons Ball called the 2019 election early in order to avoid his own public inquiry testimony creating large political re-election problems for him. Despite his attempts to avoid scrutiny before the election, all he could do was win a minority government. Ball admitted that Muskrat Falls was  “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history” in the public inquiry today.

Liberal Premier Dwight Ball took the stand Thursday at the public inquiry into cost and schedule overruns that have plagued the controversial dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River.

The 824-megawatt dam has essentially doubled in costs to more than $12.7 billion since it was sanctioned by a former Progressive Conservative government in 2012.

Ball, who called the inquiry under intense public pressure, has called Muskrat Falls “the greatest fiscal mistake in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.”

Though the project is nearly complete, the looming threat of skyrocketing electricity rates to pay for cost overruns has become a pressing issue for Ball’s government.

Ball said Muskrat Falls should never have been sanctioned, but defended his 2016 decision to carry on despite its ballooning costs, saying abandoning the project would still have been very costly and would not have solved the problems already in motion. ...

The inquiry has already heard from a parade of past and present government officials, bureaucrats and energy executives, some of whom have suggested project risks had been intentionally downplayed.

Direct questioning of the premier by inquiry counsel wrapped within two hours, significantly more quickly than other high-profile witnesses, before other lawyers questioned him....

He said he was growing concerned at former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin’s insistence that the province should pay more money to Astaldi, which was struggling to meet its targets, to prevent possible insolvency, pushing the project timeline back further and driving up costs.

Ball said he doubted any number would solve “the Astaldi problem” and did not want Martin negotiating a settlement alone.

Ball said the importance of Astaldi’s contract to Italy was made clear by then-ambassador Gian Lorenzo Cornado’s persistent requests for a meeting, including an unexpected encounter with him at a hotel lobby in Toronto that Ball described as “probably not coincidental.” ...

The premier was also asked to address testimony from last month, when senior government officials revealed that time had run out to mitigate risks from methylmercury contamination downstream from the dam when the reservoir is fully impounded later this summer.

Research has indicated that flooding the uncleared reservoir near the dam could cause a spike in methylmercury contamination in wild food sources used by local Indigenous communities. Methylmercury is formed as vegetation rots under water and can contaminate fish and other crucial wild foods.




Muskrat Falls also presents an enormous environmental risk to people as this May 2019 article illustrates. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people have been left to face the extremely dangerous risk of methylmercury poisoning by Liberal and Conservative governments. 

methylmercury[is] a neurotoxin so dangerous the World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten chemicals of public health concern.

In the next year, when the Muskrat Falls hydro dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River floods an area twice the size of the city of Victoria, methylmercury will immediately start to contaminate the food chain as microbes feed on inorganic carbon stored in flooded soils and vegetation, setting off a sequence of events. ...

“It’s widely known that hydroelectric development has a methylmercury impact,” said Ryan Calder, a Duke University postdoctoral associate and expert on the methylmercury impacts of hydroelectric development. “That is beyond question at this point.”

When large hydro dams flood river valleys and forests, microbes convert inorganic mercury — found in soils worldwide in greatly increased levels due to coal-fired power plants and other industrial activities — into methylmercury, the type of mercury of greatest concern for human health. 

Most human exposure to methylmercury comes from eating fish, although marine mammals like seals and other traditional foods can also carry high levels. ...

Mercury impacts extend far beyond area considered in environmental assessment: Harvard study

Lake Melville, a brackish subarctic estuary downstream from the Muskrat Falls dam, was not included in an environmental assessment conducted by Nalcor, the province’s publicly owned energy corporation. 

Nalcor said it did not study Lake Melville — designated an “ecologically and biologically significant area” by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat — because it predicted that the Muskrat Falls dam would have no measurable impacts on the estuary, a traditional Inuit hunting and fishing ground.  ...

Ryan Calder, was a civil engineer and PhD student at Harvard University’s School of Public Health at the time, was one of a half-dozen American and Canadian scientists who worked on the peer-reviewed research project, led by Harvard.

There was no reason for Nalcor to cut off the Muskrat Falls dam environmental assessment study area at the boundary of Lake Melville, Calder told The Narwhal.

“There’s no scientific basis to say that there’s no impacts. There’s all kinds of data from Quebec and Brazil that show that in many cases downstream impacts are greater than from reservoirs … the methylmercury comes from the bottom of the reservoir and what comes out of the dam is disproportionately the methylmercury-rich bottom waters. A lot of data from Quebec over the past 40 years has shown very clearly that when you dam a river over the next few years the mercury levels in the fish increase.” ...

The Muskrat Falls study experimentally flooded soils from the future reservoir area, showing a spike in methylmercury concentrations within 72 hours, and a 14-fold increase in methylmercury concentrations within 120 hours, with elevated levels expected to last decades. ...

The study found that human exposure to methylmercury could increase by up to 1,500 per cent because of the Muskrat Falls dam. Locally caught wildlife represents a large fraction of food consumed by Inuit living around Lake Melville, constituting 70 per cent of their future exposure to mercury, according to the study, which noted that country foods are at the heart of Inuit health, well-being and culture.

Those country foods carry significant nutritional benefits, according to researchers. On days that country food is consumed Inuit diets have significantly less fat, carbohydrates and sugar and more protein and essential micronutrients such as vitamins, riboflavin and iron.



Here is a good look into the level of racism that operates throughout much of Canadian politics. I have recieved some funny voicemails when people haven't hung up but this one is not very funny even though the two people were joking all the way through it.



The NDP have gained 16% in the provincial polls to 23% overall under Alison Coffin's leadership in three months according to a September poll by Narrative Research (the new name for CRA). The Liberals are down 4% to 42% while the Cons have dropped 10% to 32%. 

It's bad news for the Progressive Conservatives and good news for the New Democrats, as a poll released Tuesday finds that support for each party has changed notably  in opposite directions  since the May provincial election, even as more than a quarter of voters remain undecided.

The telephone survey by Narrative Research found that support among decided voters was at 32 per cent for the Tories, down 10 points from May 2019 and at the lowest levels seen since February 2018, when the party polled at 33 per cent.

In the other direction, NDP support was also a level not seen since it was 24 per cent in February of last year, with 23 per cent of decided voters polled telling Narrative they backed the Alison Coffin-led party provincially. That's up 16 points over the last three months, compared with the support of just seven per cent of voters in May polling.

Meanwhile, the governing Liberals' support largely held steady, with 42 per cent of decided voters in the poll saying they support the party, down slightly from 46 per cent in May 2019 and 45 per cent in February 2019.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 27 per cent of voters are undecided, five per cent don't plan to vote in the next provincial election, and three per cent would not reveal their party support, according to the results, which are based on a sample of 800 adult residents of the province polled between July 31 and Aug. 25.


Narrative Research December poll shows all three major parties staying in a statistical tie with the company's September polls. The NDP's 24% statisically ties its 23% in the September poll but is up from the 7% they got in the May election, when they only ran 14 candidates. Coffin is the preferred choice of 19% of voters for premier. 

In terms of decided voter intentions, results are fairly consistent since August, with the Liberal Party maintaining 42% of the vote, with the Progressive Conservative Party standing at 33% (compared with 32% in August). Support for the New Democratic Party stands at 24%, compared with 23% in August, at which time there had been a jump in support following the May election, when levels were at 7%.

On the question of leadership, Ball remains the preferred choice of premier among 36% of voters. Less than one-quarter (23%) voiced preference for Ches Crosbie of the PC party, while two in ten named Alison Coffin of NDP as the preference choice for premier (19%).


Premier Dwight Ball will resign as soon as a new Liberal Premier is selected.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier has announced he is stepping down after more than four years leading the province.

Dwight Ball said in a video released Monday that he has asked the president of the provincial Liberal party to convene a leadership process to choose a successor “at the earliest opportunity.”

Ball, who was re-elected with a minority government last spring, said he is resigning to live a “more private life” with friends and family in Deer Lake.

Ball, 63, said he will stay on as premier until a new leader is chosen and will continue to represent the Humber-Gros Morne district in the legislature until the next provincial election.

He said he decided to start the leadership process now given his government’s minority status and the unpredictability of the next election date.

The premier said he will continue overseeing budget preparations and will prioritize protecting ratepayers from the cost overruns of the Muskrat Falls hydro dam.

His announcement Monday comes one week after a joint announcement with Ottawa that the two governments would rewrite the financial structure of the beleaguered megaproject on Labrador’s Lower Churchill River.

Currently priced at $12.7 billion, the dam has come to represent one-third of the province’s net debt since it was sanctioned in 2012.

The dam is set to produce more power than the province can sell, and its existing financial structure would have left electricity ratepayers on the hook to make up the difference starting in 2021.

Though last week’s announcement was light on specifics of the new model that will redirect benefits of the project to ratepayers, Ball vowed again on Monday that rates would not rise above current levels. ...

Ball came to power in 2015 after serving as leader of the official Opposition since 2012, and he has presided over difficult economic times in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The province entered 2020 facing a bleak financial forecast. Auditor general Julia Mullaley reported late last year that the province’s net debt is higher than it’s ever been and cautioned that the government “is not living within its means.”


Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball remains unwilling to answer questions about government scandals after announcing his intention to resign yesterday. 

The day after his abrupt resignation as premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Dwight Ball is taking questions — but the answers echo Monday's pre-recorded video statement in which he announced he's stepping down.

Ball stuck to outlining his government's accomplishments throughout Tuesday's interview with CBC News, refusing to address recent scandals that insiders say left his caucus and cabinet splintered, turning members of his own party against him. ...

He would also not single out any decision he felt he could have handled better.

"I'm not going to go back and say these are things I would change or do differently.… The outcomes are more important to me," he said. ...

In the hours since Monday's announcement, MHAs across the province have been trying to process what happened while calculating their next moves.

"I think it's a bright, shining light for the Liberal Party, for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. This is an opportunity to refresh the Liberal Party, to refresh it with new leadership, with new ideas," Independent MHA Eddie Joyce told CBC Tuesday morning.

Ball ousted Joyce from the Liberal caucus in April 2018, after a lengthy investigation into allegations of bullying. Joyce was mostly cleared of those, and returned to the House as an Independent in last year's election. ...

With a looming budget, his unfinished rate mitigation plan, and mounting pressure from the public over a string of recent hiring scandals, Liberal cabinet minister Lisa Dempster said she thinks Ball was worn out, like many politicians who spend years in elected office.


The downfall of Dwight Ball has been building for a while. Under Newfoundland law, an election has to occur within a year of a new Premier being chosen.

Dwight Ball couldn't seem to stop scoring on his own goal. Throughout last fall he had to defend moving former senior Liberal staffer Carla Foote into a position at The Rooms, the provincial museum and archives, sans competition.  ...

Instead of a fresh start in the new year, he faced a new controversy: a fat contract for a deputy minister-turned-oil and gas consultant.

Behind the scenes, multiple sources say cabinet and caucus members were frustrated with the premier's performance and his inability to handle scandals of his own making.

"Every leader has an expiration date. Dwight Ball just reached his," one cabinet minister told CBC News after Ball announced Monday evening that he was stepping down as premier.

Just last week, when Ball made his big announcement on keeping electricity rates low, there was another sign of waning support: only a few cabinet ministers showed up, with some of the heavy hitters — Transportation Minister Steve Crocker, Health Minister John Haggie, Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Bernard Davis, and Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Derek Bragg — all absent. ... 

Rumours of Ball's resignation aren't new; they started early in his tenure as premier. He underestimated the backlash from his first budget that hiked taxes and fees and cut libraries. Some in the public would never forgive him.

Multiple sources inside his own caucus say Ball never really regained the public trust. Less than a year ago the public returned him to power, but with his wings clipped atop a minority government. After that, he kept stumbling from scandal to scandal.

Leaving now saves Ball from facing a June leadership review — one he knew would be tough. Caucus and cabinet members were not-so-quietly expressing their desire for him to leave. Liberal executive members loyal to Ball tried to get the party to delay the vote, to give Ball more time, but they failed. Ball had a choice: fight a battle or leave on his own terms. He chose the latter. ...

Who's next?

The Liberal party is expected to lay out the process today, but the unofficial race has already started.

Some inside the cabinet have already ruled it out, with Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady and Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources Gerry Byrne insisting they won't run.

One name is already seen as a front-runner: Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon better known for his philanthropy. He founded Team Broken Earth, which helps provide medical care to developing countries. Furey has never held elected office but comes from a political family. His father, George Furey, is currently speaker of the Senate.

Insiders say he also has the backing of former premier Brian Tobin, who was helping him get ready for a run even before Monday's resignation. Furey told CBC news on Tuesday morning he is interested in throwing his hat in the ring, but would not speak further to the matter, adding he needed to discuss the issue with family and colleagues. 

From inside the party, Minister of Justice and Public Safety Andrew Parsons is well-liked, but is dealing with serious family health issues that sidelined him from the House of Assembly last fall and will keep him from running for the top job. ...

The now outgoing premier wants his replacement to be chosen soon.

In his address, he said he wants a new leader to put a stamp on a spring budget, due out in only two months.

That will mean a quick race or a delayed budget.

Under a law brought in by the PC government under Danny Williams, an election will have to happen within a year of a new premier taking office.

Even if the budget passes this spring — not a guarantee for a minority government — an election is coming.

Ken Burch the Newfoundland NDP in any better state of readiness for an election within the next year than they were for the last election, which year?

I'd strongly encourage them to get candidates nominated for every riding as soon as possible. They pulled off a miracle doing what they did with fewer candidates last time, but they won't be able to do THAT twice in a row.


There is now talk that the NDP are interested in forming a coalition government with the PCs and install Ches Crosbie as premier.  


Big news out of Newfoundland & Labrador tonight... Might the NDP be going into a big coalition government with the PC's, some Liberals and an Independent? This could be an historic government and a fascinating case study for future potential coalitions... Big stuff to watch for sure


Coalitions don't usually work out well for the junior partner, in this case the NDP if it were to join one, as the larger party tends to get the credit if things go well and if things go badly, all coaltion parties take the hit. I think it would be better if the NDP became the Official Opposition to a Liberal-Conservative government, so that when its support wears thin, they have a chance to win.


Jumping into a coalition when Newfoundland faces the vast array of problems outlined below would probably mean the end of any hopes of forming a Newfoundland government in the future. 

With a shrinking population, staggering debt and government spending far outstripping revenue, Newfoundland and Labrador is facing one of the biggest fiscal challenges it has seen since joining Confederation. Whoever tries to tackle that problem head-on as its next premier also stands to be a very unpopular person.

The sudden resignation of Liberal Premier Dwight Ball this week has created an opening for what may be the most difficult political job in Canada. So far, few people are stepping forward to take on the task.

“This is not a good job right now. It’s the kind of job where you’re going to be making enemies left, right and centre,” said Dr. Amanda Bittner, a professor of political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “You’re going to be making some tough choices that nobody is going to be happy with, and it’s probably going to be miserable. It will not be easy.”

Melissa Royle, a lawyer and host of a politics talk show in St. John’s, says the challenges facing the province are daunting, and are likely discouraging a lot of good candidates who would otherwise enter the race to replace Mr. Ball.

“Maybe that’s part of the reason we aren’t seeing a lot of people throw their hats in the ring yet,” she said. “Newfoundland and Labrador has significant demographics problems. We have an aging, declining population. We have an insurmountable debt. And our economy hasn’t really recovered since the price of oil collapsed.”

In short, the province’s books are a mess, and that could be why no member of the Liberal caucus has publicly expressed an interest in the leadership. So far, the only potential candidates who appear interested are Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon who has never held elected office, and businessman Paul Antle. ...

The Premier says his successor faces an overwhelming challenge to get the province’s $14-billion debt under control, something he wasn’t able to do. Newfoundland spends more than 13 per cent of its provincial budget just on loan interest, far more than any other province, and there’s a very real concern that banks will stop lending it money....

Newfoundland’s political leaders argue that the province’s growing debt crisis will soon become Canada’s problem, too. Mr. Ball is calling for a new deal with Ottawa, arguing that equalization payments from the federal government need to be increased to better reflect the cost of delivering services such as health care in his province. ...

His rival, official Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie, says federal equalization payments alone aren’t enough to dig Newfoundland out of the financial hole. It also needs a bigger share of offshore oil revenues, or else Ottawa risks having a province default on its debts, he said. ...

Demographic pressures and collapsing oil prices have hammered the economy of a province that was celebrating an energy boom just a few years ago. While the rest of Atlantic Canada is growing, Newfoundland’s population continues to decline by about 4,000 or 5,000 people a year. As it shrinks, losing younger, working-age people to other provinces, it’s getting tens of millions less in transfer funds from the federal government each year.

The minority Liberal government’s attempts to reduce spending as revenues shrink have been met with angry protests in St. John’s and around the province. With a provincial deficit that reached nearly $2-billion in 2016, Mr. Ball’s first budget as premier hiked taxes, trimmed public-sector jobs and cut libraries, prompting calls for his resignation that never went away.

One economist says the next premier will need to push further on unpopular downsizing – including cutting the public service to a sustainable level, and reducing services to Newfoundland’s network of sparsely populated remote communities spread out across the province.

“It has to start with somebody who doesn’t care about getting re-elected,” said Scott Lynch, an associate professor of economics at Memorial University of Newfoundland. “It’s going to be a nasty situation. These cuts will be extremely painful … the problem has been when things get good, they spend, and when things get bad, they still spend."

The Premier’s waning popularity was not helped by a series of patronage scandals and the ongoing saga of Muskrat Falls, the hydroelectric megaproject that’s billions of dollars overbudget and threatening to trigger a spike in electricity rates. Mr. Ball says a new rate-mitigation plan, which is still being negotiated with Ottawa, will keep those hydro bills down, and is one of his proudest achievements. ...

Mr. Crosbie, who hopes to replace Mr. Ball with a Progressive Conservative government, warns that unpopular decisions will be necessary to place the province on more stable footing. His late father, John Crosbie, was Canada’s fisheries minister in the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney when the northern cod fishery was closed in 1992.

That decision seriously damaged Newfoundland and Labrador’s economy, starting a pronounced migration out of the province that continues to this day. Its population is about 15 per cent less than it was when the cod moratorium began, while the rest of Canada has grown by about a third.


Is there any further news on this coalition development?

I agree that this would be a bad idea. For one, remember Crosbie's speech on election night? No congratulations, no promises to work together to hold the Liberal government account, just anger and sour grapes for losing. That's not an attitude of someone you want to go into coalition government with. Furthermore, this thing would be very unstable, and probably collapse within one year, given the different factions involved. Then we're off to the polls, and what will the people want? Stable government, and that election would likely result in a majority. The NDP would be safe in their St. John's seats, but would be nowhere near able to make an argument about being ready to govern, regardless of how prepared they were for an actual election.

Rather than coalition, I think that it would be better to prepare for an election and pull the plug. If the Liberals are having a leadership crisis and the PCs cannot form a stable coalition, let's vote so we can start fresh.


The Liberal government is having problems in another area with the resignation of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) over the failure to protect designated areas. 

Cape St. Mary’s is one of the protected areas contributing to the province’s 6.9 per cent of protected lands and inland waters. Under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the province had committed to protecting at least 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by this year. -CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY BILL MONTEVECCHI

Cape St. Mary’s is one of the protected areas contributing to the province’s 6.9 per cent of protected lands and inland waters. Under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, the province had committed to protecting at least 17 per cent of its lands and inland waters by this year.

Protected areas plan stalled for 25 years

They say they will no longer be complicit in what they call the provincial government’s continued delay in protecting natural areas.

That’s why two members of the Wilderness and Ecological Reserves Advisory Council (WERAC) have resigned.

The council formed in 1980 to advise government on the establishment and management [the rest of the article is behind a paywall].


The Liberal party will pick a new leader on May 9th. 


The Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will select its new leader on May 9.

Party president John Allan says the call for nominations for leadership candidates, which opened Monday, will remain open until March 6 at noon.

The leadership convention is set for May 8-9 in St. John's. It will follow the same preferential ballot system used in 2013 wherein each registered voter shall be asked to rank the candidates in order of preference, from their first choice to their last choice. 

Each candidate will be required to pay a $25,000 nomination fee, starting with a $15,000 payment due when the nomination form is being submitted.

Only a few people have publicly — but not officially — declared an interest in taking over for Premier Dwight Ball, who announced his resignation last week. Among them are businessman and former Liberal leadership candidate Paul Antle, Dr. Andrew Furey and businessman Dean MacDonald.


Below is an update on the Newfoundland Liberal Party leadership race: 

Surgeon Andrew Furey and former deputy minister John Abbott are the two candidates vying to become the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. 

The Liberal party confirmed Friday that Furey and Abbott are the two contenders in the race, having signed nomination papers and paid the $15,000 upfront portion of the $25,000 entrance fee to be a candidate in the leadership race. 

“I want to congratulate both candidates on successfully entering the 2020 leadership race. This is an exciting time for Liberals and the people of Newfoundland and Labrador," Liberal party president John Allan stated in a news release. ...

Voting will take place in May, with online voting, telephone voting and in-person voting options available. 

The Liberal leadership convention will take place May 8-9 at the St. John's Convention Centre.


There is no surprise in the latest Narrative Research (formerly CRA) poll showing Liberal support dropping 5% to 37%. Furthermore, dissatisfaction with the Liberal government has risen from 42% in November to 55% today while satisfaction is down 12% to 40% leaving the Liberals overall at -15%. The PC's and NDP are both up 2% to 35% and 26% respectively, while the Greens received 2%. The NDP's Coffin at 22% (up from 12% just before the May 2019 election) is now only 8% behind Premier Ball in best premier and 5% behind the PC's Crosbie. 

A majority of Newfoundland and Labrador residents now express dissatisfaction with the performance of the provincial government led by Premier Dwight Ball, according to a recent survey conducted by Narrative Research. In fact, more than one-half of residents (55%) express dissatisfaction, up notably from 42% in November 2019. Only 40% (down 12% since November) are satisfied with the government’s performance, reflecting the lowest satisfaction level since the last election. (Note nearly all data collected by Narrative Research was collected prior to Ball’s resignation announcement.)

In terms of decided voter intentions, the Liberals hold 37% of the vote (down from 42% in November), closely followed by the PCs, who are at 35% (compared with 33% in November). The New Democratic Party is at 26% (compared with 24% in November). The relatively new Green Party holds 2% of decided voters.

One-quarter of eligible NL voters are undecided (26%), while 1% do not plan to vote in the next provincial election, and 3% refuse to state which party they support.

On the question of leadership, Ball remains the preferred choice as premier (30%), closely followed by Ches Crosbie (27%). The gap between the two was 13 points in November 2019, but has now narrowed to just three points. Alison Coffin is preferred by 22%. Ten percent of voters voice no preference for premier, while 11% prefer none of the party leaders.


The Newfoundland Liberal Party has suspended its leadership race during the pandemic. Since provincial law requires an election must be called within a year of the selection of a new premier, this could delay when the next Newfoundland election occurs.

The contest to replace Newfoundland and Labrador’s Liberal premier is being suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, just days after the party declared it would continue online. ...

The party says the suspension will be in effect until at least May 1, after which it will be determined whether the situation has improved enough to set a new date for the vote, to be conducted online and by phone. ...

Premier Dwight Ball announced his plan to step down last month, and the party was set to choose a new leader to replace him at a convention in May.

Under party rules announced today, the two candidates, Andrew Furey and John Abbott, are prohibited from accepting donations and campaigning, including interviews and social media posts about the race.


Liberal Sherry Gambin-Walsh removed from cabinet after RCMP executes search warrant


I posted this elsewhere but it is very relevant to Newfoundland.

While Canadians are focused on COVID-19, the Trudeau Liberal government is accelerating the process of developing Newfoundlands offshore oil by carrying out a public consultation to eliminate the required environmental assessments for Newfounland offshore drilling. This involves rougly 100 drilling holes according to the following article from Le Devoir. I used Google Translate to convert the article to English. 

The reason for doing this: "According to the government, the report produced by the "committee" that conducted the regional assessment "concludes that the effects of exploratory drilling for oil and gas offshore are well known, cause minor, localized and temporary disturbances, and are not likely to 'be important if standardized mitigation measures are put in place'."

The goal: to produce 650,000 more barrels of oil a day by 2030 from the Newfoundland offshore. So much for Trudeau's greenhouse emission reduction targets.

Proposed exploratory oil well drilling off Newfoundland

As Canada is hit by a health crisis that is hogging media attention, the Trudeau government continues to take steps to accelerate oil drilling in the marine environment, Le Devoir noted.

It is currently conducting a public consultation to eliminate the environmental assessments required for exploratory drilling in eastern Newfoundland. At least 100 of these holes are planned by 2030. The ongoing process goes completely unnoticed as Canadians face the coronavirus crisis, but it is nonetheless crucial to foster the development of the petroleum industry in eastern Canada over the next few years.

The Trudeau government is conducting a 30-day online public consultation on a draft regulation that will “exclude” oil and gas exploration drilling from an environmental assessment conducted under the rules currently in force under the Act respecting impact assessment. "The draft ministerial regulation aims to improve the efficiency of the assessment processes for exploratory oil and gas offshore drilling while maintaining high environmental protection standards for these projects," said the consultation document, which ends on April 3. Is the consultation continuing as planned, despite the COVID-19 crisis? "The Canadian Impact Assessment Agency has not changed the deadline for this consultation period at this time. The Agency will consider extending the deadline in light of the circumstances related to COVID-19, "Le Devoir was told.

The Trudeau government is therefore continuing to take steps to ease environmental regulations targeting the petroleum industry. Until now, an oil company that wanted to conduct a first drilling project on an exploration license located in the waters east of Newfoundland and Labrador had to file a project notice and produce an impact study . A review was then conducted by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, which produced a report for the Minister of the Environment. The latter then decided to authorize or not the project.

Things should change soon, however. The Trudeau government indeed commissioned in 2019 a "regional assessment" which covers a maritime territory of more than 735,000 km2 located in the Atlantic. This large area, which cuts across the large commercial fishing sector of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, has many major ecological zones and is home to several endangered species. The region also includes most of the exploration permits held by oil companies in the marine environment in the east of the country. ...

Minister Wilkinson released draft regulations on March 4. It provides that all exploration wells drilled in the 735,000 km2 area will be exempt from the review of the Impact Assessment Act. It should be noted that this rule even applies to drilling projects carried out in "marine refuges" set up by the federal government to protect the marine environment. ...

A specialist in marine mammals and ecosystems, Lyne Morissette deplores the ways of the Trudeau government. "This region does not belong to the oil industry, nor does it belong to the fishing industry. I therefore do not understand the interest of conducting such a consultation “in secret”, at this time, when the impacts concern several stakeholders who must be consulted. " ...

She also stressed the importance of protecting the maritime region off the coast of Newfoundland. "It is a sector of very high biological productivity, which is the basis of all biodiversity. It is an ecosystem that is rich and there is an increasing interest in these areas, for example when we see species moving more to the north, as is the case for the right whale. These are regions that will be critical in the coming years, particularly for species at risk. " For biologist Sylvain Archambault, the draft regulation is "worrying". "Their goal is to speed up the approval of drilling projects," he said. Fishermen's associations also fear these drilling projects. “These are marine environments that are extremely productive fishing sites. After all, this is the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, "said Archambault. Newfoundland and Labrador wants at least 100 exploration wells to be drilled by 2030 to increase oil production in the coming years. The goal would be to produce more than 650,000 barrels a day.



Liberal Andrew Furey is the new Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, doubling the vote obtained by John Abbott.

Orthopedic surgeon Andrew Furey is premier-designate of Newfoundland and Labrador, after winning the provincial Liberal leadership race on Monday evening. Furey was the frontrunner from the beginning, with the backing of outgoing Premier Dwight Ball's entire cabinet. In voting results announced Monday evening in St. John's, Furey doubled the only other candidate, longtime civil servant John Abbott, with about twice as many points.

In his victory speech, Furey promised to be "frank and transparent," and called on all MHAs to work together to address the dire problems staring down at the province. "Together we can emerge from this crisis as a stronger, more caring, more passionate and more diverse Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

Furey, who has never run in a political race before, said he hasn't given any thought to asking anyone to vacate their seat, but said he will run for the first seat that becomes available.

About 21,000 votes were cast in the leadership race, despite the fact that more than 34,000 people had registered. The final tally of votes cast is less than the 2013 Liberal leadership campaign, even though more people registered to vote in 2020.

Furey has never held office before, and doesn't have a seat in the provincial legislature. Furey, though, is politically connected. He is the son of Senate Speaker George Furey, a longtime Liberal organizer, and the nephew of former provincial cabinet minister Chuck Furey. ...

The leadership race started in February with Premier Dwight Ball dropping a bombshell announcement during the evening news of his intention to resign. ...

Ball's decision to resign came amid growing scandals within his caucus such as former Municipal Affairs and Environment Minister Perry Trimper's inadvertent "very racist" voicemail to Innu Nation staffer Dominic Rich, the hiring of Carla Foote — without competition — to a top job at The Rooms and subsequent investigation into then-Tourism Minister Christopher Mitchelmore'sinvolvement, the hiring of Gordon McIntosh to a $350,000 contract with Nalcor Energy — also without competition — and the saga of a harassment claim set forth by then cabinet minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh which saw the removal of then-Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce and cabinet minister Dale Kirby. ...

Furey will also inherit other problems, such as the province's troubling financial situation, which has since worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing push to bring the overbudget Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project online. ...

Over the course of the race, Abbott remained on the attack, twice raising concerns about how Furey formed his contact list, a list that resulted in a convicted murderer getting an invitation to Furey's campaign launch. The two men also went to battle over health care, with Furey accusing Abbott of not doing enough to fix the system while he held his senior position in government.

Before the final tally was announced, Abbott said he wanted an independent review of the voting process. He said many of the voters his team tried to contact had died before the leadership race began, or were wondering how they even ended up on the voting list at all. ...

Abbott told reporters he intends to run for the Liberals in the next election, and said he is willing to meet with Furey about his future.


When Dwight Ball announced in mid February that he would resign as Premier when a new leader was chosen, Covid-19 was barely on most Canadians view, but the Liberals had already fallen  from their 44% victory in the May 2019 election to 37%, while the PCs were at 35% and the NDP at 26%. Like all Canadian governments Covid-19 helped increasing the government's support, pushing the Liberals up to 60% support in May with the PCs falling to 26% and the NDP to 13%. Since then the Liberals have slipped to 48%, the PCs are back at 35% and the NDP is at 12%, according to a June poll. (

With all the problems and scandals mentioned in the last post that the Liberal government faced during the last year, I expect the Furey government to call an election soon while the Liberals are still somewhat popular before the problems, which show no sign of disappearing, and the same or new scandals remind voters of the situation under Ball. Having an election quickly would also allow Furey to avoid running in a byelection to win a seat and then running in a general election. 

Hopefully the NDP will be better prepared than in the 2019 election when they were only able to run 14 candidates in the province's 40 ridings, and yet defied expectations by winning three seats. 



Further increasing the chance of an early election is the follwing Newfoundland law: "Newfoundland and Labrador, unique amongst the nine provinces and two territories which have adopted fixed-date election laws, requires that new premier appointed to office before the close of the third year in the life of a House of Assembly advise the Lieutenant Governor to call an early general election within 12 months."  (

IMO this puts further pressure on the Newfoundland Liberals to go this fall before being trapped into an election as the one-year deadline nears next year. 


The Newfoundland Liberal party did away with leadership reviews unless he loses power today, thereby redefining democracy under the new Andrew Furey regime.  

Premier-elect Andrew Furey will not face a review of his leadership by his party, as long as he can hold on to government.

At Monday’s Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador annual general meeting, before Furey was named the premier-to-be, a motion came forward to amend the party bylaws.


Once again the Trudeau government is speaking out of both sides of its mouth as it changes offshore drilling rules in Newfoundland in order to make it easier for the fossil fuel industry to meet them and then proclaiming that the industry must live up to those standards while environmental organizations complain about the changes.  The Liberal government has also excluded new drilling from environmental assessment there. This has become even more important with the announcement of the discovery of oil in two new places in the Newfoundland offshore. 

Canada’s environment minister defended government regulations Wednesday related to the impacts of oil drilling off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson told the House of Commons environment committee that “all drilling projects must respect high environmental standards” after a Bloc Québécois MP raised questions about a government rule change meant to help industry.

Monique Pauzé asked Wilkinson about the Liberal government’s announcement in June that it was excluding individual exploratory offshore drilling projects from having to undergo a federal impact assessment. 

That change was touted by the government at the time as lending a helping hand to Newfoundland and Labrador's offshore oil industry, which has been battered by the pandemic’s economic toll as well as low global oil prices. Natural Resources Minister Seamus O'Regan said it was the “number 1” request that “business and investors” had been asking for. ...

Last week, energy company Equinor said it had discovered oil in two locations east of St. John’sfollowing an exploration drilling campaign. Newfoundland and Labrador's oil and gas industry group called the discoveries, which Equinor made with partner BP Canada, an “encouraging” sign for business “at a time when encouraging news is needed.”

Environmental groups have raised concerns about the government’s exploratory drilling exemption. WWF-Canada, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Ecology Action Centre have said a larger regional assessment of the impacts of exploratory oil drilling off the province’s coast was “flawed” and so cannot be used as a basis for allowing individual exemptions.

One of Canada’s marine refuges, the Northeast Newfoundland Slope is also east of St. John’s. The 55,000-square-kilometre section of the ocean is important for biodiversity since it contains fragile corals and sponges that help out other marine life by acting as spawning grounds or nurseries, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“In your documents, you talk about biodiversity of oceans,” Pauzé asked Wilkinson in French. “You excluded important offshore drilling projects from environmental assessments ... is there not a contradiction in terms of what the government’s saying?” ...

Equinor's two discoveries appear to have been made to the southeast of the marine refuge's southern tip based on location data sourced from the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board and the fisheries department.


New Liberal Premier Andrew Furey has been buoyed up by how the government has successfully responded to the pandemic. By law provincial law, the government must call an election no later than one year after the selection of a new leader, so expect an election in the spring as the clock runs out in August. The NDP sits at 15%, a slight increase over their the 13% of 3 months ago but down significantly from the 26% they had in early March before Covid became the dominant issue that has driven up government support in all the Atlantic provinces. 

Satisfaction with the overall performance of the Liberal government in Newfoundland and Labrador led by Premier Andrew Furey remains strong and continues to reflect a solid majority level of satisfaction, well above pre-pandemic levels. Two-thirds of Newfoundland and Labrador residents (67%, compared with 69% in August 2020) are satisfied with the overall performance of the provincial government this quarter, according to the latest survey by Narrative Research.

Decided voter support for the Liberals has also remained steady at 58% this quarter (compared with 61% in August 2020). Voter support for the Progressive Conservatives stands at 26% (compared with 21% in August 2020). Support for the New Democratic Party remains consistent at 13% (vs 15% in August 2020), while Green Party support remains unchanged at 2%. One-quarter (25%) of residents in the province are unsure who they would vote for if an election were held today. Two percent do not plan to vote, and two percent refuse to state their choice.

“This continued level of support for the Liberal Party and its leadership reflects a high level of confidence in the government’s actions throughout the pandemic,” said Margaret Brigley, Narrative Research’s CEO.  “It’s apparent that residents feel Dwight Ball has left the party in good hands with Premier Andrew Furey.”

When considering leadership preference, new Liberal leader Andrew Furey has established a strong lead (52% compared with 46% in August 2020). Ches Crosbie is preferred by 19% of residents (compared with 17% in August 2020), while Alison Coffin holds at 10% (compared with 12% in August 2020).


Liberal Premier Dwight Ball  called the 2019 election early in order to avoid his own public inquiry testimony creating large political re-election problems for him. Neither Ball's government nor the loyal opposition Progressive Conservatives  looked good at the public inquiry looking at their handling of the Muskrat Falls debacle that has left Newfoundlanders facing a future of skyrocketing electricity rates and enormous environmental damage. Calling the election early helped him stay in power with a reduced number of MLAs and aminority government but did not remove the Muskrat Falls albatross. In the end he resigned. 

Muskrat Falls continues to be an enormous finanical and environmental risk to Newfoundlanders as this May 2019 article illustrates. Unsurprisingly, indigenous people have been left to face the extremely dangerous risk of methylmercury poisoning, a neurotoxin so dangerous the World Health Organization ranks it among the top ten chemicals of public health concern, by Liberal and Conservative governments. 

When the Muskrat Falls hydro dam on Labrador’s lower Churchill River floods an area twice the size of the city of Victoria, methylmercury will immediately start to contaminate the food chain as microbes feed on inorganic carbon stored in flooded soils and vegetation, setting off a sequence of events.

The pricetag for the project had doubled to $12.7 billion with another $4o0 million now being added due to Covid-19 construction days pushing the bill over $13.  This was about to lead to a doubling of Newfoundland's hydro rates and leaving Newfoundland with a crushing debt load as of December 31st,  until the Trudeau government stepped in today to waive debt payments temporarily. However, this does not solve the problem, only delays it and at best may shift some of the costs onto federal taxpayers. What a mess. 

I expect the new Liberal government to call an election in the early spring before all the still unsolved problems become apparent and while the Covid-19 halo still shines. 

The federal government is again saying it will take steps to make Newfoundland and Labrador's Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project financially stable — including waiving immediate payments due from Crown corporation Nalcor Energy — but there are few exact details on how the project will affect the province's ratepayers. ...

Debt and financing payments owed by Nalcor, which operates the Lower Churchill project in Labrador, will be delayed. Since the project isn't yet regularly producing power, Ottawa has temporarily waived the payment obligations to "help reduce immediate financial pressures on Newfoundland and Labrador," according to the release. The province would have been on the hook to pay $844 million, $780 million of which would have been due by the end of December and added to the provincial debt, Furey said. ...

A long-time critic of the project said Thursday's announcement contained little new information and was short on details of how exactly the federal government will help. "I really thought it was a nothing-burger," said Ron Penney, chair of the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition. "I thought we'd get a very big Christmas present, but instead all that we got was setting out the federal negotiating team and the objective of the exercise, but nothing really practical in terms of how the problem is going to be resolved." ...

Penney said he thinks Ottawa becoming a stakeholder in Muskrat Falls is "the only solution to this problem," referring to the potential doubling of hydro rates due to the cost of the project. 

The deferral of hundreds of millions of dollars in payments that were due this month is a "very minor step" in addressing the financial strain of the project, he said. "I'm not minimizing that, it's important for this fiscal year, but this is a 50-year problem," Penney said. He said there's no way residents can afford to pay a doubled electricity bill next year and he's worried a major financial burden will fall on generations to come. 

"I'm concerned about my children and grandchildren."