Thursday, November 22, 2012

Just a Game OR The Sheep and the Wolves

     With all the crap going on around the world (Israel decimating Gaza; the ongoing insurrection in Syria; General Strikes across Southern Europe, turning violent when police intervene; Unions in Spain organizing raids on super markets and then distributing the food freely, etc. etc. etc...) it seems a bit surprising that nothing major (that people are noticing and talking about) is happening here in North America (the coming Black Friday events excepted). But then again, the majority of people in Canada and the United States are completely indoctrinated from birth to think that if it isn't affecting them then it doesn't matter. So because of this I end up thinking of the population that they are asleep, as they are not seeing what is going on in the world.
    To use a favourite quote of mine: "The Sheep will be slaughtered, or turned to Wolves." Now at first glance it doesn't look good, but let me explain it. I'll break it down into two parts: 'the sheep will be slaughtered,' & 'or turn to wolves.' To understand the first part of the quote two things must be known: Who are the Sheep? & How will they be slaughtered?

    As to who are the sheep? The sheep are the 'sleeping' population that doesn't realize where 'their' politicians are taking them, and doing in their collective name (destroying the ecosystem through allowing systematic exploitation of all our natural resources in the name of 'profit'). Now as to how will they be slaughtered? I just explained part of it.

   What about the second part of the quote: 'or turn to wolves'? what does that mean? Who are wolves?

    Wolves are the people in society who are informed on what is going on and can see what is happening as well. As compared to sheep being 'asleep' wolves are 'awake'. What kind of change can be made in society with people changing to 'wolves'? Any kind of world and society we as humanity want; a more humane society. Where instead of an economy with a focus on profits, we could have an economy where its main goals and focus is to provide for every person's needs.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

People's Assembly demos, Nov 18, 2012

Check out some of the images and video from the coordinated demonstrations earlier today. Big thanks to all the people that came out and showed solidarity! Please send us your images/videos to post!

Here's a link to some great pictures from the Rally for Democracy in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador this afternoon, organized by Friends of the Grand River/Mistashipu and Grand Riverkeepers. Here's their rally handout.

Solidarity with demonstrators in Labrador. More pics here.
More video here.

There was coverage of the People's Assembly St. John's protests of the undemocractic handling of the proposed Muskrat Falls mega-project in the CBC, the Telegram, and even coverage in the Vancouver Sun!

Where's the power? People power!

Special report from Z News and NL's favorite tiny reporter, Zoe. (Thanks Gordon!)

UPDATED YET AGAIN... Photos coming in from friends we met at Confederation Building and another demonstration in solidarity, Boil Up For The Big Land! Solidarity across Newfoundland and Labrador. Keep the pics coming folks

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Political Contributions in Newfoundland and Labrador II

This is the second post in a series. The first can be found here.

Yesterday's post provoked an interesting question on Facebook.   I presented a graph showing that corporate donations go mostly to the party in power and the major recipient party switched from Liberals to PCs when the government changed in 2003.  But did the PCs win the 2003 election because they received more donations, or did they start receiving more donations because they won (or were expected to win)?

First observe that the PCs saw an uptick in donations in 2002, the year before the election.  My guess is that businesses sensed which way the wind was blowing and began hedging their bets by donating to both parties.  Unfortunately, I can't find good polling data from those days to determine at what point a PC victory became likely, so it is tough to make any inference based on expectations at the time.

However here is another test.  If businesses were simply supporting their preferred party in 2003, then you would expect some businesses to donate to the Liberals, some to the PCs, but not very many to support both.  On the other hand, if businesses are trying to curry favour with government, then you would expect most businesses to donate to both parties in order to hedge their bets.

Here is the data.  I've included all companies that donated $10K or more.  Looks to me like most companies are hedging, consistent with the "pay-to-play" hypothesis.

Top Contributors to Provincial Parties in 2003:

Kruger Inc. 10000 28000
North Atlantic Refining Ltd 9000 17000
Inco 11750 14000
A Harvey & Co 10000 12250
Nfld Design Associates 7000 15000
Pennecon 2000 ltd 11000 11000
Aliant Inc. 10000 11400
Abitibi Consolidated 1750 18500
CIBC + CIBC Wood Gundy 5000 15000
BAE Newplan Group Inc. 12000 5000
Husky Energy +Husky Oil 8000 9000
SGE Acres Ltd 10000 6000
BMO bank and Nesbitt Burns 5000 10000
Hatch Associates Ltd. 15000
Reid & Associates 15000
AMEC 9000 5000
Labatt Breweries 4000 10000
Fortis 9250 4400
Island Waste Management 5000 8000
RBC bank + securities 2500 10000
Bristol Group 2000 10000
British Confectionary 4000 8000
Rogers Group 11000 1000
Archean Resources Ltd. 11750
AE Consultants 1500 10000
Woodward's Oil Ltd. 2000 9500
Fishery Products Int. 10000 1400
CHC Helicopter Corp. 10000 1000
NL Consulting Engineers 7000 4000
Insurance Brokers Ass. 10000 800
Barry Group 10000 500
Myles Leger Ltd 7400 3000
Molson Canada 4200 6000
Becktel Canada Ltd 10000
Cougar Engineering and Construction 2000 8000
Imperial Tobacco Canada 5000 5000
J-1 Contracting 10000
Provincial Airlines 10000
Rothmans' Benson & Hedges 10000
Scotiabank 2000 8000

Friday, November 16, 2012

Political Contributions in Newfoundland and Labrador

I've added a followup to this post here.

The recent $500 a plate fundraiser for the provincial PC party got me wondering about who contributes money to the provincial political parties. Here is what I got from Elections NL

Two things jump out right away:  most donations go to the governing party and most donations come from businesses.  The following chart presents total income of the provincial political parties over the last 8 even years (only `96 was an election year).

Can you tell in what year the PCs were elected?  It is the year where the blue and red lines cross.  In 2010, the PC party received income of $820,000 compared to $101,000 for the Liberals.  In 1998, the Liberals received $975,000 compared to $67,000 for the PCs.    The NDP has been stuck around $75,000 the entire time. 

Where is the money coming from?  In 2010, over 80% was from corporate donations.  I've classified corporate donors giving more than $2000 according to industry and listed them below in rounded figures.  The first column is donations to the PC party and the second is donations the Liberal party (there are none to the NDP).  The discrepancy is hard to miss.

Construction and Contracting:

Pennecon Ltd 14000 1000
BAE - Newplan Grounp Ltd. 14500
DF Barnes Ltd 14000
NL Design Associates Ltd 12000 250
AMEC Americas Ltd. 9500
Provincial Paving Ltd 7500
J-1 Contracting Ltd 5000
Municipal Construction Ltd 5000
Fortis 4500
ND Dobbin Ltd 3900
Nortech Construction Ltd 3900
Ellsworth Estates Inc 3800
Crosbie Group Ltd 3400
Marco Services Ltd 2500
Eastern Contracting Ltd 3600

Total                                              $107K            $1K


PHB Group Inc. 13000
Gibbon Snow Architects Inc 11000
Sheppard Case Architects Inc. 10000
Hearn Fougere Architects Inc 8200
Frank Stanley & Associates, Architect 6450
John Hearn Architect Inc 5000
Ron Fougerie Associates Ltd 5000
Hampton Architects Inc 4000 100

Total                                              $63K           $0.1K


Hatch Mott MacDonald Ltd 8000
NL Consulting Engineers Ltd 7500
GJ Cahill & Co 5700
Core Engineering Inc. 4800 500
Quadratec Inc. 5000
Design Management Group Ltd 3800
AMEC Earth & Enviro 3500
CBCL Ltd 2300 500
NewLab Engineering Ltd 2300 450
Exploits Engineering Consultants Ltd 2400
Crosbie Engineering 2100

Total                                               $47K            $1K


Bell Aliant Inc. 16000 5500
Rogers Comm. Inc. 9500 4500

Total                                               $26K         $10K


Vale/ Vale Inco 9000
Coordinates Capital Corp 5000
Aurora Energy 3400 1500
Fugro Jacques GeoSurveys Inc. 5350
North Atlantic Refining Ltd 4500
Imperial Oil Ltd 2400

Total                                               $30K        $1.5K


Citicorp Finance 5100
Bank of Nova Scotia 5000
TD Financial Group 4500
Royal Bank of Canada 2800
CIBC Wood Gundy 6500

Total                                              $19K            $5K


Shoppers Drug Mart 8500
British Confectionary Company Ltd 8000
Coleman Management Services Ltd. 5000
JB Hand & Sons Ltd 3000
Chester Dawe Ltd. 2500
Canadian Tire 2250

Total                                               $29K

Beverage Manufacturers:

Labatt Brewing Company 9000
Browning Harvey Ltd 6500 700
Molson Coors Brewing Company 7000

Total                                               $23K             $1K

Marketing/Public Relations:

The Idea Factory 4500
M5 Marketing Communications Inc. 4300
Pilot Communications Inc 2800
Market InsightsInc 2500
Promoworks Inc. 2500

Total                                               $16K


PF Collins Customs Broker Ltd 7000
Oceanex Inc 5500
Puddister Shipping Ltd 2300

Total                                               $15K

Law firms:

Fasken Martineau Duomulin SEN 9500
Benson Myles PLC Inc. 5150

Total                                               $15K


Ocean Choice Int Inc 6500
Labrador Fisherman's Union Shrimp Company 1000 1200

Total                                                $8K             $1K

Pulp and Paper:

Kruger Inc 4500
Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Inc 2000

Total                                                $7K

There are a handful of donations that didn't fit into these categories.  Provincial Airlines, who are currently implicated in the Penashue scandal, gave $17.5K to the PCs and five hundred to the Liberals.   Labrador Marine Inc., who operate ferry service in Labrador, gave $10K to the PCs.  A Harvey & Company, a diversified group of companies, gave $10K to the PCs.  There are single donations from a hotel, an aquaculture company,  a sheet metal manufacturer, and a real estate company.   A marketing firm called Bristol Group Inc. gave a huge donation of $38K to the Liberals right before getting taken over by a competitor, which seems pretty weird so I didn't include it in the table above.

In addition to corporate donations, there were a couple individual donations to the PCs and the United Steel Workers of America gave $20K to the NDP.   The second biggest donation to the NDP?  Lorraine Michael, who contributed $1200.

So what is behind all this generosity?  The biggest donors are competing for construction contracts: construction, architecture and engineering.   The natural resource companies are always dealing with government.  Law and PR get government business. I'm not sure about retail, finance, telecoms, and beer; I guess they just have a lot of money to splash around.

The fact that corporate contributions are going overwhelmingly to the governing party strongly suggests a "pay to play" culture:  businesses feel they need to pay up in order to win government contracts and other favours.  Politicians will deny that they are affected by donations, but reciprocity is such a fundamental part of human nature that all this money must be distorting their behaviour.  Corporate political contributions are bad for democracy and we should fight to put an end to them.

PS:  If you like this kind of stuff you should check out Labradore which has several recent posts on this subject, including an analysis of election year donations to individual candidates.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

NL Mulls BYOB Policy for Restaurants

Diners in this province might soon be able to bring their own bottle of wine to restaurants. The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation (NLC) has put forward a recommendation to change the liquor laws. Now it is up to the Department of Finance to make the final decision.
Doesn’t this seem like a no-brainer? Surely, more choice for patrons is a good thing. Not according to the Restaurant Association. Here’s what they claim:
  • BYOB is bad for business because profit margins are tight (3 per cent), especially at high end restaurants.
  • If BYOB was an option 80 per cent of restaurants would offer it and the other 20 per cent would suffer.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Time for the People to get involved.

The Muskrat falls process so far has been anything but satisfactory to most people. Undemocratic, to say the least—the latest coming yesterday, when the government announced that there wouldn't even be a debate in the House of Assembly on Muskrat Falls. Reclaim the political process by joining the newest initiative for direct democracy in this province. 

Attend the People's Assembly Undemocracy Tour Nov 19th 1 PM
on the steps of Confederation Building!
The People’s Assembly is a grassroots forum for direct democracy. It is an alternative to an unresponsive system of top-down party politics. The People of Newfoundland and Labrador have the right to actively participate in the political process and the civic responsibility to ensure this happens.

To this end, the People’s Assembly is holding a weeklong Referendum on Muskrat Falls, running November 18th through 25th. On Sunday, November 18th there will be a public demonstration to kick off the referendum, meeting at Harbourside Park in downtown St. John's at 12:00 noon and marching to Colonial Building for a rally. Throughout the week there will also be daily marches and other actions in order to bring the political process back to the People. Regardless of differences on the merits of the Muskrat Falls project, few can be satisfied with the process as it has unfolded. Participating in the referendum is a way to take part in this political decision, but also to show your dissatisfaction with a broken political system. This "do-it-ourselves" approach demonstrates a new set of expectations to a government that will not simply change on its own.

Check out the website for updates. Let the people be heard. Get involved!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rethink Muskrat Falls protest — Nov 5, 2012

Concerned citizens gathered at Confederation Building this morning to urge people to rethink the Muskrat Falls project. Members of the group Friends of the Grand River/Mistashipu, along with supporters from various parts of the province, came out to make their voices heard! This is only the beginning. Solidarity!

Check out blogposts on other recent protests in Labrador here and here.

Note the upside down flags indicating distress

Protesters took their message to the roadside.
Lots of cars honked to show their support!
A small but lively group – sure to grow.