Monday, October 29, 2007

"Elle" Presidente

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner went from First Lady to the first lady President of Argentina. She has ample experience too - serving as senior advisor to her husband, President Nestor Kirchner, for four years, and other elected positions in the last 20 years. Both have been credited with keeping Argentia afloat as the country faced complete economic collapse with its $100 billion debt. It's an unusual combo, husband and wife that is, running the country back to back.

In 1998, four agreements were signed in Buenos Aires by Newfoundland and Labrador companies during the Team Canada Trade Mission to South America.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Albertans React Strongly to Stelmach's Royalty Plan - Support, but Plenty of Anger

It was reported that 80% of Albertans supported Premier Ed Stelmach's royalty policy to boost the royalty amount to 20%.

But the proposals have received overwhelming support from Albertans, with polls showing eight of ten backing a higher take. (Globe's Report on Business)

In 2006, 84% of Albertans felt there should be a review of oil sands revenue.

A most recent reaction, at least at the Calgary Herald "Sound Off" web page, is largely anger towards him. It would be interesting to know how many of the 200+ commenters from the Calgary Herald "Sound Off" site, had vested interests in the oil sector.

There were a full range of views - from complete support to "let's wait and see" to complete outrage.

The outrage had its ignoramus angles, like assuming because Premier Stelmach worked on a farm in a past career, that he couldn't possibly be capable to make wise decisions for his fellow Albertans. It's seen in references like

"OK< can Albertans please take the farmer out of the office and put him back in the fields?",

"what do you expect from a pig farmer?",

It was interesting that the National Post writer, Claudia Cattaneo, made a similiar reference/inference to Mr. Stelmach's background, just a few days ago,
The premier, a farmer from Northern Alberta, showed little appreciation for the implications of his actions, suggesting the sector will continue to thrive.

What an ignorant attitude! Stelmach indeed worked on a farm, and also attended the University of Alberta studying pre-law, but because of a family tradegy, had to return to the family farm. He has had 11 years experience in retail business, managed on a shoestring budget, and let's not forget he served in four different portfolios including, Minister of Agriculture, and Minister of Transportation in Alberta's government (see bio). Anyway, I digress - back to comments of outrage.

"Goodbye Ed...don't let your government pension hit you in *ss on the way out the door next election",

"Often wonder how the people of Venezuela and Ecuador can be so uneducated to blindly fall for the arguments of Chavez and his cronies. Can't they see they're killing there own economy's? Then I look outside and see people in this province fall for the same thing. Sad.",

"It's funny how on TV interviews, those people who wanted more from the oil companies are all barbers or cashiers or other low level uneducated workers. Gee I wonder why."

Support references included:

"Well Done Mr.Stelmach, it is after all the people who voted you in to act in their best interest and that you have done."

"The increase is great for Alberta!! Alberta has one of the lowest royalty rates in the world and it's by far the safest in the world for security and for investment climate."

"For all of you fear-mongers, think about this as an owner would. Would you really pay somebody more than 50% to extract a resource you own when you could just do it yourself? I'm all for a free-market approach, but a market is not an end in itself - societal goals are what the market serves, and so there has to be some kind of goal-setting in government to reflect societal priorities. If a few of the oil companies want to leave (and they won't), let them. When oil's really scarce a decade from now, they'll be clamouring for even 20%, never mind over 30."

Others suggested that Premier Stelmach let the people decide on this royalty increase idea. Some say he should have asked for a higher royalty amount, while some say he is taking the middle road. From this cubicle in the Atlantic, he appears to be a level-headed Premier, who does not appear arrogant and loud, and is willing to risk, to some extent his political career, or at least some political support. Making the royalty increase policy his platform in the next Alberta election might just end this debate very quickly.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alberta's Ed Stelmach - the new Hugo Chavez?

A couple of hours ago, Alberta's Premier Ed Stelmach went on live television to announce a new royalty regime for oil and gas developments. The new regime will put an extra $1.4 billion into Alberta coffers by 2010. This is about a 25% reduction from the recommendations of a panel set up to study the new royalty plan. A National Post editorial thinks that this is so significant that it will end Alberta's boom, and compares Alberta to "banana-republics" like Venezuela (Chavez) because it is not being friendly to big oil, in fact, starting a "new anti-oil industry" era.

I have to wonder about how many $billions oil companies have made already from the Alberta oilsands, and how much they will still profit even with Alberta's new royalty policy. It was not stated in the NP piece. Are oil companies really just scrapping by? From reading the National Post, one might think so. How much profit is enough?

When one hears references that the oil sector will hurt as a result, one should not necessarily view it as some poor sap of a business put out of business. Today, the Globe & Mail reported that Suncor's profits were down. It will earn a third quarter profit of $ 677 million, but that's down from $682 million from a year ago:(

Many already think that big oil, like banks, are the poster children for greed. Like banks, oil companies are regularly making record profits in quarterly reports, and will likely "survive" Alberta's new royalty rate. Despite being a rich province that has eliminated its debt a few years back, Alberta still has problems in health care, and it's share of social problems. An extra $1.4 billion could go a long way to alleviating problems and helping secure peoples' future and well being.

NP's Claudia Cattaneo says that the oil companies are responsible for "lining the pockets" of Alberta, but from an outside observer's point of view, it was quite reciprocal. Alberta has been very friendly with oil & gas companies, but it seems they will always have allies with Canada's "national" newspapers.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For Maple Leafs Fans

Thankfully fall is a nice time of year, and leaf color change lingers for weeks. Here are some maple leafs, in various colors of transformation.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Ten Commandments of Spending Money

Thou shalt spend money on things because it brings happiness, for a while.

Thou shalt shop till thou hast dropped, because ye only live once.

Thou shalt spend money rather than save it.

Ye shall have no other priorities with thine money than to spend it on material things.

Remember the Sabbath, and every other day and night, to goest out shopping.

Honor thy credit card.

Spend money, even if thou doest not actually have any.

Take control of thy life, and spend money on some products and that will improve the quality of thy life, even if ye already have that product.

Thou shalt solve financial troubles by spending money on one of the many credit card low rate solutions available.

Forsake spending on problems like public health care and poverty, and let 99% of thine spending be on products and services that benefit oneself and the economic engine.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Chrétien Sought Third Term as PM out of Spite

When Jean Chrétien found out in the spring of 2000, that Paul Martin and his "gang of self-serving goons" had met at a Toronto airport hotel, to presumably discuss pushing Chrétien out of office, he then decided to stay on for a third term as Prime Minister of Canada. The alledged scheming by Martin and his supporters not only hurt Chrétien, but angered both him and his wife Aline. They both felt that Chretien, the PM, and the husband, was not going to give in to Martin's ambitious plans.

This revelation is one of the highlights of a new Chrétien book, My Years as Prime Minister. Politics sure gets personal, and leaves wounds everywhere.

Chrétien also lambastes Martin for Canada's current role in Afghanistan, being on "the killing fields", as he puts it. He also paints Martin as a very selfish man, who passed responsibility for criticized economic decisions, like $700 million to farmers, to the Prime Minister, when he himself, had suggested less be given to them.

There will probably be more fallout from this, as Martin's spokesperson said it was too bad that Chrétien has opened past wounds.

Apparently from Chrétien's writing, Martin certainly seems to be the bad guy. It is also revealing about Chrétien, and this is not really a big surprise, that he stayed on just to spite Paul Martin.

By trying to force me to go, they aroused my competitive spirit, ignited my anger, and inadvertently gave me the blessing I needed from Aline (his wife) to fight for a third term. For that, ironically, I owed Paul Martin a great deal of thanks.

Ok, that's good for you Mr. Chrétien, I guess, but is that a good example to set for aspiring leaders - to stay on out of spite? Shouldn't the reason for anyone being a leader, be because they have something to offer, are perhaps fresh, have a vision for the nation, and a passion to see it through?

Maybe Paul Martin is writing a chapter about how Canada just missed dividing, by a hair, in the 1995 Quebec referendum. That was under Chrétien's watch. Talk about close voting, it was 50.58% "No" to 49.42% "Yes". The Brian "Captain Canada" Tobin led "Love Quebec" rally, may have converted an important number of the Yes voters. Martin could have fun analyzing Chrétien's legacy.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Pass the Bottle, "What Was That?"

A tsunami of blue - If you were a Liberal MHA tonight, you'd be looking for some of that free booze to drown your sorrows. The Liberals have managed to get 3 seats, barely enough for official party status. It looks like there will be a judicial vote recount in the Gerry Reid riding of The Isles of Notre Dame, as there is a 7 vote difference between Gerry Reid (2364), and Derrick Dalley (2371). In the Port De Grave district, Liberal Roland Butler barely held on to make it a Liberal caucus of three. Everyone knew there would be a huge majority, but this is colossal -
PC: 43     Liberal: 3     NDP: 1.

In terms of popular vote, it was 70% for the PCs, 21% for the Liberals, and the NDP were just over 8%. The NDP, despite just maintaining their seat, actually increased their popular vote by several percentage points. Though it was disappointing for NDP supporters in Labrador and Burin-Placentia West, where the NDPs hopes were particularly high, their candidates performed strongly. On the Burin Peninsula, the NDP was always a distant 3rd place, but they were a respectable second this time around. Lorraine Michael's performance throughout the campaign and during the debate had been impressive. Her intelligence and smooth articulate delivery has boosted the NDP's overall profile.

There were some seesaw ridings, but most ridings had huge gaps of margins. Labrador was a surprise, electing 3 out of 4 PCs.

Well, people have spoken, Danny Williams and the PC party have trounced the opposition into near obliteration. With a majority like this, thank God that the auditor general has analyzed the spending scandal already, and new spending rules have been put into place, because if corruption could happen, it would more likely happen when there is next to no opposition.

In his victory speech, Danny Williams put "Steve" and oil companies on alert - as one commenter suggested for a PC campaign slogan, "Danny Williams, Afraid of Nothing".

Congratulations to all the candidates in all parties, for having the courage to run for public office. Congratulations to Danny Williams, and as a Newfoundlander, best wishes as Premier of our province.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Things That Could Make Danny Williams Lose the Election

He promises to make the $1000 per baby retroactive to 1960.

Liberal Gerry Reid promises $10,000 per baby, and throws in a years supply of diapers and milk.

Stephen Harper is seen at Danny Williams' private bbq, drinking together, hugging, and singing "This Land is Your Land".

News leaks that Danny is bragging about a new Lower Churchill deal, which is similar to the one Smallwood signed on the Upper Churchill.

On Larry King Live, Premier Williams loses in a seal hunt debate with Pamela Anderson.

Danny wants to leave Canada and join Greenland.

The Auditor General announces that Danny Williams, spent $34,000 on perfume and ladies underwear - for himself.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On Voter Apathy .. If You're Interested

It's as worn-out a phrase as "it's a cliché", but, "every vote counts".

There have been close margins of victory in NL provincial elections, too close for comfort for the candidates in some cases. In the 2007 election, voter apathy, or perhaps, complacency in this case, could make for some close races. The current political atmosphere is one where the question is not who will win, but by how many. There is an assumption that Danny and the PCs will easily win, and for that reason there may well be a decreased sense of voting importance, for anyone inclined to vote PC anyway.

In the 2003 NL provincial election, the voter turnout was 72%. For whatever reason, 28% of eligible voters did not exercise this democratic right. If there was voter apathy then, then the spending scandal could arguably turn many more apathetic towards politicians. These people won't give any candidate their support. It could also be some people's way of protesting the behaviours of politicians.

The electorate should keep in mind that they can be part of the process and help determine who their representative will be. Otherwise, if they do not vote, and their elected MHA is someone they really are dissatisfied with, then the voter may be sorry for opting to not vote.

Though most election results are obviously decisive in margin of votes, from time to time, close incoming results on election night put candidates on a roller coaster of emotions. If anyone thinks that their vote does not matter, have a look at a few close results, especially this years by-election result.

1999 NL Provincial Election

District: St. John's Centre
Joan Marie AYLWARD (Lib) 2609
Paul BROWN (PC) 2443
Margin: 166

2003 NL Provincial Election

District: Bellevue
Percy BARRETT (Lib) 2623
Joan CLEARY (PC) 2523
Margin: 100

District: Signal-Hill Quidi Vidi
Jack HARRIS (NDP) 2456
Karen CARROLL (PC) 2221
Margin: 235
2007 NL Provincial By-election

District: Humber Valley
Dwight Ball (Lib) 2153
Daryl Kelly (PC) 2146
Margin: 7

The 2007 by-election was so close that a judicial recount was required (NL Elections Act (62.(1)) requires a judicial recount if the vote margin is not more than 10). Due to an inaccurately recorded result, for at least 20 minutes Kelly was celebrating as initial numbers showed him winning by 12 votes. The voter turnout was 62%. At the end of the night 8 more PCs would have officially made Kelly the winner - so every single vote matters.