Archive for: July 2009

James Fallows assesses Rose Garden beer

Propeller logo

The Altantic’s James Fallows assesses the the Gates-Obama-Crowley Rose Garden pissup from a beer connoisseur’s viewpoint and finds it “mainly missed opportunities.”

But then, it’s hard to get Propeller in Washington, D.C.

Wafergate redux: the questions pile up – with updates

[UPDATES appended at end]

Contrarian reader SL shares our ink-stained correspondent‘s distaste for the Saint John Telegraph-Journal’s malodorous apology to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. She wonders why departing Harper Communications Director Kory Teneycke included the precise timing of his decision to resign so prominently in his resignation talking points. The second paragraph of the CBC story reads:

Teneycke said he told Harper just after Canada Day and before the G8 meeting in Italy earlier this month that he was going to step down.

CANADA/That would be, uh, just before the Prime Minister did or did not consume the sacramental Host at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral. (The timing of Teneckye’s decision appeared in the sixth paragraph of the Toronto Star story.)

If the Irving-owned Telegraph-Journal’s groveling apology was brokered as part of a deal that included Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard’s efforts to woo federal shipbuilding contracts, maybe Teneycke, Harper’s third director of communications in 3-1/2 years, decided the backroom machinations could do permanent damage to his career. Or maybe not.

Another piece of speculation, promoted by CTV and the always impartial National Post, holds that the whole wafergate scandal was a Liberal set-up. As CTV’s Bob Fife put it (at 10:30 into the aforementioned video):

I’m told the Liberals passed the story on to young Jamie Irving, who is the publisher of the paper. He passed it on to the editor who put it into the paper without checking it out, and today the editor has been fired and Jamie’s father has suspended his son for 30 days, and I’m told the Prime Minister is pretty thrilled with that decision.

So T-J editor Shawna Richer is indeed out of a job, but somehow publisher Jamie Irving (that last name has a nice ring) escaped with a 30-day suspension—facts the paper neglected to include when making a clean breast of the matter. (An Irving spokesperson now acknowledges that the pair have been relieved of their duties, but still will not reveal their employment status.)

National Post columnist Seve Janke points the finger at former NB Liberal MP and current Ignatieff staffer Paul Zed based on, well, zero evidence (“I’m not saying Paul Zed had anything to do with this”), except that Zed “is related by marriage to the Irving family, having been married to Judith Irving, the granddaughter of K.C. Irving.”

The operative words there are “having been.” The couple is divorced, so perhaps Paul is no longer whispering sweet nothings into Judy’s ear, or Cousin Jamie’s for that matter. Nevertheless, Janke wants Ignatieff “to direct Paul Zed to uncover the identities of those did the deed and who had knowledge of it.”

Oh my, my, my. Does the Post actually pay for this crap?

For what it’s worth, Maclean’s Magazine’s Kady O’Malley reports that Doug Finlay, the Conservative Party’s National Director of Political Operations, is flogging the same line:

Can Michael Ignatieff assure Canadians that no Liberal staffer, executive or advisor contacted Jamie Irving or Shawna Richer regarding the Prime Minister’s acceptance of communion at Romeo LeBlanc’s funeral?

So O’Malley put the question to Ignatieff’s office. Response:

This is nonsense. We didn’t record the videotape–CPAC did. And as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Canadians need only look at the video on You Tube to see what happened.

Meanwhile, LifeSiteNews.com, a Toronto-based Campaign Life website, suspects Liberal blogger-strategist (and Chretien acolyte) Warren Kinsella‘s hand at work, noting that Kinsella has apparently changed the time-stamp on his blog to make it appear that he posted a refernce to the original T-J story somewhat later in the morning (9:53 am) of July 8 than was actually the case (6:53 am), the implication being that Kinsella is trying to obscure the fact he had advance knowledge of the story. (Pretty bad when you have to turn away from our august papers of record to an anti-abortion website for actual reporting.)

No question, Kinsella has aggressively promoted the alleged scandal, drawing “the faint outlines of a link between the shipbuilding announcement and, hours later, mincing, shit-eating apology,” which he describes as “fundamentally false.”

Meanwhile, what the hell is this?

Radio Canada takedown

A copyright claim by Radio-Canada? CBC spokesperson Angus MacKinnon confims to Maclean’s:

Radio-Canada requested that the footage be removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement (something it does on a regular basis). It was deemed that no ‘fair dealing’ exception was applicable in this case… [O]ur policy on fair dealing with regard to YouTube-d material [is] judged on a case-by-case basis.

Excuse me? Since when is it part of a news-gathering organization’s role to block public access to primary research sources, especially when those sources were created with taxpayers’ money? Since Harper became PM, perhaps? How much faith can we now place in Radio-Canada’s coverage of the current copyright debate, where Crown copyright is a key issue? Suckholing to the government of the day has long been endemic within the CBC, but rarely has a Mother Corp flack acknowledged it so brazenly.

Happily, Canadians can still see video evidence of Harper’s nontransubstantiation here, here, and here. The videos show pretty conclusively that, whatever Harper may have done with the Saviour’s virtual Body, he didn’t consume It promptly.

Here’s a novel idea: Could someone in our nation’s Parliamentary Press Gallery separate their puckered lips from Harper’s posterior long enough to do some actual reporting? Or does endlessly opining on the terminal  inadequacy of any possible pretender to Harper’s throne keep you too busy for honest work?

UPDATE I:

Scarborough blogger Jeff Jedras parses the T-J apology in meticulous detail, pointing out additional oddities and inconsistencies.

The apology exonerates the reporters whose bylines appeared on the story on grounds that the inaccurate material was added in the editing process without their knowledge.  But the story, which appeared five days after the funeral, was all about the wafer issue.

This is a daily newspaper, so they’d covered the funeral story already. So clearly the original, untainted story the two reporters wrote was more than just “there was a state funeral a week ago.” That’s not a story. The story they wrote had to centre around Harper accepting communion, was that right or not, and when did he consume it? Then some things were inserted to beef that up that were apparently troublesome.

So which part of the story is true, and which fabricated? That’s the central problem with the Irvings’ highly selective account of the events: we can’t tell. As Jedras puts it:

[T]he Telegraph Journal’s apology doesn’t really change the original story, whether you think it’s a dumb or newsworthy story or not: Harper accepted communion when he shouldn’t have, and took his sweet time consuming it, when he should have consumed it right away. All they’re retracting is “senior priest wants answers” and “he pocketed it.”

There’s more. It’s worth reading.


UPDATE II

Blogger Stephen Taylor, who bills himself as a scientist and political analyst, and who organized rallies to protest last December’s aborted coalition government, also weighs in. Taylor notes the massive character of the edits that would have been required to sustain the apology’s odd claim that, although the central facts of the story were wrong, the  reporters who wrote it bore no responsibility for the erroneous material. Then he adds an intriguing twist:

I’ve learned from a source close to one of the journalists that at least one of them may have gone so far as to seek advice and consider a lawsuit against the newspaper if the paper did not retract the story and absolve (no pun intended) the journalists of fabricating a significant portion the article.

That would be consistent with the highly unusual lengths the apology went to in exonerating the reporters.

Curiouser and curiouser. Too bad that journalism is the only public institution journals and journalists deem off limits.

FEEDBACK I

Contrarian reader Justin Ling wonders:

One wonders why ‘investigating’ this non-issue (a) counts as journalism or (b) matters to anyone but the media. If he pocketed it, he did so because he did not want to offend Catholics by refusing the wafer. Shouldn’t we be focusing on the other host of issues out there surrounding Mr. Harper?

Well, of course the original story wasn’t important. It was amusing and ironic, and treated as such by the media. But then the Prime Minister blew a gasket, and the CBC invoked copyright to bar public access to the video evidence, and the Telegraph-Journal issued this astonishing and hard-to-credit apology (just as its owners queued up for lucrative shipbuilding contracts), and the PM’s director of communications resigned a year into the job. And finally, there’s the Ottawa press corps’s disinclination to look into the inconsistencies.

FEEDBACK II

Contrarian reader WT observes:

Whatever else there is to be said about the TJ wafergate apology, it must rank as one of the great pooh-eaters of all time.

FEEDBACK III

Mervin Hollingsworth of Saskatoon thinks we’re off our trolley:

Do you know how silly your report reads? Who cares what Harper did with the Host. It is between him and his God. Try to move on to something that all Canadians care about. This is pure speculation and garbage and a waste of everybody’s time. It truly must be a slow summer.

To be clear, which I thought I had been, I don’t give a flying fig what SH did with the Host. I care about the fallout, which reeks of dishonesty.

Auditor General slams H1N1 readiness

hypodermic needle 3RC2Civil servants are happy with the Dexter Government’s methodical approach to policy because ministers are listening carefully to policy advice and deliberating before acting.

But the issues keep coming, whether government’s ready to act or not. The risk of Dexter’s approach is that ministers may fall into reactive mode, moving from crisis to crisis rather than driving the new government’s policy agenda.

We have already seen Health Minister Maureen MacDonald struggling with the discovery that she cannot wish away the problem of rural emergency room closures, as she and the party assured voters they could during the election. (More on this soon.)

Today, the government faces an alarming report from Auditor General Jacques LaPointe sharply critical of the province’s readiness to deal with the unfolding H1N1 epidemic. He urges “immediate” action to address key deficiencies:

  • No one is authorized to exercise overall command and coordination over government’s response to a serious pandemic.
  • No central agency has responsibility or authority to to ensure critical government and non-government services such as power, water, snow clearing, policing and fire response continue during a time when absenteeism may be high.
  • The province has not assessed the adequacy of pandemic response plans by district health authorities, which provide hospital-based health care service.
  • 55 percent of family and emergency room doctors surveyed by the AG were “not happy” with their ability to obtain critical supplies.

Moneyquote:

Given that we are currently experiencing an H1N1 pandemic, we feel most of our recommendations should be addressed immediately to ensure Nova Scotia responds effectively to the current situation and is ready for any worsening conditions.

Telegraph-Journal apologizes to the PM – feedback

An ink-stained wretch (and contrarian reader) offers a few tart observations on the Telegraph-Journal’s strangely unelaborated apology.

I find something stinking with the Telegraph-Journal’s wafer story. They bent over backwards to apologize and apparently the editor and publisher paid the price. But I haven’t seen any reporting that took this any further. Did the Catholic officials cited in the original stories who apparently were so mightily offended by Harper’s alleged act change their tunes? Who got the quotes from the church people? What contact was there between the PMO and the TJ? Did higher ups in the church get involved? God (literally) knows.

Read more »

The continuing adventures of Josh & Jacob

Jacob and Josh (previously seen here) are on vacation in Calvert, NF, where they played with this kiddie car in the driveway. It didn’t roll as well on the grass, but they still enjoyed taking turns with it. More at Jenn’s blog, Newfoundland Vacation.

Obama and America’s slide into a police state

Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan, a British immigrant to the United States whom I would describe as a principled conservative, chronicles Obama’s failure to check the America’s slide into a police state.

I backed Obama because I believed he wanted to roll some of this back. It increasingly appears that I was wrong. The 9/11 police state is with us. Obama is slowly legitimizing it, despite being elected to unwind it. This country is no longer as free as many others in the world – and unrecognizable compared with the free country I found in 1984. And it’s getting less free every day. I expected this if Giuliani or McCain got elected. But Obama? Watching him continue their policies in so many ways is somehow even more painful.

More Sullivan posts on this issue here, here, here, and here.

BC’s UARB: clean power is “not in the public interest”

clear skies 1 -croppedThe Canadian province most deeply committed to clean, renewable energy has been stopped in its tracks by a utilities commission ruling that rejected BC Hydro’s plans to acquire clean energy as “not in the public interest.” Moneyquote:

The ruling could call into question the viability of the B.C. government’s policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 33 per cent below 2007 levels by 2020. That promise, and a long term goal of an 80 per cent reduction by 2050, was put into law last year with passage of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act.

Green energy stocks fell sharply on news of the ruling, which requires BC Hydro to maximize use of an aging  thermal plant that is its major source of greenhouse gas emissions.

What the NDP’s tougher renewable energy targets mean

windmills-s2
In a post yesterday Monday, contrarian observed that a little noticed NDP campaign promise would advance Nova Scotia Power’s renewable energy targets by five years. Today Tuesday, the new government made that promise official government policy. NSP must generate one quarter of its energy from renewable sources (hydro, wind, tidal, wave, solar, biomass, biofuel, or landfill gas) by 2015.

It’s certainly a laudable step, but how big a step is it? The answer to that is incredibly complicated.

It’s complicated because various stages of the renewable energy requirements imposed on NSP define renewable energy three different ways:

  • as overall generation from renewable sources;
  • as generation from renewable sources built after 2001 in Nova Scotia by companies other than NSP;
  • as generation from renewable sources built after 2001 in Nova Scotia, whether by NSP or third parties.

It’s still more complicated because the amount of generation from each of these sources can be measured in two ways: in absolute terms, as so many gigawatt-hours (GWH) of electricity; or in relative terms, as a percentage of NSP’s overall generation.

Bear in mind that the second yardstick is a moving target. If NSP’s efforts to curb electricity use (known as demand side management, or DSM) succeed in reducing our overall power consumption, a fixed amount of gigawatt-hours would constitute a larger percentage of that smaller consumption. If consumption of electricity falls, NSP could conceivably move from 12 percent renewables to 13 percent renewables without actually adding any new renewable energy to the grid. If one of our large industrial power users were to shut down—the NewPage mill at Point Tupper, for example—the percentage of NSP’s energy from renewable sources would shoot upward, even without NSP producing any new renewable energy.

So let’s walk through the various targets NSP has to meet.

2010:

Under the Electricity Act, a set of regulations known as the Renewable Energy Standards (RES) requires NSP to purchase at least five percent of its 2010 energy supply from renewable sources owned by third parties and built after 2001.

Newspapers and broadcasters sometimes misreport this target as stating that five percent of NSP’s generation must come from renewable sources. A Canadian Press story carried by the Herald made that mistake today. NSP already produces 11 to 12 percent of its overall generation from renewable sources, mainly hydro. The RES standard calls for five percent of new renewables owned by third parties. That would bring NSP’s overall use of renewables to something over 16 percent.

NSP forecasts that it will sell 12,200 GWH of energy in 2010. Five percent of that figure is 610 GWH. So to meet the 2010 target, NSP must generate 610 GWH from new, third-party, renewable sources.

Of the renewable energy NSP already uses, approximately 180 GWH qualifies under the 2010 RES rules. That leaves a shortfall of 430 GWH. In 2007, NSP put out requests for proposals that led to contracts with independent producers for 711 GWH of wind power—more than enough to meet and exceed the 2010 targets.

Unfortunately, the worldwide financial meltdown that hit late last summer has stalled or killed several of those projects. Environmental approvals have also been slower than hoped for, especially in parts of the province with strong NIMBY proclivities. To compensate for the possible shortfall, NSP, NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corp., and Strait Bio-Gen Ltd. cobbled together a slapdash proposal for a biomass generation project using wood waste, and then sought unprecedented prior approval from the Utility and Review Board for the scheme. To no one’s surprise but NSP’s, the UARB didn’t bite, so the utility’s ability to meet the 2010 target remains in serious doubt.

NSP still has one escape hatch. If it fails to meet the 2010 target, if can still comply with the regulations if it meets the target in 2011, and produces an additional amount of new renewable energy in 2011 equal to twice the amount of its 2010 shortfall.

Does your head hurt yet?

2013:

Two different standards apply to NSP in 2013:

  • Under the province’s Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (or EGSPA, pronounced, “Eggs-puh” by provincial bureaucrats), 18.5 percent of Nova Scotia’s electricity needs must come from renewable sources by 2013. (This extraordinary act was the crowning achievement of former Environment Minister Mark Parent, defeated in the June election, and retired Deputy Minister Bill Lahey, who together somehow steered it through the Tory cabinet and won unanimous legislative approval.)
  • Under the Renewable Energy Standards (RES) regulations of the Electricity Act, the 2010 requirement for five percent new renewables increases to 10 percent in 2013, but this time it doesn’t all have to come from third parties. NSP can produce its own renewable energy.

Depending on overall energy consumption, meeting the RES regulations would bring NSP’s overall renewable production to something like 21 percent, well above the 18.5 percent required by Eggs-pah. (I love talking like a bureaucrat.) So the tougher RES standard rules the day. And that brings us to…

2015:

Acting Energy Minister Frank “Nanky” Corbett announced today that NSP would be required to produce 25 percent of its overall energy needs from renewable sources by 2015, five years earlier than the Renewed Energy Strategy unveiled last winter would have required. [Disclosure: contrarian spent part of 2007 and much of 2008 under contract with the Department of Energy working on this strategy, mainly as a writer.]

On its face, this is a reasonable decision. It will keep the renewable portion of NSP’s generation increasing at about two percentage points per year, a pretty good clip. It’s much tougher than what the Tories had imposed.

It may also serve as cover for cutting NSP some slack on its probable failure to meet the 2010 standards. Asked about this today, an official of the provincial energy department said, “It’s going to be a challenge for Nova Scotia Power to meet the 2010 target. We’re looking at some different options for dealing with that, and this [relaxing the 2010 deadline] is one option we will present to government.”

“The point is that we need more renewables,” he added. “It doesn’t make sense to get too hung up on this particular target.”

David Wheeler, Dean of Management Studies at Dalhousie University, will carry out a public consultation on how best to reach the tougher targets Corbett announced today.  Meeting them won’t be easy, or cheap. It’s a pity the NDP won’t have the $28 million it promised to spend subsidizing dirty, coal-fired eletricity to help with this crucial environmental task.

[Note: This is a long post (my longest ever) about an important but mind-numbingly tedious set of regulations and calculations. It shouldn't astonish anyone if I got some of the details wrong. If any of contrarian's friends in the Department of Energy, the Ecology Action Centre, Nova Scotia Power, the independent wind industry, the Department of Environment, the NDP, or the PC Party have corrections or amplifications to offer, please click the "email a comment" tab at the top of this post.]

Telegraph-Journal apologises to PM

SJ Tele-Journal logoThe Saint John paper that broke the Wafergate scandal now says there is “no credible basis” for its story. Moneyquote:

The story stated that a senior Roman Catholic priest in New Brunswick had demanded that the Prime Minister’s Office explain what happened to the communion wafer which was handed to Prime Minister Harper during the celebration of communion at the funeral mass. The story also said that during the communion celebration, the Prime Minister “slipped the thin wafer that Catholics call ‘the host’ into his jacket pocket.”

There was no credible support for these statements of fact at the time this article was published, nor is the Telegraph-Journal aware of any credible support for these statements now.

Read more »

Waiting for NDP policy – feedback

Contrarian reader Justin Ling thinks we’re too impatient:

Come on now. The legislature isn’t even sitting, and you’re taking thinly-veiled jabs at the government-to-be for not doing anything?

Read more »

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