Mercifully, Finance Minister Tom Osborne kept the Budget
Update short. It won’t get much ink here, either.
Osborne has confirmed what most people seem to have concluded:
he has no intention of tackling the deficit.
The former Finance Minister, Cathy Bennett, told a reporter that “I wish we had had better information going into the election
campaign,” seemingly ignorant of the fact that, as an MHA, she was
always expected to read — and to understand — the Budget Estimates. Of course,
her search was for a scapegoat. Osborne, not four months into the job, hopes he
has found one too. 

Finance Minister Tom Osborne (Photo Credit: CBC)
The new Finance Minister has declared that he wants Crown
Corporations to deal with their overspending. “They need to find cost
reductions and operational efficiencies,” he told the media. Undoubtedly,
they do. But the Minister is being less than forthright.

Two full years into the Liberals’ mandate, all those false
claims over the miracle of “zero based budgeting” have disappeared with the old
broom. Osborne has a new mantra. Crown corporations “account for 60 per cent of
government spending;” they are responsible for the Government’s fiscal laxity.     
Who are those wasteful service providers? Don’t they include the
Health Care Corporations and Nalcor? 
Tom Osborne, having served as Health Minister under Danny Williams, knows that health boards have no independence from government
whatsoever. CEOs and Boards of Directors are only nominally in charge; Health
Ministers persistently eschew efficiencies and service delivery changes in
favour of the exigencies of politics — mostly partisan politics. 
As to Nalcor, what could possibly be said except that management
is cheek to jowl with Premier Ball, who is afraid to audit them even for possible
corruption? Besides, Stan is hiring — not firing.
After health services and Nalcor, the other crown agencies
represent chump change, except for the Liquor Corporation which is still —
operationally — the best-run government operation in the province.
And what of Osborne’s comments over the last few days? 
He says that the deficit is “unsustainable”, that we are not
in a “crisis”, that the fiscal situation is still “unstable” and “we don’t want
to shock the economy.” The inconsistency is disturbing —
even if the Bond market is still wooed by the blarney.
The lopsided VOCM Poll
result (below) is evidence of how even an unscientific survey convincingly
illustrates that the public is not buying what Osborne and co. have on offer. Out
of 5572 participants, 91% don’t agree with the Minister that the province is
out of “crisis”.

Likely the Liberals will conclude that the problem is their “messaging”
and not the deficit. 

That’s one part of the picture. Now for the numbers.
Principally due to lower revenues and a free-wheeling Nalcor,
the Government’s borrowing program has gone up by $300 million to $700 million. 
The Fiscal Update also projects a current account deficit of
$852 million, rather than the original $778 million forecast. A difference of $75
million would not be an egregious sum on $8.1 billion of expenditures — if the
occurrence was a ‘one-off’. But this second Budget of Cathy Bennett’s represents
the 6th consecutive deficit budget.

And the bone-crushing half-billion dollars needed for “rate
mitigation” — on top of the increased operating deficit — together with the fact that NL society might collapse under the combined weight of Nalcor’s and the Government’s debt — doesn’t even receive
honourable mention let alone a plan to prepare!

We might be inclined to give the newly minted Finance Minister
a little slack had he said that he was unhappy that the deficit accelerated under
his watch — that he has sent his officials in several directions, each with an
axe, to demonstrate to the public, his Cabinet colleagues, and the heads of
those recalcitrant crown corporations that he means business — that, in future,
the Government’s fiscal target will be met, come hell or high water!

Tom Osborne said nothing of the kind, confirming that he has
no intention of doing anything except to continue a long-running fiscal fiction.
Commenting on the Update, the CBC quoted CUPE President Wayne
Lucas: “A confident government who looks to the future will create jobs…” He forgets
that his membership — and the whole public sector — will pay dearly for the
$12.7 billion worth of (far pricier) jobs whose funding has the Treasury irreparably
Osborne is pleased that the Union heads are pleased with him. 
Collectively, they have no idea the price of their political

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?


  1. If Tom Osbourne was serious he would have simply said.

    I am cutting the budget of each and every crown corporation, agency, etc by 12% over the next 3 years (4% a year). They need to implement how to best implement these cuts.

    It is not much more difficult than that.

  2. And then there’s the time bomb of municipal spending. Most of the councils (note the news reports about the recent lockout in Paradise and the mayors non role) are in the process of being taken over by NAPE and other unions. They see the councils as the easy mark for large raises for their members. Core government is no longer the priority for the unions. Strikes are just a waste of time. The land of opportunity for the unions is the boards, agencies and municipalities. Hold on tight folks. Not only are the light bills going up but so will your town taxes. We are swiftly becoming a place where only the rich summer residents can afford to live. The rest of us will be in poverty just like the Caribbean islands except we will freeze to death.

    • St. John's gave their workers overly generous raises and the rest of the municipalities are following suite – mirroring the poor fiscal management of the Provincial Govs 2005-current. Did the unions put their pensions in peril with the constant raises post Atlantic Accord? $1,000,000,000 debt servicing costs is 12.5% of the entire NL budget and employee costs are 50% of the budget. 6.25% of the debt servicing costs is tied directly to employee salaries and benefits.
      Tom O is delusional and might as well stayed a PC because his feel good words and status quo is unacceptable in NLs DIRE fiscal circumstances.

      PCs in recent weeks are showing they won't form Gov any time soon and the electorate don't require the current Govs inaction on the economy being laid out by the jokers that got us in this fiscal mess in the first place.

      Top 5 years should be taken out of pension calculations and pension contributions from Gov capped. One time oil revenue should never been used in the general coffers, paying down the debt or making a heritage fund instead of insane Boondoggle Falls NL would be in FAR better shape today.

      PCs wanted a Death Star from Star Wars (MF) when we really only needed and required a Super Star Destroyer (505MW Ngas plant $2B + O&M) price elasticity would take care of demand thereby lowering fuel used for power generation.

  3. The deficit up by 75 million, revenue down, oil royalties tumbling thanks to "super royalty" sop to big oil, offshore investment vaporizing, unemployment up to 15% and Osbourne et. al. stay the course. Some fiscal prudence!

    The Libs have made no attempt to tackle the spending and out of control MF. Somehow they try to spin this as good news. They make no attempt to move towards cutting the deficit and prefer instead to live in the "alternative budget reality" world.

    Closer and closer to the cliff NL gets and the government still refuses to reign in or hold to account Nalcor for runaway spending or their technical incompetence.

    The government is either incapable of making any tough decisions or is afraid to expose the Nalcor incompetence and collusion with fraudsters. Just how long can Nalcor remain above scrutiny with a free hand on the failing treasury?

  4. As the average Joe..I don't know how many crown crown co operations we have, but guess UG does, and he says just two, and the others are just chunk change as far as the deficit goes. I won't say anything about the healt care board, there are people in the know more than me. As the only other major one nalcor, that is self inflicted, won't get any sympathy on that one from me. Guess that's what ball et al means by, gotta get her done boys, and finish strong, may as well add come hell or high water, and dam the fiscal torpedoes, cut the health care, but how much more do you need Stan. You got it. Been that way for the last ten years. Keep her going boys, we're not sunk yet, but I'm using a snortle. What has God wrought!!! How come we deserve this? Well we h
    Reap what we sow, and been doing it for the past 15 years on muskrat. We should have killed it way back in 2003 or whenever the first word about muskrat was uttered in terms of, we need the power and least cost option. The buggers and traitors.

  5. The Liberals have been in re-election mode and Ball trying to save his political a** since the first six months of the term. Completely unwilling to do anything that will make him or the Liberals look bad at the Liberal conventions or opinion polls. I would suggest the Ball government is the worst provincial government in this province in 30 years that I have been paying attention to politics.

    • I agree totally with you…the ball government is the worst…..except for the one that got us in this mess with muskrat 15$ billion boondoggle, and expect to be there for the next 50 years or so regardless of those that follow. May as well call a spade a spade.

  6. In todays Telegram under the Community section is a photo of 7 O`Donel high school girls . The piece is titled : O`Donel Outreach offer sweet comfort to cance care patients. They have a large box of candy for the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Care patients who are receiving chemotheraphy.
    With a close relative now a patient with colon and liver cancer, I have researched cancer causes, and see that nutrition is a significant factor contributing to cancer. High sugar consumption and imbalance in Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats in our diets is very unhealthy.
    The students good intentions is understood, but not their lack of knowledge on nutrition. A basket of sardines, or 20 lbs of salmon would have been much better for chemo patients, I suggest.
    Meanwhile, opposite this photo was a picture ad showing colon cancer, with links to many other ads instead of reliable information…….ads for miracle cures, supplements , shopping channels for cosmetics etc.
    No wonder we have so many sick.

  7. In keeping with NL sidestepping good EA like at MF, now NL is appealing the court ordered requirement to prepare an EIS and do a review.

    If ever there is a project that requires the most stringent environmental assessment, a full panel review, the Grieg proposal is it. They want to use genetically altered fish that most jurisdictions want nothing to do with. No need for caution or review in NL. Grieg has proposed using toxic pesticides banned for use in other jurisdictions but again no need for caution or review in NL.

    Instead of acting with concern for the viability of native stocks and exercising caution by doing a JRP, NL carries water for Grieg wanting to avoid any scrutiny in exchange for short term jobs.

    The message is clear. Without review NL is open for third world projects that degrade the environment and cultural heritage.

    Don't expect much sober review from the feds with Liberal candidates like Pete Soucy. A former informed critic of the Grieg proposal, Soucy now thinks there is no problem with using toxic pesticides, Frankenfish and the risk they pose to native stocks. He has the nerve to now say the nets are escape proof and the salmon cannot swim upstream to spawn! This is nothing but politically expedient, spineless capitulation.

    Is this the price of becoming a politician in NL? Check logic and your ethics at the door before you come in.

    • Pete Soucy did not get the nomination as we now know. In any event, I would prefer his alter ego, Snook, would have been the candidate than that twit. I had occasions to listen to his open line show and I would be hard pressed to find another so obvious a sycophant as he, not to mention his total lack of familiarity on 90% of the issues being discussed. I wonder why VOCM yanked him off the air?

    • What has being going on in NL with respect to the poor administration of Energy Policy, leading to the Muskrat fiasco, financed and supported by the Federal Government, is a National issue. Let public interest and comment flow. With respect, please.

    • Robert:

      I would beg to differ with respect to Brunos comments—he tries to skew everything as a outcome of not following his enviro pleas.

      If constructive criticism, then fine—unfortunately Bruno's attempts to show that all the local news in NL is a result of not following his pie-in-the-sky enviro extremism is not wanted. NLers are more interested in positive solutions, not negative enviro trash BS.

      Various media in NL refuse to entertain him—here is a public forum he spews nothing but what he has been fed through sierra club and Greenpeace. Maybe if he was able to form an independent thought it would be better received.

      Maybe he should head out around the bay and protest the seal hunt, or to Lab for Alderon and IOCC or the upper coast for Vale etc….

      MF is not financed by the feds(granted enabled media wise federally), financed solely by NL taxpayers–you are mistaken there.

    • I think if you check the history I have been involved in shitfights with NSP/Emera since the late 1980's. At times the battle resembled a civil war with a community fully engaged to try stopping the biggest boondoggle in NS history. It is where I cut my teeth being able to smell a boondoggle from provinces away. The MF boondoggle is deadly and needs to be stopped before it is too late. The first time I stood on the spur and realized that it had been already massively pumped for 25 years to prevent it collapsing, I realized how insane this whole project is.

      If you can refute the facts or my logic I am listening. Xenophobic taunts are like water off a ducks back to me and only demonstrate your bigotry.

  8. I have heard Bruno on NL radio and read most of his comments over the years and have found most all of them on topic and informative (even if at times they are very passionate — as they should be).

    VOCM should be ashamed of itself for banning him from its talk radio shows.

    Only by fostering, respecting and valuing open conversation can the truth see the light of day (isn't that what this blog stands for?).

    NL could use a few more Bruno's (as well as Des Sullivan's, David Vardy's, etc.)

    • Bruno has a little of John Smith style with his caustic words sometimes, either his style of personality, but hey, how can a lover of the Beatle John Lennon be so bad to ban from input into this boondoggle, and other environmental and financial perils facing this province.
      Sure , he harps on solar and wind,( and shies away from the boondoggle of Ont going to far too quick into this), and he hesitated to promote Efficincy and Conservation to my expectation, or response effectively, and like all of us, uses some fossil fuel, so not perfectly green……..and his bluntness can be jaw dropping at times……..but I`d give him a pass, and his views have merit most of the time.
      And his online photo reminds me a little of that lost Leonardo painting that just sold for 400 million. I did say a `Little`, least his ego grow too much.

    • Gosh Winston my image must be worth at least a million if I resemble a Da Vinci!

      The problem in Ontario is not the technology adopted but a screwed up regulatory system fashioned by self serving dimwitted politicians there. Does that sound familiar?

  9. The Uncle Gnarley Blog is an increasingly important platform on which express opinions about public policy issues. Presently, readers have an opportunity to comment once or several times and otherwise evaluate the expressions of others. There are not many outlets, NL based, for bringing such a community of interests together. Ideally the Uncle Gnarley Blog will increasingly become the "go to" site for discussion of political issues. However, as Blog Administrator, I have a duty to monitor comments and to ensure those that cross the line into the uncomplimentary arena are taken down. Equally, I want all readers – including the occasional ones – to not be distracted or turned-off by what sometimes seems less than thoughtful or disparaging comment. Every commentator can help elevate the discussion by being respectful and by generally staying on topic. Blog writers invest hours of their personal time conducting research and providing meaningful analysis. Readership continues to grow, too, at a steady pace. We can all have a say in the province's affairs at this critical time – and enjoy the process. By all means leave your comments but let's be sure – before the "PUBLISH" button is pressed that they respect the commentators and readers, too.

    • So Des when are you going to run for office?

      This province needs you, David Vardy, Cabot Martin, Bill Barry, and others of similar calibre and wisdom to straighten out the horrendous mess that partisan politics has inflicted upon this tortured province.

      Look at the current crop of clowns that wound up in charge… Ted Blades interviewed Eddy Joyce the other day and the man could barely put two sentences together, it was literally painful to listen to… the very essence of fremdschämen for those who endured it. And this is what we have running government departments, making decisions involving provincial fiances??

      It's the same right across the board… Hawkins on the transport file, look at the utter mess that department was left in. Now Osborne in finance blithely sallying along with business-as-usual as excessive government expenditures continue unabated, and the province hurtles towards bankruptcy. Ball blathering on about his "7-year plan" as if he'll even be part of the NL political scene 7 years hence, God help us all if he still is.

      This province is in desperate need of intervention… the people are looking to the Uncle Gnarleys of the province to provide competent, accountable leadership.

      Please consider it, thank you.

    • Here's a proposed strategy for circumventing the horrendously destructive partisan politics that have bedeviled this province since Confederation and establishing a semblance of fiscal stability…

      Bill Barry co-opts the PCs by winning leadership of the party.

      Cabot Martin or his stead co-opts the Liberals by winning the leadership of that party.

      Both leaders agree to a coalition government, with alternating terms as premier on an annual basis.

      During this period, the government passes legislation that will (1) put the province back on solid financial footing by restricting government expenditures, and (2) implement strict oversight and auditing of departmental financial decisions so as to eliminate the possibility of ministers and deputy ministers receiving kickbacks, and (3) effectively weed out the political opportunists and associated culprits by eliminating the overly generous MHA pension program.

      Meanwhile, both parties collaborate on ensuring that the province is properly governed, until such time as fiscal stability has been restored.

      Once iron-clad legislation has been passed making it illegal to run the province into the ground… Bill, Cabot, and Des et al bow out, their statues are subsequently ensconced next to Gaspar Corte-Real's on Confederation Hill, and its all turned over to the young ones.

      Like Joey Smallwood used to say… this will work because I said it will work!

  10. How Operation Car Wash Is Exposing Political Crime in Brazil


    Nothing better illustrates the complex web of Brazil's decline than operation Car Wash, the wide-ranging investigation into corruption.

    Brazilian oil giant Petrobras feels the sting of corruption


  11. Can we please find someone with a financial background to be appointed as Finance minister instead of yet another on the job training amateur. Nl has not had a good finance minister since Loyola Sullivan. Unfortunately he was kicked to the curb because he preached fiscal restraint while Williams and crew wanted one big spending party with our short lived oil bonanza. Since then, it's been borrow & spend & borrow some more. The latest version of a NL finance minister, Tom Osborne, seems quite content to muddle along & borrow some more to keep the lights on, & certainly not confront the fiscal crisis this province faces. He & the rest of those MLAs know they have to only tread water until their golden pension qualifier kick in. When NL receives it's fiscal gut check they'll all be sunning their derrieres on the beaches of Florida while the rest of us uncleansed masses will be left to pick up the pieces..

  12. Commenting on the Update, the CBC quoted CUPE President Wayne Lucas: “A confident government who looks to the future will create jobs…”

    How daft is that? Bloody socialists, still living in a utopian dreamworld where it's the responsibility of government to "create jobs", and money miraculously grows on trees.

    Instead of having government going through the effort of "creating jobs", why not just print more money, pack it up in crates, and ship it out to all the unionists and socialists via UPS?

    Daft fools… they're just like a bunch of naive little children in need of supervision… their own worst enemy.

  13. Ministers of the government…..three very important ones. Two major crown corporations. Health care board, and nalcor. The minister of finance, I guess controls the financia purse strings overall, and UG told us what his mode of operation was and what his scape goat was. If we compare the heads of the two other corporations, well there is simply no comparison. The health minister spent his entire life in health care, he runs the show, as indeed he should and carries the responsibility of all aspects of health care, he is. In the news media every day, from the cost of flue shots to major health care facilities all over the province, doing his job ..I guess. Now compare that to the minister of energy or natural resources, what ever she is called these days, and what does she know about her major cooperation, nalcor. Yes the name and that is about all. Ms. Parrot does not have an inckling about her job, she just parrots what they tell her, and even does a very poor job of that, but she is doing exactly the same as her predecessors, not a clue about nalcor and their spending. She she not be as much involved in nalcor as the minister of health is in health care. And ther in lies the problem, the cart before the horse. She should be controlling nalcor, not the other way around. The minister of health controls health care and is responsible that all the pennies and pills are counted correctly. Does the minister of natural resources count nalcor said millions, and take any responsibility for wire strands gone wrong, towers collapsing, concrete failures, flooding of mud lake, think she read about in the news paper and reported on it. She should have Stan the man, by the you know what, and be responsible to her, and in turn responsible to us the people. Nope, not a clue. And that is why nalcor is an entinity unlo itself, responsible to no one, not even itself, and that is a major reason nalcor is out of control, has us in this mess. Nalcor has to go, or the minister must seize control, and of course I am not blaming it all on the current minister, but certainly collectively on all previous ministers of natural resources. I say the minister on natural resources has to go or nalcor has to go. Now I guess some blog writers will disagree with me and set it all straight, and that's ok too.

  14. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/features/elon-musk-inventors-plans-for-outer-space-cars-finding-love-w511747

    Inspirational words from Elon Musk on dealing with bullies. Take heart NL residents and bop the bully on the nose!
    "When he got into a fight with the biggest bully at school and knocked him out with one punch, Musk noticed that the bully never picked on him again. "It taught me a lesson: If you're fighting a bully, you cannot appease a bully." Musk speaks the next words forcefully. "You punch the bully in the nose. Bullies are looking for targets that won't fight back. If you make yourself a hard target and punch the bully in the nose, he's going to beat the shit out of you, but he's actually not going to hit you again."

  15. Another professional organization destroys its credibility claiming black is white. What hypocrisy!

    Get ready for it;


    "Nalcor Energy has been awarded a Canadian Electricity Association (CEA) Sustainable Electricity Award in the category of advancement of an integrated approach to sustainability."

    Nalcor is the model of sustainability only if it has an open cheque book from the NL government.

    In the "alternative facts" universe Nalcor has friends in very low places!

  16. Anthony Bourdain's Puerto Rico episode on CNN is fascinating in how much they're predicament is similar to ours (even though we're not as bad off yet- but i predict we will be worst off in the long run- will Ottawa have the money to bail us out when we'll need it?)

  17. Lol, it is rather perculiar that two of the names that appear on this blog are out of province, one former nl now living bc and another from ns. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying they should not be so prominent, as a matter of fact I helped defend one of them a couple of days ago……just saying…..maybe means the permanent residents here are not vocal enough…..

  18. Des:
    I am not sure what to make of this entry, considering your background and your insider knowledge I would have thought you knew exactly the score on this topic. In my estimation, I would rank our premiers from best to worse as Wells, then either Peckford/Smallwood or Smallwood/Peckford and Moores(if he accomplished nothing else during his terms than to usurp Smallwood he still ranks high); the remainder I would rank in reverse importance by the least damage they have done to my fine province and will ignore them as a group furthermore.

    The problem with our political system is that ethics are checked at the door—I am continually surprised that members of self regulating professions run for political office(the very aspect of running for office is a violation of the most important ethic in that you practice for the good of society and not for personal gain).

    I do find it odd that of the 45 posts(at time of me posting this) that very few directly address your posting—lots of other stuff, some I agree with and some I don’t, but anyway. From my standpoint this is the very thing wrong with a good portion of this blogs audience and the NL populace in general—noone feels they have a vested interest nor do they feel they can effect change except to deride others.

    Personally, I have always lived by the credo that I know when a politician is lying as his lips are moving—for a politician to say to me they had no idea it was so bad when they took over, we are no longer in crisis.

    Also, I do disagree with previous poster asking yourself, Vardy, Martin et al to run—I would suggest your time and energy would provide better results in your current formats. It is unfortunate to say, but I don’t think we need our best as politicians, for politicians we need those we can do without in critical positions.

    Direct to the point on your posting, Osbourne is playing the game and providing nothing, unfortunately there are no replacements. No change there, we haven’t have had a worthwhile government in some 20 plus years and one doesn’t seem likely in the near future…..


    • This is a rather bizarre post. Your subjective ranking of premiers is off topic as you see it and shows what pure projection your criticism of the lively debate of political issues in NL (and beyond) this blog hosts is.

      Even more stunning is your projection of your own amoral, ethics free participation in scams that debase your profession and compromise your integrity. Build it and abandon after I am out of town shows your loyalty all right, but not to NL.

      Finally the strangest pronouncement from your exalted perch is that we don't need our best in political office. Is that because it makes for better tax and ratepayer funded employment for treasury destroying, unneeded projects like MF and Point Aconi?

      Would it be fair to ask when anon ,self serving engineers project their self loathing on their political masters, should they be ignored?

  19. Regarding your opinion that you "don't think we need our best as politicians"… respectfully to the contrary… when the province has reached such a fiscal crisis brought on by the blind stupidity and selfish greed of those inclined to practice petty partisan politics at the expense of common good, I would suggest that… yes indeed, at that point we bloody-well do need an intervention by our best so as to set right what others have so royally f**ked up.