High turnover

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There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes, “May you live in interesting times.” It’s one of three proverbs that are sometimes classed as curses: more severe, apparently, are “May the government be aware of you,” followed by the dire “May you find what you are looking for.”

A missive from the provincial government certainly covered two of those proverbs Tuesday.

It was a simple email from the province’s news release service, one that was headlined “Premier Dunderdale announces senior appointments.”

“The Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, today announced two senior appointments, both of which are effective immediately. ‘I congratulate these individuals and acknowledge their tremendous commitment to the people of our province,’ said Premier Dunderdale. ‘I wish them well in their new leadership roles with the Department of Natural Resources and look forward to their continued contributions.’”

What makes it interesting? Well, perhaps that the latest positions are for a new deputy minister and a new associate deputy minister overseeing energy issues with the department, right in the midst of preparing for Muskrat Falls and the Decision Gate 3 process. There are a couple of jobs — both filled from inside the department — where the new holders have to land on both feet, and be running at the same time.

More interesting, perhaps, is that the change in staff email that Dunderdale issued is the 15th such email she’s issued in the last calendar year. Go back to January 2011 and the number of emails announcing senior staffing changes goes up to more than 30.

The year 2011 marked the last year that the province officially released the departmental salary details, an annual publication that identified the precise numbers of positions in the provincial civil services, and what those jobs paid. In that document, the province had 20 deputy ministers, four associate deputy ministers and 61 assistant deputy ministers — a total of 85 positions at the top of the provincial civil service.

In the last 20 months, Dunderdale has announced 54 appointments at the level of assistant deputy minister or higher.

It’s difficult to know whether that apparent 63 per cent turnover at the highest ranks of government is something to be concerned about or not: the changes run the gamut from retirement to internal promotions to new positions — and that doesn’t include the changeovers in provincial executive directors or changes in the premier’s own staff, either. It may well be that there’s a blip in the numbers of retirements, simply because of when a tranche of civil servants were hired.

But one thing’s for sure: with new faces in crucial positions, it’s almost certain that times on Confederation Hill are interesting ones right now — and that, for the new position-holders, the government is clearly aware of them.

Curses indeed.

Organizations: Department of Natural Resources

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Decision Gate

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Recent comments

  • Maggy Carter
    September 07, 2012 - 10:12

    The question the Telegram and others have to ask is this - why would Dunderdale dump her most senior people in the energy portfolio on the eve of what is perhaps the most significant legislative debate in the province's history. It isn't so much why new people are arriving at this critical juncture but why her senior most bureaucrats are leaving. It implies there is a major schism with regard to the Muskrat project between the senior public service and their political masters. Were they even in the Muskrat loop or has Dunderdale been relying exclusively on Martin for advice on this high risk, high cost, low dividend gambit. By the time these appointees get up to steam on the complex, contorted,controversial Muskrat file, the debate will be over and the die will be cast. But perhaps that in itself is the strategy....Gone unfortunately are the good ole days when the Telegram actually conducted some investigative journalism as opposed to mere speculation as to the facts based on a government press release. The latter we can do ourselves thanks.....Where is Deep Throat when you really need him?

    • Assuming
      September 07, 2012 - 10:40

      My version of this Editorial doesn't say anything about Dunderdale dumping anyone. Could it be that the previous person retired or took a job elsewhere. How do you know that these are not new positions? Why are you assuming that someone was "dumped"?

  • Winston Adams
    September 07, 2012 - 00:46

    John, ok, you don,t say i made technical mistakes, just judgement. That efficiency savings are not sufficient to seriously impact Muskrat Falls. You point out that your electricity bill went up 70 percent since the early 1980s So 70 percent over say 30 years is only about 2.3 percent per year on average . That is only about the inflation rate. Not bad at all. It's probably a bit more if you average the last 10 years. NOW LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT ENERGY EFFICIENCY. I INSTALLED A EFFICIENT HEATING UNIT IN MY 800 SQ FT COTTAGE. MY BILL FOR THE YEAR WAS REDUCED 42 PERCENT. IT IS OCCUPIED ON AVERAGE 2-3 DAYS OUT OF SEVEN. WITH BASEBOARD HEATERS I USED A SETBACK THERMOSTAT,SO WAS LOWER TEMPERATURE FOR 4 DAYS AND WOULD TAKE A DAY TO WARM UP. BUT WITH THE EFFICIENT HEATER ITS ALWAYS LEFT ON MIN OF 21C WHEN UNOCCUPIED; SO MORE HEAT , MORE COMFORT AND LESS COST.Granted , if occupied 7 days a week , the percentage savings would likely be about 35 percent. But on heating alone the reduction is about 70 percent. I'LL SAY THIS TWICE- THE HEATING COMPONENT WAS REDUCED 70 PERCENT. I monitor the heater separate from the other loads. I perfect factual information, not guessing at this. I could dig this out and fax you the data . I mean we are talking huge savings. So John, as Bill Clinton would say(and he's pro efficiency) it's just arithmetic. There is about 160,000 houses using electric heat, the average can cut 3 kw in winter time ( which is when we have a projected shortage), that's 480 Mw of reduction, not including more reduction possible from efficient water heating, and for small business too, some 600 MW now wasted. We wouldn't recover it all, as less costly energy motivated us to use a bit more . But we are talking way more than we plan to get from MF, and it's a quarter of the cost. So, if it works in my house , is there a good reason why it won't work in yours? Why is my judgement wrong? And why are other jurisdictions jumping on this efficiency bandwagon?

    • Curious
      September 07, 2012 - 10:59

      Sounds interesting. Of course baseboard heaters are among the least effective and more expensive ways to heat a house. We had them installed when we built our house because they were cheap. But we're paying for it now. What is the new efficient heater that you have? I'm always looking for alternatives to my baseboard heaters.

  • Winston Adams
    September 06, 2012 - 11:16

    Hi John Smith. You broke your word, a little. You said you would not debate the energy efficiency issue. Guess you didn't like my comment - that Natural Resources may need to contact you for technical advice. Ok, that was not nice of me. But you do call yourself a average Joe, with no particular expertise in electricity generation and distribution, and so little knowledge on energy efficiency that you refuse to debate it. Now you say I am a "veritable font on misinformation" You have a better vocabulary that I. Veritable font ! Veritable means real. Font means a receptable for holy water. But you say most all my information is misinformation. Now John, I must admit I had difficulty in engineering school with my english and literature courses, but was better on the technical side of things. Now you know, unlike you, I don't claim any expertise on many issues of Muskrat falls like long term financing, gas options etc. But I know a bit about electrical power systems and efficient heating systems. And I do beleive it offers the best option for our energy needs for a couple of decades or more at a quarter of the cost of Muskrat Falls. Many other jurisdictions have good efficiency programs which we do not. Now you equate efficiency with turning down the thermostats, when in reality, it allows you more heat at much less cost and less energy use. Now please list the misinformation you accuse me of. I will reply to them , either to confirm my information, or my error, if it is indeed misinformation. I appreciate you interest to promote factual information. Now I did read Kennedy's words on a link of Ed Hollett's site- where he told the MHAs in the House that it was very simple to know we need the extra power- that you just look into a crystal ball. Or did I dream that? And in fact Nalcor did express a thank you to me for visiting and discussing with them the issues of energy efficiency at their open house, in their comment on line. But they are not big on energy efficiency- their comment in discussion was "We're not sure that's our mandate" And when I offered my research data showing the energy and demand reductions on an installation that I monitored in detail for our climate here, there responce was "No, we don't see any benefit to that. And we don't plan on adopting end-use research" This suggests a higher reliance on the crystal ball approach than would be prudent. So Natural Resources and Nalcor seems to be in alighnment with this approach. Hope you have someone with credentials to counter my misinformation. Not sure many would give much weight to your technical opinions. But this may be wrong, if you do a bit of research to back up your views. But keep up with your comments John. I do enjoy reading them. You have repeated the same thing for two years now, and your task just gets harder, as so many events makes Muskrat Falls a harder sell. And without you, this forum would be dull.

    • I see
      September 06, 2012 - 13:51

      Ed Howlett?? Just when I thought you were reasonable and unbiased on this subject and then you pull an Ed Howlett. Disappointed.

    • John Smith
      September 06, 2012 - 14:05

      Winston, the thought that we can answer our coming energy needs by conservation alone is absurd, that's the misinformation I am alluding to. I have no, zero, zip, nada expertise in electrical generation or distribution. What I do have is expertise in looking at my light bill, which has increased by 70%, wait let me say that again slowly for effect SEVENTY PER CENT...since the early 80s. That's what I care about. In my humble opinion it makes very good sense to get off expensive polluting oil, and develop more of our hydro resources. I also know that residential demand has increased every year for the past ten years, and I also know that heavy industry, such as Vale will require 100 megawatts alone. Then there are the GBS projects, one in Bull Arm, one In Argentia, then the mining in labrador. We need to grow our economy, provide jobs and a long term vision for the province...it is my humble opinion that developing our hydro resources, oil resources, fishery, mining, and every and anything else should be done...as soon as possible. I think conservation is wonderful, but it is not an answer to our coming needs...I wish it was...but it is not...and anyone who says it is...is only misinforming themselves, and anyone who listens to them.

    • W McLean
      September 07, 2012 - 11:07

      John Smith, an increase of 70% since the early 1980s is less than the rate of inflation.

    • Too Funny
      September 07, 2012 - 12:08

      "which has increased by 70%, wait let me say that again slowly for effect SEVENTY PER CENT." That's rich. Especially the "for effect" part. Yes, it had effect alright, but just the complete opposite of what you thought it would.

  • Winston Adams
    September 05, 2012 - 16:04

    Before spending 8 billion for Muskrat Falls , some certainity is required as to whether we need the power to meet island demand.A mechanical engineer would say no, if we apply efficient heating . An electrical engineer should agree with this, as the data and analysis would show it to be true. And you apply different trades to achieve this. I guess a arts degree is better when the Minister prefers to analysize by looking at crystal balls This is surely art and not science or engineering.

    • Sheldon
      September 06, 2012 - 10:11

      What's the difference between god and an engineer? God doesn't think he's an engineer. When I was working on my PhD in physics, my mother suggested that I should study engineering. She said it was important to have a trade to fall back on. But no. Engineering is merely the slow, younger brother of physics. It is where the noble semi-skilled laborers execute the vision of those who think and dream. The Oompa Loompas of science.

  • Uncivil Servant
    September 05, 2012 - 14:20

    I don't believe the Telegram says or implies that these are patronage appointments. From my experience, over the last ten years our department has been averaging about one new ADM or DM every two years. In all but one case the appointments were to replace people who had retired. None of the people were political patronage appointments with almost all serving about two decades or more in the public service before being promoted. The public service is getting older and these positions are demanding on a person's time (these are not normal 8-5 jobs). In most cases, the first choice for the appointment did not accept the offer. The people that usually accept the appointment are those within striking distance of retirement (they gamble that they won't burn out first). Some don't burn out and there are still some DMs and ADMs around from the Liberal years. It would be interesting to see how these turnovers compare to previous years.

  • Winston Adams
    September 05, 2012 - 13:54

    From the background info on the persons appointed, they may have to ask John Smith for technical advise on Muskrat falls. Amazing that such high officials with Natural Resources, considering a 8 billion electrical project, wouldn't have engineers is such a position. Who will tell Kathy and Jerome what a watt is, and more so, how you can get 4 watts for the price of 1. Nalcor seems not to understand that.

    • But why
      September 05, 2012 - 14:24

      Why would they want an engineer? They have plenty of engineers working for the department. You need a business person who knows how to manage the trades.

    • John Smith
      September 05, 2012 - 17:54

      LOL...maybe they will call you up wince...you seem to have all the answers...a veritable font on misinformation...lol

  • Christopher Chafe
    September 05, 2012 - 12:34

    While I am in no way supporting or condoning patronage appointments on any level, can you people use common sense and realize that the Liberals were also famous for hiring political buddies as well.

    • William Daniels
      September 05, 2012 - 13:26

      Sure when Danny was in he hired his son in law for a cushy job for god's sake.

  • Winston Adams
    September 05, 2012 - 11:30

    What are the qualifications in energy matters? Can they explain to Kathy and Jerome the difference between energy efficiency and conservation? And therefore why we will not have blackouts, if we set yearly targets on Kathy's energy efficiency action plan for electricity use. And why Jerome should use better scientiftic methods than looking at a crystal ball, as he stated in the House of Assembly. It is obvious they need better, more knowledgeable advisiors. Why didn't the Telegram give us some background on these persons apppointed?

    • Check It
      September 05, 2012 - 12:54

      Their backgrounds are available in the press release on the government website.

  • William Daniels
    September 05, 2012 - 10:12

    Keep digging Tele. Good work.

    • Too Funny
      September 05, 2012 - 13:55

      "Keep digging"??? Yeah, those press releases are hidden deep in the bowels of Conf. Bldg.

  • Corruption Probe
    September 05, 2012 - 08:44

    Mr. Editor, the appointment of friends of the Tory Party goes well beyond the Executive branch all the way to student internships at the most central of government secretariates.. Unpaid internships which qualify as experience are doled out to the faithful and their family members which gives them an undeserved advantage when applying for even entry level positions. An examination of the Executive Council would reveal few public competitions and position titles that are simply baffling.

  • Scott Free
    September 05, 2012 - 07:59

    Tory patronage appointments and pork-barrelling has to STOP!

  • John Smith
    September 05, 2012 - 07:13

    Must be a slow news day...

    • Scott Free
      September 05, 2012 - 08:40

      ho John 'bye; it's so effin' hard to get information out of that Secret Society known as the Con Party of NL.