My pick for Spin Reduxit “Clip of the Year”

As they did last year, Jacques Poitras (poitrascbc) and Dan McHardie (mchardie) produced a great year-end edition of their political podcast (and blog), Spin Reduxit.  During the podcast, they played clips from 2010 and asked listeners to make their pick for clip of the year (starting at 11:12).  This gives me the opportunity to jot down a few thoughts that have been rattling around in my head.Graham_Shawn

My pick is definitely Shawn Graham‘s statement: “Some people pose the question, ‘Are you ready to lose an election over this?’ I think it’s more important to say ‘Are we ready to do the right thing?'”  Often I encounter people who speak of Graham as a stubborn and naive for his NB Power stance.  After the election loss, these folks look back on the attempted sale as a foolish political gamble; why would a government attempt pursue the sale in the face of such overwhelming opposition in the last year of its mandate?  It’s revealing in the way that quote reflects Graham’s state of mind on the issue. According to Graham, solving NB Power’s debt problem, getting cheaper electricity for industry (not to mention frozen rates for residential customers) was simply the “right thing” to do.  Whether you agree or disagree with the sale, Graham clearly believed that the positive aspects outweighed the negatives by a significant margin.

Graham actively defied the voices of opposition and by doing so antagonized a public already leery from the proposed changes to UNBSJ and French immersion.  The sale became emblematic of a government that is “out of touch” with the voters.  It’s increasingly clear that Graham’s cabinet and caucus were not willing to lose the election over this issue.  The sale became such a distraction that it overshadowed or tainted many other government initiatives.  We now know Graham was fully aware of how much New Brunswickers disliked the deal from its inception.  Polling and focus group work performed by Innovative Research Group show that the deal was unpopular from the start.  In fact, New Brunswickers trusted Danny Williams on the issue more than their own Premier, even though Williams had only NL’s interests in mind.

Why stick with it then, to the point that it irreparably damaged the government’s chances of reelection?  The commitment to the idea over all other policies shows that Graham had some key beliefs about NB Power and energy policy. With access to all of the information a Premier would have, he didn’t believe that NB Power was worth keeping as an asset.  Clearly, in his mind it was a completely debt-ridden liability that was incapable of recovering on its own in the short term.  It has a growing problem of $1 million per day for Point Lepreau replacement power, and it’s uncertain we’ll see a cent in compensation from Ottawa.  We will see what Alward’s energy commission concludes, but it seems clear that Graham believed NB Power was not worth retaining.

More than that though, it seems clear that Graham believed that lower power rates for industry was key to the economic well-being of the province.  As Derek Oland wrote last year, one-in-five New Brunswickers work in the goods-producing sector. These are “good jobs, with wages that are 40 per cent higher than the average wage in New Brunswick – contributing more tax dollars to health care, education and other services.”  Oland argued high energy costs were a significant factor in thousands of lost jobs in the forestry sector.  It could be said that dropping industrial energy prices 23-30% was Graham’s leading economic development and job creation strategy for 2010, probably based on feedback directly from industry.

So, for me why is it the clip of the year?  In a handful words, it defines the downfall of the Graham government and many things that came after it. It shows that contrary to popular belief, Graham was fully aware that pursuing the sale of NB Power would cause a divide and could cost him the election but he made the determination that it was worth it.  Relentlessly pursuing this action resulted in the formation of a new political party, helped the NDP resurgence, caused huge splits within the Liberal party, and resulted in a Tory landslide.  It also bred a small handful of citizen activist groups, which are still active. I’m guessing the sale resulted in a larger deficit as well, where it could be argued that the Liberals overspent on stimulus in part to rehabilitate their image and heal internal party rifts.

Even if one concedes all of the negatives of the deal were potentially true (which I personally don’t), it’s still arguable that Graham’s attitude and deliberate actions on the NB Power sale changed politics in the province and the impact will last for many years.

How to find great tech deals this Christmas

My mother-in-law is obsessed with flyers. *Obsessed*.  She is a hardcore bargain cartshopper, and the flyers are her lifeline to savings.  Each week when the flyers arrive, she studies them cover-to-cover committing each sale to memory.  If I want 2L of Diet Pepsi, all I need to do is call her up and ask her who has the best price in Quispamsis – she knows it.  When she’s finished with the flyers, she hand-delivers the juicy secrets of weekly savings to our family, along with her top 10 picks of the best deals in town.  What’s not to like about that, huh?

When it comes to tech deals though, the student has become the master.  You and I don’t need to study paper flyers week to week to find the best deals.  This information has all moved to the online world in the 21st century, and if you know where to look, you can find the best deals in tech all week, every week.

Here are my top sites for tech savings this holiday season:

Dell’s Red Hot Deal of the Day – I know people think of Dell as a computer vendor, but their online site also has some of the best deals in tech.  Each day, they have a Red Hot Deal of the Day, which is a one-day sale on a random item usually at a substantial discount.  Dell also has weekly specials on HDTV’s, monitors, gaming, and cameras.  Also, don’t miss Dell.ca Days of Deals.  Every so often, they put on this promotion with amazing sales on good quality brand name tech.  Did I mention free shipping on just about everything?  And their Clearance Center?  Whenever I’m shopping for a tech deal, this is my first stop.

The Source’s “Circuit Breaker” – Each and every day, TheSource.ca has a Circuit Breaker sale item. The on-sale item is usually something that they are trying to clear out, but I’ve found several unbelievable deals here.  Many people on my Christmas lists have received formerly-pricey items from The Source’s Circuit Breaker sales.  Stock is often limited, so check early and often.  Also, don’t miss The Source’s online Clearance Outlet and Doorcrashers for the same reasons. Finally, take advantage of free shipping to any The Source store in Canada; why pay more?

NewEgg.ca Shell Shocker – Similar to the Source’s Circuit Breaker, NewEgg.ca has a daily deal on brand name tech called the Shell Shocker.   Again, I’ve shell-shocked many tech lovers on my Christmas list with these deals. The only downside about NewEgg is their shipping isn’t always free, and when it is not free it’s usually pricey. Often I’ve found great deals on this site and not pulled the trigger due to the cost of shipping.

Best Buy’s Daily Deal – BestBuy.ca also has a daily sale item.  Truthfully, I’ve never bought from BuyBuy.ca and they aren’t well known in Atlantic Canada.  But, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on a sale from these guys if the right one popped up.

Apple.ca’s Refurbished Products – I love Apple products; they are just hands-down some of the best tech around these days. However, the best never came cheap, and this is definitely the case with Apple products.  They never go on sale, and when they do, the sales are usually for 5-10% off tops.  But, you can get Apple products at deep discounts if you purchase refurbished gear from their web site. These products are usually returned products in pristine condition. The items tend to be “last year’s tech”, but if you have someone on your list that wouldn’t mind something less than the absolutely newest model of iPod, this is for you.  For example, right now the last generation 8GB iPod Touch is available for $169, and the current generation 160GB iPod classic for $229.

Futureshop.ca  – I like Futureshop.ca, but it’s at the bottom of the list for a reason. FutureShop has great sales from time to time, but I find them consistently hard to find.  FutureShop’s goal is to bring you into their bricks-and-mortar store, so they don’t excel at bringing the best tech sales to the web. That said, you can sometimes find worthwhile deals in their Clearance Outlet. My last tip is to watch the web sites for refurbished equipment sales.  These goldmines are by far your best bet for finding the best prices in tech year around.  When the online stores need to clear space in the stockroom, this gear gets given away for next to nothing when compared to the MRSP.  Sign up for the online fliers from The Source, FutureShop, Dell and Best Buy.  I know I just panned flyers and I’m contradicting myself a bit here.  But, signing up for the online flyers is the only way to get notification of special sales that never appear in the paper flyers. Signing up for this “bacon” (as opposed to “spam”) can definitely be worth your while.

Bottom line: Don’t pay full-price for your tech; your mother-in-law will be proud of you.  Did I miss anything?  What are your secrets for finding great tech deals?