Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Stunned

Simply put - the stunned. How else can you describe the political gong-show of the last two weeks in Newfoundland. We have the on-again off-again budget that has been postponed until the federal budget is announced for starters. This provincial government loves to crow how it is the example of fiscal management and the Captain of the good ship "Have Province". Yet, it is so dependent on the federal government's moves that it must wait until the federal budget comes out first?

Then, Kathy Dunderdale announces a sweeping 3% cut across the board, to reduce government spending, which would total well over $200 million in cuts. A day or two later she states well actually essential departments like health and education won't be cut. Fair enough,  but not across the board by any means. Then a day later she says there will not be any job losses except through attrition of retiring employees. Then she says well actually one third of the 2600 contract employees will be laid off - which would be just over 800 people. The next day she says it will be well less than 800 people laid off. Somewhere in the midst of all these "clarifications" she announces the actual dollar cuts will not be almost $300 million, but closer to $100 million. The casual observer is left scratching their head and wondering if the Premier: A) Is being fed disinformation by the finance department; B) Is making up major policy on the fly; or C) Forgot to take her medication for the last several weeks.

That brings us to the opening of the House of Assembly. The most shuttered legislature in the country, that last sat some 9 months ago, finally opened to great expectation last week. Just after the provincial election in October Dunderdale made the following statement defending her government's decision not to open the House until March:
"We need legislation to bring to the floor of the house of assembly. It's not going to be ready in time"
Yet, there is no legislation to speak of being brought forward by the government. So the House sat empty for five months after an election so the government could prepare major legislation for presentation, but the government didn't draft any. They did not even have a budget ready. Nothing.

The circus continued once the House opened with what can only be described as an embarrassing lack of talent on the government side. Jerome Kennedy, leadership wannabe and Danny Williams yes man, proceeded to make a complete horses arse out of himself. He viciously attacked Liberal member Jim Bennet for leaving a threatening telephone message on a ministers answering machine. He read the transcript of the message in the House for the record. He attempted to have the Speaker censor Bennett for threatening a minister. The gist of the phone message: take care of a cancer patient who needed transport to chemo or he would "vilify" the minister on open line radio. My God! Bennett apologized, but that was not enough for the morally outraged Kennedy. Course then Russell Wangersky wrote a blistering column on the sheer hypocrisy of Kennedy's moves and all seemed to fade away .

The other clown this week was Darin King, Minister of Fisheries, and along with Kennedy, pretender to Dunderdale's throne. His petty antics in the House can only be measured against his childish antics on Twitter. Whether it be the pseudo intellectual bravado of quoting Shakespeare by Kennedy, the questionably rabid attacks on Dale Kirby by another intellectual great MHA Paul Lane, or the pontificating Darin King, Twitter has become a permanent record of foot in mouth disease for this government. The latest beauty came today with King issuing an actual press release   chastising the Opposition for, among other things, not asking him enough questions on the fishery. My personal favourite is this little gem of wisdom included in the press release:

"I ask you all to be hon. members in this House and if you are going to come forward, you present information that is factual and that is accurate and present information that shows where you stand on issues, not trivial press releases calling the minister to resign because he made a joking comment to ministers in this House. If you want to be taken seriously, you do not put those kinds of press releases out. You tell people how you would do things differently and you challenge me to ask me how I can improve things, and I will certainly do that.”

Apparently, King didn't recognize that his own press release had not one shred of any "doing things differentley". It was in fact a use of government resources for partisan political purposes - which given enough research one may find is in breach of government policy.

Unfortunately like Muskrat Falls, the fishery, or any other matter of significance to the future of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, this government's strategy is to " baffle with bullshit". Put disinformation out there. Put out enough foolishness. Rob the debate, or the actual institution, of any real credibility so the people have nowhere to seek leadership. Eventually they will give up in disdain, and get on with their lives leaving all those big, bad decisions to the people that know best - the PC Party of Newfoundland. It's a strategy of deception that is so low as to barely qualify the goings on as democratic in any way. After all, democracy is not simply limited to the actual practice of getting elected. It's also about how you handle the people's business in the following years of your mandate. Don't believe that? Ask Brian Mulroney or better yet Kim Campbell.

The PC Party of Newfoundland has dragged the process down into the gutter. Perhaps it is a place they feel most accustomed. Perhaps it is a place they feel at home. The rest of us were looking forward to reasoned, and seasoned debate on truly crucial issues facing the province. The kind of issues and decisions that reverberate for generations. What did we get? The stunned.

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