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)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Problem With Dean MacDonald

One lunch with the St. John's Board of Trade can say so much. Dean MacDonald, for those that don't know, is the b'ys choice to take leadership of the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador. He's meant to take charge as the PCs decline, which is no coincidence. Set up early in life by Danny Williams, and a few well positioned business deals related there to, he moved on to be groomed in the business circles of Toronto. His company in Toronto, where he spends most of his time, has the establishment likes of Brian Mulroney sitting on his Board of Directors. He is meant to pick up the sword from the dying PCs, and slay the orange dragon (NDP) considered to be on the rise and threatening to send the province back to the days of have not with its irresponsible proposals for the province. That pretty much sets the stage.

So friday they had lunch. It was given publicity by the press for a good two weeks beforehand. Apparently, the very presence of such a man, and the "address" (as the Telegram put it) he was to give were that newsworthy. It was called an "address", because saviours do not give political speeches to promote themselves. That is below the run of the mill saviour. They are only interested in the people, and the fact they are being promoted as a political leader is an unfortunate burden they must bare as the only voice of reason and hope. He is being portrayed as the latest saviour for Newfoundland and Labrador. In order to need a saviour though there needs to be something to be saved from. MacDonald's central "crisis" theme thus far, in his own words, seems to be:
"As a citizen of the province, when a premier walks in the door on day 1, we all want them to succeed...Unfortunately, for the premier, it's been an unmitigated disaster. There isn't a file you can show me that she has handled well - she really hasn't."

The problem with MacDonald's choice of words is the premier of any province does not handle files - their cabinet ministers do. Of course that would muddy the waters that it was all Dunderdale's fault. You see, if it is all her fault, and the rest of the PCs aren't blamed, then they are more likely to join MacDonald at the right time - as per the schedule. Whether Dunderdale never saw her role as the fall guy from the very beginning with the PC leadership race is her problem, but one that good ol' Dean is meaning to capitalize on.

In his role as saviour he called from the mountains to the business community to rise up against the "unmitigated disaster" and speak out:
"We're knowledgeable stakeholders on this, and we should have a very, very loud voice on it, and provide leadership, because I think leadership on these matters would be helpful...It's not about partisanship. It's about good stewardship."
Translation: Its not about partisanship, but hey, I'm running for the Liberal Party leadership, so let's put her down so I can take over - don't worry you will be invited to the party.
He goes on to ridicule the handling of the budget deficit, Muskrat Falls, Bill 29, and the labour shortage in this province. All important issues you say?
The problem with MacDonald, and his arguments, is his hands have blood on them. He would have to explain how he is so opposed to deficits that he signed a lease deal on a newly purchased building with the PC government that saw the rent bill for that government agency go from $200,000 a year in their old location to over $900,000 in his new one. He could also explain why he sold to that same government agency the used furniture left in the building, untendered, for over $85,000. Then there is his support, for Muskrat Falls which has cost the taxpayers to lose $1 billion so far, and has significantly contributed to the deficit.

There is his issue with oil pricing forecasts. As the Telegram put it:
" MacDonald said no other jurisdiction in North America has budgeted based on oil being $124 a barrell like the province did, and that estimate initially masked massive overspending.' What really makes me mad is I think it's just a plug number to balance the budget, which means there's all sorts of overspending.' he said, saying that Alberta budgeted on a $95 barrel of oil."

MacDonald's arguement gives no play to the fact that the PC government somewhat inflated their oil numbers to portray a better than can be expected deficit, because $650 million was taken from the operating budget forthe purpose of financing Muskrat Falls - his pet project. In an apparently obvious political manipulation to try and make the government look inept he cited Alberta's budgeted oil projection of $95 a barrel, but choosing not to state that Alberta prices are based on West Texas crude pricing, while this province uses Brent crude pricing. West Texas is normally $15-20 a barrel cheaper than Brent, so the real difference in oil projections between the two provinces is about $10 a barrel. That still leaves the government's high, but nowhere near the falsely exagerated example given by MacDonald.

His criticism of Bill 29, and his condemnation of government reprisals for speaking out is almost to foolish for words. MacDonald supported Danny Williams for eight years. A government that held "purple files" on journalists that gave negative reviews on the goverment. A government that promised whistleblower legislation, but never delivered. A government that expropriated businesses. A premier that was known to crucify anyone that dissented - Manning, etc.

MacDonald did not once publicly criticize Danny Williams methods. Instead, he profitted during Williams reign. He decries financial mismanagement while advocating for the Muskrat Falls project, and the Gull Island project that they plan to follow with. He portrays himself as a new voice of reason and discipline, yet he comes from the very same group that has put the province in its current financial problems.

What we didn't hear him say was how the gross debt will potentially double with the construction of Muskrat Falls. We didn't hear him say how that would raise annual interest payments on servicing the debt, and how that would impact future deficits. We did hear him critique the business community for not speaking up, but we did not hear him speak of the province's accountants questioning of Tom Marshall last year on the impact of losing $500-600 million per year with the loss of federal offset payments, and the impact that would have.

Yes, the problem with Dean MacDonald is in what he says and what he does not. He is not new. He does not represent change. He is the same old same old.

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