Whose to blame for the state Newfoundland and Labrador is in? Former premier Danny Williams? No question he carries a lot of the blame. He has to. He had an iron grip on his government, and from what I can see over the years he had to - rarely has an entire caucus been so devoid of judgement and intellect that a first minister had to keep that much control over their every move. So sure, Danny Williams carries the blame for spending the vast majority of the $23 billion in oil wealth and the $50 billion of normal governmental revenue without paying out our debt or at a minimum saving a fair portion of it for a "rainy day". Irresponsible in the extreme.
But, and it's a big but, over zealous governments are often reigned in within a free and democratic society by a vigilant media and an engaged public. The truth of the matter is that the media in Newfoundland and Labrador is so utterly unprofessional that Williams and company simply did as they wished with almost no accountability. Whether it be the expropriation of Abitibi assets, which was so obviously a grab for the hydro assets of that company, or the far more catastrophic Lower Churchill project, Williams spun the move and the media lapped it up with little or no investigative reporting.
The media, especially reporters like James MacLeod of the Telegram and David Cochrane of the CBC (now promoted out of Newfoundland) constantly berated and marginalized critics of the Muskrat Falls project for years - primarily on social media, but also in printed media. Whether it was me, Con O'Brien, Sue Kelland Dyer, Danny Dumeresque, or others the treatment was the same - "wack job". Those opposed to the spending and the Muskrat Falls project were officially classified by the government as "known critics", "nay-sayers", "merchants of gloom and doom". The media did nothing to counter that, and in fact perpetuated it, and still do.
So consumed are they by their own egos and their "place in the place" that they can't admit that they were the ones who were wrong. That they failed to properly investigate the facts surrounding the project. No, they loudly proclaimed that the "experts" knew what they were talking about and the "known critics" were but a joke - appropriate for mocking.
In a free and democratic society an informed and professional media is a necessity as it informs the public who may otherwise be too busy surviving to study and analyze topics of significant complexity - like over finances and the Muskrat Falls project. That's the same all over the world. Yet, for some bizarre reason, the media in Newfoundland and Labrador are essentially organs of the political backroom here. It's easy to see. Every election the media dutifully publish poll after poll on which party is ahead in the polls. They curtail any serious examination of the parties platforms, etc. They become like a newsmaker instead of being a news reporter. They don't investigate, but simply regurgitate what lines are fed to them by the "winning side". In other words, they lose their independence and become players in the game to stroke their own egos and sense of importance. By doing so, people like Williams simply played them like fiddles. Over and over and over.
Then came the day of reckoning. No mention in the media that the people fighting the spending and Muskrat Falls were right all along. Some, like Russell Wangersky wrote a column giving a passing mention to those who opposed what was happening, but no names. There is a reason for not personally acknowledging the critics who were right. The reason goes back to ego. The media were wrong to marginalize and personally discredit critics in the very first place. Now that everything the critics stated would happen is happening the media frankly look like the ones without credibility. They can't have that, so they leave the critics buried in the spot they left them in.
And, that's why the blame for the province's state today lies squarely with the media. They could have investigated the facts thoroughly when they had a chance to influence public opinion properly, but didn't. They acted as the PR agency for people like Willliams, glorifying him at every turn, even after he left office. They dog piled on the Liberals in the election of 2011, and then did the almost exact same thing to the PCs in 2015. They helped create the massive swings in governing parties that cause bad legislation and almost no opposition. Now the media will say: "don't blame the media", but the reality is that only serves to shield them from just criticism. Very convenient at times, especially times like today.
The truth is the media is to blame for where we are at today. They failed to hold a control freak premier to account. They failed to do research of any kind. They supplanted their opinions rather than the facts in the minds of the public. The public must be able to trust that the media is reporting the facts to them - after all, gossip is something we do at the corner store. We have to trust the media is independent and truthful, and informed. We rely on it. All democracies do. The media in Newfoundland and Labrador failed to hold a tyrannical government to account when it was needed, which gave the people the impression that all was well and the critics were loonies, and that's exactly the way the public responded. Now they have to pay the price of an egotistic and unprofessional press. For that, the press win the award for "who is to blame". Wear it well and learn.
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.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)